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Is it time to worry about the middle class and the rising gap between rich and poor? It’s not just academics anymore—even businesses like McKinsey and TD Bank are taking a hard look at income inequality and what it means for economic growth.
Firstly, it’s true that income inequality has been getting worse in most OECD countries. In Canada, the top 1% earns about 12% of all income, up from 8% in the early 1980s. In the U.S., the top 1% earns 23% of all income, up from 15% in the 1980s. What’s more troubling is that income growth for the average family has been fairly flat. After a decline in the 1990s, Canadian incomes have been rising but they’ve recovered to only just above the inflation-adjusted levels of 1988. In the U.S., they actually fell slightly. So why are wages flattening across the developed world?
The most important factor is technology. For centuries, civilization has been automating repetitive tasks—from the steam engine to robotic welders and computer software. But today, technology is accelerating and it’s pressuring the job market. A recent Oxford study estimates that 45% of jobs in the U.S. are at risk of being automated and taken over by computers by 2033.
Secondly, increased trade has massively grown the global availability of labour and capital. Thanks to falling trade barriers and advances in shipping, countries that were previously left out of global trade have seen exports and incomes flourish. The global poverty rate, which was over 25% in 2005, is falling by 1-2% every year, lifting around 70 million people annually out of destitution, mostly by bringing them into the global labour force.
Thirdly, the Internet is breaking down barriers and bringing the world to our doorstep. Retailers are competing every day with Amazon, Walmart and the best stores on earth. Manufacturers have to perform because they are up against the most innovative companies in the U.S., the least expensive products from China and new products from anywhere. There is no place to hide from global competition.
For Canada, this means that goods are better and cheaper, which raises our purchasing power—we all appreciate lower prices for clothes, food and TVs. The challenge is the adjustment required of Canadian industries. Thirty years ago, Canada’s textile industry employed tens of thousands of workers hunched over sewing machines. Today, our textile industry has become a smaller, leaner fashion industry, with highly skilled designers, highly automated factories and the bulk of the manual fabrication done in Asia. Business is far more efficient, but these trends are hard for large parts of the labour force.
Technology and trade are polarizing incomes, causing fierce competition for highly skilled knowledge workers while reducing demand for low-skilled jobs.
What can we do? If we know employers will pay more for skills, then part of the response must be improved education and training. But we also have to invest more in R&D, in tax incentives and in venture capital for new innovative companies, so that the technologies to compete and win are located right here in Canada. The firms that succeed in the global economy will happily pay higher wages, hire more people and create prosperity for Canadians.
That’s why the Canadian Chamber of Commerce wants business competitiveness to be the #1 issue in the coming election. Because to create prosperity in today’s globalized economy, you have to win.
-Hendrik Brakel, CCC
Chambers are often asked for advice on how to start a business.
Building your own business from the ground up is no easy task. There is no
template or formula to creating a hugely successful business. There is just
sheer hard work, determination and a will to succeed. Apple founder Steve Jobs
once famously said “If you really look closely, most overnight
successes took a long time.”
Sure You Have Support
Starting up your own business is a difficult task and this can
be made even more so if you feel that you are not being supported by the ones
closest to you. How can you expect to succeed if you feel that those nearest
and dearest to you do not believe in your abilities? If you’re married and/or
have kids, you should also be asking your family how they feel about your
working from home, as your decision will affect them both financially and
psychologically. If the response is negative, spend time addressing any
concerns. If you are unable to change their minds decide whether your goal is
worth continuing against their wishes. This does not just end with family,
asking close friends, colleagues or peers for their support can give you that
In any start-up, you don’t know what you don’t know. This is
especially true when you’re entering an unfamiliar industry.
Get started through research, studying the competition and
talking to mentors. The first thing when thinking of establishing a new
business is to take the time to do research on your market. This doesn’t have
to involve substantial costs, you can find out key information by taking the
time and undertaking it yourself. This will allow you to perform a SWOT analysis, assessing your
competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats within the
marketplace. It will also give a clear picture without any further investment at
this time as to the viability of your proposition.
Numerous studies have shown that one of the major reasons new
businesses fail is poor planning. If you are planning on starting up a
business, you must have a business
plan. This will serve as a road map to guide you, and communicate with your
bank or investors what you’re doing and why they should invest in you.
