Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Portions of the provincial government’s 2024 budget and the economic impact they will have on businesses are being welcomed by the Ontario Chamber network, but a call remains for more to be done.

 

“This budget takes important steps in the right direction, and at a time when Ontario faces declining productivity, we hope it sets the stage for bigger leaps forward,” said Daniel Tisch, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) in a release. “The government has been bold in attracting investments and committing to build infrastructure to create jobs – and we need similarly bold investments in our people, public institutions, and communities.”

 

Building a Better Ontario, tabled by Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy on March 26, is the Province’s largest spending budget coming in at $214.5 billion.

 

While it featured no tax hikes or tax breaks, it did include substantial funding for infrastructure and highways, something Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher says is vital to the business community.

 

He notes Minister Bethlenfalvy’s mention of the long-awaited Highway 7 project between Kitchener and Guelph, as well as improvements along the Kitchener Line to facilitate future two-way all-day GO Train service, should bode well for local businesses.

 

"This shows these projects are still a priority for this government and that’s what we have been fighting for in this region for a very long time,” he says, adding a $1.6 billion investment also announced for the new Municipal Housing Infrastructure Program to help Ontario build at least 1.5 million new homes by 2031 also comes as good news. “The cost of housing is very concerning to businesses because they can’t attract the brightest and best people to come and work here if housing costs are beyond the pay-scale they are willing to offer.”

 

Housing Crisis

 

However, Greg questions whether the financial commitment outlined in the budget will be enough towards creating a long-term solution to the housing crisis.

 

“The reason housing and rent costs are through the roof is because the supply isn’t even close to the demand. Everybody needs to understand the price of any commodity is based on supply and demand,” he says, adding the Province should amend the Planning Act to give municipalities the broader ability to accelerate the housing construction process. “I also think the Federal government needs to weigh in as well if they are truly concerned about it and reach out to municipalities to see what areas of responsibility the feds can have, perhaps on the subsidized housing side.”

 

Greg says costs surrounding new home construction, which rose during the pandemic, have also not decreased despite the fact supply chain issues have improved. “You can’t ask a builder to build a home for less than what it costs them.”

 

The budget also outlined an additional $100 million investment through the Skills Development Fund and an additional $49.5 million over three years for the Skilled Trades Strategy in hopes to address the growing skills gap in Ontario, something both Greg and the Chamber network were pleased to see.

 

“We have the country’s No. 1 skilled trades school (Conestoga College Skilled Trades Campus) right here in Waterloo Region, so this announcement is very important,” he says. “What is even more important is that Cambridge has such a density of advanced manufacturing and each one of those facilities need skilled tradespeople to work. Investment in skilled trades is certainly paramount for us and it should be paramount for the province and the entire country.”

 

And while the Chamber network applauds the Province’s $546 million investment in healthcare access, Greg admits he’s disappointed the budget contains only an overall 1.3% hike for health care.

 

“I really believe this government is working hard behind the scenes to try and figure out where the money will be best spent because with a system like health care, which is the biggest piece of the puzzle here in Ontario, you can’t just keep dumping in money. You have to rationalize where we’re putting it,” he says. “Our healthcare system is a rationalized system where we get what we need, not what we want. So, let’s make sure we get the money directed in the right places to ensure our health needs are taken care of.”

 

Click here to read the budget.

 

 

Several positive measures in the budget to help the business community:

 

  • Housing through an investment of $1.6B for the new Municipal Housing Infrastructure Program and an additional $625M towards the Housing-Enabling Water Systems Fund to build roads, water and infrastructure needed to enable Ontario to reach its goal of building at least 1.5 million new homes by 2031.
  • Workforce development by continuing to address skills gaps in critical sectors of the economy through an additional $100M investment through the Skills Development Fund, and an additional $49.5M over three years for the Skilled Trades Strategy, supporting programs that reduce stigma and attract younger Ontarians into skilled trades.
  • Healthcare access through a $546M investment expected to connect 600,000 underserved Ontarians with access to primary healthcare teams of doctors, nurses and professionals, and the opening of a new medical school at York University to improve the pipeline of family doctors.
  • Mental health, addictions, and homelessness through an additional $152M over three years towards supportive housing, $396M in mental health supports through mobile health units, and $60M to Indigenous mental health.

