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End of Year Advice for the Small Business in Canada

It’s that time of year again. With the holiday rush quickly approaching, don’t forget to take time for yourself, acknowledge how your year went and how you can get off to a great start for the new year. You could be looking to set a higher sales goal, launch a new product or trade with other provinces or country. Or maybe, you’re looking to expand your business and hire a new employee.

If that’s the case, I want to take a quick moment to provide you some  advice based on the three main recurring calls I received this year as a business counselor,  calls from small business owners just like you.

1. Employment Standards

Each province has a Ministry of Labour that enforces their own Employment Standards Act. The minute you hire an individual to work for you, you must be familiar with your provincial obligations to your employees. Some provincial information includes templates, guides and information – make sure you try to take advantage of that information. Understanding your employee entitlements allows you to prepare accordingly for break time, overtime, and public holidays.

Recommendation: Documentation and record keeping is crucial to operating your business. Records on things like vacation time/pay or who has clocked in or out from a meal break, or taken a sick day. Furthermore, it is crucial to provide each of your employees with wage statement that outlines government deductions, overtime pay, public holiday pay, vacation pay or termination pay etc. If you ever have to face inspection, having this information at your fingertips can help.

Steps to take:

If you are a member of the CFIB, contact your regional business counsellor.

2. Workers Compensation

If you are a new business owner and have at least one employee, consider calling your regional business counselor or your regional workers compensation board. Workers compensation is a no-fault compensation that allows for employees to receive wages, benefits and medical assistance while they are recovering from a work-related incident. Workers compensation in Canada also prohibits the right to the employee to sue their employer for work-related accident.  As a small business owner you may not be familiar with your obligations or where to even start, allowing this item to fall to the bottom your to-do list.

Recommendation: Do not delay. Take all necessary time to investigate and determine if you are required in registering your business with workers compensation. Ignoring or leaving this for another day will not work to your favor. Remember that workers compensation conduct random inspections and if you are not registered, you can face retroactive premiums, fines or penalties that cannot be avoided in some cases. This is significantly important when you have hired a sub-contractor. If you do not have clearance certificates or proper documentation that support they are their own entity, you may also be liable for your contractor’s premiums.

Steps to take:

If you are a member of the CFIB, contact your regional business counsellor.

3. Internal Employment Policies and Procedures

As a small business owner, you may feel that since you only have fewer than 10 employees you do not need an employee handbook. You’re right, you may not need an entire policy handbook; however, I recommend you take time to establish some documentation at your place of business. Even if you are working with family, friends or “casual employees,” ensure that you are following the necessary steps to protect your business.

Recommendation: Take the right amount of time to thoroughly asses your business and the areas you feel you need to have a policy in place. It is difficult to discipline an employee’s actions, especially where there is no documentation of what is expected of your employees. Check with your local business counselor to receive guidance; and if necessary, seeking legal advice from a labour lawyer can help as well. Each employee should have a copy of an employment contract or job description, as well as knowledge and copies of your policies regarding the scheduling time off, code of conduct, social media policies etc.

If you are a member of the CFIB, contact your regional business counsellor.

We  want your business to succeed. Take the necessary time to identify any possible risks that are involved in your business. This is a great way to eliminate any undesirable attention and ensure you can reach even greater heights.

I have been a business counsellor for over four years, and have  spoken to more than 10,000 members. I understand it is never a dull moment running your business. Let’s ensure that together we keep you compliant so that you can continue to realize your entrepreneurial dreams!

Consider signing up for membership through the My StartUp program. If you have been in business for less than two years, you qualify for six months free membership, details at www.mystartup.ca.

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CesarCesar Gomez-Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping members with their questions on compliance. These questions can range from employment standards to health and safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passion is reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar via LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @josuegomezg.


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10 tips to take advantage of email marketing during the Holiday season

logo-ci-v-rgbNovember his come to an end, and as a small business owner, you might fear that you will soon be too late to send out your Holiday campaign… With the help of this little guide, here’s a way to achieve your goals and send great holiday e-cards to generate greater opportunities for your organisation!

A lot of small business owners ask “Are holidays a great time to send emails?” It’s actually one of the best seasons to do so. Your contacts will feel important and it could even be an excellent opportunity to increase your sales. So keep reading, these tips will surely inspire you!

