Business to Business (B2B) Contracts – When do you need a lawyer?

Welcome to the fourth edition of the multi-part series on the topic of tasks you should be adding to your “start up to do list”. In past weeks we have discussed starting your small business checklistorganizing your startup, Are you sure you need to hire now?, and now our latest edition: Do you need a lawyer.

Every entrepreneur understands intrinsically – or learns very quickly – that a business is not an island. That is to say, a business cannot exist without interactions with outside parties in some form or another.

For example, a major part of running your business is receiving products/services from other businesses that will help in your daily operations. These interactions shouldn’t be taken lightly or handled in an informal manner.

While CFIB business counsellors do not offer legal advice, we are able to help set the stage for entering into what could be considered legal contracts. In fact, we previously published an article, Signing contracts and leases: how to avoid liability, here are some highlights:

A contract is a legal document; be sure you understand what you are signing, as it could be very costly to get out of and may even involve litigation.

  • Do not accept any verbal changes.  Make sure all changes are written into the contract.
  • If you are not sure what your obligations are, get a lawyer to review the contract and advise you of any concerns.
  • Check the contract for automatic renewal dates and be aware if you have to provide notice of cancellation.  Some contracts require up to a year’s notice, in writing, should you wish to cancel.
  •  Look for clauses that allow increases in pricing without written notice.
  •  Check the term of the contract and make sure there is an option to cancel without penalty.
  • Report any unscrupulous practices to the Competition Bureau at 1 800-348-5358 or online.

Do not feel pressured to sign on the dotted line on the spot. Take all precautions and due diligence to review and consult with your legal advisors, especially when you have to provide your banking or credit card information.

Our Business Counsellors hear of countless situations that could have been avoided if the above recommendations were followed. Remember, any business that presents a great deal should also provide you sufficient time for you to review agreements.

Your checklist of the week should also include the following very important topics:

☐ Be aware of the legal issues for small business
Seek legal advice to ensure you select the right business entity
☐ Do you know enough about Trademarks and Patents?
☐ Keep informed of possible fraud attacks to your business
☐ Tips for leasing commercial property

More often than not, we get excited to start our business venture and simply hope for the best. We want you to have the best.

When in doubt, contact a CFIB small business Business Counsellors. We can offer specific advice and even let you know if and when legal counsel is required.

If you have been in business less than two years, you qualify to sign up as a member through our MyStartUp.ca portal. If you have been in business for more than two years, please click here to obtain further information from our CFIB website on how you sign up today!

Share our blog with your entrepreneurial community using: #MyStartUp #SmallBizChecklist

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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.


Are you sure you need to hire now?

Welcome to the third edition of a multi-part series on the topic of tasks you should be adding to your “start up to do list”. In past weeks we have discussed starting your small business checklist and organizing your startup. Let’s continue with the next part “Are you sure you need to hire now?”.

You may be at that stage you need to hire employee, are you ready?

I came across a business owner within my network that wanted to hire an employee as an assistant, because they felt that was the right and reasonable step. Unfortunately, hiring your first employee may not be the walk in the park that you’re hoping for.

Word to the wise: You must truly understand your business situation if you are at a stage that you need and can afford to hire an employee. Employees are not hired when you are more than capable of handling the work load on your own. Employees are hired when you need support the handling of multiple tasks and can benefit the business in providing someone experience, upgrade skills and empower the employee’s career.

Often times, we may believe that hiring employee is a sign of growth, however there are major responsibilities that come along with this stage in business. Especially understanding that you, the employer, are providing wages that in turn will be used for mortgage/rent, family care, and/or savings for employee’s future. Be conscious that it is your time to hire.

Here are few heads up:

  • When your employee earns wages, you must pay your employee consistently on a pay period you have selected. Failure to pay or in consistent manner can result in claims under your provincial Ministry of Labour.
  • More than just wages, you the employer must be prepared to compensate employees for vacation pay, public holiday pay and/or termination according to your provincial obligations.
  • You must submit sources deductions (Employment Insurance, Income Tax and Canadian Pension Plan) to the Canada Revenue Agency, regardless if your business has made a profit – no delays or excuses.

