3 Challenges Facing Calgary Small Business Owners

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In Alberta, owning a small business could mean anything from managing a security firm, carpet cleaning commercial office buildings, offering dog breeding services, and roofing residential homes to running an e-Commerce store from your home office.

The possibilities are endless.

Considering that 67% of Canadian entrepreneurs saw an increase in business opportunities following the pandemic, it’s likely new startups will continue to emerge at a projected increase of 7%, especially in the tech industry.

But that doesn’t mean entrepreneurship is guaranteed to be smooth sailing. Most of the time, it isn’t.

Small Businesses Face Unique Challenges

While many business owners face the same challenges—hiring the right people, building an online presence, and maintaining a strong customer base—some problems are unique to the small business sector.

It’s often a question of time, resources, creativity, and more than a little luck whether or not a small business will be successful.

Getting any of these ventures off the ground is an incredible achievement for a new entrepreneur. But maintaining your momentum can be an even more significant challenge.

Bad timing, waning product interest, and a host of other issues can sway the market in unexpected ways, which is why stability is key for small startups.

But when you’ve reached a point where your goal is to keep growing, it is essential to recognize and overcome any pitfalls hindering your progress.

Otherwise, you may get stuck feeling like you are constantly in ‘crisis mode.’

Usually, these challenges will fall into one of three categories:


      • Your small business mindset is holding you back.

      • You don’t know how to delegate.

      • Keeping up with market trends is becoming overwhelming.

    They’re insidious pitfalls that tend to sow themselves into the DNA of every business and can be incredibly hard to weed out. But once you know what to look for, it will be a lot easier to move forward.

    Especially if you’re on the cusp of growing pains.

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    The ‘Small Business’ Mindset That Might Be Holding You Back

    During your first couple of years as an entrepreneur, it can feel like you are constantly putting out fires and need to be on top of things 24/7 if you want your business to succeed.

    And, for a while, this approach will work.

    Customers prefer small businesses because they are committed to providing excellent products and personalized customer service. As a result, the careful oversight of a passionate business owner can be a company’s greatest strength during its formative years.

    However, this micro-management style can be detrimental to your health and your business as you grow. Not only will you end up burned out and exhausted, but you may also end up overlooking assets in your business that you didn’t realize you had.

    Sometimes, the skills that helped you start your business differ from what you need if you want to continue succeeding in the years to come.

    And nowhere is that more apparent than the flip you’ll see in what ‘works’ for startups versus what works for businesses ready to scale.

    Not Being Able to Let Go Has Left You burned Out And Exhausted

    Founder dependence is a significant stumbling block for most entrepreneurs. 

    When you’re passionate about what you do, it can be challenging to let go of certain decisions and responsibilities or compromise on the quality of your work while somebody new learns the ropes.

    As a result, many refuse to take any time away from work to recharge, fearing the business won’t be able to function in their absence.

    And, while even the most successful small business owners work longer hours than their employees regularly, this constant state of overwork and pressure is not sustainable.

    Once you’ve started down this path, you will eventually find yourself in a situation where you physically cannot take on any more clients, even if you want to.

    If your business relies on you to personally manage every client, your ability to scale will always be limited by that factor.

    This is why it is essential to learn how to ask for help, build a management team you can trust and delegate effectively early on, even if that means hiring a specialist or a subcontractor to get a big job done.

    Otherwise, the inability to give up control of every little detail will quickly stifle any creativity or motivation a talented management team might bring to the table.

    You Aren’t Focusing On the Right Clients

    When a small business is getting started, every client is your most important client. 

    Business owners often spend thousands of dollars in free man-hours catering to last-minute requests, client outreach, and products or services with extremely tight margins.

    But at a certain point, it will become apparent which kinds of products or services are actually bringing in the 20% of your revenue you rely on.

    It will also become apparent which clients are consistent, reliable, and worth the late-night emergency calls.

    Surprisingly, customer retention can become far more profitable than focusing on constantly bringing in new clients looking for small, one-off jobs.

    If you’re constantly worrying about bringing in new business and neglecting your current customer base, you’re missing out on an extremely valuable source of recurring revenue.

    Client retention is key to long-term stability.

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    You Don’t Know How to Delegate

    This one goes hand in hand with not being able to let go.

