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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The past few years have been turbulent ones for local businesses.

 

But amidst the stress and uncertainties due to economic and labour challenges, many have managed to flourish thanks to the fortitude of their owners and operators.

 

This is why the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is encouraging business leaders to celebrate themselves at our annual Business Excellence Awards.

 

“It’s important – especially now - that we recognize and celebrate the achievements taking place in our business community and the people who’ve made them happen,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “These awards provide the ideal chance to show our appreciation to local businesses for all they do to make our community even better.”

 

The Business Excellence Awards is the Chamber’s premier event and has honoured the contributions and achievements of business leaders in the City of Cambridge and Township of North Dumfries since 2000, and features 11 award categories, eight of whom require nominations.

 

These include Outstanding Workplace, Business of the Year, and New Business Venture of the Year which is aimed at both new and existing businesses.

 

“Maybe it’s a business that has created a whole new line of products?” says Greg. “Or maybe it's a business that has become very innovative in the way they operate due to staff changes or shortages?”

 

Also, he says there may be businesses out there that have successfully enhanced their workplace culture, even remotely.

 

As well, Greg says there are businesses that should be recognized because they have found ways to help the community, even during this tough time.

 

“There are many companies who’ve been very generous with their profits and have helped others,” he says, encouraging businesses to nominate themselves. “There may be others who are not aware of what your business has accomplished. Now is the time to share your story.”

 

The awards will be held May 18 at Tapestry Hall. Nominations close Feb. 24.

 

Click here to make your nominations.  

 

 

Award Categories and Criteria:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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The living wage in Waterloo Region has increased to $19.95 an hour, according to the latest report from the Ontario Living Wage Network, which represents an increase of $2.75 from 2021.

 

But what impact this hike has on businesses that are certified living wage employers, or those considering a certification, continues to be weighed.

 

“It depends on the nature of the business,” says Jason Dean, Assistant Professor of Economics at King’s University College at Western, who also teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University, and notes that maximizing profits is the key focus of any business. “Any economist would tell you that profit is good in the sense it ensures as a society that our scarce resources are used efficiently, so without profit, we would not have that.”

 

However, Jason says increasing wages can be done in a way that it can boost the bottom line of a business.

 

“In principle, if you do it right, it can be a benefit to business,” he says.

 

Sabrina McGregor, Branch Manager, YNCU in Cambridge, agrees.

 

“By providing a living a wage, we’re helping reduce stress as many have struggled with increased costs,” she says. “Our employees are very important to us; we want to make sure they have the tools to thrive inside and outside of work.”

 

YNCU is one of about a dozen businesses in Cambridge that are certified with the Ontario Living Wage Network, which charges annually between $100 to $1,000 depending on the size of the private sector business. (Lower rates apply for public sector businesses and non-profits).

 

“We want all of our workers to feel empowered by their employer so they can flourish in our communities,” says Sabrina, noting taking this step helps improve health and morale within the workplace.

 

Stephanie Soulis, founder, and CEO of Little Mushroom Catering, which has provided a living wage to employees since 2017, says it’s something that has always fit nicely within her business plan.

 

“When we started out, we knew we wanted to be a socially responsible business in that paying a living wage makes sense. It fits our culture,” she says, adding she does understand why businesses with many part time workers would find it hard to justify an hourly rate of $19.95. “But I’m also one of those businesses. I have a lot of 18-year-olds who work for me and are living at home with their parents, and they still need to pay car insurance and try to save up money so they can move out.”

 

Sabrina says the minimum wage is not a living wage and providing one can help companies save on things like vacant positions, training, and recruitment.

 

“It should be helping with things like retention and talent attraction. We’d like to think it does but there is definitely a labour war going on,” says Stephanie, noting more restaurants and event companies are now paying higher wages. “In the last four or five months we’ve noticed a big shift. But even with the minimum wage being $15.50 and living wage now $19.95, there’s still that middle ground where other restaurants and event companies are going to pay a bit more than minimum wage – say around $17 – so we still have a bit of that leading edge advantage.”