Having documentation is must:

Having proper documentation is crucial when dealing with employees. Job Descriptions are particularly important as they set the expected performance, the standard or level of satisfaction of a job, and contain clear instructions.

Often time, I hear from small business owners that they do not think they need a job description for two reasons;

  1. They are too small.
  2. All employees do the same job.

That may be the case, however you can’t expect a specific outcome or behavior if it has not been properly documented and explained to employee.

A moment to reflect:

Make a proper assessment of your situation, ask yourself:

  • Am I in a position to handle my work load on my own?
  • Do I have sufficient knowledge of the ministries that protect employees?
  • Do I have sufficient resources to provide necessary training?
  • Can I trust that someone else will have access to my place of business?
  • Do I have enough cash flow to justify hiring employee?

We have created the following checklist to ensure you are on the right track.

This week’s topic is: hiring employees

☐ Have you registered your payroll account through the Canada Revenue Agency?
☐ Have you learned rules, regulations and considerations when hiring employee?
☐ Do you need a job description? Click here.
☐ Do you need to create an internal employment manual?
☐ Do you have a business counsellor?

Remember, my entrepreneur friend, you are not alone. Become a member today by signing up at MyStartUp.ca and speak to your regional business counsellor for further information, insight and direction.

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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.


Small Business Ideas

Free Online Courses for Independent Business Owners

As an entrepreneur, you are continuously learning and developing new skills. If you have employees, you probably encourage them to do the same.

Regardless of whether your organization would like to further understand marketing, management or even human resources., CFIB’s got you covered through their partnership with Vubiz.

CFIB’s Vubiz partnership allows you to invest in yourself and your employees with FREE online training.

The Vubiz courses give you 24/7- online access and allows you to complete the courses at your own pace from your desktop, tablet or smart phone. The Vubiz dashboard even allows you to create your profile, select from variety of courses and review your completed courses.

I’ve had the opportunity to take few of these courses such as:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Health and Safety Certificate
  • Strategic Management
  • Hiring, Managing and Terminating
  • Introduction to Leadership
  • Interviewing
  • Selecting Top Talent
  • Job Candidate Interviewing

I found these courses to be straight forward, the platform to be easy to use and I learned so much great insight such as:

  • What questions are acceptable (and not) during interview
  • What if an employee doesn’t wish to sign their performance evaluation
  • What rules to follow when terminating an employee
  • Download few templates related to the topic Education is lifelong!
  • Check out the learning center today! You will need a membership number, so if you’ve been in business two years or less, why not sign up for CFIB’s free 6 month membership through the My Startup program! If you have been in business for longer than two years, simply sign up for a one-year CFIB membership.

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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.


How to deal with returns, refunds and exchanges at your business

The holiday shopping frenzy has come to a close and with that comes a few headaches and hassles for small business owners, specifically retailers. It is no surprise, then, that at this time of year CFIB’s small business help line gets an uptick in calls about return and exchange policies. What are your rights? What are best practices? What are tips and tricks for handling long lines, which can result in disgruntled customers?

So what you do as an independent retailer? Are you required to have a return, exchange or refund policy?

This question prompted me to conduct research to determine if there are any provinces that required this practice as mandatory. As I suspected, most provinces do not have an “official” mandatory policy. You as a business owner must establish your own guidelines.

When establishing your return and exchange policy, you should ask yourself the following important questions:

  • Do my customers understand what is a final sale?
  • Do my customers receive a gift receipt – if so, what does that mean to the individual receiving the gift?
  • Can my customer return the product for their money back?
  • If my customers wish to exchange a product, what does the product need to have intact (price tag, receipt, etc.)?
  • Should I choose to issue a refund in a form of a store credit?
  • How do I rectify any complaints, if this was an online purchase?
  • Overall, how do I manage complaints, feedback and comments?

While considering this list of questions, do so with more than the immediate bottom line in mind. There are other important factors, such as:

  • How do I keep my brand and reputation intact?
  • What do I want the customer experience to be?
  • What can I do to ensure that returns/exchanges do not interfere with long-term or budding relationships?

