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5 Tips to Help Your Small Business Grow

Being a small business owner can be simultaneously very satisfying and incredibly stressful. You’re responsible for the well-being of your company and the livelihoods of the people you employ. It can be a lot of pressure sometimes but you should also feel a sense of pride that you’re doing the best job you can. Whether you received government grants for small businesses when starting out or not, you worked hard to build this operation from the ground up.

The successes that you’ve had up until now are due to your hard work and the passion of the other workers you’ve surrounded yourself with. In order to continue to grow your business, it’s important that you always look into new ideas. Take a look at the following five tips to help your business grow. They should allow you to look towards the future and have even greater aspirations.

1. Try to Be Innovative

In order to have success in the business realm, you need to do your best to be innovative. If your business doesn’t stand out from the pack in some ways, then you’re liable to get lost in the mix. Do your best to offer new and exciting products. If your business is more focused on providing a service, then you need to innovate in that way by providing services the competition can’t.

2. Customer Service Is Key

It should go without saying that your relationship with your customers is the most important aspect of your business. Always ensure that they’re happy with their experiences when dealing with your business. When you’re training new employees, you must impress upon them that good customer service can make or break a business. When your customers are happy to see the workers and have good interactions with them, they’re far more likely to become loyal patrons.

3. Make Use of Social Media

In this day and age, you must have a social media presence. Businesses that aren’t making use of social media networks to increase their visibility are behind the times. You should create profiles for your business on all of the major sites and then do your best to engage with your target audience.

Be sincere with your social media outreach and also don’t be afraid to do something unique or funny. Standing out can be a very good thing in the business world. If you can get potential customers to remember your name, they’re going to be more likely to want to try your services.

4. Competitive Pricing

You can’t afford to price products or services too low. Even though there is a threshold that you can’t go below, you should do your best to offer competitive pricing options. Always research what your competition is doing. Keep an eye on their price points and do your best to always match or best them.

When your prices are very reasonable, it will give you a better reputation with your customers. Positive word of mouth will spread that you give great deals and you’ll see more business because of it. Of course, you also need to ensure to always provide top-notch service to go with those amazing prices.

5. Make Use of Customer Surveys

It might seem to be an unusual choice but customer surveys can be very useful for your business. Getting information directly from your customers about what they want to see more of at your business can be quite valuable. You’ll be able to do your own market research in this fashion and can also get feedback on how well your customer service is going.

Use everything at your disposal to make sure that your clientele has the best experience possible. When you do all of these things, your business will be sure to grow. It may take time to grow exponentially but making steady improvements year over year will ensure that you stay a successful operation for a long time to come.

Doug

Four Tips to Fund Small Business Growth

Growing your small business requires exceptional planning and plenty of time, energy and sweat. However, it also usually requires a significant amount of funding. In many cases, a business does not have enough funds available to pay for all new product developments or expansion plans. Between government grants for small businesses and other options, you may be able to find the extra funding that you need to accomplish your business growth plans and to seize the opportunities that are available to you right now..

1. Use a Grant

Government grants for small businesses are essentially free money, so this makes them one of the best financial resources to use. Before you borrow money or give away a portion of your company to a partner or an investor, explore all of the grant options available. The Internet is a great resource to use to locate grants that may be available to your business.

2. Think About Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a relatively new concept, and it allows you to fund a loan from dozens or even hundreds of individuals rather than from a single bank. There are many crowdfunding platforms available for you to use. You simply create a profile for your loan request, and you wait for people to show interest through partially funding your loan. This is a great idea if you have bad credit or if you do not want to go through the typical bank loan process.

3. Apply for a Small Business Loan

Applying for a small business loan is one of the most traditional ways to raise money. It continues to be a popular option because it is effective. You will need to have a formal business plan prepared, and you will need to provide the bank with all of your personal and business financials. The loan process can be lengthy, but this may be a great way to get the money that you need.

4. Find an Investor or Partner

Another idea is to locate a partner or investors. This could be a silent partner who simply gives you money in exchange for a share of the profits going forward. It could also be an active partner who brings networking connections, work experience or something else to the table as well as money that you need for growth.