 

As well as attracting more talent, she says being part of a growing network of businesses has resulted in her company being sought ought by others, both in and outside of the network.

 

“We have many companies, especially non-profits, who want to work with us because we are a living wage employer. It’s not just for talent attraction, but client attraction as well,” she says, adding that education is key before any business decides to become a certified living wage employer. “It’s about weighing the pros and the cons.”

 

 

Breaking it down

 

What is a living wage?

 

“There is no universal definition. It is essentially a poverty line with specific characteristics,” says Jason. “Generally, a living wage is the hourly wage that reflects what people would need to earn to cover the actual costs of living in their particular area. A popular definition: A living wage is a socially acceptable level of income that provides adequate coverage for necessities such as food, shelter, child services, and healthcare. The living wage standard allows for no more than 30% to be spent on rent or a mortgage and is sufficiently higher than the poverty level.”

 

Why are businesses hesitant about offering a living wage?

 

“Businesses exist solely to make profit. Which can be a good thing as this is good for society as a whole because it ensures our scarce resources (labour, land, natural resources etc.) are used efficiently which is translates into a higher standard of living,” says Jason. “Many business owners do not believe their goal is to alleviate poverty and would suggest that this is the role of the government. Moreover, most businesses that pay a non-living wage (such as the minimum wage) have narrow margins and probably would not be able to pay a living wage even if they wanted to.”

 

Can increasing the minimum wage to a living wage help alleviate poverty?

 

“Likely not,” says Jason. “It is also important to point out the following statistics from a Fraser Institute Study: 8.8% of all workers earn the minimum wage; 92.3% of minimum wage earners live in households that are above the LICO (Low Income Cutoff); most minimum wage workers are not primary breadwinners: and 53% of all minimum wage workers are between the ages of 15 and 24.”

 

What advice can you offer businesses who are considering about taking this step?

 

“It can be profitable to pay higher wages in an effort to boost productivity and reduce turnover,” says Jason. “Efficiency wages: refer to employers paying higher than the minimum wage to retain skilled workers, increase productivity, or ensure loyalty.”

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The office holiday party is making a big return.

 

According to RSVPify – an online RSVP and event management platform – pent-up demand following two and half-years of pandemic protocols, plus current staffing retention challenges facing many businesses, has many employers looking for ways to reward staff and perhaps create a more cohesive workplace environment.

 

But finding just the right solution to host an office holiday gathering can often be difficult for those in smaller workplaces.

 

“They basically have very few choices and often go to a restaurant for dinner. But if they want to have a little bit more, something with dancing and entertainment, it can be very difficult for companies with 10 or 30 people to do that,” says Spiro Dracopoulos, Business Development Manager, Bingemans in Kitchener.

 

As a viable and fun alternative, Bingemans is once again offering its Holiday Gala this year on Dec. 16 to provide smaller companies with an option to enjoy an evening out together.

 

“We just want to give smaller business the chance to come out and have a special night,” says Spiro, describing the event which features great food and dancing, plus the chance to meet people from other businesses.

 

“They (companies) feel it’s great value,” he says, referring to the gala which prior to the pandemic attracted anywhere between 400 to 500 people. This year Spiro expects about 250 will attend. “We will build it back up again and I hope in a year or two we’ll be back up to where we were before COVID-19.”

 

In Cambridge, Tapestry Hall is also playing host to smaller businesses with its Making Spirits Bright event, also on Dec. 16, featuring seasonal musical treats and Big Band sounds by the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and their special guest the Bob De Angelis Trio. The event, sponsored by the Souder Family, will also feature not only a wide selection of music, but a four-course meal and dancing.

 

Jillian Monaghan, communications manager for the CSO, says this kind of community collaboration fits in nicely with the organization’s mission.

 

“Our mission really is connecting the community through the power of music,” she says, explaining how the CSO – founded in 2002 – works with many community partners to create sponsorships that bring even more culture to Cambridge.

