Valley First

Expert advice for business owners

Making up more than 47 per cent of all companies, small businesses are key drivers for our economy. And, with most large employers based in major centres, small businesses are even more important to the economic vitality of the Okanagan, Similkameen and Thompson valleys.

Roger Houle, assistant vice-president of commercial banking at Valley First, says while there is a certain allure to being your own boss, creating a successful business relies on more than just a good idea.

“I’m sure many of us dream about calling the shots on our own work,” says Houle. “Unfortunately, starting a business is more complex than having a good idea. There are many unforeseen challenges that can sidetrack and derail an entrepreneur long before sales begin to roll in.”

With more than 30 per cent of start-ups failing after the first year, Houle says the keys to success lie in the preparation, in particular creating a business plan, unearthing hidden costs and securing financing.

“After you decide to start your own business, the first step is to create a business plan,” says Houle. “Your plan should detail elements such as target market and competition, product or service price, marketing strategies, costs for starting your business and cash flow projections. It’s equally important to determine what you will be measuring the success of your business along the way so you know whether you’re meeting your goals.”

By completing a business plan, a new business owner will likely discover things that they did not think about initially; allowing them to fully grasp the extent of what is required to start a successful business.

“It’s like building a house; you need to have all the permits, plans and designs in place before you even break ground,” says Houle. “You need a solid foundation on which to build your business.”

Understanding your capital requirements is another vital element to success, advises Houle. Without a clear idea of costs, it is easy for a new business owner to fall into the 30 per cent failure category.

“It seems like a straight-forward concept, but this is where many great start-ups fall short,” says Houle. “Whether it’s through a bank loan, personal resources or investors, knowing how you are going to pay the bills is as important as what you plan to sell.”

“Also take a detailed look at your banking options. There is a wide range of business banking services and not all of them are alike. Make sure you understand what your banking needs are.”

Houle points out that while there is a lot to consider when starting a small business, having personal support from your financial institution can make all the difference.

“Having an experienced expert on your side can make the tough decisions a lot less confusing,” says Houle. “At Valley First we take the time to really understand the needs and goals of our business members. It is a relationship that can last for many years and having the right person on your side will greatly increase your chances of success.”


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