What happens when owners decide to retire?

Many employees and administrators don’t always think about what will happen when the most important person in the business, the owner and creator, decides to retire.

owners decide to retire

When starting a new small business, owners have to decide on a wide variety of variables. After the main jumping off points are tackled – what products or services will be offered, what will the company’s name be, how many people will be hired, etc. – leaders have to think about the most miniscule of details, like colors for the logo, the type of devices present in the office and so on.

Much of the focus is placed on the factors that will be immediately needed or plans that should come to fruition within the next five to 10 years or so. It’s easy to just assume that the company, once it sees success, will be able to continue along that trajectory forever.

But, that’s certainly not always the case. Many employees and administrators don’t always think about what will happen when the most important person in the business, the owner and creator, decides to retire. How can Canadian small businesses plan this out so they’re prepared?

The owner needs to draft a plan
Maybe not immediately when a startup opens its doors, but when company leaders hit a certain age, they need to start considering what’s going to happen when they leave. Only the owner can decide who’s going to assume the highest position, as well as other necessary power shifts, so it’s imperative that they start crafting blueprints for the move. 

A recent Scotiabank revealed that around 25 per cent of small business owners haven’t yet considered what’s going to happen to their company when they retire, while only 19 per cent have a concrete succession plan. At the very least, the leader needs to legally outline who will be the next head.

That’s not the only blueprint that should be drafted, Scotiabank executives noted. Leaders also need to pen contingency plans in case an accident occurs and the owner dies or otherwise has to step down unexpectedly. 

Lean on accounting software
One thing that all companies, whether or not they have long-term plans in place, need to do is use accounting software in the office. Immediately, this can help leaders keep track of real-time finances and dedicate more time and effort to other areas because of ease of use.

And due to the fact that these programs are relatively simple and helpful, they can be used by other administrators once the head of the business decides to step down. This can reassure all involved that the company has the ability to continue into the future.

Moving to a new office? How to make this less of a hassle

How can business owners make moving day simpler and open the door to embrace a new opportunity within the company?

Moving to a new office

Change can be a great thing in a business sense. Sure, there are times when diverting from the status quo might have negative connotations, but this can also indicate that the business is growing and has to meet increased demand, which can then mean higher sales in the long run. This type of growth can be dealt with by doing things like taking on new employees or developing a cutting-edge product line.

Much of the time, when businesses expand, the owner has to make the ultimate decision to move to a newer, perhaps bigger, workplace. This can enable more individuals to be hired, more work to be done and the company culture to change completely. That being said, as almost everyone knows, the actual moving process itself can be very stressful, especially when you’re dealing with a lot of furniture, files, devices and staffers. 

So, how can business owners make moving day simpler and open the door to embrace a new opportunity within the company?

Make a plan far in advance
While, of course, few business leaders would leave moving plans until the final days before they’re set to vacate, The Globe and Mail suggested that they need to come up with set plans fairly far in advance. Etelesolv founder Chris Thierry told the source that his telecom firm began preparing for the move six months in advance. Managers created a shared document so all employees were able to see what their responsibilities would be on the big day, then checked in weekly before it came time to pack up.

Schedule service installation
Business leaders need to consult with utility companies – everyone from Internet service providers to electricians – to make sure the new office is set up and is ready to function as soon as the employees and their equipment are settled. The newspaper recommended scheduling these things with a fair amount of lead time. Moreover, they can’t afford to forget to cancel their current accounts after the move is completed. 

Consult with a moving company
Owners probably know that they’re going to need to use the services of a moving company – it’s never a good idea to try to cut corners and rely on employees with large trucks. However, Small Business Computing reported that leaders should always meet with the movers beforehand so they can do a visual check of what’s going to be required from them. The news outlet noted that many such services provide online quotes, but having a perfect understanding of what needs to be done and how is sure to be crucial for success and efficiency.

Canada Post rate hikes go into effect, upsetting small business owners

In an effort to stave off ill-effects from the March 31 letter mail rate increase, Canada Post announced some helpful measures, but many leaders still worry.

Canada Post rate hikes go

While we all might like to think that we’re a part of the Digital Age, the fact is that there are still plenty of tried-and-true strategies for various things  in every aspect of our lives that we still fall back on. For instance, while nearly anyone with a computer is probably able to watch television how, when and where they want to thanks to live streaming, Netflix and other websites, a number of us would rather catch a season finale or big game in real time on the TV.

