Category Archives: Established & Growing Businesses

COVID-19 Creativity!

The COVID-19 pandemic quickly derailed 2020 for a whole lot of folks. For business owners, staying afloat while people are staying at home is a primary concern, reflected by a downturn in the economy and a rising unemployment rate. For a small business, the key to surviving a crisis like a pandemic is an ability to pivot from its current offering to one that’s easily provided and highly desired given the circumstances.

COVID-19 graph on blue background with bulb and question mark
Covid -19 graph on blue background with bulb and question mark

We’re seeing examples of this everywhere right now. Businesses are resilient in light of the challenges COVID-19 creates, finding creative opportunities to not just survive, but thrive. In our “COVID-19 Creativity! How to Pivot Your Business” we’ll discuss:

  1. Government programs – Which ones are available to you? Which make the most sense to pursue?
  2. Cash flow – How can you make sure that you stay afloat?
  3. Getting online – Will “going digital” open new markets for you?
  4. Virtual services – Can you provide your product or service online while you can’t offer it face-to-face, or add products or services that are available exclusively online?
  5. Manufacturing Pivot – Can you pivot to manufacture products that are in high demand during the pandemic?
  6. New supply chains – Can you create new supply chains to get products to customers?
  7. Customer loyalty – How can you use your time to strengthen relationships with your customers?

Government Programs

Most governments have infused money into the system during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist struggling businesses. Assistance includes:

  1. Wage subsidies – Emergency Wage Subsidy, Canada Summer Jobs
  2. Rent support – Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance
  3. Loan programs – Business Credit Availability Program, Canada Emergency Business Account, BDC Co-Lending Program
  4. Export support – Grants

Speak to a representative at your financial institution to see if your business fits the criteria for any of these programs!

COVID-19 Cash Flow

Cash is still king! You must have enough money left in the bank account to cover expenses each month, even if your storefront is closed to flatten the curve. Here’s how some businesses do it:

  1. Gift cards – $25 is $25, whether you’ve sold someone a meal or a gift card for a meal. The restaurant doesn’t need to be serving food in order for you to sell a gift card for a meal, though. The gift card’s allure of giving people money to spend (so to speak) in your restaurant when lockdown is over may keep revenue coming in while lockdown is on.
  2. Memberships – Use your creativity to keep your membership program going while you can’t offer the services you regularly do. Maybe the members at your gym get online classes while they can’t access the physical gym, or their money refunded at a later date for every day that the gym was unavailable to them. What matters is that the cash you get from memberships remains available to you now, when you need it.
  3. Reduced Operations – Sometimes consolidating operations saves time/money in the long run and lets you plan better. There’s a good example of this involving an irrigation company in the webinar. As a social media manager, I like to schedule as much posting as I can in advance so that I have to spend a minimal amount of time on it each week.
  4. Getting Online – Plenty of businesses have shops on their websites filled with their products, but you don’t even have to get that specialized if you don’t want to – Etsy, Yahoo, and Amazon are all existing online markets where you can sell products. However, some companies that already have an ecommerce presence chose to use it to meet a need created by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, GoJava.ca opened a website to take grocery delivery orders in addition to their primary service of helping offices operate in an environmentally conscious manner.

Virtual Services

Speaking of getting online, some businesses pivoted during COVID-19 from offering face-to-face services to offering services online through video-teleconferencing once lockdown began.

  1. Mental Health – Counselling services delivered online help people to deal with the mental health stressors that come with the lockdown situation
  2. Exercise – Classes and/or personal training delivered via Zoom let people work out at home and gyms continue to collect money from memberships.
  3. Education – What can you teach over Zoom? Art classes? Writing seminars? Computer skills? Quilting or sewing? Depending on the popularity of your classes, perhaps you won’t even have to charge that much to make them profitable!

Consider what services you already offer and how you can adapt them to offer them online – the work could be minimal for significant reward!

Manufacturing to Meet COVID-19 Demands

If you’re in the business of making things, consider whether you’re equipped to pivot at this time to make vital supplies for dealing with the pandemic that are currently in short supply.

