Five Signs Your Business Model and Plan Needs Revamping

By Randall Orser | Small Business , Technology

revampingImagine a situation where business is great, sales volumes are steadily increasing, your market share is growing and customers just can’t seem to get enough of your company’s latest and greatest product offering. Your company is the envy of the market, the proverbial market leader and an innovator in its field. Then, rather suddenly, everything seems to change. Everything seems to be going wrong. Your costs have increased, your sales have decreased, you’ve lost market share and you’ve hit one roadblock after another. However, did this really happen all at once and simply catch you by surprise, or is it something that has been building over time? In essence, did you simply ignore the warning signs when everything around you was screaming that it was time to redefine, revamp and reinvigorate your business plan? Unfortunately, far too many companies ignore the warning signs until it’s too late. So, what are these warning signs and what must your company do to avoid the damage they can inflict?

1.      Your Company’s Goals and Objectives Change

One of the surest signs your business model needs restructuring is when you, your management team, and your employees, all start veering away from your company’s stated goals and objectives. Often it’s the result of following where your market leads your business. After all, it may simply be a sign of an ever-changing business environment. However, when your marketplace changes, and you must change along with it to remain competitive, then take the time to revisit your company’s goals and objectives within your overall business model. Make sure your business plan accounts for the new realities within your market. It will help provide a clear path forward on pursuing these newly established objectives and provide every employee and manager with common long-term goals.

2.      Your Cost Structure Increases and Revenues Decrease

If there is one essential rule of business it most certainly has to be that profit must be protected at all times. In fact, profit is essential. It’s the reason why your company is in business. While most would assume that an increase in costs, and a decrease in sales, would immediately be recognized and dealt with, reality is entirely different. What ends up happening is that both occur gradually over time. Rarely do sales volumes plummet overnight, unless of course a major contract is lost. Instead, costs seem to slowly increase, while sales numbers slowly decrease. In most cases, the increases and decreases are gradual and not immediately obvious. This is ultimately why companies must continue to assess their overhead by analyzing their direct and indirect expenses, while at the same time tracking their profit margins on sales. Again, these warning signs are gradual in nature, but by the time they’ve taken hold of your company, it’s far too late to adopt any short-term solutions. It’s been a while in the making and it will take your business time to adjust.

3.      You Grow Too Quickly

Granted, it’s difficult to find issues with business growth, especially in today’s economy. However, growing too quickly can have serious consequences, especially if your business plan and model isn’t easily scalable to your new growth. It’s not hard to imagine the consequences of a business that takes on more than it can handle. Sales, marketing and customer service can suffer under the weight of increased customer expectations. Manufacturing can suddenly have issues with quality and production throughput. Inventory and supply chain management can suddenly encounter higher costs of inventory ownership as they struggle to find vendors and creditors able to deal with the extra workload. If not prepared, that increase workload can damage your company’s reputation.

4.      You Ignore Critical Benchmarks

Another sure sign of trouble is when your enterprise ignores key performance indicators (KPI) or continually misses one vital benchmark after another. Your company may have defined these benchmarks early in its history. In fact, your original business plan likely included several key vital benchmarks, ones you deemed essential to securing your long-term future. They were seen as pivotal milestones and periods of reflection, ones where your company could assess the success or failure of individual strategies. Once your company starts ignoring these benchmarks, and glossing over deadlines, it moves towards a period of indifference, one marked by constant rescheduling and missed opportunities. Don’t allow this to happen. Sit down with your management team when you find your enterprise is missing important deadlines. This period is essential in order to redefine your business plan and model going forward. It’s an opportunity to revise your schedule and find ways to make those benchmarks important again.

5.      You Start Losing Your Biggest Customers

Losing a series of large customers has both immediate and definitive long-term consequences. This is often due to the 80-20 “Pareto Principle” or rule. It states that 80% of a company’s sales come from the top 20% of customers. Losing any of these large customers means a sudden and drastic decline in revenue. Unfortunately, a number of enterprises rationalize these losses, especially when they are seemingly ahead of their growth curve. However, losing one customer may seem simple to overcome, but losing multiple large customers isn’t. Therefore, be aware of where your biggest customers are and why they may be willing to move to your competition. If left unchecked, you can suddenly find yourself losing more than you thought possible.

