Category Archives for "Small Business"

Credit Card Terms That You Should Know

By Randall Orser | Personal Finances , Small Business

If you are thinking about applying for a credit card it pays to shop around to find the best one for you taking your lifestyle into consideration.  Things to consider are the interest rate, the annual fee (or no annual fee) and cards which offer rewards and cash back.  It is also important to know the basic credit card terms and definitions so that you know exactly what you are signing up for.

Annual Fee:  This is the yearly charge you pay to use the card and its benefits.  If you want travel points and cash back, you usually have to pay a yearly fee.  If you are not wanting the rewards or other benefits, there are cards with no annual fee.

Annual Percentage Rate:  This is the annual cost of borrowing money on your credit card.  Cards have a variety of APR rates, for purchases, balance transfers, cash advances and penalties for not paying on time.  The APR on purchases is charged after the grace period ends.

Credit Limit:  The credit limit is the most that you can spend on your card.  If you have a short credit history, then your credit limit will probably be small.  As gain more credit history your limit will increase as long as you make your payments on time.  It is important not to go over your limit, though that is difficult to do as the credit card company will usually decline transactions over your limit.   If you do go over your limit you will incur charges.

Credit Score:  Your credit score tells the lender how likely you are to pay back the money loaned to you on your card.  Everything about credit cards affects your credit score including the number of cards that you have, your entire payment history, and other factors associated with your debt history.  Your credit score can also affect other areas such as getting a loan for a house or car.

Due Date:  This is the date when your minimum payment is due, usually by 5pm on that day.  If you do not make your payment by the due date you will incur a late fee and perhaps an increased APR and a report will be sent to the credit bureau.

Grace Period:  This is the time period when interest is not assessed after a purchase is made.  With some cards there is only a grace period if you do not have a balance on your card.   

Late Payment Fee:  If you don’t make at least your minimum payment by the due date, you will be assessed a late payment fee.  The late payment fee is based on the size of your balance.

Minimum Payment:  Your minimum payment is the lowest amount that you can pay each month and still remain in good standing with your credit card company.  It will usually be between 1% and 3% of your outstanding card balance.  Paying only your minimum payment each month is not good for your credit score and it will take you a long time to pay off your debt.  

Revolving Balance:  A revolving balance on your credit card is the amount of your credit limit that you have used and not repaid.  This is the part of your credit limit on which you pay interest every day because you did not pay it off at the end of the previous month.  If you pay your balance in full each month you will not have a revolving balance.

Security Code (CVV):  The security code or Card Verification Value (CVV) on your credit card is mostly used when you make online purchases.  It keeps your card safe from credit card skimmers as the CVV code is not included in the magnetic strip on your card.

For more information about credit cards go to:                                          https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/credit-cards.html 

Does Your Small Business Need a Consultant?

By Randall Orser | Consulting , Small Business , Technology

Most small business owners are very hands-on and want to be involved in all aspects of their business.  They find it difficult to delegate tasks to employees or outside consultants.   

However, as their company grows, they may find that too much time of their time is being spent on activities that others could do just as well or better, so they should consider hiring a consultant.  They  need to decide what their time is worth vs the cost of contracting out some tasks.

Bookkeeping and Accounting

For those who find bookkeeping tedious or if the business has a large amount of transactions it makes sense to let a professional handle it.  A bookkeeper can usually keep your record keeping up to date in a few hours a month.  They can pay your bills, do payroll, submit invoices, pay government taxes and get your accounts ready for the tax season.  

An accountant will keep you updated on tax laws, make recommendations such as when to incorporate and give you financial advice to grow your business.  You may only need them for a few hours a year, but it may be well worth the cost.

Information Technology (IT) Services

Technology changes at a rapid pace and most businesses need the help of an IT consultant to keep up and to solve issues with hardware and software.  They will back up your data, set up cloud computing services, install hardware and software, provide training and advise on upgrades to technology to streamline the business and improve productivity.

Human Resources Services

Most business cannot afford a HR individual or department to deal with personnel issues, so they  hire a consultant to deal with employee relations.  HR consultants are knowledgeable about recruitment of new staff, dealing with discipline and terminations, planning training and orientations and managing employee safety and welfare.  