Business growth rarely comes without its aches and pains. One of the most common causes of growth pains relates to finances. If you plan ahead and seek financing before you begin your growth and expansion plans, you may be able to reduce stress and even mitigate risk in some cases. Examine each of these financing options carefully. Remember that you could use money from multiple sources as needed rather than only from one source.

Doug

Four Benefits of Starting a Small Business

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and an amazing idea, you can start a small business and be successful with it. Government grants for small businesses are available, and they can provide you with the funds that you need to get your operation off the ground. The following are four ways you can benefit from starting one:

1. Tax Breaks

One great thing about having a small business in Canada is that you get to take advantage of quite a few benefits. One of those benefits is the home business lot of deductions that you can take. That’s right. You can receive some deductions for using your home as your business if you spend money for office supplies and utilities that go toward the business operations. You may even have the opportunity to take auto deductions if you have a business that delivers products to customers.

2. Loans and Advances

When you own a business, a whole new world of credit opportunities opens up to you. You may be able to qualify for merchant advances as well as a loan that will help you to get better equipment for your business. If you can show that your operation is successful, financial businesses will be willing to invest in you. You could apply for remodeling grants and things like that, as well. Just watch what’s available for you once you open the doors to your establishment.

3. Customizable Schedule

Another wonderful thing about owning a small business is that you can make your own schedule. That means that you can work with any other obligations that you have like schooling or taking care of your family. You’re your own boss, so you can show up for work or not show up whenever you please. The customizable schedule is still and will always be one of the greatest joys of owning a small business.

4. Control and Personal Joy

Owning your own business will make you feel accomplished. You’ll also have that sense of control in that you can choose who to serve and not serve. You can choose what is ethical and moral for your business and what isn’t. You can choose the type of business partners with whom you want to be involved. It’s a wonderful feeling to look at the business that you have built and truly take in its growth. It’s a whole separate joy to know that you can pass that business down to your children.

If you have a mind for business and are good with customer service, you may want to think about starting a small business. You could even choose one that has little or no overhead to get yourself started.

Doug

5 Ways to Grow Your Small Business

Once you have established your business, you need to shift your focus to the actions you need to take to help it grow.

1. Acquire Capital

There is a reason people say, “You need to spend money to make money.” This is especially true for small businesses. Everything that you need to run your business costs money, including basic office supplies, the rent and utilities for your place of business, any marketing, and product development. There are several ways to acquire enough capital to fund your business. You can start a funding campaign, you can seek government grants for small businesses, or you can even find an investor.

2. Perform Market Research

Perform market research by asking your target audience what they want to see and networking with your competitors and other companies in your niche. Find out what works for them, and what doesn’t work. How much money do they spend on marketing, and how much time do they spend on social media? Knowing what works in your industry, and then implementing it in your business will help your business grow.

3. Establish Your Online Presence

It is a rare company today that does not have at least a website. Social media is here to stay, and learning how to use it correctly can only help you connect with more people that you never would have reached otherwise. If you don’t already have one, consider building a website and at least one social media account to establish your online presence.

4. Grow Your Email List

The hardest part about running a small business is converting prospects into actual customers, and then get them to return for more. The easiest way to do this is to create a loyal following of customers by growing your email list. These are people who have subscribed to your online content and will be more likely to buy your online products over and over again.

5. Develop a Product

The easiest way your small business can make money and grow significantly is to develop an original product, especially one that has little overhead. Online products, such as courses or ebooks, are fantastic products to sell that do not cost much to make, but the return can be substantial. Developing your own product means that you get to keep all of the profits, and not just a small commission for selling someone else’s products. More profits going back into your business means more money you can put towards developing more products, advertising, or even hiring a staff. More profits means your business is growing.

Acquiring capital, doing market research, establishing your online presence, and developing an original product are great ways to grow your small business.

Doug

8 Ways Small Business Owners Can Secure Government Funding

Government grants for small businesses are a great source of funds for start-up entrepreneurs. Because grants are not debt or equity, entrepreneurs don’t have to repay the money or surrender ownership to attract these funds. Unfortunately, small businesses owners are often overwhelmed by the complex application processes. The following tips can help you tap into government grants.

