New Year’s Resolutions for Your Small Business

k-120-name-1081With the holidays set to soon begin, most businesses will close or reduce their operations until the new year. Many of us will spend time celebrating and relaxing with family and friends, rather than worry about what needs to be done at the office. But the small business owners I speak to are always thinking about ways to improve their business, and they love to be prepared well in advance. That’s why I’d like to outline some new year’s resolutions to improve your small business, well in advance so that come January, you’ll have thoughts and ideas ready to go:

An IT Analysis

The start of the new year is as good a time as any to implement brand new processes and procedures that could make things run more smoothly. For small businesses in particular, a new software tool or production technique can do wonders towards improving your productivity. Particularly within operations and accounting, there are websites and software tools out there – even some that are available for free – that can make things faster and easier for you to manage. Now is the perfect time to review the tools that you’ve heard great things about, and have discussions with family and friends, so that you can implement a new secret weapon to get your business running faster than ever in 2018.

An HR Overhaul

It’s no secret that businesses across North America are being exposed as more hostile and unwelcoming than many would have ever thought. For many people, they had no idea that things were so bad for others. That’s why it’s so important to review your HR policies, and have an open conversation with your employees. This might be one of the only ways to expose issues that you didn’t necessarily recognize. But what’s just as likely is that you’ll come across small, simple changes that you can make to improve the culture and morale at your workplace. Change works best when it’s implemented from the top down, and it’s clear now that issues and concerns should be addressed head-on, to improve the workplace for everyone.

A New Social Media Approach

In 2018, it’s clear that utilizing social media is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways of marketing your business. Just as you aim to improve the internal functioning of your business, you should aim to improve the external perception of your business. You may just be looking at the creation of a Facebook or Instagram account to share basic information and show off your products. Or, you might be looking at the development of an entirely new online strategy. Either way, web pages need time to accumulate page views and reviews to become more prominent and legitimate. That’s why the time is now to embrace social media, as it can only serve to broaden the audience who discovers and interacts with your business.

With the new year approaching, now is the perfect time to reflect on tools, policies and changes to make to ensure that 2018 is the best year yet for your small business. If you’d like to hear other recommendations, or talk to other local small business owners to bounce ideas, contact me today!

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Marketing: How to Keep Your Brand’s Good Name Intact

office-620817_1280I have met many business owners that have worked hard to build their business and to establish their brand’s good name. Many of them don’t anticipate damage that can be caused by one disgruntled employee or a less than favourable online review. In today’s competitive marketplace, I know it takes hard work to stay one step ahead of the competition, and maintaining a positive image to the public and your customers is vital to your business’ longevity. I have outlined some ways your company can protect and promote your company’s good name.

Why is it so important to keep your brand’s reputation intact? Thirty years ago, as much as 95% of the average corporation’s value consisted of tangible assets, according to a report by Thomson Reuters and Interbrand. Today, 75% of the average corporation’s value is intangible. This means that your company’s greatest asset and its value is its name. Perception has become reality and how people perceive your brand will dictate whether or not they want to do business with you. Are you seen as honest, trustworthy and ethical? People want to do business with companies that they trust and share values with, even if that company’s products and services are of similar quality and cost to that of their competitors. Your company’s good name is what differentiates you from your competition. I’ve outlined below a few tips on how you can keep your business’ good name intact:

Keep your brand’s good name intact:

  1. Enhance your corporate image by communicating your successes. Feature awards, testimonials and great press on your website and in social media.
  2. Associate yourself with governing bodies that stand for quality and integrity within your industry. By joining, you’ll be able to use their logo which in many cases will provide instant credibility. Be selective and only join the organizations that will create the most positive impact. Once you’re a member, feature their logo prominently on your website and other collateral.
  3. Use social media wisely. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I believe a well thought- out social media plan that targets your audience can help ensure that only designated employees post on social media and that they stay on message, appear transparent and trustworthy.
  4. Ensure that your messaging is authentic. No one wants to read what they perceive to be advertising.
  5. Monitor what’s being said about your company on the Internet and in social media. Designate someone to check the Internet and social media daily for anything related to your company.
  6. Respond immediately in a positive tone if a negative post is spotted. Don’t argue the point. Never respond in anger. If a customer had an unhappy experience, apologize and let them know you’ll try to make it right. Offer to contact them privately offline. Give them every reason to become a satisfied customer.

Are you doing enough to keep your brand’s good name in tact? If you’d like to discuss how TAB could help you with your business, find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


Employee Relations: Social Media In and Out of the Workplace

28011015990_8ff191ee0f_bEven though I know some small business owners still have not embraced social media in their business, but in 2017, there is no denying that social media is now pervasive in our culture. When used wisely in the workplace social media is a powerful tool that can connect individuals, increase productivity, enhance sales and marketing efforts and create brand champions. However, social media also has a dark side. Inappropriate social media used by employees can cause serious damage your company’s reputation, leak sensitive information and/or leave you libel for cyber bullying or harassment. With social media use at an all time high and still growing exponentially, it’s more important than ever for every business to have a clearly defined social media policy.

