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Small business owners in Canada love their work, despite long hours

By Daniel Kosir |

Long hours. Piles of stress. Lack of sleep. Owning a small business can take a toll on one's morale, health and livelihood. But despite all the downsides, small business owners across Canada love what they do.

The 2011 TD Canada Trust Small Business Survey found that two-thirds of small business owners describe themselves as "very happy," citing reasons such as being their own boss, controlling their destiny and making more money.

The survey, released yesterday, studied the attitudes and behaviours of small business owners in four major Canadian cities, finding that owners in Montreal were most likely to say they were "very happy" (70%), followed by Toronto (68%), Vancouver (66%), and Calgary (60%).

The pursuit of happiness

The small business owners surveyed attributed their happiness to a combination of reasons. The top benefits of owning a business according to respondents were:

  • The sense of personal achievement (96 per cent);
  • Being able to help customers and clients (96 per cent);
  • Being their own boss (94 per cent);
  • Being in control of their destiny (94 per cent); and
  • The opportunity to make more money (85 per cent).

"It's clear that there are a number of advantages to running your own company," says Alec Morley, Senior VP of Small Business Banking, TD Canada Trust.

"Whether you're launching a new venture or expanding an existing one, the key ingredients to running a successful small business are planning, knowing your market, loving what you do, and surrounding yourself with experts to help you when the going gets tough."

Strong Canadian dollar affects SMBs

Though from an economic standpoint the strong Canadian dollar is a positive thing, respondents noted that the rising Loonie is weakening their exports. The survey indicates that 36 per cent of small businesses that export internationally are seeing the strong dollar hurt their profits, and 22 per cent have already had a decrease in demand from customers outside of Canada.

"The strong Canadian dollar is certainly having an effect on the bottom lines of many small businesses who export their products and services internationally," says Morley.

"Small business owners should talk to their bank for strategies on how to manage the strong Loonie in their day-to-day operations and finances. For example, the strong dollar may provide small businesses with better buying power in countries like the US, so now might be a good time for some businesses to purchase new equipment and supplies from outside Canada."

Whistle while you work

Not surprisingly, managing work hours continues to be a major challenge for small business owners.

On average, owners are working 48.7 hours per week, up from 47.8 in 2010. Small business owners in Calgary tend to work longer hours than those in other cities, averaging 52.1 hours per week.

As a result of working so much, 60 percent of small business owners find it difficult to separate their business life from their personal life, and 89 per cent admit they can never truly stop thinking about their business.

This is part one of two in a series based on the 2011 TD Small Business Survey. For a breakdown of statistics by city, see Part 2

About the 2011 TD Small Business Survey

The 2011 TD Small Business Survey examined the attitudes and behaviours of 402 small business owners in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.  Small businesses were defined as those companies having 5 to 50 employees.  The research was conducted by Environics Research between April 19 and May 9, 2011.

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