1. Holiday e-coupons

The Holiday seasons are about gifts, so adding a promotional coupon to your electronic holiday cards can be very effective . Pre-Christmas sales and Boxing Day specials, such has a 2 for 1 or a free item or free shipping or even 15% off, could be added as an “exclusive offer” to your e-subscribers. Keep thinking that there are a lot of ways to make your coupons perceived as a special gift that can make your customers happy and bring more business to you.

2. Suggest your gift card or certificates

Your customers are searching for gifts that they will give to their families and friends. It’s time to suggest them your gift cards as a good alternative. You could offer a special discount on the purchase of your gift cards or even a free card for those buying a certain quantity. If you don’t have gift cards, you could sell gift certificates to increase your sales during and after the holiday season.

3. Thanks! Simply say it to your readers

What a great idea to use the holiday to humanize your relationship with your customers by saying a big fat “Thank You!” Take opportunity of that period of the year to enhance your customer relationship.

4. Announce a Super Saturday on the 24th!

This year, the calendar is favourable and the 24th will occur on a Saturday. Why not use that day to throw a Super Saturday with extended hours in the morning. Early birds could get exclusive offers like free coffee and 10% off for every sale. All that before 9 am. What a great way to serve more clients this busy day.

new-picture5. Create a holiday video with your staff

Take your iPad or your smartphone and get creative by recording a video. People will love the efforts you’ve thrown into that original piece. Maybe wearing that little elves shirt will be your opportunity to get that wanted role in your local talent show. Send a link to access that little piece of art thru your emails.

If you have not yet received an elves shirt as a gift, you can buy this marvellous one at http://www.tipsyelves.com/mens-ugly-christmas-sweaters

6. Make 2017 a great and happy year

If gifts and Christmas rebates are not relevant for your kind of business, use the opportunity to send out your best wishes for the upcoming year. Sharing a story about 2016 or your dream for 2017 can help your customers discover and understand better your business.

7. Make an advent calendar!

Start on the 1st of December and send daily emails with different content. Use them to set the sense of urgency to buy your products with a countdown based on your Shipping deadlines, limited discounts or an affordable or inspiring pre-sale item. The Free Shipping email is not the only way to make your patron act faster.

8. We miss you! Turn the situation to your advantage

Passive subscribers are tough to reactivate, but at the same time they are a sleeping Gold mine. Why not use the opportunity of the Holiday season to reconnect with them through a specific email with a special offer to re-engage them with your business?

9. Start your email marketing or move it up to the next level with Holiday cards

Cyberimpact offers you many professional designed templates to support any kind and any style of emails or virtual card you want to send. So activate your free account to send easily and freely your Holiday cards and discover how email marketing with Cyberimpact is easy and very effective.

10. Don’t forget yourself

You work hard all year round to develop your business and serve your clients. The Holiday season is the perfect time to redeem yourself with the love and care of your relatives.

Season’s Greetings to you all!

If you’re a member of CFIB or CFIB’s My Startup program, don’t forget to take advantage of FREE HOLIDAY E-CARDS from Cyberimpact and CFIB!

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cfib_jf-lalondeA sports enthusiast since early childhood, Jean-Francis was a provincial tennis champion in 1991 before heading to Lynn University in Florida to study marketing. He returned to Quebec in 1995 to study urban planning at UQAM where he was the first to use a website to present his final Bachelor’s degree project.

In 1997, he launched Cyber Generation, a web agency that relies on innovation to meet the diversified needs of its customers. Its versatility meet the needs of small local businesses, large Canadian and American companies, as well as sport and media celebrities such as Serena Williams, Louis-Josée Houde and Georges St-Pierre.

In 1999, Cyber Generation acquired Complice Interactif, a similar web company started by Stephan Lestage.

Jean-Francis is in charge of sales and strategic partnerships, a responsibility that maximises his talents as a negotiator and his sensibility to the needs of others.


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Do not make this mistake when choosing your corporate gifts

Corporate gift giving can seem like a mundane task to even the greenest marketing professional or newest small business owner. Simply pick a stock card image, fill in the blanks and then find a gift within your budget that you can order in multiples, right? Of course it is not always that simple. I was fortunate to learn this early on in my career as a marketing professional.

Fresh out of university and in my first job as a marketing assistant, I was tasked with bringing forward a few ideas for holiday gifts and card options to distribute to our clients and prospects.  Of course, the first question I asked my direct manager after learning the budget was to see examples of previous gifts and cards. I was interested in learning what type of gifts were typically approved and also ensure that I didn’t bring forward any repeat ideas.

