Starting a small business is a big step, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. We’ve compiled 31 questions that all entrepreneurs should ask themselves to ensure they’re on a promising path to small business success. Take some time to answer the questions below to determine if your great business idea will translate into a great business opportunity as well.
Who will buy?
Who are my customers?
Are my customers other businesses, consumers, or both?
Are the customers easily identified? Are they accessible through media? Is the market for this idea growing?
Do social, technical, economic, political or environmental trends support this idea?
Why will they buy?
Does the idea solve a real and known problem?
Does the idea satisfy a need in the marketplace?
Will the idea be seen by my customers as clearly superior to that of competitors?
Is our idea unique and innovative enough to become intellectual property for my business?
Can we protect our intellectual property (our ideas and other things we create)?
Will we be first to market with this idea?
How much will they buy?
How much does it cost to make — what are my variable costs?
How much would it cost to run a company like this for a year — what are my fixed costs?
How much would people pay for it?
How many units will I have to sell to break even? Use the break-even formula: Break-even (in units) = fixed costs ÷ (unit selling Price – unit Variable cost)
How much money do I need to start up this business?
How long will it take before we can make a sale?
How long will it take before we can generate a profit?
How many can we sell in a year?
Do I have the start-up capital? If not, do I have access to money from friends or family?
Would I qualify for a loan?
Can I afford to live until my company is profitable enough that I can draw a salary?
Can I pull this off?
Do my four Capital Factors (human, social, psychological and financial) support me running a business like this?
Does my education, experience, and domain knowledge support this idea?
Can I pull together a skilled team to help me start this business?
Do I have access to the right people to hire?
Do I want to run a business like this — do I have the passion?
Is my spouse or partner supportive of me running a business like this?
Female entrepreneurs make an outstanding contribution to the Canadian economy, their local communities and their families. It takes a special combination of skill and ability to manage the demands of entrepreneurship or self-employment while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Women seem to be masters of multi-tasking – running a small business, many from home, while juggling the demands of young families and aging parents. Many men have these abilities too, but the success rate of female-run micro-businesses is higher than that of men – making us want to investigate the characteristics of female business owners more closely. Let’s look at some recent research on female entrepreneurship and success rates from Dr. Robert Hisrich’s The Female Entrepreneur:
Female entrepreneurs as a whole undertake more research and planning in the pre-start-up stage of their businesses. Women are generally willing to spend more time to lower the risk of an action than are men. This is one of the reasons for the higher level of success of female-run businesses – we know that planning, research and preparation is associated with higher levels of success in small business.
Women are in general well organized and good time managers – additional demands placed on women due to multiple and overlapping roles they may fill in their lives, particularly if they have a family. Small business success requires development of exceptional organizational and planning skills, and women who hone these skills in their daily lives seem to transfer them naturally to business.
Women tend to be more conservative and manage cashflow and budgets well, particularly in the early stages of business development. This bodes well for the bumpy ride of early-stage entrepreneurship, when making do with what you have or stretching your dollars can mean the difference between success and closing up shop.
Women, in general, are more likely to seek advice and counselling in business sooner and more often than are men. The propensity for men to try and figure it out on their own in business is one of the factors that lead to higher levels of business failure for men.
Women’s communication styles are more likely to be collaborative than competitive. Women emphasize relationship-building, team-building, collaboration and co-operation more often than men in business.
Of course, Dr. Hisrich points to areas of weakness for most female entrepreneurs as well. Things we need to work on are: negotiation skills, developing stronger business networks, taking more calculated risks (like obtaining a loan to grow a company’s product line or marketing strategy), and becoming more comfortable with the financial and accounting functions of our companies. In 2010, we compiled a list of challenges faced by female entrepreneurs, and we think many of them are still prevalent today.
Do you have any female entrepreneurship success stories? Are you, or do you know, a female entrepreneur who’s got a great small business? Sound off in the comments!
According to a report released by the Taskforce for Women’s Business Growth, women owned 47% of Canada’s 1.6 million small and medium-sized enterprises in 2007. This translates to over $117 billion per year of activity in our country’s economy.
The Taskforce for Women’s Business Growth – a “non-partisan consortium of prominent women business owners, SME service agencies, academics, and industry associations” – has created a strategy to help support the growth of women-owned businesses. Their recommendations include:
Create a national women-focused economic development strategy. This includes creating small business education targeted to women and holding an economic summit where female entrepreneurs can network and share economic best practices.
Create programs to develop and increase involvement in foreign trade.
Implement programs for female business owners to leverage supplier diversity.
Support women entrepreneurs’ financial literacy and increase access to capital.
Increase the adoption of technology in women-led firms through training and other incentives.
A 20% increase in total revenues from women-owned businesses can translate to a $2 billion per year increase in Canadian economic activity, according to the report. It’s a corner of Canada’s business world with outstanding potential.
To learn more about the Taskforce for Women’s Business Growth and download the roundtable report, visit their website.
GoForth’s President and founder, Dr Leslie Roberts, was interviewed in the May/June issue of Mompreneur magazine.
Mompreneur is a magazine for Canadian women who “are balancing the role of motherhood with being an entrepreneur.” This month, Dr. Roberts was interviewed about GoForth Institute and issues facing entrepreneurs – the importance of small business education, access to online learning and what Canadian entrepreneurs told her they needed from the country’s first national small business training centre.
Mompreneur magazine is available at Chapters/Indigo now. Thanks to Mompreneur magazine for having us!
This month at GoForth Institute, we’re highlighting women in small business. With good reason, too – women own or manage 40% of Canada’s businesses and are starting small businesses at a record rate. However, with every type of entrepreneurship comes a unique set of challenges, and female entrepreneurs are no different.
What are the major challenges faced by women entrepreneurs?
A woman who starts a small business faces many of the same challenges encountered by any entrepreneur:
However, women who start small businesses also face a host of challenges unique to female entrepreneurs. Women are typically the primary caregivers of children and still tend to earn less than men, meaning that women starting a small business have even more to think about.
Giving women entrepreneurs the tools for small business success
At GoForth Institute, we’re entrepreneurs too. This means we’re committed to giving all entrepreneurs the tools they need to make sure the small business they’ve started has the best chances for success. We offer leading small business online learning programs, which are great for many women-owned small businesses – like home-based businesses. Women who have become self-employed or who have busy work/life schedules need only spare 10 hours in total to get comprehensive small business training from entrepreneurs who’ve been through the same things themselves!
The Canadian government is also making strides in supporting women in business, with initiatives such as business loans for female entrepreneurs and women-only networking events. Of course, businesses themselves love to support female entrepreneurs – check out the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards as an example.
If you’re a woman in business, what unique challenges have you faced? Let us know!