When Does It Make Sense to Hire an Intern?

k-11_dsc4360_palm-bwI know it’s only the beginning of March, but college and university students have been lining up their summer internships as I write this blog. On the surface, many small business owners consider interns, particularly unpaid interns, a great way to get those unwanted tasks completed in the office. However, interns can help a small business but only in certain situations. In this blog, I will discuss those situations where an intern may or may not be beneficial to your business.

Do You Have the Time To Train an Intern?

An intern may be a great option for you if you have a specific project that you haven’t had time to do, or a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool you haven’t had time to research. However, before you jump on the intern bandwagon, consider more than the “low-cost extra help” viewpoint, and look at an intern as a training opportunity for them. This will require you or a dedicated experienced staff member to be available to train the intern, and the special project should have defined goals and measurable outcomes for interns to complete. You’ll need to ensure internships are relevant to the students’ career interests and that supervisors and mentors will be available to provide regular feedback and evaluation. To make the most of the experience for both your business and the intern, clear directions and proper training need to be provided. This is particularly the case if the intern is being provided through an educational institution.

Need a Fresh Set of Eyes?

Interns are typically young and eager to learn and therefore usually are bursting with ideas. They approach the job with a more open mindset, rather than someone from another department with set habits and preconceived ideas on how to do certain tasks. Be sure to include the intern in brainstorming sessions and encourage them to speak up in meetings, as their fresh ideas and approaches can be great for your business. However, implementing their ideas may be best suited for your current staff as they have a better understanding of the businesses processes and protocols and accountability.

What are Your Business’ Long-Term Plans?

If your business also has long-term plans to expand, an intern might be the first step in that process. Consider any recurring projects that are about 12 weeks in duration, or your regular use of contractors for overflow projects or tasks; these could all be completed by an intern. When you consider adding an intern, a person who is bursting with new ideas and is plugged in to the latest technologies, who knows what they may come up with – perhaps an idea that changes and improves the way you do business!

Determining if your business needs could use an intern can be challenging for many business owners, and one I often see as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!


Four Tips to Deal With Conflict on Your Team

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.10.03 AMEvery business owner has had some amount of conflict on their team, whether it has been the slamming of doors, a screaming session, or someone walking off a job site. No matter when it happens, or who started it, as the owner you’ll need to address the conflict and provide resolution as soon as possible.

How you approach resolving the issue is a question on the minds of many business owners because conflict resolution can disrupt the momentum you’ve set as an owner, your team dynamics and possibly your entire company. We all know how important it is to confront the issue directly before your workplace becomes toxic. I’ve outlined below four tips to keep in mind when dealing with conflict.

Pick Your Battles

When your staff work alongside each other every day, it’s inevitable that small disagreements will arise, so let these small issues work themselves out. However, when there is hard proof that an employee is causing conflict, it is an ongoing conflict, or other employees are being negatively impacted by this conflict, then it is time for you to intervene. More often than not, your staff is waiting for you to resolve the issue and if you wait too long, it can put your leadership reputation at risk.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

As owners, we are often too busy to create formal roles and responsibilities, but by not creating these documents, it can leave your employees unsure about what is and what is not part of their job. This ambiguity can often lead to one employee blaming another for issues on a project. The best way to ensure any role conflicts do not happen is to create and define each role and responsibility by clearly defining task objectives and expected outputs, and ensuring their job descriptions are up-to-date and reviewed regularly so their role’s purpose and duties are clear.

Don’t Take Sides

Just as there are low-performing employees who can irritate their coworkers, there are also high-performing employees who insist on doing things their way. Sometimes in a small office, we might even have members of our team who we get along with more, but it’s critical as a business owner to ensure that all employees feel heard and understood, and know that their manager is willing to step in and help solve an issue, rather than “side” with an employee who is liked or valued more.

Keep Things Private

Effective and supportive communication is often all that’s needed to solve conflicts in the workplace. Find a private setting, or maybe go grab a coffee with the employee so they feel supported and feel they can speak freely without judgment or embarrassment. They need to feel they can trust you to help resolve the conflict. Trust forms the foundation for every important relationship at work and typically, workplace disputes should not be discussed with the entire team unless it becomes necessary.

Conflict is an issue that you can minimize in the workplace and by doing so, can help you to build a more supportive, welcoming and productive environment. If you’re a business owner dealing with issues like this, don’t face it alone – contact TAB to find out how to become a member, or contact me today.

As a Smaller Business, Are You Prepared for Marijuana in Your Workplace?

herbal-3122362_640There really isn’t too many Ontarians that aren’t aware of the new legislation about to be passed in July regarding the legalization of marijuana. There are copious articles on how big business is planning on dealing with this. However, what has many of my clients, owners of smaller businesses, asking me is will this impact their business and if so, what do they really need to know to be prepared?

I’ve outlined below a few of the key areas of concern for smaller business owners, as well as a few tips on how you can prepare your workplace for the effects of legalized marijuana.