“We don’t have anything left from last year. We burned all of the evidence,” my manager answered, jokingly (I hoped).

It turns out that the holiday season prior to my arrival at this small business was deemed a huge debacle that should never be spoken about again. And yet, here I am talking about it so you may learn from our mistakes.

Here’s what went happened.

First, the chosen card image featured a Christmas tree with a star on top, placed underneath messaging that included Merry Christmas. Big mistake. Our client base was made up of a diverse range of religious and personal backgrounds.

Second, this card was accompanied by a bottle of wine branded with our company logo and message – a nice sentiment and gift for some but not so much for others.

Hindsight is 20/20 and so looking back it’s obvious that our corporate gifting was not well thought out. If we had taken the makeup of our client base into account, we would have realized that, both the messaging and the gift could be taken a different way than we intended. And boy was it! In fact, our small organization received dozens of complaints with some even taking the time to return the gifts and cards.

So what gifts did I ultimately bring forward to my manager? Well, that is a lesson all in itself. Please stop by next week for that story, entitled Creative corporate gift giving: It’s not just what you give but to whom.


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Does your small business idea go beyond borders?

Looking for new markets to grow your business in is a process that can be as daunting as it is exciting. It’s not only about navigating through customs and border agencies, but also about understanding foreign currencies and exchange rates. To help you out, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and EncoreFX are holding a free webinar called : Currency Basics for Importer/Exporters on November 30th, 2016. This webinar, a must attend for small business owners who are new to the import/export game, brought to mind the CFIB members who also might be in a position to offer valuable advice. I reached out to Dilip Pai, owner of Vintech Ltd., a business established in Ontario and a member of CFIB for three years. I was excited to connect with Dilip to provide you valuable insight through his own experiences that can help you as you consider doing business abroad.

Tell us a little bit of Vintech Ltd.:

Vintech Ltd. was established in 1995 and has since been providing products and services to clients around the world in the mining, oil & gas, water and energy sectors. We are an ISO 9001:2008 certified company with a proven track record of consistently satisfying our clients and providing fast, flexible service with highly competitive pricing. We have customers in Canada, USA, Chile, Peru, Italy, Germany, Kuwait, UAE, Mauritania, South Africa & India.

Some of the products & services that Vintech provides:

  • Process Valves
  • Heavy Equipment Parts
  • Mineral Processing
  • Fibre Optics
  • Engineering Services
  • Procurement Services
  • Technical Staffing Services

Why did you choose this particular stream of business?

I chose this line of business based on my educational qualifications, starting with my engineering degree and my professional experience, including extensive work across Asia and Europe.

From the many countries you provide a service to, let’s take Chile and Peru for example – how did you select where to conduct business?

Initially we started trading with Chile and Peru because of their potential client base – with the huge amount of mineral deposits in the region, there are many large-scale mining operations there. After developing a strong relationship with our first customers in these two countries, we have greatly improved our knowledge of local industry, helping keep our new and existing clients’ operations running as smoothly as possible.

What has been your greatest challenge in operating your business?

Supplying products with credit terms and maintaining stable cash flow was our biggest challenge initially. As we began serving customers in different parts of the world, we learned a great deal in overcoming challenges stemming from trade regulations, language and cultural barriers.

Do you often travel to maintain relationships?

Despite the abundance of phone and video communication services, nothing compares to meeting someone in person and being able to talk with them on a level that simply isn’t possible over a digital medium.

What can we learn from Dilip, here are five key takeaways:

  1. Know what you’re selling: It serves to your advantage and credibility when you have an educational or experience background in the product or service you intend to trade.
  2. Do your homework: research the country that you are hoping to target and understand their economic, technological, political and cultural climate.
  3. Grow your network: Once you have connected with a client, identify if there are any referrals they can provide to further establish your company.
  4. Intend to travel: Having a relationship with your client is key. In order to travel, ensure you have a team that operates well without your presence, having clear roles will make this easier.
  5. Get the right help: Have you ever heard of a Trade Commissioner? Trade Commissioners are key individuals that can help you navigate the barriers that you face to conduct business in different international markets.

Not quite sure about getting your feet wet? Well perhaps our webinar is for you. This free webinar will cover a lot of bases in terms of importing, exporting and currency fluctuation, with the goal of helping you identify risk exposure to currency markets, and then evaluating what can be done, and for what price. Register today: Currency Basics for Importers/Exporters.

