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

    Contents
In this Issue

From Bits and Bytes to Yottabytes

Free Consulting Advice - an untapped resource

The Employee Vibe

Some People Are A Pain

Cartoon

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

Learn more about Big Data


Small Business News:

Small business confidence down sharply in June (CFIB) - News Release: Business Barometer®: Small business confidence down sharply in June. Ted Mallett, Vice-President &Chief Economist. Optimism among owners of Canada's small and mid-sized businesses tumbled in June. CFIB's Business Barometer® Index fell almost three points from May's reading to land heavily at 59.4 this month. It is the fourth consecutive monthly decline and the first time the index has been below the 60- mark since July 2009. Read more...


CPP/QPP increases: All signs point to trouble for Canadians (CFIB) - The federal government is currently considering increasing CPP and QPP benefits, which would mean a significant premium hike for working Canadians and even more serious impacts for the economy. Trouble for small business The employer portion would also increase by about $1,100/year per employee. That means a company with 15 employees would be paying an additional $16,500 per year. The self-employed, who pay the entire premium themselves, would be paying an additional $2,200/year. Read more...


How Small Businesses Become Big Job Creators - Word of Mouth More Important Than Online Tools For Hiring Decisions MISSISSAUGA, ON, June 11, 2013 /CNW/ - It seems that no amount of new technology will ever replace the most influential component of the hiring process - a personal recommendation. A new nation-wide survey shows that Canadian small business owners are more than twice as likely to make a hiring decision based on word-of-mouth than they are by using online tools. Read more...


Canadian SMBs shy from government hiring incentives - Canadian small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are lukewarm when it comes to the federal government's efforts to boost job creation in Canada, according to a new survey. Read more...

 
    From Bits and Bytes to Yottabytes
 
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We are all saving enormous amounts of information on our computers and uploading and downloading to the Internet at a ferocious rate. All this memory has to exist somewhere. The Internet itself has no storage limit; technically it doesn't store anything. Online access and a thirst for social networking, and sharing of information, is driving this hunger for storage capacity.

The following is taken from an article on Big Data posted by Bitfocus an international system integration and development consultancy (www.bitfocus.com).

2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day. To put this amount in perspective, add 18 zeros to the number 25. Or, better yet, imagine a carpet of pennies that can cover the surface of the earth not just once, but over five times.

Since 1980, the world's technological per-capita capacity to store information has doubled every 40 months. This growth has led to immense advancements in countless fields including medicine, government, science, research, as well as organizations in the private sector. It has also, however, created its own set of limitations. The abundance of data has compounded so quickly, that common data analysis software is no longer powerful enough to manage its immensity, thus it has earned the name Big Data.

If that's a little in the clouds for you, consider: 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. This rate is not slowing down; according to the people at YouTube, over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month--that's almost an hour for every person on Earth, and 50% more than last year. They go on to report that millions of subscriptions happen each day, and the number of people subscribing has more than doubled since last year. You may at this point be confused - many of us take for granted the concept of memory on our computer and only worry about it when our PC, or iMac, starts to fill up and we can no longer save things effectively.

So, let's back up for a second and talk about how capacity is calculated. Have you ever been confused when people talk of bits, bytes, kilobytes, megabytes and even gigabytes? It's the sort of thing we just nod our heads and sort of understand, but if our feet were held to the fire, could we really define all this stuff? Probably not. So here are some of the basics followed by a giant leap into what's coming down the line. The basic unit is a bit, which is a binary digit - it is the smallest unit of measurement used to quantify computer data and contains a single binary value of 0 or 1. Eight bits make up a byte.

If you were to save a standard email message to your desktop as a RTF (Rich Text File) it would take up around 3kb of space on your computer - that's 3,072 bytes (or 24,576 bits). A high resolution photograph of your Harley Davidson would be in the region of 5 megabytes, or 5,242,880 bytes. Quite a jump. Now, look at a very simple one-hour video I made of an interview I did using a cheap pocket video recorder - this was 2.0 gigabytes, which is 2,048 megabytes, or 2,097,152 kilobytes.

Now, in the mid-90s your PC would have had around a 100 megabytes hard drive - today that is laughable. When I purchased my first external hard drive just a few years ago it was just 250 megabytes, then I bought one that would hold a gigabyte - today terabyte (1,024 gigabytes) external hard drives are common.

What's next? Well we are having to invent new terms - take a look at the list below for a crib sheet of what I've said above. These new terms will become very familiar over the next months and years.

Abbreviation Full Name Storage capacity
KB kilobyte 1, 024 bytes
MB megabyte 1, 024 kilobytes
GB gigabyte 1, 024 megabytes
TB terabyte 1, 024 gigabytes
PB petabyte 1, 024 terabytes
EB exabyte 1, 024 petabytes
ZB zettabyte 1, 024 exabytes
YB yottabyte 1, 024 zettabytes

It has been said that by 2050 if technology continues to advance at its current pace we could see a micro-SD card that could have a storage capacity equal to three times the brain capacity of the entire population of the world. Now there's a scary thought.

