Corpcentre's Blog

December 17, 2009

A Province Divided

It would appear that all is not well in Canada’s westernmost province. The implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) looms on the horizon for July 2010 and the ground underfoot is shaky with protests and counter-protests.
 
Critics of the new tax claim that the Liberal government of Gordon Campbell organized strong support from within the business community to endorse the HST. The business community refutes any such instigation by the government. Business leaders in B.C. claim that, following Ontario’s lead in adopting this new tax, they realized that the inherent benefits far outweigh the disadvantages and, thus, have supported the government’s tax proposals. They see the new tax as a way to stimulate the province’s productivity which, according to experts, has been “dismal” for the last two decades. While big business agrees that there will be short term problems with the HST, they feel that the tax will lead to long term economic improvement in investments, competitiveness, and consumer prices.
 
Consumers are slow to give their endorsement. That which is good for business means taking more from the consumer’s pocket. The bottom line is that consumers will now pay more for many goods and services that will carry the HST tag but are currently exempt from PST or GST. This disgruntlement has given way to public protest about other government policies that have not found favour with the public.
 
As a result of the recession, the B.C. government has been forced to curtail some budgets and trim expenses on existing programs. Indeed, with the new budget looming, the public is awaiting the latest round of budget cuts. A prevailing opinion is that the HST was adopted in order to funnel more money into an ailing provincial budget at the public’s expense. During the election campaign, Premier Campbell pledged a deficit ceiling of $495 million. As this summer approached, that pledge grew to a whopping $1 billion and the end of summer saw a projection of that estimate being tripled. With numbers like these being bantered about, neither side is quite sure about the true economic state of the province.
 
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November 27, 2009

How Can I Convince My Clients to Stay?

Filed under: clients,Incorporate in Canada,small business,starting a business — corpcentre @ 3:55 pm
Many an entrepreneur has started off in business hoping to make that first million with this new venture. Some have done well; others have not. Those who have succeeded have learned a very basic secret. Building a large customer base is not as important as building a strong customer base. These are the customers that will stay with you in good times and bad.
 
How does one go about finding these types off customers? The answer is that you can’t find them; you have to create them. In other words, you must develop a strong bond and relationship with your customers. It is the human relationship, not the business one, which is the glue that will keep you together.
 
It certainly is not easy. You have to invest a great deal of time and energy to build that relationship. You need learn all that you can about a client. What are his individual needs? Does he have quirks that you will have to adapt to? How can you help his business beyond the product or service that you provide?
 
Listening is crucial. Take time to communicate personally with your clients. Nothing will ever replace the human touch. Spend time researching your client and prepare yourself for meetings with him. Elevate yourself to a point where you know more about him than anybody does.
 
Don’t only meet with a client in order to sell. Meet in order to talk. Offer advice and assistance. A client who knows, not perceives, that you are truly interested in him and his business will work together with you to seal that bond.
 
Invest your energies in finding ways to develop a partnership of sorts with your clients. Once a customer perceives that his leaving the relationship is not worth the price, you will have discovered the secrets of client retention.

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November 12, 2009

Getting the Most Out of Your Employee Team

No, this is not a sports pep rally. However, just as in sports, success is heavily dependant upon teamwork. The higher the performance of the team, the better the chances for productive outcome.
 
     Every employer knows that one of the hardest operating challenges in business is assembling the right people for your team. Hiring unknown individuals is always a partial gamble. Therefore, a combination of instinct and skill is required to hopefully pick correctly.
 
     You’ve worked hard and sacrificed to realize a dream in building your business. You would like your employees to share that dream. Therefore, an employee for whom this is “just a paycheque” may not be the wisest choice for your management team. You want people who can see beyond the job.
 
     A good team player is willing and able to listen to others, as well as share ideas. There must be common agreement that the team works together under the leadership of one individual whose own goals for the business become the collective goals. Ambition in an employee is positive, provided that the ambition does carry its own agenda.
 
     Look for problem solvers on your team. There is no reason for you to carry all the weight yourself. Also, your team should feel as passioniate as you do. Share the lows and the highs become far more important to achieve.
 
     Individual roles should be clearly defined and each member of your team should know how they relate to the team as a whole. Build a well oiled-machine that functions perfectly when each part is operating in sync.
 
     Don’t rely too heavily on references. Quite often, you will hear only what you want or you will be told only what someone wants you to hear. Look for the right qualities, ask the right questions, get the right feeling, and you should be on your way to assembling a top-notch team for your business.
 
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November 8, 2009

Is the Competitor Your Enemy?

Running your own business comes complete with its own set of headaches and worries. Virtually every business owner has had a few sleepless nights. However, the question must be asked if perhaps we sometimes imagine problems that aren’t really there. Perhaps our minds and imaginations create threats that do not materialize.
 
