Business Start-Up Guide

Are you ready to set out on the exciting adventure of starting your own business? Consult our step-by-step guide to meet your objectives. Each step builds on the previous one, providing you with concrete information and guidance so you can successfully build your business and meet your goals.

Schedule a call with a business expert

or contact us now

Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Light bulb

Step 1: Define Your Concept

Do you have an exciting idea for a new product or service and want to start your own business to market it?

  • Define the scope of your project by answering a list of basic questions. 
  • First, think about the product/service you plan to offer. Is it original? Is it already being offered by your competitors? If so, how will your product/service stand out?
  • Next, focus on your target market. Is your product/service geared to men and women alike? Will it interest a broad segment of the population or a specific age group?
  • Try not to limit yourself at this point—what matters is that you clearly state the reasons you came up with your idea and want to market the new product/service.

Step 2: Conduct Market Research

Once you’ve completed the first step, you will need to test your ideas against market realities.

  • Consult statistical data on the Canadian economy and industry sectors so you have a clear picture of your field of business, or conduct research to ensure your target clientele is well represented in your geographical area.
  • You can also enlist the services of a market research firm to conduct a survey for you.
  • The information you gather can help you better define your product/service, identify ways you can be more competitive, establish pricing based on customer income and develop a marketing strategy.
Business model

Step 3: Complete My Business Mode

Now is the time for further brainstorming as you draw up a profile of the activities and stakeholders in your future business.

  • My Business ModelTM,  is a powerful visual tool that presents the key components of a business simply, using nine building blocks:

        1. Your value proposition (or a description of your product/service)

        2. Customer segments (or your target clientele)

        3. Communication and distribution channels

        4. The type of relationships you would like to have with your customers

        5. The resources you need

        6. The activities that characterize your business

        7. Your partners

        8. Revenue streams

        9. Cost structure

  • By reflecting on each of these aspects, you will develop a better understanding of your business and learn how each block impacts the others.
  • Be creative—jot down keywords and phrases, draw pictures and arrows to connect ideas.
Transfer plan

Step 4: Draw Up a Business Plan

Now, you’re ready to draft the document you will need to submit to potential investors: the business plan.

  • Clearly state your answers to the questions you were asked in the previous steps, in particular:

        > What is the purpose of your business? 

        > What is your business model? 

        > What are your sales and expense targets (to provide potential investors with a clear, detailed overview of your objectives)?

  • Use concrete data to show that your goals are achievable: present your market research, supplier lists or detailed descriptions of facilities and equipment.
  • By ensuring your document is clear, concise and well supported, you increase the chance that an investor will want to come on board.
Judge's gavel

Step 5: Choose a Legal Form

You must now choose the legal form for your business. There are a number of options available, each with advantages and disadvantages. We recommend that you consult an accountant, lawyer or tax specialist to find out which legal form would be best suited to your situation.

  • If you opt for a sole proprietorship, you will be the sole owner and administrator, meaning you are in control of decision-making and earn all the profits. However, it means that you alone are accountable for any debt, and, given that the income from your business is subject to your individual income tax rate, you could find yourself in a higher tax bracket. 
  • Would you rather launch your business with a partner by creating a general partnership? This structure means that you can benefit from your partner’s financing, while sharing profits and responsibility for any debt.
  •  Would you like to set up a corporation? As a corporation, your business is a legal entity in its own right, which limits your responsibility, but keep in mind a corporation is expensive to register and subject to strict regulations.
  • To choose the right structure, it is essential to review the needs you identified in the previous steps.
  • Don’t hesitate to enlist the services of a lawyer, who can also draft your legal documents.
Find financing

Step 6: Find Funding and Resources

Any business owner will tell you that obtaining funding is the hardest part of launching a business.

  • Remember that since you haven’t proven yourself as an entrepreneur, potential investors see you as a risk, and will want to ensure that your business will generate sufficient profits and your company assets can serve as collateral.
  • There are two major sources of funding available:

           > Financial institutions, which offer various types of loans tailored to new business owners.

           > The public sector, government ministries and organizations offering grants and loan guarantees, which vary depending on the business sector.

  • Be creative when seeking out financing, just like when you drew up your business plan. For example, you may find that crowdfunding (small amounts invested by a large number of individuals) through social networking is the best way to finance your business.
  • Don’t forget that there are also a number of non-financial resources available, including the National Bank | HEC Montreal Institute for Entrepreneurship, The FBA - National Bank Centre of Université Laval and entrepreneur networks.
  • Be creative when seeking out financing, just like when you drew up your business plan. For example, you may find that crowdfunding (small amounts invested by a large number of individuals) through social networking is the best way to finance your business. 
Launch your company

Step 7: Launch Your Business

Launching your business is a victory in and of itself, but the journey is far from over.

  • See your first year in business as a trial run—starting your business gives you a chance to assess the quality of your initial decisions and adapt your strategy based on your day-to-day experience.
  • Pay attention to cash management. Are you managing cash flow efficiently, or do you need to make changes to avoid increasing your debt?
  • Review the various steps in the My Business ModelTM. Can you find less expensive distribution channels? Is your product meeting the existing need? Has your target clientele changed? Have customers expressed new needs?
  • Make customer service a priority—satisfied clients become advocates for your company.
  • By regularly taking stock of the various aspects of your business, you can be sure that you are doing everything you can to ensure its growth and sustainability.




Useful Articles

5 things you need to know when launching a business
Meeting with an advisor
A woman smiling in front of a store

TM    MY BUSINESS MODEL and the MY BUSINESS MODEL logo are trademarks of National Bank of Canada.

Business Help centre

Find answers to your questions