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Cheat Sheet

Starting & Running a Small Business For Canadians All-in-One For Dummies

If you’ve got the urge to start your own small business, the practical advice offered in this Cheat Sheet introduces budding entrepreneurs to some of the essential steps involved in starting up and running a successful operation.

Finding Professional Help with Your Small Business Start-Up

Planning a business start-up takes a lot of work. But you don’t have to do it all alone. You can and should get professional help with many of the tasks involved, and at the very least, you need a lawyer, an accountant, and an insurance agent or broker. The following list will help you determine who else you might need on your team.

  • Advertising firm and/or media relations firm: To help you get the word out about your business

  • Business coach: To help you acquire presentation skills, get pointers on power dressing, pick up business etiquette, and even improve your table manners (for those four-fork lunches with potential investors and customers)

  • Business evaluator: To help you decide on the value of a business you are thinking of buying

  • Computer systems consultant: To help you choose and set up your computer equipment and choose and install your software

  • Graphic designer: To help you design a business logo, your business cards, and letterhead

  • Human resources specialist (also known as a headhunter): To help you hire staff

  • Interior designer: To help you set up your business premises attractively

  • Management consultant: To help you polish your management skills

  • Marketing consultant: To help you identify the market for your product or service and determine how best to reach that market

  • Website designer: To help you create a great website for your business

Deciding on a Place of Business

Finding a location for your business (if you’re able to choose a location) is an important step. When choosing your business premises, aim to spend as little as possible while making sure that your place of business satisfies the needs of your newly launched enterprise.

Working from home

Working from home is the cheapest way to go. With computers, high-quality printers, e-mail, fax, and voice mail, a home-based business doesn’t have to look like an amateur operation. And the Internet allows even the smallest company to have worldwide exposure. You can project a big business image even if your head office is the kitchen table.

In addition to cost, working from home has other advantages, too:

  • You’ll be able to claim an income tax deduction for a portion of the expenses of running your home

  • You won’t have to commute to and from work.

  • You’ll have more flexibility to deal with your children, aging parents, or pets.

Working from home does have some disadvantages as well:

  • You may have little, if any, room for expansion as your business grows.

  • You may find accommodating employees difficult or impossible.

  • You may find that you need facilities and services that you can’t have at home.

  • You may feel isolated from business associates.

  • You may find yourself not isolated enough from family and friends!

Renting business premises

Most small businesses that need permanent retail, office, or industrial space rent the space (rather than buy). You should consider a number of factors before you rent space. Before you start to look for rental premises, stop and think about your business needs:

  • What kind of space are you looking for?

  • What kind of image are you trying to project?

  • What location is most accessible to your potential clients or customers and employees?

  • What kind of parking do you need?

  • Is it best to locate near competing businesses or away from them?

  • How much space do you need now and in the future?

  • What kind of layout or floor plan do you need?

  • What are your electrical and plumbing requirements?

  • Will your suppliers need special access to make deliveries to you?

  • Are you willing to pay for improvements to the property you rent?

  • How long do you want to rent these premises for?

  • How much rent are you willing and able to pay?

Management Direction and Your Small Business

Your business’s management team brings together skills, talent, and commitment. You want team members to find their direction from your business’s mission, values, and vision statements, as well as from the business goals and objectives that you plan to achieve. Top-notch managers and owners are particularly important in industries that face increasing competition or fast-changing technologies.

The following list gives you some key questions to ask about the management and/or ownership of your business:

  • How long have managers been around at various levels in your business? (Alternatively, what variety of experiences do you have as an owner?)

  • Does your business plan to hire from the outside or promote from within?

  • What’s the general tone set by you and your business’s management?

  • Do you have a management-development program in place? (Alternatively, how do you plan to develop your own skills, if you’re a sole proprietor?)

  • What background do you or your managers have?

  • How do you measure management performance in your business?

  • How would you rate the general quality of your skills or those of your management team?

Management determines what your business does in the future. Senior managers are officially charged with setting the direction and strategy for your business and laying the foundation for a new business, but all managers indirectly set a tone that encourages certain activities and discourages others.

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