Corpcentre's Blog

May 4, 2010

How to Make Yourself Invaluable to the Customers

Let’s face the facts. If you ever believed that attracting new customers was your biggest business challenge, you were sorely mistaken. Winning customers is less than half the battle. The bigger challenge, most business owners would agree, is how to keep them. After all, if you devoted most of your energy in trying to attract a customer to you, logic dictates that someone else is also trying. Therefore, you have to work extra hard to retain that customer, rather than their moving to the competition.

But, how do you put that theory into actual practice? If you have developed a successful service or product, chances are very good that your competitor is working on an improved version. And, the improved version just may sway the customer from you to the competition.

The human aspect is a vital component of success. You have to create an environment that a customer will regret leaving. Certainly, business is about sales and strategies, finance and finesse. It’s also all about people. Becoming more than a supplier of goods and services is the secret link. Learn to appreciate that your customer has needs outside of normal office hours. Be ready to go the distance for your customers and they will remember. Make their concerns your concerns, even at the risk of having a major headache. Also, think outside the box. How can you help your client’s business, above and beyond what you already supply? Work hard to make yourself an extension of your client’s enterprise. The customer should know and feel that you can always be counted on, no matter what or when, even if they only need advice. True, talk is cheap but it can be an investment with a fantastic return.

From the first time a new customer comes through your door, approach the moment as the start of a long term relationship. If you proceed along those lines, you will have laid the foundation for a bright future.

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April 22, 2010

Customer Red Flags to Watch Out for

If you are in business, you know that you have to constantly be on alert on all fronts. You try as hard as you can to plan and operate your business with clear guidelines. Sometimes, though, all the planning cannot prevent the unexpected. Many business leaders will tell you that the problems from outside are the biggest challenge.

In order for you to operate, you count on suppliers for goods and services. Your cash flow is dependant on timely payment by your customers. Any disruption from your suppliers or customers can be harmful to your operations. Continued disruption can become fatal. However, by being vigilant and spotting the early warning signs of potential problems, you can avoid trouble before it happens.

Keep abreast of a customer’s payments. If the payments start becoming delinquent on a regular basis, they may be in trouble. Don’t wait, though, until they stop paying. Open up a dialogue early to help you collect payments while their doors are still open.

Another warning sign is commonly known as nit-picking. You owe a customer a small credit and they refuse to pay their large bill until the credit is received. This stalling tactic should indicate to you that all is not well, as they could obviously just deduct the credit and send the balance. Perhaps, the customer suddenly begins sending you the balance in several payments, without consulting with you. Your early warning signal should be blaring loudly.

Have you noticed that there has been a large turnover of employees at your customer or supplier? Is this a sign that the passengers are jumping ship before it sinks? When you called to speak to someone over there, the usual perky, friendly reception was replaced by a rather laconic, curt reply or a disinterested, half-hearted response. Be on the alert and assess the situation carefully. You need to protect your interests.

Keeping one step ahead of the storm can be your best insurance plan.

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April 21, 2010

Keeping a Handle on Your Business

Operating a business successfully has often been compared to a high-speed train. When it runs at peak performance, it arrives at its destination on time. However, if it sits unused in the station, or is not maintained properly, it will cease running well and ultimately break down and fail completely.

Studies have shown that more than half of large business failures result from poorly designed business strategies. Many business leaders have the drive and desire but fail to properly assess the market or their abilities. It is not uncommon for a thriving business to adopt a new idea on the assumption that their notoriety alone will make it happen. “Biting off more than one can chew” has led to the downfall of many business giants.

Another common, and sometimes fatal, error is operating without any accountability. Even the boss has to answer to the board. When decisions are accountable, it makes them open to review by others and allows other sets of eyes to detect possible flaws. The smallest of companies – even one-person operations – should consult with someone else on major decisions. After all, none of us is perfect.

