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Starting a business in Canada: Dream big. Do smart

By Daniel Kosir |

One in every five Canadians is thinking of starting their own business in the next five years, while one in every three Canadians who currently do not run their own business are open to the idea of being their own boss.

Those are the findings of Ipsos Reid, which recently conducted two surveys: the RBC Small Business Survey and Canadian Consumer Outlook Survey.

However, the studies also found that those contemplating entrepreneurship may not have a clear picture on the challenges they can expect to face.

Those who have never been in business are likely to expect start-up capital to be their biggest challenge. Financing topped the list of 28 per cent of respondents, followed by finding clients at 14 per cent.

People running an active business have a much different outlook. A clear majority, 66 per cent of those who run their own business cited finding clients as the top challenge. Just 15 per cent view getting enough money to start up or expand as the biggest issue.

Amongst prospective business owners the perception of how long it would take a new business to turn a profit was also off the mark.

While 40 per cent of Canadians thought it would take up to three years to start making money, 41 per cent of business owners from the survey said it took less than a year for their business to break even or make enough to cover costs.

Andrew Patricio, President of, a company that trains new entrepreneurs, is not so sure.

"I have read the research," he says, "and don't believe small business owners break-even in the first year if they draw a market related salary for themselves."

In Patricio's experience, the biggest change in perception for those who make the transition from dreaming about starting a business, to those who are actually doing it, is the time expectation.

"People quickly realise that things take far longer than you expect," says Patricio. "So it takes more time than they expect to break-even, to get customers, to feel in control. The first three years are chaotic for most start-ups."

When asked about the key things that make the difference between those who succeed and those who fail, he says that successful entrepreneurs:

  • Have done a ton of research and developed a business plan;
  • Live off their partner the 1st year;
  • Are good at sales, marketing and collecting money;
  • Work long hours;
  • Have a group of advisors/ mentors and ask a lot of questions;
  • Persevere;
  • Plan for the worst case scenario, which never happens; and
  • Usually have some industry experience.

So how can you dream big, but "do smart"? Patricio suggests that entrepreneurs focus on these five tips:

  • Find a mentor(s);
  • Form a mastermind group with a group of people in the start-up phase;
  • Never stop networking;
  • Get some training, read books; and
  • Never give up.

To get more information on how to start a Business in Canada, be sure to check out CanadaOne's free Starting a Business Guide.

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