 

As the government enters the second half of its mandate, the OCC urges action to support:

 

  • Business competitiveness by improving access to private capital and credit for small businesses, developing an employee ownership policy framework, and supporting greater business adoption of co-operative conversion.
  • Interprovincial trade by signing mutual recognition agreements and/or unilaterally recognizing standards in other parts of the country, where appropriate, to promote trade and labour mobility.
  • Post-secondary institutions through aggressive investment to create a financially sustainable and globally competitive post-secondary education and research sector, aspiring to have the best-funded system in Canada.
  • Energy infrastructure by investing in generation, transmission, and distribution to support expanded charging infrastructure and address expected electricity shortfalls.
  • Climate resilience through a climate adaptation and mitigation plan, with strategies that value nature and ecosystem services, and support the federal Task Force on Flood Insurance and Relocation.

 

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Advocating for public policies that can benefit businesses has been a cornerstone feature of the Chamber of Commerce movement for generations.

 

The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, like many of its counterparts in the Ontario Chamber network, works consistently all year striving to translate the needs and wants of their members into potential policy resolutions aimed at prompting change at both the provincial and federal levels of government.

 

But this work, and the work of other Chambers, is often carried out without many of their members even aware there is a widespread network advocating on their behalf.

 

“This isn’t unique to the Chamber movement and quite common for any advocacy organization because it’s a concept so intangible to a lot of individuals who aren’t engaging in it and don’t necessarily understand the value of it,” says Andrea Carmona, Manager of Public Affairs for the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. “Advocacy, I feel, is a little bit like a unicorn. When you’re a small business owner who is probably focused on keeping your business running, you’re more likely to be looking towards your local Chamber for what are the more tangible services they can offer – programs, events, and grants.”

 

She says collectively, promoting its advocacy work is something the Ontario Chamber network must communicate clearly as possible.

 

“It is kind of a difficult thing to explain to people, but really it’s all about amplifying issues and having a chorus of voices saying the same thing so that we can move the needle and make an impact,” says Andrea. “That’s ultimately what advocacy looks to do.”

 

Making that impact formulated the basis of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s recent Advocacy Day at Queen’s Park. This nineth annual event gave nearly 100 delegates representing Chambers provincewide, including Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher and Board President Kristen Danson, the opportunity to meet with MPPs to discuss various issues facing business communities.

 

Some of the key areas targeted by delegates included:

 

  • Investing in inclusive workforce development: To address labour shortages, investments to resolve skills mismatches are vital. These initiatives should be designed to close the gap between current workforce skills and the evolving demands of Ontario’s labour market.
  • Enhancing sustainable infrastructure: Strategic investments in smart and sustainable infrastructure, including transportation, clean energy, and digital connectivity, can boost immediate economic activity while supporting long-term growth. This includes expanding broadband access in rural and remote areas and upgrading public transit and road networks.
  • Fostering a business-friendly environment:  Implementing policies that reduce red tape and create a conducive environment for business growth is essential. This includes reviewing and streamlining regulatory processes, providing tax incentives for businesses looking to grow and targeted support for small businesses.
  • Cultivating resilient, healthy communities: Improving health data system integration, addressing capacity gaps in health human resources, and empowering municipalities with new revenue sources are crucial steps in ensuring the well-being of Ontarians and fostering community prosperity.

 

Although the Chamber network’s advocacy efforts are ongoing year-round, Andrea says Advocacy Day provides an ideal opportunity for face-to-face meetings and discussions with the decisionmakers.

 

“It’s all about ongoing engagement and follow up,” she says. “It can’t just be a single day of advocacy. We need to ensure Chambers are keeping connected with their local MPPs. A lot of this is relationship building since they see Chambers as a credible source for what is happening on the ground.”

 

Andrea says building those relationships sets the groundwork for support and the ability to drive change that can assist the business community.

 

“It’s a great opportunity to connect across party lines,” she says. “Politics is unpredictable, and you don’t know what is going to happen in 2026 so you want to ensure you are establishing relationships across the board. We are a non-partisan organization and of course the government of the day is important, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t be engaging with other parties.”

 

Andrea notes it’s also a two-way street for the decisionmakers who participate in Advocacy Day, as well.

 

“It’s such a great opportunity for them to hear about such a broad stroke of local perspectives across the province,” she says.

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In the past year local businesses have faced many issues surrounding economic and labour concerns.

 

Despite these challenges, many have managed to prevail and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles which is why the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is encouraging local business leaders to recognize their success through a nomination at our annual Business Excellence Awards.

 

“The hard work of our business community is something we should all be very proud of and celebrate, especially during these current economic times,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.  “Our awards are an important way to show how much our business community means to all of us.”