Sometimes change is necessary. Companies that have dominated certain markets have to change with the times or market conditions if they want to maintain their position. Failure to adapt can be suicidal, as there is always someone waiting in the wings to pick up the slack.

Leadership is a 24/7 position. Your employees look up to you and receive their inspiration from the top. A strong leader motivates by example. Failure to convey positive attitudes and emotions can lead to the downfall of your business. Even if your business takes a downturn, you need to continue inspiring your employees to work together with you to overcome. If you appear downtrodden, you can’t expect your team to pick you up. The ship will go down with its captain.

Keep a handle on your business by charting your goals and progress. By maintaining control of a situation, rather than it’s controlling you, your train will speed forward to its next destination.

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April 16, 2010

How the Self-Employed Can Save on Taxes

If you are like more than two million Canadians, you own your own business, either fulltime or part-time. Despite the sometimes heartaches of being self-employed, there are many advantages. Many entrepreneurs, though, are unaware of the various tax benefits available to them. In fact, running your own business can increase your after-tax income and contribute to family wealth.

Entrepreneurship and self employment promote a spirit of innovation, ultimately contributing to economic growth and vibrancy. As such, the government encourages entrepreneurship by taxing it at lower rates than regular income.

It is not uncommon for a new business to incur losses as it gets off the ground. These losses can be used to offset revenue from other sources, assuming you have a reasonable profit expectation as the business progresses. As your business begins to turn a profit, you can incorporate and the profits can remain in the corporation as a reinvestment in your operations. It is also possible to leave the profits in the business if you do not need a salary immediately. Thus, you can defer paying personal income tax. A salaried individual cannot schedule when to pay taxes. However, when you are self-employed, you can time payments to yourself when the tax payments are to your benefit.

Profits held in the corporation are taxable in the year they are earned. But, the corporate tax rate is low on the first $500,000 of active business income. While rates vary between provinces, all are below 20%. Personal tax rates on comparable amounts can be as high as 45%. It is also possible to pay salaries to family members in the business and have it taxed at their lower rates. Another possibility is to pay dividends to family members who own shares of the company and, thus, benefit from capital gains exemptions.

There are numerous possibilities for self-employed Canadians to benefit from management of taxes and income. All possibilities and options should be discussed at length with your tax advisor.

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April 2, 2010

How to Valuate Your Business

There comes a time for many businesses when it may be necessary to find investors or a buyer. In either case, it will be imperative to assess the value of your business. Long before you approach a potential investor or buyer, you need to know exactly where the negotiations will begin.

Valuating a business is by no means an exact science. There are several common methods that can be employed. Each method uses different assumptions and, logically, each method will result in a different value. Obviously, part of the negotiation will involve agreeing upon the method employed to determine the business’ worth.

Many investors prefer the Discounted Cash Flow method to determine the value of the business. It is based on future cash flows. By employing this method, the investor can see a projection of the actual cash that will come to the company and thus determine the investor’s return on investment. A similar method is determining the Going Concern Value. This method compares the current investment to future cash inflows. The revenues of previous years are used to project future revenues, on the assumption that the revenues will not change drastically.

Another common method to determine the value of a company is based on assets. A determination of the book value of the company is quite straightforward. The company’s net worth, or shareholders’ equity, is determined based on the financial statements of the company. Quite simply, subtract liabilities from gross assets and the result is the net worth or book value.

A similar method is determining the liquidation value of the company, based on the company’s assets. This method calculates the income from the sale of all the company’s assets. The assumption is that equipment and land would be sold at a price close to their market value. Inventory and receivables generally yield a reduced value. A liquidation value is generally employed for the sale of a business, rather than investment purposes.

Whichever method you use, it is best to consult with a professional advisor who can help avoid mistakes that could prove costly.

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April 1, 2010

Customers at the Centre

Filed under: business,buyer's market,customers,customize,marketplace,needs — corpcentre @ 9:29 pm

An all too common mistake of many businesses is losing sight of what is truly important. It is relatively easy to get caught up in strategic planning, marketing techniques, employee relations, technological upgrading, and a milieu of other items that are important to the successful operation of a business. But, when the dust settles, we tend to forget the most important element of our business – the customer.

