Building a Business

5 Things You Need to Know Before you Start Your Business

Joe Collins, CPA, CA
December 11, 2017

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Starting a business is hard. Here's 5 things to know before getting started.

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No doubt about it - starting a business is hard work, but it’s worth it. In my experience with entrepreneurs, ideas are the easy part. Turning your idea into a business is where the real work begins.

There are 5 fundamental things I want to share with you that will make creating a successful business MUCH easier.

1. You’re Solving a Problem, But Could You Solve it Better?

Do you have a product or service that encourages people to part with their money? Great, now to keep it going.

Once your doors are open, the real work begins. You have to turn your infant of an idea into a product that can live and breathe in the real world. In other words, you need to find the elusive product-market fit. How will you tailor your product or service to meet the needs of the market and charge a price that will give you some profit? This can take years of spits and starts, iterations and pivots. Don’t get complacent, it’s a jungle out there.

2. Turn a Good Idea into a Great Process

Can you repeat the delivery of your product or service?

Sounds a little dull, I know but, unless you want to continue making the coffee, you will need to show someone else how to do it when you’re not there. That person will probably leave someday, so unless you want to continually worry about the quality of the coffee, you (or someone else) should write down the steps to make a good cup of coffee. Stay with me now, because there’s an and. And chances are that unless you have a process in place to write down the processes and get people to use those processes, your customers are not drinking your idea of good coffee. Isn’t that the point?

3. You’re Creating a Culture. Might as Well Make it a Good One.

Do you want your employees to post Dilbert comics in their cubicle or do you want them to gush to their friends about their latest success at a company they truly care about?

A great company culture is created with intention. It’s designed to stamp out cynicism and make work meaningful. A good place to start is making sure that what you are selling resonates with your people . It’s critically important and it takes time, but you must help them understand that you aren’t selling Coca-cola, you are selling your own brand of magic- it’s not a Jedi mind trick, it’s the truth. You need to understand how to communicate this to your team so they can help you build a customer base that thinks you’re offering and your team are totally awesome.

4. It’s Gotta Pay: Cash vs Operations

So you are solving a problem for people and people are paying you, congratulations!

I have a few questions for you. Do you have the cash to grow at the pace that’s required? Is the price that you are charging actually providing you with a profit? Are you being paid yet for your work? What would you pay someone else to do your job? And a last one: what could you get paid if you were employed by someone else? I don’t have answers to these questions, do you? These are some of the most common financial pitfalls for new businesses and you absolutely have to plan to address them right out of the gates.

Here’s a typical pitfall in action.

Did you know you could sell a $1 string of lights for a million dollars if you never expect payment? Sweet deal!

You are operationally profitable. But you don’t have a business yet because you have no cash and you will never have cash because the person you sold to has no intention of paying you. In fact, if you purchased that string of lights for $1, you now have negative $1 cash. Ouch. This happens all the time at more believable, but no less significant scales. Even the slightest tilt in the wrong direction can sink your business.

5. The Devil’s in the Details

All the little nitty gritty requirements of running a business can come back to bite you. Believe it: ignorance to these ugly details is not a strategy. Acknowledging that they exist is a key to the success of your business.

The details are the things that can bog you down. Living in Canada means that there are a lot of hoops to jump through just to open your doors. You will have to think about (bear with me): payroll, employment standards, GST, PST, legal, insurance, business licenses, worker’s compensation, name registration, building permits and the list goes on (and on and on if you have a regulated product or service).

Did you know that we have considered discontinuing payroll services at Avalon? We are great at providing this service, but it’s a tough sell because many people don’t understand the detail that is involved. Until you have Revenue Canada seize your accounts for missed payroll remittances, it seems like pretty trivial work. We still offer the service because it is absolutely critical that it is done properly. Running a business is full of details that just need to be done. Whether it’s filing your worker’s compensation each year or ensuring your employee gets their Record of Employment after taking a new job, these are things that can’t be ignored.

There’s a Bright Side, I Promise!

After all this, why on earth would you want to start a business? You may recall a few short paragraphs that I said starting a business is hard, but it’s worth it. For me, what’s ‘worth it’ is the direct nature of reaping the results of the efforts I sow - both good and bad - and learning from them. I also love helping people, especially entrepreneurs who are uniquely positioned to make great changes in the world. I want to help them take their ideas and grow them into something incredible.

Every Business Needs Help to be Great

The big takeaway here is that while starting a business is hard and there are many components to running a successful business, there is no requirement to do it alone. In fact, I don’t think it’s possible. You may not be able to hire a crack team in the early days, but there’s a wealth of knowledge in your network and there are components that can be outsourced. Maybe not your culture, that’s up to you, but you can get people to help you to understand your product/market fit, your processes, your financial picture and your details. Understanding where your strengths are can help you to understand where you might need some help.


Ask Avalon | If you need help understanding your financial picture or keeping the details in order, please reach out - we offer a free 30 minute session to get you on the right track and have packages available for people all along their entrepreneurship journey.

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Article by
Joe Collins, CPA, CA
Originally published
December 11, 2017
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