Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Registering Your Trademark in Canada

Standing out from the crowd is important for small businesses to get ahead and grow their customer base.  A great way to do that is to come up with a distinctive word, symbol, or design to brand your company.  But how do you keep that distinctive identity that differentiates between you and your competitor?  Trademark it.

A registered trademark legally protects your intellectual property from misuse and imitation.  But keep in mind that if you register your trademark in Canada, it is only protected by law in Canada.

A good trademark consists of distinctive terms which are often arbitrary and fanciful, rather than suggestive, descriptive or generic. Maximize the likelihood of registration by trademarking something completely invented or that makes only the slightest reference to the nature of the wares or services provided.

A trademark will not be registered by law if it is:

  • the name or surname of a person (e.g., "Jane Smith");
  • clearly descriptive of the wares or services in relation to which it is used (e.g., "Perfectly Clean" in relation to dry-cleaning services);
  • a word in another language which describes the wares or services (e.g., "Gelato" - the Italian term for "ice cream" - in relation to ice cream products);
  • deceptively mis-descriptive (e.g., "Air Courier" in relation to ground transportation services); or
  • an official symbol, coat of arms, badge, crest, emblem or name (e.g., the Canadian flag, the letters "R.C.M.P.", the name "United Nations", the symbol of the Red Cross).

If there is a design component, you may wish to register both the language and design separately to get maximum legal protection.

Be prepared to wait for response to your registration application.  In Canada, the process can take up to 8-10 months to complete.  If there is opposition, the process can take much longer.  Fees are $250 for each trademark request and non-refundable, so make sure your trademark is distinct and original in order to have a successful registration.

For more information on trademarks, please visit!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Corporate Annual Returns – What You Need to Know

Just one of the many responsibilities that an incorporated company faces is making sure the annual return is done properly and submitted on time to keep your corporation in good standing. The annual return is separate from your tax return – it is provided by corporations to keep the government informed on any internal changes made during the previous fiscal year. 

The costs and timeline for filing your annual return is dependent upon the jurisdiction of incorporation.

The purpose of the return is to update your corporate records, which can include:

  • name of corporation
  • registered office address
  • corporation number
  • financial year end
  • description of type of business
  • registered office
  • corporate directors
  • date of last annual meeting

If a corporation does not file its annual return within the time frame allowed (or at all), penalty fees can be applied. If said corporation repeatedly fails to file its return (generally for two consecutive years) the government department or agency in the corporation’s jurisdiction can remove the corporation from government records.

For not-for-profit corporate returns, every registered charity must file an annual information return within 6 months after the end of the charity’s fiscal year.

Similar to the corporate annual return, the annual information return for charities provides the government up to date information on the charity’s records.  However, the annual information return also requires more in-depth reporting on financial information including financial position, compensation, non-cash gifts, assets, liabilities, revenues and expenditures.  

Please contact to file your corporate annual return. We're happy to help!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why Isn't Your SEO Campaign Working?

How is your SEO working for you? If your response is, "What is SEO?" Then we're off to a bumpy start. Search Engine Optimization or SEO refers to how well your website content copy attracts a search engine. 

The goal is to get as close to number one status on that first search page as possible. To accomplish that you need to make some specific choices with regard to your SEO campaign.

 Top on the list of important SEO concerns should be:

  • Finding the right keywords specifically geared for your business.
  • Writing alternate title tags and Meta descriptions for all of your web site pages. Yes, all!
  • Fold the perfect keywords into all your titles, subheads and links. Yes, all!
  • Develop a plan to attract back-links to drive traffic to your site. Here's a hint: link out to other sites that have similar content.
  • Develop a social media plan to share your content and increase link-building.
  • Stay on top of your analytics to make current adjustments.

A strong SEO campaign isn't about programming technology. Instead, it should be about focusing on the following areas:

Informative Content

The foundation of all your website copy should be to inform your customers. That's what search engines will be on the prowl for because they want to inform their customers. There shouldn't be a scatter shot approach to your content. Instead, plot out an editorial calendar for each month. This can help you focus on informative themes and allow you to set consistent deadlines for updating that content.