 

Jillian sees Making Spirits Bright as a wonderful opportunity to showcase the Gaslight District and downtown, noting how much has changed in the last 20 years in terms of new businesses and the arrival of the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture.

“A lot of things have been going into the downtown core and it’s really a pretty exciting place right now,” she says.

 

 

Making Spirts Bright

 

The event, which has a ‘Great Gatsby’ party theme, kicks off when the doors open at 6 p.m. and features an incredible four-course meal, themed out with bougie favourites of the 1920s.

 

“Big Band was definitely part of the dancing revolution in the Roaring Twenties,” says Jillian. “And the featured band the Bob De Angelis Trio is quiet well known and offers really fun music.”

 

She says members of the CSO, which can number between 35 to 45 professional musicians depending on the performance, will perform four sets throughout the evening.

 

“We’re encouraging our musicians to stick around afterwards so people can meet them,” says Jillian, adding this performance is a bit different than the CSO’s usual concerts which this year includes an event called East Coast – Holiday Treats and More, on Dec. 10.

 

She says tickets for that concert start at around $10 which makes it more ‘family friendly’ in terms of price point.

 

“The Tapestry Hall event is a little bit different because a high-end dinner is included,” says Jillian.

 

To learn more, visit Cambridge Symphony Orchestra.

 

 

Holiday Gala

 

The Holiday Gala at Bingemans will feature a buffet consisting of three entrees, a DJ spinning dance tunes, door prizes and bottles of wine can be purchased, as well as drink tickets.

 

“We have a fabulous buffet dinner,” says Spiro, noting that planning began in September.

 

The event begins with cocktails at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. A late-night snack rounds out the evening. “There’s definitely going to be lots of food. No one will go away hungry,” he jokes.  To learn more, visit Bingemans.

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Since the late 2000s, Black Friday has become a retail staple in Canada surpassing the traditional Boxing Day sales as the most popular annual sale in this country.

 

Initially, the term ‘Black Friday’ can be traced back to 1869 when two Wall Street financiers attempted to purchase all of America’s gold to pump up its value. Their play for the gold failed, however, the term stuck and eventually more than 100 years later became associated with sales when retailers began noting they were ‘in the black’ as soon as Christmas shopping started.

 

“It has become another one of those consumer ritual occasions and from a buyer/retailer perspective it is now a key point on the calendar we all start to strategize for leading up to and following,” says Brad Davis, Associate Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, who specializes in consumer behaviour and trends.

 

However, despite the ‘ritual’ aspect of shopping on Black Friday (Nov. 25) and Cyber Monday (Nov. 28), experts expect sales this year won’t be as brisk as in years past.

 

“Most of the signs indicate kind of a suppression of general sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” says Brad, adding sales in 2021 were down by about 7% compared to the previous year. “I think last year we had this post pandemic burst of saved money and a desire by consumers to let loose. But it’s sort of settling back now into more normalcy because people have got it out of their systems.”

 

Factor in supply chain issues and the cost of inflation affecting consumers’ decisions, and Brad says the outcome could hold some surprises.

 

“There’s a lot of interesting question marks about consumers’ mood and are they going to be naturally a little more reticent to do impulse purchases because of inflation, rising prices and just general worry,” he says. “However, the flipside of that is anything that states: ‘regular retail on sale’ and consumers respond to it. They may be more susceptible to respond to that kind of pitch because they are worried about rising prices and think this is an opportunity to get stuff ‘at a deal’.”

 

Brick-and-mortar stores versus online shopping

 

“We saw online sales trending up before the pandemic and I’ve always said the pandemic and the response to it didn’t change anything, it just dramatically sped up existing trends,” says Brad, noting how much more ‘comfortable’ people are with ordering online for many items.

 

Not surprisingly in 2020 when things were locked down, Black Friday sales grew by 31% compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels. And even with stores being reopened in 2021, Black Friday and Cyber Monday ecommerce sales still rose by 11.9% the whole month of November.