It should include a mission statement, executive summary,
product or service offerings, target market, marketing plan, industry and
A detailed and comprehensive business plan should ideally be
able to answer the following questions;
What primary product(s) or service(s) will you provide?
What will you charge for your products(s) or services(s)?
What does it cost you to deliver this product or service?
How many pieces must you sell or how many clients must you
secure to generate the revenue you desire?
Who is the target market for your product(s) or service(s)?
Why will they buy from you?
How exactly will you reach your target market to sell to them?
How will you get going right now with your currently available
resources? What do you absolutely need that you’ll need help with?
What could stand in your way of generating sales—and how will
you overcome such obstacles?
What benchmarks must you reach to qualify your business as a
the Right Funding
Potential sources of funding include a small-business loan from
your local bank, tapping into your savings, money from other investments,
borrowing from family/friends and, as a last resort, credit cards. Ideally,
this investment will help you break even after a year, but keep in mind that
even successful businesses can remain in debt for the first few years. The best
way to start a business is to start out small and dip your toe in, so to speak.
The advantages to testing your market will ensure you do not end up in a hole,
with nothing to show. There are a lot of successful businesses, which have
started out with a very minimal investment a great product and a great business
The amount of avenues in which you can obtain capital is large
and research can help you uncover them.
Why Others Have Failed
People naturally want to emulate success by analyzing successful
business models, but it’s more important to learn from companies that have
failed. You can learn from success stories but that same is true of failures.
Learning from others mistakes significantly decreases your chances of following
the same path. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell once said “There
are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and
learning from failure.”
There can be thousands of factors that contribute to business
success, but when a business fails, it’s often easy to pinpoint the reasons.
You must avoid making these mistakes yourself.
Your Name Out There – Networking
There is usually a local or national trade show expo or
conference in every industry, where the “who’s who” all gathers in one place. Your
local chamber may even host a business expo. Attend these events. You’ll have
the chance to learn the lay of the land, meet hundreds of people in person and
learn about what’s new in your industry. It’s also a great place to form new
partnerships. Bring lots of business cards!
The moment your business strategy has evolved, start attending
networking events. Becoming a member of your local chamber will probably give
you access to a whole host of networking events throughout the year. If not,
reach out on social media for ways to grow your network.
Brian Cleary is the Chief Executive of Clonmel Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest
business services organizations in Ireland. He’s also the past director of
Chambers Ireland. He writes for a number of online publications and is a
regular co-presenter of the 'Small Business Show' a syndicated radio program
broadcast on a number of stations throughout Ireland and available as a
As a recognized business leader in Kelowna, I was invited to participate in a Canadian Chamber of Commerce Energy Tour that provided an in-depth opportunity to hear from a good cross section of energy companies and actually go on mine sites in Fort McMurray.
My perceptions on the opportunity, constraints and threats to this economic behemoth as it relates to our local community and to Canada are as follows;
I agree with the views of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association. Rather than being seen as a negative force, the oil sands or other major natural resource developments (including mining, forestry and energy) Canadians must view these projects as generational opportunities for economic growth. We must leverage and harness their development to maximize economic opportunity today and for future generations.
The twelve companies I met on my trip had something in common beyond oil sands, the staff demonstrated pride in the work they do and are professionals in their field, most career oil production people. The commitment to working under the strictest federal government regulations and their passion for improving environmental conditions was evident and credible.
Between 1990 and 2012, GHG emissions associated with every barrel of oil sands crude produced were reduced by 28%. Today, Canada's oil sands only account for 0.13% of the entire world's GHG emissions.
I saw evidence of environmental collaboration, as oil sands companies have formed OSIA,Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance. Through COSIA, participating companies capture, develop and share the most innovative approaches and best thinking to improve environmental performance in the oil sands, focusing on four Environmental Priority Areas (EPAs) - tailings, water, land and greenhouse gases. There is collaboration and transparent exchange that is reducing environmental impacts and costs of production. Both are positives to us as consumers.
Petroleum exporters are also making great strides in reducing their environmental footprint.
