March 22, 2017

Innostructure, Part II (Preamble for 2017 Federal Budget)

Bill Morneau will deliver his federal budget today and we’re hoping there will be something in it to show some degree of pivot in policy from the ‘shovels in ground’ attitude and in favour of ‘moving data’.

In my first piece on ‘Innostructure’, I spoke about the entrepreneur and how social infrastructure and planning needs to support people who are in the excited yet unstable and nerve-wracking world of startups, venture capital and launching new business(es).

For good reason, I’ve been extremely busy with Drinky.ca and the new budget (which is being pitched as an ‘Innovation Budget‘) has caught up to me quickly.  I wanted to share the next thoughts about Innostructure long before the introduction of the budget so that they ideas could ‘stew’ a little and generate feedback from other industry experts.

So … now I’m rushing to post this so that I can at least be out there before the budget.

Here goes …

Innostructure, Part II: Business 101

The short version of this article:  what efforts are we making to ensure everyone knows what a ‘business’ is?

‘Businesses’ (in the very broad form) surround us and have an impact on pretty much 100% of the economic decisions that we all make on a daily basis, whether they relate to shopping, investing or even giving.

At a minimum, what are we doing to make people more aware of the basic functions of a business and the contribution they make to society, in context of other institutions like government, educational institutions and so on?

And for the record, it doesn’t necessarily have to be all about a profit-driven entity that scours the earth looking for ways to maximize returns.  We could talk about the different economic and social structures that exist to help people or things (ie. charities and non-profits), help society function.  We could do a better job of informing people about different business structures (sole proprietorship vs partnership vs co-operative vs incorporation).

It’s the last bit that I want to zero in on.  After years of school, most students don’t know a lot about some of the differences that exist in the business world when it comes to setting up an economic entity related to their interests.

Very few have exposure to the ‘nuts and bolts’ of what’s involved with setting up a business or why you’d want to do it in the first place.

So, a ‘Business 101’ would be in order for young and old students alike.  Topics might include:

  • Different business structures (again, sole proprietorship vs partnership vs co-operative vs incorporation vs B corporation vs non-profit vs not-for-profit vs charity and so on)
  • Faster intellectual property (IP) process and better IP protection (I’ll get to this in a moment).
  • Legal guidance (but not replacement of private legal support).
  • HR counseling (ditto).
  • Business plan writing (ditto).

Of course, we can’t forget that there are multitudes of services out there in the private sector (hence the ‘ditto’ bits above to cover my ass), including law firms, consultants, accountants, marketing experts and other professionals that benefit from a growing innovative and entrepreneurial class.  What we all know is that more business is always better than less, so a healthy base to pick from is essential to all of these services.

There’s a need to step back and find a way to institute ‘Business 101’ into our early educational years.  We learn an awful lot about parallelograms, which might come in handy during parallelogram season, but we learn very little about taxes, incentive programs and other opportunities that exist with the various levels of government when it comes to harnessing and structuring our interests into functional bodies.

Many argue that these thoughts push our governments to focus more on ‘Civics’ instead of some of the seemingly esoteric topics, but I’ll stay out of that because it’s a loaded gun.

All I’m looking for is a little balance when it comes to this kind of education.

With that in mind, let’s talk about how many great organizations that exist as safety nets for those who want to walk the tightrope of setting up and managing a business.  Let’s make sure people are more aware of their existence and that politicians find ways to support them.

This might come in the form of stronger financial or tax incentive support for ground-level business incubation programs, including Startup Canada (a partnership with Google, which now includes Startup London in my home town organized by the good folks with Innovation Works and UnLondon), Startup Grind, Communitech, Ryerson University’s DMZ, MaRS Innovation and the many more organizations that exist across Canada that are focused on helping to fertilize the next generation of entrepreneurs. (Apologies to friends across the country who are noticing my Ontario-centric focus on incubators!).

They’re amazing organizations in the sense that they are at arm’s length from governments (or should be) and yet they help generate stability in the entrepreneurial class of people.

I’ll stop there before getting into the slightly muckier and messier world of funding.

That said, please share your thoughts in the comments.  I’d love to see what you think about ways that our governments can help entrepreneurs get ‘off the ground’.

Categories: Books I'll Never Write , Random Thoughts

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