    Once your business begins to scale, fresh blood, new resources, and updated systems are essential pieces of the puzzle if you want to operate efficiently.

    Writing long-form blog posts or trying some simple SEO link-building strategies is a great way to save money and boost your website’s performance in the short term. But at a certain point, a DIY mindset will cost you hours of valuable customer time and money that would be better spent hiring a specialist.

    Understanding Your Time Is Money

    Many business owners ignore tools and services that can automate repetitive processes or improve their online presence because they aren’t sure these investments will benefit their bottom line.

    However, I’d consider this a mistake.

    Although the blood, sweat, and tears you pour into your business during the first couple of years are primarily non-billable hours, your time still has monetary value.

    Investing in automation tools or hiring a subcontractor to manage your blog can free up the time needed to take on more clients or pursue other opportunities that will make you that money back. 

    Why spend your time mucking around with tax codes when you could spend a little extra on a professional accountant who can get you a better return?

    Splitting your sales team between their actual job and managing your social media calendar might seem like a financially savvy move for the first year or two, but it is a short-term solution.

    Remember, your time is money.

    You’re Ignoring Opportunities to Adapt

    Once you’ve developed a system that works and settled into a groove, it’s easy to get complacent. However, things change. What worked a year ago might not be the best approach this year or next month.

    If you find yourself resistant to new ideas because ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ or  ‘the system we have right now is good enough,’ you may one day have a Southwest Airlines situation on your hands.

    As your first line of defense, customer service representatives usually hold critical insights into what your customers want, how they behave, and which of your marketing approaches work best.

    And employees who know your systems and policies intimately are incredible resources when evaluating strengths and weaknesses that could be automated or adapted by a specialist.

    So, take the time to listen to fellow Alberta business owners, suppliers, employees, and customers with an open mind.

    You may discover some valuable insights.

    Once you recognize your limitations in your personal life and as a professional, building a successful business that will stand the test of time becomes a lot easier.

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    You’re Not Keeping Up With the Market

    Even if you have the right mindset to keep up with changes in marketing conditions, staying alert to new problems and priorities takes time!

    And there never seems to be enough of it to go around.

    And it’s issues like this that separate small businesses from their bigger competitors. So, what are you supposed to do when you just don’t have the resources?

    Development and Education are Being Left On The Backburner

    You’ll eventually need to invest in learning new skills, training someone on your team in a unique skillset, or hiring a professional.

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    The best way to go about it is to take some time to identify what roles and responsibilities you want to continue doing in the future and what tasks are currently taking up most of your time that you’d like somebody else to do.

    Once you’ve got a rough idea of what you want your future to look like, it will be easier to work toward it.

    Then you can start investing in quality and reliability where it counts. Some things to consider include the following:


        • You can re-evaluate and switch to suppliers who will grow with you and offer innovative solutions that meet your budget needs.

        • You can invest in training and developing employees.


          • You can automate repetitive tasks like invoicing and creating website content to answer most of your customer’s FAQs.

          • You can renegotiate client contracts as your work’s quality and volume increase.

        Finding the Right Systems

        Prioritizing information management systems ensures all the different functions of your business continue to work together effectively.

        Following the same business model but bigger is usually not in your best interest when producing large volumes of information. Financial records, customer complaints, business contracts, employee policies, procedures, and regulatory requirements require suitable systems.

        Often, growing Calgary businesses find using established software management tools to be their best bet, especially regarding quality control.

        But whatever methods and tools you invest in will pay off daily.

        And, as a bonus, if you ever decide to sell the business, demonstrating that you have well-run, efficient systems will be an essential part of proving its value.

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        The Bottom Line

        Although small businesses are a crucial part of the Calgary economy, they face considerable challenges in maintaining cash flow and obtaining financing. Still, you can bet on yourself and win.

        It is imperative that Alberta business owners embrace change and continue to adapt if they want to succeed.

        The small business mindset that got you where you are today might be holding you back from those last couple of inches of growth.

        Ignoring the wants and needs of your current customers and trends in the market could be putting you at a disadvantage.
        And when the workload becomes overwhelming, it’s important to remember that investing in professional help can free you up to focus on operating concerns that will help you maintain steady, consistent growth.

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