One way this plays into the lives of small business owners is through the mail. While people often check their email inboxes, especially now that smartphones are rampant, snail mail definitely isn’t dead, and is still a great way for startups to market themselves. In fact, a recent study from Lettermail revealed that 40 per cent of Canadian small businesses send at least 50 pieces of mail every month. 

As such, when Canada Post revealed a few months ago that it was taking steps to recoup costs, like hiking letter rates and consolidating mailboxes, it stung many owners. In an effort to stave off any ill-effects from the March 31 increase, the Post announced some helpful measures, but many leaders still worry.

What’s changed?
While the higher mailing costs were announced in December, small company leaders have been concerned about what this will mean for already small budgets. As such, in mid-March, Canada Post administrators revealed that the entity would try to help startups where possible.

For instance, CBC reported that these measures include a 5 per cent discount on stamps for VentureOne cardholders and Meter customers who buy at least a specific amount. 

“While we acknowledge that Canada Post has taken measures to reduce the pressure on business owners who rely on Lettermail, these changes don’t outweigh the added costs,” countered Canadian Federation of Independent Business President Dan Kelly.

What are the real effects?
Even if the measures to save money are helpful to some small companies, the fact remains that a lot of businesses are going to lose money if they continue to send marketing materials via Canada Post. More than that, they may have to start charging more for shipping and handling if consumers order merchandise online, because sending packages will be significantly more money. 

After all, these are not small hikes – stamps have gone from $0.63 to $0.85, but only if the stamps are bought in bulk. Single stamps are now $1. The CFIB reported that 98 per cent of small businesses will be affected.

Make sure your employees feel appreciated

What are some ways in which company leaders can make their staffers realize that their contributions don’t go unnoticed and that they’re integral to the business?

employees feel appreciated

Employee Appreciation day rolls around on March 7 every year. This is a day when leaders are known to do bring in desserts for their employees or suggest a team night out on the town. Taking action like this tends to result in more productive workers and a more close-knit company culture, because individuals know that their boss truly cares about them. 

However, after March 7 passes, business owners need to continue to show their staff that they’re appreciated throughout the year. In fact, what a leader does in the days and weeks following this event might be more important than the thanks they extend that day. 

So what are some ways in which company leaders can make their staffers realize that their contributions don’t go unnoticed and that they’re integral to the business?

Publicly commend
While something like completing a sale might not warrant a shout-out, going above and beyond the call of duty should always be acknowledged, and doing so publicly might give the worker in question a boost in confidence. Pointing out such an achievement at a company-wide meeting could empower that individual and give others in attendance something to strive toward. 

Consider thank you notes
A handwritten thank you can go a long way to showing a worker that they’ve done a great job and are highly valued. This can come off as more sincere than having a team lunch or night out, mostly because acknowledgements of this nature are individualized and unique. After all, writing out personal thank yous isn’t something that’s very common in corporate culture, so doing so might set that leader apart.

Remember to relax and let your hair down
While this might not be appropriate every time an employee does something notable, after particularly good months or quarters, it might be nice for the company owner to order from a nice restaurant for a lunch, suggest a business night at the bar, go on a startup-wide field trip or otherwise participate in a special event. However, the leader should remember to tell workers why this is occurring – that it’s to honor them. As such, listening to their suggestions on what to do might also be a good idea.

Have an appreciation ceremony
This could be a good yearly idea or be a perfect addition to the annual holiday party. A ceremony during which individuals are called out for their fantastic work and lauded for their efforts is a great way to show employees that they’re appreciated.

Canadian businesses aren’t embracing the Internet with much frequency

It might come as a surprise to many Canadians that not all small businesses have websites.

Internet with much frequency

Many people likely can’t remember a time during which they didn’t rely on the Internet. For instance, a number of Canadians don’t even have traditional TV and cable plans anymore – they watch the bulk of their programmes and films on services like Netflix or iTunes on their computers. Moreover, people can pay bills, check bank account balances, communicate with family and friends, complete work tasks and do a plethora of other things with the help of the Internet.

It would be easy, then, to assume that the majority of businesses in Canada are connected to the Web. After all, a 2013 Canadian Internet Regulation Authority report revealed that 80 per cent of individuals in the country go online regularly. As such, it might come as a surprise that that’s not the case at all small businesses.

Small companies going without websites
One way the Internet has revolutionized various industries is through the emergence of ecommerce platforms. However, another more recent report issued by CIRA found that only 41.1 per cent of Canadian small businesses have a website. The 2014 Factbook suggested, then, that the rest of the nearly 60 per cent are likely losing out on a significant amount of business as a result.

