Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

High inflation, interest rates and housing costs continue to drive pessimism in Ontario’s economic outlook, according to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s (OCC) eighth annual Ontario Economic Report (OER)

 

Despite this, many businesses surveyed remain confident in their own outlooks, with 53% expecting to grow in 2024.

 

“In spite of the fact there seems to be a mood of pessimism in the air, the reality of it is there seems to be more bright lights than there are dim lights,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “We’ve had years where business confidence and prospects of being confident are going to be over 60% but given where we are today, I think having around 50% of businesses confident they are going to have a good year and grow is a positive sign.”

 

However, he says that figure doesn’t minimize the economic issues facing businesses, including affordability and also notes the struggle to achieve necessary tax reform measures continues.

 

“We must also ensure there is a balance or equity in tax distribution from not only a cost perspective but also on deployment so when money is being handed out it’s being handed out appropriately,” says Greg.

 

The OER contains regional and sector-specific data on business confidence and growth, public policy priorities, regional forecasts, and timely business issues such as supply chains, employee well-being, diversity, equity and inclusion, economic reconciliation, and climate change.

 

The report, compiled from a survey of businesses provincewide conducted between Oct. 12 and Nov. 21 and received just under 1,900 responses, states that 13% of businesses are confident in Ontario’s economic outlook. That represents a 3% drop from last year and a 29% drop from the year before with the cost of living and inputs, inflation, and housing affordability as the key factors for the confidence decline.

 

The sector showing the most confidence was mining, with the least confidence being shown in the agriculture, non-profit and healthcare social assistance sectors. The most confident regions were Northeastern and Northwestern Ontario, both at 23%, and the least were Kitchener-Waterloo, Windsor-Sarnia, and Stratford-Bruce County. (The survey indicated these latter two regions had a high share of respondents in the non-profit and agriculture sectors compared to other regions).

 

“As the report suggests, businesses still need to grapple with economic headwinds and many of those headwinds are limiting their ability to invest in important issues within the workplace and that may well be part of the reason they are having difficulty hiring people,” says Greg. “That said, entrepreneurs are interesting individuals, and they always will find a way to wiggle themselves through the difficulties of the economy.”

 

He questions whether the pessimism around growth and confidence outlined in the survey is related to the economy or stems more from the fact many businesses are unable to hire the people they require so they can grow their business.

 

“There are lots of companies out there that need people and that’s always a good thing when you’re at a very low unemployment rate now which is hovering around the 5% rate,” says Greg, noting he receives calls and emails daily from local companies seeking workers. “As inflation starts to drop and as the Bank of Canada rates start to drop, I think we’ll see that pessimism go away.”

 

Read the report.

 

Outlook highlights: 

 

  • Small businesses are less confident (12%) than larger businesses (22%) due to challenges with repaying debt, fluctuations in consumer spending, inflationary pressures, and workforce-related challenges such as mental health.
  • Simplifying business taxes is identified as a major policy priority of 50% of surveyed businesses. 
  • Confidence in Ontario’s economic outlook varies considerably across industries and is lowest within the agriculture sector (3%), non-profit (8%), health care and social assistance (8%), and retail (10%) sectors. 
  • Confidence is highest in the province’s mining (46%) and utilities (27%) industries, both of which benefited from strong growth and investments in the province’s electrification infrastructure and electric vehicle supply chains. 
  • Businesses in Northeast and Northwest Ontario exhibit the highest confidence at 23%, where the mining industry is a major employer.
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While economic and technological shocks will always be a constant feature of our world, experts say small businesses must continue to adapt and innovate to stay competitive and satisfy consumer preferences.

 

“The adoption of technology should be the priority for small businesses and the adoption of AI where it can help bolster their business should also be a priority,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, noting 98% of Canadian businesses qualify as small businesses.

 

In its recent report entitled, A Portrait of Small Business in Canada: Adaption, Agility, All At Once, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce touches on this issue as it explores the integral role small businesses  in play in Canada’s economy and sheds light on how these businesses can thrive despite major economic forces working against them — including the rising cost of doing business, the highest borrowing costs in over two decades and increased pandemic debt loads.

