ISSUE NO. 29
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GETTING YOUR BUSINESS ONLINE: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE By Diane Amato
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Welcome to the CanadianSME April issue. This month we’re very excited to feature interviews with Canada’s top business leaders and articles that can help entrepreneurs succeed during these challenging times. While we’re in the midst of another lockdown, it’s now more important than ever for entrepreneurs to find new ways to remain successful. If there’s one thing that we’ve learned throughout this pandemic it’s that Canadian entrepreneurs are not afraid to rise to the challenge when things get difficult. Since the beginning of the pandemic, many entrepreneurs have struggled to keep their doors open. Being forced to close their doors during lockdown has had its number of challenges on small business owners. However, it hasn’t stopped them from finding new innovative ways to keep their business running. In this issue, we’ve featured entrepreneurs and leaders who have risen up to the challenge. Among the many leaders that CanadianSME has had the honour of interviewing, VP and General Manager of AbbVie Canada Tracey Ramsay is at the top of our list. Ramsay talks about her newly appointed role and what she hopes to accomplish. Vanessa Eaton, Executive Vice President of Proof Strategies also agreed to an interview with us to talk about the latest CanTrust Index study. Other interviewees include Vice President of Philanthropy at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, Suzanne Duncan, Nicole Watts who is the Head of Government Relations for PayPal Canada, Nicole McBrayne, President of Sales at Gallery Group of Companies, and Jamile Cruz who is the Founder and CEO if I&D 101. Additionally, this months’ issue also includes resourceful articles such as Getting Your Business Online: A Step-by-step Guide, How To Manage Your Knowledge To Gain A Sustainable Competitive?, How Leaders Can Better Support their Employees to Fight Remote Work Burnout and Best Practices for Fuelling E-Commerce Growth in a COVID-19 “New Normal” Economic Model. As always, we hope you find this month’s issue resourceful and that you’re able to find lucrative information that can contribute to your business’s growth. CanadianSME is committed to provide the latest update in Canada’s business industry and help the nation’s small business industry grow. We believe that by working together, we can achieve greatness. Happy reading and until next month!
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IN THIS ISSUE CanadianSME small business magazine
35 Discussing privacy and security for small businesses
Creating more inclusive and diverse work environments
Initiatives that FedDev Ontario put in Best Practices for Fuelling E-Commerce Growth in a COVIDplace for Small Businesses During 19 “New Normal” Economic Model COVID-19
Businesswoman of the month Susan Niczowski, Founder and President, Summer Fresh Salads Inc
PIVOT TO WIN New Book By Jordan Babineaux,
IN THIS ISSUE CanadianSME small business magazine
53 Waze Introduces New Advertising Solutions to Help Small Businesses Thrive
Getting Your Business Online: A Step-by-step Guide By: Diane Amato
Canada’s growing health and biosciences sector–an engine for post-pandemic economic prosperity
Trust in the Workplace Needs Serious Work
How Leaders Can Better Support their Employees to Fight Remote Work Burnout
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New $25,000,000 grant program for retailers launched by BarterPay and Retail Council of Canada
To assist independent retailers across Canada in their recovery from the business challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BarterPay has partnered with Retail Council of Canada to launch a grant program that will distribute $25,000,000 in value to retailers through Barter Credits™. BarterPay helps Canadian businesses convert, at full retail value, their unsold time and space and/or idle inventory - their 'spare capacity' - into Barter Credits™. Instead of typical one-to-one bartering, BarterPay is a one-to-many ecosystem where BarterPay members are able to exchange what they have to get what they need in an organized way. Through Barter Credits™, retailers can trade their idle inventory for other goods and services and acquire some things they need at their wholesale cost of goods rather than dipping into cash..
How the grant program can be accessed Upon opening an account, BarterPay will advertise the retailer's idle inventory, at full retail value, to its established network of BarterPay members for Barter Credits™. One Barter Credit™ equals one Canadian dollar and is supported by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). Once the retailer earns 1,000 Barter Credits™ through the trade of its inventory, BarterPay will match and provide the retailer with an additional 1,000 Barter Credits™ in the form of a grant. This gives the retailer 2,000 Barter Credits™ they can utilize back within the BarterPay ecosystem to offset some costs. Regardless of who acquired their inventory, the retailer can take these newly earned Barter Credits™ and redeem for anything on the system, like PPE, printing, advertising, employee gifts, construction, signage, web design, social media management and so much more. "The retail industry is suffering tremendously right now and we're eager to help" said John Porter, Founder and CEO of BarterPay. "Prior to COVID-19, all businesses had some spare capacity, but we're in a situation right now where
downtime and idle inventory is magnified", says Porter. "It's a tragedy to see so much product sitting idle where the value is not being monetized. By leveraging BarterPay, retailers can capture full value for slow-moving goods and then redeem them for what they need, all while keeping precious cash in the bank. The time is now for BarterPay to step up and deliver as much value as possible to Canada's retail sector." "Retail Council of Canada (RCC) is excited to partner with BarterPay on this innovative business model that will help retailers across Canada," said Diane J. Brisebois, President and CEO, Retail Council of Canada. "This kind of transformative commerce initiated by BarterPay, along with the addition of this generous grant program, will complement the incredible creativity and resilience retailers have demonstrated throughout the pandemic to remain viable and serve their customers." Get all the details to enroll and qualify for the grant program at retail.barterpay.ca
BarterPay is a social profit enterprise and Canada's only national business-to-business bartersystem headquartered in Hamilton, Ontario. BarterPay helps businesses obtain the goods and services they need without using cash, instead they barter their idle inventory and/or services. In 2019, BarterPay completed almost $40 million in barter transactions. The network currently represents close to 4000 businesses and over 100 charities in 18 Canadian cities and growing fast. BarterPay plans to scale to 50,000+ business members and 5000+ charities by 2025 generating over $500M in business transaction volume and more than $100M per year in charitable giving.
About Retail Council of Canada
Retail is Canada's largest private sector employer. Retail Council of Canada (RCC) members represent more than two thirds of retail sales in the country. RCC is a not-for-profit, industry-funded association that represents small, medium and large retail businesses in every community across the country. As the Voice of Retail™ in Canada, we proudly represent more than 45,000 storefronts in all retail formats, including department, grocery, specialty, discount, independent retailers and online merchants. www.RetailCouncil.org
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1 in 3 Remote Workers May Quit if Required to Return to the Office Full Time, Robert Half Survey Finds Employees Reveal What Would Ease Their Transition Back On-Site
More companies are calling workers back to the office, but will they readily return? A new study by global staffing firm Robert Half shows that about one in three professionals (33 per cent) currently working from home due to the pandemic would look for a new job if required to be in the office full time.
What Workers Want More than half of all employees surveyed (51 per cent) said they prefer a hybrid work arrangement, where they can divide time between the office and another location. Professionals also expressed the following hesitations about working from home full time, underscoring the need for organizations to offer flexibility: 1. Relationships with co-workers could suffer: 39 per cent 2. Fewer career advancement opportunities due to a lack of visibility: 21 per cent 3. Decreased productivity while at home: 16 per cent In addition, workers may not be ready to return to the office, and employers may want to consider what could help ease their transition back on-site. Professionals said the top ways their company can support them include: 1. Freedom to set preferred office hours 2. Employer-paid commuting costs 3. A personal, distraction-free workspace 4. Relaxed dress code 5. Employer-provided childcare "After more than a year of uncertainty and pandemic-induced remote work, there is a growing desire among some business leaders to return to business as usual, including welcoming employees back to the office once it is considered safe," said David King, Canadian senior district president of Robert Half. "However, companies should be prepared for a potential disconnect between their ideal work structures and that of their employees." "As we reimagine the future of work, now is the time for managers to engage in mindful discussions with their teams to determine what they most want and need," added King.
"Establishing a return-to-work plan that prioritizes employee health and well-being and fosters a strong corporate culture can help bolster retention and recruitment efforts." For tips on managing change as staff return to the office, visit the Robert Half Blog.
About the Research The online survey was developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm from March 916, 2021. It includes responses from more than 500 workers 18 years of age or older at companies in Canada.
About Robert Half Founded in 1948, Robert Half is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm. The company has more than 300 staffing locations worldwide and offers hiring and job search services at roberthalf.ca. For additional career and management advice, visit the Robert Half blog at roberthalf.ca/blog.
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Budget 2021: Canada’s Recovery Will Be Inescapably Business-Led, Will This Budget Help Them Do It? The Canadian Chamber Of Commerce Offers A Plan To Kick Start The Recovery As vaccines begin to find their way into arms across the country, Canadians and the businesses employing them are increasingly looking forward to a return to more normal lives and economic recovery.
“For all of the subsidy and stimulus spending Canada has seen and will continue to see, the only path to real, sustainable growth is job creation and business investment. Our members, businesses from Main Street to CSuite and everything in between, want one thing from this budget: a clear plan to help them lead Canada’s economic recovery. They are ready to kick start our shared recovery, but they need the government to do its part and create an encouraging business environment,” said Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s largest business association. In the short term, the Canadian Chamber has advocated that Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy and Canadian Emergency Rent Subsidy continue to be available for struggling small businesses, with a few improvements like adjusting the baseline formulas for both programs to account for seasonal businesses and increasing the CERS multi-entity cap to ensure struggling medium-sized businesses are treated fairly. At the same time, other sectors of the economy that depend on interacting face-toface with customers are experiencing immense difficulties and are widely expected to be among the last to recover. They will need targeted policies to assist their longer recovery period.
“Canada needs to grow its economic output by approximately $66 billion just to get back to the volume of our pre-pandemic economy,” said Trevin Stratton, Chief Economist at the Canadian Chamber. “That’s about the size of Manitoba’s economy alone. Relying on the growth of only a few sectors will not get us there. We need a recovery that lifts everyone up and that grows all businesses, large and small, from coast to coast to coast. Getting back to normal is just the first step, however. We also need to address more structural issues, like our flagging productivity, which existed well before the pandemic. Government spending and pent-up consumer demand alone will not resolve these issues. Our recovery plan must focus on unlocking business investment.”
As it looks forward, the Canadian Chamber is urging the government to tackle more structural issues within the business environment that, if left unaddressed, will hamper Canada’s economic recovery. These are:
Helping business create jobs: Even as unemployment remains high, many employers are struggling to hire amid this crisis. The challenge for both employers and job seekers is that they do not have an accurate picture of how the pandemic has affected the labour market. We need a system to better match people, skills and demand. Helping businesses get women back to work:
The responsibilities for being the primary caregiver fall disproportionately on women. Enhancing affordable childcare will strengthen the ability of women to fully participate in the workforce, especially given the personal choices many have had to make due to COVID-19 related school closures.
Helping businesses invest in Canada:
Budget 2021 can help mobilize domestic business investment and consumer spending to lay the groundwork for an economic recovery. Unfortunately, Canada’s business investment remains among the lowest in the OECD, and with good reason.
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Helping businesses go digital: Expanding broadband investment to accelerate rural 5G development will spur innovation and economic activity in remote areas. At the same time, the stark increase in cyber-attacks throughout the pandemic has highlighted increasing business exposure to cybersecurity threats, including theft of intellectual property. Helping businesses reduce the impacts of climate change: Canadian businesses are committed to sustainable growth and attaining our climate targets. We see significant opportunities to create new revenue streams, reduce waste and produce new clean technologies. However, businesses need policy certainty, support for scaled adaptation, and a clear path forward to manage their competitiveness while making emission reductions in the decade ahead.
“As it plans this year’s budget, the government has to differentiate between the must-haves and the nice-to-haves. We know that we can’t cut our way back to fiscal health and inflating our way out of debt would have dire consequences for consumers and all Canadians. The key to getting out of this fiscal quagmire is growth, and that will only come from the private sector. It’s time Canada got serious about helping its businesses create economic growth,” added Beatty. For more information on the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Budget 2021 submission, click here. About the Canadian Chamber of Commerce – Because Business Matters The Canadian Chamber of Commerce helps build the businesses that support our families, our communities and our country. We do this by influencing government policy, by providing essential business services and by connecting businesses to information they can use, to opportunities for growth and to a network of local
Getting Your Business Online: A Step-by-step Guide By: Diane Amato It's never been more important for your business to be online. While retail sales in Canada fell considerably in April due to COVID19, online sales totaled $3.4 billion – an increase of 120% versus the same month last year. And that doesn't even include Canadians shopping at Amazon.1* Your online presence can be defined as how easy it is for customers and prospects to find you online. A strong presence will help you build your reputation, increase awareness for your business, and get your products and services in front of consumers who are searching for what you sell. Pre-COVID, your online presence was an important lever to help shoppers learn what you’re all about, broadcast your hours and location, and act as a potentially additional 1* https://www.statista.com/topics/2728/e-commerce-in-canada/
shopping channel. Today, it has become a crucial component of your sales process that will help enable you to do business through uncertain times, adapt quickly to change and access current – and potentially new – customers and markets. Taking your business online – or improving your online presence – is one of the most important investments you can make in your business right now.
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Even if resources are tight, you can still get started – although as the following steps will show, allocating time, money and people to do it right will pay off. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you get online, turn your website into an e-Commerce engine, and drive traffic to both your online and offline locations.
Getting Online: Where Do I Start? If you already have a website, feel free to jump to the next section. Even if it’s not the greatest site right now, sprucing up what you already have can be better than starting from scratch. According to Brian Garside, Chief Strategist at NorthIQ Inc., if you have something online today, you’re already ahead of the curve. “When you create a new site from scratch, it takes some time for Google to rank you. Adding e-Commerce to an existing site is better than starting a whole new URL,” he says. Having said that, you have to start somewhere. And if you’re not online yet, now is the time. Here’s how to begin.
Call On the Experts Building a website takes time and effort – and unless you know all about web design, IP addresses and setting up domains, it pays to outsource – from inexpensive DIY platforms to full-service web site agencies. Think of your web site as an investment and base your level of investment on the potential it can add to your business, which could be a lot – bottom line is not to sell yourself short. If you don’t have a web site and plan on selling online, consider an all-inclusive platform that provides not only a web site but an integrated eCommerce engine such as Moneris Online’s Bookmark Business Plan that helps you build your website and your eCommerce engine as well as process customer credit card payments.