 

The Business Excellence Awards is the Chamber’s premier event and has honoured the achievements and contributions of business leaders in the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries since 2000. 

 

It features 11 award categories, most of whom require nominations. These include Business of the Year, Spirit of Cambridge, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award presented to the owner or director of a new or existing business that has achieved great success this past year.

 

“We have so many dynamic and innovative young business leaders in our community,” says Greg, referring to this award. “This is a great opportunity for them to be recognized for their work at building a successful business.”

 

Also included among the award categories are the prestigious Chair’s Award which is selected among from among the nominees and the Community Impact Award which is presented to an individual who has contributed, or continues to contribute, to the overall prosperity, economic growth, or vibrancy of the community.

 

“These awards really speak to the calibre of businesspeople we have in Cambridge,” says Greg, adding the awards are great way to let others know what local businesses have accomplished. “This is the time to share your story.” 

 

The awards will be held May 29 at Tapestry Hall. Nominations close Feb. 23.

Click here to submit a nomination.

 

 

Award Categories and Criteria:

 

Spirit of Cambridge AwardThis award recognizes an outstanding effort and commitment to making Cambridge and/or Township of North Dumfries a better, more prosperous community through corporate leadership and social responsibility.

 

Business of the Year (1 – 10 employees)This award is given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment, products and services, growth in business, employee retention.

 

Business of the Year (11 – 49 employees)Given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment, products and services, growth in business, employee retention.

 

Business of the Year (More than 50 employees)This award is given to a good corporate citizen who exhibits a competitive edge through technological innovation in one or more of three following areas: customer service; workplace environment; products and services; growth in business; employee retention.

 

New Venture of the Year Award –   This award is presented to a new or existing business that through innovation of design and technology has significantly improved the esthetics and functionality of their operation.

 

Outstanding Workplace – Employer of the Year - The recipient of this award goes above and beyond to ensure it provides employees with the best overall workplace, with a strong focus on a happy and healthy work culture and environment.

 

Marketing ExcellenceThis award is presented to the business or organization that has best demonstrated excellence, innovation, and originality in traditional or new-media marketing.

 

Young Entrepreneur of the Year AwardThe recipient of this award is presented to the director/owner aged 18-40 of a new or existing business who has achieved outstanding results by successfully building it up to a new level.

 

WOWCambridge.com Customer Service Award - Each month the Chamber has recognized an individual at a business who has gone above and beyond, providing extraordinary service in everyday situations. These individuals and the businesses they work for exemplify service excellence. This award is presented to one of those monthly winners as the Grand Award Winner.

 

Community Impact Award - This award recognizes an individual who has contributed, or continues to contribute, to the overall prosperity, economic growth, or vibrancy of our community through their business, volunteer or philanthropic endeavours, and exemplary overall service to assist others.

 

Chair's Award - The Chair's Award recognizes an outstanding organization or individual who makes an exceptional effort which goes above and beyond the call of duty in any area of business and/or community development.

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Navigating the intricacies of entrepreneurship and professional growth in the business world can be a daunting journey filled with challenges, uncertainties, and a constant need for adaptability. 

 

In this ever-evolving business environment, the mentor-mentee relationship can be a powerful and crucial catalyst for success and personal development, which is why our Chamber Circles program has been created. 

 

The program – one for women and another for entrepreneurs - offers business leaders a platform to not only expand their network but explore potential partnerships with peers as they advance their own growth both professionally and personally. 

 

The Chamber has enlisted a group of talented business mentors for each ‘Circle’ which consists of between four and five people who will discuss pre-selected topics once a month.

 

“Chamber Circles is a great way for business leaders to not only tap into our mentors’ knowledge and professional connections but can lead to networking opportunities with their peers as well as give participants the chance to cultivate their own skills and strengths,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The monthly sessions will provide these business leaders with some added tools they need to enhance their businesses.”

 

He says the Chamber Circles for Women stream was created after the Chamber was approached by some female members requesting an opportunity to learn and collaborate with other women business leaders like themselves. The second stream, Chamber Circles for Entrepreneurs, is available to all business leaders.

 

“Having both streams provide a large cross-section of the business community the chance to thrive and succeed,” says Greg.

 

The program touches on a variety of topics, including bringing creativity into your work role, finding new ways to manage yourself and others, how to give and receive effective feedback, as well as a look at resiliency and the importance to continuously evolve. 

 

“These are topics we feel are very relevant to operating a business in today’s economic climate and will give these leaders an even better foundation,” says Greg.

