October is Small Business Month, an ideal chance to recognize the importance of B.C.’s small businesses to our communities and maybe for some us, the chance to consider pursuing our own dreams of owning a small business.
British Columbia’s economy owes a lot to the vision and dedication of the thousands of women and men who launch their own businesses. More than 54 per cent of us working in the private sector work for a small business and approximately 98 per cent of all businesses in the province are small businesses. It’s safe to say small businesses are a big deal in B.C.
These enterprising small business owners do more than deliver valuable services and products. They also inspire us. We see their dreams come to life and can’t help but think that maybe we could turn our dreams and passions into our livelihood too.
If this is an idea that you’ve been toying with, here are some tips to get you started on your small business adventure.
- Have a business plan
Most small business owners devote the majority of their time and attention to producing the product or service that made them hang out their shingle in the first place.
But operations involve more than simply producing widgets. It’s about understanding what your goals are and how to get there. That’s what a business plan is for.
A business plan should be viewed as a living document that’s adjusted in light of new realities. Apart from their common use in applying for loans, a business plan helps you think strategically about how best to manage your operations and address important areas such as marketing (see below).
- Find a financial services partner
There’s a lot to consider when deciding which financial institution to choose as a partner. At the minimum you need a bank or a credit union that offers you the basics of business banking.
However, it’s worth going beyond the basics to consider whether you feel you’ll be able to build a strong relationship with whoever you decide to work with.
Do their advisors take time for you? Do you they have a revolving door of advisors so every six months you have to explain your business needs from scratch? A financial institution with dedicated small business banking professionals will be able to help you with everything from selecting the best account for your needs to selecting point-of-sale debit payment technology and transaction processing.
- Keep on top of your bottom line
Understanding invoicing, keeping sales and expense records, managing payroll, and fulfilling tax and GST obligations are all key to a healthy bottom line. Small business owners quickly realize how much time it takes to stay on top of these various accounting needs.
For many small business areas, this is unfamiliar and even daunting territory. If managing your accounts yourself proves to be a challenge or is too time consuming, it’s worth seeking the services of a professional accountant or a bookkeeper.
For example, an accounting professional can help you identify tax deductions that may benefit your business and also ensure you don’t run afoul of any tax laws. In addition, they can set up automated systems to make regular processes such as invoicing more efficient. Their services free you up to concentrate on what you do best – run your business.
- Create your team
The appeal of running a small business often lies in being your own boss. However, even if you start off as the sole employee, success may mean it’s not long before you will need to consider building a team.
When looking for new team members, seek out people who identify with the passion that drove you to launch your own small business. Before deciding on the right fit, take the time to understand their goals to make sure your aims align. As your business grows, share your goals with your staff and inspire them to help you achieve your vision.
Employees who feel part of the mission of the business get more fulfillment from their positions and are more likely to stay. Empower your people to become leaders, listen to them, and do your best to meet their needs. Give your staff opportunities for growth and advancement and, of course, a good, safe work environment.
- Blow your horn
You may have a great product or service, but you’re out of luck if your customers don’t know about it. A helpful approach to marketing your business is to pay attention to the four Cs – the consumer, cost, communication, and convenience. That means taking time to understand your customer, ensuring the price is right, spreading the word through a variety of channels (including social media and possibly PR), and making your product or service as accessible as possible.
I encourage all my business clients to have a good, simple website and to always keep a handy supply of business cards that they can leave with potential customers.
To all would-be small business owners, I hope Small Business Month inspires you to pursue your dreams.
For more information on starting your own small business, visit www.smallbusinessbc.ca. To all current small business owners across B.C., congratulations on your hard work and happy Small Business Month. If you have questions about the financial aspects of small business ownership, visit www.coastcapitalsavings.com/business.
Kathy McGarrigle is Chief Operating Officer for Coast Capital Savings (www.coastcapitalsavings.com), Canada’s largest credit union by membership.