It was clear to me personally, that for transporting oil safely for long distances, pipelines are unmatched in their safety performances. In fact I feel very strongly that Canada needs to export oil products to Asia markets. I would much rather have Canada extracting and shipping oil with our strict regulatory conditions than, Asia purchasing from countries with less than stellar safety records or government instability. We all use products derived from oil every day, from plastic cellular cases, to computers and tires for our bikes or shoes on our feet. Let's get real, the world needs oil to make products and move the products to stores and homes.
Apparently, Canada's role as a responsible innovator in commodity production is matched by the resources sector's ability to pay good wages. Mining, oil and gas extraction wages flow back to every province as do the workers that call B.C. home. Resource jobs produced up to 15 times more value for Canada's economy than the average job. Recent talk of raising minimum wages would be moot points if people searching for real raises identified fields that create the most value, and then search out the training needed.
Manufacturers play a critical role in this development. In 2010, B.C. manufacturers sold over $6 billion worth of high tech products and services into the development and operation of Alberta's oil sands. It is a large and growing portion of sales for many sectors and many companies - especially those manufacturing machinery and equipment, steel and steel products, and construction equipment. And these opportunities are being felt right across the country in every province and region including here in the Okanagan.
Canadian manufacturers can focus their attention on how can continue to grow their sales into the oil sands and capture more of these opportunities.
As a first step, Canada's manufacturers must understand the specific opportunities that oil sands development offers them. Second, governments, oil sands producers and manufacturers must work much more closely together to improve domestic supply chains and to make them more efficient.
Perhaps most importantly, we must all work together to ensure that Canadians fully understand and appreciate the economic importance of natural resource development, and specifically Alberta's oil sands, to ensure their development continues responsibility and is not unnecessary restricted.
Canada's forest product producers are also constantly adapting to service the world's marketplace.
As the Forest Products Association of Canada said recently, business as usual is no longer an option. The industry employs more than 235,000 Canadians and plans to renew its workforce by 2020. It's also one of Canada's most innovative and sustainable sectors. This sector too is demonstrating environmental responsibility. In fact, a recent report found Canada has only a .2% deforestation rate while also leading the world in forest product exports.
I urge you to consider this. Ensure that your opinions are based on today's facts. Today's oil sands do not resemble the first mining foray.Today's natural resource industries, are responsible, transparent, motivated to reduce emissions and lower environmental impacts. They are also critical to our economic future. I stand behind the technology and the knowledge that leads Canadian resource development.
-Caroline Grover, CEO, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce
Annual General Meeting. Just the sound of it can induce an unitentional mid-day nap. Yet, it is an imperitive event for most non-profit organizations. This is when the organization must present to its stakeholders and members the past year's audited financial statements, vote for any bylaw changes and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
The main challenge with holding an AGM is that you have to actually have people attend. If quorum isn't achieved- AKA if a specific number of members don't show up, then it doesn't count... and you have to try again.
How could we be sure people were going to come? We needed to convince them...
This Year's AGM helod on April 8th, we had the best bait yet... we had W. Brett Wilson. The beloved, bearded business mogul who has stakes in Kelowna and was everyone's favourite Dragon's Den dealmaker agreed to speak to our members. With a resume like his, it's no wonder his fee alone is $25,000! Wait, back up... we paid what?! Note:This year's financials to be presented at the 2016 AGM. Be in attendance to find out.
Our AGM really was more than financial statements.. it was an opportunity for the Outgoing President to highlight our accomplishments of the year, recognize our amazing volunteers & membership, and introduce the Incoming President & Board members.
If you missed it, here is a recap:
Director of the Year: Gladys Fraser
Ambassador of the Year: Shawna McCrea
Volunteer of the Year: Patricia Livingstone
And of course a keynote by W. Brett Wilson that garnered a standing ovation. For pictures of the event visit our Facebook page or for more info on our Board of Directors, please visit our Board of Directors Webpage.
Rush Ihas Hardwick LLP
Pushor Mitchell LLP
GreenStep Solutions Inc.
Touchstone Law Group
SW Audio Visual
Okanagan Film Commision
Business Development Bank of Canada
Orchard Park Shopping Centre
Executive Committee Mandate
Board of Directors Mandate