Small Business Week in Wetaskiwin was marked in a special way at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon Oct. 23.
The Leduc/Wetaskiwin Chamber of Commerce had a panel of four Wetaskiwin-area small business owners who explained the ins and outs of a small business in this city.
The panel included Bruce Ganske, Magnum Mechanical, Gerald Finnman, Big Stone Custom Cabinets, Kirsten Montgomery, Refresh Wellness Centre and Rob Dyck, Dyck Insurance.
Ganske said Magnum Mechanical has been in operation for 31 years and offers commercial mechanical service. The business has 32 employees.
Finnman said his business has about 20 employees and allows customers to build the kitchen of their dreams.
Montgomery said she has only one employee plus 13 subcontractors who run their own businesses with her. She’s been in business 10 years.
Dyck said his business has been running 40 years, and he’s been there 37 of them. They sell general insurance in Alberta and the territories and are a third-generation family business.
Chamber executive director Jennifer Garries asked the panel a series of questions.
What’s a big problem you’ve faced?
Finnman said his business could have benefited from more long-range planning.
Dyck said succession planning is an issue his business has been working on.
What keeps you awake at night?
Dyck said making sure staff are treated properly, decision making and understanding there’s a lot of competition around.
Ganske said uncertainty is an issue, as the economy affects his business. Ganske said they’re concentrating very hard to find work.
Montgomery stated work-life balance is on her mind as she has three kids and there’s so much work to do, but there’s also a lot of life to live.
Finnman said he always wants happy clients, and if there is a problem he wants to be able to understand what happened.
Advice for new owners
Montgomery stated new owners should start small, minimize the risk but still take it.
Finnman said new owners should realize there are so many jobs and details to owning your own business so don’t underestimate them and focus on learning, whether it’s your customers or your staff.
Ganske said having a plan is crucial, enjoy organic growth, listen to different perspectives from staff too.
Dyck said don’t be complacent and surround yourself with good people.
How do you attract and retain staff?
Finnman said hire the right person, show appreciation to your staff and clients.
Montgomery noted that having subcontractors is a bit different than employees, but it’s still important to show appreciation, be flexible and enjoy the perks of self-employment.
Dyck answered that a special culture can be created when you treat staff like family and if employees enjoy going to work, that’s three-quarters of the battle.
Ganske said hiring for attitude is important and looking to see if a prospective employee will be a good fit.
How do you create a positive culture?
Dyck said work can be both a serious and fun place to be, staff don’t necessarily need huge rewards and treat your staff like you’d like to be treated.
Montgomery noted she likes to be clear as a leader, listen to other ideas and issues, engage in lots of team-building and see your team as real people.
Finnman said his staff met a sales goal last year so they’re being treated to a night at West Edmonton Mall, and hiring people with positive attitudes is important.
Ganske said owners should know where their corporate culture is in the first place, it starts at the top, there’s usually room for improvement and it comes from the leadership.