Zoho Canadian business survey shows surprising optimism with 74% seeing growth over next six months

The optimism reflects an environment today where businesses that have survived the turmoil of the last several years see new opportunities from the impact of Generative AI within traditional collaboration systems.

Chandrashekar LSP, Managing Director of Zoho Canada

Today, Zoho Canada is releasing a Canadian business survey which has some mixed results, but a top line projection which is positive to the point of being downright giddy. The results found that 74.1% of respondents expect to grow their businesses over the next six months, between 1% and 20+%, with a fairly close range in the percentages across that spectrum. That 74% number, which is far more optimistic than almost all other studies and reports, also contradicts some (but not all) of the subsidiary findings in the survey.

The 74% number is also up from 62% in the last report, a significant increase. Given that the economic fundamentals over this period have not improved, that several studies by Canadian banks and other organizations with significant research arms are pessimistic, and similar types of studies to this one in the U.S., where the business metrics are now better than Canada, are much more dour in their outlook, why are Canadian businesses relatively jolly?

“It’s definitely an outlier within this overall context,” said Chandrashekar LSP, Managing Director of Zoho Canada. “I think the main explanation is that these businesses of the type that were surveyed have been very resilient. Most of them came through the pandemic and survived it. I don’t see any other reason. The same survey also found that business is harder these days, with 64.2% of respondents indicating that it is harder now to start a business now, than it was to do so five years ago, and that cash flow was the second biggest to challenge to their business. Despite this, 67.7% of respondents said that they would encourage others to be entrepreneurs. There’s very little in the data that makes this self evidence. Confidence is the only possible explanation.”

In addition to it being harder now to start a business than five years ago, other  bullet points which take some sheen off the top line message include that more than half of respondents (54.4%] feel that they will need to do more with less next year. In addition, more than three-quarters [76.3%] of respondents had to implement measures – raises, more benefits, flex vacation, hybrid work – to retain staff within the past twelve months.

Of the 1271 survey recipients, 74.1% expect to grow between 1% and 20+% over the next six months. This optimism includes 35.7% expecting growth of 1-10%, and 22% expecting growth of 10-20%, and 15.2% expecting 20+% growth.  On the other hand, 16.3% anticipate zero growth, while only 9.6% expect declines. that Alberta businesses are the most optimistic (77.9%] about the next six months, followed by Quebec [74%], Ontario [72.5%] and B.C. [71.6].

Other questions touched more specifically on areas that Zoho addresses in their solutions.

60.8% of respondents, who are all managers of one type or another, feel that they are more productive working remotely.

“It’s a reasonable number,” LSP said. “In a knowledge-based economy, tools can go only so far, which is a key reason there is a lot of support for remote work. Hiring someone and trying to get them trained remotely is hard, however.”

The results also indicated that artificial intelligence tools [27.9%] aren’t as requested by staff as collaboration tools [35.2%] to do their jobs. AI, has, however, become integrated with collaboration into the purchase process.

“You look at AI to apply a context, such as if it can tell you the sentiment of an incoming ticket to placate an angry customer,” LSP said. “It’s the same thing in sales. If a lead comes through , the system can tell me the best time to contact the lead. So again, the contextualization of AI is a critical piece. In collaboration, again, the Generative AI pieces have become critical where you are trying to explain content. Today, businesses expect that you will talk about collaboration within the context of a generative AI  system.”

Finally, almost half of respondents (49.6%) indicated that their digital transformations were a success and improved profitability. LSP indicated that this number also needs a full awareness of context.

“What is digital transformation, that’s the million dollar question,” he said. “Is it going from on-prem to cloud, from paper to digital tools, from Excel to cloud CRM? A lot of people will now say their digital transformation was  successful because they have managed to implement tools for remote work. That in itself was a major achievement. They may have a poor CRM system and bad ERP, but they have tools that allow them to work remotely, so they will say that their digital transformation was successful.”

All of this is good news for channel partners, LSP pointed out.

“As these business are optimistic and plan new initiatives, they will need more guidance, he said. “That will come from channel partners with domain expertise.”