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

    Contents
In this Issue

Keep on the Leading Edge

Tackling the World of Government Contracts - The Acronyms

What Do Banks Look For?

The Importance of Attitude When Hiring

The Customer is Always Right?


Small Business News:

Closing the Skills Gap: Mapping a Path for Small Business - A must read report from The Canadian Chamber of Commerce. The report presents the findings of a symposium the Chamber hosted in November 2012 on skills and small business. The symposium participants included owners and managers of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and stakeholders from government, academia and the learning and training communities. The report includes their recommendations for encouraging increased skills development in SMEs, makes policy recommendations for all stakeholders and highlights best practices in alleviating skills pressures. Read More...


Women Owned-Businesses: Canada needs more female entrepreneurs - Article from the online version of the Toronto Star. Of the 2.4 million businesses registered in Canada at the end of 2011, 1.1 million were small businesses, and they employed 48% of Canadians in the private sector. Industry Canada's most recent estimates put the proportion of women-owned small businesses at 17%, which would represent about 187,000 firms. Since 2001 the proportion of Canadian women employed in senior management positions has risen 5%, and the proportion employed in natural and applied sciences has risen 10%. Read more...


2013 the Year for Small Business in Canada: Investment in Services, Suppliers and Support Top Priorities - From CNW Canada Newswire the results of a UPS survey. MISSISSAUGA, ON, Feb. 4, 2013 /CNW/ - After a year of fiscal uncertainty and economic volatility, small business owners from coast-to-coast are looking to 2013 with a strong sense of optimism. According to a recent survey commissioned by UPS Canada and conducted by Leger Marketing, 60 per cent of business owners believe that they will see an increase in revenue in 2013 when compared to 2012. Additionally, nearly 60 per cent expect to see at least moderate growth in Canada's economy. This optimism has sparked a renewed sense of interest in business investment on behalf of Canadian small businesses. Read more...


Canadian innovation: A cautionary tale ... from Metro News - Canada's track record for supporting innovation is good - but it could be better, experts say.More available capital, resource support and a dash of bravado might be what it takes to push our creative envelope to the max. Small business consultant Mark Evans believes the investment community looks at the big ticket items at the expense of overlooking niche innovation. Be sure to follow the link at the bottom of this short article for more about the state of innovation in Canada. Read more...

 
    Keep on the Leading Edge
 
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You may have noticed that we changed the name of this newsletter, come eMagazine, at the beginning of the year to The Leading Edge; the reason we did this was to remind both ourselves and our readers of the importance of keeping up with what's going on in the business world. Not only is it important to watch the trends, and new concepts, within our own industries and marketplaces, but also in other industries and countries. Understanding trends in technology and social media for instance can pay dividends in our own business environment. Not only that, when we look at the innovative and creative concepts of others, it often sparks ideas on how we might adapt what they are doing to our own circumstances. This cross-fertilization can be valuable when applied to the challenges we have in our own companies.

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To get you started, take a look at the following new product from the United States. The Cynaps headset is not a headset at all but an ordinary looking ball cap that conducts sound through your bones directly to your inner ear. It may sound like science fiction, but it is currently available for sale for only $69 USD. There are no wires, no earbuds, and it leaves you totally hands free. Think about how useful this could be in your business - could it replace cumbersome headsets for your warehouse team, servers in your restaurant, or those on the shop floor? Could it provide an extension to your product or service that would increase its usability, effectiveness, or value? Personally I can think of a myriad of uses for this amazing, and low cost, piece of technology. Check it out at http://www.maxvirtual.com.

If bone conduction technology freaks you out, and who could blame you? what about a great new way to connect with your staff? 15Five is a new online application that encourages employees to spend 15 minutes a week filling out a weekly report on the successes they have had, the challenges they have faced, and any ideas they might have to improve productivity or their work environment. The reports are designed so that they take managers just five minutes to review (thus the product name 15Five). Managers can then engage in conversations with individual employees and easily condense the important points from all employees into highlights for their boss. Check it out at http://www.15five.com.

Spend 30-minutes looking at what other businesses are doing, or at the massive amount of wonderful new technology being launched every week and you cannot fail to come across things that will make your company more successful, or ideas that you can adopt, adapt and initiate.

 


Important Note: You will discover that many web addresses, or URLs, are no longer clickable within our newsletter. We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause, but in January we discovered that occasionally a link can increase the chances of our newsletter being redirected to your junk folder. Certain URLs, while not necessarily leading to dubious sites themselves, can cause this problem. In future, we will only make links clickable that lead to sites that are unlikely to be ‘marked' as problematical by spam filters, such as those operated by government departments and other institutions. Please feel free to safely cut and paste URLs from this newsletter into your browser to visit sites we recommend.