Make It a Worthwhile Destination You want your website to answer all the questions a customer or prospect will have when they arrive. As such, Garside recommends that your site answers the 5 “W”s – Who, What, Where, When and Why. Who are you? The name and type of your business should be front and centre. What do you offer? Clearly describe your unique selling proposition. When are you open? This is a big one, especially these days. Indicating your up-to-date hours is critical for shoppers who want to see you in-person.
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Where are you located? Including maps and contact information make it easier for shoppers to find you. Why do you exist? Or perhaps more precisely, why should someone shop with you versus someone else? The more competitive your industry is, the more this one matters. And at this time, answering “How” is just as important. How can someone shop with you? Online, offline, curbside, by phone… it’s a good idea to list all available options. In today’s environment, customers also appreciate owners who post new safety and PPE standards on their web site, so customers can know what to expect in the shopping experience.
Think Mobile First According to a March 2019 Statistics Canada survey of Canadian internet users, 46 per cent said they used a mobile device to make a purchase. Given 2.8 million Canadians made purchases online last year, the number of mobile shoppers is significant. Making sure you prioritize providing a seamless mobile shopping experience could tip the scales between closing a sale versus shopping elsewhere
Turning Your Website Into an e-Commerce Engine Whether you’re building a brand new website or expanding an existing site to sell goods or services online, you’ll want your e-Commerce section to be easy for your customers to navigate and easy for you to manage. Here are some tips to consider.
Add an e-Commerce Engine. Transform your web site from a basic source of information to a seamless shopping experience by integrating a third party eCommerce platform with your site. Take time to evaluate the top tech companies who can power your shopping cart, process payments, and promote your business across multiple channels like Amazon and Google Shopping.
Find an Integrated Inventory Solution. When you’re new to selling online, inventory management can be tricky. Fortunately, there are many great services out there today that allow you to easily integrate your online and offline sales. For example, some Point of Sale (POS) platforms automatically monitor your inventory so that if you sell something in-store, the quantity is updated on your website too, which means you don’t need to reconcile manually – or get caught being unable to fulfill a sale.
Staff Accordingly. Depending on your volumes, you may want to consider having an employee – or a team – dedicated to your website. That way, you can be sure your site is maintained, up-to-date and optimized to match consumer trends and preferences. Plus, if you run sales or other promotions, your team can stay on top of start and end dates.
Offer As Many Payment Options as Possible. Creating a simple customer experience is the key to a great online shopping journey, and a straightforward payment process is critical. The last thing you want is for your customers to abandon a full cart because they can’t figure out how to pay (or their preferred method isn’t available). Fortunately, many integrated solutions come with a standard package of payment options that don’t require any extra maintenance or knowledge on your part. Tip: At the same time, make returns and exchanges very easy. Try to reduce as much risk and eliminate as many shopping barriers as you can.
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Promoting Your Site Once you’ve got your site up and running, it’s time to make sure it’s easily found by customers and prospects. That’s where promoting your new site comes in. Consider these ways to get the word out there:
Set up Your Google Listing. Registering your business with Google My Business takes just minutes, and it’s free. Once your profile is activated, potential customers have easy access to your location, web site and can even call you in one click from a Google search page.
Optimize For Search. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your website so users searching for related products, services and businesses will find yours easily. As Garside explains, optimizing your site for search engines is about thinking about what a user’s search intent is. “And that means doing a bit of role playing as the customer. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and think about what they are searching for.” The term SEO also describes the process of making web pages easier for search engines (i.e. Google) to find, scan and index your site. Search engine algorithms are pretty complex, but what’s important to know is they’re looking for high-quality, relevant information that matches the user’s search – and relevance is determined by reading your site’s content. That’s why, if you sell sneakers, the word “sneakers” should figure prominently in your site’s content. The algorithm also takes into consideration how quickly your site loads, and its mobile friendliness.
Engage and Amplify. A hub and spoke model is often used to describe the role your website can play in relation to social media channels. While your website is your “hub” – where your main information and sales engine will reside – you can amplify your content and engage with customers and prospects using “spokes” such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These are great channels for creating excitement, promoting deals, introducing contests and more. You can also use an email newsletter to engage with customers – it’s a fantastic way to share news, promote a blog, and interact with people who have shown an interest in your business.
Update Regularly. Beyond updating your site, make it obvious that it’s current. With so much changing in today’s environment, you want to eliminate the guesswork and let your customers and prospects know that your hours and protocols are up-todate. Consider adding a blog to demonstrate that your business is active, open and staying relevant.
Bottom Line Whatever size or type of your business, getting it online is a critical step to succeeding in this new environment. While the country is re-opening, shopping trends have changed, and preferences may vary greatly across your customer base. Giving shopping options across multiple channels – and creating an excellent experience across those channels – may not only help you maintain your customers, but potentially attract new buyers to your business. This article was originally published on RBC’s Discover & Learn blog.
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What it means to take on a prominent leadership position following a mass acquisition during uncertain times Tracey Ramsay Vice-President and General Manager of AbbVie Canada
On January 4, 2021, Tracey Ramsay was appointed VicePresident and General Manager of AbbVie Canada. Previously, Tracey held the roles of Vice President and Country Manager Canada at Allergan and most recently, held the position of Allergan Specialty Portfolio Country Manager since joining AbbVie in May 2020. Tracey has held a variety of leadership roles spanning general management, commercial operations and business development across consumer health, pharmaceutical and biotech industries having worked in Europe, Canada and the United States. Prior to Allergan, Tracey joined Sanofi in 2014 where she was General Manager, General Medicine, Established Products and Consumer Healthcare Canada and the Head of the General Medicines & Established Products Business Unit for North America based in the United States. Prior to Sanofi, Tracey held leadership positions at a number of commercial start-up organizations including Optimer Pharmaceuticals (Merck), Afexa Life Science (Valeant Consumer Health) and Takeda, as well as, had the opportunity to lead through a diversity of positions during a 10-year career at Johnson & Johnson, including roles within their biologics division as General Manager, Ortho Biotech Canada, and as European Director, Oncology, Ortho Biotech based in the United Kingdom. Tracey holds a Master of Business Administration from Dalhousie University in Halifax and an Honors Bachelor of Science from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.
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You were recently appointed Vice-President and General Manager of AbbVie Canada. How have your previous leadership roles prepared you for your current position at one the nation’s, and world’s, largest pharmaceutical company? What does this new opportunity mean to you? I’ve spent my entire career in healthcare. My parents were healthcare professionals and from an early age I had an innate curiosity, always asking questions, wanting to understand the “why” surrounding science and health. I also discovered I have a passion for working with teams, especially if that team is tasked to solve complex problems, ideally through innovative solutions. This led me to a career spanning the biotech, pharmaceutical, and consumer health sectors. Prior to AbbVie, I led Allergan as Vice President and Country Manager Canada. In May 2020, AbbVie acquired Allergan enhancing its product portfolio with leadership positions across immunology, oncology, medical aesthetics, neuroscience, women’s health, eye care and virology. Just a month into my new role, I am eager and excited to collaborate with every member of this dedicated team and be a part of AbbVie’s incredible journey. In just eight years since the creation of AbbVie, our vision has become an incredible reality. I am inspired by AbbVie’s commitment to continue to innovate, adapt and evolve.
What are some of the changes and procedures you’re hoping to implement within your new role? Our future is very bright, our objectives are clear, and we have what it takes to make a remarkable impact on patients lives - an outstanding pipeline, an incredible culture, a commitment to innovation and science, the ability to deliver exceptional patient and health care professional experiences with a diverse, committed and high performing team. • We are launching 21 new medications by 2023 • We rank in the top 50 Great Places to Work in Canada • We invest US$5 Billion annually in research and development. AbbVie is addressing some of the most difficult health challenges. I am both proud and honoured to be part of the AbbVie Canada team and I am confident in our collective ability to remain focused on bringing value to customers, ensuring continuity of care for patients, and executing with excellence.
AbbVie completed the acquisition of Allergan during the summer, and most importantly, during a global pandemic. In your expert opinion, how do you believe this new acquisition will benefit AbbVie? AbbVie’s acquisition of Allergan enhances our ability to continue to make a remarkable impact on people’s lives. With our enhanced growth platform to fuel long-term industry-leading performance, this transaction allows us to diversify AbbVie’s business while sustaining our focus on innovative science and the advancement of our robust pipeline well into the future. We are focused on delivering our commitments today, while preparing for our future with sustainable growth. We are strengthening our market leadership, expanding our portfolios, developing and building new capabilities while delivering defined and measurable value to patients, healthcare professionals and our healthcare system. What do you hope to achieve in the long-term in your role at AbbVie? We believe in the power of partnerships to advance standards of care and build a better, more sustainable healthcare system. And as such are committed to working with governments, patient associations and other stakeholders to explore new collaborative models to make medicines more accessible. At AbbVie, we believe Canadian patients deserve access to innovative therapies. Delivering those solutions is our longterm commitment.
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TRUST IN THE WORKPLACE NEEDS SERIOUS WORK Vanessa Eaton Executive Vice President, Proof Strategies Vanessa’s open-minded and empathetic nature along with her curiosity to know more and relentless pursuit of new ideas makes her a trusted partner to many long-standing clients. As Proof Strategies’ innovation lead, Vanessa is focused on collaborating with teams to shape the agency’s approaches and services to meet clients’ evolving needs. Vanessa co-leads Proof Strategies’ trust study initiative, the CanTrust Index. She uses study insights and knowledge along with her extensive communications experience to counsel clients on how to build trust internally and externally to foster stronger relationships that result in better business. In her 20 years at Proof Strategies, Vanessa has held several positions including previously leading the Health & Wellness Practice where she led a team of communicators servicing clients in pharmaceutical, wellness and not-for-profit health sectors to build and protect brand reputation. As a volunteer, Vanessa has served as a board member for the EMPWR Foundation, a charitable organization that promotes better recovery outcomes for sport-related concussions.
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As co-leader of Proof Strategies’ trust study initiative, the CanTrust Index, what were you hoping to accomplish through this study? What was the main goal of conducting this study? Trust is a topic that everyone cares about but is not deeply understood. Research has shown that trust enables people and organizations to innovate, take risks, experiment, and rely on and invest in each other. Trust is very important in times of uncertainty. We do this study because we want to better understand trust in Canada, who and what Canadians trust, and how to build trust. As a Canadian-owned communications agency, we feel it is our responsibility to help our clients better understand trust so they can better build, nurture, and protect trust – high trust is very important for a healthy society and especially important in rebuilding and recovering during pandemic times. For six years now, Proof Strategies has worked to shed a light on trust in Canada, within the context of our people, culture, and institutions. Each January, we survey 1,500 Canadians as well as smaller samples over the years to look at specific communities, such as newcomers, rural residents, or Quebecois. We’ve surveyed over 10,000 Canadians so far. It’s a very Canadian survey, asking questions about Parliament, the CBC, legalized marijuana, public healthcare and more!
What were the most surprising results of the study? What results caught you off guard the most out of all the responses you received? My big take away this year is the pandemic trust shift – from friends and family as the most trusted source overall for reliable information in our study one year ago – to now doctors (trust score of 81%) and scientists (with a score of 77%). They are the two most trusted sources in every area of our study (including trust related to competency and ability to the right thing and as COVID-19 information sources). This is the COVID-19 effect. Our data represents an inflection point between trust and truth: We trust the truth and people who we feel will be truth tellers. These findings are encouraging and are in stark contrast to the state of decline of trust in medical doctors, scientists and subject matter experts recently in the United States. The pandemic has brought into clear focus the value and importance that Canadians place on credible information grounded in expertise and the institution of science which can both help to support a healthy democracy. For our health and pandemic recovery, we must continue to encourage a fact-based narrative of the pandemic in this country.
The study has revealed that many employees gave a failing grade to their employers and found that they were unable to build trust during the pandemic. In your expert opinion, what are some of the initiatives that you believe employers should be taking towards their employees to build trust, especially during a global pandemic? Trust is built through consistent, demonstrated values, and competency with dedication and a focus on what Canadian’s value most: employee wellbeing and health, living one’s values, and open communication from the highest levels of the organization. Leaders can take specific action to build, re-build and preserve trust and provides their employees with a renewed sense of engagement and well-being. 1.Be inclusive: Regularly consult with employees and ensure they have a voice during the disruption – particularly over decisions that affect them. 2. Prioritize psychological safety: Recognize and create safe places for employees to work through emotions raised by the disruption and change and create mechanisms to develop the coping capabilities of leaders and employees. 3. Communicate continually: Build a bridge between the past and present and expected future state of the organization that employees can safely cross. Connect the organization’s change agenda to the organization’s core values and purpose. 4. Safeguard your organization’s core values and purpose: Evidence shows that managers who saw their role during the disruption as guardians of the organization’s purpose and core values, were more likely to preserve trust than managers who perceived their role as ‘change agents’ of the organization.
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How do you believe the CanTrust Index study will impact the way Canadians view COVID-19 and the vaccine? Our study is not designed to impact the way Canadians feel about COVID or the vaccine, but I can tell you that our study found … Overall, 64% of people say they trust the vaccine to be safe and effective which is not bad. However, among lower income (anyone under 65 who is living alone and earns <$25k annually), trust in the vaccine is significantly lower at 50%. GenZ and Millennials also have lower trust (at 55% and 58% respectively). A 64% vaccination rate is not going to bring us herd immunity. And, for our health and recovery, we must urgently engage in active efforts to better understand and address the concerns of those Canadians who are unwilling to trust the vaccine to be safe and effective. Then use the voices that people trust to share the unaltered facts. Of note, trust for the vaccine is higher among those who engage daily or more with the news for updates. Trust significantly reduces among Canadians not following the news as often. This an important dimension to the story because traditional means of engagement may not be drawing these groups in. Looking at trust in media, trust in traditional media is higher than online media or trust in social media companies. Why do you believe this is? News media trust levels have declined although core trust in newspapers (55%), television (51%) news and radio (50%) remain stable. And 85% of Canadians also believe it is important to have access to fact-based journalism. This trust score gets even higher in holder demographics – Boomers and up. Trust in traditional media increases significantly with age. Almost half (46%) of Canadians say they trust journalists for COVID-19 information. Overall, there has been a 10% point drop in trust in online media – from 49% in 2020 to 39% this year. There are basement levels of trust in social media platform companies (overall at 24%). From the data we can extrapolate that given the pandemic, Canadians are placing more value and trust in people they deem as truth-tellers. And while trust in media in some areas is down, people trust journalists more than media as an industry – and they want fact-based reliable information … not opinions or secondhand
information that comes through some forms of social media. Disinformation can spread like a virus. How we actively address this misinformation in Canada must better reflect our value around truth and fact and evidence-based information. Younger Canadians trust social and digital media more.
