Canadian companies have been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, with 81 percent of SMEs reporting being negatively affected, and over 1/3 having concerns about their operations in the coming months. А CIBC poll shows, however, that 76 percent of small businesses are optimistic and confident in being able to move to a phase of recovery post-pandemic. The majority of companies or 85 percent report that the uncertainty of until when measures are going to last is the major challenge they are facing.
2020 and Going Forward
In 2020, more than half of Canadian business owners (54 percent) said that they faced a decline in sales, with 28 percent of companies being forced to temporarily close. Many were to make changes to their operational processes, including cutting business costs (34 percent), applying for business loans (15 percent), resorting to layoffs (25 percent), and using savings (29 percent). Nearly 1/3 of business owners share the opinion that it will take between 12 and 24 months to return to pre-pandemic sales volumes. According to CIBC’s Group Head and Vice-president Laura Dottori-Attanasio, businesses are optimistic about long-term growth and at the same time, they are concerned about their capacity to overcome short-term challenges to full recovery. Reaching out to financial advisors to help them restructure their operational plants and finances will help companies to stay afloat during the ongoing pandemic and to plan for what is to come.
One of the major issues that small businesses face is the shortage of business flows, along with low demand for their services and products. About 1/5 of owners share that they experience financial difficulties and may be unable to pay workers. More than half of companies are also facing debt to pay off while 44 percent of SMEs need additional funding to continue operations and 39 percent will resort to professional advice.
The good news is that over 40 percent of businesses see the crisis as an opportunity for growth and expansion. At the same time, the majority or 74 percent share that they are yet to shift to digital and are facing challenges to this end. The main themes for companies to pay attention to are short-term forecasting, resource optimization, and sources, be it the Canada Emergency Business Account, credit line, inventory, market or locked-in investments, accounts receivable, etc.
Women in the Workforce and Female Entrepreneurs
When it comes to female employees, some 41 percent have been working from home while the rest are essential workers on the front-line in sectors like service, retail, and health. Women have been more severely impacted by the pandemic, both in terms of employment and business opportunities. At the same time, more women are working on the front-line than men meaning that working from home is not an option for them.
Because of nationwide school closures, many women have been left juggling between job and home responsibilities. This has resulted in a widening pay gap and more women taking low-paid jobs.
Female entrepreneurs also report financial difficulties, with 61 percent facing loss of customers and contracts. In Quebec, for example, close to 50 percent of women entrepreneurs admit to having difficulties in accessing financing. In addition, more women-led businesses operate in sectors that have been hard hit by the pandemic, including service, hospitality, and retail.
Other groups have also been more affected by the pandemic, including racialized people, Indigenous Canadians, immigrants, and persons with disabilities. Many report difficulties in accessing financing to stay afloat, despite the serious impact of the crisis on their business.
Government Programs and Funding
Back in October 2020, the Canadian government implemented a series of measures, from rent assistance and increased cash flow to helping businesses keep employees. Some economic sectors are well on the path to recovery while others have been hard hit and in need of support because of the ongoing pandemic. This is why Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced plans to implement measures to help businesses facing declining revenue. One such measure is the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy through which companies can get mortgage and rent assistance. Entities that are eligible to apply include non-government organizations, charities, and businesses experiencing financial hardship. Other measures to support Canadian businesses are the expanded Canada Emergency Business Account and Canada Emergency Business Subsidy, the latter aiming to help organizations to rehire and pay employees. The former is a measure under which businesses that have been affected can apply for interest-free financing of up to $20,000. QST and GST/HST remittances were also subject to deferral until June, 2020 for amounts remitted between February and April. Finally, medium-sized and small companies can apply for funding under the Business Credit Availability Program run by the Business Development Bank of Canada and Expert Development Canada. The latter also guarantees cash flow and operating credit loans available through banking institutions. Small enterprises, tour operators, and regional businesses that operate in rural areas and fail to qualify under different programs are also offered financial assistance.