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.

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.


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.


FREE HOLIDAY E-CARDS from Cyberimpact and CFIB

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.


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.



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.

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…


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.

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

Toronto Entrepreneurs Conference & Tradeshow

Free Admission on Behalf of CFIB

 Get your free ticket
 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  
#TECONF is presented by
For more information regarding exhibiting/sponsoring/speaking and other upcoming events please visit

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:

Free Webinar! Managing Difficult Employees: Solutions to Improve Your Workplace


As your business evolves and grows, you are no longer defined solely as a small business owner; you are a manager, an HR director and a leader. As a leader, you will need to work quickly not just to build up your exemplary employees, but also recognize when there is a questionable fit in the work place, and pinpoint the issue or issues. This is not always easy but CFIB is here to help. Please join us for our FREE webinar, Managing Difficult Employees: Solutions to Improve Your Workplace. In this 30 minute webinar, you will learn:

  • How to identify a problem employee
  • The difference between a problem employee and an employee having problems
  • How performance reviews and open communication can help turn a problem employee into a good employee
  • How to protect your business and your worker when termination is the only option

At the end of the webinar there will be a 15 minute Q&A so please come armed with your HR questions. Seating is free but also limited. Please register for the webinar by choosing the date you would like to attend and click the link below.

Managing Difficult Employees: Solutions to Improve Your Workplace
November 22 at 1pm EDT

Managing Difficult Employees: Solutions to Improve Your Workplace
November 24, 2016 at 1pm EDT

Brookfield GIS Procurement Ninjas!

I like to think of our team as “Procurement Ninjas”, especially as we build relationships with small and medium businesses across Canada. We are actively looking to engage with businesses that provide property management and project delivery services for hundreds of opportunities and locations across Canada.

Since April 1, 2015 Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions (Brookfield GIS) has been providing property management and project delivery services to the federal government through Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC). This includes providing services such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), electrical and plumbing in locations such as Yellowknife, NT. For example, our Procurement Ninja for Yellowknife (Shaun Ritchie) is currently looking for service providers for the Henry Larson and Greenstone buildings in Yellowknife.

Services that we are looking for include:

Property Management:

  • Fire, Life Safety
  • Waste & Recycling
  • Elevator Maintenance
  • Energy Audit & Services
  • Janitorial
  • Electrical
  • Landscaping & Snow Removal
  • Pest Control
  • Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning
  • Plumbing

Project Delivery:

  • Construction Management
  • Architectural
  • Consulting Services
  • Studies & Assessments
  • Accommodations & Office Refits
  • Design Services
  • Minor Repairs & Building Upgrades

So if you are a small business and looking to access government opportunities across Canada, contact one of our Procurement Ninjas.

Province/ Territory Procurement Email
Ottawa/ Gatineau

julie-matthews-2Julie Matthews, Director, Tenant Communications, Brookfield GIS

Julie Matthews is a leader with a strong record of accomplishment developing and managing end-to-end solutions delivery. She has more than 23 years of experience delivering programs and projects within the real estate environment. Julie is responsible for the development and implementation of the Tenant Relationship Management and Communications framework to support the federal government’s  contract with Brookfield GIS. Julie works closely with Brookfield GIS regional leads across Canada to develop and implement communication strategies.

Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions
LinkedIn Group:

Free Webinar! Big opportunities for small business: How to access Canadian Government contracts

November 15, 2016 at 1pm EDT