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The Leading Edge April 2016
Small Business Success
Taking Care of Business  

In this Issue

Self-Employment in Canada and the Gig Economy

Getting Control of Your Accounts Receivables

The Importance of WHY?

The Accounts Receivable Crisis


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Small Business News:

For businesses, cheap loonie cuts both ways - The fortunes of Canadian businesses continue to splinter along the commodities fault line – with many suffering, but others reaping the benefits of cheaper dollar and higher exports. Read more...

Federal Liberals defend decision not to cut small business tax - Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said a tax break isn't much good if the economy is weak, so the Liberals are focusing initially on jump-starting the economy through major spending initiatives in areas like infrastructure. Read more...

Fraud Prevention Month: Groundbreaking report on fraud and small business - One out of every five small businesses is victimized by fraud, but at what cost? For the first time ever, CFIB has been able to put a price tag on scams, finding that small businesses impacted by fraud lost, on average, $6,200 to scammers in the last year. Read more...

The Challenge Contest (Globe and Mail) - The contest asks small businesses across the country to share their biggest business challenge and explain how they would use the $100,000 cash prize to solve the problem. Read more...

    Self-Employment in Canada and the Gig Economy

We're a few months into 2016 and Industry Canada and StatsCan have released some interesting information about the world of small business. As our readers fall primarily into two Industry Canada categories; micro-enterprise (1 to 4 employees) and small business (5 to 100 employees) we thought it would be informative to review some stats surrounding these sectors.

Here's the first statistic that might surprise you: there are 2.7 million people self-employed in Canada (1.7m men and 1.0m women). Older Canadians (55 to 64) are nearly twice as likely as 25 to 44-year-old's to be self-employed. Why? Many can't find work during economic downturns and look for another way to make a living. Others start their business as unincorporated self-employed on their way to building a larger incorporated business.

The ageing labour force is also having an impact; the number of people over 45-years-of-age entering self-employment increased while it dropped among younger cohorts. The largest increase between 1998 and 2010 was in the 55 to 64 age group. Over the twenty years prior to 2010 unincorporated self-employment in the business, rental, and professional categories grew while fishing and agriculture declined.

The Situation Today

The final month of 2015 saw an increase in those self-employed of 40,000 while those in private and public sector jobs remained stable. Taking 2015 as a whole, self-employment grew by nearly 91,500 a 3.4% increase year on year. What's interesting is that this is 58% of all positions created. Most of these 'jobs' were in the finance, real estate, insurance and leasing sectors perhaps reflecting the lower start-up costs in service based businesses.

Much of this increase in self-employment can be laid at the door of the drop in oil prices as people struggle to find work and turn to creating their own jobs. In fact, over 25,000 jobs were lost in the resource sector - the majority in Alberta.

The Gig Economy

As mentioned earlier, StatsCan starts talking about self-employment in terms of those unincorporated self-employed with 1 (the 'owner') to four employees as micro-enterprises. Today however we are seeing another level of self-employed; people wanting temporary positions, or part-time work - these are increasing being called gigs, a term no longer reserved entirely for performers. The Gig Economy is defined by as, "... an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a gig economy has begun. A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors."

Those Uber drivers you keep hearing about are part of the Gig economy as are people renting out rooms via Airbnb. This is in part due to the digital revolution - it's never before been easier for people to connect through social media, apps and in other ways to deliver services, or product. As a small business person it's hard to grow to the point you can afford your first employee; often you need a multitude of things doing requiring multiple skills. Consider approaching your human resources needs a little differently and think of all those tasks that need doing as 'gigs' and build a network of people around you who can do them on a gig-by-gig basis.

The economy of the future may well be powered by millions of micro-enterprises using a wealth of talented people using their own equipment and other resources. Your sole proprietorship, or unincorporated small business in the future may have one employee but hundreds of people doing hundreds of tasks on an as needed basis.

Getting Control of Your Accounts Receivables Top


A Dozen Tips to Help You Get Paid

Times are tough enough, the last thing you want is existing customers taking forever to pay you, or worse not paying you at all. If you are constantly looking at your accounts receivables and losing sleep over when you are going to get paid, or your cash flow sucks, then take some time to check out the following tips.

