12 Apr 2019

To ensure their sustainability and growth, Quebec SMEs will have to overcome several major challenges in the short- and medium-term, particularly in terms of labour and technological investments.

These are the results revealed by a recent Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton (RCGT) survey of 300 Quebec business leaders. According to the telephone survey conducted by Léger, the main challenges they will have to face in the next three years are recruiting and retaining staff, and technological change and competition.

In the near future, market competitiveness and accelerating information processing are issues for most businesses.

Focussing on growth

Good news: Quebec SMEs were active enough in the past two years to ensure their growth in a context of increasing competitiveness. Accordingly, 62% of them carried out one or more development activities. The most common ones involved diversifying their product and service offering (37%), establishing strategic partnerships with other businesses (31%) and penetrating a new market (27%).

Some 8% of SMEs accelerated their development by carrying out an acquisition, a transaction that involves major challenges. These include integration ability – cited as a main challenge by 26% of acquiring companies – the implementation of a common culture and values (20%) and personnel management (17%).

International expansion was a growth method for 10% of businesses. More than half of them (55%) developed their presence in the United States, 47% in Europe and 15% in China. In most cases, the operation was successful: 79% of leaders stated that it had been profitable, and 21% even consider it very successful.

On the other hand, 10% of businesses that have not yet developed the international market plan on doing so within five years, a proportion that rises to 22% among companies with 100 or more employees.

Innovation

We often hear that innovation is at the heart of competitiveness. In this regard, 65% of companies consider their level of maturity to be fairly or very advanced compared to their competitors. However, 41% claim they don’t have the internal financial resources to develop innovation. In fact, half of the leaders say they are poorly informed about the financial resources available to support their efforts in this regard.

Digital shift

The survey also reveals that just over half of SMEs (57%) have not yet invested in the digital shift, even though it is their third most important issue. The most common investments are in cloud computing (17%), implementing or modifying computer programs (12%), and integrating management software (11%).

Accelerating information processing (for 51% of SMEs), client data security (43%) and the soundness of IT systems (35%) are also major technological issues, according to respondents.

While Quebec is positioning itself as a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI), one out of ten companies has already integrated AI technologies (6%) or plans on doing so in the near future (5%). Interestingly, in the construction sector, the proportion of Quebec companies that have already implemented artificial intelligence projects has risen to 20%, a possible indicator of the industry’s desire to breach its productivity gap.

Labour and organizational culture

Raised by 57% of SMEs, labour force issues are the main challenge for the next three years. To resolve this problem, Quebec companies are focusing entirely on training and skills development (83%).

In fact, more than half of the executives surveyed have created new training tools (61%), increased training expenses (57%) or implemented an employee development program (55%) over the past five years. Just over 40% of companies have also introduced continuing education incentives. These figures rise significantly among companies with 100 or more employees.

Social and environmental responsibility

One of the challenges faced by SMEs is the obvious need to adopt responsible practices. In fact, a high percentage of executives (90%) consider it important to do business with socially responsible suppliers.

Companies are already taking steps to achieve this. In the past five years, more than half of the SMEs surveyed have implemented actions to use less paper (83%) and fewer plastic or Styrofoam cups (71%), or to reduce their ecological footprint (53%). Four in ten companies (42%) introduced an environmental policy.

Furthermore, to contribute to the collective well-being, 46% of executives are involved as volunteers with an organization, and 22% of SMEs have a volunteer program that allows staff to volunteer their time to charitable organizations.

Inspirational successes

Do you recognize yourself in this survey because your company is facing one or more of these major issues? The success of outstanding leaders will inspire you to take on these challenges with flying colours.

To discover best practices in innovation, international expansion, corporate transactions and leadership, we invite you to read about the success stories of the Person of the Year Award finalists.

Study methodology: Telephone survey of 300 leading Quebec businesses with 10 to 499 employees, February 2019.

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11 Apr 2019

Nancy Jalbert, Partner, Management Consulting and 4.0 Leader at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, joined a group of experts who travelled to Germany for the Hannover Messe to find out about the latest manufacturing sector technology.

Manufacturing businesses around the world are becoming aware of the growing impact of technology shifts on manufacturing processes, the client experience and human resource management. Known as the 4th industrial revolution, this global transformation movement is driving businesses to innovate in order to stay competitive and meet growing requirements in today’s market.

It is in this context that Pierre Fitzgibbon, Economy and Innovation Minister, led a mission to Germany with some 130 participants from ten Quebec regions to enable them to deepen their knowledge on the latest trends in the 4.0 universe.

