Corpcentre's Blog

September 14, 2009

The Price of Ending the Recession

Government officials and economic analysts are in common agreement that Canada is headed out of the recession. While there are disagreements as to the exact timeframe, there is a fact that is common to all parties – the price tag.

For a country that proudly presented a balanced budget for twelve consecutive years, Canada had to revise its budget projections for the thirteenth year and for several years to come. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty recently announced his department’s projection of a $50.2 billion deficit for the current fiscal year. He was quick to add, though, that this figure is “consistent” with meeting the deficit target. The government projects that it will present deficit budgets for the next four years, adding nearly $100 billion to the national debt. The current deficit is due primarily to several factors: falling tax revenues, both personal and corporate; a massive 47% increase in unemployment insurance premium payouts; and huge bailouts to the auto industry as well as other business subsidies.

While Mr. Flaherty is holding to his optimistic prediction of returning to a balanced budget in 2013-14, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and several leading economists are somewhat more realistic in their forecasts. However, both the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister are in agreement that tax increases and major spending cuts are not being considered in order to expedite a balanced budget.

Some analysts have suggested that drastic changes to the budget are not advisable. Rather, once the stimulus programs spending has been depleted, the government should adopt a program to control spending growth. This will enable the government to eliminate the deficit over a period of several years.

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September 8, 2009

Cyber-Shopping Anyone?

In a country that is so highly attached to Internet access and the latest high-tech gadgetry, Canadians are slow to adopt the trend of cyber-shopping – shopping online. Online sales have certainly been growing at a steady pace – a 61% rise in three years – but they still lag behind online sales in the United States.

Analysts attribute Canadian reluctance to become cyber-shoppers to several factors. High shipping costs in Canada have caused a large number of shoppers to abandon their online purchase before completing the transaction. Additionally, when it comes to security, Canadians are far more sensitive than most other nations around the world. Simply put, many Canadians have an abiding fear of credit card fraud and are skeptical about revealing their credit card details online.

On the other hand, the rise of specialty brands online is winning over Canadian reluctance. The allure of securing hard-to-get brands or one-of-a-kind items has been a boon for many online retailers.

Some of the nation’s larger retail outlets use their websites primarily for marketing and rely upon their sites to attract buyers to their stores. This has allowed a market to open up for smaller retailers whose “primary store” is located on the Internet.

Consumers still expect top service wherever they buy. For online stores, this translates into speedy and affordable delivery as well as reliable customer service. Moreover, online stores must market their sites in a variety of ways if they are to be noticed.

The variables of the economy affect the online stores as much as traditional shopping outlets. When consumers are in a spending mood, they are more likely to shop for items online that may be frivolous or unnecessary. However, when belt tightening begins, online retailers have to rapidly shift their focus to marketing items that are more affordable.

With annual sales in excess of $15 billion, and growing, cyber-sales seem to have carved out a niche with the Canadian consumer.

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September 7, 2009

Visa to the U.S.

Gone are the days when a Canadian family would hop in the car and drive down for a day to the closest city in the U.S. to do a little shopping. But the desire to purchase certain goods in the U.S. still exists. Now, in the world of eCommerce, a British company has made shopping in the U.S. available to Canadians while staying at home.

Borderlinx, headquartered in the U.K. with additional offices in Brussels, was established by experts in eCommerce, logistics management and international trade. The company enables U.S. retailers to sell their products to a global marketplace by providing innovative eCommerce management solutions. Similarly, consumers globally are provided access to the best quality products at the best possible prices.

Canadian Visa credit card holders are now able to purchase goods online from American retailers with relative ease. Through Borderlinx, Canadian shoppers are provided with a U.S. address and shipping services. This makes previously hard to access stores as simple as shopping from the store around the corner. Studies conducted by Visa revealed that 37% of Canadian online shoppers prefer shopping from U.S. stores due to the variety of products available. The Borderlinx service simplifies the shopping procedures and provides an on-screen calculator that allows shoppers to know exactly what will be the final price of their purchase. Additionally, shoppers through this service have the option of consolidating their purchases from several U.S. stores into one shipment, thus reducing shipping prices.

Canada is the first country to utilize this shopping agreement with Visa although other countries are expected to join later this year.

In the current economic climate, when consumers are careful how they spend their money, this new service affords shoppers an excellent way to make informed shopping decisions.

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September 6, 2009

Introducing CanNor, Canadian Northern Development Agency

Following promises made in last fall’s election campaign and, more recently, in last November’s throne speech, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper revealed that the headquarters for the new Canadian Northern Development Agency (CanNor) will be built in Iqaluit, capital of Nunavut.

The Prime Minister’s announcement was made during a recent tour of the North, his third tour of the region this summer. CanNor will deliver funding for economic development, advocacy, and research. The newly established agency will receive $50 million in federal funds over the next five years.

