Use grants to take you to the next level

But first articulate exactly where you want to go. 

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else,” — Yogi Berra, philosopher

Often in business we think we should be heading in one direction only to have our customers tell us, either directly or with their money, that they want us to head somewhere else. While businesses often experience this, and while it may be for the good, it may not be ideal if you intend to maximize your government grant potential.

There are four types of government funding opportunities available:

  • Workforce development
  • Diversification
  • Innovation
  • Capitalization and financing

In some cases, these funds can be “stacked,” a government term to indicate that one grant can be added to another. Likewise, there are many grants such as the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development program (SR&ED) where the funds that you obtain from IRAP reduce the funds available from the SR&ED program.

When clients ask me what grants they are eligible for, I explain that before I can answer that question, I need to understand where their business is headed in order to maximize the various funding opportunities available.

Don’t panic, I’m not asking for a business plan that banks might expect. I’m looking for an understanding of where you’ve been, where you are now, where you hope to go and why you think your hopes are based in reality.

Once you can articulate those concerns, the next question is, what are your boundaries? For example, if where you hope to go will require you to double your workforce, and/or move to a significantly larger facility, do those plans require you to remain in your existing geographic location? Are you able to move your manufacturing plant from an urban to a rural location, or to a different or second province altogether?

Further, if your plans require a significant increase in workforce, do they primarily need to be experienced employees or can you hire younger employees, possibly straight out of school, ready to be trained internally?  If so, will you need outside training assistance?

What about technology? Are you able to expand with your existing technology or do you need to enhance or replace functionality? I remember discussing this issue years ago with the patriarchal owner of a large manufacturer whose company had gone through a major technology upgrade costing what he considered at the start of the project to be an unjustifiable expense. After a few years, as his company was acquiring one competitor after another on the way to becoming the leading North American manufacturer in its category, he confided in me that because of his system’s technology, he was able to painlessly integrate every new facility into his empire with minimal upheaval, maximizing the obvious advantages of a North American-wide organization.

So, what about expansion? Do your plans include exporting to new markets? Is your brand a known entity or do you need marketing dollars to solidify the brand? Do you intend to sell existing products to a new market or will you need to adapt your offerings? We have a Quebec-based client who invested in a marketing campaign that after five years resulted in his company expanding its sales tenfold and increasing its workforce fivefold with multiple grants for innovation, diversification and workforce expansion from both the federal and provincial governments.

Because he knew his business objectives when he began his branding campaign he was able to stack and maximize funding available in order to achieve his goal. He too has now become a major player in his category with support from government funds.

As you see, preparing for and obtaining government funding requires both a time and energy commitment from management. Government funding is available to support your efforts, but, as another popular adage reminds us, “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. In most cases government funds go to those companies that can show an obtainable result that will come from that support. Your competitors are taking advantage of funding opportunities. Shouldn’t you?

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Elliot Schiller is a Director at Toronto’s Teeger Schiller Inc., a firm specializing in government funding and systems selection/implementation. His clients receive over $5 M annually to support ongoing business innovation. E-mail eschiller@teegerschiller.com, visit www.FundingHelp.ca or phone 1-888-816-0222 Ext. 102