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Business Matters – Are You Prepared?

There has been a rise in entrepreneurial activity in recent years. If you own/operate a business, what steps have you taken to protect your business for you and/or your family? Pertaining to Business Matters – Are you Prepared? Let’s uncover important issues for business owners to consider.

Have you considered what happens if the business owner/key decision makers are incapacitated?

In many small businesses today, the authority for making important decisions rests with a single person, such as the sole proprietor, sole shareholder of a corporation, or a member of an LLC. Often times governing documents do not address who would make decisions in the event this person is unable to do so. If this key person becomes incapacitated, several important planning tools are available.

Gruesome, I understand. Yet, if you or any key decision-makers were to become incapacitated, would the right people have the authority to keep the company running and make essential decisions during that period? Are those contingent decision-makers aware of the plans and are they prepared to assume a new role to lead the business forward as smoothly as possible? What about cash-flow? Does it stop, if something happens to you/the owner? Have you considered the impact of this?

A limited power of attorney could be utilized to grant a key person the authority to make decisions and continue business operations. This type of document could be written so that it is limited in scope to allow the alternate decision-maker to act only if there is an event of incapacity.

Another option to consider is to establish an advisory committee to act in the event of the key decision maker’s incapacity. If your business has multiple executive level/key employees or multiple family members, this may be a solution for you. It is possible to structure decision making authority to named individuals to make key decisions by consensus.

It is also a possibility for a business owner to execute a specific document for use in the event of incapacity that transfers the business to a trust. This requires research in advance of local trust companies who have the business expertise and capacity to continue business operations on behalf of an owner.

Contingency planning in the event of the death of a business owner is an important element to formalize. Take note here that in many ways, this is similar to planning for retirement of a business owner. As business owners, we are advised to plan our exit strategy, as we create the business. This is so true! “Exit” can occur in more ways than one!

Asset distribution of personal assets is one matter, business assets are another. If survivors have not been involved in the business operations, the value of the business may suffer significantly, if plans have not been made in advance of the owner’s “exit”. Factors to consider vary based upon the business ownership structure, succession plans, and written intentions from the owner. Do you desire to offer an option for co-owners, executives, other employees or family members to purchase the company in the event of death? What about creating an employee stock ownership plan? How do you envision the involvement by family members whether they are currently involved in the business or not? Do you intend for family members to receive any income from the business if they are not directly involved with running the business? What about placing the company in a trust, allowing a business advisory team to continue the day to day operations while the family maintains cash-flow from the business while considering whether to step in to operate or sell the business? Has the business owner specified whether or not family members would need to purchase interest in the business? Clear plans and written intentions from the business owner reduce angst for everyone involved, especially if they are communicated in advance.

How do you as an owner view succession planning? This topic is important not only to your family and business colleagues, it is vital for your customer base to provide confidence that the business will live on. When steps are taken early, succession planning provides training time, allows the owner to evaluate competency of named individuals, allows for continuing operations/cash flow and implement changes, if needed.

Considerations abound with this highly sensitive topic. You’ll find that opinions about what to do are varied and ultimately, as a business owner, if you wish that your desires and clear intentions be followed, it is best to take action with a sound mind and written plans.

Business Vs IT Business Requirement

Information technology professionals describe requirements first in terms of system requirements. These are the technical specifications of hardware, software and networking systems to support business applications. To produce accurate and reliable assessments of these and other information systems requirements, we need to understand the business requirements first. Information technology can make dramatic contributions to productivity growth. Misaligned requirements can lead to expensive disasters.

The more that IT leaders and analysts can learn about the business, the better. Start at the top with the business context. The context includes key foundations such as the purpose or mission of the business. It also includes the business strategy with regard to markets, customers, products and services. The next element is the management of the business including goal setting, metrics, and leadership style. Finally, the business context includes change management processes and communications.

