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Accessibility in Canada is inadequately addressing the barriers nearly four million Canadians face. Within the next 20 years, that number is expected to soar to over nine million, but by creating a more accessible Canada, there is a potential to unlock $16.8 billion in GDP by increasing our economy’s productive capacity by 2030, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Ultimately, improving accessibility not only betters the quality of life for persons with disabilities but would also dramatically increase their labour force participation and consumer spending. Our members have vocalized finding and retaining skilled staff among their top issues, yet there is an entire pool of educated and qualified Canadians with disabilities who are waiting to be hired. With job retention rates 72% higher among people with disabilities, it makes good cents sense to invest in creating an accessible work environment.

Assessing Accessibility

With one in seven Canadian adults currently living with a mobility, vision or hearing disability, tangible improvements in the built environment are needed to improve accessibility and to promote equality and inclusion for Canadians with disabilities. At our annual general meeting and convention, held last fall, more than 300 local chambers of commerce voted in support of a policy resolution to make Canada truly accessible and inclusive by recommending the federal government adopt the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Accessibility Certification Program as a voluntary complement to the accessibility requirements of the National Building Code. The program provides the roadmap for the adoption of universal principles and a way for all levels of governments to work together to improve the built environment.

But, the responsibility for the built environment can’t fall solely on the government. Businesses must lead the way in improving accessibility in their workplaces. From contrasting floor and wall colours to adjustable desk heights, there are a number of measures businesses can implement.

Including Inclusiveness

Acknowledging the value that inclusion can bring to an organization and the positive impact it can have on the Canadian economy, we built our headquarters to respect the design priorities reflected in the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Accessibility Certification Program and achieved certification this past September. The program measures the level of meaningful access beyond building code, and is based upon the holistic user experience of people with varying disabilities affecting their mobility, vision and hearing.

It is time to access the ability of all Canadians, which is why we are encouraging businesses across Canada to be early adopters of this program and to be leaders in helping build a more accessible nation.

This “5 Minutes for Business” comes from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce which includes the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce as one of its members.

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It’s an age-old expression, but when it comes to underscoring the economy in Sarnia-Lambton, there really is strength in numbers.

Even more to the point, those who propose and approve laws and regulations at every level of government know just how effective an organization your Chamber of Commerce is when it comes to representing the interests of business.

And while we live in an era where the pace of change seems to be ever-increasing, at least one thing has remained consistently true and that is the influence that is exerted by a network of Chambers of Commerce, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government.

Almost every week, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce receives the kind of contact that represents an implicit acknowledgement of the influence exerted by those who create and maintain elements of our economy.

Either in communication that asks for the support of the business community or seeks the opinion of business ahead of a legislative initiative, it is clear that the Chamber is viewed as a place representing clarity in how those who drive the economy are likely to respond.

Throughout the year, your Chamber takes that role seriously, certainly in our response to invitations to provide input in the form of consultations.

But it’s also why we engage through our participation as a member of the Chamber Network at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, which we see as an essential extension of our role in building consensus and—yes—the strength in numbers argument that serves us all so well.

Not long ago, representatives from your Chamber added our local voice to the Annual General Meeting of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and we’ll do the same when the gathering of members of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce takes place in the near future.

What this comes down to is exercising the role of advocacy throughout the year, building on the ongoing initiatives that begin and end with the interests of local business, added to a chorus that represent a clarity of voice from those across the province and the entire country.

None of this happens by accident.

We take our role, of advising on issues that will impact owners of businesses—small, medium or large—very seriously and with good reason.

While we are explicitly non-partisan in our approach to advocacy, we do stand up for the interests of members who see us as being able to effectively represent their interests on a consistent basis with sound economic arguments.

The Chamber is often one of the first places that society as a whole will turn to when formal debates over policy—especially in the context of an election. That in itself is something that has occurred on a consistent basis for decades now.

Clearly, there is a need for engagement throughout the year and with those who have a role in building a society where rules and regulations are part of life.