  1. Masks – More and more, people want masks to wear when they’re out in the community, and retailers can’t keep up with the demand. We need to be sure that masks are available for them, so that they’re not buying up the more specialized masks required by front-line workers who put themselves at risk all day, every day. Businesses that work with fabric materials for which demand has dropped have pivoted to making and selling cloth masks.
  2. Disinfectant – Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and cleaners (household and industrial) are very difficult to find right now because people have been hoarding them. Some companies that specialize in handling and mixing chemical have pivoted to making hand sanitizer, to help out with the need.
  3. Other PPE – The World Health Organization has said that the global stockpile of PPE, or personal protective equipment, is deficient – there are not enough gloves, gowns, and N95 respirators to protect front line medical staff treating COVID-19 patients in hospitals.

Is it feasible for your business to do a manufacturing pivot at this time? What can you provide? If you’re a Canadian business, let the government know that you can help.

New Supply Chains for COVID-19 Times

Being in lockdown sometimes makes it difficult to get what you need, whether you’d like a bottle of wine or some beer after a hard day of Zoom meetings or you’re out of something that you need for the evening meal or you shouldn’t be in grocery stores because you’d be a high-risk case if you got infected with COVID-19.

Can your business create new supply chains that make products easier for people to get?

Examples:

  1. Wine and beer delivery from Toronto restaurants to customers became available through third-party company soon after the pandemic began, making it unnecessary for people to have to leave the house to buy alcohol.
  2. Pop-up grocery trucks that visit food deserts and communities low access to food help people meet their nutrition needs while keeping them out of the grocery stores.
  3. While libraries are closed in Ontario due to the pandemic, food banks have been using the buildings to store donations.

What else might people need during the pandemic to which they might not want to dedicate a trip to the store? Is there a way that you can create a new, safer supply chain for them?

Customer Communications

Customer loyalty can see your business safely through a crisis. Stay in touch with your customers and let them know what you’re doing to ensure their safety during this time.

In general, after any sort of social crisis, focus on the following in your communication strategy:

  1. Connection – Touch base with your customers as soon as possible and reassure them that you’re there. You cannot over-communicate at this point.
  2. Safety Updates – Tell people the measures you’re taking to preserve their safety and give them clear instructions about any measures regarding your products or services that they must take. Depending on your business and what products and/or services you offer, you may be required to offer information in multiple formats. Consult the accessibility laws for your province or country for more information.
  3. Loyalty – Think about how you might build loyalty even if you can’t offer your customers all the services during lockdown that you can face-to-face. How can you demonstrate to them that you’re thinking of them and the challenges that the pandemic creates for them, that might set you apart from other businesses in your community offering the services that you do? Customers remember companies that treat them as more than numbers and are more likely to become and stay return customers.

Steer into the COVID-19 Skid

When Sarah took Driver’s Education, many years ago, she learned that the best way to get out of a skid on a slippery road is not to slam on the brakes, as people reflexively do.

To increase your chances of getting out of the skid safely, you must keep steady pressure on the gas and steer in the direction that the skid. If you slam on the brakes, you’ll lock them, and lose control of the vehicle.

Ask yourself how your business can steer into the skid of COVID-19 – pivoting your business to take advantage of potential opportunities it creates – to increase your chances of safely getting out of it. Don’t slam on the brakes and lose control of the direction in which the pandemic takes you!

If you enjoyed the COVID Creativity Webinar watch our other webinars on our YouTube Channel!

Social Enterprise – Making Money While You Make A Difference!

Our “Make Money & Make a Difference” webinar is all about how you can do just that in your organization! Social enterprise is on the rise, and why not? It feels good to give back, and it’s a good business move to do so, as 60% of customers want to support companies with a sense of corporate social responsibility. How can you lose?

