Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

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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Mental health in the workplace continues to be a major focus, especially as businesses continue to deal with labour shortages and adapt to hybrid work models.

 

“You have to prioritize it,” says Robyn Schwarz, Fund Development, Advocacy, and Communications Lead at Porchlight Counselling Addictions Services in Cambridge. “You have to see it as something you need to learn, the same way you need to learn anything else to grow your business.”

 

Despite the fact the pandemic is considered a thing of the past, she says for some fears and concerns surrounding COVID-19 – especially for those with ongoing health issues - continue to impact their mental health.

 

“I like to think the pandemic really escalated a lot of stressors and acted almost like a catalyst for things that were already just under the surface in our lives,” says Robyn, referring to it as “collective trauma” for the community in general.

 

She says for working parents who had to find ways to support their children through school lockdowns while trying to balance their work life, it has proven particularly hard as they face rising costs. In fact, according to a recent Wellbeing Waterloo Region report Cambridge residents, despite having lower income levels, work more hours to make ends meet. The report shows 6.2% work 55 hours a week or more at than their main job and a 28.3% of respondents work 20 or more hours a week at a second job.

 

“I think as a community, we’re trying to figure out what do our lives look after this while also really struggling cognitively with our brains,” says Robyn.

 

As a result, she says it’s important for employers to be able to read the signs an employee may be dealing with mental health issues.

 

“Looking at different behavioural changes can be really helpful,” says Robyn, noting that sudden tardiness, anger issues, or signs often associated with being a ‘bad’ employee could really indicate a mental health concern. “A mental health issue is one of those things that shows up so different with everyone and we all have different understandings of what emotional dysregulation look likes.”

 

As well, she says addiction issues could also be a byproduct as employees try to find ways to cope with anxiety and depression.

 

“A couple of things we’re hearing in the community is an increase in normalized addictions because many people were at home during the pandemic,” she says, referring to alcohol consumption. “That is something we’ve been really concerned about because it’s something you can hide really easily until it becomes life or death.”

 

As a result, she says creating a supportive workplace environment through trust and open communication is important for an employee to address their mental health issues.

 

“It’s all about finding ways to build those spaces into your work and obviously, every workplace is different. There is no one ‘right’ way to do this,” says Robyn. “It’s about knowing how to talk about mental health and being able to communicate that in a kind and compassionate way. Many employers themselves are also under stress and when an employee knows that they can mutually support each other.”

 

She says just sending employees emails with links to mental health resources isn’t enough, and in fact, could exacerbate the situation.

 

“In that case, you’re putting the onus on your employee to do something that they might not even have the capacity to do and you’re also creating a situation where they feel you’re actually giving them more work to do.”

 

Finding resources can be difficult, says Robyn, noting that private therapy in Canada can cost between $160 to $250 an hour, and that on average between six to 10 sessions are usually needed for a person to make any progress.

 

“Most benefit packages I know, unless you work for a very large corporation, cover perhaps $500 a year,” she says, adding Porchlight, which offers a variety of services, is a good place to discover local resources. “The system right now is a great big puzzle and is very confusing, so an organization like ours we can do the heavy lifting for people to help them access affordable mental health and addictions support.”

 

 

Recommendations from the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s Mental Wellness in the Workplace: A Playbook for SMEs

 

Develop a comprehensive mental health strategy

•    Develop a mental health strategy that is linked to your EDI strategy.
•    Measure baseline workforce mental health through qualitative (e.g., regular pulse checks and surveys) and quantitative measures (e.g., absenteeism, presenteeism, short- and long-term disability, etc.).
•    Set specific performance targets based on baseline data and the unique needs of your organization and employees.
•    Monitor progress to assess whether intended outcomes were achieved and what steps are needed to improve psychological health and safety.

 

Build a psychologically healthy and safe workplace culture

•    Invest in mental health training to ensure leaders can recognize distress and support employees.
•    Pay attention to the quality of social connections and consider team building options (that adhere to public health guidelines) to foster camaraderie.
•    Encourage employees to practice self-care that includes daily relaxation to decrease stress and healthy habits (e.g., adequate sleep, exercise, etc.).
•    Consider small gestures of appreciation (e.g., a gift card or simple “thank you”), which can impact someone’s day.
•    Consider building a mental health committee or peer support program.

 

Communicate widely, regularly, and effectively

•    Encourage leaders to model open and authentic communication about their mental health challenges – to reduce stigma and encourage employees to seek support.
•    Create spaces for conversation between leaders and employees to share how they feel, check-in with one another, and build a sense of community.
•    Repeat key messages throughout the year to create lasting cultural change and using various formats (e.g., team meetings, posters, etc.)

 

Ensure adequate resources and supports for employees and their families

•    Ensure supports are varied, visible, and accessible – in-person and virtually.
•    Invest in leaders’ wellbeing so they can provide support to employees.
•    Support employees along the full continuum of mental health – from prevention to early intervention to recovery.
•    Review your company’s health plan with your benefits administrator to examine what supports you currently provide and what could be added.

