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

In this Issue

5 Websites You Should Bookmark Now!

Your Fall To-Do List

Are you a Good Boss?

Mind Mapping - A Boon to Creativity and Problem Solving

Zen Thoughts

Small Business News:

Business Barometer® Small business confidence continues to fall in June - Toronto, July 4, 2012 - Confidence among Canada's small- and medium-size businesses continued to fall in June, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The Business Barometer® index dropped from 64.8 in May to 62.1, essentially wiping out the gains made since last summer when major concerns about Europe's debt situation had burst open. Read more...

Public sector pensions: a runaway train - With enrolments in public sector pension plans growing at twice the rate of growth for private sector employment levels, Canadians could face higher taxes and reduced government services unless action is taken soon. Read more...

Canadians show their love for small business: RBC Survey - An overwhelming majority of Canadians (94 per cent) believe that small businesses play a critical role in the growth of the economy and almost nine-in-10 (88 per cent) view them as vital job creators, according to an RBC/Ipsos Reid survey. Read more...

Government belt-tightening to put a drag on Canadian GDP growth through 2013: CIBC - Canadian governments will take a bite out of the country's real GDP growth in 2013, not boost it as forecast by the Bank of Canada, finds CIBC's latest Canadian Employment Insights Report. "Just as we warned that the Bank was too optimistic in its initial 2012 call, its 2013 forecast also looks to be counting its government spending chickens well before they will be hatched," says Avery Shenfeld, chief economist at CIBC. Read more...

    5 Websites You Should Bookmark Now!

This is the first of a monthly series that will help you create a folder of vital bookmarks, so that when you need to know something you will be able to go straight to the primary source.

This month we focus on five government agencies that provide a whole lot more information than you might at first expect.

Canada Revenue Agency

I know, it's pretty boring to go to a tax site, but there are dozens of really useful things that will help you run your business more effectively, and also keep you in CRAs good books.

For a start you can access any form you need from the site, along with a guide on how to complete it. CRAs newsroom is full of useful information such as a great article on debunking tax myths, which makes fascinating reading. News releases often have important information that any small business should take note of, for instance: The Harper Government: New initiatives and innovations benefit small businesses (Winnipeg, Manitoba) news release was issued on August 29th. There are hundreds of publications available for free downloading including the excellent: Guide for Canadian Small Businesses which provides a wealth of information every small business owner should know.

Industry Canada's Strategis Business and Community Site

This site provides up-to-date information important to all business. At the time of writing the following news items were being featured:

  • Canada's New Government Invests $109.5 Million to Fund 126 Canada Research Chairs
  • Canada's New Government contributes to job maintenance and creation in Quebec
  • Canadian International Merchandise Trade, July 2007
  • Labour Force Survey, August 2007
  • Building Permits, July 2007

Canada Business Network

CBN provides businesses with a wide range of resources to help them grow and prosper, including a wide range of information on government services, programs and regulations.

It promotes entrepreneurship and innovation, and provides assistance through an organized network of service centres across Canada. There is a centre in each province and territory working with partners in many communities across their region, providing you with numerous service access points.

This is a great place to start when you are looking for any business information. For instance if you are looking for grants and financing, don't pay a third-party for it, just visit and you will be able to access information on a variety of funding sources.

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service

If you want to learn about exporting to the United States, the best place to start is the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service's "A Guide for Canadian Businesses" which contains everything you need to know to get started. It also contains links to other useful sites and publications including a "Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting."

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) will provide you with on-the-ground intelligence and practical advice on foreign markets to help you make better, more timely and cost-effective decisions in order to achieve your goals abroad.

This agency offers hands-on knowledge of international markets and helps thousands of companies each year tackle problems and pursue opportunities in foreign markets.

It has a presence in more than 150 cities worldwide, through which it gains market intelligence and insight, and uncovers opportunities for Canadian companies.

Its offices across Canada help companies prepare for international markets providing an unbeatable network of international business contacts.

The agency has privileged access to foreign governments, key business leaders and decision-makers because it is part of Canada's embassies and consulates. It can put you in contact with business contacts including potential customers, distributors, sources of finance or investment, technology partners and intermediaries.

Public Works and Government Services Canada

Every year the federal government purchases billions of dollars of products and services from Canadian businesses of all sizes and types. There is no reason why your company, no matter how big you are, should not get a share of this business.

What is important to realize is that many departments and agencies have the delegated authority to purchase their own goods and services valued at $25,000 or less without Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). Therefore, it is important to promote your goods and/or services directly to them.