If you need more convincing, the webinar examines even more of the business advantages to operating as a social enterprise, including:

  1. Improved public perception
  2. Direct recognition for your efforts
  3. Increased sales
  4. More opportunities for partnerships
  5. Increased employee satisfaction
  6. Opportunities to team build
  7. Increased opportunities to network. Statistics show that almost all small business owners want to give back to their communities – over 99%!

What Social Enterprise Looks Like

There are many ways that companies can be social enterprises. Check out these businesses that are making a difference.

Hungry Heart Cafe – “Hungry Heart Café is much more than a great place for food. We help vulnerable adults access careers in the food service industry so that they can achieve independence and realize their dreams.”

Virgin Unite Foundation – “non-profit foundation…to unite people and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities for a better world.”

Tim Horton’s Smile Cookie Week – “Your full $1 goes to over 500 charities and organizations in communities across Canada ”

Making a difference feels good. It can make things a little more complicated for a small business, yes. The webinar addresses these issues, and also talks about what goes into making a social idea a social enterprise:

  1. Starting with the problem to find the solution
  2. Validating your idea
  3. Marketing your idea
  4. Developing your team
  5. Determining your financing options

Does the idea of social innovation and social enterprise appeal to you? We’re here to help! Reach out to us at [email protected] and tell us how we can help.

Sales Presentations: How to Own the Room as You Sell Your Stuff!

Our live webinar series is motoring through summer, with the fast-paced and information-packed “How to Give a Great Sales Presentation, Small Business-Style!” This webinar focuses on 4 key areas of giving sales presentations: Audience, Content, “The Nerves”, and Was It Good?

The Audience

Tailor your sales presentation’s message for different groups. You need to know who your audience is and what they care about so that you can present useful information. If you don’t know about your audience and what’s useful for them, find out:

  1. Attend the event yourself (if possible)
  2. Ask the organizers about the people who will be attending and what they’re likely to want to hear about.
  3. Show up early talk to people prior to your presentation about why they’ve come and what they’d like to hear from you.

A sales presentation should signal to your audience that you understand their core values and that your own core values align with theirs. If you can’t connect with your audience on that emotional level, your audience is unlikely to buy from you. Remember – sales are emotional!

Sales Presentations and Content: The Beginning and the End

When you’re planning sales presentation content, pay special attention to the beginning and the end – they serve important functions! The beginning of the presentation should contain the ” hook” that catches peoples’ interest. An effective hook:

  1. Is very clear and simple
  2. Has some sort of number or return on investment (investment being time spent watching the presentation.) 
  3. Draws people in by asking a question or telling a story.

Your hook may be your only chance to get peoples’ attention, so make it a good one!

The end of a sales presentation should invite the audience to take a concrete, reasonable next step. The step should be a gesture their interest in what you have to offer. Don’t ask them for the world! You might invite them to:

  1. Pick up your business card on the way out
  2. Schedule a phone call or coffee date with you to chat about their needs
  3. Stay after for a few moments to see a quick demo of your software or website.

Pro tip: You should never have to say “Thank you” to indicate that a sales presentation is over. It should be clear to the audience!  

Sales Presentations and Content: Benefits versus Features

You’ll feel compelled to tell your audience all about the features that make your product or service is the best on the market. Resist that urge. Instead, tell your audience why it *matters* that your product can do what it does and why it’s important that a job be done just the way that your company can do it. Convince them to hire you by telling them the benefits of doing so!

Consider how you might use the following as you present benefits:

  1. Emotional words to further capitalize on the power of talking about benefit.
  2. Vocal intonation and body movements to break up the conversation
  3. Moments that “pop!” to emphasize points that you want your audience to remember.

You want to make an emotional appeal with your sales presentations because (say it with me!) sales are emotional!

The Nerves: No Big Deal

Everyone gets a little nervous about speaking in front of groups. There are ways to work through it! Use these techniques when your nerves start to get the better of you:

  1. Be sure that you’ve practiced enough before your sales presentations. Most people need to practice a presentation between 7 and 20 times. 
  2. Show up first. Be in the room as everyone arrives and even talk to people a bit if that’s possible. You’ll feel in control of the room and the audience will see you feeling confident and ready. 
  3. Don’t take a deep breath just before you start presenting, as you may start to hyperventilate. Instead, exhale and force all the air out of your diaphragm and allow it to refill. Then go in and own it! You’ve got this!

