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

    Contents
In this Issue

Low Budget Online Marketing

Making Sure Your Blog Is Effective

Cost-effective Accounting

8 Accounting Home Truths

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

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Small Business News:

Globe and Mail: Startup Canada launches coast-to-coast community initiative - Startup Canada, an entrepreneur-led non-profit organization this week unveiled its first flagship venture: Startup Canada Communities. The program - which kicks off in 15 pilot communities across the country - gives entrepreneurs access to mentors, co-working space, workshops, networking, funding and support to start and grow their businesses as well as to connect with other startup founders. Read more...


Canadian Federation of Independent Business: Close to 300,000 jobs remain unfilled in Q1 - Toronto/Montreal, May 16, 2013 - The percentage of unfilled private sector jobs remained steady at 2.5% in the first quarter of 2013, representing approximately 295,000 full- and part-time jobs, according to data compiled by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Read more...


Canada Business Review: Wintering the Business Economy in Canada - According to the Canadian Broadcasting Network there are more than a million small businesses in Canada. Have you ever stopped and thought about how the small business market is doing in Canada? Wonder what parts of the country might be most receptive to small businesses? Lastly, is your small business doing better or worse than your fellow Canadian business owners? Read more...


Canada Business Review: Is Canada Conducive for My Small Business? - Adam Groff tells The Business Review Canada why small businesses are thriving in Canada. You don't have to be from the Great White North to start a small business there. Every day more and more people are crossing the Canadian border to launch their businesses. So, what's the draw and which types of businesses are making the move? Read more...

 
    Low Budget Online Marketing
 
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I'm always amazed when people tell me they have stopped advertising because times are tough. My question is, when did cutting your marketing make things better? Ditching the marketing budget will launch you on a downward spiral you may not be able to pull out of, so be careful. But, what do you do if you simply don't have the cash?

Let's look at a few low, to no, cost ways to promote your company.

Word of Mouth

You may think you already have this, as hopefully your customers are talking about how wonderful you are, but what I'm talking about here is spreading the word online. Write some press releases to announce new products, services, deals or events. Anything you can dream up that is worth letting people know about. There are many directories online that will let you post them for free, others charge a minimal amount.

Another way to get your message out there, and get people talking about you, is to become active on message board forums. Choose forums that will be of interest to your target market and contribute to the discussions. Don't overtly promote what you sell, but rather provide help and advice. In return you can usually put a hyperlinked signature at the bottom of your posts, which will entice people to check you out. In some cases you have to earn this right by being an active contributor - but it's still worthwhile, and yes, it's free. Always check the guidelines and terms of use before posting anything. These are usually listed as the very first entry on the discussion page and are 'sticky' meaning that as new posts arrive they stay at the top for everyone to see.

Start a Blog

Blogs and podcasts (a multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc.) can be an effective way to market yourself, and through this the products, or services, you sell. The key is to market them well and build a following. Make sure you let everyone in your social network know about your blog, or new podcast, and encourage them to tell their network too.

Social Networking Sites

There are dozens of social networking sites, explore them all and establish a presence. Go beyond the obvious like Facebook and try sites like: Squidoo which has the motto "Share your passion with the world" and others like Pinterest; Google+; LinkedIn; Twitter; Slideshare - the list goes on. Look for sites that attract the type of people who buy what you sell. Once there establish yourself as an expert in your field - the 'go-to' person. As with the forums, you can start adding links to take people to your website. Don't stick with the mainstream sites, seek out the niche-specific sites - think eco-friendly, Boomers, parents etc. Although these may have less people visiting them, a greater percentage will be interested in what you have to say and what you have to sell.

Become an Expert

Building on your discussion-forum activities, start contributing articles to online magazines, trade journals, and other sites. These should not be overt sales pitches, but useful information that positions you as an expert in your field - the sort of person people can trust. In your article you will need to use unique keywords that will help the search engine spiders funnel potential customers to your website.

A good eBook which will tell you a whole lot more about this subject is An Introduction to Social Media for Small Business by Mike Wicks. If you'd like to see an example of using unique keywords read the previous sentence!

 
   
Making Sure Your Blog Is Effective Top

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If you've set up a blog you probably did it to drive business to your company, but if people aren't reading it then it's a whole lot of work for very little reward. So, let's take a look at a few things you can do to ensure your blog is the effective marketing tool you need it to be.

There are lots of ways to drive people to your blog, but the question is - how do you keep them coming back? If a reader isn't impressed by your blog they'll leave, never to return again. And, it's not just them who disappear but their blog's traffic, which you could have benefited from if they'd linked to you. Let's investigate some ways you can make your blog so appealing, people keep coming back, linking to your site and spreading the word about your company and what you sell.

First, design is a lot more important than people think - blog readers are not just seeking good information, but they also want a welcoming, and easy to navigate place to read it.

Design your blog so that it's inviting, easy on the eye and welcoming. Don't have anything that is likely to annoy people such as garish, or hard to read fonts. Avoid too many graphics that confuse the page, or clashing colours. Be careful with background colours to ensure they work with the fonts you are using and don't begin to look like those of disreputable sites. Basically, don't try to be too clever - and nothing flashing, seriously! Bottom-line? It has to be easy and relaxing to read.