 
   
Tackling the World of Government Contracts - The Acronyms Top

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Have you ever thought about selling your products and services to government, but don't know where to start? Well, there is a new eBook coming out shortly that will answer all your questions and more. The book is called Winning Government Business and will be published in April 2013 by Blue Beetle Books - here is a short extract which outlines the definition of all those infuriating acronyms governments use for the various types of business opportunities they have.

The first thing to realize is that there are federal, provincial and municipal contracts and each is different. For example, do not treat writing a proposal in answer to a federal RFP in the same way that you handle one from a provincial government, or municipality. Furthermore, each province's RFPs differ in structure and layout so again treat each on its own merits.

Federal government departments and agencies usually leave purchasing of anything over $25,000 to Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). Under that amount they can purchase directly with suppliers. This is important to know when seeking federal government business.

Another agency to check out for business opportunities is MERX which lists Canadian Public Tenders. This site lists opportunities from all levels of government including school boards, hospitals, municipalities and more. Check out the list of provincial procurement websites at the end of this article.

Okay, back to the acronyms. Although the examples below refer to federal government solicitation, many of the same terms are used by provincial and municipal governments.

(RFP) Request for Proposal

Government uses these for more complex opportunities; or where its decision will be based on more than just price. With this method of solicitation they are looking at the most cost-effective solution, not necessarily the cheapest. RFP's can be very long and complex, and putting a proposal together to answer one can be time-consuming and expensive.

(RFQ) Request for Quotation

The federal government uses this type of solicitation when the opportunity is valued at less than $25,000 - note, this figure has to include all taxes etc. Basically, the lowest bid wins. On a positive note the required ‘proposal' is usually simple and straightforward.

(T-buy) Telephone buy

This is similar to the RFQ, but in this case bids are solicited from one or more selected suppliers either in person, or over the telephone. T-buys are for contracts worth $25,000 or less and again this has to include all applicable taxes.

(ITT) Invitation to Tender

ITTs are used when the contract is valued at $25,000 or above, and when there is more than one supplier who could deliver on the contract. The ITT clearly states what is required, so that when tenders are submitted they can be evaluated against the criteria laid out in the provided documents. With ITTs the government intends to accept the lowest-price bid and will not negotiate.

(RFSO) Request for Standing Offer

This is really a pre-qualification; companies agree to provide products and services on an as required basis at set prices and pre-agreed terms and conditions. All criteria are pre-set and used when government departments want to ‘call-up' products and services from listed suppliers.

(RFSA) Request for Supply Arrangement

If you are a pre-qualified supplier (against specific requirements) then this is a fast-track way for government departments to process bid solicitations. Formal contracts will still be required for all products and services being supplied. The final type of arrangement is not an acronym, but this list would not be complete without it.

Sole sourcing

As the name implies this is where a supplier has something the government requires that it can't get anywhere else. This saves the government wasting time issuing a RFP, or other form of solicitation, when it knows there will only be one bidder. There are strict rules that govern the issuing of sole source contracts. Prior to issuing a sole source contract government will issue Advance Contract Award Notices (ACANs) which are posted on the MERX site for a little over two-weeks announcing the intention to award a contract. This allows other suppliers to approach government with information supporting the fact they are also capable of delivering on the contract.


The Office of Small and Medium Enterprises (OSME) has regional offices across Canada which hold seminars called Doing Business with the Government of Canada which teach the fundamentals of selling goods and services to the Government of Canada.

Each provincial and territorial government has a procurement website detailing business opportunities and also offering assistance. The list below is a good starting point if you are looking to do business with provincial government departments.

 
   
What Do Banks Look For? Top
 

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Going cap in hand to the bank for a business loan can be a little frightening. Here is a quick checklist to ensure you are better prepared. It will increase your chances of walking out with the bank's support for your business plan. If your proposal to the bank has all of the following elements, then you are setting yourself up for success.

Financials

  • My financial statements are correct and reliable - they have credibility.
  • My financial planning is sophisticated and controls are in place.
  • My financials demonstrate sufficient and realistic gross profit margins.
  • I have sales forecasts showing unit sales, dollar value and product/service mix.
  • I am in control of corporate expenses.
  • I can show sufficient cash flow.
  • I demonstrate we efficiently collect our accounts receivables, and manage credit terms effectively.

Management

  • My skill levels, attitude and entrepreneurial spirit are apparent and well established.
  • My management team, and myself as the owner, are committed for the long-term.
  • I have demonstrated the quality and strength of our management team.

Planning

  • I have carried out a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) assessment and can show the findings.
  • I have both an up-to-date business plan and strategic plan.
  • I have a communications strategy outlining my social media strategy and current activities.
  • I understand the security risks inherent in my business (particularly those relating to social media).
  • I clearly demonstrate the potential for growth in my company,
  • I understand how the company will reach its goals.

