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SMEs and the Canadian Federal Government

As a business owner I have long held the belief that I am responsible for my own destiny. The world doesn't owe me a job, or a way of life or a standard of living or anything that I haven't earned.

I'm lucky enough to live in a society that offers me one of the best standards of living in the world ... of course I chose to move here, and I contribute to society by working hard, paying taxes, giving back to the community and generally "earning" my right to be a part of this community we call Canada.

The same principle that applies at the individual level also applies at the company level. Eagle is lucky enough to have a set of great clients, and we work hard to service them well with the hope that they will be clients for a long time to come.

The reality is that things change and as a business we need to be able to adapt to change or else we go the way of the "buggy whip" manufacturers. Some years ago Eagle's second largest client chose to reduce its vendor list from 17 suppliers down to 4, and Eagle did not make the cut ... despite being one of their largest suppliers at the time. It hurt, but it also provided us with a valuable lesson in business ... your client base needs to be diversified. Today Eagle's client base is well diversified (a) geographically across 10 offices, (b) across multiple industries (government, banking, oil and gas, utilities etc) and (c) no one client represents more than 15% of Eagle's business.

That doesn't happen overnight. There needs to be strategic planning sessions, that create action items, that are executed. It requires discipline and commitment, but at the end of the day if you are totally reliant upon one client or one industry sector, then you run the risk that your world could change ... so how can you NOT do it?

In Ottawa, we are seeing some of that fear from SMEs, particularly from companies who devote all of their efforts to the Federal Government ... so when there is talk of changing direction, or procurement or policy then these people get worried about their future. They lobby loudly, telling the government that they are not being fair to small business and they cause the politicians to get involved, which stops the bureaucrats from doing their jobs.

Some random points to ponder ...

1. Change is inevitable. The world is changing and the Canadian Federal Government can't be left behind, that is not fair to anyone ... the taxpayer, suppliers OR government employees.
2. The government does not owe anyone their business ... they need to earn it.
3. Governments change slowly and the effects of the procurement changes and demographic changes and policy changes will take years.
4. I do believe that government needs to find ways to help Canadian businesses to grow, but not be responsible for that growth. Companies need to take ownership of their own destiny.
5. The Canadian government spends a lot of money ... if you are good at what you do you will get some of that action.
6. Positive action is always better than fighting a rearguard battle.
7. Just because a number of companies are loud it doesn't mean that they represent the views of the SME community.

What can Canadian small businesses do ...

1. Be part of the solution ... not part of the problem.
2. Find constructive ways to help government get to their destination.
3. Embark on strategic planning exercises within your own companies that revisit your business model ... if you are selling a product or service to the Federal Government then why can't you sell to private industry? Are there other services you can offer? Can you find teaming partners to help each other grow? What new geographies could you explore? What new industries and offerings could you chase? Should you sell?

There is ALWAYS opportunity in change, our job is to help our clients wit the change and find our niche there.