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Small Business Success February 2012
Small Business Success
Fresh ideas for your Small Business  

    Contents
In this Issue

The Economic Downturn; a Cyclical Event or a Permanent Shift?

Marketing Your Green Credentials

Become a Home-Based Business Professional

The Perfect Committee

Small Business News:

$10 million fines for unsolicited emails or texts? - Did you know that Canada is going to be implementing new anti-spam laws sometime this year? Do you know how it might affect your business? If not, you should read these two articles and then carry out further research as the implications for your business could be significant (fines could be as high as $10 million). Unsolicited e-mails or other digital messages (such as mobile phone calls and text messages) are covered under this new law. For a readiness checklist and more:
Google Results
How to deal with Canada's new anti-spam law
Spammers face $10 million fine under Canada's new law
No exceptions for new anti-spam bill


Is the desktop computer going the way of Betamax? According to Tim Brunt, IDC Canada, the price gap between a laptop and a desktop is just $50. The Globe and Mail asks, “Is it time to proclaim the death of the desktop computer?”


If you have trucks, read this. For those readers who have a trucking business, or a fleet of trucks, the following information out of Ottawa about cutting red tape and freeing businesses to grow, makes interesting reading. View the overview published by the Daily News.


 
    In This Month's Issue
 
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In this month's issue we take a look at the economy and try to find a balance between what optimists and pessimists are saying will likely occur over the next year or so. Guest author Ken Stratford, an economist and futurist, asks whether the current economic downturn is a cyclical event or a permanent shift?

In spite of a general feeling that things are indeed tough, there are some entrepreneurial areas that are receiving attention and even monetary support. In late January RBC announced it was committing $20 million to a new social and environmental initiative aimed at facilitating solutions to social and environmental problems. The press release went on to say that, "Impact finance describes a range of financial vehicles and services that use private capital to finance solutions to social and environmental challenges while generating financial return, and is expected to help drive the next wave of innovation and productivity growth in the global economy."

What is interesting to small business owners and entrepreneurs is that RBC is setting up a new $10 million capital fund to help finance projects by organizations and entrepreneurs tackling social and environmental challenges.

As Gordon M. Nixon, president and CEO, RBC say, "We are confident that our initial investment of $10 million in the RBC Impact Fund will not only spark entrepreneurship and innovation in Canada, but also catalyze similar investments from others in the business community. We are also proud to put our money where our values are by investing an additional $10 million of our own funds through the RBC Foundation in socially and environmentally screened funds."

For more details check out: www.rbc.com/newsroom/2012/0124-social-finance.html

 
   
The Economic Downturn; a Cyclical Event or a Permanent Shift? Top

Image That's the Trillion dollar question these days. If it's a cyclical event then it's a very impressive one with the US and Europe facing the longest downturn in either of their histories since the Great Depression. In fact some pundits continue to call this the Great Recession; no doubt to evoke a parallel with the 1930's. Fortunately Canada is in far better shape than all of the other leading nations. But, there is still an air of uncertainty even here.

Some think that something much more significant than an economic cycle is underway, something closer to a massive and irreversible earthquake-like shift in the way that economies operate. The most pessimistic in this camp believe that we will see long term and disastrous consequences for all aspects of society which will show up as social unrest (riots), governments falling (without elections) and massive and permanent, unemployment.

A female colleague of mine, one whom I respect enormously for her analytical skills, adamantly believes in the latter scenario - and in fact is convinced that we will not see a return to the stable economic conditions of the first decade of the 21st century "for a decade." With the greatest of respect, I think that she is wrong. Man, after all, is essentially a self-correcting animal; were that not the case humankind would have expired long ago. In the case of contemporary economics, we know how we got here and we have a road map that we can retrace to get us back on track. Will getting there create enormous upheaval? Most certainly it will.

I have long been a believer in the wave-chaos theory which is based upon the observation that the leading-edge of the wave is always chaotic and fragmented, but from that messy pattern emerges the creation of a new and smoother wave. And that's the way most change occurs, whether it's social, political or economic. Obviously this particular wave is bigger and messier than anything that anyone today has ever witnessed but it's still just another wave.

