Exporting Into International Markets

The thought of expanding to international markets is exciting. Small business owners look at this opportunity as their chance to compete on an international front with many of the big players in the industry. Evident in its potential for higher exposure, you will likely experience an increase in sales based on your ability to target a bigger market. As any business can tell you, remaining competitive is essential and very important. Before you take the plunge in the international marketplace, there are some key questions you will want to ask yourself so that this opportunity doesn’t turn into a bust.

Prior to even thinking of the possibility of entering the global market, ensure that there is a market for your business. After all, if your business isn’t selling in your current market, why should anyone in a foreign market want it? If sales are low, identify the potential problems and seek possible solutions.

What key factors will help determine your success? Be open to the possibility of changes to your business to accommodate the new market you’re entering. These will potentially include new partnerships, new suppliers and inherent structural changes. You will want to undertake a detailed market research of the areas you are targeting. Consider the 4p’s of marketing including price, place, promotion and product to solidify these alterations.

Once you are comfortable with the possible changes, you will also want to gather entry strategies. Will it be an agency agreement or joint venture with an existing company? Or will you consider making a direct entry of your business in the market? Remember to plan accordingly for all possibilities once entered.

Some other considerations:

  1. Factor in cultural differences. Understand that different cultures will bring different relationships with your business. Identify the possible changes at hand to make the most of the oncoming differences.
  2. Money, money, money. Prepare your budget expenses to accommodate extra expenses you might not see on a domestic level, including travel costs, business development expenditures, and so on.
  3. Knowledgeable staff or help. You can’t possibly be everything in your business. Identify your staffing needs and weak points. You will want to bring people on board who have a sound understanding of market shares that can add value to your venture. This will help ease your entry and can have positive outcomes.

There are many things you will want consider when entering the global market. Ensure that all supporting documents and processes are in place. Remember that your transition will not come smoothly either- competition on the international level is intense. Bring something unique that will allow you to remain competitive. You will have an easier transition in the market if you partner with an established business. Keep in mind that it will also always be easier for you to sell in your own country. With a concerted effort, however, businesses can see some success in the global market.

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Becoming Eco-friendly Can Also Help Your Business

Given the rapid influx of environmental disasters occurring these days, it’s no wonder small business owners are starting to think of ways to adjust procedures and help reduce climate change. Adopting these new eco-friendly business habits will not only benefit the environment, but your commitment to these new patterns will equally leave a positive impression on your clients.

Applying greener practice will be a gradual transition, but bear in mind that these changes could end up saving you money in the long run, not to mention that it will put your mind at ease that you will be leaving a positive mark on our planet. Knowing that you are committed to making a positive change, while still being able to support self-sufficiency, can be extremely rewarding. The implementation of a company policy will also help sustain and reinforce your vision for the future, and should not be neglected. It will also show your customers your commitment to making a difference, so be sure to draw attention to your new or enhanced green practices through your facebook page, website and in-store.

Here are some tips for a greener practice:

  1. Recycle
    The classic way to go green. In addition to recycling anything and everything that can be recycled, you will also want to think green when purchasing or replacing items.  Consider purchasing recycled products as well. This could help your pocket too, since most second hand items are significantly less expensive than buying brand new pieces.
  2. Practice green methods
    Adopting a new greener routine will also help benefit the planet. Begin by avoiding using paper or any products that you might not need. With the current trend to have most documents submitted, processed and recorded electronically, consider making the switch, it might not be as difficult as you might think.  Always remember to back up your documents though to ensure that they won’t be lost.

You could equally switch to using eco-friendly paper, products and packaging. The office and staff can also remain healthy by using all-natural and biodegradable cleaning supplies when tidying up. In addition, you may want to also switch up your daily drive into work routine by considering taking public transportation. While it may not entirely be directly related to your business, getting in the habit of being fully committed to greener practices will only solidify your outlook and commitment to the planet.

  1. Improve energy consumption and efficiency
    You will want to consider switching to compact-fluorescent (CFL) or LED lights for optimal performance. While they may have a slightly higher purchase price than standard bulbs, you can expect them to last significantly longer and use much less energy. Another good way to preserve energy is to avoid leaving lights or electronics on in the office when not in use. You can also power the office with alternative sources such as the use of solar or geothermal energy.Going green has its perks in many ways. Particularly, you can expect to differentiate yourself from your competition. It’s not only a great way to stand out, but you will also be able to help your bottom line. Saving the planet has never looked better!

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Contractor vs employee … which to choose ?!

Whenever a business looks to expand and hire its first employee, you should consider the structure of the working relationship to maximize performance and limit any liabilities. But should you consider hiring a contractor or an employee? And what’s the difference exactly?

By their very name, contractors are independent and they determine the manner which they provide services (i.e. the “when, where and how”). Independent contractors are also not required to provide services exclusively to one company. They use their own tools and workspaces to provide their services. They are subject to any contractual restriction, independent contractors may subcontract some or all of the services. A dependent contractor will resemble an independent contractor, but is an exclusive service provider, which is the hallmark of being an employee.

Employees on the other hand are dependent on and subject to the control of the employer. Employees provide service on an exclusive basis to one employer.  Employers will provide the tools and workspaces required for employees to work, and they must provide the services personally.

Business owners should be aware of the distinction between contractors and employees because if there are any mischaracterizations of the relationship, the business can suffer costly consequences.

Some considerations:

  • The worker will be entitled to certain rights regarding wages and hourly restrictions. The worker has the right to make a claim to the Ministry of Labour or a court and obtain an order for the business to pay these wages, or comply with these obligations.
  • Moreover, an employee is entitled to notice or pay in lieu of notice and additional payments upon termination. If there is no written agreement that limits the amount of notice and other entitlements upon termination, the business may be required to provide a significant payout following a termination.
  • Employers must remit premiums (including EI, CPP, and EHT) on behalf of its employees. Canada Revenue may order an employer to pay retroactive remittances and impose a fine for failing to remit on behalf of a worker.

If your business decides to hire an employee or contractor, you should consider the type of relationship you wish to have with the worker. You should equally set out that relationship in a written employment or contractor agreement; and act in accordance with the terms of that agreement.

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Naming Your Business

At the onset of launching your business, you will have already identified the type of industry you would like to enter. You will have likely established the product or service you would like to sell as well, in addition to its structure. But coming up with a name that corresponds with the vision you have established for your business can be a bit challenging, especially since the name is the first thing people will see. It’s your one chance to let the vision for your business shine. Before registering your name, spend some time considering many names. Getting other people’s opinion will only help strengthen your decision. Once you’re confident in the formation and the character of your business you can then proceed to think of possible names.

Some things to keep in mind when selecting a name:

1. Should be reflective of your brand.
Ensure that people can identify the type of industry or have a general idea for the product or service you’re going to be selling. You can do so by including key words relative to your industry in your name so people will have a better idea of your business. Keep in mind that the name you choose shouldn’t just be one that appeals to you, but should also appeal to your target customer.

2. Be creative.
You can consider making up words that do not exist currently, so that you can coin the word to your business, or you can alternate existing words to have new forms of spelling or meanings. Ensure that the name coincides rightly with the vision set for your business. Were you looking for something a little bit trendier? Maybe conservative? Fun? Professional? These are all things you will have to consider when selecting your name.

Remember never to rush the process of selecting a name for your business. Take your time and alternate between different names to identify one that will best suit the vision you have for your business.

Always search up existing business names. Take advantage of search engines like Google and Yahoo to test the market. Not only will you gain better insight into the names that are currently being used, but you will also be able to better identify other competitors in your sector.

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Small Biz Café Milestone!

We’ve reached another milestone with the Small Biz Café! In commemoration of our 150th blog post, we’d like to say thank you yet again for your continued support and interest. The topics for our blog are carefully selected to reflect the interest of our clients. We strive to provide you with interesting and engaging articles we hope you enjoy reading weekly. Join our discussion and let us know which topics you would like to see covered.

Here’s a highlight of some of our favourite posts since launching the blog.

