Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

Buying an existing business can be a strategic move that saves an entrepreneur a substantial amount of hard work and offers numerous advantages over starting or expanding a current venture from scratch.

 

Purchasing an existing business offers a head-start in terms of market presence and brand recognition, while building a brand from scratch requires extensive time, effort, and resources. However, buying a business with an established brand allows the new owner to capitalize on existing customer loyalty and market reputation, something Carson O’Neill, Managing Principal of Rincroft Inc., a local firm which facilitates the sale of medium-sized businesses, believes. 

 

“What I like about goodwill is that you have repeat customers and it’s not necessarily something you will see on the income statement,” he says. “Goodwill is sort of an elusive thing but it’s important that you have customers coming back. Even in this electronic and digital age, we are creatures of habit and if I go into a store and somebody goes that extra mile, at least with me, I will remember that.”

 

It is also one of many things to consider when it comes to purchasing an existing business, says Carson.

 

Another key consideration for those seeking to purchase an existing business is establishing clear parameters, in terms of the industry they wish to buy into and the size of the business. 

 

“Ideally, the buyer should have a background and relevant expertise in the industry which brings value to the business they are buying,” says Carson. “Buyers are often so enthusiastic they want to come out of the gate with their foot on the accelerator without understanding where the tracks are. I wouldn’t encourage people to buy a business in an industry they know nothing about.”

 

Emotions can cloud 'good judgment'

 

He says emotions can sometimes play a role in the decision-making process, which in turn can cloud “good judgment”, noting it can take at least six months from start to finish to complete a business sale.

 

“It can be very costly if you buy the wrong kind of business and it’s not like trying to get another job,” says Carson. “If you have your money sunk into a business that doesn’t work out, it’s a very different thing.”

 

Buying an existing business can save hard work by minimizing the risks associated with start-up ventures. Start-ups face a high failure rate, with many new businesses failing within the first few years of operation. By purchasing an existing business with a proven track record, entrepreneurs can mitigate some of the risks associated with starting a new venture. This can provide greater peace of mind and increase the likelihood of long-term success.

 

“What you hear about are the successful start-ups. The media loves to talk about somebody who started a business in their family room on a computer, or was making something in the garage,” says Carson. “What you don’t hear about is the number of business failures.”

 

That’s why he recommends to his clients looking to expand their business by integrating it with another or those getting into business for the first time, to find an owner who is nearing retirement but prepared to remain involved through the transition of ownership to ensure continuity is maintained. 

 

“If the owner feels welcomed in the transition, the buyer is less threatening,” he says. “It’s more of a seamless transition.”

 

While the acquisition process may be easier to navigate for an established medium-sized business that has the resources to undertake a new venture, Carson says many business purchases are often first-time experiences for both parties.

 

“You’re dealing with people on both sides of the street trying to come together,” he says. “That’s why the basics are important and they both bear that in mind because they are trying to get a friendly deal.”

 

Essential tips to consider when buying a business:

 

Define Your Goals: Whether it's to expand your existing operations, enter a new market, or pursue a passion, knowing your goals will help guide your search and evaluation process.

 

Industry Research: Understand market trends, competition, and potential growth opportunities. This knowledge will help you assess the viability and potential success of the business.

 

Financial Analysis: Review financial statements, cash flow projections, and historical performance. Consider hiring an accountant or financial advisor to help assess the business's financial health and value.

 

Due Diligence: Perform thorough due diligence to uncover any potential risks or liabilities associated with the business. This includes reviewing contracts, leases, licenses, and legal documents. Consider hiring legal experts to assist in the due diligence process.

 

Assess Assets and Liabilities: Evaluate the business's assets, including inventory, equipment, intellectual property, and customer contracts. Also, assess any existing liabilities, such as debts, pending lawsuits, or tax obligations.

 

Understand the Reason for Sale: Determine why the current owner is selling the business. It could be due to retirement, health issues, or declining profitability. Understanding the reason for sale can provide insights into the business's condition and potential challenges.

 

Evaluate Management and Employees: Assess the competency and experience of the existing management team and employees. Consider whether you'll retain key personnel post-acquisition and how their departure might impact the business's operations.

 

Customer Base and Reputation: Consider factors such as customer loyalty, satisfaction levels, and brand perception. A strong customer base and positive reputation can contribute to the business's long-term success.

 

Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Ensure the business complies with all relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards. Verify licenses, permits, and regulatory approvals are up to date. 

 

Negotiate Terms and Purchase Agreement: Seek legal advice to ensure the agreement protects your interests and addresses key aspects such as price, payment terms, warranties, and post-acquisition support.

