Can we put a price on business counsellors’ advice? It’s a difficult question. How do you put a price on a piece of information given at the right time, before disaster strikes?
If disaster is avoided there is no real way of knowing what could have happened. Or is there? While the future never happens until it does, a small business owner can look at what has happened to others in similar situations and get a sense of what could have happened to them. They could also get a good sense of what is at stake by calling those who regularly deal in such problems.
For example, earlier today I received a call from an experienced business counsellor explaining why she hadn’t gotten back to me quickly at my request. Sometimes disaster – or its avoidance – comes in waves. In this case she had to respond quickly to three different businesses each having the same problem from three different parts of the country. The issue was termination of an employee coming back to work after an illness. While mitigating factors no doubt existed that led to the owner’s frustration, each chose to call CFIB first. They were amongst those commendable owners who thought to call first rather than later.
I’m glad they did.
For those three companies, the future will never be the same. While I cannot know this for sure, I can make an educated guess as to what would have happened in all three cases had they not thought to call us first. I can make an educated guess as to how their futures would have unfolded and the costs they would have born – and they wouldn’t have been pretty.
Here’s what now often happens when an employee is quickly let go. First, he often lawyers up to claim he was unfairly dismissed. There is a good chance that if a complaint ends up in court the cost could easily approach $50,000 – even if the owner wins. Secondly, the employee might decide to go the nuclear option right off the bat and make a human rights complaint. The cost for defense alone – say if the charge is discrimination on account of physical disability – could add up quickly to tens of thousands of dollars.
So back to our three callers of earlier today. They would have been cautioned to slow down, to consider that the Employment Standards Acts speak to minimal payments on termination but the common law can be much tougher. They would have been told that a Human Rights’ complaint can be devastating whether the charge is true or based on malice. They would have been made to understand that even if the business were to win on the facts the costs of defence could leave them defenceless. You get the picture.
It’s a reasonable assumption about a future that never happened. $30,000 to $150,000 in total could have been expended by SMEs who are least among businesses to defend themselves. $30,000 to $150,000 that in all likelihood could have been taken from families and children; from the ability to hire other workers; from buying that new piece of equipment so desperately needed.
It pays to calculate before disaster happens. The time and money these business took out of their busy schedules to call a counsellor was well worth the cost. It might have been just another day in the day of a business counsellor, but the future avoided due to the call might have meant a future of many disappointing years had they not done so.
Nathan Mean completed his undergrad and law degrees at Dalhousie University. He loves to help CFIB counsellors ensure small businesses succeed in his role as Director, Business Resources at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Over the course of his 16 years at CFIB, Nathan has helped hundreds of members overcome unfathomable regulations and government-imposed expenses, solve issues that relate to day-to-day operations and, most recently, hosted webinars for CFIB members and the small business community on important business issues.