Fraud: It’s Everyone’s Business

fraud_logo_colorCFIB’s My StartUp will be your trusted partner in crime prevention this March as we launch into Fraud Prevention Month with a jam-packed content calendar designed to help protect your small business from scams.

In conjunction with the Competition Bureau and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) offers a wealth of information and advice that can act as a shield against fraud:

  • Webinars
  • Instructional videos
  • Operational tips on topics such as:
    • Payments fraud
    • Telephone scams
    • Bogus directory sales

As a bonus for Fraud Prevention Month, we’ve lined up six blogs that shine a harsh light on real-world examples of fraud, as told by CFIB Business Resources Counsellors who are well-placed to share the stories.

CFIB counsellors take thousands of calls each year from business owners who have experienced an attempt to defraud their businesses, so they are well-familiar with many of the tricks fraudsters will try to rip you off.

Their stories are straight from the front lines, touching on examples of fraud that may surprise you.

  • Do you know what to look for when a caller claims to be from the Canada Revenue Agency?
  • How about internal fraud, when a scam is an inside job?
  • Or assessing a charity: what’s legit and what’s too good to be true?

CFIB has also produced a groundbreaking new report on fraud and how it affects Canadian small businesses. The first of its kind, it goes beyond mere numbers and looks at many different impacts of fraud. It contains a list of recommendations on how small businesses can prevent their business from becoming a victim. Look for the report online March 17.

Your start-up business faces enough challenges as it is without scam artists trying to help themselves to your hard-earned revenues.

Make sure you visit My StartUp’s blog throughout March so that you are prepared to protect your business from fraud.

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #BeFraudFree.


How to Pitch Your Business Idea (or anything) in 60 Seconds

MP900442379_JPGImagine you have exactly 60 seconds to pitch your business idea to a crowd of would-be investors, partners and team mates – people who hold the power to turn your idea into a reality.

Welcome to Startup Weekend, an event that takes place around the globe (1,200 events in 120 different countries).

I had the honour of mentoring at Startup Weekend, York Region on the last weekend of January. It started on Friday evening with more than 30 pitches from entrepreneurial students jam packed into a single Friday evening. From those, the top 10 pitches were chosen to go on to the development stage throughout the weekend.

So how on earth do you give an effective pitch in 60 seconds or less? I’ll start by saying that it’s not about speaking as fast as you can, stuffing in as much info as possible until the bell goes off. In fact, that’s pretty much the least effective pitch you could give. Instead, I strongly urge you to try the following approach.

Introduce yourself – give specifics. This is where you tell people who you are and why you’re an authority. In other words, why the heck should people listen to you?

Define the problem and explain why your audience should care. This is where you grab an audience’s attention. If you can’t convince them that there is, in fact, a problem they should care about*, they will start thinking about how much laundry is waiting for them at home, or they’ll begin wishing they had sat in the back row so they could play Candy Crush. Also, and this is really important, if there is no clear problem that you can solve, then there’s no need for you to be in business.

Explain your solution. How is your product/service going to create a solution? You don’t need to get wrapped up in how your product works. You just need to convince the audience that it will/does.

Make your ask. This is when you tell the audience what you need from them. If you don’t end with a call to action, they won’t know what to give you. Makes sense, right?

Say thanks. This one should be obvious but sometimes in the heat of the moment, when your body is a jumble of nerves and your brain’s trying to fend off fight or flight mode, you forget to say something as simple as, “Thanks for listening, I look forward to working with you soon.”

BOOM. There it is: a perfect pitch, wrapped up in 60-seconds. But before you leap off the page to do a Google search for other articles I’ve written, I want to bring up one more thing.

3CsThe 3 Cs.

Anything you write and/or present must pass the 3 Cs test. It must be clear, credible and compelling. At CFIB we compile and deliver research reports, press releases, op-eds, articles, speeches, marketing material, instructional webinars, videos and hand outs, etc., etc., etc.. And before anything leaves our hands, it must pass the 3 Cs test.

*Yes, profit potential, while not the only motivation, is a perfectly valid reason for them to care.

Visit MyStartup.ca if you’ve recently launched your new business and you want access to free resources and advice.


Hiring a family member? Here’s why you need to consider using Employment Insurance rulings

When you think of opening a small business, often you first look within your networks for people that may be of assistance to you.

You may realize you don’t need to look beyond your own family, since they already have some of the skills/qualifications you need. Hiring a family member to help you run your business is common.

Hiring family can offer specific benefits:

  • Family members are available to you beyond traditional working hours or days.
  • You may be comfortable leaving your business with them for a day or two.
  • They may have a specific skill you need (e.g., a cook, graphic designer, assistant).
  • You give them an employment opportunity and experience.
  • You may be passing off your business to a family member in the future.

