Monthly Archives December 2019

The Sarnia Lambton Workforce Development Board, the organization dedicated to helping employers and prospective employees better connect with a view to closing the supply/demand gap that exists in our community, will be actively promoting its EmployerOne Survey come the new year.

Laura Greaves, the organization’s executive director, will be working with staff to distribute the survey throughout the community.

One of the partners of this initiative is the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

“We are in full support of the objectives of this important initiative,’ said Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Chamber. “By better understanding the needs of not only our members but the entire community, we can work on a strategic level to become even better at what we offer businesses and those they employ.”

The EmployerOne survey collects data on workforce and industry needs based on responses from local businesses and organizations. The feedback SLWDB receives from this survey allows it to assist local business owners, job seekers and other stakeholders with workforce and career planning.

The survey (which can be accessed by CLICKING HERE) is open until January 31, 2020. Participation is confidential. The survey will take 5-15 minutes for most businesses to complete.

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.

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A recent announcement by the Ontario Government that lawmakers have passed its “Better for People, Smarter for Business Act, 2019” is evidence that ongoing advocacy efforts by Chambers of Commerce, including the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, are producing positive results.

The Act is said to be part of the government’s signature package to address red tape and modernize regulations to make life easier for people and businesses, according to government officials.

“Many regulations are in place for good reasons,” said MPP Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria, associate minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction for the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “But at the same time, decades of government regulation have resulted in rules that are duplicative, outdated or unclear, causing businesses to spend time and money complying with rules that simply could be better. We’re ensuring that Ontario’s regulations are effective, targeted, clear and focused—while maintaining Ontario’s high standards.”

Shirley de Silva, president and CEO of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, said the government’s legislative initiative follows substantial and consistent advocacy efforts on behalf of local Chamber members over the last few months and which will continue throughout 2020.

“We know how important it is to keep the principles of free enterprise in full view of those who create the framework under which businesses of every size must operate,” said de Silva. “When governments respond, as they have done with this reduction of red tape strategy, it shows that we’re on the right track.’

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A great big Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce welcome goes out to one of our newest members—Hollinworth Parking Lot Maintenance and Asphalt Repair.

The business, located at 2816 Confederation Line in Sarnia, Ontario, offers exceptional workmanship in every project it undertakes, with unparalleled value.

“We are committed to long-term relationships with our customers to provide the best parking lot maintenance and asphalt repair while keeping our standards as high as possible to exceed your expectations,” says owner Rob Hollinsworth. “Whether residential or commercial, we are committed to your projects, and will be sure to provide timely service and deliver it on time, and on budget.”

The business is a family-owned enterprise that’s been operating since 1990, serving Sarnia and surrounding southwest Ontario.

“Our goal within our company has been, and continues to be about providing quality work with great customer servi9ce,” said Rob Hollinsworth.


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Are you struggling for customers or do you wish you had more clients? Aside from needing more time in the day, this is one of the most common sources of angst for small businesses. But how do you get more leads if you can’t afford to hire a shark of a salesperson? You follow these lead generation tips:

1.    Flesh out Your Social Media Bios and Profiles

Make the most of the social media platforms you participate on by fully filling out your profiles and bios. Use important keywords to your business in your bios but also include some fun information. The hashtag keywords will help those who are searching for what you offer to find you and the fun tidbit will give them something to like about you once they get there.

2.    Use Your Email Signature

How many emails do you send out in a day? I’m guessing north of several. For that reason alone, you should be using your email signature for something more than wishing someone a nice day. Instead, add a call to action to your email signature line. Offer a free download of something of value to your target audience or ask them to follow you on social media. Or design out a signature with a call to action button or graphic. Put that signature to use. The British Red Cross did.  They found that adding a call to action to every employee email signature meant the clicks to their website were 4x greater than what they were without it.

3.    Join the Chamber of Commerce

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce offers many ways to get leads, and while membership is not free in most cases, for a small business it’s about the price of a cup of coffee every day. That’s a pretty good price for an investment in your business.

