Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Sky's the Limit in an Economic Downturn

Call the current economic climate whatever you wish – downturn, recession, slowdown. For some, there is only one word – opportunity.

There is no question that the economic world has changed as a result of this downturn. However, business has not ceased, nor has cash become a thing of the past. Here and there, savvy business entrepreneurs have kept their eyes open and found niches of opportunity to make money – lots of money – at a time when others are unsure of their financial futures.

SwiftJet is a private charter jet service based out of Toronto's Pearson International Airport. While commercial airlines are restructuring and trimming due to reduced air travel, this airline is booked solid. The company's founder and chief executive, Bassam Al-Sarraj, realized that corporate executives have neither the time nor the patience for flying commercially. Traveling by private jet is a necessity, not a luxury for many business executives. The need to meet in several distant places in a short span of time negates flying commercially. Time spent with check-ins, baggage drops, security checks, and boarding time is precious productive time lost in the business world. SwiftJet operates to meet the needs of the corporate executive. All the amenities of commercial airlines are made available. And, this airline guarantees that the passenger's luggage will never be lost.

It is true that some companies that previously owned their own private jets have sold their planes in order to trim their finances. However, entrepreneurs like Mr. Al-Sarraj realized that the companies still needed that service. He merely allowed large companies to reduce their operating overhead by a unique type of outsourcing.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Bank of Canada: Hiring and Sales to Go Up Within a Year

Businesses in Canada say things are looking up after a difficult year, as per a new Bank of Canada survey. One hundred companies were polled in May and June.

Sales are expected to increase in the next year according to 61% of senior managers polled in the quarterly business survey. This is the first positive forecast for sales from a majority of execs surveyed since the 3rd quarter of 2008. In the past year, sales went down according to 69% of respondents, which was a record amount for this poll.

In addition, more companies plan to do more hiring in the next 12 months (39%) than those who plan to lay off employees (17%).

The Bank of Canada comments that in general their results show that businesses expect the economy to improve, but slowly, still conservative about investing.

This is an extremely positive outlook for Canada and as well for the US. But the companies surveyed still don't see US demand increasing in a big way next year. So they estimate that they will spend less on investing in the upcoming year. The results in this area have been negative for the past 2 years as well.

And despite some claiming to have reduced their production capabilities already at this point; the bank says very few businesses report that they would have a hard time meeting unforeseen swells in demand. A greater number of businesses also believe their product prices will be lower next year.

Senior loan officers, polled separately, reported that in the second quarter of 2009 the conditions for lending continued to contract. However, this time the bank explained that the tighter lending was industry-specific than in previous surveys and found more in such areas as the auto sector, forestry products and transportation.

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Economic Growth is on the Horizon

While it is not predicting the end of the economic recession – the worst since the Second World War, the Canadian government is presenting a bright outlook for the immediate future. The government now thinks that the current year's downturn will be less severe than earlier predictions and growth for 2010 will be stronger. As expected, the Bank of Canada is keeping its key policy rate at 0.25-per-cent – an historic low and has pledged to keep that rate until the spring of 2010.

In a move that has surprised some economists, the central bank has reduced the amount of money available to chartered banks in order to support borrowing and lending. Bank Governor Mark Carney has noted that some banks were not drawing down as much money as the Bank of Canada was making available, Mr. Carney cautiously sees this trend as a strong indicator of improving financial markets.

"Stimulative monetary and fiscal policies, improved financial conditions, firmer commodity prices, and a rebound in business and consumer confidence are spurring domestic demand," according to a recent statement released by the central bank.

Mr. Carney has improved his financial forecast for the Canadian economy. An earlier April forecast of three percent annual contraction has been reduced to 2.3 percent. Similarly, he has increased his 2010 growth projection by half-a-point to 3.5 percent.

While agreeing that the future is looking brighter, leading analysts at several of the nation's leading banks view Mr. Carney's outlook as overly optimistic. Most forecasts in the private sector are limiting growth in 2010 to 2.0 percent.

In any event, Mr. Carney has not changed his opinion that complete economic recovery will not be realized before mid-2011.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Organizing Your Corporation – The Basics

The internal organization of your corporation is a vital initial step. Even the smallest of companies must adhere to these organizational steps. An orderly beginning will direct you to a well organized business.

Although you were required to list the first members of the corporation's board of directors when you incorporated, this group essentially gets the business "off the ground." At the first meeting of the corporation's shareholders, the permanent directors are elected. While all this may sound rather grandiose for a small company, keep in mind that your rights and obligations are no different than the "major players."

At an early date in the corporation's organization, one of the initial directors will call an organizational meeting. All the initial directors must receive notification in writing at least five days prior to the meeting. The notification must indicate the date, time, and location of the meeting.

What is the purpose of this meeting? Several items, which must appear on the agenda, may be discussed:
  • creating by-laws of the corporation (the by-laws have to be ratified by the shareholders at the first annual meeting);
  • adoption of forms of security certificates and corporate records;
  • appointment of officers;
  • authorizing issuance of shares and/or other types of securities;
  • appointment of an interim auditor until the shareholders ratify the appointment;
  • organize banking protocols; and
  • discuss any outstanding pertinent issues.

