Category Archives for "Small Business"

Will Wage Subsidies Help Retail Businesses?

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

Though the lockdown of last Spring was the right thing to do to keep people safe and flatten the curve, but it did a huge amount of damage to the economy.  Canadian retailers saw a 26% fall in sales during quarantine and 40% of retailers had to close their doors.  

Stores offering non-essential products and services such as clothing stores were the hardest hit, along with gas stations as people were no longer travelling.  However those selling essential goods found themselves thriving and even experiencing surging sales such as in groceries, home renovations, alcohol and cannabis.

Canadian retailers have been slow to transition to on-line sales but the pandemic has forced them to adopt e-commerce techologies to try and keep themselves in business and as a result e-commerce sales have more than doubled year over year.  Although it means that Canadian retailers face competition from others worldwide it also gives them the opportunity to expand their market share at home, especially if they sell niche products.  

In 2021 it is likely that retail business will still suffer a bumpy ride.  As we are seeing now there will probably be sporadic shut downs due to minor outbreaks but these are likely to be more regional.  During this time retailers can expect sales to fall and they will have to deal with high labour costs and the costs of having to comply with health regulations but it is hoped that on-line sales will be a stop-gap solution to keep them in business.

The federal government is continuing to support businesses by extending the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program into 2021, coving 75% of employees wages for those that are eligible.  This will help retailers to avoid bankruptcy and will give employees more disposable income to spend.  

Even with these new ways of doing business and federal help it is unlikely that many in the retail sector will survive another major lockdown.  However localized shutdowns will allow the majority of retailers to stay open and keep some revenue coming in until a vaccine arrives.

From an article by Ali Amad

Suffering from Pandemic Induced Burnout?

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

Covid-19 related stress and the blurring of your work life as a result of working from home may have you feeling out of balance. This is the same for the millions of Canadians who have transitioned to working remotely. While most enjoy not having to make the commute to the office many fill the saved time with more work which along with household chores, caregiving and navigating this covid-19 world can easily lead to burnout.  If this is you, here are some strategies that you might like to consider to help you gain greater ease in your life.

1. Work Smarter - it is important to have a schedule and stick to it.  Start work at a set time, check in regularly with work colleagues and team members and have a firm end of work day time.

2. Develop a Resting Strategy - make sure you plan to take quality rest time, whether it is daily, weekly or longer-term this will help you to retain the energy to have a successful work day.

3. Use the Pomodoro Technique - this involves breaking work down into intervals separated by short breaks, traditionally intervals are 25 minutes but they can be adjusted as necessary.  Do some work then take a break, go for a walk or do some other activity to allow your brain to rest then restart.

4. Watch what you eat and make sure to stay active - eating a balanced diet is important to stay healthy and prevent burn out, the better the fuel that you give your body the better you will feel and exercising is a must.  Think about taking an early morning walk before starting work it will set you up for the day.

5. Practice Mindfulness - Use small activities such as brushing your teeth or washing your hands to focus on your breathing and centring your body and self connecting. Be aware of how you are feeling, are you hungry or thirsty?

6. Name it to Tame it -  If you become upset or anxious about something ask yourself whether your feelings are anger, concern or exhaustion.  Naming aids help you to be self aware and manage your feelings.

7. Be Grateful - Take the time a few times a week to write down three things that you are grateful for, this will have a positive effect on your happiness and help with burnout, work-life balance and depression.

8. Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing - This involves inhaling deeply by expanding the lungs downward rather than inhaling using the abdomen or rib cage alone.  This technique has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

9. Release the Pressure - The pandemic has added more pressure and demands to our lives from personal and work responsibilities. Instead of adding more pressure by thinking that you should be doing things "better" or "faster" be kinder to yourself by recognizing when you are doing your best. 

10. Trust your Inner Resilience - Most of us want certainty in life so the uncertainty associated with Covid-19 is difficult to deal with.  It is important to realize that you are more adaptable than you think and what we are going through will not last forever.

11. Focus on the Here and Now - Instead of thinking that you cannot deal with the pandemic for another year focus on today and what you can do to make your life better.  We have to be positive that our businesses will come out of the pandemic stronger.

12. Make the Most out of Working Remotely - Make a new work schedule that allows you time for more rest and relaxation.  Learn how to keep your boundaries with others.  Learn new skills such as remote tools like Zoom.  Learn how to work effectively with your team while you are all apart.

