Advice to new immigrants starting businesses in Canada

I presented an interesting lecture Thursday at the Burnaby Public Library. Sponsored by SUCCESS Employment Services, I was asked to speak to new immigrants and give them another option to job seeking; self employment. 

It was less interesting from a lecture point of view than the attendees. About 50 entrepreneur wannabe’s showed up for the two hour lecture to hear my realistic no-holds barred approach to starting and doing business in Canada. The group was predominantly from mainland China and most spoke little English. I know some of them understood English as they laughed at my jokes. My Mandarin speaking interpreter was excellent and between us we gave a good presentation.

Of course, I explained the ins and outs of the start-up process and how it relates to Canada, location intelligence for shops, financing and marketing ideas. I talked about angel investors, the regulations and licensing needed for newcomer business owners. I also spoke of the passion they needed and the reason for good timing in their choice to become an entrepreneur.

I told the group that they needed to integrate into Canadian culture and focus on working with mainstream customers. As Canadians don’t we prefer integration over assimilate for our immigrants? I asked them if they noticed a marked decrease in how Vancouverites conducted business (at this point they all laughed) compared to Shanghai, London and even Toronto. Several members of the audience said the noticed how slow we react to business and asked me why. A little perplexed, I made up some flimsy excuse they knew was manufactured.

I spoke of social networking and how it can relate to the growth of their business. I mentioned that they needed to motivate their friends and manage their social media resources to promote a guerrilla attack as a part of their business marketing. One young woman, asked me how to accomplish that since she had no friends? Again another zinger fired at me. Funny I can answer a question about psychographics, demographics, fiscal policy, and analysis but was unprepared for the question.

I was telling these new Canadians how to setup a business without taking into account the massive accomplishment that would be if they did it successfully without the benefit of language, knowing the social culture not to mention the business culture and the many nuances required to negotiate, purchase and provide customer service. I was struck by the questions they asked because they were more about feelings, attitudes and how not to mess up rather than business specific questions.  I received much kudos and they were enthusiastic in their applause but I wonder if we need to work harder to understand their very different needs.

I spend every day advising 3rd and 4th generation Canadians start businesses and we expect these folks to get it right the first time. I wonder if we can do better?

Gary C. Bizzo has 30 years experience in fulfilling the growing needs of business. He was a Commercial Photographer with an international reputation, Marketing /Business Consultant and an Internet Webmaster. His boutique advertising agency provided custom services to a wide variety of businesses. He is a Mentor and/or Business Coach to 600 Vancouver based businesses and consults with numerous multinationals.

Check out more on the Bizzo website.

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