Marketing Services 

Attracting and retaining customers is an essential requirement for business growth. A marketing consultant can implement an overall marketing strategy and design and implement marketing campaigns. They are experienced in social media, email blitzes, website and blog promotions, press releases, flyers, and arranging educational seminars for clients.  In addition, they can set up charity event sponsorships that give your company publicity and cross-promotions with other businesses.

Legal Services

Although many legal tasks such as setting up a business name, incorporation and setting up contracts with vendors can be done by a business owner. More complex legal issues such as partnership agreements, share allocations, lawsuits, real estate or franchise agreements, and trademarks require the services of a lawyer. 

How to Hire a Consultant:

  1. Assess your needs – whether you will need weekly or monthly service or on-call emergency assistance (especially for your IT consultant).  
  2. Make a list of potential candidates – word of mouth is a common way to find a good consultant.  You can also get recommendations from the local Chamber of Commerce and by networking with other people in your business.
  3. Meet with the candidate to discuss your requirements and their qualifications to see if you are a fit.  Ask questions about familiarity with your business, when they are available especially when needed, how you can contact them and of course their rates and how they bill.
  4. Once you have decided who to hire draw up a contract for their services.

 

Why Older Workers can be a Valuable Asset to Your Business

By Randall Orser | Small Business

According to the Canadian Government, in 2014 over 6 million or 15.6% of Canadians were 65 or over.  By 2030 this number will rise to 9.5 million making up 23% of Canada’s population.  The stereotype of the doddering older person is no longer true, and in fact they can be every bit as creative, innovative and entrepreneurial as their younger counterparts.   

Many older people want to stay within the work force either in full, part time or flexible jobs, or by creating self-employment opportunities for themselves. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 1995 and 2016 the share of men in the work force aged 65 to 69 in rose from 28% to 38%, and for women the increase was from 18% to 30%.  Self-employed and entrepreneurial older workers were the highest percentage of any age group, and five times greater than the 24–35 age group.   

Here are some reasons why hiring older workers can help you to maintain a reliable workforce and provide a significant cost savings.

  1. Employers often complain that they are unable to find qualified employees. Older workers bring their previous education and experience, are more dedicated and produce higher quality work usually with little training.  
  2.  They are more likely to show up every day ready and willing to work.  
  3.  They take pride in a job well done, often staying after hours to complete a task.  Younger workers tend to want to put their hours in then leave.
  4.  They value honesty, personal integrity and truthfulness.
  5.  They are detail-oriented, focused and attentive and can often able find mistakes such as pricing errors, spelling errors and accounting mistakes which can save the company money.
  6. They are good listeners and often only have to be told once what to do. This makes them easier to train.
  7. Older workers can set an example and can be excellent mentors for other employees.
  8. They have greater organizational skills meaning less man hours are lost due to workplace disorganization.
  9. They are efficient and confident, willing to share their experience and recommendations with fellow workers and management. This means that jobs can be done more efficiently saving the company money.
  10. They have good communications skills learned from their previous experience in the workplace.

Next time you are hiring, consider an older person for the skills, values and potential savings in time and money that they can bring to your company.  Rethinking the costs of high turnover of younger staff vs the benefits of more mature workers can make a positive difference to your bottom line.

From an article by Stephen Bastien in Entrepreneur

 

Online shopping is Booming in Canada – Be Part of This Growing Market

By Randall Orser | holiday season , Small Business

Although companies such as Amazon and eBay, command the online market, there is still room or small internet entrepreneurs with niche products or services to set up a profitable on-line business. 

Statistics show that the number of Canadians who shop online has grown from 19.5 million in 2013 to the projected number of 22.5 million in 2018.  37% of these buyers shop online monthly or more and 75% of these spend up to $200 per month. 10% report spending up to $500 per month.

The most popular items purchased on line are:  Books, music, movies and video games, electronics, smartphones, computers, clothing and accessories, appliances and tools and food. Five per cent of online shoppers purchased groceries but as more grocery stores offer home delivery, and with the coming of “DoorDash” and “Skip the Dishes” take-out delivery services, this food delivery niche market will experience major growth. 