 

The report, which defines ‘micro businesses’ as having 1-4 employees, ‘scale businesses’ as 5-19 employees, and ‘mature businesses’ as 19-99 employees, shows how small businesses of all sizes, ages and industries are already investing in technology to better access data and applications from their computers, tablets, or mobile phones — whether in the office or on the road — to connect better with their customers and employees. However, as the report indicates, a business’s size is important to its ability to not only adopt technology, but also take advantage of a variety of technology tools. The report finds that even more change is essential.

 

Greg agrees and says the need for smaller businesses to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) is especially imperative.

 

“In all probability, smaller businesses are less likely to adopt AI technology because they may be fearful of it,” he says. “But the fact of the matter is it may be the only tool that can bring them up and allow them to compete.”

 

AI and digital technologies

 

According to the report, across all industries, a higher proportion of small businesses planned to invest in AI and digital technologies. While 62% of micro firms (compared with an average of 55% for all small firms) expressed plans for the latter, 30% of mature firms were keen on investing in AI compared with the all-industry average of 24% for all small businesses. Scale and mature businesses were more likely to adopt multiple technology tools, especially those in finance and insurance, professional services, and wholesale trade.

 

“If they (small businesses) don’t get knee deep in AI from a business perspective, they may be missing the boat that was inevitably sent to save them,” says Greg.

 

The report also highlights trends to help small businesses adapt to how Canadian shoppers have evolved. While online shopping accelerated as a result of the pandemic, roughly 75% of Canadian shoppers still visit physical stores for key items like groceries, clothing, automotive, electronics, home and garden, and health products. To meet consumer preferences, businesses need to implement on and offline sales strategies to reach customers.

 

In the report, the critical importance of having an enticing online commercial presence is highlighted, with 83% of Canadian retail shoppers reporting they conduct online research before they visit a store. Having physical stores near customers also supports online sales, with nearly one in 10 Canadians making purchases online from retailers located nearby.

 

“There is still an opportunity for small businesses to capitalize on local business by advertising and marketing themselves locally,” says Greg. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strong online presence and look for every opportunity in which AI can help advance your cause.”

 

Canadian Chamber President & CEO Perrin Beatty says the findings in this report provides yet another signal that more focus is needed to support growth, especially among small businesses.

 

“We can start by reducing red tape, investing in infrastructure, and enabling an innovation economy,” he said in a press release. “These fundamentals of growth will increase Canadian businesses’ ability to compete and attract investment that will benefit Canadians, their families, and our communities.”

 

Click here to read the report.

 

 

Highlights of the report:

 

  • In June 2023, there were 1.35 million businesses in Canada with paid employees. The over- whelming majority (98% of the total) were conventionally classified as “small” businesses, which collectively employed over 11 million people.
  • In the “small business” category, micro firms are by far the most common businesses type in Canada. In fact, if all businesses in Canada were sorted by employment size, the median firm would have fewer than five employees, which underscores the importance of improving our understanding of the business realities of all small firms, but especially micro firms.
  • Nearly half of all small businesses are in the following four industries: professional, scientific, and technical services; construction; retail trade; and health care and social assistance.
  • Immigrants to Canada own a disproportionate share of private sector businesses (263,850 businesses, or 25.5% of all private sector businesses) compared with their share of population (23%). One strong factor is immigrants’ high share of micro businesses (30%), in contrasts with their underrepresentation in both scale and mature enterprises.
  • The past few years have offered women more flexible work arrangements, encouraging them to find more in-demand and higher-paying jobs, while government efforts to increase the availability of affordable childcare have helped women’s labour force participation to rebound. With the transition back to the office, barriers that perpetuate gender-based differences in labour force participation threaten this progress.
  • An underrepresented group in terms of business ownership (2.2%) compared with their share of the population (22%) is persons with a disability. Given the prevalence of disability, this gap signals tremendous untapped potential for entrepreneurship, but also one with significant potential effects on socio-economic outcomes, including labour market participation.
  • The LGBTQ2+ population (4% of Canada’s total population according to the 2021 Census) is also somewhat underrepresented as business owners (3.3%), lagging most as owners of mature businesses (0.6%).
  • Although they are 5% of the country’s population, Indigenous people’s share of businesses owned remains less than half of that (2.2%), although they appear to be doing better on ownership of mature businesses, the largest type of small business.
  • The most recent data (June 2023) show that, compared with pre-pandemic conditions in December 2019, the number of businesses increased by 7.3% for large firms, 5.0% for medium firms and only 2.9% for small firms.
  • Retail sales data show that e-commerce enjoyed a massive spike early in the pandemic but have since moderated as Canadians go back to in-person shopping. The share of total retail sales from e-commerce increased rapidly from 3.7% in January 2020 to peak of 10.7% just four months later in April 2020. With the lifting of pandemic related restrictions and stores have reopened for in-person shoppers, this figure has since moderated to 5.7%.
  • In addition to age, variation by industry showed a strong trend in technology adoption. Overall, average adoption shares across all industries and all technology tools were lowest for micro firms (12%), followed by scale (16%) and then mature firms (22%). Small businesses — particularly scale and mature — in finance and insurance, information and culture, professional services and wholesale trade were consistently among those reporting the highest technology adoption rates.
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In the fast-paced world of business, the success of any organization hinges on the quality of its workforce. Hiring mistakes can be both expensive and detrimental to a company's growth and stability, especially in this changing job market which is now seeing an influx of potential candidates in certain fields.

