Supplier costs continue to rise. Inflation continues to impact buyer behaviour. Global unrest is making people uneasy. All of these financial trends are affecting small and medium-sized businesses as we head into 2024. 12% worry they will be unable to continue past 2024. Here’s the good news: 88% of Canadian SMBs surveyed say they are confident about growing their company over the next three years — an improvement from 2022’s 83%.
Regardless of what you see coming in the years ahead, understanding your financial situation is crucial to effectively building a successful and sustainable business. Cash flow will be more important in the coming year, and managing the economic, consumer, technology, and labour challenges should be top of mind.
Financial Trends and Challenges Facing Small and Medium-Sized Canadian Businesses
Here are some of the key financial trends and challenges that SMBs must confront in 2024.
Are we heading into a recession? That’s the big question that we’re all grappling with. The Conference Board of Canada now believes we’ll avoid a recession with a recovery in 2024. Others disagree. Either way, SMBs need to keep tight control over finances and prepare for whatever comes next.
The Bank of Canada is expected to hold tight on interest rates for the first half of 2024, with rate reductions not coming until mid-year. High interest rates slow down many areas of the economy, including consumer spending. SMBs seeking financing will find it more expensive, and loan grants may be more restrictive.
With labour challenges causing wages to rise and costs of goods increasing, SMBs will have to make difficult decisions about raising prices and managing cash flow.
A long-running financial trends that will continue in 2024 is more consumers are shopping online. With internet usage across Canada at nearly 93%, the retail eCommerce market is forecast to hit $71.7 billion in Canada in 2024. Yet, many small businesses nationwide are lagging in building out eCommerce solutions. Businesses must assess their eCommerce strategy to stay competitive, especially with younger consumers.
If there is a recession, expect consumer behaviour to shift. As businesses downsize, many Canadians will suddenly be out of work or have their work hours reduced. Demand for goods and services will decrease, especially for items that aren’t considered essential.
Consumers are also focusing on sustainability and eco-friendly practices in decision-making. More people expect transparency into how businesses operate as part of purchase decisions. Starting in 2024, banks and insurance companies face mandatory disclosures for climate-related risk and exposure. While most SMBs do not have such reporting requirements, expect more interest in how you are operating.
Technology is playing an increasingly important role in business. Artificial intelligence and automation are both disrupting entire sectors and providing significant efficiencies.
At the same time, SMBs need to worry more about cybersecurity than ever before. Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting small and medium-sized businesses. Cybercrime in Canada is up more than 600% since the start of the pandemic, and nearly half of all attacks target SMBs.
A new regulation goes into effect on February 1, 2024, as part of the Labour Code, increasing the obligations employers have when terminating employees in federally regulated businesses. More notice will need to be given to those with three years or more of employment. Up to eight weeks’ notice is required for employees working at a company for eight years or longer. There are also new requirements about the statement of benefits, wages, and severance pay that must be provided.
Businesses that use employment contracts will want to review them to ensure they comply with the new measures. Businesses must update employee handbooks and policy manuals to meet the new guidelines.
What SMBs Can Do to Prepare for 2024
Seek Financial Advice
Consulting with accounting and finance experts like Avisar Chartered Professional Accountants should be a priority heading into 2024 and pondering how to prepare for emerging financial trends. A CPA firm can provide expert guidance on budgeting, cash flow management, financing options, and more to help SMBs adapt to evolving economic conditions.
Adapting to Changing Consumer Preferences
SMBs need to evaluate their products and services, looking at ROI in light of evolving consumer behaviour. Enhancing eCommerce and digital offerings, managing supply chains, and tight cost control are all part of the SMB landscape moving forward.
SMBs should stay current on technology and look for ways to streamline operations. The right technology can boost competitiveness by automating functions. Seeking input from your accounting firm can help you find new ways to optimize finances and reduce your accounting workload.
SMBs also need to evaluate their current cybersecurity to lower risk.
Regulatory compliance is essential. Rules and reporting requirements are changing, and SMBs need to avoid costly problems by adhering to evolving laws. A CPA firm can help ensure businesses adhere to the latest accounting, tax, and other financial standards.
Get Professional Financial Management
With these complex challenges facing SMBs in 2024, you need a trusted advisor to help guide you, keep you compliant, and better manage your finances.
Avisar Chartered Professional Accountants is a trusted BC-based Canadian accounting firm focused on serving small businesses, entrepreneurs, and not-for-profit organizations. Our team of highly experienced accountants understands the unique needs of small and medium-sized businesses and is dedicated to helping you manage your finances and grow your business.
Contact Avisar Charted Professional Accountants today to book a consultation.
Disclaimer: Avisar Chartered Professional Accountant’s blog deals with a number of complex issues in a concise manner; it is recommended that accounting, legal or other appropriate professional advice should be sought before acting upon any of the information contained therein. Although every reasonable effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this post, no individual or organization involved in either the preparation or distribution of this post accepts any contractual, tortious, or any other form of liability for its contents or for any consequences arising from its use.