Category Archives for "Employees"

What Small Businesses can do to Survive the Pandemic

By Randall Orser | Budget , Covid-19 , Employees , Small Business

Businesses are doing all they can to navigate the unknown and to stay afloat during the pandemic, including laying off staff and reduced hours.  However up to 30% of small businesses are going to be unable to survive according to Jasmin Guenette from the CFIB.  

Here are a few actions that small businesses could take that might help them to deal with their situation.

  1. Check your reserves and insurance - talk with your accountant about your cash flow and reserves and how they can be best used.  Also check your insurance policy to see if there is anything that can be covered for lost income.  Even though many businesses have business interruption insurance, as this is a pandemic it does not count. 
  2. Have honest conversations with your staff about how you are going to try and keep them on the payroll but what might need to be done if your situation worsens.  
  3. Brainstorm with your staff for any ideas about how things could be done differently to save money and layoffs.
  4. Think about allowing your employees to work from home if it is possible in your business. If you can save on rent and utilities for your small office that could help your bottom line.
  5. Think about reducing business hours if possible.  This will give employees extra time to carry out cleaning and sanitizing for the office or if your are open to the public.
  6. If your business is open make sure that you follow all health and safety protocols to ensure a safe environment for your staff and the public.  Make sure all staff are fully trained and know what is expected of them.  
  7. Talk to your suppliers and lenders about stretching your payments and make sure that you take advantage of all the government, provincial and municipal help available to you.
  8. Get help from your accountant and business advisors to decide which government programs are most appropriate for your business.
  9. Continually think and plan ahead to see what you can do to minimize the impact of Covid-19 on your business. 
  10. Consult useful resources geared to small business:

From an article by Margaret Craig-Bourdin                              

How the Pandemic is Affecting Canadian Businesses

By Randall Orser | Budget , Covid-19 , Employees , Small Business

Even though many small businesses have fully or partially reopened the financial effects of the pandemic have been disastrous.  The serious decrease in revenue has meant that many have had to take on debt in order to stay afloat and many are calling for further government financial help.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has been tracking small businesses through the pandemic and the most recent survey of more than 4000 businesses found that 40% of them have seen revenues drop by 70% and & 70% have seen revenues drop by at least 30%.  

Even with the easing of restrictions by provinces and municipalities allowing for small businesses to reopen it is going to be a long time until sectors such as hospitality and entertainment will start to show a profit again.  Ted Mallet the vice president and chief economist of the CFIB has said it is more difficult for small businesses to operate now and despite being patronized by people who love unique products and services, many of these businesses will not survive.

The new reopening rules mean that restaurants are only able to have 50% of their normal capacity.  They usually have a profit margin of 3-5% when times are good so despite having curtsied pick up and home delivery it is difficult for many to continue to hang on. 

The CFIB survey found that 34% of respondents were behind on their major bills such as rent, credit card bills and critical suppliers, that number is 47% in the hospitality sector.  More than 25% said that their biggest worry was having to close their business, they are borrowing money to keep going but are building up debt that is going to be difficult to pay down.  In addition they have the costs associated with the changes necessary to operate their business post lockdown.

Though it is doom and gloom for many businesses, due to a change in consumer behaviour there are some business that are thriving, including home-gym products, those selling renovation products on-line, hobby shops and bike shops but these businesses are in the minority.

From an article by Ethan Rotberg CPA Canada

Will Covid-19 Relief Measures Affect my Taxes?

By Randall Orser | Business Income Taxes , Employees , Personal Finances , Personal Income Tax , Small Business

Accountants are not completely certain how the various government benefits being received by individuals and businesses during the pandemic will affect their tax bill next year.  However what will be certain is that if the benefit is a taxable benefit then you need to be prepared to pay tax on it in 2021 when you file your 2020 tax return.

As of April 2020 here is the information available from the CRA website and current legislation.

