How to do a STEPC analysis

small_business_industry_analysisA STEPC analysis is one of the many skills needed to grow a successful small business. It helps you to understand the environment in which your company operates, which is just as important as understanding its daily operations. Let’s take a look at what’s involved.

What is a STEPC analysis?

STEPC stands for:

Political; and
Competitive analysis.

All of these components together will help you to get a broad view of the industry your small business operates in.

The components of a STEPC analysis


Business is about relationships, so it’s important to understand the society in which your business operates. Society means family, friends, influencers which have a bearing on how we behave, and ultimately on what we buy.

Different groups or people have different needs, likes and dislikes, which are influenced by their demographic characteristics — age, sex, income, social status — as well as by their psychographic characteristics — lifestyle, attitudes, opinions, beliefs. These characteristics change over time, so successful small businesses keep tabs on society and changing trends.


Technology contributes to the success and growth of small businesses. A focus on technology, and technological changes, helps organizations cater to customers’ needs and wants more efficiently and effectively.

Conduct a review of hardware, software, social media strategies and tools, peripheral devices (printers, cash registers, debit card machines), personal productivity tools. What changes are coming? Which ones may impact your business? What can you do to take advantage of changes in technology before your competitors do?


All organizations are affected by existing economic factors, both here at home and on the other side of the world. The economy shapes behavioural patterns of consumers, buyers, suppliers, creditors and investors. An economy in a recession will likely see consumers with lower purchasing power, higher unemployment, lower interest rates and decreasing numbers of risk-takers and creditors.

A growing economy will likely produce lower unemployment, higher purchasing power, higher interest rates and more risk-takers. It’s important to anticipate how changes in the economy will affect your small business in both the short- and long-term.


Knowledge of political factors is important. Small businesses don’t operate in a vacuum — they are affected by what goes on around them. Changes in the political scene, nationally and globally, may impact your business. You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to be aware. Anticipate how changes in any political factors may impact your business, and think about how you would respond.

There are quite a few political factors you’ll need to get acquainted with, including:

  • Elections
  • Employment law
  • Consumer protection
  • Environmental regulations
  • Industry-specific regulations
  • Competitive regulations
  • Inter-country relationships/attitudes
  • War
  • Terrorism
  • Political trends
  • Governmental leadership
  • Taxes
  • Government structures


A review of the business environment wouldn’t be complete with a look at what your competitors are up to. Consider a systematic review of your main competition around the following factors:

  • Background
  • Financials
  • Products
  • Marketing
  • Facilities
  • Personnel
  • Corporate or marketing strategies

Wherever possible, become a customer of your competitors’ businesses. Experience what their customers experience — the good, the bad and the  ugly. Check out your competitors’ websites, advertisements, and posts on social media outlets. You can learn a lot by being a passive observer of your competitors’ behaviours. Compared to your competitors, how is your business performing? Are there ways in which you could improve your business? How?

We know – that’s a lot! But understanding all the components of a STEPC analysis will help you answer important questions. What’s happening to interest rates, currency, inflation, social trends, regulatory changes, income tax rates, technology? How will these changes affect your business? How can you capitalize on these trends before your competitors do? What are your competitors up to? Getting a handle on these factors will help you prepare for changes in the business environment – whether you have control over them or not – so you’re not  caught unaware.

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Entrepreneurial Inspiration – Jim Pattison

Note: This article is not meant to serve as an endorsement or recommendation of any investments or practices. It is for informational purposes only.

BC residents have probably shopped in an Overwaitea or Save-On-Foods store. And it’s pretty likely that Canadians everywhere have read a billboard or transit ad.

So what do these things have in common? They’re just a few examples of the reach of the Jim Pattison Group, overseen by one of Vancouver’s most prolific entrepreneurs.

Jim Pattison was born in Saskatchewan, moving to Vancouver with his family at the age of six. He caught the entrepreneurial bug early, spending his youth selling magazine subscriptions and seeds for the garden. By the time he was a student at the University of British Columbia, he’d gotten a bit more creative. Each night, he would scan the local classifieds for used car ads. He’d buy a car for cheap, take it to the UBC campus and sell it to a student with a decent – but still student-friendly – markup.

This early experience with selling cars was what led to Pattison’s first purchased business. In 1961, he bought his first car dealership in Vancouver. This sole dealership soon expanded to 13, all over southwest British Columbia. Already a savvy businessman, Pattison saw the value in diversification and purchased a Vancouver radio station, CJOR-AM, in 1965. He would go on to own nearly 30 stations, making the Pattison Broadcast Group the sixth largest in Canada.

Pattison’s diversification model extended to grocery stores (purchasing the Overwaitea Foods, Buy-Low Foods and Save-On-Foods brands); transportation businesses; media outlets; financial groups; entertainment (the Jim Pattison Group owns Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museums and Guiness World Records Museums); signage (Pattison Outdoor is Canada’s largest outdoor advertising company); periodical distribution and packaging for food and products.

However, it was the Expo ’86 World’s Fair that made Jim Pattison a true Vancouver icon. What marks the entrepreneurial spirit above all else is passion, and Pattison displayed a true passion for success as head of Expo ’86. Exemplifying true entrepreneurial leadership, Pattison inspired his team to work just as hard as he did. He worked at this role nearly full-time for five years – without compensation. In 2009, Pattison further proved his commitment to the success of his home city, when Save-On-Foods donated $100,000 to CBC Television to rent HD equipment for broadcasting the Vancouver Canucks’ first-round NHL playoff series.

Pattison is a recipient of both the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia. He may be the third richest person in Canada, but entrepreneurs at any level can learn some valuable lessons from Jim Pattison’s success.

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GoForth Institute celebrates female entrepreneurs

This month at GoForth Institute, we’re celebrating women in business.

Did you know?

Canada has the highest proportion of self-employed women in the world! In Canada, 821,000 female entrepreneurs have provided 1.7 million jobs since 1996, proving that women make key contributions to their local and national economies, communities and families through small businesses they’ve started.

The success rate of female-owned micro-business higher than that of men.

“Micro-business” refers to businesses that have fewer than five employees. Home-based businesses and self-employed professionals often fit into this category. So why do micro-businesses operated by women have higher rates of success? In our research, we uncovered a few key differences in the way women entrepreneurs operate:

  1. Women entrepreneurs as a whole undertake more research and planning in the pre-start-up stage of their businesses. We know that planning, research and preparation is associated with higher levels of success but why would women do more planning in business than men? Women are generally willing to spend more time to lower the risk of an action than are men.
  2. Women are in general well organized and good time managers – additional demands placed on women due to their multiple and overlapping roles as wives, mothers, sisters, friends and business owners requires development of exceptional organizational and planning skills. These skills are transferred into their businesses.
  3. Women tend to be more conservative and are better managers of cash flow and budgets, particularly in the early stages of business development. Why lease a new vehicle to look more successful when the old clunker will do just fine for now?

(Read more reasons for female-owned small business success in this month’s Message from the President – a female entrepreneur herself!)

Check out our May newsletter for more articles about outstanding female small business owners. Let’s hear from you – who are some female small business owners that inspire you? Are you a woman who has started a small business? Do you have any advice for women on how to start a small business? Leave a comment and let’s chat!

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