Business acquisition, a driver for small business growth: BDC study

Study finds entrepreneurs who grow their business through acquisition are twice as likely to experience growth above their industry average.

Key Findings:

1. Entrepreneurs who grow through acquisition are twice as likely to experience sales growth above their industry average as firms that grow organically.

2. In the next five years, 25% of Canadian entrepreneurs want to sell or close their business.

3. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the factors motivating business acquisitions. Acquiring new talent has jumped to 30%, up from 20% before the pandemic, as a motivator for an acquisition. Obtaining technology as a motivation to acquire increased to 25%, up from 14% before the pandemic.

November 9, 2021, Montreal— Entrepreneurs who choose to grow through acquisition are twice as likely to experience sales growth above their industry average as those who grow organically, says a new BDC study released today, entitled “Business Acquisitions: A Strategy That Drives Growth.”

The mergers and acquisitions (M&A) market among Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) rebounded quickly when the lockdown measures were lifted, and the outlook for the next five years is very positive, the study notes.

“Growth through acquisition has several advantages, including adding new resources to address a labour shortage and accessing more technology, so you can do more with less,” says Pierre Cléroux, Vice President, Research and Chief Economist, BDC.

The study also points out that the persistent labour shortage will likely lead to more and more entrepreneurs making acquisitions in an effort to bring in new talent.

“We also found that 13% of Canadian entrepreneurs plan to grow through acquisition, with new talent and technology as their motivation in order to deal with a labour shortage,” Cléroux adds.

The number of mergers and acquisitions increased in sectors benefitting from the pandemic. The share of transaction volume accounted for by health care companies increased to 19% from 7%. The share accounted for by information and communication technology (ICT) companies increased to 15% from 8%. Private and public financing are driving the M&A market, as well as aging entrepreneurs who want to sell. As with the Canadian population, Canadian entrepreneurs are aging. Coupled with the fact that the pandemic has made some rethink their plans, this will boost the supply of businesses for sale.

Interestingly, between 2016 and 2020, the number of Canadian SMEs that bought foreign companies was almost double the number of foreign firms that bought Canadian SMEs.

Four winning conditions for a successful acquisition

BDC’s study offers valuable tips and advice for entrepreneurs looking to buy or sell a business.

According to Étienne Drouin, Managing Director, Growth & Transition Capital, Atlantic and Central/Eastern Quebec, “to stay engaged, employees of both the buyer and the seller must understand where the company is going. And these words must come from the mouth of the president.”

The study highlights four winning strategies for a successful business acquisition:

1. Include the acquisition in your strategic plan

2. Be dedicated to the acquisition because it will take time

3. Implement the integration plan from day one

4. Plan for unpleasant surprises

The study surveyed 1,563 Canadian entrepreneurs online in May and June 2021 and was supplemented by a series of interviews with experts across the country. BDC also conducted in-depth, confidential interviews with six entrepreneurs, including some BDC clients, who operate in the manufacturing, retail and service sectors and have made one or more acquisitions in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta or British Columbia.

About BDC

BDC is the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs. Its purpose is to support small and mid-sized businesses in all industries and at all stages of growth. Whether business owners want to take on new markets, make their operations more efficient, acquire another business or everything in between, BDC provides access to financing, as well as advisory services to meet their needs. BDC’s investment arm, BDC Capital, offers a wide range of risk capital solutions. BDC supports underserved entrepreneurs and emergent industries to generate greater social and economic impact. BDC is also certified B Corp and actively contributes to the growth of a worldwide movement of entrepreneurs who create inclusive and sustainable prosperity. For more information on BDC’s solutions, and to consult more than 1,000 free tools and articles visit