If you’re exploring self-employment or are making plans to start your own venture as a newcomer in Canada, this article will provide you with some valuable tips on running a successful small business in Canada.
1. Start networking
Professional networking is essential in Canada, especially when you’re planning to start a small business. You should start networking with officials at the local chamber of commerce and with other entrepreneurs to get a better understanding of best practices for running a successful business in Canada.
It might also be valuable to build connections in the community and with professionals in organizations that are potential suppliers, partners, or buyers for your business. Depending on the industry you’re in, LinkedIn, professional events, or industry associations may be a good place to start building your network in Canada.
2. Understand your customers and competitors
As a newcomer, it’ll be important to familiarize yourself with the local market before you start your business. You’ll need to understand your customer base, including who your customers are in Canada, their buying habits, and what influences their purchasing decisions. Successful business strategies from other markets may not necessarily work here and you’ll need to adapt to cultural differences.
You should also spend time learning about your competitors, their prices, positioning, and unique selling propositions. Try to find information about their challenges and roadblocks, so you can avoid making the same mistakes.
3. Put passion over profit
Profit should not be the only factor on which you base your decision to become self-employed or choose a particular line of business. The key to setting up a successful small business is to find a niche you are passionate about.
Think of innovative solutions that solve a problem for your audience and build a business that can make a difference in the lives of consumers. If you’re selling a product or service you strongly believe in, it makes your pitch more convincing and your work more fruitful.
4. Have a solid business plan
No matter how great your idea is, you’ll need to make a business plan to make sure it’s viable. Your business plan should include a competitor analysis, a marketing plan, people requirements, and key financial information for your proposed venture, including costs, pricing, and projected profits.
Make your business plan as detailed as possible, but leave some flexibility to adapt based on your learnings after entering the market. If your business requires investment, you’ll need to do a cost-benefit assessment to determine the best source of funding. Speak with a financial advisor for advice on funding your business.
You can find more information on creating a business plan and new business essentials in Arrive’s Newcomer’s guide to starting your own business in Canada.
5. Understand the regulations for small businesses
Before you start a business, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the federal and provincial/territorial regulations for businesses. In addition to taxation laws, you should learn about business structures, registration processes, licences and permits, and certifications that apply to your industry or trade.
The applicable regulations for your small business will depend on the industry, province, and municipality you’re in, so check with your local chamber of commerce for guidance.
6. Keep a close eye on your financials
Whether you’re just starting your business or have been in operation for a while, it’s important to closely track your operating expenses, sales, profits, and working capital. As a newcomer entrepreneur, it’s ideal to keep your overhead costs initially low, and make additional investments as your business grows.
One of the most common sources of financial support is a business loan from a bank. Start building your credit score as soon as you arrive in Canada so you can qualify for a business loan when needed.
You may also be eligible for government programs and grants, such as the Canada Small Business Financing Program (CSBFP), or funding through non-profit or community-based organizations like Futurpreneur Canada. Find a financial advisor who can guide you on the monetary aspects of your business.
7. Leverage digital marketing
Digital marketing is essential in today’s business environment and compared to traditional marketing channels, it can be more cost effective and targeted.
A website, social media presence, and online advertising can help you build brand awareness, promote your business, generate leads, and attract new customers. As a newcomer in Canada, it might take some testing to identify your target audience and digital marketing gives you the flexibility to quickly adjust your campaigns based on results. These channels also provide an avenue for your customers to get in touch with you and share valuable feedback.
8. Understand your value
While making pricing decisions for your product or service, be sure to account for the time that you’ll be investing. Many newcomer entrepreneurs use a cost-plus pricing strategy, where they factor raw material cost, overheads, and other business expenses into the calculation, and add a profit margin.
Try to quantify the value you add to your business, both in terms of time investment and the expertise you bring to the table, then include it in the pricing calculation. Believe in yourself and don’t underestimate your contribution to the business.
9. Invest in learning and education
As a newcomer entrepreneur, there will be a lot you’ll need to learn as you start growing your business. Be sure to invest time and resources in your learning and development.
Try to master the skills you need to expand your business, such as marketing, networking, language skills, or sales. Look for courses that help you build essential skills, sign up for workshops, or read books that help in your self-improvement. Constantly upgrading your knowledge will also ensure that you’re aware of the newest tools and technology you need to run a successful business.
10. Know your limitations and be willing to ask for help
It’s humanly impossible to be an expert in every aspect of running a business. It’s important to know your strengths and limitations and focus your energies on areas you excel in. Your business will be more successful if you’re open to hiring expert professionals whose skills are complementary to your own.
If you’re aware of the gaps in your skill set, don’t hesitate to ask for advice. You can also find a mentor who has experience with entrepreneurship and can share tips on running a successful small business in Canada.
11. Invest back in your business, but pay yourself first
One mistake many entrepreneurs make is to reinvest all their profits into the business in the hope that it will multiply over time. While it’s important to scale your business, it’s also essential that you pay yourself for your work and time.
Always factor your salary into your business plan. Keep it in line with industry standards and make sure you’re financially secure, regardless of how your business performs. By separating your personal finances from your business, you’ll also be more open to bold business moves that can yield significant returns.
12. Challenge yourself
While setting goals for your business, it’s important to be realistic and not aim too high or low in the beginning. Your business plan should include incremental goals that account for your increasing expertise and your company’s organic growth.
Incremental targets will allow you to keep challenging yourself and your team to do more. Celebrate small victories and aim higher each quarter. Don’t set unachievable aspirational goals for your business, as it can be demotivating for you and your employees. Keep your targets flexible and revisit them based on past performance.
13. Take complaints and criticism seriously
Customer feedback is an invaluable resource when you’re just getting started with your business. Good reviews give you encouragement, and criticism and complaints, while painful to hear, provide insight into the aspects of your business that aren’t working well.
As a newcomer entrepreneur, customer feedback can help you identify areas of improvement and ways to make your product or service better-suited to the Canadian audience. Wherever possible, proactively seek constructive feedback from your customers, suppliers, and partners. Adaptability is key to running a successful small business, so use the insights you get to constantly improve.
14. Keep an open mind
Every business has its ups and downs. There may be times when you fail to meet your business goals or turn a profit. Don’t let failure stop you.
The most successful business people are adaptable, open-minded, and willing to learn from their mistakes. Look at your experiences as an opportunity to reflect on your decisions and revisit your business plans and goals. Try not to be too harsh on yourself or blame yourself if your business doesn’t yield the expected results. There’s always scope to experiment, pivot, and try a different approach.
Many newcomers come to Canada with prior experience in running successful businesses or aspirations of building one from scratch. However, setting up a successful business is not easy, and the fundamentals of entrepreneurship often vary based on country or industry. If you’re planning to set up a small business in Canada, these tips can help focus your efforts and lead you to success.