Visit us Online | Trouble viewing - View online 250-724-1241
Small Business Success April 2012
Small Business Success
Fresh ideas for your Small Business  

In this Issue

Ten Timesaving Tips

Hiring a Salesperson - 10 Tips

Going Back to Your Future

Why Do A Business Plan?

Who Says Branding Isn't Important

Small Business News:

eVoice® Small Business Survey Uncovers Time & Work Role Demands Although this is an American survey, from eVoice┬«, a company offering virtual phone systems for small businesses, the results speak to the stresses and pressures all small business owners experience on a daily basis. Check out some of the key findings in our lead article this month, and check out the full survey results by clicking the link below. Read more...

BUDGET 2012: SMALL BUSINESS ISSUES discusses some items of particular interest to small business owners in light of the 2012 federal budget including: Retirement compensation arrangements; employee's profit sharing plans; and group sickness or accident insurance plans. Read more...

FEDERAL BUDGET (Globe and Mail)From the Globe and Mail: Small business group cheers budget's hiring credit, EI cap. Canada's federal government extends two Employment Insurance measures that hold small business EI costs, and cap rate increases for all other employers. Read more...

FEDERAL BUDGET (Globe and Mail) Entrepreneurship makes list of five priorities. Stimulating small-business creation and growth should be a key focus of Canada's plans to move out of austerity and drive the economy, business owners and advocates said on the eve of the federal budget. Read more...

New Facebook Pages for Business. In March 2012, Facebook overhauled its pages, these are the pages that feature information about your company, or organization. The new look allows you to add a unique cover photograph to brand your page. This is, in effect, a banner image that lies behind your profile photograph. Although it cannot be used as an advertisement, it can be used to give a look and feel to your page that plays to your branding. Check out Facebook's video introduction to Facebook Timeline.

Check out the new Ford business page to see what you can do with your page. Make sure you scroll down the timeline , it's neat!

    Ten Timesaving Tips

As mentioned in Small Business News eVoice, a provider of virtual phone numbers, carried out a survey of 400 random businesses recently and some of the results were very interesting, especially those related to time. When asked the question, "What is the most difficult aspect of owning and managing a small business?" half answered, "Not enough time to get everything done." In fact, a quarter of the respondents said that they would pay more than $500 for just one more productive hour in the day. Click the link in the news section to see the full survey results from eVoice.

Don't start getting your wallets out just yet, we'll give you ten great timesaving tips for absolutely nothing!

Order online - if you are tempted to make that trip to the office supply store, or the electronics store to purchase everyday supplies, consider ordering them online, or pick up the phone and call your local store - most will deliver. A trip to the store can take an hour or more out of your day before you know it. The same goes for banking - do what you can online.

Use HootSuite - or a similar social media management system to handle your social media posts. You can even load up a week's posts and schedule them to go out automatically at regular intervals. Think about it, one 15-20 minute session instead of logging in everyday and getting distracted.

To-do lists - I know this timesaving tip has whiskers, but you know it makes sense and keeps you on track, which in turn saves you time. Remember, tackle the thing on the list you dread the most first - that way it won't be nagging at you all day.

Stop procrastinating - this is the biggest time thief of all. Make yourself accountable, or make yourself accountable to someone else so that you have a deadline. Often, if there is no deadline, or it's a long way off, then we make excuses for putting something off until later. Plan ahead - put a sticky note on your computer that tells you to do this job first. Then adhere to the golden rule, "Only ever touch a piece of paper once!"

Delegate the small stuff - so many entrepreneurs are control freaks, or at least type 'A' personalities who don't believe anyone can do any job as good as they can. Get over it - you can't do it all, so start offloading some of your work and you'll find that extra hour, and it won't cost you $500!

Take mental health breaks - I know, you simply don't have time to have a break, but it has been proven that we become more productive when we take short breaks. I've always liked the old story of the two lumberjacks cutting down trees. One works hard all day barely taking a break, when he looks over at the other guy he always seems to be sitting down having a break. At the end of the day the first guy looks over and sees that the his friend has cut down 50 per cent more trees than he has. "How the heck did you manage that buddy, you were always sat on your backside having a rest?" "Ah," said the 'lazy' lumberjack, "while I was having those breaks I was sharpening my axe!"

