Ask the Advisors

Q: What is a business plan? Do I really need one?
A: Yes, you need a business plan. Essentially, a business plan is a document that states your business goals, the reason and merit of these goals, and how you will reach them. Depending on its use, business plans can be extremely elaborate or very simple. Many start-ups see the value in a business plan, because it helps them attain funding. Not looking for funding? You still need a business plan. Companies with business plans have greater sales growth and higher profit margins. A plan is essential for remaining on track; it provides you with a roadmap. It’s not only the finished document that is important, but also the process of creating it. Developing a business plan can put your company’s vision into perspective and help you set realistic goals. Still think you don’t need a business plan?

Q: Can a service-based company export?
A: Of course! Technology has made communicating with any customer, no matter where they are located, much easier. However, there are still obvious differences between exporting a product and a service. A service is intangible and generally requires a higher degree of customer involvement. In addition, properly communicating and marketing your service can be more difficult than a product. Understanding these differences will help you in your preparation for export. Successfully exporting a service relies heavily on strong interpersonal skills, cultural awareness, a thorough understanding of your offerings, a well-written business profile, and time.

Q: How can I become a great leader?
A: A truly great leader is built on authenticity. It’s about being the same person every day. It’s about being true to yourself and others. It’s about believing in what you are doing and how you are going to get there. And, it’s about effectively communicating that. Great leaders create a vision, clarify that vision, and then enable others to bring it to fruition.

Q: Why should I participate in a trade mission?
A: You can enter a new market on your own. However, it will take a lot more of your personal resources and time to infiltrate a new market successfully. A trade mission opens you to specific resources, expertise, and contacts within a new market. For instance, when you participate in a trade mission with NLOWE, we offer consultations and training beforehand to ensure you are fully prepared, opportunities to work with a matchmaker to coordinate targeted meetings for the mission, and assistance for proper follow up afterwards.

Q: I have a broad range of services, how do I market them properly?
A: Many businesses have a broad range of services. To properly market your business, you need to specialize. You will need to comprehend fully your ideal customer’s problems. Those are the services you will specialize in. No one will believe you are an expert in everything. Your customers want an expert. This is not to say that you drop all your other services, but they become a complementary service to your primary service offerings.

Q: How do I price my products or services?
A: Pricing your products or services can be a difficult thing. An excellent start would be to have a thorough understanding of your market. This includes knowing your customers’ expectations, being aware of similar offerings that exist, and knowing what your competitors are charging. It’s important to note, that your local market may differ greatly from a national or international one. Within your target market you have to understand what sets you apart and what your customers’ perception of your company is. This is your starting point; afterwards, you will have to look at various pricing strategies that will fit your prior research and intended outcomes.

Q: I’ve been in business a while, what assistance is there to help me grow?
A: NLOWE is an excellent place to start when looking for help in growing your business. Our advisors can discuss your future plans and direction and help you to identify opportunities that may exist for you. We will also help you make the connections needed to take advantage of these opportunities and bring your business to that next level.

Q: I have a unique idea for a business, but how will I know it will work?
A: There is no way of knowing without any doubt that a business idea will work. That is why it is very important to complete a business plan. Every aspect of the business plan will provide a clearer vision of your business idea. For instance, you will complete market research. This research will give you an idea of what size your market will be, how you can reach this market, and what the characteristics of this market are. Another section, financials, will allow you to look objectively at the viability of your business and assess if you will need additional funds. Every component of the business plan will provide you with clarity on each aspect of your potential business, and in the end, giving you a better understanding of its success.

Q: How do I start selling online?
A: There are many sites dedicated to helping small businesses create their online storefront. These sites offer great tips on setting up your storefront, but there are other considerations beyond setting up your online presence.

  • Listing Fees – If you are using a third-party site for your storefront, make sure you are aware of any listing or transaction fees associated with selling your product.
  • Payment – Many businesses use PayPal as their online payment processing, it also makes international sales simpler. Setting up an account is fairly simple, and often free. Whatever method you chose for payment, understanding the implications of selling outside of your provincial borders, such as tax, is something you should discuss with your accountant beforehand.
  • Presentation – High quality photos and a detailed description that is concise and straightforward are essential.
  • Shipping – This is often overlooked or underestimated. It is important to understand the cost of shipping (and packaging) to various locations for each item placed online. Do not forget to add delivery confirmation to your shipping cost. It is critical to include delivery confirmation in every item you ship and to maintain records for reference.

Q: What basic skills do I need to run a business?
A: While there are many skills needed to run a business, some of the more basic ones are probably already part of your skill set.

  • Organization – You need to be organized; there are a lot of demands placed on you when you start you business, these demands need to be processed and prioritized. Otherwise, opportunities will be lost and your to-do list will be unmanageable.
  • Interpersonal Skills – You need to be personable and able to build lasting relationships. This not only applies to your customers, it applies to anyone you will interact with in the course of running your business.
  • Objectivity – You need to be able to remain objective when making decisions. You may fall in love with an idea, but you need to be able to step back and evaluate whether or not this is right for your business at this time.

These are just a few skills that can aid in running a successful business. It is important to remember that you can learn new skills and others you can seek professionals to assist you with acquiring them.

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