 

“I really do feel that the market over the last year has softened,” says Lisa Marino, Senior Recruitment Specialist with H2R Business Solutions, noting there are always a handful of roles that are specialized resulting in fewer available candidates.

 

Her colleague Sue Benoit, Head of Recruitment Services at H2R Business Solutions, agrees.

 

“On the trades side there still is a labour shortage, especially since those types of roles are really hard to fill,” she says. “But if you have an accounting or bookkeeping role to fill there’s 100 plus applicants.”

 

As a result, finding the right person to fill those types of positions means putting systems in place that can help you avoid potential pitfalls, such as taking too long to decide on a potential hire which is a common mistake many employers make, says Sue.

 

“If they’re taking too long in the decision or interview process, they can lose that great candidate who might have been hard to find in the first place,” she says. “Then it it’s a matter of having to start over a lot of the time because employers are not going to just settle, necessarily.” 

 

As well doing their due diligence regarding reference checking, her colleague suggests making a select group of others in the company part of the hiring process.

 

“Bring in one or two other people from the company into the process rather than letting the hiring manager do it all because somebody from another department may be instrumental helping you gain a different perspective of the candidate,” says Lisa, adding incorporating some of type of skills testing during that process, depending on the level of the role, can also be helpful. “It can give some insight of how a candidate thinks.”

 

She also says once a candidate has been hired, an employer should be diligent when it comes to monitoring the performance of that person during their 90-day probationary period and watch for potential ‘flags’. These can include absences, struggling to meet deadlines, or an overall disconnect with their new workplace or colleagues.

 

“Hopefully, the recruiter is good enough to catch some of those flags in our pre-screen conversations,” says Sue. “How interested are they in the organization? Have they done any research? Employers really want someone who is truly interested in what they’re doing.”

 

 

Tips for avoiding hiring mistakes

 

Define Clear Job Requirements

Before posting a job opening, employers should thoroughly analyze and document the skills, qualifications, and experience necessary for the role. This not only ensures that candidates are well-informed but also assists in filtering applicants more effectively.

 

Create a Comprehensive Recruitment Strategy

Develop a well-thought-out recruitment strategy that includes a timeline, sourcing channels, and a structured interview process. By outlining the steps from job posting to offer, employers can maintain control and consistency throughout the hiring journey.

 

Leverage Technology

The use of technology can significantly streamline the hiring process, from applicant tracking systems (ATS) to video interviews. These tools help in organizing candidate information, assessing qualifications, and conducting efficient interviews. 

 

Thoroughly Assess Cultural Fit

A candidate might have an impressive resume, but if they don't align with the company culture, it can lead to a discordant team dynamic. Incorporate questions and assessments during interviews that delve into a candidate's values, work style, and how well they would integrate into the existing team.

 

Conduct Behavioural Interviews

Conducting behavioral interviews allows employers to gain insights into how candidates handled situations in their previous roles. This approach provides a more realistic preview of a candidate's capabilities.

 

Check References Thoroughly

Reach out to previous employers, colleagues, and supervisors to gain a comprehensive understanding of the candidate's work ethic, reliability, and interpersonal skills. A candidate's performance history can reveal valuable information that might not be apparent during interviews.