Between 16% and 40% of people surveyed said that they preferred to shop online.  The percentage was larger with the younger age groups and less with the older age groups.


Why do people buy online – the three biggest reasons are reason are: 

  • Access to a worldwide market - Most anything you need can be purchased online including many things that are not available in Canada and a greater choice of goods.
  • Price - prices are still very competitive online but can often be less than brick and mortar stores.  In addition, many websites offer special sales for online customers only.
  • Convenience – with so many people working from home, it is much more convenient to purchase on line and have it delivered to your home, rather than braving the traffic to go to the mall.  You can also shop in your pajamas, and no one would know!  

Two of the biggest concerns for on-line shoppers were the security of their personal data, and not being able to return unwanted goods.   

Most people surveyed were comfortable setting up an online account with a retailer, but they were not comfortable when they were asked about their shopping habits.  Most Canadians trusted websites hosted in Canada with their personal information, but 76% had concerns about their information being stored in the United States.  

Many Canadian retailers allow online shoppers to return items to their brick and mortar stores giving buyers more confidence when shopping online.

VL Omni recently published their annual report on eCommerce in Canada which shows considerable growth and potential. 

  • In 2017 Canadian businesses sold $136 billion in goods and services online, up 42% year over year.
  • 62% of Canadians who shop internationally online would prefer to shop domestically.
  • 95% of small business owners bought items for their small business online
  • 23.5% facilitate “click and collect” and 68.9% allow in-store returns of online purchases.
  • Canadian businesses also sell their products through online marketplaces such as Amazon, Walmart and eBay.

Whatever your niche product or service there is still room for you in the online marketplace.  Now is a good time to consider what could offer online and to build a profitable business.  An online business provides a great opportunity if you are retired, a stay at home Mom or if you just need some extra income.  

 

How to Know When it is Time to Fire a Client

By Randall Orser | Small Business

After working hard to acquire and nurture a client, it can be difficult to make the decision to fire that client.  However sometimes they are not worth the time and effort that you put into maintaining the business relationship. Also, keeping them can be both bad for your bottom line and also for your mental health.  

Here are some situations where you should fire a client:

  1. When the Client Become Abusive - This can take the form of threats, making disparaging remarks either to you or to others behind your back, or by being excessively rude or demanding to you or your employees.  No client is worth that amount of stress and hassle.
  2.  When the Client is Dishonest - When the level of trust between you and your client becomes eroded.  Occasional misunderstandings are normal but when clearly written or spoken understandings are continually “misinterpreted” by them it is time to let them go.
  3. When the Client Makes Unreasonable Demands - You will set the bar for expected client behavior, what is reasonable and what is unreasonable, in particular your business hours.  If they are continually trying to reach you outside of your work hours, then it could be time to say goodbye.  This also applies to clients who are unable to make decisions regarding the work you are doing for them but they still expecting it to be completed on time.
  4. When the Client is Consistently Slow to Pay Their Bills - Customers who do not pay on time are both annoying and may cause damage to your company cash flow.  Following up on unpaid invoices takes up time and costs money.  You cannot afford them so don’t keep them! 
  5. When the Client Continually Disputes or Nitpicks at Your Invoices - Clients who accept your price upfront, then when the time comes to settle your invoice argues with you in an attempt to get a reduction, are not worth keeping.  Once is enough so don’t waste and effort dealing with them again.
  6. When the Client Keeps Changing his Mind  - This can be annoying but as long as they know that changes you have to make will be added to their bill then you can deal with it.  If they expect you to make changes at no extra cost to them, then it is up to you to decide where to draw the line.
  7. When the Client Doesn’t Follow Your Advice and then Expects you to Pick up the Pieces This is a common experience in client relationships and the most professional way to handle it is to try and solve the client’s problem then not repeat the experienced by parting ways with them.
  8. When the Client Plays you off Against the Competition - It is good business practice for customers to get a number of quotes for work that they want done. It is not good business practice for them to use competitor prices or timelines to renege on or get a lower price on work that has already been agreed upon whether or not it has been done.  
  9. When Continuing to Work with the Client Could get you into Legal Difficulties - If there is the possibility of legal liability, then getting rid of this client is a no-brainer.