In a Forbes article, Customer Experience is the Future of Marketing, Daniel Newman wrote “Marketing research has discovered that it takes 12 positive experiences to repair the damage caused by a single unresolved negative one. In today’s competitive business environment, even one negative experience is enough to lose a customer forever because people now are less tolerant toward poor encounters than ever before.”

With that in mind, here are 3 important areas to cover when forming your returns, refunds and/or exchange policy:

  • Clarity: Ensure your customers can see and read your policy (cash register, posted at store, on receipt, website online) and your employees fully understand what’s expected of them.
  • Trust: Perhaps the customer has lost their receipt, will you honour the request? Will it be case by case? Do you need to train employees?
  • Expectations: Some key items must be present, if you require them such as tag, receipt, within a period of time or same credit card/debit card etc.

Once you have a return, exchange or refund policy in place, honour it. Not honouring it can result in complaints to the Consumer Protection of your province.

Important Note: if you’re a member of the CFIB, contact your business counsellor to find out details about the Consumer Protection in your province.

If you’re not a member of the CFIB, click here to obtain details as to your local Consumer Protection office.

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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.


Canada Summer Jobs 2017: Deadline extended to February 3rd

As a startup business, you may be interested in hiring a student for the summer. Have you considered applying for the federal government program to alleviate the costs of hiring employees? Checkout the Canada Summer Jobs 2017. Created for employers with less than 50 employees.

Does your business fit one of the following categories?

  • bodies, incorporated or unincorporated, including partnerships and sole proprietorships
  • cooperatives
  • self-employed persons
  • Aboriginal organizations established on a “for-profit” basis
  • federal Crown corporations operating in a competitive environment and not ordinarily dependent on appropriations for operating purposes as indicated in Schedule III, Part II of the Financial Administration Act
  • provincial and territorial Crown corporations recognized as operating in a competitive environment and not ordinarily dependent on appropriations for operating purposes
  • private health and educational institutions; and
  • independent owners of franchises

In order to hire student, student must:

  • be between 15 and 30 years of age at the start of the employment
  • have been registered as full-time students in the previous academic year and intend to return to school on a full-time basis in the next academic year
  • be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or person to whom refugee protection has been conferred under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and
  • be legally entitled to work in Canada in accordance with relevant provincial or territorial legislation and regulations

Your application must be submitted by 23:59 (Pacific Standard Time), on February 3, 2017 (extended from January 20, 2017).

Read through our CFIB website to find out more.


Attention Canadian Entrepreneurs: Start Your Small Business Checklist here!

Like many people with an idea and ambition, there are probably a lot of questions running through your mind about diving into entrepreneurship. Financial resourcing, finding customers, creating a logo and building a website, are just a few examples. All questions that come to mind are not to be feared, but they have to be prioritized. Do not be afraid to admit that the journey to success can seem intimidating.

Starting a business can seem simple when you’re still in the concept stage. This is partly because many well-meaning friends and family like to offer advice like, “…it just takes registering a business, a website and social media accounts! Go for it!” There is, however, much more to it than that.

This is where I come in. I have heard from countless small business owners concerned about the impact that regulations make and the toll it takes on their daily operations – simply because they may not know where to start. Take for example, did you know that there are rules relating to marketing, advertising and sales?

So what can I offer you?

Over many years CFIB business counsellors have written amazing web posts regarding these issues. For the next several weeks, we will be providing you with a list of 7 important considerations that can help you regardless of how many years you have been in business .

Take some time to share it with your business friends and hashtag #MyStartUp #SmallBizChecklist.

Add this week’s topics to your to do list:

☐ Do you understand the rules relating to marketing, advertising and sales?

☐ Have you considered the risks if you post an image online without permission?

☐ Not sure where to begin with your social media? Click here.

☐ Do you understand what misleading advertising is?

☐ Do you need more information about Trademarks and Patents?

If you are a member of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and have questions regarding this information  call your regional business counsellor.

If you have been in business less than two years, sign up today for six months free membership to CFIB through the CFIB MyStartup program.

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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.


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.


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.


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


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.