“Fly alone, die alone.”

These words from Sunil Mistry, partner at KPMG Enterprise were echoed by Paul Gaspar, director of small business segment at UPS Canada when he said “small business failures come not from poor products or businesses, but from trying to do everything on their own.”  Both were speaking in a collaborative panel conversation at the The Art Of Small Business conference in Toronto on Oct. 21.

The panel was ably hosted by Mitch Joel, founder and partner of TwistImage, the leading Canadian digital marketing company, and author of Control.Alt.Delete., who was also a speaker at the event. Earlier in the day Joel had challenged the small business audience to own their direct customer relationships and create value by knowing their customers more deeply, through social media and data analysis to increase personalization.

Rounding out the executive panel, was Rob Nicholson, head of Commercial Solutions at Visa Canada and DJ Kennedy, Founder and CEO of TechWyse Internet Marketing.  Kennedy brought the technology business owners’ perspective on the question of small business challenges – ”owners must shift from working in the business to working on their business to be successful.”

Joel asked “why are small businesses reluctant to seek or take advice from larger companies as strategic partners, such as the offerings from the panelists’ companies?” He wonders aloud if they think, “I don’t have the time or resources to benefit from these sources” or perhaps they are skeptical about “what’s the catch?”

I concur.  Small business owners are stressed for both time and money.  So it becomes a chicken and egg cycle – of not seeking or trusting advice and therefore being too stressed to seek advice.  And that gets in the way of making more money that could allow engaging more resources. Taking the step back from the day-to-day business to think, seek advice or coaching is the only way to break that chicken and egg cycle.

According to Mistry, it may be because for small businesses “they don’t know, what they don’t know.”  The most successful companies “have advisers they can tap into for help with marketing, social media or accounting.”  On the accounting side, Kennedy from TechWyse recommends Freshbooks as a local company that’s successful, and brought their expertise to solve his bookkeeper’s challenges.

And “you can’t be an expert at everything to need to startup, run and grow a business”, adds Gaspar from UPS. His advice is to “consider basic outsourcing to a strategic partner, or find an expert outside to focus on your business.”  From my experience as a business owner and a business coach, it takes getting the small business leader to slow down long enough to have a deeper conversation about what’s working, what’s not working and what’s important to get to the next level of success, however they define it.

So what other companies in the Toronto small business community are impressive and achieving that next level of success? Nicholson from Visa identifies the passion of the team at Cyclepath. And Wike bicycle trailers is on Gaspar’s list of successful companies who are continuously improving, and taking advantage of strategic partnerships to deliver a great product.

And Mistry from KPMG offers up his clients, gaming companies XMG Studio and Uken Games as firms who started on a shoestring, have “amazing growth,” and are engaged with strategic partners and advisers to accelerate their success.  He says “there are tons of resources in the Waterloo-Toronto-Ottawa tech hub.  Keep thinking about your goals, attend local meetups to keep growing.”

It sure beats flying on your own.

 

 

 

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  • DJ Kennedy

    Very well thought out Cheryl. The challenge of any small business owner is trying to do everything well. Once you realize you are not capable of this the hope is that you have enough revenue to start hiring again. Just like they say about your first million dollars, when you are a true startup, the first employee is often the most difficult to hire. Who that person is and how you lead them often dictates your ability to grow.