1. Apply to lesser-known funds

Competition is very high for a fraction of the programs, particularly since some government grants are more popular than others. Hundreds of the not-so-popular funding programs will, therefore, have trouble attracting applicants, as a result of which they are often under-subscribed. However, you’ll improve your odds further if you don’t apply to the same funds as every other applicant. Fortunately, funding search tools that can be used to identify these lesser-known funds are now available online.

2. Highlight how your small business contributes to the economy

In your application, demonstrate how the funds received will help build the economy. Increasing your company’s revenue is not the government’s main objective. As such, the government has to ensure taxpayer dollars are used in a way they will bring socio-economic benefits like the creation of jobs and advancement of regional development.

3. Collaborate with industry leaders

For some government grants, partnering with large corporate applicants is the only way small businesses can attract commercialization and R&D funding. As such, you can increase your eligibility for larger grants by building networks and partnerships within your industry.

4. Explore different types of funding

Many small business owners know about R&D tax credits. However, very few are familiar with the various funding programs available at municipal, provincial, and federal levels. Since new government grants for small businesses are announced on a regular basis, staying informed is important.

5. Present a winning case

The government supports businesses that have achievable short and long-term objectives. To attract the more substantial funding commitments, companies need to have a 3-year strategy at the very least. In your application, show how the funds can help you achieve your company’s goals and ensure overall success.

6. Apply to multiple funds

Small businesses are usually eligible for several different types of government funding. Applying to multiple programs increases your chances of securing a government grant, especially if you base your strategy on facts, data, and analytics.

7. Pay attention to the details

Approximately 80 percent of government grant applications do not make it beyond the screening stage. Failure to meet the basic compliance criteria is cited as the main reason for rejection at this stage. You can improve your chances of success by hiring the services of an expert who understands the eligibility requirements and priorities.

8. Expand your online toolkit

You can use online tools to match your company with the best-suited government grants for small businesses like yours. These tools can aggregate and rank funding programs, reducing the amount of time it would take to search for a suitable grant and opening up a variety of viable funds for your organization.

Doug

4 Top Reasons Small Businesses Fail

Starting a business, every business owner wants to succeed, but most small businesses often fail at the infancy stage. Unfortunately, statistics show that the numbers of young companies that are going out of business are growing by the day. The failure, unfortunately, cuts across the board from manufacturing, retail to construction. The reasons these small businesses fail are numerous. However, we are going to explore four of the main ones.

1. Insufficient capital

Capital has been cited as the number one reason small businesses do not succeed. Most governments have realized this cause and have started the government grants for small businesses as an initiative to try save businesses. Lucky entrepreneurs who qualify for the grant stand better chances of succeeding than those who do not receive any. Other institutions such as banks have also come up with incentives to offer loans and other financial instruments to support the small growing businesses. Lack of cash flow management skills has also been cited as a financial challenge. For instance, a starting entrepreneur can take a loan and fail how to effectively allocate it to aid the business needs.

2. Poor planning

More often than not, small business owners are caught up in their financial freedom dream that they fail to invest in skills that are necessary to run a business. Failure to plan accordingly is detrimental; it is often said that failure to plan is planning to fail. A business plan is important when starting a business; unfortunately, very few budding business owners create one. In addition, they just get into business with enthusiasm that they fail to do proper market research that would enable them to draft strategies to deal with competition.

3. Wrong Reasons

Starting a business should be about passion or filling in a market gap. However, most people get to business for all the wrong reasons. Some will get to business so as not to report to a manager. Failure will come when they realize they lack the acumen to run a business successfully despite having the right skills. It is important to first understand the reason you want to start your small business; the fact that you dislike your boss will not cut it. Soon the enthusiasm will fade away, and you will have a failing business.

4. Poor marketing

Starting a business is not enough; you need to let your clients know that you exist. You need to understand what it is you are selling and come up with effective marketing strategies. Most people will fail to know where to meet their clients; for instance, if your potential clients spend most of their time on social media sites then that is where you need to advertise. Create a working marketing strategy and stick to it. Marketing is not an expense; it is an investment, so invest.

