Corpcentre's Blog

March 12, 2010

More Capital for Women Entrepreneurs in Canada!

Let us not be fooled! In this era of civil rights and equality for all, women entrepreneurs are still fighting an uphill battle with the business community. For the last 18 years, a federally incorporated, non-profit organization known as “Women Entrepreneurs of Canada” has been dedicated to serving the interests of established women in business.

In Canada, 40% of all new start-up businesses are owned by women. Across the nation, Canada’s top 100 companies account for 1.5 million jobs. In comparison, companies owned or led by women account for more than 1.7 million jobs. Furthermore, the number of women-owned start-ups is growing at twice the rate of those by men. The list of comparative statistics goes on but the point is crystal clear. Women entrepreneurs are major players in the Canadian business market. Yet, despite their numbers and influence, women in business still play second fiddle to their male counterparts.

This point is driven home quite clearly when women seek capital for development and growth of their businesses. One reason for the restrictions on capital available to women is the tendency of women to own and operate smaller businesses that are slower to grow and are considered higher risks such as retail and service.

Be that as it may, Women Entrepreneurs of Canada have called upon the Prime Minister to realize the plight of women in business and to address the needs of this substantial segment of the population accordingly. They recommend that the federal government develop an economic assistance program aimed at women owned small and medium sized businesses. Furthermore, they propose that the government develop support programs for women to provide access to technology and management training. This support should also finance and promote international women’s trade missions.

Aside from government action, women entrepreneurs should form business alliances to share information and resources as well as establishing joint ventures to bid on large contracts. Women in the business world should share information as much as possible and use their contacts and knowledge to help others advance the cause of women entrepreneurs across Canada.

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February 9, 2010

Obama and Small Businesses

In his recent State of the Union address, U.S. President Obama presented a bold, economic initiative to help bolster his nation’s struggling economy. Obama proposed making $30 billion available to small community banks so that they, in turn, can make these funds available in the form of credit to small businesses.

From a patriotic standpoint, Obama is worthy of praise in his concern for small businesses, part of the backbone of America. From an economic standpoint, many feel he has missed the boat.

Many bankers and economists agree that the problem in the U.S. economy is not the lack of credit but the lack of demand by small business and consumers. Simply put, Americans are not interested in borrowing money at this point in time. Unsure of their country’s economic future, Americans prefer to save rather than spend. Herein lays the problem for small businesses. Their market has shrunk, due to fewer customers. As a result, they cut costs by hiring less and purchasing less from suppliers. At the end of the chain are the businesses that face closure. In order to keep afloat, these businesses attempt to obtain credit to pay their bills. But, these are the high risk customers that the banks don’t want. The banks want the solid customers who can repay their loans. After all, banks make money from repaid credit, not defaulted loans.

At this point, the only banks that would require funds from Obama’s $30 billion are those holding problematic loans, and they probably won’t qualify. Bank regulators are examining records with magnifying glasses. High risk banks will most probably fail, rather than receive federal relief.

Maybe Obama should re-direct his funds. Stimulus funds need to get into the economy right away. Rather than strengthen the banks that are in trouble, strengthen the small business sector. When consumer spending is stimulated, the wheels of the economy will be oiled and the system will move forward.

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January 25, 2010

The Right Staff

Filed under: business,employees,entrepreneurs,small business,staff — corpcentre @ 6:37 pm

Remember the movie, “The Right Stuff?” It depicted the U.S. efforts to find the perfect people for its manned space program. Well, staffing your business requires the same diligence and detail. In order for your business to succeed and grow, your staff should match your needs perfectly.

If you’re operating a business, chances are your business will reflect your own personality to a certain degree. After all, you work hard to build an entity and a part of you is in that business. You believe in it! You have the drive and vision to see where this venture should go. Doesn’t it make perfect sense that your staff should share the same values as you?

It is important to remember that most people spend the better part of their waking hours at work. Therefore, they expect that their place of employment will be more than merely a source of income. In fact, surveys have been conducted showing that salary levels are only part of most employees’ expectations.

Do you share your goals and dreams with your employees? Try letting them see the business as you do. Encourage them to be a part of the essence of the business. The more they believe, the better they will perform.

Also, how do you face your “team?” Do you have a sunny disposition? It’s not always easy, especially when problems are on the horizon. But, encouraging a positive attitude goes a long way. Smiles are contagious! In the workplace, a smile makes a person feel good. Feeling good translates into a positive attitude. Positive attitude means productivity.

The bottom line is when employees want to come to work because they enjoy being there, and realize that they truly are important to the success of the business, the result is a business that really has the right stuff.