 

Click here to learn more about joining Chamber Circles

 

A few reasons why joining Chamber Circles can assist your business:

Guidance Through Experience

By sharing their experiences, mentors provide invaluable insights that can help mentees avoid pitfalls and make informed decisions. 

 

Accelerated Learning Curve

Instead of relying solely on trial and error, mentees can leverage the wisdom of their mentors to gain a deeper understanding of industry intricacies, best practices, and strategies for success. 

 

Building a Network

Building a robust network is an invaluable asset, often leading to collaborations, partnerships, and a broader spectrum of career opportunities.

 

Confidence and Emotional Support

Having a mentor provides a reliable source of emotional support and encouragement. This emotional support fosters confidence, helping mentees navigate uncertainties with a positive mindset.

 

Encouraging Innovation

Mentors not only guide mentees within existing frameworks but also encourage innovative thinking. This dynamic approach to problem-solving is essential in an era where innovation is often the key differentiator between success and stagnation.

 

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Effective leadership communication is the cornerstone of any successful business or organization.

 

A leader's ability to convey their vision, build trust, and inspire others can determine the difference between an average outcome and an extraordinary one.

 

But to arrive at that point requires the ability to be a good listener.

 

“There’s a lot of people that listen but they don’t hear,” says career consultant and corporate soft skills trainer Murray Comber of Life Concepts. “You cannot be a good communicator unless you are a good listener. It’s all about understanding yourself and understanding others.”

 

Since 2001 he has trained more than 8,000 people, noting that many in the workplace don’t realize becoming a better communicator is a very learnable skill.

 

“It’s all about the pattern of human dynamics,” says Murray, adding that boards of education or even in families, do not teach people how they are hard wired. “I teach my clients that. I always say to them you need to know who you are, and you need to know who you are not.”

 

He says at least 71% of companies that fail do so because the leader didn’t understand who they were and who their employees were.


“Good communication is based on a relationship. You don’t communicate with people you don’t relate with,” says Murray, who regularly uses personality and temperament studies to determine a course of action for his clients. “Unless you know how to relate to a person, it’s going nowhere.”

 

He admits this type of soft skills training is often considered ‘fluff’ and is usually one of the first things cut from the budget or put on the backburner when economic times get tough.

 

“The truth is when things are going south, that’s when they should be put on the front-burner,” says Murray. “Training shouldn’t be seen as an expense but as an investment.”

 

In terms of advice for business leaders looking to take their first step at becoming better communicators, he says there must be a willingness to learn and connect with employees not just as a manager with subordinates. 

 

“What I’ve learned is that there is more emphasis put on product knowledge than there is people’s knowledge,” says Murray. “When you respond to what you’ve heard and have listened, you build trust with your employees and good communication is built on trust.”

 

 

To lead effectively, one must be a skilled communicator who can inspire, guide, and unite a team. A few things to consider:

 

  • Active Listening: Leaders must pay close attention to what others are saying, not just with their ears, but also with their eyes and heart. By showing genuine interest and empathy, leaders can better understand their team's needs and concerns, creating a foundation of trust and respect.
  • Clarity and Conciseness: Leaders must articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. Avoiding jargon and complex language ensures that the message is easily understood by all team members. A clear message prevents confusion and promotes alignment with the leader's vision.
  • Empathy: Leaders who demonstrate empathy can connect on a deeper level with their team members, making them feel valued and understood. This skill helps resolve conflicts, build trust, and foster a positive work environment.
  • Adaptability: Effective leaders are versatile in their communication style. Whether it's a one-on-one conversation, a team meeting, or a public presentation, adaptability ensures that the message resonates with its intended audience.
  • Body Language: Leaders should be aware of their own body language and the signals they convey. Maintaining open and approachable body language encourages a sense of comfort and trust within the team.
  • Feedback and Constructive Criticism: Leaders need to provide feedback and constructive criticism in a manner that is supportive and motivating. Constructive feedback should focus on specific behaviors, offer solutions, and be delivered in a private and respectful setting.
  • Conflict Resolution: Leaders must be skilled in addressing and resolving conflicts, promoting a healthy and productive work environment. Effective communication is essential in facilitating conversations that lead to resolution and growth.
  • Storytelling: Leaders who can weave a narrative around their vision and goals are more likely to capture the hearts and minds of their team members. Storytelling is a powerful tool for making the message memorable and relatable.
  • Consistency: Leaders must align their words with their actions and decisions. When team members can rely on a leader's consistency, they feel secure and are more likely to follow their guidance.
  • Openness to Feedback: Leaders should be open to receiving feedback from their team members and actively seek it out. Constructive criticism can help leaders improve their communication and leadership skills.