Tune into your biorhythms - most of us have a certain time of the day when we are more productive than others. You maybe a morning person who arrives at your desk brimming with enthusiasm ready to tackle the day. Or, perhaps you're a slow starter and not at your best until after you've had a few cups of coffee. Knowing your body will allow you to choose when you will be most effective at certain jobs. Don't waste your high-energy creative hours in answering phone calls, or emails tackle the tough jobs during that period. When your energy is ebbing, make some calls, talk to people and check that inbox.

Learn to say no - if procrastination is the biggest thief of time, then saying yes to unnecessary jobs is a close second. Time-stealers creep into your life with the words, "Could you do me a quick favour..." and "I really need your help with this, it won't take long..." and my favourite, "You're so much better at this than me..."

Meet or work, you can't do both - meetings can steal huge chunks out of your day, while at the same time sapping your energy and will to live. If you are in charge of the meeting call it at an off-hour, such as 9:45am, or 9:50am rather than at 10:00am. It's weird but people are more likely to arrive on time that way, and waiting for people who are late is another time thief. Even if you don't wait for them before starting with the agenda, they will still waste time trying to catch up after they do arrive. Oh, and about agendas, make sure you have each item timed and stick to it.

The Browser hi-jack - don't get sidetracked when you need to check something on the Internet. You know how it is, you need to research something and before you know it you're like Alice in Wonderland down a rabbit hole checking out the price of gold, or who got thrown off Celebrity Apprentice last night. Your inbox can hi-jack you too; how many times a day do you get a message from a friend or colleague telling you that you really must watch this video, or check a message on Facebook - Don't do it!

It's frightening, but this list could have easily run to a 100. In this social media crazy world, we can communicate with friends, family and colleagues in dozens of different ways in seconds - and we do. It's a wonder that we ever get anything done at all. The biggest piece of time management advice of all is to be aware of how much time you have lost today, and attempt to lose less tomorrow!

Hiring a Salesperson - 10 Tips Top

Image As a small business owner, you will almost certainly have sold your product, or service, yourself in the early days of your business; you may in fact still be trapped in that role. As your business grows, however, there comes a time when you need to consider hiring people to handle the sales role. Take note; finding good sales people is like finding hen's teeth.

I hired my first commission-only sales team some twenty-odd years ago with the misguided belief that it would be easy. After all, I had managed several corporate sales teams and in spite of having to deal with a few prima-donnas, lazy reps and the occasional very dubious character, I had fared pretty well.

What I didn't take into consideration was that there is a world of difference between a team of professional salespeople earning decent salaries and bonuses and the commission-only variety. So, there I was running a company selling greeting cards and in dire need of a sales team, but with no money to pay them. Sound familiar? I asked several of my customers to give me the names of freelance reps who they thought did a good job, and ended up with a list of 15 names.

Several weeks and multiple interviews later I had a sales force, numbering 10 good people of sound body and mind. True they weren't all mine, they carried several other companies' products, but they would soon realize that my line was superior - wouldn't they? To cut a long story short, the results were disappointing: some of my team sold a little here and there, a few I never heard from again, and one of them turned out to be a cardboard cutout (just joking). A few months after I cut the ties with the last of my mind-numbingly poor sales team, I was at a trade show and wandered onto the booth of a well-established competitor who was known to have a great commission-only sales team. I thought, what the heck, and asked him to share the secret of his success with me. He looked sagely down at me (he was a very tall man) and said, "Sure, it's really quite simple."

What I was about to hear, I was sure, would pay for the cost of the show ten-fold. "It's like this" he said, "You hire 10 sales reps, and after a year you fire nine of them, and hire nine more. After another year you fire eight, keep the best one and hire eight more. You keep doing this and you'll have a team as good as the one I have; of course, then the rep that's been with you for 10-years is ready to retire!"

So, what is the most important thing I've learned about hiring sales people? It ain't easy! I can't guarantee that the following tips will provide you with the perfect sales person, if such a beast exists, but it will increase the odds that you get someone that will help rather than hinder your business.

Great salespeople are rare. Unfortunately this is all too true. Most salespeople underachieve; the majority just get by, and the shining stars are few and far between.

