Key Advice To Small Business Owners For 2021 By Janet De Silva

Small Business Canada

Janet (Jan) De Silva 
President & CEO, Toronto region board of trade

Jan De Silva is President and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, one of the largest and most influential business organizations in North America. She is spearheading efforts to make Toronto one of the most competitive and sought-after business regions in the world.

Jan brings to the role more than 14 years of international CEO experience building ambitious, high-growth organizations. Anchored in her leadership is her belief in the power of economic development to lift communities.

Prior to joining the Board, she served as CEO of Sun Life Financial’s Hong Kong and Mainland China businesses and co-founded and later sold Retail China Limited. Jan also served as Dean of Ivey Asia for Ivey Business School of Western University.

Highly respected for her business advocacy and government engagement, Jan has been Chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong, Chair of the Canada China Business Council in Beijing, and served on the Board of the Asian Corporate Governance Association. In 2019, she was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to represent Canada on the APEC Business Advisory Council. Jan also sits on the boards of Intact Financial Corporation, listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange; and, Blue Umbrella Limited, a global compliance technology company headquartered in Hong Kong.

What is your key advice to small business owners for 2021? 

In a year of economic uncertainty and turmoil, the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s 13,500 members and partners – the vast majority of whom are small business owners – demonstrated an incredible amount of perseverance and determination to keep their businesses afloat. My advice for 2021? Aspire not just to keep the lights on, but to grow.

I know that degree of optimism seems premature in a moment of rising COVID-19 cases and government-mandated lockdowns. Still, as every business owner knows, bold goals can help to re-charge entrepreneurs, inspire employees, and excite consumers.

Here are some of the growth goals I’ve heard from our members in the Toronto region: connect virtually with new distributors in other countries, expanding into international markets; interrogate how the business uses technology to achieve key objectives; re-evaluate front, middle and back-office processes not just through the lens of COVID-19 safety, but also for efficiency and opportunity.

By adopting these and other goals in 2021, your business can be on the frontlines of Canada’s economic recovery. And like all New Year’s resolutions, goals are easier to achieve when you have help.

At the Board, for instance, we’ve pivoted all our support programs online to stay in step with business owners needing to adjust their growth and trade plans this year. We’ve also created new offerings, like our Recovery Activation Program, to help SMEs across Ontario use technology to overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic. Boards and chambers in every province are standing up for similar resources.

In 2021, access these and other supports. We know that economic recovery won’t be a straight line – it will vary by sector, region, and community. We do, however, know how it will be achieved: by small and medium-sized businesses continuing to adapt, innovate, and dream big.


The Toronto Region Board of Trade is one of the largest and most influential chambers of commerce in North America and is a catalyst for the region’s economic growth agenda. Backed by more than 13,500 members, we pursue policy change to drive the growth and competitiveness of the Toronto region and facilitate market opportunities with programs, partnerships, and connections to help our members succeed – domestically and internationally. We want Toronto to be recognized as one of the most competitive and sought-after business regions in the world, and believe this reputation starts with our businesses. Learn more at and follow us at @TorontoRBOT.

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