Corpcentre's Blog

April 18, 2010

How to Use Failure to Your Advantage

The word “failure” has negative connotations. It is hard to think of anything positive when discussing failures. Yet, many business leaders will tell you that failure is not the end of the world, nor is it only negative. While a business failure certainly implies setback, it also leaves the door open for improvement, change and opportunity.

American business leaders have embraced the opportunities presented by failures while Canadians lag behind in this respect. The inability or unwillingness to compete is a common denominator of many Canadian business disasters. One of the first lessons to be learned from a business failure is not to cut back but, rather, to dive into the marketplace and compete with all your might. Learn from failure and allow it to be the catalyst that is your driving force. In California’s Silicon Valley, business has embraced the concept of “failing well.” You made good decisions but circumstances were beyond your control. If you are good at what you do, you’ll eventually succeed. In Canada, the opposite is more common. If your business attempt failed, you’ll have a very tough time securing capital for another venture.

Failure in business can be one of your greatest teachers. Successful corporate leaders have learned from their mistakes and impart that wisdom to their employees as well. By sharing this wisdom with one’s staff, it carries the message that even the boss is not perfect. Moreover, it encourages staff to also learn from their mistakes. Every successful mega-company started small and did not achieve greatness overnight. When your staff appreciates the growing pains of a company, they can become part of the driving force to continue propelling the business forward.

This doesn’t mean that one should create a culture that focuses on failure. Just the opposite is true. A business environment should strive for success. Ultimately, that is the goal that we wish to achieve. However, every successful path has setbacks and failures. Learn to appreciate that none of us is perfect and we can learn something new everyday. The only way to avoid failure is to stop trying to achieve. Use every setback to your advantage and ultimately you will win.

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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 13, 2010

Ontario’s Salary Freeze

The 2010 Ontario budget has been presented and, in an era of provinces pulling themselves into recovery after battling the effects of the recent, economy-crushing recession, Ontario has delayed efforts to balance the budget. In fact, Ontario’s budget is not projected to be back in the black until 2017-18. Instead, the provincial government has presented a budget that contains a whopping $110 billion in deficit spending over the next eight years. To offset this spending, the province has imposed a salary funding freeze for more than one million public sector employees.

And, thus, the battle lines have been drawn. In Ontario, more than half the government’s spending is public sector compensation. The government is attempting to rally public opinion to support its decision, claiming that the public employees will certainly agree that a salary freeze will help pave the way for a brighter future. However, the unions see the decision as the opening volley in negotiation battles that will not be easy.

Ontario is not the only province juggling deficits. It does seem, though, to be the only province that is not tackling the issue head-on by slashing spending. One reason given is the fact that elections are on the horizon in 2011. Reducing spending would entail cutting the public labour force, which would be the responsible move, but would ultimately cost the Liberals votes at the polls.

Critics point out that an alternative savings would be a repeal of a corporate tax cut. But, it is easier to take the money from low-paid workers, many of whom are women.

There has been a good deal of criticism regarding irresponsible government spending. This past summer, the Liberal government came under fire for wasting more than $1 billion on the eHealth system. Designed to develop electronic health records, the only major winners of eHealth were the contracted consultants.

The steady increase of six-digit government salaries has also come under attack. The opposition parties point out that the Liberals really have done very little to keep government spending under control.

It would appear that the province’s ailing economy is truly in need of a vital recovery program before the illness gets worse.

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April 11, 2010

Ontario’s Hidden Green Tax

If you reside in Ontario, you already know that Canada Day 2010 will also hail the inception of Ontario’s new 13% Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). What you may not know is that you are most likely to begin paying another new tax as early as May.

While yet not formally announced, the Liberal government will be imposing a new levy on hydro bills throughout the province to help cover $53 million of the government’s conservation and green energy program. Opponents of this measure call the levy a hidden tax that is unnecessary. While the Liberals claim that the average hydro bill will only increase by $4 annually, this claim fails to acknowledge that the HST will already increase hydro bills by an additional 8%.

Defending their decision, Liberals maintain that the only alternative is to continue operating the province’s energy system by burning coal, thus contributing to an unhealthy environment. The money from the levy would pay for home audits and institute a program to help industrial and commercial firms convert to solar power. The focus of the program will be conservation, rather than merely converting to new infrastructures, which could prove to be extremely costly to taxpayers.

Critics of the government’s green plan question whether all the affordable conservation options have been investigated, rather than turning immediately to the consumers’ pockets. The most effective program would be one that will help the maximum number of hydro users conserve. Furthermore, producers of “green power” appear to be the prime beneficiaries of this new program, as opposed to actually transforming Ontario into a “green” province.

