A Need to be Independent
"I'm sure it was my desire for independence that helped me decide to take the plunge and start my own business when I was let go. After three years, I still like the feeling of being in control."
Karl T., Ottawa, Ontario.
It's a "Paperwork" Jungle Out There
"I was surprised by the amount of time and effort it takes to keep proper financial and business records. A lot of people told me I'd need an accountant for tax purposes, but didn't mention the day-to-day reality of keeping track of receipts, expenses, invoices, etc. It's not something I'm interested in or good at, but it's essential."
Jane R., Toronto, Ontario.
"The paperwork is never-ending--government forms, tax forms, employee records, inventory, returns, purchase orders, receipts, and what seems like millions of others pieces of information. The long hours weren't much of a surprise--the store is open almost 24 hours a day and I'm usually there from 5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.--but it's difficult, almost impossible, to take anything more than a weekend off."
Mike J., Calgary, Alberta.
When "The Buck Stops Here"
"At first, it was frightening to realize that everything about the business--the problems, the solutions, my staff of two, its ultimate success or failure--depended on me. But I was determined to take anything on and to make the business work. My hard work and determination got me through the low points to where I am now. It was worth it."
Verna B., Winnipeg, Manitoba.
"I talked things over with my wife first, so we'd both know what we were getting into. Then, for the next year, I continued to work at my full-time job but spent all my free time investigating what was involved in starting a small business--what I needed to know, what I needed to do, what the risks were. A lot of my information came from people who had already started their own business, but I also went to information seminars and met with bankers, various government officials and construction experts. It took another six months to put together a business plan so I could get the financing I needed. At that point I was ready to give up my job and start the business--buying equipment, renting office and warehouse space, hiring staff, registering with government departments, and advertising."
Mike B., Edmonton, Alberta.
The Marketing Challenge
"I never imagined how hard it would be to sell myself--and I used to be in marketing. It was daunting the first year I was on my own. I was no longer selling the company product. I was selling myself and what I knew. I called every possible contact I could think of and sent out information packages. There were so many rejections, so many no-replies. I had to change my strategy. Instead of cold calls and mailings, I started using referrals to get new clients. Once I got a few good ones, the others followed."
Linda S., Ottawa, Ontario.
From A Lay-off to A New Venture
"I have always enjoyed making pasta dishes. So after I was given the pink slip, I decided that a small gourmet shop specializing in pasta seemed the right thing for me to try. It was what I loved to do and my research showed that the demand was there because people are looking for low-fat, nutritional food that's delicious. At the time, the financial lenders were starting to encourage women in business. It was that encouragement that got me started."
Elaine C., Quebec City, Quebec.
Taking Financial Risks
"For me, the biggest worry was not having a pay cheque every two weeks. In the first six months on our own, we certainly found out what cash flow was all about. It's something that never crossed our minds when we were employed."
Gloria U., Surrey, British Columbia.
"The point about being in business is that you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Buying inventory, signing a lease, hiring employees--you've got to be willing to handle some risk if you want to be in business for yourself. You can't be reckless, but you have to be willing to take calculated risks now and then."
Sam D., Whitehorse, Yukon.
Buying and Running A Franchise
"Investing in a franchise can be an expensive venture. Your one-time franchise fee can be $15,000 or more. And the long-term investment for construction or lease hold improvements, fixtures, equipment and inventory can be over $100,000 for even a modest franchise. So you have to know exactly what you're getting into. Do the running around, find out the details and get the advice of your accountant, lawyer, and financial adviser--right away. Don't sign anything until you've done that."
Warren M., Saint John, New Brunswick.
"One of the most helpful things we did at the start was talk to other people associated with the franchise. We got first-hand accounts of their experiences in the business, and we were able to evaluate the product and find out how well-organized and managed the franchiser was."
Cairine M., Summerside, Prince Edward Island.
"As a franchisee, I have the best of both worlds. In a sense, I'm independent. It's my initiative and hard work that determines how successful the business will be. But I can't be completely independent--nor would I want to be--since I'm part of a bigger system."
Victor F., Rimouski, Québec.
"The franchisee must be willing to work as part of a team, be flexible and work with the head office 100 percent. In return, the franchisee gets to share in the overall success of the whole franchise network. This way, many of the unknowns can be eliminated, especially for people like us who are new to the business world."
Ron T., Regina, Saskatchewan.
Source: Minding Your Own Business: Becoming an Entrepreneur, HRDC, 1995.