Zoho Canadian SMB survey shows optimism moving forward

Enhanced productivity is the principal reason for the increased confidence, which is generally nation-wide.

Chandrasekhar LSP, Zoho’s Canadian Evangelist

A new survey by cloud software suite vendor Zoho, the Zoho SMB Outlook Survey, has a positive take on what Canadian small and medium-sized business leaders are thinking about their company’s prospects, with two thirds of them being optimistic about the next six months. The survey was conducted in March 2021 by Zoho Survey, and involved a range of 750 individuals across Canada, from manager roles to the C-level, at small and large enterprises across a variety of industries.

“These were generic customers, and not Zoho customers specifically,” said Chandrasekhar LSP, Zoho’s Canadian Evangelist. “This is the second or third round of this and reaching out broadly helps us feel the pulse of the business in general.

“This time around, we also interacted with our partners, who told us that customers are now looking for major gains through use of technology, partners say,” he added.

The bottom line number in the survey was that 66.7% of respondents are optimistic about the next six months, with 74.2% of those surveyed forecasting upwards of 20-percent growth. 66.7% of businesses are moderately to very optimistic about the next 6 months, with 14.8% being very optimistic, 20.8% moderately optimistic, and 31.1% optimistic. 71.4% of Quebec’s respondents are optimistic, while 64% of Ontario’s citizens are optimistic.

This positive outlook stems, in part, from productivity, as more than three-quarters of respondents expressed satisfaction with their output. Probably not co-incidentally, the most optimistic vertical was IT, with 76.1% of IT respondents being optimistic about the future of their business.

“More than three-quarters of respondents overall [77.7%]  expressed satisfaction with their productivity,” LSP stated. Quebec was the highest, at 83.9%.

“More businesses, especially smaller ones, are getting on the cloud bandwagon and so are more able to compete, LSP said. “Looking at the price points, which are available it’s a great opportunity for us.”

42.4% of businesses are hiring and 52.7% are neither hiring nor laying people off, while only 4.9% anticipate layoffs.

“42.5% have struggled to retain employees, which is less than in the US,” LSP said.” The Great Resignation hasn’t been as effective here.”

Most organizations have also retained more flexible work options, with hybrid work accounting for 36.8% and at-home work accounting for 29.7%. Only 33.5% of respondents are working in-office.

Quebec has the highest percentage of hybrid workplace model, at 39.3%, while 21.4% work from home and 39.3% work in the office. Alberta is very dissimilar, with 53.9% working in the office, while 32.9% use a hybrid workplace and 13.2% work at home.

The survey found that 38.4% of all respondents will maintain a mask mandate, topped by 41.4% in Ontario (where 41.1% won’t maintain it)  and 32.1% in Quebec, although the same 32.1% won’t retain it there. Only 17.1% will retain it in Alberta, where 68.4% won’t.

46.3% of all respondents will require employees to be vaccinated, including 48.2% in Quebec, 46.2% in Ontario, and 34.2% in Alberta.

LSP said the main cause for concern stems from the broader economic picture, particularly access to capital and the costs of borrowing.

“Still, the cloud has made it easier to unlock tools,” he said. “You don’t need to acquire an 800 lb gorilla like you used to, and with a subscription businesses there are no up-front costs.”

“The survey certainly reflects what we’re hearing from our clients,” said Massimo Ianniruberto, founder of Toronto-based Zoho channel partner, BluRoot Inc. “SMBs are feeling optimistic about the year ahead and are putting a greater focus on productivity through technology to ensure their success.”