Doug

5 of the Best Small Business Tips

1. Talk with other business owners who run a similar business to your own

They may know more about government grants for small businesses. Find out what is working for them, and don’t be shy about sharing with them the successes you have made. There are enough customers to go around. Network with everyone you meet, including your customers. You never know who you might come across. Always have a business card to hand out or a story to tell. People will remember you and want to visit your business more often. Join your local Chamber of Commerce and participate in as many gatherings as you can manage. Getting to know other business owners in your community can help you enormously.

2. Market your business in places your customers will find you

Every business owner knows they need to market their business, but where? Marketing can be especially expensive. With social media as the newest platform, it is easy to post something every day that your customers can use. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many others can help you gain popularity within your demographic, and allow you to advertise specials daily if you wanted to. Pay attention to which platforms work best, and focus on them. You can also use your local newspapers, news stations, local radio stations, and even local businesses that may want to advertise your business, to their customers, for a trade of some kind. Keep marketing fun, for you and your customers, and they will want to look for more of what you have to offer.

3. Whatever you do, do not give up on your business

The first few years are always hard for new businesses. Plan, monetarily, for your business to be slow for the first couple of years. If you have a few great months, save your money for the months that could be slow. Always put back into your business. Learn to live frugally for a few years, waiting for your business to flourish. Find people to surround yourself with who can offer advice and positive feedback to any doubts you might be feeling. There can be people close to you who may doubt your dream of making your business a success, and you’ll have to reassure them, without allowing for their negativity to affect your decision making. Learn more about government grants for small businesses.

4. Ask your customers what they think about their experience in your establishment

There is no better way to find out how you are doing than from your customers themselves. Take their opinions to heart, without taking offense. These are the people you would like to return over and over again. Offer your customers something for their opinion, even if it is a coupon or piece of candy. Let them know you want to make improvements for them, and you are listening to their needs. The next time they come in, ask them what they think of the changes you have made. This will create a stronger relationship between yourself and your very necessary clientele.

5. Be Grateful for every customer that walks through your door and for every opportunity that comes your way

It is easy to become pessimistic when you only have a handful of customers each day, but instead of looking at the glass half empty, remind yourself that a few customers is better than no customers. Look for ways to show your appreciation to your customers. You can do this by sending hand written notes, a display of fresh flowers inside of your establishment every week, incredible customer service each and every time, etc.. Your business will flourish with gratitude, hard work, and a positive attitude.

Doug

Best 20 Ways To Finance Your Startup in Canada (Miss it at Your Own Risk)

There is something about owning and running your own business, being our own boss, creating something new, that is incredibly appealing. However, setting up a new business is far from the idyllic scenario one would like. It is wrought with risks and perils and financial problems. Luckily, government grants for small businesses can help you out.

Listing 20 Ways by which you can finance your Canadian based Startup:

1. Buy Local Program (British Columbia) – Website

The BC government provides funding to businesses that contribute to agriculture, food, and seafood industries. The funding can be used for marketing, advertising or social media campaigns. The condition for receiving this grant, however, is that the business must be based in British Columbia and the marketing campaign must be new. The entrepreneur must contribute at least 50% of the costs.

2. AVAC Ltd. (Alberta) – Website

AVAC was created in 1997 by the Government of Canada and the province and Alberta which provides investment opportunities for business based in Alberta, or can provide economic benefit to the province of Alberta, that focus on agriculture, industrial technology and renewable resources. AVAC provides grants to research and commercial based endeavours.

3. Export Market Access (Ontario) – Website

This program grants small businesses up to 50% (up to a maximum of $150,000) of the cost of the projects that develop export sales, or are looking to break in to the export business. The grant alleviates costs of research, marketing, bidding, marketing etc. The business must have at least 5 employees and have sales worth $500,000 or more per year.

4. Northern Ontario Heritage Fund (NOHFC) Programs – Website

Again in Ontario, we have the Ontario Heritage fund. The NOHFC is aimed at creating and growing employment opportunities in the region. It provides grants for new businesses, expansion of old businesses, internships etc. The NOHFC website provides a complete list of available options to apply in.

5. Emerging Music Business Program (Nova Scotia) – Website

Nova Scotia provides grants to emerging artists, musicians, and Registered Societies up to 50% (with a a maximum limit of $4000) to set up businesses in the region. The constraint is that the artist or at least 3/4th of the employees must be residents of the province.

6. Fondation du maire de Montréal pour la jeunesse (Montreal) – Website

This program helps young entrepreneurs set up new businesses by covering up to 25% (or $30,000 whichever is lower) of the project costs. The business must be set up in the city or borough of Montreal and the by a Canadian resident 18 or older, and 35 or younger.

7. Marketing Support Program (Prince Edward Island) – Website

The PEI program provides 40% of the costs related to advertising, marketing, research and promotion of a business set up in Prince Edward Islands. The business must be related to food development, manufacturing, bioscience, information technology, or craft/giftware sectors.

8. Natural Stone Assessment (Newfoundland/Labrador) – Website

A maximum of $50,000 or 75% of project costs may be granted to an applicant for resource assessment and explorations per project. The business, however, must be registered to operate in Newfoundland/Labrador and the applicant must hold the rights to the mineral lands mentioned the application. The applicant must also provide proofs that they are able to cover the rest of cost of the project not covered under the grant.

9. New Brunswick Growth Program – Website

Based on the number of jobs created, this program offers 50% of eligible costs up to $100,000, or up to $15,000 per new job opportunity. The contribution is non-repayable. To avail this the business must be based in New Brunswick and relate to manufacturing, IT, tourist, or commercial service industries. A few other industries are also eligible.

10. Ontario Conservation Fund – Website

A number of provinces offer grants to energy efficient industries. The Ontario Conservation Fund has supported innovative research, technology and innovations since 2005. The maximum time-frame for a project applying for this grant is 3 years. Amount allocated depends on the type of energy it pertains to and eligible costs.

11. Efficiency Nova Scotia – Website

This program offers businesses the chance to receive rebates by making their business more energy efficient. By alleviating the drain on energy, the program seeks to boost the overall economy and thus, helps owners to set up optimized businesses. This also helps lower project costs.

12. Hydro Quebec Energy Efficiency Programs – Website

The Hydro Quebec Energy Efficiency Program offers customized financial aid to projects that adopt and plan to sustain energy efficient models in their business practices. Grants and rebates are offered on the basis of the project in question and the cost of implementing it.

13. Growing Forward 2 (Alberta Farms) – Website

This is a federal initiative program that provides $3 billion in aids to farmers and business owners all over Alberta to help them start businesses. It also includes $2 billion specifically for meeting economic growth needs of the region. However, the program is currently offline and not accepting applications due to exhausting its funds. Additional funding is being requested.

14. British Columbia Hydro Power Smart – Website

Another province investing in smart energy techniques is British Columbia. Incentives are available for a variety of techniques. For those unsure, Key Account Managers can also help in optimizing solutions so that the best approach is selected.

15. Entrepreneur Support Program (SEED) – Website

This program is designed to offer $15,000 per year to businesses that operate Northwest Territories. It helps small businesses and partnerships with gross annual sales of $500,000 or less. It provides assistance with start-up costs, capital, operational costs etc.

16. Financial Support for Aspiring Farmers – Website

Quebec residents between ages 18 and 40 starting out in the agriculture industry can request and receive loans up to $25,000 to help jump start their business. The condition is that the business must contribute to sustainable development.

17. AgriMarketing — SME Component – Website

For small and medium businesses geared towards agri-food, food and seafood sectors, owners are eligible to receive up to $250,000. To avail this, businesses must make headways into existing export markets, or create entirely new ones to boost the economy.

18. Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks (CENGN) – Website

Innovative communication technologies are supported by Canadian Government via this program. Funds of $50,000 to $100,000 are available to help in commercialization of new products which meet the software and hardware criteria.

19. Consulting Western Economic Diversification – Website

Female entrepreneurs in Manitoba can avail this program to help start their business in the province. Loans up to $150,000 are available in a 5-year period with the additional option of market analysis, counselling services etc.

20. Summer Company – Website

Specifically designed for students and young entrepreneurs, this program allows Canadian citizens ranging from 15 to 29 grants of up to $3000, as well as, on-hands training to help them run their own business in the summer.