Whether the environment will win or lose in the long term is still most uncertain. What is certain, though, is that Ontario residents will begin paying more for hydro in the near future. Hopefully, they will be investing in their environment, not just in their government.

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April 9, 2010

April 7, 2010

Tips for Business Financing

The bottom line is that most businesses need some type of financing, if you don’t have enough personal capital. There are numerous options available in today’s market. Before borrowing from any source, conduct thorough research to learn how much the loan will actually cost and if that is the best option for you.

Before you approach any type of lender, you will need to prepare or update your business plan. Every lender needs to be convinced that you have the ability to repay the loan. A well written, detailed professional business plan will demonstrate to the lender that your business will indeed generate profits to enable repayment.

In some cases, a lender may require more collateral than the business can offer. The business may seem to have potential but the actual projected profits are slightly questionable. You may be asked to put up personal assets (car, home, personal investments) as additional collateral for your business loan.

Keep in mind that lending money is based on assessing risk and return. You may seem like a terrific person but that will only get you through the pleasantries of meeting with the lender. Getting down to the issues, the lender is in the business of lending money and making a profit from that loan. Therefore, you will have to demonstrate that your business does not present a risk and, moreover, that the loan will be guaranteed and will yield the return that the lender is interested in earning. Anything less than meeting the lender’s expectations may result in not securing the loan or investment.

As a business loan or investment can be quite complex, and there are various tax issues to be concerned with, both personal and business; so it is most advisable to discuss all your options with your personal tax advisor. Although your business may need an immediate influx of cash, take the time to examine and consider the best options for your needs.

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April 4, 2010

What Government Funding Can I Get for my Business?

If you are like most Canadians in business, you’ve probably wondered if you can ever get something back from the government, after you’ve paid all those taxes over the years. It seems only fair.

The best situation is discovering that you are eligible for a government grant or contribution. Grants do not need to be repaid and contributions are only repaid in certain cases. The problem is that these are few and far between. Generally, grants are available for specific programs and have very specific criteria. For the most part, grants usually are provided for specific industry sectors or for certain demographic groups.

On the other hand, there may be other government options that are applicable to your business. For example, you may be eligible for a government loan guarantee. This would enable you to get a loan that you might otherwise not receive approval for. With the government behind you, the bank will be far more willing to talk with you.

If you hire employees that have certain characteristics, you may be entitled to wage subsidies to help offset their salaries. Check with your tax advisor who is currently on the subsidy list and whether your business can benefit from these employees.

If your business makes certain investments, you may be entitled to a tax credit or refund. Check the current information with the relevant tax authorities.

If your business does not qualify for a commercial loan, you may be entitled to a loan from various government departments. Also, these government offices sometimes offer loans to businesses at lower rates than commercial lending institutions. A little research may save you some money.

In general, before assuming that your neighbourhood bank is the only lending option that you have, check what’s available from the government. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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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 29, 2010

What Should Go in My Business Plan?

A good business plan is more than merely a document. It is a carefully designed outline of your business, a veritable blueprint that accurately describes your business and all its components. Business plans differ in length and detail, depending on the nature of the business. However, there are certain basic elements that a good business plan should contain.

Begin with the Executive Summary. Many consider this to be the most important section of the plan. It provides an overview of the key points of the business. It should contain highlights from all sections of the plan and should be written in an interesting, concise manner, not to exceed two pages. Often, the reader will only read this section. If it doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, they may not go further.

Follow this with a detailed description of the business opportunity. In simple language, describe what this business will do and why it should succeed. Why are you the right person for this business? What is your vision?

You have done your market research. Put the results into a detailed marketing plan. This section of the plan should demonstrate how you plan to enter the market. How do you plan to promote your business? What are your pricing and sales strategies? How large is your potential customer base and how do you identify them?

Build an organizational chart. Describe the key members of your team and what will be their roles. Include the qualifications of the leading managers, including you. This section should clearly convince the reader that this business will have the team to make it happen.

Follow the organizational chart with a description of the operational requirements. How will the business operate? What are the physical requirements? What types of technology will be employed in the daily operations?

Now comes the number crunching. The financial section should contain a detailed outline of your financial forecast for the first three to five years. The first year should be far more detailed. An investor should see that you truly understand the business. This section should contain cash flow statements, profit and loss forecasts, and sales projections.

Remember that the language of a business plan should be directed to an outsider. Make the plan realistic and believable. Invest your time in preparation as this document may be the key to launching your business.

More help on setting up a business plan

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