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The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)

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Step 1 - Assessment If you're just starting out, the Online Small Business Workshop from the Canada Business Service Centres (CBSC) is a one-stop introduction to starting a business. * Their Forty Concepts for a Small Business can help you explore and develop your business ideas and even evaluate their business potential. * Their Business Startup Assistant provides another method of finding information: you choose your province and topic, and it finds appropriate links, online tools, and articles. * This Feasibility Checklist for Starting a Small Business, presented in a Yes/No format, is an excellent overview of the process and provides much food for thought. Finding the answers will take time, but will help your planning greatly. * Read BDC's short articles on The low-down on a great start-up and BDC Perspective: The essential ins for starting out. * Find out what others have said about becoming an entrepreneur. Will it be profitable? You may have great ideas and talent, but you should do a quick check of how much it will cost to set up your business and when you can expect it to make a profit (your breakeven point). This start-up costs calculator can help. * At this point, it's fine to estimate your expenses. For inspiration, check out these example business plans (See Step 2 to find out more about business plans). Explore ideas * The guide to Government of Canada services and support for small business offers the tools entrepreneurs need to prosper in the new economy. * Find out how you could look for windows of opportunity, consult BDC's article Turning your idea into a succesful business. * Is your idea original? Search over 1,400,000 patents from the last 75 years in the Canadian Patents Database. * These online business magazines have articles that are particularly useful for start-ups: o Profitguide.com, from Profit Magazine, especially their startups section; o CanadaOne Magazine, with searchable articles at the bottom of the page; o Entrepreneur.com, especially their start-up section; o StartupJournal from The Wall Street Journal; Step 2 - Your business plan Your business plan is the most important document you will prepare: it says who you are, describes your business, and shows how you will be profitable. BDC's article "Pull together an effective business plan" provides a brief outline of the key elements of a plan. A properly formulated plan can help you gain confidence with lenders, investors and shareholders. Other useful links: * BDC offers a free business plan template. * CBSC (Canadian Business Service Centres) has good example plans that are province- and industry-specific (follow the links to the left); they also offer a brief Business Plan Guide. * If accounting isn't one of your strengths, an accountant may be able to help you with your business plan. See this article on choosing one. * Check out these two guides: Writing an Effective Business Plan and Introduction to Business Plans. * See CBSC's Session 4 for information about preparing a cash flow forecast. Marketing Marketing is an important section of your business plan, and will require some research on your part. For a general introduction to marketing concepts, try CBSC's Session 2; you can also check out their guide to market research or consult BDC's article Tried-and-true market research techniques. * If your business will rely heavily on marketing, you may want to create a separate marketing plan. * Looking for statistics? Statistics Canada can help, or see Strategis' Researching Markets list for other sources. (Many firms hire consultants to do this work - for example, BDC Consulting offers such a service for a fee.) * If you live near a CBSC, you can drop in and use their reference library (or call; many centres can offer search assistance for a fee). * If you're thinking of exporting, you should check out the Interactive Export Planner from exportsource.ca. Step 3 - Starting up Here is an overview of the steps you will need to take: Decide on the form your business will take There are four different types of businesses in Canada (see this article for their different advantages): 1. Sole proprietorships - Simplest form of business, which offers relatively low start-up costs and few regulations, but where you are personally responsible and all debts and obligations. 2. Partnerships - Each partner shares the profits and obligations; requires a partners/shareholders agreement. 3. Corporations - A legal entity, entailing more regulations, higher startup costs, and higher taxes, but where shareholders have limited responsibility for the debts and obligations of the company. 4. Co-operatives - A corporation controlled by its members. Choose a business name * This may prove more difficult than you'd expect: your name must be accurate, catchy and, most importantly, available. Finding the right name can almost be a science - there are even companies who specialize in this. Here is a brief article on choosing the right name. * Your business name may already be taken, so try to think of a few names. When you register your company (see below), normally a search is done; finding a unique name may be extremely difficult or as simple as adding your initials or rearranging the words slightly. * If you will be operating under your own name (for example, as a consultant) and using your personal bank account, you do not need to register your company or choose a name, but if you earn more than $30,000 a year, you will need to apply for a GST number (normally part of registration). Look into hiring business professionals Although you can do much of the work yourself, at some point you may want to use the expert advice and experience of an accountant to help with your business plan, tax and fiscal issues, and a lawyer for incorporation or shareholders' agreements. * To find a lawyer, you can try your region's Law Society. * For an accountant, try CGA Canada or CMA Canada's list of provincial associations. * BDC Consulting can help you, for a fee, with the entire business planning process. * See this article on choosing business professionals, which also explains the different types of accountants. Register your business (and get a business number) * The registration process varies slightly in each province. * If you are incorporating, you must decide whether to incorporate provincially (if you plan to do most of your business within your province) or federally (good for protecting your company name Canada-wide). * You may be able to incorporate federally