This powerful technology platform – built by BC-based Vision Critical – will allow you to share you views on doing in business in BC so we can cut more red tape on your behalf! The MindReader™ platform will help you grow your business – and community.
- It’s an opt-in BC Business intelligence community—that is over 1500 members strong and projected to grow to 3000 by the end of 2019.
- Our members are CEOs and leaders, entrepreneurs, captains of industry, business owners large and small, and corporate British Columbians.
- Members provide insight into the BC economic landscape and voice concerns and opportunities for BC businesses.
- Data gathered through Mind Reader is contextualized and shared with government. It informs our advocacy efforts and the policy process.
The survey is Canada’s first comprehensive view into how our businesses are adapting, managing or, sadly, failing as the COVID-19 shutdown continues. Insights from more than 13,000 businesses bring into focus the time pressures businesses face to avoid closing their doors permanently.
The data clearly shows clearly thousands of businesses are quickly approaching permanent closures. We are now six weeks into the shutdown, which is too late for many, but countless companies can still be saved if we move fast enough to help them. Policy measures like the wage subsidy and the Canada Emergency Business Account will certainly help many businesses, but we’re on the clock to get money into the hands of all businesses that need support.
Key findings include:
How much of a cash buffer did businesses have going into COVID-19
- 42.2% couldn’t operate longer than 60 days without a source of revenue
- 51.1% couldn’t operate longer than 90 days without a source of revenue
Extent to which businesses have experienced a decrease in demand
- 80.9% have experienced a medium to high drop in demand for services or products
Change in business revenue in Q1 2020 compared to Q1 2019
- 10.5% experienced an increase in revenue
- 14.3% saw no change in revenue
- 17.9% experienced a decrease in revenue of up to 20%
- 53.5% experienced a decrease in revenue of over 20%
Length of time businesses can remain partially or fully open amid social distancing measures
- 17.5% say no amount of time amid social distancing
- 22.2% say they could open for no longer than 3 months amid social distancing
- 11.9% say they could open between 3 and 6 months amid social distancing
- Only 32.1% say they could remain open longer than 6 months amid social distancing
Staffing decisions taken as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
- 38.1% have reduced staff hours or shifts
- 40.5% have laid off staff
Select findings exploring the resiliency of Canadian businesses include:
- 17.9% of businesses have altered methods of production
- 35.4% of businesses have altered products or services offered
- 45.4% of businesses are using new methods to interact with customers
- 44.5% of businesses are testing working from home
- 11.6% of businesses are testing e-commerce
- 10.6% are trying new staff training
- 62.3% of businesses say they can return to a state of normal operations within one month of social distancing measures being removed
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BC business face major hurdles under phase 2 of restart plan
The biggest challenges to restarting identified by survey respondents are:
- attracting customers or revenue (75%),
- having enough operating cash for expenses (49%) or to meet safety standards (31%),
- bringing staff back (39%),
- government not allowing their business to open yet (31%), and
- not yet prepared or able to meet safety guidelines (30%).
Given the challenges to restarting operations, over half of the members surveyed (55%) expect it will take at least two months to restart.
The findings are the results of a survey of 1,343 member-businesses of the BC Chamber of Commerce, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Business Council of British Columbia, and other partners, with the assistance of the Mustel Group. This survey is the third in a series of pulse checks using the BCMindReader.com platform.
The impacts on businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic are similar to previous surveys with the most common continuing to be decreased sales volume, reported by 78% of businesses. As businesses work hard to restart, fewer (45%, down from 67% reported in the second survey) expect decreased sales volumes in the next two weeks.
Organizations are increasingly innovating and seeking new ways to access customers with 31% noting they have increased their digital or e-commerce presence. However, 43% of businesses expect that they will still require significant financial support or incentives from the provincial and federal government, beyond those already announced, in order to continue operating.
Other Key Findings
Government programs have helped bridge the gap and remain critical for business survival.
Commercial Rental Assistance (CECRA)
- Among businesses paying rent, 26% were unable to pay their rent in full in April. The primary reason is that they were shut down and had no revenue (75%). Others had no access to the CECRA program (30%) or could not come to terms with their landlord (19%).
- Only 16% of businesses paying rent expect to qualify the CECRA; another 27% are unsure. For organizations that expect to qualify, only 40% expect their landlord will apply for the program.
Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
- While nearly 80% have noted declines in revenues, only one-third of businesses, 34%, expect to or have applied for CEWS, another 11% may apply.
- Half of those currently using the program are not sure what they will do when the program ends, but 30% expect to have to lay off employees and only one-in-five (18%) expect to return to business as usual (note the extension to the program was announced prior to the launch of the survey).
Additional Government Supports
- 43% of businesses expect that they will require significant financial support or incentives from the provincial and federal government, beyond those already announced, in order to continue operating.
- Extending CEWS is the most needed program (47%) in addition to enhancing the Emergency Business loan (34%), extending the rental assistance program beyond June (26%), and providing funding for growing e-commerce or other products/services (29%).
Ease of Application Process
- Among those who have applied for government assistance programs, one-third of those with an opinion found the process difficult.
Impacts on business
- Between 32% to 40% have had capital projects, contracts/tenders and/or marketing projects either cancelled or deferred (similar to previous surveys).
- Among those laying off staff, on average businesses have laid off 12 employees which is less than the 25 reported in the second survey, and 43 employees reported in the first survey. This likely reflects the uptake of the wage subsidy program and return of some laid off employees.
- 31% have increased their digital or e-commerce presence, and small groups have introduced new products or services (11%), advanced new marketing projects (8%) or advanced new research and development (5%).