In all, the study noted that about 45.5 per cent of businesses in the nation have an online presence. That statistic is helped by the fact that 91.8 per cent of larger companies have websites.

This lack of websites has also put Canadian companies at a disadvantage in terms of geography. CIRA revealed that $2 out of every $3 spent online in Canada goes to businesses in the United States. This is thought to be a direct result of the lack of retail economy that’s online.

Why should startups embrace the Internet?
There are a number of reasons why small business leaders should use the Internet. For one, there’s the fact that an online connection might expedite a number of processes, like synchronizing accounting software with registers and e-commerce platforms in real time, as well as allowing employees to work at home and communicate more simply with clients.

We’re moving into a digital world, if we’re not there already. As such, those who don’t embrace the Internet now will likely get lost in the flood in the very near future and won’t be able to reach out to customers as easily, losing out on business left and right.

Tax season is a favourite time for hackers

After holiday festivities have come and gone and leaders start thinking about compiling tax records, smaller companies often become very lucrative for hackers.

hackers

There are times of the year when hackers tend to thrive. For instance, think about the holiday season – many consumers are quick to whip out their credit cards and enter their financial information into any website that looks half legitimate if they see something a loved one would like to receive. The fact is, this time of the year provides a lot of opportunities for criminals to take advantage of people when they’re spending a large amount of money.

And because small businesses tend to increase their revenues during this time, they’re often favourite targets as well. After all, startups don’t usually have complex and hard to crack security systems. But, it’s not just during the holiday season that this is a problem. In fact, after the festivities have ended and leaders start thinking about compiling tax records, smaller companies become very lucrative targets for hackers.

As tax time approaches, how can owners make sure their systems are protected?

Rely on reputable accounting software
While there are a lot of things business leaders can do to make sure their entire networks are safeguarded, but one of the first steps is to keep the accounting software itself secure. While installing firewalls and only doling out limited access to employees are definitely crucial, the leader should first make sure they pick a reputable program from a company that communicates with its clients in the event of an emergency.

Beware of phishing scams
The Ottawa Sun recently reported that the Canadian Revenue Agency is warning both consumers and businesses need to be wary of emails they receive around tax time. Specifically, some criminals have sent unsuspecting individuals emails posing as the CRA, asking them to click on a link and provide sensitive information, which is then used illegally to steal important data. The newspaper reported that the regulatory body never sends emails asking for this type of data, so anyone who receives such a message should be highly suspicious.

Hold regular scans
All businesses that use the Internet in the office, i.e. most companies in Canada, definitely need to have antivirus software installed in their systems. However, it’s not enough just to have these tools present – leaders need to do something with them. Namely, running the scans with regularity must be a priority. All employees should also be aware of this and do so on their own machines.

Going green in an office means more than embracing St. Patty’s Day

Showing peers, consumers and employees that a company is environmentally friendly is becoming very popular across the globe.

St. Patty's Day

On March 17, it seems as if everyone in Canada’s got Irish roots. It’s not uncommon to see little kids to businesspeople decked out in green with shamrocks adorning clothing and accessories. From sandwich shops to mom’s dining room table, corned beef and cabbage abound.

It’s often the colour green that is the central focus on St. Patrick’s Day, as it allows individuals from any background to show their festive side. However, this might get some small business owners thinking about how they can “go green” during other times of the year, and not just in vestments or decorations.

Showing peers, consumers and employees that a company is environmentally friendly is becoming very popular across the globe. There are dozens of things leaders can do to shrink the environmental footprint of their organization, but it might be easiest to start with how workers get to the office in the first place.

Putting the pieces in play 
One way a company can consciously lessen its adverse effects on nature is to allow staffers to work from home. In some businesses, this might not be appropriate all the time, but it might be a good idea to reward staffers who go above and beyond. This way, their cars won’t emit gasses, for example, because they’ll be in the driveway all day.

Leaders will might need to make some changes to make this possible, however. For instance, digitizing and saving documents on the cloud so they can be accessed everywhere is likely a good change. This can help anyone in the organization – if the owner wants to check on the vitality of company, he or she can simply log in to the accounting software and have a comprehensive picture in real time.

Encouragement goes a long way
Again, working from home might not be possible at all companies. That being said, there are a number of other things owners can do. For instance, they can offer discounts on public transit passes or encourage individuals to carpool.

According to The Toronto Star, one Canadian startup leader, Howard Chang, president of Top Drawer Creative, even pays his workers to lessen their carbon footprint. The newspaper reported that Chang gives employees who ride their bikes to work an extra $2 everyday, which has lead 12 of his 40 employees to take advantage of the perk.

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