A Chamber membership introduces you to other business people in the community, makes you a part of member-to-member discounts, opens up the ability to host learning sessions, and gives you access to their email blasts.

Chamber pros can introduce you to those you want to meet. They also can help you work on a game plan to get your business more attention on social media and build your business with digital marketing.

4.    Listen on Social Media

Right at this moment, people are asking others for suggestions on exactly what you sell or do. They’re also having conversations about the services you offer. If you’re not out there listening, you’re missing it.

When you find someone who is talking about something you can help with, don’t jump in and offer them a price quote. Instead, offer them something of value. Maybe it’s an article you wrote about how to select the right business in your industry or tips on things you should know before buying. Be helpful first. If you want to get a sale, you need to give before you receive.

5.    Optimize Your Website

You need two things on your website—a clear call to action and a quick summary of what you do. If you leave people in doubt as to what your business does, they will go elsewhere. Instead, make it clear how you can help and what areas you specialize in.

Before anyone will buy from you, they must think about your business. Ideally, you want them to know, like, and trust you. Social media and in-person meetings are excellent ways to introduce yourself and bring in leads without spending a lot of money. The Chamber can help with both.






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The name MNP may be new to Sarnia, but the people behind the Sarnia office have a wealth of history in the area, thanks to the merging of the public accounting practice of Joanne L. Abbott with the Southwestern Ontario offices of MNP LLP in 2018.

“I was looking for future opportunities for my clients, my staff and I,” said Abbott, a lifelong Sarnia resident and Canadian Olympian who competed (with her husband Bill and Brad Boston) in the Three-Person Keelboat sailing category at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Game.

As a proud member of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, MNP is growing in stature as a key part of the business community, says Shirley de Silva, the Chamber’s president and CEO.

“MNP has stepped up, not only as a very active Chamber member but as a sponsor of the Chamber’s Outstanding Business Achievement Awards night,” she said.

From Joanne Abbott’s perspective, the move to MNP was “exactly what I needed to grow my practice and provide the service my clients require in these changing times.

“The past year has been amazing and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join the MNP family.”

As the fifth-largest accounting firm in Canada, MNP has substantial resources to draw upon given its national presence with a local focus.

Abbott says she realized that with both these characteristics in play it would mean her clients would receive the kind of care she expected.

As well as what MNP could offer her clients Abbott liked the fact that MNP is considered one of the Best Employers in Canada so she knew her staff would also be looked after and have opportunities with their careers.

The growth of the Sarnia office has required more space and Abbott and since the merger, MNP has moved into a larger office in the Professional Building at Unit G-1315 Michigan Ave., (next to Goodwill Industries).

Pictured: Joanne Abbott, right, with colleague and fellow CPA Janice Culp, both of the local MNP office.

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As part of an Ontario Tourism Innovation Lab Sarnia-Lambton initiative, members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce are invited to submit their best new tourism idea for a chance to receive mentorships and grants related to helping make the winning idea a reality.

The initiative, which is underway, is open to:

—Individuals 18 or older who live and/or work in Sarnia-Lambton;
—Small businesses based in Sarnia-Lambton (1-10 employees);
—Non-profits based in Sarnia-Lambton (1-10 employees).

Applications, which are due by January 15, 2020, can be found at

Selected applicants will receive:

—Three-month tourism industry mentorship;
—$3,000 grant
—Access to a support network of tourism innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders.

Pictured: Owners of Stonepicker Brewery, another Sarnia-Lambton tourism success story.

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As part of a partnership arrangement with Starlight Casino in Point Edward, members of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce who gather in groups of five or more are eligible for a complimentary dessert with the purchase of a lunch entree during the month of December.

The offer, which began Dec 1 and runs through Dec 30. requires patrons to quote MATCH HOLIDAY LUNCH PROMOTION at the time of booking.