 

Utilize Probationary Periods

Implementing probationary periods for new hires allows both the employer and the employee to assess the fit within the organization. This trial period provides an opportunity to evaluate job performance, integration into the team, and adherence to company values before making a long-term commitment.

 

Invest in Continuous Training for Hiring Managers

If possible, equip hiring managers with the skills necessary to conduct effective interviews, assess candidates accurately, and make informed decisions. Continuous training on fair hiring practices, diversity, and inclusion can help mitigate biases and enhance the overall quality of hiring decisions.

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The one constant thing business owners can count on is change, something the last three years have clearly shown.

 

But as business leaders continue to navigate in a changing economy shaped in the aftermath of the pandemic, many have not taken a moment to appreciate how resilient they’ve become.

 

“A lot of people haven’t been able to validate how many changes they’ve had to make doing business, and the transitioning and pivoting,” says Tracy Valko, award-winning mortgage broker and owner of Valko Financial Ltd. “They haven’t been able to look at their business, their goals and what they value in life and take the time to realize how resilient they’ve been.”

 

Tracy says in particularly, women business leaders are less likely to appreciate themselves and what’ve they been through and hopes to help rectify that by leading an informative and interactive workshop at our Women Leadership Collective Breakfast Series: Resilient Mindset later this month at Langdon Hall.

 

“I still see so many women spending time second guessing their skill sets,” she says, noting men seem to have more resiliency and forgiveness for themselves when it comes to pivoting in business. “Women spend more time judging themselves, thinking ‘maybe I shouldn’t speak up because someone’s going to say something’. I think in this world, especially now, women have to stand their ground and come together to support each other.”

 

At our Women Leadership Collective event Tracy will provide strategies for women to become more resilient by offering them a look inside what she refers to as her ‘resilient toolbox’ and share personal stories of what she has gone through creating a successful business over the course of the last 25 years. Besides being named one of Canada’s top individual brokers, she is also a published author and motivational speaker.

 

“I will provide a lot of different affirmations of ways to look at resiliency,” says Tracy, referring to her presentation. “A lot of people just don’t take the time to appreciate how far they’ve come and be able to pivot very quickly in an ever-changing world.”

 

Click here to learn more, or to register for our Women Leadership Collective Breakfast Series: Resilient Mindset which takes places Wednesday, Nov. 29 from 9-11 a.m. at Langdon Hall.

 

Tips about a resilient mindset

 

Embracing Change and Uncertainty

A resilient mindset begins with the willingness to embrace change and uncertainty. 

 

Learning from Failure

Failure is a common part of life, and a resilient mindset allows us to see failure as a valuable teacher. 

 

Cultivating a Positive Mindset

Resilient people focus on the positive aspects of a situation and avoid dwelling on the negative. 

 

Building Strong Social Connections

Resilience is not a solitary endeavor. Building and maintaining strong social connections is a crucial aspect of a resilient mindset. 

 

Setting Realistic Goals

While having big dreams is important, setting smaller, attainable milestones helps build confidence and motivation. 

 

Practicing Self-Care

Resilient individuals recognize the importance of taking care of their physical and mental well-being. 

 

Adaptability

Those with resilience are not rigid in their thinking and are open to new ideas and solutions. They can adjust their plans as circumstances change and are willing to try different approaches to achieve their goals.

 

Developing Problem-Solving Skills

Resilient individuals are excellent problem solvers. They break down complex issues into manageable steps and work through them systematically. 

 

Seeking Support and Seeking Help -

Resilient individuals are not afraid to seek support and help when they need it. 

 

Maintaining Perspective

In the face of adversity, resilient individuals remind themselves of the bigger picture. They recognize that the current challenge is just a chapter in their life's story and that it will pass, making way for new opportunities and growth.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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In the opening chapter of The E-Myth Revisited, a nearly 30-year-old book that is still relevant today, author Michael E. Gerber describes “The Entrepreneurial Seizure” or that moment when you decide to go into business for yourself.

 

Once the idea of entrepreneurship enters your mind it is life changing. Your imagination explodes with dreams of independence and success that will flow from turning your technical skills or passions into a be-your-own-boss enterprise. “Do what you love,” they say, “and you will never work another day in your life.”

