Laura Jones: Small Businesses Truly Connect with you, the Customer


They aren’t based in a remote office tower, they are right in the community touching lives directly

I can think of no better way to celebrate Small Business Month and Small Business Saturday later this week than to share the following email from some grateful small business customers.

“I’m writing to let you know about one of your members, The Dutchman Catering in Langley, and the amazing job they did for our wedding on Aug. 29, 2015.

This was no normal day in B.C. That Saturday was one of the biggest windstorms in B.C. history, with a blackout that affected 750,000 people. During these extreme weather conditions, our caterer managed to pull off an amazing meal for our guests when most of the other weddings in our region had to be cancelled. They cooked by flashlight, using only gas stoves and managed to cook, as one of our guests told us, some of the best wedding food they’d ever had. Trees had fallen everywhere blocking roads, one even hit a Dutchman employee’s car and she still managed to get to work.

If there is any way you could honour one of your members to show how much we appreciated their efforts please do so and let us know.”

– Christophe and Samantha Vaissade

It’s a pleasure to honour Dutchman Catering and all the other small businesses owners and their employees who regularly go above and beyond in big ways and small for their customers.

Dutchman Catering is one of 382,600 small businesses in British Columbia. Ninety-eight per cent of businesses in the province are small (fewer than 50 employees) and (81 per cent) have fewer than five employees. Over a million people in B.C. work for small businesses; this represents over half of the private sector jobs. BC’s small businesses export $11 billion of merchandise internationally each year (about a third of the total exports).

But the email illustrates something such numbers don’t do justice to. The contribution of small businesses to our communities goes far beyond an economic one. Small business owners and their staff aren’t operating on remote floors of high office towers, they are connecting with their customers every day. They touch our lives because they care not just about the business side of business but about the human side of business.

When we talked to Mike Wessel, owner and head chef of Dutchman, he said he knew he could handle the wedding with some “old school cooking.” Not delivering didn’t occur to him. In fact, he was catering another wedding that day. When he called the groom to reassure him not to worry, that the catering would be there on time, the groom laughed and said that he might not be on time because he was stuck in a parkade due to the storm.

In making their contribution to communities, business owners take bigger risks than those of us who work for someone else. They work longer hours and retire later. They incur more stress — the responsibility of meeting a payroll, paying rent, and staying competitive to attract customers. It’s not for the faint of heart. Yet they don’t ask for much in return. An occasional thank you goes a long way. As Mike said about his customers’ response, “It was pretty thrilling to get such lovely comments back, as it truly was a nuts day.”

The month of October is dedicated to celebrating small businesses. As part of that, this Saturday is Canada’s annual Small Business Saturday. Both customers and business owners will find a great way to connect in the online directory, which was created to encourage local shopping. And if you happen to be getting married soon, we’ve got the perfect caterer to recommend.

Laura Jones is Executive Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CFIBideas.

Original in the Vancouver Sun on October 19, 2015
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CFIB Feature Image logoAs Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, CFIB is Powered by Entrepreneurs™. Established in 1971, CFIB takes direction from more than 109,000 members in every sector nationwide, giving independent business a strong and influential voice at all levels of government and helping to grow the economy