MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (May, 2023)

Pleased to join the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Rubina Ahmed-Haq, Elmer Kim, and Natalie Kalata, talking pushing back the CEBA repayment deadline, new ownership possibilities for the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, and the WNBA’s first game in Canada.  You can watch our segment here.  Some thoughts on our discussion.

Small businesses continue to be challenged by a number of factors, including high inflation and interest rates, a tight labour market, supply chain delays, and consumer factors.  It is no surprise that the recent CFIB survey indicates that 49% of small businesses are still below normal revenues and the majority are in favour of CEBA repayment rules being extended.  The result of the ongoing challenges facing small businesses is that cash is increasingly precious; this is felt on both the sales and investment side, as supply chain and labour factors slow a company’s ability to meet customer needs, and capital is impacted by rising interest rates.  As business failures continue to increase, serious consideration should be given to what the impact would be if more companies were unable to continue, in terms of factors such as employment, economic contribution, and tax revenue.

The NHL’s Ottawa Senators have been up for sale for some time, and there has been lots of discussion about who might take the team forward.  At a price tag approaching $1 billion, the involvement of “celebrities” might create some initial interest; however, the bottom line is that a sports team is a business.  Sports franchises have become increasingly complex, a long way from the old days of selling tickets and hotdogs.  Instead, there are a range of revenue lines to manage, including events, gear, licensing, broadcasting, partnerships, and the recent addition of mainstream sports gambling; these are issues at both a league and franchise level.  For these reasons, it is more important to engage with an ownership group that brings the necessary skills and experience to lead the business for the long term, including recognizing the importance of putting in place a senior management team that can fulfill this difficult mandate.  Further, owners should recognize that, although a franchise can certainly be successful, there is an important investment role that they will have to fulfill, especially when the team isn’t performing particularly well in the standings.

And, finally, it’s good to see women’s sports finally starting to get a higher profile.  The sellout of this first WNBA game in Canada, however, does not mean that expansion here would be a certain success; rather, this type of initiative should be considered strategically.  It is critcal that the necessary feasibility and business planning work be done to get a better sense of whether or not a franchise could be supported in Canada; these should also be treated as long term decisions.  When sports franchises fail, it hurts both the league and local area, which is why the strategic nature of expansion is so important.

Thank you for watching, and see you again soon, CBC!

Jenifer Bartman
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