It’s part of a democratic process that ultimately makes a stronger society.

Our message is that our role, one that includes a strong sense of advocacy when it comes to the interests of business, is as relevant today as it has ever been.

My encouragement is that you join us in making our efforts even more effective in the months and years ahead.

Join us in bringing even more value for our society.

 

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Nominations for the Chamber’s 30th annual Outstanding Business Achievement Awards night are now open!

The Sarnia Lambton Business Achievement Awards (OBAAs) is the most recognized industry gala with a single focus on celebrating business success.

The OBAAs, which celebrate incredible innovations and achievements, is unique in its engagement of a broad range of industry sectors and sizes from across the province. We will be celebrating this year on Friday, October 18 at the Imperial Theatre in Sarnia.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be presenting a series of articles intended to explain in some detail each of the 16 categories that businesses and individuals can be nominated.

Nominations can be done online. Just CLICK HERE to get started.

This week we give you the details on the first two of a total of 16 categories available for nomination: “Cool Place to Work” and “Tech-novation.”

Cool Place to Work

Having a place that focuses on creating a healthy, positive and productive work environment is the very definition of a “cool place to work” and this award epitomizes those qualities. You know you work in such a place when your friends keep asking how they can join the team you love so much.

Criteria:

Through a commitment to staff development, work/life balance, fair employment practices, and employee communications, the organization provides an exceptional work environment with proven positive results in employee satisfaction and retention.

Tech-novation

It’s one thing to apply the latest technology to the work you do. It’s quite another to lean into not just the “latest and greatest” but incorporating a spirit of innovation in doing so. That’s what it means to be a “tech-novation’ standout, an organization full of people who look for ways to be the best at what they do and lead the way.

Criteria:

Bringing a sense of enthusiasm and a commitment to driving technological innovation throughout the value chain.

Next week: Marketing & Promotion and Health, Safety & Environmental Leadership.

 

 

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The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the national business organization that includes the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce as a member, is gearing up for this October’s Federal election with an initiative intended to put forward its core policy statements.

Much of what the Canadian Chamber is advocating appears on its VoteProsperity election policy website that puts forward the needs of Canadian businesses to all parties.

In an open letter signed by the Hon. Perrin Beatty, president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, all party leaders and caucuses are asked to embrace the organization’s seven priorities.

Those priorities include:

  • A regulatory system that works for everyone, including business;
  • A tax system that is fair, efficient and modern;
  • Greater access to new markets around the world, and the breaking down of domestic trade barriers;
  • Helping SMEs in a way that’s meaningful to them so that they can grow and succeed at home and abroad;
  • Helping Canada seize the power of the digital age, while also investing in more traditional trade-enabling infrastructure;
  • Helping grow the 21st-century workforce with the skills, education, and training required to prosper; and
  • An affordable approach to filling the gaps in pharmacare without disrupting today’s employment provided plans.

The open letter “challenges (all of Canada’s federal party leaders) to give our 200,000 business owners what they must have: a fighting chance to compete and grow,” said Beatty. “Canada’s businesses have every right to expect a level playing field with the countries they compete against. We call on all party leaders to build their business policy proposals around the Vote Prosperity checklist, which outlines what Canada’s job creators themselves have identified as mission critical.”

The entire open letter can be seen HERE.

Locally,  a unified strategy to bring forward the interests of business is one of the most important initiatives available, especially in an election year. “When a business succeeds, Canada succeeds. Our businesses need the next government to be a forward-looking partner that helps them build a stronger and more innovative Canada for all,” said Beatty.

The Canadian Chamber’s platform was developed in partnership with Canada’s provincial and territorial Chambers of Commerce, an entire network of 450 organizations that will be working together throughout the election period to keep Canada’s political leaders focused on taking bold steps to protect and strengthen Canada’s competitive position.

 

 

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Thanks to this month’s host,  WMA Promotions, May’s Business After 5 will be taking place next Wednesday, May 15 at the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club.

