Thursday, August 30, 2012

Selling your business – what to do for an easy sale

Selling your business could be one of the most important and difficult decisions you will make in your business career. When things are going well – your business is making money, you’re enjoying yourself, and the future looks great -  you’re not thinking about preparing for your retirement. 

The earlier you start planning for your company’s sale, the better you’ll be able to take advantage of a higher valuation and a quick turnaround. Here are some good reasons why you should be prepared to sell:  

·         You may fall sick unexpectedly

·         Your life goals change along the way

·         Not having a successor to replace you as you retire

·         Business partnership issues and you want to sell your shares

       ·     Lifestyle change

When you are ready to sell your successful company, you should keep these three things in mind:

·         You must make a profit from your investment in the company

·         The sale of your equity should be converted into liquid assets such as cash

·         The amount you receive should meet your needs for your professional and personal life

What is the value of your business?

Determining the value of your business is like sales – what are your potential buyers willing to pay for a business like yours? With the help of a Chartered Accountant, you can run various accounting models to come up with a number using data that comes from the economic strength of your business, your industry, how much your competitors are worth, your sales revenue and profit margins.  All these must be taken into account. Remember, the buyer is not looking at purchasing the cheapest business they can find, they are looking for a company that can potentially make them more money in the future. So you need to prove to the buyers that your business will continue to grow in the industry you’re in.  

Work with a third-party business valuator whose objectivity can help smooth the sale for both yourself and your buyer.

Are your finances in shape?

You should already have your books kept in order while you’re running your business. When it comes to a sale, nothing is more important to a buyer than your accounting.  They will be asking questions such as:

·         Are you making money?

·         Are your profit margins healthy?

·         Does the company have any unmanageable debt?

New owners want to buy businesses that are healthy and thriving.  You'll also want to be sure that you've reduced your liabilities as much as possible, doing things such as settling any lawsuits and making sure all tax payments are up to date.

Gather a professional team

Selling a business is complicated.  With a complex transaction like this, you want to make sure that all your bases are covered.  By hiring a professional team to guide you in the sales process, they can provide you with the objective advice that you need to sell your business at the best value.  In recruiting a team, make sure that you choose consultants who have experience in your industry and your type of business, be it a small business or a large multi-national corporation.

Other than a corporate lawyer who can help you with the legalese and contracts, you should also take a look at hiring a good accountant. If your business has assets such as a manufacturing plant and warehouses, you can also recruit a corporate realtor who may have contacts in your industry.

Make sure that you take the time and effort to do it right the first time. By preparing carefully and using the best resources that you can hire, you are increasing the chances of selling your business at a great price.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tips For Success From Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, you will face many challenges - it’s how you face them that will determine the success or failure of your business. It’s not an easy life, but the payoffs are tremendous if you succeed.  We’ve compiled a list of quotes from successful entrepreneurs who know what being successful is all about.  

·       Know your weaknesses:  Lee Rhodes, founder of Glassy Baby, overcame personal adversity as a motivation to start her company. She mentions that as an entrepreneur, you have to surround yourself with people who are good at things that you cannot do.  You must hire people who complement your strengths…"Remember as an entrepreneur, you're probably a big-picture person and the details aren't as important, but they will be and it'll come back to haunt you. If you're not good at something, make sure you have someone beside you that is, as you grow." 
·       Take calculated risks: As the head of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate, Richard Branson knows a few things about risk. Branson is known for taking risks in new ideas and starting businesses in areas where others fear to tread. However, before he leaps, he always bases his decisions on numbers and analysis – making sure that the idea passes due diligence.  One of his mottos has always been, “If you don’t take risks you won’t achieve anything. “
·        Be visionary: “All successful people have a vision. They have the ability the “see” clearly what they want before it exists.” Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft has always been a driven man. He grew Microsoft from a small software company to a behemoth that became an integral part of millions of people’s lives. All because he followed his vision on what personal computing should be.
·        Recruit mentors:  Zak Kukoff, CEO of TruantToday is only 17 years old.  In spite of his age, the graduate of Techstars and the founder of Autism Ambassadors, has achieved a lot. However, he couldn’t have done it without the help of his mentors who provided some valuable advice and insight into his challenges. “…you have to ask people to be mentors. Don’t expect them to step up. Some people might, but more often than not you’ll never get what you don’t ask for. By and large, most entrepreneurs understand that helping others will help themselves at the same point. As such, most entrepreneurs are incredibly willing to step up when asked so don’t be afraid to say the words.”

The road to entrepreneurial success is littered with obstacles. The best way to overcome them is to have a long term vision on what you want and be motivated to succeed. Be patient, work consistently towards your goals and recruit people who are smarter than you.   

