Starting a business

How do I start a business? Do I need to consult a specialist? What documents do I have to complete? Which elements do I need to take into consideration? How much will it cost? How long will it take? One question undeniably leads to another.  

My goal with this article is to guide you through the process of starting your business. It is a process that may be intimidating at first but, with proper guidance, actually proves to be more straightforward than it seems. Here is what you need to know: 

1. Get a lawyer 

Okay, it is no secret that I am a lawyer, so I am naturally going to suggest that you consult a lawyer.  

I will not lie to you: you can start a business on your own. However, a lawyer’s services go well beyond the simple execution of a requested legal matter. A lawyer will advise you on how to structure your entrepreneurial vision, giving a shape to your projects and ensuring their longevity. It is also better to start off on the right foot than to have to tear everything down and rebuild.  

So, how do you choose a lawyer?  

Field of expertise  

The first thing to know is that each lawyer usually has a field of expertise. If you needed to develop your abilities in figure skating, you probably would not seek out a freestyle skiing coach. Same goes for a lawyer: to receive help and good advice when it comes to entrepreneurship and business, you need a lawyer who is an expert in business law and not, for instance, in criminal law. 

Trusting relationship 

The most important thing, in my view, is the trusting relationship that exists between you and your lawyer. You should not constantly be questioning your lawyer’s advice. The decisions that you make for your business could be affected and the performance of your company could end up suffering as a result. Do not forget that your lawyer must be as invested as you in the success of your business.  

Nothing says that you have to continue an unproductive professional relationship. You should not feel trapped in a never-ending contractual relationship with your lawyer. It is up to you to decide whose guidance you will receive and for how long.  

2. How much does it cost? 

Talking about money, budgeting or fees may seem like taboo subjects. However, the financial side of a project should not be ignored. The first thing to figure out is your “lawyer budget”. It will come as no surprise that reputation and experience come at a cost. Feel free to shop around a bit and compare different lawyers’ fees. Then, choose the services of a legal professional whose personalized approach will allow your needs to be heard and who will give you good advice, rather than a salesperson hawking a cookie-cutter business model.  

It may also be useful to ask yourself questions about how your lawyer is paid. Do they propose package deals for certain services, or do they offer an hourly rate that will let you benefit from the personalized service you are looking for? Many firms also like to work with two lawyers, pairing a younger lawyer with a more experienced one. Don’t be intimidated! This way of doing things is appealing in the sense that you benefit from the experience of a more seasoned lawyer, at the hourly rate of a younger one.  

On top of your legal fees, there are also costs related to starting your business. These fees are required by the government agencies in charge of registering business information. Remember to also think about the amount that must be paid in conjunction with the declaration required by your professional order/association.  

3. Let’s talk about business creation 

First and foremost, it is a good idea to determine the type of business you wish to use to offer your professional services. There is no shortage of options, and that is why it is important to consult with your lawyer who will analyze and evaluate the various possibilities. They will necessarily take into consideration accounting and financial matters too.  

Once your choice is made, you should gear up to prepare the necessary documentation and to complete everything with the appropriate government agencies, while also adhering to the regulations applicable to your professional order/association. This is what I call “paper pushing,” a technical but essential step.  

4. Managing difficult situations 

If you are creating your business alone, this section is less relevant. Here I am addressing those who decide to launch a business with one or several partners. If this is the case, I suggest that you treat your partnership like you would a marriage.  

What I mean by that is that it is preferable to have everything set out in a written contract at the start of a relationship, when things are still harmonious, rather than ending up in a painful and costly divorce in court with your business partners.  

The nature of the contract varies according to the type of business you have decided to create to offer your professional services. No matter what the contract though, its objectives remain more or less the same: to establish rules for the business and its operations, to define relationships not only between parties but also vis-a-vis the business, and to set up mechanisms that will help manage difficult situations.  

It is possible to be fairly creative in the content of a contract so that it becomes a customized tool that can be adapted to your needs and those of the business. It is a tool that is all too often underestimated and, in fact, deserves your complete attention. 

5. Recap 

Before jumping into the creation of your business, make sure to surround yourself with competent and complimentary people who can look out for your blind spots.  

After, the words to keep in mind are “preparation” and “diligence.” Never forget that a business does not manage itself and that you are responsible for a variety of duties that deserve your undivided attention and investment.  

So, will you decide to dive into this adventure on your own? The outcome is in your hands.  

Author photo

Julie Pilon Saint-Dizier is a professional business lawyer at Ratelle, Ratelle & Associés S.E.N.C.R.L. For more information, visit our website at or contact her at 450 759-5151.