By Kate Jackman-Atkinson, myWestman
NEEPAWA, Man. — When you think about all of the businesses that meet your daily needs — your hardware store, your grocery store, your mechanic shop, your restaurant or your hairdresser, chances are almost all of them are small businesses. Each day, millions of small business owners wake up and get to work, doing the heavy lifting of driving Canada’s economy. They are important to their customers and their employees, but most of them work away in relative obscurity; they don’t get the national attention, or government dollars, of their big business cousins. Their importance is vastly underestimated.
A small business is one with fewer than 100 employees and there are more than 1.3 million of them in Canada. In fact, about 98 percent of Canada’s businesses fall into this category.
Only 1.8 percent of Canadian businesses have between 100 and 499 employees and the tiny remainder (0.3 percent), have more than 500 employees.
In rural communities, in particular, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of the entrepreneur — if it weren’t for small businesses, we would have almost no local businesses.
Small businesses dominate the industries that keep rural communities viable. For example, Statistics Canada reports that of the 47,397 businesses in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector, 47,121 of them are small.
It isn’t just that small businesses supply us with the products and services we need, they also provide jobs to ourselves, our friends and our neighbours. Out of every 10 Canadians working in the private sector, nine of them work for a small or medium-sized business. If we want to talk about employment growth and opportunities for Canadians, small businesses play a key role and will continue to do so going forward.
Not only are small businesses the backbone of Canadian employment, they will be vital to our future. The output of small and medium businesses account for 41 percent of Canada’s gross domestic product and as larger operations tend to plateau into a static and stable status, it’s the smaller operations that are, in general, providing faster-paced growth.
Whether driven by need or desire, entrepreneurs are passionate about their creation and moving it forward. It’s that passion which drives them to innovate and their more flexible nature allows this to happen. In an uncertain business climate, characterized by rapid change, we need to be encouraging and supporting those businesses that can better adapt and meet the changing needs of consumers. Those nimble structures are only going to become more important.
Entrepreneurs and their work need to be better recognized and celebrated. Small Business Week, which takes place Oct 15 to 21, is one way to not only recognize the contributions of small businesses but also provide some education and networking opportunities for their owners. Talking to others with similar experiences can help entrepreneurs overcome the challenges they are facing or see opportunities that could be developed and help their business grow. In other words, it can help them take their business to the next level, something that’s in everyone’s best interest.
Next week, as you go about your daily business, be sure to think about the entrepreneurs who have made this possible. Even if for a week a year, it’s time to really celebrate the small businesses that make our communities whole.