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January 17, 2010

$170 Billion Charged to Visa and MasterCard

Once upon a time, there was the Chargex card. Some received it from their bank but most Canadians lived without it. Today, more than 40 years after Canada’s first charge card, there are more than 74 million credit cards in circulation, roughly 3.1 cards for every Canadian over age 18. The last available statistics indicate that Canadians charge more than $170 billion to Visa and MasterCard.

Studies show that the average person spends 112 percent more on a credit card as opposed to cash payments. In real terms, this means that Canadians are living well beyond their means. Many are juggling several credit cards and paying minimum monthly payments as low as 2 per cent of the balance, rather than paying the entire balance. In fact, more than 50 per cent of credit card holders opt for not paying the balance. Putting this into perspective, if your balance was $5,000 at 18 per cent interest, and you opt to pay only the minimum monthly, it would take almost 30 years to pay the balance, assuming you did not add to it.

Part of the problem is that credit cards are a basic necessity of today’s society. Some cards also provide benefits that can be quite worthwhile. The trick is to be in control.

There is no reason to carry a different credit card for each store and each bank. One all-purpose card should suffice for virtually every need. (It is wise, though, to have separate cards for personal and business expenses). Check the interest rates as they vary greatly from card to card. Avoid temptation! Use the card for what you need, not what you want! Using a credit card as opposed to not carrying cash makes sense. Using it instead of cash that you don’t have can lead to problems.

If credit card debt starts taking over your existence, don’t be afraid to seek help from a credit counselor before it’s too late.


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December 23, 2009

Web 2.0: The Evolution of Advertising

Filed under: advertising,small business,social networking,world economy — corpcentre @ 8:10 pm
Everyone is aware of the power of communication. And, perhaps one of the most influential modes of communication is none other than advertising. Similar to many other trends of the modern world, advertising has undergone considerable change in order to maintain its position of influence vis-à-vis modern society.
 
Advertising, by definition, is a sub-section of public relations (PR). PR has its origins in the early 20th century. Edward Bernays is generally credited with coining the term and concept of PR. He viewed it as an applied social science to manage and manipulate the thinking and behaviour of the public.
 
Early television advertising concentrated on promoting products by bombarding the consumer. Fill the screen and fill the mind. However, the evolution of modern communication has given way to new methods of influencing the public. It would seem that mega-budgets of advertising creating “in your face” ads may not always be the most effective.
 
The Internet dominates our lives like no other media before it. Instant communications are a way of life. In fact, much of our communication today takes place via the Internet. Therefore, logic would dictate (applying the wisdom of Mr. Bernays) that dominating the Internet is the best way to manipulate public thinking.
 
Advertisers today have learned that their products and services must appear prominently on Internet sites. In this way, we will come to accept, almost naturally, that a certain product or service is part of our daily lives. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter serve as powerful advertising venues. In order to achieve a position of influence, advertisers have to bring their merchandise to the people and make it part of their everyday psyche. Rather than just glamour and glitter, advertising must speak to us on our modern terms so that we, in turn, can continue the chain of communication. As Bernays wrote in his book Propaganda (1928), manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is “the true ruling power of our country.”
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December 21, 2009

Beam Me Up, Captain Quirk

Advertising is a world of its own. Without a doubt, it has tremendous influence on our daily lives. Certainly, the more effective ads remain in our minds for seemingly an eternity. How many of us can remember jingles or advertisement characters from decades ago? Today, though, there appears to be a metamorphosis in advertising and a change in direction entirely.
 
Do an Internet search for the term “quirky advertising” and discover an entirely new realm. Gone are memorable characters selling products or scenes that evoke a warm, fuzzy feeling. Advertising, today, is moving in the direction of strange and weird. The norm in advertising today is quirky. Rather than extol the virtues of a product, advertisers are attempting to create strange beings, scenes, and concepts that have virtually nothing to do with the product. Rather, they hope that the consumer will easily remember the quirky advertising and associate that with the product. Of course, many a television program today is equally quirky and weird. Shouldn’t the advertising complement that?
 
No, it shouldn’t! Advertising, primarily on television, has become merely additional entertainment, rather than a medium for promoting sales. Entertainment for the sake of itself is perfectly legitimate but the jury is still out on whether or not these quirky ads have managed to attract consumers. Will a weird ad encourage you to purchase a product or simply tune in for the next installment of the advertisement?
 