 

By honing these skills, leaders can create a positive and productive work environment, foster strong relationships with their teams, and achieve success in their leadership roles.

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It’s no secret small and medium-sized businesses play a crucial role in our community’s economic landscape, but they continue to face many challenges that impact their growth and competitiveness.

 

Knowledge is key when it comes to finding business solutions which is why the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has organized its inaugural Small Business Summit: Evolve and Thrive to provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn from local experts on a variety of topics relevant to operating their businesses.

 

“Business changes every single day, and we need to always stay focused ensuring we are working on our business and not just working in our business,” says Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher. “And working on your business can mean participating in programming that helps you uncover new techniques in management, inspiring your employees and leadership training.”

 

The Small Business Summit: Evolve and Thrive will focus on a variety of areas over the course of several hours at Tapestry Hall. The discussions will centre around:

 

  • Creating an immersive customer experience;
  • Mental health practices for the modern entrepreneur;
  • Streamlining your business with new technologies;
  • Communication across cultures;
  • Exploring the future of ChatGPT and artificial intelligence;
  • Intrapreneurship.

 

The summit speakers are leaders in both the business and post-secondary sectors who will share with participants some of their vast and practical expertise on these topics.

 

Among them is John Stix, co-founder of Cambridge-based Fibernetics, who will lead the session on intrapreneurship and Jay Krishnan, CEO of The Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, who will outline how AI is revolutionizing business. As well, mental health advocate and meditation practitioner and serial entrepreneur Iman Grewal will also provide her expertise.

 

“We hope by hosting this summit we can provide entrepreneurs of SMEs with the tools they need to help them better navigate what may be some very choppy waters in our economy over the next few months,” says Greg.

 

The Small Business Summit: Evolve and Thrive takes place from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 22 at Tapestry Hall.

 

Click here to learn more about this informative learning event.

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The collective strength of the Chamber network took centre stage as Chamber representatives nationwide gathered in Calgary recently to debate and approve policies aimed at boosting Canada’s economy.

 

Several hundred delegates were in attendance Oct. 11-14 at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s CCEC Conference and AGM to not only discuss policies but hear from several high profile political and industry leaders, including Treasury Board President Anita Anand who spoke about the economic concerns facing businesses and taxpayers, and her plans to launch a spending review to find savings.

 

“The key has to be on efficiency, process and purpose,” she said, noting the need for the government to pivot on the economic front. “There are continued lessons to be learned in terms of how we can improve. I know we have to continue to build an economy that works for everyone.”

 

Her sentiments were echoed by Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty who stressed the need for filling infrastructure gaps to meet the needs of the nation’s growing population.

 

“We require infrastructure that’s both resilient and sufficient so when increasingly frequent climate change emergencies and labour disruptions occur, we can continue to supply ourselves and our allies,” he told delegates. “Canada has a great many economic, and green growth ambitions, but only ambition matched with action results in achievement.”

 

The Canadian Chamber leader also spoke about the power of the Chamber network when it comes to lobbying the government to do what is necessary for businesses to succeed.

 

“We only accomplish so much because of our partnership with you. You, the provincial, territorial and local Chambers, and Boards of Trade, are the engines that drive responsible growth in Canada.”

 

Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher says the AGM and conference play an important role in developing policies that will benefit businesses, and in turn, create an environment for communities to prosper.

 

“These policies are valuable advocacy tools when it comes to urging both the provincial and federal levels of government to make decisions that will benefit the economy, and in turn, the places we live and work,” he says. “Having the Chamber network work as a collective group to inspire change is a very valuable asset.”

 

Cambridge Chamber policy approved

 

This year, of the 66 policy resolutions presented by Chambers and Boards of Trade nationwide, 62 were approved by 293 voting delegates on hand. The policies – which now become part of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s ‘official playbook’ - touched on the following areas: natural resources, energy, and environment; transportation and infrastructure; finance and taxation; agriculture; digital economy; human resources; as well as international and indigenous affairs.