1. For Individuals

  • Any CERB payments are taxable, any payments that you have received will have to entered onto your tax return and an information slip will be available to you next year in MyAccount under Information slips so that you can enter your income in the correct boxes on your tax return.
  • One time additional payments for the Canada Child Benefit and the GST/HST tax credit are tax free and it is not expected that this will change in 2020.  The GST payment is also tax free and it is not expected that this will change.
  • If your student loan payments have been suspended then you will probably not have as much allowable student loan interest to claim on your income tax return as long as it is a qualifying student loan per CRA guidelines.
  • Deferred payments under mortgage support are added to the outstanding principal balance and are repaid over the life of the mortgage.  The mortgage support system is managed specifically by your lender and any deferral of payments is an arrangement between you and them.  The only impact on your taxes might be experienced by those who are self-employed who are able to claim business use or use of home expenses on their tax return.
  • The minimum withdrawal limit under the RRIF has been reduced by 25% for 2020 which means that if you take out less money you will pay less tax as money in your RRIF is only taxable when it is withdrawn.  

2. For Businesses

  • Tax credits and other benefits provided by the government still apply so any money received as a wage subsidy is considered government assistance and is included in the employers taxable income.  If you apply for the CEWS benefit you need to understand the tax implications of receiving this benefit.  The subsidy must be noted in your bookkeeping records and will become part of your business income that you report on your T2125.  
  • The TEWS or Temporary Wage Subsidy will be recorded in the same way.  The subsidies are a reduction in the amount that you send to the government for income taxes that you withheld from your employees and it becomes income for your business.  

It is paramount that you keep accurate accounting records throughout 2020 as they will be very important when you do your tax return in 2021.

From an article by Susan Watkin

How to Manage Flexible Work Arrangements for your Business

By Randall Orser | Employees , Small Business

Prior to the pandemic employees were already looking for new incentives to keep themselves motivated and engaged including the most popular one flexible working arrangements.

From an employers point of view offering flexible working means that there are some hurdles to be overcome. These can include the feeling that not making full use of the office space that they have invested in is a waste of money and secondly how can they make sure that their employees are being productive if they are not continually supervising them?

Due to the pandemic many more employees are working from home employers have had to change their mindset to embrace this.  For example instead of measuring the amount of hours spent at their desks they need to measure their employees productivity. Previous research into flexible working arrangements showed that employees have a greater degree of job satisfaction and higher productivity rates when they work away from the office.

It is true that flexible working arrangements do not work for every business especially if face-to-face contact with clients is important. However during the pandemic many businesses are getting around this by setting up Zoom meetings with their clients.  

Flexible Work Locations:

Offering flexible work arrangements will include work locations.  Employees can work in the office part of the week and from outside the office the remainder of the week whether it be at home or at another remote location of their choice.  Alternatively they can work entirely out of the office and just be in the office for special training, staff meetings or special events.  One advantage to this system is that employers do not have to hire talented workers who live locally instead they can hire from the best talent available in the industry wherever they live.

Flexible Schedules:

Instead of the 9-5 schedule required in the office employers can allow workers to set their own eight hour work day within a 12 hour period, or they can work 10 hour days for four days a week.  This schedule could be subject to change after a 3 or 6 month time period depending upon the requirements of the company.  

Job Sharing:

Job sharing allows two employees to share one full time job.  Sometimes an employer cannot find a person to work full time but can find two employees who can share the tasks which often happens in businesses that hire from an employee pool including students, mothers and seniors.  The benefit of this to the employer is that they often do not have to pay the same benefits to part time workers that they pay to their full time staff thereby saving on overhead.   The downside is that the employer will responsible for coordinating the work between the two employees to make sure that all the required tasks are completed and that everyone is on the same page.

Although flexible working comes with advantages and disadvantages for both employers and employees these arrangements were becoming more popular but the outbreak of Covid-19 has seen an  unprecedented move from office to home working.  It will now remain to be seen how many companies will continue to have their employees working remotely.

From an article by Alyssa Gregory

Four Things Not to Do While Working at Home During the Pandemic

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Employees , Freelancing

Many people and businesses were already considering working from home prior to the pandemic, but once social distancing became a reality it accelerated the movement from office to home working.  This has been a massive and sudden transition for everyone involved and it has brought about a new way of working for many of us.

While many thought that they would easily embrace working from home, many also found that it has a set of challenges to overcome.  So whether you are enjoying this new way of working or you are struggling here are a few things that you could do to make your working at home experience more positive and productive.

