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Small businesses optimistic despite challenging climate: survey

Networking at recent Small Business Summit.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A new poll of small Canadian businesses suggests that a majority are optimistic about their prospects for success and many plan on expansion, despite a challenging economic climate.

The survey commissioned by CIBC finds that 85 per cent of small business owners are optimistic about the future success of their company.

And nearly half – 43 per cent – say they plan to expand their business within the next three years.

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The poll by Leger Marketing finds nearly six-in-10 business owners in the start-up phase plan on expanding.

That's nearly double the number of established business owners who say they plan on growing.

Businesses in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan were among the most likely to want to expand, while businesses in Ontario were least likely to be planning an expansion.

"It's encouraging to see so many Canadian small business owners sharing a high level of optimism about the future success of their enterprise," said Jon Hountalas, CIBC's executive vice-president of business banking.

"With small- and medium-size businesses playing such an important role in Canada's overall economic future, this optimism bodes well for Canada's future growth."

The results come as economic news has grown more bleak in the past few months, with both Canadian and global growth coming in below expectations during the first half of 2012, and the European debt crisis dominating headlines.

But the 801 respondents surveyed between July 3 and July 12 did not appear to be ignoring the current economic climate – with economic uncertainty topping the list of obstacles they said they needed to overcome.

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The poll also suggests that those small business owners who have expanded in the past, access to financing and fluctuations in cash flow ranked among their biggest concerns.

"While it's positive to see that start-ups are eager to expand, the poll indicates that there are lessons to be learned from experienced businesses who have undergone expansion phases in the past," Mr. Hountalas said.

A majority of businesses planning expansion were focused on growing in Canada with only a quarter eyeing growing outside the country.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.46 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The findings are in line with a survey of privately-owned firms by PwC released earlier this week, that suggests more than three-quarters of privately-held businesses believe their business will improve over the next year.

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