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Canadian business owners say innovation is critical to their long-term prosperity, but a lack of time, technology and money may hinder efforts: CIBC poll

Three-quarters of business owners would like to invest in innovation over next year to strengthen their enterprise

TORONTO, Nov. 12, 2015 /CNW/ - With today's competitive business landscape, Canada's small business owners say innovation is a top priority in 2016 according to the latest poll by CIBC (TSX: CM) (NYSE: CM).

While more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of small business owners say they are likely to invest in business innovation in the next 12 months, they also cite a lack of time, capacity, technology and cash flow as the biggest obstacles holding back their ability to innovate.

"Although some reports suggest that Canada is lagging other nations in business innovation, our poll shows that 90 per cent of Canadian small business leaders see innovation as critical to their long-term success, and many are looking to invest in the next year," says Shelley Swanlund, Vice President, Business Banking and Head of Small Business, CIBC.

"Innovation can mean different things to different businesses," adds Ms. Swanlund. "Investments in innovation can include finding ways to evolve business models to meet customers' changing needs, improving technology to be more efficient, or even uncovering unique ways to attract and retain top talent."

Poll respondents included a cross-section of small business owners from all sectors of the economy from professional services and manufacturing to health care and real estate.

Highlights of the poll include:

  • 90 per cent of business owners see innovation as important to long-term success
  • 77 per cent of business owners say they are likely to invest in innovation in the next 12 months
    • Very likely (26 per cent)
    • Somewhat likely (50 per cent)
  • The greatest obstacles to innovation in business are having enough time (23 per cent) resources (21 per cent) and cash flow (19 per cent)
  • The top overall challenges faced by small businesses include dealing with changes in the marketplace (38 per cent), competition (32 per cent) and identifying sources of future growth (32 per cent)
  • When asked what innovation means to them, business owners' top selections were evolving a business model to meet customers' changing needs (22 per cent) and using new technologies to achieve efficiencies (18 per cent)

"Given increasing competition and economic pressures, now more than ever small business owners need to find new ways to grow," Ms. Swanlund says. "Investing in innovation can help reduce long-run costs by creating efficiencies, or help a business open up new markets by delivering differentiated products or services to meet clients' ever-evolving needs."

Advice for Small Businesses Looking to Innovate

Having worked with thousands of innovative businesses, CIBC small business relationship managers are experienced in helping growing companies succeed. Here are a few tips:

  • Have a business plan: Business plans are critical and should be reviewed and updated annually, especially when you are contemplating a major change to your business. Having an up-to-date plan demonstrates that you have fully thought through your innovation strategy and its implications to the business in terms of incremental costs in the short run and longer term benefits.
  • Consult with your advisors: Getting a point of view from external partners, such as your relationship manager or accountant, gives you an arm's length perspective that can add clarity and insight as you cultivate fresh ideas all while protecting your business from unforeseen threats
  • Develop a realistic financial plan for innovation: Ensure that you have a financial strategy that supports and complements your innovation strategy. Consider the implications of expansion on your cash flow and make sure that your company will not find itself short of funds during this critical time.

More information for business owners is available online at the CIBC Small Business Advice Centre.


Likeliness to invest in innovation in the next 12 months

  • Very likely (26%)
  • Somewhat likely (50%)
  • Not very likely (18%)
  • Not likely at all (5%)

*due to rounding

How important innovation is to company's long-term prosperity:

  • Very important (44%)
  • Somewhat important (46%)
Not Important
  • Not very important (9%)
  • Not important at all (n/a)


How business owners feel they compare their peers on innovation:

Leading 27%
The same                     54%
Lagging 15%


Greatest obstacle to innovation in business:

Don't have time to concentrate on innovation 23%
Don't have the capacity/resources, staff, knowledge, technology/operations to innovate 21%
Cash flow 19%
Financing 13%
Don't have processes in place to encourage it (e.g., incentives, brainstorming sessions, etc.) 8%


What business owners say are the greatest challenges their companies are facing:

Dealing with changes in the marketplace 38%
Competition 32%
Sources of future growth 32%
Management of human resources/talent acquisition 25%
Ensuring adequate cash flow or liquidity 25%
Succession/transition planning 24%
Sufficient capital to accomplish your organization's goals and objectives 19%
Fluctuating dollar currencies 19%
Rising or fluctuating input costs 18%
Innovating (e.g., product, process, resources) 14%
Doing business internationally 6%


From September 23 to September 25, 2015, an online survey was conducted among 751 randomly selected Angus Reid Forum panelists who are small business owners. The margin of error - which measures sampling variability - is +/- 3.58 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

CIBC Small Business Services
For more than 140 years, CIBC has been providing small business owners with the advice, services, and support they need to thrive and grow. CIBC recognizes that the business and personal finances of small business owners are often intertwined, which can present both opportunities and challenges. We believe that the best advice comes from someone who understands your needs as a business owner and as an individual.

CIBC provides small business owners with the services of a dedicated CIBC Small Business Advisor, who acts as a single point of contact for all small business owner needs. This experienced professional is committed to understanding the business and the industry in which small business owners operate, as well as their personal financial goals. CIBC business advisors work with small business owners to find integrated solutions to help them achieve their vision for their business and their life.

About CIBC
CIBC is a leading Canadian-based global financial institution with nearly 11 million personal banking and business clients. Through our three major business units - Retail and Business Banking, Wealth Management and Capital Markets - CIBC offers a full range of products and services through its comprehensive electronic banking network, banking centres and offices across Canada with offices in the United States and around the world. You can find other news releases and information about CIBC in our Media Centre on our corporate website at



For further information:

Olga Petrycki, Director, External Communications, 416-306-9760 or 647-458-2271,