Keep in mind that it is imperative to keep written minutes of all meetings as well as copies of all documents, agendas, correspondence, etc. An orderly set of records may be very useful for you at a later date. It also may be necessary in the future should there be any need for clarifications by government or other official agencies.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Annual Requirements of your Canadian Corporation

When your corporation was first established, you were obligated to file certain documents including the Articles of Incorporation. However, in order to maintain your status whereby your corporation benefits from the Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA), there are certain necessary requirements that must be fulfilled on an annual or periodic basis.

Every registered corporation is responsible for filing an Annual Return. The information contained in this return confirms that your corporation is complying with certain requirements, as outlined when you filed for incorporation. Within 60 days of the corporation's anniversary, the annual date must be filed. The anniversary date appears on the corporation's Certificate of Incorporation. Any of the company's directors, or an agent authorized by the directors, may sign and file the Annual Return.

It is imperative to maintain the good standing of your corporation. Failure to file your Annual Return may result in the company's dissolve by legal order.

If your corporation should move to a new address within the same province or territory, this address change must be registered with the governing agencies within 15 days of the move. Similarly, a change of mailing address of the corporation (not necessarily a physical move of the company) must also be registered. If your corporation moves to a different province or territory, you must amend your Articles of Incorporation.

Changes to the Directors of the corporation must also be registered. These changes include:
  • Appointment of new directors;
  • End of term of a director;
  • Change of address of a director.

It is important to know that the names of a corporation's directors are public information and, therefore, the information must remain current. If the number of directors changes from the original Articles of Incorporation, this change must be registered.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Adding a Trade Name (DBA) vs. Amending your Corporation Name

Corporations often start a business with one particular activity in mind but as things evolve and change, they want to be able to do business under a different name. Sometimes corporations want to change their legal name while others want to simply do business under a different name without incorporating a new business.

There are a couple options you can evaluate for these type of situations: trade name registration or “a doing business as” (also known as a “DBA”) filing, which will allow your corporation to use a different name, or a name amendment, which would legally change the name of your corporation.

Businesses are allowed to use names other than their legal names to conduct business. There are many terms for doing this, including DBA, which stands for doing business as, fictitious business name, assumed business name, or trade name. If a business uses another name, it must comply with provincial specific name requirements. Check out this video on business names for more info.

Trade name requirements can vary by jurisdiction. Typically, a filing must be made at the provincial level to register the name your business plans to use, and a filing fee paid. All provinces have their own name requirements for trade names. We recommend that you check with your provincial companies office for such requirements.

Once you have registered your trade name, your corporation can begin using that name in addition to its legal name. You may need to advise your bank of this new trade name if you intend on receiving checks under this new trade name. Typically, a copy of the registration will be sufficient. This allows you to have separation within your business, without the formation of a subsidiary. However, if you are considering establishing a subsidiary for other reasons, it is best to seek the advice of a lawyer or accountant.

Another option would be to change the legal name of your corporation. One thing you should consider when doing this is the business purpose on record with the jurisdiction for your corporation. If your articles of incorporation limit the activities of your corporation, amending your name may cause the corporation to extend past its current business purpose. If the business purpose listed in your articles of incorporation is a general clause, such as “all lawful business,” or “no restrictions” then changing your name would still be covered by your business purpose. Where this is an issue, amendments to the business purpose can be done simultaneously to the business name amendment. All incorporations effected through CorporationCentre.ca have no such limitations.

To effect a corporate name amendment to the Articles of Incorporation, the proposed amendment must be authorized by a resolution adopted by the board of directors. The resolution must then be ratified by the shareholders present at a special general meeting, in such percentage as required by the applicable law, at which time the shareholders also authorize one director to sign the Articles of Amendment. Typically, an amendment to the Articles of Incorporation must be confirmed by a greater majority (2/3 or 3/4 depending on the jurisdiction) of the votes cast by the shareholders at a special general meeting.

Moreover, a Name Search Report (for jurisdictions that accept only accept a NUANS report, it must be less than 90 days old) or an actual pre-approval (for jurisdictions like B.C., Manitoba, and Nova Scotia not older than 60 days).

Once this is done, the Articles of Amendment are filed with the relevant jurisdiction office, together with the prescribed government fee and name search report.

The government fees related to filing articles of amendment are as follows:

Jurisdiction Fee

Federal $200
Alberta $150
British Columbia $225
Manitoba $135
NFLD & Labrador $100
New Brunswick $110
Nova Scotia $150
Ontario $150
P.E.I. $260
Quebec $140
Saskatchewan $120

Following the processing of the Articles of Amendment by the government office, A Certificate of Amendment is issued confirming the change of the legal name of the corporation. The change of corporate name becomes effective from the date appearing on the Certificate, does not affect the corporation's rights or obligations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Starting a Business - Business Registration or Incorporation?

One of the first decisions an entrepreneur or small business owner needs to make when incorporating is what form the business should have. There are generally three options in Canada, namely, sole proprietorship, partnership or corporation.

On our website there is good summary of each kind of Canadian business organization for review. I have also drafted a brief white paper on this topic. Also, I wrote an article about the selection of a business legal form for franchises.

You can also review our videos on YouTube on business registrations (sole proprietorships) and incorporations.

At the end of the day, while most businesses will select incorporation, this may or may not be the best way to start depending on your specific circumstances. As always, a competent lawyer and or tax specialist should be consulted.

Boomers as Entrepreneurs and Temps: Helping the Economy

As many of those in the baby boomer generation contemplate retirement, the workplace will definitely be impacted, but how? Many of them see they have less money saved than expected, be it in a 401K type of account or pension and see the need to return to or continue working.

Even as recruiters suffer due to fewer temporary workers being sought out, recruiting companies like Robert Half International (whose sales fell by 30% at the beginning of 2009) are going after the baby boomers. They are very skilled and ready to work once corporations go back to more hiring. This trend appeared in BusinessWeek as reported by Ali McConnon in their June 30 issue. A greater workforce of experienced individuals can turn around the recruiting industry, since their track record is proven and they need less training. The corporations are willing to pay more for them also.

As temps, the boomers are a worthwhile market for the recruiters since they are more likely to continue as part-timers as opposed to younger workers who just temp until they can find something full-time. As such recruiting companies are seeking out boomers through organizations like the AARP and CARP.

Entrepreneurial Start-ups

Like we have discussed in previous posts, small business looks like it has the potential to succeed in many ways despite the current recession. According to Tony Wanless of the National Post, many North American boomers are aspiring to start businesses as opposed to pursuing leisure activities in their retirements. On the whole they are healthy and have a strong drive to succeed in life. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation that studies entrepreneurship, even sees the 80 million boomers leading the way out of recession.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Corporation Minute Books - Do I need one when Incorporating?

As a lawyer dealing with small business owners that are starting-up a business on a shoe string budget - Do I really need to have a corporate minute book?

The answer is simple: yes - it is required by law; and no it does not have to be a binder.

Most Canadian laws do not specifically mention a “minute book” but rather of keeping records of specific kinds of information. Most jurisdictions in Canada require corporations, and therefore its directors, to keep records containing the articles and by-laws and any amendments, minutes of meetings and resolutions of shareholders and directors, copies of all notices of change of directors, and securities registers.

Accordingly, it is legally required to maintain these records and information in one place. These records are kept in a “Minute Book” which has the properly named sections and tabs of the records required to keep. Moreover, the maintenance and keeping up to date of the minute book ensures easy access to the desired information especially if there have been many changes over the years. As you grow your business more documents will be inserted in same.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Green Light for Organics Part III

The Price and Profit Factors: Status Matters

Even with a lack of real evidence of its superiority, people do pay more for organic produce, mainly because they believe it to be healthier as well as tastier than its counterpart. Depending on various factors, the prices can be on par with conventional produce and go up to 30% higher.

Because of the regulation/certification, lower production volumes and the fact that fewer organic products are mass produced, the price of organic can be higher. But the increase in demand recently for these products has caused greater production, thus driving down the price. Retailer Shaskin says that organic strawberries, for example go for almost the same price as the conventional ones, and that even though some organics will stay higher, many types of organic products will go down in price in the future.

Ontario-based organic wine producer Martin Malivoire believes the prices will even out and conventional food producers will find their market to be less profitable as the costs for pesticides and other conventional growth methods go up. "It will become a healthier world out of necessity because we won't be able to expend the energy and organic foods will actually be the cheaper choice," he said.

Malivoire's critically acclaimed wines are seeing an increase in sales in Ontario so his company is expanding production as well as distribution to Quebec and Alberta, among other new markets. He feels that the labeling claims no small part in his success. Though his grapes were always organic, he got the official accreditation in 2004 as he saw it made a difference to his consumers. And now he sees that his products are believed to be of higher quality for that reason.

Though he has been advised to raise prices due to his organic status he chooses not to at this point. “I think the impact is those that are not organic are going to have to reduce their prices in order to compete with us," Malivoire says.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Ontario or Canadian Incorporation - Where to incorporate?

We often get this question - I am based in Ontario and want to incorporate my business but don’t know if I should incorporate a Federal or Ontario corporation – where should I incorporate?

Deciding where to incorporate involves many factors including evaluating corporate and tax laws. A competent lawyer/accountant should be consulted to evaluate your specific circumstances. However, for most small corporations the following factors make Federal (Canada) corporations more attractive - read below. You can also check out this video about incorporations for more information.

Federal corporations have lower government incorporation fees than Ontario corporations ($200 versus $360). Also, although Federal corporations must register extra-provincially with the Ontario government, there is no government fee for this registration.

Federal corporations have the most stringent criteria in granting the right to use a corporate name. Ontario corporations (like most other provinces) offer very little protection of use, and will grant almost any name provided it is not identical. Moreover, if there is any protection, it is limited to that province, unlike federal corporations which afford Canada wide protection.

Federal corporations require that 25% of its directors be resident Canadians, while Ontario corporations require 51% be resident Canadians. This may be advantageous if you have foreigners involved in your business.