Collectively, the business context serves to filter ideas, decision-making and the support structure to execute the ideas. It further serves to define how work is performed in the company and, as a result, how information is managed. The purpose or mission of the business clarifies the raw potential of the business. Think of ideas like ore, which is raw material that has a higher value in the context of a purpose or solution. The mission aligns all of the energy and effort of the people inside the company to achieve a common purpose.

In addition to learning about the business, effective IT leaders also learn the language of their business counterparts. Learn to bridge the communication gaps between business processes and functional models, and information flow and system requirements. Learn to adopt the business leader’s definition of a business problem and desired outcome to guide the development of process maps, modules and detailed requirements.

Finally, to connect with the ultimate value to the business, learn to connect information systems requirements to business outcomes, as expressed by business management. There are only two critical desired outcomes to any business, increased sales and increased profits. All of the other measures in the business support these two critical outcomes. IT leaders must align every IT project not only to the critical outcomes but also to one or more of the measures that contribute to them.

Examples of these business measures include:

• a measured reduction in response time to customer issues
• a measured reduction in the cost of technical support
• a measured decrease in cycle time; a measured increase in sales performance and closure rates
• a reduction in the time to deliver products or services
• a measured cost reductions to production including the cost of products, people, suppliers and time.

In designing solutions to business process problems, begin with the business requirements first. Determine whether the proposed solution will produce the desired business outcomes. Make design choices that lead to specific outcomes and measureable business improvements. Link investment needs to these business outcomes. In other words, “follow the path to the money”.

Create a believable roadmap to deliver business results in measureable phases. Large monolithic projects with multi-year development cycles face the greatest risk of cancellation, as the business grows weary with the financial outlay for no perceived return or improvement. Finally, to gain the confidence of the business leaders, share the technical knowledge, experience and project management discipline of the team that will implement the system.

4 Online Business Ideas With Low Start-Up Cost

Are you interested in starting your own business, but you have a very small budget to start with? The idea of starting a business has long been viewed as a very expensive venture and is only a common practice among a small group of people. Thankfully, the technology era has leveled the playing field for starting a business. It is now possible to get started with very little cash. And by gaining the right knowledge and skills, you can own a very lucrative business. In this article, I have compiled a list of 4 profitable online business ideas that you can start, with just a laptop and internet access.

1. Become A Website Developer.

Website development has created many business opportunities over the past couple of decades. Now that there are open source platforms like WordPress, it is quite possible for anyone with a computer/laptop and an internet connection can become a website developer, even if you have basic technical skills. If you are uncertain of whether or not you are able to start a business, creating websites for clients, then a short, informal online course in WordPress can fill in the blanks and give you the confidence to offer your service to potential clients.

In addition to, website development, you can offer hosting services to your clients. And no, you don’t have to own a server. You can get hosting services for very little money. You can then offer the service as part of your package for website development. This price is usually set a bit higher than what you pay for the hosting.

Online business ideas like website development, don’t require that you have a business space, so if you are strapped for cash and don’t want to incur the monthly cost of an internet bill, then this is the kind of business for you. You can take your laptop to your favorite cafe shop, and make use of their free internet service. Make sure you buy something from the shop, as this will keep you and the business owner happy.

2. Start An Online Store.

This is one of the most lucrative online business ideas I know of. You can start a business online, selling your own products, or selling other people’s products. The clear advantage of this business model is that you are not restricted by creativity, or location. If you do not have a product, and don’t have the slightest idea how to come up with one, then you can earn huge commissions from selling other people’s product. This is one of the few online business ideas that you can start with no money.

If you don’t have an online store, it would cost very little for you to set one up for yourself, or have someone set one up for you. As mentioned before, open source platforms like WordPress and Joomla makes it possible for anyone to create a website. WordPress has great support along with free plugins that can make it very easy for you to create an online store with a shopping cart and an automated checkout system.

However, if the monthly cost of hosting is still above your budget, then you can make use of free e-Commerce platforms like eBay, Etsy and Amazon. There is no monthly fee to sell your products, and you only pay a small fee for listing your product.

