Business Toolkit

Our Business Tools are here to help you take the next steps in realizing your business dreams!

Toolkit Overview

You may not think of yourself as a business person but, if you make something to be sold to others and you are paid directly for your work, then you are a business person! Similarly, if you provide a service to others and get paid for that service, you are operating a business.

Often people don’t recognize that they are in business because they may not make a lot of money doing what they do, they may hold down a job, or they only sell services to friends and family. If you are earning money by selling goods such as crafts, artwork, beadwork, drums or baked goods or if you paint homes, build decks, make furniture, landscape or perform other services, then you are in business!

It does not matter if people pay you cash, by cheque or if you trade your work in exchange for the services of others, you are a business person.

If you are a business person, then this toolkit is for you!

Choosing a Business Name

If you have not already done so, picking a business name is an important step toward getting more serious about your business goals. The name of your business is typically something that you would pick to help describe what you do. If you make arts and crafts, you may have some combination of those words in the business name. If you fix cars or boats, you may want to use these terms in your business name, along with words like repair or maintenance to tell people you fix these items (rather than sell them, for example). The Canadian Business Network web site provides some useful things to think about when naming your business. Click here to access.

Business Registration

Once you’ve picked the name of your business, you may need to register the name. With some exceptions, businesses operating in their respective provinces are generally required to register with the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. Exceptions within NS include:
  • Individuals using only their personal names without an added descriptive element or attachment such as ‘and Associates’ or ‘and Partners’,
  • Business partners using only their personal names without a descriptive element or attachment such as ‘and Associates’ or ‘and Partners’; and
  • Partnerships whose sole purpose is farming or fishing.
Registration procedures vary depending on the type of business: Business Name on Behalf of a Limited Company, Co-operative, Extra-Provincial Company, Incorporated Company, Partnership, Society or Sole Proprietorship. The procedure to register a business name generally includes making a name reservation request (this allows the registry to confirm that no other company has the business name you seek) followed by a formal application to register the name. There are fees associated with this process. Additional Information: The following links will provide information and application forms for each of the four Atlantic Provinces.

Types of Businesses

As discussed, there are many types of businesses. If you are working alone and your customers only know you by a name that is not your own (e.g., Cathy’s Art and Crafts, Paul’s House Painting), chances are you are a ‘sole proprietor’. A sole proprietor is a business operated by one person under a name other than his/her own first and last name, or some combination of their name and some other words that describes what goods or services they offer. It is also called a “partnership of one” where you are your own business partner.

Other types of businesses that are common include:

  • Partnership: A business formed by one or more people or corporations. Within a partnership, each partner is potentially liable for all debts of the partnership,
  • Incorporated Company: A business with one or more shareholders, often called a company or corporation. A company offers a separate legal identity for its shareholders, where company debts or personal liability may be limited to the amount a shareholder contributes,
  • Co-operatives: A co-operative is a user-owned and user-controlled business with a minimum of three founding members. It can be either for-profit or non-profit,
  • Society: A non-profit organization which is incorporated under the Societies Act. Incorporation is not mandatory for societies, but the benefits, such as limited liability for members, sometimes make this a good option,
  • Extra Provincial Corporation: A corporation incorporated in a province other than Nova Scotia; and
  • Recognized Agent: The individual who receives official correspondence and may be served, on behalf of the partnership, business name, incorporation or society, with a writ, summons, process, or other legal notice. He or she is also the contact for the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. The Agent does not have to be a lawyer, but he or she must be a full-time resident of Nova Scotia.

Additional Information: For more information on structuring your business as a Corporation vs. Sole Proprietorship, click here. Access Nova Scotia provides several resources that describe the various types of businesses that can be formed. Click here to view.

Your Online Presence

Web Domain Registration

While not a legal requirement, domain registration of one’s business name (or a version of one’s business name) will help to ensure that your company’s website is ‘branded’ with your name.

Registration provides a number of important benefits:

  • You gain control of what people see when they search for you,
  • You prevent it being used against you,
  • Provides a call to action for customers,
  • Is relatively low cost,
  • Customers expect this, and
  • Provides an opportunity to develop a social media strategy.

It is useful to register across common domains ca, .com., .org etc.

Website and Social Media Strategy

The goal of a social media and website strategy is to make your business known through the internet.  Promoting your business online is one of the most cost effective options for marketing and can help you to:

  • Raise awareness about your business; and
  • Promote and share key messages about your business to potential clients and/or partners

Given the importance of this activity, businesses should consider how to create and use their presence as soon as possible, so that it can become part of their business development process from the start.

The company website can be used to promote services, product, IP, and be used as part of the communications linking to social media channels. The messaging can be changed easily and at any time.

Business owners need to develop a social media and web-strategy and, within this, decide what role the Internet will play in their business. For example:

  • Will it be for passive advertising only?
  • What information will you have on your site?
  • Will it be a site you manage or will you hire someone to manage it?
  • Will you have a blog?
  • Will you connect to your customers, colleagues and suppliers via social networking sites?
  • Will you sell through the Internet?
  • Will the website link to social media platforms? Which ones (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).