Delays for both are approximately the same where Certificates of Incorporation can generally be obtained within 2 working days or less.

However, Federal corporations must file annual reports at a cost of $20 per year whereas Ontario corporations’ annual reports are free.

You can check out our pre-incorporation checklist for Ontario incorporations. For a more detailed answer check out this link about where to incorporate in Canada.

Green Light for Organics Part II

Questionable Standards Until Now for Canada

Despite that proper accreditation for organic products has existed in Europe and the U.S. for several years; until recently Canadian organic products could receive such a title even based on the manufacturer using organic hand soap. There has only been voluntary certification here until June 30 of this year; when the labeling standards for Canadian organic products became enforceable by law.

According to Michael Saumur of the Canada Organic Office at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, those companies claiming to be organic on their labels that don't act on a warning to comply with the laws are subject to their products being removed from stores or face prosecution. These laws include a requirement for a product to contain at least 70% organic ingredients to be called “organic”. There will also be a specific logo for products that are over 95% organic. Those products that are between 70% and 95% organic can state their percentage on the packaging.

Though the laws may be inconvenient to implement at first, Denise Shaskin of Planet Organic Market believes they will ultimately benefit the organic industry. Now the competition in the industry can be more fair too, and the new certification is recognized by the U.S., eliminating the need for separate certification in order to export goods. According to a study in the Canada Gazette, the new certification standards could have a net benefit of $752 million for the economy.

In Shaskin's experience, people's main reason to shop for organic goods is due to an illness in their family. So since they often scrutinize the contents of a product for health concerns, she believes the certification standards will boost many consumers' confidence in the contents of the packages they buy.

Shaskin, recognizing the increasing demand for organic products in the marketplace, entered this market in 1993 and started the Planet Organic chain in 2001. She claims that annual sales jumped to $113 million last year from only $2 million for her retail chain that operates throughout Canada now and intends to expand further into Ontario and Alberta.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Green Light for Organics Part I

Topping the Pizza

Matthew Von Teichman's wife was expecting, and in a move to introduce a more healthy lifestyle she decided to buy an organic pizza for their supper. They were both largely unimpressed. But this spurred Mr. Teichman, the experienced entrepreneur, onto a new venture to offer people a good range of more than palatable organic food products. Life Choices Natural Foods, which now has expanded across Canada and the U.S., was born.

Now sporting nine product lines that are certified organic, featuring breaded chicken, mac and cheese and the newest one, multigrain perogies; their first product offer was indeed pizza.

Von Teichman notes the organic industry's explosive sales growth rate of 20% recently, compared to that of most non-organic products that only goes up by 1 or 2% per year. This can be attributed to consumers' greater awareness of health-related issues as well as improved access to research on organic science via the internet. Von Teichman sees the interest as being due to people's demand for nutritious foods and their demanding to avoid dangerous substances like chemical residues. The main selling points of organic products, including food, health-care products and vitamins are that they are generally not genetically modified and they don't contain antibiotics, herbicides, hormones, insecticides or pesticides.

Is Organic Truly Better?

Apparently, there is no definitive proof of organic food being more nutritious or healthier than its non-organic counterpart. According to Professor Rena Mendelson of Ryerson University who is also chair of the Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition, a variety of farming conditions makes it difficult to pinpoint the nutritional levels or their sources. But she feels that there is a difference in terms of the impact each type of food has on the environment. A reduction in pesticides would make all farming more organic and put those foods ahead of nonorganic produce in that regard.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Canadian economy not to be outdone – Part II

At the G8 summit, both the U.S. President and British Prime Minister, among others called for additional economic stimuli on a global scale, despite the US$2 trillion already expended as they feel it has yet to push demand high enough. On the contrary, Canadian PM Stephen Harper urged other leaders to focus on ensuring proper delivery of those stimuli already promised. "That's been our focus in Canada and I would encourage the same priority elsewhere," he told the press.

Canada's stimulus package consists of $46 billion over 2 years, poised for creating more jobs and igniting consumer demand. The amount is expected to increase to almost $80 billion once the provincial and territorial aspects kick in. PM Harper claims 80% of the planned federal funds have already been committed. In addition, Bank of Canada cut its key lending rate from 4.5% in December 2007 to its present level of .25%

Analysts see the present Canadian stimulus package taking effect in the next few months and see no need for any new stimulus monies. There is always a lag from the announcement of the stimulus package until effects are seen from it, must like that of lowering interest rates, according to Craig Wright, chief economist at Royal Bank of Canada. "Staying the course is probably the prudent path right now," he says.

Stefane Marion, chief economist at National Bank Financial, agrees that we must wait for the money to start working in the economy. Canada's financial system in general is in better shape than those of most other G8 countries and did not have the same real estate collapse that they did. He also sees production rising this year as indicated by purchasing managers and other key factors.