3. Become a Social Media Manager.

New social media platforms are springing up all over the internet. These social media platforms have huge audiences at any given time of the day. This makes it important for businesses to create and maintain a social presence on these social media platforms if they want to be visible to potential customers.

This need for a social media presence has created a new and unique business opportunity. It is very tedious to spend time creating content to add to the social media platforms. And with so many platforms to have to keep track of, it can be a full-time job.

Many companies are in need of a social media manager, and you can help. This is one of the online business ideas that will not become saturated. New companies are emerging every day and need to maintain a social media presence. So you will never run short of a potential client list.

It is very easy to create content and maintain a several social media accounts. You can use platforms like Hootsuite to manage several social media accounts simultaneously.

You can schedule posts and content for several weeks in advance. You can then charge clients a monthly fee for managing these accounts, which will be a lot less than having to hire an employee to provide this service full-time.

4. Become a Mobile App Developer.

Before you decide that mobile app development is only for those individuals who have spent years or more pursuing a formal education in coding, you might want to read this.

It is possible for non-techs to create mobile apps for clients with no coding skills. You can use mobile content management platforms like MAPS – Mobile Apps Productions Software.

These platforms allow you to create mobile apps and publish them to the Google Play and Apple app stores. In addition to publishing the apps on the app stores, the content management platforms allow you to provide back-end access to clients so that they can manage and update their mobile apps. You can also maintain the apps on the client’s behalf and charge an additional monthly fee for management and hosting of the mobile app.

More than 91% of the world’s population have a cell phone or mobile device. And as consumers become more attached to their mobile devices and more demanding of what it can provide and provide quickly, the demand for mobile apps will be even greater. More than 95% of businesses do not have a mobile app for their business. You can create a mobile app for these businesses at a price that they can afford. This is one of the online business ideas that has very little competition and huge earning potentials.

Looking for More Online Business Ideas?

While you may find lots of online business ideas on the internet, it is important to note that being successful in any business requires that you acquire the skills and knowledge of creating the business or service.

Escalator Helps Small Business Fill Labour Gap With Ready-For-Hire, Fully Trained Youth

The time for a paradigm shift for Canadian small and medium-sized business leaders and owners has arrived.

By 2012, 1,105,972 SMEs in Canada created, on average, 10,000 jobs annually, and spent $10.5 billion on research and development. Yet because of minimal exporting efforts, contributed 27% to annualized Canadian GDP, a figure unchanged since 2002. (Statistics Canada, Key Small Business Statistics, August, 2013).

Yes, it is and has been a difficult local market for SMEs. And of the 10.2% of small business and 34.4% of medium-sized businesses engaged in exporting, over 80% is shipped to the United States. Business leaders and owners must learn to diversify and tap into the potential purchasing power of a vastly growing emerging markets and beyond.

In Accentures’ recent study, many SME business owners suggested difficulty in developing connections and the local knowledge necessary to break into foreign markets. I would expect the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, with over 100,000 members, to assume a leadership role in helping SMEs better understand each market. How to navigate the connections, operational requirements, financing and selling opportunities to markets abroad.

If not the CFIB, there are local chambers of commerce, regional government offices for business and consultants that specialize in navigating exporting.

But business expansion efforts require resources. Resources many owners complain are at a minimum. In order to expend valuable time learning of and chasing export opportunities, owners would have to delegate some day-to-day duties to others. Others who may not be on current payrolls. Others who cost money business owners cannot spare.

In some instances, expansion requires skill sets the owner or current staff are lacking.

Fortunately, both the federal government and Ontario governments heard the pleas for incentives and programs, in the form of funding to hire much-needed help.

For those SMEs requiring skill sets in science, math, technology and engineering, Ottawa launched a $40 million internship program earlier this year. The national internship program funds 3000 post-secondary students interested in pursuing a career in STEM and skilled trades funds fully paid internships for a six to twelve month period in the hope that business steps forward and hires these students once their paid-for training and learning is complete.