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CesarCesar Gomez-Garcia has been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business for six years. His current role at the CFIB is helping members with their questions on compliance. These questions can range from employment standards to health and safety, as well as complicated red tape situations that small businesses face. His passion is reading and writing about entrepreneurship. Learn more about Cesar via LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter @josuegomezg.

 


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FREE HOLIDAY E-CARDS from Cyberimpact and CFIB

FREE HOLIDAY E-CARDS
Put Cyberimpact to the test!

cyber_logoen_l244Cyberimpact is an awesome, all-Canadian email marketing solution designed for non-marketers. They are also CFIB’s latest Privilege Program partner.

No technical skills are required. Simply import your contacts, choose your template and create your mailing. Make Cyberimpact your secret marketing weapon for:

  • growing sales
  • keeping customers and prospects informed and engaged
  • building customer loyalty and soliciting referrals

What makes Cyberimpact so special?

It’s arguably the simplest email marketing software available, allowing you to create spectacular emails in minutes:

  • Newsletters
  • eFlyers
  • eCouponing
  • Digital greeting cards, and more.

And, CFIB members GET 50% OFF Cyberimpact’s already competitive rates.

To show you just how simple Cyberimpact is to use, we invite you to put them to the test this holiday season, and spread a little free holiday cheer in the process.

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Send up to 250 FREE e-cards, and get 50% OFF Cyberimpact’s regular rates thereafter.

If you are a CFIB member, you can now make a splash with our latest Privilege Program partner, Cyberimpact. Start for free today!

If you’re not yet a CFIB member, join today via the appropriate link below:

I am a small business owner, in business two years or less.

I am a small business owner, in business for more than two years.

 

 


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Holiday help is coming!

Can you believe it’s almost the end of November already?!

Have you started planning your company holiday party yet? What about ordering your corporate gifts?

Don’t worry: you’re not alone and I’m here to help!

Over the next few weeks I plan to focus entirely on “thinking outside of the gift box” on the My Startup blog. I’ve also enlisted the help of some excellent advice givers for you. Our newest partner, Cyberimpact, will stop by to discuss your holiday email campaigns, how to remain CASL compliant over the holidays and give the details of our new partnership. CFIB Business Counsellor, Cesar Gomez, will tell you all you need to know about your responsibilities and obligations regarding employee pay over the holiday season. I am going to relay a couple of those “from experience” anecdotes regarding gifts and corporate parties to help you learn from someone else’s mistakes. Business Counsellor, Michelle Auger, will follow up with a Shop Small Biz holiday gift guide.

Please visit us often over the next few weeks to get the full scope on surviving the holidays: small business edition.


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Noah Parvez: “6 Things I’ve Learned Running a Business-Inside-a-Business with EncoreFX

Since I’ll be flexing my FX industry expertise during CFIB’s free webinar, Currency Basics for Importers/Exporters, I wanted to take this guest blog opportunity to share some alternate advice for small business owners, drawing from my own experience of opening an EncoreFX branch in Mississauga as well as through learning from some of the best business owners in the GTA, who I work with closely on a daily basis.

1. Hiring for attitude
Starting a new business means a lot of work will need to be done from scratch. Are you hiring people from large, established companies with impressive resumes who just want to coast? Or are you hiring people interested in rolling up their sleeves, who aren’t afraid of menial work in the name of the bigger picture?

If it’s not clear, pick the latter. They’re the ones that will stick with you when the going gets tough, and they’ll celebrate with you on even the smallest victories. Hire well rounded people, and make sure you train and take care of them. The strength of an organization is in the strength of its people.

2. Time management and delegation
As a CEO, should you really be the one on your team who orders office supplies from Staples? What is your time worth and where is it best spent to add value to your customers? If you are solopreneur, you might want to consider doing tasks which don’t add value outside of your most useful hours.

For independent businesses with a small staff base: delegate tasks to others in your organization or consider outsourcing? Do what you do WELL, and let others handle the things you don’t. Don’t worry about playing your cards so close to your chest; companies you outsource to only succeed if you do!

3. Have a plan
Yes, things never go as planned. Yes, life gets in the way. Yes, it’s difficult to foresee pitfalls. But without a plan, how will you know what you should be working on today? This week? This month? Next year? Will you figure it out as you go? How will you judge performance? How will you change course in moments of adversity?

