Launching and growing a small business is hard. The Government of Canada’s Key Small Business Statistics reported in January 2019 that close to one-third of all Canadian businesses fail within the first five years.1 And almost half of all Canadian firms that go bankrupt do so because of internal weaknesses, such as inexperienced management, a lack of market for their product and poor financial planning.2
If it seems as if your business is heading south, you may have yourself to blame—but that's OK because that also means you're the best person to fix it. You will, however, need a team inside and outside your company to help you.
As you form your small business support system, seek out people with the expertise and connections you need, from mentors in your industry to suppliers that can help you scale. Here's how to staff up the support you need to sustain your business.
Build your squad in person and online
Your squad is the group of people who have your back. It should be comprised of employees, brand evangelists, mentors, community members and family and friends. You might not know how your squad will help you, but you can be certain they can step in when you need them.
They might post positive reviews online, or privately point out the flaws in your latest design. Some will fill the role of a mentor, answering questions, acting as a sounding board for your ideas and giving you tips so you can learn from their mistakes. Most importantly, your squad should excel at generating buzz for your brand and do so authentically because they truly love you and your company.
While social media makes it easy to stay in touch, be sure to strengthen those relationships with a phone call or face-to-face meeting every once in a while. And be sure to thank them publicly and privately for their support.
Understand when you need help—and how to ask for it
Once you've pinpointed some of the most talented, innovative and helpful people for your squad, consider formalizing their roles by creating an advisory board. Task them with setting core values—ideals such as upholding cultural integrity and social responsibility. Consider appointing a board of directors, board of trustees and an advisory committee made up of community members to oversee these important objectives.
Find the right people
Building a team of managers and workers who complement your strengths and weaknesses is key. But where you do you find such people? Job ads, recruiters and LinkedIn might be obvious places to start, but it can be challenging to find highly specialized positions or employees with years of experience on job search sites.
Turning to your support system when you're seeking job candidates helps you cut through the noise of online job applicants. Plus, it's a great way to maintain the give-and-take in a relationship.
Create a network of professionals
When you're looking for a bank or a lawyer, it may be tempting to Google local businesses and then read their Yelp reviews. But is that really the best way? Just as online job sites may not turn up the best candidates, you shouldn't necessarily judge a financial services firm just because they came up first in search engine rankings.
You want professionals you know you can trust—ideally because you have developed a rapport with them or because they come highly recommended from a friend or colleague. Ultimately, these experts may become mentors to assist you in areas of your business, and you may be able to take your relationship to a new level by helping them out, too—even if it's by sending new business their way.
Look to your support system to build relationships with the professionals you'll ultimately need to help run your business—from website experts to venture capitalists. You may start with your suppliers for guidance, referrals and resources. For instance, many American Express' clients count on a dedicated account management executive who often become an extension of their teams. Their account manager guides them on how take full advantage of benefits such as unsecured credit for their business spending, and how to strategically use interest-free days to better manage their cash flow.
Find ways to support your support system
Networking sometimes seems to have a flavor of quid pro quo (meaning "something for something"), in which you help others with the expectation of getting something in return. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it can help ensure the relationship is equitable. If you are going to tip the balance, however, make sure you are the one doing the giving.
In 2018, the Government of Canada reported that more than 3,500 Canadian businesses declared insolvency.3 With a strong network by your side to help you grow, you can buck those odds and celebrate your success instead.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.