Poll: business owners optimistic about long-term prospects despite pandemic

TORONTO – Coming out of the 17 month-long pandemic, a new study suggests business owners in Canada feel brighter days may be ahead.

The CIBC study shows 69 per cent (+10 percentage points from November and +19 percentage points  from last April) say they feel optimistic about the long-term future of their business.

Findings also show there is a downward trend in how business owners feel they have been negatively impacted by COVID-19: 58%, down from 68% reported in November 2020 and 81% in April 2020.

“Canadian business owners continue to show extraordinary resilience during these difficult times,” said David Leuty, senior vice-president of business banking for CIBC.

“As the economy moves toward opening up, I encourage owners to seek advice about any additional relief they may need, including help with cash-flow management or additional future-proofing to meet their long-term ambitions.”

Top concerns remain similar to when the pandemic first broke, but amongst fewer business owners. A reduced demand for products/services is still a worry for 34% (-18 percentage points from last April), while 21% have concerns for the overall viability of their shops (-11 percentage points from last April).

Conversely, there is a slight uptick in worries over the availability of inventory/materials for 19%, up seven percentage points from April 2020.

In order to manage through the pandemic and into the future, many business owners have implemented a number of changes. A quarter (26%) say they have undertaken health and safety measures beyond legislative requirements, while a similar number (25%) say they have increased their online presence and 21% have introduced new payment technologies.

Almost a third (29%) reduced operating expenses to get through the crisis while 20% had to dip into savings.

Main ambitions moving forward are to grow their business (34%), go from surviving to thriving (32%), remain operational (29%) and develop new revenue sources (25%).

CIBC suggests business owners consider the following areas as they plan in the near and longer term, and consider expert advice to help:

– staying afloat in the near term: for owners in need of additional relief, check all the government loans available, including the new Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP), which provides government-backed, low-interest term loans (ranging from $25,000 to $1 million) to cover operational cash flow expenses;

– setting up for success (and staying on top): one of the most important and basic aspects of running a business is managing cash flow. An advisor can help owners with effective strategies including tips on how to create constructive cash reserves, trim costs and evaluate borrowing needs; and

– digital to-do’s: while many businesses operate online, there are several important things to keep in mind to stay ahead of the game virtually, including building your brand, protecting your intellectual properties and safeguarding against cyber threats.

The study also found:

– 41% say they have accessed at least one or more federal government support programs;

– stress levels are down (57%, -15 percentage points from November), as are work hours (42% report working more hours than prior to the pandemic, -10 percentage points since November);

  36% say they changed business operations to allow for selling and servicing online.