What we heard: being in business is tough

In 2016, the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce and the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism have partnered with the Ontario Chamber of Commerce to bring the Small Business Too Big To Ignore campaign to our members.  This campaign will highlight the important contributions of small business to our economy and
communities, and actively engage small businesses in investigating the top barriers to small business growth - and identify solutions to overcome those challenges. 

In June two roundtable events were held and we spoke to and received feedback from about 30 businesses.   The content from those sessions has been captured in an easy to read report that can be found on the Chamber website at peterboroughchamber.ca/small-business-too-big-to-ignore.html. 

In addition to those roundtable events the Chambers also put together a short survey for the business community.  The survey was designed to help us reach and gather feedback from as many businesses as possible.  Hearing from our Peterborough and area business community is important because the information provided will help advance the provincial dialogue around small business. 

The survey consisted of eight questions:

  1. How many paid employees does your business have (including part-time staff as a .5)?
  2. In which industry is your business based?
  3. Where is your company located?
  4. Does your company perform transactions online? (i.e. e-commerce, selling tickets to events)
  5. Have you experienced difficulty filling a vacant staffing position in the last year?
  6. If yes to #5, what were the greatest challenges that you experienced in filling that position?
  7. What are the most significant barrier(s) impacting the success of your business?
  8. How can we, as a business community, work together to ensure government responds to these challenges?

The responses represent close to 50 employers with over 300 employees across a variety of sectors, including  business and financial services, engineering, construction, infrastructure and hospitality industries healthcare, retail, manufacturing, tourism and distribution industries.  The businesses were located both in the City and County of Peterborough.

At the outset of the campaign, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce identified three areas of focus: access to talent, infrastructure gap and the cost of doing business.  The survey was designed to follow these focus areas.  

One of the more interesting results can be found in the access to talent bucket.  The survey revealed that of the employers who responded almost half expressed challenges in filling vacant positions at their business.  The main challenges were finding people with the right skills and work ethic to fit their needs.  Access to internet, work for partners, and lack of incentives to hire students were also mentioned as challenges by employers when it comes to hiring. 

Question 7 asked business owners, "What are the barriers impacting the success of your business?"

The overall theme that emerged was the impact of navigating “the overwhelming and complex layers of provincial legislation” from energy costs to licensing to the rules around hiring and borrowing money.  There is also a general concern about more legislation being added. 

Infrastructure needs appeared as a concern of employers alongside the issue of the internet; it's cost, access, and options for business.

Most of the employers indicated they were not using the internet to perform transactions online, including e-commerce.  

When it came to how we can ensure government hears the concerns of business, the benefit of speaking as one voice was stressed along with the importance of advocacy and having a defined focus in two or three areas to put forward to government. Some areas suggested in the survey were taxes, the need to recognize the difference between rural and urban issues, and taking a team approach to our region.   

We thank those business that took the time to answer the survey and if you would like to weigh in, contact us
at sandra@peterboroughchamber.ca or 705.748.9771. 

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