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

In this Issue

Canada Business Network

Who's Got Ya Covered?

10 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Being Successful

Are You A Sprinter or a Marathon Runner?

HR Howler

Small Business News:

Canada's Small Businesses Set to Grow: BMO. Small businesses in Canada - the backbone of communities across the country - are positioned to prosper more than ever, according to BMO Economics. Read more...

26,000 small business owners call for public sector pension fairness. In one of the fastest growing campaigns ever launched by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), over 26,000 small - and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have signed petitions calling for fairness in Canada's public sector pension system. Today, CFIB is delivering these "action alerts" to MPs in Ottawa. Read more...

Helping Small Business Think Big. Ideas Inc. is Saskatchewan's only full-service business incubator. The facility opened in the Market Square building at River Landing in 2008. Executive director Phyllis Lodoen explains what a business incubator is and how its benefits range from entrepreneurs to the province's economy. Read more...

An Unexpected Break for More than Just Small Businesses. The 2011 federal budget, re-introduced with fanfare last June after the Harper government won its majority May 2, included a small econmic stimulus program intended to help small businesspeople. Read more...

The 22 Most Creative Business Cards We've Ever Seen. Strictly speaking not a 'news' item, but too good to miss. If you are looking for some creative business cards that will really make people remember you, take a look at the 23 examples by following this link. Everything from a card that looks like a stick of gum, to cards with tear off strips, which reveal your email and web addresses. Read more...

    Canada Business Network

The Canada Business Network is a one-stop shop for accessing information on a wide range of business information, from how to start a business, growth and innovation, grants and finances, taxes, regulations, licences and permits, export, import and foreign investment, hiring and firing staff, business planning, management and operations, market research and statistics, marketing and sales, selling to governments, copyright and intellectual property, environment and business, right through to exiting your business.

Canada Business Network's goal is to provide businesses with the resources they need to be successful. This includes, or course, a whole whack of information on government programs.

Its stated goals are:

  • to reduce the complexity of dealing with multiple levels of government
  • to consolidate business information in one convenient service
  • enable business owners and managers to make well-informed business decisions in a global economy
  • and help you succeed through sound business planning, market research and the use of strategic business information.

Helping to achieve these goals are a range of federal, provincial and territorial service centres throughout Canada. Federally, Canada Business Network works with:

In turn the agencies above work with provincial, municipal or non-profit organizations who provide business services to the business community. Locating together in one office provides a one-stop shop for business information. Although this involves at times a complex network of organizations, a good place to start is with the website and locate your local office by clicking on your province and then going to a provincial partner.

For instance, in B.C. you will be directed to Small Business B.C. and from its website you can access a vast range of business resources either directly, or through SBBC's more than 75 Regional Economic Vitality (REV) partners.

Another example is business infosource in Saskatchewan ( which offers a range of business resources both directly, and through its 14 regional access partners across the province.

There is a great deal of information available through these multi-levels of government, and with a little patience you will find a great deal of support, from physical resources to advice, counselling and even mentorship. It should be noted however, that services vary significantly from one Canada Business office to another, so it is advisable to check how your local office can help you specifically.

Who's Got Ya Covered? Top

Image When you can't supply your usual service or product, who do you turn to so you never say no to a client/customer?

I've recently been undergoing a major renovation project on my home. Any reader that's gone through it themselves knows what a strain it can put on your mental well-being and maybe even your family relationships. Throughout the process I've met over a dozen competent, polite and helpful trades people. It seems there is a pattern; things go fairly smoothly until one of them gets sick, goes on vacation, or gets tied up on another job and announces that they won't be around for a few days, or a week, leaving you with no stove to cook on, or a plywood floor in the living room.

When such events occur, my first question to them is, "Who is your backup" - a question usually met with a blank look. Back to my renovations, I had a gas fitting company say to me the other day, "We can't just have a backup employee sitting around in case we need them." That sounded reasonable, but then I thought, surely they could have an arrangement with another gas fitter who they could call when their guy is sick - and make it a reciprocal arrangement. So, in the absence of them providing me with a backup, I found another supplier and the original company lost a $7,000 piece of business. Then I had a contractor who suddenly went on a two-week last minute vacation. When I asked, what was becoming my favourite question, about a backup, I was told, "I'm just a one-man shop, I don't have any employees." So, again why couldn't he have an arrangement for a another contractor to step into the breach? He might have had to make a few phone calls until he found someone available, but If he had thought about this backup strategy well in advance, his network would have probably come up with someone to help out. As in the first case, I managed to find another freelance contractor who received a $15,000 windfall, while the first guy was sunning himself somewhere far away. Of course, it doesn't end there, as I will need more work done soon - and who do you think is going to get the business?