With all the competition to produce odd and different types of advertising, it seems that connecting with the consumer – the primary goal – has been ignored. Perhaps, after the dust has settled and some of the strange creatures that inhabit the advertisements have been retired, consumerism will again be the driving force behind advertising.

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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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December 15, 2009

Harmony in B.C.? The implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST)

July 1, 2010 is rapidly approaching in British Columbia. While it will be a national holiday as it is every year, it is also the date that the province will implement the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). The jury is still out on whether it will be good for the province or not.
 
The answer, at this point, depends solely on who is asked. There are clearly going to be winners and losers in this new tax. The decision to implement the new tax is final. The actual impact is still theoretical.
 
It seems that the majority of the B.C. business community is clearly in favour of the HST. With 130 jurisdictions around the world using an HST style tax, B.C. simply cannot ignore joining the fray, if it wishes to compete for business investment. The province must offer the same tax advantages to the business community, lest businesses move elsewhere to obtain the benefits. Similarly, with e-commerce on the rise, retailers and manufacturers are competing with provinces like Ontario, which voted to adopt the HST.
 
A major challenge lies with the hospitality industry and other business sectors that currently don’t have to charge PST, or services that don’t have to charge GST. Under the new HST, these businesses and services will have no way getting back the HST. In essence, here will be the new tax burden with no relief in sight. Also, the average consumer will pay more taxes. Consumers cannot claim any portion of the HST but will pay more for products and services that are currently tax exempt but will not be so under the new HST.
 
Economists claim that implementing the HST is the right move for B.C. Come July 2010, B.C. will see if the economists are correct.
 
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December 10, 2009

Truths About Bankruptcy

Filed under: Bank of Canada,bankruptcy,business loans,debt,small business — corpcentre @ 6:56 pm
For some individuals, there is no alternative. Financial debt can eventually lead to personal bankruptcy. Although the prospect of absolving one’s self of debt by this method is a frightening thought, the truth is that there are many misconceptions surrounding the bankruptcy process that serve to make a difficult situation even worse.
 
Many people believe the misconception that filing for bankruptcy requires hiring an expensive lawyer. Truth be told, Canadian law states that lawyers cannot serve as bankruptcy trustees. In fact, small bankruptcies are filed by a trustee and do not appear before a judge. Moreover, if you’re worried about protecting your privacy during this difficult time, fear not. Since 1997, personal bankruptcies are no longer advertised in the newspaper so your privacy in this delicate matter is assured.
 
Some have an image of the bankrupt individual sitting penniless in the street, hat in hand. That’s a fine cartoon image but not reality. Declaring bankruptcy requires committing to a modest lifestyle for at least nine months. Different provinces have different rules regarding the amount of money you may retain as well as which possessions are protected.
 
A common untruth is that all debts are erased upon declaring bankruptcy. In fact, some debts are not. Child support and alimony are not changed. In many cases, student loans are also not erased.
 
Fearful that you will remain bankrupt for life? Fear not. Once your obligations have been fulfilled, you can be discharged from your bankruptcy. In a majority of cases, this occurs after nine months (but it can be extended if there is reasonable opposition from interested parties). Also, believe it or not, many people can re-establish their credit within one to two years after declaring bankruptcy.
 
No two cases are the same. But, before making a decision about declaring bankruptcy, do not merely visit the local rumour mill. Do the appropriate research carefully.
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December 3, 2009

Focus On One Thing

It sounds like instructions that you might give to a photography student or a line that you might hear during an optometrist’s visit. But, it is also the credo of many business entrepreneurs. The secret of success of great companies is to do one thing very well. It is far too easy to go off on several tangents and try to “be number one” in a few ways. But, the business leaders who have made their way to the top will tell the same story. Concentrate your energies on one area and focus your attention in that one direction.
 
For example, sales are crucial to business. But, are great salespeople born or made? Some do have an inherent talent to sell. However, some companies have put their energies into strong sales training. This is a proven investment as salespeople no longer shoot from the hip. Rather, they become part of the sales force that drives the company forward. You focus on building the sales team, complete with team spirit.
 
Apropos team spirit, that may be the area requiring your attention. Employee retention is crucial in the business world. A constant turnover of staff will definitely have a negative impact. A key strategy employed by many experienced employers is to find ways to create an environment that makes employees desire to come to work. The answer is not always money. Making employees an active part of the company is valued highly. Employees’ opinions do count. Chances are very good that your staff has terrific ideas about improving the company and its sales. Provide incentives but allow employees to be part of that incentive process. The sense of belonging creates the driving spirit so that everyone is part of the big picture.
 
Think of business success like an arrow. It propels forward only when the point is out front.

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