Why Calgary is Leading the Nation In Small Businesses Support

By Jeff Cates

This month, the city of Calgary announced it would be letting small business owners establish their company entirely online – making it the first city in Canada to do so.

On face value, this announcement has the potential to appear mundane. After all, in the fast-paced tech world, it is competing with news about the latest startups and app ideas that solve problems we hardly knew existed.

For small businesses, this news is anything but mundane. It’s the long-needed legitimization of online platforms as end-to-end business solutions, and an important wake-up call that should be heeded.

Digitization is changing the way we work. Within the small business industry, we’re seeing a mass digitization of services, everything from monitoring stock levels through to customer service, all with the singular purpose of creating an environment where small businesses can flourish. With all the digital options available, why then are we not seeing fully digitized operations?

For small businesses, change can be overwhelming. In this case, it’s very easy to put yourself in their shoes – if you’ve been running a business successfully for several years, why would you mess with the formula?

I’ve put together my three recommendations for – small – changes that small businesses can embrace, to make taking the jump a bit easier.

1. Take stock of your time. Keep a log of your time for a week; the results will shock you. The admin task you thought would just ‘take a minute’, took three hours. Piecing together where your day went, and more importantly, what is taking up your time, will allow you to better see where it will benefit you to digitize.

2. Research those that are doing it well. If there’s a business you know that has just launched an e-commerce platform, or their social media channels are receiving a large audience, take a proper look at what they are doing. What website platform are they using? How many times a week are they posting? Gaining these insights could help inform your own strategy.

3. Improve your financial literacy. Given the nature of my work, this last one shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone. Financial literacy is important and can make a huge difference to your businesses success. If it’s not your strong suit, look at support networks, whether that be your local accountant, or a QuickBooks digital solution, that can help you get the results you need.

For those that remain unconvinced, take the rapid expansion of e-commerce for example. By 2020 in Canada, it’s estimated that 10% of total retail spend will be generated via e-commerce channels. Based on current trends, I think this is a fairly conservative estimate and that these levels of growth will only continue to increase exponentially as businesses develop more sophisticated and exciting methods of embracing e-commerce – I’m sure we’ve all heard of Amazon’s drone delivery service.

Undoubtedly, e-commerce is here to stay. However, there is still a perception that e-commerce is secondary to a bricks and mortar presence – serving as a complementary channel to a physical presence, rather than a standalone option.

Amid this phase of digital adoption in the workplace, it’s time we retire this misconception. Operating solely online offers many benefits – lower upfront costs, quick scalability and international audiences are just a few that immediately come to mind. In fact, one of the most common themes we hear from new QuickBooks Online customers remains the same: they didn’t realize managing their finances could be this efficient and simple. Utilizing cloud-based services allows our customers to operate from anywhere and access key insights in real-time, and at the same time work closely with a strategic advisor to get the right guidance for your business.

Looking beyond our own experience, the ecosystem of businesses that are available to support entrepreneurs continues to thrive and expand. As for those businesses yet to embrace digitization in some form, the time to start is now.

Jeff Cates is President with Intuit Canada.