Friday, 10 November 2017 17:07

Small Biz Owners Face Many Challenges

Commentary by: Dan Kelly in Toronto, ON

Governments of all stripes are often eager to turn the page in times of tumult.

It's probably an appropriate strategy: when you're in the midst of turmoil, it's best to change the conversation by presenting the public with some positive news.

Last week — following three months of intense backlash culminating from their small business tax proposals — the federal government introduced some 'cheerful' news in the form of their fall economic statement. In it, the government trumpeted lower-than-projected deficits, solid GDP growth and improving job numbers. They also increased the Canada child benefit by indexing it to inflation as of July 2018 and boosting their working income tax benefit for low-income Canadians in the workforce.

Much of this is good news, but has the page turned?

Not so fast.

The smaller deficit number is welcome but what's missing is a plan to get back to a balanced budget. Right now the country's economy is improving, but are we prepared for the next slowdown? What tax tools or levers will the government be forced to implement when the rainy days eventually come and revenue growth inevitably drops?

A plan towards deficit elimination should be a priority right now.

What was also missing from the government's economic update were details on its revised small business tax proposals.

Thanks to a three-month unprecedented backlash from the small business community, the government has partially retreated on their tax measures.

Most importantly, they dropped provisions to limit the use of capital gains in business succession. They also exempted up to $50,000 in annual passive income from proposed higher tax rates on the money firms have invested for future expansion or for the business owner's retirement.

They even reinstated a 2015 election promise to reduce the small business corporate tax rate to nine per cent. That promise — which had been abandoned in the 2016 budget — will help return hundreds of millions of dollars to independent business owners. The government should be congratulated for these important moves.

But while the feds have backed away from their original bluster (which included characterizing small business owners as tax-cheats), version 2.0 of the tax measures will still make it more difficult for business owners to grow their businesses, innovate and create jobs.

We await further details to understand the full effects of these proposals on small businesses and their families. In particular, we need details on whether the passive income threshold will be indexed to inflation or what the CRA test will be for income shared among family members associated with a business.

Aside from the proposed tax changes, small business owners still face a myriad of other challenges.

We are anxious about the NAFTA negotiations — the current U.S. administration muses about killing the trilateral pact. What happens if NAFTA is terminated? There are also major tax hikes going ahead, including EI and CPP rates, carbon taxes on top of rising borrowing costs, higher minimum wages and new labour legislation in some provinces.

So, while the federal government may wish to turn this page — for small business owners, the next page still has a lot of question marks.


Dan Kelly serves as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Republished under arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post 

Published in Commentary

By: Andrea Elliot in Toronto

“You don’t have Canadian experience.” This is what a new immigrant from New Delhi with a university degree, an MBA and a wealth of prior business experience was told at a recent job interview. In her 40s, the woman had arrived from India, confident she would have greater career opportunities and a better life for her daughters, but was quickly disheartened to find her impressive resume held little weight within our borders.  

This is a story that has become all too common in Canada — especially when you consider that we have the highest foreign-born population (20%) of any G-8 country. While most Canadians take great pride in our nation’s rich history of diversity, the sad truth is our businesses are not always so welcoming to people with different names, customs and attire. A recent Canadian employment study proved as much, revealing that job candidates with Asian names (Chinese, Indian or Pakistani) are less likely to be called for interviews than their counterparts with Anglo-Canadian names, even when they have a higher level of education.

In my role at Dress for Success, it’s heartbreaking to see these stats come to life every day. Over the past five years, the number of new Canadians who have turned to our organization for career help has climbed to a point where immigrants now represent almost half of the women we serve. But, while our charitable organization is best known for providing women in need with professional attire, these new immigrants face challenges that go far beyond finding the right outfit for an interview.

Imagine entering a new country as a refugee. You’re a young parent with kids and no income. English is your second language. You don’t have a computer to work on your resume, or a smartphone to communicate with potential employers. You have to go to the public library to access the internet. You have no social network to rely on, and you’re certainly not on LinkedIn. Sometimes, I have to remind our volunteers and community partners of just how difficult an uphill climb our immigrant population faces to find employment.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]We help women position their experience and education for a Canadian audience, removing any hidden cues that may cause employers to be dismissive of their resume. [/quote]

Then, there are the hidden obstacles, understanding not just how to dress for an interview, but the social cues that could be holding them back (for instance, it might be inappropriate for a conservative Muslim woman to shake hands with a man during a job interview, but an employer may not be aware of this).

 

Needless to say, the learning curve for immigrants is steep. Each woman who shows up at Dress for Success has her own personal journey and it is our mission to embrace that journey, so they can gain confidence, find a job and earn financial and economic independence. We start by getting to know them through private, one-on-one conversations that last up to two hours and often become incredibly emotional. These are smart women who are desperate for nothing more than a better way of life, and our volunteers can’t help but become intimately involved.

After chatting about their interests and qualifications, we help these women position their experience and education for a Canadian audience, helping remove any hidden cues that may cause employers to be dismissive of their resume or LinkedIn profile. We also have them create “elevator pitches” on why they should be hired, and stage mock interviews to help them prepare. We even hold networking events where they have the opportunity to introduce themselves to executives and managers, and practice speaking in a corporate setting.

When it comes down to it, our mission is to build these women up every day so they not only gain confidence about what they can do, but feel good about who they are as individuals. There are many ways for people to get involved in our cause, but this is really a rallying cry to corporate Canada — I’m calling on our country’s business leaders to examine their hiring policies from the top down and take a more active role in providing new Canadians with opportunities.