If you are suffering through bad client relationships, then it’s time to realise that you are wasting time on this client that could be better spent seeking out new and possibly more profitable customers.  Get rid of them!

From an article by Susan Ward

Loyalty Marketing Ideas to Retain Existing and Attract New Customers

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Are you looking for ways to retain existing customers and find new ones? Loyalty marketing is one way to encourage repeat business and it can be cheaper than trying to bring in new customers.  Here are some ideas to try in your small business.

1. Gifts

Offer limited-time giveaways or a free gift with the purchase of a new product.  This will get the attention of past customers and encourage them to revisit your business and make another purchase.

2.  No Obligation Trials

This is a good method to use if you are selling software, a subscription service, an expensive product, or a product that is usually difficult to sell. Giving the customer a limited time to try the product can encourage them to sign up for the full purchase.

3.  VIP Club

Creating an exclusive members-only club and making the client feel special will encourage them to come back to your business.  It doesn’t have to cost the client anything and it can be inexpensive for your business to implement.  Offer VIP perks like new product previews, limited time offers, expedited checkout and free samples. 

4.  Free Offers

Customers love to get something for free.  You can encourage them to purchase by offering a Buy-one-get-one free (BOGO) or a Buy-one-get-one at a reduced price.  This is a very popular way to bring in customers both past and new.

5.  Punch Cards and Points

This is a successful method to encourage repeat business that used more often in the food industry.  The more purchases the customer makes, the more they are able to get a free beverage or food.  

6.  Offering an Incentive for Doing a Customer Survey

Customer surveys help you to find out what your customers think about your business and how you can improve your service or products. You can create a survey on-line or by email (probably the most effective way), send it out in the mail or print it on a purchase receipt including a website or email address for customers to respond.  Incentives could be an entry in a draw for a prize or a money off coupon.

7.  Free Upgrades

Offering free upgrades to your service especially if you sell software or another type of app is a great way to keep customers engaged and loyal to your business.

8.  Birthday and Anniversary Perks

If you create a customer data base you can send out greeting cards or offer a price reduction or free gift when they celebrate their birthday.  This is a great way to create an email marketing list and you can offer an incentive for signing up.

9.  Creating partnerships with other businesses in your area

Shared cross store or business promotions or sales events with other businesses in your area. This can be really effective if you are in a mall or a shopping area where clients can visit a set number of stores to earn points towards a reward.

10.  Gamification

Create a game such as a scavenger hunt or bingo where customers can enter using their purchase receipts. A popular example of this type of promotion is the McDonalds monopoly game.

Loyalty incentives are a great way to bring back past customers, bring in new ones and retain current ones.  Continually using one of these ideas or creating your own will help you to generate revenue from increased sales.

 

 

Tips for Improving Your Accounts Receivable Process

By Randall Orser | Small Business

One of the most important parts of running a successful business is making sure that you are getting paid on time by your clients.  Your cash flow affects all aspects of your business and you need a streamlined and efficient AR process to keep the money coming in.  It is a good idea to set up your AR process when you are starting your business so that customers understand your payment terms right from the beginning of your relationship with them.   

Not setting up your AR system from the beginning can lead to extending credit to unqualified customers as well as not following up on past-due accounts in a timely manner. Poor AR practices take time and money from your business that can be easily avoided.  Not paying attention to the accuracy of bills and invoices and not issuing reports to find potential problems can have far reaching consequences for your business.

Optimizing these Accounts Receivable Processes will benefit your business:

Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.

  1. Maintain accurate client data, update contact information and audit accounts regularly to check for unusual payments, credit terms, discounts etc. making sure that all is in order.  Changes should be documented, and controls put in to prevent unauthorized edits. 
  2. Establish a clear and concise credit approval process - extending credit can be good for your business but there must be a system established that includes instructions on when and how to evaluate and override credit limits and when to put accounts on hold.  The process should be regularly reviewed, and changes made if necessary.
  3. Set up an effective billing process that is accurate and streamlined.  Make sure that all pricing and units of measure are correct as errors can cause many problems.  Invoices should be sent in a timely manner, and reports used to identify problem accounts. Setting up a customer portal will allow customers to access their accounts and check the details easily.  Bill clients electronically if possible, this will make the billing process more accurate and cost effective.
  4. Make sure payments are applied correctly to the correct customer and invoice so that future disputes can be easily settled.  Create a billing dispute process so everyone knows how to handle disputes when they arise.
  5. Payments should be applied quickly so that you always know which accounts are current and which are past due.  Monitor your AR at least once a week to quickly identify and correct errors.
  6. Optimize the payment process by offering your customers a number of payment options such as e-transfer or retaining a credit card on file.  
  7. Consider reducing your payment terms, you do not have to use net 30 days you can decide what is best for your company.
  8. Once delinquent accounts are identified your collection strategy should be consistent and methodical, make collections a top priority.
  9. Automate your accounts receivable process as much as possible to avoid errors.

You don’t have to make these changes to your billing and collections process immediately but any steps that you do take will help to optimize your accounts receivable and will pay off in the future.

 

Reasons Why Start-ups are Riskier Than Franchise Businesses

By Randall Orser | Investments , Small Business

Thinking about starting your own business?  It is always a risky thing to do and most budding entrepreneurs will do a risk assessment to determine how much financial risk they are willing and able to take. One big consideration is whether to launch a startup business or buy into a franchise.  They both have their pros and cons which mostly involve the potential business person.  Start-ups appeal to people who want to make their own decisions about how the company operates and those who want to turn their big idea into a million-dollar business. 

However, risk assessments have shown that undeniably start-ups are much riskier than investing in a franchise.  Here are some reasons why:

  1. In a start-up you have to build your own brand from scratch.  This is difficult, time consuming and costly and most new business owners lack the resources to do the work so consequently they are only able to grow their business within their own circle of family, friends, and acquaintances or their business fails.  Franchises come with an already built brand which is familiar to a wider audience, this includes slogans, logos, signage, buildouts, team apparel and more.  This means that prospective customers are already familiar with the product or service making it much easier to make sales right from the start.
  2. When you start your own business, you may get lots of advice, but if this is your first time in business you may make mistakes that can be costly.  If you have a franchise, you can draw on the advice and experience of other owners who have experienced the same problems or had the same questions.  The franchise business will teach you how to do things the best and most profitable way.
  3. If you start your own business you have to write your own business plan, sell your idea to prospective investors and banks and try to estimate how much money you will need to establish your business as well as to survive while it is getting off the ground.  If you buy into a franchise, they will help you to draw up your business plan and can often assist with finding financing.   They will also be able to let you know exactly how much money you will need to become a franchise owner.
  4. You will need supplies as well as legal and accounting support to operate your business.  If you buy a franchise can often offer this kind of support in-house or recommend third-party vendors.  In addition, they can often secure products and services for franchisees at a discount due to the volume that they purchase.
  5.  Franchise owners have a support system from corporate teams, regional directors and from fellow owners that can be critical to the success of their business.  Other owners have been there and can offer detailed help to work through problems.  When you start your own business, you are pretty much on your own.
  6.  Starting your own business requires learning how to choose the best location, hire and train staff, market your business and do bookkeeping.  As most new owners are busy doing the work and are not experienced in doing these tasks the new business can easily fail.  Franchise businesses have operational systems already in place and are able to clearly explain to prospective franchisees the types of skills they will need to be a successful owner.

Franchise businesses do come with their own risks and there are no guarantees of success. However, for a prospective new owner who lacks business knowledge and experience a franchise business is a good idea to mitigate risks.

Summers Coming! Self-employment Ideas you can do in the Sun

By Randall Orser | Small Business

The warm weather is almost here and maybe you are considering earning some extra cash over the summer.  If you are looking for a small business idea that does not require a year-round commitment here are some ideas:

Food Truck:  Once you have acquired a vehicle and got all your permits you can work whenever you want to.  Summer presents the greatest opportunities to provide tasty meals and snacks to people in various public venues such as concerts and shows, outdoor markets, sports events and college campuses.

Outdoor Adventures:  If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you can offer guided hikes and arrange white water rafting and other water excursions for your clients.