  1. Don't be Overwhelmed by Small Details  -  Don't be stressed by the sounds around you such as traffic, children and pets which can make your working conditions less than ideal. Other people are also dealing with these distractions, so when you make video or phone calls make light of your less than ideal working conditions to relieve your own anxiety.
  2.  Don't wear pyjamas all day and don't take video or phone calls while still in bed or in the washroom. As much as possible remain professional in your interactions with clients and peers. Get into the work mindset, dress appropriately and allow yourself the usual breaks that you would take if you were in the office.  Try and keep your work routine as normal as possible.
  3. Don't go silent, make sure you keep lines of communication open with other work colleagues and team members.  Set up regular check in times and video meetings this will provide you with regular updates and keep you feeling like you are still an important part of the team.
  4. Don't work in uncomfortable conditions.  It is easy to set yourself up with your laptop in bed or on uncomfortable chairs at the dining table but this will result in aches and pains which will distract you from the tasks that you are trying to complete.  Even if it is only a desk and chair in the corner of your bedroom, set yourself up with a comfortable and ergonomic workspace.

From Dr Laura Hambly on Global News

How to Stay Motivated When Working from Home

By Randall Orser | Employees , Home Based Business , Small Business

Due to the coronavirus many more people are joining those already working from home.  It is quite a change from your normal routine of going into the office five days a week and working with others, so you need to make your new work environment as comfortable as possible for you to be productive.  When working for your company from home you should still to stick to your normal hours of work as much as possible and it is important to keep in touch with your colleagues by phone or video conferencing so that you do not feel isolated.  

For those who are their own boss and have been working from home for a while you don’t need to worry about being late for work, being written up, laid off or fired.  However, you are solely in charge, so it is up to you to face all the challenges involved in owning a business, most of all making money.  

If you are now finding yourself in one of these two situations how do you stay motivated while working from home?

1. Work-life vs Family Life

When working at home family can be your biggest distraction, particularly now as most of your family including kids may be at home.  It is vital to set up a separate room in your house to work where you can close the door if necessary.  You need to let the family know that when you are in that room you are working and unavailable except for an emergency.  Don’t forget that this separate workspace can allow for a tax deduction if you are self-employed.

2. Keeping your concentration when working from home

Difficulty concentrating one of the biggest problems reported by people who work from home.  You may have to deal with family noise, activities outside your window or even the view of your backyard especially if the sun is shining.  You may be disturbed by people who have a hard time accepting that you are working from home and think that you can run errands for them or that you have time to chat on the phone.  Some solutions to these problems might be to close the blinds, wear noise reducing headphones or ask the family not to do noisy activities while you are working.  You also need to make sure that friends and relatives know that you are not available between certain hours because you are

working.

3. Motivational Challenges

It is up to you to motivate and challenge yourself unless you are still employed by a company and working from home.  In that instance you still have to answer emails and phone calls from colleagues for information and updates.  This will help to keep your mind on the job.  If you own your own business, it can be way more difficult to keep motivated and let your attention slip to more appealing things.  You need to keep your end goal in mind which is to grow your business and make money


4. Dealing with the lack of Office Equipment

If you are working from home, either temporarily or permanently it is important for you to have the necessary equipment to do your job.  When you are working for an employer at home, they should provide the equipment that you need to do the job.  If own your own business, you should invest in the office equipment that you need.  These days computers, and multifunction printers and scanners are way less expensive than they used to be.  Look out for low interest and interest free deals offered by stores to help reduce the costs and you may be able to offset some of these expenses on your taxes.

5. Getting Access to Company Documents

If you are working from home for your employer, they need to set up a way for you to able to access company documents from home over the internet.  There are many programs and apps that will allow you to do that easily.

6. Egonomic Issues

It can be difficult to keep your concentration if you are not comfortable in your workspace.  Make sure you are equipped with a proper office desk and office chair to support your back, neck and shoulders. Take a few minutes break each hour or two and standup, walk about and stretch.  Be conscious of your posture while working as bad posture will result in pain and trips to the chiropractor or for physio.

As working from home is becoming more of the norm and may become even more so as companies realize that their employees working remotely can save them money, and workers find that working from home gives them a better work-life balance.

