Structuring Your Business to Enable Growth
Starting a business is hard work. Maintaining the business and growing it is even harder. Statistically 95% of small businesses fail and this is attributed mainly to lack of planning, experience and knowledge.
As founders, it is our responsibility to take the necessary steps to plan for success, learn as much as we can about our product and our customers, develop our business skills and embrace our new roles as founders and leaders.
Many businesses fail because founders don’t do enough research on the market. It is good to be knowledgeable about a product or service and be passionate about it, but that is not enough to ensure a business idea is going to be successful. Just because we believe in it doesn’t mean customers are going to follow. So, we definitely want to spend time preparing before we launch. Two key aspects to work on before launching our businesses are creating a well-documented business plan and doing some market research.
We can support these aspects of our project by leveraging the tools our local libraries have to offer. Toronto Public Library provides us with a wealth of knowledge, available in all shapes and sizes.
We can attend in-person events such as seminars, training or book launches. These allow us to take advantage of what is new and relevant in our field of interest. It also allows us to meet new members of the community that share similar interests.
Alternatively, we can also use the library as a key resource in preparing our business plan or market research, to expand our business knowledge and gather information that will help us make decisions regarding strategic next steps.
Business Plan Writing:
There is a broad selection of books that focus on writing business plans. The library also offers its users online access to Gale eBooks (hint: you can access all this info from home!), all you need is your library card and password. This site offers the Business Plan Handbook Series – a great compilation of real-life business plans for any possible industry and business – from medical practitioners, record companies, Grant Writer, Cosmetic manufacturers, among others. The options are very broad and provide tangible knowledge on how to lay out a business plan for our new venture.
Safari Tech & Business Books Online provides access to stream hundreds of books in digital format and also instructional videos. No need to go into the library for this, you can access them straight from our browser in our home or office. Here we can also find some very good content that will guide us when writing our business plan.
Recently during my tenure as Entrepreneur in Residence, I had many entrepreneurs come to me to ask where to get market data. We know there are Primary and Secondary sources for data that will offer us market insight. Primary sources are always ideal because they offer us first-hand account of the market, but due to their nature, they cannot be very comprehensive. It would not be feasible to gather an understanding of a whole market or industry via primary sources. This is why we need to support our learning through secondary sources. Toronto Public Library offers access to some very powerful online databases when it comes to secondary resources.
If you need to access information about companies, Mergent Intellect offers users access to very detailed data on US and Canadian businesses, so this is a very good platform to learn about the industry and the competition. Scott’s Directories, on the other hand, offers great insight into all businesses in Canada. This directory allows us to access contact information, location, number of employees, year established, geographic area by company. This information can be searched in many different ways, so we can obtain loads of market insight. This is a great way to gain understanding of who is around us, what businesses they are in, their size, time in operation, contacts, etc. This data is of great value to new local restaurants or any small business opening it’s door into a specific location, for example, that might want to offer their services to their neighbours or wants to understand the competitive landscape nearby.
Another good database you can use to improve your market knowledge is Financial Post (FP) Advisor. I believe they have some industry reports that can be quite effective due to the fact that they are not as extensive but include all relevant business and financial data. Also, their archive goes back 6-8 years depending on the industry, and this can be very helpful when we need to analyze historical information. All reports can be downloaded as a PDF, so we can easily export the information.
Business Skills Learning
The e-learning section under E-books and Online Content offers free access to Lynda.com (now Linkedin Learning) and to Gale Courses, among others. These two particular platforms offer great business skills “refreshers” courses and others suitable to developing new skills. Personally, I recently signed up to an upcoming Gale Course titled “Grammar Refresher”. I find that lately I do so much business writing that I want to take my writing to the next level, and I feel this course can offer me some good foundations so I can write in a more fluent way, since English is my second language, and I can sometimes question the structure of some sentences and some of my grammar.
Lynda.com is a very valuable resource to expand your business knowledge. This is a website offering video courses taught by industry experts in a broad selection of business fields: Business, Design & Digital Publishing, IT, Marketing, Web Development, Cloud Computing, Databases, among other business fields. It is a great platform to update skills and learn about specific tools and platform that you will need as your business grows and expands.
I believe it is very important for us as founders to stay open to continuous learning. I am a true believer that we never stop learning. In today’s day business, technology and customer’s needs change very fast and we need to make sure that we stay current on all relevant topics. It is in this particular aspect of running a business that our local library can play a very important role, and it is up to us to maximize all they have to offer. Remember you can always Book a Librarian for additional support and guidance. For any queries regarding my role as an Entrepreneur in Residence, please feel free to visit my website or my Twitter to contact me.
Posted on behalf of Patricia Quintero, Entrepreneur in Residence for Fall 2019.