Visit the offices of the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce and you’ll find a simple, yet effective sign—Bonjour Welcome—that includes the address to a website ( outlining an initiative designed to build partnerships with local Ontario French-Canadian associations and other organizations, including 14 ambassadors from across the province who are already involved.

One of those is the Assemble de la francophonie de L’Ontario (AFO), the organization representing Ontario’s 1.5 million French speakers.

As part of a funding initiative by the Government of Canada, eight new Francophone associations have come on board to promote the campaign. One of those is the Centre communautaire francophone in Sarnia-Lambton, a recent chamber member.

‘This is a positive campaign intended to encourage Ontari0’s Francophones, visitors as well as bilingual individuals to be asked to be served in French when purchasing goods and services,” said Peter Hominuk, the AFO’s executive director. “I invite business people to proudly show that they can serve their clients in both French and English. They will quickly realize that bilingualism is good for business (and) serving clients in their language is quality customer service.”

The organization has also developed a directory of bilingual businesses and organizations. An English version can be found HERE.

The Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce offers bilingual services.


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A group of Sarnia leaders is behind The Jean Collective, which is being described as an initiative designed to encourage and inspire women to become more active in local politics.

Helen Cole, the recent winner of Member of the Year at the Outstanding Business Achievement night organized by the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce, is the primary driver of the initiative.

She says she was motivated to do so when she realized that many women felt they didn’t have enough knowledge and experience to consider elected office.

Helen draws from her own experience in local government as well as the support she received from Jean Macdougall, a mentor and the name behind the initiative.

“Jean’s love and support was my inspiration,” said Helen, who said Macdougall was as a “spark plug” in the Elgin County village of Port Stanley.

“In addition, she was my support during my own political career and I wanted to honour her memory by providing a way for other women to experience similar support,” said Helen.

The Chamber is providing regular meeting space beginning in February 2020.

Those who wish to donate rather than become directly involved are asked to do so through the Sarnia Community Foundation’s “Jean Macdougall Fund,” which has been set up to support women in politics.

The Jean Collective will be formally launched on Monday, January 20 at Petite a la Carte, located at 170 Christina Street North. While there is no cost for the event, registration is required. Click HERE to do so.

There is also a Faceb0ok page for the organization, which can be found HERE.


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Even though the holidays have come and gone, it’s still not too late to knuckle down on what’s ahead for 2020, especially if you find yourself in a place in your business where you haven’t yet finished making plans for the future.

This isn’t a trends article or things you need to think about for 2020. This article is aimed at getting you professionally in shape for the challenges ahead. So let’s take a look at the things you can change today in order to have a more successful year ahead.

Becoming a More Skilled Competitor

Do you have fitness goals for the new year?

If you’re like most people, you do. The new year often brings about thoughts of getting healthier. But it’s also time to consider how in shape you are personally as a competitor in your business. What can you do to become leaner and more fit to compete from a business perspective? It’s time to make healthy decisions in your professional life. Here are a few suggestions:

Shift to More Needed, “Skilled” Work

“Skilled” work are those things that only a few of your competitors can do. “Unskilled” work, for the purposes of this article, refers to things anyone can do.

While people need unskilled offerings, they don’t command much money. So if your business is built this way, based on things a lot of companies can do, you’ll have a hard time commanding top dollar for your services. However, if there’s something that you and your business offer that others can’t or won’t, you can charge a lot higher rate.

Think about whether you want to be working more or less for the same amount of money. If you offer unskilled services you may have a lot of work. But you also have to accept a lot more jobs to make what you would offering services that fewer companies do.

Think about what services you can offer that others don’t. You’ll find that if you can offer something that others don’t (or won’t), you can name your price and work fewer jobs because you provide something few do.

Get a Handle on Your Productivity

Becoming more productive can be quite an undertaking. But if you break it down into the basic steps you need to stop killing time and start taking full advantage of the time you do have.

Reduce Wasted Time

To eliminate wasted time, you need to get a good look at how you spend your day. For one day record everything you do as if you were billing a client. Every minute must be accounted for. So if you spend five minutes watching a cat video on YouTube, for instance, write that down. At the end of the day, you’ll be able to see exactly where your biggest time sucks are.

Next, go down your list of how you spent your day and label everything either “OG” for on goal or AG for anti-goal. All the OG designations should be businessworthy uses of your time. For example, if you are on social media and you were connecting with a potential customer that’s an OG use of your time. However, if you are on social media trying to figure out what you’re eating for dinner tonight that’s an AG use of your time from a business perspective.