Furthermore, the IMF advises countries to continue to support their economies in some way until the recovery takes hold (predicted next year); while they should also plan to reduce deficits in their budgets caused by spending to combat the recession.
Canada, along with the IMF in general also agreed to make emergency capital available for borrowing, for countries that may need it soon.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Canadian economy not to be outdone – Part I

The International Monetary Fund, which released a report at the same time as the G8 summit convened, believes Canada is capable of the most improvement in her economy for 2009 and 2010 compared to almost all industrialized nations. Though some leaders at last week's G8 summit are pushing for more stimulus money, other economic experts don't think they will be necessary in Canada.

Despite expectations of a slight shrinking for the world's economy this year (1.4%), IMF has a positive outlook for the end of the recession in 2010, calling for 2.5% global economic growth next year, up more than .5% from their predictions last April.

Other industrialized countries' economies are expected to decrease by 3.8% this year, in comparison to Canada, only expected to drop by 2.3%. Only .8% growth is predicted for the US for 2010, half that of Canada's forecasted gain of 1.6%, which is only second in line to Japan's 1.7%. India and China, top consumers of Canadian raw materials are seen as leading in growth for 2010, set to increase by 6.5% and 8.5%.

Even though they feel that emergence from the recession will be on the slow side, "Financial conditions have improved more than expected, owing mainly to public intervention, and recent data suggest that the rate of decline in economic activity is moderating," the IMF commented.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Small Business Outlook- The Worst Is Behind US

There was a time when small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) had a problem with staffing, today it is with customers. Where are the customers? With sales down, SMEs are coming up with creative ways to draw in customers from bundling items for specials of the day, to discounting individual items. Even with the creativity, SMEs are hoping to make a profit.

The state of the economy has SMEs concerned about the year ahead. Consumer spending has weakened. A recent article in the Canadian Business magazine sites a recent poll on the SMEs business outlook for the near future. The poll conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) listed the Business Barometer index for Alberta as 53.2 for May, meaning SMEs in Alberta were slightly more optimistic than pessimistic about the near future. The outlook for the future varied in other provinces with Newfoundland and Labrador having one of the highest Business Barometers at 64.4, Quebec (52.2), and Ontario at 59.9.

The SMEs in Quebec and Ontario are highly dependent upon manufacturing and US trade. British Columbia has been affected by the housing market in the US and the lumber sectors. Optimism amongst SMEs is well below the historical average, however Ted Mallet, the CFIB’s chief economist believes the worst times could be behind business owners, but there is uncertainty when the recovery will begin and how long it will take.

The recovery should likely start in 2012, if not earlier, for Newfoundland and Labrador with the announcement from the government that the Hebron offshore oil project is moving forth. Although operation will be several years down the road (2016- 2018) this announcement has provided a glimmer of hope for SMEs. The project is estimated to create 3500 jobs and to generate approximately$20 billion in royalties over 20 - 25 years. This is obviously good news for businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador, hopefully there will be a similar turn for the rest of the country.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Profit from Businesses Likely to Grow in Hard Times

Even as demand for exports decreases and consumers spend less in this recession, there are several industries in the U.S. and Canada that are looking to be thriving.

Five sectors that did well in previous recessions, according to economics professor Jack Carr of University of Toronto are food and beverages, health and well-being, telecommunications, business consulting and business-process outsourcing. This time they are expected to do well again.

Cheap Food

Campbell's Soup's sales have done well in other difficult economic times as people look to save on comfort foods. And in 2008 McDonald's saw an increase in their sales figures at a time when other companies saw decreases. Their sales grew 8.2% in October 2008 from October 2007, and by 6.9% the previous year.

Companies that produce food would do well to sell more in the way of basic staple foods to supermarket chains and attempt selling to lower-end family establishments. During the recession, most people are less interested in experimental cooking or luxury-type foods, says marketing professor Alan Middleton at York University.

Health Food and Fitness

“Right now, I’d be looking to invest in anything that helps people have healthier, happier lifestyles,” says Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Calgary-based marketing agency Venture Communications and a resident investor on CBC-TV’s reality show Dragons’ Den. Though people might not be able to currently afford expensive gym memberships, they may have more time to focus on exercise and purchase less expensive equipment and workout clothes to use at home as well as healthy, inexpensive foods.

Must Stay Wired (and Wireless)

Solutions Research Group, based in Toronto, has determined that Canadians will not be willing to give up their cellphones or net access and will be the among the last things to go when cutting down on non-essentials in their personal budgets. The BlackBerry Bold and Apple iPhone look like they will continue to be top sellers, as well as their respective accessories.

IT and Consulting Support

Like we said in a previous post (See “Bank on Opportunities from Big Firms”), as big corporations cut nonessential staff they may look to outsource certain needs like IT support and other types of consulting. Firms that specialize in Web conferencing and other communications alternatives to travel are also poised to succeed in this economy. These and other types of business-service providers would do well to push their services as being available at a decent rate for temporary solutions to corporations that need them.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Nonprofits: A Growth Sector in Canada: Part II

Database Management, Consultants, Staffing and Branding

Despite large operating budgets, the bigger Canadian charities don't invest so much into IT such as economical database or web-based CRM programs that they could use to help with volunteer management, according to Artez Interactive CEO Philip King. Though mom-and-pop businesses are being employed by a few charities, “Few sophisticated, modern businesses have turned their attention to the charitable sector,” he says.