For all the talk of a global marketplace, our businesses still act local. The number of women who continue to tell me they feel they’re being judged by their family name is significant and disheartening. It’s also disappointing when qualified candidates who have held great jobs in their home countries are not considered for similar positions here in Canada.

The sad truth is that while many of today’s corporate leaders are concerned with reaching male-female ratios and gender equality, promoting opportunities for new Canadians is not on their radar, even though it would be in their best interests to do so — in 2015, the Conference Board of Canada estimated that if Canadian employers and professional regulatory bodies did a better job of recognizing immigrants’ skills, they would earn an additional $10 billion annually, at minimum.

There is simply no reason or excuse for a “Canadian experience” job requirement to exist in 2017. And, as we continue to celebrate Canada 150, it’s time for our businesses to realize — as our country did years ago — that opening their doors to new immigrants will only make them stronger.


Andrea Elliott is Chair of the Board of Directors of Dress for Success Toronto, and its fundraising committee, Corporate Giving. 

Published in Economy

In partnership with Apathy is Boring, New Canadian Media will be posting first-person accounts from the 150 Years Young Project, a campaign that highlights the positive impact youth are making throughout their communities.

Komal Minhas, Owner of Ko-Media and Co-Founder of Dream, Girl

“Entrepreneurship builds a huge amount of resilience, capacity, emotional intelligence, and growth. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to take your time and build a strong group of people around you who can help you down your path- and remember to keep an intentionality to the hustle.”

As a successful young female entrepreneur who is the co-founder of widely viewed documentary Dream, Girl and the owner of her own media company, KoMedia, you may be surprised to learn that Komal Minhas got her start in Grand Prairie, Alberta. This rural city played an integral role in Komal’s story, as she was raised there by parents who immigrated from India. She grew up watching her parents face the many trials and triumphs of new immigrants and was inspired by their entrepreneurial spirit as they created a home for themselves. She also grew up witnessing the effects that patriarchal culture can have on women, and particularly young women and women of colour. She was always taught to dream big and she took this belief with her across the country as she started on a new path in Ottawa to pursue her dream of empowering women and girls.

After completing a degree in Journalism from Carleton University and graduate studies in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo, Komal fell in love with telling stories through video and documentary and gained an understanding of how business can have a positive impact when led by intentional and thoughtful leaders. Thus came the creation of KoMedia, which aims to create systemic change in how females are treated and does by undertaking projects that tell the complex and empowering stories of women and girls from around the world. Soon after, she connected with fellow entrepreneur Erin Bagwell, who had the innovative idea of creating a documentary that showcases the stories of female entrepreneurs, giving a voice to this underrepresented segment. Komal became a co-founder of the project, helping to create the documentary from pre-production, to production stages in New York City, to premiering across the world. The film has had many successes, from a sold-out public premiere at the Paris Theatre in NYC to a premiere hosted by Sophie Gregoire Trudeau in Ottawa. Komal is currently working out of Ottawa, a city that she continues to call her home-base despite having worked in many thriving cities around the world. 

Christo Bilukidi, Entrepreneur, OCH Ambassador, and Former NFL Player

“I just want to show youth that you are not limited to anything in this world because of your upbringing, your circumstances, or your environment. You can do anything you set your mind to. A lot of people might tell you this, but I believe this because I have lived it, and that’s why I am an OCH Ambassador”.

Growing up in Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) and coming from a single-parent immigrant household, Christo Bilukidi was taught the values of hard work and perseverance. These came in handy when he found himself playing football for the first time in the twelfth grade and having a natural affinity for the sport, beginning a journey that he never imagined himself undertaking. By pushing himself through trainings, try-outs, and SAT tests, Christo earned a full-ride scholarship to play football at Georgia State University. Soon after, he was drafted into the NFL and played for the Oakland Raiders, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Baltimore Ravens. 

After five seasons in the NFL, Christo decided to take his retirement and follow a different passion: entrepreneurship. He is now a co-owner of a successful tailored suit business, Idlewood, and uses his free time for volunteerism. Christo decided to return to Ottawa, where he felt a strong sense of community in his home city and wanted the chance to give back. He is an OCH Ambassador, using his experiences growing up and in the sporting community to be a positive role model to youth. He cites that he will take part in as many community outreach opportunities as he can get his hands on, and is often engaging in public speaking at high schools or community centres in OCH neighbourhoods. On top of this, Christo is working on organizing a football camp for youth that he hopes will feature current NFL players and local Ottawa players to help empower young people through athleticism. He believes that sports are a great tool for youth empowerment, as they teach discipline, hard work, and motivation.


The 150 Years Young Project: In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, Apathy is Boring is teaming up with community organizers and city ambassadors to recognize positive contributions by youth. Follow the hashtag #150yy for more!

Published in Arts & Culture
Tuesday, 21 February 2017 19:22

Entrepreneurs Moving North

by Don Curry in North Bay, Ontario

Economic development officers in the upper reaches of Northeastern Ontario have noticed a trend in the past few years — as businesses come up for sale the buyers are first generation immigrants to Canada.

They had no idea where the newcomers were coming from, how they found out about the business opportunity, how many businesses they own, how many people they employ, or much else.

Now they do. 

I wrote about this trend for New Canadian Media in December, explaining why municipalities may be better off canvassing for new immigrants from within Canada's borders, rather than launching expensive international campaigns for potential newcomers from other regions of the world. 

