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Conference offers professional training to business owners

This week is Small Business Week, and to celebrate, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce is having a conference for small businesses on Oct. 18 and 19.
Melissa Syer, left, the executive director of the Yellowknifer Chamber of Commerce, and Dr. Susan Biali Haas, one of the speakers make a presentation at the Small Business Week Conference at the Elk’s Lodge on Tuesday. Jonathan Gardiner/NNSL photo

This week is Small Business Week, and to celebrate, the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce is having a conference for small businesses on Oct. 18 and 19.

Melissa Syer, the executive director of the Yellowknifer Chamber of Commerce, told Yellowknifer about the desire from small businesses to have access to professional training.

“One of the things we hear from our member businesses, especially the small businesses, is lack of access to professional development and training opportunities. Through funding from CanNor (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency) and ITI (Industry, Tourism and Investment), we were able to put on a two-day conference with speakers.

“Some of the speakers came up from the south, and some are local Yellowknife business owners who talk on a variety of topics, (such as) talking about the future of work, social media, best practices, how to manage a website, everything. We’re able to put on a few catered lunches over the course of two days.

“The big celebration at the end of the week is our Business Awards Gala (at the Explorer Hotel). We will recognize 10 businesses in Yellowknife for their excellence in a myriad of ways.”

One of the speakers invited to the conference, held at the Elk’s Lodge, was Dr. Susan Biali Haas. She made a presentation on mental health, particularly on how to deal with behavioral issues typical of leaders, and building healthy connections with employees.

She told Yellowknifer why mental health is important in a business context.

“As a business leader, people are under an enormous amount of pressure. They’re working long hours and are often not sleeping. They’re often not taking care of themselves properly, they’re not exercising, they’re probably not eating all that well either if they’re in a really stressful time — and that makes leaders stressed out,” said Biali Haas.

“Leaders, especially in this difficult time that we’ve all been in for the last two-and-a-half years, it does make them more vulnerable. It’s a very important part of that conversation for the well being of leaders and business owners for themselves, but then also, to be able to have awareness for the people who are working for them, to have their eyes open and be able to identify when people are having challenges and be part of their support and helping people who are working for them to also maybe get help that they need or change things in their life or their work lives. It’s part it’s really about strengthening all of society, ultimately.”

One of the major issues facing small businesses in Yellowknife and, by extension, the NWT, is inflation. It’s been an ongoing issue for many months now and that hasn’t been lost on William Kellett, a director with the NWT Chamber of Commerce and president of Kellett Communications.

He said businesses sometimes have no choice but to pass on rising costs to the consumer because of how margins are determined.

“Ultimately, most businesses price their goods or services based on cost of goods sold for services (COGS), plus a margin,” he said. “Margins can only be squeezed so far before an increase in costs gets passed on to the consumer. Some industries are more sensitive or necessarily responsive to cost increases, which is why we see it at the pumps and grocery shelves first. Eventually though, there’s a ripple effect to cost-of-living increases that affect wages and materials.”

Kellett said he gave his staff a salary bump to try and offset their rising bills and it hasn’t been detrimental to his business.

“To their credit, my clients did not mind the corresponding increase to my rates,” he said.