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Finding the right employees continues to be a challenge. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the global market research and consulting firm The Harris Poll, 75% of Canadian employers expect to have hiring challenges in 2023.

 

According to the survey, commissioned by Express Employment Professionals, the three biggest challenges they are most concerned about are being forced to hire less qualified candidates (31%), high employee turnover (30%), and overall labour shortages (29%).

 

Bradley Jenkins, who owns and operates the Express Employment Professionals office in Cambridge which connects job seekers and employers, says recruiting employees continues to be a struggle as the Canadian economy remains ‘soft’.

 

“Right now, the Canadian Staffing Index is at the lowest it’s ever been since January 2021,” he says, noting the cost of doing business in Canada remains high and expects economic levels won’t return to ‘normal’ until next summer.

 

As a result, Bradley says many of his clients are taking a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes hiring employees.

 

“Certain jobs aren’t there like they once were. Employers are being more guarded,” he says, noting industrial unskilled and semi-skilled positions, once the staple of the staffing industry in Ontario, are no longer as bountiful, due in part to automation.

 

But for businesses in need of employees, Bradley stresses the need for developing a solid recruitment plan, other than just using an online job site which could result in hundreds of potential candidates applying.

 

“Who do have you in your organization that is trained and skilled at screening and can conduct interviews so you can have a quick turnaround and have a qualified candidate in place in a matter of weeks?” he says. “How much time can you spend going through those candidates, while you’re not spending time running your business?”

 

As a company that works with mostly medium to small-sized companies, Bradley says the majority don’t have a dedicated job recruiter and often rely on someone in human resources to do the job which also presents problems.

 

“Hiring is hard work,” he says. “Good people are always going to be hard to find and that isn’t going to change.”

 

Bradley says once that right employee is found, he recommends an employer discover what is the key motivation of that worker.

 

“An employer must understand what motivates each team member and each team member is unique,” he says. “Having that understanding will keep your employee engaged and if they’re engaged, they’re performing.”

 

 

Recruiting top talent can be challenging in today's competitive job market. Employers need effective strategies to attract the right candidates who align with their organization. We reached out to Alliance Consulting Canada in Cambridge who provided these tips to help employers overcome recruitment hurdles and successfully recruit potential employees.

 

Cultivate an Irresistible Employer Brand:

Define and articulate your company's unique selling points, values, and mission. Showcase your positive company culture and share authentic employee testimonials. By building a compelling employer brand, you'll attract candidates who are genuinely enthusiastic about joining your team.

 

Diversify Recruitment Strategies:

Leverage digital platforms, social media, industry forums, and partnerships with educational institutions. Employee referral programs can also be highly effective. By exploring multiple channels, you increase your chances of finding the perfect fit for your organization.

 

Optimize the Candidate Experience:

Streamline your hiring process, simplify applications, and communicate promptly and proactively. A positive candidate experience enhances your employer reputation and attracts top talent.

 

Conclusion:

By focusing on building an irresistible employer brand, diversifying recruitment strategies, and optimizing the candidate experience, employers can overcome recruitment challenges and attract the right talent. These strategies will contribute to the long-term success and growth of your organization.

 

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The Ontario government will launch a first-of-its-kind program June 1 to make free naloxone kits (and free training) available at workplaces where there is a risk of staff witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose.

 

In 2022, there were 2,521 confirmed probable opioid deaths in Ontario, which represents a 12% drop in cases compared to 2021. Despite this, the number of deaths last year remains substantially higher compared to what was observed prior to the pandemic (2017-2019).

 

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, restore breathing within two to five minutes, and allow time for medical help to arrive.

 

“Ontario, like the rest of Canada, is in the middle of an opioid epidemic made worse by a toxic supply of recreational street drugs,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, when the program was first announced last year.

 

According to a report released last summer by researchers from the Ontario Drug Police Research Network (ODPRN) at St. Michael’s Hospital, one in 13 opioid-related deaths in the province between 2018 and 2020 occurred in the construction sector. The reasons behind this, say researchers, are a complicated mix of pain management, job insecurity and having nowhere else to turn.

 

Bars and nightclubs have also seen increased opioid usage and accidental overdoses, often because of recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

 

For up to two years, Ontario will provide free nasal spray naloxone kits to businesses at risk of opioid overdoses through the Workplace Naloxone Program and free training needed to equip staff with the tools to respond to an opioid overdose.

 

Businesses can determine if they are eligible for the program and find additional information on accessing naloxone kits and training at Ontario.ca/workplacenaloxone. Once the requirement is in effect, Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development’s inspectors will take an education-first approach to enforcement.