Working with the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre through a project sponsored by the Far Northeast Training Board, I travelled to Latchford, Temiskaming Shores, Earlton, Englehart, Kirkland Lake, Matheson, Timmins, Chapleau, Cochrane, Kapuskasing and Hearst in the summer and fall of 2016 to interview as many newcomer business people as possible. The full report is here.

Of a possible 55 business owners identified by economic development officers, 38 were interviewed, or 69 per cent. This extremely high sample number provides very reliable data.

Entrepreneur profiles

So who are they?

The typical newcomer business owner in the Far Northeast Training Board catchment area is 44, originally from India but moved north from the Greater Toronto Area, owns a restaurant or fast food franchise, motel, convenience store, or gas station, has lived in Canada 13 years, has an average family size of 3.6, loves the beauty and tranquility of the north and plans to stay. The friendly people in the north, the lack of crime and congestion were the other top draws.

Together the 38 people interviewed own and operate 58 businesses, employ 206 people full-time, of whom 56 are family members, 139 part-time, and 20 seasonal. Almost half of them know people from southern Ontario who would move north for the right business opportunity.

Almost half found out about the business opportunity from friends or relatives, with real estate agents, franchise chains and online information cited by others. Two-thirds of those interviewed are originally from India, with the remainder from Pakistan, China, Egypt, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Iran and Belgium.

Twenty own restaurants or fast food franchises, 15 own motels, 10 own convenience stores, seven own gas stations and two own pharmacies. Others owned a landscaping business, nail salon, strip mall and a movie theatre.

Where they come from

Twenty-four of the 38 people interviewed moved north from the GTA. The remainder came from Montreal, Saskatchewan, Windsor, Orillia, India, Kitchener-Waterloo, Gravenhurst, Hamilton, London England, Florida, Vancouver, Fenelon Falls and Belleville. Seventy-nine per cent say they feel connected to the town they live in and plan to stay.

Gejal Gandhi, 35, and her husband Keyur own the Casey’s Restaurant, Esso gas bar and convenience store and the Park Inn Motel in Kapuskasing. They employ 10 full-time and 25 part-time people. They moved to Kapuskasing from Cochrane and lived in Toronto prior to that. They have been in Canada 17 years, are from India, and have two children.

“We bought the Park Inn Motel first,” she says. “We had a motel in Cochrane and sold it. Once we were in Kapuskasing we found the Esso, and then the same thing for the restaurant. There was a sign and we contacted the owner and went through the process.” They have lived in Kapuskasing for four years.

Minesh Prajapati, 44, is originally from India and owns and operates the Subway franchise in Kirkland Lake. In addition he is in partnership with Indian friends in Mattawa who own the Subway there and together they own Subway franchises in Hearst and Englehart.

Change in careers

“I bought the business primarily for my wife,” he says. “She was working in a Subway but was just getting minimum wage. I was a banker doing lending and mortgages. Next year my wife will take over this store and I will be more like managing it. I can go back to banking if I want. They are still calling me.

“Right now, though, the way it is going, I don’t think I’m going back to the bank. Every year we are buying one more Subway.” He has lived in Canada 10 years and moved to Kirkland Lake from Brampton.

With six full-time and two part-time employees in Kirkland Lake, Prajapati says his two part-timers were hired through a special needs program and are doing very well. He says he attends Subway conventions twice a year “and that’s when people spread the news that they would like to sell.”

David Mohamed owns Willis Pharmacy in Matheson, where he is the sole pharmacist. Born in Egypt, he has been in Canada six years and moved to Matheson from Belleville. A couple of friends owned the business and he became a partner recently, after working at the Matheson location for 18 months.

“I decided to purchase because I like working with them and it was a good opportunity in the north,” he says. “Here you are alone in the business and we don’t have any nearby pharmacies.”

Louiz Soliman is also a pharmacist from Egypt. He owns Smallman Pharmacy in Temiskaming Shores. He moved to Haileybury from Montreal to take over the business a year ago. He came to Canada from Greece seven years ago. I asked him if he knew Mr. Mohamed. He said he did not, and asked “where is Matheson?”

If people ask him about moving north to start or purchase a business he says “I would tell them it’s a good area. The people are very polite. It’s a safe area.”

Peter Patel, 67, owns three motels, a restaurant and convenience store in Chapleau, employing 25 to 30 people. He and his partners also own a motel in Fenelon Falls, near Peterborough.

Starting from scratch

Another large employer is Siva Mylvaganam, 49, of Timmins. His is a Canadian success story. He came to Canada as a refugee from Sri Lanka and Siva’s Family Restaurant in Timmins Square now employs 35 people with the restaurant and catering business. In addition, he has a commercial real estate sideline where he employs another one or two people, depending on business activity.

Very well known in Timmins, he started the business from scratch in 1996. “When I came to Canada I had no English so I worked as a dishwasher, and in a car factory. There were layoffs so I worked in a restaurant and became a cook, and then a chef, and then opened my own business. I found this location and I thought Timmins would never be really high, or really low, because it is a mining town.

“I loved smaller towns because I was born and raised in a small village. I lived in Toronto and it wasn’t my place to live. I always go back but I never enjoy it. It’s not like here. People always say ‘Hi Siva, how are you doing?’ and I ask them about their family. It’s not like that in Toronto.”

