How small business survived the recession

Extrait de: How small business survived the recession, TERRY BRODIE, Globe &Mail, Sep. 22, 2011

Owners made sacrifices to weather downturn

Survival of the smallest

Small and medium-sized businesses played a key role in helping Canada move forward from the 2008-2009 recession, with many owners making personal sacrifices to help their businesses survive, according to a new report from The Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The report found that:

·         62 per cent of business owners worked longer hours;

·         43 per cent cut their own salaries (including one owner who hadn't taken a salary since July, 2009);

·         40 per cent took on more debt;

·         and 37 per cent cancelled personal holidays to weather the economic storm.

·         Just 20 per cent made no changes in their own behaviour at all.

Changes as a business owner

Changes in markets

As well, 42 per cent cut the number of their employees; 26 per cent brought in wage freezes; and 16 per cent put on a hiring freeze, according to the report, which was based on 6,141 responses to a survey.

Among other findings: Half of respondents turned to their local markets to find new customers; 16 per cent found new customers in other provinces; and 9 per cent found new business in other countries,

Changes in sales and marketing

Changes in employment

In addition:

·         46 per cent introduced new products or services;

·         35 per cent boosted their advertising and promotion;

·         16 per cent decreased their promotional efforts,

·         and 35 per cent cut prices to cope with the economic downturn.

While most companies tried to hold steady, the report also noted a number of firms for whom growth was a key to survival. These "growth-oriented enterprises," or GOEs, either boosted the number of employees, expanded to new markets in other provinces or in other countries.

They made such moves in bigger numbers than other firms. For instance:  

·         65 per cent of them found new business in other provinces, versus 16 per cent of all respondents;

·         38 per cent found new business in other countries, versus 9 per cent;

·         and 33 per cent added jobs, versus 12 per cent.

And there's been an apparent payoff. Asked how their business was performing now compared to when the economic downturn was having its biggest effect, 63 per cent said they were much or somewhat stronger now, compared to 48 per cent of all respondents.

Most popular actions

"It was a classic lemons and lemonade situation," said CFIB president Catherine Swift in a release about the report, which noted that while small businesses did make job cuts, previous CFIB research showed that larger businesses lost more payroll employment than small enterprises.

"Instead of taking an axe to their empoyment rolls, which was the easy way out for many large corporations, small businesses made the best out of a bad situation. They became innovative and creative in order to sustain and grow their business," Ms. Swift added.

The best of young entrepreneurs

There are no apparent Canadian connections among them...except maybe the same kind of passion, innovation and resilience that marks entrepreneurship north of the border.

Nevertheless, has announced its finalists for America's best young entrepreneurs of 2011, a roundup of promising entrepreneurs aged 25 and under.

They range from a few startups targeting education assistance to an online custom clothes seller to a seller of portable shoes.

They came by way of reader suggestions, and will be narrowed down by vote to a top five list to be announced on Oct. 27.

Considering the cloud

More companies are moving to the cloud -- as in cloud computing, with many business services and tools accessible from anywhere via the Internet.

For those considering cloud-based applications, The New York Times offers a guide to the trade-offs to consider.

Have a look back, too, at some of our own coverage, including this series and this piece.


Google CFO is guest speaker

Patrick Pichette, senior vice-president and chief financial officer of Google Inc., will be the guest speaker as part of The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal's "Bell International Leaders" series.

"Mr. Pichette's talk will allow the business community in the Greater Montreal area to better understand the Google model, which encourages employees to innovate and be creative and which allows the company to maintain its aggressive rate of growth," said board president and CEO Michel Leblanc in a release. The event takes place on Oct. 24. For more details, click here.