Choosing the Right Business Sampling Method for your BR+E Project

Selecting a suitable sampling method for your Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) is a key step towards ensuring the overall success of your project. BR+E is a structured, action-oriented, community-based approach to business and economic development. It promotes job growth by helping communities learn about local business conditions in order to set priorities for initiatives that address needs and capitalize on opportunities.

Since 2008, over 7,000 businesses have been engaged as part of 172 projects that have been completed or are underway across the province. A good sample will allow for the effective implementation of effective actions, whereas a poorly selected sample may make it difficult to develop solid goals.

The BR+E process helps communities to prioritize their efforts. A typical BR+E project consists of trained volunteers who visit businesses and conduct confidential interviews with senior level management, owners or managers. Data analysis and action planning is then undertaken to address issues and opportunities facing businesses.

Below are some sampling methods to consider:

Sampling method Brief description Can results be taken to be representative of the general business community (statistical validity)? Likelihood that results will lead to meaningful action
Random A random, statistically significant sample is selected High Low
Stratified random Random samples are selected within predetermined strata (e.g., business size, location) High High
Convenience Businesses cherry-picked based on ease of availability Low Medium
Mixed Two or all three of the methods above combined. By using random and convenience sampling, for instance, you ensure that key businesses are selected Medium Medium

Credit: Scott Chazdon, Ph.D  (University of Minnesota Extension)

So, which sampling method should you choose for your BR+E project?

On one hand, the answer to this question depends on what you aim to do with your data. For example, if you would like to make generalizations about the overall business population, then simple random sampling would be ideal. Selecting a statistically significant sample would allow you to draw conclusions such as “X% of businesses in this community expect to grow in the next 18 months”

Conversely, given that BR+E projects are designed to lead to the development of effective goals and actions, best practice suggests that the ideal business sampling method for your project is one that will ensure that:

  • You can draw suitable goals and actions
  • Your goals and actions have the highest impact

For instance, a random sample that does not include your community’s largest employers or a reasonable number of businesses from high-growth sectors is unlikely to yield maximum results. For this reason, stratified random sampling and convenience sampling are generally considered to be best-suited to BR+E initiatives.

The most important questions you need to ask are centered around your desired outcomes. Determine what you are trying to achieve, and tailor your BR+E project towards the projected end goal. Visit our website to learn more about BR+E.

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