According to CharityVillage.com, the top 1% of nonprofits in Canada that have large budgets and earn about 59% of all revenue have too many consultants as it is. And 42% of Canadian charities operate with $30,000 or less. Charity consultant Alex Gill points to mid-sized charities as having potential because they are looking for efficient ways to improve their operations.

One area these groups may be willing to invest in is consultants and staff for projects in areas such as finance, fundraising and HR; if there are quality professionals available for less money. These may be easier to find in the current economy.

Another area is branding. Even though some ad agencies will work pro-bono for nonprofits, some charities are willing to invest in paying an agency that specializes in their sector and can work within a limited budget to develop the organization's identity.

However, King cautions that it takes awhile to build up a trusting work relationship with many charities and those groups are not so free with spending money. On the other hand, “For smart, patient people, it’s a good business — and a rewarding business,” he says.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Nonprofits: A Growth Sector in Canada: Part I

Digitizing, IT Solutions

Though we might not think of nonprofits being on the up and up, they actually are now. Statistics Canada claims that in 2007 the total for charitable donations has gone up by 33% in five years to $8.6 billion. Despite the recession, the factors that drive donations, such as the richest sector getting richer and the population's aging, continue to go in the same direction. Those at the top income levels can still afford to increase their giving and do so. The top Canadian donors are now in their 60s and the amount of people in that age range are expected to expand by 50% between 2006 and 2016. The general population is only predicted to increase by 8% over the same period.

However, most of the donations arrive in the old fashioned ways. Artez Interactive, a company specializing in online fundraising and technology estimates that only 3% of US$500 billion in donations were made online. “There are huge opportunities in helping charities move to digital systems,” says Artez CEO Philip King.

Another issue that came to the fore following the 2004 tsunami was that despite a large amount of donations, how can the funds be distributed quickly to those in need? British companies have begun working on this type of technology but North America has not yet made inroads. This could be a great opportunity for a company that can find better ways to get money out to the relevant organizations easily and with the proper security in place.

Stay tuned for Part II in this series.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bank on Opportunities from Big Firms

Advice for small companies from a highly successful entrepreneur who started from scratch

Jim Estill started EMJ Data Systems 30 years ago from the trunk of his car. After several other ventures EMJ reached the $350 million figure in sales and sold it 5 years ago to his current company, SYNNEX, which has earned $2 billion in revenue.

His myriad experience with businesses of different sizes informs his opinion that big companies' reactions to the recession can open up some possibilities for your small business. Here are some of these ideas:

Find a Newly Empty Niche

When big companies want to cut down on costs, they might decide to leave a type of business with a high cost structure that they believe can't earn enough in the current economy. But if you have low overhead, that type of business could work well for your small business.

But how do you find such a niche? Find the former customers and recently unemployed staff of a company who has done this. The customers might likely need a new supplier and the staff needs jobs. Or you could go to the larger company itself and they might want to give you a good deal on the sale of their related assets because they want to quit that line of business so badly.

Provide Outsourcing

As larger companies cut down on their in-house staff, they will realize they still need essential things done so they will hire an outside company to do those same jobs (like accounting, janitorial, etc).

Sometimes when managers are asked to downsize they will cut down on other parts of the budget and continue to spend on those areas needed. Might not be such a smart idea but they do it and it's something you can profit from.

Get the Best Minds on Your Side

It is now far easier than it was to hire the most qualified people. As those top people get laid off from bigger companies they would be willing to take a cut in their usual pay as well as do part-time and/or consulting work for a smaller company like you.

Undercut Them

Now many companies will want a lower-end alternative to supply their business services that they normally would pay more for. This could get you more accounts as the bigger companies try to cut costs.

Take Risks

There are some markets that the big companies would normally enter were we not in this recession but they are not willing to take the necessary risk to make any big or sudden changes in direction right now. You, as a smaller company can afford more risk when there is a lot less competition in new areas.

Make Deals

Since we are in a credit crunch, so to speak, many businesses are in need of cash but now you can barter for things that you would otherwise have to buy.

Now, if companies have surpluses you can take off their hands you can make a deal with them to get it cheaper or trade it for something you have that they want.

Jim Estill is CEO of SYNNEX Canada Ltd., a computer-equipment wholesaler based in Guelph, Ont. His popular CEO Blog: Time Leadership is at www.jimestill.com.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Entrepreneurs optimistic despite recession and tight credit, BDC survey says

A recent poll conducted by the Business Development Bank of Canada found that small business owners are positive about their own future, more so than for the economy or their individual industries. Many find tight credit to be an issue for their companies though.

86% of entrepreneurs surveyed saw growth potential for their companies, but less predicted growth for their industries (75%) and only 60% saw the economy growing in the future. "Entrepreneurs see opportunities where others may see only difficulties," said Edmée Métivier, Executive Vice President of Financing and Consulting at BDC.

Tight credit the culprit

Those surveyed also found that their credit tightening was their biggest obstacle to growing their businesses (70%). The next biggest factor to blame was the recession at 65% of those polled, and fewer pointed to increased fuel costs and material (45% and 40% respectively).

Out of almost half of entrepreneurs polled who have attempted to get credit financing, 34% reported having received it and 40% said they were unsuccessful. The other 25% were still awaiting decisions. But 39% of all have dealt with tight credit as a factor.

In terms of the types of credit sought, the results showed the most wanted to operate a line of credit (70%), while 28% want term loans, 22% business credit cards and 18% commercial mortgages.

Positive for Growth

As far as general growth, 59% of entrepreneurs see the economy's stability and strength as the number one factor that would lead to it, 41% point to the value of the Canadian dollar and 41% look to a strong labour market.

The Survey

The BDC has a new panel called BDC ViewPoints, whose participants are comprised of entrepreneurs and professionals that are asked to join surveys so they can express their views on policies, products as well as services that affect commercial banking.

In this particular survey, 231 entrepreneurs participated between May 6 and May 20. Results were weighted by the size of each firm and region in order to have the results accurately represent Canadian small and medium-sized businesses.

Detailed survey results are available on BDC's website.

About BDC

BDC is Canada's business development bank. From 100 offices across the country, BDC promotes entrepreneurship by providing highly tailored financing, venture capital and consulting services to entrepreneurs.

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Leaders ask governments to ease up on smaller Canadian companies

In a poll taken by COMPAS Inc., Canadian CEOs say the government should change its regulations and tax policies on small businesses.

After the C.D. Howe Institute issued a report calling for making taxes and regulations lighter for small businesses, CEOs polled largely agreed so that small business can have room to expand.
“Government by its very nature attempts to solve all problems with regulation and complexity. In today’s regulatory climate, it certainly is difficult for small companies to survive,” said one CEO polled.

The majority of those polled agreed with simplifying the laws regarding capital gains rollovers so they could be more easily reinvested in small companies. They also supported changing employment laws like maternity and sick leave. “Small businesses are not the banks,” wrote one participant in the survey.

There was some but not universal support for the government to implement a flat corporate tax rate for all businesses. Those CEOs supporting the flat rate argued that small businesses lack the resources and staff to keep current with the regulations and cannot afford the time investment away from their main businesses as much as large companies might be able to.

There was also a difference of opinion among the CEOs polled regarding the federal small business deduction, as to whether lowering taxes on a company's first $400,000 of income discourages reinvestment as they would rather bonus out on that money. One respondent felt their business' growth was not stunted by the ceiling. “The issue is more one of the tax rate on capital gains versus the tax rate on personal income,” he replied.

All in all the respondents to the survey turned out to have a generally negative attitude toward government regulations and higher taxes. They would like governments to recognize that without the money they bring in from their businesses the governments would be crushed financially. As one respondent put it, “Governments do not create wealth. They use it up.”

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Canada to Attract More Business with Lower Corporate Taxes

A few days ago Tim Hortons Inc. announced that it was changing its corporate registration from the United States to Canada in order to take advantage of better tax rates in Canada.
Economist Douglas Porter of Bank of Montreal saw this step as confirming the Canadian government's decision to lower corporate income tax. As he notes, reductions in tax rates invite more businesses to base themselves in Canada and pay taxes here instead of somewhere more costly.

Porter believes that Tim Hortons decision will start a trend for businesses to switch their registration to Canada. As the United States is running into huge fiscal deficits, the tax rates are expected to continue to hike there. But the Canadian public sector's better position should allow tax rates to keep decreasing in relation to U.S. Taxes.

As far as we see, they are. The Federal corporate tax rate in Canada is now 19%, down from 22.1% in 2007. The rate is forecasted to keep falling, to 18% in 2010, 16.5% in 2011 and 15 per cent in 2012. The provinces are seeing parallel cuts too. The Ontario government plans to lower its general corporate income tax rate from 14% to 10% by 2013.

As these trends continue, the economy should be looking forward to more jobs and capital as well as higher revenues for government programs. And the lower rates will likely be offset by more stimulus for investment and production and more tax money pumped into the economy by more businesses being attracted to open up shop in Canada.

Maybe Canada is figuring out at long last that higher tax rates don’t always translate to high tax revenue. A classic case is tobacco taxes, where tax rate hikes often lead to greater black-market activity, smuggling and lower tax receipts. According to a Montreal Economic Institute study, in Quebec receipts from tobacco taxes went down more than 25% from 2002 to 2007,
Canadians would do well to rein in the stimulus packages that the federal and provincial governments have announced in response to the global economic recession. Without all that spending, Canadian taxes would be more likely to keep on their downward trend versus other countries and be able to generate some real growth by encouraging more businesses to operate here.

When countries like the U.S. and China administer massive stimulus packages to their economies, their effects will soon run off into Canada. And we even see it happening now. As China stockpiles raw materials, commodity prices are on the upswing. As the U.S. economy shows some recovery, it too should start bidding on natural resources and other exports from Canada.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Canada's Economic Recovery Expected to be Modest, More Job Losses to Come: Flaherty

Canadian Corporate Tax Rates Slide to 25% Floor

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says unemployment will rise through 2010 despite some growth in the economy after meeting with the finance ministers of other nations.
Even though the economy is in the process of stabilizing, he and his fellow colleagues expect a continued increase in unemployment, as the labour markets have not improved and they are concerned about the effect on workers.

"We'll start to see stabilization, which we are seeing now, and then a return to economic growth but continuing deterioration in employment," he said.

"We can expect that to happen into 2010, but we're optimistic we will then see the unemployment numbers start to improve."

U.S. payrolls fell in June by 467,000, far more than was expected. Growth was predicted to resume by the fourth quarter but now some think that it may not happen so quickly.

Canadian economists expect Statistics Canada to report another 30,000 jobs to have been lost in June 363,000 jobs have been lost in Canada since October 2008.

Flaherty has in the past warned Canadians that times may continue to be tough however he is also confident that our recovery would be swift and strong, leading most of the industrialized countries.

Recently he has been more conservative in his estimates though, concurring with other finance ministers that recovery will be slow.

"The anticipation is that the recovery will be modest, so that we'll experience some continuing increase in unemployment, but as we move into 2010, we'll start to see modest recovery," he said.

In the January budget, Flaherty predicted a strong rebound from the recession, with GDP growth of 4.3 per cent in 2010, 6.4 per cent in 2011 and 6.1 per cent in 2012, all higher than the private sector's average estimates.

Notably, the finance minister said he believed Canada's low corporate tax regime in comparison to other nations will attract corporations here.

Tim Hortons Inc. (TSX:THI) announced this week that it would relocate its corporate registration back to Canada from the U.S. in order to take advantage of lower taxes. Flaherty thinks other companies will follow suit as Canada's corporate tax rates decrease to the new 25 per cent floor in combined federal and provincial taxes.

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Why Should I Incorporate My Business in Canada? – Part II: The Advantages

So you are thinking about incorporating. Here are some more advantages as well as potential pitfalls of incorporating:

Limited Liability

As we said in the previous post, a corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners, and the main advantage of that is that the owners, or shareholders are for the most part not liable for the corporations debts and obligations. They can only lose the amount they invested in the corporation. The creditors can only have claims against the corporation itself and not the shareholders.

Perpetual Existence

Being a separate legal entity, a corporation does not cease to exist if the shareholders, directors, officers or members die or retire. The ownership of the corporation and it shares can therefore be easily transferred. The corporation itself may also own property, enter into contracts and sue or be sued, independent of any individual involved.

More Potential Sources of Capital, More Attractive to Investors

Corporations can issue different classes of shares as well as different debt instruments, such as bonds, in order to raise capital. Sole proprietorships and partnerships cannot do so as easily. This makes it easier for corporations to attract investors as opposed to the other business forms.

Tax Benefits

Among other tax benefits, incorporating would cause your business to pay income tax at a lower rate than as a sole proprietorship or partnership. It would also be possible to carry forth losses of previous years that offset the profits of subsequent years.

Credibility and Prestige

Incorporating can very well lend greater credibility and prestige to your business dealings that you would not have otherwise. You might be seen as a more established company as opposed to before you incorporated.

Now that we have discussed some of the advantages, here are some formalities you should be aware that you would be subjected to upon incorporating:

Higher Start-up Costs

The cost to incorporate, including government fees, may be higher than those to initiate a sole proprietorship or partnership.

Maintaining Records

In order to provide shareholders with information, a corporation must keep meticulous records, as well as hold meetings and elect directors.

Double Taxation

This may seem like a disadvantage, however it can be minimized. The corporation pays taxes on its income and the shareholders pay taxes on their dividends (profits). But the corporation's business expenses, such as salaries, can be offset by its income.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why should I incorporate my business in Canada? - Part I

You're a Sole Proprietor

You're a small business owner, or thinking of starting a small business. As a sole proprietor, you make all the decisions and earn all the profits, but you also bear all the risks and obligations. Start-up is easy and inexpensive, and dissolving the business would be too, should the need arise. But the big disadvantage of continuing this way is unlimited liability. As the owner, you are liable to the full extent of your personal assets for any liabilities, debts and losses that your business incurs.

Register your sole proprietorship in Canada

You're a Partnership

Maybe you have a partner in your small business; so there are at least two people to share in all the profits and/or losses. Just like a sole proprietorship, a partnership is easy to form and dissolve and not so formal in general to operate. Again, though the great drawback to a partnership is unlimited personal liability for all the partners for any debt or loss incurred by any other partner in the business; regardless of each individual's capital contribution.

Register your partnership in Canada

You're Thinking About Incorporating in Canada?

As a corporation, however, your company would be a separate legal entity from its owners, or shareholders. The shareholders control the corporation because they have voting rights. The extent of those rights depends on how many shares each one holds. The shareholders elect and remove directors and approve major corporate decisions. But the company is run by directors and officers, who may or may not also be shareholders. To incorporate, a company must file the Articles of Incorporation (also called a Charter or Certificate of Incorporation) with the government.

Incorporate your business in Canada

Stay tuned for future posts about selecting a corporation name, trademarking, and more info on incorporating your company.

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