The Wealthy Entrepreneur Book dedicated to share the “Vision to Results” how can it help entrepreneurs and leaders at all stages of their careers?
Robert Gauvreau Founding Partner Gauvreau & Associates CPA
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Robert Gauvreau is an award winning CPA and founding partner of one of Canada’s fastest growing CPA firms, Gauvreau & Associates who specializes in helping entrepreneurs grow, scale, and turn a profit. With upwards of 500 clients including businesses recognized on Fortune 500 and Growth 500 in North America, Robert’s firm not only provides advisory, accounting and taxation services, but also helps entrepreneurs find financial success and generate significant wealth. Gauvreau is a newly 2020 published best-selling author of “The Wealthy Entrepreneur,” a book dedicated to share the “Vision to Results” framework to lead extraordinary results in any business and create financial clarity for entrepreneurs in their endeavors. The book consults entrepreneurs on clarifying a business roadmap with attainable financial goals, maximizing wealth accumulation, and boost the overall performance of any business. Robert was recruited by Tony Robbins to join his ‘Global Accounting Advisors’ partnership to provide advice and guidance to his business mastery attendees. As a passion project, Robert is a founding partner of Venture North, a massive 38,000 square foot entrepreneurial business hub that provides business incubation programs, mentorship, financial coaching and business mindset training to entrepreneurs at every stage. Robert is a sought out speaker in the finance and entrepreneurial space, including recently hosting the Ascent Summit 2021 where Robert had Gary Vaynerchuk join him on stage as a special guest.
taxes are as efficient as legally possible, I have the great pleasure to help these businesses and their owners realize financial success. I also have the privilege of acting as a virtual CFO to high performance entrepreneurs, helping them build their roadmap to financial success, helping them scale their team and their business, helping them manage the strategic growth through effective planning and financing, and helping them build their wealth to the point of realizing financial freedom in their lives. These are all part of a days work for our team!
You recently published a book “The Wealthy Entrepreneur,” a book dedicated to share the “Vision to Results” how can it help entrepreneurs and leaders at all stages of their careers? I wrote “The Wealth Entrepreneur” to expand my reach and to provide an implementable and actionable process that will allow business owners to understand what they want to accomplish in their business and show them how to achieve those results. This book focuses on making sure business owners have clarity over how their business is performing, how to strategically grow, and how to set oneself up for future success, with specific teachings on pricing strategy, cash management, tax minimization, and wealth accumulation. All essential areas necessary for a business owner to move towards realizing financial freedom.
Gauvreau CPA to Host the Ascent Summit for Business Owners to Grow, Scale & Profit with Confidence, share insights on how is it designed to help business owners? What was the inspiration behind the launch of the Gauvreau & Associates CPA? How is your firm helping small and medium-sized enterprises? I founded my firm in 2008 after realizing that I wanted to focus my finance and accounting expertise on helping entrepreneurs and SME’s pay less tax, make more money, and maximize the impact they are able to make in their communities. At the same time, I wanted to create a work environment that was exciting to be a part of, one that I would be proud to show up to every day, and one that would attract the best and the brightest to join me in creating something extremely special in our space. I have the great pleasure to work with small and mediumsized enterprises every single day. From helping them gain clarity over how their business is financially performing through bookkeeping, to helping them form compensation strategies and effective structure planning to ensure their
When I originally wrote “The Wealthy Entrepreneur”, I knew I had outlined a framework that would allow business owners to implement a simple process and see positive financial results. The challenge was that I wanted to continue to help more and more people get access to this process and these teachings. In my wildest dreams, I pictured a great collaboration with a world renowned entrepreneur who inspires so many people to follow their passion as entrepreneurs. With my process and their voice, we could certainly help a large amount of people. The individual in these dream collaborations was Gary Vaynerchuk. When my book was getting ready to launch, I though that it would be more interesting to take my teachings and find a way to bring Gary Vaynerchuk in, and together, inspire and teach business owners
Gauvreau is a newly 2020 published best-selling author of “The Wealthy Entrepreneur,” a book dedicated to share the “Vision to Results” framework to lead extraordinary results in any business and create financial clarity for entrepreneurs in their endeavors. The book consults entrepreneurs on clarifying a business roadmap with attainable financial goals, maximizing wealth accumulation, and boost the overall performance of any business.
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what they need to do to make their passion a financial success. I had the opportunity to speak with Gary’s team about the idea, and was able to get him lined up to take part in the event. This made me excited about the opportunity to create a massive impact on the SME community I have devoted my career to serve!
Since 2008, you have been helping SMEs successfully as a business advisor, including being recognized in 2010 with a Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award for Entrepreneurship, how do you define entrepreneurship? For me, entrepreneurship is following a passion, identifying a need in the market, taking on the risk of its ultimate success, and pursuing it with 100% heart. Entrepreneurship is not for the timid, in fact more people fail than succeed in the business world, however following one’s passion in spite of those odds to create positive impact in the world is my foundation of what entrepreneurship stands for.
On a final note, can you share your key advice to small business owners during these challenging times? My main advice to small business owners right now consists of 3 things: 1.Make sure you have access to cash resources and a ‘safety net’. Small businesses depend on their cashflow as a lifeline to realizing success. If you run out of money, you run out of business. Make this a priority for survival and power for future opportunity. 2.Make sure your business model is efficient. During the global pandemic, many businesses had to adapt and change their business model. From eliminating unnecessary fixed costs, to learning new ways to increase operational efficiency.
Ensure that your business is running like a well oiled machine and eliminate any non-essential expenses from the business operations.
3.Get ready to thrive with new opportunity. With so many challenging times faced by our global SME community, many will take early retirement, many will sell, and many will (unfortunately) close their doors. If you are ready, you have cash reserves and a safety net available, you will be able to capitalize on extraordinary opportunity in the near future.
60-80 FULL COLOUR
Businesswoman of the month
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Susan Niczowski Founder and President
Summer Fresh Salads Inc Susan Niczowski, Founder and President of Summer Fresh Salads Inc., is an industry innovator in the food landscape and is known for shaping the fresh, gourmet food category as we know it today. With a BSC in Chemistry and a passion for food, Niczowski identified the need for healthy, convenient, ready-toeat consumer packaged goods. With the decision to pursue this market three decades ago, Summer Fresh was created. On a mission to provide real food consumers can feel good about eating, the family-owned company has become a staple in homes across North America with its small-batch hummus, dips and salads made from fresh, simple ingredients. Niczowski’s Food is Fashion™philosophy has made Summer Fresh the innovative brand it is today, known for setting trends with new and exciting flavours from season to season. After 30 years in the industry, both Niczowski and Summer Fresh have been recognized with a number of accolades and awards, including RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur, W100 Top Women Entrepreneurs and Canada’s 50 Best Managed companies over 22 years running.
Celebrating women entrepreneurship What inspired you to launch Summer Fresh? 30 years ago, the market for pre-packaged foods consisted almost entirely of options like coleslaw and potato salad. I felt there was a need in the market for natural healthier options like our wide variety of salads, hummus’ and dips that are not only convenient and taste great, but you can feel good about eating them too.
Where do you draw your motivation and inspiration from as you continue to move the business forward? I have always loved experimenting and innovating in the kitchen. From a young age, I would pluck fresh tomatoes from the garden, roast them and transform them into something new. My motivation comes from this love of food as well as my passions for travel and fashion - and the belief that “food is fashion” combining the two, to create new trends and flavours from season to season.
What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner and how have you met/overcome that challenge? I would say that growing and continuing to maintain the growth of your business is often the biggest challenge all entrepreneurs face. How do we, as a company, go from point A to point B while maintaining overhead costs, labor, price point and most importantly, quality? The key is to continuously meet budgets and keep growth and momentum steady. And to do that, you need to have a strong team to help you facilitate that growth. I cannot stress how important it is to do everything you can to retain top talent and ensure your team is set up for success. I really believe that your team is the foundation upon which your growth and success is built upon. Make sure you and your teams are in a good place before taking any next big step, don’t rush growth.
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What are the fundamental principles you use to keep your business relevant in ever-changing times? Companies first and foremost need to be flexible, adaptable and open to change. For example, like many businesses, we had only recently started using virtual meeting software before the pandemic. This then became our primary method of communication as our team moved to working from home. Having this technology in place in advance of the pandemic allowed us to have the team trained quickly and be comfortable enough to do their best work from home. How can business leaders and aspiring female entrepreneurs bounce back from uncertainty and start businesses under challenging circumstances? Anytime you feel you have something truly unique to offer the market, it is worth taking that leap. Seek a valued second opinion; speak with a mentor, a friend or colleague to work through your ideas and thoughts. It is important to have a support system in place, but also, to acknowledge when you don’t have all of the answers and really listen to other perspectives.
How can business leaders and aspiring female entrepreneurs bounce back from uncertainty and start businesses under challenging circumstances? Anytime you feel you have something truly unique to offer the market, it is worth taking that leap. Seek a valued second opinion; speak with a mentor, a friend or colleague to work through your ideas and thoughts. It is important to have a support system in place, but also, to acknowledge when you don’t have all of the answers and really listen to other perspectives.
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Impact of third wave of COVID-19 on SMBs Nicole Watts Head
Nicole is Head of Government Relations (Canada) for PayPal Inc. PayPal is a leading technology platform company that enables digital and mobile payments on behalf of consumers and merchants worldwide. Prior to joining to PayPal, she was a Director at Allstate Insurance Company of Canada leading Government and Regulatory Affairs. Prior to Allstate, Nicole worked for a boutique public affairs consulting firm in Ottawa as well as for Rogers Communications Inc. In the public sector, Nicole worked for the Rt. Hon. Paul Martin and served in the Prime Minister’s Office. She is currently Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for The Shoebox Project. Originally from New Brunswick, Nicole has a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science and Commerce) from Mt. Allison University. She currently lives in Toronto.
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As Head of Government Relations for PayPal, what can you tell us about your responsibilities to give our readers a better idea of your role? Most of my days are spent tracking various pieces of legislation and regulation, working with industry associations and providing input and feedback to government consultations. Our team is engaged on a wide range of issues in Canada and around the world that matter to our PayPal customers. I am also a champion and advocate for small businesses— urging our government at every opportunity to do more to help small business owners, particularly those from under-resourced communities. At PayPal, we recognize the critical role SMBs play in the global economy. Our business solutions and tools are designed to help entrepreneurs succeed and thrive online, regardless of their background or location. In this instance, my role aims to raise our customers' interests and to communicate first-hand the ways government can encourage small business growth and enact change. What would you say is the most challenging part of your role? What are some of the strategies you use to overcome these challenges? Similar to what many small business owners experience, every day brings a new challenge. Time management has been key, especially during the pandemic in Toronto where I live. I’m a mom of two young kids so I’ve been focusing on balancing work with home schooling during lockdown. Thankfully, I work for a company that really prioritizes its employees’ well- being, not only throughout the pandemic but always. During PayPal Wellness Days (paid time off for employees to focus on their mental health) I try and do something that will re-energize me. I love my job and the people and the issues I work on which makes even the stressful days a little easier. What’s been the biggest impact that COVID-19 has had on PayPal? How has the global pandemic impacted the company and its customers? COVID-19 really emphasized the importance of PayPal’s role in helping merchants adapt to and master the booming digital economy. Small businesses in Canada have historically been slow adapters of e-commerce but the pandemic quickly changed that as many business owners altered their business model to include online sales. In just four years we saw the number of businesses transacting online increase by 400 per cent with half of those coming online this year alone. It’s clear -- business owners who once considered online sales a luxury now understand it is a necessity.
At PayPal, we witnessed a three-fold increase in businesses across Canada signing up for our products and services during the past year. As a result, we recorded our best year in history, reporting exponential growth throughout 2020, and capping the year off with our strongest quarter yet, with a 36 per cent increase in total payment volume in Q4. This growth speaks to that accelerated adoption of digital payments by businesses during the pandemic and demonstrates PayPal’s relevance and value proposition. A recent survey of Canadian small business owners found that 60% of small businesses are concerned about remaining sustainable. What advice do you have for Canada’s small business industry that can help them in regard to these concerns? It has been challenging for Canadian small businesses to weather the storm throughout the pandemic. This can be true especially for brick-andmortar businesses who have only operated inperson and are adjusting to the accelerated digital transformation we are experiencing. Our own small business survey found 55% of small business owners say they have experienced a downturn or have had to temporarily stop work and 26% say they’re not confident they can survive the next six months. I believe the biggest lesson we have all learned this year is to prepare ourselves for the ‘Future of Everything.’ We don’t know what tomorrow brings us —but we do know that it’s a digital-first world. My advice is to understand that a fundamental key to survival is to adopt a digital and mobile strategy to stay connected and relevant for our customers and communities, here in Canada and around the world. Businesses have an opportunity to re-examine what they’re doing and how they can do it differently – be more creative, innovative, and experiment with new ideas. A great example of this is one of our business customers, Nadia Lloyd, a painter and fashion designer from Toronto. Her creativity drove her to repurpose fabric from cushion covers to make masks when there was a shortage of PPE. For Nadia, being online, using social media and adopting digital payments is a significant part of her success story as a small business owner. In fact, 72 per cent of online small businesses say selling online is necessary to
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have a successful business these days and 69 per cent of online small businesses say selling online has made their business more successful. Those who are open to pivoting their business strategy and those who embrace ecommerce will have better opportunities and a better chance at success navigating the new normal. What are some of the initiatives that PayPal Canada has implemented to help small business owners during these challenging times? At PayPal, we know that life as an entrepreneur is always challenging and so we’ve always had a strong and diverse portfolio of capabilities to address the needs of merchants and help them thrive in the era of digital commerce. These range from end-to-end digital payment processing, to sophisticated risk management, and shopping tools that ultimately help to drive increased sales and engagement. We saw how the COVID-19 crisis forced large and small companies to implement a digital-first strategy - even in the analogue world. Being able to pay in store without contact has become extremely important – for both customers and employees. That’s why in June, we launched QR codes for payments in 28 countries, including Canada for small businesses who wanted a quick contactless payment solution without having to invest in expensive POS devices. All they and their customers need is a PayPal account and a phone. Everyone from a seller at store or a farmer’s market can simply print their QR code and put it on a stand so that customers can pay via the PayPal app. We also launched our Business of Change series to highlight stories of small businesses who have found a way to adapt and pivot during the pandemic with the goal of inspiring other entrepreneurs to get online, and with the help of PayPal, thrive in this digital economy. A great example is Melanie Harrington who was able to impressively navigate a pandemic and transform her flower farm business from a local, homegrown initiative into a thriving seven-figure force in the digital floral industry. She was not online at all before the pandemic but she quickly got online. Offering delivery was a huge part of her pivot strategy as well as rebuilding her website so that it was optimized for mobile shopping. She immediately included PayPal as a payment option, which she found a lot of her customers were most comfortable using. This combination of our capabilities and our ability to help businesses scale their success provides merchants of all sizes a comprehensive,
consistent, simple and seemless experience they can count on, in the best of times and in the worst of times. More than half of Canadian entrepreneurs have found it difficult to stay current with the constant changes of government regulations. How would you address this concern? Canadian entrepreneurs are grappling with navigating multiple layers of often complex government regulations which makes it challenging for them to operate their business. Thankfully, there is a network of non-profit and government organizations that focus on small businesses and helping them navigate the resources that are available to them. Most importantly, small businesses can stay one step ahead by arming themselves with the right digital tools, technologies and sales channels to help them make the most out of the opportunity that comes with a digital economy. This year, we’ve seen more movement on Canada becoming a digital economy than in the last five years. Digital commerce is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity to survive given our new norm and changing consumer behaviour.