The decision to locate the new agency’s headquarters in Iqaluit has been met opposition from several senior government officials, stating difficulties finding enough housing and staff. Mr. Harper responded that challenges such as these are exactly the reason for establishing an economic development agency and, therefore, the government must place the agency directly where the challenges are the greatest.

CanNor will also have satellite offices located in Whitehorse and Yellowknife, as the agency is designed to work cooperatively with all the Northern territories. The new agency will take over some existing federal programs and will develop new programs adapted to the territories’ realities.

As several other nations have their sights on the resource-rich northern territories, the Harper government is determined to concretize Canadian sovereignty over the region. Establishment of this stand-alone regional economic development agency will allow the Federal government to work with the region to help it reach its full potential, both human and economic.

The Premiers of both the Yukon and Northwest territories welcomed Mr. Harper’s announcement but added that additional key economic developments are crucial to their respective territories in order to strengthen the entire Arctic region.
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August 31, 2009

Is Deflation Good for Business?

Filed under: Bank of Canada,canadian business,deflation,world economy — corpcentre @ 7:11 pm

Energy prices have truly influenced the global economy over the last couple of years. As gasoline prices have moved down in 2009, one result, in June 2009, was a negative annual inflation rate in Canada. This was the first time this has occurred since November 1994. Similarly, the country’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) is expected to be down, marking a decline for the second consecutive year. Overall, though, core inflation is expected to remain fairly stable and close out the year at or near two per cent, as predicted by the Bank of Canada.

Analysts predict that this period of deflation is merely transitory and will likely be take in stride by markets. The Bank of Canada is expected to maintain its promise to keep interest rates at a floor of 0.25 per cent until next year, assuming that inflation remains stable.

As the deflation is attributed to the movement in gasoline prices, the effects are not considered to be ominous. The Bank of Canada had predicted that there would be a period of falling prices, but also predicted that the effects would taper off towards the end of the third quarter of 2009.

When the rather volatile gasoline prices are removed from the inflation index, the country’s economic factors are fairly stable. During the recession, some economists described to the core inflation rate as “sticky.” Despite the weakening of the economy, the Canadian dollar was fairly strong and food prices were slow to come down. Thus, the core inflation rate did not vary much. As food costs begin to drift down in the coming months, they are expected to bring down the core inflation rate.

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August 30, 2009

How to Reduce Your Business Costs

Filed under: canada economy,canadian business,economic recovery,recession — corpcentre @ 7:01 pm

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

This old adage has become the modern modus operandi for many companies. As many companies have had their operating budgets reduced, the time has come to re-think how to operate a business. Specifically, is it possible to continue serving one’s customer base on a reduced budget?

The answer is a resounding yes. The key to successful continuation of one’s business operations requires re-featuring, not actual cost cutting. Understanding what the customer really wants and what can be done without is the best way to re-feature. This will allow the business owner to provide the goods or service while lowering costs at the same time.

A careful evaluation of one’s business is crucial. Take the time to carefully evaluate which areas of the business should be highlighted, owing to their profitability, and which areas should be downplayed, as they truly don’t matter as much to the customer. By reducing or removing non-essential services, improved pricing can be offered to the customer, thus strengthening customer loyalty.

It may be time to evaluate your raw materials. Is it possible to change to less expensive raw materials without compromising quality? Similarly, while few people want to dismiss staff, is your staff being utilized to the optimum? Some services can easily be offered to the public via internet services, thus freeing your human staff for tasks that computers cannot perform.

Rarely is cost cutting an enjoyable task. However, by figuring out the best and most innovative ways to improve your productivity and profitability of existing services, products, and processes, cost cutting is an inevitable positive by-product.

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August 27, 2009

Innovation and Technology are Top Priorities

Filed under: canada economy,canadian business,economic recovery — corpcentre @ 12:07 am

Summing up the recent annual conference of Canadian provincial premiers, the nation’s provincial leaders called upon the Federal government to bolster innovation and technology. The premiers are in agreement that removal of provincial tax benefits to companies will seriously dampen research and development. Encouraging R&D, both small and large scale, will eventually translate into economic growth through increased jobs and commerce.

The premiers were also in agreement that the country must adopt a new strategy regarding water management and conservation. Water is the country’s most important resource. It was agreed that the nation is not doing enough to protect and manage this vital commodity. A bold innovative strategy must be implemented to protect Canada’s water.

Pensions for Canadians were another topic discussed at length by the premiers. There is growing concern among the provincial leaders that the majority of Canadians with annual incomes below $100,000 will have insufficient funds to retire. This includes a large number of baby boomers who are approaching retirement age in the near future. However, the premiers lack unilateral agreement on how to solve this problem. Various measures suggested included increased public pensions and tax credits to bolster and encourage personal savings. The provincial finance ministers are compiling various plans and suggestions. The premiers are hoping that the federal government will convene a pension review summit by the end of 2009. This summit would be attended by both federal and provincial representatives, as well as leaders from the banking community and private pension companies.

