Five simple steps to turn your business plan from good to great

Business Plan concept on the gearwheels, 3D renderingAs the new year approaches and 2017 comes to an end, the topic of business planning is likely to be on the minds of many would-be (and established) entrepreneurs.

Business Planning is crucial for the success of both new and existing businesses, and it’s an area where the Halton Small Business Centre can help.

Whether you are planning to start a new business or grow an existing business our Halton Small Business Consultants can help you. From financing information to business planning, our Consultants will put you on the path to success.

Over the years our consultants have reviewed thousands of business plans and we have seen what it takes to make a successful plan. Here are five tips to help you turn your plan from good to great:

  1. Don’t tell.

One of the most overused phrases we see in business plans is “we provide great quality, selection and customer service.” These are important areas to focus on, but simply stating them does not make them true. If you are planning to provide excellent customer service, then explain exactly what that will entail, how you will accomplish it, and why it is an area of focus. 

  1. Take the “what/ why/ how” approach. 

Any good business plan template will prompt you for the ‘what’.  What is your business name? What is your address? What are your hours of operation? However, the ‘what’ is usually less important than the ‘why’ and the ‘how’.

As Simon Sinuk discusses in his TED Talk: People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

When you’re working through your business plan, try to communicate things in the what/why/how order. Taking this approach provides context for the reader and also acts as a litmus test for your decisions. If you don’t have an answer to the ‘why’ and ‘how’, then perhaps you should rethink your decision.

For example:

“The business name is A+ Flooring Halton, because ‘A+’ signifies best in class and has the added benefit of appearing first in any alphabetical listings. ‘Flooring’ is a clear description of our product and is the word with the highest volume of monthly Google searches in our area. ‘Halton’ speaks to the geographic area where we operate, and communicates to our customers in Milton that even though our address is in Oakville, we will still serve them.”     

Start talking to your target audience before you start writing your plan. Your plan should centre on what value you are providing for them.

Regardless of whether you consider yourself to be an Inside-Out or an Outside-In organization, you need to communicate to your customers.

Business planning can’t be done without understanding external factors. It cannot be done entirely in your office and certainly cannot be done in a vacuum. You have to talk to your customers to understand their lived experiences, wants and needs and what drives their purchase decisions. The more you know about your customers, the easier it is to convince them to purchase your product or service.

  1. Look to your Competitors for key insights.

Business planning is not about reinventing the wheel. Always look for best practices that you can adapt for your business from your competitors. What are they doing really well that you can apply to your own business model? Where are they falling short? How can you come into this space and provide more value? What can you do differently?

Along with your customers, your competitors are perhaps the single most important source of insight to your business. Your supply chain, distribution strategies, marketing channels, pricing, financial projections (and more) can all be improved by understanding what your competitors are doing.

  1. Be conservative, realistic and avoid being too “salesy”. 

Your business plan is not a piece of marketing material. It should serve as a strategic roadmap and validate the assumptions that are central to your business model. Be conservative with revenue projections, liberal with expense projections and make sure your business is still financially feasible if these outcomes play out.

Focus on making a compelling business case and communicating a clear, concise plan that can realistically be acted upon.

Once you have completed a draft of your business plan, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Halton Small Business Centre at (905) 825-6000 ext. 7900, or, or drop by in-person at our office at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville.

Our consultants would be happy to review your plan, provide you feedback and ensure that you are well-positioned to achieve your business goals!


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Data Insights – 2016 Census Release on Housing

Nov. 23 Census blog - housingThe housing market in Halton Region remains active and robust. Halton continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Areas (GTHA) in terms of its population and associated household growth, with an 8 per cent increase in the number of households since the 2011 Census.  This reflects the continued movement of Toronto homebuyers – particularly millennials and younger families – into suburban markets in search of more affordable housing options.  Recently released Statistics Canada Census figures indicate that alongside the changing demographic of home owners in Halton, is a changing structure of home ownership.

  • The proportion of Halton residents renting their dwellings rose to 19 per cent in 2016, from 17 per cent in 2011.
  • Halton maintains a comparably high rate of home ownership – 81 per cent compared to 53 per cent in Toronto.
  • Among the 156,165 residents that owned their dwelling, 66 per cent held a mortgage in 2016, up from 64 per cent in 2011.
  • Average shelter costs among owned dwellings rose 16 per cent since the last Census in 2011, and shelter costs for rented dwellings increased 24 per cent.
  • Higher density development that is occurring in Halton is also translating into housing trends with an 11 per cent increase in condominium living from 2011 to 2016, primarily in Milton and Oakville.
  • The boom in Halton residential development is also seen in the age of housing stock, with one in five dwelling units in Halton built within the past 10 years.