If that's classified as optimism, then call me an optimist - but I have some solid reasons for taking that position. First among those, is the next wave of demographics. For the past thirty years or so every major industrialized nation has seen a significant decline in fertility rates with women of child-bearing age deciding to have much smaller families than their mothers. While most economists agree on a number of 2.1 births per woman as a replacement rate, actual birth rates have declined to an average of 1.7 in Western Europe and as low as 1.5 in Canada. The United States is still hovering around the 2.0 mark but that figure is driven overwhelmingly by first generation Latino-Americans, rather than spread throughout the general population. So in the coming years even with minimum economic growth, there will be far more jobs chasing a (relatively) smaller workforce leading to wage increases, which will in turn lead to greater consumer expenditures.

If we were to put two economists in the same room with access to the same data; one an optimist and one a pessimist, they could each find extensive evidence to support their positions. The question is, what should the entrepreneur make of this confusion? Should she pull back on staffing, or advertising, thinking that revenues will drop in the near future, or conversely should she gear up for an expected upturn whereby her customers will start spending more aggressively, as they feel confident that their incomes are secure.

Each of these strategies leads to quite different actions, and expenditures, and small business owners must make their own decisions. The key to making those right decisions must be based upon knowledge - not rumours. This is the time for careful review; for reading a balance of media drawing from a variety of sources; the pessimistic observers and the optimistic ones. Read your trade journals since they can draw information from a variety of specialists in your field.

Most importantly this is the time to ask those who can give you better quality data than any general source and that is your customer. He or she can and will, tell you everything you need to know, providing you ask the right questions. I'm always surprised at the number of business owners who think that the only time to do market research is at the start of their business development, when in fact market research should be an ongoing activity that needs to be accelerated when one faces a potential business risk, or opportunity. If you don't possess and maintain a database or CRM of your clients, you're ignoring a wonderful business tool. If you have an up-to-date database, think of what you can learn from mining the information. How do they view the impact of current economics? What are their spending intentions in the coming year? Most importantly, what do they think of your business? Research shows that just by asking that last question, your customers will think better of you than they might of your competition.

So read and learn; turn to your existing and past customers as your own personal gurus; draw knowledge from your industry leaders and most of all stay generally positive while your competitors are moaning that the sky is falling.

Wherever there is chaos there is opportunity

By Ken Stratford (Economist and Futurist)

 
   
Marketing Your Green Credentials Top
 

Image I'm sure I'm not the first person to talk about eco marketing, but I should imagine there are as many definitions of the term as there are people talking about it. So, do I have a definition of eco-marketing? Sort of... to me eco marketing is understanding the new zeitgeist we find ourselves in - one where sustainability is taking an increasingly important role in consumer decision-making - and through this understanding, tailoring our company and its products and services to make them more attractive to today's green-aware buyer.

So, how do you adopt the new green marketing reality? Here are a few ideas that might help stimulate your creative juices!

Repositioning what you sell - you may not be inherently green, but there may be a way to reposition what you sell to highlight its green credentials. Take BMW's Mini, a fun, sporty and chic car, but today the fact that it is also economical has become an integral part of the marketing message. How can you make what you sell take on a tinge of green?

Giving green status - Green Status is all about promoting your unique ‘greenness' and then allowing your customers to revel in it. For example; a report showed that the number one reason people purchased a Toyota Prius was because of what it said about them. How can your product or service confer green status on your customers?

Status stories - with green status comes the ability to tell stories and spread the word. People like to tell stories, so give them a chance to tell the story of the products that you sell. Many of us have been buying fair trade coffee for some time and feeling good about it, but these days you can scan your pack of coffee beans with your smart phone and hear all about the farmer who grew the beans. Marketing your product or service by creating a story around it and highlighting its green credentials will keep you ahead of your competitors.

Promote your use of sustainable raw materials, or green packaging - Consumers are starting to look deeper into the products they purchase and want to see products and services where eco-friendly is more than skin deep. Restaurants are buying local produce, grocery stores are using reusable, or compostable bags - what are you doing to promote sustainability? How can you let your customers know about it?

Be generous with the green stuff - at Seattle airport owners of electric vehicles can recharge their cars free of charge. As these forms of transportation become more common this may be a wonderful marketing initiative for companies that have large car parks. IKEA in Copenhagen offers bicycles with trailers for customers to enable locals to get their flatpacks home. Think about what your company could offer to help your customers in their green efforts.