Amjinber Cheema , ( “the locals call me Ami”) is typical of the younger entrepreneurs from India settling in the north. Only 28, his wife just joined him in Latchford from India. He came to Canada as a student and in his seven years here he lived in Saskatoon, Regina and Toronto before arriving in Latchford to purchase The Dam Depot, a gas station and convenience store.

Harsher winters

“There is value for money in the north,” he says. “The winters are harsher but you get used to it. Compared to the bigger cities like Toronto and Ottawa you get value for your money.” He feels connected to the people of Latchford and laughs that “after I was here for two months they appointed me the honourary Indian ambassador to Latchford. It was in the paper. It was very nice.”

Sam Singh, 24, owns the Mac’s franchise in New Liskeard and is another of the young people from India making their mark in the north.  He also came to Canada as a student and started in his business a year ago. “Young people like me don’t have much opportunity,” he says. “From here I can get a start. I am learning a lot of things. It’s a small community and I get involved. In the future if I am going to buy a bigger business I won’t have a problem. For everyone, a small town is the best place to start a business.”

Roger Gandhi, 58, was born in India but has been in Canada 40 years. He is typical of the older immigrant from India who is now well established. He lives in Earlton and owns and operates the Earlton Motel and Coté’s Variety. In addition he owns the mall where the variety store operates, plus the Regal Motel in Timmins.

Navin Tamakuwala, 67, is another. He owns the Thriflodge and Terry’s Steakhouse in Cochrane and has 14 full-time and five part-time employees there. He lives in Montreal most of the year and owns a Sobey’s grocery store there. Also from India, he has lived in Canada for 44 years.

While North Bay was not part of the study area, it has more than 70 first-generation immigrant-owned businesses. Its cricket team is dominated by young entrepreneurs from India. The same is true of cricket teams in Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay and Timmins. Together they are changing the face of Northern Ontario and investing in its future.

Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting (www.curryconsulting.ca) He was the founding executive director of the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre and is now chair of the board of directors.

Published in Economy
Tuesday, 20 December 2016 20:26

Brockville, Look to GTA, not India

Commentary by Don Curry in North Bay

Municipal councils in Canada’s smaller centres do not appear to be at the forefront in analyzing demographic and diversity trends affecting their communities. They ought to be looking for immigrants closer to home, rather than overseas.

I see it in discussions with municipal politicians from my perch in Northern Ontario, and in a recent Brockville Recorder and Times news article about attracting immigrant entrepreneurs.  The municipality secured a provincial government grant to commission a study on the topic, one in which I am particularly interested.

The population of Canada is rising steadily and is more than 36 million people. Approximately 300,000 immigrants are now arriving annually.

Generally, newcomers to Canada do not emigrate to smaller centres, but to the larger ones, with Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver taking the majority. What is becoming more prevalent, however, is secondary migration to smaller centres.

Immigrant-owned businesses

In North Bay, population 54,000, where I live, there are more than 70 first generation immigrant-owned businesses. This is a relatively recent occurrence. Temiskaming Shores, population 10,500, is 90 minutes north of North Bay and it has more than 20 first generation immigrant-owned businesses. There, too, this is a recent occurrence.

The Brockville story that caught the attention of New Canadian Media noted the municipality of 22,000 people could attract immigrant entrepreneurs already in Canada. It was based on a study that contained a number of recommendations to make the municipality more receptive to immigrants.

I completed a study for the Far Northeast Training Board that will be released in January that covers some of the issues that Brockville council was discussing. I interviewed 36 immigrant business owners in 11 municipalities in Northeastern Ontario, the smallest with only 400 people and the largest the City of Timmins, population 43,000.

It supports the conclusion of the Brockville study that you don’t have to recruit internationally for immigrant entrepreneurs — they are already here. I expect to report on it in this space when it is officially released in January.

Moving within Canada

But for now, I can tell you that it shows two-thirds of the immigrant entrepreneurs in the study area were born in India, but did not come to Northern Ontario from there. They came from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

Dissatisfied with the high cost of GTA home ownership, high cost to purchase a business, and the congestion of the big city, they looked for alternatives and found them in Northern Ontario. They are just as likely to find them in Brockville, just a few hours down Highway 401, and in other smaller Ontario centres.

For municipal councils and economic development organizations, this is terrific news.  Many smaller centre business owners want to sell their business and retire. Demographers have seen this coming for years, as more baby boomers retire.

In many cases their children have moved to a larger centre, or they are not interested in continuing the family business. In our region, we are seeing immigrant entrepreneurs moving north to fill the void.

Caught up in detail

The municipal council in Brockville, according to the newspaper report, was receptive to the study but reluctant to allocate funds in its budget to make Brockville a more welcoming community for immigrants. That is typical of what I hear in Northern Ontario as well.

Municipal councils, in my experience, spend far too much time on the mundane day-to-day issues that should be the purview of municipal staff members, and far too little time looking at the long-term future of their communities. The large cities in Canada, however, understand the value of putting policies, procedures, and people in place to ensure they are doing all they can to attract and retain immigrants.

Many of the smaller ones still haven’t figured it out. Studies such as the one presented this month in Brockville and next month in the Far Northeast Training Board catchment area of a large chunk of Northeastern Ontario should serve as a wakeup call.

While municipal councils in smaller centres spend months poring over budgets, their population may be in decline and they are doing little to reverse the trend. They are preoccupied with minutiae.

Now they know it is far easier to recruit people from the GTA than from India. But it will take municipal will to make things happen on a larger scale.