However, you should also consult MERXTM to keep track of requirements that departments and agencies publicly advertise. MERX is the most complete source of Canadian public tenders, private tenders, U.S. tenders and private-sector construction news available in Canada. MERX has leveled the playing field so that businesses of any size can have easy and affordable access to billions of dollars in contracting opportunities with the Government of Canada (GC), participating provincial and municipal governments, the U.S. Government, state and local governments, and the private sector.

We suggest you take a look at these five sites and create a bookmark folder in your web browser to keep them in and refer to them regularly. Next month we'll look at five more websites that will help you be more successful.

Your Fall To-Do List Top


Often September brings with it a sense of new beginnings every bit as intense as entering a New Year, so we thought we'd create a new season To-Do list to motivate you to do great things between now and the end of the year.

Get Prepared for the Season

The summer season for many businesses is slow (except perhaps for our readers in the hospitality and tourism sectors) and if we are not careful, we can take this sales lethargy and let it slip into September and beyond, and never quite get our momentum going. So, think about your sales strategy for the good sales months of September through November. Knowing what you expect from the next quarter is an excellent way of ensuring you reach the goals you set.

Set Sales Targets and Strategic Goals

As mentioned above if you don't set goals you'll never know if you have reached them. It is amazing how effective setting sales targets can be. Imagine you are working out in your local gym and lifting weights. At just the moment you decide that that's about as many reps you can do, one of the gym rats comes along and says come on Bill give me a another five. Inevitably you grit your teeth and manage another five reps and if he, or she, pushes you, you could probably pump out another three or even more. What they did, was raise your target beyond what you were comfortable with and you managed it. If a target is set too low, we become satisfied when we reach it, even though we could have achieved more. Set them too high and we get demotivated when we don't reach them. The art of setting targets is to set them a little beyond our comfort level.

Touch Base with Our Existing Customers

The fall is a great time to touch base with all your existing customers. Even if it's just an email asking whether they had a great summer. September is the time when many of your customers will be taking stock of their businesses, planning new campaigns, and open to new ideas. Put your company at the front of their mind and you never know what business might come out of it. For many businesses and non-profits, the fall is a time for preparing budgets so again think about how you can get your products or services front and centre during budget preparation time.

Bring My Employees Together and Motivate Them

Think of the fall as the final quarter of a football match; rally your team and give them a pep talk. Ask them how they think you can make this the best quarter of the year. Listen to their suggestions, let them come up with goals, provide them with incentives if they reach those goals and you will energize your team to enthusiastically embrace the challenge. Arrange to meet every few weeks to ensure the team is on track, and if not adjust the sales and marketing strategy based on what you have learned.

Look for Ways to Improve My Business

Too often we get into a rut and continue to do things the way we have always done them, because, well...that's the way we've always done it! This fall, embrace change because if you don't it will embrace you, and not in a good way. The economy is changing, industries are changing, markets are changing - you can't get away from it. Take a long look at how you operate your business. If you want to grow and have your business grow, you must learn how to embrace the changes that come your way, rather than fight them. As an example, take a look at the way you operate and see if there any obvious inefficiencies that can be corrected; if you manufacture something re-assess your raw material costs, or check out what new technology is available in your industry. Taking a step back and seeing how the world around us has changed can be an eye-opener and lead to increased profits.

Make fall your best season of the year by creating your To-Do list of action items and watch your sales increase.

Are you a Good Boss? Top


We've all had good bosses and bad bosses and I am sure you would consider yourself one of the former, but how good are you really? Check off the points below and see how many you can honestly say you deliver on.

Do you?

  • Lead your business from the front?
  • Sometimes follow the lead of your employees?
  • Tell your employees what your strategy is so that they can see the big picture and buy into it?
  • Listen to employee feedback, value it and use their ideas?
  • Help employees feel comfortable talking about their concerns, ideas, or goals? Or are they afraid of being judged, squashed or belittled?
  • Trust your employees good judgement and value their contribution to your business?
  • Understand and appreciate that your employees have personal goals and objectives, outside of work?
  • Understand what motivates each member of your staff?
  • Understand what your employees value, and need, to help them perform better?
  • Share your long-term vision with your team?
  • Clearly demonstrate how each team member can contribute to that vision?
  • Inspire and motivate staff?
  • Believe, and invest in professional development, for both you and your staff?
  • Understand the difference between managing and coaching? Know what's going on in your employee's lives? Think you know all there is to know about leadership?

One of the most important questions above asks, "Do you know the difference between managing and coaching?"

