Small Business Should be Small Business



 “Small businesses are the real job creators in this country.”

How often do we hear this? Often enough to know there’s something in it, and often enough to worry whether we’re being fleeced by bigger companies looking for corporate welfare.

We all want our governments to support small businesses. Local, hard working small businesses deserve our collective support, and we feel that each time we patronize one.

It always seems however, that government shovels money off the back of the truck for businesses regardless of size. We seem to give more money to thriving businesses than we do to the owner/operator of the local furniture-refinishing store or auto repair shop.

Supporting bigger businesses, limits the amount of help available for actual small businesses,and it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those of us who don’t want to give tax breaks to oil companies, Crown Zellerbach , or Pizza Hut franchises.

We need to clarify and change our definition of what small business is, so government(s) can help them succeed and at the same time, stop giving money and breaks to bigger companies masquerading as small business while singing an Horatio Alger refrain.

In Canada, a “small business” is defined as one having one hundred employees or fewer. One hundred employees is not a small business. Compare that with the ridiculous U.S. (< 500 employees), Europe (< 50 employees), and Australia (<15 employees).

Under the current Canadian definition of “small business”, Dairyland, Scott Paper, and the local Cineplex Odeon Theatres may be in the same business  as the struggling landscaping company in Pitt Meadows.

This is why we can’t help small businesses as much as we might want to; most of those we call “small businesses” in Canada are too big.

Pacific Breeze Winery started in a garage. A couple of hobby wine makers who learned to make good wine after years of effort and trial and error, have parlayed their hobby into a successful small business. They have fewer than ten full time employees.

They now have a warehouse in New Westminster and are commercially producing and selling, fabulous wines.

They have a modest tasting room offering samples of their wares, and they annually sell grapes to local garage wine makers.

This is a small business government(s) should vigorously support.

The same is true of the small, craft breweries popping up in Brewer’s Row in Port Moody and elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, where a certain amount of regulatory flexibility has been shown by local governments. (It’s the yeast they can do)

And of course, it’s not just beverage purveyors that deserve tax consideration and government help as small businesses. Lest you think my concern is strictly for small businesses that produce libation, I offer Koru Construction.

Koru Construction is a small business specializing in green construction and home renovations. The transplanted Kiwi owner has managed projects from kitchen renovations to apartment blocks and has fewer than ten full time employees.

Because of its owner’s cheerful, gregarious style, Koru Construction has plenty of work, but moving from coordinating and sub contracting projects to hiring and keeping permanent employees with wages and benefits is a big hurdle.

This is the kind of small company government should be helping, with tax considerations, contributions to paying benefits, direct grants, and relaxed regulation(s).

These are the true small businesses. They are legion and are, or could be, the engine of economic growth in Canada. They have few employees and are struggling to turn the corner; to go from being someone’s good idea to being an employer capable of offering permanent, well paying employment with appropriate benefits.

When we whine that government doesn’t support small business enough, we seldom identify the real problem; that we give too much money to larger businesses.

We should clarify downward what a small business is. Perhaps, as in Australia, it’s a company with fewer than fifteen full time employees. Maybe it’s twenty-five employees.

Regardless, with a clear understanding of what constitutes a small business, we could vigorously and in good conscience, demand that government support “small business” more aggressively.