The phrase “no man is an island” applies to businesses because no business can stand on its own two feet without the help of other organizations and associations. The following organizations listed below are for Small/Medium business owners to call upon when they need financial assistance, information about managing their business, and funding that will help them contribute to the economic development of Canada.
So, what are these organizations?
ACOA – Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is an agency that works to create opportunities for economic growth by allowing businesses to become “competitive, innovative and productive, by working with diverse communities to develop and diversify local economies, and by championing the strengths of Atlantic Canada.” ACOA works on initiatives that will foster:
- Greater productivity
- Skill development
- The commercialization of innovative technologies
- Improved global competitiveness
ACOA will also help you start a business or expand it, as well as help you conduct research and development projects that will help boost the economy, and even help you do business abroad.
BDC – Business Development Bank of Canada is for entrepreneurs looking to seek financial assistance for their business. Entrepreneurs who are still starting up or undergoing the early growth phase of their business are eligible for their long term financing. They also provide consultation services that will fit a business owner’s budget. They have a team of specialists that will help you find solutions for your business. “BDC Consulting is ISO 9001:2008 certified for the design, development and provision of innovative consulting services for businesses.”
The Entrepreneur’s Forum or EF helps new and growing businesses find advisers to help them with their strategic planning. EF will use a traditional yet personal method that will connect business owner and adviser by setting them up to meet over coffee, lunch, or dinner. The advisers that do get to talk with business owners are frank and will not sugar-coat their opinion, advice, and input. They will go as far as to help you break into a new market or even to save your business.
The Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development (IBRD) is an agency that supports regional development and economic diversification. They focus on “small and medium-sized enterprise development, industrial diversification, innovation, investment and economic intelligence”. They are keen on helping people start businesses or expand their current businesses.
There will always be people who will establish their own business even if they don’t have the technical or understanding of doing so. This doesn’t mean that they should first learn the basics of business administration, marketing, and other factors that could make or break their business. If you look at it from a wide-scale perspective, you’ll find that business owners with no expertise in the world of business have an equal fighting chance at success just as much as those who do (regardless if you have an MBA or PHD in business).
Strategy is the key to success for SMB and you will be hearing this word a lot. Strategic planning is done to ensure that your business is on the right path, or at least is trying to follow it with minimal effort.
How does one carry out a strategic planning for their SMB? For the sake of this article, let us use a laundry service as an example. You are the owner of a small laundry service located in a corner apartment downtown. Your location alone is part of a wide-scale strategic planning that helps drive customers to you, but let us get down to the inner workings.
First, you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. This can be done via SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This is a straightforward model that allows you to visualize what your business can and cannot do. This can be done by gathering information via environmental analysis and then separating the external factors (opportunities and threats) from the internal ones (strengths and weaknesses). Why is this crucial? It allows you to see what your business is capable of doing from an objective point of view. For example, you can claim that you have your own brand of detergent that you mix as your strength and the expensive price is your weakness. However, you can sell it to your customers for added income (opportunities) but they may go for branded ones (threats). This process is that simple.
Once you’ve done your SWOT, go back to your MISSION-VISION. People underestimate the power of a mission-vision statement because they feel that it’s a useless body of text. Having a mission or vision of your business will allow you to establish a path of sorts that will help you succeed. As the owner of a laundry service, your mission is to clean clothes and your vision is to be the top laundry service in your area. Again, simple yet effective. This also allows you to focus on the things that need to be done to get from point A to B.
Lastly, invest in coaching and mentoring programs. Learning does not stop in the four walls of a classroom. Business owners need to be guided just as much as college students. I have met some of the most successful business owners in my city and they tell me that the path to success is to continue learning. When you invest in programs, seminars, or workshops that you think will help you run your business, you are guaranteeing your business’ success. For every program you undertake, you are one step ahead of any stagnant business owner.