On a final note, how do you believe Canada’s small business industry will be impacted once COVID-19 is behind us? How will it have changed the way we do business? The global pandemic has impacted the way businesses operate now but also for the future. The digital economy is here and will continue to grow post COVID-19. Businesses who want to be future-proof will have to continue to make e-commerce a critical part of their strategy — this will be necessary especially given the notable changes in consumer behaviour. While online shopping isn’t new, the last 12 months proved that it is here to stay, and customers don’t plan on turning back. In the future we will likely see AI-driven technology leveraged to enhance the customer experience. For businesses that leverage AI to collect data, they will be able to tailor preferences for their customer and build a compelling shopping experience. As consumers continue to expect more personalized shopping experiences, more and more businesses will need to utilize data to send customers offers that are highly targeted at them, as individuals, with products, offers, and communications that are uniquely relevant to them. Social commerce will likely also persist as an option for small businesses to provide their products and services while reducing overhead costs and increasing profitability. Social commerce has offered a simplified way to build an e-commerce outlet and provide consumers with a frictionless shopping experience.
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DISCUSSING PRIVACY AND SECURITY FOR SMALL BUSINESSES Anne Genge CEO of Alexio Corporation Anne is 2020 CDM ‘Most Innovative Woman in Cybersecurity’. She is a Certified Information Privacy Professional with a specialization in healthcare. She also holds certifications for HIPAA Security and PCI Compliance. With over 20 years of experience, Anne knows the challenges healthcare providers face with technology. She and her team at Alexio Corporation work with small businesses and healthcare professionals to minimize data risk and keep business systems running smoothly.
How did you become involved in privacy?Having been in the industry for about 20 years, how have things changed for you?
It was obvious that viruses and hackers were going to have a big garden to pick from in a very different way than existed with paper records.
I started my career in the healthcare industry. In the early 2000’s, healthcare started to adopt electronic medical records. They embraced digital imaging, meaning that they started to shift from taking X-rays on film to using sensors, and digital CT, and MRI’s became common. Paper charts needed to be digitized and methods for sharing all this data became necessary.
Today most small businesses have the same challenges. They have a lot of personal information and don't have the kinds of budgets they need compared to big organizations but they still have the same obligations and responsibilities to protect customer or patient information.
This was all done to increase diagnostic capabilities, create efficiencies, and a push for better patient care. I became involved in transitioning healthcare practices from paper records to digital records. Early on in that process I became very aware that privacy and security were going to be a big concern.
It became my mission to make information privacy & security easy and affordable for all small businesses. Every person who gives their information to any business deserves to have it protected, and all businesses deserve to be able to do that affordably, especially today during such difficult times, and with rapid digital transformation which itself makes businesses much more vulnerable.
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What’s the most challenging part of your job as a privacy professional? One of the biggest challenges working in information privacy and security is trying to modify people's behavior with data. Many people actually behave quite recklessly with data, but they have no idea that they are doing so. I feel like my awareness campaign is still in baby stage. I find so many gaps, and these gaps exist in big business too. If governments, hospitals, and very large corporations cannot keep our information safe, imagine how vulnerable small businesses are healthcare clinics are.
Looking back over the centuries, have people always been interested in privacy and how have they achieved it? The need for privacy has existed really as long as language itself. I cannot imagine a time where people wouldn't have wanted others to know certain things about themselves. Safes, lock boxes, and locked cabinets all worked well for decades. When the world was not so heavily digitally connected it didn't really matter as much. However, the more technology has evolved, the more it has become a challenge. Today we stuff massive amounts of data into our computers, servers, and cloud servers, all which are constantly connected and available. It’s easier to break into and steal stuff, often without people knowing.
Can you discuss the evolution of small businesses concerns about privacy? What do you think has changed in terms of those concerns? Where we are now and where we are going? The expectation and responsibility of privacy has always existed in business. Financial institutions especially, and hospitals for example, have generally had a handle on this for decades. But it is a whole new game now. Nowadays almost every type of business is digitally connected. Prior to the Internet, it was much easier to keep information safe because often there would only be only one or two copies, and it was easy to lock these away in filing cabinets. Now with the adoption of cloud and connected servers it is easy for someone to tunnel their way in and get massive numbers of files and in just a few seconds. Digital transformation as they call it has created thousands of different types of cloud-based applications, data sharing, and integrations. This connectivity creates risk. It scares me that many tools are still built with function in mind, and privacy and
security is an after thought. I am concerned that people are not following Privacy by Design and Security by Design. (Created by Dr. Ann Cavoukian the former Privacy Commissioner of Ontario) These are globally accepted standards, but we still have a lot of work to do.
How is Alexio Corporation addressing these concerns for small businesses? Alexio was built to solve the privacy & cybersecurity challenges experienced by small businesses who don’t have access to the same tools and expert talent as large corporations. Alexio makes privacy & cybersecurity affordable and dependable for all business sizes, even those with just one team member. The security of customer data is as important in a small business as anywhere else, and it requires a multi-layered approach that has to address both the systems, and the people using them. We secure business systems and build human firewalls to keep businesses and their data safe from breaches, hacking, and data loss.
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What is your advice for moving forward productively for individuals and also corporations, government, large institutions, other holders of data? All businesses, governments, and anyone using data needs to not just focus on infrastructure, but also understand that the human element is where we are falling short. Numerous organizations that track the causes of breaches routinely state that up to 90% a successful cyber-attacks are facilitated by human error. We are now in an era where hackers are hacking humans. We need to build human firewalls. We need to build confidence and competency amongst all people working with client, customer, or patient information. Additionally, we need to do this in a way that can be affordable to any business size.
On a final note, what is your advice to women entrepreneurs? Ignore the noise. Trust yourself. Use your time wisely to understand the precise things you need to reach your goals and seek out the best people to help you. Don't worry about selling or learning how to sell. Do the right thing for people…help people and you'll build lifelong relationships. The money will follow. You can build a wildly successful and sustainable business doing the right thing for everyone, meaning the right thing for your company, your team, and your customers. It is possible. It is the foundation of my own success.
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CANADIAN COMPANY OFFERS LONG-LASTING SELF-SANITATION SOLUTION
For High-Touch Surfaces
Nicole McBrayne President of Sales at Gallery Group of Companies Nicole McBrayne is the Vice President of Sales at Gallery Group of Companies, which manufactures GSH Antimicrobial, an innovative technology that provides a one-time application process solution for self-sanitation on high-touch surfaces in both a safe and cost-effective way. She has led the installation of GSH Antimicrobial in various settings, including Yorkdale Shopping Centre, CF Toronto Eaton Centre, Hyatt Regency Toronto, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
Nicole has hands-on experience in various industries, including 10+ years in the hospitality sector, where she has both managed and rebranded hotels, as well as detailed expertise in complex North American and global projects.
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1. What would you say has been the biggest impact that COVID-19 has had on the company? How has it impacted the sales aspect of the company? Like most businesses, the largest and most immediate daily impacts of COVID-19 involved how to ensure our team could work safely and effectively through the pandemic pivots. For the Gallery Group of Companies and GSH, as an essential manufacturing business, that meant following all government provided guidelines, as well as implementing additional health and sanitization measures, including safe company-supplied transportation to and from work for factory employees. We were fortunate to have GSH Antimicrobial technology already in our product line-up and to be able to address the skyrocketing need for safe hightouch surfaces. These days, there is intense demand on many supply chains, including ours, with a product that is so essential during a pandemic. To secure our rapid response to continue seamlessly, our CEO ensured we had one-site inventory and manufacturing capacity to deliver to our clients. We saw our sales improve due to the increased need of our product across various sectors that never thought about self-sanitation before. Because we have our Canadian manufacturing facility here in Toronto, it allowed us to adjust, re-tool, and investigate new product applications, such as antimicrobial grocery cart handles. 2. Many businesses were forced to reevaluate their sales and marketing strategy to gain more customers due to the impact that the global pandemic had on them. In what ways has GSH Antimicrobial reevaluated its business strategy to fit the new way of doing business? The technology behind GSH Antimicrobial products has been in HVAC systems, N95 masks, and on hospital wall panels for many years. We had to understand how to bring existing technology mainstream, and how to make something ‘old’ new again, and to a new clientele. In a way, we all went back to school. We worked with the inventor of Agion, Dr. Fred Myers, to understand how to communicate this science in easily understood
and helpful ways to varied audiences. We tackled the challenges of how to integrate it into everyday high-touch surfaces, where aesthetics, cost, and implementation are also critical factors. Our biggest marketing challenge was probably with all the ‘short-term’ and ‘less-effective or durable’ products that suddenly popped up when the pandemic made antimicrobial a buzzword. We addressed this through enhancing our digital presence, creating strong materials that included relatable case studies, and investing in educating our team and our clients. 3. What can you tell us about the new technology that GSH Antimicrobial has implemented that ensures permanent selfsanitation solution for high-touch surfaces? What sets it apart from other sanitary companies? GSH Antimicrobial products are steel-based and embedded with Agion. Agion inhibits the growth of bacteria (as well as molds, fungi, and other microbes) through the constant controlled release of silver (Ag) ions. This provides continuous antimicrobial protection. As silver is continuously released on contact, the surfaces self-sanitize 24/7. Agion is permanent, environmentally safe, and long approved by dozens of regulators worldwide including the EPA, FDA and CTFA. It’s a cost-effective, rapid, single application that lasts. No tapes. No sprays. No maintenance. Efficacy, adaptability, and durability set our products apart.
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4. In your expert opinion, how important would you say innovation is when it comes to the success of a company? Why is it crucial for entrepreneurs to embrace innovation in today’s world? Technology is no longer the future, it is the now and is advancing rapidly every day. Keeping on top of technology across your industry and actively engaging with innovation is key to future-proofing your business and maintaining your competitive edge. As for innovation overall, we are living in a time of constant change. Innovating and thinking about how to do familiar things in new ways is essential. We all know this from online meetings, the way restaurants have adapted to take-home, and from online shopping for essentials. It is up to us to adapt that flexible, creative, beyond the status quo mindset to all our businesses. 5. What advice can you give to entrepreneurs when it comes to finding new ways to overcome the challenges that COVID-19 has had on their business? Entrepreneurs tend to be independent, but don't go it alone when navigating change. Engage with your employees, peers, and customers. Leverage your professional and personal networks. Ask for, and listen to, advice from your mentors and other industry partners. I think we have all learned lessons in the importance of flexibility, resilience, and teamwork from this pandemic. We must continually remind ourselves that with change comes opportunity. Spend less time criticizing misses and more time applauding the small steps of progress, starting with your own. 6. On a final note, how would you see the future of the company? What are some of the projects you have planned for the next few years? COVID-19 and its recent variants has shown us that these kinds of viruses and pandemics are not going away easily. The rapid development of vaccines has also underscored the importance of science and collaboration. We are continuing to work with Agion technology and our
industry partners to expand our product offering. As we reopen the economy and public spaces, we hope to have more GSH Antimicrobial products in more shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, office towers, health and education facilities, airports and more. We also encourage all business operators to consider how thoughtful technology implementation can make their own businesses safer and healthier. It really is time to build back smarter.
