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Top Tips for Small Businesses 

Startup & Grow: Top Tips for Small Businesses 

With over 3.5 million entrepreneurs in Canada, small and medium-sized businesses form the backbone of the Canadian economy. The Canadian government understands and encourages Canadians to learn how to start a small business as well as grow one through various programs and loans that they offer.

But while there is plenty of help available, starting a business is incredibly challenging. There are several things to consider including details of business plans, financing, staffing, technology, networking, taxes, accounting, and legality, amongst many other areas.

Below, we cover all of these bases highlighting some of the best tips for small business start-ups.

Small business start up tips

How to assemble a business plan

Before starting a business, it’s important to have a business plan. The BDC - Business Development Bank of Canada - outlines how to start a business plan in step-by-step instructions covering the four core pieces of a business plan:

  • Company profile
  • Sales and marketing
  • Operations
  • Financials

Each business has its own unique form of a business plan and there is no real wrong way to create a business plan. Although if you are applying for a loan through a bank - like the BDC - or seeking investors, they will require a comprehensive and detailed business plan.

Some general tips for small business start-ups to keep in mind when putting together a business plan and presenting it are:

  • Be realistic about your revenue. Promising lenders you’re going to make tens of thousands of dollars in your first year will often backfire massively.
  • When defining your target audience, be as specific as you can. Don’t say that your product or service is for everyone. It’s likely not.
  • Even if you believe that this product solves a big problem, you need to convince consumers that this is a big problem. Convey that in your business plan through sales and marketing strategies.
  • While it’s important to be realistic about pricing, don’t be afraid to price a bit higher. Especially if your business revolves around a skill that you’re already quite skilled at doing.
  • Because business plans can take a while, a good strategy to keep in mind is to focus on quality over quantity. So many business plans are filled with so many words that mean nothing.

How to source financing for your business

How to source financing for your business

Every business has starting costs, therefore, you’ll need to secure the funds necessary to start a business. If you’ve put together a business plan, then you’re already going to be aware of those costs in general and that will serve as a good benchmark. From there, funding can come from several sources such as the following:

  • Personal investment. From cash to collateral when approaching banks, putting your own money into your business is a given for many.
  • Love money. Money from family or friends or your partner.
  • Angel investors. Wealthy individuals or retired company executives with a lot of wealth and resources for businesses. They prefer to keep a low profile and also monitor your business should they choose to invest.
  • Government grants and subsidies - Under certain circumstances, you may be able to receive grants. For federal grants, you can check the government of Canada website. For provincial funding, check your province’s website.
  • Bank loans. The most common form. Keep in mind that you don’t need to go to the same bank you’ve been personally banking with. Each bank offers different loan packages.

Should you hire staff?

Beyond setting up a business plan and considering financing, another big decision that needs to be made in how to start a small business is whether to hire staff or not. The answer to that question largely depends on the business and its financial standing.

Beyond those, there are five indicators that can determine whether you need to hire staff:

  • Your company is growing strong and healthy. 
  • You have limited employee capacity.
  • You’re seeing a rise in overtime. 
  • You’ve got new opportunities coming your way.
  • New skills are needed. 

Some other general signs to keep an eye out for when to hire additional staff are:

  • You have to decline new work.
  • Staff is overworked and overwhelmed by the current workload.
  • Customer service is suffering.
  • Revenue flatlines.
  • Experienced employees are too busy covering simple tasks.

What tech should you look for?

Some suggested tech that should be part of how to start a small business includes:

    • Project management tools. Track activities, appointments and deadlines.
  • E-Signature tools. Send documents and get them signed online.
  • Email marketing. Store emails that can be used later for marketing campaigns.
  • Customer relationship management. Provides deeper insights into how customers interact on your website and with your brand.
  • HR management. An HR manager in software form. Will do payroll and send company announcements easily.
  • Accounting software. An accountant or bookkeeper in software form. Tracks money in and out and produces reports easily.
  • Team communication tools. A central place where people can talk instantly and file share.
  • Password management tools. Protects passwords and stores them in a safe location.
  • Website monitoring. Provides detailed information of visitors to your website(s).
  • Data backup. A safe storage spot for important data and prolongs business continuity.

How to handle accounting, tax, and legal services

For accounting and taxes, the federal government has a strong support system. Part of the duties of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) isn’t to collect taxes but to educate and help Canadians navigate the tax system. They do so through their Liaison Officer service.

This service can be accessed through a webinar where they’ll answer general questions and provide broad information on tax obligations, business tax deductions, common tax errors and more. If you book a virtual visit, the Liaison Officer can provide small business start up tips to keep your books and records straight. More information can be found on the CRA website.

In regards to legal services, should your business fall into legal problems, contacting a local lawyer that handles small business cases is a start. Alternatively, companies like LegalShield Canada or other free sources of legal advice are helpful too.

How to network in your industry

Networking is another crucial part of the success of any business. The only way for people to know you exist as a business is to talk to people about it. Some small business start up tips to keep in mind with networking are:

    • Show up to networking events. Goes without saying that showing up to these is good. Be sure to bring lots of business cards.
  • Get social outside of work. That barista serves you coffee once in a while. The people you chat to at the gym. An old high school classmate who’s wondering what you’ve been up to. All people you can talk about your business to.
  • Know what you’re worth. If you believe in your product or service, that’s going to be conveyed in your voice.
  • Overcome introversion. Some people get shy about talking about their business and that’s okay if you’re one of them. Find your own way to connect with someone and ease into talking about your business naturally that way.
  • Don’t be negative. Avoid talking about former companies or coworkers.

Additional tips for growing your business

Before you go, here are some other general tips on how to start a small business to keep in mind:

  • Make sure that you have the brand identity of your company down first before building a business. A brand identity should answer the question “what does your business represent?”
  • Research competitors and the market. Look for what they’re doing right and wrong and how you can fit in.
  • You may need to register your business or get licenses depending on what business you’re starting up. Look into that before you begin.
  • Look into business insurance. Even if you’re a home-based business, getting insured is a good idea.
  • Create a healthy work-life balance. While working on the business is important, recognize there is more to living than just building a business. Have some time to focus on other areas of your life too.


As you can tell, there is a lot that goes into a business beyond just starting up. But as daunting as it is, it is also thrilling and a learning opportunity unlike anything you’d experience working for another company. Whether you are doing this on the side or full-time, these tips will help you in getting a business started on the right foot.


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