     A popular misconception in the world of business is that the competition is our chief enemy. While it is true that both of us are targeting the same market, it may also be true that there is enough business for both if us. Moreover, it may also be true that, perhaps, neither of us can effectively service the entire market. Furthermore, each of us may have a slightly different approach for promoting our business and both approaches are effective.
 
     The bottom line is that sometimes we expend a tremendous amount of energy in attempting to thwart the competition. But, if we were to view the competition as an ally in the business world, we could invest that energy in promoting our business.
 
     The truth is that some business leaders have learned that developing a relationship with their chief competitors can be most beneficial. After all, if the competitor wants information about your business, he will obtain it. Why not sit together and share ideas? We all can learn from others. Who is better to learn from than someone who has the same problems that you do? The old saying that “two heads are better than one” does not necessarily only mean you and your assistant. By working together with the competition – sharing ideas, establishing territories, setting standards – you can help each other conquer the world.
 

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October 27, 2009

Organizing Your Small Business Home Office

Filed under: business,Incorporate in Canada,small business,small caps stocks — corpcentre @ 5:52 pm

More and more people are operating businesses from home, or keep an office at home. One of the most commonly overlooked tasks is keeping the home office organized.

For those of us who spend many hours deep within the confines of our home office, the surrounding environment all too often takes on the look of a natural disaster. Why not take a few minutes and put some order in your home office? After all, there is nothing worse than talking to an important client on the phone, reaching for the client’s file, and coming up with a stack of takeout food menus.

Start throwing things away! Be brutal with your castoffs. Do you really need a collection of telephone directories for the last several years? Chances are slim that there is a growing demand for chewed pencil stubs. Contrary to popular folklore, empty chewing gum boxes prefer not to live on desktops. Choose a few items to throw away each day. You’ll feel good about it!

Let’s admit it. Almost every bulletin board contains layers of long forgotten items. Try digging down several layers and leave only the current important items. You may even free up space for new memos and current pictures.

How about the junk drawer? That’s the drawer with the broken tape dispensers, dried-up pens, broken scissors, etc. It never fails that the special marker that you need is buried under mounds of old junk (and a semi open jar of glue). Take some time to organize that drawer so that you can find what you need, when you need it.

It is not true that every document ever read must stay in the filing cabinet. Old ones can be shredded. Others can be stored in cardboard cartons and put away in a storage area.

Finally, take a good look at your desktop. Take pity on your current work material and allow it to sit in a clean, orderly environment. It will respond in kind by being readily available and easily located when you need it.

Business is all about organization. This should extend to your personal work environment as well.
 
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October 16, 2009

How Important are Credit Checks for your Small Business?

Imagine conducting business in an ideal world – a world where everyone is honest and truthful and the thought of cheating someone never enters the conscious mind. Nice fantasy but hardly reflective of our modern society.

Not to cast disparaging remarks on the average consumer. Most of us are honest and hardworking. We pay our taxes and our bills on time. However, many a small business owner has fallen victim to the customer who has been extended credit and fails to pay the bill, leaving the business owner absorbing the debt.

Credit, both extending and receiving, has become a way of life in our world. Truthfully, it is not a modern concept. Credit has existed probably for as long as commerce and trading. Similarly, the unpaid debt has probably existed equally as long. Today, though, there are modern tools to help afford the business owner a certain degree of protection.

The credit check is a tool that can save the business owner much grief and heartache. Before extending credit to an unknown customer, it is wise to invest in a credit report, especially if a large amount of credit is being considered.

A credit report, obtainable for a fee through several agencies, gives complete information about the customer. The report will include the customer’s historical payment data, records of any bankruptcies, lawsuits, liens, or any other court judgments. Based on the data, the report will also offer a risk rating that predicts the likelihood of bill payment by the individual.

Credit in business is partially risk. Risk management, via a credit report, is an advisable investment for your business.
 
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October 14, 2009

The Stepping Stones of a Start Up

So you’ve decided to start your own business. Good for you! Many think about taking this bold step but not everyone is sure how to go about setting onesself up in business. While there is no blueprint for guaranteed success, there are a number of steps that you should take into consideration when planning to establish your own business venture.
 
First and foremost, if the decision is yours, establish a business that you will enjoy operating. Considering the amount of daily time devoted to operating a business, it really should be a labour of love.
 
Don’t get going with out a written business plan. This document will help you take a realistic look at your idea and examine its viability. You will also need it to attract potential investors.
 
Unless money is of no concern, try and get your business off the ground while you are still employed. Having a steady source of income while your business is still in its infancy can help keep your family housed and fed until your business start showing a profit.
 
Take the necessary time to research your ideas. In order to make a name for yourself, you should have all the know-how and answers. Be sure that you know what you are getting into and are well versed in the industry that you plan to enter. Also, don’t be afraid to seek advice from others. Bounce ideas off colleagues and friends. Get feedback, both positive and negative. It’s better to hear thoughts and opinions before the business is a reality.
 