 

“Cyber Monday was actually starting to encroach, if not beat, Black Friday anyway before the pandemic in terms of popularity,” says Brad, adding the concepts of ‘Black Friday Month’ or ‘Cyber Monday Week’ have become more of reality now that larger retailers like Amazon and Target have implemented earlier sales.

 

However, when it comes to in-person shopping he says the tactile experience of going into a store remains a social exercise many consumers will continue to crave.

“We are still, by nature, two million old hunters and gatherers. We just do it in malls now,” jokes Brad. “I think we’re always going to have the need for physical retail.”

 

 

Supply chain and demand

 

Fear of shipping delays last year prompted many consumers to start their holiday shopping earlier on, and experts believe that has continued this year fueled by soaring gas prices plus global shipping complications.

 

Anecdotally, Brad says he’s heard that some categories of electronics are now very difficult for retailers to have in their inventory in effort to pull off some of the major deals they once offered on Black Friday.

 

“If you can’t physically get the stuff, what is that going to do if you want provide longer hours at your store?”

 

At the same time, he says some retailers may have higher volumes of inventory they are trying to clear out.

 

“You may not be seeing deals across the board anymore but instead, seeing a weird patchwork effect of deals going on as a direct reflection of what we have been going through,” says Brad.

 

Advice for business owners

 

When it comes to navigating Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Brad urges business owners to not get caught up in the ‘hype’ surrounding these shopping events.

 

“Make sure you do your due diligence and make sure you are making smart decisions and not just for that day, but a period of time,” he says, explaining trying to clear out too much inventory may lead to cashflow trouble down the line as consumers stock up on items and wait several months before spending again. “Don’t get caught up in the hype. You need to sit down and rationally look at the numbers to see if you need to clear out that inventory.”

 

* With files from the National Post and Calashock Commerce

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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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Following a barrage of pandemic lockdowns and closures, restaurants in Canada are still not out of the woods, despite the fact mask mandates have long since been lifted and life has seemingly returned to ‘normal’.

 

According to a recent report from Restaurants Canada, over the past year restaurant closures have outpaced openings by 43% and inflation-adjusted food service sales will be around 11% below 2019 levels by the end of this year. The report also indicates traffic in full-service outlets is down nine per cent, and approximately down five per cent for quick service ones. However, according to the report sales could still surpass the $100 billion mark, which is encouraging.

 

But getting to that level could be difficult say restaurant owners, taking into consideration ongoing labour shortages and supply chain issues.

 

“If I were to sum up state of the industry in one word, it would be ‘tired’, especially for independently owned and operated restaurants like my location,” says David Kroeker, owner of Zoup! on Hespeler Road in Cambridge. “It’s been a struggle and it’s kind of come in waves as well.”

 

Matt Rolleman, co-owner of Thirteen at the corner of Water and Main streets in Galt, agrees and wonders what the impact COVID-19 will have in the next few months, especially for the Christmas bookings he already has in place.

 

“In the back of my mind and for a lot of business owners in general is we’re hoping there won’t be another wave like before,” says Matt, noting he’s optimistic vaccines and boosters will lessen the severity of any potential impact. “But it might be a wave of staffing issues with staff getting sick with COVID. I think we’re still in this really precarious situation and are worried about COVID-19, even though people are treating things like it’s all back to normal.”

 

Staffing levels an issue

 

When it comes to current staffing levels, restaurants nationwide are finding that retaining staff continues to be a major hurdle. Restaurants Canada estimates the sector has had between 150,000 and 170,000 vacant positions for some time and currently employs 271,000 fewer people prior to when the pandemic hit in 2019. This has resulted in many restaurants to alter the way they operate, perhaps opening fewer days a week or closing earlier.

 

“Staffing retention is a huge thing right now that all businesses, and especially restaurants, have to look at,” says Matt. “But restaurants are pretty much drawing from a very similar pool of people and there’s all these restaurants vying for the limited staff that’s available.”

 

David agrees and says even the recent minimum wage hike to $15.50 won’t really help the situation.

 

“At the end of the day we’re not helping our employees because everyone is jacking up their prices and everything is costing more,” he says. “It’s a vicious circle.”