Don Curry is the president of Curry Consulting (www.curryconsulting.ca). He was the founding executive director the North Bay & District Multicultural Centre and the Timmins & District Multicultural Centre and is now the chair of the board of directors.

Published in Policy

by Maria Ikonen in Gatineau, Quebec

Growing up in a small village in Iran near the Caspian Sea, Maria Rasouli felt the rush of freedom as she explored her surroundings riding her bicycle.

Despite being able to provide her with great joy, the activity was seen as inappropriate for an 11-year-old girl.

Things changed when she moved to Canada at age 24. Here, she was finally able to make her dreams of exploring the world on two wheels a reality.

Today, she is the founder and operator of Escape Bicycle Tours, a company that gives tourists and adventure seekers bike tours around Ottawa.

Her company was one of three winners of an Immigrant Entrepreneur Award this year from the City of Ottawa.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“A true source of inspiration [for my business] was my life in Iran as a woman where I was not allowed to bicycle.”[/quote]

“A true source of inspiration [for my business] was my life in Iran as a woman where I was not allowed to bicycle,” she says.

She adds that Escape Bicycle Tours was the result of two years of self-reflection that finally gave her the courage to pursue her dreams of riding a bicycle. Her passion for the sport is what she aims to provide for her clients.

“I have had guests who said they did not remember the last time they were on a bicycle or they had not bicycled for over 30 years,” she shares. “They were so happy that they took a bicycle tour with Escape.” 

Challenges of an immigrant entrepreneur 

Despite the motivation to take an entrepreneurial path, new Canadians may find obstacles in things like time-consuming bureaucracy and a lack of local networks.

According to David Crick, an international entrepreneurship and marketing professor from the University of Ottawa, a newcomer’s existing skill set or business model from overseas is not guaranteed to work well in Canada – there may be more competition already here. 

“They may have to look towards something that offers value [to Canadians like] lower costs,” he says.  

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“[There] are still many people who put immigrants into a box, and this is not something that will be changed quickly.”[/quote]

Another issue may rise from having no local banking history. 

“Even getting lines of credit from banks may be hard,” Crick explains. “[It is] a high risk to banks. This makes starting a business problematic.” 

Moe Abbas, founder of Ottawa General Contractors and another winner of the Immigrant Entrepreneur Award this year, points out other difficulties such as prejudice. 

“[There] are still many people who put immigrants into a box, and this is not something that will be changed quickly,” he says. 

“We must all understand how we are viewed in the eyes of the clients we serve. That judgement may not be a bad thing if we know what it is, and can work with it.” 

Rasouli also mentions the challenge of being in unfamiliar territory when new to Canada. She had to take some time to establish herself and gain a better understanding of how business is conducted in Canada. 

“I actually think it is a good idea for immigrants to work in Canada for a few years before starting their own business. There are lots of things that an immigrant can learn from co-workers and how organizations are run in Canada by being in a workplace,” she says. 

“That knowledge could later on be used for starting a business, building partnerships, marketing, sales and customer service.” 

She adds that the absence of family members in Canada can result in the lack of a support net, but may create a platform to improve as an entrepreneur. 

“I do not have the emotional, psychological, and sometimes financial support that family members could provide. This has led me to build strong professional and support networks and work harder to succeed.”   

Tips for immigrant entrepreneurs

Despite the challenges many newcomer entrepreneurs face, networking with similar ethnic groups could be something beneficial to try, Crick says.

“They may have networks overseas that can help in self-employment practices,” he explains. “For example, depending on the nature of the business model employed, some may have access to import or export linkages that domestic Canadian firms may not have.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[S]ome may have access to import or export linkages that domestic Canadian firms may not have.”[/quote]

Abbas, who is in the process of working on a social media start-up, Bumpn Inc., highlights the importance in understanding the consumer’s mindset. 

“If you are an entrepreneur selling to a demographic, you must look and behave, or at least understand deeply, the demographic you are serving,” he says. 

“People buy from people they trust. They usually trust people like them.” 

Rasouli emphasizes the value of making connections. 

“Network, network and network: people are often very kind and try to help if you ask them,” she says. “So, make sure that you have a diverse, solid network of professionals and friends who could help you with various aspects of your business and life.” 

Success is mostly in an entrepreneur’s hands, Rasouli adds. 

“Your success is … dependent on the amount of work you put into your business. You don’t have to wait for a performance appraisal or a manager to acknowledge or approve your work. The harder and smarter you work, the more success you bring to your business.”


Journalist Samantha Lui mentored the author of this article through the New Canadian Media Mentorship Program.

{module NCM Blurb} 

Published in Economy

Abundant opportunities exist for Canadian small and mid-sized businesses in Asian markets, despite slowing growth in the Chinese economy, according to a pair of leading international business experts.

“We remain bullish on China,” said Geoff Chutter, President and CEO of Whitewater West Industries, the world’s leading supplier of waterparks and attractions based in Richmond. “We do not see our sales dropping at all.”

Scotiabank Chief Economist Warren Jestin echoed Chutter’s optimism, noting that economic growth in China still remains good at 6-7 per cent annually, even as it has slowed from the typical 10 per cent annual growth rate of recent years.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]”China is a huge opportunity for Canadian businesses.”[/quote]

”China is a huge opportunity for Canadian businesses,” said Jestin, noting it is still the largest market in the world, with lots of opportunities for smaller and mid-sized companies selling high value consumer products and services.

