Friday, July 18, 2014

Nova Scotia Small Business - Good Business?

by Ashwin Kutty 

The Conference Board of Canada recent forecast (click here for a summeryindicates that Nova Scotia will lead in economic growth compared to the rest of the country.

Always good news when you read about economic growth in your region, but what I find interesting is that the jobs figures will continue to remain as poor as they are now. When we look at some of the larger investments highlighted in the article, we know that all of that FDI coming in as a good sign, but what about that jobs figure.

I wonder sometimes where the economic impact of small business is and how that is quantified, measured and shown as a sign of economic growth or not. Traditional reporting looks at the headlines and uses it to substantiate economic indicators, while not really looking at the deeper business environment we currently live in.

Small business is a good business driver for job growth, regardless of which sector or industry as small businesses span the gamut. When we consider big businesses that we want to attract to our shores, sure they bring in jobs, but what they also bring in are subsidies, grants and forgivable loans that we need to give out to ensure they come and hopefully they stay. I am not against this strategy as attracting big business is good news for us - they drive small business growth in return and make us attractive for talent, investment and innovation. This is where I believe we need to pay a bit more focus on the small business and look at a few key indicators of potential success that could both drive growth as well as sustainability:
  1. Is it innovative? Are they unique and if so, what is their unique value proposition?
  2. Is it feasible? Just because they are unique does not mean they can find financing in a heartbeat. This may require a rethink on the product/service if it can be made feasibly or if there are alternative funding sources that could help its feasibility.
  3. Is it market appropriate? The definition of the market space it has been identified for needs to be in line with the market need thats out there. If it doesn't exist, investing in something to then educate the market on and convert individuals into consumers is no easy task. This is not a deal breaker, but is a cautionary note on furthering any small business.
  4. Is it executable? A good idea is only as good as the team that will execute it. This requires not just the technical (and no not IT technical) but also a business member of the team that can potentially execute it. Track record is important, but we need to take chances on passion, fortitude and chutzpah - not many have it and a small business in a big business market requires every ounce of this mix of three they can muster.
  5. Is it mentor’able? Its not a word, but it needs to be. We need to have mentors for any and all small business - godparents of business if you will to ensure that no matter how small or big the business is, it remains true to its original vision and stays on course to deliver, deliver, deliver. The second it does not, these mentors need to be able to strong enough in making tough decisions around whether proceeding further would benefit anyone. Good money after bad is never a good idea. 
We do not have a lack of creativity, nor do we lack business acumen, what we lack is the combination of the two. We need to build more sustainable businesses that do not close its doors in a blink of an eye, nor stay open with no running water or electricity.

Business is tough, small business more so, but its doable. If you need to, heed to the first piece of advice I received in business “Spend money to make money”. I would only change that to “Spend money wisely to make money”.

Small business is good business and it will drive jobs growth in our province and a multitude of others. I am not talking about building a hundred small companies to create jobs, I am talking about building 10 that will sustain careers for a long time. If we let small businesses be successful by being tough on them on the onset, imagine the impacts of the same when they grow to medium and large businesses in the future.