The getting a back-up strategy sounds obvious doesn't it? But look in the mirror for a moment; who's your backup? If you had an accident, or a family illness, what arrangements have you made so that your commitments to your clients can still be met. And hey! You deserve a vacation too, right? Without a back-up what will the 'real' cost of that holiday be?

If you're working your network (search your previous issues of this newsletter for several articles on networking) you know already who has standards as high as your own, and who can be trusted to treat your customers well. If you have a back-up strategy in place you will have arranged hourly or daily rates with him or her, and you may even have negotiated a small commission, based upon getting them the work.

What do you think your customers want to hear?

"I'm sorry Mrs Jones, but I have to go away on a family matter for a week so I have to put your project on hold. I hope you don't mind not having any kitchen cabinets during that time."

Or, "I'm sorry Mrs Jones but I have to go away on a family matter for a week, but I've arranged for a colleague to carry on with the project in my absence and I'll come by on Tuesday to introduce her. The hourly rate will be the same and I'll stand by the work done."

This whole field of basic business management might be one of the most overlooked elements separating winners from losers - and the nature of your business may not matter. In this article we've focussed on the trades, but the premise holds true if you're a therapist, a house cleaner, an interior decorator, or any one of a hundred other services.

So take some time to examine your level of customer service. Think of a number of scenarios whereby you could find yourself on the losing end of a valuable piece of work, and start developing relationships with potential backups. And, I wouldn't worry about subsequently losing work to the backup you brought in. Odds are that you will stand out as exceptionally considerate to your clients. What's more, the simple act of not leaving them stranded will not only ensure that they will always turn to you in future, but I'll bet they will be telling their friends about what a great guy/gal you are, leading to all kinds of referrals based upon testimonials. I know in my case which of my renovation 'partners' I'll be recommending.

10 Ways to Increase Your Chances of Being Successful Top

Image Know Your Goals - We've all heard this before, but as time goes on we forget our goals, or they get pushed to the back of our mind. If we don't know where we're going, how will we know when we've arrived? A goal is just a target, and targets are things we strive for, they keep us focused and intent on moving toward them. Review your goals and check how close you are to reaching them. If you haven't set yourself goals then you're at sea with no compass and no paddles.

Be Positive - Everyday things happen that set us back a little, and they often seem to take on more importance in our lives than the good things that occur. Remind yourself every morning to approach the day with a positive attitude, based on the fact that it is a new day and anything is possible. It is important not to bring forward any negativity from yesterday.

Keep Learning - Try to learn at least one new thing everyday. It can be absolutely anything; take a look a what your competition is up to; randomly look at how companies in other industries are marketing themselves and see if you could adapt the ideas to your business; read a blog written by someone in your market; ask one of your employees what you could do to make them more efficient in their job. It really doesn't matter what you learn, but learn something, and here's a thought - write it down and keep a record of all this new information in an ideas journal. Then, next time you want to stimulate your creativity, refer back to all those great things you learned.

New Networking - I trust that you are already getting out and about and mixing with others in your local business community. But these days networking is more than just attending mixers. Networking online can be extremely powerful, and you don't even have to leave your desk. Read blogs, contribute to them, and write your own. Join LinkedIn groups and take part in discussions, or create a Facebook page for your business and see what people say about your company. Putting your ideas out there will encourage discussions and stimulate interest in you, and your company.

Never Give Up - Business is rarely easy and never simple. For most of us there are more downs than there are ups. When we look at successful people such as Donald Trump, Walt Disney and Henry Ford we see highly success people, but all three have been through tough times and all three went bankrupt. Heck, even President Abraham Lincoln lost everything, as did at least two other presidents. Success is all about getting up, dusting yourself off and getting back on the proverbial horse when things go wrong. And, you may have to do it more than once!

