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The Case to Rethink “Small” Business


Over and over again I hear business owners almost apologetically say,

“Oh, we are just a small business. We only have 7 people in our company.”

They almost always are surprised when I smile and respond,

“You are actually a typical size business.”

I noticed some trends over the years, so I did some research. I compiled data from various sources and did some extrapolation where there were holes in the data. By using this patchwork of information, I was able to (quasi-scientifically) put together the following information about businesses in BC and Alberta:

390,300 Total businesses in BC & Alberta (100%)

  • 199,900 (51%) owner/operator
  • 51,300 (13%) have 1 paid employee
  • 58,100 (15%) have 3 – 4 employees
  • 36,300 (9%) have 5 – 9 employees
  • 22,700 (6%) have 10 – 19 employees
  • 14,400 (4%) have 20 – 49 employees
  • 7,600 (2%) have 50+ employees

Let’s break this down to focus in businesses with 3 or more staff. This is who Clear Benefits primarily works with.

139,100 Businesses with 3 or more staff in BC and Alberta (100%)

  • 94,400 (68%) have 3 – 9 employees
  • 22,700 (16%) have 10 – 19 employees
  • 14,400 (10%) have 20 – 49 employees
  • 7,600 (6%) have 50+ employees

Even though we had seen these percentages remain consistent over the years, I wanted to understand why. What I learned is there is a reason why the typical business has 7 staff (including the owner). This is what I learned.

Dunbar’s Number Theory

According to research, most individuals effectively maintain a maximum of 150 relationships. Applied to business, there are apparently 150 combinations of inter-personal relationships within a group of 7 people whoa re working together. Unless the supervisors or managers are brought into the mix enabling growth to occur, out businesses will be comprised of approximately 7 people.


Whether your choice to start a business was intentional or it happened by circumstance, you are responsible for employing people in all sectors of the economy. With enables people to pay their bills and raise families in every large city and small town.

I encourage you to never apologize for being a “small business.” Why? You are part of the business majority and the economic backbone of your community.

Whether you are a small business or a big business the fact is, the business world is changing. The way we buy and sell is changing. Give our article on this topic a read. It highlights how to keep your business relevant in this changing industry.

Click here to read now.

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