Set goals which are tangible yet flexible, and make sure that everything you do is filtered through these goals. For example, during our webinar on November 30th we will show you how to make a plan for even the most unpredictable environment – specifically, how to introduce certainty regardless of currency risks which are outside your control.

4. Attend industry events
Are you keeping up with the changes in your industry? How? Through a quick Google search or scroll through Twitter? The internet is curated by advertisers… How can you be sure you’re getting the most cutting edge information? The internet is not the best place to make solid connections or meet new partners for business. Keep your mind open and yourself sane by attending events and education sessions with likeminded people; the benefits of doing so are endless.

5. Listen to your customers
If your supplier says, “It can’t be done”, will you just relay that to the customer or will you make things happen? Who is more important to your business? Listen to feedback from your customers, and remember who you got into business to help in the first place. Your customers are your lifeline; without them, there is no you.

6. Location, location, location!
Among other things, this will ensure you attract the right talent/employees for your business. Is your location accessible? How’s the commute? Is it accessible via public transit? Are you around other industry players? How are the amenities around you? Opening an FX branch in Mississauga has definitely revealed some new considerations…

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noahNoah is the Regional Manager of the GTA office and a Senior Dealer for EncoreFX. After serving at a Fortune 500 FX company for half a decade, Noah decided to use his experience of working with Canadian and American businesses to start up EncoreFX’s business in this region in 2015 and has been rewarded with great success. His specialty lies in developing sound and lasting strategies for companies exposed to various currencies, regardless of their size.


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Free webinar: Currency basics for importer/exporters

This free webinar is a must-attend for small business owners who are new to importing/exporting game. During this 30 minute webinar, Ted Mallett, VP and Chief Economist at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Noah Parvez at EncoreFX, a financial services company that provides currency hedging services for small businesses, will cover

  • A brief history of currency fluctuations and what that has meant to small biz
  • An introduction to currency management techniques
  • How to measure and neutralize risk
  • Available hedging tools that are available and what would be involved in taking part in them

This webinar is about identifying risk exposure to currency markets, and then evaluating what can be done, and for what price. This webinar is not a sales presentation. Join us for this free 45 minute webinar (includes 15 minute Q&A) by registering today via the link below:

Currency basics for importer/exporters: How to evaluate and lessen risk from the cost of foreign exchange
November 30, 2016 at 1pm EDT


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Toronto Entrepreneurs Conference & Tradeshow

Free Admission on Behalf of CFIB

_____________________________________________________
 Get your free ticket
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 About the Event
About the Event
Connecting & Empowering Toronto Area Business Leaders!
With over 1,500 Business Leaders & 50+ Companies in attendance at our 2015 Toronto Entrepreneurs Conference (#TECONF), our event has been designed to provide entrepreneurs, whether budding or experienced, with the opportunity to expand their professional network, hear from experienced and successful entrepreneurs on tips and opportunities and learn what it takes to become successful and stay thriving.  Don’t Miss your Chance to Attend!  
Interested in Exhibitor/Sponsorship Opportunities?  Contact us @ (905) 812-JOBS (5627) ext. 0 or email info@TorontoEntrepreneurs.ca.  
 
#TECONF is presented by TorontoJobs.ca
 
For more information regarding exhibiting/sponsoring/speaking and other upcoming events please visit www.TorontoEntrepreneurs.ca.

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Nominate Your Business for the AIR MILES Small Business Achievement Awards

Small business owners and entrepreneurs are an integral part of the business landscape in Canada. Many multinational business and household names that exist now started out on a small scale. Each year, AIR MILES recognizes the impact of Canadian small businesses on our economy and celebrates the entrepreneurs that lead them through the AIR MILES for Business Small Business Achievement (Awards.

Until November 17, 2016, AIR MILES invites talented and innovative Canadian entrepreneurs from companies employing 1 to 50 people to enter to be considered for a Small Business Achievement Award in one of five categories:

  • Small Business of the Year
  • Start-Up of the Year
  • Innovation of the Year
  • Social Venture
  • Young Entrepreneur

Join the roster of previous winners, from start-ups to established enterprises, across the full spectrum of industries, who have demonstrated their industry leadership and determination to succeed.

Prizes for this year’s AMFB Awards include:

  • 10,000 AIR MILES® Reward Miles
  • A trip to Toronto to attend the 2017 winners’ reception, including airfare and accommodations
  • One-on-one mentorship from a Canadian business leader
  • A full-page feature in Maclean’s magazine

For more information on the Awards, or to apply, visit: www.amfbawards.com.