The MATCH eatery and public house is located in the Starlight Casino Point Edward.

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Bill Norton, trade commissioner in the London regional office of Global Affairs Canada, is advising Chamber members who may be applying for the federal government’s CanExport Small and Medium Business of a new timeframe for processing.

Management officials with the program now say they are taking 40 business days—eight weeks—to process applications.

The previous public timeframe for processing was 25 business days.

Norton also serves as a representative on the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce Global Business Opportunities Community group.


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Believe it or not, it’s not too early to begin putting new dates on your 2020 calendar and Wednesday, January 15 is one of the first events on the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce calendar

It’s that evening—from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.—that the owners of Petit a la Carte at 170 Christina St. North will be hosting January’s Business After 5.

Located in one of the busiest areas of downtown Sarnia—adjacent to the Imperial Theatre—Petite a la Carte is the kind of establishment that many in the region have been asking to see more of.

Owners Mike Service and Pat Havlik opened the restaurant in early July with a dream that’s come true—a small-plate, fine-dining wine bar.

With distinctively smaller than customary portions, patrons are encouraged to order other menu items, combining them to create a near-unique meal offering.

“We’ve experienced this concept in larger cities like Toronto,” said Service. “It suits us and we think it will suit a lot of people who find they don’t want that big plate that you just end up taking with you.”

Chamber members will undoubtedly find the experience at January’s Business After 5 a unique one. We hope you’ll join us on Wednesday, January 15 at Petite a La Carte.

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Culture is the most important aspect of a company and is the very foundation of the organization itself. The common values and beliefs that make up this foundation help dictate not only how a company operates, but also how its employees interact with one another. There are several factors that can create cracks in the foundation, but one factor, in particular, can cause lasting damage: unresolved conflict.

According to a comprehensive workplace conflict study by publisher CPP, Inc., 85% of employees experience conflict in some form at work. While conflict may not be avoidable, embracing conflict and working toward resolving it within your company saves the culture in three ways.

Builds Employee Loyalty and Retention

In a tight labour market, employee retention is not only important to remain successful, but it is crucial to maintain a strong culture. If culture is comprised of the shared values of an organization, then your employees are the ones who live out the culture every day.

Without your employees assimilating and maintaining shared values, your culture fades. And turnover can be even more detrimental. This means building employee loyalty and retention should be a company’s main focus. However, unresolved conflict can cause culture-maintaining employees to quit. Author David Cottrell stated, “people quit people before they quit companies.” Resolving conflict builds stronger ties between employees, causing loyalty between team members and higher retention levels.

Improves Productivity

According to the CPP study, employees spend an average of 2.8 hours a week dealing with workplace conflict. Over the course of a month, the average employee wastes a full day of productivity spent in conflict, amounting to 2.5 weeks of lost productivity annually. Moreover, 25% of employees have seen conflict result in workplace absence and 9% say that conflict has caused a project to fail.

With the outlaying tax on time and productivity, conflict can derail your company’s ability to grow. If leaders acknowledge conflict and deal with it accordingly, they can maintain not only a competitive edge in their market but also a cultural edge within their organization.

Deepens Core Values

Not every company has “People” listed as one of their core values, but most leaders would say they want a culture that embraces the value of others. When a company shows it cares about the wellbeing of their employees, it helps engrain and deepen the company’s values within their organization.

Offering training to help team members work together is one way to do this. However, according to CPP, 60% of employees haven’t received basic conflict management training. And of those who have, 95% claim the training helped mitigate workplace conflict and achieve a mutually beneficial resolution. Not only does the training show value to its employees, but it also helps deepen the working relationship between employees.

By avoiding conflict, you could allow cracks in the foundation of your company. However, investing time and energy into corporate conflict resolution techniques can save your culture by building employee loyalty and retention, improving productivity, and deepening core values.

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Bruce Hein is the franchise owner/operator of Express Employment Professionals in Sarnia.

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