Is It Time to Start Now?

Thanks to the BusinessLink for the opportunity to write this blog a few weeks ago. You can find the original posting at:http://businesslink.ca/blog/now-time-start-business

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With the recent developments in the economic landscape, Albertans have experienced significant change. Companies have seen a decrease in sales and are right sizing their operations to be affordable, but yet meet the current demand. More than 70,000 Albertans have been affected by company restructuring and they are looking for their next opportunity.

In many cases, the next opportunity may lie in starting up their own business. But is it the right time? Everyone is cutting back.

A number of strong and vibrant companies started during an economic downturn. Microsoft, FedEx, Hyatt Hotels, and Smashburger are a part of a long list of companies that started during an economic downturn. Here are 5 suggestions on how you can make your startup a success.

Lean and Mean: Seeing that ‘times are tough’, your first priority should be to run your business within a strong and realistic budget. That skill will become valuable in the future.

Innovate: Are you stuck in a pattern of running your business the way you always have? This is the time to re-examine your strategies and processes.

Marketing: For many companies, their first reaction to a slowdown in sales is to cut their marketing budget. Look at this as an opportunity to get your message in front of your target market with less noise from the competition.

Relationships: Spend more time with your current clients and target market. Get to know them on a deeper level. Find out what their pinch points are and reverse engineer them.

Improvement: Listen to your customers and use that knowledge to improve your offerings. Maybe use that information to create a new product line or service offering?

Be realistic! Start a new product line because it is within your budget and it solves a problem for your target market. You have limited resources. Remember when you develop a new product or offering, you are taking resources away from your core product.

An economic downturn is a fruitful time to start up a new venture. This was my perspective when I started my business in the last recession of 2008-09. This is your opportunity to be open to new ways of thinking, and build on what you have.

Have an awesome week.

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (L6SBc.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller & CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

Kevin is hosting Entrepreneurial Community Edmonton, a series of workshops with the goal of helping business owners/managers with their company. For more information, please visit L6SBC.ca/ecyeg.

For help with your business, contact Kevin at kevin@L6SBC.ca or 780-868-1867. You can also follow Kevin on Twitter at @L6SBC or Facebook.com/L6SBC

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Not in Touch with Customers’ Needs Part 4 of 6

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Over the last 3 weeks, I went over the 4th, 5th and 6th most common reasons why companies are not successful, according to the Small Business Administration of the United States. You will see that there are some common elements to each of the 6. Feel free to look at the original article here.

Customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without any customers, it is hard to have a sustainable business. The needs of your customers are constantly changing and evolving. At any time, your product or service may fall out of favour with your target market. A competitor may have developed a product which is a replacement to yours. Maybe a product developed by an indirect competitor was able to mitigate or completely solve the problem that your product was servicing. Being out of touch with what your target market is thinking can be a painful experience.

A company that was not in touch with its customers was Blockbuster. As Netflix was becoming more popular and well known, Blockbuster was getting less foot traffic into their stores to rent movies.  According to Blockbuster, people enjoyed the experience of going to a retail space, searching for a movie to watch, and putting the disc into the machine to watch.  Blockbuster did not stay in touch with their service consumer and moved their services into an online basis.

Staying in touch with your consumer does not have to be something overly complicated.

Competition: Watch closely what your competition is doing. Have they unveiled a new product with certain features? Are they growing at a faster rate than the industry or your company?

Feedback:  Add the ability for your consumer to give you feedback on their experience with your company. You can ask for feedback at reception while a second appointment is being booked or send out a very quick survey (4 questions as a maximum) on how your company performed.

Social Media:  Keep in touch and read what consumers are saying about your company and its services. Monitor feedback sites like Yelp. Search social media sites like Twitter and Snapchat to learn what your target market is saying. If you are connected with the correct people, you can get insight on how your product or service is being used which will give added ideas on improving your offering.

There are still different ways on getting feedback from consumers like a focus group or a phone survey. Use the method you think you will get the most truthful answer from and within your own budget.

Most importantly, the feedback that you do receive, make sure you take it with a grain of salt and use what you can to improve your company.

Do you get feedback from your consumer? How do you get it? How did you use that information in the end?

Have an awesome week.

Kevin

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

Kevin is hosting three social media workshops at 14920 Stony Plain Rd NW, Edmonton, AB T5P 3X8 (Pura Vida Mind Body Soul). The March 29, 2016 workshop will be about Facebook, April 26, 2016 will be about Twitter, while the May 24, 2016 workshop will be covering LinkedIn. All session run from 6.00pm to 8.30pm. Food and refreshments will be available. You can register here.

For help with your business, contact Kevin at kevin@L6SBC.ca or 780-868-1867.