Members and guests will be treated to a golf-themed event (no surprise given the venue!) and another great opportunity to network in one of the community’s most appealing places to relax and network.

WMA Promotions, our sponsor, is a marketing and promotions company owned by Wayne Archer, who is pictured with Kendra Langis, a member of his team.

Thanks also to a dedicated volunteer committee that works hard to make each and every Business After 5 gathering the best possible spot to exercise your networking skills.  We look forward to welcoming you on Wednesday, May 15, beginning at 5 p.m. and running through 7 p.m.

See you there!

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Delegates to the Ontario Chamber of Commerce Annual General Meeting and Convention gathered last weekend to consider several resolutions, including two that were presented by the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Both Board Chair Ryan Bell and President and CEO Shirley de Silva were in attendance at the event, which was held in Muskoka starting last Friday and concluding on Sunday.

One of the resolutions sponsored by the Chamber urged the Provincial Government to improve the quality of roads in Ontario by implementing higher standards for asphalt used in paving and measuring the subsequent performance of the material.

Another, which was co-authored with the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce, urges the Government to introduce a compulsory course on business and commerce principles. Such a course, which would be required in order to receive an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, would be based on existing business and family economics curriculum.

”The real value of coming together with Chambers and Boards of Trade from every part of Ontario is being able to come to united positions on various issues of importance to our members,” said de Silva.

”Representatives of the Government not only listen to what a unified Chamber Network has to say on key issues, but they seek out the opinions of business, as represented by our members. Plus, we have evidence that the collective input of the business community does influence the details of proposed legislation,” she added.

 

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Thanks to this month’s host,  WMA Promotions, May’s Business After 5 will take place on Wednesday, May 15 at the Sarnia Golf & Curling Club.

Members and guests will be treated to a golf-themed event (no surprise given the venue!) and another great opportunity to network in one of the community’s most appealing places to relax and network.

Thanks also to a dedicated volunteer committee that works hard to make each and every Business After 5 gathering the best possible spot to exercise your networking skills.  We look forward to welcoming you on Wednesday, May 15, beginning at 5 p.m. and running through 7 p.m.

See you there!

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The local office of Express Employment Professionals is co-hosting a free online seminar on Diversity and Inclusion as part of its ExpressTalks series on topics of interest from a professional development perspective.

The half-hour presentation takes place this Thursday, May 2 from 11:30 a.m. to noon (Eastern).

The presenter is Patty Smith, vice president of Human Resource and Compliance for Express Employment Professionals. For the past 10 years, Smith has offered extensive leadership and organizational development solutions and is known as a dynamic and strategic innovator with extensive experience in change management, organizational development assessments and transformations, executive coaching, emerging brand strategic planning, succession planning, and knowledge management.

Register online by clicking HERE.

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The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce is about to begin the lead-up to the annual Outstanding Business Achievement Awards gala, which this year takes place on Friday, October 18 at the Imperial Theatre in downtown Sarnia.

On Wednesday, May 8, the official launch of the nomination period takes place at an event to take place at noon at the Imperial Theatre.

Thanks to the generous support of Libro Credit Union, a great partner who is returning as the title sponsor, the Chamber is well poised to make this 30th anniversary event another great one for companies and individuals.

The key for those who are nominated is to put their best foot forward in showing the entire community what it means to set new standards of achievement in the 16 categories of the OBAAs.

In a spirit of continuous improvement, an operating philosophy that many organizations have embraced over many years—even decades—the Chamber is working to make it easier for companies and individuals to be nominated.

There was a day, not so very long ago, when mounds of paper were the norm, starting with paper-based nomination forms, plus the submissions of those nominated for an Outstanding Business Achievement Award.

During last year’s event, the Chamber took big steps toward slimming down the paperwork. This year staff and volunteers hope to do even better, not just by continuing with the online nomination form but with improvements to the workflow that will make tracking each nominee through acceptance, submission and judging more efficient.

It’s a task that Chamber president and CEO Shirley de Silva hopes will improve the entire process, even as she expresses gratitude for those who lend their expertise to the process.