  1. Develop an accounts receivable strategy - this is not something where you can wing it, you need a plan. If you're not taking it seriously how can you expect those late payers to? The trick here is to be consistent in everything you do including: how and when invoices are sent out, to whom they are sent, on what date after invoicing a follow up occurs, and how that follow-up is handled.
  2. Consider using a billing service such as Freshbooks, which helps you send out professional looking invoices. This type of service automatically follows-up with customers who haven't paid by the due date and tracks their payment history. If you invoice the same customer monthly, quarterly, or annually these services will allow you to set up recurring invoices, so your invoices always go out on time. They also let you see whether your invoice has been viewed by your customer. This is useful as after a week or so you can check and if it hasn't been opened you can follow up, or send them another copy electronically or by snail mail.
  3. Always send invoices out on time. It's easy to put this task off, or forget about it for a few days or weeks. If you delay sending out invoices, then you are telling your customer immediacy is not important. Sending them out promptly implies urgency and you are more likely to get paid quickly.
  4. Polite and professional invoices get paid faster. Apparently Freshbooks did a survey and discovered that a please and thank-you in your invoice will result in quicker payment.
  5. Carrot and stick. The stick - you've probably seen invoices that state there will be an interest charge if they're not paid within 30-days or whatever. This is a good idea as even though business rarely 'fine' their customers, it shows an urgency and seriousness about getting paid. Plus, if it's an accounts department handling the payment they won't want to risk getting into trouble with their managers by having to pay interest on outstanding balances. The carrot is offering a small percentage discount if payment is made early. You'd be surprised that as little as one or two percent can make a difference. Or perhaps offer a bonus discount off their next delivery.
  6. Make it easy for people to pay. Accept all forms of payment including PayPal and credit cards. Not so long ago you had to have a merchant account to accept credit cards but these days billing services such as the one mentioned earlier will handle this for you. Many people prefer to pay by credit card, even some government offices will pay smaller invoices using credit cards.
  7. Get a deposit. Depending on the type of business you have, you may be able to ask/demand a deposit. This allows you to cover some of your costs up front.
  8. Keep on top of invoices. Whether you use a service or not, never let an invoice go stale - the older it is the less likely you are to get paid.
  9. Talk to your customer - Have a discussion with your client and determine whether they are having cash-flow problems, or there is some other reason why they are not paying you. Working at a personal level with a customer can often lead to payment faster than just sending emails, or repeatedly re-sending invoices.
  10. Provide alternative payment plans - getting some money is always better than getting none, so offer your customer the option of paying off the debt using post-dated cheques, or regular credit card payments. Being solution oriented can often make the difference between having to write off a debt and eventually getting paid.
  11. Be persistent - if a client isn't paying then you must follow up by phone, not just once but frequently. Remember the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Always be pleasant but firm and never give up. If they are in financial difficulty, ask for monthly payments - get something.
  12. Get legal. If all else fails don't be afraid to get your lawyer to send a letter. It's amazing how much influence a lawyer's letter can have. Failing that go to small claims court never just let it go, it sends a bad message.

The bottom line is the more control you keep of your accounts receivables the fewer bad debts you will have and the better your cash flow will be.

Coach's Corner - The Importance of WHY? Top


Both Simon Sinek's book Start With Why and Amanda Lang's The Power of Why focus on the importance of looking closely at what you are doing, either as a business or personally. They stress that WHY is a powerful word which provides a foundation for business or personal decisions. It is the "raison d'être," the reason for being.

Last month I wrote about how the shift in words can create a shift in thinking. I looked at how a shift occurs when you replace "BUT" with "AND" in statements. Use of WHY questions in different contexts will also create a kind of shift. Both a shift in your mind and a shift in the direction a conversation may go. For instance, asking another person WHY can be very different from asking yourself WHY.

When you hear, "Why did you do that?" which is a classic question from parents, teachers, bosses and others, you react defensively. The perception, whether conscious or not, is that there is a judgment, criticism, or disapproval of the action.

If the question was rephrased as, "What was important to you to do that?" This shifts the thinking from defensive to being more open. The questioner is expressing curiosity; trying to find out more about the behaviour without causing defensive flags to go up.

Oftentimes, simply reframing a question from Why...? to What...? allows for a dialogue to ensue and encourage a better understanding between two people, whether it is parent/child, employer/employee or teacher/student. Dialogue opens up the relationship to growth as opposed to shutting it down due to a defensive reaction. It becomes a question of curiosity and learning which can lead to a constructive path of behaviour. It becomes an opportunity to coach or help someone move forward in positive ways.

Conversely, when you ask yourself the question WHY, unless you are being self-critical, you are exploring the reason behind an action or decision more deeply. You are finding the real purpose and motivation. By looking closely at your business, or your career, by using the word WHY, you will engage in a dialogue about what is important and help develop the next steps, i.e. the WHAT's and the HOW's.

Before using a WHY question with others, I often ask myself how the other person will feel. What is the impact on the person? Will they perhaps see it as a criticism, a judgment or disapproval? It is important if you want to have fruitful conversations that move things forward that your questions open rather than shut down the dialogue.

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