Small businesses play it smarter

CIBC, Business Depot and others have announced Bizsmart (, an e-banking and e-commerce Web site featuring no-fee banking, a lowest-priced shopping portal, and a business information centre for small businesses.

“(The) launch of Bizsmart is a complete break from the past for small businesses in Canada,” said Mike Pederson, vice-president of retail and small business banking for CIBC.

Pederson said that Bizsmart is made up of a combination of no-fee banking, one stop shopping for lowest prices, and a wide range of services and information that will help small business owners run their firms.

“All of this will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through the Internet on-line, and through the telephone,” Pederson said. “It will also be available through Business Depot stores across the country.”

Bizsmart pavilions – called Bizcentres – will open in Business Depot locations, where customers will be able to sign up and be served by Business Depot associates.

According to Ed Harsant, president of Business Depot, the mission of their company is to take away some of the cost and hassle of running a small business.

“We’ve really evolved from a supplier of office supplies and services to becoming a solutions provider for the small business customer,” Harsant said.

Pederson said that for years small business operators have argued about the banks’ ability to help them run their business. He said he has heard from these operators that small businesses pay too much for too little service, and that credit is tough to get.

“They told us they do not think we help them run and grow their business.”

Until now, that is. According to Pederson, Bizsmart addresses all of those concerns. “It combines goods, services, banking and information, in a simple, straightforward manner. It focuses on the large number of small businesses that are already doing transactions on-line. It saves them time and money.”

Bizsmart will offer a business banking account with high interest and no fees. Customers will have access to an unsecured line of credit, with low interest rates and a simple application process. Also being introduced is a VISA Bizsmart card along with a convenience card for membership and banking transactions, including through CIBC’s more than 4,000 ABMs.

Members will get special discounts and everyday pricing when e-purchasing from Bizsmart. These business supplies are from Business Depot, Dell, FedEx, Chapters, New England Business Forms, Equifax, E-Incorp., Innofone, NEBS, and more.

The one-stop business information service – called the Knowledge Centre -includes management services, on-line chat rooms, bulletin boards, and information.

“It’s a unique and unprecedented Canadian source of management services and information specifically for the small business operator,” Pederson said. “On average, when you add this all up, it amounts to over $2,000 of savings for the average small business customer in this country.”

Harsant said this is a truly great time to be a customer.

“If you’re not satisfied, you’re only a click away from someone else eager to do business with you. It’s also an exciting time to be a supplier of goods and services because customers are only a click away from finding us,” said Harsant. “Teaming with Bizsmart enabled (Business Depot) to be an even better supplier of a total solution for our small business customers.”

According to David Marshall, vice-chairman of electronic commerce for CIBC, if a company is willing to do business electronically it can reduce costs, increase its turnaround and get to more customers no matter where they are.

“CIBC has been studying this process carefully and trying to understand how we can bring our ability and technology and our expertise in banking to help [derive] some balance,” Marshall said. “And (help) small businesses to play on an equal footing with the big boys.”