“Three decades of focusing on the achievement of so many companies has become a big part of the narrtive that those who attend the OBAA event are able to share throughout the year,” said de Silva.

“It’s events like the Outstanding Business Achievement Awards gala that help push us forward, even as we look to our peers for encouragement and congratulations on the kind of accomplishments that we can all celebrate together.”

Look to the Chamber website (and this newsletter) for upcoming news on the 2019 Outstanding Business Achievement Awards gala, including a link to the digital nomination form.

 

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Cybersecurity is a pretty big deal if you own a business.

It’s no big revelation that strong cybersecurity measures are a necessity, for a lot of reasons. We’re all familiar with hackers and viruses and high-profile attacks generally speaking. But we also assume “Hey, of course they’re going to target the CIA or a massive billion-dollar enterprise. But why would they bother targeting my coffee shop in Cornwall?” Here’s the real deal though: companies with fewer than 250 employees comprise almost a third of those targeted by cyber attacks. Attackers go for the targets who have the weakest defenses, so they look at smaller businesses, knowing they might not be taking security as seriously as they should. Which means your business needs to be prepared. And the best way to start preparing is to actually understand the types of threats out there.

So, to help you get started, let’s do a rundown of common threats small and medium businesses frequently come up against, as well as the weaknesses that attackers tend to exploit with businesses like yours.

Be malware aware

Let’s start by looking at the term “malware”: it’s a broad term, used to refer to any piece of software or firmware that is used to harm a device or system. Here’s a closer look at some of the more specific kinds of malware your business might have to face.

Virus

What is it? No doubt, you’re familiar with this term. Simply put, this category of malware is a piece of code that inserts itself into a program. The affects can range from minor annoyances—like a program slowing down or freezing up—to major security breaches.

What does this mean for my business? While any virus can affect the day-to-day operations of your business’s computer systems and programs, there’s a specific type of virus that is especially significant if your business runs on a network of computers, known as a Worm: a self-replicating virus. They don’t just affect one computer because they’re capable of making their way through an entire network, which means your whole business can slow to a halt if the virus is damaging enough.

Memory scraper/dumper

What is it? Here’s the deal with scrapers and dumpers: they essentially access a device’s memory and copy it over to the attacker, giving them access to any information stored on it.

What does this mean for my business? Scrapers and dumpers are major players in a lot of cyber attacks against businesses. Every business has sensitive information. Even if you’re thinking “hey, I’m not a law office or a financial institution, what ‘sensitive information’ could possibly draw an attacker to me?” Well, for identity theft, your employee’s personal information, for instance. And if you’re a retailer, your point-of-sale terminal is pretty appealing, filled with valuable credit card information stored in them. Which means your customers are also put at risk if you don’t have proper (and frequently updated) firewalls set up on your POS system. This is a huge liability for your business that could result in legal consequences for you as the owner.

Spyware/RATs

What is it? You would think that anything with the word “spy” in it would at least be a little bit cool. Turns out, great film genre, but a terrible malware problem to encounter. An attacker uses spyware to monitor activity on a device or network, so they can see everything from your online activity, to log-in credentials, and even keystrokes. There are also remote administrative tools, or RATs2. While spyware lets attackers monitor your system, RATs fully hand over control of the device to the attacker, as if they were sitting right at your desk.

What does this mean for my business? It’s easy to brush off spyware by thinking “who would want to spy on little ol’ me and my business? It’s not THAT interesting.” The reality is, whether or not you think your business is “worth” hacking is beside the point. (P.S.: of course your business is interesting! And we don’t just mean to hackers!).

What it really comes back to is what we mentioned before: you probably have more sensitive information stored in your business’s network than you realize that spyware could access: employee information, customer payment details, your financial information and more.

