Fri, June 21
Weather Icon Calgary 11°C



Boosting Small Business


It’s an undisputable business fact: small businesses are critical to Calgary’s economy.

While perceptions continue to change, references to “small business” can be misleading. The biggest faux pas: small businesses (compared to big businesses) are often deemed insignificant.

According to stats, there are more than 1.2 million small businesses in Canada and 98.1 per cent of all Canadian private sector businesses have fewer than 100 employees. The majority of businesses in Alberta are small businesses comprising 95 per cent of all business in the province. Small businesses are the tortoise-and-the-hare drivers of the economy, accounting for almost 30 per cent of Alberta’s GDP. Particularly in the Calgary area, small businesses are earning success in virtually every business sector.

Coming up will be a special week in Calgary. The Calgary Chamber’s Small Business Week (SBW), set for October 21-25, features five action- and information-packed days – inspiring, motivating, networking and recognizing small business in Calgary.

A fitting focus, because small business, particularly in Calgary, earns and deserves the special attention.

“The goal of Small Business Week is simple,” explains Sandip Lalli, president and chief executive officer of the Calgary Chamber. “To nourish, empower and inspire Calgary’s small businesses. Small businesses contribute so much to our economy. The Chamber’s role is to connect with business owners and support them on their growth journey. After all, when businesses thrive, communities thrive, and Small Business Week highlights just that!”

Most business insiders acknowledge that, despite small businesses having unique challenges, the past five years or so have added additional speed bumps.

“On a global scale, Canada has a great economy,” says small business owner Greg Garcia, president of Calgary Elite Roofing, a past winner of a Calgary SBW Award, and a Calgary Chamber board member. “We are in the top 10 of the world’s largest economies and we are still growing. For the past two years, Canada has reported record GDP at around 3.5 per cent. And, for the fourth year in a row, we have ranked best country for quality of life.

“We do face a climate of political uncertainty that makes it difficult for small business owners to run their business with peace of mind,” he admits. “Local or global policies and economic announcements made one day keep being challenged after every election. These decisions have a direct and significant impact, particularly on small businesses.”

While Calgary business is managing the positive momentum of a gradual recovery, the annual SBW boost is more special than ever. “Calgary is fortunate to have a rich and diverse small business community which holds so much capacity for growth,” the upbeat Lalli says.

While conventional business challenges usually make for a small business bumpy ride, laced with many risks, there’s consensus the downturn caused a much bumpier ride than normal. “We have to make decisions based on a shorter-term vision than before because things can change at any time,” Garcia points out. “Business owners are risk takers. Successful ones are those who best analyze those risks, the market, political moves and how it will all affect their business but it is now becoming harder and harder.

“Alberta’s climate of uncertainty is part of the reason why we are losing important corporations and investors. We need better industry diversity, because these corporations have a tremendous trickle effect on small businesses. When the population income is high, people feel more confident about the future and will spend their money in the local economy. It’s important for local car dealerships, local roofing companies, local real estate, other local businesses and even local charities and our communities, in general.”

According to the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) – Canada’s only financial institution devoted exclusively to entrepreneurs with more than 56,000 small business clients – the three essential small business basics are:

  • Leveraging existing clients as the best opportunities for small business expansion success.
  • Growing smart on the right path for the small business and not expanding into new business areas just because it’s possible.
  • Not micromanaging, because entrepreneurs sometimes have trouble delegating decisions to staff. Small businesses should hire good people and let them be productive.

Advice, information, resources and achieving the small business edge is the focus of Calgary’s Small Business Week. And the weeklong special event has already earned a respected reputation for being Alberta’s biggest B2B expo. “As our economy continues to recover, it is critical that we continue to provide small businesses with the opportunities for growth,” Lalli adds.

This year’s SBW will be an information- and resource-filled week, a valuable networking opportunity and a recognition of the uniqueness of Calgary’s contribution to small business.

Although the Chamber’s innovative planning and coordination includes various events and networking opportunities, the focal point will no doubt be the Small Business Calgary Expo, headlining 160 exhibitors with 1,500 attendees, an exhibition of local businesses, two keynote speakers and the Digital Tools Stage featuring 15-minute rapid-fire sessions on new tools to transform and grow Calgary small businesses.

The award finalists have been announced and the winners will be congratulated at the SBW Awards Gala on Friday, October 25, 2019 at the Westin Calgary. The gala is much more than a VIP party. “The Small Business Calgary Gala is where we roll out the red carpet and celebrate small businesses,” Lalli explains. “These business owners spend so much time and energy building their businesses they often don’t take time to celebrate the successes. The gala allows us to do that.”

Local small business success story Greg Garcia raves about the SBW Awards with unique first-hand experience. “In 2016, Calgary Elite Roofing won the Small Business of the Year Award, as well as the Customer Service Award and was runner-up for the Environmental Stewardship Award. And it was a huge booster. It brought great pride and confidence and gave us a lot of exposure and credibility. Our sales doubled the following year, our network greatly improved and so did our business opportunities.”

It’s a consensus. Calgary’s SBW is a win-win for small business.

… and the envelopes, please. The 2019 Small Business Awards:

  • The ATB Small Business of the Year Award, for the Calgary small business that demonstrates significant business achievement, sustained financial growth and performance.
  • The BDC Emerging Growth Award, presented to the new, emerging Calgary small business that has shown rapid growth and profitability in its first one to three years of operations and the potential for future growth and commercial success.
  • The Company Culture Award, for a company leading the way in employee engagement, satisfaction and retention.
  • The Innovation Award, for a Calgary small business that is pushing conventional boundaries and disrupting and reshaping its industry through groundbreaking achievements with creative business concepts, product creation or an innovative approach.
  • The KPMG People’s Choice Award, presented to the Calgary small business that has engaged the loyal support of its community. (The only SBW Calgary Award that is determined by public vote, showing the community thinks they go above and beyond.)
  • The Social Entrepreneurship Award will go to the Calgary small business that is a leader in finding ways of conducting operations while benefiting the larger community and the environment.
  • The Better Business Bureau Ethical Business Award, for the Calgary business demonstrating a commitment to advancing marketplace trust through ethical business practices.
  • The TD Inclusion and Diversity Award, for the Calgary small business that is a leader in progressing principles of inclusion and diversity in the workplace and in the community.