Was Your Sales Presentation Good? How You Can Tell

You don’t need a lot of training or a fancy post-presentation audience questionnaire to evaluate how your sales presentations go over. You can monitor the standard indicators of audience interest and engagement as you’re presenting:

  1. Are people interrupting you to ask question as you’re presenting ?Questions about implementation and logistics are an especially strong sign of interest. 
  2. What is the body language saying? Engaged people will lean in, maintain eye contact, nod and smile. Bear in mind that body language in a business-to-business sales presentation can be trickier.
  3. Are people taking even small actions after your sales presentations? Even if someone just takes a business card from your display table, congratulate yourself. You caught their interest! Now you need to follow up and move them along your sales funnel!

We have lots of information about presentations on our website, and all our resources are available to small business owners on a pay-what-you-can basis! Sign up for an account and check us out!

You can also see more of our webinars on our YouTube Channel.

Alternative Revenue Streams for Your Small Business

Why would you want to develop some alternative revenue streams for your small business? For lots of reasons! Diversification and customer retention, for a start – customers who have a wide range of sevices and products from which to choose are happy customers!

Alternative Revenue Streams: Things to Consider

You can’t provide everything, so choose your alterative revenue streams wisely. You need to consider:

  1. Your core competencies
  2. Adjacencies to those competencies
  3. Your existing customers
  4. New customers
  5. Standard types of alternative revenue streams

Core Competency

How to decide what your core competency is? This is your bread & butter! A core compentecy is your competitive advantage, what you are known for! You should be better at your core competency than everyone else is. It’s probably the reason why you went into business.

Logical Adjacencies

Logical adjancenies are potential alternative revenue streams that are strategically aligned to your core competency. They steer what you offer in a defined direction. Some different ways to pivot when you do adjacencies is if they are a new product or service for your existing customers or if you are doing the same product or service for a new target market. Both are a natural step in growing your alternative revenue streams strategically.

Existing Customers

Strategies to develop alternative revenue streams that focus on the existing customer include:

  1. Increasing the average sale from a customer
  2. Increasing the frequency with which customers use your business
  3. Offering something new that customers also need
  4. Developing more effective retention strategies.

Keeping a customer is worth even more (and is much less expensive) than finding a new one!

New Customers

Strategies to develop alternative revenue streams that focus on new customers include:

  1. Targeting new markets
  2. Testing new offerings

Standard Alternative Revenue Streams

Standard alternative revenue streams include:

  1. New products, services, intellectual property, programs
  2. Events
  3. Memberships
  4. Intermediaries
  5. Residual income
  6. Sharing economy
  7. Government contracts
  8. Crowdfunding

Learn More About Alternative Revenue Streams

When it comes to alternative streams, the limit is really only the resources that you have available to implement them and oversee them. The general rule is that, regardless of how many revenue streams you have, 20% of your revenue streams should be producing 80% of your income, so focus on that 20%…but make them what you want! You can do one or more of them, blend them…have fun!

Watch the video to hear more about all of this.

Was this useful? Watch more webinars on our YouTube channel!

Credit Union Straight Talk with DUCA’s Keith Taylor

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a credit union and a bank? Are you curious about why you might choose one over the other?

Keith Taylor of DUCA Financial Services can tell you – and he does.

Why Join a Credit Union?

In this webinar you’ll learn about:

  1. What DUCA is and how a credit union is different from a bank
  2. The different programs that DUCA can offer as a credit union including the Profit-Sharing Program and Profits with Purpose.  There is also a Community Hero Mortgage with a profit donation program with in.
  3. What B-Corp certification is and why DUCA works to maintain it including ensuring that they are paying all employees a living wage (including benefits) and were the first to do so.
  4. What DUCA offers businesses from no or low-fee business banking and all of the other account options.
  5. Plus there is business lending with lines of credit, loans and mortgages  just like you would expect from a bank. But the added advantage for small business owners is the relationship that they have including having a designated Small Business Advisor for all business members.
  6. The DUCA Impact Lab – what if banking’s primary focus was on solving problems and creating opportunities for everyone and not on simply making a profit? 

