Starting a Business 101

Everything You Need to Know About Starting Your Own Business

Happy business owner in front of his new store.
••• Image (c) Jason Florio / Getty Images

So you're thinking of starting a small business. Congratulations! Hopefully this is the start of an exciting new venture in your life that you'll look back on years from now as the best decision you ever made. 

On this page, you'll find the information you need to help make that happen - information to help make your new business a success.

Are You Ready to Start a Business?

Running a business is just so different than being an employee. You need an entirely different mindset if your new small business is going to succeed.

Part of it is suddenly being the big boss and having a whole different set of responsibilities.

A large part of it is about no longer having the safety net you once had. If you're sick, you can't just call in. Whatever you were going to do still needs to be done. And there are no medical, dental or insurance benefits unless you buy them yourself. No pension. 

But on the other hand, you are the boss. It's hard to beat the appeal of that. No one else looking over your shoulder or telling you what to do. No more suffering through the consequences of someone else's bad decisions. Owning Your Own Business Is Better Than Being Someone Else's Employee.

But What If I'm Not an Entrepreneur?

I hear this a lot. "I'd love to start my own business but I'm really not much of an entrepreneur." 

I have two things to tell you about that.

First, what does it even mean to be an entrepreneur? There are a particular set of characteristics that entrepreneurs commonly share

But second, does it even matter if you don't have the "correct" characteristics of an entrepreneur? It's far more important to be able to answer yes to these three questions.

Don't Let Your Fear Rule You!

Why Are You Putting Off Starting Your Own Business if it's something you really want to do?

People have all kinds of answers but for many, the reasons boil down to fear - fear of failure, fear of the unknown, even fear of success are not uncommon. If this is you, learn How to Conquer Your Fear of Starting a Small Business so you can get on with making your dream a reality.

Business 101: It All Starts With an Idea

If you're one of those people who already have a business idea - great! Skip down to the next section for some input on what type of business to start.

If you don't already have an idea in mind, 7 Sources of Business Ideas will teach you how to find your own winning idea for a new business.

Or browse these collections of business ideas and see what sparks your interest and fits your circumstances. 

What Type of Business Should You Start?

Once you have a business idea, you're almost ready to start putting your business plan together. But first you need to do some serious thinking about what you actually want to do and how you want to live. You see, most small business people are not the type of entrepreneurial moguls who are starting tech companies hoping to make millions from by going public or selling the company to a much bigger corporation.

Most small business people are people who want be their own boss and/or do something they've always wanted to do or people who want the challenge of turning their business idea into a reality. 

But they want to have a life too. What Type of Business Should You Start? will guide you through the process of figuring out what type of small business is truly right for you.

If you are starting a business selling your personal services, be sure you read the pair of companion articles, Why Being a Contractor Is Better Than Being an Employee  and 5 Reasons Being a Contractor Is Not for Everyone

Interested in Starting a Home Business?

Home businesses are one of most popular types of business to start. And why not? A home-based business can be absolutely ideal for people who want to be at home with their kids or for people who want to run online businesses. (See the next section.)  But Working From Home Isn't for Everybody.

While from a legal and structural point of view, starting a home-based business is just like starting any other small business from an operational point of view, starting a home business is different. Before you choose the home-based option, read What You Need to Know Before You Start a Home Based Business.

Then if you still want to start one, read 6 Steps to Starting a Home-Based Business That Will Succeed.

You may also want to take a look at some or all of these topics specific to working out of or in your home:

Those of you starting businesses in Canada will also want to study these tax-related articles:

Starting an Online Business

In this starting a business guide, I'm referring primarily to starting an ecommerce business, although as you'll see in 7 Online Business Models, that's certainly not the only type of online business that you can start.

For instance:

If you want your online business to operate through your own website, the very first step is to Register a Domain Name. If you want to sell things through your website, you'll also need a merchant account and to know about the various Online Payment Options for Your Online Business.

Then it's just a matter of creating your own website (or hiring a designer to build one for you). See How to Build a Website That Works.

Or you can do things the easy way and choose one of these 8 Easy Ways to Get Your Small Business Into Ecommerce where all the things above will be done for you. 

Whether you create your own website or pick a turnkey solution through an ecommerce provider, you'll want to make sure that these 8 Rules for a Successful Ecommerce Website are followed.

And if you are operating a website in Canada you'll need to know How to Charge Provincial Sales Tax on Online Sales.

Starting an Import/Export Business

Importing and/or exporting businesses can be extremely successful if you know what you're doing.

Learn how to set up an import or export business, the rules for importing or exporting goods, about the import/export documents you need and even how to prepare an international marketing plan with these import/export resources.

Buying a Business 101

One option to start a business you may not have considered is buying a business. It can be easier than creating a business from scratch especially as in many cases you are purchasing an existing clientele and suppliers as well as the business's inventory and other physical property. Many franchises offer turnkey operations - it doesn't get any easier than that for the new small business owner. See if buying a business is the right choice for you and learn about the purchase procedure with these articles.

Business Plans

All right - you've got your idea, you've decided what kind of business you want to start - now what? It's time to write a business plan

Writing a business plan should be one of the first things you do once you decide to start a business. Do you have to? Yes. Here are 5 Reasons a Business Plan Is Key to Success.

But you may or may not have to write the full-scale in-depth formal business plan such as a bank or other lender will require; there are different business plans for different purposes. Make Sure You're Using the Right Type of Business Plan.

If all you want to do, for instance, is test whether your new business idea is any good, take the quick and easy route and just ask these 5 Questions to Discover If Your Business Idea is Worthwhile.

If you're looking for investors, you'll want to use an Investor Ready Business Plan.

No matter what kind of business plan you prepare, you're going to want sure you do these two things:

  1. Pay special attention to the Executive Summary. It's the part that gets your business plan read (or not read!)
  2. Avoid Making These Common Business Plan Mistakes.

These articles will be helpful as you work through your business plan:

How to Start a Successful Business

No matter what type of business you choose to start, give yourself a huge leg up by spending some time delving into these advice articles on how to make your new business a success. No one starts out wanting to start a business that fails, but many do. (Read Why Do Small Businesses Fail? to learn why.) Here is some of my best advice for starting a successful business and avoiding becoming another statistic.

And the #1 rule about starting a successful business? Start the right business in the right place at the right time. In other words, don't start one of these small businesses.

All About the Money

Anybody who wants to start a business that tells you "It's not about the money" is lying - or already rich enough that other people's money doesn't matter to them anymore.

How to get your new business to make money is the main problem you face when you're in startup. Then there's the whole problem of how to keep the money coming in when you're starting out. No matter what kind of business you start, it's going to cost money to get it started and keep it operating until it starts making money.

Many people need to find some other source of financing when they start their own businesses. This section is all about finding the business start up money you need to get your new business up and running - from small business loans and grants through how to attract angel investors.

General Information:

In the U.S.:

In Canada:

How to Start a Business in Canada

Sole proprietorship, partnership or incorporation? What's the business registration process? How can you pick the right name for your new business? And does your business need to register for GST/HST or PST? This section deals with the legalities of starting a business in Canada, from choosing a legal structure through the different business registrations your new business will need.

 The Bottom Line

What do you need to start a successful business?

A clear business model.

A viable business idea.

The desire/determination to make it happen.

Enough money/support to make it happen.

If you have these four things, truly the sky is the limit. To your success!