2017 brought its fair share of challenges for businesses. Uncertainty defined the last 12 months and we know this has impacted our clients. It has been more important than ever for RSM member firms around the world to act as a support system for clients – helping them navigate choppy waters. As well as supporting them, we have also shown them that there are new opportunities on the horizon and provided guidance on how they can expand and grow their businesses. Even during difficult times, we need to look to the future.

This is why I was happy we were able to announce the addition of RSM Canada to our network as we look ahead to 2018. We are lucky to have welcomed several member firms to the network this year but, for me, Canada provides a slightly different opportunity.

Despite some criticism from the Canadian business community, diplomatically, Prime Minister Trudeau has established Canada’s international reputation as an open, outward looking country, which is in stark contrast to global trends. As countries around the world seem to be looking inwards, Canada remains open. The Government has recently seen the signing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union, a welcome boost to Canadian businesses with international ambitions. Canada is also home to an entrepreneurial middle market that punches far beyond its weight – it has the 10th largest economy in the world but only the 38th largest population.

Nowhere is this spirit of innovation and openness more apparent than the home of RSM Canada, Toronto. Toronto is one of the most diverse cities globally. With half of the total population born outside of Canada, the city has created cultural ties around the world.[1] The city also houses companies from a wide variety of industries – from real estate to manufacturing to film. An innovative financial centre, Toronto has the talent and the clients to power RSM’s growth in the North American region over the coming year.  

But just as Canada symbolises the opportunities on offer to ambitious middle market businesses, so too is it a microcosm of the challenges they will face in 2018. The USA is Canada's largest trading partner, accounting for approximately 75% of exports, and the renegotiation of NAFTA poses a serious risk to the prosperity of middle market businesses. While the middle market might feel powerless to respond, it is our role to help them succeed without compromising their international ambitions.

We are already helping Canadian businesses grow beyond national borders and advising international clients on their first steps in the Canadian market. Harry Blum, Managing Partner of RSM Canada, and his team will be driving growth accordingly, and it is only a matter of time until we expand our presence outside of Toronto.

We live in a time of contradictions. We make use of an open internet while geographical boundaries seem to be becoming more pronounced. International business models are being taxed and regulated by distinctly national bodies. Even diverse workforces are too often led by homogenous leaders. Canada is a wonderful case study of these opposing forces and I look forward to seeing our network tackle them together.