Managing Your Canadian Small Business in Its First Year

By Carolyn Andreason

Starting a small business in Canada and running one are two very different, but crucial aspects that need to be mastered. Each has its own set of steps that must be carefully planned and adhered to, in order to gain success in a country where thousands of other startups are attempting the same thing.

The first year is undoubtedly the most challenging for most managers and business owners. There is fear sparked by the discouraging fact that most new businesses go down in two years.

Managing a small business, which is defined as having a staff of 20 to 100 people, can be a daunting task, but it can be done successfully with careful and smart planning. There are several factors that should be taken into consideration after the initial steps of starting your own business are achieved. Your business and your staff will need constant improvement and feedback in order to adapt quickly to the changes that might be encountered in the first year.

Managing Your Canadian Small Business In The First Year

1. Keep Your Reports Up to Date

Never lose sight of where you are and what you have done in order to estimate where you are going. Keeping tabs on your activities is an excellent way of making sure you don’t neglect any aspect of your new business. There are numerous areas you will have to be aware of, including organizational, financial, structural, and many others.

Without a proper report, it’s likely for a business owner to become quickly overwhelmed. Maintaining spreadsheets and constantly updating them with stats, input, and output will offer a complete perspective on progress.

2. Take Control, But Delegate

The first year may arrive with challenges that could potentially be difficult for both yourself and your employees. It’s important to retain control, but it’s equally crucial to delegate tasks. A new small business will ebb and flow in its success and procedures, as it will require years to settle into an efficient routine or find the perfect protocols. Certain employees may need to take on tasks that are not their areas of expertise and study.

It’s an unfortunate consequence of new beginnings, but it can be managed. However, not by yourself. Delegate tasks and do it cautiously, without venturing too far outside the realm of their knowledge. For example, your accounting manager should not advise or take on legal matters. Take note of their expertise. It will be an excellent way to help you assess where your staff is lacking and what form of recruiting you should implement in the future.

3. Don’t Make Changes Suddenly or by Yourself

The alterations in the business’ structure are often plentiful. Certain external events, such as the appearance of a new competitor on the market or innovation in your field, might force a change. It’s crucial to adapt and stay up-to-date, no matter the infancy of your business. However, it’s also important not to make those changes without the help of your team.

Discuss them with your management staff and establish the rules of implementing the new structure together. The first year will be one of trials and errors, so more perspectives will lower the rate of negative results. Take their input into consideration, as your employees may have a different and better way of achieving the same goals.

4. Get Involved and Stay Involved

Finding the right people is paramount to a new small business. The problem often occurs when managers are successful at hiring a talented staff and then forget that their involvement is required. It always will be. Within the first year, it’s absolutely necessary to get involved in the proceedings within the company and stay involved. Make sure all your employees are performing their tasks well and be responsive to your customers.

Stay aware and learn to understand how to fix mistakes. Balance between strictness and leniency, trust and verification, and judge when an employee should be fired or kept. Customer feedback is your main source of information, and it can’t always be left in the hands of your staff. Their perception could be skewed, which will ultimately lead you to bad managerial decisions. Don’t lose track of your business or it might fail within one year.

5. Network

Joining Canadian small business associations or gaining the support of other local businesses should be a priority within the first year. Word of mouth has long since passed its age of usefulness. Today, raising awareness is that much simpler and more complex at the same time. The Internet is an excellent tool, but it’s also available to everyone. Setting up a website and social media accounts are no longer enough.

Networking should be equally high on your list of priorities. Participating in local community events could help raise awareness and get more people talking about your company. Your potential clients need to know what you’re offering, and the Internet can only do so much within one year. There are a few examples in the world of start-ups who surged in popularity overnight. It takes timing, a perfect product, flawless marketing, innovation, and a bit of luck. Not all of those factors meet frequently.

6. Prioritize Your Marketing Campaigns

In tandem to networking, prioritizing your marketing campaigns is a vital aspect of the first year. Part of your budget should be attributed to market research so your marketing strategy can be on point. It’s perhaps one of the most challenging tasks of a small business. Limited funds may make compromise necessary. That is why market research is paramount.

Understand your target audience and learn how to find them. Do not exceed your budget by paying a high price for commercials or ads that do not cater to the right audience. Going big is not always the smartest choice. Assess your product or service, ask yourself who is your clientele, and then devise a marketing plan with the right budget.

7. Maintain Accessibility and High-Quality Customer Care

Reaching potential clients and allowing them easy access to your services could be the bread and butter of your company’s success. That means investing in excellent client relationship management (CRM) that is fully invested in customer care, client satisfaction, and customer loyalty. Big brands may be able to afford a misstep that costs them a number of clients. A small business in its first year cannot.

Your company must be accessible by all means, ranging from the traditional phone numbers to email and social media accounts. In the first year, you will have an active role, so your personal contact information may need to become part of the process.

