Does your business export goods or services?

Does your business export goods or services?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

What export markets, if any, do you see your business focusing on in the next five years?

What export markets, if any, do you see your business focusing on in the next five years?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

What are the biggest challenges you face expanding into global markets?

What are the biggest challenges you face expanding into global markets?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

Do you see your business expanding in any country/region in the next five years? If so, which?

Do you see your business expanding in any country/region in the next five years? If so, which?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

What do you expect to see for growth in your business over the following periods?

What do you expect to see for growth in your business over the following periods?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

How important will each of the following issues be for you?

How important will each of the following issues be for you?
 

How important will each of the following issues be for you?

How important will each of the following issues be for you?
 

How important will each of the following issues be for you?

How important will each of the following issues be for you?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

How important is innovation to your company?

How important is innovation to your company?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

What do you foresee being the biggest challenge facing your company in the next 5 years?

What do you foresee being the biggest challenge facing your company in the next 5 years?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future of each of these economies?

How optimistic or pessimistic are you about the future of each of these economies?
For the detailed results of this question, click here.

Exclusive survey results and analysis of the biggest issues facing B.C.’s top business leaders–in 2016 and beyond

Click here for the complete survey.

Despite global uncertainties, concerns about attracting and retaining employees and the cost of doing business abroad, B.C.business leaders are an optimistic bunch. That’s the core finding from a survey conducted by BCBusiness with market researchers Insights West, in partnership with Grant Thornton LLP.

The survey, conducted between June 2 and 14, asked 612 senior executives and business owners in B.C. everything from whether they export (and to where) to how much growth they see for their business in the years ahead and what are the biggest challenges facing their business.

For Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs for Insights West, the biggest surprise was the overall upbeat mood of private business leaders despite global uncertainty about the U.S. elections and (at the time) uncertainty about the fate of the Eurozone. “Respondents are definitely buoyant. Not only are most of them expecting growth next year, but even more are expecting growth in the next five years,” says Canseco. “Very few people predict a decline, and exporters seem to have higher expectations—at least on the size of the expected growth—than non-exporters.”

For leaders whose businesses export (only 20 per cent of our survey group but 35 per cent of businesses with over $100 million in annual revenues), the biggest challenge of expanding into global markets is regulations and red tape. “It’s not necessarily about money,” says Canseco. “It’s ultimately, can you navigate? Do you need somebody local who can navigate for you?”

As for how a business can minimize the risk of “regulations” in foreign countries—or more generally, operate in a country with very different rules and regulations—the answer is twofold: do your research, then access your network. Robert Riecken, partner and market leader for Grant Thornton LLP's south coastal B.C. practice, says that when considering entering a new market, there are myriad government programs and “Doing Business In” country profiles that can help a business navigate murky global waters. Riecken also advises businesses to access the international network of their professional advisors.

One of the buzzwords on the tongues of business leaders these days is “innovation” and the need to innovate to stay ahead. But according to our survey, innovation is way down the list of priorities for B.C.’s senior executives and business owners. Only 15 per cent identified it as their biggest challenge, behind finding talent and workers (43 per cent), improving profitability (42 per cent) and labour costs (31 per cent). The focus on people is telling, says pollster Canseco. “They seem to be more worried with finding a way to attract people and work with them and making the most of the tools at their disposal. It’s ultimately about making sure you have the right kind of people working for your business. You could also argue that this is also problematic because of the real estate market. It’s hard to bring talented people here because of the high cost of living.”

According to Grant Thornton LLP's Riecken, innovation is often thought of in monetary or technological terms—and when framed as such, it’s clearly something that companies with bigger resources are more inclined toward. But if you broaden the definition of innovation—to other, non-monetary, non-technological ways of differentiating yourself from your competition—it really is something that any business can and should embrace. Indeed, says Riecken, the openness for changing business models—“to thrive in a time of disruption”—is equally, and sometimes more, evident at the small-operator level. “It comes down to the definition of innovation,” he adds.

For Canseco, there’s an interesting disconnect in the survey numbers on innovation. While it wasn’t a top-of-mind concern, when asked, “How important is innovation to your company?” four in five (81 per cent) said it was “of some importance,” 38 per cent said “very,” 43 per cent said “somewhat.” “Innovation may not be perceived in the same light as profitability,” says Canseco, “but only one in 20 respondents are ready to forget about it.”

Methodology: Results from the Insights West/BCBusiness private business survey are based on an online study conducted from June 2 to June 14, 2016, among a representative sample of 612 senior executives (c-suite, VP and director level) and business owners in British Columbia. The margin of error–which measures sample variability–is +/- 3.9 percentage points.