What an energising and enlightening experience I had this week. I had a booth at the Enterprise Toronto small business forum at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
I target most of my work at the small and medium size business entity as I feel change management and my associated skills are heavily underused in the market. Granted that is because the high cost of many large firm consultants deters any sort of engagement.
However, I would say the hunger for change and managing said change is far greater within this community than the large corporations. But I guess, the reasoning is sound, they see the opportunity for change as an opportunity to grow their business and make more of it. The three taglines I used yesterday were “transform your business”, “maximize potential” and “make the difference”. I would say that those phrases resonated well with the visitors.
The small business owner, entrepreneur and start-ups are generally looking to make a difference within their market sector. They need to maximise their potential to do this. The challenge for the business is in identification of the changes needed within the business and secondly, how to make that change. I probably chatted with over 50 businesses throughout the event and I found this time and again. They know that they need to make things better, so the business can improve, but they really don’t know where to start.
For my own business focus, this confirmed the demand for my services but I think it interesting to note that there is this need. So why is it not being met more readily? This was the other theme of the day – fear of spiralling costs. For anyone who has ever run a small or developing business, you know that cash flow can be a major challenge. I know that myself as I’ve had issues in the past when I was first starting out! The perception is that any consultant is going to charge some sky-high price to advise them on what they need to change, and then leave them stranded on implementation. I chatted with businesses and asked how much they expected a consultant would charge for a day’s work – there was a range of figures, but by and large the expectations was around $1000 for a day’s work with some giving figures as high as $2000. The sad thing with this is that they are probably right when you consider some of the big five and corporate consulting firms, however they would not entertain working with a small business because the pay isn’t enough. So the small business owner not only can’t afford the rates of the big consulting firms, but even if they could most will not entertain an engagement for contracts under $10,000 unless it’s an existing and regular client.
So I was glad to see the surprise mixed with relief, when discussing charges significantly lower than these figures. I still have bills to pay and I can’t be doing free work, but I do want to spread and support the business community through clear change analysis and delivery at affordable prices. I think I am achieving that.
The second strand of engagement I had at the small business fair was pure education. Explaining what change management is and how it can help a business. Most people have heard of project management and yes I had a few challenge me on the difference. When I was able to show the holistic and beneficial effects of good change management I garnered interest in the profession. I even had two people who were going to go and look at the ACMP website! I also had some other business support entities discuss options for me to go and speak about change management at their business seminars and similar events. I do find that speaking engagements are very rewarding as I am very passionate about change management and I like to share my experience and show the business community why it works.
My experience of the small business forum is only positive. It confirmed that there is a need within the growing business community for change management and a continuing need to educate on change management to the wider public. I sincerely hope that the businesses who spoke with me or just took a brochure have gained an equally positive experience from our interaction.
You can see pictures from the event here.