FranNet President Gary Prenevost says Ottawa is great place for small business

Gary Prenevost, President of Southern Ontario and Eastern Canada at FranNet, conducted a franchise information seminar this past week at Invest Ottawa, and presented and exhibit at the Franchise Expo in Ottawa. As one of Canada’s top franchise matchmaking experts and a franchisee himself, Mr. Prenevost provided his insights on the city, saying Ottawa is an exceptional community where small business and entrepreneurs thrive.  He cited that Ottawa’s affordable cost of living and ranking as the third highest city in Canada for quality of life, makes the city an attractive place for small businesses and franchises. 

Ottawa Life Magazine interviewed Prenevost to get his views on small business, entrepreneurs and franchises.

Ottawa Life: Do you think Canadians have a lack of confidence or ambivalence about corporate employment?

Gary Prenevost: Absolutely, and that’s what is driving so much interest in franchise ownership. There is a lot of uncertainty in the corporate world. Companies continue to downsize, so when people lose their jobs, there are more responsibilities, pressure and stress for those who remain. A lot of the people I have talked to are dissatisfied and unhappy with their employment situation. Many of them feel that despite putting in the extra effort and taking on more workload, they are receiving little to no increase in compensation as “rightsizing survivors.” As companies flatten, employees’ career advancement options become increasingly difficult. Sadly, in corporate Canada it often coming down to financial management vs. people management. Structural changes are being made based on what is best for companies’ finances, rather than what is best for the employees.

Do you find that there is a culture of entrepreneurship in Canada? In Ottawa? 

Gary Prenevost:  People are not only unhappy or dissatisfied at work, they are also afraid to go out and start their own businesses from scratch. Now, more than before, people see franchises with renewed interest. Franchises offer more predictability and more control, while significantly mitigating the risks that come with starting from scratch.

Another important factor to consider when choosing between being an entrepreneur or employee in the corporate sphere is the fact that people are living longer and want to remain in control of their earning power. Most people don’t want to be 55 years old and linked to a company where there is an age cap on their future. I hear clients often say, “I want to own a business so I can work (and continue to build wealth) as long as I want.”

What is the Ottawa business market looking for? Do you see any need for a particular specialty or niche in Ottawa?

Gary Prenevost:  Ottawa was once known as a bureaucratic city and seat of government but it is now much more than that and is recognized as one of the tech hubs in North America. The population is growing and with such growth comes opportunity for entrepreneurs to provide products and services to the broadening market. More people are opting to be entrepreneurs, generators of employment and controlling their own careers.

While there is significant opportunity in Ottawa, before buying a franchise people should instead consider what skills and weaknesses they have. They should also think about what financial and lifestyle goals they want to achieve through business ownership and of course, their financial capacity.

Ottawa is considered the political capital, Toronto the economic capital, and Vancouver is known as the Pacific gateway for Canadian finance and business.  What are the competitive advantages of Ottawa regarding the other cities?

Gary Prenevost: Ottawa has many advantages in comparison to the other cities. In particular, people in Ottawa are more aware of what happens in the marketplace because they experience it first hand in their community. Also, due to the size of Ottawa, becoming known should be easier than in much larger megacities. The culture and business climate here are vibrant and enterprising and the city is growing – these are ideal conditions in which to start a franchise.

We know that creating a company is not easy since you have to consider legal, cultural, social, economic and also political aspects. It is a long process that, if done correctly, can bring great achievements. In this sense, what are the three main tips that you would give a person who is thinking of creating her/his own company?

Gary Prenevost: 1) Know yourself: Before starting a business or looking for a franchise, get to know yourself first. Many people think that owning a successful, profitable franchise will be the right choice for them. But, your preferences and lifestyle also impact your choice in starting a business. Questions you should ask yourself include:

  • What am I good at doing?
  • What do I like to do?
  • What am I not willing to do?

2) Identify your business goals: This is one of the most important questions you should ask yourself before starting a business. Questions at this stage should include:

  • What lifestyle do I want?
  • How much income do I want to make?
  • How many hours per week do I want to work?
  • How can I balance my business with my own life?

3) Get help: Many people look for an agent to help them buy their first house because they don’t know what they don’t know. Buying a franchise is often the most impactful financial decision most people will make in their lifetime. So why not get the help of a professional to identify the best business for your needs? Professional help is indispensable for such a critical decision. An experienced franchise consultant can help you navigate your research so that you can understand the legal, economic and operational matters that may impact your business and lifestyle success.

Do you have any general observations you’d like to share with potential entrepreneurs or future franchise owners?

Gary Prenevost: The face of the business owner is changing. Now, we see more young people and more women undertaking their own businesses. Five years ago, only 12 per cent of our clients were women, but now that number is closer to 30 per cent. There are a lot of talented Millennials who don’t want to experience the “lifetime of careers” they watched their parents experiencing. So, their interest in franchising is growing faster than other groups. These are exciting developments as they demonstrate that starting a business or franchise is a career choice most people can consider, regardless of their stage of life or lifestyle.

Franchises are often the optimal choice for many people looking to start their own business. They outcompete their independent, non-franchised competitors because franchisors provide the safety net of proven sales, marketing and operational processes, ongoing training, support and numerous other resources – tools that business owners that start-from-scratch simply don’t have access to.

To find out if franchising might be the right choice for you or to connect with Gary Prenevost directly, please visit