How many Canadians are using social media?

  • 73% of millennials use social media daily (Statistics Canada)
  • More than 14 million Canadians check Facebook every day (Miller Thomson)
  • More than 400 million tweets are sent daily (Miller Thomson)
  • LinkedIn has over 8 million Canadian users (Miller Thomson)

What is a social media policy? A social media policy is a code of conduct that establishes clear guidelines and expectations for your employees. It clearly defines which social media sites employees may access and what is and is not appropriate for employees to post about their company on these sites. Typically they include restrictions on disclosing confidential information, trade secrets, financial information and/or potentially offensive material. A social media policy will also clearly state the consequences for breaking the rules. 

Why is a social media policy so important? There used to be a clear distinction between your private life and your work life, but social media has blurred all that. People post on social media anytime and from anywhere, often without too much forethought. Millennials, also referred to as the social generation, are notorious for sharing everything, including the minutiae of their lives, without a filter for what is private or work related. “Any company, big or small, needs a social media policy to protect their reputations,” says Aliah Wright, author of A Necessary Evil: Managing Employee Activity on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…and the Hundreds of Other Social Media Sites. “Even if their company has no social media presence, their employees may be creating one by virtue of their actions online.”

7 tips for creating an effective social media policy:

  1. State the purpose/objective of the policy
  2. Clearly define what constitutes social media. Is it social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Does it include blogs? Online forums? Videos?
  3. Decide who is responsible for managing and participating in social media – everyone involved in your company’s social media should know who is responsible for the different tasks
  4. Establish guidelines for overall conduct and be clear about what is considered unacceptable behaviour – releasing confidential or proprietary information, offensive language, cyber bulling, airing grievances online…
  5. State the consequences for breaching the policy? Disciplinary action? Termination?
  6. Make sure that your employees understand the social media policy and provide training sessions if necessary.
  7. Monitor social media usage to ensure that the policy is being followed

Does your company have a social media policy in place? Want more advice on social media policies, or general advice from other business owners like you? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


When You’re Looking for One in a Millennial

entrepreneur-593358_1280Every day, thousands of millennials are entering the workforce for the first time. Now, many small business owners are considering hiring these individuals and asking what they need to consider before they opt to hire them.

There is no denying that the millennial generation is much different than the generation of workers that has come before them.  This means that as a small business owner, you’ll need to make some changes to your business culture in order to accommodate the very unique needs of this particular group.

I’ve outlined a few key items you might want to consider before hiring millennial workers to ensure success for both your company and your potential millennial hire.

  • Flexibility

Millennial workers, unlike any other generation before them, are keen on the idea of having office hours that suit their personal needs. How flexible are you willing to be with your office hours? When interviewing potential millennial candidates, ask about their work schedule expectations. If you run a business that can only accommodate the hours of 9am to 5pm, then you can expect a millennial may not find your opening suitable to them.

  • Millennials want to be valued

Millennials need a great deal of validation from and communication with their supervisor/manager to let them know how they are doing, and to give them praise (preferably in a group setting) when they have done a good job. In the workplace, this may require more of your time and attention. They want to be noticed for their work and you will need to be available to give them ongoing feedback. Do you have the time to provide them with ongoing feedback and praise? If not, a millennial may not feel valued in your office.

  • Company Culture

Millennial workers are expecting an inclusive and exciting company culture that promotes social relationships and fosters innovation. If you have other millennial staff, or see your company hosting social nights or team-building activities, a millennial might fit in well. Their need to work and collaborate with a team is key to their success. Is your office made up of employees aged 45+? If so, a millennial worker might feel like an outsider and have trouble fitting in.

There is no doubt this new generation of workers are the future of business, and they have so much to offer, but we need to learn how to accommodate their needs if we are to add them to our workforce.


Millennials in the Workplace

millennial-management-studyA hot topic of discussion in the business world as of late seems to be millennials in the workplace, with people weighing in both positively and negatively on the matter. In my experience working with small and mid size businesses, I have seen a fair share of millennials adding great value to organizations in a number of ways.

This younger generation of professionals has a lot to bring to the table, and they shouldn’t’ be discounted just because of their age. In today’s world, the business environment is continuously changing and transforming itself, and this is something millennials truly understand, as this fast-paced, evolving nature is all they know.

So, what exactly can you and your business learn from millennials? Here are just a few ways this generation of professionals adds value.

  • An understanding of technology and social media.
    • Nobody understands the Internet and a business’ role in social media like a Millennial. They live and breathe the online world.
  • An understanding for work-life balance.
    • Millennials are young, energetic, and motivated. While they work hard, they also understand the importance of a personal life and can juggle both well.
  • A strong emotional intelligence.
    • Millennials are confident and comfortable, but have no problem communicating emotion like self-doubt or disappointment and seeking help from others.
  • The ability to thrive off challenge.
    • Young professionals love to be challenged and given opportunities that will teach them new, useful skills. Fresh challenges are thought of as rewards.

