A recent survey of Canada's family businesses shows growth. Capital News asks three of Ottawa's oldest family business the secret to continued growth.
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Times appear to be good for family-owned businesses in Canada. Two-thirds (64 per cent) of them reported growth last year, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey. Some of Ottawa’s longest-running family owned businesses are examples to how this is possible despite a slow-growing economy. We spotlight three of the capital’s oldest family businesses and ask them about growth and their strategies for the future.
Unique products have kept the Rideau Bakery running since 1930. David Kardish and his cousin Louis are their family’s third generation running the bakery and cafe using recipes their grandmother brought from Ukraine.
“The marketplace has a lot of mediocrity at inexpensive prices,” Kardish said of competitors in his industry. He said products without preservatives or additives and a committed staff that creates a sense of family, are key reasons why customers have been coming back.
“People are going back to paying for quality goods,” says Candace Sutcliffe, president of C.A. Paradis/The Chef’s Paradise, a kitchenware and kitchen appliance store founded in 1921.
According to Sutcliffe customers are attracted to these unique and custom-made products like cutting boards or cooking utensils made of Ontarian wood by craftsmen in the Muskoka region. The business can make connections with local artisans and craftspersons to supply those items, something larger competitors with wider distribution cannot sustain.
The next generation
Handing off a business from one generation to the next is vital to its long-term survival. The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) survey found only 18 per cent of family businesses had a comprehensive succession plan. E.R. Fisher Menswear, a men’s tailored clothing and sportswear store, opened in 1905. Sonia Fisher, the owner and granddaughter of the founder, said the long-term view of family-owned and run business is an asset, but each succeeding generation needs to look at the business with fresh eyes. “Family businesses tend to maintain longer-term views and plans,” she said. “They more often than not are looking twenty and thirty years down the road instead of five or ten.”
But even when the plan is there, whether relatives want to continue the business or have the acumen to do it, is another challenge. Pierre Paradis is the owner of C.A. Paradis/The Chef’s Paradise. He shifted the management of his family’s business to Candace Sutcliffe after his children chose other careers. Paradis is still involved with the company part of the time but he spends winters golfing in Florida.
The PwC survey found 65 per cent of Canadian family businesses are confident with their digital strategy, but 20 per cent are vulnerable to a digital disruption. Online shopping and digital payments are just some of these challenges. Keeping up with technology is an issue here,” said Sutcliffe. “A lot of the customers know a product before we know of it. We have to remain competitive.”
While technology has been adopted in the manufacturing of the clothes sold at E.R. Fisher Menswear, Fisher is more cautious with her digital strategy. “We updated our point-of-sale system to an Apple-based system, and work with the latest programs and applications,” she said. But she has chosen to not yet sell online, choosing to monitor the trends closely. For the Rideau Bakery, Kardish has taken a different approach. Limiting the amount of technology in his business means staff are preparing everything by hand, staying as close to the recipes and methods of his grandmother’s recipes as much as possible.
In their words
These family-owned businesses have outlasted decades of different government policies. We asked them what they need, or not need from the government, to keep their business growing.
David Kardish, Rideau Bakery
“We have unique products that are high quality. We don’t use any preservatives, chemicals, or additives. You could say we have natural products. [The team members] are all working for the same thing, making sure everything runs smoothly, everything comes out and making sure our customers are happy. Hopefully that pays off and people appreciate what you do.”
Candace Sutcliffe, C.A. Paradis/The Chef’s Paradise
“As a small business we need more incentives. The Wynne government’s implementation of tax was daunting. The government should look at taxation. Small businesses need a tax reduction.”
Sonia Fisher, E.R. Fisher Menswear
“I think the Federal and Provincial governments should always have small and medium-sized businesses at the forefront of their minds, in every policy decision they make. It sounds cliche now, because it has been repeated so many times, but we are truly the backbone of the economy. Reducing the amount of tax on small business would help, supporting all industries, even the unsexy ones like manufacturing, and continuing to acknowledge that the small business environment in Canada is more competitive than it may have been 20 years ago."