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Running a business – in any industry – is a multi-faceted undertaking that requires expertise in numerous, time-consuming and sometimes complex fields. All businesses struggle to perform every aspect of their operations efficiently and smoothly, but this task is even harder for smaller businesses.
98% of Canadian businesses are small, which is partly why business-to-business (B2B) services are so popular. These services allow companies to outsource or supplement various operational functions, so that regardless of size or capacity, every business can access professional, flexible services. The table below highlights some of the business service providers operating in Canada; click on any of their names to learn more about them, and read on for more information on this industry.
Business services are by their nature primarily intangible - they do not provide goods to be sold or manufacture anything. Instead they consist of professional services that are sold to other organizations to help in specific areas. More than a third of small businesses outsource at least one aspect of their business processes.
There are literally dozens of areas that a business may need professional help in, including:
Business service providers don’t just come in all of these different areas, they also vary in size and levels of service. Some providers are full-service, while others are niche. Some cater only to small businesses, and others to larger corporations. This is a massive and ever-growing industry, so if you’re considering using a business service, it’s good to know how providers in each sector can help you.
Payroll is the single most commonly outsourced business service, but accounting services are not limited to just this. Accounting services can include all aspects of bookkeeping, including:
As well as dedicated companies that can help you, there are many software solutions that allow non-experts to perform bookkeeping functions in-house, thereby saving the cost of an outside expert. Payroll software, for example, has been shown to decrease costs by up to 18% while increasing compliance. Given that 40% of companies face tax penalties for late or incorrect filings, and 61% of small businesses do not create a formal budget, it’s no surprise that this field is so heavily used.
IT services is a broad area encompassing everything from system installation to software development. Just some of the tasks undertaken by IT service providers are:
As with other fields, IT service providers can be full-service firms that provide all aspects of IT support your business will ever need, or specialists in one area - for example, custom software development. A massive 53% of all companies outsource at least some aspect of their IT.
Few companies can afford to hire a full-time social media manager, public relations guru and online designer - despite the fact that they need all of these personnel to remain competitive. Marketing service providers can manage all aspects of your business’s marketing, without the need for dedicated in-house staff. Commonly outsourced marketing tasks include both traditional and digital functions, such as:
Marketing equals sales, and sales equal success, so without a marketing team at your back, you are doomed either to failure, or to spending hours trying to perform these varied functions for yourself.
Recruiters and human resources professionals are in demand, and the luxury of full-time help in this area is usually only enjoyed by larger businesses. This amorphous area might not at first glance seem like the most important aspect of business operations to worry about, but without proper staffing and human resource management, your business simply cannot function.
HR service providers can help you with:
These are all administratively dense tasks that quickly become time-consuming if mismanaged or poorly understood.
The logistics of your business will depend heavily on your industry, but unless you literally work from home at all times, there will be some logistical functions to perform. These can range in complexity and scale, but generally include matters related to:
Smaller businesses often rely on existing personnel to manage customer support, but this leads to general office staff interacting with customers (usually without training). This can increase customer dissatisfaction and distract employees from their main responsibilities. But a full-time customer service representative may not be viable for your business yet - and this is where customer support services come in. Cloud-based and shared-agent solutions are particularly cost-effective ways to ensure trained and dedicated staff are available to handle customer calls without the need for your employees to step in.
There are various routes customer contact can take: web chat, live agents on phone lines, email, direct messaging, and social media. All of these (or combinations of) are available through customer support service providers. It’s also possible to craft a custom level of support, so that repetitive customer service tasks (such as solving frequently encountered problems) are handled by bots or outside agents, while in-house staff are routed the more technical queries.
Legal services for businesses have existed for a long time in Canada, as in-house legal experts have always been expensive, but their use is on the rise as companies become increasingly international and as regulations become increasingly complex. A legal services provider can help with a pretty wide range of tasks, including:
Outsourcing legal tasks can save a massive 30% to 70% compared to hiring an in-house lawyer, and has the added advantage of flexibility - many businesses will have minimal ongoing legal issues to contend with, but will occasionally need extra help for one-off concerns.
A functional and eye-catching website is a must; 88% of consumers perform online research before making any purchase, and a massive 75% will judge a company based solely on its website design. A good website can literally make or break your business, but most people do not have the technical skills and hardware to host, design and code their own site. This is where website service providers come in. They can help with everything web-related, including:
To meet your business goals, revenue via an online platform will be key, and this only comes from a professionally crafted website and mobile site.
Businesses can get help in almost any area of business operations, including: legal services, financial services, management services, human resources, customer support, website design, accounting and bookkeeping, payroll, marketing, sales, IT support, logistics, and much more. If there’s a technical aspect to running part of your business, then there is a third party solution available to help!
The cost of business services vary depending on the type and range of services used, how often they are used, your business’s size, and other factors. For example, a full-service firm may be a more cost-effective option to gain help with multiple different business services, compared to hiring an individual provider for each separate function. Sometimes software solutions exist (for example, accounting software) that may be a more affordable solution than hiring an outside expert. Cost depends entirely on your needs, budget and expected use.
Outsourcing business processes has many advantages; it allows you access to a suite of experts that you would not otherwise be able to hire; it provides a flexible and scalable way to address specific technical requirements; and it is cost-effective in comparison to hiring in-house employees.
Businesses of any size can use business services, although it is worth noting that some providers work specifically with companies of a certain size (for example, there exist startup specialists, large corporation specialists, and so on). Be sure to check which providers can work with your business - you will always have options.
People outsource business functions for many reasons, but primary among them is affordability. Most small businesses cannot afford to hire full-time the range of experts they need to address either ongoing or one-off tasks. By utilizing business service providers, they can access technical expertise in a cost-effective and flexible manner.
Accounting services are the most commonly outsourced business process, although IT services come in a close second.
How do I know if I need extra help with a business service?
If you are struggling to manage a particular aspect of your business - be it financial, design, customer service, HR or anything else - then you may benefit from some help. Not every business will have the personnel, time or money to manage every aspect of their operations entirely by themselves. If you’re finding certain aspects slipping through the cracks (for example, an increase in customer complaints, penalties for incorrect tax filings, missed administrative tasks, and so on) then it might be time to look into service providers to lend a helping hand.
The Smarter Loans Staff is made up of writers, researchers, journalists, business leaders and industry experts who carefully research, analyze and produce Canada's highest quality content when it comes to money matters, on behalf of Smarter Loans. While we cannot possibly name every person involved in the process, we collectively credit them as Smarter Loans Writing Staff. Our work has been featured in the Toronto Star, National Post and many other publications. Today, Smarter Loans is recognized in Canada as the go-to destination for financial education, and was named the "GPS of Fintech Lending" by the Toronto Star in 2019.