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The Leading Edge February 2013
Small Business Success
Taking Care of Business  

    Contents
In this Issue

Top Five Month

Top 5 Immediate Success Strategies

Top 5 Ways to Increase Creativity

Top 5 Ways to be a Better Leader

Daft Things Entrepreneurs Say

THE LEADING EDGE - your monthly link to groundbreaking ideas for entrepreneurs

Top 10 business ideas & opportunities for 2013


Small Business News:

Red tape Awareness Week - Red tape affects everyone. It's the line you wait in for an hour, only to find out it was the wrong line. It's the form you fill out to confirm that you filled out another form. January 21-25, Canada's 4th annual Red Tape Awareness Week is an opportunity for all Canadians to push back against the paper pushers in government. Sign the Red Tape petition! Red Tape Awareness Week™ 2013 - Hon. Gail Shea wins Golden Scissors Award. Read More...


The Canadian Penny Disappears from Banks Soon - Check out this very useful list of FAQs from the Retail Council of Canada and find the answers to all those nagging questions about the phasing out of the penny. Read more...


Rising card fees have small businesses crying foul - Bookstore owner Adrian King-Edwards doesn't take credit cards. Nor debit cards. Only cash. It's cheaper that way - no fees to pay to MasterCard or Visa or the banks. Read more: Read more...


Business Barometer: Small business confidence drops in November - Immigration Canada to lure foreign entrepreneurs with prize of permanent residency Ottawa hopes to lure innovative entrepreneurs from abroad to Canada by offering them permanent residency. Read more...

 
    Top Five Month
 
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This month is Top Five month where we look at: how to improve your business today; raise your level of creativity; and make yourself a better leader. In business it's often the little things we do that make the most impact on our bottom-line; those tweaks we make to a marketing strategy, or to packaging, or even the way we approach prospects.

The problem we face is that it's tough running a business; we are continually fighting fires - there's always something keeping us 'busy' and this busyness can mean that most of the time we are working 'in' the business rather than 'on' the business. There's a lot to be said for leading from the front, being down in the trenches, but from that position it's tough to see the bigger picture.

Taking a 'time-out' from the day-to-day activities that suck your energy and dull your creativity, is a good way to discover what is going on in your business, and the world around you.

In The Leading Edge this month we offer fifteen small things you can do that will positively impact your business. The first five tips include things that you could do right now today!

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Top 5 Immediate Success Strategies Top

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  1. Talk to your employees, contractors, suppliers, customers and ask them how you can do things better. Too often we get tunnel vision when it comes to our businesses and we stop seeing what we are doing wrong, where the opportunities are, and how we can be more efficient. Remember, employees often hang onto their ideas until they're asked for input. Plan to talk to some of your employees, or others involved in your business and ask them to be honest with you about how you can improve your business. Oh, and make sure you actively listen to them without getting defensive!
  2. Take a step back and look at what you sell from a new perspective. How could you repackage, or liven up your products and services? Could you find a new use for them, or a new market? Call six of your best customers and ask them, "If you were me, would you make any changes to the products/services we sell?" and "If so, what would they be?" You will surprised at the creative ideas you receive. A long time ago I was a salesman for a book publisher and we had a series of softcover cartoon books that sold well, but we always felt they could do better. One day a customer asked why we didn't offer the books shrink-wrapped in packs of 24 so that they could be stored more easily. This simple piece of advice saw our sales rise by around 500 per cent! Whereas before, bookshop owners bought odd amounts in multiples of one to six, now they ordered in multiples of 24; a simple change to the way they were presented resulted in a massive increase in sales.
  3. Take that risk you've been avoiding. Growing a business is risky, but many times we do our research, crunch the numbers and do a pro's and con's analysis and then procastinate when it comes to making the decision to act. Businesses rarely stay the same, they either grow, or shrink. If you are avoiding risk, then your business is probably contracting.
  4. Carry out some planning. This can be anything - perhaps a S.W.O.T. analysis, or a new promotional campaign. Take a look at the way you and your sales team sell and consider a new sales strategy. Review and amend your marketing strategy. Working on your business, rather than in your business, is vital to growth.
  5. Find a mentor - nothing helps a business more than getting advice, or a second opinion. It doesn't matter how good you are, you only have one opinion and seeing your situation through someone else's eyes can provide a whole new perspective - not only regarding business challenges, but more importantly opportunities.
 