Insured%20Webinar%201While this is all great, you should be aware certain government agencies have rules in place for this type of hiring. Be mindful of the Canada Revenue Agency as well as Service Canada, both of which outline who is eligible (or ineligible) for Employment Insurance (EI) programs, such as maternity, parental leave, and sick benefits.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has a variety of webinars available, including one that provides you with information on the EI rulings process. Please note that the EI Rulings process is for active hires, not for hypothetical situations.

Hiring family members can help keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive in your family, so make sure you know how this type of employment works within government programs.

Author:
Cesar Gomez, CFIB Business Counsellor

@josuegomezg
LinkedIn.com/in/josuegomez


Great News for Toronto Startups – StartUp Here Toronto

Startup torontoFebruary 11, 2016 – Toronto Mayor John Tory today launched a new city website and strategy to champion the region as a centre of startups, innovation and growth, in partnership with City of Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic.

The two mayors will participate in a dual city mission to San Francisco and Silicon Valley in April, 2016, where they will communicate the region’s strengths, encourage investment and promote the Toronto-Waterloo regional corridor as an important home to talent and innovation.

 “Toronto and the Waterloo Region are no further apart than San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and are home to a diverse, highly educated population and game changing ideas,” said Mayor Tory. “We need to build our reputation as a place where great talent is nurtured, industries can grow and where we engage the public in finding innovative solutions.

“Thousands of finance and tech workers travel between Toronto and the Waterloo Region every day,” said Mayor Vrbanovic.

“Developing the corridor that connects us will move people more efficiently, promoting greater collaboration and economic development and enabling us to compete on an international scale with the world’s largest innovation centres.”

The City launched a website at http://www.startupheretoronto.com to support the growing startup community in Toronto and the broader Toronto-Waterloo innovation corridor.

The StartUp HERE Toronto website was built and will be managed in partnership with Toronto start-ups, incubators, accelerators, funders and educational institutions.

The Mayor launched the new site following a working group with private and public sector leaders and city staff on Thursday focused on four key items related to the city’s innovation agenda: talent attraction and retention; civic engagement, developing Toronto’s reputation as a digital testing ground, and creating an innovation friendly regulatory and procurement environment.

These initiatives are part of “From Concept to Commercialization: A Startup Eco-system Strategy for the City of Toronto”, which was endorsed by City Council in May 2015.

Mayor Tory will also be travelling to Kitchener-Waterloo on March 23 as part of his work with Mayor Vrbanovic to promote increased collaboration and improved connections between the regions.


FREE WEBINAR: Preventing Fraud in Your Small Business

StopSign_02_vector_jpgMarch is Fraud Awareness Month in Canada. It lasts for an entire month because that’s how big of deal fraud is! And not just for individuals. Small businesses can be very susceptible to fraud. Every year, small business owners become victims of fraud, sometimes with devastating effects. In fact, it is estimated that fraud is costing small businesses millions of dollars annually.

CFIB works on anti-fraud initiatives all year long for our small business members. When March hits the calendar, however, our Fraud Squad jumps into action with a lot of activities and awareness initiatives. As such, and in recognition of March Fraud Awareness Month, CFIB is hosting a FREE webinar! Preventing Fraud in Your Small Business will provide entrepreneurs and small business owners with  valuable, actionable info on how to recognize, report and stop fraud.

During this free webinar, participants will learn about the types of fraud specifically targeting small businesses

  1. Credit card fraud
  2. Directory fraud
  3. Health and safety*
  4. And more!

This webinar will also cover the steps you need to take when you see fraud and what you can do as a small business owner if you are a victim of fraud.

Register for CFIB’s free webinar today. Space is limited.

Preventing Fraud in Your Small Business
March 8th, 1pm EST –UPDATE: AT CAPACITY. PLEASE SIGN UP FOR MARCH 9TH EVENT (French) or MARCH 10TH EVENT (English), BELOW.

Apprenez à reconnaître et prévenir la fraude dans votre entreprise
March 9th, 1pm EST

Preventing Fraud in Your Small Business
March 10th, 1pm EST

*Yes there is fraudulent activity surrounding health and safety. If you don’t know, take the webinar!


Payroll DIY? Why, when Payworks can do it for you?

Payworks_3CWhen you’re just starting out, you can get used to wearing many hats. Do-it-yourself is bound to come into play when you have a staff of seven. CEO/Creative Director? Webmaster/Tech Support/Receptionist? Thankfully, that needn’t apply to paying your staff, especially if you take advantage of My StartUp’s free six-month membership to get industry-leading rates from Payworks.