Manage Your Knowledge To Gain A Sustainable Competitive? Mostafa Sayyadi Management Consultant | Business & Technology journalist
Executives know that discontinuity exists at all levels of product and services and they do not want to find themselves caught off guard and become obsolete. To remain competitive, executives realize that they have to quickly create and share new ideas and knowledge to be more responsive to market changes. Importantly, knowledge held by organizational members is the most strategic resource for competitive advantage, and also through the way it is managed by executives. Executives can enhance knowledge accumulation which is associated with coaching and mentoring activities by sharing experiences gained by imitating, observing and practicing. Executives can, in fact, help followers add meaningfulness to their work in ways enhancing a shared understanding among members to enhance engagement. In the integration process, organizational knowledge is articulated into formal language that represents official statements. Organizational knowledge is incorporated into formal language and subsequently becomes available to be shared within SMEs. Executives have their internet technology departments to create a combination which reshapes existing organizational knowledge to more systematic and complex forms by, for example, using internal databases. Organizing knowledge using databases and archives can make knowledge available throughout the SME-----organized knowledge can be disseminated and searched by others. Most importantly, in knowledge integration, organizational knowledge is internalized through learning by doing which is more engaging. It is important to note that executives have found that shared mental models and technical know-how become valuable assets. Organizational knowledge, which is reflected in moral and ethical standards and the degree of awareness about organizational visions and missions can in-turn be used in strategic decision making. Organizational knowledge can be, therefore, converted to create new knowledge that
executives can view and implement immediately in managerial decision making. Applying knowledge aimed at providing better decision-making and work related practices and creating new knowledge through innovation. Finally, when executives agree to share knowledge with other organizations in the environment, studies have shown that that knowledge is often difficult to share externally. One reason is that other organizations have too much pride to accept knowledge or are apprehensive to expose themselves to the competition. Therefore, executives may lack the required capabilities to interact with other organizations. Learning in SMEs is the ultimate outcome of knowledge reconfiguration by which organizational knowledge is created and acquired by connecting knowledge with other SMEs that want to share successes and failures. This leads to converting acquired knowledge into organizational processes and activities to improve processes that contribute success. Executives can now see that a SME's capability to manage organizational knowledge is the most crucial factor in a sustainable competitive advantage.
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CANADA’S GROWING HEALTH AND BIOSCIENCES SECTOR–AN ENGINE FOR POST-PANDEMIC ECONOMIC PROSPERITY By Karimah Es Sabar A transformative industrial strategy for Canada should include four main pillars: 1) Become a digital and datadriven economy; 2) Be the environmental, social and governance (ESG) world leader in resources, clean energy and clean technology; 3) Build innovative and high-value manufacturing where Canada can lead globally, and; 4) Leverage our agri-food advantage to feed the planet. The plan identifies the health and related biosciences sector as one of the key areas of investment to help reignite the economy — and to protect Canadians' health and safety. Given the right enablers,it acknowledges the importance of the sector to foster research, development and innovation to strengthen Canada’seconomy and health care system for the long term. A favourable climate for the sector includes modernizing and optimizing our regulatory systems to better promote and champion innovation; attracting investment to scale up and anchor high potential firms; strategic value-based procurement to accelerate innovation adoption; and mobilizing high quality talent and upskilling.
If all goes well, 2021 will be a year of recovery for people, organizations and countries worldwide. As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to roll out, there is a growing confidence life will return to 'normal' — albeit with renewed priorities and thinking around health and economic prosperity. With this revised view of society's values and goals, the Industry Strategy Council (established by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada) recently released its 'Restart, Recover, Reimagine' action plan. It is an ambitious and transformative approach, leveraging this crisis to help Canada build a sustainable digital and innovative economy across all key sectors.
Thankfully, Canada is already at a significant advantage, given our highly skilled workforce and world-class research facilities. The health and biosciencessector isone of thefastestgrowing industries in Canada's economy, accounting for 1.8% of GDP and 3% of employment. Investments in the sector reached $1.6billion in the first half of 2020, bringing the sector closer to its goal of doubling its annual equity capital size from $1billion to $2billion by 2025. The recent funding growth demonstratesthe active role governments and private investors are playing to build up Canada's health and biosciences sector. These investments help achieve advancements in areas such as big data, drug development, AI, gene and cell therapies, regenerative medicine, 3D printing, precision medicine and vaccines. Still, there is a lot more work to be done.The Industry Strategy Council recommends two broad areas of focus to help empower thesector:
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Get governments working better, together:
The future of health care in Canada:
The pandemic highlighted noticeable gaps and the need to improve procurement and regulatory agility to secure access to essential diagnostics, devices and drugs. Canada needs to adjust its health procurement and sourcing strategies to ensure the resilience of domestic capabilities in line with strategic focus areas.Federal, provincial and territorial governments need to work together to adopt value-based procurement across the country's health systems.
Canada’s response to COVID-19 showcased the strength of our health and biosciences sector. Proven capabilities in science, discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship — alongside our highly skilled and diverse talent — well-position us to mobilize the sector into an innovation-driven economic engine.
Also,streamlining the regulatory approval processes amongvarious levels of governments to improve cooperation between academic labs, health authorities and industry, support access to value-based innovations into the domestic market and, in general, create a stronger competitive business environment.
Create a stronger investment climate and a stoic ecosystem: Canada needs targeted investments across the sector, including for building world-leading digital infrastructure to support a homegrown digital health strategy and enable data-driven advances in healthcare (e.g., tele-health services to rural and indigenous communities, and the elderly). Focused investment in advanced high-value biomanufacturing will yield a substantial multiplier effect throughout the economy.
Healthcare is 10% of our economy so we need to double down, build on this momentum by implementing policies that will drive innovation, entrepreneurship, scaling up and anchoring of great bioscience companies here. With commitment and bold action Canada can grow its health and biosciences firms to support a more sustainable health system while advancing Canada’s prosperity.
Governments need to do more to promote domestic and international private sector investment in Canada’s biotech and medical technology firms, including the development of laterstage venture and private equity capital funds.Establish renewed public private partnerships and investments – industry collaborations with global biopharma industryare vital. Clinical trial networks in Canada should be further strengthenedto stimulate research coordination and attract new multinational corporation funding. We need to attract, develop and retain skilled talent in the sector. This is particularly needed when across Canada 33% of biotechnology and life sciences employers report skills shortages, and 20% have job vacancies in their companies. Canadians should be equipped for these highly skilled jobs, eliminating hiring barriers and streamlining government skills programs to benefit youth entering the workplace as well as for advanced career executives. The Canadian health and bioscience brand needs to be celebrated and promoted to Canadians as well as the global marketplace. We should no longer accept to be an off-balance sheet pipeline of talent and innovation, generating economic benefit for other jurisdictions.
Karimah Es Sabar Chair of the Health and Biosciences Economic Strategy Table, Member of the Industry Strategy Council and Chief Executive Officer & Partner at Quark Venture LP
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Creating more inclusive and diverse work environments
Jamile Cruz Founder and CEO of I&D 101
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Jamile is the Founder and CEO of I&D 101, a consulting firm specialized in Inclusion and Diversity diagnostics, strategy development and implementation. She has spent over twenty years with clients transforming businesses in high performing organizations, creating and implementing strategies to reduce operational costs and achieve their business goals. She has international experience across multiple industries including mining, engineering, telecommunications and management consulting, where she worked directly for Hatch, Vale and Accenture and advised Fortune 500 organizations. She is now driven to share her knowledge and experience to create a greater social impact, working with organizations that are committed to creating more inclusive and diverse work environments. A recognized business transformation leader, Jamile has been featured as a keynote speaker in multiple conferences, and authored publications, including an Action Plan for the advancement of women in industrial settings, currently being adopted by many organizations. Jamile also serves as a board member of Women in Mining Canada and as a founding director of Women in Mining Brasil. Both organizations leading change and promoting an industry that fosters, advances and empowers women. She leads the Diversity and Inclusion committee for the Brazil-Canada Chamber of Commerce and is a recipient of the 2020 Canadian Institute of Mining Distinguished Lecturers Award, in recognition of her workdeveloping inclusive workplaces. She holds a Master’s Certificate in Project Management, and a Bachelor of Engineering degree.
1. What was the inspiration behind the launch of I&D 101 Inc? How is your firm helping small and medium-sized enterprises? My inspiration came from my career, from the projects and experiences I’ve collected over the 20 years that I’ve been working in large organizations and my desire to see and create change. I had the opportunity to work for an organization that created the space for me to develop this work within the company. After seeing the results I could drive, I grew into the idea of engaging with multiple organizations and helping leaders understand the value of inclusion and diversity. With I&D 101, we have engaged with organizations of all sizes. Inclusive cultures can support businesses of any size.
We also discuss supplier diversity policies with large organizations as part of their I&D strategy, which enables SMEs to access their supply chain.
2. How to build a culture of inclusion? A culture of inclusion requires the transformation of ecosystems and behaviours – there is a need to understand that the ways-of-working for most organizations were not designed to be truly inclusive, they carry the biases of those who designed them. To start this process of building inclusive cultures, we need to open space for voices that were not heard. We need to be willing and able to review, rethink and redesign it together. The same applies for our behaviours, the way we act and speak – we are all evolving, engaged in an active learning curve. Unlearning habits that are exclusive, and building new inclusive ones, takes intention and a commitment to education. Start by transforming actions, systems, habits that you know are possible, then move into more complex tasks. We can all make a bigger effort by listening to others that are not in our “in-group”. We can all self-assess, identify and start challenging our beliefs and changing our own biases.
3. Share your knowledge and experience to create a greater social impact. It starts by listening. Sometimes just by listening you can make space for someone who may not otherwise have a voice. You open yourself to learn and embrace everyone’s views and perspectives this can bring new ideas to the table and can also help you expandyours.
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Another important step is to SPEAK UP - if you see something, say something - don’t watch someone being mistreated and walk away without doing something about it. Lend your voice when the people can’t find their own. We all have the power to create a greater social impact. I chose to focus on organizations, the ways they engage with people and society, but each person can find their cause, the way they can change their own network and community. 4. How to engage leaders in your industry? Sharing perspectives while willing to learn from theirs, finding common experiences, defining a common ground. Organizations are founded on values that drive the strategies defined. Reviewing those together, challenging perspectives on behaviours and the association with those values are important. Responsible and inclusive leaders want to form great cultures and are usually open to innovate and rethink their own concepts. We tend to debate a lot on the business case for diversity, but the truly innovative and leading organizations are open to do the right thing - to challenge the status quo. The impact to the bottom line is important, but leaders are also responsible for the development of people and for the social impact they create in the communities they operate. 5. What are some strategies for creating an Inclusive Workplace? We believe organizations have to treat inclusion and diversity as any other business priority, with a clear strategy, following a few steps: 1. Define what “inclusive” looks like for your organization 2. Build your fact-base to find out your inclusivity baseline – find out the gaps in your culture that excludes people 3. Integrate an “inclusion culture” plan into your overall business plan – link it to your business goals
4. Review key inclusion metrics during routine business reviews (for example: measure access to career opportunities and leadership development programs, parity of performance reviews, equality of pay, employee perceptions of inclusion, etc.) 5. Get specific about what behaviours are expected of everyone to make inclusion real (and which ones you want to eliminate) 6. Activate all the roles to make change happen, including line leaders as owners, HR as enablers, and everyone through to the frontlines as key players 7. Celebrate successes and learn from missteps… it’s a learning journey! 6. What is the advantage to have diversity & inclusion at the workplace? Creating inclusive cultures has a material impact. When companies establish inclusive business cultures and policies, they are more likely to report an increase in creativity, innovation, and openness. Inclusion drives engagement and engaged employees are better for business.
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Initiatives that FedDev Ontario put in place for Small Businesses During COVID-19 Exclusive chat with
James Meddings President of FedDev Ontario
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James Meddings was appointed President of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) on October 31, 2016. FedDev Ontario delivers programs and services to support innovation and economic growth in Canada’s most populous region. With its headquarters in Waterloo and offices in Toronto, Peterborough and Ottawa, the Agency has a presence across southern Ontario to actively promote the region and
Canada’s GDP with over 400,000 small- and
provide regionally-tailored knowledge and expertise. James served as Assistant Deputy Minister of Policy and Strategic Direction at Western Economic Diversification from 20112016 and Vice President, Individual Learning and later Vice President, Organizational Leadership at the Canada School of Public Service from 2006 to 2011. In his 28 years of federal public service Mr. Meddings has also held positions as Director General, Policy and Corporate Affairs, at the Meteorological Service of Canada; Director General, Parliamentary and Corporate Affairs, Human Resources Development Canada; Policy Analyst at the Privy Council Office, and Advisor to the Chief Commissioner, at the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
accelerators and 35 post-secondary
Prior to joining the federal public service, Mr. Meddings taught economics and political science in public and private schools in the United Kingdom and Canada. Mr. Meddings has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Economic and Social Studies from the University of East Anglia; a Post Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Birmingham; and, a Masters in Public Policy and Public Administration from Concordia University. He is married and lives in Almonte, Ontario with his wife Susie Quackenbush and their four children: Sam, Harry, Max and Georgia.
As President of FedDev Ontario, what would you say is the biggest challenge of your role and what are the strategies you use to overcome these challenges? • There are a few challenges in this role, which is what makes it such an exciting and rewarding job. I will highlight two. • First, our programming is designed to support companies across the region to scale in part by attracting and de-risking additional private capital to accelerate this growth. This programming is, as a result, in high demand which means we have to say no to too many of the high-quality applications we receive. This is a function of being in southern Ontario which is a dynamic and diverse urban and rural economy. The region contributes some 36% of
medium-sized business, more than a third of Canada’s population, 40% of Canada’s domestic exports, 45% of Canada’s manufacturing capacity, a robust innovation ecosystem with world- leading research institutes, over 100 incubators and institutions all producing a highly skilled and talented workforce. The region is also home to important traditional sectors including automotive, aerospace, agri-food, life sciences, financial services and ICT, as well as emerging strengths in the full range of growth sectors such as AI, data analytics, cyber, quantum computing and regenerative medicine. The challenge then is maximizing our investments to the greatest effect and impact. The better we are in identifying strategic investments, the greater is the demand for our programming. To address this challenge we try to facilitate opportunities for applicants to collaborate together and, when this is not possible, we make every effort to path find those strong applications to other potential federal or provincial funding programs. • Second, internally we are, like many public and private sector employers, in the talent attraction game. To be successful in attracting the talent, we need to deliver on our mandate. We work really hard at being a model of a diverse and respectful workplace, committed to employee development. Building dynamic and effective teams takes dedication and hard work. I have to say that it is exceptionally rewarding to have seen the reputation of this Agency grow over the past years, and to have played a part in building a working environment that is so collegial and optimistic. • This positive culture has such an important impact on the businesses and communities we support. The fact that we were just recently recognized by the Career Directory 2021 as one of Canada’s best employers for recent graduates is to me a strong validation that we are creating the right environment for our employees and for the region we serve.