 

This leads to what Gerber calls “The Fatal Assumption” which is that if you are good at the technical work of a business or are passionate about the work you will offer to the marketplace, then it follows that you will understand the business of delivering your goods or services to your customers. In the early days of your business this assumption can appear to be true. 

 

You launch your business filled with entrepreneurial energy, find customers, provide your products or services, build your reputation, and get more customers.

 

The growth cycle continues. Everyone is happy until one day you discover that your success is crushing you and the fatal assumption is revealed: That the technical skills you have are just one small part a of a complex set of business skills that you need to ensure your success.

 

For you to succeed as an entrepreneur you need the following four foundational elements:

 

  • A good product or service that customers want;
  • The ability to sell and deliver your products or services to your customers with quality and timeliness;
  • The ability to follow your money, understand cashflow, receivables, payables, and taxes and to take action to keep it all in order;
  • The ability to manage and strengthen interpersonal relationship with customers, employees, suppliers, etc.

 

Usually, a business starts with your product or service idea that has market demand or perceived market potential and perhaps you have competency in one of the other three foundational elements. 

 

But no one is proficient in all four so entrepreneurial energy and grit to succeed will only take you so far. Then the weaknesses in your business structure and practices reveal themselves as your business grows and your entrepreneurial dream begins to crack. It happens to all businesses.

 

When your business grows to the point where your success is crushing you, you must make a choice to either:

 

  1. Limit your business size to one you can handle on your own or;
  2. Change your business structure by hiring talent to shore up your weaknesses to enable continued growth.

 

Both options are valid. If you want to be a self-employed technician, where you are in control of your job then option 1 is for you but if your entrepreneurial goals include growth beyond your personal time and talent limitations you must choose option 2.

 

Option 2 requires the strategic hiring of people with talents that you do not have that will enable you to delegate and entrust parts of your business operations to them.

 

This may be accounting, sales, HR, communications and/or production personnel and managers.  Some of these services may be contracted out and some are better achieved if hired into your company. 

 

These are important strategic decisions that will enable you to grow beyond your previous limitations.  As you delegate to competent people your job changes to a true company president.

 

When you have good people in the right places in your business you can look up from your day-to-day operations and look out into the marketplace for new opportunities. Sales grow, production increases, cash flows better, and employees, customers, and vendors are satisfied.

 

This sounds easy, but giving up control of parts of your business to other people is a challenging and necessary growth step for small business entrepreneurs.  You may want to enlist a business coach who can also help you stick to your growth plan when it gets hard, as it always does.

 

Remember, at this stage of your business growth what you really need is good people with leadership skills and business management talents that are different and complimentary to yours so that you can set yourself and your business up for success in the next phase of your entrepreneurial journey.

 

 

Submitted by Murray Smith, President of Blue Cancoe Consulting

 

 

 

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The business landscape is complex and changing, especially today.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

How can mentors help

 

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

 

Source: LinkedIn

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Excitement is building for Business Expo 2023.

 

This popular trade show, which hasn’t been held since 2019, returns to Bingemans on May 10 and will feature more than 200 exhibitors and at least 1,500 attendees from throughout Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Guelph.

 

“This has always been a great opportunity for local businesses to not only showcase what they do but meet and network with other business leaders,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “It also will provide job hunters, entrepreneurs and businesses the chance to make professional connections.”

 

Business Expo 2023, co-sponsored by the Cambridge, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Guelph Chambers of Commerce, is free for the public to attend and will also feature many local food and beverage vendors. It runs from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., providing ample time to check out the displays.

 

“All three Chambers are pleased to have the chance once again to be able to work together on this event which gives attendees the opportunity to really learn about some of the great local businesses we have,” says Greg.

 

For businesses taking part in the trade show, he says the quality of their displays can make or break the experience for them.

 

“Exhibitors new to trade shows tend to focus on the flashy; they want to create displays that will draw crowds,” he says. “But that’s not the point. It’s not the number of people your display draws that matters; it’s whether or not your exhibit engages them when they’re there.”

