Kelowna Capital News

Young: Entrepreneurs driving change in an evolving economy

Canada’s economy has been undergoing for some time now a transformation.

This transformation is being driven by entrepreneurs who create opportunity for change and build new industries based on innovation and the global markets.

In fact, fast-growth, high-risk ventures create more than two-thirds of new jobs, and such firms both serve their employees and customers quite well while strengthening their regions.

Because today’s economy continues to speed ahead in spite of the dips in the road we have experienced the past few years, policymakers face significant challenges.

First, how can they lay an enabling policy foundation now needed by our entrepreneurial economy?

Second, how can more communities in regions such as ours in the Okanagan use the blueprint for such a foundation to become entrepreneurial hotspots?

New and fresh insights into the needs of fast-growing entrepreneurial ventures might actually prompt Canadian policymakers to help start-ups prosper and alter the regional landscapes within which we live.

Progressive discussion, as difficult as it appears at times, might take a look at four general themes that I see rising from studies across, not only Canada, but North America and abroad.

1.  The biggest challenge facing entrepreneurs is finding and retaining talented people.

I hear this almost as a weekly issue in the Central Okanagan. The same when I travel to the Vernon and Penticton as well.

For years, high-growth firms were absorbed with finding money.  Today, capital often appears more readily available and firms struggle to find quality people to fuel and sustain their growth plans.  Education and immigration reform emerges as the highest policy issues in this regard.

2. A successful entrepreneurial community depends on a local business  culture that embraces and nurtures entrepreneurs.

The key institutions in such a culture are broad and informal networks—the lone-wolf mogul has seemingly become a thing of the past.  Today’s entrepreneurs are consummate networkers who thrive on sharing real-time information about where to find money, managers, employees, mentors, suppliers, customers, and  even new technologies.

Take a look regionally at:  RackForce, VineyardNetworks, SkyHigh Aerial Photography, Cherry Hill Coffee Co., and the incomparable Club Penguin, to name a few that prompt our attention.

How can our policymakers foster the creation and development of such networks in emerging entrepreneurial regions?

3. Good public policy decisions help maintain and strengthen the entrepreneurial boom while bad decisions unnecessarily stifle growth expected.

These decisions are too important for entrepreneurs to ignore.

Hence, entrepreneurs and government officials  must commence an ongoing dialogue, and government, at all three levels, must recast itself to do two critical things.

First, government must continue in its quest to craft an overall framework and institutional policy infrastructure that will enable entrepreneurial regions to thrive. Second, government must stimulate and support private sector institutions that work directly with entrepreneurs to build networks and spur aggressively regional entrepreneurial development.

4. Sadly, I profess, most local economic development policies ignore the unique needs of entrepreneurial firms, even though these ventures create most of the new jobs.

If local public officials wanted to get the “most bang for the buck” in funding economic development initiatives, they should unquestionably, focus on entrepreneurial firms.

This, for certain, is the sector in our Okanagan region as in many regions of our country that creates the new ideas, the new jobs as said, and importantly, the culture of innovation that will lead us to growing prosperity for our future.

These four points bring me to a crossroads of a thought I would like to touch on this week.

While our study of entrepreneurship sees it as a booming science, most research focuses on the internal factors behind its curtain, such as the family origins and personal strengths of its venture founders, the effectiveness of various marketing strategies and the secrets of business plan design.

I am guilty of this weekly when I interview entrepreneurs for this column.

Certainly, there is a direct correlation between many of these factors and entrepreneurial success, but other factors do play a part as well.

When you happen to visit an entrepreneurial hotbed in various regions of our nation, it is clear that something is in the air. But what is that “something?”

Entrepreneurial companies are not equally distributed around Canada.

They tend to cluster in certain regions and cities.

The causes of this phenomenon can’t be tied solely to the personal attributes of entrepreneurs.

Can it be that people residing in certain Canadian areas are the only ones with great ideas?

Not likely, as some deeper processes must be at work.

The key issues that keep cropping up across our nation with their similarities and that somewhat surprised me in order of importance are:

• access to people

• access to seed capital

• access to valued information and infrastructure

• role of government

I present these ideas now as food for thought when you and I are experiencing those occasions when we share a visit with our policy makers who need to “listen and hear” our concerns about placing entrepreneurship in its importance in our society and our economy.

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