 
   
Free Consulting Advice - an untapped resource Top

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Large companies often hire management consultants, or specialists, to help them when carrying out strategic planning, project management, or a host of other important activities where they need expert help. For small businesses however, this is often financially out of the question.

So, do we small business owners have to live in isolation and learn to fight our own battles, become our own specialists? No! There are many ways we can act like a large corporation and get the experience we need without paying the big bucks.

First, check out whether there are any mentoring opportunities being offered in your community. Often, experienced businesspeople will offer their time to mentor small, up and coming businesses. Such mentoring is often offered through Chambers of Commerce, Community Futures Development Corporations and Business Enterprise Centres. Other business associations can also have mentoring programs, so be sure to call around and see what's on offer.

If you can't find a program, or your needs are greater than a single mentor might be able to help with, look at creating an advisory board for your company. In today's social networking world you can draw from people all over your province, or state, across the country, or even internationally. This an incredible untapped resources for your business.

The first step is to figure out what it is that you need help with. If you simply feel the need for the equivalent of a board of directors, then you will be looking for people experienced in areas such as finance, accounting, law, HR, sales, marketing, manufacturing, and distribution. On the other hand you might need specific help with a project, or a challenge.

The first thing you need to do is identify your skill gaps. It is these skills you will be looking for in advisors. Of course, creating a board of advisors is not just about getting the skills you need; it is about bringing a peer group together that will offer encouragement, perspective and support when you need it, and act as accountability partners to keep you on track.

Do you require legal advice on a regular basis? Are your finances in desperate need of a tune-up? Are you struggling with staff issues? Would you benefit from some tips in sales and marketing? Write down your specific business support needs, and then begin looking around for people with those skills.

How? Take note of people within your industry - competitors, suppliers, complementary services - who have the skills you need, and start a list. Good places to start are your fellow chamber of commerce members, LinkedIn connections, and any non-profit boards you sit on. Even take a long look at family and friends - do any of them have the skills, or experience you are looking for?

The next stage is asking for support - don't be shy; most people will be flattered that you have asked, rather than upset by the fact that you are asking for free assistance. One thing you must do is outline what will be expected of them should they agree. Set a strict time limit - remember people value their time highly - perhaps a one-hour meeting once a month and a further hour to review any documents, reports or the occasional telephone call, or email. Give them an 'out' by saying something like, "I know you are really busy and I'll completely understand if you don't have the time, but I am looking for a few trusted volunteer advisors to help me grow my business and wondered whether you had two-hours a month you could spare to help me."

The Board Approach - Once you have the number of people you feel comfortable with you could ask them to sit on a volunteer board. Consider having a monthly meeting where all your advisors gather together and you treat it in much the same way as if they were actually shareholders in your company. You as president of the company present reports on all facets of the business and the board comment and advise. If you choose a balanced board then you will have someone able to comment on the financial state of the company, another on HR issues, someone else on sales and marketing and so on through all aspects of your business. Ask advisors to hold you to any targets, goals or objectives that are set at the meeting.

On-Call Approach - It may prove difficult to pull your advisory team together for set meetings; if this is the case ask the people on your list if they would be willing to be part of a group you can call on when you have specific business challenges. The key with this type of group is not to take advantage of the advice they use to make their living. Use them sparingly and only for issues that won't take hours out of their day. This type of group has the benefit of not requiring a regular commitment, but may not be as effective as the accountability the board approach provides.

Remember to use the power of social networking to expand your reach to advisors you might know, or can connect with, worldwide. Contribute to business forums, ask questions, give advice and make connections.

Many successful businesspeople like to give back, perhaps they were given help in the early days of their businesses. You may be able to help young people yourself, by working with your local branch of Junior Achievement, or by working with an entrepreneurial program at a local high school. There is no need to feel you are completely on your own just because you don't have the funds to hire all the experts you need - the expertise is out there, you just need to ask.

 
   
The Employee Vibe Top
 

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Are your employees happy working for you? Really? Are you sure? For definite? Or, do you just feel things must be good because no one has walked into your office and complained directly to your face? If most, if not all, of your team has been with you for several years, and no one has resigned in the last three to five years, then you're probably correct, you have a content team and the work environment - the organizational culture if you like - may well be good, at least internally.

But if staff turnover is high and it's difficult to maintain some continuity, then perhaps you need to take a close look at what's happening 'under the hood'. One of the toughest jobs, we as managers, or owners, face is managing staff. The more time we spend on looking for new employees, hiring them, and training them, the less time we can dedicate to running the business. Not to mention the stress the organization faces when under staffed, and the additional hours you as the owner might have to put in to keep things running. Retaining good employees therefore is vital to the overall success of any business.

