Getting it right: A framework for "Scaling Up"

It’s no surprise to us in Peterborough that entrepreneurship is rapidly becoming a focus in our economy.  

A few weeks ago entrepreneurship was included in the Chamber’s Top 10 Opportunities for growth in the Peterborough economy.  We have seen an intentional and concerted effort to build and create a sustainable ecosystem for startups and new businesses.

What do we know about small business in Canada?  It represents 98 percent of all firms and created 77.7 percent of all jobs between 2002-2012 (Industry Canada website).  This situation is expected to continue.  

What has the government committed to on this issue?  In the 2016 budget, through the Business Growth Initiative scaling up was identified as a key pillar.  “While Ontario is home to dynamic entrepreneurs and many cutting-edge companies, the province lags the U.S. and many other advanced economies in its share of medium-sized and large firms that comprise the economy.  This is important because larger firms tend to be more productive, export-oriented and pay higher wages, on average. For this reason, the Province is taking action to help scale up more Ontario firms by enhancing access to capital and establishing new programs that will focus on fostering accelerated growth — concentrating resources on young companies that have demonstrated success and have great potential” (2016 Provincial Budget). 

What do those of us in the business ecosystem need to do?  The goal of the Peterborough Chamber is to help and be the voice of business to the province in creating a framework to ensure small companies can grow and be sustained successfully.  

As part of representing our members, the Peterborough Chamber is on an Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) Taskforce examining the needs of businesses looking to grow.  The OCC Taskforce is looking to support economic growth in the province by creating the conditions for firms to scale up in Ontario, clearly defining the concept of “scaling up"and the current barriers to doing so, providing constructive recommendations to government and the business community, and answering a few questions such as, how do we encourage more firms to scale up in Ontario.  

The OCC identified “scaling up” as one of the major topic discussions coming out of the 2015 Ontario Economic Summit.  According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Canada ranks as a leader, especially in early stage entrepreneurial activity.  The startup ecosystem includes over 140 assistance organizations.  However, the tools must be in place to ensure the entrepreneurial spirit translates into successful business with economic benefits. 

Part of the Taskforce's research process involves asking business owners about the challenges they’ve had with scaling up.  The goal is to gather Ontario specific data from those who have gone through the experience.  Some of the questions include identifying the top barrier to business, whether it is access to financing, talent, mentorship, peer support, new customers, markets or regulation/red tape. Those answering the survey will be asked how the barriers affected the scaling up process and whether there was any thought to leave Ontario.  The survey also asks about the ease of seeking government resources and the role of the private sector.  For those not interested in scaling up, we are asking why it is not a consideration.

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