 

Supply chain problems

 

Like most restaurant operators, David says supply chain issues also remain a big concern. As prices on the menu increase with inflation, the number of food choices has decreased in some restaurants resulting in them offering only a few dishes on any given day to provide more predictability for the back-of-house staff.

 

“The supply chain has essentially fallen apart in my opinion,” says David. “I spend at least five to 10 hours a week just looking for alternative products so we can keep a full menu.”

 

He says customers service has remained his No. 1 priority and says it can be difficult having to explain to patrons about the challenges he faces if something they order is not available.

 

“I’m so grateful for our client base because 99% of our customers are absolutely fantastic and they get it,” says David, adding the solution needs to come from all levels of government, especially when it comes to custom issues at the border.

 

“At our distribution centre there is so much backlog right now they have to make reservations for trucks to show up to receive goods,” he says, noting the Bank of Canada’s decision to increase the prime lending rate to combat rising inflation and the Province of Ontario’s minimum wage increase are working against businesses.

“It’s different levels of government not working together, and they are actually impacting the long-term situation in Ontario,” says David.

 

Impacted by loans

 

Like many restaurant operators, both he and Matt utilized the Canada Emergency Business Account during COVID-19 and while that may have assisted during the cycle of lockdowns and re-openings, they worry about the overall financial impact.

 

“We took on some stuff that we never would have done before,” says Matt, adding business was ‘rolling’ before the pandemic. “I had never planned on taking those extra loans. There’s a lot of businesses that have taken on loans so hopefully when winter hits we don’t see a big recession because it’s going to be hard on a lot of businesses.”

 

He says having Main Street closed to traffic during the summer was great for his outdoor patio and is optimistic that come next year people will continue to look at staying closer home due to higher costs.

 

However, Matt expects that people’s dining habits will change.

 

“Restaurants are a luxury. I’m anticipating that people who dine out once a week may switch to once a month, and those who come once a month might switch to once every two or three months,” he says, adding there is little that restaurant operators can do when it comes to combatting supply chain issues and rising interest rates. “It’s a little daunting for sure.”

 

  •  With files from Troy Media
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The decision by CTV’s parent company Bell Media to abruptly end its contract with its lead national news anchor Lisa LaFlamme this past summer sparked public outcry.

 

While touting the move as a ‘business decision’, accusations of sexism and ageism surfaced after the esteemed journalist let her hair go gray brought these issues into the spotlight and has sparked much conversation in the business world.

 

“It definitely has raised awareness and discussion and debate as some companies have been doing things to promote gray hair,” says Jessie Zhan, Associate Professor, Department of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resource Management, Wilfrid Laurier University, referring to Dove Canada’s ‘keep the gray’ campaign launched in wake of LaFlamme’s dismissal.

 

As a result of the publicity surrounding LaFlamme’s departure, Helen Jowett, President and CEO of McDonald-Green, a Cambridge-based HR Consulting Firm, says that Bell Media’s decision has left many in the business world questioning things about gender and ageism, noting the sudden end of the news anchor’s contract overshadowed the fact she was not given any real opportunity to have her long career celebrated.

 

“As a sixty something female, I too was disappointed that she had not been given the same respect that her male counterparts had been afforded,” says Helen.

 

Professor Zhan’s says issues surrounding sexism and ageism in the workplace aren’t new but have probably become more noticeable because of the whole demographic shift in the workplace.

 

“The population and workforce are aging and at the same time, in the workplace different age groups and generations are working together on a day-to-day basis and that makes ageism more noticeable,” she says, noting these issues, along with racism, make up the three main issues facing many workplaces and has been working with one of her students to investigate the intersectionality of sexism and ageism.

 

“In the literature, gender and sex and age have been studied separately but they’re not separate issues,” says Professor Zhan, adding that younger men and women in today’s workplaces do not seem to represent the stereotypical interpersonal perception of those older in which men are often perceived as being more dominate while older women take a more ‘supportive’ or ‘motherly’ role in the work environment. “The younger generation really tries to protect their gender equality in the workplace or making those gender differences less noticeable.”

