One year ago we launched BMO SmartSteps for Business, and began bringing entrepreneurs advice, tips and resources to start up and build their businesses to their full potential. Writing and sharing blog posts daily, a few overarching lessons have become apparent that every entrepreneur should keep top of mind.
1. Create – and revisit – your business plan
Setting goals for your business is one thing, and making sure you’ve thought out the essential steps and resources to get there is another. That’s why it’s important not only to build a business plan, but to ensure you revisit and adjust it regularly.
2. Research the resources available to you
Capital is essential for the successful startup and growth of any business, which means knowing the financial resources available to you can be invaluable. We’ve broken down a number of government resources to start with, in addition to providing relevant links where you can learn more about government financing. We’ve also looked specifically at Canada Small Business Financing – a great potential resource for entrepreneurs.
Beyond financing, there exist many community resources that can help you learn more about building your business and make valuable business connections. So don’t forget to look around and take advantage of those around you who are willing to help.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of strong relationships
Whether you’re building relationships with customers, staff, or the community, a successful business requires strong connections. Internally, an engaged staff will want to work harder to help your business succeed.
Externally, building a network of advisors to draw upon can provide access to expertise you may not personally have. To that end, building a strong relationship with your business banker can prove particularly fruitful.
Meanwhile, building relationships with customers will keep them coming back. So don’t forget the value of courteous, attentive customer service.
4. Know your audience
In order to effectively reach your customers – through traditional advertising, online media, or face-to-face interaction – it’s important to know who they are, as well as their needs and wants. This will help you understand not only what desire exists for your product or service, but how to best grab the attention of current and potential customers.
Knowing your market is essential to putting together your marketing plan, and effectively taking advantage of web tools and social media. By putting yourself in the shoes of your customer, you’ll know how to respond to their needs in-store, and through the variety of media now available to communicate with them.
5. Learn from others
Learning from others who have been in your situation is a surefire way to gain firsthand business insight. As an entrepreneur, other business owners have a wealth of experience and lessons to offer.
For example, while Barbara Mowat, founder of GroYourBiz, discussed how to transition in business, Kim Watt-Senner, founder of Everything Organized, emphasized the importance of work - life balance. Dr. Roy Jackson shared how to work on your business as opposed to in it, and Royson Ng, president of Samtack, provided his insights as an immigrant entrepreneur.
These insights emphasize the successes of Canadian entrepreneurs, as well as the lessons they have to share with others. As small business continues to play a vital role in Canadian communities, looking to each other as resources and sources of support can prove vital.
Continue checking back with BMO SmartSteps for Business as we build upon these lessons and continue to connect you with the experts and information that’ll help you grow your business to its full potential.
Chris Mejaski is a Toronto-based writer and digital communications professional, with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University and an M.A. in Communication and Culture from Ryerson and York universities.