Doug

4 Ways for Developing Your Small Biz Employees With Good Video Content

When we look around the business world, we see a variety of business owners. Some are clearly blessed with a background in their industry before they start their business. Others have business-related skills from other industries (or government grants for small businesses to get them started), and they can think on their feet and launch their enterprise. Whatever their level of experience is, they get through those first few bumps of launching a business. The best business owners can apply their business skills to new situations. They will hope that they can train their employees to act as they would in different scenarios as well. If you own a business, we hope you will enjoy these 4 ways to develop your employees through good video content:

1. Face a new set of challenges.
Being the leader means that you have a new set of challenges. Suddenly, you are challenged to get your employees to respond as you would in different situations. You could work with a video production firm to create a good training video, which would definitely help your employees understand your expectations.

2. Use videos to teach policies and procedures.
As your company grows, you will also find that you cannot possibly be at your business location all of the time. You cannot be available to advise what to do in every situation. This makes it imperative that your training content, especially employee learning videos, will teach employees what they should do. They may not always respond exactly as you would, but they can have a good idea of what you might do.

3. Make videos interesting and interactive.
Some employees will watch your training videos having already a wealth of experience to draw upon. They have been working for your company for a while. Others will be brand new or relatively new to the company. They will have less background experience from which to draw. Both types of employees will be in the viewing audience, and they will need to be entertained or informed by material that doesn’t put them to sleep.

4. Plan appropriate follow-up activities.
When an employee watches a video, it provides one context (or perhaps several in sequence) for how information or skills should be applied. Employees also need opportunities to apply what they’ve learned from a video on their own. You could do this by giving employees scenarios to work through in small groups, with a partner, or by themselves. The idea is to get them to take actions based on a scenario but with that new learning they just acquired.

Growing your enterprise with government grants for small businesses is pretty exciting, but it also means adding more employees. The more employees that are added, the farther you are away from the work that each individual does. This means, for example, that clients are interacting with people who aren’t you. Because you can’t clone yourself, you need great training tools. If you will use videos for employees to become better at their jobs, be sure to try some of those points discussed above, always with your personal take on the subject factored into the content. When you set expectations for employees, you should give them a chance to do their jobs. Hopefully, you’ve pointed them in the right direction!

Doug

6 things you need to do to ensure success in your small business

Starting up a successful small business talks dedication, hard work, and careful planning. If you’re just starting out on your business venture, you can probably use all the help you can get.

The following are six helpful tips on what you need to do in the early days of running your small business to maximize your chances of success:

Set detailed goals

If you’re wishy-washy and lack details when setting down goals, you’re probably going to achieve less. On the other hand, setting very clear goals will give you something specific to strive for. It will also make it easier to identify your successes and failure.

Minimize the overhead costs you have to cover to stay in business

Keeping your overhead down will make it more easy to start bringing in a profit as soon as possible. Look for any ways that you can bring down production costs and learn to be frugal. If you’re not bringing in the profits that you want, consider focusing on your overhead costs rather than bringing in more sales/clients in the early days.

Don’t quit your day job until you’re secure

A lot of small business owners are too eager to quit their day job and do so too soon. While you’ll undoubtedly be overwhelmingly busy if you’re managing both a full time job and a fledgling small business, you don’t want to jump the gun on giving up that regular pay check. Try not to quit your day job until your business is generating more than enough income to be sustainable and hopefully at least as much income as your original day job brings in.

Specialize by finding the right niche

You can minimize competition by niching down to a more specific product or service. Put some thought into which niches in your industry are likely to experience the most growth in the coming years.

Take advantage of any government programs that may assist you

Its in the government’s best interests to promote the growth of small businesses because more successful businesses means more tax revenue. You can take advantage of government grants for small businesses to acquire more capital. Capital is something that almost any young company finds itself regularly in need of, so look at this way to acquire capital that you won’t even have to pay back down the road.

Network

By getting to know others in related industries in your community, you can network to develop a support network and to search for new resources that will help you run your company. Attend local events or join your area’s Chamber of Commerce to find more networking opportunities.

Doug