Surround Yourself With Positive People - There are lots of naysayers out there, people who will always see the downside; the glass half empty clan who will gladly tell you all the reasons why, in these tough economic times, all you can do is hunker down and wait out the storm. Ignore them, interact with those that are successful in spite of, or even because of, the fact that everyone else is saying "woe is me".

Spend Money On Marketing - I am always amazed at business owners and managers who seem to think that cutting back on their marketing budgets will actually help their companies during tough times. Success depends on getting business and when did cutting back on marketing actually increase business? Which leads me to my next point.

Get Out And Sell - The biggest single factor in having a successful business is having sufficient revenues to pay your bills AND grow your business. Where does this revenue come from in every single business on the planet? The answer is sales. So, what is the most important activity in a business? The answer is sales. So, how can you be more successful? The answer is - sell more. Focus on selling and your business will move forward - it's that simple.

Check Out What The Successful Guys Are Doing - No matter how bad the economy is faring, there are always successful businesses. Check them out and see if you can discover their secret to success. Success is out there in abundance, and it's not hard to find.

Once You Have Momentum, Keep Going - Never rest on your laurels, once something is working keep at it, don't lose focus. You may have many irons in many fires, but once one of them starts to bear fruit (that was the king of all mixed metaphors!) give it all the attention it needs to get it to the next level.

Someone once said, "You have removed most of the roadblocks to success when you have learned the difference between movement and direction." That brings us right back to the first point - make sure you know your goals.

Are You A Sprinter or a Marathon Runner? Top

Image Going into business, most entrepreneurs fall into one of these two categories. Sprinters usually build their business model around a single product; sometimes, but less commonly, around a particular service. An oft-quoted example of a sprinter is someone who comes up with a software idea, such as an app, who believes that it will 'go viral' right after its launch, or may be snapped up by a major software company for five or six figures.

Sprinters have a very high mortality rate, since like all gamblers everything depends on a single throw of the dice. If it comes up snake-eyes it may mean that a year or two of investment has just gone down the drain. Of course, maybe second time round they will do some market research that was overlooked in the first instance and get it right.

Sprinters are the glory boys. Editors love to write about them, since just like movie stars or lottery winners, their readers can dream that this could be them. If you're tempted to try sprinting, bear in mind that the successful woman you're reading about may be only one of a thousand who made it big, and the road she took is strewn with entrepreneurs still struggling to make it, or who just gave up.

Staying with the metaphor of a runner, remember this; a sprinter can't suddenly decide after the first few hundred yards that he will change and become a marathon runner. He's already used up his energy and will have to rest and regroup before talking on the longer race.

Now we have the marathoner who is less known, therefore less celebrated, who stays the course with a plan, but who is every bit as important to commerce. When they become famous, and many do, it's a good example of, "They became an overnight success, it just took ten years."

While it's highly unlikely that a sprinter can turn into a marathon runner, the reverse is much more common and more easily accomplished. The entrepreneur with long range goals, following a solid business plan, can and will find opportunities from time to time whereby they can shift into high gear to seize a short term opportunity and make a bunch of money, which can be plowed back into the broader business model. If you are saying, "That sounds like me," just make sure that the gamble is not too extreme and that the pursuit of the short term gain won't harm your broader business strategy. One of the biggest lottery corporations in Canada has a motto that's particularly apposite, "Know your limit and play within it."

If you watch either of the two reality shows; Dragon's Den, or Shark Tank, you'll easily recognize the sprinters. These are the people who are looking to make big bucks very quickly because they know that's what the billionaire investors in front of them are looking for. As a well-grounded entrepreneur however, you'll scratch your head at the entrepreneurs who think they can make a million in franchising long before they have proved the business model. Then there's those that have dramatically over-valued their fledgling company into the millions, based on a few sales to family and friends. OK, I know it's a reality show and meant to entertain, but c'mon! Essentially, it gives an unfair view of those many sprinters who are much more realistic about their chances, and their current evaluations.

Whether you're a sprinter or a marathoner, it always pays to build a foundation on two essentials; market research and a well thought out business plan. Experience shows that these two elements alone will dramatically - yes dramatically, reduce your chances of failure.

So here's to both the sprinters and the marathoners - you're both believers and true entrepreneurs and our society wouldn't be as prosperous as it is without both of you.

HR Howler Top



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Published in cooperation with Small Business Success