 

The Cambridge Chamber’s policy resolution, entitled Created Systems to Provide Adequate Child-care Spaces to Ensure Parents – Particularly Women – Have Equal Opportunities to Enter the Workforce, received overwhelming support and resulting in the approval of several recommendations calling for the Government of Canada to undertake the folllowing:

 

  1. Work with provincial/territorial governments to explore all prospective ways that could increase compensation for ECE workers in effort to attract more workers into the child-care sector with the goal of reducing waitlists at licensed child-care centre, setting the stage for more parents – particularly women - to enter or re-enter the workforce.
  2. Work with provincial/territorial governments to examine all potential solutions to ensure there are systems in place, possibly financial, to ensure adequate child-care spaces are available to provide parents – particularly women – the opportunity to enter or re-enter the workforce.
  3. Recognize the critical role of private sector in delivering childcare services and advocate for a continued role for entrepreneurs and businesses to provide childcare through public debate on the subject, and through the CCC’s advocacy with federal policymakers.

 

Cambridge Chamber co-sponsored policies approved

 

Collaboration among Chambers when crafting policies that can benefit the network is key. This year, the Cambridge Chamber co-sponsored two policies submitted by the Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce which also received support from delegates.

 

The first resolution, entitled Review of the Canadian Tax System and Business Taxes, was approved, and called for the Government of Canada to:

 

  1. Not implement any new business taxes or increases on existing business taxation levels until a review of the current system, particularly related to competitiveness and productivity, is completed.

 

A second policy resolution, entitled Closing the National Digital Divide, was also approved, and called upon the Government of Canada to:

 

  1. Continue with broadband infrastructure investments across rural/remote areas and First Nations;
  2. To build an inclusive economy for all Canadians, ensure all financial resources allocated to increasing broadband capacity are urgently distributed for addressing the digital divide;
  3. To evaluate the effectiveness of government broadband policy in delivering connectivity, particularly in rural and indigenous areas, there should be an evaluation of connectivity coverage, quality, and adoption.
  4. Commit to businesses and citizens in rural and remote areas that necessary infrastructure to allow them access to competitive broadband speeds will be constructed.

 

Click here to see the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s full compendium of policy resolutions.

 

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Our Chamber of Commerce over the years has not only learned how to pivot, but how to address the concerns, issues and needs of the small and medium-sized businesses in our community.

 

The events of the last few years have only strengthened our reason for being. We not only champion small and medium-sized businesses but are a source of information, guidance, and the most powerful connector there is.

 

We have now taken that connection to a new level thanks to ‘The Link’, a place where YOU, an SME business owner/manager can source solutions in a one-stop shop atmosphere. And since this is Small Business Week (Oct. 15-21), it's very important to always remember and celebrate the contributions SMEs make to our economy.

 

For the last seven months, our Chamber has undertaken this huge project (for us). To say we’re excited is a dramatic understatement because for you, we’ve invested and created an exciting, inspirational space that will not only knock your socks off but provide a place where you can share your troubles and find connections to help you navigate those issues that sometimes surface for every business.

 

At The Link you can source HR solutions, legal forms and information, access grant writing, and discover business services of all types that help you streamline, or even eliminate operational costs, and yes, of course, we also have direct access to financial resources only for business.

 

Another aspect to this renovation project is the creation of additional meeting spaces. We can now offer two boardrooms, one that can seat more than 20 and the other between eight and 10, plus a more informal meeting space for five and a private soundproof meeting “pod” also for up to five people. As well, have casual conversation areas and provide a wonderful coffee service.

 

The Link is modern, accessible, and a great place to have a coffee and share conversation all contained in little over 2,220-square-feet of prime real estate at Highway 401 and Hespeler Road.

 

Along with this incredibly cool and unique space comes some unbeatable programming to help you and your team get onside, get ramped up, and get excited for what comes next.

 

Programming at The Link has already been released and space is very limited, so you need to get in early and make sure there is a seat for you. Our Program Manager, (Amrita Gill), is already developing new and different ways for us to connect with meaning, with passion, and as always, with inspiring ideas.

 

The doors opened Oct. 1 and we already have some committed entities ready to set up shop at The Link, but there may still be room for you and your organization. Do you serve only small and medium-sized business? If so, send me a note and maybe, if all the checkmarks are in place, we may just have a spot for you at The Link, but you need to hurry. Yes, there is a cost because we are not a “funded” organization and our support comes from our membership.

 

Speaking of membership, did you know the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has NOT increased its membership fees in more than 25 years? Talk about an inflation stopper, wow! That is what serving business means to us. We will always find ways to support you and now we are looking for your support to continue the work we do.

