Business Retention & Expansion (BR+E) is a structured, action-oriented and community-based approach to business and economic development. The data and knowledge obtained from business interviews is used to address issues and opportunities facing employers.
BR+E best practice suggests that interviews should ideally be conducted in-person because face-to-face interactions can offer beneficial results. However, there are some potential challenges to be aware of.
These influencing factors should be addressed during the planning phase of your BR+E project. More specifically, the interview process should be fully scoped-out ahead of time.
Dufferin County recently completed data collection as part of their Agri-Food BR+E initiative. Jeremy Bullock (Project Coordinator) and the rest of the project team suggest the following tips and recommendations to ensure that business interviews are undertaken effectively and efficiently:
- Do Your Homework & Plan Ahead:
- Know your audience. If you are unfamiliar with the area you are visiting, speak with someone who has expertise in the locale to get a better understanding of the targeted businesses.
- Know your survey well so that you are able to transition through the questions smoothly.
- Group your interviews to limit travel. Try to coordinate surveys in the same geographic area to limit travel and leave time for flexibility.
- Be Flexible:
- Leave time for flexibility to cold-call other employers of interest in the same geographic area when undergoing a survey visitation.
- If you encounter any cancellations or no-shows, stay positive and optimistic. Don’t be discouraged if you receive a ‘no’ as this generally means ‘not right now’. Be flexible and nimble with your appointments to respect employers’ schedules.
- When cold-calling or visiting the employers in person, pick a slow time so as to not overwhelm the businesses. If you have arrived at an inconvenient time, offer to follow up another day that works for them.
- Be Supportive and Present in the Moment:
- Be authentic and show genuine interest in what the employer has to say. Ask questions and be curious about what makes the business unique and successful. Employers want to be heard and are willing to share their experiences.
- Always offer support to help with the identified immediate needs and leave them with a small token of appreciation to thank them for their time (Dufferin County offered a museum booklet of events and a family pass)
“BR+E survey visitations are highly satisfying! One of my favourite takeaways from these experiences is the relief and gratitude by employers’ who have felt heard after the interview. We are left with the rewarding thought that we have made a tangible impact through bringing them this support.” – Jeremy Bullock
Dufferin County, the Town of Orangeville and the Town of Shelburne recently completed a Professional, Scientific and Technological Sector BR+E and are currently working on their respective Action Plans. To read more about the project, visit the county’s website.
To learn more about the BR+E process, read our previous blog post on The Art of Business Retention and Expansion.