If you’re a small business owner in Canada, chances are you’re already experienced in handling the many obstacles to maintaining and growing your operation. From dealing with suppliers to maintaining a positive and strong public profile to ensuring customer satisfaction, small business ownership requires a high level of expertise, dedication, and solutions-oriented thinking. New findings from a survey led by iCapital shed light on the greatest challenges for Canadian small businesses. Read on to find out the top three reported obstacles in 2019—and the best ways to overcome them.
Without cash—meaning liquid assets you can use when you need to—everything from payroll to inventory to recurring bills can become an enormous burden. Cash flow refers to the money coming in and going out of your business, and it’s a persistent issue for many Canadian small businesses.
29% of respondents ranked managing cash flow as a top challenge for their business
Handling cash flow isn’t complicated but it can involve some strategic planning. If your cash flow issues are preventing you from the business of, well, business, consider going after some funding. Securing a loan can be a useful strategy for handling cash flow woes—and for working towards growth. In fact, a full 35% of respondents indicated that they’d secured financing for their business, with 8% confirming they use a line of credit. The big banks have many products on offer (11% went to the Big 5) but alternative lenders are also on the rise, with 4% of respondents indicating they’d gone this route.
Used responsibly, loans or lines of credit can add stability to your enterprise. Don’t be afraid to put a working system in place.
No business is immune from the natural ebb and flow of sales cycles, but for Canadian small businesses, low sales can be a really difficult challenge to face. This is such a common issue that a full 41% of our respondents said it was their most pressing concern.
41% of our respondents reported long periods of low sales as the largest challenge for new or small businesses
No amount of planning will give you control over a low sales period, but there are steps you can take to minimize it. Having a solid sales and marketing strategy is key. This may seem simplistic but the reality is many small businesses neglect this area. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they had no sales team and 87% lacked a marketing employee. This is a mistake. Even if you can’t justify full-time help in these departments, it pays to employ experts to create an effective digital presence, to generate interest in your products or services, and to strategize about how to lead your prospects down the sales funnel. This needn’t be a costly endeavour, either. Social media is a cost-effective way to reach your customers, and perfect for generating buzz. Start a dialogue, offer value, and show your customers that you appreciate them. Your investment will pay off with shorter periods of slow sales.
With all the everyday tasks of running a small business, it’s easy to see new technologies as irrelevant, at best, or disruptive, at worst. The problem is, if you fall to behind it can negatively affect your business.
Slightly more than half of respondents have a concern about new tech and innovation
As a business owner, you can’t afford to fall behind when it comes to innovation and tech. Advances in technology can affect everything from your customer service to your daily operations, not to mention that dated systems tend to break down. If you’re going to remain competitive you’ll have to ensure you stay up-to-date. The good news is that a little effort in this regard can go a long way. You needn’t learn a new computer language to stay abreast. Join relevant online groups and subscribe to newsletters. Your colleagues are rich in intel, and online community thrive on sharing information.
About the market research study
This study was the result of a partnership between financial services provider iCapital, Hop Skip Marketing and Asking Canadians. 160 responses were received from across various industries with participants in every province except Quebec. The majority of respondents were from Ontario (50%), British Columbia (22%), and Alberta (12%).
Canadian small business owners have a lot to handle, with sales, cash flow, and emerging tech and innovation topping the list. The good news in all these cases is that strategies exist. Whether you choose to take these challenges on yourself or hire help, there are ways to make sure you and your business remain top-of-mind, relevant, and solvent.
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