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June 30, 2019

The three challenges keeping Canadian small business owners up at night

If you’re a small business owner in Canada, chances are you’ve got a lot on your mind. We were curious to better understand the challenges you face—so we decided to ask. With the help of Canadian B2B marketing experts Hop Skip Marketing and Asking Canadians, we conducted a market research study open to small business owners and operators across the country. Now, the results are in. Read on to discover which three issues are most concerning Canadian small business owners, and how you might handle them.

About the market research study

This study was targeted to Canadian small business owners or operators. We received 160 responses from across various industries, and from every province except Quebec. The majority of respondents were from Ontario (50%) British Columbia (22%), and Alberta (12%). 

 

Challenge #1: How do we sustain or grow the business during long periods of low sales?

Every industry has its ups and downs and no business is immune. Periods of low sales, especially if they’re protracted, can be extremely stressful. Even worse, your bottom line isn’t the only thing affected: self-doubt easily takes hold during dry spells. 

41% of our respondents reported long periods of low sales as the largest challenge for their small businesses

You can’t eliminate the ebb and flow of sales but there are steps you can take to minimize them—and having a solid sales and marketing strategy is key. Unfortunately, many Canadian small businesses have neither a dedicated sales (74%) nor marketing (87%) 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. Your investment will pay off with faster growth and shorter periods of slow sales.

 

Challenge #2: What is the best course of action to handle cash flow challenges?

Cash flow refers to the money coming in and going out of your business, and for small business owners it’s crucial to stay in the black. For everyday bills to upgrades to unexpected expenses, small business owners need access to their money.

1 in 3 respondents ranked managing cash flow as a top challenge for their business

Handling cash flow isn’t complicated but it can be time-consuming. In general, cash flow tasks fall into four categories:

  • Monitoring your cash flow
    You can’t manage your cash flow if you have no idea what your financial picture is. Use accounting software and set aside time regularly to check in on your accounts.
  • Generating income
    Think about all the ways you can bring money in. These include: invoicing regularly; incentivizing early payments or using a mobile app to get paid faster; asking for a deposit on larger jobs; and, selling off unused equipment or assets.
  • Cutting costs
    Every business has expenses but you can reduce your stress and increase your cash flow by making sure you’re only paying for what you need. Try outsourcing to avoid full-time employee costs, leasing equipment instead of buying and cutting down on overhead wherever possible.
  • Planning ahead
    Understand that there will be times when cash flow slows down and plan for it. Apply for a term loan, a merchant cash advance or a business line of credit.
     

Challenge #3: How to keep up with the changes in technology and innovation

Small business owners have so much to manage that new technologies and innovations tend to rest on the back-burner.

Slightly more than half of respondents have a concern about new tech and innovation

In the whirlwind of running a small business, it’s easy to let innovations pass you by. Unfortunately, that can only end one way: with you and your business behind the curve. 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 with technology and innovation, especially in your sector. These days, this can be as easy as joining relevant online groups or subscribing to newsletters, or you can get even more hands-on and attend industry events. Whatever you decide on, make sure you stay engaged.

Canadian small business owners and operators 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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