 

So please share your expertise with us and book a pod at The Link, or come in and get help from organizations and businesses that are here for you. Even better, drop in and enjoy a coffee, latte, cappuccino, espresso, or my personal favourite, a mochaccino. Hey, I might even buy you one. See you soon at The Link, 750 Hespeler Rd., the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

 

 

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The business landscape is complex and changing, especially today.

 

For smaller businesses, trying to navigate and manoeuvre in this current economy is critical and requires a solid combination of soft and hard skills.

 

Having a mentor, usually a person who has more experience, can provide a small business owner the opportunity to glean an understanding of the best ways to accomplish this.

 

“I’ve had many mentors over the years in different capacities, both on the tech side of the business and some on the leadership side,” says Kristen Danson, Managing Partner of MitoGraphics Inc. in Cambridge. “I believe people either succeed beyond what they know or don’t know and if you only use the knowledge and experience you have, you’re limited in your capacity.”

 

That’s why experts say finding just the right mentor, especially one that is motivated and energized and willing to commit their time, is vital to a successful mentorship. As well, for mentees, dedication, and a willingness to be mentored properly is also just as important which is why having similar backgrounds, skillsets and challenges makes for a good match.

 

“You really have to be careful about that and use your gut check,” says Kristen. “You have to make sure you are taking knowledge from a source that is of a benefit to you.”

 

In terms of finding the right mentor, mapping out your goals and setting clear expectations on how that person can assist you is important. Kristen agrees and says most of her mentors have come from relationships she has cultivated over the years through her industry and member associations.

 

“I’ve never been afraid over the years to approach someone at an industry event, someone I can connect with for guidance and leadership advice,” she says. “Sometimes you may have to do that because you don’t have an existing relationship with that person, but you recognize there are traits or experiences you want to benefit from that they have.”

 

While social media has made it easier to make those important connections with others outside of your immediate circle, Kristen says strong mentorships can also be created within your own business by the people you hire.

 

“I hope that I have mentored people over the years,” she says. “But I’ve had employees as mentors because they’ve worked for bigger companies or different places in my industry and can provide that ‘wait a minute’ advice noting other printing companies may do things another way.”

 

She says having supportive feedback can help create efficiencies which in turn benefits the business and adds that mentorship is a two-way street, something the Cambridge of Chamber of Commerce has recognized in the creation of its new Chamber Circles mentoring program. The program sees participants ‘matched’ with a mentor for monthly discussions on a variety of pre-selected topics to help foster professional and personal growth.

 

“Partnerships are not one-sided. That’s why mentoring circles are so important,” says Kristen. “I firmly believe those exchanges of information are always circular.”

 

 

How can mentors help

 

  • Learn from their expertise. A mentor can help you acquire new skills, knowledge, and perspectives that can enhance your professional growth and performance. They can also share with you their best practices, tips, and tricks, as well as their mistakes and lessons learned.
  • Receive constructive feedback. A mentor can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and suggest ways to improve them. They can also help you set realistic and achievable goals and monitor your progress and achievements.
  • Expand your network. A mentor can introduce you to other professionals, organizations, and resources that can be useful for your career advancement and development. By expanding your network, you can increase your visibility, credibility, and reputation in your field, and access more opportunities and benefits.
  • Gain emotional support. A mentor can be a trusted ally, friend, and confidant, who can listen to your concerns, frustrations, and aspirations, and offer you empathy, advice, and inspiration. By gaining emotional support, you can reduce your stress, anxiety, and burnout, and enhance your well-being, happiness, and satisfaction.
  • How to find a mentor. To find a mentor who matches your needs and goals, you should first identify your objectives and expectations. Then, look for potential mentors in your field, such as alumni networks, professional associations, or online platforms. Once you have found a mentor, stay in touch with them regularly and follow their guidance and feedback.

 

Source: LinkedIn

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There comes a time in the life of most businesses when its founder, or owner, decides it’s time to step away. In the case of family-owned businesses, it can be especially difficult and requires often frank conversations when it comes to creating a viable succession plan.

 

“You may assume the next generation is going to take over the business, but did you have that conversation with the children and does it algin with their vision? Is there alignment?” says Carlo Ciarmitario, Partner and Regions East Family Office Leader, KPMG Enterprise. “It really could get even more complicated with larger families with multiple family members where some are involved in the business, and some are not involved.”

 

According to a succession survey conducted by CFIB last year, at least 76% of Canadian business owners plan to exit their business within the decade resulting in over the transfer of $2 trillion worth of business assets changing hands during this period.