Managing Your Staff in the First Year

Managing Your Canadian Small Business in its First Year - Employees

Remain Open to Suggestions

Open communication will play an integral part in the first year of business. Any successful new company has the ability to change based on the feedback of their customers and staff. An effective way to do it is to establish an open line where they can evaluate and express their opinions. It may not be how you have envisioned it, and they may not always offer good ideas. However, the goal is to keep an open mind and consider potential changes.

Assure Balance in Stress

Canadian companies, both small and big, fiercely compete for talented recruits. Applicants now have several options when attempting to find the workplace best suited for them. So, in order to make their decision easier, small businesses must make sure they balance out the potential stress that comes with a new company. Offer the right conditions, comfort, and utilities, including a good internet connection, in order to alleviate problems.

Conflicts should be resolved quickly and personally. The first twelve months could determine how your employees see their work environment, and how the word will spread about the environment you offer.

Assign Clearly Defined Roles

The factors and traits that determine which employee fits where are not set in stone. Each business has its own standards. However, they should be properly established within the first year. It’s essential that they are clearly defined and that these roles arrive with a set of tasks that must be accomplished. It’s the core of the organization. Each person has their own attributes and ways to use them in order to assure proper functionality.

Typically, small businesses begin with a few people, all of whom have multiple roles and duties. However, with time, some tasks need to be reassigned to those who specialize in them.

Never Stop Assessing Your Team

The employee system should be regularly checked, placed in comparison with progression, and then have an assessment attached. People develop skills at a difference pace. It may take more than a year for some to check all the points on your checklist of the ideal employee. However, potential will play a big part in the first year. Never stop observing, assessing, and understanding the quality of the team you have built.

Regular Meetings

In order to successfully manage your business, you need to have an excellent grasp of certain elements: finances, inventory, structure, how you organize your time, and employees. While some elements can be analyzed using data, your employees require a different type of evaluation. Within the first year, it’s recommended that you establish a pattern of meetings. This will ensure you are all still on the same page and are heading in the desired direction.

Not Everyone Makes It

Each year, hundreds if not thousands of people take the entrepreneurial road in Canada alone. Some find the formula that leads to success, but the majority, unfortunately, falter in the beginning. It’s a reality that should be accepted, but can be avoided. There are several reasons why a new business can fail within the first year.

1. A House of Sand Built on a Foundation of Straw

The right idea is the foundation of every new business. However, many fail to properly assess its true value and are instead blinded by the excitement of a new venture. Sometimes, it leads to the inevitable fall of their brand new company. No business will last long if it’s unneeded, unwanted, and not affordable.

2. Under-performing Customer Care

A good idea and capital can be supported by a steadily growing (or at least, loyal) client base. Bad customer care that leaves them dissatisfied will discourage growth and lead to failure. An excellent foundation backed by great services will draw new customers. However, luring them in only to have subpar customer care drive them away, is pointless.

3. Inflexibility

Technology and business are always advancing. New techniques, methods, and tools will continue to become available, and an inability to adapt will become apparent within the first year. It won’t take long for customers to realize that your business isn’t up to date. Inevitably, this unwillingness to embrace change will lead to failure.

4. Profitability Is Delayed

No matter how brilliant the idea may be, it will fail if it doesn’t show a return on investment. Too much debt will drive it into the ground. A new business must find a way to pay its loans and its owners in order to be considered sustainable.

5. The Bad Kind of Expansion

Expanding your business is a sign of success. However, there is a negative type of expansion that is discouraged. Forcing an unprofitable business to grow will only generate more issues and compound existing problems. Expanding too quickly can also overwhelm employees, causing quality to suffer.

Building and managing a small business in Canada can be a trying task, especially within the first year. Changes and compromises will have to be made. It can be the defining year, where a reputation alone can attract numerous clients or repel them forever. A company owner needs to remain actively involved, flexible, attentive, and patient.

Author Bio
Carolyn Andreason is a tech enthusiast and dedicated writer who is a collaborator with She is highly devoted to helping people develop their business and guiding new entrepreneurs on the path to success.

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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In 25 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available on Amazon.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on, and, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Sounds like good advice. Most small Canadian businesses do face a lot of challenges, especially in the first year. Most can also use all the good advice they can get, especially when it is free.

Daisy's Flowers

I wish I’d known then what I know now that’s for sure. I read one book about starting a business in Canada and winged it from there LOL. I’d add that to this advice, LEARN. Read, take courses, scour websites and learn everything you can. You have to stop at some point because learning can be a tool of procrastination but in general you should arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. And never stop learning either! Things change and you have to change with them. Good luck!

Karen BC

I wish there was more resources like this for Canadians. I can find government sites and Small Business BC is good but it’s tough to find anything else. I’m loving your online angle here! If anyone can share more Canadian business sites for small businesses please share.

Shyanne Hanson

So much to stay on top of! It’s a wonder anyone makes it through the first year! I’m certain these tips will help new entrepreneurs.