Mid-Market CEOs Speak; Competition and Disruption

By Michael Henry

In every Canadian industry, mid-market firms are facing intensifying competitive pressures. For some, this challenge is from new online players which are competing not only on convenience and brand, but also on customer experience. For others, low-price foreign imports are threatening product lines and driving down margins.

At the same time, customer expectations are starting to change. Businesses and consumers are demanding faster turn-arounds and delivery times. They expect digital processes and paperwork. They are looking for personalised service. But they are also sensitive to cost.

In the midst of this disruption, Houser Henry & Syron LLP spoke with selected Canadian leading mid-market CEOs and Founders to learn how these new competitive pressures are affecting Canada’s mid-market businesses. We wanted to explore how they are responding to the disruptive environment.

What we found was a vibrant mid-market that was rapidly adapting to their competitive pressures and – even amid this disruption – finding ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Here are five ways they are accomplishing this:

  1. Competing on quality. Rather than join the ‘race to the bottom’ on prices and risk commoditization, Canadian mid-market firms are focusing on quality. They are reshaping their portfolio towards specialized products and services. And they are improving their procedures and capabilities to better meet customer expectations.
  2. Personalising customer service. Leveraging their size as a benefit, many mid-market companies are emphasising the ‘human side’ of their businesses. “We try never to let our customers go to voicemail,” noted one CEO. Others boasted of increased investment into customer service capabilities and more personalised customer experiences.
  3. Shifting to services. A growing number of firms are exploring how they can start to deliver new services that not only support their products but also create new, more sustainable revenue streams. Everything from expanding the traditional after-sales service channel through to creating new ‘products-as-a-service’ models are being explored.
  4. Investing in digital. Particularly in the back office and in order processing, many mid-market firms are implementing new digital tools that are convenient and easy for customers to use. CEOs and Founders are looking to alternative methods to help improve the customer experience and to reduce costs across the business.
  5. Scanning the marketplace. Recognising that customer expectations are largely shaped by their last experience (regardless of the industry), mid-market CEOs are looking across the Canadian and international markets to find new ideas to adopt and competitive opportunities in their own business. 

What is clear is that Canada’s mid-market CEOs and Founders are ready to compete, but in Canadian style. Not with a head-on, winner-take-all approach. But rather by finding niches and value propositions that they can own and grow – building on the foundations of what made them great in the first place.

Our conversations with mid-market CEOs and Founders touched on many of the big challenges and opportunities facing Canadian firms. We recently wrote an article exploring their views on the current trade and regulatory environment and another article on the challenges faced with succession planning and talent acquisition.

At Houser Henry & Syron, we focus entirely on serving mid-market businesses. We recognize that the mid-market is the engine of Canada’s economy and we are dedicated to helping this vital segment succeed. Our professionals work with mid-market decision-makers to help them plan the best future for their businesses. That is why our firm is increasingly viewed as the Champion of the Mid-Market in Canada. We are proud of our reputation!

To discuss your own unique business challenges and opportunities, we encourage you to contact Michael Henry – Managing Partner at (416) 860-8021 or Lisa Hegedus – Director of Marketing & Client Development at (416) 860-8032.