Take the first step toward your own business

 Ever dream of trading in your 9 to 5 job for your own project where you set the rules? If this seems out of reach, begin by taking small steps toward this goal.

For example, writing a business plan is a key step in starting a business. This may seem intimidating, but it is a valuable tool that is worth the time and effort. In fact, there are many alternatives to traditional plans; different business plans serve different purposes.

You can start with a short plan. It will help you to think through the challenges of having your own business and you can see if your ideas will turn a profit. Once you have started, a good plan can help you stay organized and focused as well as help you to identify your next moves.

What is important is that the business plan contains essential and useful information. Include the following:

Clear vision: What will you do, what value proposition do you offer and how will you be different from any competitors?

Mission: What will your business look like when it's operating? How will your business model look in action?

Goals: Do you have measurable achievements, consistent with your mission, bringing you towards your vision?

Strategy: This can be both a roadmap to meeting your goals and taking stock of your situation. What markets are you targeting? What are your resources, costs and revenues? How do you reach out to customers and partners? What needs improvement?

Your answers do not have to be long, but they should be clearly thought-out. A business plan, long or short, never goes unchanged. It should constantly adapt to the situation.

Shorter business plans can be useful for planning and pitching your business, although they are not always appropriate. For example, if you are speaking with investors or a loan officer, they may want a traditional, more complete, business plan. They will want more details to ensure you have considered the potential challenges that may arise.

When planning, there are government services that can help you along the way. Visit canadabusiness.ca or call Canada Business Ontario at 1-888-576-4444 to speak with a business information officer in English or French. They are available weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.