Keeping that Level Head

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Everyone, as you would expect and know, have different characteristics that make up their personality. No two people are the same. These characteristics are unique identifiers within our own social groups. Even though no two people are the same, it is possible to see characteristics which are generally common in a certain geographic area or occupations.

For example, Albertans, when compared to other Canadians, are considered to be risk takers and are willing to try new things. Being an accountant, we are considered to be structured process-based thinkers, well organized, and more introverted then the norm. Why is that accountants, generally, have comparable personalities? Personally, I believe that is in the training we go through, and the roles that we are tasked to do. It would be rather hard to complete an audit if you are scatter brained.

Entrepreneurs do not come from a certain background. There are entrepreneurs who have a background in accounting, marketing, or even ditch digging!  Successful entrepreneurs do have common trait that is often overlooked. They are able to keep level headed.

The ability to stay level headed, allows a rational thought process to take over, and analyze data while others are trying to avoid having the sky fall on them, is an important trait. Very rarely you will be warned if a decision can be a deciding factor for the future of your firm. It is something that is learned only when looking in the rear view mirror.

Remember to keep your wits about you when tensions are rising. You may be able to identify opportunities or threats that no one else notices.

How did you react the last time you found yourself in a pressure cooker? What would you do differently? Please share so we can all learn from it.

Have a great week!

Kevin

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

Need to be Organized

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Being organized is something that doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In some cases, what may look like a mess to someone, like the below picture, may be the organization system of the owner.

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Being organized goes past how you have your desk organized, your papers filed away, and the cleanliness of your desk. What about the organization of that one valuable commodity that we can never get back and we never have enough of? Time!

During a recent luncheon, I was asked how I stayed organized with the different activities I am involved with. I will admit, I didn’t give an ‘organized’ answer because it is more than one thing.

Calendar: I block time off in my calendar to do certain tasks. The times and tasks are paired up so that my time is used up most efficiently. Items that require more creativity are done in the morning, for example. If you have taken or read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People course or book, you can equate this to scheduling my big rocks.

To Do List: I keep my to-do list by my side at all times. That is my North Star to what needs to be done today. For people that know me well, I am very goal driven. My goal each day is to complete everything on my to-do list.

The last thing I do during my work day is review my to-do list and make my to-do list for the next day. I don’t want to spend time reviewing my previous days’ work to figure out what I should be doing today.

Communicate: I freely communicate to my colleagues and customers about my time availability. Most commonly, I keep my Mondays and Fridays open for my clients. It seems to be the easiest for them to meet with me. I am either meeting with my clients or working on their projects, at the very least, on those days.

Emails: Many people forget that email can be a very big time waster. Some simple suggestions would involve paying attention to the emails that you read and don’t read. If you find yourself deleting emails from companies where you somehow got onto their mailing list but you are not interested in them, take your name off the distribution list.

I have noticed that I have received the vast majority of my emails by 2pm every day. I do a quick scan of my emails first thing in the morning to see if there is anything pressing. If there isn’t, I stay away from my emails until 2pm. Together with the first email tip, I can be done dealing with my emails within 15 minutes.

Distractions: It is very easy to get lost in Facebook and Twitter for hours.  Working from home, it is also easy to get distracted with folding the laundry or just listening to music. Limit your own time on social media. Use it as a reward for breaks that you take.

Do Take Breaks: Make sure that you give yourself a break. A short 5 minute walk around the block can do wonders for waking yourself up and revitalizing your energy for the next hour or two.

What do you see as your biggest challenge for being organized with your time? Is it an external factor or is it yourself? It is very hard to come up with a solution if you haven’t identified the problem.

Have a great week!

Kevin

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

Reasons to Network

networkingRelationships are the basis of just about everything. Humans are a social being which appreciate the company of others, in general. As with any business, networking events hold a certain higher level of importance. In many terms, it can help determine the future of your business. During a couple networking events that I attended during the summer, I noticed that some people were trying to close a SALE during a networking event?!?!?!?!

I was taken aback by the approach from those people. I asked one person if they knew my needs and how their product was going to fix a shortcoming that my company or I have. The answer that I received was a very well memorized couple of phrases which was delivered without passion. My reply back was “Why are you here right now? Why do you network?” The person stopped, put some thought into their response and said “To increase sales!” Yes, networking can help to increase your sales but not at the networking event.

I enjoy going to networking events around the city. I go to these events for different reasons, depending on the people that are attending.

networking2Development new relationships: Of course, one of the main reasons to attend networking events is to meet new people and create new relationships. Meeting and talking to someone at a networking event is just the start of the relationship. As with any relationship, constant attention and time is needed to help it grow. Those new relationships can develop into being a future resource, supplier, or customer.

