Despite economic slump, private companies more optimistic than ever

82 per cent plan to grow and expand over next 12 months: PwC

Despite another slowdown in the economy, Canadian private companies are still aiming for growth and expansion. In fact, their confidence level is the highest it's been since 2005 — 82 per cent of respondents to a PwC survey are striving for growth compared to 66 per cent last year.

"Canadian private companies learned a lot through the recession about how to survive and they've repositioned their businesses to face the challenges. Having adapted to the new business reality, they are ready for whatever the markets throw at them, which accounts for the optimism," says Tahir Ayub, Canadian leader of PwC's private company services practice.

Over the next 12 months, businesses predict the top three issues to be: competition (34 per cent), profitability (29 per cent) and labour shortages (26 per cent), found the annual Business Insights Survey of 306 leaders of private companies, along with a supplemental survey of 135 of the respondents, concentrated around British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

"It is just a more highly charged competitive market today. Private companies realized how important it was to keep improving during the recession and they're continuing to look at their cost base and efficiencies," said Ayub.

With labour shortages cited as one of the top concerns for the coming year, 71 per cent of respondents plan to change their people strategies by using more non-financial rewards to motivate staff over the next 12 months. Thirty-eight per cent said they were working with government/education systems to improve skills in the talent pool while 44 per cent are increasing the recruitment and retention of older workers, found PwC.

To improve competitive performance, the top 10 priorities cited were:

  1. Improving processes (47 per cent)
  2. Reducing costs of operations (46 per cent)
  3. Improving staff skills (39 per cent)
  4. Better targeting of customers (37 per cent)
  5. Staff retention (33 per cent)
  6. Expansion plans (30 per cent)
  7. Investing in IT (22 per cent)
  8. Strategy definition and evaluation (21 per cent)
  9. Collaboration and strategic alliance (21 per cent)
  10. Increased research and development and innovation (19 per cent)

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