Working from Home – Why it can be Advantageous for Employers

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Employees , Small Business

If your boss is on the fence about allowing you to work from home a compelling study from Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom was featured in an article by Ari Surdoval in Ideas.Ted.Com showed that it can be very advantageous especially for employers. 

When most people imagine working from home they see someone in their pajamas watching Netflix on their laptop.   They believe that working from home can be shirking from home.  Professor Bloom had previously worked from home himself and knew that it was becoming more and more common around the world, so he believed that there had to be more to it than just watching Netflix.  

In the US the number of people working from home has tripled over the past 30 years and was 2.4% of the workforce in 2017.  In countries where mobile technology and improving digital connections have coincided with traffic congestion and sky high commercial rents between 10 and 20% of employees work from home for at least part of their work week.  This was true of the company Bloom used for his controlled trial to put remote work to the test.  The company was one of China's largest travel agencies with a workforce of 16,000.  The company CEO recognized that the company was losing many employees in part due to workers being priced out of the city of Shanghai and having to endure long commutes.

More than 500 employees in the call centre volunteered, about half met the study qualifications which included having a private room at home in which to work and a decent broadband connection as well has having been an employee for six months.  Those with even numbered birthdays would telecommute four days a week while the others would remain in the office as a control group.  Company managers were concerned that as the call centre workers were among the youngest in the company they might be easily distracted without supervision.  

The study lasted for nine months and the results stunned Bloom and the CEO.  The company saved $1900 per employee on office space during the study


New Year’s Resolutions for Your Small Business

By Randall Orser | Employees , marketing strategy , Small Business

When we think about making New Year’s Resolutions, we usually think about trying to improve our personal lives in ways such as losing weight, stopping smoking, exercising more etc.  However, you can also create resolutions for your small business to do things differently and try to bring about positive change. Here are some suggestions for resolutions that you could make to improve your small business in 2020.  

I Will Learn to Manage my Cash Flow More Effectively – If you do not really understand the finances of your business it might be time to hire a professional bookkeeper to help you.  You need to be better prepared for the ebbs and flows in your cash flow and be able to create enough capital to put back into your business. You may also need to change your methods of payment. Allowing your customers to pay by e-transfer or credit card instead of cheque may mean that you are paid quicker thereby improving your cash flow. 

I Will Improve my Digital Presence – If you have not updated your website in more than two years then it is time to make changes.  You need to make sure that your site is mobile friendly and make sure that all your product details are up to date, delete discontinued items and make sure prices are correct.  If you haven’t already you need to create an email marketing list to send out newsletters with helpful information or offers.  If you are not even using digital marketing, then you need to make this a priority resolution for the new year.

I Will Finally Get Social – If you do not have a social media presence then you need to remedy this right away.  Consider which network is the best platform to your business and post to it regularly.  Think about starting a business blog with content important and relevant to your business.

I Will Get Focused and More Productive – If you waste time on social media or other distractions when you should be focusing on the tasks that you need to do for your business then you need to change your work focus immediately. Rather than letting the day pass you by, get on with  completing those important things that you need to do.  

I Will Charge What I am Worth – If you are feeling underpaid and undervalued for your work then make a resolution to market yourself to the right audience and make sure that you are charging the industry norm for your work.  Revamp your strategy and raise your rates to reflect your value to your clients.

I Will Grow my Team and Delegate More – If you have more work than you are able to handle then you need to make a resolution to bring people to your team who can take over some of the work that you do.  Think about hiring a bookkeeper and a social media consultant who can take over this time-consuming part of your business.  If  you have employees, you need to learn how to effectively delegate to them tasks that you are currently doing to free up your time to build your business.

I Will Become a Better Communicator – If you are constantly having misunderstandings with your employees, wasting time repeating yourself over and over, and there is a lack of employee morale in your company one reason may be that you are communicating ineffectively.  Take time to learn how to be better communicator it is very important to get your employees on board with building a successful business.

After you have made your resolutions you need to create a plan to put them into action.  Once you have that information then it is time to turn your resolutions into your business goals for 2020.

