CanadaOne Twitter CanadaOne Linkedin CanadaOne Facebook CanadaONe RSS


Doomed to Fail Before You Start

By Reg Pirie |

Some say patience is a virtue that every consultant must have. Most of the time I think I exhibit a calm, rational approach to the questions and problems that are posed to me by those who are venturing forth as first-time entrepreneurs. But periodically my easygoing nature is taxed to the limit when I repeatedly hear comments like:

  • "I need to generate some quick sales - my income is far short of my original forecast."
  • "I didn't think it would cost so much for..."
  • "My competitors are always one step ahead of me."

    In recent weeks I have received several requests for help from new or relatively new business owners who are in a panic because their enterprises are not performing up to their expectations. Indeed, some of these individuals are facing the harsh reality of returning to traditional jobs in the corporate world.

    This article has been written in an effort to connect with at least some of today's "want-to-be" entrepreneurs who are still at the planning stage. The following comments are not intended to dissuade you from heading out on your own. Quite to the contrary, my observations are made to help you avoid failure.

    I could provide a very long laundry list of "things to do" and "things not to do" when contemplating the start-up of your own business. However, the following topics deal with three major problem areas and all deserve your close attention and consideration:

    Marketing Plans

    When someone phones me for help or advice, I guarantee one of my first questions will be, "Did you prepare a comprehensive marketing plan and if so, have you been following it faithfully?" Many respond to this question by telling me they did a Business Plan to facilitate securing a bank loan. After I repeat my original question I often discover that a real Marketing Plan was not prepared or if it was, it now resides in a desk drawer.

    If you are considering a business venture there are a few realities which you must understand and accept. It doesn't matter if you have a great idea. It doesn't matter if you are the most qualified person in your field. It doesn't matter if you are a hard worker. If you don't have a workable plan to market your product or your service, you will not likely succeed. Being in business means you must learn how to market and you should learn how to enjoy marketing. Last but not least, grasp the principle that marketing is a long-term process, it is not a one-shot effort!

    In this era of "Small Business" there is no excuse for not having a well-prepared Marketing Plan. Go to any Chapters bookstore and you will find shelves of books dealing with the subject.

    Some ask me, "How much time should I spend on developing a marketing strategy for my new business?" Honestly, I don't know. I can tell you that your degree of diligence in formulating a marketing plan will make the difference between success and failure. Does that give you a hint about how much effort is required?


    Yes, you will encounter unexpected expenses or in some cases, you may underestimate certain costs.

    The trick to avoiding "crushing" unforeseen expenses is to carefully research what capital and operating costs your type of business will typically face. Start with the obvious items, which you will find recorded in any well documented self-help book concerning the development of a financial business plan.

    But don't stop there! Solicit assistance from friends and business associates. Ask them to check your list of anticipated expenditures and specifically request their thoughts concerning things you may have overlooked or estimated too low.

    Don't assume anything! Let me give you an example. I recently spoke with a person who had been in business for about six months. He knew he would have to advertise in the Yellow Pages and he also appreciated the fact he would have to participate in selected trade shows. While he recognized what he had to do to gain exposure for his new company, he was stunned to discover the price tag associated with these two very necessary expenditures. He assumed without researching and as such he was faced with double the cost he had originally budgeted.

    Just as an aside, I find those who misjudge expenses are the same people who are overly positive in estimating when and how much income will be generated during the initial phases of a new undertaking. Making one error is bad enough but combining these two mistakes is disastrous and often times a fatal combination.

    Why Are You Different?

    The other question I regularly pose to first-time entrepreneurs goes something like this, "What differentiates you from your competitors who have been around for years before you arrived on the scene?"

    A simple question but it constantly amazes me how few people are able to quickly and concisely detail what makes them different i.e. what sets them apart from all the others. There are no right or wrong answers. But it is a critical piece of information if you want to respond effectively to the standard query raised by potential clients, "Why should I buy from you?"

    Before determining your "differentiating factor" there is another necessary step to be taken. You must research your competition. Again, I am always baffled when I discover how little energy new business people expend on getting to know their competitors. At the very least, you want to learn the following about others in your field of endeavour:

    • Exactly who are the competitors?
    • How many people do they employ?
    • How many locations do they have?
    • What are their areas of specialization?
    • Are they growing?
    • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
    • How do they advertise / market, or do they?
    • What is their focus or claim to fame?
    • What differentiates me from my competitors?

    By thoroughly assessing and understanding your competition you will be much better positioned to identify your niche in an extremely crowded marketplace. Having a truly distinctive "differentiating factor" will allow you to confidently explain to prospects why they should do business with you.

    I wish I could say, "Follow my advice concerning the above three topics and I guarantee you will be successful!" I can't make that claim. On the other hand, if you don't spend some quality time considering these factors you may well be doomed to fail before you start.

    There is a reason why seasoned professionals harp and harp about preplanning before launching a new business. Heed our words of wisdom (we have already made most of the common mistakes in the past) and you will significantly enhance your chances to achieve your personal dreams and your business goals.

  • Canadian, Eh!

    For over 15 years CanadaOne has helped Canadian businesses start-up and grow. All of the content on our site is created to help busineses get Canadian answers!

    Featured Member

    MemberZone. Get in the zone! Join Today!

    CanadaOne Recommends

    Bullies in the Boardroom: Covering the Legal Bases

    Should I Start My Own Company?

    Conversations with Entrepreneurs: Billy Blanks

    Avoiding Legal Perils: Critical Insights into Canadian Franchise Law

    Starting a Business: Choosing a Year-End


    Article Tags