What new immigrant entrepreneurs need to know

August 3, 2016

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

In my work as a business consultant, I have given lectures on “How to Do Business in Canada” to new immigrant entrepreneurs, because, like it or not, every country has different ways of doing things. Canada is no different.

The culture of doing business in Canada might seem to operate at a slower pace than some other big centres around the world, like Mumbai or London. Canadians tend to value lifestyle over aggressive business, but don’t think for a moment that Canadians don’t work hard to achieve success. While it may seem slower, hard work is still the operative word. So immigrants with their strong work ethic fit right in.

Hard work alone isn’t enough, however; you’ll also face challenges learning a new language, new standards, new lessons to be learned and a culture very different from their own.

At my lectures, I tell newcomers to embrace where they are and learn about their new environment from Canadians; this will give them a better idea of what types of businesses are needed and likely to succeed.

Starting a small business

Being an entrepreneur in Canada is a good thing, and its economy relies heavily on this sector. B.C. has the highest percentage of entrepreneurs — 98 per cent of all business in B.C. are operated by very small entrepreneurs — but every province considers small entrepreneurs a valuable resource. In order to start a business, my advice to newcomers is to plan, study what resources are available to them, and to make use of the support systems they already have in place.

Getting started

So, let’s start by looking at some of the important steps to starting a business in Canada.

1. If you’re not fluent in English, practise your communication skills at every opportunity. A good way to practise and learn some workplace-specific language is to volunteer as an intern at a Canadian business for a few weeks. I’ve had newcomers intern for me in the past and with a little patience and understanding their skills were very valuable to me.

2. Seek support from those around you. Newcomers may think they lack resources until they look around their immediate family and circle of friends to realize the value these people represent, not only in money, but support. The support of community, family and friends cannot be underestimated.

3. If you don’t have a good support system; try to make one. Networking or meetup groups can easily be found on the internet, boards of trade, government resource centres and business associations. For example, the Vancouver Business Network MeetUp group with more than 8,000 members meets regularly and is open to anyone to visit and network. MeetUp.com is a great place to find a networking group based your special interests.

4. Ask other entrepreneurs for advice. If you find a small business that you like, talk to the owner and ask them how they started. People are very open to talking about their own business as long as you are not a competitor.

5. A business plan is an important guide to start a business. You can find easy-to-use business plan templates on most Canadian banking websites. I like the Government of Canada’s Canada Business Network (canadabusiness.ca) as it explains a lot about what you need to set up your business with lots of resources and templates.

6. Go online to the Permits and Regulations section of your local city hall website to make sure your business is follow the local laws and regulations, such as business licensing. City hall employees can be very helpful with any questions you have.

Canada loves entrepreneurs of any nationality. We want everyone to succeed because it makes Canada a better place. If you have an idea, a dream, a business you want to create, ask for help — you can do it!

Business startup specialist Gary Bizzo is CEO of Bizzo Management Group and author of How to Start a Successful Business — the First Time. He has coached or mentored more than a 1,000 businesses, including many owned by immigrants. Email ceo@garybizzo.com.

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