We’re here to help. Contact us for assistance in expanding your business in Halton Region, or for additional information on the Halton economy. For more detailed statistics, visit

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Recognizing Global Entrepreneurship Week

Nov. 13 Global Entrepreneurship Week logo (2)

Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 13th – 19th) celebrates entrepreneurs and inspires millions around the world to engage in entrepreneurial activity, while connecting with a vibrant ecosystem of potential collaborators, mentors and local community partners.

To celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Halton Small Business Centre wants to remind you that we are here to help you realize your self-employment dream!

The Halton Small Business Centre offers a variety of resources and services for entrepreneurs looking to start or grown their business.  The Centre provides information on business planning, tools and templates, seminars, funding options, one-on-one consultations, importing/exporting, and success stories.

Walk-In Services

The Halton Small Business Centre is open from Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, with public computer access from 8:30 am – 4:00pm.  The following are a list of available walk-in services:

  • Public use computers to work on business planning, etc.
  • Business name registration
  • Marketing research tools
  • Lending library
  • Toolbox 

Events & Seminars

  • Free 1 hour information session “Getting Started” every Tuesday morning
  • Free or low-fee educational seminars at various locations throughout Halton
  • Networking and B2B events in partnership with our local community partners

Grant/Funding Programs

  • Summer Company is an entrepreneurship program that provides hands-on business training and mentoring to enterprising students between the ages of 15 and 29, to help them start and run their own summer business. Successful applicants receive up to $1,500 in the spring to help with business start-up costs, and up to $1,500 in the fall upon successful completion of their Summer Company experience.
  • Futurpreneur Canada is a national, non-profit organization that provides financing, mentoring, and resources to aspiring business owners aged 18 to 39. The Halton Small Business Centre is the local community partner for Futurpreneur Canada in Burlington, Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville.
  • Starter Company Plus is an entrepreneurship program designed to support and strengthen small business by providing training, mentoring and micro-grant opportunities for eligible individuals 18 years of age or older, to start, grow or buy a small business.

Business Consultants

  • Free one hour, one-on-one consultation with our knowledgeable Business Consultants
  • Consultant–on-Site Program provides clients in Milton & Halton Hills to meet with a Business Consultant at the Milton Education Village Innovation Centre or Halton Hills Public Library
  • Referral to our Access to Professionals Program, which connects clients with a local industry professional for a free 45-minute consultation
  • Outreach with local secondary and post-secondary schools, Canadian Newcomers, Employment, Skills and Training organizations

Take Your Business Global!

  • The Halton Global Business Centre assists Halton-based small and medium-sized businesses to succeed in the global marketplace
  • In collaboration with partners, including Haltech and government agencies, the Halton Global Business Centre delivers programs and services related to export development and scaling up business operations

Success Stories

  • Over the past 10 years, the Halton Region Small Business Centre has responded to over 100,000 inquiries and offered advice to entrepreneurs through more than 10,000 one-on-one consultations
  • Learn about how our young entrepreneurs and start-up clients have turned advice into success!

For more information please visit our website,, call us at  905-825-6000 ext. 7900, or visit us in-person at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville.



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Learn how to take your business global!

Nov. 6 ExportThe Halton Global Business Centre, in collaboration with our community and government partners is hosting workshops and events to provide businesses with resources, information, tools and training to take their business global.

Upcoming Events:

Learn about doing business with China, November 17, 2017

Register for this event to:

  • Hear from local companies as they walk you through their experiences working with China.
  • Get information from industry professionals, including intellectual property, financial and banking insight about conducting business with China.
  • Learn about government agencies and programs that make it easier to conduct business in China.

Presented by: Town of Oakville, Town of Halton Hills, Halton Region and the Oakville Chinese Business Association

 Learn more

Developing a Global Mindset, November 21 and 22, 2017

Register for this free event to:

  • Learn how to develop a global mindset and succeed in an export market.
  • Assess your export readiness.
  • Receive an overview of key export support resources and access to partners and networks that can help you become export ready.

