Frequently Asked Questions
Common questions when starting a business
Below are the answers to some of the most common questions people ask when starting and growing a business.
Watch our Starting A Small Business Guide for a quick introduction and essential start-up steps.
If you have additional questions, or would like to talk to an advisor in person, please complete a Request for Service Form.
Questions and Answers
- How do I start a business?
Starting a business is easy - register a business name and you're ready to go, but starting a successful business takes a bit more effort.
Over the years we've found most successful business owners have followed these simple steps.
Steps In Starting A Successful Business:
- Get an idea
- Determine feasibility
- Research consumer, competition, market & industry
- Develop a business plan
- Arrange financing
- Obtain necessary registrations & licenses
- Implement your business plan = Open for business!
To start, we recommend attending our free Starting A Small Business Webinar. This webinar is for individuals who are in the beginning stages of starting a business, and are looking to explore what is involved. Topics covered include the characteristics of an entrepreneur, steps to starting a business, business structures and registration, some licensing and tax considerations, and more. It will also provide an overview of the services and programs the Small Business Centre offers to help you launch your business. This free seminar is 90 minutes in length. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn from the questions other seminar attendees put forward. To learn more or register, click here.
If you're looking for a quick introduction to start-up steps and resources, check out our Starting A Small Business Guide video.
Visit our resources web page for information on a variety of topics every start up should learn, including ownership types, insurance, gst/hst, and a business plan checklist. These resources can be found in the downloads section of the resources web page.
After reviewing the general start up information you may have more questions. We recommend checking our other services and webinars on our events calendar for a resource that suits your needs. Alternatively, you can request a free consultation with a Business Advisor by completing the Request for Service Form here.
- What is a business plan and why do I need one?
A business plan is a written document that describes your business, its objectives and strategies, the market you're targeting and your financial requirements and expectations. It's important to have a business plan because it helps you set realistic goals, secure external funding, measure your success, clarify operational requirements and establish reasonable financial forecasts. Preparing a business plan will also help you focus on how to operate your new business and give it the best chance for success.
- How do I put a business plan together?
Start by defining your business objectives; think about who is going to read the plan. Your objectives can help you decide how much emphasis to put on various sections of your plan. You will need to do some research in order to find out more about your industry, potential customers, competitors, sales and costs of doing business. A business plan is only as good as the research that went into producing it.
Your plan must reflect your objectives and should flow like a good story, with the sections working together to demonstrate why the business will be successful. Don't rely too much on sample business plans. Plans that borrow too much information from samples or other business plans tend to be disjointed, with some sections contradicting others and some key issues being overlooked.
For many readers, the financial section is the most important part of the business plan, because it identifies your financing needs and shows the profit potential of your business. A good financial plan will also give the reader confidence that you understand your business. Be sure to test how reasonable each of your expectations are. If you are overly optimistic or fail to take into account the full costs of running your business, your business plan will not be credible.
Along with the financial section, your executive summary is an important part of your business plan. People will read it first and for some it may be the only section that is read. The keys to a good summary are that it should be short (two pages at most), it should highlight what is important in your plan and it should get the reader excited about your business.
To help get your business plan started, visit our business planning resources webpage where you can find a business plan checklist, online templates, and research tools.
You may also be interested in attending our Business Planning Guide Workshop.
Our Business Advisors can review your plan at any stage, make suggestions, and direct you to the appropriate resources. To connect with an Advisor for business plan assistance, please complete a Request for Service Form.
- Do I have to register my business?
"Registering" a business most often refers to registering the name of a business. Under the Business Names Act of Ontario, businesses must register their name. Individuals using their own name (e.g. John Smith) to carry on business do not have to register unless a word is added to their name (e.g. John Smith Bookkeeping). For more information on choosing a name and registering your business visit the Business and Industry resources page at Canada.ca.
A Business Licence may be required for some businesses in order to operate in Ontario. This is in addition to the business name registration. For example, "Joe's Garage" is required to register its business name and obtain a licence in order to operate as a garage. To determine if your business will be affected by local regulations, licences, municipal business tax or zoning requirements contact the clerk of the city, town, village or rural municipality where your business will be located. Use the BizPal web site to access business licences and permits information online.
You must also register if you are registered as a form of limited liability company.