Recognizing Asian market potential

Jestin and Chutter were the keynote speakers recently at the City of Richmond’s 4th annual Business and Partner Appreciation event.

Chutter said Whitewater West has grown by building on a reputation for product excellence, diversifying both its market and operations internationally, expanding its product lines and putting increased emphasis on customer service and relationships.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][E]xport companies should not “fixate” on the American market at the expense of losing out on the long-term potential of the Asian market.[/quote]

The company has been involved in more than 4,000 projects worldwide and is represented in 19 of the world’s top 20 waterparks. Even though global expansion meant outsourcing some of the company’s operations internationally, the resultant growth in business has seen his local workforce double in size to more than 600 jobs.

Jestin noted that while the U.S. market should enjoy the best growth in the short term, export companies should not “fixate” on the American market at the expense of losing out on the long-term potential of the Asian market.

Overall, Jestin said the forecast for the Canadian economy is sound with continued low interest rates and a generally favourable value for the Canadian dollar. He said B.C. should continue to lead economic growth among provinces due to its balanced economy and global focus.

Richmond's economy blossoming

Mayor Malcolm Brodie opened the session by highlighting Richmond’s economic growth.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"Our business outreach campaign of the last three years has facilitated the retention and addition of over 3,500 jobs.”[/quote]

“Our business retention, expansion and attraction efforts continue to yield results,” he noted. “Over 130 companies have accessed the city’s economic development information and services dedicated to business. Our business outreach campaign of the last three years has facilitated the retention and addition of over 3,500 jobs.”

The city’s annual Business and Partner Appreciation event provides an opportunity to strengthen ties among stakeholders with a joint interest in economic development in Richmond. It is also an opportunity to recognize the corporate partners who’ve helped directly support city programs and events.

In appreciation of the two keynote speakers, the city will make a contribution to the Young Entrepreneur Leadership Launchpad (YELL) program.


Published in partnership with Asian Pacific Post.

Published in Economy

by Craig Wong

There is a divide in business confidence across the country as low oil prices weigh on the outlook for some regions more than others, according to the latest reading from the Bank of Canada.

The summer edition of the central bank’s business outlook survey suggests businesses on the Prairies expect sales to slow over the next 12 months as the oil price shock spreads across other sectors.

However, the Bank of Canada says the story isn’t the same across the country.

“Similar to the past two surveys, the low commodity price environment is driving the divergence in firms’ outlook: on the one hand firms in the energy producing regions and those that are part of the energy supply chain continue to face tough market conditions,” the report said.

“On the other hand, domestic demand is strengthening in regions that are less exposed to the energy sector.”

Boosting non-energy sectors

Overall, the survey said more firms reported sales growth than sales drops over the last 12 months, but the margin shrank compared with earlier surveys. As well, the balance of opinion among companies that expect sales to grow over the next 12 months improved modestly.

The results of the survey of senior management at about 100 companies between May 15 and June 10 were released Monday, ahead of the Bank of Canada’s interest rate announcement next week.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Stronger U.S. economic growth and a lower Canadian dollar should help lift the non-energy sectors.[/quote]

The central bank is widely expected to cut its expectations for growth in the second quarter following a pullback by the economy in April, however its plan for interest rates is less clear.

“With rate cut speculation heating up ahead of next week’s policy announcement, the modest improvement and the upbeat tone for Central Canada and manufacturing slightly lower the odds of a move,” BMO senior economist Benjamin Reitzes said of the outlook survey.

“Recall that governor (Stephen) Poloz pays particular attention to this type of survey and the positives coming from non-energy sectors could stay his hand for now.”

Stronger U.S. economic growth and a lower Canadian dollar should help lift the non-energy sectors.

“The bank’s confidence in improvement outside the energy sector will be key to its assessment of whether or not further easing in monetary policy will be required in the second half of 2015,” RBC economist Josh Nye wrote.

Labour shortages growing less intense

In terms of spending on machinery and equipment, the central bank survey points to a moderate increase in investment spending over the next year.

However, there are distinct regional differences, with plans to increase spending more prevalent in Central Canada and the manufacturing sector. Energy-related regions and sectors expect to continue to see a decrease in spending.

A lower dollar is also affecting investment decisions as some businesses suggest they plan to restrain spending as a result of higher costs for imported machinery and equipment. Others, which benefit from higher margins on U.S.-dollar denominated sales, plan to use the profits to increase investment.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada report also found plans to hire staff have improved in areas less affected by energy prices with the overall balance of opinion on hiring over the next 12 months improving.[/quote]

The outlook compared with a survey by Statistics Canada on Monday that suggested capital spending this year on non-residential construction and machinery and equipment is expected to slip 4.9 per cent to $251.8 billion compared with 2014.

Spending by the mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction sector is expected to fall 18.7 per cent to $67.9 billion.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada report also found plans to hire staff have improved in areas less affected by energy prices with the overall balance of opinion on hiring over the next 12 months improving.

The number of firms reporting labour shortages that are hurting their ability to meet demand remains low and labour shortages are generally less intense than a year ago.

The Bank of Canada’s Senior Loan Officer Survey, which was also released Monday, suggested that overall business-lending conditions were broadly unchanged in the second quarter with a tightening in the oil and gas sector.


Published in Partnership with iPolitics.ca

Published in Economy

by Robin Brown (@RobinBrown) and Kathy Cheng in Toronto

Twenty years ago, the British/South Asian comedy show, Goodness Gracious Me, ran a skit where a British employee at an Indian firm needed to change his name from Jonathan because it was deemed too foreign and hard to pronounce. Behind the parody was the fact that South Asians in Britain often felt they needed to adopt English names to succeed.

