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The Leading Edge February 2015
Small Business Success
Taking Care of Business  

In this Issue

Ripped from the headlines: Small Business Lessons from Target and Alberta

Even In a One-Person Business, You're Never Alone

For Your Next Hire, Consider an Immigrant Employee

Immigrants in Trades Training


THE LEADING EDGE - Need To Accept Credit Cards For Your Small Business?You have more reader options than ever in accepting credit cards. Online retailers Amazon and Etsy are the latest companies to offer a devices, which plug in to smartphones and tablets and let business owners accept credit cards anywhere. They join established players such as Square and Inuit GoPayment.

Small Business News:

Canada Dollar May Weaken to C$1.25 Amid Oil Slump - If your small businesses is trading into the US market, be aware that slumping energy prices will push the Canadian dollar to a level it last traded at in April 2009, according to a forecast by Nomura Securities International Inc. that's weaker than the most bearish forecast by peers. Read more...

Harper Announces More Money for Small Business - ST. CATHARINES, Ont. -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper is playing down the significance of the Bank of Canada's surprise interest rate cut, saying his government is sticking with its plan to introduce tax cuts and balance the books. Read more...

Small Businesses to Feel Impact of Target's Departure From Canada - With Target announcing its departure from Canada, small businesses will be feeling a variety of effects, both positive and negative, in the immediate and long term. Read more...

    Ripped from the Headlines: Small Business Lessons from Target and Alberta

Two major media stories lately; Retail giant Target to close all 133 stores in Canada, and predictions that Alberta may dip into recession in 2015. What can a small business owner learn from the woes of these giants? The answer is plenty.

Take Alberta which has for many years been dependent on oil and gas revenues to the point that it represents the largest single contributor to the provincial economy. It seemed as if the party would never stop - and yet a sudden drop in oil prices has plunged the province into a massive reconsideration of its revenue and tax base.

In a similar way a small business may find itself wholly dependent on a single source of income. "Great news guys, our biggest client wants to buy all our production output and we can stop wasting time with all those little accounts that take so much time." Great news indeed until one day the (by-now) exclusive client goes under, or decides to take their business elsewhere.

Just as Alberta could have undertaken a much more aggressive policy of diversification of its income stream over the past several decades, entrepreneurs must ensure that they do not leave themselves at the behest of a single revenue source or customer.

In the case of Target, somewhere out there is a Canadian advertising agency that now will find themselves without their biggest client. They may be sitting in the boardroom stunned by the shift in Target's strategy. Hopefully they have a balanced income stream, but having spent some time as the VP of Canada's largest advertising and marketing agency, I doubt it. I once had to oversee the layoff of more than 50 per cent of the company's highly talented staff when our major client went down on the elevator with only thirty days notice.

It's very tempting to succumb to the lure of a big single client and there are strategies that can accommodate both big and small customers. One way is to cater to the needs of the big guy with a lot of personal service (which they always demand anyway) giving them 24/7 access to you as the business owner and having other employees, if you have them, looking after a broad range of customers. If you don't have employees you might consider contractors who will provide services through you, so long as you always have control of the output and service delivery.

If you feel that you can only focus the business on a major client, make sure that you're always scanning the horizon for a fall-back customer base by working your network, staying up to date on changes in your industry, and staying plugged-in to local news that might forecast a new client moving to town or changing suppliers. Again, consider the option of farming-out work that would allow you to take on a new client, even while you're up to your ears with your primary customer.

In a way it's refreshing when you think that you've missed something that's later obvious, to take comfort in the knowledge that even mega corporations with all their researchers and management gurus can make mega mistakes.

Even In a One-Person Business, You're Never Alone Top


The next time you're watching a TV movie, instead of hitting the off button as it fades to black, take a few minutes as the credits roll by to reflect on how many people it takes to make such a production. There may be only two or three well known actors, but behind them stands a hundred or more professionals in everything from lighting and sound through to costumes, transport and catering.

By the same token you might think of yourself as a one man or one woman business but your really couldn't do it without the many services that support you, from your home office heating and lighting through to printers, couriers, accountants, and communications and cellular providers.

These are all obvious, almost automatic, services that exist but over and above these essential elements there is a further level of support that you can build. This one requires you to take the initiative - and create an advisory group or board.