 

 

We reached out to Tushar Anandasagar and Hina Ghaus at Gowling WLG to provide some legal insight as to what this new legislation will mean for some businesses:

 

Q. What prompted the Province to introduce this OHSA legislation?

 

A. The province is recognizing that the ongoing opioid crisis is affecting workplaces across the province – something needed to be done.

Opioid overdoses may be preventable or possible to delay (to an extent) – the province has adopted the role of educating employers on steps they can take to recognize and reduce the severity of overdoses.

These measures also have the effect of reducing the load on the healthcare system – the province is pushing for early triage and prevention rather than escalation.

We’re already doing many of the same things when it comes to allergies – for instance, many workers with severe allergies are already carrying around EpiPens.

Many social changes start at the workplace – there is a good chance that we will start to see this protocol (or something similar) extending beyond the workplace.

The opioid crisis is ubiquitous - we have already seen other provinces discussing the adoption of similar requirements for workplaces.

 

 

Q.  Is there a possibility the free training and access to the kits could be extended beyond two years and could funding be provided by another source?

 

A.  Definitely. Our sense is that this is just the start.  There are numerous benefits associated with early prevention rather than treating severe overdose cases via the healthcare system. A stitch in time saves nine.

 

 

Q. Are workers legally required to make their employers aware they could overdose?

 

A. Not by operation of statute – the onus is on the employer to spot a potential health and safety issue and create systems to make the workplace as safe as possible.  Of course, nothing prevents a worker from voluntarily disclosing a substance use disorder to their employer. Aside from statute, employers may be able to establish early warning systems via fit for duty policies – such a policy would require the employee to report to work while not under the influence of an impairing substance. Employers are then responsible for enforcing the policy.

 

 

Q. What kind of privacy issues come into play with this legislation?

 

A.  An employee’s disclosure of a substance use disorder is considered strictly confidential information – the employer should be prepared to treat this information as it would any other medical information received from an employee

Appropriate protections should be put in place to safeguard the information – shared with only those managers or supervisors who “need to know”.

These issues, and sample scenarios, are discussed in the province’s updated guidance on naloxone in the workplace:  https://www.ontario.ca/page/naloxone-workplace

 

 

Q. What are potential concerns surrounding this legislation, if any, that managers of workplaces deemed as at-risk should be aware of?

 

A. There are risks associated with non-compliance with the OHSA – for instance, primary liability may result if the employer doesn’t run through a naloxone kit risk assessment to determine if there is a risk of a worker overdosing at work.  Every employer is required to do this.

There are also risks associated with running a deficient risk assessment or ignoring risks that come to the employer’s attention – for instance, an employee self-discloses that they have a substance use issue, and the employer does nothing.

Another consideration is what could possibly happen if a worker administers naloxone and the recipient has, for instance, an allergic reaction – as per the province’s current guidance, the Ontario Good Samaritan Act should kick in to relieve workers of liability when they are administering naloxone in good faith.

 

 

Q.  What should be the first steps an at-risk workplace should take when it comes to introducing this program?

 

A. Every workplace needs to run through a naloxone risk assessment – employers may wish to engage a third party to demonstrate that they have done this, as needed.

If naloxone risks are detected during the risk assessment, the employer should plan for implementation by referencing the OHSA guidance published by the province – this will necessarily mean engaging with staff, the OH&S rep, the JHSC, etc.

There are specific training requirements which need to be in place, which have been referenced within the province’s guidance. As needed, the employer should also prepare to procure naloxone kits – there may be free naloxone kits available depending on the sector the employer operates within.

 

 

Q. Can workplaces not deemed ‘at-risk’ access the program?

 

A.  All workplaces can access the Province’s guidelines and training resources. As for the free naloxone kits and on-site training, we know the Province is initially focusing on high-risk workplaces. In future we may see an expansion of the training programs and free kits to non-high-risk environments.

 

 

Q. Is it difficult to make changes to the OHSA?

 

A. Yes and no – some changes are met with objection from employers (and employer associations), trade unions, and other stakeholders (e.g., fine increases, doubling of limitation periods, etc.). It really depends on the type of change that is being made.

 

 

Q.  How will compliance of the legislation be monitored?

 

A. Effective June 1, 2023, we can expect standard MOL audits for employers – they will ask about naloxone kits in the same way that they currently ask about harassment policies, etc. There may also be acute responses triggered by workplace accidents – for instance, if there is a serious workplace accident and there is some indication that substance use disorder may have contributed to the situation, the employer’s risk assessment may be called into question, and they may be found not to have complied with these new OHSA requirements if they failed to identify reasonably apparent risks.

Once again, employers will need to be mindful of proving that they have undergone a risk assessment (document, document, document), particularly if they have concluded that there is no risk in the working environment.

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The minimum wage in Ontario will increase on Oct. 1 to $16.55 an hour and could impact many businesses and their customers.

 

“I think we’ll be fine because I’m confident with our business model and location, but I think it’s going to affect some businesses dramatically because there is no way there can’t be an increase in prices on goods and services,” says Matt Rolleman, a Chamber Member and co-owner of Thirteen at the corner of Water and Main streets in Galt, noting like many restaurants the majority of his staff currently is paid above minimum wage.