At that time, globalization was seen as a result of the increasing influence of Western culture and ideas across the globe. The East needed to adapt to the West. Twenty years later, after a global financial crisis, that power equation has shifted.

Growing Chinese Influence on Business

Those working in Canada’s resources sector have long been conscious of the East’s power (specifically China’s) as their fortunes are often tied to it. For many of us working in Canada’s marketing services, however the reality of our global situation was brought into sharp focus by the recent acquisition of Cossette Communications’ parent company by China’s BlueFocus Communications.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"][I]t is hard to see how the nature and impact of China’s business culture will evolve as the country interacts with the world in its new more diverse and influential role.[/quote]

As China’s influence on business in Canada and the world grows, our success becomes more dependent on a need to understand China’s business culture. The West has gained much of its early understanding of Chinese business culture not from working with the vast population of mainland China, but from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, as well as the Chinese diaspora.

Of course, our learning has increased, as China rapidly entered the global economy over the last 20 years. But this has provided the West a specific view of China and Chinese businesses primarily in the role of a lender, a consumer of resources and a vast network of producers – all often entangled with the bureaucracy of the state. From that angle, it is hard to see how the nature and impact of China’s business culture will evolve as the country interacts with the world in its new more diverse and influential role.

Business Culture and Ethnic Culture

Ethnic culture differs from a company’s business culture, but has an influence on the way business is conducted. For this reason, it makes sense to look at how China’s ethnic culture may differ from other nations.

Our own research at Environics has shown the differences between the Chinese and Canadian cultures. One of the most widely used tools, developed by Geert Hofstede, shows how Chinese culture differs from Canadian culture on six primary dimensions.

Canada, in line with much of what is called “the West,” is more individualistic than collectivist China (see chart). China tends to be more hierarchical compared to the more egalitarian Canada (see “power-distance” on chart), as well as more pragmatic.

So, on a practical level, what do those working with Chinese companies need to be aware of to have a successful relationship?

Chinese “Pragmatism”

One aspect of Chinese culture that we already see impacting business culture is what Hofstede calls “pragmatism.” He says that, “In societies with a pragmatic orientation, people believe that truth depends very much on situation, context and time. They show an ability to adapt traditions easily to changed conditions.”

Many in the West attribute China’s manufacturing success to low costs, especially of labour, but that is not all that lies behind Chinese manufacturers’ ability to shift quickly depending on their circumstances. The ability of Chinese manufacturers to respond quickly, for example, to Steve Jobs’ sudden demand for an unscratchable glass iPhone screen has become part of business lore. Behind this agility are a number of factors and important among them is the Chinese position on the pragmatic cultural dimension.

Cultural Characteristics Impact Business

Generally, a result of this cultural characteristic is the perspective that each situation needs to be evaluated independently from accepted rules. Just because one rule has worked in the past doesn’t mean it should apply now. For rule-oriented Canadian businesses, that can cause tensions. It can even raise complaints about a lack of integrity or at least fairness, just as some of the American manufacturers who watched their Chinese competitors pivot to produce iPhone glass screens surely thought that’s not fair - they’re not following the rules.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]And this is one area where we will find the seeds of progress that the interaction between these two cultures create; the combination of best business practices developed in the West with Chinese pragmatism and the business agility it fosters.[/quote]

That is not to imply that Chinese businesses are not interested in learning and, if appropriate, following the best practices that have been developed in the West. This is where we suspect we will find the seeds of progress that the interaction between these two cultures create; the leveraging of best practices developed over years of experience in an agile manner. The fact that Chinese business culture has been born into a highly dynamic market will likely contribute to the country’s “pragmatic” cultural character as well as its ethnicity. China can embrace new approaches more easily without the pain of wrestling with the past, just as consumers in developing markets have “leap frogged” the West in adoption of mobile and digital technologies.

The interaction between Chinese pragmatism and Western business protocols will cause conflict. We have seen it in our own experience. Overcoming that conflict is of course important to those involved. The key for both Western and Chinese businesses to prosper side by side is to take the cultural diversity and even the conflict that it might generate and turn it into progress. And this is one area where we will find the seeds of progress that the interaction between these two cultures create; the combination of best business practices developed in the West with Chinese pragmatism and the business agility it fosters.

Individualist Canada versus Collectivist China

The difference between an individualist outlook and a collectivist outlook creates an enormous amount of cultural tension and misunderstanding. Individualism values one person standing up, with a loud voice and doing his or her own thing. Collectivism values working together within an accepted set of protocols with an eye on the collective goals.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Cultural differences, if understood and managed well, are seeds to progress.[/quote]

As Western companies have expanded outside of their domestic markets, they have encouraged an individualistic business culture. The assumption in the West is that individualism fosters creativity and allows the brightest to shine and be rewarded. As China’s influence expands, Chinese businesses will carry their collectivist ethnic culture with them. Will that create conflicts and misunderstandings just like it did when Japan’s influence extended across the globe? It likely will. But tension can be fertile soil for progress. And the West should be open to the notion that individualist values are not always superior.