When thinking of the impact of these five aforementioned outcomes, think back to how you originally came up with your business plan. You understood that success wasn’t guaranteed. You were well aware of the failure rates for new enterprises. As such, you laid out a plan that protected your interests, one that defined specific goals and objectives, defined your enterprise’s cost structure, outlined a plan for sustainable growth and finally, defined specific benchmarks and key performance indicators. Pay attention to those original plans before the fifth and most ominous sign occurs; losing big customers has dire consequences. Before that happens, revisit your business plan and revamp your business model to account for your new market reality.

TFSAs: What are they and do I need one?

By Randall Orser | Personal Income Tax

What is a TFSA?

corporation-Tidbits-2013-10-30-300x188TFSA, short for Tax-free Savings Account, allows Canadians, age 18 and over, to set money aside tax-free throughout their lifetime. Each calendar year, you can contribute up to $5,000, any unused TFSA contribution room from the previous year, and the amount you withdrew the year before. As with RRSPs, the term savings implies it’s like a bank savings account, which it is not. You can invest in a variety of investments, such as cash, mutual funds, securities listed on a designated stock exchange, GICs, bonds and certain shares of small business corporations

The main benefit of a TFSA is that all income earned in and withdrawals from a TFSA are generally tax-free. Plus, having a TFSA does not impact federal benefits and credits. It’s a great way to save for short and long-term goals. The only age restriction is that you must be 18 (or age of majority in your province) or older to contribute to a TFSA; there is no upper age limit so you can contribute until you die.

You can have more than one TFSA at any given time, but the total amount you contribute to all your TFSAs cannot be more than your available TFSA contribution room for that year. As the account holder, you are the only person who can contribute to your TFSA.

So, do you need a TFSA?

A TFSA can be useful in certain situations. You have already contributed the maximum to your RRSP for the year or just don’t have any contribution room left. TFSAs can be a good way to save for a vehicle, appliances, down payment on a house, and more. The TFSA can also be used in lieu of or in combination with the RRSP Home Buyers Plan. If you are no longer eligible to contribute to RRSPs, due to your age, you can still contribute to your RRSP.

A TFSA is a good way to save for a rainy day as you can make earnings in it and when you need the funds you can take it out tax-free. The best part of a TFSA is that the money you take out can be put back into the TFSA next year and you still get your $5000 maximum contribution that year too.

For young people just starting out, in a low tax bracket now, expecting to increase earnings and be in a higher tax bracket in a few years.  At that time, the TFSAs could be transferred to an RRSP, making the contribution when the tax savings is greater.

Over contributing to your TFSAs will incur a 1% tax of the excess amount. There is no grace room like there is for RRSPs. So, if at any time in a month, you have excess TFSA amount, you are liable to a tax of 1% of your highest excess TFSA amount in that month.

The tax of 1% per month will continue to apply for each month that the excess amount remains in the TFSA. It will continue to apply until whichever of the following happens first:

  • the entire excess amount is withdrawn; or
  • for eligible individuals, the entire excess amount is absorbed by additions to their unused TFSA contribution room in the following years.

Should I borrow to finance a TFSA?

Interest on money borrowed to make TFSA contributions is not a deductible expense for tax purposes. If you have a choice between borrowing to make a TFSA contribution or borrowing to make another investment, you should always borrow to make the other investment. The interest paid on the investment loan may well qualify for tax deduction and thus offset the cost of borrowing.

The TFSA can be a good vehicle to saving for the future or those expenses that crop up unexpectedly. It shouldn’t be your only retirement savings vehicle and a combination of the TFSA and RRSP can a very good way to save for retirement. Or, use to save in your retirement, too.

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