Be sure to use qualified legal and accounting professionals in your planning. A seemingly small mistake, financial or legal, can cost you dearly. You may also need this information when writing your business plan.
 
Make sure that your financing is arranged before you hang out your shingle. Opening your doors and hoping to find the funds afterwards can be a serious error.
 
Finally, even during the planning stages, start selling yourself. Get customers lined up and make professional contacts. If you sell yourself well, you’ll be ready to start business on day one. 
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October 13, 2009

Common Mistakes of a Start Up

Most of us dream of becoming an overnight success. We have thought of the greatest business idea that will lead us to riches. It may happen. Then again, it may require good, old-fashioned hard work and dedication to make that first million. No doubt, though, that self employed entrepreneurs have that desire and drive to give it a try. By avoiding some common startup mistakes, the chances of success increase greatly.
 
It is vital to set yourself apart from others. You have to convince customers that your business is the right choice. What is your specialty that will entice business to come your way? Being the same as others in the trade won’t cut it. Also, copying someone else’s idea because they were successful at it won’t bring you long term success.

You have to sell your service or product to the public. Don’t expect a colourful flyer or flashy website to do the work. Similarly, your credentials are important for your credibility. But the bottom line is demonstrating what you can do with those credentials.
 
Did you start out with a business plan? Use this document to chart your business and don’t be afraid to alter the plan as necessary. Many new businesses realize in the first few months that change is essential. Although you probably want to see your business in print, don’t sink money into advertising until you’ve worked out the initial kinks and have settled on the long term version of your business.
 
Be sure to advertise your business where it counts. Get out and sell your service or product to the appropriate crowd. Also, don’t let hecklers or criticism deter you. Setbacks happen. Don’t let them overwhelm you. Marketing must be ongoing. Don’t stop after a few tries. You want the public to identify you with your business. Continue the marketing and be persistent and convincing!  Motivate yourself and you’ll succeed in motivating others. 
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October 12, 2009

Advertising Advice for Small Businesses

Undoubtedly, you will invest a good deal of time spreading the word about your new business. However, business requires a degree of volume. Therefore, advertising is a necessity. There are a variety of ways to advertise your new business, beyond merely speaking to people.
 
Even in this age of the Internet, many people still open the Yellow Pages when looking for a business. Of course, remember that the more visible your ad, the better your chance of being seen.
 
Newspaper ads are not just the realm of the major players. Your business will begin its path from a local market and local newspapers are the economical and effective way to attract a customer base. Don’t forget to have an advertisement prepared professionally. An amateur look could harm your professional image.
 
A new business should avoid costly telemarketing. On the other hand, direct mail may serve you well as you can choose exactly which geographic audience you are seeking.
 
Do you have a supply of eye-catching business cards? Each card is a miniature advertisement. Give them out freely to whomever you meet. Also, you may want to enlarge your card and prepare a sign to stick to your car. Remember, it is hard to say that you can advertise too much.
 
Of course, budgets do factor into advertising. The size of your advertising budget will determine how much you can allow yourself.
 
Be sure to get around to trade shows. Networking at shows and conventions is a very effective way to make contacts and get known “in the business.”
 
If you can afford it, local cable television advertising and radio spots may work for you. Similarly, sponsorship of local events in your community will earn you positive recognition.
 
Be creative and continually seek new and creative ways to advertise your business. It doesn’t always require a large budget to market your business. Do what’s best suited for your budget and be persistent.

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September 25, 2009

When Business Needs Cash

Strangely enough, the best and easiest time to raise cash for your business is when you don’t need it. Cash and credit are the lifeblood of any business. However, when your business is in serious need of a cash injection, that is the hardest time to secure a loan. Raise cash for a rainy day when you’re flush.

Lending institutions are in the business of making a profit on money that they lend. Therefore, a strong business is a far better prospect than a troubled one. The stronger a business’ position, the better the terms it can secure on financing. Thus, when your business least needs a cash influx, go shopping for money. Proudly walking in the door of a financial institution with one’s head held puts you in the driver’s seat. Even in today’s markets when banks are being far more selective, they prefer lending money and providing credit to strong, secure businesses. A smart bank seeks to limit its risks.

Experts suggest taking several advance steps while you’re on strong financial footing. For example, draw down your credit line if you fear that rocky times are ahead. You may pay interest on unused funds but that’s preferable to having the bank cancel an unused credit line.

While your company is still in its infancy, raise as much capital as you can from a variety of sources. It may be easier to sell your idea on paper rather than after reality sets in. Your initial excitement may be contagious to potential investors so use that to its maximum. New businesses often take time to show positive results. That early cash may help you get over the humps.

Be sure that you have a strong grip on your business. Learn to read the signs of impending problems and secure your financial grip before the situation becomes precarious.

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