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What are some of the initiatives that FedDev Ontario put in place for small businesses during COVID-19 to help them? I am always impressed by the dedication within the Agency to support southern Ontario businesses. When the pandemic hit, it was no surprise that the team took swift action to ensure our clients have the support they need. Many businesses shared with staff the challenges of keeping their business going through the pandemic and restrictions. We listened. We quickly implemented flexibilities in repayment terms and project deliverables, as well as advance payments to alleviate some of the pressures for our existing clients. We also offered pathfinding support - ensuring that businesses and organizations were aware of the support available through Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan. • Since May, regional development agencies (RDAs) under the leadership of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, including FedDev Ontario here in southern Ontario, have also been delivering the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF)– a key part of the Economic Response Plan – to businesses and organizations that have been unable to access other federal relief measures, or that need more help. • This includes targeted support for small, rural businesses, delivered by our Community Futures Development Corporation (CFDC) partners. • To date, the RRRF has supported over 25,000 southern Ontario businesses and organizations with investments of over $398 million that are projected to maintain at least 50,000 jobs in the region through the pandemic. This funding is helping businesses and organizations cover fixed costs and pay their employees – helping them remain operational now and setting them up for a strong recovery.
• The pandemic has also underscored the importance of digital innovation as the world moves more and more to virtual, online alternatives. To help businesses to adapt, we invested $42.5 million in the Digital Main Street program, which provides vital support to businesses at the heart of our communities to adopt digital models, making them more resilient and competitive. Wealso committed $7.5 million to the Toronto Regional Board of Trade’s Recovery Activation Program (RAP). Through the program,Ontario SMEs are evolving their businesses, digitally transforming and adapting to the new, postpandemic normal. These investments are having a real impact –about23,000 businesseswill be supported through DMS and the RAP in over 130 communities across the province. The Digital Main Street initiative has also provided jobs for more than 1,000 students who are working with these businesses to assist them along their digital journey. I would encourage you to read more about these innovative programs in our pivotal project profile. We also know that while the pandemic has impacted businesses across all sectors. Some, such as the tourism industry, have been particularly challenged by the new realities. That is why FedDev Ontario allocated $12.5 million over two years to assist tourism organizations impacted by COVID-19. The projects we are supporting through this initiative are helping businesses adapt, stay afloat, and prepare for a safe reopening when the time comes. The pandemic has also had a profound impact on underrepresented groups. For instance, women entrepreneurs. The challenges they face in Canada’s job market, such as access to financing and networks, and other economic and labour market barriers have been amplified. What is being referred to as a she-cession is risking decades of progress being lost. So we are focused on a she-covery: making targeted investments to support, empower and lift up women entrepreneurs. This includes an additional investment of $4.7 million in 17 projects we funded through the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund, to support women entrepreneurs to navigate this crisis. We also invested $4 million to help women-led businesses recover through the RRRF. In addition, since the start of the pandemic, FedDev Ontario has invested close to $15 million towards projects that directly supported the production of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as Level 3 medical-grade surgical masks and N-95 masks.
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Do you believe the federal government has put in place enough resources and programs to help businesses across Canada during these challenging times? Through its COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the Government of Canada moved very quickly to implement a comprehensive and unprecedented response to the pandemic that includes significant support measures for individuals, families, businesses, communities and public health. Last March, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy was quickly rolled out to help businesses keep and rehire employees, and has helped 3.7 million workers maintain labour force attachments. The Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy was also announced to help SMEs cover part of their commercial rent or property expenses. More than $100 billion has also been announced in liquidity supports for sectors and businesses, offering relief for operating costs. This includes the Canada Emergency Business Account that is providing interest-free, partially forgivable loans to SMEs. Loan guarantees and co-lending initiatives for SMEs are also available through the Business Credit Availability Program, as well as through the recentlyannounced Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program. A number of these measures have been adapted and enhanced over the last year to fill gaps in support, and to ensure they meet the evolving needs of Canadians and businesses feeling the direct impact of the pandemic. Backstopping these supports, the RRRF is helping to ensure that businesses and organizations still in need of support do not fall through the cracks. In the Fall Economic Statement, the federal government also made a significant commitment to support the Canadian economy as we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic by announcing plans to invest between $70 billion and $100 billion in a growth plan over three years, as well as making additional funding available through the RRRF and introducing the Regional Air Transportation Initiative, being delivered by RDAs to support the recovery of regional air networks. At the same time, as a regional development agency, we continue to invest through our core programming to support companies that are seeking to grow and expand in the COVID-19 environment. The innovation and resilience these companies are showing is what will get us through and position us or a strong recovery. Again I would encourage you to read about some of our pivotal projects.
What can you tell us about the recent programs that FedDev Ontario has launched to help Canada’s small business industry? In addition to the measures outlined above that we have put in place to support hard-hit sectors and under-represented groups, RDAs will continue to be an important partner to help businesses and communities recover from the pandemic, adapt for growth, and create jobs. We also continue to deliver our three core program streams –Business Scale-up and Productivity, Regional Innovation Ecosystem, and Community Economic Development and Diversification – that were designed to: Help increase the number of high-growth firms in southern Ontario; Strengthen networks to build on areas of regional innovation strength; To increase the commercialization of new and innovative technologies, products or processes; To support business investment in the adoption/adaptation of leading-edge technologies; and To drive innovation in rural and smaller communities. RDAs, including FedDev Ontario, also deliver national programs that foster inclusive growth, such as the Black Entrepreneurship Program Ecosystem Fund and elements of the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, the Community Futures Program and the Canadian Experiences Fund, as well as targeted measures to support specific sectors. Many entrepreneurs have shown true resilience during COVID-19 and have implemented innovative strategies to help remain successful. How important would you say it is for entrepreneurs to embrace innovation at the moment? How can it help them in the success of their company? As I mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 context has accelerated digital trends that were gaining momentum prior to the pandemic. And as I
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continue to say, I have been so impressed by the resilience so many businesses have shown as they’ve pivoted to adapt during this time. Innovation and digital adoption, in large part, have been critical to the survival
This has also been a particularly challenging time for underrepresented groups – with existing barriers to starting and growing their businesses amplified by the economic challenges introduced
of businesses throughout this challenging period, and will be key drivers of economic growth and recovery following the pandemic.
by the pandemic.
Productivity improvements that come from cutting-edge innovation, including technology adoption through Industry 4.0 practices and automation, allow SMEs to be more competitive and unlock growth potential. Likewise, commercialization of new technologies by innovative SMEs is central to improving our competitiveness on the global stage. It is a catalyst for the development and growth of new businesses, high-value jobs, and longterm economic prosperity. It also enables businesses to compete in today’s digital, knowledge-intensive global economy. The growth of knowledge-intensive and global industries, along with the creation of new technology, products and processes, will enable Canadian SMEs to recover and compete. In addition, with clean growth becoming increasingly important, innovation will be critical to getting the most out of limited resources, fostering long-term sustainable growth, and achieving the Government’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
In your expert opinion, what’s the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs will face post COVID-19? Canada’s entrepreneurs often point to a lack of risk capital as a challenge for commercializing products, adopting technology, and increasing productivity. I think this has been exacerbated by the pandemic with businesses becoming more leveraged and Canadian venture capital currently down, especially for earlier stage businesses. With business travel, conferences and trade shows virtually on hiatus, further compounded by cross-border travel limitations, it is also more difficult for entrepreneurs to make the essential connections they need to grow their businesses and expand into new markets. And while we have seen an impressive pivot to digital engagements, this has still been a challenge for businesses in traditional sectors that are not used to doing business or serving their clients in a virtual environment.
Social distancing and other public health measures, while essential to our recovery from this crisis, have also introduced many challenges for businesses that are simply unable to service their clients virtually. This has also forced many businesses to cut costs as they put projects on hold and adjust to new realities. Post-COVID-19, our world will no doubt look different. While the shift to more virtual platforms will certainly have benefits, it may also present challenges for employers looking to secure and retain talent. With our world becoming more and more connected, competition for attracting talent may be more complex coming out of the crisis. FedDev Ontario remains committed to helping innovative firms find the capital, tools and services they need to grow, and to fostering an inclusive recovery.
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On a final note, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs who wish to grow their business during a global pandemic? While the pandemic has been highly disruptive to the economy, there is also opportunity for innovation. I think the global pandemic has accelerated some trends that we were already seeing such as telework, ecommerce and an increased focus on automation. Certain sectors such as technology, healthcare and clean tech still seem poised for growth as the pandemic has highlighted areas of importance for our health and security.
Entrepreneurs who are able to offer innovative solutions in these spaces are wellpositioned for growth. In addition, the pandemic has highlighted the need for businesses to be adaptive and reach their customer base and deliver their products and services in new ways. While we have learned that we need to have contingency plans so that we are not solely reliant on supply chains that are outside of our domestic borders, we also must continue to support global trade. Southern Ontario businesses have benefited greatly from a global economy and we need to continue to support access and expansion of markets. In the midst of this challenging time, I continue to be inspired by the innovation and strength that Canadian businesses have shown. Whether through quickly retooling to contribute to the call for PPE, pivoting business models to adapt to new realities, or introducing innovative solutions to continue serving clients, businesses and organizations have shown incredible resilience. It is this resilience and ingenuity that will get us through the pandemic and position us for a strong future. And we continue to be here every step of the way.
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Waze Introduces New Advertising Solutions to Help Small Businesses Thrive New features make it easier than ever for small businesses to connect with customers and drive sales Ori Daniel is the Global Head of Waze Ads Starter, Waze Ads self-service solution for small businesses. Waze Ads Starter aims to make advertising on Waze easy and affordable for business owners, enabling them to drive awareness and store visits in their local area. Prior to Waze, Ori focused on financially enabling small businesses through AI-driven risk assessment for loans, and consulted companies on increasing profitability and efficiency through data and analysis.
What would you say are the main factors that have contributed to the company’s success? Having reached 140 million monthly active users, Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. We work alongside our partners and communities to beat traffic and improve driving conditions for all. We attribute our success to our active community of 50,000 volunteer Map Editors, Localizers and Beta Testers who freely give their time each month to help build and improve our product using their local insights. Our user community also enables us to provide people on the road with the most relevant, up-todate information possible by submitting 60 million incident reports each month.
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What are the unique challenges faced by small businesses now in managing advertising budgets? With in-store shopping declining as a result of the
Taking this approach during COVID-19 proved to be more challenging as every business reacted very differently to the pandemic. At the end of the day the most important thing to us is to make sure our
pandemic, many small businesses are struggling to connect with existing customers and attract new ones, while making the most of their advertising investments. But with the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out in many
advertisers, whom we think of as our partners, come out of these challenging times in the best shape possible.
countries now, small businesses have the opportunity to kickstart their operations and capitalize on the anticipated influx of customers.
The history of GPS navigation is interesting, how has the GPS technology evolved overtime?
What are the new advertising solutions introduced by Waze to help Small Businesses thrive?
GPS technology has evolved at a tremendous rate, and today is relied upon more than ever to get drivers where they need to be. At Waze we’ve really focused on building our global Community to provide drivers with the most relevant and accurate real-time information to help them get where they need to be in the most efficient way.
We’ve introduced a number of solutions to help small businesses thrive. Most recently we rolled out updates to Waze Ads Starter, making it simpler for small business advertisers to create and manage Waze ad campaigns with Ad Manager, a streamlined campaign management dashboard. Now, in minutes, small businesses can begin advertising, see how campaigns are performing at a glance, and easily make changes -- as well as gain access to new ad formats and other capabilities. And last year, we launched a campaign designed to drive footfall to small businesses by making sure their location listings on Waze are as visible and accurate as possible, including opening hours, contact information and service information. Over the space of just a couple of weeks, our volunteer Map Editors updated listings for around 500 businesses on Waze, helping attract customers during the critical holiday period. What is the most challenging part of launching a new product or service during a global pandemic? Taking a global point of view, we always want to make sure we build the most relevant and helpful product features to as many advertisers as possible. To help our advertisers maximize their success, we frequently talk to them and take their feedback, so we know we are building the right things.
We’ve also focused on layering innovation for advertisers on top of GPS technology, and providing ways for brands to target in-car customers’ undivided attention, moving people to brick-andmortar locations.
On a final note, what is your key advice to small business owners on innovation? Keep testing your assumptions -- fail fast and learn often. You can’t afford to be stagnant; your industry and competitors are constantly shifting and improving their positioning in the market. Try new strategies, develop new incentives, and adopt new technologies, but make sure you test everything first, prove that you see the value, and only then commit.
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HOW LEADERS Can Better Support their Employees to Fight Remote Work Burnout By Janice Litvin Burnout has risen to the level of a syndrome as declared by the World Health Organization, who defines burnout as chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Before the pandemic hit, burnout was already reaching staggering numbers – 66% of American workers according to Gallup. JANICE LITVIN is on a mission to help leaders and teams banish burnout in their organizations so their employees can come to work healthy, happy and ready to work. She is a certified virtual presenter and SHRM recertification provider who teaches that replacing your employees is much more expensive and time-consuming than helping them be well. She draws on over 20 years in the human resources field, 10 years in the IT industry, studies in psychology, and experience changing her own behavior in response to stress using cognitive behavior therapy. Litvin coaches leaders on keeping teams happy and productive through her unique wellness strategies. Through keynotes, workshops, and accountability groups, she provides simple, easy-to-implement techniques to manage stress to prevent burnout, engage in wellness, and fall in love with fitness. The result: lasting behavior change.
Stress and burnout are caused by one or more of the following, according to Gallup: Too much work Lack of control over workers’ jobs and specifically their work Lack of adequate support from management
So the manager is key in helping employees prevent burnout. Here is where managers can begin: 1.SStigma about mental health is still pervasive today. It’s important to eliminate the stigma by bringing it out in the open and sharing your own struggles. That opens the door for others to share. That is what Prudential is doing. 2. Connect with your teams weekly and if necessary, daily, not just to check in about work, but about the people and their families. That is how to exhibit emotional intelligence. 3. If you see something, say something. Address aberrant behavior as soon as you realize a team member is exhibiting it. Take them aside privately and ask if everything is okay from a helping point of view using your best
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emotional intelligence. Get them the resources they need. Managers don’t need to solve the problem but they do need to address it. 4. Speaking of emotional intelligence, use empathy when speaking to employees. They are your best asset and if they’re unhappy, your customers will feel it as will your bottom line. 5. Make sure to provide adequate EAP services (employee assistance programs which are mental health counseling services).