 

Seek Professional Advice: Consider seeking guidance from experienced professionals, such as business brokers, lawyers, accountants, and financial advisors. Their expertise can help navigate the complexities of buying a business and increase the likelihood of a successful acquisition.

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In the changing landscape of business, where uncertainty and rapid change are constants, effective leaders must adeptly manage chaos to ensure organizational resilience and success.

 

Navigating through tumultuous times requires a strategic and agile approach, says Linda Braga, Business & Executive Development Specialist with LMI Canada, which has provided leadership development for more than 50 years.

 

“I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty out there,” she says, referring to issues that now exist in workplaces surrounding remote working, labour shortages and retention. “I think leaders are still adapting to managing the workplace and the whole side of leading and actually developing their people because we are successful through our people.”

 

Unfortunately, Linda says developing employees now often takes a ‘backseat’ as company leaders navigate these issues, some of which have been magnified by major shifts in the workplace.

 

“There are four generations in the workplace right now and each come with different attitudes and different viewpoints,” she says, noting older employees prefer having that ‘physical’ presence in the office while younger ones are looking for more of a ‘social’ connection. “It’s about leaders being flexible and adaptable, and having more of an open mind to solicit feedback from their people. Empathy is huge right now.”

 

However, this could prove to be difficult considering statistics show that at least 60% of small and medium-sized businesses owners are aged 50 or older and many will soon be leaving their companies, making it harder for some to adapt to these dramatic workplace shifts before they retire.

 

Self-care important

 

To manage the chaos effectively, Linda leaders should first look at how they manage and lead themselves.

 

“I think it’s important they are able to put on their own oxygen masks first because they’re very busy dealing with the day to day trying to keep their companies running and keeping their employees happy,” she says, adding ‘self-care’ is something they should take seriously.

 

Linda says often leaders have difficulty asking for assistance, especially from their employees.

 

“Just because you’re a leader or manager, or a company owner, doesn’t necessarily mean you have all the answers and know everything,” she says. “That’s what I feel separates really good leaders from managers is that they empower their people.”

As well, when it comes navigating uncertainty and rapid change, setting goals is key for leaders.

 

“It’s important for our leaders and managers to have crystal clear goals, which they need to communicate,” says Linda, noting there is a big difference between efficiency and effectiveness. “They can be really good at being effective and doing things the right way. But are they doing the right things? Even as a leader, are you hitting your own goals? All leaders should be able to look at themselves in a mirror and be self-aware.”

 

 

Some key methods for business leaders to manage chaos:

 

 

Develop a Resilient Mindset:

Successful leaders should acknowledge that change is inevitable, viewing challenges as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles. Embracing uncertainty allows leaders to respond with flexibility and creativity.

 

Establish Clear Communication Channels:

Leaders must provide regular updates, share relevant information, and foster a culture of open dialogue. Clear communication helps employees understand the situation, reduces anxiety, and builds trust in leadership.

 

Prioritize and Delegate Effectively:

Leaders must prioritize activities based on their impact on the organization's core objectives. Delegating responsibilities to capable team members ensures that tasks are handled efficiently, preventing overwhelm at the leadership level.

 

Encourage Adaptability:

Business leaders should encourage employees to embrace change, learn new skills, and remain agile in the face of uncertainty. An adaptable workforce is better equipped to navigate chaos and contribute to innovative solutions.

 

Invest in Technology and Automation:

Leveraging technology and automation can streamline processes and enhance organizational efficiency. Implementing digital solutions allows businesses to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and minimizes the disruptions caused by chaotic events.

 

Build a Diverse and Inclusive Team:

A diverse team brings varied perspectives and skills to the table, enhancing the organization's ability to address challenges creatively. Inclusion fosters a collaborative environment where team members feel valued, increasing their commitment to overcoming chaos together.

 

Conduct Scenario Planning:

Business leaders should engage in proactive scenario planning to anticipate potential challenges and devise strategies to address them. This foresight enables quicker and more effective responses when chaos unfolds, reducing the negative impact on the business.

 

Cultivate Emotional Intelligence:

Leaders with high emotional intelligence can navigate uncertainty with empathy, providing support to their team members and maintaining a positive organizational culture.

 

Learn from Mistakes:

Successful leaders acknowledge mistakes, learn from them, and apply those lessons to improve future decision-making. This adaptive learning approach contributes to organizational resilience.

 

Strategic Resource Allocation:

Business leaders must strategically allocate financial, human, and technological resources to areas that will have the most significant impact on maintaining stability and achieving long-term objectives.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Click here to submit a nomination.