 

Helen agrees, adding having various generations working together can also result in valuable mentoring opportunities.

 

“Many cultures revere the wisdom of age and I’m encouraged that the young leadership demographic rising today are embodying the desire to accept the benefits of diversity in relationships.”

 

Professor Zhan says in the workplace, age is the one constant noting that every worker will age and eventually become part of another work demographic.

 

“At different ages, people will belong to different age groups throughout their work career,” she says.

 

 

How to identify potential issues in the workplace

 

When it comes to identifying potential issues surrounding sexism or ageism, Professor Zhan says awareness is always key.

 

“It can be difficult to tell a person’s attitude,” she says, adding there may be observable behaviours in the workplace that may indicate an issue exists. “Are people interested in making friends outside their age group? Do you see people from different age groups talking to one another? Do you have the sense people feel comfortable working with others from a different age group?”

 

Helen says potential signs could also include something as simple as dismissing or exclusion of input, right up to psychological bullying.

 

“Leaders must be clear about the behaviours that they themselves model, reward and tolerate.  Early detection of out of sorts relations should be addressed with empathy, understanding and encouragement to resolve conflict,” she says. “Certainly, policy and process for safe communication of escalated behaviours should be well communicated, reported and disciplined.”  

 

 

What can be done when an issue is discovered?

 

There are laws and regulations in place when it comes to gender equality, including the Employment Equity Act, Pay Equity Act, Canadian Gender Budgeting Act, and the Canada Labour Code. At the provincial level, the Ontario Human Rights Code protects people from age discrimination.

 

However, Professor Zahn says taking a good hard look at those in your workplace is the best first step before taking any further action or implementing new policies.

 

“If you spend time with your people, you will be able to tell whether those from different age groups actually want to work together,” she says, adding positive contact between intergenerational employees can reduce stereotypical perceptions.

 

Helen says encouraging and celebrating the information exchange between employees can go a long way to setting the tone for inclusivity of all people and preferences.

 

“Raising awareness of the strategic benefits of understanding differences should be spoken of often and openly,” she says. “There will always be something to be learned from someone else if we can embrace the learning offered.”  

 

And if policy changes are required, Professor Zahn says implementing age specific ones can be a benefit and could include providing training or mentorship opportunities to older employees or creating a clearer path for younger workers to switch to a role they may find more challenging and meaningful.

 

“Traditionally, when people talk about HR practices, they are age universal. People rarely talk about whether certain HR practices have the same impact for people who are younger versus older in the workplace,” she says, noting each age group values different things. “Most findings have shown age specific HR policies/practices that keep age differences in mind have a positive impact on employees.”

 

But Professor Zahn is quick to note there can be a negative side also to such policies and practices, explaining by highlighting these age differences may make some employees feel they are being treated ‘differently’ than others.

 

“It could hinder their performance or lower their self-esteem,” she says, adding there is a new stream of research being conducted highlighting benevolent sexism and racism in the workplace where ‘over accommodating’ employees can be just as harmful. “These actions and feelings are not always coming from the intention to harm.”

 

 

Are workplaces getting better at curbing sexism and ageism?

 

There is no real clear answer to this question, however, Professor Zahn says there is clearly more discussion going on centred around age in the workplace.

 

“When it comes to ageism, older people are not the only targets. Younger workers are targets as well,” she says. “They can often be perceived stereotypically as less reliable, and they may not get the opportunities to be promoted to certain advancement programs.”

 

As a result, it’s imperative to celebrate the multicultural and multigenerational perspectives found in workplaces and try to do things in different ways.

 

“Hopefully, we can value and celebrate that and enjoy the positivity,” says Professor Zahn. “The first step is always becoming aware of the problem.”

 

Helen says while most organizations are capable of recognizing differences in people’s gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference and many other observable differences, there are still strides to be made.