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Federal vs. Provincial Incorporation

 What's the ideal structure for your new company?

There are two types of incorporation available for new businesses in Canada;

1)      provincial incorporation

2)      and federal incorporation

The difference between the two types of incorporation lies in whether you want to do business locally or nationally. With a federal incorporation, you will have better protection of your brand and the ability to do business all across Canada even though there may be a business with the same name in a province.

With provincial incorporation, you can only operate in the province that you’ve incorporated in. This means that your brand is not protected outside of your province. This does not restrict you from doing business with companies in other provinces, however, you won’t be able to protect your name outside of your province or territory.

There are a couple of downsides to federal incorporation though.
·         First, federal incorporation involves more paperwork to be filed every year as required by the Canadian Government and also provincial filings in the province that you’re registered in.

·         Secondly, federal incorporation costs more. The fee for filing federal Articles of Incorporation is $200, as well as the additional fees from name search reports and registering your company in province.  Also, the ongoing paperwork each year will cost you more than maintaining your provincial incorporation.

If you plan to be a small business - operating locally, it makes no sense to spend the money to do a federal incorporation. However, if you’re a business that has clients across the nation and even in other countries, it would be a good idea to do a federal incorporation.  If you’re an ecommerce business, where you don’t need a physical location to do business, you don’t need to be federally incorporated if you’re just operating from one province.  You can always be provincially incorporated now and then change to a federal incorporation later as your business grows.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Easy Ways to Monitor Your Competition

Researching your competitors is important as it becomes an integral part of your company’s business strategy. By being able to track the top players in your industry, you can use that information to help improve your own services, gain new customers and increase your market share.  When doing competitive research, companies need to:

·         Understand what their competition is doing and how successful they are.

·         Identify the strategies your main competitors are using to increase sales.

In these times, it’s not that hard to keep abreast on what’s going on in the industry and especially your competitors.  If you don’t know what they are up to, then you can’t position your brand differently and won’t be able to convince potential customers as to why they should do business with you. Here are a few simple ways to keep tabs on your closest competitors:

·         Analyze your competitors’ websites. Your competitors’ websites will tell you a lot in regards to their sales and marketing strategy. Using online tools, you can review what keywords or phrases they are getting found for and targeting, analyze their backlink strategy and take a look at their editorial content. Sign up for their newsletters, and create a news alert to get their press releases. Your competitors’ website is the best place to learn about any new products or services that are launched. 

·         Follow their social media accounts. By signing for their Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter accounts, you will be able to be follow any updates about your competitors in real-time. Don’t only sign up for the main company accounts, but also identify key employees and sign up to follow their personal accounts. For example: you can keep track of who is leaving or getting hired using LinkedIn.  Social media platforms have created some transparency, allowing you to be updated on all your competitors quickly.

·         Use Google Alerts. Google Alerts is a great tool for the entrepreneur. It allows you to scan the internet for you and emails you any updates related to keywords or phrases that you choose.  You can even enter common keywords for both your companies and see which website has the most reach. This is a great way to see what prospects and customers are saying about you or your competitors.   

The benefits of tracking and analyzing your competition can range from maintaining high search engine rankings, stealing market share or identifying weaknesses in your competitors’ services. This information helps your prepare strategically as to what your competitors are up to and how your industry is evolving. Remember, information is power, and doing competitive research can only help your company move ahead.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Protect Yourself From Spam

E-mail has become an integral part of our lives, however, the flipside of it is that it can become annoying.

Especially when it comes in the form of spam.   

The definition of spam is that it is any “…unsolicited message or posting, regardless of its content, that is sent to multiple recipients… Not only does it clog up your inbox, it can also be dangerous. Spam can contain viruses or phishing emails that try to steal your online identity and credit cards.

It is reported that as much as 94 percent of all emails you receive is considered spam that is not only slowing down servers, affecting the performance of PCs and other computer hardware, but also your work performance too.

There are many tactics that spammers use to gather email addresses. Some set up fake websites to get you to sign up for something in order to capture email addresses while others use advertising malware to send spam. They can also build their email lists by using scripts to compile email addresses from bulletin boards, websites, newsgroups and forums.  Some unethical webmasters will even sell email addresses to spammers.

Just like sending junk mail to your mailbox, spammers send unsolicited email hoping that you’ll buy their products or services. With the cost of emails running in the pennies, spammers can afford to send out millions of emails. They only need a few responses in order to make a profit from their campaigns.

To reduce the amount of spam that comes to your email account, here are a few tips:

1.       Never click on anything in an unfamiliar email.    If you don't know the sender - don't open it! Any response made on an unfamiliar email lets the spammer know that your email address is active and will leave the opportunity for them to send more spam.  Be wary of emails from senders that you don’t recognize that hold attachments. They may certainly have viruses.

