How Ottawa’s Business Sherpa Group guides growing businesses to success

When a small business hits a roadblock, bringing in a part-time contractor is an affordable solution that can give growing organizations a boost.

Margo Crawford, President & CEO, founded Business Sherpa Group (BSG) in 2008 after spending 25 years working as a business operations leader in start-ups and as an HR leader in a number of corporations. During that time, she noticed a need to create affordable solutions for small organizations. “When you’re running a small business, you don’t have time to worry about the non-core business functions because you’re so focused on serving your customers,” she says.

BSG provides operational and strategic consultants for small and medium sized businesses in finance, HR, executive search, recruitment, strategy & governance, marketing & communications and family business. A “Sherpa” spends time up front to understand the business before making recommendations that are customized for the client. All of BSG’s 90+ associates are available “fractionally” for clients and are either independent contractors or employees who’ve previously worked in a corporate environment but are looking for more flexible and part-time work. Each associate is part of a team with a leader supported by a network of professionals to connect with and share knowledge with. “This is an important piece – having connections and support alleviates the worry of supporting a client alone and for the client knowing that business continuity is de-risked by having a team surrounding the assigned associate,” says Crawford.

Often the consulting work begins in the finance area where the critical nature of financial transactions and reporting are time sensitive and important to get right. The client may want to start with a bookkeeper or a CFO depending on what they believe their most urgent challenges are, but Crawford frequently recommends a combination of both at first to get a clear financial picture and to get the lion’s share of the transactional work in shape. Getting to full financial reporting and up to date on invoicing and paying the bills are essential for any business to operate effectively and make key strategic decisions. Once a company has a better understanding of its finances, the CFO can partner with the owners to plan and execute on their future business strategy.

As most businesses have employees, the dynamics and challenges of being an employer points to the need for HR leadership – this is the other most common support requested of BSG. HR associates can step in, much the same way as bookkeepers and CFOs, to become a part-time member of the team and quarterback the HR function. If a business decides they do need a new staff member, BSG can guide the company through the hiring process with their ondemand recruitment specialists and executive search experts who become part of the internal team to help hire critical talent in an effective and affordable way.

There are times when a business needs help through critical business phases or challenges and specialists are available to work part-time or for shorter periods through unique projects. For example, “we have Sherpas who have become the part-time virtual chief marketing officers for their clients who think about the bigger marketing strategy and oversee execution of the plan, or business leaders that lead strategic planning or business reviews over several months and support implementation of their plans”.

Many of the organizations BSG works with are family run businesses with their own unique sets of challenges. BSG’s family business coaches work to identify owners’ values, goals and vision for their family business, which can vary amongst family members, and ultimately help align these with what is happening in the business. “We want the family and business goals not to work against each other,” she says. Succession plans that intersect with business strategy help each family member know their role and see the path to the future.

As Crawford and her colleagues continue to make deeper inroads in Ottawa’s and Eastern Ontario’s business community, she’s increasingly seeing an opportunity to make an impact that goes beyond her firm’s individual clients. “From an economic perspective, employment and GDP mostly comes from small businesses,” Crawford says. “If we can help these businesses be more successful, that will have a huge impact on our local economy.”

For more information, please visit the Business Sherpa Group website at