 

Couple this with the fact that only 1 in 10 (roughly 9%) have a formal succession plan in place to assist in the transition of the business and the economic landscape in Canada is in for major changes.

 

“Those discussions are tough discussions that not everybody wants to get involved with,” says Carlo, adding he spends at least 60-70% of his time in this area. “It’s really about the founder wanting to let go and they may not be ready to let go. For many of them, the business is part of their family, and they can’t fathom the idea that somehow they’re not going to be involved in the business going forward.”

 

However, he says having a communication framework is fundamental to all succession discussions and must involve everyone, including third generation family members if necessary.

 

“There can be a lot of emotions involved in that discussion,” says Carlo. “But I think people need to know that discussion has to happen.”

 

 

To assist, he offers the following information:

 

Q. Is having a clear succession planning something many SMEs often put on the backburner?

 

Founders may not be ready to let go. Many do not feel that the next generation is ready or even capable of running the business the way they have been operating the business.  Many of these owners started the business from the ground up and have been involved in every aspect of the operations: whether it’s relating to the hiring of staff, or the way the business operates, to working with the bank and investors on financing the operations and maintaining profitability. Things to consider:

 

  1. Succession requires a communication framework and strategy for all parties involved.  It’s not as simple as the founders of the business say they are going to retire and that the next generation steps in.  A plan needs to be put in place on how the transition will take place, who will be succeeding the founders and the timing of the transition.
  2. Many of the next generation family members are not prepared.  They do not understand their roles in the family business and the required accountabilities with accepting those roles.  This becomes even more challenging when certain members of the next generation are involved in the business while others are not involved.
  3. Lack of a common vision between the various parties.  The founders may have a particular family member in mind to succeed them.  However, their vision may not align with the next generation:  Does the next generation individual want to be the successor?  How do the other family members feel about the succession plan?  This could lead to a lot of difficult discussions and conflict around sensitive issues.
  4. The majority of the founder’s wealth may be tied up in the business. If they have insufficient assets outside of the business, they may be unwilling to let go as they are concerned that they will not be able to maintain the lifestyle they have been accustomed to.

 

Q.    What are the first few important steps towards creating a successful succession plan?

 

An estate freeze is a common succession planning tool but is part of the overall succession planning process. At a high level, an estate plan involves the founders freezing their current equity interest in the family business shares at today’s fair market value. 

This is typically followed by having a family trust, the beneficiaries of which would include the founders’ children subscribing for equity shares that will enable the future growth of the business to pass onto the next generation.  When structured properly, an estate freeze allows the founders to cap the taxes their estates will have to pay on death while transferring the future value of the business to the next generation. Things to consider:

 

  1. Does the next generation want to be part of the family business?  An outcome of these discussions may be that family should sell the business rather than keep the business in the family which often is a difficult pill to swallow for the founders of the business who may have always envisioned the business being passed down from generation to generation;
  2. If multiple children involved in the business, who should be the successor of the business?   These discussions will also involve how to deal with children who are not involved in the business.  Do each of the children get an equal share of the equity of the family business or does the future equity get allocated in a different proportion or do some children do not receive any equity in the business but are somehow compensated with other assets the family may have?;
  3. Does the next generation of family have the appropriate skills, both operational and leadership, to successfully continue the business?  If not, the family may decide to bring in an independent third party who has the right skills and experience to run the family business;
  4. How will future business and investment decisions be made?  Is the first-generation still making the key business decisions?  Or will decisions be made jointly by the first and second generation with the goal that over time the second generation of family will be making all key decisions;
  5. Families will need to have discussions around implementing a governance structure. This ranges from having a Family Council Structure where all family members, owners and non-owners are involved, to an Advisory Board where input from individuals who are not part of the business can provide input on strategy and direction but the family still has the final say on decisions; to a formal Board structure which may include the appointment of outside third parties to lead or participate on the Board.

 

Q. When is the right time to create a succession plan? Are there signs to watch for?

 

There is no real right time to start a succession plan.  Just as the business did not grow over night your succession plan won’t happen overnight.  The process evolves over time

A good idea is to begin the process five to seven years prior to either selling the business (if that is what the family decides) or from the founder retiring/stepping back from day-to-day operations.  This will allow for enough time to affect a proper transition of the business or get it ready for a potential sale.

 

 

Q. Is creating a succession plan a difficult process?

 

The most difficult part is getting the conversation started as noted above.  The natural tendency is to avoid the conversation.  However, once the process gets started, most succession plans do have a positive outcome.  The key is getting everyone’s input and making the decision collectively.

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