THUNDER BAY – BUSINESS – Owning your own business yields many rewards; the flexibility of setting your own hours, the freedom of being your own boss, and the invaluable privilege of doing the work you love. Although time consuming and challenging, entrepreneurship is a community staple and prosperous businesses are what make cities thrive.
Industry Canada reports that entrepreneurship is alive and well across Canada, driving innovation, productivity, job creation, and economic growth.
Stacia Kean, Development Officer at the Thunder Bay & District Entrepreneur Centre (EC), states Northwestern Ontario is no exception.
In her seven years of working with Thunder Bay small businesses, Stacia knows entrepreneurial spirit when she sees it. “Successful business owners understand the time, commitment, and work involved in setting up shop and maintaining a feasible business. Some of the best entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily business experts, but they work hard and realize that that if the right factors are in place, it can be a very worthwhile risk.”
Stacia has developed a good feel for what takes an operation from small business startup to small business success story. The following are the top factors in determining entrepreneurial success and tips to assist you:
- Lots of experience
Running a profitable business requires a multitude of skills. Entrepreneurs often find themselves playing the role of the bookkeeper, salesperson, hiring manager, and chief marketer on a daily basis, and it takes real world experience to master these tasks.
Business owners who have work experience tend to make better decisions and run more productive operations. According to Stacia, “People who have spent time working for other businesses are more prepared for market fluctuations and dry spells when they branch out on their own ventures. They’re familiar with the volatility and are more likely to survive, grow, and evolve.”
Entrepreneur Tip: Before setting sail on a new venture, learn about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into running a successful operation. Look into available learning resources and tools, make connections, and take advantage of any seminars, workshops, and courses offered. Better yet, gain real management experience in your industry. Throwing yourself into hands-on training and learning the tricks of the trade will better your odds when starting out on your own.
- Market differentiation
Every successful venture is able to make money because it serves a demand by filling a need. Profitable establishments employ a unique value proposition (UVP) to define what they do and who they serve.
Consider the following: What makes your business different? Why should people buy from you? Who are your customers, and how can you serve them better than your competitors? Money-making businesses are profitable because they provide something that people need. As Stacia advises, “The more individual and differentiated your business is, the less competition you will have. There must be something unique about a business if it wants to distinguish itself.”
Businesses that set their UVP are more likely to know their customers and turn a profit by satisfying their needs, wants, and demands better than anyone else.
Entrepreneur Tip: Start by serving a very underserved problem and find ways to cater to your niche market in solving that problem. Thoroughly research your idea to pinpoint exactly where the gap is, and then create ways to fill the gap.
- High demand
After you’ve achieved market differentiation, the next step is to assess your market potential. In Stacia’s experience, she’s found that no matter how great a business idea, it will not be successful unless there is a market for it: “Smart entrepreneurs assess the market potential before diving right into business. Before starting up, businesses need to be sure that there’s enough demand for their service, and they need to capture enough of that demand.”
Entrepreneur Tip: In completing a business plan, thoroughly research the demand for your service to measure and assess your market potential. Also evaluate your operating expenses to set pricing and estimate revenue to ultimately determine the viability of your business idea. Gather concrete information through surveys, census reports, articles, books and publications to support your estimates, projections, and forecasts. Let your research influence your business model and guide you to serve areas of greater demand.
- Strong leadership
All of the main characteristics of a successful entrepreneur can be summed up by one key word: leader. It is more than being a valuable member of the team; business owners must be the leader. As an entrepreneur, your employees, customers, and stakeholders are relying on you – how will you motivate, inspire, direct, and answer to them?
Stacia admits that great entrepreneurs are a certain kind of people – “Owning a business is completely different from being an employee. Entrepreneurs must possess distinct qualities; determination, independence, and perseverance. Entrepreneurs are risk takers, wholly committed to their venture and eager for success.”
Entrepreneur Tip: Strong leadership is all about action, so it’s important to lead by example and be a great role model. Welcome the opinions of others and build on constructive criticism. Be consistent, reliable, and professional at all times. Act the way you’d like others to act, and always do the right thing.
Understanding what entrepreneurship is can assist aspiring business owners increase their chance of sustainability and growth as a business. Successful businesses are pillars of our economy, providing for a healthy tax base, creating jobs, and serving our community. Entrepreneurship is a hugely fulfilling and rewarding way to make a living, but it’s helpful to know what you’re getting into before taking on this venture.
There are many community supports available to assist you to become a successful entrepreneur. The Thunder Bay & District Entrepreneur Centre (EC) is one of 56 Small Business Enterprise Centres in Ontario dedicated to helping small businesses get started, expand, and succeed.
Their one-to-one business counselling, comprehensive information, consulting, and referral service make them a great ‘first-stop’ if you’re starting a business or even thinking of starting a business. The Entrepreneur Centre (EC) can assist with writing a business plan, securing funding, and guiding you in marketing your business. They also provide free workshops and seminars and have youth programs specifically for young entrepreneurs. All Entrepreneur Centre (EC) services are FREE and confidential. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (807)625-3960 or visit www.EntrepreneurCentre.ca.