Personal Training:  Offer your services as a weight-loss or fitness personal trainer to motivate people into a healthier lifestyle.  Teach outdoor yoga or tai chi classes, and when the weather gets colder you can take your business indoors.

Gardening and Lawn Care:  If you are a gardening enthusiast direct your talents into a business offering mowing, weeding, mulching and raking. You could switch into snow removal in the winter.

Tour Guide:  Take people on guided tours of places of interest or historical significance in your area.  People particularly love “haunted” locations!

Pet Sitter/Dog Walker:  This can be a year-round business as people are often looking for someone to be a sitter for their pets while they are on vacation or out of town.  Dog walkers are needed all year round.  This business idea has little or no start-up costs but clients who don’t know you may need references or a background check before you go into their home.

Pool Maintenance:  If you know about pool chemistry and don’t mind hard work, then a pool maintenance business for the summer months could be ideal for you.

Growing and Selling Fruit, Flowers, Plants or Vegetables:   Advertise on the roadside and sell out of your home or set up a roadside stand to offer your home grown produce. Alternatively, you can take a stall at one or more Farmer’s Markets in your area.

Garbage and Re-cycling Collection Service:   For a fee, pick up unwanted household items such as furniture and appliances, and either donate, sell or recycle them.  Many people would rather pay you to take their junk than have to dispose of it themselves.  As well as earning money you are doing your bit for the environment.

Short-term Retail:  Take a short-term lease on a small retail space and create a pop-up store renting or selling summer items such as bicycles.  Later in the year you could sell or rent Halloween costumes, and selling Christmas gift items and treats could be a big seasonal money-maker.

These ideas give you the opportunity to run a profitable business during peak seasons and to work as little or as often as you like.

 

Home-based Business? How to Make Your Home Client Friendly

By Randall Orser | Small Business

Many people are embracing the “working from home” option.  There are over 38 million home businesses in the US alone meaning that 50% of all small businesses are being run from the owner’s residence.  If your home business includes meeting with clients however, it is important that your home has a client friendly and professional environment.  Here are some tips on how to have successful meetings with clients in your home.

1.  Parking   

Make sure that there is parking easily available for your client.  Give them instructions on where to park.  If you have a driveway in front of your property, make sure that you move your own car to create a client parking space.  If you live in an apartment try to secure an additional parking space for your visitors.  If your clients continually use the visitor parking space it can cause problems with the other building occupants and management.

2.  Street appeal

Make sure that your home appears well maintained.  This includes regularly mowing the lawn as well as weeding and pruning. Make sure the exterior of your home is in good condition and not requiring cleaning or a coat of paint.

3.  Dedicate a space in your home for your office

Your home office should be a separate space in your home, not the kitchen counter.  Your office should be appropriately decorated and include comfy seating and all the technology that you need to do your job. 

4.  Make the way to your office easy to navigate

If your home office has its own outside entrance, make sure that there is signage explaining where it is.  Signs should be discreet and not visible enough to annoy your neighbours.  The path to your office should be unobstructed and safe.  You need to move any obstructions, prune shrubbery as well as ice and snow. Outside steps should be kept clean and have a railing.   You should also carry adequate business insurance to cover any accidents in your home. 

5.  Make sure that your home office décor is suitable for a business 

You need to make sure that your office décor projects your business image. It should be tasteful, inoffensive and not distracting.  The furniture should be in good condition and should give an impression that you are successful in your business.

6.  Your office should always be clean and uncluttered

This goes without saying, but make sure that you get rid of all those dirty coffee cups and dust bunnies.

7.  Try to make your office as quietest as possible 

If you have small children try to schedule meeting during their nap time or hire a babysitter to take care of them while you are working so that they do not interrupt you.  A “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door will let family members know that you are busy with a client.  If children have access to your business phone, make sure that they know how to answer it correctly.  

If you have pets keep them out of the way so that they do make a noise when someone comes to the door.  Make sure that you regularly vacuum and clean the spaces where your clients will be walking and sitting to eliminate the risk of allergies to pet hair.

It is important to create a good impression with clients so that they remember the business that you discussed rather than that your house was cluttered and that your children or pets were running around.

 From an article by Susan Ward

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