Market

  • I have a marketing strategy that shows customers are currently happy with what we sell and surveys showing ongoing demand for what we sell.
  • I show an understanding of the overall size of my market and am approaching more than one sector.
  • My understanding of the local market is clear, and the company is aware of current trends.
  • As part of the SWOT analysis I carried out, I am fully aware of the threat of my competition to future sales. I have plans to combat that threat.

Materials and Infrastructure

  • The company's inventory is at a cost effective level, and turnover is good.
  • The businesses location(s) is/are good.
  • We have reliable sources of supply and distribution, and backups should they become necessary.
  • We have provided information on our ability to turnaround orders/jobs quickly and of our capacity (this is important as it has to marry with your future growth plans and sales figures).
  • We demonstrate that we use effective budgeting to control costs.
  • Our asset levels and value are provided.
  • We can supply the bank with information pertaining to the security of money being loaned - i.e. how the bank might get some, or all of its money back if the company gets into financial difficulty.

Your bank manager might require more information, or less, but if you check off all the information listed above you will impress your bank manager. Not only this, even if you don't need a loan, and have no intention of visiting your bank, gathering all the information demanded by the checklist above will provide you with incredible insight into the current health of your business.

 
   
The Importance of Attitude When Hiring Top

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"It's no secret… in today's demanding marketplace, businesses that focus on providing consistent, quality customer service are the ones that succeed! The level of customer service that an organization is able to deliver is determined by the knowledge, skills and strengths of its employees. Building an effective team starts by focusing on hiring the right employees and fostering a culture of performance. Once the right employees are hired, managers who are able to coach employees for superior performance will see the greatest results."

So wrote Ginger Brunner, of Dynamic HR Solutions in her popular Encore Workshops training workshop manual. But, the question is how do you make the right hiring decisions?

Many years ago I worked for a company that came up with the phrase "Hire for attitude - train for skill" and that has stuck with me over the years. Think about it, who would you choose between these two applicants for a clerk's position? Applicant A has a wealth of experience in the point of sale system you use and is an expert at the cash register you will be asking her to use, but she lacks personality and seems a little low energy, even a tad unfriendly. On the other hand, applicant B has no idea how to use the cash register in question, and has never seen the P.O.S. system you are using, but is charming, personable, intelligent, and lights up the room. By now you will be saying of course that you would choose applicant B because you can see it is a loaded question. But, think about how many people you come across in retail stores that have a surly attitude, talk to colleagues while you are waiting to be served, and basically treat you as if you are a nuisance rather than as a customer. Well, someone hired them! And, the primary reason is often that the person doing the hiring doesn't want the hassle of spending time and money on training someone, so chooses an applicant who has the required skills, even if they are thoroughly unpleasant. Hiring for attitude, and training a pleasant and willing person to do the job will, in the long run, pay dividends. Of course, if at all possible hire someone who possesses both a positive attitude AND the skills required to do the job, but that is not always possible.

Let's dig a little deeper into the importance of attitude when hiring; after all people attending an interview can put on a falsely positive attitude, or conversely could be very nervous and come across as less than personable when in real life they are a bundle of fun and energy. What are the indicators we should look for during the hiring process?

Cover Letter

A cover letter can tell a lot about a person; take a look at how formal it is, or whether it has spelling mistakes or typo's. Does it look like it came from an online template, or does it have a professional, but personal feel to it?

Resume

Presumably most applicants will have many of the skills and experience you mentioned in your advertisement, so jump down to the end of the resume and check out what the person does in their spare time. What are their hobbies, do they volunteer? I once read a resume that listed in the highlights section that the applicant could juggle penguins - now that spoke of attitude in abundance!

The Interview

Positive people - those with good attitudes, have a ready smile as soon as you meet them. They have a firm handshake, dress well with a little flair and hold eye contact. They really aren't hard to spot. Ask yourself, am I warming to this person? Will my customers and the rest of the team warm to them too?

When answering your questions do they always look on the bright side, or are they a "the glass is half empty" person? Finally, what type of questions are they asking? Are they interesting, creative, positive, forward-thinking, or along the lines of "how many breaks do I get?"

When hiring someone to represent your company, you have to carry out a whole bunch of due diligence, but all of that can be for naught if you hire someone that doesn't fit, or who your customers and the rest of the team don't get on with. Remember, one bad apple can cause a great deal of rot.

 
   
The Customer is Always Right? Top
 

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Community Futures Mount Waddington
14 - 311 Hemlock Street (Box 458), Port McNeill, BC, V0N 2R0
1-877-956-2220 | Phone: 250-956-2220 | Fax: 250-956-2221
info@cfmw.ca | www.cfmw.ca


imagePublished in cooperation with Blue Beetle Books