From an article by Margaret Craig-Bourdin

Be Wary of Adding a Covid-19 Surcharge to your Business

By Randall Orser | Covid-19 , Retail , Small Business

As businesses reopen they have to try and make up lost revenue while at the same time having additional operating expenses due to Covid-19.  According to a survey in May by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) 70% of Canadian businesses reported a 30% drop in revenue and the other 30% reported a 40% drop.  On top of these losses businesses have had to cover the cost of the new health and safety protocols including social distancing, cleaning, sanitizing and personal protective equipment.

To try and offset these new expenses some businesses have introduced a Covid-19 surcharge a fixed amount or percentage which is added to the total bill.  While this surcharge is understandable because of the extra cost of dealing with customers during the pandemic, there are some considerations that should be made prior to passing these costs onto the customer.

1.  Consider the ways that you can make extra revenue - these could include making the surcharge optional or donation based, adjusting services or products offered or increasing prices.  The pandemic has had a greater impact on small businesses but they should still take time to consider what is the best way for them to adjust to this new norm and whether it will be temporary or permanent.  They should make sure that they have exhausted all government relief options before charging customers extra.   It should also be a time to focus on giving exceptional service to clients so as to not lose the ones that you have.  If you do apply a surcharge customers need to understand that it is due to the additional costs to reopen your business.

2.  If a surcharge is the right action for your business you need to decide to how you will calculate this additional fee - either as a percentage of the total bill or a fixed amount and it is important to remove it as soon as restrictions are lifted and your business goes back to normal.  Customers need to know that this surcharge is for a specific time and the cut off date will be honoured by your business.  The last thing that you need is for your clients to perceive that you are gouging in a time when everyone is going through financial difficulties.   It is important to inform customers of this extra charge in advance and explain why it is being implemented.

3.  Be upfront and honest with your customers - you need to clearly communicate to your clients the the surcharge is in place long before they reach your checkout.  Customers would rather know in advance so that they can make the decision whether or not to make the business transaction with you.  You should post on your website and social media, inform customers when they make an appointment or during phone calls, and make sure there is a notice posted on your store window or door.  

The response from consumers to paying a surcharge has been varied depending upon the industry type or products offered.  Once they understand why they are being charged extra most people are supportive especially if they know that there is an end date and they know that it is not an opportunity for the business to extra money.

From an article by Sophie Nicholls Jones

Find the Right Balance for your Remote Workers

By Randall Orser | Business , Cloud-computing , Covid-19 , Employees , Technology

Is your business planning to keep all or some of your employees working from home once the pandemic is over?  Though many giant companies are planning to keep employees working remotely, whether your company should do the same will depend on varying factors such the type of industry the size of your company and your available resources. Here are four things you should consider if you are planning to keep your workers working remotely.

1.  The resilience of your company and your employees - it can be difficult to create a workable balance between how things were done prior to the pandemic and how they will be done under the new conditions, and adjustments will need to be made. Companies can create a plan where some employees work from home and some work in the office, but remote employees should still have some on-site presence.  Distributing a workforce has to take into account business functions, workplace characteristics and office culture and weigh it against the preferences of the employer and employees.  As these changes will have quite an impact on your employees it is important that they are resilient and able to adapt to the changes so that their mental health, productivity and health and safety do not suffer.  

2.  Setting up a distributed workforce will require some logistics - work premises will need to adhere to new health and safety measures including ventilation, proper distancing and limited use of common spaces, but outside factors also have to be considered such as the use of public transit and access to the building.  Outside factors particularly can make it very difficult for a company to isolate itself even though they have the proper rules in place within the workplace they cannot control what is happening outside the office and the building.  Logistics for remote staff will include the home office set up, providing the equipment and technology and security measures to protect the business and it's information.  Clear remote working policies will need to be set including confidentiality agreements and compensation terms, vacation allowances and expense eligibility. 

3. Aligning employer and staff - some workers will want to return to the office but there will be those who prefer to remain at home.  The company needs to take into account each employees risk tolerance and remote working environment.  Not all employee situations are the same and can change, so employers and employees should be willing to be flexible as needs change. 

4.  One of the upsides of having remote workers is the ability to choose new employees from a wider pool of candidates anywhere in the world.  However these workers also come with additional responsibilities for the employer including adhering to different labour laws, tax laws and employment benefit obligations so it is important that the employer is familiar with the rules in each country where employees are working.  It is the new reality that many employees have made the change to work remotely and are looking for work that allows them to do that.  Employers need to pivot to accommodate these workers if they want to hold on to their talent and acquire new staff.  At the same time companies need to create an inclusive culture so that everyone feels part of the work team and this can include attending meetings in the office from time to time to keep in touch as face to face contact is invaluable.

