How to get the most out of networking

Networking has become a hot topic in the past few years.  It is one of the best ways toconversations promote your business.  The whole spectrum of what networking is all about has changed.  It is not just about meeting people, it is also about creating business relationships and cultivating those relationships so that your external network can grow, resulting in greater visibility for your business.

Here are a few tips on how you take advantage of your next networking opportunity.

Be in the moment

You should be prepared to listen and make eye contact and keep your attention focused on who you are talking to and not on what is going on around you. In the business world, conversation can be a powerful tool if used right.  You really need to consider carefully what is being said during a conversation and how effectively you are communicating your thoughts and ideas.  It is then you can evaluate the return on conversation.

Prepare before you attend

Before you attend your next event sit down and formulate a plan.  Consider how you are going to network and what questions you are going to ask.  Make sure the questions will help to create a clear picture of the other person and their business so that you can make good decisions.

Have the right attitude

This is a time to be positive, proactive and professional.  You are being observed whether you realize it or not.  First impressions are important.

Follow up

If you say during the conversation that you are going to follow up then make sure you do. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity, and following up is as easy as sending an email or making a quick call.

Remember there is a strategy behind anything that is effective.  You will see that your business alliances will start to grow.  This will help you to surround yourself with the right people and you will be using your time effectively.

One of the goals of the Centre is to empower small and medium-sized enterprises and give you the tools to achieve success.  For more information about resources, services, business events and seminars, contact us by dialing 311, 1-866-442-5866, online at halton.ca/smallbusiness, by email at smallbusiness@halton.ca or visit us at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville. You can also follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

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National Volunteer Week – Thanking Our Local Professionals

National Volunteer Week (April 12 – 18) is a time to recognize, celebrate and thank theThank you - business card millions of volunteers across Canada who generously donate their time and energy.

Volunteers are people from all walks of life with a common desire to make a difference in their community and personal life by giving their time and expertise.

Halton Region Small Business Centre would like to thank the many business professionals who volunteer in our Access to Professionals Program, offering guidance and support to new entrepreneurs and businesses in Halton.  Professionals in our group include lawyers and accountants, marketing, human resources, insurance, import/export, website, e-business experts and business coaches. Continue reading

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Financial statements are a record of your businesses health

Financial Statements are a collection of reports that provide information on your young businessman in a suitbusinesses health. It is very important that you review your financial statements on a yearly basis as they can help provide you with a firsthand look at how your business is performing.  A good time to review and analyze your statements and check the health of your business is during tax reporting season.

Viewing and understanding your statements can help you plan for the next year and help you make any necessary adjustments to improve your business’ performance.

Three important statements for your small business!

  1. Balance sheet: a statement of the assets, liabilities, and capital of a business or other organization at a particular point in time, detailing the balance of income and expenditure over the preceding period.
  2. Income statement: measures a company’s financial performance over a specific accounting period. Financial performance is assessed by giving a summary of how the business incurs its revenues and expenses through both operating and non-operating activities.
  3. Cash flow statement: shows how changes in your balancesheet accounts and income affect cash and cash equivalents, and breaks the analysis down to operating, investing and financing activities.

Let’s look closer at the income statement and the insight it can provide:  

In the example below, we see that total sales equal 100% of income, and that each expense item is a percentage of that income. When looking at the ratios (a ratio is the percentage of income that has been used to pay particular business expenses) in the right column we can see that each expense indicates the percentage of monies used to pay that expense. If we compare year over year we can review and analyze to see if our expenses are increasing, decreasing or maintaining ratios. This is a great way to keep track of where money is being spent.

To illustrate this, if we see a rise in our COGS (cost of goods sold), then we can address this by negotiating better pricing from suppliers, source new suppliers, or possibly look at raising our sale price to cover the cost increase.

Ratio analysis can be complicated but is a great way to give your business a quick check-up. Ask a small business consultant or your accountant or bookkeeper for further information

April 6 Income Statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Halton Region Small Business Centre offers a financial basics course during the year.  One of the goals of the Centre is to empower small and medium-sized enterprises and give you the tools to achieve success.  For more information about resources, services, business events and seminars, contact us by dialing 311, 1-866-442-5866, online at haltonsmallbusiness.ca, by email at smallbusiness@halton.ca or visit us at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville.

 

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What makes your business sui generis?

To begin with you are probably asking what does sui generis even mean and how does itUnique relate to my business?   It is a latin phrase that actually means “unique, special, distinct or unusual.”

So, how can you make yourself sui generis?  First of all, you need to know what is unique or different about your business.   In order to find the answer, you need to research your industry and find out everything you can about your competitors.  Do you know what they do or how they make their businesses unique?

One of the best tools you can use for this process is a competitive strength, weakness, opportunity and threats (SWOT) analysis.   To complete the SWOT exercise, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who are my competitors?
  • How many competitors are out there?
  • What does the environment look like?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses? 

Create a chart like the one below to record your information. 

Competitive SWOT Analysis

Name of the company Strength Weakness Opportunity Threat

Once you have gathered the SWOT information, then it’s time to put it all together and figure out what truly makes your business sui generis.  Some entrepreneurs will tell you that what makes their business unique is that they offer the best service/product available, at a lower price.  The problem with such a statement is that your competition is probably making the same claim.