How to put together an advisory board

An advisory board sounds very official but, in reality it's simply several experienced business people who agree to come together occasionally (maybe four times a year) to mentor you by sharing their experience. Sometimes it's easier to put together a board than to just get a single mentor, since three or four of them often enjoy the camaraderie in sitting around a table and telling war stories.

As to why they might join your advisory group? Sometimes it's just because they admire you or your business idea. In other cases they may feel that down the road they might like to invest in your company and want to use the advisory board route to check you out. In finding and approaching likely mentors look to people who are recently retired - either as entrepreneurs, or former corporate executives.

The recently retired execs are a good target since they may be a little bored and would enjoy brainstorming with you. In some cases they may have specialty experience in your field. Make sure you point out to your would-be advisors that they will have no legal or financial obligations to you or your company, and offer to have a lawyer draw up a document that makes it clear.

Their mission is to listen to your progress and challenges on specific aspects of your business and to draw upon their own experience to suggest new opportunities for your company or to recommend strategies to get you out of a difficult situation. It might be a personnel issue or dealing with your landlord, or finding a better way to reach your market.

It might come as a shock, but you can't know everything, nor are you expected to! Older and wiser heads that have been around the block, with decades of experience, can help you.

For Your Next Hire, Consider an Immigrant Employee Top


Several government and industry surveys indicate that many small business owners in Canada are concerned about the current shortage of qualified labour and expect the situation to get worse. Many shortages are in occupations that usually require college or apprenticeship training; for example, carpenters, plumbers, mechanics, and electricians.

A report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) suggests that one way to tackle the problem is by getting involved in immigration hiring. Each year, Canada accepts over 260,000 immigrants as permanent residents. Almost two thirds are in professional occupations requiring at least a university degree. Skilled and technical occupations account for a further 22 per cent of immigrants.

This is in contrast to the common misconception about immigrants - that all immigrants are refugees. In fact refugees account for only about 2 per cent of the total.

Immigrants make great workers. They are highly motivated, eager to prove themselves, and looking to their employers to guide them in the ways of a new culture in a new country.

While most employers understandably want to conduct face-to-face interviews, employers can hire workers that are still abroad. Some companies utilize Skype as an interview medium for instance.

Qualified foreign workers already in Canada can include those who hold an open work permit, which allows them to work for any employer in Canada.

Under these programs, employers can normally hire a foreign worker for up to four years. Having said that, the employer is not committed to keep the worker for that period if for some reason it doesn't work out.

After the four years are up the relationship changes to that of any other employer-employee situation.

One advantage of hiring a qualified immigrant is that you know that if the candidate says they have X and Y qualifications, they aren't exaggerating since they have provided background information to Canada Immigration in their application for immigration.

How long does it take? Well it's not so fast as putting help wanted ads in the local paper, but if you involve your provincial or territorial immigration office, they have an express system that will shorten the process. (See the PNP plan).

At the national level, there are a number of federal avenues where you can get more information, or where the foreign worker can go to become permanent residents including:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Canadian Experience Class

Hire a Provincial Nominee

While Immigration is a federal issue, the provinces are involved. Under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), provinces and territories can nominate people who meet specific local labour market needs for permanent residence. Details about each PNP can be found on provincial and territorial government immigration websites.

In 80 per cent of cases, PNP nominations that are processed through what is known as the Express Entry system will be processed in 6 months or less. Find the name of the person in charge of the program and keep a bit of pressure on. Some companies using this strategy have completed the process in sixty days.

Provinces and territories have various streams in their PNPs, but they tend to fall into five areas:

  • skilled workers,
  • semi-skilled workers,
  • business/iwnvestors,
  • international student graduates, and
  • family or community connections.

Most PNPs include one or more employer-driven streams, which let employers nominate workers who meet provincial or territorial nomination requirements. These may include certain jobs, education, work experience, official language skills and age.

Applicants must show they can establish themselves economically in that province. Canada Immigration is responsible for ensuring that nominees meet admissibility requirements (i.e., medical, criminal and security checks).

Except for our First Nations peoples, we are a nation of immigrants, most of whom have enriched our country. By hiring a new Canadian you may find that you will have secured one or more trusted employees that can enrich your business.

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4757 Tebo Avenue, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8A9
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