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The data is in: These are the top challenges of Canadian entrepreneurs — and how to overcome them


As part of the process of creating ctrl by Deloitte, a new accounting and advisory platform for SMEs, Deloitte reached out to some 2000 Canadian small-to-medium business leaders to better understand their challenges. They identified the issues that worry them the most — and the solutions to address them.


By Lynda Carter, Partner, Deloitte Private



Small-to-medium businesses contribute more to Canada’s total economy than the country’s larger firms. And in a world of increasing business complexity, the resilience and growth of this sector has never been more important.

There is no doubt that times are turbulent: growing competition, pricing pressure, demand for integrated and online services, and accelerating advances in IT are just a few of the forces impinging on small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs). In large part, the story in Canada is a positive one — but with revealing undercurrents. Research conducted in late 2016 on some 2000 Canadian small business owners and directors pointed to key areas where the sector is struggling.

While high percentages of leaders feel confident about the future and are actively seeking ways to accelerate their growth, their ambition is tempered by an information vacuum. This is more pronounced with female owners/directors, with 74% agreeing that a lack of readily available information is holding them back, compared to 67% of men who report the same problem. In fact, when it comes internal factors hindering growth, leaders point to an inability to forecast (21%) even more than a lack of capital (17%).

A good portion of Canadian SME owners and directors respond to this information vacuum by relying on little more than gut instinct — a strategy that is more common among men (25%) than women (21%). While there are certainly stories of success built on intuition, using it as the top source for making business decisions is becoming increasingly difficult with the sheer complexity of performing, growing, and managing in today’s market environment.

At Deloitte, we have identified strategies that can be used to more effectively plan for the factors that cause stress and interrupt growth (in fact, we developed a new accounting and advisory service — ctrl by Deloitte  — to specifically address the unique issues of SMEs). These five key strategies include:


  1. Work with a trusted professional for reliable and regular bookkeeping.

At the very least, you need to ensure the data you are basing your decisions on is accurate and up-to-date. It’s hard to grow revenue or try to reduce costs when your financial reporting is inconsistent because the bookkeeping is not current or reliable. Plus, a quality bookkeeper should be able to go beyond accuracy, providing proactive advice for your business.


  1. Enable better decisions with real time data.

While accurate bookkeeping is a minimum requirement, a truly successful business owner has real time data at their fingertips — anytime, anywhere. This means incorporating technology as well as appropriate processes to take advantage of and access data, so your business decisions can match the pace of today’s market.  


  1. Embrace automation to simplify your business.

Lack of time was cited by 19% of SME leaders as an impediment to business growth. Fortunately, new technologies, apps and solutions that automate business processes can cut down on the amount of work you have to do, ensuring you have time to focus on what you do best: managing your business.


  1. Integrate your data to see the whole picture.

What good is fragmented data in multiple spreadsheets, formats, and levels of completion? You need your data to work together. Leveraging the latest apps and products on the market can help you benchmark your business, as well as manage inventory and talent. You’ll also be able to quickly identify and adjust if your business begins straying in the wrong direction.  


  1. Dig into advanced analytics.  

Analytics can be a powerful tool, but oftentimes it’s too hard to get at and many small and medium businesses don’t believe they can afford to mine their data. New and innovative solutions can provide these tools, and some, including ctrl by Deloitte, are specifically designed to match the needs and budget of SMEs.


Over 95% of Canadian SME leaders have lofty ambitions, but their bold visions are being clouded by unclear direction. And in today’s business climate, competitiveness and resilience requires a greater capacity to respond to rapidly changing market and economic conditions. That includes finding ways to significantly simplify operations and business processes in order to meet challenges and opportunities. With advanced systems of support and expert assistance, small-to-medium businesses can take control of their destinies — and continue to drive a major portion of the Canadian economy.



Derived from an analysis of industry-leading practices among our member firms, ctrl by Deloitte is a best-of-the-best solution

 platform that empowers business by simplifying it. Get instant insight and advice, fill in information gaps, and reduce the need to run on gut instinct. Your subscription gives you access to an integrated online environment that connects all of your financial information into one location that you, and your dedicated Deloitte team, can use anytime, and anywhere. All for a fixed monthly price — so there are no surprise fees, or the uncertainty of rising costs. And as your company gets more complex, ctrl by Deloitte will grow with you. Visit to get started today.