Depending on the number of people at a networking event, I am looking to be able to have coffee or lunch with 2-5 people from the event. During the follow up meeting, more personal attention can be placed towards the other person.

Strengthen Old Relationships: As previously mentioned, attention is needed to help foster the growth and the attraction between people for a strong relationship. There is nothing wrong with attending a networking event and spending the time reconnecting with people you have met before.

Social Interaction: Being a solopreneur who works from home, networking events become an avenue where I can social contact with other people. That social interaction may help re-energize or re-vitalize someone to continue on for a productive week.

What networking events do you like to attend? What is your reason for attending those specific events?

Have a great week!

Kevin

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

Midway Check In

80023028_9202c3d6cf_zIt is half way through the year which means it is a perfect time to check in with our goals. You may find it comical that I check in with my goals on a quarterly basis. That is not the end of it!

I actually review my goals and the plan to reach my goals every Sunday morning. My goals and plan are actually right beside my computer monitor so it is always top of mind. I try my best to ensure that the actions I take are in line with my plan to make my goals a reality. It is one thing to have a dream, but it is another thing to have a plan to reach that dream. I don’t plan on dreaming away my whole life, so I would rather get things done to reach those dreams.

I have been progressing nicely on my personal goals. I have hit some bumps in the road, but as we all know, success is not a straight line up.

successisnotstraight-part2My work goals have been doing much better. Even with my best efforts, some goals have obviously fallen off of the way side. Actually, they have fallen so far away that they can’t be seen any more. I am currently re-evaluating if those goals are possible. Based on current conditions, there will be a pretty big shift in my skills development goal that I had set out. In the end, those fallen goals were not SMART goals. Upon retrospect, they were not realistic with everything else going around me and in some cases, the timing of having the goals achieved is poor.

Are you keeping up with your goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of the year? Have you made any adjustments or you have just fallen off of the wagon? I am very goal orientated so I used those goals to drive me. You might not be goal orientated but you do have driver that keeps you going. As long as you are progressing forward, you are moving in the right direction.

Feel free to share with me your goals. We can help to keep each other accountable.

Have an awesome week.

Kevin

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

Alberta’s $15/Hour

With the recent shift in the political party for the government in Alberta, many things are expected to change. The newly elected NDP party of Alberta won a strong mandate and a part of their platform was to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour over a 3 year period.

The city of Los Angeles has taken the lead to increase minimum wages but the circumstances are much different between the two jurisdictions.

Approximately 1.5% of workers (27,500 workers) are paid the minimum wage in Alberta[1]. Approximately 300,000 people in Alberta earn between the minimum wage and $15/hour. In Los Angeles, approximately 1 million people (27% of workers) are paid the minimum wage ($9/hour)[2] out of a population of 3.7 million[3]. Lastly, Alberta indexes its minimum wage while Los Angeles does not.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business claims that as many as 195,000 jobs could be lost due to the wage increase[4]. Based off academic research, increased minimum wages brings decreased hours for workers, less training, and some increases in retail prices. It is agreed by experts that increasing minimum wages has ‘no discernable impact’ on unemployment. If job losses are found, it generally affects teenagers.

If higher wages don’t affect unemployment, does it do anything? Of course, people who are currently earning $10.20/hour will have more spending power which can drive economic growth. Increased earnings also mean that lower income people do not require assistance from government programs; therefore, it should decrease government expenditure. Lastly, as many people have missed, an increased minimum wage would help smooth out the oil revenue train that Alberta is on. Higher earning equals more taxes the government can collect.

Warren Buffet is not a supporter of higher minimum wages. He would rather see an “earned income tax credit, also known as a “negative income tax,” in which the government subsidizes the wages of workers making under a certain amount”.[5]

How would you like to see the issue of pay inequality to be solved? Personally, I am leaning towards training low skilled people for higher skilled positions, increasing tax credits for low-income people, and rightsizing government operations.

Have an awesome week.

Kevin

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

[1]http://parklandinstitute.ca/blog/comments/the_case_for_a_15_minimum_wage_in_alberta

[2] http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/los-angeles-gives-initial-approval-to-15-us-minimum-wage-1.3080209

[3] https://suburbanstats.org/population/california/how-many-people-live-in-los-angeles

[4] http://www.cfib-fcei.ca/english/article/7309–15-min-wage-in-ab.html

[5] http://fortune.com/2015/05/22/warren-buffett-minimum-wage/?utm_content=bufferc3262&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Hydro One Firing

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Over the last week, national news in Canada has been highlighted by a group of young men yelling “FHRITP” into a microphone while the female reporter was doing a live report before a soccer match in Toronto. Please click here to see the footage.

