Report: Only 25 percent of entrepreneurs see gov’t initiatives as helpful to their businesses

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Canadian small business owners are unaware of government initiatives that could help them scale, according to a new survey conducted by accounting, payroll, and payment company Sage Canada.

Sage partnered with Maru/Matchbox to conduct the online survey of 505 small business owners across Canada to provide a comprehensive overview of their outlooks, concerns, and beliefs. The survey’s results were released at the Sage Summit Toronto 2017 taking place this week.

Sage’s survey found that 85 percent of small business owners say they are optimistic about the future of their own companies, while 74 percent are generally optimistic about the future of small businesses in Canada.

“It is encouraging to hear that Canadian business builders are feeling much more optimistic than last year when we conducted our global survey,” said Stephen Kelly, CEO of Sage. “As a champion for our customers, those business builders that power all economies around the world, we are working with governments and local business communities to make sure Canadian small businesses are heard at the highest levels.”

“It is encouraging to hear that Canadian business builders are feeling much more optimistic than last year when we conducted our global survey.”

While some businesses may be optimistic about the future of their companies, Sage’s survey suggested that businesses have a different outlook when it comes to government regulations. The survey revealed that more than half (51 percent) of small business owners cite too many government regulations and taxes as the most common day-to-day challenges that their businesses face, and nearly one-third (32 percent ) note that there is a general lack of support from the government.

Along with government regulations and taxes, the survey revealed other factors that may be holding small businesses back. Nearly half of small business owners (45 percent) cited seeking new customers as a top concern. Thirty-nine percent said administrative tasks are a significant challenge to running their business, and 18 percent said they would like easier access to financing.

While small business owners perceive a lack of support from the federal and provincial governments, Sage’s survey suggests that these businesses might actually be missing out on valuable information about government initiatives that support their activities.

The survey found that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents said they knew little or nothing about government initiatives that could help small businesses. More specifically, only one-quarter of entrepreneurs surveyed said they find federal (26 percent) or provincial (25 percent) government initiatives to be helpful to their businesses.

Small business owners’ lack of awareness of government programs targeting small businesses may come as a surprise, especially as Canada’s federal and provincial governments aim to make supporting small businesses a priority through initiatives like the supercluster initiative, the National AI Strategy, and the fast-track visa.

Seventy-two of small business owners said they knew little or nothing about government initiatives that could help small businesses. Only one-quarter said they find government initiatives helpful.

In addition to releasing its survey’s findings at the Sage Summit, Sage also shared “The Ethics of Code: Developing AI for Business with Five Core Principles,” a set of values that Sage recommends the tech community should focus on as Canada embarks on its “fourth industrial revolution.”

Some of the principles listed in The Ethics of Code include: AI should reflect the diversity of the users it serves; AI should level the playing field; and while AI may replace several human jobs, it must also create new opportunities for people.

“The Ethics of Code are designed to protect the user and to ensure that tech giants, such as Sage, are building AI that is safe, secure, fits the use case and most importantly is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the users it serves,” said Kriti Sharma, vice-president of AI and bots at Sage. “As a leader in AI for business we would like to call others to task — big businesses, small business and hackers alike — and ask them to bear these principles in mind when developing or deploying their own artificial intelligence.”

View the complete list of principles here.

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer and content creator at BetaKit with a strong interest in Canadian startup, business, and legal tech news. In her free time, Amira indulges in baking desserts, working out, and watching legal shows.