 

 

Award Categories and Criteria:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Click here to learn more about joining Chamber Circles

 

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

Guidance Through Experience

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

 

Accelerated Learning Curve

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

 

Building a Network

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

 

Confidence and Emotional Support

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

 

Encouraging Innovation

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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The business landscape is complex and changing, especially today.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

How can mentors help

 

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

 

Source: LinkedIn

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The following piece is one of several appearing in the special summer edition of  our Insight Magazine celebrating Cambridge’s 50th anniversary as we recognize just a few of the people, businesses and institutions that have made our community great.

 

A variety of components are required to build a successful community.

 

Among these is a strong link to higher education, something Cambridge has been fortunate to have since its amalgamation courtesy of Conestoga College.

 

Founded in 1967 as Conestoga College of Applied Arts and Technology, it was among 22 community colleges established by the Ontario government between 1966-69 to provide diplomas and certificates in career-related, skills-oriented programs.

 

In the beginning, Conestoga College offered only part-time classes out of Preston High School as construction began on its Doon campus site in the south end of Kitchener, and by 1969 had already expanded by setting up Adult Education Centres in Cambridge, Guelph, Stratford, and Waterloo. It also began offering 17 full-time programs set up in portables at its Doon site to accommodate 188 students, with 67 of them attending its very first convocation in 1969.

 

But the college faced growing demand which resulted in the opening of a permanent campus in Guelph in 1970. Within a few years, not only did construction began on its Early Childhood Education Centre at its main Doon campus but the college also established its nursing program when the responsibility of four regional schools of nursing was transferred to Conestoga.

 

Throughout the next few decades as Cambridge expanded, the college continually added additional programs to keep pace with growing demands, to the point where it currently serves approximately 26,000 students (12,500 full time) through its eight campuses and training centres in Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, Stratford, Guelph, Ingersoll, and Brantford.

 

Being designated in 2003 as one three Institutes of Technology and Advance Learning by the province, along with Humber and Sheridan colleges, opened even more possibilities for the college now that it could award degrees to students in its Mechanical Systems Engineering program and Bachelor of Architecture Project & Facility Management program. Additional degree programs were added in the years that followed.

 

“I think the college has come a long way because we have a vision, we have a purpose and we’ve been trying to get a little better,” said Conestoga College President John Tibbits, who took on the job in 1987, in a previous interview with the Chamber.

 

In the fall of 2006, he shared some of that vision when plans were unveiled for a proposed Cambridge campus to be located on a 136-acre site near Blair. According to an article published in the Cambridge Times that September, the campus was to become home to four centres of excellence with the consolidation of many existing engineering technology and industry trade programs from the Doon and Guelph campuses.

 

The cost for this venture was pegged at $47 million and would include a 200,000-square-foot building to house 1,600 students by 2009.

 

In the end, the college’s Engineering & Technology Campus opened on Fountain Street South in Cambridge in 2011. The 260,000-square-foot building – awarded a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification - not only houses innovative technology labs and shops, but the Institute of Food Processing Technology (IFPT) which features processing lines for beverages, baked goods, vegetables, and a food testing laboratory. This 8,000-square-foot plant is a one-of-a-kind learning facility in Canada.

 

A year later the college established its Centre for Smart Manufacturing, with funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, to provide students from various IT and engineering programs with a hands-on chance to work with industry partners in the robotics, automation, and manufacturing sectors.

 

In 2018, the Conestoga Applied Research Facility opened at 96 Grand Ave. South in downtown Cambridge and now plays host to the rebranded SMART (Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Recycling Technologies) Centre which made the move from the Doon campus. It now occupies 10,000 square feet of space in the historic Grand Innovations building for applied research with another 7,000 to 8,000 used to house the centre’s fully operational recycling plant.

 

“SMART Centre is all about engagement with industry and the ability for us, as subject matter experts in advanced manufacturing, recycling and digital innovation, to engage with students and industry partners to help solve industry challenges,” said Ignac Kolenko, Executive Director of the SMART Centre, in a previous Chamber interview.

 

However, the college made an even bigger investment in Cambridge when it transformed the former Erwin Hymer Group North America manufacturing plant into its state-of-the-art Skilled Trades campus.

 

The 250,000 square foot building on Reuter Drive, the former home to the BlackBerry repair centre, was purchased by Conestoga College in 2019 at a cost of $33.5 million with the aim to bring all its trade schools together under a single roof.

 

“It’ll give us a chance to have one of the most comprehensive and high-quality trades facilities in the province,” Tibbits told the Waterloo Record at the time. “This is a game-changer.”