Okay, next on the list is content - first rule is to keep it updated. You will need to commit to posting regularly, or even your most faithful readers will get fed up and forget you. Once a month is not enough, but it doesn't have to be daily if you don't have the time, or enough to say. Try to aim for at least three times a week - this will encourage not only human visitors, but also the search engine spiders to come back regularly.

A lot of bloggers think it's all about words, but you need to keep it interesting so add images, audio, and video - this variety will keep people coming back to see what interesting stuff you have now.

Focus on your primary topic, whether that is how to use your product, what's happening in your industry, or your store, it doesn't matter, but keep on subject. People are following you for a reason and may not be interested if you start talking about your kid's latest hockey game. Don't be afraid to provide links to other interesting sites which may be of interest to your readers, especially if you can lead them to places where they can get a good deal, enter a competition, or benefit in some other way.

Get started now - visit a bunch of blogs and see which ones appeal to you. What is it about them that make you want to go back and see what the person has to say today?

 
   
Cost-effective Accounting Top
 

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Remember the early days of your business when you did all the company's books yourself? Or, perhaps you still do? Most small business owners when they first start out, either do their own books, or have a family member do them, but at some point it can become difficult to handle. As the company grows there are a lot more bookkeeping and accounting tasks, and it only makes sense to get specialist help, so you can focus on growing your business.

At this point you have two choices: hire someone, or get an outside accountancy firm to handle your books. Many businesses go straight to option two, and that may be the right choice for them, but it can also be the most costly.

Consider hiring a full or part-time employee, who can do your bookkeeping and accounting at a far more manageable cost. One of the advantages of this approach is that they are on-hand when you need them, and they become one of the team.

So, you've decided to hire someone, now you will need to consider exactly what the person you hire will do. Start by making a list of their job responsibilities. This will likely include keeping accurate and detailed records of all the company's income and expenses. You will also need them to prepare financial reports on a regular basis, so that you keep track of your financial status. For this they will need access to up-to-date bookkeeping and accounting software. It might be a good idea, if you are not already operating a system, to wait and find out what software they prefer.

Hiring the right person is vital; remember, they will be handling your money and be responsible for paying all your bills. They need to be qualified for the job, trustworthy and committed to accuracy.

Once you have someone in this role, they can take over a whole range of other duties including payroll, inventory control and even pricing.

The benefit of hiring someone as opposed to retaining a bookkeeper, or accounting firm, is that as your business grows your employee can take on more duties; their role can expand as required. They may be able to stand-in and answer the telephone, or deal with customers when you are short-staffed. The more familiar they become with your company, the more value they will be as a member of your management team.

Depending on qualifications and experience, you should expect to pay your bookkeeper or accountant at least $15 per hour. You may want to develop some sort of benefits package as this will attract a better standard of applicant. Although it may be easier to find someone if you can offer full-time work, there are a lot of people with other commitments, such as childcare, who will be interested in part-time leading perhaps to full-time.

In the end, if you compare the costs of hiring an outside firm versus an employee you may find the latter a better deal - not only when it comes to cost, but when it comes to quality as well.

 
   
8 Accounting Home Truths Top

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In the previous article we talked about hiring someone to handle your bookkeeping and accounting needs, but what if you are not at that stage, or simply can't afford an employee, or hire an accounting firm? Here are some often forgotten home-truths about business accounting.

  • Keep your personal and business finances separate in order to keep things straight when it comes to tax time. Don't confuse yourself more by trying to mix the two together. Without question, keep separate bank accounts.
  • Keep track of all your business transaction - especially revenues, accounts receivables (all the money owed to you), and expenses. If you can check these easily at any time, you will know whether you are making a profit or a loss. Don't be a shoebox bookkeeper.
  • When you send out invoices, always keep copies in case the originals get lost. If you are using computer software, make sure you back up all of your files so that you have a copy in case something unforeseen should happen.
  • Balance the books continuously. Don't wait for several transactions to occur and then decide to balance them. Some business owners put it off at which time the task seems insurmountable.
  • Be sure to check your financial statements often to determine where you're spending too much or too little. Knowing your financial situation will allow you to see ways to cut costs, and chase old accounts receivables.
  • Check in with the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) website on a regular basis so that you are up to date on tax laws and regulations. Don't wait until tax time to check them out. There may be something you can do now that would help you save money when it's time to file your taxes.
  • While you are on the CRAs website, make sure you research all the possible tax deductions you can use in your business. Some items are deductible in full, while others take depreciation into account. Also, remember the tax strategy will be different for small businesses operating out of the home, versus brick and mortar businesses that are independent from the household. The same goes for proprietorships versus incorporated companies.
  • Take a look at the range of accounting software available to small businesses. A good program can keep track of all your information in one place - and all you have to do is type in the base information; it does the calculating for you. Most accountants use these programs anyway, so why not do it yourself?

    Although an accountant will take away some of the hassle, doing your own books has the distinct advantage of allowing you to be hands-on with regard to the financial status of your company at any given moment. That can be invaluable, especially in the early days of a business.
 
   
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