The premiers’ conference also touched upon the topic of unemployment and benefits. However, no concrete recommendations were made and this area of national concern remains in the hands of the federal government.

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August 23, 2009

It’s All in the Cards

Filed under: business cards,canada economy,canadian business — corpcentre @ 9:03 pm

Believe it or not, there more to a business card than meets the eye. In the highly competitive market of job searching, a custom designed and creative business card can make the difference between obtaining an interview or just becoming another face in the crowd.

Many people prepare business cards containing personal information and nothing more. However, when your goal is to be noticed, presenting a unique calling card may be just what is needed to get you noticed.

Potential employers are continually approached by job seekers. In today’s recession, the numbers are with the employer. They can take their pick from a large number of qualified applicants. Therefore, it is imperative to make a noticeable first impression.

A standout business card should quickly and effectively communicate who you are and what you can contribute to an organization. The first glance should grab the reader’s attention. A tag line or several bullets will get your message across. Don’t restrict yourself to one colour. The human eye is attracted to differences so choose a different colour ink to highlight the key points.

Many people forget that a business card is two sided. Quite often, a potential employer will use the back side of the card to jot down notes about the person he has met. Be one step ahead and print a mini-resume on the back. But, don’t make it too busy. If the letters are too small, no one will read it.

Think carefully about the look of your business card. Don’t cut corners by preparing it at home. The card should be printed on a proper card stock and cut by machine. Maintaining a professional look is crucial. Nothing could harm you more than a well prepared card that has an at-home, arts and crafts look to it.

Look is important but so is size. Most business cards are standard size. Cards that are shaped differently or are too large may be noticed but may also be discarded, as they will not fit into standard card holders.

Investing some thought, time, and money in your business card may be the right step in securing your next job.

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August 19, 2009

Creating Jobs and Saving Businesses

Thanks to the Canadian Government’s recent investments in the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) through the Business Credit Availability Program, the BDC is experiencing a record increase in loans to businesses across the country.

By improving access to credit for Canadian businesses via the Canada’s Economic Action Plan and Business Credit Availability Program, the Government is helping the business community not only weather the current economic slowdown but continue to thrive.

Recent statements by Canada’s Minister of Industry, Tony Clement, indicate that the Government is pleased with its economic stimulus program. The various programs are creating jobs and saving businesses.

The BDC’s increased lending activity has been felt across the country. In June 2009, the amount of loans accepted exceeded figures for the same period in the previous year by 57%. In the first fiscal quarter of 2009/2010, ending June 30, the total dollar amount accepted by BDC loans escalated by 37% from $738 million in 2008 to slightly more than $1 billion in 2009. The BDC reports that this has been the largest increase in its history.

The Canadian Economic Action Plan was designed to assist businesses and entrepreneurs by improving access to financing through enhanced cooperation between government corporations and private sector financial institutions. Financial experts from the BDC have worked closely with their private sector colleagues to ensure that solutions are found to secure funding for creditworthy businesses. Another branch of the Business Credit Availability Program is Export Development Canada (EDC). Working together, EDC and private sector financial institutions are providing more than $5 billion in loans and other credit support to businesses with viable business models but whose access to financing might be restricted.

Private sector and Government – working together to help Canadian businesses thrive.

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August 17, 2009

The Value of Customer Service

Filed under: canadian business,customer service,small busines — corpcentre @ 10:12 pm

At the end of the day, your product may be outstanding and you may provide terrific value, but, let’s face it, times are tough for small businesses. People are spending less today. Many businesses have limited funds available to maintain or increase sales. What, then, is a business to do? The answer lies with your most important resource: your customers.

It all boils down to customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Maintaining your customer base is vital. Therefore, it’s important to know what the customer is thinking. Businesses have to establish methods to listen to their customers and, no less important, to respond. Customer feedback should be viewed as a gift to your business.

Far too many businesses have become unreachable, preferring to communicate with their customers via text messages or e-mails. They have forgotten the importance of the personal touch. When was the last time you initiated telephone contact with a long standing customer to see why they have reduced their orders? One telephone call may be a terrific investment. You may discover that the customer has new needs or has been upset by a small matter that you were unaware of. Informal surveys can provide a wealth of information to help strengthen your business.

Business owners should not fear confrontation with the “disgruntled customer” as opening a Pandora’s Box. Studies have shown that most disgruntled customers will not voice their opinion but will simply take their business elsewhere. Only 4% of disgruntled customers have mere complaints. Most have legitimate issues. The same studies have concluded that a 5% increase in customer loyalty can have a direct positive long term increase on a company’s bottom line by anywhere from 25% – 125%.

The business owner who invests time in customer service is making a wise investment in these difficult financial times.

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