 

“Without oversimplifying, we must get better at recognizing and appreciating the strength of sameness and differences for peaceful coexistence,” she says. “Successful organizations learnt early that harnessing employee differences in a respectful way can actually be a strategic imperative resulting in improved support for their customers, suppliers and employees.”

 

 

A few steps to creating an open and equitable workplace:

  1. Public profile. It begins with simple things like the website – ensuring that photos of employees not only demonstrate racial diversity but generational diversity as well.
  2. Training and development. Training and development opportunities need to be communicated to all employees and seen as being fair to all ages and all levels. 
  3. Manager training. They often inadvertently display biases. For example, they often request younger workers as hires and seeing them as more likely to stay (false), less likely to get hurt than older workers (false), and more malleable.
  4. Promotions and new hires. Organizations must demonstrate their commitment to an age-inclusive workplace by promoting the most qualified and most capable candidates.
  5. Workplace programs. Workplace activities must be seen as inclusive, targeting all age groups,
  6. Encourage key older workers to stay past retirement. Hanging on to older and long-term employees will be vital in the talent-scarce future and organizations need to find ways to encourage their 50-plus employees to stay on and lure retired workers back.
  7. Fair downsizing. In times of business downturns or corporate takeovers, it’s often younger workers who are redeployed, while mature workers are given the stark choice of being laid off or accepting early retirement packages.

Source: Monster.ca

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The word ‘diversity’ has become commonplace in most workplaces.

 

But according to a local expert in the field, the definition of that concept may be difficult and even confusing to pin down.

 

“Diversity is like the big buzz word right now and it’s a big topic that’s on everyone’s mindset,” says Dr. Nada Basir, Assistant Professor at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business at Waterloo University. “Companies are putting money into it because we all know that it’s important. But business leaders, when they think about diversity, tend to think of it on the surface level.”

 

As a result, she says the deep level of diversity, not just the observable points relating to gender, race, and nationality, often get overlooked.

 

“While we understand diversity is about differences, we sometimes narrowly focus on one type, and I think that’s where there is confusion and that’s where we need to think a little bit more outside the box.”

 

Dr. Basir will delve into this subject even deeper at our Women Leadership Collective Series event entitled: ‘Collaboration Between Men and Women to Empower Each Other, Inspire Each Other, and Lead Together’. During this in-person event Oct. 21 at Langdon Hall, she will explore what kind of diversity matters when it comes to producing benefits in the workplace.

 

“But I don’t want to make a case as to why diversity is important because we already know it’s important,” she says, noting introducing diversity in the workplace is not just about hiring or collaborating with diverse people. “It’s about the context that diversity is in and how do we make sure the teams or companies we are building are harnessing that diversity. What does it mean to have people come to the table and feel engaged and welcomed, and how do we tap into their identity-related knowledge?”

 

Dr. Basir says many companies may have a 50/50 split between male and female employees and feel they are doing well when it comes to promoting diversity, but this is not always the case.

 

“Who is making the decisions in that company? Who are in the leadership roles?” she says, explaining research surrounding motherhood show that women tend to leave the workforce more than men because they may not feel supported enough when it comes to such things as childcare or fertility issues. “We can have a diverse workplace but if the environment does not cater to it and leverage it, then what’s the point?”

 

When it comes to creating a diverse and collaborative workforce in a post-COVID-19 environment, Dr. Basir says companies have learned about the importance of being more agile.

 

“The world is complex and complicated, and things change very quickly in business since customers and stakeholders are involved in everything that’s happened and we have to keep them engaged, and it can be really costly if we don’t pay to attention to diversity,” she says.

 

Dr. Basir says relying on different perspectives and lived experiences can help the decision-making process at any company and hopes to convey that to participants at the Oct. 21 event.

 

“I hope it’s a workshop of reflection in terms of what people thought diversity was and why it’s important and maybe when they leave, they’ll have a different perspective on what diversity should look like,” she says, referring to the research she will also introduce to build a business case for diversity. “I want to talk about what do we know about diversity in terms of ROI (Return on Investment).”

 

To find out more, visit our Events Calendar.

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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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