A 2017 study of over 650 Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) members reveals that almost half of employers do not believe their current workplace policies adequately address the potential new issues that may arise with the legalization and expected increased use of marijuana. Many owners want to know and need some direction about:

  • How to accurately test drug levels (with no reliable test of THC)
  • What constitutes use, and how to adjust internal policies to reflect medical vs. recreational usage
  • Possible increase in poor performance, decreased productivity, reduced attendance, and safety issues

Many owners feel this new legislation will not impact their employees or workplace, but I am recommending you take a look at the following tips, because every business owner who hires staff must be aware of how this could impact their bottom line:

  1. Create/Update Your Policies
    Review your drug and alcohol policies, if you have them, and add in a line or two about marijuana usage. If you have legal counsel, have them take a look at the language. This way, you are covered from a legal and optics perspective. If you don’t have policies, take time to think about drafting one (there are some templates available online).
  2. Be Sensitive
    Detecting possible impairment of your employees in your office must be approached and handled very carefully, particularly when signs of marijuana use are apparent. You’ll need proof to make a case for a clear connection between substance use and a drop in productivity.
  3. Watch Behaviours
    Start noting (not tracking) your employee behaviour. This may be easier with a smaller team, but if you can have someone in your office (e.g. main reception, EA) dedicated to simply noting current employee behaviours, then once the new legislation is in place, if there are any outliers (e.g. employees are late, taking more sick days, or their performance has been slipping), you’ll need to meet with them to go over this and put steps in place, with timelines for improvement.

We are entering fairly new territory with regards to policies on marijuana, so right now there are no hard and fast rules on this, but making a few small changes will help you navigate.

Is your business ready for marijuana legalization? Contact me to help you navigate these waters.

Small Business Trends for 2018 – Are You Ready?

shutterstock_365392142Welcome to 2018! After a hopefully restful and enjoyable holiday break, it is time to get back to business, and this year promises some interesting trends I want to share with you. In my 30+ years of experience helping small businesses, I have seen many significant changes, and this year brings new ways you can further expand and develop your business. I’m excited to highlight some of the trends worth noting, and look forward to working with you to implement these changes to grow your business even further in 2018.

The Mobile Experience – Consumers are using mobile devices to search for information, browse social media, and make purchases more than ever before. Ensuring that your business has a website that is easy to find and navigate, specifically on mobile devices, will help you expand your business’ reach to new customers.

Taking It Outside – Getting tasks done through freelancers, contract workers and outsourcing is becoming easier and more popular than ever before. Many businesses are leaving one-time functions or administrative tasks, like shipping, logistics, graphic design and content writing to others, thus leaving your staff to focus on other areas of expertise, and potentially saving overhead costs as well. Furthermore, giving your own employees the means to work and contribute from outside of the office can improve productivity, and satisfy your employees.

Engaging with Customers Online – The Internet is being used more and more by customers and companies to engage in business and share experiences. It’s becoming more important that businesses keep an online presence in order to communicate their brand, answer questions, respond to comments, and engage directly with consumers to highlight positive experiences, and minimize negative ones.

Storing and Protecting Data – Businesses are increasingly dealing with large data files and technical planning and software in their work. In order to best maintain, organize and protect their data, businesses that leverage the Cloud and other software can save storage costs, work with distant clients and partners, and increase their productivity.

Want more advice on ways to build on the success of your business with these trends, or general advice from other business owners like you? Make 2018 the year you join a TAB Board and get the support you need to make your plan a reality. Contact me today!

Business Growth: How to Build Business Relationships After a Networking Event

rawpixel-com-267082.jpgIn previous blogs, I’ve discussed how to effectively attend networking events. You’re now quite adept at working the room and making the most of your opportunities. And, some of the connections you’ve made have the potential to develop into valuable business relationships. However, attending the event is only the beginning. Whether or not you’re able to build successful business relationships after attending a networking event depends on how well you follow-up.

Business owners often share with me that their networking event was not successful because they didn’t get any ‘real’ leads, but the truth is, that leads are not built in a day and this is why follow up after attending a networking event is so critical. In order to build business relationships after a networking event, you’ll need to follow up. I’ve outlined below seven tips I believe will help to increase your success at the networking events:

  1. Review and prioritize the connections you made: Review your notes and the business cards that you collected. Google the people you met and interacted with. Make a list of the ones that you believe could be a potential client, strategic partner, vendor or referral source and prioritize in order of importance.
  2. Send an email within 48 hours: Send a quick “nice to meet you email”, and personalize it by mentioning some of the things you discussed at the event. Suggest a face-to-face meeting for coffee or lunch and include a few date/time options.
  3. Connect on LinkedIn and other social media networks: This will help you build your online connections and a potential referral network. Connecting on social media also ensures that you and your connections will always be able to contact each other.
  4. Pick up the telephone and make a call: We’re so used to email, social media and text, that making a phone call has become a novel idea. Pick up the phone, have a chat and suggest a time to get together.
  5. Deliver on any promises that you made: In the course of discussion, did you promise to send your new contact some information he/she was looking for? Deliver on your promises as quickly as possible.
  6. Introduce people to each other: Add value. You may have met someone who you believe would be a great connection for someone else that you know. Make the connection. They’ll both thank you for it.
  7. Create a monthly follow-up plan: Building relationships takes time. A monthly follow-up plan will help you cultivate your contacts and build successful business relationships after attending a networking event. It’s also a great reminder.