 After the event was aired nationally, Hydro One, an Ontario-based electrical company, fired the soccer fan found in the picture above. This person didn’t yell the obscenities into the reporter’s microphone but ‘defended’ his friend for having the ‘right’ to say such things.

Hydro One stated that the actions of the employee harmed their reputation. At the time of the incident, there was no evidence of what company the person was employed with. The linkage between the heckler and Hydro One started to be leaked out via social media and certain local media outlets.

I understand Hydro One’s decision to dismiss their employee for their involvement in the incident due to the fact the work environment would not be safe or comfortable for people who would deal with the heckling supporter. What I personally don’t agree with is the fact that Hydro One stated that the act hurt the reputation of the company. How the person could hurt the company’s reputation if nobody knew where the person worked?

According to a few media reports like here, Hydro One may have a very hard time to prove that their reputation was hurt by the incident. It will also be hard to show to the courts that the incident has made the workplace unsafe.

After the dust has settled, the biggest question I have left is what happened to the person that actually yelled out the obscenities?

Do you think that the situation was handled properly by Hydro One? Should the employee have been sent to a training session or counselling? Please let me know what you think.

Have an awesome week.

Kevin

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S Business Consulting offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

Burn Out!

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Commonly, when you see or read an interview from a start-up entrepreneur, they talk about the long hours that they worked to get to where they are. Those are the success stories that we hear about, but what about the others?

According to the Small Business Administration  (SBA), a department of the US federal government, ½ of new businesses survive the first 5 years and only 33% of new businesses survive for 10 years[1]. The main reasons for failure, given by the Small Business Administration, are: leadership failure, lack of uniqueness or value, not in touch with consumer needs, unprofitable business model, poor financial management, and rapid growth and over-expansion.

My company allows me to work with business owners on a daily basis, and I see many of them working 70-90 hours per week. One of the greatest difficulties I have working with entrepreneurs is having them understand that they need to maintain a balance of keeping things progressing while not overworking themselves.

I don’t have a crystal ball which can tell me about the future, but the top 6 reasons for business failure, according to SBA, are not the reasons why I see my entrepreneurs not succeeding. If anything at all, their biggest risk is themselves and burning themselves out. In many cases, the business owner is the business, which is why they work so many hours. But if they don’t take a break away from their business, relax, and recharge their batteries, they will wear themselves down.

Yes, we hear the success story that came from working 90 hour work weeks, but were they working smart? Were they productive? If you don’t take care of yourself, and you are the one that takes care of your business, who will take care of your business when you are out of commission? Are some of the top 6 reasons of failure due to the fact that the owner is not in the proper shape to make a decision? Take care of yourself, and it will take care of business!

Please let me know what you think, Also, leave suggestions for future blog posting.

Have an awesome week.

Kevin

Photo Source: DieselDemon from Flickr Common Creative

Kevin MacDonald is a Business Consultant at L6S Business Consulting Inc (www.L6SBC.ca). L6S offers services in management consulting, Controller and CFO contracting, and lean management with either project work or teaching/mentoring of staff. Kevin has his CMA accounting designation along with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma.

Kevin is active in the community by volunteering for different groups and donates platelets at the Canadian Blood Services clinic on a bi-weekly basis.

[1] http://articles.bplans.com/6-reasons-your-small-business-will-fail-and-how-to-avoid-them/

Getting Back At It.

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Well, reality has set in again. I love helping my clients improve their business and solve their problems, but I will admit, touring around Washington and Oregon was fun. To make it even better, you can’t complain about watching your favourite hockey team play six games on the road too.

Putting yourself back into the loop, no matter if you are self-employed or an employee is not an easy thing to do. Before I jump on an airplane thinking about the beach, I personally do a few things to help me out:

Where I Am: I either type up an email or write down on where I am on current projects. It helps to decrease the amount of review time that I need when I return.

Make a To-Do List: I remind myself of different things I need or would like to get done when I get back. This list may include the next step in my projects to help me even more.

No Meetings: I try to avoid scheduling meetings during my first or second day back. I have found that I was the least prepared for those meetings.

When I get back, I like to:

Reconnect: I send out an email or call colleagues or clients to learn of any new developments while I was away.

Email Responding: I only respond to pressing emails when I get back to work. I tend to sporadically check my emails while I am away. I deal with pressing emails when I get back but others can sit for a day or two.

Stay Focused: I keep myself on task using the road map I laid out before leaving for my trip. The goal is to not dream about the vacation. That was in the past…the future is waiting just ahead.

What do you do to help with easing back to work after being away? Any tricks you want to share?

Have an awesome week.

Kevin

Photo Credit: John Patrick Robichaud