It is important to keep in mind that the value Millennials bring must also be managed properly. This cohort of professionals needs structure in order to succeed, and leadership and guidance from senior colleagues is very important. You are making a coaching commitment when you bring them on board. With the right forms of encouragement and affirmation, they will be loyal and hard-working employees.

What is your experience with hiring millennials to your team? Have you taken advantage of the value they offer? Let me know in the comments!


Spring Cleaning for your Business

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It seems as though the warmer weather is here to stay, and while you may feel compelled to give your home and yard a spring-cleaning, your business could also benefit from some freshening up as well!

I’ve found that this time of year is perfect for taking an inventory of how your business is doing and how you can channel the springtime motivation into making improvements in all parts of the company. Spring-cleaning can cover a wide range of ways to freshen up, most of them supported by the improved mood around the office.

Goals for 2014: Depending on your annual cycle, you could have just completed your first quarter of the year. This is a good time to remember the goals you set for yourself and your business, such as the ones I suggested back in January, and track your progress thus far. Perhaps you’ve found that you’ve developed some great habits and solid consistency in your work life, and this motivates you to challenge yourself further. If you’ve veered off the goals you set, perhaps your spring cleaning involves updating your goals or re-committing to them.

Administrative Items: As the year gets busier, you might not notice that certain processes or administrative systems are not working for your business anymore. Take inventory of your business processes and see if you notice any inefficiencies or gaps in the way you do things – for example, managing your client email list, invoicing system or your tactics for acquiring new customers. Some minor tweaks or changes now will help your business run more efficiently for the remainder of the year.

General Clutter: The state of your office and workplace definitely has an effect on your productivity. If your workspace (whether that be your home office, work office, car, etc) is not organized in a way that you understand and can work within, you are less able to find items you need but this can also make you feel more stressed and less in control of your work life. Taking time to file things away, recycle loose papers and shred old files can give your office, your desk and your mind a sense of freshness.

Team-building: We have just made it through a long, difficult winter. Your employees may be in need of some reconnection with the business values and each other. Whether formally or not, schedule some time for your employees to spend time with each other. Team-building workshops and spring revival training are valuable tools that can reignite belongingness and motivation within your team. Look for their input and feedback on the year so far and set goals to continue through the summer with high levels of productivity.

Spring cleaning covers a variety of areas of your business, so feel free to undertake any activities that offer you a chance to de-clutter, either literally, administratively or mentally. Take advantage of the lifted spirits that accompany this beautiful weather and channel this motivation into making your business a more efficient and happy place to be.

What other spring-cleaning activities come to mind during this time of year? Where have you noticed things “cluttering” in your business? I look forward to your thoughts below.


The CASL Countdown is On – Are you Ready?

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If you are a business-owner and have not yet heard of CASL, you have just over a month left to prepare yourself and your business.

What is CASL?

CASL stands for Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, and it’s purpose is to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating commercial conduct that discourages the use of electric means to carry out commercial activities.

In short, the legislation attempts to ensure that all contact you initiate for your business electronically is information that your recipients want (i.e have consented) to receive.  Electronic communication, in this case, applies to email, SCS and Social Media direct messaging (LinkedIn In-mail, Twitter and Facebook messaging).

The legislation refers to messages whose purpose is to encourage participation in a commercial activity within the content of the message – offers to purchase, sell, lease a product, goods or services or the promotion of a public person as well as any advertising of these things.

According to the legislation, after July 1st, 2014 you could be penalized as an individual up to $1-million dollars, and as an organization, up to $10-million dollars!

Now, that you know what CASL is, how do you prepare yourself and your communications plan so that you are compliant with the legislation?

How Do You Comply?

  1. Proof of Consent for each email or other types of electronic communication
    1. Divide your emails into three groups: Expressed (“Yes, I want to receive this information”) Implied (those you have done prior business with, or collected business cards, but have not received Expressed Consent) and Unknown
    2. Review and change wording wherever you collect emails, ensuring that you make it clear that submitting an email address is proof of Consent to receive further information
  2.  An unsubscribe process in every digital communication
    1. Should be immediate and automated, but the legislation gives you 10 business days to remove the unsubscribed recipients from you lists
  1. Documented date and type of each consent
  1. Sending out electronic communications after July 1, 2014 should include:
    1. The name of the person sending the email or the name of the person is being sent of behalf of
    2. Contact information for the subscriber to access the organization sending the email

CASL does not have to be a frightening change in the way that you do business after July 1st, 2014. But it will take your diligent preparation to ensure that your business is ready for the change. This is a good and necessary reason to spend time with your email lists, to organize and understand them. You will need to ensure that whenever you are collecting an email to add to your list, that you have a process for your recipient to Opt-In to receive your information, in hard copy, on your website, etc.

Most importantly, use your networks and fellow business-owners to share ideas and learn new ways to tackle the roadblocks that the legislation presents.

For more information visit: http://fightspam.gc.ca/

Had you heard of CASL before reading this blog? How are you preparing for July 1st? What are you most concerned about? I look forward to your thoughts below.