Nearly a third of Canadian small- and medium-sized business owners worry they won’t survive a second wave: KPMG in Canada Poll

More than half looking to sell or buy because of the pandemic

TORONTO, Oct. 19, 2020 /CNW/ – Nearly a third (31 per cent) of small- and medium-sized business owners or decision makers in Canada worry they won’t have the capital to make it through a second wave of COVID-19 if the economy craters, finds recent poll research by KPMG in Canada. Over half (54 per cent) concede their focus right now is on survival.

Canadian entrepreneurs share their views on COVID-19 (CNW Group/KPMG LLP)

“We’re at a pivotal moment that could make or break many small-to-medium-sized companies,” says John Cho, a partner and head of KPMG’s deal advisory services. “These companies are the backbone of the Canadian economy, and up to now, we have seen few insolvencies. But worries over a second wave leading to another shut down has one in four seriously looking to exit their businesses.

“While economic uncertainty is causing a lot of angst for entrepreneurs, with more than half just trying to survive, there is also another group of owners who have been well positioned during the pandemic and see an opportunity to grow their business either organically or in buying distressed assets.”

Key Poll Findings:

  • 31 per cent of small- and medium-sized business owners or decision makers worry that they don’t have the adequate liquidity or access to financing to make it through a second COVID-19 wave. A further 11 per cent said outright that they do not have adequate liquidity or access to financing for the foreseeable future.
  • 54 per cent say their “immediate focus is on survival.”
  • Nearly 40 per cent worry they won’t recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.
  • Almost one in four (23 per centregret not selling their business sooner, and a nearly equal number (24 per cent) are looking to sell due to the higher costs and increased challenges associated with managing and protecting their employees during the pandemic.
  • 29 per cent view the pandemic as an opportunity to grow their business either organically or through acquisitions.
  • 30 per cent say they are either much or somewhat better off than their competitors and nearly a quarter (23 per cent) say they are in a somewhat or much worse position.

“The pandemic has had a seismic shift on the outlook of business owners in this country,” adds Mr. Cho. “One in four entrepreneurs regret not selling their business sooner, and the same number is now looking to sell because of the complex challenges and costs to their operations brought about by the pandemic.”

The pandemic, however, is also presenting prospects for growth, says Mr. Cho. Twenty-nine per cent of Canadian entrepreneurs say they intend to expand their business by buying a competitor, supplier, or diversifying into another sector. “While the last seven months has brought about a great deal of disruption to our economy, those companies that had invested in digital technology prior to the pandemic – or quickly pivoted when it hit – see real growth opportunities going forward. These companies are likely to be key drivers in our economic recovery.”

Big shifts coming

Going digital has never been more important. Nearly eight in 10 (78 per cent) entrepreneurs believe that you must go digital or you won’t survive, and so far COVID-19 has driven nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) into adopting digital and emerging technologies.

But nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of owners who want to exit within the next five years say they don’t have the energy, will, desire or technology to lead their company into this pandemic-driven new reality.

“The pandemic has highlighted how essential investments in digital technology have been – not just to simply survive but to be in a position to succeed going forward,” says Yannick Archambault, partner and national family office leader for KPMG Enterprise in Canada.

“It is critical that small- and medium-sized business owners in Canada assess their own desire and commitment to make the technology investments needed to compete going forward. If you are ahead of the game it might be time to think about leveraging those investments to expand your footprint by acquiring competitors that have been unwilling or unable to do the same.”

He advises owners who don’t have the will or resources to make needed investments that it might be time to look at selling their business or turning it over to someone who has the vision to lead the company into this new reality.

“The challenge is, a staggering 46 per cent of owners don’t know what their business is worth anymore because of the COVID-19 impacts,” says Mr. Archambault. He adds that number is even worse for those who say they have a formal plan to sell within the next two years with 54 per cent saying that have no clue.

Other Poll Highlights:

  • 78 per cent say anyone not currently preparing for the new digital realities or economy will be left behind.
  • 64 per cent say COVID-19 has driven them to explore and adopt digital and emerging technologies.
  • 73 per cent who want to exit within the next five years say they don’t have the energy, will, desire or technology to lead their company into this pandemic-driven new reality, but lack a formal plan.
  • Over two in five (44 per cent) took advantage of government assistance programs that were rolled out in the early phases of the pandemic
    • Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) relied on government funds to stay afloat and position their company to succeed going forward.

About the KPMG Business Transition COVID-19 Poll

KPMG polled 500 small- and medium-sized Canadian companies between Sept. 17 and Sept. 24, when COVID-19 cases resurged in Canada. The online survey of business owners or decision makers was drawn from Delvinia’s premier online research panel, AskingCanadians. Forty-six per cent of the respondents are aged 55 and over and 38 per cent are women. Thirty per cent reported annual revenue of under $500,000, 26 per cent have revenue between $500,000 and $5 million, 23 per cent have revenue of between $5 million and $20 million, 10 per cent have $20 million to $100 million in revenue, and the remaining 10 per cent reported revenue of $100 million.


KPMG LLP, an Audit, Tax and Advisory firm ( is a limited liability partnership, established under the laws of Ontario, and the Canadian member firm of KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”). KPMG has more than 7,000 professionals/employees in over 40 locations across Canada serving private- and public-sector clients. KPMG is consistently recognized as an employer of choice and one of the best places to work in the country.

The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International, a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

For further information: Caroline Van Hasselt, National Communications & Media Relations, KPMG in Canada, (416) 777-3288,

Source: Cision