If you own your company, you are without doubt its best salesperson. The bottom line is that your passion and belief in your product and service is second to none, so don't expect anyone to sell as well as you do. Ask yourself why you are hiring a salesperson. Should you be considering hiring someone to help you with your other responsibilities so that they free you up to do the important job of selling?

Think long and hard about what type of salesperson you are looking for, and what you can afford. Are you looking for someone to cold call, tele-sell, or to build customer relations, are you looking for an inside or outside sales person? All this will influence the type of person you are looking for.

How are you going to pay this person? There are several options: salary only, base salary plus commission, commission only with an advance, or straight commission. What's best? Well, it all depends. The best and worst salespeople are commission only. I know this sounds contradictory, but the fact is that if you aren't very good, then someone will always be willing to pay you purely on results as they have nothing to lose -except all the time they have invested in you! The very best salespeople choose to be on commission as they can earn more that way--if they are taking all the risk, then the commission rate will be higher. Unless you know a star salesperson, it's probably wise to avoid hiring on a commission-only basis. The biggest problem is that if you aren't paying them a salary, you aren't employing them, so you have less control over when and how hard they work. So, try to budget for a base salary with a commission percentage that, with hard work, lets the person earn a good income. Don't be cheap, but do tie performance to income.

Don't be afraid to pay a good salesperson a lot of money. I remember a three-month period in 1979, working on a base plus commission for a multi-national publishing house, when I earned more than my managing director. He asked me to travel over 300 kilometres so that he could take me for lunch and congratulate me. He was fine with me earning more than him, especially as it was only for a few months! Far more recently, in a similar situation, I had a boss that couldn't live with the fact that he was paying me so much and let me go. That was a dumb decision - never be concerned about paying salespeople the big bucks if they are meeting and exceeding their targets.

The only really good salespeople are those that love, not like, to sell. My mom used to say "don't try to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" - this wonderfully bizarre saying pretty much sums up the mistake many business owners make when hiring someone who really isn't a true sales professional. At the end of the day, you either have to hire a proven salesperson, or someone who actually loves to go out and meet people and sell to them. People in the latter category do exist; they may need some training, but they are out there.

Just hiring someone and leaving them to it is a recipe for disaster. Unless you find someone who lives for selling then you are going to have to monitor their every move. There are 101 things to do that are easier than selling, such as checking email, planning the next sale, cleaning up the sales database, writing letters, designing promotional literature-- the list goes on. Create a reporting structure that allows you to see how many calls they have made weekly and what their closing rate is. Meet with them at least once a week and review their progress.

Provide extensive training in both the products and services you expect them to sell and in the art and science of selling. I once got a new job as a sales rep when I was in my twenties and on my first day at head office (200 miles south of my territory) I asked my sales manager what training I would be given. His reply, as he pointed his finger, was "north is in that direction."

Put all new hires on a 4-6-month probation period. Without question, it will take you several tries to find someone who can actually sell at the level you need them to.

If, and when, you discover a true star; someone who has your passion and belief in your company, consider giving them a share of the company - get them invested in your future by making them a part of it, or someone might just steal them away!

Going Back to Your Future Top

Image Do you remember the film of some years ago, "Back To The Future" starring Michel J. Fox? In the story the hero finds out a great deal about himself by leaping ahead into tomorrow. Now, you don't have a time machine, but that shouldn't stop you from envisioning what tomorrow might look like in your business.

This is quite different from your Business Plan, which analyzes how your business will operate based on research you carry out on your industry, market, potential customers, competition, the products and services you plan to provide, and the human resources skills you have, or can hire. It does however predict potential revenues and expenditures, and it's an essential step in making your business 'bulletproof.' The thing is, it deals in the real world and a good business plan can actually be one that tells you not to start, or continue with a business.

A visioning exercise on the other hand is all about feeling good. It's where you picture yourself as successfully having overcome all of the challenges of the startup period.

So, get into your time machine and whoosh, bang, wallop, here you are - it's three years hence and things look pretty good in your business.

Now, take a look back and figure how you got here. What steps did you undertake in those (mythical) three years that ensured your success?