Additionally, the Ontario government created a Youth Ministry and invested a robust $295 million for a Youth Jobs Strategy after the recent election.

Civic Action, in partnering with Premier Wynne’s Liberals, launched a highly practical program that connects youth with the private sector. A private sector that includes SMEs.

Specifically for small business owners with little time or know-how where to seek prospective hires, the Escalator program assists in posting job listings online. It also provides employer/industry-designed training and internships to close the knowledge gap businesses suggest prevents hires. Further, for those business owners who understand the merit and powerful benefits of mentoring, it connects SMEs with social agencies that have actual mentoring programs for youth in their respective communities.

I encourage all business owners to strongly consider the programs listed above. I can tell you from first-hand experience, youth bring vitality, drive, unaffected zeal and potential. They can also offer a fresh set of eyes or knowledge in a specific area, complementing the rest of your team.

In my business career, I mentored and hired many youth for my teams. We typically brought in and paid one or two cooperative placement students per school year. Those placements were mentored and trained from the day they started, and we hired the better ones on a full-time basis in entry-level roles once their studies were completed.

Because we mentored and trained them during their coop time, when they joined us on a full-time basis, they were ready to tackle the expectations of their new roles, much like seasoned staff. Further, they were also expected to take on a role in mentoring the next year’s coop students, strengthening their own leadership skills in the process.

What did I look for in youth, beyond a specialized skill if the specific need warranted it? First and foremost healthy curiosity, both for the new and old. A brightness that cannot be taught, usually exemplified in critical thinking. A strong desire to see things through to the end, demonstrating heart. An expanse of interests. Lastly, thriving on a team in any capacity and community participation.

We’re talking about a culture change in SME ownership thinking. Yes, valuable time will be required to train youth, time that you will insist you do not have. If you’re unhappy with the sales or profit picture of your business, I suggest you cannot afford to continue on a status quo basis.

Investing that time now can net positive contribution to your business on a longer-term basis, rather than short-term costly temporary foreign workers or part-time, contract staff. Most owners don’t capture the net costs, merely the hourly wage differential. Temporary staff are not invested in your business, rarely making the extra effort required in seeing a problem through to its remedy, recognize a business opportunity when they come upon it, or seek efficiencies and reduction in operational costs.

The investments made in full-time employee hires, training and mentoring will pay off in huge dividends. As will a concerted focus on exporting your product or service to global markets teaming with customers currently with unmet and un-serviced demand.

One of the coop students I brought into Sunbeam arrived as a quiet, shy, awkward young man who was whip-smart in numbers and highly driven to assist our new team in our pursuit of turning around a previously poor performing business unit.

Upon graduation, I hired him full-time. Within 8 months, he developed a comprehensive, complex Excel spreadsheet that allowed the entire company to execute the zero-based budgeting model we migrated to.

He noted the inefficient, highly time-consuming current model that took us away from the business, and worked on his own time to develop the new model. We may have taught him the overall business, its challenges, marketing and supply chain aspects, and allowed him the challenges and space to grow, but you cannot teach desire and critical thinking.

The return on this young man, and the many others hired by small businesses I consulted, is measurable by the bottom line, the change in office and business culture, and the time business owners free up to either work on business or personal pursuits.

Lastly, it benefits society by saving the $1 million each unemployed youth costs, be it welfare, healthcare, or lack of buying power. Buying power which SMEs depend upon. Buying power generated from employment. New employment which requires business in an expansionary, investment, market acquisition mode.

In providing accessible mechanisms, the talent pool, training resources, and mentoring avenues, Premier Wynne, and to an extent the federal government, require business, non-profit agencies, and others looking to hire staff to now step forward and engage in Escalator and the federal internship program.

The time for excuses is over. The incentives are on the table. Reach for them and make the difference for your own business.