Changing Seasons spell changes for Business

September is here and the children have returned to school.  This serves as a reminder Cloudthat the season is changing and fall will soon be here.  It also reminds us that seasonality is something that can impact our business as well.

Changes in weather and season both pay a significant part in our daily work lives. Seasonality impacts everything in our lives from when our target customers may want our products and services and more importantly, when they may not want to engage with our business.  These seasonal fluctuations must be identified so that we can adjust our operations accordingly. If sales are declining, what actions are required to reduce expenses during this period? This continuous cash flow management is even more important to the business when looking at significant external changes.

Weather patterns can have similar impacts.  Imagine the Florist who counts on Valentine’s Day as a period of positive cash flow. Increases costs in staff and production are only part of the equation. It is not uncommon for winter storms to pop up during this period. What contingencies will need to be implemented to handle these seasonal changes?  How are deliveries impacted?  What do we need to change?

Seasonality in business is more than the change in the weather and more than the “timing” of sales activities.  It is all of these and more. Seasonal changes in weather can impact transportation, costs, sales, staffing, etc. These seasonal changes required monitoring and adjusting operations.

To help plan for seasonality, take a look at your past financial statements including sales sheets, then look at the weather on the times that have lower than normal sales activities to see if there have been any impacts.  You may be surprised at the pattern that develops. Statistics Canada can also supply monthly sales figures by product or service.

If you are starting a new venture, be sure to research the seasonality of sales in your industry.  Doing this will provide you with the information needed to adjust expenses accordingly or look at alternative sources of revenue.

There is no exact science to this task; rather we are looking at “what if” scenarios.  We can look at historical references, past financial performances and other external factors.  Seasonal changes and external factors, give us the tools for making the changes required to be successful so that we are not left out in the cold.

If you would like to discuss this or other business related topics with a Business Consultant contact the Halton Region Small Business Centre at 905-825-6000, extension 7900 to book an appointment.

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Managing Your Time

For a busy entrepreneur, your time is your most valuable resource. There are only soTime Management - August 13 many hours in a day, and chances are you will not be able to accomplish everything that you want to. This makes time management one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can have. This can be especially important when running a smaller business with little or no support staff, forcing the owner to juggle multiple roles within the company. Here are some tips to help ensure that you and your business are as productive as possible. Continue reading

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Success through Cooperation

July 28Success through CooperationOne of the first decisions that any business owner has to make when starting a new business is choosing the business structure for their operation. The three most well-known business structures include the sole proprietorship, the partnership and the corporation.

While these are the most prevalent types of business structures, it is important to know that there is a 4th structure that operates the organization on communal and democratic principles:  the co-operative. A co-operative is an organization that is owned and controlled by its members. They are often formed when a group of individuals comes together to meet a common need, and they can be for profit or not-for-profit. Business decisions made by a co-op are made democratically, with one member receiving one vote.

There are several reasons why you may wish to create a co-op. Some of these may be:

  1. To provide a service that other forms of enterprise are not offering, or to provide it in a different way.
  2. To keep a community or business alive when a private model is no longer able to.
  3. To keep profits and control of the business locally, and to ensure that profits are re-invested in the company and shared with members.

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The Five W’s of Business

Before starting your own business, it’s important to take some time and reflect on what needs to be done to get a successful business off the ground. The planning stage is crucial, and will set the stage The Five W's of Businessfor how efficiently your company operates. In school, teachers often talk about the ‘Five Ws’ as a tool for information gathering, brainstorming and planning. If the planning of your business is still in its infancy, finding your ‘Five Ws’ can be a good way to understand the basics of how your business will operate.

Write down answers to the following questions. This will help you to formulate and conceptualize the foundations of your business.

Who is your target market? Knowing who your products are aimed towards can help you focus your business.

What are you selling? It is important to understand the details of the products you will market. What are you doing to distinguish your product from the competition?

Where will your business operate? For many companies, location is critical, and can make or break a business.

When do you plan to start? Creating deadlines and dates is crucial to keeping yourself on track. Don’t procrastinate!

