With US$137 billion in revenue and more than US$30 billion in profit last year, you might not think Google needs to worry about community outreach, especially if it’s targeted at small business.
But that is exactly what its Canadian division is doing today in Winnipeg — presenting two sessions of its Grow with Google workshops at the Manitoba Museum.
The workshop is part of a cross-country effort to reach out to small businesses as a way to expose even the smallest businesses to some of the free tools and strategies that can help companies gain an online presence.
Google officials said the demand for the free workshop was so intense in Winnipeg that it will run two workshops in the morning and in the afternoon.
Aaron Brindle, head of public affairs for Google Canada out of Toronto, said while Google does generate much of its revenue from advertising and the more users of its platforms the greater the potential advertising revenue it can generate, the workshops are part of the company’s interest in the long game.
"Google is an advocate of the open web. We are not a closed ecosystem," Brindle said. "When the open web thrives, we thrive downstream. The more businesses that leverage the opportunities of the open web, it is better for everybody. At some point, we see tremendous value in growing the larger opportunity pie afforded by the open web."
Google staff will be on hand and participants will learn some of the fundamentals of getting their business online, like developing a website; providing basic company information so that if anyone searches their company it will show up in a Google search and Google Maps; even basics like how to input information, like hours of operation, so it will be available on search.
Brindle refers to some of those fundamental elements as the "basic hygiene" of getting your business online.
"When you don’t see that kind of information, it creates friction for the user," he said. "There is choice online. We are so accustomed to these frictionless experiences that when you encounter friction, you may turn elsewhere. That is the reality of the world we live in."
It is also a reality that the opportunities for a small business today are very much different than they were just a few decades ago.
"A generation ago, a small business in Winnipeg would probably have been fairly limited in terms of its potential customer base. But every business online has the potential to be a global business," Brindle said. "That is what is so amazing."
Brindle mentioned niche Winnipeg companies like Aschenti Cocoa and Manitobah Mukluks as examples of that phenomenon.
Google will be announcing a funding commitment to supporting digital skills training in Winnipeg, as well as the launch of a new online support service for small business.
Partner organizations include Canada Learning Code, Futurpreneur Canada, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, North Forge, Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba, Economic Development Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Foundation, World Trade Centre Winnipeg and Reaching E-Quality Employment Services.
Grow with Google launched in Canada in 2018 and has since visited eight communities, including Surrey, Edmonton, Hamilton, Sherbrooke, St. John’s, Iqaluit, Sudbury and Halifax. After Winnipeg, the tour continues in Saskatoon.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 7:50 PM CST: Adds photo