Tips for Retailers – How to Increase Your Sales the Week After Christmas

By Randall Orser | Employees , holiday season , Marketing , marketing strategy , Retail , Small Business

The week between Christmas and New Year can be a great opportunity to increase the profitability of your business.  If you do it right, you can net more from this week than any other week in the year.  Here are some tips to help you to have a profitable week.

Creating a Customer Experience – More than likely you will have customers in your store to spend those gift cards that they got for Christmas.  Many will be regulars but many of them will be visiting your store for the first time and you need to WOW them so that they will come back.  Think of little extras that you can offer to enhance their experience.  

Christmas is over, so freshen up your store.  Take down Christmas decorations and promotional signage and change the music.  For those customers who came in before Christmas a change of atmosphere may energize them to buy.

Sales and Incentives – Have your markdowns ready for the 26th of December.  The faster that you move this merchandise the sooner you can freshen up your store.  Some retailers believe in having a January sale instead, but this means that you will not be ordering new stock until February and your store will not have a new look until March.  Stuff bags with coupons to give customers incentives to return.

Full Price Merchandising -  Part of freshening up the store is putting new full priced merchandise out on the floor.  As many people are using gift cards, they might be more likely to buy new full priced items rather than those left over from the holiday season, giving you a greater profit margin.

Reduce your spending on Advertising – As it is after Christmas everyone is having sales. So instead of spending money on advertising use that money to motivate your staff to give exceptional customer service or use it on incentives for your customers.

Refocusing Staff -  The focus has changed from selling stuff, to keeping it sold.  Instead of having staff just concentrate on returns encourage them to focus on converting returns into exchanges and new sales.  Train them on suggestive selling techniques to use when they are processing a return. If you sell a lot of gift cards before Christmas ready your staff to sell prospective new customers.  This is also a good time to update your customer data base and to encourage customers to join your loyalty program.

Show Appreciation to Your Staff – They have just gone through the most hectic four weeks of the year and you are now asking them to do more.  This is a good time to show them that you care, coffee runs, catered lunches or even the services of a masseuse are ways to show your appreciation for their efforts. 

Remember most customers are just coasting until New Year and they don’t expect to find much in stores except sales on leftover Christmas items.  If you have made your target it can be tempting to sit back as well, but this is a great opportunity to create a good impression with customers by giving them new and interesting things to buy. 

When Should the Holiday Shopping Season Start?

By Randall Orser | Budget , Employees , holiday season , marketing strategy , Retail , Small Business

There is no specific date when retailers should start their Christmas Holiday selling season, but customers would argue that it starts earlier every year.  Following consumer push back the Christmas retail season usually starts after Remembrance Day here in Canada, that’s unless you shop at Costco!  

Retailers who start their Christmas selling program too early, both in-store and on-line often find that customers are irritated by being bombarded with Christmas advertising, merchandise and songs in November and they are turned off of holiday shopping.  Hiring staff too early can be costly for a retailer, if there are not enough sales to support the extra staff and putting out Christmas inventory too early can be a waste of valuable retail space if it is not selling. 

When it comes to Holiday Season discounts and sales which are appearing earlier and earlier each year it is important to put a lot of thought into the products or services that you want to discount.  It really depends upon your business and your market, but these considerations apply to most retailers.

  • If the items are appropriate for the time of year, you don’t want to be selling summer season items in winter.
  • If the items are appropriate for your location – there is no point in trying to sell mitts and scarves in somewhere like Florida or Southern California, they need to be sold in colder climates.
  • Timing – whether your customers will have money to buy early in the season or they are most likely to spend when they get their Christmas bonuses.  You could consider a layaway plan for larger ticket items so they can be paid for over a number of weeks.
  • What you want to have in stock for after Christmas sales when people have more time to shop and likely have more cash and gift cards to spend.
  • Following what other retailers in your industry do if it is a good decision for your business.  It is always a good idea to know what your competition is doing but don’t start your holiday sales earlier because they do if it does not make business sense for you.

Starting your Holiday discounting too early although beneficial to some customers to others it is confusing.  Two months of constant big sales makes it difficult for them to know when to buy to get the best deal, it can also sap any sense of urgency and deter them from making major purchases on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.