Choices made in regard to social media and website uses will impact the business owner’s time. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are time consuming to many business owners who must keep them current, with regular and relevant posts. They can also be risky. Simply put, there are many examples where late night posts have landed companies and individuals in all manner of scandal, and some have ended careers.

There are also risks to consider:

  • Security: Websites can be hacked and information taken,
  • Information for Competition: If you list your customers and past projects, this can be used by competitors,
  • Knowing what is working: There are a variety of online tools that show activity (page visits, likes, re-posts, etc.) but the activity does not always translate into sales / revenue; and
  • A venue for complaints: Blogs, in particular, if not diligently monitored, can allow unhappy customers to post critical comments

The following links provide insights into social medial and approaches to online strategies:

Business Numbers and Program Accounts

Businesses that must deal with federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada need to register for a business number (BN) and perhaps other program accounts (e.g. GST/HST number, payroll number).

You need a BN if you have one or more program accounts. This is most commonly triggered if you have an employee and will involve payroll deductions, a payroll number, etc.

In most cases, you register for a program account to participate in a program. You may also need to participate in a program to meet your tax obligations. The most common program accounts a business need are GST/HST, payroll deductions, corporation income tax, and import-export if your company is engaged in this activity.

Fortunately, many small businesses do not require a BN and program accounts.

Additional Information: Click here for information that will help you determine if you need a business number.

The most common program accounts a business may need:


Related to the section above, your business may be required to collect and pay taxes. Business owners may also be eligible for tax credits which will reduce the taxes the company may otherwise be obliged to pay. The following links provide more information on taxation:


Insurance helps you reduce risk. You essentially pay an insurance company at an agreed-to rate and schedule. In exchange, they will repair or replace that which is damaged or stolen, or compensate someone or entity that has been hurt or injured though some act that you or those working for you may cause.

If your business has assets: vehicles, tools, office equipment, buildings, inventory, or a key employee or partner who is needed to make the business successful, you likely need the risk protection of insurance.

Insurance offers you the tools to financially protect these assets and to protect your business from potential financial, natural, or human risks. Insurance does not eliminate all risks and but it does lower risk and determining the need for insurance is your decision in most cases.

The types of coverage that protect individuals include:

  • Life insurance,
  • Disability insurance,
  • Partnership insurance or buy-sell insurance,
  • Errors and omissions insurance,
  • Critical illness insurance; and
  • Key person insurance

Coverage that protects business property revenues can include:

  • Property insurance,
  • Contents insurance,
  • Business interruption insurance; and
  • Vehicle insurance

While it is your choice to get insurance, the impact of not getting it may change your business practice. It is illegal to operate a vehicle without a valid licenses and up-to-date insurance. If you choose to forgo vehicle insurance, you are also choosing not to drive.

Questions individuals ask when deciding to get insurance include:

  • Will the business survive if one of the key partners dies or becomes disabled?
  • If the building was destroyed, could you afford to replace the inventory and all your computers or equipment out of your own pocket?
  • If a customer fell on your front steps, could you afford the legal bills and compensation that they or their family may seek?

Additional Information: Click here for a document to help you understand the different types of insurance that are available to protect you and your business from potential liability.

Managing Cash Flow

Good cash flow management is critically important to successful operations. A positive cash flow means a business receives more money than it is spending. Working capital is essential to survival. During the year, businesses may experience months when expenses are more than revenues. Other times during the year, revenues exceed expenses. The goal is to have the positive cash flow be at least equal to and higher than expenses over the year.

Balancing positive and negative months can be a significant challenge for all operators and especially those that operate seasonal businesses. For example, businesses that produce crafts at one part of the year, for sale during another part of the year, will go months with high expenses and little or no revenue as they produce the goods. When the sale season occurs, revenues peak and expenses are relatively low. An example is a crafts person that spends the winter making crafts for sale in the summer.

Tourism operators are also similarly challenged. They may have two to four months where they are selling products or services, but they have expenses for the whole year. Good cash flow management means budgeting during the period when revenues are generated so that there is enough money to cover expenses during the low earning periods.

Payments for the company truck do not stop when cash flow takes a dip. The leasing company is still going to want their payment.

One of the most common issues that businesses experience with cash flow is not collecting their Accounts Receivable (if you offer credit to customers) in a timely manner. If you’re paying your bills in 30 days and not collecting money owed to you for 60 days, your cash flow will be negative or restricted, unless you have a backup source of cash.

There are a number of software programs and online resources to help companies track and manage their cash flow so that managers have the information required to budget funds from one month to the next. Some companies will use lines of credit to address fluctuations in cash flow. Other businesses adapt to changes in cash flow by building up a reserve of cash in the good months and using this to bridge across months where earnings are less than expenses.