2.       Never send personal information through email. Watch out for emails that request any personal information from you. Be careful of any email messages that ask you to send credit card numbers, passwords or any personal information through email. Spammers will create fake e-mails that look like they are from PayPal, Facebook, or other popular sites. In many cases, clicking on these emails will lead you to a third-party site that will try to trick you in providing personal information.  And under any circumstances, do not email anyone your social security number.

3.       Don’t open an unfamiliar email until you have blocked HTML images.  By blocking graphics and HTML images in your emails, it prevents spammers from being alerted when you open the message. Tracking software embedded in the HMTL can identify when an email has been opened by the image that has been uploaded on your browser or email provider.

4.       Watch out for red-flag terms. Beware of phrases, such as "You have won!" , “How to collect your prize!” or "Verify your account." These are ways for spammers to try to get you to click on the email and see if it’s an active email address.

Each of the suggestions above in isolation doesn’t provide you with the best protection. When you combine all of them together, along with using proper anti-spam software, and being wary of divulging personal information online will make for an effective protection against unwanted email.   

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Working with CAN-SPAM and the Canadian Privacy Act

The CAN-SPAM Act in the US was created over eight years ago in response to the increasing amount of email spam that people were receiving in their inboxes. However, in spite of the efforts of the government and lawmakers to make it easily understood for everyone, there still is confusion over what exactly does the CAN-SPAM Act does or doesn’t do. 

The US CAN-SPAM Act was created to stem the flow of unsolicited bulk email or spam as a form of commercial advertising, thereby trying to prevent the abuse of email addresses by shady online marketers.  Congress passed the law in 2003 after much debate, becoming effective on January 1, 2004.

In creating the law, Congress has set out basic guidelines for email marketers to follow:

1.       Email marketers should not mislead recipients as to the source or content an email

2.       People should be allowed to decline or unsubscribe from any email message from any source.

However, the CAN-SPAM Act does not restrict any business from sending an unsolicited email to another company for business purposes. However, it does mention that if a person wants to opt-out of receiving emails from a particular company, the business must comply.  Other guidelines are:

·         Any unsolicited messages must not have misleading subject headings.

·         All emails must have an unsubscribe or opt-out link that is valid for 30 days after the email is sent. If the receiver wants to opt-out, you have 10 days to comply with that demand.

·         All ads must be identified as commercial advertisements in the email.

·         Every advertising email that you send out, must have a physical mailing address clearly marked in the email.

·         You cannot sell or share email addresses of people who have unsubscribed from your list.

In Canada, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) governs email marketing practices in the country.  Enacted in 2004, the PIPEDA is different from the CAN-SPAM act in that it governs how personal information is distributed and managed online.  In brief, it states that:

·         Emails marketers must obtain permission from the recipient when collecting their personal information and must be kept secure once collected. 

·         Any data collected cannot be shared or sold to another party without express permission of the recipient.

·         A double-opt in signup method is required for Canadian residents. 

·         You are liable for any data collected and stored. If there is a data breach, you will be at risk for any damages occurred. 

·         Like the CAN-SPAM act, you must have an unsubscribe link in your email clearly indicated. 

For the typical B2B marketer, these regulations were not meant to be present a challenge. The purpose of both the CAN-SPAM and PIPEDA was to protect the consumer from any scams or phishing attacks that are commonly found in B2C campaigns.  As long as marketers observe the regulations set out by both countries, there should be no problem in sending out emails.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Protecting Your Original Content Online

It’s inevitable that as a publisher of original content, someone will steal it.  What’s important is how you deal with it. With the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), there are ways you can protect your content from people who steal from your site. And you don’t need to be a lawyer to understand how it works. 

There are six ways that you can protect your content online.  By taking these actions, you reduce the chances for your online content to be stolen.  

·         Learn the basics of copyright law. According to the DMCA, your post is protected as soon as you publish it. As a creator – the content becomes your intellectual property and no one can reproduce it without your permission. 

·         Post a copyright notice on your website.  Although having a copyright notice on the bottom of your website does not protect you, it does tell everyone that the content is your intellectual property.  It is used as a warning for others that copying your content is not legal.   

·         Post a permissions policy. Create a permissions policy page which clarifies what people can do with your content.  It allows other webmasters a guide to follow on what they can or cannot do with your content. 

·         Request that they remove your post. Ask the offender to remove your post by email or in the comments – politely.  In many cases, people may not know that they have done an offence and just need to be educated. Most likely they will comply once you’ve notified them.

