Small Business Talk With Lori Darlington

Small Business Canada


small business

Lori Darlington is the Vice President, Small Business, Strategy & Partnerships for Business Financial Services at RBC. She is responsible for leading RBC’s Small Business segment and teams. In her role, Lori provides strategic oversight in delivering market-leading client experiences through innovative partnerships and differentiated, beyond banking solutions to help aspiring entrepreneurs and Canadian business owners start, manage and grow their ventures.

She also leads the strategy development for RBC’s Business Financial Services portfolio, including its client experience, CRM (client relationship management) and data analytics strategies.

The recent RBC poll showed that nearly 47% of aspiring small business owners are already dipping their toes in entrepreneurship through the gig economy. Moreover, millennials are significantly more likely than any other group to be participating in the gig economy.

A recent RBC poll showed that millennials are more likely to participate in the gig economy compared to any other age group. Why do you believe that is?

According to the RBC 2019 Small Business poll, there are many factors that may play into millennials’ participation in the gig economy. The first factor is that many millennials are considered digital early adopters as they have grown up in a world where technology makes it easier to participate in the gig-economy – whether it’s selling something they’ve made, offering a service or driving rideshare. While nearly every generation has adopted digital innovations to varying degrees, millennials are known for their digital savviness, and they innately understand how to participate in the digital economy and unlock greater flexibility for themselves by using the technology to their advantage.

Second, many millennials participate in the gig economy because they want to do something that aligns with their passion and values, and create something that they would buy, whether that be creating environmentally sustainable goods or crafting something beautiful and useful. Many in this generation value unique, locally-produced, handmade goods.

Lastly, millennials have entered the workforce at a time when the economy is in flux. Participating in the gig economy has been a way to gain new skills or put the professional skills they’ve built towards generating additional income while cautiously testing the waters with an idea before fully taking the leap into business ownership.

Were you surprised by the results of the RBC poll? Why?

The recent RBC poll showed that nearly 47% of aspiring small business owners are already dipping their toes in entrepreneurship through the gig economy. Moreover, millennials are significantly more likely than any other group to be participating in the gig economy. With advancements in technology and unprecedented access to information, resources, and customers, it’s now easier than ever to start a business. There’s also been tremendous growth and investments made in the Canadian start-up and innovation community to support entrepreneurs. These, among many other possible personal motivations, are creating an ideal environment for Canadians to test the waters on a passion project with a side gig and create new opportunities for themselves.

What did it reveal about Canadian entrepreneurship?

When initiating this poll, the goal for us was simple: to better understand what Canadians need in order to get their small business off the ground. Every small business owner is on a unique journey and we want to be there for them, every step of the way with traditional and beyond banking services and advice that is both relevant and tailored to their unique business needs.

The 2019 Small Business poll showed us that many Canadians across all ages are thinking about taking the leap into business ownership. While there are many reasons that one might want to start a business, year over year the survey results show us that the top three motivators are:

1. The opportunity to be one’s own boss (88%)

2. Have control over one’s own career (87%)

3. Do more meaningful work that is aligned with one’s values (83%)

What are some of the strategies or initiatives that entrepreneurs should implement so that they build and grow their business in the gig economy?

In order to grow your business in the gig economy as an entrepreneur, start by developing a business plan. This process will help you think through your ideas and clarify both your personal motivations and business purposes and objectives. Soundboard that plans with people you respect and trust, like mentors, family and friends and other professionals in your network.

Use that plan to have a conversation with a business advisor at your financial institution. You can work with them to assess your financial needs early on and come up with tailored solutions together.

Coming in proactively with a business plan will instill confidence with the bank that you’ve thought through the ideas and any asks you may have to further support your business.

Specifically, at RBC, our advisors can also connect you to a suite of business advice and solutions that go beyond traditional banking to help you start and manage your business – whether you’re just in the exploratory stages or have made the commitment to start. You can also explore industry/trade associations for networking opportunities and consider contacting start-up incubators to understand the funding, development & mentorship support they could offer.

What would you say is the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs face when they want to turn their side hustle into a full-time profitable business?

According to the RBC Small Business Poll, there are three perceived challenges when it comes to starting a business:

• A need for financial capital (59%);

• A strong network of contacts (44%); and

• A foundation in business administration (38%)

“Specifically, at RBC, our advisors can also connect you to a suite of business advice and solutions that go beyond traditional banking to help you start and manage your business – whether you’re just in the exploratory stages or have made the commitment to start. “

What advice can you give to entrepreneurs so that they can successfully manage their part-time business into a full-time business?

Whether you run a side hustle or work freelance, now is a good time to start implementing foundational best practices and routines that will set you up for further success as your gig continues to grow and evolve into something more full-time and official. Four areas to focus on to stay on track:

Business Structure. If you’re just starting out, get professional advice to determine the business structure that works you. Whether you choose to form a sole proprietorship or corporation, this is a critical step on your path to long-term growth and help you establish an identity for your business.

Finances. Don’t miss collecting on any invoices by signing up for accounting and invoicing software. Create a profit and loss statement for the current and last year to track how well your business did after expenses. If cash flow kept you from taking advantage of business opportunities last year, consider getting a loan or line of credit and speak with an advisor at your bank about other ways you can improve your cash flow.

Business planning. Take advantage of slow periods, the start of a calendar year and tax seasons to make or review your business plan. A good business plan will help you run your business intentionally, rather than reactively. Break down your goals by month and be specific. For example, aim to cut expenses by 5%, enter a new sales territory or increase revenue by 25%. Finally, create a yearly calendar to mark promotions, marketing initiatives and intentionally mark a time to review your progress (i.e. quarterly, mid-year or year-end). Performance evaluation. Use your financial statements and client feedback to review how your business did last year. Then, strategize how you can adjust your tactics this year to get better results. Consider a business coach or mentor to help you identify problem areas and troubleshoot ways to achieve your goals. Ask friends for recommendations or join business networking events to meet potential mentors.

On a final note, can you tell us about some of the programs and services that RBC offers to part-time small business owners who want to transition into full-time business owners?

RBC is committed to helping new business owners start, manage and grow their business in a way that saves them valuable time and money. We also recognize that each small business owner is unique, so we provide relevant solutions that go beyond traditional banking, and tailor our advice to help them meet their unique business objectives.

We offer a number of services that go beyond traditional banking to help clients do three things: get started, save time and get paid. To get started entrepreneurs can register or incorporate their business with – a simple, cost-effective way to legitimize your business. It takes less than 5 minutes to complete the process online. Once they’ve done that, they can open an RBC business bank account in minutes, either online or in-branch, with our simplified account open process. And our system feeds into the Corporate Registry so that the information they used to register their business with accurately matches their business bank account profile, automating the process for the owner and minimizing the risk of human error.

To save time and streamline important payment processing, payroll, and HR functions, we’ve partnered with ADP, Moneris, and League to offer a number of simplified and digital solutions at a preferred rate as an RBC business banking client.

For those on the go, we also have innovative mobile solutions like RBC’s NOMI™ Insights for business, which analyzes business spending activity to provide monthly cash flow and purchase pattern insights. This feature is complemented by our financial snapshot dashboard, which visually summarizes the business owner’s current cash position in the RBC Mobile app.

To save money, the exclusive RBC Offers program offers business clients exclusive savings and other benefits when purchases are made using an RBC credit or debit card at one of the program’s many partner merchants including Petro Canada, ADP, Telus and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, among others.

Finally, we offer an easier way to get paid with our Request for Pay feature in the RBC Mobile app dashboard to get reminders on the top outstanding payment requests and simplify the customer follow-up process.

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