It’s no surprise to anyone that Canadian small businesses continue to face headwinds. The lasting impacts of the pandemic, uncertain global markets and supply chains, social unrest, and shifting public health guidance continues to pose challenges for small businesses looking to chart a course to recovery.
Despite this reality, small businesses report doing better than they were in 2019. That’s what we heard from small businesses when we surveyed them as part of the 2021 Scotiabank Small Business Path to Impact Report. In fact, more than half of the 901 businesses we surveyed told us they are doing as well, or better, than they were doing in 2019. This is good news, and that good news extends to British Columbia.
Despite the pressures that small business owners have faced during the pandemic, we found that 58% of small business owners in British Columbia said they were doing better now than they were before the pandemic.
Digitization in British Columbia
Small businesses in British Columbia were quick to adapt during the pandemic. Digitization is one of the principal areas we saw this; 50% of small businesses in British Columbia added new web capabilities and 29% of small businesses added an app to allow online ordering or e-commerce.
Last year we saw local consumer demand drop with businesses closed. For much of last year, British Columbians were stuck in their homes. To avoid lineups and crowded shopping malls they opted for online shopping, recurring online services, and take out/ meal delivery services. But now that many businesses have increased their accessibility, we’re seeing that local in-person and online demand return.
Adapting to the new normal
To stay on top and make the most from the economic recovery, small businesses will need to continue to adapt to unanticipated obstacles such as new regulations or restrictions from government and evolving public health orders. One thing we’ve learned from the past few months is that nothing is constant; businesses should always anticipate changes to the environments they operate in.
Whether it was restaurants moving their operations to outdoor seating, or retailers quickly adapting to online orders; the businesses who did well during the pandemic were the ones who accepted that they need to adapt to consumer demand.
For many business owners this idea can be overwhelming – how do they know what changes to anticipate? These changes can also be costly, and nobody knows if they are needed only for the short term or for the long term as well.
This is a good time for business owners to seek advice from a trusted advisor. Our report found that business owners who received advice from an advisor confirmed that they saw their fortunes improve much more than those who did not. Small business advisors can help business owners anticipate the changing business environment, apply for more financing to retrofit their businesses, and seek federal and provincial relief.
Scotiabank’s Tips for the New Normal
1. Build a business for the changing environment – Consumer demand has changed permanently; digital capabilities are more important than they ever were.
2. Be flexible – Being able to adapt to new environments and finding new ways to continue to connect with customers to meet changing consumer needs will be key to growing your business.
3. Use the tools available to you – Seek help from financial advisors and other trusted advisors such accountants, and lawyers to access government packages or relief programs that you might not have known about.
4. Look everywhere for talent and customers – 40% of business who invested in digital capabilities invested in remote work.
Read the full Path to Impact Report online here.
Jason Charlebois is the Senior Vice President of Small Business at Scotiabank.