Calgary’s Small Business Summit on Wednesday focused on the essential building blocks for small businesses—from the smart risks you need to take, to the seeds entrepreneurs are planting to raise the next generation of business owners. The summit highlighted the increasing prominence of local technology-centric small businesses, and seasoned entrepreneurs shared their tips to get your business off the ground.
Canadian entrepreneurs were identified by panelists for an aversion to risk, as compared to their American counterparts. This risk-averse nature can be tied partially to the cautious lending practices of Canadian institutional and private investors, but it also stems from a perception of Canadians as significantly more timid than their neighbours to the south. Throughout the day, seasoned entrepreneurs pushed Canadian small business owners to take smart risks, such as accelerated global expansion or aggressive growth in order to build successful businesses faster.
Smart risk led to the success of Calgary company Category Management Knowledge Group (CMKG), a local startup represented at the Small Business Summit. Panelist and CMKG President Sue Nicholls encouraged entrepreneurs to take calculated risks, particularly when pursuing unconventional solutions. CMKG outsources the majority of their non-core work, a strategy that keeps the startup lean and allows them to concentrate on their strengths.
Risk management becomes easier with software as a service (SaaS) solutions and readily available products to scale your business and take it global, said TCE Lab CEO Stephen King. Although there continue to be risks involved with operating internationally, cloud solutions have removed many barriers for entrepreneurs to enter foreign markets.
The biggest stumbling block encountered by Canadian tech business is problematic cash flow management, an issue that will only be intensified if trying to expand globally. CGA Glen Stanley-Turner emphasized the necessity for entrepreneurs to retain an accountant that specializes in small business, if only to develop a cash flow strategy and ensure compliance with taxing authorities.
Serial entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den alumni Brett Wilson punctuated the summit by highlighting the building blocks of the next generation of Canadian entrepreneurs. A strong foundation in marketing, entrepreneurship, and a belief in philanthropy are key to ensuring Canadian entrepreneurs are prepared to meet global challenges. This education needs to start at the grade school level, Wilson said, and that planting the seeds of entrepreneurship needs to start early or youth won’t think about it.
Tips to build your small business
Take smart risks: Determine your risk tolerance and manage your business accordingly. Take cues from your American counterparts and place smart bets. The harder you work and the more deliberate you are about the opportunities you pursue, the better the chance your bets will pay off.
Manage cash flow: Ensure that you are properly managing your cash flow. Cash flow is the life blood of your business, and without it, you’re dead. It’s as simple as that.
Pitch the media: Decide on a unique story and share it with the world. Reach out to the media. Don’t pitch it as an ad for your business, because that’s what the ad pages are for. Rather you want to offer a unique story for readers (or viewers) that the media will be interested in covering. This will give you great exposure to potential clients.
Approach investors: Once you’re able to demonstrate a viable business, approach investors. If they turn you away (and many will), take their feedback and incorporate it into your next pitch. If your business grows, bring your idea back to the same investors, demonstrate you’ve applied their feedback, and ask for a second consideration.
Martin Studzinski is a marketing and communications professional and technology enthusiast. You can follow him on twitter @martstudz or reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is the smartest risk you took to develop your business? Sound off in the comments below!