“You need to create value and charge accordingly for it.”
– MICK LAUTT, PRESIDENT, TAIGA CONSULTING
Every business owner defines success in his or her own way. Some like money. Some thrive on independence. Some want to carry on a family enterprise.
For Lisa Adams, running her own business provides work that’s balanced with family life.
She’s the owner of For Me and My House, a home accents and accessories store opened two years ago in Neepawa. She’s made more money in other lines of work, including a stint as a director for Mary Kay, she told a conference audience here in October. Her own business has a different perk.
“Before I was not at home. Now I am home by 6 p. m. every night,” says Adams, a mother of four. “That’s where the balance comes in. And it’s why I love what I do.”
Adams was one of a several guest speakers at the Take the Leap – Manitoba Rural Entrepreneurship Conference held in Dauphin Oct. 24-25.
She and other young business owners spoke of the challenges and rewards running rural-based enterprises, as well as why they chose to become entrepreneurs.
“I was born into the business, but definitely not forced into the business,” said Jason Yates. He’s a second generation involved in the company McMunn and Yates Buildings Supplies Ltd., and now president of the company his father and two McMunn brothers started in 1971.
Yates spoke of the benefits of first earning an MBA and working a few years outside the family firm before he made his decision. “I really recommend that to anyone who’s a second generation like myself. Spend a few years away. You learn a lot.”
“I’d call myself a reluctant entrepreneur,” said Tamela Friesen, who runs Wild Berry Lane Bed and Breakfast with her partner Karen Hardy at Roblin. She also has a consulting business, analyzes skill sets for employees, runs a substantial vegetable farm and is a farmers’ market vendor.
Friesen made her audience laugh as she talked about being slowly attracted to entrepreneurship instead of working for someone else. “I kind of liked getting a paycheque and being told what to do by someone else,” she said. “But at the same time, if I didn’t have creative control and a flexible schedule and a reasonable amount of pay, I wasn’t really interested in sticking around.”
Eugene Warwaruk also spoke at the conference. He’s one of three brothers who started the Winnipeg-based Luxsolé Restaurant to save their Ericksonarea family farm. The family has since closed the restaurant and focused its efforts on its nearby pub, Luxalune, which it opened in March.
Dauphin-based Mick Lautt, president of Taiga Consulting, a firm training employees in leadership and teamwork skills, said being in business has allowed him to live where he wants to live – in the beautiful Manitoba Parklands.
One of the keys to running successful business in rural areas is emphasizing value in whatever service or product you provide, Lautt said. “You need to create value and charge accordingly for it,” he said. Then you’re not necessarily working so hard, larger competitors can’t compete with you, and you’re earning a reputation that builds a loyal, repeat customer base.
One of the key challenges facing entrepreneurs such as those attending Take the Leap is operating in smaller towns, with larger competitors offering cheaper goods and services down the road.
David Bosiak, who owns Bozes’ Bodyshop, a fitness centre in Dauphin, said one of the key ways rural businesses can counter that is by communicating their value as an integral part of their community.
Small-town businesses contribute a lot directly to the community they’re in, by donations and other supports to local groups, he said. “They’re not just a place to shop.”
Big-box stores run campaigns that support causes too, but these don’t manifest at the local level the same way this sort of direct support does, he added. “Local businesses tend to be much more responsive and more aware of what’s really valuable to the community.”
Local businesses’ donations and support to community organizations do add up – significantly. One study released in 2004 by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business showed 80 per cent of all small-and medium-size businesses make annual average cash or in-kind donations of around $6,000 to local charities and organizations.
These are all the donations to silent auctions and fundraisers, plus the volunteering local business owners do in their hometowns.
This is the second year Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives has hosted the Take the Leap conference, which includes keynote speakers and interactive workshops. This year the two-day conference attracted about 150 participants to share success stories, lessons learned and tips for building better business.