A recent CIBC poll found that while 80 per cent of new Canadian entrepreneurs are comfortable with their financial situation since striking out on their own, 46 per cent work longer hours compared to when they were working for someone else and 48 per cent say they have higher stress levels.
With so many tasks at hand, it can be easy to miss critical steps in the planning process, whether during the initial launch or in the process maintaining a profitable business model. Add to that the confusing web of resources known and unknown to entrepreneurs and it’s easy to understand the confusion when starting or expanding a business. That’s where the Regional Business Accelerator can come in.
The RBA is best set up to support entrepreneurial ventures in the Lloydminster area, whether it’s start-ups, businesses looking to expand, someone who developed a product they want to take to market or exporting to other countries. They offer various resources and pathfinding to help businesses maintain the thriving economic region. A little coaching and pathfinding can go a long way.
“One of the things we take pride in building over the last 2.5 years, is a vast network of support for entrepreneurs of all industries,” said RBA executive director Marya Pettigrew.
“This network includes a strong group of local industry professionals, as well as provincial and federal advisors, and even international level professionals. We work closely with the National Business Incubation Association, which is an international association of business coaches like myself, who are pathfinding experts for entrepreneurs no matter what challenge they’re facing. The RBA is successful because the city and local business community has embraced our vision, and see the value in supporting the local economy. Companies like MNP and Kindrachuk Dobson, Newcap and The Goat have been there for us during these critical formative years.”
The RBA has helped over 450 entrepreneurs in the region with one-on-one coaching and path- finding, among other services, like assisting with business plan reviews and market research. It seems to be working as a couple of their clients were nominated last night for the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce business awards, as a small example. But Pettigrew is quick not to take credit for such successes – while they are an avenue for small businesses to receive guidance; it is still only effective if applied by the owners. The owners set the direction for their companies.
“We don’t tell people what to do, we help them connect to the right people to give them advice and then they make their decision on how to move ahead,” said Pettigrew.
“The Regional Business Accelerator helps a lot start-ups, of course, which sometimes is as simple as giving them the tools to determine if this is a viable business to proceed with. And then there are also those businesses that have been going for years and maybe develop a new product or prototype in the shop and want to take it to market. We are really well connected to help them best understand how to do that and then pathfind them to industry professionals to either help them get their product developed with grant funding, or someone in the value added food industry. Sometimes it could just be someone who is struggling and never really built a budget, or understood what their financial statements tell them each year. We’ll help them ourselves, or get them to a professional who can get assist them in gaining a better understanding of how to implement fundamentally proven business practices to grow their business.”
Their strong network allows them to work with most businesses because of the large cross-section of sectors they are well connected to.
“We find that a lot of businesses in Lloydminster, particularly because we are such a good economy, tend to launch and haven’t done their homework,” she said.
“What can happen then is you’re fine for the first little while, but then the business grows and things get very stressful. Maybe the company wasn’t set up the best of taxation purposes; maybe they never did a budget. And all of a sudden, if they don’t make changes, it’s a difference between their company succeeding or failing. That is where the RBA can come in and assist them in getting the information they need to move ahead successfully.
“The portfolio of businesses we work with are a solid mix of industries, a little bit higher number in the oil and gas industry. We also have worked with retail, health care, construction companies, value added food products and artists.”
The RBA recently opened up an Entrepreneur Centre, a place where people who either work from home or have outgrown their basement can attain professional work space affordably. It’s also great for professionals that travel to our city and need a place to meet clients.
“As part of a membership with RBA – which is only $250 a year – entrepreneurs have access to the co-working space which is set up with Wi-Fi, a coffee machine and work stations,” said Pettigrew. “You can get out of the house, meet with clients and use the boardroom for meetings. The office leases are very flexible to allow entrepreneurs to get their business model solid before transiting to a traditional three- to five-year lease that can be cumbersome when you’re just starting out.” Offices are available to view by calling Christine at the RBA office at 780-875-8881, ext. 205. They also have sponsoring corporate memberships for companies that wish to use the services of the RBA for their clients.
Today, the RBA – in partnership with the National Research Council and Productivity Alberta – is hosting Productivity 101, a workshop which will deliver an introduction to the three elements of productivity (innovation, operations and leader- ship), best practices for productivity improvement, and ideas for implementing these principles.
The RBA has a full roster of workshops planned for the coming year, including a small business tax issues seminar in December – delivered by MNP, a work-life balance seminar, and they are partnering with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures to host a Lean Manufacturing event in February.
The RBA has also developed their own in-house business planning curriculum, a two-day workshop which will be delivered in March in partnership with the Lloydminster Library to give people the fundamentals on how to write their business plans.
“I really think the value of the RBA, and the reason we’ve been recognized at both the national and international level, is because of the way the community has embraced the RBA and really stood behind it,” said Pettigrew. “We cannot begin to know everything for the entrepreneurs we work with, so it’s really the combination of advice from the network of professionals we work with that allow us to give best advice possible for those who are setting up or expanding their business.”