·         Notify the ISP (Internet Service Provider).  The DMCA allows copyright owners to have ISPs comply with “take down” requests. In this case, ISPs can be any website that hosts the offending website or content. You may have to do a bit of research in order to find the right hosting service or even contact name. However, once you’ve sent them an email, the ISPs will do their research into your request.  If the ISP finds that there is a copyright infringement, they will make their own request to the website owner or take down the site.   

·         Hire a copyright lawyer. If nothing else works, you may have to resort to hiring a lawyer who can go after the offender.  Keep in mind that lawyers can be expensive and there can be no guarantee that you will be successful.  

If you use a Wordpress blog, download and install one of their plugins – the WP Copyprotect. This locks your content so that no one can highlight and copy your content. However, for the real pirates, this won’t deter them as they can merely shut down their website and appear elsewhere with another site.

The best strategy is to create great original content that your readers will love and share. This not only helps build credibility but also brand loyalty that keeps your readers coming back.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Advantages of Co-working Space for Startups

Where should you develop your startup company? Should it be in a traditional office? In a loft or garage? Or at home? The choices are numerous.

We all require the social interactions and energy that an office can bring us, however many start-ups simply don't have the budget to rent out office space. But there is another option.

With an eye on their wallets, many startups are turning to co-working spaces to develop their companies.  These offices allow freelance contractors, micro-businesses and startups to share an office, with fully functioning conference rooms, photocopiers, and most importantly access to other entrepreneurs and peers.

For contractors and startups, co-working can provide a great opportunity to work with peers, develop a support network, have office space to show off during sales meetings, and all without the cost of a more expensive lease.

Here are some advantages to a co-working space for your startup:

1. Saving your money.

It can be costly to rent an office for a new startup – especially if you’re bootstrapping. You not only have to account for the rent but all the utilities and extras that you will need as well.  This can take a large bite out of your company’s budget. 

 Co-working office spaces reduce your need to sign an expensive lease or buy office equipment, such as photocopiers and fax machines, as they are shared at a fraction of the price.  Rent is cheaper too, as you will be sharing the cost between all of your co-workers.

 2. Networking, collaborating, and making friends.

The most praised benefit of a co-working space is the ability to network and build strong relationships with the people you work alongside. You will learn about your co-workers’ background and skills, sharing business experiences and even new ideas. 

Working with other entrepreneurs and freelancers will put you in proximity with individuals who could help your business. You could meet new clients, prospective investors, or you could even meet your next partner.  

3. Creative collaboration and problem solving.

You will be working side-by-side with a broad group of entrepreneurs in the office. If you ever have a challenging problem that you can’t solve, you can easily have a conversation with someone who may have faced the same issue.

You can discuss your ideas with others who have different skillsets and possibly can provide you with an alternative view. The combination of different experiences, approaches and personalities often provide new ideas and solutions that you simply couldn't have come up with on your own.   

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Starting a Business on the Side

You’ve had the entrepreneur itch for a long time but haven't acted on it yet. Starting a business is never easy... especially when you’re a full-time employee, have bills to pay and a family to feed. With that pressure, it’s no surprise that many people don’t want to lose their safety net instead of being a business owner. Other than saving a small part of your paycheck every week until you have enough money saved to quit your job, the other option would be to become a part-time entrepreneur.

Trying to balance a career while running a business is a challenge. Here are some ways to make it a success:

 Ask for help.  Recruit family members into your business.  Ask for help in answering the phone, shipping orders, or even managing your company social media accounts. Having your family members involved makes your bond stronger. However, there’s a caveat – be very wary of hiring your friends as it could have a negative affect on your relationship.

Get ready to sacrifice some “me” time.  Once you make your decision to start a part-time business, your time is limited. You won’t be have time to relax and have any downtime to pursue your hobbies… but remember, the sacrifice is only temporary until your business gets  on its feet. 

Focus on one thing at a time.  Schedule your time for your business in the evening and weekends. So, when you're at your full-time job, focus on your work.  Focus on your business on your personal time only so you don't jeopardize your current employment.

Make every minute count. Your time is precious. Prioritize your time for important activities – use your lunch hour for touching base with clients. Get up early or burn the midnight oil to deal with paperwork.  Use your time wisely without affecting your full-time career. 

Be global.  With today’s technologies such as cloud services and outsourcing, you can run literally run your business with just your smartphone. Use technologies that you’re your life efficient and automate repetitive tasks. Take advantage of different time zones and outsource various activities at the fraction of the cost than that of an employee locally. 

Be patient.  Running a business while juggling a full time career requires you to take your time with your financial goals. You don’t want to run before you walk, otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed with work and your performance will suffer.  Find the right pace for you so you can see progress without completely wearing yourself out. As long as you keep moving forward each day, don’t worry too much on how fast you’re moving towards your goals.