If the product/service - client/customer side of your business seems to be working fine, but your internal organizational culture is out of whack, then it won't be long before the latter affects (or infects) the former.

If you can't keep good employees, the first thing you need to do is find out why. So many employers simply don't consider this question, they just deal with the situation by advertising, interviewing and hiring anew. It is vital you understand why your staff turnover is too high. Is it because you are hiring the wrong people in the first place? Are you underpaying them, so that they are tempted away to greener pastures? Do your competitors offer better benefits, or working conditions? Or is it something more insidious such as culture of the workplace?

Let's take a look at a few things you can easily put in place which will enable you to understand what's going on within your company such as: why you are losing staff; which of your systems are not working well; and whether you have a toxic workplace.

Conduct Exit Interviews - when someone leaves, find out why. Ask how they felt about working for you, what did they like about it, what did they dislike? Did they have a good relationship with their direct superior, or was it strained and if so why? Are they leaving for higher pay, more flexible hours, better benefits? Or, was it something to do with how pleasant it was to work for your company, or for you?

When someone is leaving they can often be more open, honest and frank with you about what it's like to work for you. This is valuable information that you can use to improve working conditions and retain staff.

Survey staff - once a year check in with your employees and ask them to fill in a questionnaire (it could be anonymous) which asks them to tell you what they like, or dislike, about working for you. Ask them to describe the corporate culture - is it primarily positive, or is morale low? If there is negativity discover why - often it can be something that can be easily fixed. One owner discovered that morale was low because employees hated the lunch room because it was drab, miserable and the microwave had broken down several months earlier. A quick lick of paint, a new microwave and the addition of a toaster oven brought smiles to everyone's faces. If you don't ask how your employees feel, you may never know - make it a once a year exercise to 'hear' from your staff.

In today's world one of the most important things employees desire is flexibility - we all lead complex lives and juggle lots of responsibilities and often it's hard to fit everything into our non-work time, so taking a hardline on letting people have time off for doctor's appointments, or family emergencies can be a big issue for people. You may think that you are very reasonable with your staff, but do you know how they feel? Employees want to work for someone they can trust and respect, someone who is approachable. If you incorporate some evaluative tools into your human resources strategy, and respond to the feedback you receive you may well see a dramatic shift, to the positive, in staff turnover and in the general morale of the company.

 
   
Some People Are A Pain Top

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I don't know about you, but I seem to be a magnet for difficult, angry, frustrated people - they can be customers, potential customers, suppliers, staff, or even family. They can be a tremendous drain on both your time and your energy, but how do you deal with them politely and effectively? Depending on our personality we either confront them, let them walk all over us, or avoid them altogether - probably leaving them for someone else to deal with. None of these methods are really effective of course.

The first thing to realize is that almost all negative behaviour comes from fear - I know that sounds crazy, but think about it for a second; an angry person is usually blustering because they are afraid they are going to be taken advantage of - they are defending their rights. Take away the fear by assuring them that you will be straight with them and fair and perhaps their hostility will diminish.

Another trick to dealing with that irate person is to focus on the person behind the behaviour. In another situation, at another time, the person standing before you could be sweetness and light, but at this precise moment something is upsetting them and they are defending their territory - their position. It is the behaviour you need to deal with - it isn't personal it's situational. Take a step back and don't let your feelings get in the way - simply deal with the situation. That way you prevent yourself from bringing your biases, or even mirroring your own negative feelings back to them, escalating the situation.

One of the very best ways to prepare yourself to deal with difficult people is to learn about behavioural, or social, styles. Often it's less about someone being difficult and more about them being different from us. If, by nature, we are analytical we see things in black and white, logically, if then we are confronted by someone whose behavioural style is based on emotions it is difficult for us to understand why the person is getting so heated about something that to us is straightforward. By educating yourself on the four primary social styles: Analytical; Driver; Expressive; Amiable; you will start to be able to adapt your style to meet the needs of the 'difficult' person you are trying to deal with.

Don't take yourself out of the equation - you may be making things worse by the way you are dealing with the situation. Are you the type of person that gets aggravated when people confront you to complain about something - do your hackles immediately rise? Does you body language give away the fact that you are ticked off in a big way? If you are having to deal with a lot of difficult people you might want to take a look at how you are dealing with them. As mentioned earlier take a look online at behavioural styles, identify what style you are (the style you exhibit at work, if that is when you have to deal with tough situations) and read up on the techniques you might use to flex your style a little, to better diffuse the anger, or hostility, being shown.

By proactive about dealing with people; take a long look at how you approach people who complain, or who are being difficult in other ways whether they are justified or not. Almost every tough situation can be diffused, but not always using the same technique - everyone is different, so treat every situation as unique.

 
   
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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


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