The customer is the core of our business. Without customers, business is just…a business. It won’t sell but it will be there, though not for long. In today’s market, customers are bombarded with information and have more choices available than ever. Gone are the days of Pop’s General Store. Pop sold everything and when he didn’t, you made do without. Today, it’s a buyer’s market. Customers can shop for virtually everything they want. Internet shopping makes the world their marketplace. In order for a business to attract buyers, they must be able to reach out to that customer in a way that will get the business noticed.

Find out what the customer really needs or wants, not what you think. What issues are affecting the customer that will cause them to need your product or service? Why should the customer identify with you?

Sometimes, the customer is unsure of what they need. They may know that they are in a certain situation and “something” could help them, if they only knew what it was. This is a chance for your business to fill that void. Customize your service or product to help the customer.

Think outside the box. Inside the box is your business. The customer is outside. Find out what your business must do to break through the constraints. Remember that you need the customer more than they need you. However, when you can create the link that makes their needs your needs, you’ll put your business on the winning track.

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March 19, 2010

Dealing With Your Boss

There are many different names in the workplace vernacular for dealing with your boss. But, when your goal is to get the job done well and contribute to your own career advancement, there is only one thing that really matters – know how to be as effective as possible.

As business had become ever so complex over the few decades, so have the management systems and strategies behind them. In the ever-relenting battle of the business world, the need to thrive and survive has created new management sciences virtually uncharted a business generation ago. The traditional flow chart and pyramid have been redesigned, allowing for much greater flexibility but also margin for error.

In days gone by, the boss sat in the corner office nearby or, perhaps, one floor up. It was usually possible to drop in for a chat and get to know the person, as well as the position. In this age of instant global communication, it is quite possible for one’s superiors to be located anywhere on the planet. Many times, the ability to interact personally is just unrealistic. How can one be sure that they are on the right track? Perhaps all the hard work is just preparing for a surprise bombshell of dismissal?

If you want to succeed, the responsibility is yours, not the boss. You need to create the conditions. Keep the lines of communication open and learn what the boss wants to hear. Don’t be afraid to ask. Many times employees are afraid that the boss is only out to get them when that is far from true. Try to keep abreast of what’s happening in your company. Your boss also has a boss. Find out what your boss needs and make the information available. Help develop a solid relationship based on mutual need and trust, not fear. Try to appreciate that the boss is probably busier than you so use time accordingly. When the relationship between the two of you is solid, no matter where you are, each of you can help the other achieve goals.

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March 8, 2010

Should Politicians be Deciding our Fiscal Policies?

It seems that the hurricane called the global recession is starting to lose steam and peter out. But, if you follow global weather patterns, you see that there are always after effects, residual shocks, smaller storms, etc. In short, no disaster seems to operate independently. There is always cause and effect.

So what caused this recession? After all, if you can isolate the cause of a disease, you can help prevent its recurrence. The near collapse of the US economy was frightening. The devastation caused by it harmed countless individuals and businesses alike. Many have not yet recovered. Who is to blame?

It’s easy to say that the mega-bonuses within the nation’s financial industry were the problem. However inappropriate these bonuses may have been (and continue to be), they were not, and are not, the root of evil. No, when all is said and done, the root of economic evil is lousy government policy. Government leaders, and their script writers, are excellent at describing the ill-gotten gains of the private sector. It is quite easy to divert public attention from the real problems at hand by placing blame at the markets whose goal is to earn money. How many millions of American homes are now in foreclosure due to a mortgage system that was manipulated by US government policy, rather than operated by the modes of free economy?