In association with the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie Nouvelle-Beauce for the de Chaudière-Appalaches region, the mission provided an opportunity for a delegation of Quebec specialists and entrepreneurs to attend Hannover Messe in Germany, the largest industrial technology trade show in the world. This show has over 5,000 highly specialized exhibitors in such fields as robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, predictive maintenance and interconnected solutions. Hannover Messe is the ideal location to get a preview of the latest industrial innovations.

Digital transformation is key to economic growth

Nancy Jalbert said, “Hannover Messe is a very impressive trade show and the quality of the exhibitors is beyond expectations. It’s a gold mine of information. Exhibitors offer visitors a new way of seeing and understanding technology advances. They are pushing the limits of what’s possible and have tangible examples of just how far manufacturing businesses can go these days to optimize their products and services.”

She noted that organizations must get onboard more quickly. It seems that 85% of European businesses have adopted the digital shift in their organizations, compared with only 25% in Quebec. According to Cefrio, barely half of manufacturing organizations know what industry 4.0 is. Managers must take action quickly if they want to ensure their organization’s growth and sustainability.

Nancy Jalbert added, “At Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, we are already supporting local businesses in their digital shift by conducting 4.0 audits and we have presented a tour with conferences on 4.0 to make Quebec businesses aware of the digital shift, demystify the topic and support them. We know that businesses want to move forward, but it’s not enough. Still, I’m optimistic when I see the diversity of the strategic players in the delegation and the extent of Quebec’s commitment to the digital shift.”

Some managers underestimate the impact of the digital shift in manufacturing, while others are overwhelmed by the scope of the movement and the organizational changes needed.

The support of specialized business consultants can help managers take the first steps towards the change. A personalized, tangible process can determine the organization’s specific needs based on its technological progress and help overcome the major digital shift.

Hanovre délégation Chaudière-Appalaches

Chaudière-Appalaches Delegation. Photo credit: Agence Webdiffusion

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11 Apr 2019

Once again this year, Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton is a partner of the Grands prix de la relève d’affaires of the Regroupement des jeunes chambres de commerce du Québec.

This event celebrates the achievements of its members, young influential, visionary and dynamic entrepreneurs across the province.

Submit your candidacy before May 3, 2019 in one of the 12 categories, particularly for Buyer of the year (Business transfers) sponsored by our firm.

Candidates are evaluated based on their achievements, the relevance of their vision, benefits for their industry, their involvement in the socio-economic development of Quebec, leadership, innovation and contribution to their industry.

Our firm is proud to be collaborating to the success of young, local leaders who, through their professionalism and determination, contribute to the growth of Quebec and success of its organizations.

The Gala will take place on June 14, 2019. See you there!

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11 Apr 2019

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton acts as exclusive financial advisor to Nature’s Touch on a refinancing transaction.

Founded in 2004 and based in Montréal, Quebec, Nature’s Touch Frozen Foods is Canada’s pre-eminent supplier of frozen fruit products. From very humble beginnings, the Company has never wavered from striving to provide their customers with the highest-quality products.

Today, Nature’s Touch employs over 450 people and processes approximately 120 million pounds of frozen fruits every year in 3 plants strategically located in Montréal (Quebec), Abbotsford (British Columbia) and Front Royal (Virginia).

The Company is also a branded player, having secured the North American license to produce Welch’s frozen fruits in 2010 and operating its own brands, Nature’s Touch and Nature’s Touch Organic. Nature’s Touch has a portfolio of over 100 different SKUs of frozen fruits, blends, smoothie kits and vegetables, both in the conventional and organics spheres.

Nature’s Touch called on Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton’s Corporate Finance team to review and optimize its financial structure. Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton acted as exclusive financial advisor to the Company, which now has a streamlined, adaptable and flexible structure that will allow it to seize new business opportunities in a very active industry.

“It was a pleasure working with Mark, Yasser and their team on our refinancing process. We were working with a tight timeline and they were able to accommodate all our requests, which helped us in closing the transaction as soon as it was possible to do so” states Maxime Boutin, CFO of Nature’s Touch. “Their knowledge of the market was a significant asset in improving our financing structure.”

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Nature’s Touch concludes a refinancing transaction to support growth

To learn more about how Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton can meet your company’s financial advisory needs, please contact our deal team.

About Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton is a Canadian leader in the areas of assurance, tax, financial advisory and business recovery and reorganization. Our leading mid-market focused corporate finance advisory team provides sector-specific advice on mergers, acquisitions and divestitures; debt and equity capital markets.

We bring deep industry knowledge to each transaction to support our clients’ corporate finance strategies and priorities. A member company of Grant Thornton International and the Canadian counterpart of Grant Thornton LLP, Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton has more than 2,500 employees and is one of the world’s largest professional services network made up of 50,000 people in over 135 countries.