The C-Suite has added responsibilities: 1.SIt is important to provide support in terms of job security. Right now people are worried about their jobs, which creates undue stress to financial insecurity. They want honest reassurance from the company leadership. They want to hear from them on a regular basis – providing the latest updates as things change. 2. If you have to deliver the worst-case scenario, do it with grace and clarity and helpful support. 3. Communicate often and with integrity. All the pandemic-induced unknowing and fear cause stress, and different people experience stress differently. So first and foremost, it is important to be empathetic to the various reactions your teams will exhibit. When stressed it is very difficult to “keep our heads.” We need to break down the two most common forms of stress behavior: over-reaction and over-generalization. The best way to combat those two reactions is to reality spin them. And the best way to help your employees stay grounded in reality is to communicate often and with integrity. Connect with Janice Litvin on Twitter @JLitvin, Facebook @WorkplaceWellnessSpeaker, Instagram @JaniceLitvin, LinkedIn, and visit www.JaniceLitvin.com. Banish Burnout Toolkit™ is available on Amazon and wherever fine books are sold.
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Best Practices for Fuelling E-Commerce Growth in a COVID-19 “New Normal” Economic Model By Ali Tajskandar
Step 1: Adapt Your Offering It is crucial to ensure your business can utilize an online sales model. It could be that you can digitize services like courses, fitness classes, events, or consulting. Zoom, YouTube, Vimeo, and other video technologies have made this transition easier than it was in the past. If you have a retail store selling physical goods, you should make sure that you have processes in place to reliably process and deliver products purchased online.
Today’s small businesses are faced with unprecedented challenges and opportunities that we have not seen in the last 20 years. Likely the biggest question facing all businesses is – what does the “new normal” mean for immediate and long-term growth?
Even though we are coming off of 2020 where nearly 58,000 active businesses closed in Canada, I believe the future is bright for small businesses. My opinion comes from experience from starting a business in the aftermath of the Great Recession to currently empowering over 2,900 businesses to succeed online. In every industry there is no going back to the old world of not having a customer-centric, engaging presence online. In the past year, it has seemed at times like there is a light coming at the end of the tunnel, and then a city can be hit with an unexpected lockdown. This instability can sink a business if it does not have the right digital plan in place. Our experience has given us a unique perspective on a few foundational areas to help small businesses succeed online now and in the future no matter what the “new normal” looks like.
Your long-term strategy should be adaptable to deal with potential disruptions and risks to your success whether it is competitive pressure or uncontrollable external factors like COVID. At Wishpond, we see this alot with restaurants who are unable to have dine in guests due to COVID restrictions. We've routinely helped strategize how restaurants can start accepting orders through online ordering platforms like Uber Eats, Doordash and other meal delivery platforms, as well as taking orders directly from their website and over the phone. This enables restaurants to retain their staff, maintain cash flow, and continue delivering the great products to their customers in these changing times.
Step 2: Stay Nimble Small businesses often juggle more tasks with less staff and financial resources than larger businesses. In these times, you can maximize your productivity and budgets by leveraging platforms like Upwork or Fiverr for cost-effective support for short-term tasks such as design, content/copywriting, and virtual assistant and support services.
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Additionally, here are a few of my personal recommendations for boosting sales and improving customer experiences: Calendly: for accepting appointments online Shopify: for building an e-commerce site FreshBooks: for sending invoices online DocuSign or SignEasy or PandaDoc: for online signatures Intercom or LiveChat: for providing customers with online chat support Grasshopper.com: to set up a professional 1-800 number Google G-Suite: for business communication, storage, and collaboration Asana or Trello: for online project management
Your site should be concise with customer testimonials about the value of what you are offering. It should make the purchasing process simple without requesting too much information. To boost sales and to simplify your online experience, consider integrating tools like buy buttons, live chat, discount pop-ups, and other tactics to prompt customer engagement. Remember, the easier you make it for your customers to engage with you, the more likely they will be to. Do not forget that you can still have a physical human touch while selling online. If you have a customer’s mailing address you can send free gifts, offers, and thank you cards that will keep you top of mind. Pay attention to your customer experience, ensuring products are shipped with care and delivered on time is paramount. Particularly when people are turning online to determine the value of a brand, things like customer reviews and testimonials go a long way in building trust and earning your next sale.
Step 3: Create a Memorable Customer Experience
These steps are best practices that I applied in starting my company in an uncertain economic environment to currently thriving amidst the challenges impacting businesses as a result of COVID. It is not enough to have a nicely designed website and think that your business will grow. You must be adaptable, be willing to invest in delivering memorable customer experiences, and always be on the lookout for new apps and processes that can be used to improve your business's efficiency and reduce costs. To me that's been the common denominator in all the businesses we've seen thrive in these challenging economic times.
There have been many studies done that show that a website has milliseconds to seconds to capture customer attention regarding why they should buy their products or services. With this in mind, you should garner honest feedback from customers, partners, and investors about your website. You should ask them about the site design along with the experience of interacting with your business from consideration to sales and service delivery. If a customer cannot immediately tell what you are selling and what differentiates your business from similar providers when they hit your homepage, they may not return. This is also true for the press, analysts, investors, and potential partners that do their homework first on your site.
Ali Tajskandar Chairman and CEO
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PIVOT TO WIN New Book
By Jordan Babineaux, Former NFL Player Turned Entrepreneur and Business Coach, Inspires Readers to Transform Their Lives and Fulfill Their Wildest Dreams
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Whether you’re building a career, leading a team, running a business, or simply trying to live your best life possible, Jordan Babineaux is a role model whose experiences, both good and bad, will inspire you to achieve your wildest dreams. In his new book, PIVOT TO WIN, the former NFL player turned sports broadcaster, entrepreneur, and business coach, urges people to embrace change as a catalyst for growth. He teaches by example, sharing his personal story to help readers know when it’s time to pivot, use their strengths to overcome adversity, and stay motivated for the long run. In his book, Babineaux reveals that even as a child, he had some difficult choices to make. He could have been tempted by drugs and crime, but instead, encouraged by his mother and siblings, focused on sports and education as a way to reach his goal of playing pro football. Once in the NFL, he relentlessly strove to stay fit and play his best until the day he retired and had to face the biggest challenge of his life. He knew the grim statistic: seventy-eight percent of NFL players are bankrupt or under financial stress within two years of leaving the league. Babineaux overcame the odds, decided to “pivot” and build a new career. The road was not always easy. Along the way, some of his businesses failed and he nearly went bankrupt, but eventually, he triumphed and today helps others achieve their mission.
Babineaux packs each chapter of PIVOT TO WIN with valuable advice that readers can use to build their own Pivot Playbooks. One of his most important lessons involves establishing a personal Ground Zero. He explains, “Change can feel like you’ve lost part of your identity. Be it a new career, a move to a new city, or working for a new boss, you must find the time and space to self-reflect. This is ‘Ground Zero’ and it means establishing where you are.” Some of his other insights include:
Examine Your Behavior
Consider developing new skills and new relationships that support your discoveries in Ground Zero. What activities do you do in a day, a week, or month? Once you create a list of those behaviors, it will be easier to see what stays and what goes. Which of these activities is serving you? Which will you give up in pursuit of something more?
Find People Who Will Hold You Accountable
Find people who support your good habits and push you to develop more. Ask yourself, who do I know who lives a life that I want to live? Who around me has a set of morals that I would like to mirror? Then interview these people. How can you act in a similar way? What kind of actions can the two of you take to hold each other accountable to your goals?
Learn From Your Mistakes
Think about a choice that you’ve made that doesn’t align with the person you want to become. What can you do to prevent yourself from being in that situation again? Who can you rely on to help you stay out of toxic environments? What do you need to change?
Refuse To Take “No” For An Answer
When you face a “no,” it means you’ve asked the wrong person. Sometimes the person who says no doesn’t even have authority. Don’t walk away without seeking the person who has the “yes” that you’re looking for. “No” could be the one thing standing between you and achieving your goal. Consider this approach the next time someone tells you no.
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Focus On What’s Ahead
Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Life is like a magnifying glass that can burn a hole in paper when it’s in pure focus. You too can ignite a fire when you focus on what’s in front of you. Stare into the rear-view mirror too long and you’ll crash. Get back in the game and pursue the future you really want.
Employ Both A Growth And Service Mindset
Nothing can be lost when you commit to growing and serving. Who in your life has a growth mindset? Can you talk with them about how they maintain that mindset? As for a service mindset, what can you offer others even when you’re struggling? What skillsets do you have that you can lend to someone else?
Jordan Babineaux learned many things during his relentless journey to become a professional football player and a successful business leader. By sharing his accomplishments, failures, and missteps in PIVOT TO WIN, Babineaux gives readers dozens of tools that they can apply to themselves. His book is the ultimate guide to success in life, sports, and business.
About The Author Jordan Babineaux, author of PIVOT TO WIN, transitioned from nearly a decade playing in the NFL to become a sports broadcaster, entrepreneur, and business executive. He currently serves as the “voice” of the Seattle Seahawks on both television and radio, while also helping organizations, teams, and leaders navigate their pivots. Babineaux and his brother Jonathan, former defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, founded a company that produced several filmed comedy specials as well as the movie Woman Thou Art Loosed. They also launched a specialized car service in Seattle and created the Babineaux Foundation, a nonprofit that gives back to their hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, and contributes to Lupus research. Jordan Babineaux holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Southern Arkansas University and an MBA from Seattle University. He lives in Seattle with his wife and three children.
GOOGLE CHANGES MAY AFFECT YOUR WEBSITE By Susan Jones The Google Page Experience update is set to launch mid May, as announced recently by the search engine giant. As a massive influence on the daily online interactions of much of the globe, their changes impact almost every business in the world. This update will highlight the user interaction and provide an increased role, it will also ensure that businesses will need to address all of their digital elements. What was previously a design consideration over a ranking one, now the enjoyment of your pages will show the worth of your site, in a manner of speaking. While the planned rollout is in May 2021, the company will also test results showing a visual indicator that highlights pages in search results that have great page experience. It is an interesting development that puts the onus on brands to create their own unique interactions.
To understand how a user will perceive the experience of a specific web page, the algorithms at play will evaluate a set of signals which can deliver data where needed. These include signals such as how quickly a page loads, whether or not it’s mobile-friendly, runs on HTTPS, has intrusive interstitials (think pop-up ads) and whether content jumps around as the page loads - even image quality and sizing can come into the picture. Made up of several important existing metrics that take charge within the search ranking design already, including the Mobile-friendly update, Page Speed Update, the HTTPS ranking boost, the intrusive interstitials penalty, safe browsing penalty, while refining metrics around speed and usability. These refinements are under a vitals list (overall user experience vs. random pages one by one) and are arguably the most influential factors when regarding the SERPs (search engine results page). Together in ratio they can show the best possible reflection of the user experience.
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Visual Indicators of User Experience Within SERPs When the update goes live, it will test various ways to display a “visual indicator” in the search results that will inform a user if a specific search result is expected to have a great experience or not. These types of visual indicators have been seen in this space before with AMP icons, slow labels, mobile-friendly labels, and more. It is hard to say how long the user experienceindicators will last, it depends on if Google decides, based on the data, if it is worth displaying inthe search results. Testing will tell soon. You may even see theseicons and labels in the searchresults within this year.
How To Prepare For The Change? You can start preparing now for user enjoyment to become a ranking factor now by studying the overall performance and metrics within the Core Web Vitals report in Search Console. Getting a sense of how your site is performing in these areas will show you many ways to improve before the more data driven analytical elements are available with the update. AMP won’t be required for articles to show in the Top Stories carousel in search after this update launches in May 2021, but will still come into play in some regard to user optimized delivery and experience factors.
Many SEO experts expect the overall impact will be relatively minor, since many of the signals already factor into current search algorithms. However the visual indicator being announced will give SEO's a bigger speaker to advocate for their companies to pay more attention to Core Web Vitals and other experience signals, so it is doubtful there will be complaints from that side. Have you caught up on the latest news around the Google page experience update? Be sure to find out all you can to ensure your business is prepared before hand. Whether a small business or large corporate name, service provider or casual user, you need to know how best to utilize this system.
Susan Jones CEO and Founder
WebMax Marketing Ltd.
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EFFORT PLUS TIME EQUALS RESULTS Lawrence Krimker CEO
Lawrence Krimker has become one of North America’s most accomplished business leaders. As he has managed to revolutionize the residential and commercial energy sector, successfully disrupting and transforming an industry that had grown complacent.
Through strategic acquisitions, innovative business tactics, and the creation of a specialty financing model that has made high-efficiency energy appliances more affordable for homeowners and businesses, Lawrence has amassed over $1.45 billion in assets for his companies and has helped hundreds of thousands of Canadians reduce their carbon footprint.
Simply Group was born from Lawrence’s vision to change the way Canadians think about home comfort. In seven short years, the company, which started as Simply Green Home Services, successfully expanded into the financing and lending sector, making Simply Group one of Canada’s largest non-bank suppliers of consumer credit. Lawrence continues to push the company forward with a strong focus on innovation and an unwavering commitment to building mutually beneficial relationships with its dealer network, OEMs, and consumers. With his strong leadership, vision, and passion, Simply Group has been celebrated as being Great Place to Work-Certified™ for six years in a row. Lawrence’s ambition, drive, and strong work ethic hail from his humble beginnings. The son of a single mother—an immigrant to Canada who relied on multiple jobs and subsidized housing to make ends meet—Lawrence grew up seeing the value of these qualities firsthand. He started his first business at only 16 years old while still in high school. He then attended the Schulich School of Business on a full scholarship and in his spare time, he launched a window-cleaning business that went on to gross $2 million in sales with over 34,000 customers, 80 employees, and operations in three locations. After profitably selling the company and graduating at the top of his class, Lawrence went on to launch Simply Green Home Services in 2013.