From an article by Sophie Nicholls Jones

Why the Pandemic is Open Season for Scammers

By Randall Orser | Covid-19 , Personal Finances , Scams , Technology

Did you find that during the first few months of the pandemic you got a lot less scammer phone calls?  Now the scammers are back in full force exploiting people's fears about the pandemic.  Everything from free masks (you just pay the shipping), fake testing kits, miracle cures and even cleaning services claiming to rid your air vents of the virus.  Between March 6 and April 23rd the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre logged 643 fraud reports and 158 confirmed victims, though this is probably less than the true total as many people are too embarrassed to report that they have fallen for a scam.

The pandemic has created perfect conditions for con artists as people are alone, anxious, on-line, watching frightening news and worrying about their jobs, finances and relatives who are at high risk.  Jeffrey Thomson a CAFC criminal intelligence analyst says "It's prime time for fraudsters, an extortion scam is trying to create fear and anxiety in people to get them to react.  Now people are more likely to be constantly in that state."  

One of the most common scams is getting a text or email from someone claiming to be the government directing you to provide your SIN and banking information to claim the CERB.  As Thomson says successful scams are a game of numbers and as this one is going out in huge amounts it is taking more victims.

Phishing, extortion and emergency scams are also on the rise.  Most common are a brand offering you loyalty points in exchange for your banking information or someone impersonating a friend or relative stuck abroad and needing you to send money.  Here are some of the warning signs that you should be looking for to avoid getting scammed.

  • Be suspicious if you did not initiate contact and don't respond to unsolicited messages that sound a bit fishy.
  • Think twice before clicking any links in a text or an email from an unknown source.
  • If a friend messages via social media for financial help call them to confirm.
  • Verify any websites claiming to be the government.
  • Make sure the seller is reputable when shopping on line.
  • If a deal on Covid-19 products seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you do fall victim to a scam collect all the details and events in chronological order and report them to the police, the CAFC, the credit bureau and your bank and credit card providers.  Even if you cannot recover your own money you may help other Canadians to avoid losing theirs.

From an article by Sinead Mulhern

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

Planning for the Future of Your Business

By Randall Orser | Business , Retirement , Small Business

In 2011 the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses conducted a poll that revealed that only 10% of small business owners had a succession plan.  As a small business owner you need to plan for your company's future change of ownership.  A careful exit strategy will help you to maintain the value of your company and your legacy and will ensure a smooth transition to a new owner.

A good succession plan will maintain positive relationships with employees and business partners that will help to bring a good sale price.  It will provide financial security for your heirs and other stakeholders as a plan is in place to deal with unexpected events such as death or illness.

Changes in ownership can be stressful for employees, suppliers and customers so your succession strategy needs to include communication plans to make sure that everyone is kept informed during the changeover thereby ensuring that the business continues to run smoothly.

If you expect to be leaving your business within the next five years you need to start planning right away.  Even if your business is fairly new you need to have a plan in place should the unexpected happen.  

Susan Ward a Canadian business writer says that 70% of businesses do not survive the transition from the founder to the second generation due to poor or no planning, and she offers the following tips for succession planning:

  1. Start business succession planning early, five years in advance is good, ten years is better. Think about including a business exit strategy right into your initial business plan.
  2. Make sure that you involve your family in all business succession planning discussions.  This will help to ensure that everyone is aware of your plans.  It is important to pay attention to the personal feelings, ambitions and goals of all members of the family who might be directly involved with the succession.
  3. Plan realistically, if your children do not have the skills or have no interest in taking over the company from you then consider a different family member who might be more capable.  If there is no one in the family to take over the business then you should consider selling it.  Whatever you decide it should be in the best interests of the business that you have worked hard to make successful.  
  4. Don't plan for everyone to have an equal share in the business.  It is fairer for those who have an active part in running the business to have a larger share of the ownership of the business than non active family members.  You could also transfer complete ownership to your chosen successor and make other financial arrangements for other members of the family.
  5. Make sure that you work with and train your successor for a few years so that they are ready and able to take over the reins should the need arise.  It can be difficult to teach someone your business skills and share decision making but it will be in the best interests of the business. 
  6. Make sure that you get outside help with your succession planning from your lawyer, accountant and financial planner.  They will help you to put together a good plan as well as plan asset transfer tax strategies to minimize taxes due upon your death. 

​From an article by Susan Ward and Freedom 55 Financial

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