Answers to Your Common Business Questions

Here are answers to some of the business planning questions that we get most frequently.

If your question isn’t answered below, check out our free, online Business Resource Library, sign up for our free Starting a Business Info Session or call us at 1.800.643.7014 for personalized support.

1. Does Women’s Enterprise Centre have a grant program?

Women’s Enterprise Centre DOES NOT provide grants. We DO provide business loans, which are repayable with interest. View a list of grant programs.

2. What do you think of my business idea?

We frequently get asked this question. While in some cases we can give you our initial opinion, generally what you really need is research to determine the potential of your business idea.

As a first step, you need to determine if there are enough people interested enough in your concept to buy it at a price that will make you a profit. And, of course, the potential of your idea will also depend significantly on you and your goals. What may not be a good business for one person, could very well be a good fit for another.

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3. Why do I need a business plan?

A business plan is a vital and dynamic blueprint of your business that will outline the direction it will go, how it will get there and the projected results.

Your business plan should reflect how all the pieces of your company fit together to create an organization capable of meeting its goals and objectives. The plan must also be able to communicate your company’s distinctive competence (key competitive advantage).

A business plan is also the key document that investors and lenders rely on when deciding whether or not to finance the business venture. With this in mind, your business plan should reflect a strong degree of professionalism and organization.

While preparing your business plan, try to put yourself in the shoes of the reader. Ask yourself, “As an investor, would I finance this business based on the information provided?” Remember, lenders and investors don’t know your business as well as you, so try to give as much information as possible based on fact and research. Finally, changes occur; therefore, it is essential to update and revise your business plan to reflect changes on an ongoing basis.

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Creating Your Business Plan Workbook ($29.95, free shipping)

Creating Your Business Plan Workbook coverThis comprehensive learning guide takes you through each step of the business planning process, from thinking about starting a business to ticking off your business plan checklist. We’ve designed this resource to help you tackle the questions our Business Advisors hear most.

Learn more about the Creating Your Business Plan Workbook

4. What are the major parts of a business plan?

A detailed business plan consists of:

  • Executive Summary
  • Objectives
  • Mission
  • Business Background
  • Industry Analysis
  • Competitive Analysis
  • Marketing Analysis
  • Production Plan
  • Management Summary
  • Implementation Plan
  • Financial Plan

Free related resources

Creating Your Business Plan Workbook ($29.95, free shipping)

Creating Your Business Plan Workbook coverThis comprehensive learning guide takes you through each step of the business planning process, from thinking about starting a business to ticking off your business plan checklist. We’ve designed this resource to help you tackle the questions our Business Advisors hear most.

Learn more about the Creating Your Business Plan Workbook

5. What is the difference between primary and secondary market research?
  • Primary research involves going out and gathering data first hand from the source (i.e. surveying potential customers, interviewing suppliers, observing competitors, counting traffic). The advantage of doing primary research is that you can get information on the specific question or problem you need answered, not information that merely applies to your industry or type of business in general.
  • Secondary research is information that someone else has already gathered and generally published in a form that is easy for you to use. This includes books, articles, publications, internet sources and things like Statistics Canada data. It may be less reliable than primary research because the information you obtain was not developed with your particular problem or situation in mind.

In general, we recommend you start by doing secondary research. This will give you an idea of what information is currently available so that you know what gaps you need to fill in doing your primary research. It is common for information to be available on a Canadian or provincial basis, but it can be more difficult to obtain for your particular market area.

Primary research can be used to test whether the information that is found for a larger area will hold true for your market area and particular target market. It is also a way to get information that is just not available in secondary sources.

For more information on conducting research, visit the Market Research section of our Business Resource Library.

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6. How do I do a survey to get information about my market?

First you need to be really clear in your own mind about exactly what you want to know. What is it you want to find out?

Draft a number of questions that you think will elicit this information. Remember to keep your survey short – most people will give you only a few minutes.

After you have drafted all your questions, test your survey by asking someone you know to answer the questions. Review their answers and see if you are getting the information you want. If not, you will need to revise your questions.

If any of the questions seemed unclear to your test subject, you will also need to revise those questions as well.

It will be easier for you to tabulate the results later if you ask specific questions that require short answers. You may wish to view this Sample Market Research Questionnaire.

Deciding who to survey can also be challenging. You want to ask the kinds of people who are likely to purchase your goods or services.

Asking family and friends to be part of your survey is not a good idea because they are likely biased. Sending a survey out by email isn’t usually productive as so few people respond.

It is best if you can determine where your prospective clients spend time and then ask them personally. An example is getting permission to survey shoppers going into a mall.

Women’s Enterprise Centre recommends having your survey reviewed by one of our business advisors while you are in draft stage. We can help you with wording and also help you identify who should be part of your survey group and how you might approach them.

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7. How do I figure out how much money I'm going to make?

Accurately estimating cash flow can be very challenging. Essentially, you are taking your market research and converting it into a sales forecast. This means you need to be very specific and thorough in your market research.

You need to determine who your mostly likely customer is (i.e. identify a target market), where they are and how many of them there are. Next, you need to determine, realistically, how many of them would likely purchase from you, at what frequency and how much an average sale would be.

For example, if 300 people purchase two times a month and spend an average of $56.00 each time (300 x 2 x 56 = $33,600.00/month).

Another way is to try and find out how your competition is doing. Remember, though, that you will not open your doors and get the same sales volume as a competitor who has been in business for a number of years.

Be realistic that your sales will start slowly and build. Also remember that some businesses are seasonal and your sales may be lower in some months than others.

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8. Do you think I should incorporate?

There are advantages and disadvantages in incorporating and this is a decision you should discuss with your lawyer and accountant.

Usually what you trade when you incorporate is equity (money) for control. For example, incorporating allows you to sell shares in your company, thereby gaining equity; but, at the same time you give up some of your control over the company to your shareholders. It can also be expensive to incorporate.

Learn more about the pros and cons to incorporating>>

9. How do I register my business name?

Before you register your business name, it is important that you take the time to understand the key reasons for choosing between the three major business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation.

Research the advantages and disadvantages of these structures. If you need additional assistance in choosing the correct structure for your business, we recommend that you consult legal and accounting professionals.

Registering your business name is a fairly simple process if you are planning a sole proprietorship or partnership.

Setting up a corporation can be much more complex, depending on your business needs. While you can incorporate yourself, many people require the assistance of legal and/or accounting professionals to ensure they get the correct setup for their business.

You can find all the information you need to register your business at the One Stop BC Business Registry.

As the name suggests, this site will also let you register for other key accounts you may need for your business such as GST, PST, payroll deductions, Workers Compensation Board, municipal business licenses, etc.

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10. I've invented / written something that I want to secure. How do I get information on patents/copyrights/trademarks?

If you have invented something, please check the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) for information on how to get patents/copyrights/trademarks.

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11. I am looking for a networking group in my area. Do you have recommendations or contact information?

Check out our Networking Connections page! We are also co-founder and co-chair of the WEB Alliance of Women’s Business Networks, which can help you access a networking group in your area.

You can also contact your local Chamber of Commerce for additional contact information for other networking groups or call us at 1.800.643.7014 for contact information to a group in your local area.

Picture of Cheryl Farmer, WEC Business Advisor

Cheryl Farmer
Business Advisor