 

The campus opened in 2022 and features more than 150,000 square feet of shops and labs designed and equipped to meet the unique requirements of trades education and training. Additional phases for the 40+-acre property are currently underway.

 

But the college’s commitment to education has also been matched by its ongoing commitment to the local community and its $1.5 million partnership with the City of Cambridge towards the creation of the Fountain Street Soccer Complex is the perfect example. The site will feature seven fields – four with natural turf and three with synthetic turf – as well as a 6,500 square-foot-service building.


“Conestoga has a long and proven history of working with our municipal partners to address local economic, social and workforce needs,” said Tibbits. “The college greatly appreciates our partnership with the City of Cambridge and with leading Cambridge employers such as Toyota, ATS and Eclipse Automation as well as with our many applied research partners and collaborators as we all work together to build a stronger, more prosperous community.”

 

Just the facts 

  • Conestoga grads contribute more than $2.3 billion to the local economy annually
  • 5,231 Ontario businesses are owned by Conestoga College graduates
  • 4.8% of Conestoga College’s alumni are business owners (5,416 businesses owned by grades).
  • Since 2018, more than 170 employers have relied on Conestoga College’s Corporate Training services to support the upskilling of their employees
  • Nearly 55% of the local adult population has participated in Conestoga’s education and training opportunities
  • The college welcomes 2,500 international students from 80 countries – largest number of students from India, with South Korea, China, Brazil, Central America, and Nigeria
  • International students now represent 20% of full-time student population
  • Nearly 80% of international students remain in Canada when they graduate
  • More than 1,500 Conestoga students participate in applied research projects annually
  • 96.6% of Conestoga grads live in Ontario, with 64.8% living in the local community

 

* Courtesy of Conestoga College

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When Syed Hashmi’s grandparents discovered last summer they were having trouble watering their lawn due to mobility issues, a light went off in the Cambridge teen’s head.

 

Inspired by an email he received promoting the creation of the Youth Creativity Fund, the St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School student set work on creating a micro-controlled automated watering system to assist the elderly couple.

 

“It’s been a lot of fun and this is definitely a work in progress,” he said of his creative idea, while attending the official launch of the fund last Wednesday at the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum.

 

Syed was among nearly 30 local students who were in attendance to share their vision with a variety of community leaders and supporters after receiving funding to bring their innovative ideas to life.

 

The fund, created in partnership between the Cambridge and KW Chambers of Commerce, BEP Waterloo Region and the Region of Waterloo, promotes creative confidence by connecting student-driven and designed ideas, with donations from people who are passionate about seeing the creativity of local youth flourish.

 

Through the program, students in grades 5 to 12 can apply for microgrants up to $1,000 to pursue a creative learning project that could lead to new ideas.

 

“This project is about creating opportunities, faster, more often and to be a foundation for our own prosperity as a community,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, noting the two Chambers have committed nearly $20,000 to this initiative. “This is not an operational project for the Chambers, this is a ‘give back’ project for us, one we hope will inspire others to do the same.”

 

To date, 12 projects involving 48 students have received just over $10,000 in funding.

 

“We’ve had some great success thus far in this program,” said BEP Waterloo Region’s April Albano, YCF (Youth Creativity Fund) Manager. “What has been clear through this first wave of projects is the support these students have around them.”

 

For Hannah Waterfall, a Grade 10 student at Glenview Park Secondary School, the support she has received from her mom who works for Shelter Movers has been key in the ongoing formation of idea she had on preventing domestic violence which began as a civics class project. Shelter Movers is a non-profit organization that assists survivors of gender-based violence transition to a safer life.

 

“My mom has been a huge role model for me. Just the stories I hear from her have really inspired me to do some good for the community,” said Hannah, who is the process of creating a resource kit that can educate younger students on how to regulate their emotions. “My goal with this project is to stop the violence before it becomes an issue. I understand that as a 15-year-old girl it’s hard to end violence against women because you can’t go to the abusers and stop them. But I hope this can stop it in the younger generations, so it doesn’t become a problem in the future.”

 

Currently, Hannah continues to research the causes surrounding domestic violence and says providing tools, including breathing exercises to deal with stress and anxiety, are key as the kit develops.

 

“My family has fostered kids for about six years, so we’ve learned a lot of different strategies on how to teach kids to cope with their stress when they are angry.”

 

Syed is also in research mode perfecting his watering system, which uses soil sensors connected to The Weather Network, to determine when and if a lawn needs water. He admits to having a few technical issues with the current system he created using a couple hundred dollars’ worth of parts from Amazon.