 

To maximize your networking at Business Expo 2023, here are a few tips:

 

  • Neatness and visibility - Keep your display neatly organized and clearly mark all your prices.
  • Build Demand - Spark customers’ interest by placing a sold sign on a few items, or by leaving a display spot empty.
  • Be Interactive - Contests, prizes, demonstrations, games, and quizzes will generate interest in your display.
  • Offer Takeaways - Provide visitors with a small item they can take home with them.
  • Clear Signage - Ensure basic information and prices are clearly visible for visitors.
  • Literature - Stock up on brochures and fliers, as well as price sheets and business cards.
  • Be Business Ready - Make sure you have pens and order forms ready to process potential sales.
  • Engage With Visitors - A friendly welcome and the proper body language can go a long way.
  • Always Be Open - Ensure your booth is never left empty.
  • Follow Up Promptly - The faster you send out emails or make a call the better it is for your business.

 

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A tidal wave of business ownership change is coming, and many business owners should be preparing now, urges Carson O’Neill, Managing Principal of Rincroft Inc., a Waterloo Region-based company which facilitates the sale of small and medium-sized businesses.

 

His firm has completed the sale of more than 50 family-owned businesses, many of them in Waterloo Region.

 

Carson most recently penned a book for business owners entitled The Road to Enterprise Value.

 

He confirms that most owners of Canada’s 1.2 million SMEs are now in their 50s and 60s and looking to sell their businesses over the next five years to fund their retirement.

 

“The owners are capable in running the operation. They’re down to earth, salt of the earth people and smart,” says Carson. “But most have never been down this path before. For many of them, it’s unchartered water with a lot of money on the table.”

 

Carson adds that the process is complicated and can last six to nine months.

 

“There are many issues above and beyond agreement on purchase price. Who’s going to pick up the employees? What about the future of the manufacturing facility? What about the leases? What about the intellectual property? It can be complex and multi-dimensional.”

 

As entrepreneurs, he says business owners often are often inclined do everything themselves which runs the risk of them receiving much less than what their business is worth, in turn resulting in a less comfortable ‘nest egg’ for retirement.

 

“The buyers are typically aggressive and want to get the price down,” says Carson. “They’re professional buyers, many of whom who’ve bought many businesses before, so they want to work with a business owner who unfamiliar with the process.”

 

 

To better understand the process of selling a business and some of the factors that drive business owners to sell, we discussed several questions:

 

Q. What would you recommend be the first steps a business owner should take when it comes to selling?

 

Carson: Delay if you possibly can and get the business in good shape. The business owner should step back, assess the state of the operation, and take steps to strengthen it any way possible. They should not be in a hurry to go to market; our company sometimes takes months working with owners to build the business up before the divestiture process even begins. The best defense is a good offense. Don’t go into this defensively, thinking ‘oh, we have to retire now’. You need to make sure the business is fundamentally strong to secure top dollar.

 

Q. What are some of the misconceptions a business owner may have when it comes to the process of selling?

 

Carson: Having never been through the process before, many owners think selling a business is like selling a house. The process is far more complicated and takes much longer. The valuation is far more complex, the information package is far more extensive and there are multiple conditions which need to be met before the funds are wired. Is there inherent value in the business? Does the business have unique capabilities so it can be sold? Where is the ‘secret sauce’?

 

Q. Other than impending retirement, what are some other reasons a business owner may decide to sell?

 

Carson: There are usually three other reasons: health problems with one of the owners; shareholders issues with at least one shareholder in need of cash; or the business has plateaued and is going south and that is never a good time to sell a business. Other reasons can include major players are entering the market with vast resources to spend to build market share and the owners are justifiably concerned they will have difficulty competing. They may not yet have reached retirement age, but they are concerned that the value of the business may well go down in the years ahead, so they are better off to sell now.

There is also the possibility of a pre-emptive offer. It is not uncommon for a buyer to approach an owner to buy even if the business is not being sold. This happens with very strong businesses. Sometimes millions are put forth, well over the assessed value. Owners may not have ‘planned’ to sell but many will seriously consider if the price is right.

Finally, the next generation has made it clear they have no interest in the family business. The owners may be in their late-40s with the second generation in their early-20s but that serves as a valuable wake-up call that it is inevitable the business will change ownership. With the emergence of the digital economy, at an early age, many in the next generation have absolutely no interest in ever taking ownership of the established family business.