Imagine, for a moment, that the US government operated along the lines of a major for-profit corporation. The Senate and Congress would be the Boards of Directors and/or shareholders. The CEO and his staff would have to justify their fiscal policies and operate the business in such a way to please the directors and shareholders. After all, the bottom line is what truly matters. Sounds absurd, of course. On the other hand, can one imagine a mega-corporation continuing to function while juggling an operating debt of more than $1 trillion? Of course not. At the minimum, some change in fiscal policy may be deemed necessary.

But, governments continue to operate based on political need. Business will adjust to the times and weather storms as necessary. With a little luck and hard work from non-government entities, society will persevere economically and overcome the mistakes of its political leaders. If we want to avoid another recession, it’s truly time that politicians stick to their business but leave the money matters to the professionals.

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March 3, 2010

Female Entrepreneurs – Unite!

No longer can it be said that business is a man’s world. Female entrepreneurs are an integral part of the business world. According to a report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Canadian women comprise 30% of business across the nation. This percentage is larger than any other country. In the United States, during a ten year period beginning in 1997, businesses owned by women grew at double the national rate of all U.S. private businesses.

So, the good news is that women are making their mark on business in substantial numbers. The bad news is that they are not using these numbers for any collective purpose or advantage.

There is power in numbers. However, most female entrepreneurs seem to prefer worrying only about themselves. An umbrella organization, Women Entrepreneurs of Canada, whose mandate is to create a more collaborative climate for women business owners, is fighting an uphill battle, as reported to a small core group of members at a recent meeting of the organization.

Rather than share ideas and efforts, the group reported that female business owners prefer to do for themselves and not share. Sharing resources and ideas is simply not the norm in female businesses, leading to duplication of efforts and a loss of a potentially powerful female lobby.

Men invest more time and energy developing their businesses. Thus, women cooperating with each other could greatly strengthen their businesses by uniting their efforts. Also, women are less confident than men in certain key business tasks and could certainly benefit by supporting each other to get over hurdles.

On the other hand, in a male dominated world, women still encounter certain prejudices in business. A strong female lobby could help push for changes in the business world that would lead to parity in general, while addressing the distinct needs of female entrepreneurship when applicable.

This organization, while small at present, is picking up speed and hopes to build a strong, influential coalition of female entrepreneurs to help the nearly one third of Canada’s business community leadership.

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February 25, 2010

Did Lack of MBA Ethics Cause the Recession?

It was inevitable that one outcome of the recession, aside from the devastation of the economic hurricane, would be deciding who or what truly was to blame. The truth is there is no one factor or person. However, as the smoke begins to clear, there is increasing blame being attributed to the financial leaders of our generation, specifically the mighty who have fallen.

We have all been witness to major financial scandals over the last couple of years. Many of these scandals have been perpetrated by key figures in the upper echelon financial world, individuals with impeccable credentials, or so we thought. To the dismay of both the public and academia, a good number of these individuals bore MBA’s – seemingly their license to direct the financial community – from some top business schools.

While no pattern has emerged, a number of questions have arisen regarding MBA programs and the students therein. While there are no guarantees, an MBA from a top business school is a tremendous stepping stone to a lucrative career. The question is how desperate are students to obtain that coveted degree.

In a 2006 study released by the Academy of Management Learning and Education, an astonishing 56% of MBA students admitted cheating, far exceeding any other major discipline.

The focus of many major MBA programs is quite straightforward – your sole obligation is to make as much money as possible for your stockholders, within the parameters of the law. Unfortunately, a decided absence of ethical teachings has caused many graduates to ignore the legal obligations of earning money. The argument that students want to earn as much as possible in order to repay their expensive education doesn’t hold much water. Were that the case, medical students would be dropping like flies in insurance scams.

Many business schools acknowledge that a lack of classes in business ethics may be part of a larger problem and some, indeed, have begun to change their curricula to reflect a necessary change. Others schools have tightened their application processes to help weed out potential “future problems.” Overall, the fall of the giants has helped remind us that, in a democratic society, we are all equally accountable for our actions.

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