 

“My first step is finding more reliable parts,” he joked, adding his innovative idea has kindled an interest in engineering. “As my first look at the world of engineering, it’s made me realize how much is out there.”

 

Creating confidence for students to pursue their ideas, especially when it’s backed by regional support, is great for the community said HIP Developments President Scott Higgins, who is one of the driving forces behind the Youth Creativity Fund.

 

“Having the community to rally to create an endowment that allows us to give microgrants to these kids ongoing I think, one, is a testament to say you have great ideas and continue to pursue your ideas,” he said. “And two, I think it’s to say this community believes in you and if we put that hope, and opportunity and that optimism out within the community our kids are going to do some great things.”

 

Greg agreed.

 

“The power we have is right here at our own front door; our youth, who have the ideas but don’t have the means to get guidance and mostly capital to see if their idea can come alive,” he said. “We need to let businesses and individuals know they can help make dreams come true, and that should be the easiest because here, in the Region of Waterloo, is where dreams become reality, every single day.”

 

Find out more about the Youth Creativity Fund.

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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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When the first students arrive for class in September at Conestoga College’s skilled trades campus, they will quickly discover a unique learning environment.

 

“It’s going to be a living lab,” says Suzanne Moyer, Conestoga Dean of Trades and Apprenticeships, describing the 322,000-square-foot state-of-the art learning facility taking shape at the former site of motorhome manufacturer Erwin Hymer on Reuter Drive. “The infrastructure is such that areas are exposed so that students can see how the building was built. You can walk into a classroom and actually see the duct work.”

 

Suzanne says the building, the first part of a multi-phase plan for the campus to house all of Conestoga’s skilled trades programs, has been designed with a very ‘open and visible’ concept towards learning with 150,000-square-feet of space dedicated to shops and labs.

 

“There are lots of windows so if you’re walking through the building, you can see what’s happening in the shops and other students can also see what’s going on,” she says, noting the campus will heighten the college’s successful approach of providing hands-on and practical learning. “Conestoga College has always been an advocate for skilled trades and in the last 15 years or so, we’ve really grown the amount of programming we have in the skilled trades.”

 

The timing for this major move couldn’t be more critical since the need for skilled trade workers only continues to increase in Canada, with a potential shortage of 60,000 workers expected by 2025. Currently, an analysis of 56 high-demand trade sectors nationwide indicates a shortage of approximately 10,000 skilled trades workers – which could be as high as 100,000 if all 250 regulated trades in Canada are considered. As well, the federal government says approximately 700,000 trade workers in Canada are likely to be retired by 2028.

 

“In part, we’re definitely responding and aware of that need both regionally, provincially and federally,” says Suzanne, noting a key goal was to consolidate the programs currently offered among the college’s seven campuses at one central location. “With that you get more efficiencies, and you also get all the students in different trades working more closely together. There are many positive things that will come out of this by having everyone located in one area.”

 

She admits there have been hurdles, including the pandemic, supply chain issues and labour disruptions, that delayed the project after Conestoga College purchased the site in 2019.

 

“But we’ve continued to adjust and amend the schedule and work our way through,” says Suzanne. “For example, our HVAC, millwrighting and electro-mechanical programs were supposed to move into the building in September but now they are going to move in next spring and be ready for students in September 2023.”

 

However, this September the new campus will become home to several of Conestoga College’s many skilled trades programs, including electrical, plumbing, machining, carpentry apprenticeship, as well as its one-year multi-trade program which allows students to sample four trades.

 

“The students are very excited because it will be a new and full-service campus,” says Suzanne, referring to the features provided which include a library, food services, counselling services, academic supports, and student success advisors.

 

She says the timeline for when the rest of the campus will be developed depends on funding. The first phase has come with a price-tag of $110 million.

 

“A lot of factors play in to all that. But we definitely have the space to grow,” says Suzanne, referring to the 42-acre site.

 

She notes the reaction from the business community has also been very positive and says Conestoga College welcomes any opportunity for partnerships.

 

“We have all kinds of opportunities to partner together. We work with organizations to make sure it is a good partnership,” says Suzanne, adding financial and in-kind donations are important but there are other ways businesses can be involved. “For those not in the financial position to donate, we have program advisory committees for every one of our programs where members of industry provide us with guidance in terms of what’s needed in industry from our graduates.”

 

She says these committees meet twice a year and provide valuable input to ensure Conestoga College is offering the best programming possible.

 

“We’re always looking for volunteers to serve on our advisory committees and work with us to ensure our graduates are industry ready.”

 

To find out more, visit Conestoga College Skilled Trade Campus.

 

Drawing supplied by WalterFedy/Moriyama & Teshima Architects

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