Ransomware

What is it? Like the name implies, ransomware is like a hostage situation. An attacker encrypts their target’s files so they are unable to be accessed until a ransom is paid—usually some form of cryptocurrency sent to an untraceable account. These have been in the news a lot recently, like when the city of Atlanta had to pay over $2.6 million in response to ransomware attacks that infected the city’s municipal systems3. To look at the big picture here, one study actually showed that the downtime from ransomware alone could be costing businesses more than $8,500 per hour4.

What does this mean for my business? This is a little more direct of a threat than someone trying to get a hold of your sensitive information. It skips the middleman, basically, and gets straight to turning a profit for the attacker, who can block a business’s access to files—such as your customer list, projects you’re working on, etc.—programs like crucial software or email services, or networks until their demands are met. So, whether you’re a multi-billion-dollar company or our old friends at that coffee shop in Cornwall, you could be a target.

How’d you get in there?

We know what kinds of attacks are commonly used against small and medium businesses now, but how do they even get into our systems in the first place? Let’s take a look at some of the techniques hackers use to give you an idea of what you need to be cautious of.

Downloader

What is it? You’ve probably heard these referred to as Trojans, like the big ol’ wooden horse in the story. Same idea here: hide something dangerous in something that looks totally harmless.

How could my business be targeted? Malware is hidden within folders that might contain actual files you do need, making them appear perfectly safe. For example, folders containing programs, apps, media or documents you found online that seem like they could be useful. That’s why you should always make sure you trust the source that you’re downloading folders from, and always make sure your antivirus software is regularly updated to scan for these kinds of hidden files.

Phishing

What is it? Phishing is becoming one of the most common techniques used against businesses, because on the surface, it can seem like a perfectly legitimate business inquiry or—even more anxiety-inducing—an urgent notice. And that’s where the bait-and-switch happens: a link or download contained in the email contains malware.

How could my business be targeted? Some attackers go beyond just the typical random email that seems, well, phishy. More and more, attackers are using a technique known as “social engineering” to increase the likelihood of success, gathering information off of company websites, or even over the phone to get employee names, job titles, and other relevant information to make the eventual phishing email, text or call seem more legitimate. No matter how much you trust your employees and know you’ve hired smart and cautious people, good phishing schemes can be hard to identify when they get to this point. That’s why company-wide training in security is so important. You and your employees should all be armed with knowledge that can help you identify suspicious calls from unknown people looking for company information that attackers will later use for a phishing scheme.

DDoS

What is it? A distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) targets a company’s website, overwhelming the site from multiple attack hosts to the point of blocking any other visitors to access the site.

How could my business be targeted? Say you have a potential customer who’s looking for whatever product or service you offer. Or maybe their neighbour recommended your shop or restaurant. Where’s the first place they’re likely to go to find out more? You guessed it: your website. But that’s only if they can access it. Without proper up-to-date network and web application firewalls, your site could get attacked. And here’s the thing: DDoS attacks are cheap on the black market for attackers to acquire, so it’s an easy way for them to get to you. While they have your site locked up, you could lose potential customers or clients to a competitor whose site is working. Hackers believe you’ll pay to avoid that kind of potential loss of business.

Exploiting personnel oversights

What is it? You may have the greatest employees in the world. But… when it comes to digital security, people are always going to be one of the weakest links. Only 1 in 5 businesses use regular employee training as a method of preventing online security breaches.

How could my business be targeted? Let’s go the opposite direction this time and ask: How can your business avoid being targeted? Company-wide policies, processes, and training can be the difference between an attack being stopped before it even begins, and a huge security breach. You can give yourself a huge advantage by keeping everyone in your organization on the ball. Everything from educating employees on having strong passwords, implementing policies to flag suspicious calls or emails, or setting procedures for what to do if a device containing company information is lost or stolen. They say that teamwork makes the dream work, but it can also prevent a security nightmare.

You’re off to a great start by keeping yourself informed on the types of cyber threats your business might face. Spreading this knowledge to your team and letting it inform how you handle your business’s cybersecurity procedures is the next step to ensuring that you, your staff, and even your customers can be confident that your private information is safe.

This article appeared on businessblog.cogeco.ca and was reprinted with permission.

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