Let's compare your business to a professional sports team. The general manager's job is very different from the coach's. The manager considers external factors - such as what's best for the team on a global level. The coach however, tries to get the best performance from each member of the team. To do this he, or she, needs to know their employee's strengths and weaknesses and work to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. This involves understanding what inspires them and then keeping them motivated and pumped every time they step onto the playing field. It also means understanding how to make each unique individual recognize their role and value on the team. This coaching helps teams become a cohesive unit and increases productivity. While a good business owner manages his, or her business, they must also have a coache's mentality if they expect to get the best out of their team.

Being a good boss begins with caring about the people who work for you. Cast your mind back to the bosses in your past that you liked and the ones you hated. What was it about the ones you liked that made you learn more, achieve more and be better at your job? Was it their personality and how it did or didn't gel with yours? Was it their leadership style and how it meshed with your values? Was it their training or experience that created their method of management? Or, did your boss's impact have more to do with where you were in your own growth and development? The reality is, relationships are fluid and completely subjective, and chances are, that the boss you thought was terrible, was terrific to someone else in the organization. So is it possible to have a set of standards that makes you a great boss to all your employees? Maybe not, but a good start is to consider the questions above and be honest with yourself about your answers. You should be able to check off all but the last question, which is a little more tricky. The answer to it is that good leaders are always learning to lead - everyday.

Mind Mapping - A Boon to Creativity and Problem Solving Top


Whether you're developing a new business, or strategic plan, or writing new promotional copy, consider taking a look at mind-mapping to help you structure the document. Mind-mapping can also allow several people to work simultaneously on a plan, or the content of a document. It's a little like brainstorming, but you can do it by yourself and it's still effective. The basic benefit is that it allows you to think in a non-linear fashion. For instance, if you were to consider writing a book you might start by creating a table of contents, writing the title of each chapter in order on a sheet of paper, or in your word processing program. The problem then becomes where do you put additional thoughts, and possible sub-sections? With mind-mapping you can jump all over the place and add comments, timelines, new sections, or anything else as soon as you think of them as there is always space to place them.

Mind-mapping can be used to generate new products, solve problems, plan strategies, or develop a process. The key to mind-mapping is not to think logically. Generate ideas, and if one idea generates another, don't stop to analyze it, just put it on the map. The crazier the association the better. True innovations often come from the wildest places.

Think of a mind-map as a hub, with several (as many as you like) spokes radiating from it. Each spoke, or branch is a new idea and should be drawn in a different colour, and from each branch new branches can be added. Let's take a look at a basic mind map with just a few annotations.


Now, it's best not to add all the branches at once in case you don't need them. Add one at a time and write alongside your main thought; this could be an idea, concept, product, chapter title, whatever you want. Then create your next main branch and annotate that. Once you feel you have created enough branches to show the main thoughts, ideas, issues or whatever, then start to add the sub-branches as offshoots of the main idea. Don't feel that you have to finish one major artery before moving on - just move wherever your thoughts take you. Occasionally you will find a link between two thoughts - join these with a dotted line. At any time add a name underneath a project, job, concept, to show who you plan to get to handle it. You can also add a timeline, or due date. The finished mind-map will provide a complete picture of what it is you are trying to define; this could be the content of a proposal, the handling of a difficult issue, the marketing of a product, or the re-structuring of personnel and tasks. Mind-mapping can be used for almost anything.

Some people find mind-mapping difficult at first, especially if they are analytical by nature. Creative people find it easiest, most fun and very rewarding. It particularly comes into its own when you have a group of people all trying to solve an issue, create something new, or develop a strategy. Almost everyone, once they have experienced the power of mind-mapping a few times, will become sold on its sheer power to achieve a massive amount of planning and idea generation in a remarkably short amount of time.

Mind-mapping can be done using a whiteboard, a large sheet of paper, or several flip chart sheets taped together and a handful of coloured markers. There are also several programs on the market that will allow you to create mind-maps on your computer. the first example above was made using MindNode which is currently only available to Mac users. MindNode Lite is free from the App store, but there is also a Pro version that is just $9.99 that is well worth the money. For a more complex mind-mapping program try Mindjet Mind Manager which is $399 and available for Windows users, as well as Mac. A new simple browser mind-mapping service has recently been launched by LucidChart that is well worth checking out.

The big asset of mind-mapping is that it helps you make connections that you might not have thought of, if you were working in a linear mind frame. This leads to the creation of more ideas for projects and product development, and solutions to challenges in your business.

Next time you have to plan anything, create something new, or solve a problem have some fun and let your ideas fly from branch to branch of your mind-mapping tree!

Here's an example of what a complete mind map might look like.

Zen Thoughts Top



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