Study: 86% of Canadian SMB owners see a sunny future in 2016

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Whether we’re facing a recession or an economic boom in 2016, the majority of small business owners still believe their prospects are looking upwards, says a recent survey.

According to Meridian Credit Union’s 2015 Small Business Banking in Ontario Study, 86 percent anticipated growth next year, and 43 percent said they planned to hire more next year, and nearly 20 percent said they were ready to expand.

“We’re not really surprised at the findings. Small business owners are an optimistic lot,” says Wade Stayzer, Vice President, Small Business at Meridian.

But that doesn’t mean Canadian SMBs are free of challenges, however.

Forty-one percent said they worried about rising employee wages and more than a third said they didn’t know how financially prepared they’d be for the introduction of the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP).

A quarter of the surveyed owners expressed concern about pending competition; and 60 percent believed banking fees cut into their profits.

More than two-thirds said that if their fees went up any further they would consider moving to another financial institution.

“If these fees are impacting a company’s bottom line, it’s critical that business owners seek the advice of a small business advisor who can help explore and assess options that best meet their needs,” says Stayzer.

Eleven percent of those surveyed conceded they didn’t know how much they paid in fees.

“If you’re in that bucket, it’s important to know and understand where your money is going. Maybe it could be ‘I don’t know or I don’t want to know.’”

The survey was conducted with 300 small business owners in Ontario from July 13 to July 30, 2015 with phone and online surveying, with a margin of error of +/- 5.7%, 19 times out of 20.

Meridian touts itself as Ontario’s largest credit union, with more than a quarter of a million members, including more than 19,000 business members.

Should there be an economic tailspin, Stayzer recommends going above and beyond with customer service to stay above the fray, avoiding risky business decisions, tucking away surplus, cutting costs and finally, “dust off that business plan. Really understand what your key success metrics are. Track them month to month, rather than year to year.”

Peter Shurman, currently a business strategist for corporations and entrepreneurs, isn’t surprised by the survey’s findings either.

“My gut is telling me that 2016 is going to be a very up year,” said the former Progressive Conservative MPP for Thornhill.

Shurman, through his own research, has found that while many Boomers are retiring, more and more millennials (those born post-1978) are starting businesses, and tend to be a “positive looking, forward looking bunch.”

Throughout the eighties to 2004, Shurman fine-tuned his own B2B corporate know how, as owner of Universal TeleResponse – a third party customer support operation for businesses. With interest rates and oil prices in flux, “I can tell you first hand that what happens in the world has a direct effect on B2B suppliers,” he added. “But I think the world market will stop rock and rolling.”

Ann Marie MacDougall of LeaderBoom also noted how internationalized, and volatile, the market has become.

“Canada’s facing an era of global competition and demographic change that’s unprecedented, and driving pressure on all businesses to innovate, outperform and thrive, not just survive,” she said.

For her company – which provides leadership programs, consulting, coaching – the litmus test will be “how well we’re able to attract, adapt and tap into the unlocked potential of a mobile workforce who’s willing to innovate, create value, and attract top line growth in expanding markets.”

Meanwhile, some businesses that LeaderBoom has been hired to work for are anxious about the fiscal future.

“The concerns often expressed are how to achieve top line growth, how to deal with the complexities of the new world – shifting economies, technology and changing demographics – and how to attract high potential talent pools capable of leading diverse teams towards goal execution.”

When facing difficult economic times, she recommends that leadership teams have goal clarity, and “engage their workforce as partners in building out a strategy … and to encourage peer collaboration and innovation, versus the traditional command and control style hierarchical leadership.”

And finally, Harold Goldberg, owner of a Crestcom Canada franchise in Toronto, also thought the survey made sense: “I actually think 2016 is going to be better than 2015. I haven’t heard anyone saying they’re concerned by the economy.”

His perception is there’s improvement — “and during the summer we already saw a turnaround” coincident to the dollar taking a dip.

“More American money comes to Canada as a result,” he added.

Goldberg said that Crestcom – which offers leadership training and development for employers and corporations – is seeing continued growth in his clients’ companies.

“Even when the economy is in some sort of recession, they’re still spending on capital and employees and equipment. As long as companies keep an eye on their expenses and spend smartly, that’s how they can care for the future.”

Flickr photo via Creative Commons license

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