An essential component of this is bookkeeping and general record keeping. There are many software programs that will help with this process and it’s a good idea to check with any accountants with whom you intend to work to make sure your initial chart of accounts is organized correctly.

Additional InformationClick here for tips toward better cash flow management from The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC).

Finding Business Partners

Finding partnerships can be an important way to develop and / or expand a business. Connecting with someone that has done what you are trying to do, or is doing something related, can be useful as both a mentor, and as a means to access capital, market share and other benefits.

Partnerships convey a variety of benefits to both parties including:

  • Enabling partners to pool resources (i.e. money, business assets) to  help manage risk,
  • Bringing new or different resources to better support a new business idea or project,
  • Enabling businesses to access skills and know-how of other companies (Indigenous and non-Indigenous); and
  • Developing business skills and expertise more quickly

Partnerships can also provide commercial and economic such as accessing new markets, accessing or enhancing an existing brand, creating momentum for new entrepreneurs, among others. Selecting the right business partner is key!

There are a number of Partnership Development Toolkits available online. These offer business operator strategies to:

  • Assess their capacity to engage in a range of partnership activities,
  • Highlight gaps that need to be addressed (what do I bring to the table and what do I need in a partner),
  • Identify resources or assets that can be leveraged in addressing these gaps; and
  • Identify the strength and prospective opportunities that may be of interest to investors.

Additional Information: The government of Ontario has developed the Indigenous business development toolkit which provides some useful information on what to consider in developing partnerships. Click here to access.

As well, from BC, the Aboriginal Business and Investment Council (focused on improving Aboriginal participation in the economy) produces the First Nations Joint Venture Partnership Tool Kit. Click here to access.


Governance is one of the last things a new business person may think of as they start out. After all, why does an individual need to think about governance? You may not, unless there are two or more of you running the business.

If you are a craft person making wreaths for sale in the weeks leading up to the Christmas / Holiday Season, you may not need to give this much though. If you and several others have teamed up, governance becomes more important. How are the decisions made about where to sell? What is the price? How will you share the expenses and the revenues? Who takes on the risk of buying the materials to make the wreaths?

Working with a Business Association

Joining a local business association or chamber of commerce is a good way to develop your business network, stay on top of current business news and practice, and exchange ideas and strategies that you may adopt and bring into your own business. The main benefit is publicity. Your company profile, your websites, products and services are listed as a ‘member’ and depending on the resources of the chamber you’ve joined, these may be published online or in print form as part of a local or regional business directory.

Other benefits may include access to group health plans, discounts for products and services from other vendors (car rentals, hotels, etc.), access to mailing lists of potential customers and suppliers, fee discounts for chamber events, and the opportunity to learn from other business leaders in your area, among other benefits.

Membership dues range from a few hundred dollars or less, to more than $1,000, depending on the region being represented and the nature of the business that is seeking membership. Membership dues generally increase with the number of employees the business has. The benefits also range. Networking, as the main benefit of joining, is only realized if you take the time to participate and remain active with the chamber.

Additional Information: There are many chambers and business associations across Atlantic Canada that provide details on the application process, member benefits, and the schedule of events and activities that are available to members. They are all searchable online.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce provides an example of what to expect. Click here to review.

More regionally, the following provide some useful guidance on business associations throughout Atlantic Canada:

Source Financing

Businesses need money to make money. This can be from savings, bank loans, loans from business partners, or loans from family and friends. Will you have investors? Will you borrow money? What type of money do you need to access?

  • Equity lending: The person lending the money takes some of the ownership of the business and you may need to negotiate the level of ownership. Equity investors may or may not work in the company; and
  • Debt Financing: This is similar to a loan that must be repaid to a lender, with interest, within a set period of time. Debt financing does not affect the ownership of the business unless the debt is not repaid.

The following websites allow you to search for government funding sources for your particular project:

Business Planning

Do you have a written business plan? This is a question that virtually every business person is asked when they are looking for help, lending, partnerships, and many other resources. As a communications tool, the written business plan helps you map out your business goals for you and others to see and consider.

The business plan typically addresses the following areas:

  • Purpose and goals of the business,
  • Business description – location, what does it make, its mission,
  • Costs and financing – equipment, facilities that are needed, investment that is required,
  • Industry/market analysis – a research based or supported assessment of how what you produce or the service you provide will sell and at what price,
  • Operating plan (including HR requirements) – your day to day requirements to run your business,
  • Marketing plan – how you will promote, distribute, and sell your product and service; and
  • Financial projections – often including monthly details of revenue and expenses for the first 3 years, and up to 5 years’ annual total cash flow projections. This may also include capital costs and initial start-up investment requirements.

Creating your own plan can be a complex and costly process and you may need assistance from a professional (accountant). Sample business plans and templates are widely available through Ulnooweg, ACOA, BDC, other lending institutions, and at provincial level economic development organizations.

Additional Information: The following links provide access to downloadable business plan templates that can be adapted to suit your business needs: