Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The 3 challenges for a start-up

For many entrepreneurs, starting and growing a business is an exciting adventure – until you come across almost insurmountable obstacles that can break up your company. After speaking with a few entrepreneurs, investors and executives, here are some of the challenges that business owners face when growing their companies.

Not having partners to help share the load

There have been very few successful companies that have been started by just one founder. And those that have succeeded always attracted a good team who were there from the beginning. Why can’t a single founder start a company? Many entrepreneurs say it’s because starting a company on your own is just too much for one person. With daily pressures and multiple areas that you are responsible for, there are not enough hours in the day to deal with them. Even if you could do all the work yourself, you would still need a team behind you to vet ideas, strategies and opportunities. By working with partners you will be able to share the workload and be able to bring the final product to market quicker.

But most importantly, having multiple founders allow the team to help support each other through the most challenging times. When going it alone, trying to manage the daily stress will be difficult. Having a team around you to lighten things or spread the load is immeasurably beneficial.

Losing focus and spreading yourself too thin

This can be a big problem for companies who want to do everything for everyone. If your start-up is growing quickly, it is common for many founders to start adding new markets, and expand too quickly through acquisitions. Don’t try to solve problems that are not part of your niche as this will pull you away from what brought your company success in the first place – your core market. What you should do is tightly define who your target is, focus on what you can offer them and create an action plan that solves their problems.

Not enough cash

Cash is king. You’ve heard this before from various people, however, in a business environment it speaks volumes. How much cash do you have until you hit your next milestone? If your company is an idea, then how much money does it require to create a product/service? If you already have a product, then how much cash does it take to launch? So when you set your financial goals, make sure that you’ve accounted for how much cash it would take to get to the next step. Without sufficient cash flow, any downturn can end your business before it has a chance to fly.

With proper planning and foresight, you’ll be able to overcome any of these challenges and be well on your way to success!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How cloud computing can help your business

Technological advances have provided opportunities for small businesses that have previously been very expensive and only available to big companies with large IT departments. A great benefit for cloud services, which is any infrastructure, platform or software service that is Internet based, is that you can start your company with minimal upfront resources and can scale up as your business grows. For a business owner, cloud computing allows you to:

• save money,

• scale your business,

• increase your services

• and minimize risk.

This allows the entrepreneur to compete as a much larger company while still remaining small. Some of the benefits of cloud services for your small business go beyond just hosting your website and you will be able to take advantage of a myriad of services that allow you to run your business more efficiently. Some of these advantages are:

Price: One of the major advantages of using cloud services are savings in operating costs. You can reap the benefits of lower operating costs by not having any in-house IT infrastructure such as:

• expensive servers,

• networking equipment

• or even the need to hire IT staff.

In the past, businesses had to manage their own internal computing resources, which created huge overhead costs that were insurmountable barriers for small business owners. However, with cloud computing and the myriad of services that you can choose from such as:

• marketing automation,

• project management,

• accounting

• and CRM applications,

Business owners can now lower the upfront costs of running their businesses and provide great value for their customers.

Scalability: One of the benefits of cloud computing services is the ability to purchase services according to your business needs. Many cloud service providers offer a pay as you go pricing, allowing you to manage upfront costs. You only pay for what you need, and as your business grows so does your usage. There is also is the option to integrate their services with other platforms through open APIs.

Flexibility: Cloud services allow you to automate a lot of your operations, freeing you to focus on your business. You can try new business strategies with minimal risk quickly and see if it works. You will be able to work more efficiently and at a lower cost without having to be tied down to services that you don’t need.

For your small business to grow, you need to be able to scale quickly and at low cost. Cloud technology allows you to do that without the need to have an expensive in-house IT team or hardware. With cloud services, you can be more competitive against larger companies by being flexible, responsive and accessible.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Register your Canadian Trademark in the U.S.

We may be in Canada, but nothing stops us from celebrating U.S. Thanksgiving!

Did you know that registering a trademark with the Canadian Trademarks Office protects the rights for that trademark in Canada only? That means that while your trademark is legally protected in Canada, there may be no legal limits to prevent a U.S. company from infringing on your trademark in the U.S.

Now you can protect your intellectual property in the United States by registering your Trademark in the United States with On November 24th and 25th will be offering $100 off all U.S. Trademark application filings. Simply enter the Promo Code CCUSTMTNX2011 in your shopping cart. has established a strong relationship with a U.S. Trademark Agent, providing you with the same quick and personal customer service experience, while maintaining compliance with all United States Trademark requirements.*

Click here for more information and to place your order. If you have any questions or need help with your order, please call 1-866-906-2677.

* cannot guarantee that your Trademark Application will be approved. Please note that does not provide legal advice to clients.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How to get publicity for your small business

As a small business getting publicity is difficult when you don’t have the big budgets and resources of your larger competitors. So what do you do to get that PR buzz and that word-of-mouth that drives traffic? Here are some steps you must take to get the buzz:

Make sure you have something to talk about

Even though you think that your company, product or service is the best out there, what’s important is the perception of your clients and media. You have to make sure that the media perceives your product or service to be so unique that it stands out from the crowd.

Journalists are always looking for something new or a unique angle to a story that hasn’t been covered before. Here are some ways that you can get journalists to cover your company:

• You have just launched a unique, breakthrough product or service that isn’t found anywhere else. This product stands out because it kicks ass and you’re so proud of it that you’ll give any reporter a free product for them to try for their story.

• You can tie your product or service into the latest news trend of the day. Try to tie in your product to trends such as organic or environmentally friendly issues. Or link it to highly political situations... So whenever you notice a trend coming up, figure out how does your company fit in with it?

Pitch your story to the right person

Do your research before you start sending our press releases. Find out what the editorial calendar is for a particular publication. Determine which topics are going to be covered in the next few issues and tailor your pitch towards their schedule. Find out which reporter or editor is responsible for your industry and approach them only. You should also approach media that cover only your industry, product or business.

Some ways to find the right contact in a media outlet are:

• Read their masthead

• Do a search on their website

• Contact the media outlet by phone

When you pitch the reporter, add reasons as to why your business should be covered by the media outlet.

Follow up afterwards

Just like sales, you must consistently follow up with your contacts. If they have expressed an interest in covering you, make sure that you keep in touch with them and provide them with as much information they need. Send them a thank you note once you’ve received media coverage. The more organized and responsive you are to a reporter’s needs; you’ll be favoured with a higher chance of getting a story published.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Benefits of CRM Software

Having customer relationship management (CRM) software offers you a lot of advantages in running your business. As a small business, you need to take advantage of every tool that will help you deliver great service to your customers and using a CRM can provide that. Choose your CRM software wisely, however with the right choice, you will be able to jumpstart your business’s ability to maintain long term relationships and eventually drive sales. Some of the benefits of having a CRM are:

1. Creating a customer database: A CRM will allow you to create an in-depth database of your customer. You will be able to track everything from their purchasing habits to their personal interests. It will allow you to predict when the customer is ready to buy and being able to personalize any contact with them.

2. Automating marketing tasks: You can automate many of your marketing tasks such as reminders, documentation or email newsletters, saving you time and effort. It also allows you to keep all your marketing communication templates in a central place and use them to send to clients during any transaction. And finally, you can keep track of your marketing campaigns, evaluating their effectiveness and also measuring long term customer value.

3. Make strategic decisions quickly: You will be able to access data and make strategic decisions without wasting time. CRMs allow you to build dashboards that give you a snapshot of where your business is at any point of time.

4. Strengthen your customer relationships: A CRM allows you to communicate with your customer at all times, choosing the right message to send at the right time. By improving your customer communications, you strengthen your relationship with them and increase customer retention. A big advantage for CRMs is the ability to create personalized communications with thousands of your customers more efficiently.

5. Customer service operations are more efficient: Your customer service functions will improve as you can provide better service. You will also be able to keep track of any customer service issues and follow-up without losing track of where you are. With a CRM, sales, marketing and customer service can now be integrated as each department would be able to obtain a deeper picture on a client, thereby targeting and servicing a client according to their needs.

A CRM allows you to keep track of your customer data throughout the entire purchasing lifecycle. This gives you a great snapshot of what is happening in your company in real-time, helping you make the best strategic decisions quickly and profitably.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Prepare your Shareholders Agreement

Protect the future of your corporation with a Shareholders Agreement*

One of the first steps after forming your corporation is to decide how your business will be operated and managed. For corporations that have 2 or more shareholders, ground rules should be laid out from the start to ensure that your business maintains good corporate governance. These rules are generally set with a Shareholders Agreement.

So, from November 9th to the 11th is reducing the price of our Shareholders Agreement from $99 to $50 for our valued customers.

Visit our Contracts Page from 9 am on November 9th to 5 pm on November 11th to get your Shareholders Agreement for only $50. The agreement is prepared through our online Easy Contracts system, which builds the document based on the information entered by you. It’s quick, easy and all online!

Click here for a detailed checklist of the information you’ll need to prepare your Shareholders Agreement. Make sure you have all the necessary information to complete the agreement before you begin.

If you have any questions please feel free to call us at 1-866-906-2677, we’d be happy to help.

* Please note that the Shareholders Agreement provided through our system is not intended to replace the services an attorney who can review your particular circumstances and advise you accordingly. We are not a law firm and do not offer legal advice or legal services. This Shareholder Agreement should not be taken to be appropriate for all circumstances. Please note that this Shareholder Agreement cannot replace a lawyer or their advice, particularly in complex or intricate situations or where opposing interests may exist. Contracts are in English only.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How an accountant adds value to your small business

Many business owners see an accountant as someone who keeps track of accounts payables and receivables, and makes sure that the business taxes are paid. However, a good accountant can be so much more. They are like a business partner, where they help your business become more financially efficient and take advantage of tax laws.

An experienced accountant is very valuable as they can help you make the right business decisions by providing strategic and financial advice while reducing your risk for your company. An accountant can be someone who wears many hats for your business, such as:

Business analyst: An accountant is trained to identify specific business challenges and provide solutions. By understanding your business and industry they become valuable as they can provide you with advice on the best financial strategy to take. They will help you create accurate financial information which will help you in analyzing your business performance. You can also assess what you have achieved as well as provide accurate forecasting for future growth.

Financial operations: An important part of an accountant’s job is to set up an accounting system including providing you with financial analysis and data. But, most importantly, your accountant can provide you with financial advice that can help you manage your business better - such as budgeting and cash flow forecasting.

Tax advisor: No matter how good you are with your company’s financial operations, there will be times when you will need the help of an expert. By taking advantage of an accountant you can be better prepared to deal with the complexities of small business taxation. They would be able to provide your business with advice and help restructure your business operations so that you can minimize your taxes and increase your profits.

A professional accountant adds tremendous value to your business through finding ways to:

• save money,

• lower your tax rate,

• increase profits

• and provide you with the financial information so that you can grow your business.

They can also help you analyze the numbers and use them to make more strategic decisions. Unfortunately, many small business owners fail to realize that working with an accountant is one of the most important business decisions that they should make - and not only during tax time.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How to hire a web designer

Is your company about to design a new website or planning to revamp your existing one? Finding a web designer to do it can be a challenging process; with so many to choose from. However, before you start looking around for one, you should already have a detailed understanding of what your website will be like. Take the time to plan your requirements for the site including the business goals. Some other questions that you should ask are:

• Is your website going to be powered by a Content Management System (CMS) such as Wordpress, Drupal and Joomla?

• Do you have a site map ready?

• Do you know the style including branding, logos and colours that your website should look like?

• What is your project deadline?

• And finally, how much are you willing to spend on your website?

Once you have created your brief, you can then start choosing a designer. Here are some of the points that you should consider:

Portfolio: A designer’s portfolio is the best way to gauge their experience and skills. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions about their work that is represented and make sure that it can be verified. Ask for client references and find out:

o what their professional relationship was like;

o was there open communication;

o was the project done on time and to satisfaction?

Also, choose the portfolio that has work similar in scope to your project. For example, if you’re looking for a Wordpress site, make sure that the designer you choose has done multiple Wordpress projects.

Style: Each designer has their own creative eye. This creativity can be seen in their designs - see if they are flexible in all their work, or does their work show the same, repetitive style?

Communication skills: For any project to be successful, there has to be clear communication channel both ways. Make sure that your requirements are understood clearly by the designer, and secondly, that the designer can communicate clearly any changes or problems that may occur during the course of the project. It’s better to over-communicate than make assumptions that could be wrong. There should be a process where both of you can easily update each other during the course of the project including having regular meetings. There also should be multiple ways to communicate with your designer, when reaching them is critical.

Are they knowledgeable: A consultant should always tie their services to the needs of your business. They should spend the time in learning how your business works, what you offer, and what kind of clients you work with. With that knowledge, they can design a site that will reflect your business and not what they think it should be.

How much does it cost? Get a full breakdown of the costs in creating your site. Features such as a blog, email newsletter system, ecommerce functionality and others should be listed in the quote including time taken, resources used and any sub-contractors hired. Understand their billing process – will they bill you monthly, or are payments based on milestones

Your website is essential to the marketing success of your business. By interviewing potential designers, you’re more likely to pick one that:

• Is skilled to do the type of work you want,

• Communicates and listens well,

• And is budget conscious.

By keeping these tips in mind when searching for a website designer, you should be on your way to starting a successful website.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Protecting your small business from hackers

It’s not only the large corporations that are targeted by criminals, but also small businesses such as yours. This is because small businesses do not have the resources that they require to protect their IT infrastructure. Here are a few reasons why you should improve your IT security especially if you’re a small business:

You need to protect your customer’s credit card information. There is even a greater risk of fraudulent activity as a majority of credit card transactions are online.

Manage your brand reputation. By having the best IT security in place, you protect your business and customers and, most importantly, maintain your reputation as a secure place to do business.

Protection from viruses /spyware. Another potential risk is viruses, which can create chaos on your business. Many viruses can shut down entire computer networks and even email systems. Once a virus has infected your computer, it will start sending emails to anyone listed in your address book, harming your reputation. This threat alone should be enough of an incentive to improve your IT security.

Once your infrastructure is compromised, the cost to purchase new software and hardware or even to manage crisis communications can be high. It doesn’t matter if the threat comes from an employee, a virus or a hacker, there are some easy ways to prevent and avoid these events. Here are some tips in protecting your company:

1. Get a reliable host service for your website and database. Make sure that they are reliable and have a good reputation. Ask for client testimonials when vetting vendors.

2. Verify that all your employees are using the current and up to date browsers. One of the easiest ways viruses and spyware can infect a computer is by exploiting weaknesses found in the browser.

3. Make sure that an anti-virus program is installed on all computers. This includes your servers. Keep the program current at all times.

4. Manage all your passwords at a single place using a password manager. And ask your employees to create passwords that are random. Do not use easily remembered passwords such as family names, pet names and such. Ask your employees to not keep the passwords where they are easily accessible.

5. Monitor internet usage. As employees could inadvertently come across malware or phishing sites allowing their computers to be hacked.

6. Protect your Wi-fi connection. Password protect your connection and make sure that your hardware is modern.

These are some steps that you can take to prevent unauthorized security breaches and will provide you with a solid foundation to protect yourself from basic malicious attacks.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Can social media help with your small business?

Social media has quickly become one of the best ways for a small business to compete against bigger players in their industry. For a business, creating a social media strategy not only allows you to create a personal connection between your brand and your customers - it also gives you the opportunity to:

• Build customer loyalty

• Create great customer service through interaction

• And lower your customer acquisition costs in the long run.

A recent survey by Michael Stelzner, provided interesting data that was shared in the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report . What was found that small businesses who follow a social media marketing strategy received two times more qualified leads than those of businesses that didn’t.

As you can see, social media helps bring your brand in front of your potential customers much more easily than any other marketing strategies and at much lower costs. To be successful in your social media efforts there are certain things you should follow:

Offer valuable content: Determine what your prospects need and try to fulfil it with great content. Will the content that you offer help them solve their problems? For example, for fans of your Facebook page, you can offer discounts, contests or exclusive promotions that reward them for their loyalty.

Be consistent: Make sure that your communications are frequent and connect with your customers on a regular basis. If you haven’t updated your Facebook page over time, don’t be surprised if your prospects start leaving.

Be visible on multiple social media platforms: Don’t just depend on one social media platform for your customer outreach. People are all over the web, having profiles on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter all for different purposes. So, make sure that what you post is unique to the platform you’re on.

Along with strengthening your brand, social media has another advantage thanks to Google. It helps in your search engine optimization strategy. With the Panda update, Google has declared that social media activity will play a large role in how a website will rank in search results. The more people share your content through social media and link back to your website, the more Google will look favourably upon you.

Customers are looking for more than just a transactional relationship with their favourite brands. When you create an atmosphere that allows your prospective client to connect with your company by voicing their opinions and suggestions through social media, you gain their trust. This trust translates easily to higher revenue as it makes lead conversion easier.