Helping Entrepreneurs in Canada to Start, Grow, and Manage

Small Business Canada

Shadi McIsaac, CEO & Co-Founder @ Ownr

Shadi McIsaac is the Head and Founder at RBC Ventures in Toronto, Ontario. Before this, she was a Pricing and Sales Capacity Executive at IBM. Shadi has an MBA degree from Rotman School of Management and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western University. She has also completed a one-year program in angel investing from Angel Academy.

Shadi McIsaac is the Founder of Ownr, a platform that offers a simple and convenient way to register or incorporate a business as well as other tools to help entrepreneurs manage their businesses.

Prior to joining RBC Ventures in 2017, Shadi worked as the Director of Digital Transformation with RBC’s Personal & Commercial Banking where she was responsible for the strategy development of a transformation to engage clients and prospects through data insights. She was also a senior manager in the Strategy and Business Architecture group supporting the development of strategies across Personal & Commercial Banking.

Shadi joined RBC in 2014, and previously, she earned an MBA from the Rotman School of Management.

In the face of opening up after the covid-19 pandemic, how do you think business owners and entrepreneurs are moving from survival to revival?

It is no secret that small businesses across Canada have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. We know the businesses that survived the first three waves had to pivot and adapt their business models, while a gradual reopening has given business owners more opportunities to focus on recovery. At the same time, it’s important to not lose sight of the challenges that persist, from high debt loads to the Delta variant’s threat potentially leading to further lockdowns.

Entrepreneurs are looking at different ways to either expand their business or adapt to changing customer preferences to grow their business. Some common themes are resiliency and resourcefulness as we see entrepreneurs reviving their businesses.

What do you think are the strategies business owners should plan to implement to drive revenue?

In Ownr’s 2021 Entrepreneurship Revival Report, we asked this same question. The top two strategies reported were developing a new product or service and investing in marketing and sales. We also saw business owners planning to expand into new verticals, find new partners, and acquire or merge with another company. Whatever industry business owners operate in, growing your business is the toughest part, and while it can feel isolating, it’s important to remember that there is support out there whether in the form of grants or in automation tools that help entrepreneurs get their work done quicker and cheaper. If entrepreneurs can get through their day-to-day tasks quicker, they can focus on making strategic decisions to grow their business.

Also, how do you think the COVID-19 has impacted small business owners’ views of entrepreneurship?

I believe COVID has not dampened the entrepreneurial spirit. In our report, one in three entrepreneurs reported feeling excited about their future. This isn’t surprising when you consider why entrepreneurs become entrepreneurs in the first place. Often, it starts from a place of pride, and entrepreneurs are focused on diving deeper into their passions to solving customer problems. Many business owners that we surveyed came from a corporate environment, so it wasn’t surprising that some of the top reasons they started their business were to gain more purpose in life, control over their career development, and creative freedom.

How do you think entrepreneurs should position their businesses to support an economic recovery?

Focusing on your business’s recovery is the first step. If you lost customers during COVID, what can you realistically do to get them back or gain new ones? If you shut down your operations and managed to reopen during the pandemic, how are you going to recapture lost ground? Are you at risk of running out of money, or are you in a position to emerge as a leader after pivoting during the lockdown? Once you have evaluated your own preparedness, set both realistic and ambitious goals and outline strategies you will adopt to achieve them.

No one solution fits every small business but to explore different strategies that can help grow your business. Is an online-only model the best route for your business? Should you develop a new product or service that caters to changing customer demands? Do you have all the skills needed to grow your business, or do you need to look at hiring employees? There are many questions that an entrepreneur must explore to come to a plan that fits best for their business.

Can you tell us a bit more about this survey? What do the results of this survey depict?

We wanted to better understand the biggest challenges entrepreneurs share and common threads of resiliency that are key to overcoming them. While we often think of the qualities that embody entrepreneurs, our survey proved that business owners are spectacularly diverse while sharing similar motivators to launching their business.

Better understanding why someone becomes an entrepreneur and where they are coming from – whether freelancing or working 9-5 – helps us all tap into that pool of Canadians who dream of being a business owner but haven’t yet for many reasons taken the leap.

Do you have any advice for small business owners that are finding it difficult to pull through during these tough times? How do you think they can future-proof their businesses and build resilience?

My advice to business owners who are struggling is to acknowledge that they are not alone. Struggling does not equate to failure. We know that many businesses that have thrived often have one thing in common: adaptability. Not only do consumer preferences change, but so do buying behaviors. If your customer tends to shop more online, spend time strengthening your online presence by adopting SEO practices and investing time into the social media platform they frequent most. If your product or service could evolve to meet the needs of new customers or fill gaps in the needs of your existing audience, run a survey and pilot a new offering. Start small, stay curious about your customer, measure how different tactics affect your business, and make meaningful steps towards growth.

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