 

While the same holds true for many tourism and hospitality businesses, the Tourism Industry of Association of Ontario (TIAO) says it will continue to advocate for tax reforms and other measures to help offset rising commercial costs and supply chain disruptions while promoting business growth.

 

“We’re constantly hearing from businesses about the rising cost of doing business, from paying down pandemic debt to supply chain disruptions that affect the availability of key goods and products, unaffordable commercial insurance premiums, and reduced liability coverage that may impact the scope of what operators can offer in the visitor experience,” says Dr. Jessica Ng, Director, Policy & Government Affairs for TIAO. “The labour crisis has only added to these costs, as businesses look for ways to recruit and retain the staff they need.”

 

She says reviewing compensation structures is one strategy to make tourism and hospitality jobs more attractive and sustainable.

 

“You have to try and pay people for their value, or perceived value,” says Matt, adding it is likely increases will be implemented for all his staff as minimum wage hikes close the salary gap between employees. “We’re doing our best to keep our prices where they are right now, but costs have gone through the roof and trying to manage all these things for all businesses has just become more tougher.”

 

Matt says the timing of the wage hike this coming fall so close to the December 2023 CEBA (Canadian Emergency Business Account) loan repayment deadline may also be an issue for many small businesses.

 

“For businesses that rely on part-time minimum wage workers there’s no way they cannot raise their prices,” he says, adding while boosting minimum wage is necessary to help ensure people can pay their bills, the way increases are introduced leaves a lot to be desired.

 

“It’s become too politicized,” says Matt, noting if it was indexed with a cost of living increase it may be easier to plan for it. “Businesses would expect it every year and maybe we wouldn’t have to have these huge increases that sensationalize the whole issue.”

 

 

We reached out to Chamber Member Jason Kingston, partner at the accounting firm Grant Thornton LLP, to get his perspective on this latest minimum wage hike:

 

Q.  What do you see as one of the biggest impacts raising Ontario’s minimum wage will have on businesses?

 

A.  Minimum wage increases are always a hot-button topic, with researchers and think tanks releasing contradictory articles and papers ranging from an increase causing either complete economic collapse or being the gateway to an economic utopia. That being said, the largest impact on businesses will be that those who rely on minimum wage earners as their employment pool will need to plan on how they are going to absorb the additional cost.

 

Q.  Are most businesses prepared for this minimum wage boost?

 

A.  I would say that many small businesses are not prepared. Could they have been? Undoubtedly. If a business is dependent on the portion of the labour pool who earn the minimum wage, then that business should always be prepared for increases. I think if you look back over the last decade, it’s easy to see more momentum towards increasing minimum wages and aiming towards a living wage, which is still projected as being much higher than the newly increased minimum wage point.

 

Q.  Could the Province have implemented a minimum wage increase in another way?

 

A.  An increase in the minimum wage does make sense, though the extent of the increase can be argued. The average wage increase, across the Ontario labour market in 2022 has been pegged by many as approximately 4%.

A minimum wage increase is an easy solution for the government. It allows them to say that they’re doing their part to combat poverty and wealth inequality. But ultimately it puts the burden on employers, not the government itself, and it still falls far short. For example, under the increased minimum wage the monthly gross income of a full-time employee will be about $2,800. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment in our region is $1,950 per month. It isn’t hard to see the challenges here.

I think there are larger issues surrounding minimum wage and its purpose and policy reasons which the government should examine.

Common alternatives to minimum wages which are commonly discussed are introducing more collective bargaining options for employee groups, introducing a universal basic income or other government supports for low-income individuals, etc., but these also introduce challenges and differing opinions.

 

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A recent report released by the Conference Board of Canada indicates Waterloo Region’s economy will be slower this year but predicts it will outpace the provincial economy.

 

While the impact of a potential slowdown is a concern, one of the key issues for local businesses remains a shortage of workers.

 

The unemployment rate in our region hit 5.5% in 2022, compared to 6.5% in 2021 and 9.6% in 2020. This year, it’s expected to reach 5.8%.

 

Provincewide, the latest numbers from Statistics Canada showed there were 372,000 job vacancies during the third quarter of 2022, nearly double the average of vacancies (195,000) reported during the three years leading up to 2020.

 

In effort to provide local employers with another avenue to find talent, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce recently launched its online job portal.

 

“Labour shortages continue to be an issue in so many sectors,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “By providing as many opportunities as possible for local employers to find the help they require is a benefit to our business community as a whole and we’re glad to be able to offer this service.”

 

The easy-to-use portal can be accessed by the public to search and apply for positions posted by Chamber Members in a variety of sectors. 

 

Chamber Members can upload and manage their own posts, which includes contact information and job descriptions.

 

The system allows job seekers to search for positions in Waterloo Region and the surrounding area.

 

Current posts feature jobs in several sectors, including the financial, insurance, medical and automobile industries.

 

“It’s a very user-friendly system giving our Members the ability to post multiple job opportunities,” says Greg, noting the Chamber does not manage the posts itself.

 

Visit the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce job portal to learn more.

 

 

A few facts and figures:

  • In Waterloo Region, the employment rate in 2022 rose by 10,700 jobs (3.3%) to a record 332,140, compared to an increase of 15,250 jobs (5%) in 2021.
  • Overall employment is in our region is expected to increase by 1% this year due to 4,250 jobs in finance, insurance, and real estate, as well as 3,300 jobs in manufacturing.
  • 60% of the job vacancies in Ontario require no more than high school education, paying on average less than $20 an hour. 
  • Nearly 200,000 jobs require less than one year of experience.
  • More than one-third of the job vacancies are in sales and service.
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Work is well underway on Phase 3 of Cambridge Memorial Hospital’s expansion plan as it continues to transform into a state-of-the-art healthcare facility, providing an even bigger boost to the community.

 

Building on this momentum has been a key priority for CMH even before the sod turning for its long-awaited expansion project in 2014.

 

“A strong community requires great infrastructure, great education, great healthcare and great businesses,” says Cambridge Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Gaskin. “They all need to be ‘firing’ and working together. It’s symbiotic that we rely on each other in order to create an amazing community.”

 

CMH’s continued impact on the community, as well as a look at the current state of Ontario’s healthcare system, will be included in the ‘checkup’ he will provide during a conversation with Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher at our Good Morning Cambridge Breakfast on April 4.

 

“We are more than a hospital,” says Patrick, referring to the transition CMH continues to undergo. “We’re really part of the fabric of the community in many ways.”

 

That will become even more apparent once the expansion work on the Wing B patient care tower is complete and CMH moves forward with its new strategic plan. Approved last June, the plan identifies five ‘pillars’, among them finance, community health and partnerships, as well as advance care equity.

 

“We’re looking at how we provide care and service for the community and address the needs of our equity seeking populations, and how do we restructure our services in order to do just that,” says Patrick, noting CMH has already begun to implement new best practices guidelines this year.

 

He says partnerships are pivotal for CMH going forward, which includes working with the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre (located across from CMH on Coronation Boulevard) by providing a part-time patient care navigator at the hospital to assist the indigenous community.

 

“This is about how do we look at services differently within our organization,” says Patrick, describing another partnership with several organizations to increase mental health care.

 

“Right now, were in the pilot phase of having a community mental health clinic in the hospital operating from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. every day to meet the urgent mental health needs for our community,” he says, noting the clinic is staffed by community partners including Langs, Porchlight Counselling & Addiction Services and CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association).

 

Strengthening ways to assist hospital staff is also part of the new strategic plan says Patrick, explaining that recruitment and retention are important priorities.

 

“It’s an understatement to stay that healthcare is in for a tough time,” he says. “So, we’re talking about how we are supporting staff and their wellbeing and what will that look like, and how do we continue to make CMH an even better place to work.”

 

At the same time, patient care will be enhanced even further with the completion of the next phase of the expansion resulting in a total of 200 beds at CMH. The work on Wing B, which will contain single occupancy accommodation and no ward rooms, will be officially completed in the fall of 2024.

 

“We continue to be on track and overall are ahead of schedule,” says Patrick, noting ‘rebooted’ sections of Wing B will open in stages. “The nice thing is the fundraising for the capital expansion is complete and we’re able to invest the community’s money into Phase 3.”

 

He says the purchase of a new MRI is a much-needed priority to replace the one purchased in 2012, adding these important pieces of equipment should be replaced every 10 to 15 years to keep pace with changing technology.

 

“It’s a workhorse and is very needed,” he says, adding all programs at CMH are on a trajectory for expansion. “It is less about buildings and more about the kind of care that we can offer.”

 

Find out more by attending our Good Morning Cambridge Breakfast on Tuesday, April 4 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Galt Country Club.

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Concerns about security on the app TikTok continue to mount as provincial and municipal governments consider or implement plans to restrict employees from accessing the platform on their work devices.

 

At the end of February, the federal government officially announced it was removing TikTok from all its mobile devices, joining a growing list of governments worldwide doing the same, despite assurances from the Chinese company Bytedance which owns the app that it does not share data with the Chinese government or store it in the country.

 

All Canadian provinces are implementing or considering bans, however, at this time it remains unclear if the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut will do the same.

 

But what does this mean for businesses, many of whom now rely on the popular social media platform to promote their business?

 

 

We asked Chamber Members and marketing experts, Ashley Gould of Cinis Marketing and Cathy Lumb of Cali Marketing Communications, to share their insight:

 

Q. What are some of the key benefits for businesses who use TikTok?

 

Ashley: TikTok is a great form of marketing for businesses looking to attract a younger audience. They also currently have a huge user base and extremely high engagement, so it is an easier platform to grow your audience on. The third benefit is that less businesses are using TikTok which translates to less competition, meaning that your posts will be seen more favourably and if you engage in paid ads the cost per engagement will be lower.

 

Cathy: TikTok lets you tell your business’s story with short, fun, and entertaining content that will attract and keep people’s attention. It’s ideal for fun interactive activities and challenges to keep your audience involved and growing.

A benefit for your customers is that they won’t feel they are being advertised to, as with some traditional advertising. Businesses can get a great idea of what their customers like about their products or services as well as what needs to be improved. But it’s important to answer the question: Is my audience on TikTok?

 

Q. What has made it such an attractive social media tool for them, and can they rely on it too much?

 

Ashley: The pandemic helped tremendously with the success of TikTok as a platform. Suddenly, people found themselves with extra time and TikTok was a great place to find the most recent dance or trend that you could then try for yourself. Now, TikTok has a billion active users, who are on the app daily looking to be entertained.

Relying on TikTok as your main form of marketing only works for a very small number of businesses, specifically those who can ship internationally and who are geared to a younger audience. Though TikTok can be helpful for other businesses, it is equally important to spend time on platforms like Instagram Reels that take into account, geographic location on a broader scale.

 

Cathy: It feels more personal and is interactive, videos can be quickly created to be current and in the moment. (You still do need to carefully plan and create engaging material on TikTok.) It is easy to create content with TikTok’s dynamic music and graphics.

It’s also a great way to work with influencers who are using your product or service. If your main target audience is on TikTok then it would be hard not to be there. If TikTok is your only social media platform and at some point, feel you want to get off, it is best to be building your audience on other platforms.

 

Q. Should businesses be concerned about their information being compromised and shared?

 

Ashley: Mainstream media has made it readily known that the majority of apps access more data on our devices than they need to. That said, what is on your device should play into that decision. If your phone holds confidential information that could compromise the government, or a hospital, yes keep TikTok off that device. If the most private thing you have is your banking app, studies thus far have shown you are OK to keep the app at this time.

 

Cathy: This is a big concern as we never want our or our customers’ confidential information to be compromised and used by others. We have already seen many examples of data being collected by other companies and put at risk by being passed on to third parties, without their customers’ consent. TikTok is very good at collecting a lot of information about its users and we can’t be sure where it will end up. More investigation is needed.

 

Q. What are some steps businesses can take to protect themselves? Or can they?

 

Ashley: There is definitely something to be said about keeping TikTok on your personal device only and off your work device. TikTok has developed several strategies for keeping your information more private from an audience perspective, but not from a downloading and data collection perspective.

 

Cathy: As with all social media platforms and search engines, TikTok collects a lot of information from its users so they can effectively target ads. It is impossible for a business or individual to fully protect themselves as there is no way to opt out of all the information TikTok collects.

It’s up to each business and individual to manage their privacy, security and cookies consent on TikTok as well as their browser settings.  Even so, it’s impossible to fully protect yourself from your data being collected and possibly shared as there is no opt out for all information being gathered. A business or individual can minimize some risk by choosing not to post easily identifiable locations in TikTok videos. Individuals can set their TikTok to private to reduce risk.

 

Q. Do you see businesses moving away from using this platform?

 

Ashley: The answer to this question is complicated as it is extremely industry specific. If government employees can no longer download TikTok on their devices, then businesses that are using social media as a means of marketing to this demographic will have to find alternative routes. That said, for the majority of businesses the opposite is true, where more and more businesses are starting to create TikTok strategies.

 

 

Cathy: I think it will be a tough call to make if a business’s customers and competitors continue to use TikTok, especially if the business is benefitting. A lot will depend on what we learn in the coming weeks about TikTok, as well as what the consumer decides to do. I do think that if a business is not benefitting in a tangible way, then they may be more inclined to move away from it. 

We know that Facebook has faced criticism over the past few years, as has Twitter, but it has not stopped people from using these platforms. However, major advertisers recently moved away from Twitter in droves, so we can see that if businesses are not happy with a social media platform, they will take action.

Many individuals on social media do not feel the need to stop using it and some find it hard to understand how they can be of any interest to TikTok or Facebook.

 

 

Q. Are there any social media platforms that are ‘foolproof’ when it comes to security concerns?

 

Ashley:  In my opinion, no. Apps are always collecting data, it is part of how they are created, and that data is meant to further your user experience. Therefore, there is always some kind of security concern with an app. 

 

Cathy: All social media platforms have their strong and weak points regarding security, and all are collecting data about us. Users of social media need to adjust the security, privacy, and advertising cookie settings to the levels they are most comfortable with. Businesses on social media platforms need to keep a close eye on their social media accounts, monitor frequently and address any concerns right away.  Regularly review your analytics to determine if your business’s marketing objectives are being achieved on social media.

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Terms like ‘The Great Resignation’, ‘quiet quitting, ‘ghosting’ and ‘grey wave’, have become commonplace to describe trends creating upheaval for employers in their quest to attract and retain workers.

 

But finding a solution to Ontario’s job shortages will require a multi-pronged approach consisting of unique ideas that take into consideration the diversity of labour needs among various sectors.

 

In effort to find these potential ideas, the Cambridge Chamber recently brought together a group of business and community leaders – all Members - to discuss their concerns via our MasterMind Series.

 

“Our MasterMind sessions are a great way to get feedback on particular issues that can assist us in developing policies that we can advocate for change at the provincial and federal levels of government which in turn will benefit businesses,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Changes to the immigration system was just one of several areas the group touched upon that would require legislative changes at both the provincial and federal levels. Others included a discussion about the need for potential curriculum changes and the costs surrounding WHMIS training.

 

This discussion inspired the Chamber to develop several recommendations in a draft policy it will present for approval at the Ontario of Chamber of Commerce’s AGM in April. Additional recommendations with a federal focus may be developed for another policy which the Chamber will present next fall at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce AGM.

 

If approved, these policies are then included in the advocacy ‘playbooks’ of both organizations as they lobby the government for changes that will benefit businesses.

 

 

Labour shortages remain a big concern

 

While the pandemic is often identified as the catalyst behind Canada’s continued employment issues, many experts believe our labour force growth rate has been trending downward since 2000 and has been exacerbated by the arrival of COVID-19.

 

In fact, according to Statistics Canada, in 2021 one in five Canadian workers were between the age of 55 to 64 – representing an all-time high of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). This translates into 1.4 million Canadians between 2016 to 2021 who are 55 or older and looking towards retirement.

 

Adding to this dilemma of a shrinking workforce, according to StatsCan, recruiting skilled workers was expected to be an obstacle for the first quarter of 2022 for 39.9% (approximately two-fifths) of all businesses.

 

The effects may be reflected in the results of an annual labour survey conducted in 2022 by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters’ (CME) of 563 manufacturers in 17 industries nationwide which outlined the impact labour shortages were having by indicating a nearly $13 billion loss in Canada’s economy over the course of a year.

 

While a job surge at the end of 2022 which saw the unemployment rate drop to 5% in December compared to 5.1% in November was welcomed news, StatsCan says a hike in illness-rated absences resulted in limited worker output. As well, while StatsCan says Canada’s employment rate increased to 61.8% in December, compared to 61.5% the month before, the projected trend shows a drop to 60.9% in 2024 – with the potential to rebound and hit 62.2% in 2025.

 

The effect these fluctuations will have as employers continue to seek employees to fill the nearly one million job vacancies in Canada has yet to be determined, considering the results of a recent poll conducted by the recruitment firm Robert Half indicating half of Canadian workers are planning to seek new jobs in 2023 – nearly double the amount from a year ago. That poll, conducted this past fall from among 1,100 workers from multiple sectors, showed that 50% of respondents would be seeking new employment in the next six months (up from 31% six months ago). The top reasons for this shift not only include higher salaries, better benefits, and perks, but greater flexibility to decide when and where they work.

 

 

Resources needed to improve immigration system

 

As current and potential employees weigh their options and re-valuate their priorities and goals when it pertains to employment, Canada continues its concentrated effort to reach its immigration target of 1.4 million in three years to fill these widening labour gaps.

 

While an influx of immigrants is welcomed news in hopes of easing labour shortages, the need to ensure resources are available to serve this growing population is imperative. Besides an adequate supply of housing, language training is just as important to provide them with a basic tool they need to enter the workforce even faster.

 

Providing necessary resources to assist newcomers was an issue raised during our MasterMind session, as well as extending the current hourly work limit permanently for international students. As well, it was suggested policy changes are needed when it comes ensuring foreign workers who do not hold management positions could bring their families to Canada more easily.

 

 

Recommendations going to OCC

 

The policy - entitled Opening Job Markets for Employers and Employees and co-sponsored by our colleagues at the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce – touches on several areas.

 

The Chamber has recommended the OCC urge the Ontario Government to:

  1. Develop all potential partnerships within local municipalities and community organizations to ensure that language training is made available for new immigrants.
  2. Allow those on ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) who can work full time to do so without risking loss of their provincially funded benefits (i.e., prescribed medications) if their employer does not provide those services.
  3. Investigate a form of remuneration (i.e., tax credit) for employers when it comes to providing provincially regulated training, such as WHMIS, and their associated costs.

 

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A new year has begun and with it comes challenges ahead for businesses.

 

Even though there are signs economic conditions are improving, such as a relatively fast drop in inflation and labour market additions, many small businesses are likely to feel the pinch of rising interest rates, the threat of a looming recession, and persistent labour shortages in 2023.