There are various ways to register your business: a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or an incorporation are most common. To learn about these ownership types and compare their advantages and disadvantages, you can attend our free Starting A Small Business Webinar. It is for individuals who are in the beginning stages of starting a business, and are looking to explore what is involved. Topics covered include the characteristics of an entrepreneur, steps to starting a business, business structures and registration, some licensing and tax considerations, and more. It will also provide an overview of the services and programs the Small Business Centre offers to help you launch your business. This free seminar is 90 minutes in length. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and learn from the questions other seminar attendees put forward. To learn more or register, please click here.
- Where do I register my business and what does it cost?
To register your business as your own or as a partnership, you can register with Service Ontario online. You can log onto www.serviceontario.ca and select the “Search, register and renew business names option”. The cost to register is $60. You’ll want to conduct a business name search to see if anyone else is using this name. The cost ranges from $8 to $26. A credit card or Visa Debit, and email address is required. This registration does not stop anyone from registering under the same name but allows you to operate this named business in the province of Ontario. A more advanced name search option is available at www.NUANS.com.
After registering your business name you will receive a Master Business License which you can print immediately. The Master Business Licence can be used as proof of business name registration at financial institutions and to facilitate any other business-related registration with the Ontario government. This license is valid for 5 years, and then will have to be renewed.
You can also register a business as a limited partnership.
You can learn more about registering your business at here. Free, self-service public computers are available at select Service Ontario locations where you can register a business name.
In London, visit:
Main Floor, 100 Dundas St. London ON, N6E 1L3
- Is it mandatory to register for HST?
Most businesses that operate in Ontario and have annual sales, or revenues, totalling more than $30,000 must register for and charge HST. If your total annual sales are less than or equal to $30,000, you are considered to be a small supplier and are not required to register and charge HST. Depending on the nature of your business you may still choose to register as you will be able to claim input tax credits (ITCs) to recover the GST/HST you pay or owe on your business purchases.You may also find that some clients may only do business with businesses registered for HST.
When you register for HST you are given a unique Business Number (BN). If you have not obtained a BN, you do not charge HST.
For further information, visit the web site: Should I Register for HST?
You may contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) directly to inquire about the regulations mentioned above, by calling 1-800-959-5525.
In London, visit: Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 451 Talbot St., PO Box 5548 London, ON N6A 4R3
- Are there grants available for starting my business?
While there has been a reduction in the number of grants available to general business start-up in the past few years, there are some monies available. Most programs are targeted strictly to specific industries, geographical areas or particular groups of entrepreneurs (minority groups, youth, employment insurance recipients, etc.).
To learn about potential funding opportunities at the Small Business Centre and abroad visit our Funding for Small Business resources page.
To access any funding, whether it be from our Centre, a bank, or another institution, a business plan is required. Learn more about business plans and resources above!
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect small businesses, certain financial supports have been provided by the government. For a current list of financial initiatives we recommend visiting the Canadian Government’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan webpage.
- Where can I get a loan for my business?
In the early stages of your business development, the most important financial sources will probably be you, your friends, relatives and financial institutions.
The most common source of financing for small businesses is the chartered bank. Banks can provide a number of financing options, such as short-term loans, long-term mortgage loans and, in some cases, loans against inventory or accounts receivable. Other important sources of financing in this category include trust companies and credit unions.
For very small firms and home-based businesses, credit cards and lines of credit often provide a ready means of obtaining small-scale debt capital. While convenient, they bear relatively high rates of interest and limit the amount of capital available.
Each situation is different, and it is critical that a good business plan be developed to determine the overall needs of the business.
- Where can I get professional advice for my business?
Through the Small Business Centre's Access to Professionals service, you can connect with accountants, lawyers, and human resources professionals for one-on-one consultations on business-related issues.
The business advisors can refer you to a volunteer.
- What are the benefits to incorporating?
A corporation is a legal entity that is separate from its owners, the shareholders. Shareholders of a corporation are not personally liable for the debts, obligations or acts of the corporation. Directors, officers and insiders can bear some liability for their involvement with the corporation. A corporation can be formed at either the federal or provincial level.
- Limited liability
- Specialized management
- Ownership is transferable
- Continuous existence
- Separate legal entity
- Possible tax advantage (if you qualify for small business tax rate)
- Easier to raise capital