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B.C. small-business owners less confident than counterparts across the country, says KPMG survey

Canadian small-business owners more confident overall about growth
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A woman walks by some signs for small businesses on Water Street in Gastown

Small- and medium-sized business owners have adjusted business strategies to become more confident about the future than they were last year, according to a KPMG survey released this morning.

Nationwide, 88 per cent of those business owners are more confident that their company will grow in the next three years. That compares with only 83 per cent who thought that way one year ago.

The audit, tax and advisory firm’s survey of 700 such business owners included 137 from B.C., with the B.C. business owners being slightly less confident than counterparts across the country, as 85 per cent of them thought that their enterprise would expand in the next three years. That is the same percentage as last year.

Recession worries mobilized the business owners to take steps to make their ventures more resilient, according to the survey.

Popular efficiency moves included:
improving operational efficiencies (37 per cent);

• cutting business costs/expenses (41 per cent);

• cutting staff (26 per cent); and

• temporarily halting large expenditures (30 per cent).

On some questions, there was a notable divergence between B.C. business owners’ perspectives and those of businesses across the country.

Canada-wide, 83 per cent of business owners agreed with the statement that “while the Canadian economy might not officially go into recession, I expect cost and investment pressures on our operations (e.g., decarbonization, technology, cybersecurity, etc.) are more concerning to our company’s bottom line than a recession.”

Only 72 per cent of B.C. business owners agreed that they feared pressures from decarbonization, technology and cybersecurity more than they feared a recession.

Indeed, B.C. business owners tended to be more receptive to new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Of B.C. business owners surveyed, 82 per cent agreed that the benefits of generative AI to their companies outweighed the risks. That compared with only 76 per cent of business owners countrywide.

“Canadian business leaders took decisive action over the past 12 months to prepare for a potential recession by making their businesses smarter, leaner and more efficient,” said Mary Jo Fedy, national leader, KPMG Private Enterprise.

“Although many small- and medium-sized businesses are in a stronger financial position as a result of their actions to withstand a recession that hasn’t materialized, they are now staring down new pressures and interrelated risks.”

Some consistency across the board was evident when it came to the question of whether there is a skill shortage in the country despite the recent rise in immigration. Among B.C. business owners and business owners across the country, 84 per cent agreed with that statement.

gkorstrom@biv.com

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