Presented by: Ministry of International Trade

Learn more

Accelerate to International Markets (AIM) Program, November 27 and 28, 2017

Register for this free event to:

  • Attend an interactive workshop to determine whether you’re ready to export.
  • Find out how to choose your target markets, learn about your competition, and target your ideal customers.
  • Learn the most effective methods to enter a market.
  • Master how to use international trade finance tools to launch your exporting efforts
  • Determine how to identify, select and work with people who can represent your business abroad.
  • Familiarize yourself with online platforms that will help you gain business from international customers.

Presented by: Ministry of International Trade

Learn more If you are interested in learning more about exporting and need help with next steps, visit us at for assistance and to read about our upcoming seminars and events.

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Services for Halton Employers

Halton is one of the best places in Canada to live and do business.

With competitive business costs, a strong talent pool and proximity to major markets, it’s no wonder companies continue to choose Halton as a premier region in which to invest and expand.

To help local businesses succeed, Job Fair1Halton Region provides a range of services through Employment Halton to assist companies looking to hire top talent. These hiring supports include:

  • A free online job posting board
  • Applicant screening and matching
  • Reference checking and education verification
  • Training incentives to offset hourly wages and training costs
  • Follow up supports for both the new employee and the employer
  • WSIB coverage
  • Job fairs
  • Coaching and performance management
  • Events, information and resources

Job fairs, one of the many supports offered through Employment Halton, are a great way to connect with new talent, and the next one is happening November 7.  If you are an employer who wants to register for the event, click here.

To learn more about what Employment Halton can do for you, visit or dial 311.

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Data Insights – 2016 Census Release on Income

Statistics Canada recent census release indicates strong growth in income levels across Halton since 2010, with the median household income increasing 12 per cent from $91,955 to $103,009 – a total increase of $11,054. The rate of income growth is comparable to the provincial rate of 12 per cent, but slightly below the national average of 15 per cent. After adjusting for inflation, Halton households still came out ahead, with median household income levels 39 per cent and 47 per cent higher than Ontario and Canada, respectively. Halton’s highly skilled labour force and low unemployment levels are undoubtedly contributing to these sizable differences.


The proportion of Halton households with median earnings over $100,000 increased from 45 per cent to 52 per cent since the last census, while household incomes under $40,000 decreased from 17 per cent to 14 per cent. Halton has a low rate of persons in low income at 8.2 per cent of the population based on Statistics Canada low-income measure after tax, which is lower than the Ontario and Canadian rates of 14.4 per cent and 14.2 per cent, respectively.

Oakville remains the wealthiest with a median household income of $113,666, followed by Halton Hills ($106,349), Milton ($104,730) and Burlington ($93,588). Five-year growth rates were led by Burlington and Halton Hills with 13 per cent increases, followed by 12 per cent in Oakville and nine per cent in Milton.

We’re here to help. Contact us  for assistance in expanding your business in Halton Region, or for additional information on the Halton economy. For more detailed statistics, visit

Stay up-to-date! Sign up to receive the latest economic development information in your inbox.

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Tickets now on sale for the 2017 Halton Futures Innovation Summit

halton-futures-2017-webbanner_origTickets are now on sale for the second annual Halton Futures Innovation Summit which is being presented by Haltech Innovation Centre and Halton Region Economic Development. The summit will be held on October 17, at the Oakville Conference & Banquet Centre. This year’s theme of Health.Tech.Connect focuses on smart, digital technology solutions that are enhancing patient health by transforming the delivery of health care services from the hospital ER to clinics.

From mobile devices, to cloud-based data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), augmented and virtual reality, 3D modeling and printing and emerging artificial intelligence, technology can be leveraged to deliver smart, patient-centered healthcare.


Summit attendees will hear from an impressive list of healthcare leaders and technology experts, including:

  • Sonny Kohli, Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer at Cloud DX and Physician at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital
  • Mark Walton, VP Strategy, Partnerships and Performance at Halton Healthcare
  • Nathalie LeProhon, VP Healthcare at IBM Canada

Join us as our knowledgeable panel of speakers discuss technology solutions for today’s healthcare challenges, and the progress being made to transform digital healthcare globally and here in Halton Region.

This event is for you whether you’re a technology entrepreneur, healthcare service provider, medical technology researcher, business leader or investor in this growing industry. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of a change-making conversation that affects the future of healthcare for everyone, especially in Halton Region and neighboring communities.

Register early to reserve your seat at – tickets are selling quickly! A handful of sponsorship, exhibitor opportunities, and corporate tables are still available for companies who want to be part of the conversation, show support for regional innovation, and enhance their visibility as a leader in Halton Region’s business and technology community.

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