The study, titled Perspectives on Small Business in Canada, is based on a survey of 1,160 small businesses, and includes a separate general-population survey of 2,028 adult Canadians. The surveys were commissioned through the Angus Reid Forum by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), HP Canada and Intel Canada.
Small business is the second-most respected institution behind farmers, most of whom are small businesses themselves. The survey also found that 95 per cent of Canadians value the products, services and personal attention that they get from a small business. Importantly, an impressive 98 per cent of Canadians surveyed say small business is important to Canada's future.
"Across the country, Canadians realize the importance of small business and the strong impact they have on the economy," said Doug Bruce, vice-president, Research, CFIB. "Ninety-four per cent of Canadians agree that small business is vital to their community. Providing employment locally, meeting the unique needs of the community, and donating goods and services are top ways they contribute."
However, the survey also brought to light a number of challenges facing entrepreneurs, with a full 71 per cent of Canadians saying they do not believe there is strong enough emphasis on entrepreneurship as a career option in schools. The survey also found that despite the respect that Canadians have for small business, 83 per cent feel that governments undervalue entrepreneurs. And, when asked why they are not going into business for themselves, the biggest barrier was the lack of money (57 per cent), followed by the amount of risk involved (40 per cent) and uncertainty about the success of the business (36 per cent).
Increased investment in technology helps small businesses save time, money
Among small business owners and employees surveyed, 69 per cent of less-established small businesses (those operating 10 years or less) indicated that they are planning to increase their operations in the next three years. Forty-three per cent indicated that increased investment in technology would help their business achieve its overall goals; of these respondents, 67 per cent believe that increased investment in technology would help them save time and money. Other benefits cited from increased technology include improving access to information (64 per cent), helping to remain competitive (58 per cent) and promoting innovation (48 per cent). Eighty-one per cent of business owners felt that investments in technology matched or exceed their expectations.
"The survey results really speak to the importance of investing in technology as part of a business' long-term growth strategy," said Elaine Mah, business marketing manager, Intel Canada. "Technology is being seen as a key enabler for innovation and productivity among small- and medium-sized businesses."
The survey also found that 76 per cent of Canadian small businesses believe they are currently utilizing technology either at the same level or to a greater extent than their competitors, with just18 per cent saying they use it to a lesser extent. However, the results are different when it comes to the rate at which small businesses adopt new technologies: just 17 per cent believe they are early adopters while 46 per cent believe they adopt the latest technologies at the same time as their competitors. Thirty per cent say they adopt the latest technology after their competitors, likely waiting to understand how the market will adapt before investing.
"This is interesting when you consider that small businesses also revealed that their top operating challenge is competition, tied with regulation and paper burden at 39 per cent," said Leyland Brown, vice president and general manager, Personal Systems Group, HP Canada. "We know that technology can give a small business a competitive advantage, and these results show us that the majority of small businesses feel they have taken steps to ensure they are using the right technology to address the competition. Most may not see themselves as early adopters, but this data indicates that they are relying on technology to help give them an edge."
Additional survey findings include:
- Seventy-nine per cent of Canadians -believe the economy is powered by entrepreneurs.
- One in five (20 per cent) of Canadians currently own or have owned a small business, while close to half (46 per cent) have given some thought to running their own business.
- When asked why they started their own business, 60 per cent of owners indicated that they wanted to be their own boss and make their own decisions. Others saw business ownership as an opportunity to make better use of their skills and knowledge (37 per cent), while yet others did it to create more flexibility in their schedule (30 per cent) or for a financial opportunity (30 per cent).
- Close to half of the small business employees surveyed indicated they wanted to work for the business mostly because they believe in what it is doing (45 per cent). Other factors included having a more flexible work schedule (36 per cent) and having the opportunity to contribute to the business (35 per cent).
- In terms of operating challenges for small businesses, competition, regulation and paper burden tied for first place (39 per cent). Total tax burden followed closely at 33 per cent.