 

Q. How has the pandemic affected the sale of businesses?

 

Carson: Not really. In the early months of the virus there was a period of adjustment, but people realized there was very little need to meet to complete the transaction. Our business did not miss a beat; actually, it got stronger. The change in ownership in Canada will continue relatively unaffected by the ebb and flow of the economy.

The reality is many owners have too much money locked in their business – they usually need it for a comfortable retirement. That has remained the primary reason why they sell, whether the pandemic is here or not. Canadian business owners are getting older. You can’t stop ‘Father Time’.

 

Q. How has the process of selling a business changed?

 

Carson: It is now more complicated due, in part because due diligence has become much more rigorous. We live in an age of increasing importance of transparency and full disclosure. No stone will be left unturned. Buyers will look at everything.

Did someone slip on the ice outside your business? What insecticides do you use on the grass and plants? Do you have an alleged harassment situation happening? If one is pending, it must be dealt with because the buyer doesn’t want any liabilities and will walk away. Due diligence and purchase agreements alone can now take three months.

 

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Business is built on relationships and networking is a key tool to make that happen.

 

But walking into a room filled with strangers can be very a daunting task, says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.

 

“The whole trick to networking is understanding what you’re doing,” he says. “You’re not there to make a sale. You’re there to start building relationships because people prefer to do business with others they know, like and trust.”

 

The Chamber Social, held monthly at a various Members’ businesses, is a great place to build those relationships providing the commitment is there to attend often.

“It’s very much like learning to swim. You don’t learn just by jumping in the pool; you have to continually jump in, and it can be scary,” says Greg. “But the more you do it the more comfortable you become.”

 

He says by approaching a networking event as way to discover how you can help others can lead to success.

 

“It might just be offering a recommendation to help them solve a problem and that in itself is doing business. It’s not about being the salesperson, because you’re not selling a product or service, it’s about selling yourself and building a relationship to the point where people will start wanting to do business with you.”

 

To assist, Greg recommends attending networking events using a tag team approach.

“Tag teams are really important, especially for people who feel a little bit nervous if they’re attending an event where they don’t know many people.”

 

He says having a comfortable backup will not only give them someone to chat with, but also makes it easier to circulate at an event.

 

As well, Greg says having a good supply of business cards on hand – in pockets and the car - is vital.

 

“Having a business card is the authorization you’re giving people to collect the data that’s important to make contact with you,” he says, noting digital cards which utilize a QR code are also good to have. “The only problem with a digital business card is that people have to remember who it was they were speaking with and if they forget your name, it may take time to search it out.”

 

But when it comes to networking, Greg says ‘repeat, repeat and repeat’ is a must in terms of attendance to build a strong foundation of trust.

 

“You want to be that one person in the room that virtually everybody knows,” he says. “When you become the person they know, like and trust, that’s going to be your new salesforce because they are the ones who will be referring you and recommending you to others which makes good business sense.”

 

Put your networking skills to the test at our next Chamber Social which is at Staples, The Business Depot on Monday, Feb. 13 from 5-6:30 p.m

 

 

Networking tips:

  • Introduce yourself by name and give them your card.
  • Make your card memorable, but easy to read.
  • Tag-teammates introduce you to people you don’t know but they do, and they get their network working for you too.
  • Tag-teammates help one another and keep an eye out. If one is trapped in a conversation or left high and dry, the other can come to their aid.
  • Tag-teammates can sing your praises much better than you can. It’s hard for you to launch into a story about yourself.
  • Use your teammates name in conversation, this ensures everyone remembers their name.
  • If your teammate doesn’t introduce someone to you, use ‘step forward rescue’ and stick out your hand and introduce yourself.
  • When you enter a room of strangers, stop, and take your time, look around for the best opportunities, friendly groups, wallflowers and or acquaintances.
  • Front of the room is the place to meet people or start a group.
  • Approach networking by thinking about what you can do for someone else.
  • Establish eye contact, extend a dry, warm hand, exchange cards, engage in conversation (weather, game)
  • Great networkers work on building relationships and are known for being there.
  • Keep track of events, and the number of contacts you make.  Set goals of events and contacts.
  • Just being there isn’t enough, remember, you to need to exchange info. Be entertaining and informative.
  • To be a good networker, you need be someone who’s good at following up.
  • You need to learn something about people before you can discover what you can do for them. Ask questions, check their website, and talk with others.

 

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