Entrepreneurial confidence could be key to Canada's economic comeback

Survey reveals greater-than-average optimism and resilience among Canadian business owners

Entrepreneurial confidence could be key to Canada's economic comeback

Canada’s recovery is looking to be a long and rocky one, thanks in no small part to the challenged conditions faced by small-business owners around the country. But even as the country’s independent entrepreneurs face setbacks from shortfalls in government aid, dwindling consumer demand, and tightened health restrictions surrounding COVID-19, there’s at least one thing they can count on to get through.

According to RBC’s 2020 Small Business Poll, conducted by Ipsos on a sample of 2,000 Canadians including 320 business owners, business owners were more likely than the average individual to express confidence in their ability to remain resilient through challenges.

Nearly nine out of 10 business owners said they can bounce back when faced with setbacks, compared to 72% among the general population. In the same vein, business owners were more likely than the general population (88% vs. 73%) to report confidence in their ability to come up with creative solutions to problems.

The general pervasiveness of optimism among business owners trickled down to their outlook on their business. Among business owners surveyed, 82% said they expected their business to weather the pandemic, and 22% go further to say that they will prosper in the coming six months.

“Small businesses – and the inspiring Canadians who build them – have and always will be the backbone of our country's economy,” said Lori Darlington, vice-president of Small Business and Strategic Partnerships, RBC. “Especially in these unprecedented times, entrepreneurship requires a great deal of resiliency – and fortunately, a majority of those who pursue it possess the mental strength, adaptability and business acumen needed to weather the ups and the downs of the journey.”

The survey also uncovered numerous putative precursors of resilience among entrepreneurs. Around a third of entrepreneurs surveyed (34%) said they went through periods of financial distress or instability in childhood, compared to just 20% across the wider sample.

Having self-employed or business-owner parents appeared to be a contributor, with 35% of business owners having that background compared to just 29% among those surveyed overall. Being prodded to earn money through entrepreneurial ventures in childhood seemed to budge the needle toward being a business owner, with 30% of owners reporting early experiences in entrepreneurship versus 24% in the general population.

Canadians were overwhelmingly appreciative of small businesses, with eight in 10 of those surveyed saying the pandemic has helped them recognize the value of such ventures in their community. As a form of support, participants offered numerous suggestions that they thought could help business owners’ efforts to recover and improve customer interactions in the coming year.

Eighty-eight per cent of those surveyed said that businesses’ success will hinge on their ability to maintain an end-to-end digital presence that includes online ordering, touchless payment, and social media advertising.

When asked what Canadian businesses should focus on over the next 12 months, Canadians cited refining their core product or service offerings to improve customer experience (61%), contingency planning for future risks and challenges (57%), and cutting costs and paying down debt (51%) as the top priorities. Another 41% stressed the importance of reaching new customers through investments in marketing and sales, and 39% said business owners should expand into new markets, including previously unexplored geographic areas or lines of business.

“Even as the COVID-19 pandemic reshapes the small business landscape as we know it, the challenges of today promise to pave the way for a strong, new generation of Canadian entrepreneurs and businesses tomorrow,” Darlington said.


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