Why do you want to start your own business? There are challenges associated with entrepreneurship and even a great business started for the wrong reasons might not be successful. Continue reading

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Running With the Big Dogs

When starting your business, one of the most important things you can do, and one that isFind your niche often overlooked, is to ensure that you have a way to distinguish yourself from your larger, pre-existing rivals. The business you are starting will likely have other players vying for market space, and most of them will be bigger than you. So how exactly does one stand out in a market filled with competition? Ultimately, distinguishing your start-up is something only you can do, but here are three tips to help point you in the right direction.

Do your research:

When starting your own businesses it is critical that you understand your competition. During the planning stages of your company it is important to invest in research to understand what other businesses exist, how they differ and how your company will fit in. Even a unique product can become lost in an oversaturated market.

There are many tools at the disposal of a modern entrepreneur to probe a market, many of which cost nothing but your time. The internet is an excellent start, and services such as those offered by small business centres can also provide support in the early stages of business planning. Before starting out, understand what customers want from you, and if there is space to bring in new customers.

Find your niche:

One of the first things you will want to do is to look critically at your business/business model and ask yourself how you are different. When competing against medium sized companies or even international giants, you may have difficulty going head-to-head with price and selection, so you will need to find other ways to attract your patrons. This can be as simple as offering a more comprehensive and personal customer experience or offering unique and branded products. Creating a unique experience or product and differentiating yourself is critical. Be sure to take this into account when planning your business.

Press your advantage:

Large monolithic companies have advantages such as buying power and market share, but they can also be slow to react due to their complex structures. Your speed is one of your greatest advantages, and the savvy entrepreneur can leverage that to react to trends before a large company can. On a more individual level, it should also allow you to meet your customer’s needs more efficiently. For an established small business, this is the kind of advantage that will allow you to fill a new niche before a large company can. Whether your company is just starting out, or you are established in the face of an encroaching multinational, remember that bigger isn’t always better!

Every new business starts as an idea. The trick to turning that into a successful business is refining that idea, and focusing on your strengths. Starting a business can be daunting, but it doesn’t always have to be. Call the Halton Region Small Business Centre to find out about the services we offer. Together, we can help turn your dream into reality.

Halton Small Business Centre

Phone: 905-825-6000 x7900

Email: smallbusiness@halton.ca

 

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HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) for Small Business Owners

Taxes can be a tricky subject, especially for a new small business owner. By now, most of calculatorus are at least somewhat familiar with the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). It was implemented in 2010 to combine both the provincial sales tax (PST) and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) into a single consumption tax. In general, the HST applies to the same base of goods and services as the GST, with some exemptions for certain items.

As a small business owner, you may need to register an account with the Canada Revenue Agency to collect the HST; however, some new businesses may not need to register right away. An example of this would be small suppliers, as they do not need to register or charge HST.

Small suppliers are businesses whose sales are equal to or less than $30,000 over the last four calendar quarters, and thus, do not need to charge HST. This means if you are running a small business and your income sales fall below this level, you do not need to register. Businesses that anticipate making over that amount do not need to register until that $30,000 is reached, but it is important to note that you must register before the threshold is passed. Continue reading

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SOCAN, Music Licensing, and You

SOCAN, Music Licensing, and You

We often get questions from new entrepreneurs about the licensing of third-party music inSocan - Blog June 23 their establishment. Navigating through the field of copyright law and intellectual property can be daunting for any new business owner, luckily, the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada is here to help!

SOCAN is a member-based, not-for-profit organization dedicated to streamlining the process surrounding licensing fees for music. The Copyright Board of Canada certifies SOCAN’s tariffs and operations in accordance with Canada’s Copyright Act. A SOCAN membership grants you the license to play almost any music, from anywhere on Earth, in your business. If you are operating any kind of entertainment venue, or if music will be involved in your business in any way, a SOCAN membership is the easiest way to make sure you do not run afoul with Canadian or international copyright law. For example, if you are hiring a DJ or playing live music, you still need to pay licensing fees in addition to the cost of paying the performers themselves. Some business owners also mistakenly think that purchasing a CD or song off the internet means that you have the right to use that song. However, under copyright law, the act of purchasing music in that manner simply gives you the right to play that music in private, not in public. Although there are some exceptions, like listening to the radio in your establishment, a SOCAN license is still your best bet to avoid the nebulous legal issues surrounding modern intellectual property laws and music. Continue reading

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