Look at each of your competitors.  Know what their strengths and weaknesses are in comparison to yours.  Study and plan where there may be opportunities for your business but always factor in the risks and be prepared! In today’s economy, you need to be proactive.  It can be the difference between success and failure.

By being sui generis, you generate interest and visibility—something that can help you leapfrog your competitors.  It will take a lot of effort but you can gain the advantage that will make you stand out in a competitive world.  It’s time to be sui generis and make your business stand out!

One of the goals of the Centre is to empower small and medium-sized enterprises and give you the tools to achieve success.  For more information about resources, services, business events and seminars, contact us by dialing 311, 1-866-442-5866, online at halton.ca/smallbusiness, by email at smallbusiness@halton.ca or visit us at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville. You can also follow us on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

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Starting a small business? First understand your competition

Can you imagine a world in which your business has no competition? Neither can I, yet I Market Researchhave reviewed more business plans than I care to admit in which entrepreneurs boldly declare those four words:  “I have no competition.”

To get a clearer understanding of your competition, it is helpful to know that there are three types:  Direct, indirect and non-consumption.

  • Direct competition is what typically comes to mind when one thinks of competition. These are the competitors that do the same thing as your business in the same way.
  • Indirect competition fulfills the same need as your business, but in a different way. The consumer only has to have their need satisfied by one competitor or the other.
  • Non-consumption competition is what most of us think about the least and is probably the hardest to quantify. It represents the number of people who fit the profile of consumers in your target market, but still choose not to buy your product from you or your competitors.

The practical example I use most with my small business clients is that of family entertainment. My family has a set budget every week for entertainment. I have several options to choose from to meet my entertainment needs. Continue reading

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Entrepreneurship programs for Youth

The Halton Region Small Business Centre provides information and services for entrepreneurs in Halton Region. In addition to services provided to the general public, the centre also delivers youth specific programming to assist young entrepreneurs in the start-up and growth phases of business operations.

Here are three youth programs that are currently available at the Halton Region Small Business Centre:

  • Starter Company Starter Company Participants and Mentors

The Starter Company program provides business skills training and development to youth from the ages of 18 to 29. The program helps with understanding business plan development and operations and if successful, the opportunity to apply for a grant of $5,000. Individuals who are interested must attend an information session. The sessions are held on the first and third Tuesday each month.

 

  • Summer Company

The Summer Company program is for high school and post-secondary students aged 15 to 29 who would like to experience entrepreneurship first-hand rather than work a traditional summer job. Students are provided with 12 hours of training and skills development. In addition to the training and meetings, participants can access up to $1,500 in grant funding for start-up costs as well as an opportunity to receive an additional $1,500 award for successful completion of the program requirements.

 

  • Futurpreneur Canada

Futurpreneur Canada provides unsecured small business loans for youth between 18 and 34 years of age. In addition to financial supports, Futurpreneur also provides two years of mentoring to help young entrepreneurs during the introduction stage of business development.  The Small Business Centre is a community partner for this national program.

For more information on the Summer Company program or to attend an information session for Starter Company or Futurpreneur Canada, visit halton.ca/youthbiz, contact the Small Business Centre at 905-825-6000, ext. 7900 or dial 311.

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The best location for your business

The location of your business is one of the most important decisions you will make! A lotOffice for rent of people start out as a home based business and then as the business grows they move to a commercial location.

Working from home isn’t for everyone.  You have to be self-disciplined, motivated and good with time management and your family has to remember that even though you are sitting in the next room, you are working.

When determining whether you should have a home-based business or use a commercial location it is important to look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of each and apply them to the type of business you would like to run.

 

  Home-based business Commercial location
Pros
  • Convenient
  • Lower operating costs
  • Tax advantages — can write off a percentage of home expenses

· You can set your own hours (depending on your service) – no constraints

  • No commute
  • You can wear your slippers all day long.
  • Creates more visibility for your business
  • More space to grow
  • Can add a more professional look for the business
  • The business appears to be more established
  • Signage
Cons
  • Can have distractions— may be hard to stay focused
  • May not look as professional
  • May not have room to grow and expand your business
  • Clients know where you are and can visit at any time
  • May feel isolated and out of the loop
  • Can be challenging to set boundaries between personal/business life
  • Signing a lease or rental agreement can mean a 2 – 5 year commitment
  • More overhead expenses
  • Will have to commute
  • You must adhere to a schedule of when your business is open and closed

There are benefits to both options.  What you need to ask yourself is what option is right for you.  A lot depends on the type of business you are in.  There are some entrepreneurs who are able to create a professional business atmosphere in their home whereas others have found it difficult.  You need to do your research.

Considering a commercial space? Ask these questions:

  • Do we really need to move?
  • Does the new location complement our business services and/or product?
  • Who will be our business neighbours and what kind of reputation does this area have?
  • Will this move allow us to service our clients better?
  • Is subleasing possible
  • Will this move affect our budget and do we have enough cash flow for extra unexpected expenses?
  • Have we talked to others and received outside professional advice before finalizing our decision?
  • How long will the lease/rent agreement be for and will we be guaranteeing it personally?
  • Do we have the marketing budget to promote the new location?

One of the goals of the Centre is to empower small and medium-sized enterprises and give you the tools to achieve success.  For more information about resources, services, business events and seminars, contact us by dialing 311, 1-866-442-5866, online at haltonsmallbusiness.ca, by email at smallbusiness@halton.ca or visit us at 1151 Bronte Road, Oakville.

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