   
Top 5 Ways to Increase Creativity Top
 

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  1. Celebrate your mistakes. Too often when something goes wrong in our business we allow it to bring us down, and that blunts our creativity like nothing else. We feel less like taking risks after a failure and tend to want to hunker down and protect ourselves from the world. The thing is, there is always so much to learn from a mistake and hidden within what happened are the lessons we learned, or can still learn. A mistake can strengthen a business, if viewed from the right perspective. So next time something goes wrong bring in a few people and pull what happened apart and look for what you've learned, and more importantly identify where the opportunities lie because they are there somewhere, I promise.
  2. Learn some new techniques that might help your creativity. Try mind-mapping, which is a visual planning tool that allows you to think laterally about issues, challenges, project management and a bunch of other stuff. Learn how to effectively carry out a brainstorming session with your staff. Everyone thinks that brainstorming is simple, but carried out poorly it can do far more damage than good. Storyboarding is another technique that is well worth investigating. Just learning more about creative thinking will increase your creativity ten-fold and that can only be good for your company.
  3. Looking at what other people are doing stirs up my creative juices. One great place is www.springwise.com - this awesome site features the most creative new business ideas from around the world, and they will send you a list every week for free! For instance, using the music industry as an example, in the last year there have been lots of creative marketing ideas. Springwise talks of a record made of ice, an album that changes over time, and an album that comes with a working, DIY cardboard turntable. Hot off the presses (no pun intended) is a new release from alternative band A Fine Frenzy which consists of a multimedia package including an album, book and film. Any of these creative concepts could help spark an idea for how to market what you sell, by just adapting the concept to your product.
  4. Think about what makes you more creative. Is it when you are out walking the dog, or watching waves crashing against the shore? Perhaps the creative juices flow when you meditate, or when you are playing an energetic fast-paced game of squash and the adrenaline is flowing. Maybe you need other people to bounce ideas off, so a brainstorming session is what gets you going. Whatever stimulates your brain, plan to put yourself in that situation soon with a clear idea of what you want creative answers to.
  5. One thing that many people find helps them solve problems and come up with creative solutions and ideas, is to put themselves in a position where they have no control over what is happening; where they have no responsibilities. I know someone who takes long bus rides when he needs to think creatively - he says that sitting there watching the world go by allows him to let go of all his other concerns and focus on solutions, or new ideas. Personally I find my morning shower provides me with an environment conducive to generating ideas. A massage might do the trick for some and for others it's when their mind switches off almost completely and they sleep that creative ideas occur. Of course with the latter you have to make sure that you have a pen and notepad on your nightstand!
 
   
Top 5 Ways to be a Better Leader Top

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  1. Take time out of your day to be a leader. If you are stuck in your office all day tied up in meetings, or on the phone, your ability to lead is limited. Dedicate some time every day to actively assume the role of leader of your team - of your company. Talk to your managers and staff and ask them how things are going; get their opinions, ask them what challenges they are facing and share your vision and enthusiasm. Be seen to be part of the team. Experience your frontline - lead from the front. Be a good example - good leaders don't lead from behind.
  2. Share information. Too often, leaders keep valuable information to themselves; this is a form of control that can be dangerous to the well-being of a company. Of course, there are times when confidential information needs to be withheld, but in most cases being open with your management team will result in the development of trusting relationships.
  3. Celebrate your star employees and never try to hold people back out of fear they will outshine you. Let people be better than you - encourage it, reward it and be comfortable with it - after all it is your leadership and the environment you create that allows talent to thrive. Check your ego at the door.
  4. Ensure you have a clear vision and focus on it - but more importantly help your team see the vision as well - help them see the goal you are attempting to reach. True leaders enable their employees to see the vision as clearly as they do, and to 'feel' what it will be like to experience the success of reaching the company's goals.
  5. Make decisions - don't prevaricate. Good leaders make decisions, even if they are not always one hundred per cent right. As mentioned earlier, we all make mistakes but leaders learn from them and move on; better prepared for the next challenge. Failing to make a decision does not absolve you from responsibility; your lack of action will still have consequences, but ones that you have no control over. You cannot be a leader if you are not prepared to make decisions, call the shots and take ultimate responsibility. Leaders lead, they don't sit back waiting for something to happen.
 
   
Daft Things Entrepreneurs Say Top
 

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