By Adam McArthur General Manager Community Futures Capital Region

For small businesses that are just getting their feet wet, there can be a tendency to try to carry the load of running their operation entirely on one set of shoulders: their own.
This may be viewed as a necessity, however it is not ideal.
There are risks-both obvious and unforeseen-to having a single person stretch themselves too thin.
An obvious risk is increased stress. An abundance of risk can contribute to poor decisions being made. The stress is a result of being under prepared for the challenges that need to be met.
An unforeseen risk is one that will bring an undesired outcome that you are unaware of or not equipped to detect. Entrepreneurs are often adding risk to their business by not being versed with the basics of sound bookkeeping practices that often do not emerge as a problem until detected by a professional.

What can we do?

Experienced business owners know that well trained employees are key-92% responded as such.
But you are just starting out and do not even have the staff to train.
That leaves one person to need training: yourself. You have been working in your business but it might be time to work on your business. One part of working on your business is to assess what you are doing well and what you need to do better.
In rural communities there are an increasing number of ways to take in training and development opportunities. You may feel most comfortable with taking in an Online Course or Webinar from the comfort of your home. This is an option for many clients that feel that they are too pressed for time to attend an in-person event.
Others Entrepreneurs may be able to fit in a learning opportunity over the lunch hour at an event being put on by their local Community Futures or Chamber of Commerce. This is a reasonable way to both network with potential clients and learn about key information related to the topic of the day. It is a quick and inexpensive way to gage it is a topic you need to pursue in an in-depth approach.
Additionally, there are often ½ day, full day or longer learning opportunities that are able to expand on topics that you are looking to learn about to apply to your business plan. These are also an opportunity to build your network and pursue business opportunities.
There is not a single best way to seek out business training and skill development. It is accumulated over time. Community Futures knows the that clients that work both in and on their business are the clients that carry less stress and are mitigating unforeseen risks to their business.

How to measure success?

There are both tangible and intangible measures. For some businesses, it is all about ROI-Return on Investment.
Return on Investment = Change in Cost of Activity/Total Cost of Training x 100%
As an example: Say you attend a workshop on” How to Handle Customer Complaints”.
You pay $100 to attend. It takes you one hour to attend the course. In the following month, using the skills you learned, you are able to reduce the time required to deal with resolving complaints and 4 hours and your hourly wage you charge is $50 per hour. You now have 4 extra hours to put toward offering your services.
Return on Investment: $200 (Wages earned in 4 new available hours)
Divided by
$150 (Attendance Fee plus 1 hour of your time)
X100% = 133%
That’s a positive return on your investment. Anything over 100% is a positive return on you investment.
What about the intangible? In our example, do you think the entrepreneur is more confident about their skill set? Do they feel that there is now less on their plate to deal with? Is the business improving it’s reputation?
These are all intangible improvements but very much important ones to consider.
Community Futures is always thrilled when we get the chance to help our clients improve how they run their business.
i OECD, Statistics Canada, IPOS Reid 2013, Canadian Chamber of Commerce