online; here is an overview of the process. * Your Business Number (BN) will help you file your taxes, among other things. You can apply for one online. (Depending on your province, you may be able to register for provincial programs at the same time.) * If you need to protect your ideas read this article by BDC. As well, look into patents (for your inventions), trademarks (words, symbols, designs) or copyrights (created works). The Canadian Intellectual Property Office offers more inforomation and several searchable databases. Try the Trade-mark database tutorial for guidance and advice on how to search their database. Set up shop * If you are renting space, you will have to sign a commercial lease. (Do not forget to secure financing before signing a lease. Find out more about financing in Step 4.) You may want to consult your lawyer, but here is an overview of common issues. * Depending on your industry, business incubator possibilities may exist, where you can find office space and access to experienced business professionals, investors, and other specialists all under one roof. * Find out more about business incubators and angels by reading this article. * If you need to buy equipment, try Strategis' lease or buy calculator to compare the costs. * You will need insurance to protect your investments. Most banks will suggest an insurance broker, but it can pay to shop around yourself. * Success story: Getting creative with your business - read this article. Step 4 - Financing With your business plan in hand, and your business set up legally, you can start looking for financing. These links can help you get started: * Read BDC's Start-up financing sources article, or check out this article on Demystifying your banker for an idea of what bankers look for and how to increase your chances of getting a loan. * Look into BDC's financing package designed especially for new businesses. * For a quick overview, see this CBSC article. * To understand more about what you need to finance, try CBSC's Session 3. * For an all-in-one site on financing your business, try Strategis's Sources of financing. The most common sources include: * Financial Institutions - loans from your current bank or other institution. You don't have to restrict yourself to only one source - in fact, it can be to your advantage to diversify. * Personal investment - cash or assets that you invest yourself (normally a condition to obtaining a loan). * "Love money"- loans from family or friends, to be paid back when your business is profitable. * Investors - most investors look for knowledge-based businesses with high growth and profit potential; investors include venture capitalists such as BDC and angels. Read a venture capital success story. * Government grants/subsidies - look into these, although be aware that most have very specific eligibility requirements. Tips: * It pays to compare what different banks offer, but be sure to look at the whole package (collateral required, conditions, repayment schedules), not just the interest rate. * Strategis' financial charges calculator can help you compare the monthly cost of business accounts from major banks. * Want to know how banks make their decisions? Check out BDC's article Demystify your banker or CBSC's brief guide to lending criteria. * You may want to check out your personal credit situation according to Equifax or Dun & Bradstreet. Step 5 - First year Growing your business Day-to-day operations will take up a great deal of your time, but as the owner of a small business, you must also have to manage your company's growth. Here are some tools that can help: * Strategis' comprehensive Steps to Competitiveness is a great place to start, as it covers all the basics of managing a service business, together with information, links and self-diagnostic tools. * To find out how you're doing in comparison to others in your industry, you'll want to use financial ratios (for more info, read this article). Check out Strategis' Performance Plus site and try BDC's financial ratio calculator. For information on other businesses, you may want to try Dun & Bradstreet reports. * Looking for a consultant? BDC Consulting has over 500 across Canada covering virtually all business domains; as well, check out the Canadian Management Network. * Looking for a mentor? You may consider investing in BDC's Management Coaching program or using online resources such as e-mentoring.com or mentors.ca. * Looking for government programs? Try searching CBSC's Business Information System (BIS). Employees As your company grows, you may need to hire employees. For an introduction to your obligations as an employer, try CBSC's Becoming an Employer. For an overview of the human management processes, try this online toolkit. * You can calculate payroll deductions with this tool. * Check out this BDC article on recruiting. * If you want to post a job, try the Canada-wide job bank offered by HRDC, or private firms such as monster.ca, workopolis.com, jobboom.com, jobshark.ca or CareerBeacon.com. * Human Resources Management Canada is a government site with an excellent information bank and info about assistance programs. * Why not hire a student? Career Edge is a national program of student internships, offering significant subsidies. * If you need a complete and customized HR plan (for example, to handle rapid growth), check out BDC Consulting's HR Management solution. Perfect your e-business strategy If you have a business, you should consider creating a website. But a website can be one simple page with your contact information, or a secure commerce-enabled database-driven site. Here are some tools that can help you explore e-business. * BDC's online e-business diagnostic tools can help answer 2 important preliminary questions: Are you ready for e-business? Is e-business relevant to your line of business? * BDC's e-business solution can help you plan a complete e-business strategy. * For a quick introduction, read this article which offers a more in-depth look at e-commerce. * Try this article about e-commerce and exporting, or this article for more on building a website that means business. Join a business association * Networking is an essential part of successful entrepreneurship. There are many different types from the general Canadian Chamber of Commerce or Canadian Federation of Independent Business to more specific ones such as the Canadian Technology Network. * You will probably want to check out your local business associations, too - your municipality may have a list online BDC

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The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC)