Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 

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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It has become an all too familiar scenario for many small businesses: a potential employee doesn’t show up for the interview or a new employee, perhaps after a single day or a few weeks, suddenly disappears, never to be heard from again.

 

For businesses already struggling with labour shortages, the phenomenon of ‘ghosting’ has grown into a real challenge as our economy continues to rebuild.

 

“The last time we checked, we had about 30% participation in live interviews,” says Mike Black, owner/operator of Valet Car Wash in Cambridge and eight other locations. “I’m also finding that many people go onto Indeed and apply to dozens of job postings and they have no idea why you are even contacting them because they have so many irons in the fire and are just picking and choosing.”

 

He’s not alone in this regard. According to a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 37% of small business owners who responded said they have had potential hires suddenly disappear without explanation, while one out of three who’ve hired someone during the last year either had that employee not show up their first day or had them stop coming in shortly after being hired.

 

While salary is a clear motivator for many job seekers, Mike also believes there has been a cultural ‘shift’ as opposed to just an economic one in terms of how people currently look for work.

 

“There almost seems to be a complete lack of courtesy and respect for others,” he says, noting the adage ‘never burn a bridge’ no longer seems to apply.

 

Janice McVey, Manager Partner at the Dean Group which specializes in employment recruitment, says the fact there are so many jobs available and that accountability no longer seems to be there when it comes to referencing, are a few of the key factors.

 

“It used to be that having a good job reference was important and not having one used to be a real impediment,” she says. “Now, again with unemployment so low and good people hard to find, companies are lowering the bar. The job candidate understands that lack of investment from the client’s perspective, so it becomes a bit of a two-way street.”

 

Janice says conducting a short Zoom interview may not necessarily win over a potential employee and make them feel invested enough to sign on.  However, she acknowledges that most companies also no longer have the luxury due to staff shortages to properly acclimate a new employee –spending additional time on training or introducing them to all their co-workers - because they need them to start working immediately.

 

“As a result of tightening up the interview process, they actually lose that ability to truly engage somebody in the role and therefore they can lose them,” says Janice, noting ‘A list’ companies that offer higher salaries and benefits tend to have fewer ghosting issues. “I think what it boils down to is there are too many options out there and therefore people do not worry about not finding a job when they need one.”

 

To help combat this, she encourages her clients to really promote why a person should want to work for them.

 

“You have to make sure what you’ve got to offer is what the candidate is really looking for. You as an employer, have to be clear on why people want to work for your organization,” says Janice. “Because now, they’re interviewing you more than you’re interviewing them.”

 

And if the candidate accepts the job but there is a concern they could soon be looking elsewhere, she recommends reminding them why they accepted the job in the first place.

 

“What was their motivation; if money was the reason, you’re never going to keep those people because they’re going to go to the next guy who pays them more,” says Janice. “I think you’ve got to make sure you’re lining up what it is you’ve got to offer with what it is an individual is looking for.”

 

Mike agrees noting potential employees are paying much closer attention to a company’s core values and how it projects itself, especially online.

 

“You are definitely selling yourself more today,” he says, adding that communication is vital, especially during the initial interview process and explains how his company keeps in close touch with a potential employee once contact has been made.

 

“We stay in constant touch with that candidate, reminding them about the interview and confirming the date and time,” says Mike, adding they have had great success with video interviews which can also lead to an in-person meeting depending on the position they’re trying to fill.

 

Also, he says that close communication continues for the first few months after a new person has been hired.

 

“You really need to build a relationship that makes them feel welcomed and appreciated, and make sure they have everything they need,” says Mike. “You also have to be aware of how your employees are interacting with your new hires because they can play a major factor on whether they will stay or leave. It only takes a couple of bad apples to taint someone.”

 

Janice agrees, explaining leveraging your internal network can help an organization retain new employees.

 

“Your best salespeople as a good organization are your current employees,” she says, adding the pandemic has made the work of HR departments even harder. “I’m afraid the downside is they haven’t been able to do some of things that helped with engagement of candidates like they used to.”

 

When it comes to recruitment, Mike has purposely entrusted that responsibility to someone else in his organization.

 

“If it’s not something you’re comfortable with, you really have to delegate it to someone who is,” he says, adding each January his company also does an analysis of its turnover rate during the previous year. “We compare it with previous years to see if we’re getting better or worse. If we’re getting worse, then we really need to look at why and look at solutions as to why that rate when up.”

 

 

Employment turnover at a glance:

 

  • More than one-third of Canadian companies (35%) say employee turnover has increased compared to last year, a significant rise from the nearly a quarter (24%) who said the same thing in 2021.
  • According to the survey, employee turnover costs companies an average of over $41,000 each year (including the cost to rehire, lost productivity and more). Those costs are even higher for some employers, with more than 1 in 10 hiring managers (16%) reporting $100,000 or more per year in turnover expenses.
  • For companies with increased turnover this year, the main causes identified include better pay and/or benefits offered elsewhere (36%), employees resigning (35%), employees feeling overworked (33%), retirements (30%), increased workplace demands (29%) and better perks elsewhere such as summer Fridays and unlimited vacation days (28%).
  • Two-thirds of companies agree that employee turnover places a heavy burden on existing employees (64%). This is especially the case with large employers with 100 or more employees (75%) compared to small businesses with fewer than 10 employees (50%). With the added complexity of the current labour shortage, companies are having to lean heavily on their current employees.

 

•    Info provided by The Harris Poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals

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Quiet quitting, thanks to viral posts on social media, has become a term very familiar in workplaces worldwide.

 

It describes the phenomenon of employees who no longer go above and beyond by doing only what is expected in effort to maintain jobs that may no longer interest or inspire them.

 

This disengagement from work has grown exponentially since the pandemic. In fact, the 2022 State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows only 21% of employees are engaged at work.

 

“We’ve come through such a crisis over the last couple of years. To some extent, I think we’re over it now, but it has forced people to make different decisions about work, especially if they were burnt out already,” says Frank Newman, CEO of Newman Human Resources Consulting, who will explore quiet quitting at a Cambridge Chamber of Commerce webinar Dec. 1 entitled Is Your Team Quietly Quitting?

 

He will not only touch on some of the top reasons why employees quietly quit as well as the warning signs but provide insight on how employers can alter their work environment so they can not only attract but, more importantly, retain employees.

 

“You want to make sure you create the best work environment as possible,” says Frank, acknowledging the existence of an “employees’ market” due to labour shortages.  “That really means taking a very critical look at your work environment. Do you know what people need? Is it benefits? Is it better management? This is the ideal time to do an employee survey or workplace assessment to provide you with some sort of tool you can use to get a fix in terms of what are you going to fix first.”

 

He says this process may not prove to be a comfortable experience for some workplaces, however, insists this information can go a long way in assisting an organization set benchmarks regarding branding, image or even compensation.

 

“There are so many changes happening right now and if you don’t understand where you’re going or where you’re at, it’s pretty hard to make any progress,” says Frank.

 

He also recommends employers conduct exit interviews, formally or informally, to get a sense of why an employee has decided to leave.

 

“Make sure you understand what people are feeling. Also, spend some time with your newest employees and ask them what attracted them to your organization.”

 

Frank says in the age of social media, it’s important to encourage people who leave to remain an ambassador for the organization adding that bad reviews tend to get more traction than good ones.

 

“Organizations need to think about that as they manage those who are quietly quitting and those who suddenly walk out the door,” he says. “I always encourage my clients to search various job boards to see what’s being said about them.”

 

Frank admits it’s a tough time to be a manager right now, noting that employees have become much more critical on how their companies are managed than they were in the past.

 

“People looking for work have so many options out there now, and if you’re a hiring manager, it’s putting more pressure on management to get work done with less resources,” he says, noting the difficulty this causes employees who are now required to pick up the slack due to staffing shortages.

 

However, Frank says he’s optimistic as the economy continues to readjust following the pandemic there will be less quiet quitting.

 

“As companies get smarter in managing their businesses and people, I think you’ll see less of that," he says.

 

Work Trends Facts:

  • Burnout is a big risk in the workplace, especially amongst younger Gen Z professionals aged in their 20s, research shows. A survey of 30,000 workers by Microsoft showed 54% of Gen Z workers are considering quitting their job.
  • In its 2021 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks “youth disillusionment” as eighth of 10 immediate risks. Findings include deteriorating mental health since the start of the pandemic, leaving 80% of young people worldwide vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and disappointment.
  • Workforce data from organizations including McKinsey & Company suggests 40% of the global workforce are looking to quit their jobs in the next three to six months.

Source: World Economic Forum website

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While the phrase ‘quiet quitting’ has recently entered the vernacular of many business organizations thanks in part to recent social media posts, the concept itself is not exactly new.

 

“We’ve been researching this issue for a long time with respect to motivation and performance,” says Dr. Simon Taggar, Professor of Management in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University, noting previous generations used expressions like ‘deadwood’ or ‘retiring on the job’ to describe the phenomenon of employees who’ve given up the notion of going above and beyond in the workplace and only do what is expected of them.

 

Dr. Taggar says the concept, which can mistakenly evoke images of an employee ‘slacking’ at work, really centres more on the notions of engagement and disengagement, and how committed they are to their job, using the bare minimum approach which doesn’t lead to termination.

 

“I think increasingly people are becoming disengaged. We’ve always had an increasing trend in disengagement,” he says, referring to a Gallup poll conducted in 2013 which indicated that only 13% of employees worldwide were actually engaged in their jobs.

 

In North America, that number was 30% compared to 24% in other countries like South Korea, Australia, and Japan. “The people that are disengaged are now getting a whole bunch of attention.”

 

While COVID-19 sparked a major economic movement in terms of job shifts and losses, Dr. Taggar says many ‘quiet quitters’ continue to stay put in their jobs – unless something they deem is better comes along - due to a sense of continuous commitment to their work. He says unlike those with a passionate commitment to do the best job they can, or even those who feel an obligation to stay, ‘quiet quitters’ approach their jobs using a more transactional rationale.

 

“They look at as ‘I’m here because I have to be here’,” says Dr. Taggar, noting financial and personal circumstances are mitigating factors in their decision. “It’s almost like being in jail.”

 

However, he says in some circumstances, having ‘quiet quitters’ on the payroll does not make much of a difference.

 

“There are some jobs out there that really don’t need a huge amount of motivation,” says Dr. Taggar. “The design of the job itself is the control mechanism.”

 

However, he says increasingly many jobs in North America now require employees to be more motivated as they navigate strategies on their own.

 

“Our competitive advantage in Canada is having highly educated and motivated employees having complex jobs. That’s the source of our competitive advantage,” says Dr. Taggar, noting there are many signs pertaining to those who are ‘quietly quitting’. “As human beings, we’re very good at figuring out to the degree someone is motivated or highly engaged in the workplace.”

 

Signs that someone may be ‘quietly quitting’ include not assisting colleagues, not being prepared at meetings, absenteeism, not going above and beyond when it comes to serving customers or staying away from company social events.

 

“A positive workplace climate is created by people who are passionate and want to be there and love their jobs,” says Dr. Taggar.

 

He says communication is key when it comes to dealing with potential ‘quiet quitters’.

“No one ever enters an organization they want to be in thinking I’m going just going to be continuously committed,” says Dr. Taggar. “Humans aren’t made that way. We want to be passionate. We want to spend our lives doing something valuable that makes us feel good.”

 

He says it all boils down to the expectations an employee has when they join an organization, referring to such things as promises of a better work/life balance.

 

“When people’s expectations are not met, it’s called a breach of their psychological contract,” says Dr. Taggar, adding this breach can quickly alter someone’s passion for the job. “You’ve got to maintain people’s expectations because when you lose that trust, it’s harder to gain that trust back.”

 

As well, he says asking for feedback is imperative to foster a workplace culture that will keep employees engaged, noting that allowing a work culture to grow organically can create issues and misunderstandings.

 

“If you invest in them and make them feel like you care and are developing them, they will be committed to you,” says Dr. Jagger. “You’ve got to have that constant communication and constant culture building so people can make sense on what’s happening around them.”

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Keeping workers safe and healthy is an important component of any well-run company.

 

However, managing the protocols and requirements that surround it is often an area that creates frustration for many businesses.

 

“A lot of companies put health and safety on the backburner prior to the pandemic,” says Ray Snow, President of Heartzap Safety Training & Equipment in Cambridge, noting the costs that often surround it. “But now they realize they can’t put it on the backburner and have to address it and that’s what we’re seeing now.”

 

He says companies that had once been shut down during the pandemic are seeing a larger Ministry of Labour (MOL) presence of in the community and are paying close attention.

 

“MOL is at construction sites and knocking on company’s doors seeing if they have their policies in place and are they following health and safety rules, and nobody today can afford to have their operations shutdown again.”

 

For that reason, he recommends businesses revisit their health and safety policies and protocols to make sure they are up to date.

 

“But not everyone has that ability,” says Ray, noting larger corporations have the staff to manage health and safety compared to SMEs. “An SME may have a health and safety committee, but they may not have a designated staff person that does health and safety management on a regular basis.”

 

He suggests an outside health and safety audit, which Heartzap provides, is a viable alternative to ensure a business is meeting the correct standards and practices, possibly saving them money in the end. According to Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, the average cost of a lost-time injury is $106,500 - $21,300 in direct costs (WSIB premiums) and $85,200 in costs to the company of the injured employee.

 

“We’re not there to point out all the faults. We’re there to help and grow with you,” says Ray. “Health and safety has always had that negative ‘cracking the whip’ connotation. It’s really more about education.”

 

Through a wide variety of virtual training courses, something Heartzap has offered for several years prior to the pandemic in a blended online and in-class format, he says companies can ensure staff working remotely can remain up to date on their training as part of any work-from-home policies.

 

“The shift is changing in the world and in Canada on how people learn. They don’t necessarily have to be in a classroom all day long,” says Ray, noting keeping current on rapidly changing health and safety guidelines has been a big concern for Heartzap clients. “As much as the government did a great job creating templates for everybody, they still required somebody to go look at them on a bi-weekly or weekly basis because it changed so much. The biggest concern now is getting people up to speed.”

 

He says the costs surrounding health and safety training have risen, just like they have for most businesses and that supply chain issues have affected the availability of products causing potential delays in delivery.

 

“I think everybody is kind of two and half years behind in health and safety in terms of training or policy work or reviewing their facilities, but everybody wants it done today,” says Ray, noting like many sectors, staffing shortages are causing delays. “We only have so many staff to get out there and get the job done.”

 

As a result, he recommends businesses don’t wait until the last minute when it comes to reviewing or updating their health and safety policies.

 

“If you want it done for the fall or winter, don’t wait for the fall and winter to come.”

 

To learn more, visit Heartzap Safety Training & Equipment.

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The threat of data breaches or ransomware attacks have become a reality for many businesses and organizations.

 

The 2020 Cyberthreat Defense Report, created by CyberEdge Group which surveyed 1,200 security IT professionals in companies from 17 countries, found that 78% of Canadian companies experienced at least one cyberattack within a 12-month period, a figure which rose in 2021 to 85.7%. That same report also determined that 72% of Canadian respondents dealt with a ransomware threat in 2020, which luckily dropped in 2021 to 61.2%.

 

Locally, Statistics Canada figures show a total of 3,298 cyberattacks in Waterloo Region per 100,000 population in 2021, which is up from 1,113 recorded in 2017.

 

Many of the larger local attacks have media headlines, including a cyber threat on a supplier company in March of this year which prompted Toyota to halt operations at 14 plants in Japan and three manufacturing facilities in Canada, including its Cambridge plant. More recently, the Waterloo Region District School Board became a victim of a cyberattack which resulted in pay disruptions for some of its employees.

 

We asked John Svazic, Founder and Principal Consultant of EliteSec Information Security Consultants Inc. in Cambridge, to share his thoughts on what businesses can do to ensure they are prepared for any potential cyber threats.

 

Q.  What are some of the misconceptions surrounding a cyberattack or data breach?

 

John: The biggest misconception is that a business believes that they are not vulnerable or a target of cyber criminals.  Sadly, that’s not true.  If you have any form of presence on the Internet, say a Facebook page or an Instagram account, then you are at risk of an attacker. 

The attacks may be different, but they will impact you regardless.  I’ve had clients who had their Facebook accounts taken over and used for advertising by a foreign company.  That can harm your reputation.  Similarly, Instagram account hijacking is also common, and unfortunately recovery of accounts is time consuming and not always possible, leading to a lot of lost customers and influence.

 

 

Q. Are there degrees, or levels, when it comes to a cyberattack?

 

John: Yes, definitely!  The types of attacks we’ve seen locally in the region are a great example.  The most recent example from the Waterloo Region School Board seems to be a ransomware attack, which is where access to your computer network is “locked out”. 

A more common occurrence is these attackers will take data from the network first, then threaten to release these details to the public if the ransom isn’t paid.  This so called “double extortion” style of ransomware is particularly devastating to a company because there is no guarantee that the attacker won’t come back and ask for more money later.  Ransomware costs vary wildly, but it’s not uncommon to see demands from between $500 per computer to a few thousand dollars per computer, plus fees for not publicly releasing information.

Instagram and Facebook account takeovers can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the attacker.

 

Q.  Are there certain types of businesses that need to worry more about an attack or breach than others?

 

John: The short answer is no.  Every company that has any type of Internet presence is a potential victim, but the likelihood of a small company being expected to pay out millions of dollars is near zero. 

The major criminal groups that get into the headlines are generally targeting larger companies because they understand that they have a greater chance of getting a large payout.  But smaller companies may also face extortion costs albeit at a smaller scale.

Sadly, there are criminal elements at all sizes, much like we have in the legitimate business world, all targeting specific markets, from enterprises to SMBs.

 

Q.  What are some of the first steps a business should take to protect themselves? Or can they?

 

John: The best thing anyone can do is make sure they use some type of two-factor (also called multi-factor) authentication for your online accounts.  This is commonly done by getting a six-digit code you get from your phone via an authenticator app or text message.  You then use that code in addition to a password when logging into email, etc.  This is an easy (and free) way to better protect your online accounts because it becomes a lot harder for an attacker to take over your account.

Using a password manager is also strongly recommended.  This can help avoid the use of re-using the same password everywhere. 

A lot of people will think that their password is safe, until one of the websites they use that password on gets breached, and then anywhere else they may use that password becomes vulnerable, regardless of how secure that website may be.

For organizations that do financial transfers, there should be a protocol in place to get some type of verbal confirmation for transfers and not to rely just on an email or text message to confirm the transfer.

 

Q. Do many businesses utilize cybersecurity insurance?

 

John: I find that cyber insurance policies are often used in tech companies because they view themselves at a higher risk, but for most other companies they don’t necessarily see the need. 

The policies I have seen range from helping pay for ransomware attacks such as paying the ransom to offering assistance to get help from an incident response firm, which is a type of cybersecurity company that will help find out how these attackers got in, get them out of the network, and then make sure they can’t get back in later. 

So again, larger companies or companies dealing with other enterprise customers are the main group seeking out cyber insurance.

 

 

Q. Has the awareness around the potential for cyberattacks increased significantly for businesses?

 

John: Cyberattacks are becoming more mainstream in terms of the amount of coverage from more traditional media outlets, which is leading to a wider realization of how bad these things can be. 

However, only the “big” attacks get headlines, and a lot of the attacks that happen often never see the light of day.  I would say that a lot more organizations have had a cyber incident than they care to admit.  Reputation, pride, and fear are some of the main factors for this. 

My advice to those companies is not to bury your head in the sand, but rather seek out help to ensure it doesn’t’ happen again, even if you don’t want it to be made public.

 

 

Q. What are some mistakes businesses make when it comes to data protection?

 

John: Aside from thinking it won’t happen to them, one of the most common mistakes is giving out the keys to the kingdom to all the employees.  Using the same login to a shared computer, for example, rather than giving individual logins for each employee.  Re-using passwords, not updating software regularly, no anti-virus on computer systems, not questioning strange requests, using company email as if it was personal email, insufficient access controls for sensitive information, etc. 

There are a lot of different things that companies can do, but a lot of it is about doing what makes sense for your own specific organization.  The basics would be not re-using passwords and making use of multi-factor authentication.

The biggest thing to remember is that it’s not about building up Fort Knox for your business, but rather making sure that you are secure enough for an attacker to look for an easier target instead, i.e., you don’t need to outrun the bear, you just need to outrun the guy beside you.

 

To learn more, visit EliteSec Information Security Consultants Inc.

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As discussion mounts about another pandemic wave this summer, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is prepared to do what it can to help businesses and their employees remain safe.

 

Since the beginning of April 2021, the Cambridge and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chambers have been working with Health Canada and the Province on a pilot program to provide free rapid antigen self-screening kits to small and medium-sized businesses throughout Waterloo Region.

 

That program – open to all SMEs not just Chamber Members – continues this summer and as of June more than 1.2 million kits had been distributed to more than 9,100 businesses in our area. This translates into screening kits being provided to approximately 151,000 individuals which in turn aims to help curb transmission of the virus in the community.

 

“We must always be ready. We need to accept the fact there is a ‘new normal’ and that consistency in our environment is not in our favour any longer,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “We need to ensure our business and ourselves are nimble, prepared, and strategic.”

 

Like many public health agencies in Ontario, through wastewater testing the Region of Waterloo Public Health has detected an increase in positivity rates indicating an increase in COVID-19 activity.

 

In a recent edition of the Waterloo Record, Region of Waterloo Public Health’s Sharon Ord is quoted as saying: “Although the wastewater signal — up to June 25, 2022 — is dominated by Omicron subvariant BA.2.12.1, the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are increasing in Waterloo Region.”

 

According to health experts, these subvariants are the most transmissible variants of Omicron and can evade the immune system in previously infected individuals.

 

For this reason, Greg is urging businesses to ensure they are well stocked with screening kits in effort to provide as much protection as possible to their employees and customers.

 

“Don’t dismantle your plexiglass dividers just yet or toss out your hand sanitizer. Ensure you have access to a good supply of masks to keep you, your employees, and your customers safe, which in turn will keep your business safe,” he says. “We are so very close to finding our way out of this so let’s not blow it now. The ‘new normal’ is here to stay. Let’s be prepared, always.”

 

The program was expanded by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce network to Chambers provincewide soon after it launched here.

 

In Waterloo Region, businesses can order kits by visiting chambercheck.ca.

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A stroll down the red carpet provided a glamorous welcome to local business and community leaders entering the grand foyer at Tapestry Hall for our recent Business Excellence Awards.

 

The in-person awards event, held virtually the past two years due to the pandemic, brought out approximately 300 people the evening of May 26 to celebrate the achievements and resiliency of the Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries business community.

 

“After the last two years, having the chance to gather together and acknowledge the hard work of our businesses meant a great deal to many people,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “And hosting our awards event at such an impressive venue as Tapestry Hall just added to the night.”

 

Below the spectacular glory of Meander – Tapestry Hall’s ‘living’ sculpture – guests were provided with time to mingle prior to a delicious meal and the awards ceremony, reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones.

 

Local radio personality Mike Farwell, host of The Mike Farwell Show on CityNewsKitchener, was the perfect emcee for the evening which kicked off with a $2,000 donation from the Chamber to his Farwell4Hire campaign that raises money for cystic fibrosis research.

 

This was followed by a special presentation from Ontario Chamber of Commerce CEO Rocco Rossi, who handed that organization’s prestigious Chair’s Award for Innovation Program and Service to Greg and Ian McLean, President and CEO of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, for creating the rapid screening kit program. The pilot program began here in April of 2021 and was quickly adopted by Chambers provincewide. To date, more than one million kits have been provided free of charge to Waterloo Region businesses and more than 60,000 given to businesses across Ontario through the Chamber network.

 

“The continued success of the program is just another example of how the Chamber network can make a difference when businesses need us the most,” says Greg.

 

Here’s a look at the award recipients:

 

Chair’s Award: Eclipse Automation

Eclipse Automation has become an international company with a global reach employing more than 750 people. But despite that success, it has never lost sight of its ties to Cambridge by remaining a true community supporter. This was very apparent when the pandemic hit and this company, which builds automation systems for some of the largest manufacturers in the world, turned its operation completely around to assist in the battle against the COVID-19 virus by creating face masks and N95-style respirators to address Canada’s critical PPE shortage. This important donation empowered hundreds of these small businesses after the lockdowns and helped prevent even further economic hardship.

 

Community Impact award: Scott Higgins (Hip Developments)

Born and raised in Cambridge, Scott has spent a career truly making our community the best it possibly can be through his passion for not only helping others but trying to make a positive difference that will affect the lives of generations to come. Fearlessly, he has stood by his vision and dream of adapting old buildings into viable realities full of attractive amenities. But he’s more than just a ‘condo’ builder - he’s a community builder who champions the creative entrepreneurial spirit that exists in Waterloo Region. He not only coined the catchphrase the ‘Creative Capital of Canada’ but recently expanded on it through the creation of the Youth Creativity Fund. Working with the Business & Education Partnership of Waterloo Region, this new initiative aims to nurture and share the creative ideas of Grades 5 to 12 students in Waterloo Region – setting the stage for the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

 

WoW Cambridge: Bankim Patel (Baba Bazar)

The kindness continuously shown by Bankim Patel has not gone unnoticed by the loyal customers of his well-known Asian grocery store. Customers to his store have known for a very long time they can count on the owner when needed – even if it that includes driving a customer home because she felt unwell and staying with her until she felt better.

 

Spirit of Cambridge: SM Marketing & Management

When it came to assisting other businesses during the pandemic, SM Marketing & Management didn’t hesitate to reach out and help businesses develop eye-catching social media content to promote themselves. As well, this company also managed to raise money for essential workers who did not receive any bonuses during these tough times through the creation of the ‘In This Together’ campaign. This campaign saw a variety of apparel, including hoodies and t-shirts, featuring logos of local businesses sold with 100% of the proceeds going to those essential workers in need.

 

New Venture of the Year: Drayton Entertainment – The Backstage Pass Program

While the expression ‘pivot’ quickly became commonplace for business leaders everywhere, Drayton Entertainment took this concept to a new level. Recognizing that a ‘return to normal’ would be a multi-year process, it began offering a specialized online subscription service to ensure its patrons would continue to be well taken care of and partnered with hospitality businesses to offer these loyal clients not only a more unique experience, but much-needed support to others in a time of great turmoil.

 

Business of the Year 1-10: Air Power Products Limited

This company always made a conscious effort to not only provide support to many charitable organizations but have strongly done all they can to promote energy conversation and environmental sustainability when organizing their manufacturing processes. For more than 40 years, they have constantly been upgrading to ensure they can offer their clients the best solutions possible. This continued in 2020 when they added Nitrogen and Oxygen generation systems to their portfolio, an innovation that has provided much-needed assistance during the pandemic. This work has kept their employees very busy throughout the pandemic as the company experienced double-digit growth.

 

Business of the Year 11-49: Unified Flex Packaging Technologies

This company has a very specific goal in mind as a good corporate citizen, and that is to produce higher standards of living and quality of life for the communities that surround it while still maintaining profitability. Not only do they hire locally, but they also buy locally through the procurement of components from area vendors contributing to the local business ecosystem. As well, Unified Flex Packaging has used technology through the creation of an easy-to-use customer service portal to ensure they are providing their clients with the best service possible.

 

Business of the Year (Over 50 employees): Collaborative Structures Limited

Besides supporting numerous charitable organizations, Collaborative Structures Limited also continuously strengthens its social responsibility by encouraging and supporting its employees to improve their own socially responsible endeavours and community awareness. They know how employee retention promotes the health and success of the company and are quick to celebrate the hard work and dedication of their staff. As well, since its inception this company has provided exceptional and innovative services to its clients and has been committed to exploring new avenues of business and better building practices that sets it apart in the industry.

 

Outstanding Workplace: BWXT Canada Ltd.

People and innovation form the foundation of the recruitment strategy for BWXT Canada Ltd. Working diligently to attract a diverse and skilled workforce that is reflective of the community that surrounds them has been key to its success. BWXT has created several committees to foster a more welcoming and respectful work environment when it comes to issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. The recruitment strategy at BWXT is both internally and externally focused and is accompanied by ongoing training and development to encourage employee growth and leadership potential. This company believes in its employees and has created a bonus program based on its financial and safety performance

 

Young Entrepreneur: Elisia Neves (Fabrik Architects Inc.)

Talent and devotion to the success of the community are two qualities that are synonymous when describing Elisia Neves. Establishing her business in 2017 through design collaboration and with more than 20 years of industry experience, she is the perfect example of how one young professional with an entrepreneurial spirit can make a difference. She has taken the lead on many successful projects throughout Waterloo Region and Ontario, while at the same time acting as a mentor to other young female professionals and giving back to the community. She has also become a leader in Pandemic Responsive Building Design through research and practice and is a shining example for young girls, new immigrants, students, and young business leaders of today and tomorrow to look up to.

 

Marketing Excellence: Red Bicycle Paper Co.

When the first lockdown hit, Red Bicycle Paper Co. implemented a ‘promise to re-print at no cost’ program for clients which stayed in place until the company’s last client was finally able to wed in February of this year. Using Instagram to its fullest potential as well as investing in a new and a very streamlined website using a local web designer, helped Red Bicycle Paper Co. remain in the minds of couples looking to tie the knot. The company also managed to move to a new studio space that reflected a warm and welcoming space for clients to be inspired and feel excited again, promoting it via an email marketing campaign.

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On April 11, 2022, Bill 88 – Ontario’s Working for Workers Act, 2022 – received Royal Assent and became law.  We reviewed this new legislative change with local legal experts, Hina Ghaus and Tushar Anandasagar, of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP.

 

“We discussed the proposed legislation, with a specific focus on workplace electronic monitoring policies, in a previous blog post.  At that stage, the legislation was still in draft form.  For the final version, we wanted to provide the members with an up-to-date overview of what actually applies,” says Tushar.

 

Here are the key takeaways:

 

Employers: “Electronic Monitoring Policy”

 

Bill 88 introduced new provisions into the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”), which require all employers who employ 25 or more employees to have a written policy in place on electronic monitoring of employees.

 

The electronic monitoring policy must include:

  • information on whether the employer electronically monitors employees and if so,
  • a description of how and in what circumstances the employer may electronically monitor employees,
  • the purposes for which information obtained through electronic monitoring may be used by the employer;
  • the date the policy was prepared and the date any changes were made to the policy; as well as
  • any other information as may be prescribed by law in the future.

According to Hina, time is of the essence: “There are 3 key dates to keep in mind for the first year.  Employers who had 25 or more employees on January 1, 2022 must have this policy in place by October 11, 2022, and provide a written copy of the policy to existing employees by November 10, 2022.  In subsequent years, any employer who has 25 or more employees on January 1 of any year, must have a policy in place by March 1 of that year.”

 

“There are more requirements to consider regarding ongoing compliance, including when you will need to deliver a copy of the policy (once finalized) to your staff,” says Tushar.  “Employers must provide a written copy of the policy to all employees by no later than 30 days from the day the employer is required to have the policy in place, or for new employees, within 30 days of their joining date.”

 

There are additional wrinkles to consider for those businesses that utilize temporary help agency employees.  “For “assignment employees” (the ESA term for temporary help agency employees), they need to receive a copy of the policy within 24 hours of the start of the assignment, or within 30 days from the day the employer is required to have the policy in place, whichever is later,” says Hina.

 

During our last overview of the draft Bill 88, there was ongoing debate about this legislation and how it would be enforced.

 

According to Tushar, the “enforcement” mechanisms under the ESA are quite limited:  “Yes – the ESA contains several provisions which allow an employee to file a ‘complaint’ about this policy compliance requirement – but the grounds upon which the complaint can be based are very limited.  For instance, the ESA allows an employee to complain about whether a copy of the policy was provided in a timely manner, or not.”

 

Notably, there is no prohibition under the ESA which prevents an employer from engaging in electronic monitoring of one form or another. In fact, it is explicitly stated in the legislation that these requirements do not affect or limit an employer’s ability to use the information obtained through electronic monitoring of employees.

 

“As expected, there is nothing under Bill 88 which restricts an employer’s ability to monitor, or use the information obtained through monitoring, nor does it create a statutory “right to privacy” for employees,” says Hina. “There is no actual definition of ‘electronic monitoring’ under the legislation, although it is still early, and we could see clarification of this aspect of the law as we get closer to October 11, 2022.”

 

Tushar points out that the standard rules may not affect all employers the same way and pointed to the unique context of unionized workplaces.

 

“The ESA is only part of the picture. For many workplaces – notably unionized settings, a notable caveat applies where the parties to a collective agreement have negotiated language that permits or prohibits certain forms of electronic monitoring (in some cases referred to as a ‘surveillance’ clause),” he says.  “There is an extensive body of unionized case law that deals with the “reasonableness” of employee monitoring / surveillance – and that needs to be balanced with this new policy requirement.  We are actively assisting union sector employers with managing this issue.”

 

Finally, Hina notes that Bill 88 was just passed, and more is likely to be forthcoming from the province as we near October 11.

 

“We don’t have any codes of practice, guidelines or regulations (yet) on this new legislative requirement.  As with the ‘Disconnecting from Work’ policy compliance requirement, we may see the province publishing more on this issue over the coming months,” she says.

 

For the time being, Hina, Tushar and the rest of the team at Gowling WLG continue to diligently sift through the latest legislative changes. For further information, please feel free to contact Tushar at [email protected] and/or Hina at [email protected].

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The collective power of the Chamber movement to assist businesses succeed was front and centre at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s recent AGM and Convention.

 

Approximately 150 delegates, the majority representing Chambers and Board of Trades from across the province, gathered at the Pearson Convention Centre April 28-May 1 in Brampton to network, hear from Ontario political leaders, and debate policy issues to assist them in their advocacy work with government on behalf of businesses.

 

“Ensuring businesses have the legislative backing and supports they need to succeed and prosper plays an important role for all Chambers and Boards of Trade,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, who led a strategy session on delivering Chamber services across a diverse membership base and was joined at the event by in-coming Chamber Board Chair Kristen Danson. “The conference is a great place to share new ideas and connect with other Chamber leaders from around the province.”

 

This was the first in-person AGM the OCC has held since the pandemic and featured appearances by the Ontario leaders of the Liberals (Steven Del Duca), NDP (Andrea Horwath) and Green (Mike Schreiner), as well as the Hon. Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board of Ontario. All four spoke about the strength and importance of the business community and what their parties can do to help our economy.

 

Also, Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty was on hand to offer an update on the Chamber network from a national perspective.

 

“It’s great for the Chamber network to hear from all sides of the political spectrum,” says Greg, noting potential policy resolutions are formulated from a wide range of issues and concerns.

 

This year, 34 resolutions were up for debate on a variety of topics ranging from improving supports to employers, to the creation of a construction strategy for tiny homes.

 

The Cambridge Chamber’s policy calling for the creation of a ‘backstop’ for the implementation of mandated workplace vaccination policies was among 32 that received approval from delegates. The approved policy calls for the Ministry of Labour to include elements within the articles of the Occupational Health & Safety Act to provide protection against discriminatory legal actions aimed at businesses that wish to implement such a policy.

 

“It’s important that businesses have the protections they need in order to operate in the manner which they feel works best for them,” says Greg.

 

The approved policies now become part of the OCC policy ‘playbook’ in its efforts to advocate for change with provincial and federal levels of government.

 

Besides adopting policies, the conference wrapped up with an awards ceremony to recognize the achievements of Chambers and Boards of Trades.

 

The Cambridge Chamber, in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, was presented with the Chair’s Award for Innovative Program or Service to recognize the success of their rapid screening kits program which has been adopted by Chambers provincewide. Since April of 2021, the program has resulted in the distribution of more than one million kits to more than 7,500 businesses throughout Waterloo Region.

 

“This program has made a huge difference to thousands of businesses in our region, and we couldn’t be more pleased,” says Greg.

 

For more information about the kits, visit https://chambercheck.ca.

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