Social enterprises like DUCA generate revenue, but aren’t in business solely to make profit – they also want to make a positive social impact. For businesses interested in supporting banking institutions with a social conscience while receiving full range services, a credit union like DUCA is the way to go.

To find out more, watch the webinar – let us know what you think!

Special thanks to Keith Taylor for guest hosting. Find out more about DUCA Financial Services

Was this useful? View more of our webinars on our YouTube Channel!

Writing a Business Plan to Get What You Want!

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That’s why why writing a business plan is the best first step you can take toward making your dream of owning a successful small business a reality.

In this recording of our “Writing a Business Plan to Get What You Want!” you’ll webinar, you’ll learn about what you need to think about as you draft a business plan, including the sections you must include.

Decide For Whom You are Writing a Business Plan

Your plan will look very different depending on who will be reading it. Potential readers might include:

  1. Yourself
  2. A bank
  3. Potential investors
  4. Potential partners

If you’re writing a business plan for yourself, you’ll include different information than you will for anyone else. Similarly, a bank may want different information than a potential partner.

Write the Business Overview

The Business Overview is the section to include the following things:

  1. A description of The Opportunity
  2. A summary of why what you offer is a solution
  3. A desciption of your target market
  4. The unique aspect of your business that gives you a competitive advantage over other businesses in your niche
  5. A brief summary of how you plan to keep that advantage

The Business Overview paints a picture of your business at a point in time.

Write the Vision Section

In the Vision Section, paint a picture of how you see your business in the future. Include details about:

  1. Where you see your company in 3 – 5 years
  2. Your ultimate goal for your business
  3. A description of your exit strategy

The reader will appreciate that you have thought about the future.

Write the Marketing Research Section

Drafting this section is a very important part of writing a business plan. Consider including:

  1. Descriptions of the industry trends, consumer trends, and wider general trends (government, economic, technology) that may impact your products;
  2. Your business’ main competitors and their potential impact.

It’s worth taking time to do any necessary research to write this part of your plan.

Write the Sales Projections Section

The webinar recording goes into how to calculate the sales projections that you should include when writing a business a plan.

Write the Management Team Section

In this section, describe why you, as the owner, are the best person to launch your business, given your support team and contacts.

Write the Marketing and Sales Strategy

Discuss your plan to get the word out about products given factors such as:

  1. Price
  2. Location
  3. Size of area to be covered
  4. Marketing budget
  5. Projected sales

If you need help with this part of writing a business plan our Marketing Solver tool can get you started #ShamelessPersonalPlug

Write the Operations Section

The Operations section is a discussion of issues like processes and delivery. You might want to include details about:

  1. How you’ll track processes to ensure completion
  2. Who handles human resources issues like hiring, scheduling, etc.
  3. The processes in place to handle human resource issues

Nailing down processes is dry work, but necessary. Take the time to protect your employees and yourself and get them in place.

Write the Action Steps Section

Discuss the company’s goals. Break them down into three levels:

  1. Today’s Goals
  2. Short Term Goals
  3. Long Term Goals

Again, this shows that you’ve given thought to your company’s position at the moment and to the direction in which you’d like it to go.

Write the Financial Projections Section

Use this section to demonstrate that the business is financially viable and sustainable over the long-term.

The Last Part of Writing a Business Plan: The Executive Summary

Yes, you write this section last…but it’s the first thing reader sees! Make it compelling! It should make the reader want to keep reading. Are you ready to start writing a business plan?

Was this useful? Watch more of our webinars on our YouTube Channel!

Non-Disclosure Agreements And You!

A cartoon man and woman hold up a sign that says "Non-Disclosure Agreement!"