1. Pricing your Products (Published August 14th, 2013)
How do you determine the pricing of your products? How can you establish the right amount to meet your bottom line without pushing away your customers? To identify the best price suitable to your business, consider the cost of supplies; how much will it cost you exactly to make your product?  You will also want to factor in your competitors’ prices. You will need to look at the cost of the product without your markup- naturally if the product’s prices are higher; you will want to mark-up the prices accordingly. Ensure there is a market for your products in your area. Factoring in industry trends and demographics should provide you with the appropriate pricing.

2. The Virtual Business (Published July 24th, 2013)
Being accessible virtually anywhere is paramount for any small business. You will want to access your information (such as databases, accounting spreadsheets and inventory records) at all times in case of emergency. Always use a secure internet connection, reliable WI-FI connection, password protected programs, virus protection and the appropriate mobile device for maximum performance.

3. Handling Negativity on Social Media (Published December 12th, 2012)
Social media is fundamental for businesses… it encourages active engagement and provides great exposure, but putting yourself out there can also be a perfect platform for negative criticism to arise. How you deal with this negativity will speak wonders of your business. Remember to respond immediately and offer a solution. Never delete the comment but address it as soon as possible.

Thank you again for following our page! We look forward to continue bringing you articles on current business and entrepreneurship topics.

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Including Hashtags in your Social Media Marketing

Whether you’re active on social media for personal reasons or for business, if you’re looking to attract attention- hashtags are one way to do to so. Since their initial appearance in 2007, hash tags have become one of the best ways to discover new content and put yourself out there on an international level. Whether they are used on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram or Vine, this current trend is a great way to connect with others and lead to an increase in revenue.

You’ve likely encountered hashtags as of late since they are practically everywhere. But for those of you who are just starting out, hashtags are a word or a group of words that will follow the pound (#) symbol (for example #summer). You can hashtag your brand so that users worldwide can showcase their purchases from your product or service. Highlight and repost those reviews for optimal results and active engagement.

We’ve written blogs in the past regarding hashtagging on Instagram and Twitter, but recently Facebook has adopted the method as well. When you hashtag on Facebook, your post is visible to people who will be interested in your business: a great way to target your niche market.

Some things to keep in mind when using the hashtag feature:

1. Always capitalize the #FirstLetterInEachWord – this will make your hashtag more readable and will further drive your point.

2. Try to not to include too many words in your hashtag—it will be much more beneficial for you to concentrate on specific words that will apply to your business. You will notice that in doing so you will have an easier time reaching your target market.

3. Ensure that they are relevant– while it may be tempting to hashtag everything that comes to mind, you may end up sacrificing your credibility and professionalism.

If you aren’t quite comfortable with using hashtags, try checking out some of your own favourite businesses to see how they are working with this technique, or contact the Business Enterprise Centre for more assistance.

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Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)- What you need to know

All business owners should now be aware of Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL). Currently effective as of July 1st, 2014, Canada’s new legislation requires business owners to request permission to send e-mail marketing messages to their clients. Continue to do so without their consent and you could be looking at major penalties of millions of dollars.

Legitimate complaints are turned over to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which may investigate the situation to determine if the messages violate the policies set by the CASL. Small businesses are not excluded from these laws either: any commercial enterprise that does not comply with these guidelines will be subject to all major penalties.

Prior to delivering any e-mail marketing, it should be made clear that the recipient has consented to receive marketing information. You must receive recipient permission prior to sending them electronic marketing communications including e-mails, text messages and even social media. Businesses should clearly identify themselves in each message and the unsubscribe button should be visible on the page.

The new law forbids:

  • Any electronic marketing message sent electronically, including e-mail address, social media and text messages, without the consent of the recipient.
  • Webpage destination change resulting in the user being sent to a different destination without his or her consent.
  • Any use of false or misleading depictions to promote products or services
  • Collection of e-mail addresses without consent

To ensure you comply with these new standards, be sure you understand the difference between implied consent and expressed consent. Under implied consent, a previous relationship exists and it is not explicitly articulated. Expressed consent must include your identifying information, a defined purpose for communication and a mutual understanding of the business relationship.

Expressed consent is now the norm in Canada and businesses will have to make the adjustments to cater to these new requirements. Avoid any unnecessary legal battles or burdens by ensuring the relationship is clearly defined and acts in accordance with the new guidelines.

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