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Q&A with Sean Stanleigh, Challenges of Canada’s Mid-Size Business Sector

- January 15, 2013 2:20 pm

I recently sat down to chat with Sean Stanleigh, editor of the Report on Small Business properties at The Globe and Mail, about some of the challenges facing entrepreneurs in Canada’s mid-market. We were able to discuss the key issues that many mid-market businesses in Canada are dealing with and the role that technology can play for entrepreneurs. Check out our conversation below and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Gary Isaacs: What are some of the most pressing challenges mid-size businesses face in the Canadian market?

Sean Stanleigh: I think access to funding is always the number one issue, especially for early stage businesses, but for mid-market as well. A lot of early stage companies aren’t sure whether they should go after angel investors, or banks or venture capital. I think that the banks in particular are a challenge. I don’t think that most, at least early-stage entrepreneurs, realize that banks really aren’t ready for them; they’re more interested in growth businesses. The angel investors and in some ways the venture capitalists are good for early-stage, but venture capital and banks are really geared toward businesses that are relatively established and have some revenue.

I think the reason a lot of businesses fail is a lack of expertise in the fundraising arena but also due to a shortage of government funding that’s supposed to exist to fill in the gaps and help eliminate some of those problems. The other big issue at the moment is succession planning and how about 60% of established businesses don’t have a plan in place and a lot of them are doing it in an emergency situation, say after the death of one of the founders or CEO, or a serious and perhaps debilitating injury to the founder.

Having the right technology in place to effectively run a company is also a key challenge. You must invest in the proper equipment or you run the risk of issues that are bound to arise with regards to wireless networking, specifically security and interference issues.

Gary: Do you see technology as a challenge for mid-size businesses?

Sean: As it becomes easier to use technology, it becomes more difficult to establish a presence through technology, and by that I mean, it’s so noisy out there right now, that it’s one thing to be on social media and it’s another thing altogether to be using it effectively. I think that’s where the challenge is, never mind the fact that nearly half of the small businesses in this country don’t have a website, and the other half that do, the bulk of them probably don’t have a mobile site or mobile-friendly site for example.

I think every two or three years a lot of businesses are going to find, especially if they’re working in the field of technology, that they are going to have to be constantly changing their business models. Not only coming up with new products, but new approaches and new ways to sell those products and if you don’t, they’re going to find that the nimble young entrepreneurs are going to pass them by, just because they can move faster.

Gary: Do you think these businesses in Canada, from your experience, know how to use and leverage technology to their advantage like you’re talking about or do you think that’s something that’s still in front of those businesses?

Sean: It’s still a challenge for the bulk of them. I think the businesses that are good at it, are generally really good at it. And then there are businesses that are either not using it at all, or are using it ineffectively and I think there’s not a whole lot in-between to be quite honest. In terms of my own experience, like talking to people that come out to events, entrepreneurs that I meet for coffee, interacting with people online or whatever it may be, there tends to be a very specific profile of technology-enabled businesses out there, which leads me to think that there’s that big gap in the middle that needs to be exploited.

Gary: Based on your experience, what is the best way for mid-size companies to reach consumers?

Sean: People are increasingly getting engaged with content on their mobile devices. We’re seeing fewer people going to traditional landing pages, like the home pages of any business, media organization, or a major company or whatever it may be and more people basically getting their content through social networks and through search and in particular now, semantic search.

The big shift for sure, is the shift to social being the way that people are increasingly interacting with content. So if your business is not on social media, you’re not on the web, essentially. You’re quickly going to become irrelevant.

Gary: Thanks for your time Sean. It was great talking to you. We hope to have you back as a guest on our blog sometime soon.

Sean: It was a pleasure Gary, thanks for the invitation. I’d be glad to return.

Are there additional challenges your small to mid-size company is facing? We want to hear about it. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or feel free to email me at askgary@external.cisco.com.

In our next post, we’ll be discussing more about the wireless challenge: how to expand your business network to connect staff and customers easily and importantly, securely.

Sean Stanleigh is The Globe and Mail’s editor of Report on Small Business, which provides information and compelling stories on Canada’s entrepreneurial community, and hosts networking events across the country.

Website: tgam.ca/smallbusiness

E-mail: smallbusiness@globeandmail.com

Twitter: @globesmallbiz and @seanstanleigh

Pinterest: Pinterest.com/globesmallbiz

Globe Small Business LinkedIn group: tgam.ca/linkedinsb

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