Using Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) is a smart move for any small business owner. As you run your business, you’ll work with a variety of people in a variety of contexts, and you may have to share confidential information with them.  You’ll want assurance that the other party won’t share that information with anyone else.  Situations where this concern arises include ones where:

  1. Your employees have access to company secrets, intellectual property, future strategic plans, customer pricing, and many other pieces of information that you don’t wish to have shared.
  2. You’ve shared financial information and future plans with business partners or investors.
  3. You’ve given an accounting firm your financial information, including the debt and equity information, so that they can do your taxes.
  4. You’ve shared information with suppliers on pricing or marketing tactics to be a good strategic partner.
  5. Anyone else with whom you share information with that you want to keep from public knowledge. 

Consider using non-disclosure agreements any time you’re sharing confidential information, especially if keeping that information secret is crucial to your success – if your baking tastes better because you use an ingredient that no one else does, or your product lasts longer because you use a manufacturing technique that no one else has thought of, you don’t want that secret getting out so that other people can also start benefiting from what makes you superior in your market! 

Learn More About Non-Disclosure Agreements and Download a Template 

Thanks to Cobalt Lawyers  and ClauseHound. The information provided may not be relevant to your jurisdiction, this information is not a substitute for obtaining legal counsel, nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship with you, the reader.

Have you checked out our webinars yet? Head to our webinar channel and check them out! Tell us which one you like the best!

Strategic Partnerships and How to Build Them!

strategic partnerships

Strategic partnerships are critical to any small business’ success. Whether your small business is for profit or non-profit, developing solid partnerships is a good use of time and resources.

Watch our Building Strategic Partnerships webinar to learn:

  1. Whether you need to build a partnership
  2. How to determine who of your potential partners are the best to approach about joining forces
  3. How to determine when you are ready to form the partnership
  4. The secrets to maintaining a healthy partnership.

You’re best served by slowly walking through the above stages, paying special attention to the last one.  Keeping your strategic partnership healthy and happy is very important!

When Do You Need to Build a Strategic Partnership?

Consider partnering with someone else when:

  1. They can provide a service or product that is an adjacency to those that you provide
  2. The partnership reduces your risk
  3. Their service or product could add customer value to your offering
  4. Partnering up could help you (and them, ideally!) grow at a faster rate. 

Do you see how partnering with someone could be the best thing for your small business?

What Makes a Good Partner?

Evaluate your potential partners carefully, as you’re trusting them with your precious business! A good partner should:

  1. Need you as much as you need them!
  2. Have leaders that get along with you, and a similar business structure
  3. Have a similar corporate structure
  4. Leave you with a good “gut feel”.

After you meet with a potential partner, ask yourself whether you could, with the right assurances in place, trust them with your vital business information and whether you have confidence in their ability to do what they say they will. You should have both trust and confidence to proceed.

Maintaining Healthy Strategic Partnerships 

Nuture your partnerships to keep them healthy and of maximum benefit to all parties involved by:

  1. Doing planning sessions with your partners at least quarterly
  2. Blending your tools, processes, and technology when possible
  3. Communicating regularly
  4. Determining how all parties involved enjoy the benefits and assume the costs involved in partnering.

Partnerships have perks, so keep them healthy! Email Carla at [email protected] or Sarah at [email protected] with your comments or questions. 

Did you enjoy this webinar? Check out the others on our YouTube channel!

 

 

 

Succession Planning for Small Business

Succession planning is all about planning your exit strategy and maximizing the value that the small business owner receives for their effort (which often amounts to years and decades of work).

It also protects the small business owner, family, and the business from any risk.

Learn the process and your options in 20 minutes!

Contact the Expert
Mike Hook
[email protected]

SEO 2015 and Beyond

Search Engine Optimization keeps changing! Small business owners need to keep on top of this to make sure that their small business is found online.

There are some significant changes that happened in early 2015 that you should take note of right now!

Watch this less than 20 minute video to learn everything that you need to know now.

Contact the Expert
Allan Pollett
[email protected]
www.allanpollett.com