Are you following up after attending networking events? Want more advice on building successful business relationships after attending a networking event, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Business Plan: Too Early To Start A Succession Plan?

Business PlanningAs a business owner, you’re most likely consumed with the day-to-day running of your business and driving growth. It’s your baby and the last thing you want to do is sit down and make a plan for turning it over to someone else. As a TAB advisor, I have met owners who think they’re too young or believe that they’ll run the business for the rest of their lives, so why bother with succession planning? A 2014 PwC survey found that by 2019, more than half of Canadian family businesses are expected to change owners, but that only 20% of those businesses have a clearly documented succession plan in place for when the time comes.

Why does every business owner need a succession plan? We don’t have a window into the future and have no idea if or when events may arise that force succession – premature death, disability, personal or financial reasons or retirement. Without a succession plan, your business’s fate is uncertain and could be left in the hands of the court. It may also cause disputes among family members as to who should take over. The only way to control your company’s future and to protect yourself, your family and your employees is with a succession plan. I’ve outlined below what I feel are the three top options for succession.

  1. Transition the business within the family: If you choose to transition the business within the family, you’ll have to choose a successor. This may not be an easy (or popular decision) if multiple family members work in the business and all want the position at the helm. There may also not be a qualified successor among the family members, which brings with it a unique set of problems.
  2. Sell the business to a partner or employee(s): You’ll have to determine the value of the business. There are many factors that affect the value of your business, so it’s important to seek assistance in helping you calculate an accurate value. And the value of your business will continue to change so it will have to be re-evaluated on an ongoing basis.
  3. Sell the business to an outside buyer: Same as above.

It’s never too early to create a succession plan. It should be done by experts as it involves several disciplines including accounting, financial services, and law. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all succession plan template that you can download and plug information into. Each business owner will have different ideas about what their business succession should look like and the experts can ensure that your wishes are carried out.

I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention that in order for any succession plan to really succeed, you’ll need to have the right people and processes in place that allow for the day-to-day operations of the business to function without you.

No matter how good your succession plan is, it can’t anticipate changes that may affect your business in the future, which is why it will constantly have to evolve and change. I believe in starting early, setting expectations, and making the decisions that are right for you and your business. Succession planning is the only way to control the fate of your business.

Have you started working on your succession plan? Want more advice on succession planning, or general advice from a seasoned business advisor? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

Managing Change: Reactive versus Proactive Business Strategy

startup-849805_640.jpgIf there is one thing I can guarantee any business owner, it is that your business will experience change. Sometimes workplace change can occur very quickly and in today’s marketplace, it can occur quite often. Although change can be difficult and presents new and interesting challenges, it isn’t necessarily negative. Change may take place in order to respond to a new opportunity. As I tell my clients, the key is having the right strategy in place to manage change, which can often be the difference between success and failure. When managing change, there are two main business strategies – reactive and proactive.

Reactive business strategies respond to an unanticipated event after the fact. A reactive approach to business is all too common. Unfortunately, this approach may lead to lost new and emerging opportunities, or losing out to a more aggressive competitor who bursts onto the scene. Being reactive is inefficient and extremely stressful. It doesn’t allow you to plan because you’re too busy reacting. A typical example of a reactive strategy is to wait for business to decline before investing in marketing and promotion. Reactive companies tend to fail in the long run. Look at what happened to companies like Nokia and Blockbuster.

Proactive business strategies anticipate the events, plan for them and take action. They are ready to capitalize on new and emerging opportunities or respond to new competitors. Research is very important to a proactive business strategy. You have to analyze the market thoroughly, pay attention to the trends and adapt to them before your competitors do. The reality is that no business can be proactive all the time, however if you focus on a proactive strategy, you will be more effective at dealing with challenges and as a result, more successful. A typical example of a proactive strategy is to invest in marketing and promotion to gain a greater market share in anticipation of increased competition, instead of waiting for business to decline first as in a reactive business strategy. Apple and Amazon are perfect examples of proactive companies.

Creating a proactive business culture is hard work but it pays off. It starts with a change in mindset. You need to be ahead of the curve. Instead of racing around putting out fires, anticipate and plan for success! Here are some tips to help create a proactive business culture:

  • Schedule time to plan
  • Clearly define expectations and goals
  • Refine and improve business processes
  • Research your industry
  • Pay attention to trends
  • Stay on top of the business climate
  • Know your competitors
  • Identify risks
  • Search for and find problems before they happen

There is no doubt that adopting a proactive business strategy is the ideal approach to help you shape the results of change. However, sometimes changes come so quickly that we do need to react and therefore a reactive strategy needs to be applied. If you’d like more advice on how to create the right proactive or reactive business strategy, or are looking for other business advice, check out how TAB can help!