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You’ve been recognized as one of North America’s most accomplished business leaders. What would you say are the main aspects that have contributed to your success? At Simply Group we have an obsessive focus on cultivating a winning culture. That means attracting and empowering the right talent while placing the customer experience at the forefront of everything we do. Let’s start with talent. We find, attract, and develop team members with an entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to build and create something, or be part of a solutionoriented team. At Simply Group, we want builders – people who are entrepreneurial and want the opportunity to be responsible for their work. They have autonomy, creative freedom and get to feel like they take ownership in something. We give them the accountability they crave, and ensure they are rewarded for their effort, results, and thought leadership. Not only does this help us retain best-in-class talent, but it drives a palpable passion among team members for the business. We’ve launched multiple lines of business and have made many acquisitions – the cornerstone of our success is that our team members feel like owners of the company. We are also committed to creating a diverse, accepting workplace. It’s why we’ve been Great Place to Work-Certified™for six years in a row and have been ranked as high as fourth. We have also been listed as a 2021 Best Workplace™ for Women. From there, we ensure our team members are focused on innovation to drive customer experience improvements. We do things differently because we put customer experience at the forefront. At Simply Group, we are pioneers. In the short time since we expanded into the consumer lending industry, we’ve launched several unique products that provide Canadians with flexible, affordable financing solutions so they can modernize their residential and commercial properties. We’ve developed infrastructure to improve application approval rates and have created a streamlined application process to reduce wait times, so our dealers can spend more time managing and growing their business.
As CEO of Simply Group, what is the biggest challenge of your role and what strategies do you use to overcome these challenges? As CEO of Simply Group, I face a few different, equally important, challenges. First is keeping high-quality talent stimulated and engaged. At Simply Group, it’s important to attract people that align with our entrepreneurial culture. People with that personality type need to be engaged,
excited, and focused on being successful, which means I need to remove obstacles. It all starts with building trust – I want team members to know, unequivocally, that they can be honest with me about the challenges they’re experiencing so I can focus on removing the right barriers. I build real relationships with employees that are based on personality and not on hierarchy. We socialize because we genuinely enjoy spending time together. It’s important for people to feel comfortable expressing their creativity and not worry about taking risks. Second is ensuring that we maintain a high-quality customer experience as we scale. To do that, we constantly listen to what our customers are saying and adapt accordingly. We receive feedback from customers, we track and analyze their journeys, and then we collaborate as a team to develop meaningful solutions and customer experience enhancements. We are unwilling to deviate from this process because it has consistently provided the focus we’ve needed during periods of explosive growth to deliver successfully.
Lastly, it is sequencing and prioritizing initiatives so we can accomplish our strategic objectives. It’s incredibly important to not lose sight of the end goal and vision. There are filters that we use to evaluate initiatives. As a team, we review each project to understand the broader business impact. Our prioritizing process involves a combination of ROI, alignment to our overall goals, and qualitative assessment of the impact on the business. Generally, the initiatives will result in an end-state that moves you closest to achieving the vision are the initiatives that receive priority. But that can be easier said than done.
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Simply Group is one of Canada’s fastest-growing home energy solutions and consumer lending companies. What sets it apart from other companies in the same industry? What are the main aspects that have contributed to the company’s growing success? When I started in this industry, the market was lacking creativity. At Simply Group, we are innovators in every sense of the word, offering game-changing services and products that long standing competitor shave yet to capitalize on. We are an organization that is young, energetic, and does not accept the status-quo. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the lives of Canadians, our partners, and our extensive dealer network. Our mission is to make sure we put them and their needs first, because we know that our success depends on it. Our motivation is to consistently bring firstof-its-kind products and services to the market that cater to the current generation of consumers and dealers. A customer/dealer-first approach has been the single most significant contributor to our growth and success in the home improvement financing category.
What’s the biggest challenge that Canadians face when it comes to the comfort of their home and how is Simply Group addressing these challenges? Home improvement can come with a hefty price tag, which can be a significant hurdle for many Canadians. At Simply Group, we are acutely aware of the problem – it is why we offer creative, flexible, financial solutions that address and mitigate this challenge. As one of Canada’s largest and fastest-growing non-bank consumer lenders, we provide innovative financial solutions to Canadians so that they can modernize their residential, commercial, and industrial properties with the most efficient products. We offer industry-high approval rates, a frictionless application process, and innovative products like our 240-month amortization period, a first in the non-bank home improvement lending space. Simply Group provides unique, flexible financing solutions to support customers so they can afford the products and services they want for their homes or businesses.
These financial solutions broaden Canadians’ product choices, giving them an opportunity to purchase highquality, eco-friendly home improvement options that are long-lasting and reduce their carbon footprint.
How would you describe your entrepreneurship journey? How has innovation played a role in your entrepreneurship journey? I would describe my entrepreneurial journey in one word: rewarding. Real reward comes from putting in the time and effort and seeing meaningful results. Despite being raised by a single mother and living in subsidized housing, I started my first company when I was 14 years old and it’s been an uphill climb. For me to get where I am has taken an immense amount of hard work and dedication. That first business is what pushed me to launch a window-cleaning venture while studying in university—we generated $2.3M in sales in just four months.
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Collectively, all of these rewarding experiences have contributed to where we are with Simply Group today. The best part is that to be successful I’ve had to surround myself with people that I care about, people that share the same values and work ethic, people who stimulate me and continue to challenge me. Together we’ve been able to overcome some major hurdles and deliver some very creative solutions. It has been an incredible journey, coming from very little to now being the founder and CEO of Simply Group with $1.45B in assets management and over 200,000 customers.
Because our business had diversified so much into the digital space, we were able to provide positions for our incredibly talented people, to support digital. As a result, revenue from ourdigital business grew substantially. We saw our digital lead volume increase by 2x and we our cost-per-lead drop by 3x. It was an incredibly stabilizing for us.
In terms of innovation, I like to think of innovation as a tool. We’ve been innovative in every business we’ve ventured into. Take window cleaning, for example, it’s an old industry with low entry barriers—anyone with a squeegee and a bucket can get into it. We built infrastructure and applied technology to build a scalable business – and that’s still the approach we take today. We have revolutionized the Canadian consumer finance landscape by introducing innovative, unique, products. To do it, we leveraged technology and innovation as a tool, ultimately driving value for customers and our dealer network. Simply Group took a “dining room table” focused customer experience and pioneered a fully integrated, digitized marketing, sales, and installation process. We also provide a unique suite of flexible financing solutions, like a 240-month amortization option, to help Canadian consumers and businesses upgrade and modernize their properties in a cost-effective way across the residential, commercial and, industrial property segments. This, in turn, helps dealers grow their business. When our dealers’ business grows, so does ours.
How has COVID-19 changed the way that Simply Group does business? What initiatives and procedures has the company implemented to adapt to the new way of doing business during these challenging times? The pandemic has had a huge impact on businesses, and Simply Group is no exception. First and foremost, we had to wind-down a few lines of business. For example, our Residential New Construction program was placed on hold because builders slowed building, considerably. We also put our traditional retail business on-hold because people stopped shopping in retail. However, we didn’t waiver in our support of our people. Even though these lines of business were temporarily shutting down, we decided that we were not laying off anyone as a result of COVID-19. Instead, we repurposed team members into high growth areas.
We also viewed this unexpected time as an opportunity to strengthen our business. First, we reevaluated our traditional approach to our retail business. We have very strong relationships with our retail partners, and we knew we had to find a way to leverage our existing infrastructure to drive growth in our retail business. So, we developed a sophisticated digital program for our retail partners and fortunately it’s been incredibly successful. We also saw an opportunity for consolidation in the consumer finance space. We accelerated the strategic acquisitions of Home Capital Group’s point-of-sale retail lending portfolio, SNAP Financial Group, and Deal net Capital to further strengthen our position.
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7. On a final note, what advice can you give to your fellow entrepreneur colleagues to help them achieve their business goals? My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you build a team whose nature and spirit align with your goals. You must instill confidence in your team and empower them with the freedom to think and create. Give them all a seat at the table to help you drive innovation. You need to have your finger on the pulse - with your frontline staff, customers, and dealers. It’s important to realize that innovation doesn’t always come from you – it comes from people throughout the organization. Be sure to surround yourself with a collaborative, honest, diverse, team of experts. The people you trust to help you deliver on your promises to customers have an extraordinary impact on the success of your business. A great strategy is nothing without flawless execution. My second piece of advice is specific to goal setting. Goals need to be clear, specific, measurable, and realistic. You have to make sure they have a timeline and that you apply an action plan against your goals —you need to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. But at the same time, they need to be malleable and adaptable to changes in the market and changes in the environment, because unpredictable events will happen – this past year is the perfect example.
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Eight Signs Your Employees Might Be Struggling with Trauma
Diana Hendel, PharmD
By Mark Goulston and Diana Hendel, PharmD
Drs. Diana Hendel and Mark Goulston say trauma isn’t always caused by a big “shock and awe” event. It can also happen gradually. Here are some warning signs to help you intervene before your organization sustains irreparable damage. While there is light at the end of the tunnel with the growing availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, times are tough all over, and many businesses are still under great strain. Given the events of this past year, if you and your employees weren’t at least a little stressed, it would be unusual. But Diana Hendel, PharmD, and Mark Goulston, MD, want leaders to ask themselves this: Has your organization left “stress” in the rearview mirror and entered “traumatic stress” territory? “Many employees are the walking wounded,” observes Mark Goulston, MD, coauthor along with Diana Hendel, PharmD, of the book Trauma to Triumph: A Roadmap for Leading Through Disruption and Thriving on the Other Side (HarperCollins Leadership, March 2021, ISBN: 978-1-4002-2837-9, $17.99). “We all have different thresholds for stress and we’ve all been impacted by COVID and other crises to varying degrees. No wonder some of us are struggling with the aftermath of trauma.”
“Trauma has long-term effects that can cripple your company,” adds Dr. Hendel, who became an expert in organizational trauma after leading a major medical center through a deadly workplace shooting over a decade ago. “That’s the bad news. The good news is the earlier you realize people are traumatized, the faster you can take action to help them heal.” 21 - CanadianSME I April 2021
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COVID isn’t the only culprit (though it is a major player). The authors describe a “perfect storm” of massive, ongoing upheaval: everything from political and social turmoil, to massive tech-driven disruptions, to natural disasters. Frequency, intensity, and duration have all been ramped up—and these conditions lead to the crossover from stress to trauma. (Note that trauma isn’t always the result of a single shocking event. It can also be cumulative, like the pot of warm water that slowly heats up around the unsuspecting frog.) Here are a few “red flags” that may indicate that people in your company might be traumatized:
RED FLAG #1: People dig in and resist when asked to change. Instead of taking a step back, assessing what needs to change, and adapting to the new situation, traumatized people may double down and put up strong walls of resistance. This stubbornness is a fear response, not a sign of deliberate belligerence. It’s a manifestation of the fight/flight/freeze response that always occurs when people experience trauma. “Instead of feeling excited about learning a new way to do things, they cling to their way,” says Dr. Goulston. “Instead of finding ways to leverage their wisdom, or finding new ways to add value, they are unable to pivot or reinvent themselves. Eventually, they become dysfunctional to the needs of the situation.”
RED FLAG #2: They cling to their “competence zone.” People may rigidly cling to what has worked for them in the past, the doctors say. “This is where I’m competent. This is where I’m confident. This is where I feel in control.” They may blindly keep doing what they’ve always done, even though it no longer works—or even though their skill set is in less demand than it used to be, due to the pace of change around them.
RED FLAG #4: They resort to self-destructive behaviors. People who have been traumatized may develop an exaggerated stress response. This occurs when the stress they’re feeling crosses over into distress. In the face of stress, people can still (with difficulty) get back on track moving toward their goals. With distress, the new and highest-priority goal becomes finding a way to relieve it. People may resort to excess drinking, eating, avoidance behaviors, overworking, etc. to numb or mask their pain. These behaviors can be counterproductive methods to cope and can be a slippery slope if they become habits or addictions.
RED FLAG #5: They insist they are “fine” or go uncharacteristically silent. Trauma-induced behaviors don’t always show up as negatives. Yet when people refuse to acknowledge they are impacted at all, especially when others are clearly struggling, it’s often a sign that they’re masking their pain. An interesting observation about people is that when you ask them how they’re doing and they reply, “Great,” they’re usually good. However, when they reply, “Fine,” they’re usually not.
RED FLAG #6: Leaders behave in un-leaderly ways. Remember, these red flags signifying trauma don’t appear just in employees. Leaders are just as susceptible to traumatic impact as employees. For example, a leader might seem paralyzed and abdicate responsibility—hiding out in their office and not doing what they need to do to lead the company out of trouble. On the other hand, they might overreact and make rash, knee-jerk decisions even though they were previously known for levelheaded steadiness.
RED FLAG #7: RED FLAG #3: People seem angry, aggressive, or “difficult” in other ways. “Employees may be disagreeable and contrary,” says Dr. Hendel. “They may give you unexplained pushback or develop a negative attitude in place of their usual optimism and tenacity. They may have angry outbursts. They may become increasingly unpleasant to work with. Again, this is all fear-based. Unfortunately, this behavior pushes others away when they are most needed for support.”
You notice a lot of blame and finger-pointing. Speculation and second-guessing can cast a wide net of secondary blame that extends well beyond the causal agent. Why didn’t the organization prevent it or stop it? How could the leaders have been unaware? In some instances, people blame the victims for overreacting, or the organization for not preventing “witch hunts.”
RED FLAG #8: People can become polarized in two opposing camps. In the aftermath of trauma, it’s common for multiple narratives to spread around an organization. There are hundreds of unique points of view, and each person creates a narrative based on their own perspectives, personal histories, and relationships to those directly involved. Blame combined with opinions about why the trauma happened can create an “us and them” mentality. People split off into factions— and one day you may realize the organization is deeply divided.
If you recognize some or all of these signs and symptoms, know that people are not intentionally resisting change or trying to sabotage the company, say the authors. They may very well be reacting from a place of traumatic stress and fear.
“Fortunately, there are strategies for addressing the impact trauma has on individuals—and on the culture of the organization,” says Dr. Hendel. “When leaders navigate trauma effectively, they can minimize risks to employees and to the organization, help people recover and heal, and position the organization to thrive in the future.” 21 - CanadianSME I April 2021
Welcome to the CanadianSME April issue. This month we’re very excited to feature interviews with Canada’s top business leaders and articles...
Published on Apr 12, 2021
Welcome to the CanadianSME April issue. This month we’re very excited to feature interviews with Canada’s top business leaders and articles...