Your Ultimate Guide To Startup Advice

Dec 11, 2017

So you want to start a business. First: Congratulations! Second: If you’re serious about making your new business the real deal, you’re going to want all the startup advice you can get.

The truth is, most startups fail. 90% of them, in fact.

Before you dive headlong into your revolutionary new idea, take a stroll through our ultimate, step-by-step guide to get the startup advice you need to succeed.

Evaluate Yourself

The first and most valuable piece of startup advice: ask yourself why you want to start a business. This will tell you what kind of business you’re looking to start.

If you’re interested in a bit of extra money, you’re probably better suited to a side hustle. If you’re looking for more freedom from your job to do what you love, then maybe it’s time to seriously consider quitting your 9-to-5.

Once you know this about yourself, you can ask the next series of questions to get started with your business.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Now is the time to be brutally honest.

When you start your own business, you are your own boss and employee. No one is responsible for you but you. Being dishonest with yourself from the get-go will set you up for failure before you’ve even started.

With this in mind, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What’s your skill set?
  2. What’s your passion?
  3. How do they overlap?
  4. What’s the current state of your finances?
  5. How much can you afford to spend to start your business?
  6. What expenses will you need to cover to get your business off the ground?
  7. Are you a good self-motivator?
  8. Are you really prepared to be an entrepreneur?

Remember brutal honesty. If the answers aren’t good (especially the last two) then you need to be realistic about your options.

Build a Plan (and Do Your Homework)

Once you’ve taken the time to ask yourself these questions, it’s time to spend quality time getting to know your business.

This is just as important as knowing your own strengths. If you don’t know the purpose and goal of your business, you’ll be unfocused – and a lack of focus is what leads many startups to fail.

Questions to Ask About Your Business

A key piece of startup advice: Know your business. Here are a few questions to get you started.

  1. What problem are you solving?
  2. Who are you solving it for?
  3. How will you reach them?
  4. What are your business goals?
  5. How will you achieve them?
  6. What is your business purpose in one sentence?

The other thing to keep in mind: It’s important to have a business plan, but it’s also important to adapt.

Lost when it comes to writing a business plan? Read this.

Market Research

Listen: every business is selling something, whether you’re a sock maker or an IT company. No startup advice guide would be complete without sending you in the direction of market research.

Do your homework. Find out if anyone else is doing what you want to do – and if they’re not, why.

Research your competitors. Find out what they’re doing, and what you could do better. Figure out what makes their product different from yours and what people like – and dislike – about that product.

Avoid These Mistakes

One more piece of advice about market research: Whatever you do, don’t be lazy. Mistakes in your market research will lead to mistakes in your marketing that will hurt your business later.

New entrepreneurs often make these three mistakes:

  1. Only doing online research.
  2. Not surveying beyond the people you know.
  3. Relying solely on secondary research.

Don’t be that startup. Be smarter.

Assess Your Finances

Every business has startup costs. It’s important to know what yours are and whether you can afford all of them yourself or whether you’ll need the help of investors.

If you’re planning to fund your business yourself, it’s smart to wait until you have enough money saved both for startup costs and to support yourself until the business becomes profitable.

Options for acquiring outside funding include a commercial loan through a bank, a small business loan, and other options outside of banks including equity crowdfunding campaigns.

Make It Official

Once you’ve made it past the questions about your business and done your market research, you’re feeling on top of the world. But don’t start shunning startup advice now – this is when it matters more than ever to get a strong start.

Check out our post on everything you need to know about starting a small business in Ontario, then read on for the next steps to get your fledgling business out of the nest and into the world.

Decide Your Legal Structure

To start conducting business you’ll need to register your company. But before you rush off to fill out paperwork, you’ll need to know what kind of entity it is.

This isn’t just for your branding purposes – your business’s legal structure changes everything including how you file taxes and your liability if it fails.

Here are three common business structures:

  1. A Sole Proprietorship, which is just what it sounds like – the only owner of your business is you, which means you alone are responsible for managing its obligations.
  2. A General Partnership, which is also just what it sounds like – you share responsibility for your business with another owner.
  3. A Corporation makes your business its own entity, which means it pays taxes, enters contracts, and assumes liability as though it’s an individual.


Hire a Lawyer

When you’re just starting a business, you might think a lawyer is a problem for when your business makes it big. You would be wrong.

Starting your own business involves a jungle of legal forms from things as mundane as employee documents to intellectual property protection that will make sure no one else can sell your product first.

Unless you’re a lawyer yourself you may not know your way around all of the legal terminologies. And as a small business owner and startup founder, you likely won’t have the time to manage all of it yourself.

Licenses and Permits

You’ll also need the right legal permission to run your business. The licences and permits required depending on your business type and where you’re located vary greatly.

You can find more information on any licences and permits you may need online at

Hire Your First Employees

One of the joys of running your business yourself is the flexibility – you can set your own schedule, try things out and adapt quickly.

Eventually, though, you may need to hire employees to continue to grow. Check out our blog post for signs that you need to hire employees ASAP, and how to make your first hire.

And Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Them

If something isn’t working, don’t be shy about firing an employee.

Listen, we get it: it’s never fun to have to fire someone. But as a new business with limited resources and a much higher danger of failing, you don’t have the time or money to spare for employees who drag your business down.

A good way to test the waters is to tell all employees that they start on a trial period for a set number of months, after which point you’ll assess the relationship on both sides to determine if it’s working. This is the time to be brutally honest – if something’s not working, it does you no good to keep quiet.


At Opstart, we know that starting your own business is an exciting time. Our goal is to make the process as painless and enjoyable as possible, so you can stay focused on your great ideas.

That’s why we offer our free NUANS Preliminary Search, a free Canada-wide business name search.



Free NUANS Preliminary Search
Free NUANS Preliminary Search
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