Starting a small business can be an exciting prospect that brings with it the potential to be your own boss, follow your passion and create passive income for retirement.
But even the best ideas that generate strong markets can fail if the financial structure doesn’t have a solid foundation. That’s why every new-business owner should make their first priority collecting advice from experts in business planning.
This is especially true if you are looking for startup capital. Most people think three options – personal, family/friends or a bank – are the only sources of funding available. Often overlooked are specific small-business loans and grants from the federal government.
Eli Joseph, a senior account manager, business and personal, with RBC, is often surprised at how few people know about government funding options.
Joseph works with businesses on day-to-day banking, as well as lending solutions through the Canada Small Business Financing Loan (CSBFL) or the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Clients who fall in the “small business” category typically have gross sales under $2 million, with fewer than 15 employees, and who need loans up to $250,000.
“Ninety-eight percent fall under this category,” he said.
The CSBFL has very specific applications, however, such as investing in new equipment or trucks, buying furniture or expanding a business. It won’t cover the cost of hiring staff, a franchise fee or planning a marketing campaign. For that, Joseph suggests looking at a line of credit.
But even before signing up for some fresh cash, Joseph cautions business owners to take stock of where they are.
“Ninety percent start their business asking for money,” said Joseph. “I try to slow down the conversation, I ask, ‘Do we have a business here?’ There were three examples where we had to slow it down and go through the numbers; in all three, after doing footwork, they realized they didn’t have a valid business.
“That’s where people jump the gun – they haven’t done the research; and they don’t have a business plan.”
Tax planner Alexei Schwartzman also underlines how important it is to get professional advice before heading too far into the business.
“It is important to involve someone who understands the tax implication of the business, but it’s essential to get someone involved before the business is officially running,” he said. “Often people do not think of asking the questions until they are already operational and, by that point, it might be too late for certain things.”
This is particularly important if your business has an innovative component that might be eligible for tax credits through the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program (also known as SR&ED). Businesses wanting to take advantage of this government credit need to incorporate before incurring research and development costs. A good tax consultant can help determine if the cost of incorporation and filing SR&ED tax returns, which can be substantial, will be worth the actual money saved.
Also be sure to look at the Public Works and Government Services Canada’s Build in Canada Innovation Program (buyandsell.gc.ca), as well as the National Research Council Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/ irap/index.html). Both of these have loans and grants that help kickstart businesses to get their innovative products and services from the lab to the marketplace.
No matter what type of funding you’re looking for, both Schwartzman and Joseph agree that the biggest mistakes business owners make are not having a business plan, not doing proper market research or trying to do everything themselves rather than turning for advice to experts who have already done the legwork.
For general information on government loans/tax credits for small business, contact Rob McGarry, concierge service, National Research Council Canada, c/o Small Business BC, 601 West Cordova St., 604-499-2804, [email protected], concierge.portal.gc.ca.
Baila Lazarus teaches media communications at Small Business BC. Register for her courses at phase2coaching.com.
- Oct. 17, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Small Business Advice-A-Thon, presented by Benchmark Law, Guildford Golf and Country Club, Surrey. eventbrite.com/o/benchmark-law-corporation-7221486009.
- Oct. 30: Money Money Money: How to Get It, Manage It and Grow It, a keynote session highlighting how to access different levels of financing to support your business, presented by Futurpreneur as part of the all-day SOHO SME Business Expo at the Sheraton Wall Centre. vancouversme.soho.ca.
- Nov. 6, 13 and 20, 10:30 a.m.-noon: How to Do Business with the Federal Government, three-part series at Small Business BC, 601 West Cordova St. smallbusinessbc.ca/seminars.