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Of the 1,138,761 employer businesses in Canada (those businesses with at least one employee), 98 per cent have fewer than 100 employees. (Jacques Boissinot/Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)
Of the 1,138,761 employer businesses in Canada (those businesses with at least one employee), 98 per cent have fewer than 100 employees. (Jacques Boissinot/Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

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Our companies need more than 'blue-sky' commentary Add to ...

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been a series of articles ( here, here and here) in The Globe and Mail about Canada’s competitiveness.

As I finished reading the various pieces, I was left with that uncomfortable feeling that our national dialogue on competitiveness is a little on the thin side and excessively weighted on macro (country level) versus micro (firm level) analysis.

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Yes, we have to have a competitive corporate tax structure in our country; yes, we need to be aware of the impact of a rising Canadian dollar on our firms; yes, we should be concerned about the productivity gap we have with the United States; and yes, innovation is the key to business competitiveness.



But now what? Silence fills the room . . .



As I’ve indicated previously in the Competing to Win blog, it’s our companies -- represented by their owners, managers and employees -- that have to compete in an increasingly integrated and competitive global economy, not the government of Canada, the 13 provincial and territorial governments, and their respective agencies. And, ultimately, it’s our companies that are tasked with the challenge of creating wealth and leading the jobs and growth agenda.



Based on my experience over the years in working with Canadian enterprises - small, medium and large, and across industries - it’s rarely a case of our companies lacking the entrepreneurial or managerial spirit to take on the challenges of a world that is being reshaped by technology, economic globalization, ever-evolving labour markets, and the rise of the BRICs + Mexico + Indonesia + Turkey + South Africa. etc. It’s predominantly a case of know-how and effective management of risk. Companies are looking for, and require, solid, practical solutions and insights to better enable them to compete today. They have little need for commentary from the 50,000 foot level.



Of course, not all companies are equal in size, resources, and experience, so the solutions provided will vary by enterprise. For the most part, Canada Inc. is comprised of small and medium-sized businesses.



Of the 1,138,761 employer businesses in Canada (those businesses with at least one employee), 98 per cent have fewer than 100 employees, 75 per cent have fewer than 10 employees, and approximately 55 per cent have fewer than five employees. Only 1.8 per cent are considered medium-sized enterprises (businesses with 100 to 499 employees), and only 0.2 per cent are considered large enterprises (businesses with at least 500 employees).

Employer businesses by company size

In general, this distribution is similar across goods- and service-producing sectors.

Employer businesses by company size (number of employees)

So, as our policy makers, think tanks, economists, etc., continue to deliberate over Canada’s competitiveness, I only have one simple request. Let’s focus on providing our companies with solutions that will help them realize profitable and sustainable sales growth. We’ve done a great job in defining our challenges, we now need to take action on them.



William Polushin is founding director of the Program for International Competitiveness at the Desautels Faculty of Management, McGill University, and President of AMAXIS, an international business and operational development services firm.

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