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Half of Canadian Entrepreneurs Project Continued Growth in 2017: BMO Small Business Report

BMO’s annual small business report, released today, reveals that, amid regionally diverse economies, Canadian entrepreneurs of small and micro businesses are cautiously optimistic about the future of their businesses and predict they will see growth in the year ahead.

The report, conducted by Pollara, measured growth and performance expectations among Canada’s business owners and found:

  • Half of Canada’s business owners surveyed anticipate growth in the upcoming year; only one-tenth expect a decline;
  • Regionally, growth expectations are highest in Ontario (62 per cent) and B.C. (53 per cent); Quebec’s business owners have the lowest expectations (36 per cent); and
  • More than half (53 per cent) believe their companies will have a better year performance-wise than in 2016

“Across Canada, small and micro business owners are cautiously optimistic, which is a positive sign for Canada’s entrepreneurial culture. Business owners are conscious of the environments they are working in, and are taking appropriate steps to advance and expand,” said Andrew Irvine, Head, Commercial Banking and Partnerships, BMO Bank of Montreal. “Business owners in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and B.C. have the brightest outlooks for the year ahead. Not surprisingly, Alberta’s business owners are least optimistic pending on economic recovery.”

More Than Half of Surveyed Business Owners Have Expanded Their Teams

Business owners are focused on growing the number of employees, their customer base and revenues. While 57 per cent of new business owners recorded an increase in employees (compared to 49 per cent last year), their priority has been to explore ways to expand their customer networks and increase their revenues.

“There is a consensus among business owners that their ventures have grown in many areas since establishment. Given a larger employee base and low interest rates, now is an ideal time for them to invest in operations,” said Mr. Irvine.

Online Presence on the Rise

Notably, the majority (70 per cent) of Canadian entrepreneurs reported growth in their businesses’ online presence, up 20 per cent from last year, backed by technological advancements and strong consumer demand.

“Similar to the shifts we are seeing in our own efforts, innovation has marked small businesses surveyed across Canada. They have responded to consumer demands, and continue to develop their online presence. Growth in this sector is imperative, and has been spearheaded by the tech hub Kitchener-Waterloo and smaller areas like P.E.I.,” said Mr. Irvine.

Micro Businesses Feel Differently Than Small Businesses

While entrepreneurs across Canada are generally optimistic, small and micro business owners differ by degree. BMO’s small business report revealed micro businesses, those with fewer than ten employees, are less positive about growth and execution in 2017 than small business owners.

Forty-eight per cent of micro business owners – compared to 60 per cent of small business owners – predict growth in 2017, while 39 per cent believe their size will remain unchanged. In addition, only half of micro business owners – compared to 65 per cent of small business owners – foresee a better year.

“Micro business owners were more aligned with small business owners’ optimism back in 2014, which shows an interesting change. A large number, 27 per cent, now anticipate a slower year. The economic backdrop, especially in areas where the situation might be more challenging, and hesitancy to invest, could be factors for these businesses,” said Mr. Irvine.

They both, however, have similar expectations in terms of their online presence, and the country’s economic performance as well as their own province’s.

To learn more about BMO’s business services, visit www.bmo.com/business.

Survey results cited in this report are from phone interviews with a random sample of 304 Canadian small business owners or managers conducted between September 7th and 23rd, 2016. The margin of error for this survey is ± 5.6%, 19 times out of 20. Data has been weighted using the latest census information to be representative of Canadians business as a whole.

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