This whole process may be new to you, but if you have been a serious performer in track and field athletics, or some other sport, you'll recognize the technique immediately. If you're not an athlete but have watched these performers in high level competitions such as the Olympics, you'll have noticed how each performer takes a few seconds to pause, close their eyes and concentrate before they start their run or throw the discus, or leave the diving board. What they are doing at that moment is 'seeing' themselves going over the high jump bar, or making the longest leap of their career, or making that flawless dive. Every coach and every athlete knows how essential this process is, since by envisioning themselves succeeding they will dramatically improve their chances of setting that new record or winning the completion.

So, close your eyes and envision the future - three years from today:

I have secured gross earnings of $200,000 per year and retained earnings of $50,000. I have one full time employee who shares my dreams of the company. I have worked with my competition rather than fought with them, helping them to build business in areas that I choose not to pursue so that they in turn do the same for me. I have an advisory board which meets with me monthly. We have a pre-arranged agenda and they help guide me. I've achieved some reasonable work/life balance by spending time with my family and friends and I've looked after my physical and mental health. I have solidified a strong business and personal network by making sure that I'm ready to assist and advise others in the business community, so long as it doesn't jeopardize my business success. Finally, I volunteer and support a local environmental movement because it simply makes good sense and it recognizes the fact that 70 per cent of consumers say they want to buy from a socially responsible company.

Sounds great doesn't it? That was the easy part. Once you've written it out, take the sheet of paper, put it in your desk and refer to it from time to time. It will renew your commitment and remind you why you undertook the journey in the first place. Now, figure out how you got there.

Let's look at our example above and see what we would have to do to turn it into reality. First we'd reengineer each outcome. What would we have to do to achieve revenues of $200,000? How many widgets, or hours of service would we need to sell? Given our profit margins, how will we ensure $50,000 in retained earnings? We must of course remember we have three years - so we'll break it down year-by-year.

Okay so now we need to think about our competition, how well do we know the business owners? How can we get to know them better? Perhaps we can attend the next Chamber mixer, or industry association networking event? How can we work with them to their benefit and ours?

Now, let's look at our address book and pull out a dozen names of people we trust, and who have skills that make them suitable for sitting on our advisory board. We'll send them an email asking them if they'd be interesting in working with us as an unpaid, but well-fed and watered, volunteer board.

You get the idea. Do the same with all the goals and objectives you have identified in your vision, and reengineer your dream to turn it into reality. A useful acronym to remember during this activity is S.M.A.R.T. which tells you that each of your goals needs to be Specific - Measurable - Achievable - Realistic - Time sensitive.

Constructing your vision may be the most optimistic exercise you'll ever undertake in business - but what's wrong with that? You're definitely an optimist, or you'd never have gone into business in the first place.

Why Do A Business Plan? Top

Image Hopefully, most of you reading this will have a business plan, even if is a little out of date. If you haven't, you should consider sitting down and writing one. It isn't the plan that's as important as the planning. Writing a business plan makes you consider every aspect of your business, and that's not a bad thing. It gives you a chance to step back and look at your business in its entirety. I guarantee your business will benefit.

Here are the top four reasons you should do a business plan.

  1. Discipline
  2. Direction
  3. Controls
  4. Credibility

A business plan:

  • Helps you find out if you can achieve your goals
  • Defines your goals and the steps to achieve them
  • Explains in detail your ideas to potential investors
  • Helps identify and resolve, in advance, potential complications
  • Helps you develop an overview of your industry
  • Forces you to do your homework (research)
  • Defines the nature of your business
  • Defines the direction you need to take
  • Is a tool to generate investor and client interest

Writing it down makes you focus. Deviations from the plan are more easily and quickly recognized. Looking ahead helps avoid problems later.

The plan helps you identify issues, challenges and opportunities with your industry/market sector and customers. It acts as its own S.W.O.T. analysis - to expose the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats your business is facing.

Make planning a part of your business and personal life and see the difference it makes.

Who Says Branding Isn't Important Top



Community Futures Alberni-Clayoquot
4757 Tebo Avenue, Port Alberni, BC, V9Y 8A9
Phone: 250-724-1241 | Fax: 250-724-1028 |

Published in cooperation with Small Business Success