 

We reached out to Noah Jensen, a partner at Racolta Jensen LLP in Cambridge, to get a sense of what businesses can expect in the coming year:

 

 

Q.  What priorities or potential pitfalls should businesses wishing to expand in 2023 keep in mind?

 

Noah: Keep acquisitions open as an option. There are quite a few business owners with established businesses who are looking to divest themselves into retirement. Lower-mid market acquisitions (say, less than $10 million in value) are starting to see more supply than there is capital for private equity/investment firms to invest, especially on smaller deals. Acquiring an established brand with a customer list and team of trained employees that have complementary customers, production process, and/or supply chain partners can help achieve more scale by eliminating redundancies in the combined business after the acquisition is complete.

 

Avoid over-committing on cash, or over-hiring of employees. In the start-up world they   call this “lengthening the runway” by containing overhead costs. Labour is a fixed cost in the short-term and a variable cost in the long-term, be selective on who is being hired for what as many customers in the business-to-business landscape are being more thoughtful about purchases and many things are being delayed.

 

 

Q. How should businesses prepare for potential economic slowdowns this coming year?

 

Noah: Evaluate pricing. Costs have risen substantially in the past two years and there are still some businesses that have not adjusted their prices to their customers. If you have not changed pricing because your competitors have not changed theirs, you may have an issue with productivity to look at. If the market price has gone up and you have not changed your price, look at a price increase as an option. If your customers are unable to accept a price increase, look at the profitability of the relationship and consider not serving the client any longer.

 

Be clear on terms of payment with customers and suppliers to think through forecasting your cash flow over the next several months. Look into how this can be done with your accountant and/or bankers to see about a back-stop financing facility if needed. It is generally better to ask for financing facilities when your company is showing good financial results. You will not regret doing so now before things get too grim.

 

Think through your cost structure for any commitments to experiment with new products or services for your business that you thought would improve the productivity of your business. Are they all working? Is there anything that could be cut?

 

If you are in the business-to-business market, talk to your customers. What trends are they seeing from your competitors that they like or don’t like? How could you provide a better solution for them?

 

Do you have any redundant assets on your balance sheet? This would be assets that have no value to the operations of your company that have monetary value.

 

 

Q. Will this be a good year for businesses to make productivity investments?

 

Noah: Productivity investments will need to continuously be considered in today’s economic climate. Whether you are in dairy production or robotics, your competitors are purchasing equipment and/or software that is allowing them to get work done with less labour (a necessity in today’s labour market).

 

 

Q. How important is it for businesses to ensure they have a solid succession plan in place?

 

Noah: It is important to always consider the contingency plan of your business. If you are young with the intention of running your business for the long-term, failing to plan for what happens if you are suddenly disabled or facing terminal illness will put you and your family in a precarious position if any of those events transpire and you are unable to run the company. Certain insurance products mitigate the financial impact of this, but you still need to consider what shape your company will be in if you are eventually able to return to work.

 

If you are older and considering retirement, you should be thinking about this five-10 years out. Some considerations:

  1. Customer concentration: try to avoid having a lot of revenue tied to one customer relationship
  2. Supplier concentration: try to avoid having a lot of your inputs concentrated with one supplier.
  3. Management aptitude: always be grooming someone else (or a couple of internal candidates) to do your job.
  4. Cash flow: the valuation of the company is often determined on a multiple of cash flow. If you are selling at five times multiple, a $1 increase in cash flow increases your value by $5. So, make sure you are dialed in on profitability.
  5. Structuring: the structure of corporations will make a difference in the taxation of the sale, and you should be thinking of this a couple of years prior to sale.

 

Q.  What should business owners consider if they are planning an acquisition in the coming year?

 

Noah: Be aware of market trends. With uncertainty in the system related to financing costs (interest rate driven) and risk tolerance of people investing in private companies, there will be ebbs and flows in the low-mid-market mergers and acquisitions environment.

 

According to a recent poll, 2022 Q4 had a pull-back in interest on the buy-side of acquisitions which could indicate that the bargaining power could tilt in the favour of buyers rather than sellers. We have seen a lot of interest in our existing clients wanting to sell. Mainly related to age/retirement.

 

Be aware of the quality of earnings that are presented. While many people had an amazing fiscal 2022, if you broke it down by quarters, they were increasing prices to their customers faster than they were adjusting their costs for labour. Additionally, certain industries would have been on fire during the low-financing cost era (residential/industrial construction, auto sector manufacturing), that will be facing downturns in the upcoming year or two.

 

Q. Will 2023 be a good year to start a new business?

 

Noah:  Every year is a good year to start a new business if you have a good idea or good contacts in a particular field. The difficult thing about right now is that people currently employed will probably be seeing the best of the best in terms of offers for their labour time and talents due to the shortage.

 

The upside to starting a business right now is that a lot of people throw in the towel when there is the amount of uncertainty as there is right now with the changing economic landscape. This creates new opportunities for people.

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