Now that you know how you spend your day, you can eliminate drains on your time that don’t bring you closer to your business or professional goals. Hopefully, being more aware of them means the next time you’re doing one of those AG activities you will stop yourself as it’s not contributing to your professional or business development.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take breaks. But you should be aware of when you’re on break versus when you’re on task. If you want to take a break for five minutes and look at non-work social media that’s fine. But if you’re sitting down to strengthen your presence on social media for your business, you shouldn’t be watching cute baby videos, unless you plan to share them with your audience.

Make Better Use of Your Time

After you know what your time drains are, it’s important to get a handle on the time you do have. That means setting goals and tasks for each day. How you do this is a personal preference.

Some people like to sit down every Sunday night and chart out their week. Other people prefer to do it on a day-by-day basis.

You also don’t have to have complete silence and a closed-door to figure out what you have to get done each week. Instead, look for stolen moment time that you can use. For instance, if you prefer to wind down every night in front of the television, there is no reason why you can’t also look at your calendar and create a to-do list. Maybe you find yourself at one of your children’s games every weekend or chauffeuring them to a birthday party, playdate, or to hang out with their friends. Chauffeur time is an excellent time to plan ahead.

There are a lot of apps that can help you manage your time and give insights into your calendar. If you choose to keep your calendar electronically you also have the benefit of having the information you need with you wherever you are. So when you have that spare moment you can do a little planning. You can also use a to-do list app that helps keep you on track. If you take the time to chart your day and then leave your to-do list at home, that’s not very productive. But if your to-do list is portable you can turn to it whenever you have a spare moment.

Touch Base with Staff

When things are busy it’s easy for us to ignore our hard workers. We don’t hear from them and we assume they’re fine. This is not always the case.

Make it a point to speak with your staff members. Find out if they have any challenges that you can help with. Make sure they have what they need to do their jobs efficiently. Also, find out what they’re passionate about and what they want to do in the future. Knowing what they like best about their job and understanding their future plans give you the opportunity to make them happier at work. For instance, if you find out a member of your team loves to write, you may have a new blog writer. Or maybe there’s someone on staff who loves taking pictures. Now you have the opportunity to add some really amazing images to your blog and website. You’ve given them job responsibilities they’re passionate about and you also get something in return.

Now is the perfect time to start getting in shape professionally. Look for ways to become more productive, to stand out in the marketplace, and to touch base with the people who make up your business. Doing these things will put you in a much more successful place in the new year.


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Canada’s economy is shifting into a lower gear. It’s losing steam as our growth engines sputter in the face of global uncertainty and competitive challenges. As we head into a new year and a new decade, now is a good time to take stock of Canada’s economic performance and consider what the future might have in store for us.

2019 wasn’t a great year for the Canadian economy. Our projected growth is 1.5-1.6% this year—not bad compared to some of our G7 peers—but a downgrade from the 2% growth we thought was our potential at the beginning of the year. And a far cry from the 3% growth we saw only two years ago.

‘The resiliency of Canada’s economy will be increasingly tested as trade conflicts and uncertainty persists. We are not an island. We are in a good position to cope with whatever comes our way.’ –Stephen Poloz, Governor of the Bank of Canada

The economy is still growing, but the growth rate itself is somewhat lackluster. Canadian growth has been pulled down by an outright decline in business investment the past few years, and this year is no different. Our 2019 growth drivers are consumption (0.9 percentage points), government spending (0.4) and net exports (0.6), while business investment is projected to be a net -0.4 percentage point drag on the economy this year.

The Canadian economy is stumbling out of the second half of 2019 and into the new year. After a hot second quarter where the economy grew at an annualized rate of 3.7%, our growth was cut back down to size in Q3 at 1.3%. November saw a broad-based loss of over 70,000 jobs, the largest monthly decline since the financial crisis. Despite business investment having rebounded, none of the 37 executives of American subsidiaries in Canada said the Canadian economy will strengthen over the next six months, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. A downturn is entirely possible if our politicians remain unable or unwilling to address issues, like a cumbersome regulatory system, an uncompetitive tax system and barriers to interprovincial trade, to get us back on the path to prosperity. Most economists believe sluggish growth will continue into 2020, but the downside risks of this projection being derailed are still high.

Because Canada is part of a broader worldwide slowdown amid heightened trade tensions that have made low growth the new normal of advanced industrialized economies. This is what the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva has called a “synchronized slowdown.” Germany is close to a recession. Italy is looking at zero growth this year. Even emerging economies have seen their robust growth rates taken down a notch. In particular, manufacturing sectors have been affected.

And so the concern is that if the world sneezes, Canada will catch a cold. The idea that Canada is a stable oasis in a deteriorating global economic environment can be put to rest. The global slowdown is catching up to us, and we need to get our house in order.

This edition of ‘Five Minutes for Business” was provided by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the national business advocacy organization which counts the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce among its members.



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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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