Tracking Traffic

If it looks like that your online marketing strategy isn't attracting traffic, change it. That's why you're following your analytics! A simple test is to play the role of customer. Type in your target keywords and see what comes up. Why is one website above another? What are they offering their customers? Can you do the same?

Don't Stuff Your Content

There are plenty of so-called SEO experts trolling around who promise to optimize your content. Merely stuffing keywords into a couple of paragraphs is an attempt to fool the search engines. It's not going to work. SEO isn't about technology as much as it is about quality. Along with content, give you customers the chance to post positive reviews. Often those reviews are what pops up first.

Your website is your storefront. If you had an actual brick and mortar business you'd greet your customers as they come in the door, ask them what they are looking for and volunteer to help them find that. Now transfer that attitude to your web business. That's what will make for a successful SEO campaign. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Success Is All About Attitude

Can the success of your business really come down to a matter of a positive attitude? According to many professionals the answer is an unequivocal yes!

Call it optimism. Call it enthusiasm. Call it "glass half-full."

Whatever you call it, having a positive attitude is also extremely infectious. This kind of attitude can have an impact on your customers and your staff. Who do you want to work with? Who do you want to do business with? How can you have a positive attitude? Consider these insights:

You Create Your Attitude

Believe it or not, the power to cultivate a positive attitude rests within you. No matter what might come your way, you have the opportunity to frame your reaction. Think about opening presents on your birthday. You could say, "That's not what I really wanted." Or "It's about time you got me a present." Or you could say, "I'm really touched that you thought about me." Here's a hint: the last option is framing that event with a positive attitude. The next time a crisis happens at work, no matter how big or small, stop before you react and figure out what would be the positive approach to that situation. By doing that you're taking charge of your attitude.

Focus on the Positive

What do you surround yourself with as you start your day? Is it the local news full of disasters? Is it websites with divisive commentary? Take a break from the negative and choose to focus on the positive. Even something as simple as a daily affirmation calendar can put you into a good mood. If all else fails, spend time watching cartoons with the kids. You can't really get angry if SpongeBob is starting your day.

Shut Down the Complainers

Do you know someone who can suck the energy out of a room with their negative attitude? Clearly, those folks need to read this blog post! Short of that, you might want to try and avoid those negative persons. At the very least you should only take them in small doses. As a manager is it your responsibility to stop that negativity before it can spread like a disease through the rest of your staff.

Choose The Right Words

What is your first response when someone asks, "How are you doing?" Is it, "I'm hanging in there" or a "meh?" That's not a positive response. Next time somebody asks them them, "Outstanding" and mean it! Yes, it can be as simple as flipping a switch. Change your attitude and watch your business change for the better. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Getting the Most Out Of SEO

There you are, finally ready to launch your online business. You went through weeks of planning with a web designer and got everything worked out and tested.

Then, finally, your website goes live. And you wait. And wait.

Where are the customers? Where's the traffic? That's when you'll hear the word SEO for the first time. It's a word you should make your new best friend!

Search Engine Optimization is what can put your site at the top of search page rankings. But how can you get those high rankings? Fortunately, there are many wonderful resources available online to help you beef up your SEO. The goal is to choose the right SEO services and make sure that you get the value for your marketing money.

Here's what a good SEO company should be providing:

Knowledge and tools to research strong keywords. Everything starts with the keywords. This is what the typical customer will use to type into the search engines. Finding the right combination of keywords is, well, key. Keywords or phrases should be based on your understanding of your customers’ buying cycle. A comprehensive keyword search includes keyword popularity, competitive research and product-related searches. There are some keywords that appear to rank high but might make no sense in terms of being added to content. Your SEO expert needs to decipher the difference.

Ability to create engaging copy. Once you've got the keywords locked down you then have to fold them into your content. This is what will be picked up by the search engines. Working them into headlines is easy but it's the copy that really matters. Search engines are becoming extremely sophisticated - they can sniff out "spam copy" and penalize you for it. Don't depend on an IT guy crunching algorithms or a web designer to be able to entice your customers with the written word.

Up-to-date information. Google is still the reigning champ of search engines but it is getting plenty of competition from rivals Bing, Yahoo and a whole range of other players. Your SEO expert needs to be on top of all of the search engine parameters because they are constantly being upgraded. You want someone who will be staying far ahead of the technology curve. Ask them when the latest update to a search engine was and have them explain to you how it can affect your website. 

