A Scotiabank Small Business Lending Expert explains how women entrepreneurs can better understand their finances – and why it’s so important.
By Hailey Eisen
Having worked in the financial services industry for 30 years, Alida Pellegrino knows the biases women traditionally face, both in the workplace and as business owners.
“During the 20+ years that I was a commercial banker, I would say that 80% of the companies I interacted with were run by men,” she says. “But things are definitely starting to change, which is why the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative is so important to me.
Alida has helped address the challenges women face in her current role as Vice President, Credit Adjudication Canada at Scotiabank, and as a member of the Advisory Board of Scotiabank Women’s Initiative. By providing information, education and funding, the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative is committed to removing barriers for business owners who identify as female or non-binary, by their empowering them to take their business, career and financial future to the next level.
“Gillian Riley, President and CEO of Tangerine Bank and Founder of the Scotiabank Women Initiative created the program after learning firsthand some of the challenges women face when starting their own businesses. For example, it is more difficult for women to access capital than their male counterparts, and she wanted to help women overcome these obstacles, ”says Alida. “As I oversee the Scotiabank Small Business Loan team, we are able to help small business owners meet their financing needs by assessing loan applications. ”
“Often entrepreneurs have a passion and they go straight out with the resources they have. It’s only when they realize that they are ready to grow and need more money to do so that they really think about finances.
Alida personally provides financial education to clients of the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative and always emphasizes that a solid understanding of your finances is critical to the long-term success of your business.
“We know that business owners are generally adept at what they do, but having a good grasp of your finances is also an essential part of running a successful business,” she says. “Often entrepreneurs have a passion and they go straight out with the resources they have. It’s only when they realize that they are ready to grow and need more money to do so that they really think about finances.
If this is an area you are unsure of, she adds, there are many simple steps you can take to feel more comfortable and take charge of your finances.
“The very first step is to understand your cash flow,” says Alida. It involves knowing what you spend and what you bring back each month and following a budget to support the financial management of your business. She also advises entrepreneurs to understand and prepare for the seasonality of their business and its impact on cash flow.
“I’ll give you an example,” Alida said. “Before the holiday season, a company that makes a product has to buy inventory and start production a few months or quarters in advance, but it won’t have the cash flow from the sales of those products until November or December. Also, to take advantage of other sources of financing such as commercial credit from your suppliers, which women entrepreneurs tend to avoid ”
“Remember, it’s good not to know. It’s those areas of uncertainty where you can really take advantage of other professionals to support you through the process.
To clarify your financial needs, you also need to be able to identify what stage your business is at – start-up, sustainability, or growth – and how you should support it at each stage. Uncertain? When it comes to finances, the more questions and information you ask, the better. This is where a relationship with your accountant and banker can be particularly beneficial, advises Alida.
“Knowledge is power. Don’t just meet with your accountant once a year to prepare your financial statements, ”she says. “Befriend them so you can benefit from their advice throughout the year. The same goes for your banker.
Alida’s favorite part of working in commercial banking over the years has been getting to know her clients, learning their stories, and working with them through their challenges and successes – not long ago. jobs in the world where a business owner shares trade secrets, information about their customers, suppliers and industry. “As a business owner you can confide in your banker, tell us about your business and your plans, we can help you with your needs and wants and make sure that we are a key partner in your success. ”
If you are hesitant to ask questions, “Remember, there is nothing wrong with not knowing,” says Alida. “It’s those areas of uncertainty where you can really leverage other professionals to support you through the process. ”
Relationships, in general, are also key to business success, and networking is something Alida advises all female entrepreneurs to spend more time doing. This is one area where the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative can really help, she adds.
“We were able to bring together like-minded women who might not have had the opportunity to connect – in person or virtually – and talk about their challenges, what works and what doesn’t. , and build that network which can often prove invaluable, “says Alida.” Through workshops and training, mentoring opportunities and networking, so far we have engaged over 6,000 women entrepreneurs across the country.
Providing access to capital and tailored financial solutions is another key goal of the Scotiabank Women’s Initiative, and since its inception three years ago, more than $ 3 billion in capital has been deployed. in businesses owned and operated by women in Canada. Now this help is needed more than ever.
“Women-led businesses already face unique challenges, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effect on the economy has put additional pressure on women entrepreneurs,” Alida said. “For the Canadian economy to grow, we must support all types of businesses, led by a diverse group of entrepreneurs, for diversity of thought is the source of true success.
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