It's the eighth largest Canadian municipality, and one of the most ethnically diverse cities in Canada. If you've ever been there, you know exactly why it's rated as a top city to live in over and over again.
That means lots of opportunity, and lots of competition for small businesses.
How does a business owner carve out space for his dreams in such a bustling metropolis?
We found a few who are not just surviving in Vancouver but actually helping to make the city awesome. They shared some of their best strategies and tips for small business owners.
The Secret to Small Business Success in Vancouver
There are a lot of things that these small business owners are doing right, but they have all learned some specific ways to maximize their resources and keep people around. Here’s a few ways they achieve this.
Cling to the Bleeding Edge
Trish Sare is the founder and director of BikeHike Adventures, an adventure tourism agency that organizes multi-sport trips and vacations in over 30 nations around the world. She has carved out a niche in a very competitive industry by staying current.
We are able to maximize our resources to retain customers by constantly staying abreast of what is going on in the industry - changing with the times, and they are changing rapidly. Our demographic is aging: Adventure travel is becoming softer, more people are looking for luxury, and everyone wants custom dates/itineraries. So we are listening, and offering them what they're looking for.
We continue to add new destinations every year so that we have always have fresh trips to announce to both clients and media. By continuously having a varied supply of adventure vacations in our repertoire, our travelers stay dedicated to our brand and return again and again for new BikeHike adventures.
Sare notes that the internet has made the industry far more competitive, but that’s true for most industries. Customers have options, and you have resources, so there’s no reason for being behind the times.
Brick and Mortar Community
Businesses with public space can host events and build a local community, but what if your only brick and mortar is your office?
Paul Davidescu of Tangoo has a solution. Tangoo organizes social outings for couples, friends, and business groups. They work in the community but clients don’t go to them, so how do they foster community around their brand?
We work closely with our restaurant and bar partners to keep the community engaged through events such as Happy Hours, gift certificate giveaways, and planned dining experiences for people who are the most active in our community. It comes down to building a genuine relationship, and building a story with your customers.
Social media has tapped into everyone’s desire for relationships and community, but as people’s networks grow into the hundreds (or thousands?), everyone still wants to be able to go to a place where everybody knows your name.
That’s not to say that social media, or online community, is over. Quite the opposite in fact. Most of those live community strategies wouldn’t happen without Facebook Events, and wouldn’t be as effective for marketing without Instagram hashtags!
When it comes to maximizing resources social media should be one of the first places you turn. The networks are there, the audiences are there, you just need to maintain a strategic presence.
We work hard to maintain a connection to our travelers throughout the year by producing monthly e-newsletters, writing a weekly blog, being active on Twitter and Facebook, and continuously working hard to figure out how to master them all. - Sare (@BikeHikeTravel)
We have always been huge on community, and see it as a key way to create brand equity and limited churn rates. Through constant updates across the board on social media, we've positioned ourselves as a thought leader and as a go-to source for our customers. This not only builds brand equity, but it creates trust and excitement to receive recommendations through our product - this retains customers. - Davidescu (@TangooNights)
Different channels will come and go but it’s probably safe to say that social media will continue to be a weighty extension of our communities for the foreseeable future. Make sure your brand community is well represented and consistently updated.
3 Things Small Business Owners Should Do Right Now
We asked these Vancouver business owners for their three best tips. Things they wished they had done sooner or three things they’re glad they did right away.
Here’s what they had to say.
Mentors, Failures and Teams
Francois Roux is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of 2Vancouver.com, a firm that connects travelers and businesses to the right immigration agency for their needs. He recommends finding a mentor, failing fast, and building a great team first.
Having good people on your side will get you far, and refusing to fear failure will teach you a lot.
Branch Off, Associate and Find a Mentor
At least one theme is already emerging. Trish Sare (BikeHikeTravel) emphasizes joining forces with some power partners to add stability and create connections
Small business owners have to be everything, but you also have to recognize that you can’t do everything. Get all the help you can.
Partners, Blogs and Teams
Paul Davidescu (TangooNights) recommends focusing on people, whether they’re strategically chosen or an unfiltered audience.
People are your greatest asset, whether they’re your partners, your employees or your fans.
Your Next Steps
If you’re already a small business owner, it’s not too late to take advantage of most of these tips. Do you have a business mentor? How are your team dynamics? Take some time to step back, assess, and build up or repair something that may have been overlooked.
Small Tasks and Big Pictures
Hopefully your to do list is actionable and results oriented, and your big picture is a little more inspired.
If the whole conversation were strained down to a word, it might be this: community.
Whether you’re intentionally building community to maintain your client base, encouraging community among your team, or yourself becoming part of a larger business community - relationships seem to be driving this thing. So if you start to get overwhelmed at the stress of running your business, go meet someone for lunch - it’s work-related.