As you look for an SEO expert don't hesitate to shop around to find one that best suits your needs. Obviously, you should start with the ones that have the highest rankings themselves. You know they're doing something right.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How Twilio Will Change the Telecommunications Industry

Twilio has quickly become the newest darling among the communications investors. The cloud communications company is reinventing telecom by merging the worlds of cloud computing, web services and telecommunications.

Using Twilio's cloud-hosted API, developers can build software apps that integrate an operator's telephony infrastructure with Web apps. It bridges the old world with the new, and it lets developers interact with voice calls, send text messages, and add IP voice communications into their mobile or Web apps.

Simply put, it's changing the way businesses handle their telecommunication needs because the infrastructure offered by Twilio is allowing web programmers to integrate real-time phone calls across a wide range of platform applications.

For developers it all comes down to a matter of exploiting open source programming which many companies are finding remarkable benefits from.


One of the most beneficial ways that Twilio is transforming the telecommunications industry is with its Pay-As-You-Go pricing structure. Under these terms a customer pays for the amount of cloud space capacity they need in the moment. In other words, there isn't any waste paying for extra storage or data compilation space when you don't need it.

Because Twilio's cloud solution eliminates programming, operational and contract hassles rapid growth is easier to come by. There won't be trouble with traffic spikes which is exactly what every company is hoping for. Twilio scales usage in both directions whether you experience highs or lows in your traffic.

Reducing the Learning Curve

Twilio cuts back on the learning curve needed to build out dependable voice communications applications. Think of this as "if it's not broke, don't fix it" approach to programming. Twilio is enabling developers to integrate business communication, VoIP and messaging right into web, desktop and mobile software applications.

There is no longer a need for a startup developer to square off against the telecom giants to help with the testing and developing phase of their products.

Bridging the Gap

Twilio is bridging the gap for software developers to create new communication applications without the burdens of complexity and expense that might have proven to be a hindrance just a few years ago. This puts Twilio on the forefront of helping development quickly move on ideas that can be the most benefit to the end users. It is this kind of direct and rapid response to the development process in the cloud which is making Twilio the go to source for a wide range of mobile communication applications. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Avoiding Legal Issues When Selecting a Company Name

What's in a name?

For a company it could be everything. The name is the first introduction you have to your future customers. It's a way of building a brand and can matter a lot when it comes to establishing a foothold in the marketplace.

Think of it as planting your flag in the corporate world. The hitch is, if somebody got there before you, you'll be sent back to the drawing board.

The Legalities

The first legal issue is to make sure your proposed company name isn't already being used by another company. When you file articles of incorporation you are looking to qualify to do business and that begins with your company name. In other words, you can't open up a retail store and call it Target.

For instance, your Widget Inc. could survive as Widget Enterprises Inc. You should be cautioned not to pick a name that is too closely associated with a thriving business. That will get you into trademark trouble.

This is why many corporations often use a family name as the "umbrella" under which many other businesses can be created. You are able to perform a search for your business name beforehand to ensure that it is available. You might find that adding descriptive qualifiers can help if the name you want is similar to another.

The Trademark Issue

Right now, somewhere in the world, there is a trademark infringement lawyer preparing a lawsuit. Businesses who have spent millions on developing a brand and setting up a loyal customer base don't want that all their efforts ruined by some cheeky competitor.

Consider this the rule of the "Mc."

McDonald's has done a great marketing job of associating its products with the "Mc" surname. McNuggets, McWraps, McBites, McChicken, McFlurry... you name it and they put a "Mc" in front of it.

You could come along and have a carpet cleaning business that you want to call McCleaner and McDonalds would be well within their rights to haul you into court with a "cease and desist" order mentioning that your "Mc" is diluting their "Mc" brand. And because their "Mc" is first, you will lose.

Don't think that you can get away with a name that might be close to a company with a low profile. All they would need to do is serve you with a lawsuit and your entire business can come to a screeching halt.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

DreamWorks Buys YouTube Channel for $33 Million

The popular kid's YouTube channel  AwesomenessTV was recently bought by DreamWorks for a hefty $33 million.