Whether you have one employee or twenty, Payworks has a paperless, cloud-based payroll solution to fit your needs, and the cost is less than you might expect. When you consider that in a startup business, your time really is money, your business really can’t afford not to use Payworks.

Depending on the current size of your growing business, there is a Payworks payroll solution that’s right for you.

Simple-And-Smart

For simple payroll needs: perfect for a business with fewer than 10 employees on the payroll.

Flexible-And-Affordable

A comprehensive yet straightforward tool for a business with more than 10 employees on the payroll.

Both options include direct deposit, year-end filing and support, records of employment, and online employee self-service. If you have four employees or less, the cost is a flat $7.50 per pay period. If you have a few more employees, the cost per employee is even less.

Simple-And-Smart is so easy and affordable that some self-employed business owners, after they incorporate, use it for just their own pay. Use Simple-And-Smart from the moment you hire your first employee, and you’ll never have to worry about calculating government remittances or preparing T4s. Payworks can do it all!

Maybe math is not your thing, or maybe you just want to remove “Payroll Clerk” from your business card. My StartUp and Payworks make it all possible.


Making your business plan a reality: the final touches

business plan how toMy StartUp has walked you through a few aspects of organizing yourself as you prepare to launch a new business. We’ve looked at value proposition statements and we’ve taken a general overview on setting priorities.

In this blog, we’ll zoom in a bit closer to flesh out the details of your blossoming business plan.

_________________________________________

Consider using the following tools to help you extract your thoughts and commit them to paper.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming sessions with management, staff or on your own can help you come up with creative ideas, areas for improvements, and service/product additions.

shutterstock_124904123It allows you to explore the potential of your business.  If you decide to include your staff, ensure you provide each department, team or group with sufficient time to prepare. You can provide some guidelines, if you feel you need to facilitate the process. However, brainstorming works best with very minimal control and criticism. You can control the amount of time allocated by category, yet your staff should feel comfortable sharing their thoughts without negative putdowns.

While all ideas are appreciated, some may not be practical or attainable within your given timeframe. As you review all your lists, ideas, and most importantly, your Mission and Vision statements, select your top priorities. To ensure you attain your goals, select goals you can implement, execute and monitor progress.

  • Ways of monitoring progress:
    • Casual conversation
    • Weekly staff meetings or monthly meetings with staff and project managers <
    • Communication with mentors, advisors, third parties
    • Set calendar tasks

Value Proposition Statement
The value proposition statement is a specific promise about your service or product that represents a valuable offer to your customers, one that will show the difference between you and your competitors. This is the key point: what differentiates your business from the competition?

Lists

Create a list of all your questions, concerns, and expectations – just like a laundry list. Ensure you write down all those ideas and/or challenges that keep you up at night. The more time you dedicate to writing all your thoughts down, the clearer your mind will be. At first, you do not have to think in any specific pattern; however as you finish your list, you may wish to categorize your thoughts by topic: marketing, financial, operations, etc. In addition, you can rank your list by importance and identify them by priority: short-term, mid-term, or even long-term goals.

SWOT Matrix

Consider using the SWOT Analysis tool; which seeks to determine Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that are faced by your business. This matrix is a great tool to identify current resources, challenges, and future opportunities. It should be noted that each category requires an honest assessment of your current state under each heading.

The Strength and Weaknesses category is considered to be a review of internal business condition (operations, credentials, lack of training, lack of financial resources, etc.), while Opportunities and Threats are considered to be an external review (change in government regulations, change in market trend, new competitors, etc.)

Basic Customer Service Map or Business Blueprint

Create a business customer service map or blueprint of your current operations. What does the flow of your service look like – from receiving phone calls, orders, and requesting estimates, through to execution of service/delivery. You should include your complaint resolution process and any other steps you take. Ensure you outline all of your customers’ interactions with your employees and ordering system, website etc. This ensures that no gaps are missed and you can clearly identify which area needs improvement.

If you are running your business alone, this method ensures you follow a process and do not get overwhelmed with your demand.

Mission and Vision Statements

If you have used the tools above or you have an idea of the direction you wish to take your business, identify how you can communicate this through a Mission and Vision statement. This will serve to clearly communicate your business objectives to stakeholders such as customers, employees, and suppliers. Read My StartUp’s blog on Creating a Mission Statement for Your Small Business.

While planning is essential, many internal or external factors can challenge your plan, timelines and expectations. If possible, have a contingency plan ready. Lastly, keep in mind to plan your downtime, whether it is vacation time, a hobby or some entertainment.

As you lead your business in 2016, a healthy balance of work and fun can help you stay focused.

Author:
Cesar Gomez, CFIB Business Counsellor
@josuegomezg
LinkedIn.com/in/josuegomez