A recent experiment into creativity led by Dr. Gad Saad of Concordia University attempted to test the difference between the way collectivist and individualist cultures generate ideas. What it found implied that individualist cultures were more creative in that they did indeed generate more ideas. But collectivist cultures, where the group focuses on perfecting ideas, generated fewer, but better, ideas. Again, we see opportunities for progress in the interaction between these two cultural modes. It may be simplistic, but if individualism generates more ideas and collectivism creates better ideas, we can manage the interaction between cultures to generate more and better ideas! 

Cultural differences, if understood and managed well, are seeds to progress. Some of the greatest ideas of human history have been born from cultural tensions, often developed from commercial interactions. As cultures mingled and clashed in the trading cities on the fringes of the Roman Empire or the colonial outposts during the spice trade era, powerful new ideas and ways of looking at the world were born. Now opportunities to build new ideas through the interaction of distinct cultures are emerging as the influence of the East rises. The future belongs to those in both the East and the West who can develop the “transcultural competence” to take full advantage of them.


Robin Brown is Senior Vice-President, Consumer Insights and Kathy Cheng is Vice-President, Cultural Markets Research at Environics Research Group, a research and consulting firm. They are the authors of Migration Nation, A Practical Guide to Doing Business if Globalized Canada.

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Published in Economy
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 15:31

After the splash in the US, the hard part

by Raj Chengappa 

Washington DC has the reputation of being one heck of a tough town. With heads of state visiting it frequently, America’s capital is not easily impressed. While Narendra Modi on his maiden visit as Prime Minister made a big splash, the badshahs of the Beltway — the host of think tanks that shape opinion in its power circles — are not as euphoric as some in India are.

Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institute told me he thought that Modi’s visit had more "sizzle than steak". He added: "I give his visit a B+. There were no disasters, no big breakthroughs, but the ground for further discussion and action has been prepared." Cohen does reflect the views of a sizeable section of opinion shapers who had almost written off India before the Modi visit. Many US policy wonks were disillusioned with India’s inability to deliver on its promises. One example: India had yet to fulfil its part of the 2008 Indo-US nuclear deal to enable American companies to set up power reactors.

To Modi’s credit, at the end of his US visit he had turned the situation around and "brought India back in the game," as Ashley Tellis of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace put it. Tellis thinks the visit had "big achievements but also big incompletes". To him Modi reached out effectively to the diaspora and his Madison Square Garden rally, which 30 US Congressmen attended, showed that he had built the Indian American card into a major force of political support.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]The American business community has begun to believe in the India story again.[/quote]

Despite these successes, there were many things that remained incomplete. American business is aware that for any successful transaction with India many limitations remain. While Modi is expected to keep his word and speed up the cumbersome process of clearances, US corporates are not confident he would be able to address issues such as land acquisition and infrastructure like power shortages quickly enough. Modi was able to convince another major player, American business, to revise its poor opinion about the new government, particularly after its incremental first budget, and also India’s blocking of the Trade Facilitation Agreement at the WTO recently. Tellis believes Modi’s other major achievement was that he was able to build a personal connect with the US President, best symbolised by the fact that they not only had an extended bilateral meeting but also Barack Obama broke protocol and personally took him around the Martin Luther King Memorial.

Guarded optimism

Many like Michael Krepon of the Stimson Centre believe that Modi has a limited world view. They find it hard to swallow that India kept mum when Russia flexed its muscles against Ukraine and occupied its territory. And that India did nothing beyond expressing support for America’s renewed war on terror against the ISIS despite dangers to its own security. Krepon says, "There is guarded optimism, even skepticism, about the outcome of the Modi visit. There is a wait-and-see attitude as to how much can he translate what all he promised into reality."

To his credit Modi was able to turn around the relationship from one of despair and frustration to that of optimism and hope. Known to be a problem solver and doer, Modi is unlikely to allow the relationship to drift again and will push for rapid implementation of the summit outcomes. A first sign was that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval stayed back to engage in intensive discussions with his counterpart Susan Rice and Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]"[...] Modi has already demonstrated his ability for decisive action and is expected to bring about the big changes needed to put the relationship back on track.[/quote]

From an Indian standpoint, a major achievement of the visit was the announcement that India and the US would begin "joint and concerted" efforts to dismantle safe havens for terrorists and criminal networks and disrupt all financial and technical support for them, naming the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Dawood Ibrahim, Haqqani and Al-Qaida for specific action. In doing so, Modi achieved India’s primary goal of harnessing the US support to tackle Pakistan’s cross-border terror networks as a whole and not selectively.

Turning over a new leaf

The American business community has begun to believe in the India story again. On key American concerns like the nuclear liability issue the joint Indo-US interagency group has been set up to work out a viable solution and speed up the purchase of American nuclear power reactors. On defence, the extension of the framework agreement by 10 years and the proposal to identify technologies that India could co-develop and co-produce with the US will give it the much needed impetus.

Contentious issues like India’s approach to WTO and intellectual property rights remain but at least both sides are talking to understand each other’s point of view and work out a solution. Stung by the skepticism among US circles, an Indian official argued, "If people think of the Indian Prime Minister as one who would bring about incremental change they are on the wrong side of history. Modi has already demonstrated his ability for decisive action and is expected to bring about the big changes needed to put the relationship back on track." Now comes the hard part of delivering.

Raj Chengappa is the current Editor-in-Chief at The Tribune India and was the former Managing Editor at India Today. He has written and anchored over 150 path-breaking cover stories for India Today on a range of subjects, including foreign affairs, security, politics, defence, and many more.

This post was original published in The Tribune India and has been re-published with permission. 

Published in India
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