Starting a business? Here are some resources

Les and Marilyn Gordon of The Candlelite Inn

Starting a successful business requires a range of skills that is so broad, it's beyond what any one person should expect to be good at. It is also sobering, but true, that most startups fail, so it is important to go into this new venture armed with a rigorous analysis of the market and your business model. 

Here are some questions to consider:

What are your goals?
A good place to start is to be clear about your goals and what—beyond profits—you hope to accomplish. How you define success should dictate how you go about starting the new venture. For example:

  • Are you converting a hobby into a business that you hope will become a viable source of long-term employment?
  • Do you have a revolutionary product or service that depends on being “first to market” and has the potential to employ many people?
  • Are you focused less on the growth of your business than on becoming known as the best at what you offer?

Discuss these questions, and your answers, with your partners, counselors or advisors.

What additional skills do you need?
What are your strongest business skills? What functions within the business do you want to take on? It is important to be self-aware enough to know what you don’t know and be able to recruit partners or volunteer advisors that complement your strengths.

Give some thought to the characteristics and skills that could strengthen your team. If you can’t hire the people with those attributes, consider bringing them on as partners or recruit a board of advisors. Advisors don’t make your decisions for you, they just ask good questions, challenge your assumptions, open doors and generally act as a sounding board. Raising advisors is easier than getting a business loan or investment!

A final point: An advisory group that meets regularly is better than you informally touching base with individual business people you admire. Meeting as a group, the members hear each other’s questions and can generate better feedback.

Have you sufficiently recruited and screened your partners or team of advisors?
One of the most typical traps that owners of startups fall into is insufficiently vetting the skills of another resource/partner. Particularly when you are recruiting for a skill that is not a strength of yours, it is easy to be impressed by someone simply because they can do it better than you can. For example, if you are not good at financials, you want to be sure that you are not thinking you are hiring a CFO-level resource, when the person's skill level is actually that of a bookkeeper/controller. You want a partner who is as good at what they do as you are at what you do. Check references of potential partners to see if their skill levels match your expectations.

Here are some resources to consider if you:

Want help starting and developing a business plan

Are considering forming a business partnership with another person (resource courtesy of Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC))

Are interested in taking some courses and/or seminars

Want to raise some startup capital

Want to start a business in farming or forestry