Never heard of AwesomenessTV?

Chances are if you have a youngster in the house with access to YouTube they know all about Awesomeness.

This is a distinct YouTube channel with 500,000 subscribers. It's kind of like an online version of Nickelodeon that with great video content. Now all the DreamWorks characters from such features as Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon will have a steady outlet. It's the perfect cross promotion for future releases and merchandise. This is the first purchase of a single YouTube channel to a major media company.

"AwesomenessTV is one of the fastest growing content channels on the internet today and our acquisition of this groundbreaking venture will bring incredible momentum to our digital strategy," said DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg.

This deal is all the more awesome considering that this channel has only been up and running for two years. All of this points out the growing important of online video content. Consider these factoids:

  • A Cisco Systems survey finds that 40% of all consumer internet traffic is for online videos. They predict that number will reach 62% by 2015.

  • YouTube receives close to 3 billion views per day. That equals to about half the world's entire population watching a video at least once a day.

  • has found that within the past year there was a 66% increase of video viewing on mobile platforms such as Smartphones and pads.

How can you put this power to work for your company? Obviously you have to consider adding video content to your company website. Those videos can simultaneously be uploaded to your own YouTube channel for cross promotion. Here are some thoughts about making a valuable video.

Give it a purpose. Before you think of putting anything on tape, think about why you're doing this. Do you need to introduce a new product? Are you providing helpful "how to?" Are you hoping to drive traffic to your company's online store? All of the above? Work out your strategy because that will inform every decision you make.

Tell a story. Your online video might not become a blockbuster like "Iron Man 3" but you still want to have a strong beginning, middle and end even if you're merely demonstrating how to plant a tomato garden. Try not to present information in a static way. Think of all that you're competing against that is already online. Make your video entertaining.

Get the right pace. Most experts will tell you that a three-minute video is the optimum time. There are some circumstances where you need more time to tell your "story" but be aware of the limited attention span of all your potential viewers. There is just too much else to do on line.

Strive for quality. You know when something looks cheap. That's what you want to avoid. Thankfully, technology has allowed us to shoot and edit high-end videos right on our phone. The key is not to rush. If something looks or sounds cheesy, how do you think that will reflect on your company?

The hope is to go viral with your company video. That way you get tons of marketing for free. Start paying attention to other company videos and what is deemed viral.

How can you utilize those ideas for your video? Who knows? You might just be creating the next YouTube sensation! 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Issuing Shares for Your Corporation

If you are approaching the phase of your business where incorporation is the next move then congratulations!

This is a positive step towards expanding your business and bringing in an infusion of cash.

Every province will have their own distinct set of rules for articles of incorporation. Some of these "zones" are more corporation friendly than other regions. No matter where you land, you'll more than likely be required to write up bylaws, explain the roles on your board of directors and their responsibilities and issue stock.

Questions such as: how many shares should be authorized for an incorporation? Who should be listed as officers and directors? How many shares should be created?

You'll have to look at the big picture of your business for the right answer.

Millions of Shares

Every single stock certificate represents a piece of the company. The owner of that stock is entitled to a dividend based on the stock's performance and the amount of stocks they own. A typical offering of common stock could be anywhere between 10 to 15 million shares.

You can break this down as 8 million shares divided among the founders and 2 million shares for an option pool. The rest can be held in reserved and released down the road. Whatever amount you settle on for the initial release you have to stick to the number.

If you want to increase the amount of shares available that will have to be put to a vote by the board of directors and shareholders because they are all now part-owners.

That first number of shares is also important when you are considering offering them as employee incentives. In other words, you don't want to give everything away all at once and you want to make the incentive large enough to attract good talent.

Stocks for the Small Business Owner

Set aside the headline grabbing IPOs like Facebook or Yahoo. The typical startup can have a stock price share beginning at around $15. Add them up to 20 million shares and you've got a $300 million market cap. That would be an extremely successful IPO launch. It also allows for plenty of buffer room that can prevent stocks from splitting at the time of the launch.

From a small business perspective, you can incorporate your company and issue a single share of stock. Keep in mind that the more shares you do end up issuing the more you'll pay in corporation filing fees.