- In terms of businesses that have closed temporarily, the level is slightly higher in urban markets (50%) than in rural (42%), with the incidence highest in the following sectors: healthcare and social assistance – 74%, arts and entertainment – 77%, accommodation and food services – 68%, and retail – 58%.
According to a 1,248 BCMindReader survey, the COVID-19 crisis is deepening for British Columbia businesses:
- four-in-ten (43%) of those surveyed stating they can only continue to operate for up to three months under current restrictions;
- businesses temporarily closed, the future is similarly dire, with only half (53%) expecting to reopen once the restrictions are eased on workplace operations;
- while 38% are unsure, and 8% will not reopen.
Revenue declines put wages, rent, and other operational expenses in focus
The pandemic caused immediate steep revenue declines but conditions continue to worsen, as respondents monitor their cash flows and operational expenses.
- Approximately half of all businesses (54% up from 48% in the first survey) state they have experienced revenue decreases of 75% or more while two-thirds (66%) have had revenues drop by 50% or more.
- The top operating cost or expenses were wages (64%) followed by rent (54%), taxes (34%), and goods and supplies (32%).
- The majority of businesses (58%) are spending 10% or more of operating expenses on rent, with 42% spending 20% or more. The proportion of wages or rent as a function of overall costs vary depending on firm size, sector, geography, and other factors.
Government programs have provided some relief, but many still left out
While businesses surveyed are positive about government measures for employees and ensuring supply chains remain open, they are concerned about the speed and scope of programs that support cash flow.
- Just over half of businesses believe the federal government programs announced to date will be helpful once implemented, but they are not helpful for 33% of businesses, primarily because they do not qualify for any programs or provide enough/timely cash flow relief.
- Similarly, one-third of businesses (35%) do not find the provincial programs helpful, for the same reasons as federal programs.
- Businesses with under five employees are least likely (49%) to find federal programs helpful, primarily because they do not qualify.
- Only one-third of businesses (34%) are confident they will qualify for the 75% wage subsidy program, while 21% are unsure.
- Reasons for not qualifying include: do not have employees on payroll (46%), revenue has not declined enough (28%), employees laid off (13%), business shut down (11%), seasonal revenue (11%) and start-up or pre-revenue company (10%).
Many businesses are not confident in their ability to restart or whether consumers will return.
- Key challenges to recovery identified are attracting customers/revenue (79%), having enough operating cash (55%), and rehiring staff (28%).
- If revenue is the key challenge, half of businesses are unsure what percentage of typical sales or revenues will be required to restart their business, with estimates ranging from less than 30% to more than 70%.
- Nearly one-third are planning to cancel or have had contracts or tenders cancelled, while a
quarter will defer or cancel capital projects in the next two weeks.
- Among those laying off staff, on average, organizations have laid off 43 employees. As B.C.
businesses tend to be skewed to smaller businesses (less than 20 employees), the median or midpoint is much lower, at five employees.
- More than 50% of businesses are concerned they will be insolvent or not have the fiscal capacity
to restart their business.
- Businesses are trying to pivot with 23% increasing efforts towards online, digital, or e-commerce
- Businesses tend to expect the economic rebound in their market will be slow (55% versus 14%
fast) but a sizable group is unsure (31%).
Individual businesses in B.C. are experiencing the crisis differently, depending on their sector, location of operations, size, exposure to global supply chains, and the impacts of other global market forces. Opinions are divided on the effectiveness of government support announced to date, especially with respect to measures that support cash flow and to prevent layoffs (note that the 75% wage subsidy was introduced after the survey was launched). This may reflect that while many announcements have been made, funds have not yet been received by businesses or individuals.
When asked what actions the federal government could take to further support business, respondents
pointed to the following measures:
- Provide direct payments to affected businesses (56%).
- Immediately reduce rates for EI, company taxes, personal tax, GST, other government imposed
levies or charges (42%).
- Ensure that critical supply chains are able to function (32%).
- Ensure that credit markets and the financial system continue to function (33%).
Top recommendations to the B.C. government include:
- Further reduce tax rates and defer payments facing B.C. businesses and households (57%).
- Consider remedies for businesses not able to pay rent in collaboration with property owners and
- Provide direct support to B.C. industry sectors that are being particularly affected by the
pandemic crisis (46%).
While British Columbia has entered phase three of its Restart Plan, two-thirds (65%) of businesses surveyed are using some form of government support. Businesses expect a substantial “second wave” of negative impacts should these programs expire too quickly.
Impacts on Businesses
- Impacts on businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic are similar to those reported in previous Pulse Check.
- 40% (higher proportion than in the past) reporting increasing operating costs, likely due to reopening or expanding operations. This level increases to over 50% of medium and large businesses.
- On the positive side, 36% (up from 31%) have increased their digital or e-commerce presence, and small groups have introduced new products or services (15%), advanced new marketing projects (10%) or advanced new research and development (6%)
BC Government Recovery Plan and Support
- Businesses are not particularly confident that when the province launches a recovery/rebuilding plan, the provincial government’s plan will help their business succeed through the COVID period (only 16% said they are confident or very confident that the plan will help them succeed)
- 65% of businesses are using some form of government support program to assist during COVID.
- Only 28% of businesses on government support expect to return to normal once the government support programs end.
The full data
Business impact survey results
Thank you for your feedback on the COVID-19 Business Impact Survey. There were over 7900+ responses with over 200 Tri-Cities businesses represented in the survey results.These insights are shared directly with the federal and provincial governments to shape how they react to this pandemic in real-time.