Support, or align yourself with green causes - not all of us are in a position to make our product or service more eco-friendly but we can all corporately support green causes. Sponsor a local eco-organization and improve your eco-marketing credentials!

I'll leave you with the ultimate new green idea, which I discovered while researching for this article, is a new font. How on earth, I hear you say, can a font be eco-friendly? Well Ecofont was developed by Dutch communications company SPRANQ and was designed to save you money on those annoyingly expensive inkjet cartridges that always run out when you are on a deadline, and in the middle of an important print job. The Ecofont is like Swiss cheese (sorry to switch countries on you) - it has holes in it. Like all ground-breaking ideas Ecofont is based on a simple premise; how much of a letter can be removed before it becomes difficult to read? Well as it turns out, about 20% - that's how much less ink you will save when adopting Ecofont (www.spranq.eu).

 
   
Become a Home-Based Business Professional Top

Image People work from home for all sorts of reasons; some run home-based businesses because they can't afford, or don't want to spend money, on expensive office space. Others work from home because they prefer the lifestyle, still others are looking after young children, so have no choice if they want to keep their business, or career, moving forward.

Whatever your reason for working from home, and whether you do so full, or part time, here are a few of the things I've learned over the years that make me more efficient - and hey, I'm still learning.

Treat your home office like a "real" workplace - don't wander down to your office in your PJs, plonk yourself in front of the computer yawning and start trying to focus. Instead, grab a shower, have some breakfast and dress at least semi-smartly. You will fell better about yourself and perform to a higher standard - I promise!

Separate your business space from the rest of the house - and have a door that closes. Your business and personal lives may happen under one roof but the line between them shouldn't get blurred. When my children were young they always knocked on my office door before entering - in fact my wife still does!

Set hours - set breaks - it's too easy when working from home to get up from your desk, wander into other parts of the house and start picking up toys, or magazines and plumping cushions. You need to discipline yourself, and the best way to do that is to be at your computer by a set time every morning and have coffee breaks and lunch at set times. Of course, you may have to go to a meeting, or you may need a stretch in between, but having a routine will help keep you on track.

Switch off at the end of the day - while many people find it challenging at first to focus on business at home, others become workaholics and don't know when to stop. There is always the temptation to wander back down to the office after dinner, or at the weekend. Of course, sometimes when there are deadlines to be met, this can be necessary, but it can be counter-productive if it becomes a habit.

Get out and about, and network - one of things that stimulates us when we work in an office, or in a team, is the interaction; it helps with our creativity, motivation and prevents us form feeling isolated. So, don't become too insular; go out and meet business associates for coffee or lunch regularly. Attend your local business association's networking sessions - Chambers of Commerce are a great place to start. Another idea is to get to know the other "home workers" in your neighbourhood and arrange a monthly coffee meet.

Purchase professional equipment - just because you're working from home doesn't mean that you should buy home-use, or low end, computers, printers and other equipment. Did you know for instance that printers designated for office use, use a great deal less ink? They are probably three to four times the price of those giveaway home printers, but you'll save in the long-term by buying fewer ink cartridges (for instance I just purchased an office quality printer that gives 2,200 sheets per black, and 1,800 per colour cartridge). The same goes for computers and screens; I have two large monitors on my desk to maximize my ability to work on several documents and in multiple programs, but I know home-based people struggling with slow, antiquated computers with insufficient memory which constantly crash. Be professional with your equipment and you'll be far more efficient.

Get connected - in this day and age of super-connectivity there are many ways to offset working from a remote office. Sykpe allows us to meet with people face-to-face electronically, and there are many video conferencing services such as gotomeeting.com, imeet.com, or joinme.com that allow you to share screens, make presentations, perform demonstrations and even collaborate on documents in real time.

Just a few years ago working from home was challenging, but today there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cost effective programs and online services, not to mention high-end equipment, that allow home-office heroes to be just as professional as those working out of flashy offices.

 
   
The Perfect Committee Top
 

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Community Futures Alberni-Clayoquot
4757 Tebo Avenue, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8A9
Phone: 250-724-1241 | Fax: 250-724-1028
info@cfac.ca | www.cfac.ca


Published in cooperation with Small Business Success