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On May 3, many of the country’s top entrepreneurs got together for The Globe and Mail Small Business Summit in Toronto.

The sold-out event featured workshops on key small business topics such as financing, hiring, sales and marketing, as well as talks from business leaders including Harley Finkelstein of Shopify, Bruce Poon Tip of G Adventures and Ethan Song from Frank & Oak.

Here are five quick takeaways from the event.

When scaling up a business, transparency is key

Harley Finkelstein, chief operating officer of Shopify, talked about how “radical transparency” is key to maintaining a vibrant startup culture as a company grows. He urged business leaders to “share the company road map” and admit screw ups.

For example, every week Shopify hosts an online “Ask me anything” session where staff can ask anonymous questions of company executives.


Bricks-and-mortar stores and e-commerce are not opposites, but different channels to reach your customers

Men’s fashion retailer Frank & Oak began as an online merchant and has now opened 12 bricks-and-mortar locations, chief executive officer Ethan Song explained in a Facebook Live chat with The Globe and Mail from the Small Business Summit.

Both online and physical locations emphasize custom style advice through staff assistance and data, which recommend products to customers based on previous purchases.

“When it comes to physical retail, we don’t look at it as a store. We look at it as media. We look at it as an experience,” Mr. Song explained.

Orient your company to meet government funding priorities

In her session on how to tap into government and private funding, The Funding Portal’s Teri Kirk urged business leaders to consider the shifting priorities of government in terms of what type of projects get funded.

“Does your company fit in with public policy values that are being funded? Can you orient your business to them?” she asked attendees.

When applying for government grants, Ms. Kirk advised making sure you are creating jobs and have classified your company in a sector that is growing and that has funding earmarked for it. Small businesses should look to the federal budget for funding priorities and remember that March is a hot month, as it’s the end of the government’s fiscal year and departments may have money left to spend, she said.

Don’t focus on ‘likes’ on Facebook

Tod Maffin from EngageQ explained that “shares” and comments are more important on Facebook than “likes.” When people share your posts, Facebook shows more of your content to those users.

Doing flash giveaways or asking questions can help boost “Edgerank,” the algorithm that Facebook uses to determine which stories appear in a user’s news feed.

Tone is important when communicating with your clients and supporters, Mr. Maffin said. “Don’t sound like a robot. It’s a social network.”

Happiness helps your company grow

Closing keynote speaker Bruce Poon Tip of G Adventures urged entrepreneurs to consider the happiness of their employees as a key driver of success. In order to achieve happiness at work, he said people need to have four things: they need to have the ability to grow; they need to feel connected; they need to be a part of something bigger than themselves; and they need the freedom to be themselves and make mistakes.

Not only will happy employees attract other happy employees, Mr. Poon Tip said, but they will also drive performance for the company.

Follow Report on Small Business on Twitter at @globesmallbiz.

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