Before making that call, plot out where you see your business in 5, 10 and 20 years from now. If it's just going to be you and your family running things you might not need to go big. However, if you're goal is to go global, let your stock offering reflect that plan.

For more information on shares, articles of incorporation, and how to incorporate your business in Canada, please visit our website.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gender Diversity is Important for Your Corporate Board

Ideally, the best corporate board for a given company would be one that is diverse. Hiring board members with the same background and education could find your company "stuck” and unable to draw from variety of experiences.

When it comes to gender diversity, a recent study supports the idea that women who are corporate board members tend to be more open to new ideas than their male cohorts. So, does this make women on corporate boards better than men?

And the survey says…

The International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics put up the survey that polled 624 board directors from all across the Canadian business sphere. The breakdown of those surveyed ranged from 75% male and 25% female. According to the results women were cited as being "more likely to use co-operation, collaboration and consensus building" when presented with the task of problem solving. Across the boardroom, the men were found to come up with their solutions by "using rules, regulations and traditional ways of doing business."

Chris Bart is a professor of strategic management at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University and a co-author of the study. Upon reviewing the results he concluded that "The way women operate as directors often contributed to a company’s success, raising the question of why women are still in the minority in Canada’s corporate boardrooms. Why would governance, nominating committees and board chairs not want to have that skill set, that competence available to them in abundance?” asked Bart.

Here are some other qualities found from the women board members who took part in the study:

  • Women were less constrained in their problem-solving skills
  • More likely to take into account the interest of a wider range of company stakeholders
  • Considered fairness an "important factor" in decision making process
  • Women are more inquisitive
  • Can see more possible outcomes to situation

As for the men who participated in the study, Bart found that, "The old boys club culture is still alive and well in corporate boardrooms across all sectors. Men are pack animals and they are very much quick to recognize the hierarchy of the alpha males in the group,” he said upon the report's release. “They would be very unhappy with people coming in with different values or views to the board.”

Can you look at your corporate board and say it is as diverse as it can be? It might be time to consider shaking things up especially if your business has hit a wall. Nothing like "fresh thinking" to put a company back on track on the road to success. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to Make the Most of Your Conference

Are you thinking about attending an upcoming conference or trade show related to your industry?

 Stop thinking and book your flight. Attending these types of events can be a big boost to your business. You know how important networking is to your success, right? Then why not go to the place where you can do more networking in 48 hours than the rest of the year? Before locking down your travel plans, you should take in these tips on how to make the most of every conference you attend.

Leave room for face to face meetings.

If the conference is happening in your hometown then you're golden. However, if you have to fly to a destination then leave yourself some room before and after the conference for potential meetings. It would be horrible if you make a good connection, start working on a deal and then have to run off the catch a plane. Best-case scenario: fill up your free day with meetings. Worst-case scenario: you get a day off to explore a new town. Actually, that's not so bad!

Set your target meet and greets.

The majority of well-established conferences will post a list of attendees in advance of the dates. This is a terrific marketing ploy but if there is no list, there will still be plenty of buzz. Head over to Twitter or LinkedIn to see who else is talking about going to the conference. You should get a sense of the roster of attendees. As you gather up the names, make a target list of who you'd like to "bump into." If you're following them on social media, let them know you'll be at the same conference. It's all about being proactive.

Lend a helping hand.

Don't just wait for someone to make a networking connection for you. Get out there and help others with their connection. Think back to your days as a young lad trading baseball cards. When you made a decent trade you were rewarded down the road. Same thing with business contacts. Being stingy with who you know won't get you very far.

Map out your day.

You should have a list of the conference day's events well in advance of your arrival. Figure out which of the talks is top of your "must-see" list. Plug those into your schedule then put together the "second-string" events. Make sure you also schedule in the cocktail parties and other networking opportunities. Don't just show up and wander the halls looking for a crowded room.

Make friends with the presenters.

No matter who is speaking at the conference, they are going to want feedback. Right after their talk they might be swarmed or whisked away. It's a safe bet that they are on Twitter. Send them a Tweet telling how much you enjoyed their talk. If the door is open, ask a follow up question. Before you know it you've added an all-star to your network!