How Big is Small Business?

In Canada, small business generates 45% of the private sector GDP and employs 60% of the private sector workforce (CFIB, 2005). The small business sector also accounts for 70% of the new jobs in the Canadian economy (ibid). Therefore, small business is big business in Canada.

There are many strong business organizations and associations in Canada. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) has an advocacy role for small business and is highly visible and effective at promoting small business’ interests to various levels of government. The Canadian Association of Family Enterprises (CAFÉ) provides forums and services to help family owned businesses. Saskatchewan Trade & Export Partnership (STEP) is an innovative organization that provides custom export solutions and market research to its members. There are also economic development agencies and chambers of commerce at various levels (local, provincial, national).

Unfortunately, small businesses do not always have access to the resources – knowledge, financial and management – that large businesses automatically do because of their large size and inherent management teams (Woodward, 1976). Small businesses also do not have a strong network where they share best practices across the functional areas of expertise that are required to run a successful business. Therefore, in my opinion, there is no single effective representation of small businesses in Canada. If your car breaks down, you call CAA (Canadian Automobile Association). Yet, who do you call if your business breaks down?

The good news is that the entrepreneurial spirit, the modern version of the pioneering spirit, is alive and well – and growing – in Canada. Small businesses, in my experience, typically have clear strategies, close relationships with their customers, and speed and flexibility to be responsive to a dynamic market. Business owners appear to have strong intuitive knowledge of their businesses and can make good decisions based on limited information. They have courage, integrity and a work ethic that would make my pioneering grandparents proud. The management challenges of running a small business are many, especially in the constantly changing environments caused by technology, globalization and workforce demographics. Small business managers meet these challenges everyday. Yet even a small improvement in business results – from better management systems, information and knowledge – would result in significant financial benefits for both the business owner and the economy due to the relatively low variable costs of most businesses.