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Archive for the ‘Managing’ Category

By Ken Sweeney

After watching President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last week it reminded me of an important lesson in life and in business….always listen to your constituents!  Whether it is your wife, your children, employees, customers or suppliers, it is important to listen and take their opinions into consideration.

This time last year, Obama was freshly inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States riding a huge wave of popularity and tasked with cleaning up an economic mess.   During the past 12 months as he was charting a new economic course for America, he was also working diligently on crafting a game changing health care bill.

As the year unfolded, it became apparent that the American people’s immediate priority was for ‘jobs’ and not ‘free health care’.  Yet Obama continued to push for health care as he felt that it was an important issue and legacy for his Presidency. Due to this, the people of Massachusetts voted for a Republican Senator delivering a strong message to Obama, we want jobs! As evidenced by Obama’s State of the Union address, Obama finally heard this message loud and clear.

This is a reminder that agendas should not be carved in stone.  Leadership must listen to its constituents and react if necessary by postponing or re-prioritizing an issue.

Imagine if as a business leader you planned for a major capital purchase in 2010 in order to expand into a new market or line of business.  Six months later as you are lining up the financing, the interest rates jump, a key customer in the new market faces a reduction in business, and yet as leader you continue to go ahead with the capital purchase.  In this example, had you listened to your customers and financial advisors you likely would not have proceeded with the purchase.  The lesson is that although advice received may not always lead to a change in your course of action,  always be listening!

Ken is the acting CFO for K&K Recycling Services, a Pickering, Ontario-based ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal processing, brokering and recycling company operating in Canada and the United States.  He is also a founding partner of Growth Equity Partners whose focus has been to support small to medium-sized private and publicly listed companies execute transformational business initiatives since 2001. Visit www.growthequitypartners.com

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Reposted from The Marketing Pad

By Jeff Bowman

The preliminary work is done. I have suffered the pain to make the gain and I had help all the way.

Last year I had surgery that reduced my ability to perform certain tasks necessary to my business. You may have read the blogs.

It took a lot of  physical effort to get back to where I was before the surgery.   The physiotherapy at times was painful to endure, and sometimes I questioned my ability to live up to the expectations of my therapist. She pushed me when she knew I could do it, and found the problematic areas and massaged them when I was having trouble or pushing too hard.

Heather is a specialist and knows her job well. She was able to increase my mobility, and decrease the pain while supporting my efforts each visit.

I work with many small business owners who are in the same boat but not for medical reasons.  Business is suffering, times are tough and the hours seem to get longer for less return.

At some point in our business lives we all need outside help to find our weak points and to set us on a regime to improve performance.  We could do it ourselves, but more often than not, that is what got us to this point in the first place.  A pair of fresh eyes, with an outside perspective, and a little support to push us forward is what the doctor orders.

There are coaches out there, who will, for a fee, help you. Before you take that route, I  suggest you consider establishing a small advisory group made up of other business people who you know and trust – a personal networking group that meets with the understanding that assisting one another will benefit everyone.

It takes networking to a higher level where business strategies and best practices are probed and shared by the group, some of whom  have experienced what your business is going through.  These professionals, with an outsider’s view, can help your business by making you accountable to the group to make changes. Ideas are stretched, practices  massaged but you will benefit from the group’s collective experience.

It’s worth a shot.  Be ready to work hard, accept constructive ideas and go into it knowing that suggestions made by others are not criticisms.

I call it Busiotherapy.

Jeff Bowman is a Sales and Marketing Specialist with The Marketing Pad Inc.. Follow Jeff’s blog at Blogpad or visit www.themarketingpad.com.

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ken sweeneyBy Ken Sweeney

Just like individuals, organizations grow and become what they are, based on their experiences.

So, the question is: What lessons were learned by those operating businesses during the economic downturn of the past twelve months?

Learn1. What happens in the macro environment (positive and negative) will undoubtedly affect all businesses.  Therefore, be aware of what is happening around you, anticipate the ebbs and flows and respond tactically.  If you could have anticipated the economic downturn or noticed it at its beginnings, would you have:

  • Cut back on buying that new equipment?
  • Not committed to the new ‘swanky’ office space?
  • Created strategic partnerships in new markets to expand your geographic reach and lessen dependence on traditional markets ‘close to home’

2. Understanding the fundamental drivers in your industry will allow business leaders to anticipate the speed, depth and duration of changes brought on by the macro environmen.  For instance:

  • If you are servicing the oil and gas industry, understanding the fundamental demand drivers to your client’s business, would enable you to refocus and  react to the change in demand for your products and services.  This may require a reduction in price to secure the business, or holding off on new staffing plans etc.
  • If you were supplying the solar industry, understanding government stimulus and policies towards promoting clean, domestic energy may lead you to expand production or services, or invest in R&D, etc.

3. Understanding the internal drivers of your own business.  As simplistic as it sounds, we often are so busy ‘putting out fires’ or dealing with the task at hand that we forget to step back, reflect and take stock of the inner workings of our own business.

  • How is employee morale?
  • How is internal communication working?
  • Have ‘I’ as the leader, communicated my thoughts and direction with respect to the business to all employees at all levels?  Have I addressed any concerns they may have?

Although we are exiting the recession, most prognosticators anticipate a long and slow recovery.  Therefore, take the time to reflect on the ‘lessons learned’ during the past year and use them to your advantage in strengthening and building your business.

Ken is currently the acting CFO for K&K Recycling Services, a Pickering, Ontario-based ferrous and non-ferrous scrap metal processing, brokering and recycling company operating in Canada and the United States.  He is also a founding partner of Growth Equity Partners whose focus has been to support small to medium sized private and publicly listed companies execute transformational business initiatives since 2001. Visit www.growthequitypartners.com

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david wojcikBy David Wojcik

How many times do I need to listen to someone pass the buck, tell me it’s not their job or blame someone because they couldn’t complete their own task?

It’s called accountability and it’s time that we all started taking a little more accountability for our actions.

At what point in our life did we learn that it’s not our fault.  Did it start at birth?  In our youth sometime?  Did our mama’s tell us it’s ok, it’s not your fault.

Character traits series - RESPONSIBILITYSometimes it isn’t but it’s the conditioning we fall into. It’s frustrating to see people blame others instead of taking responsibility.  It is refreshing to hear the words…”I made a mistake, it was my responsibility. Here’s my plan to correct the error. ”

How do you rationally argue with that statement?  Sure, if you’re a bully, you could berate the person for a while, drag them over the coals and humiliate them in front of their peers or staff.  But, what does that accomplish?  Nothing.  It does nothing for the recipient’s self-esteem.  It makes others listening feel uncomfortable and it makes the person delivering the harangue look stupid.

When your staff, peers, spouse or family members admit to an error, take responsibility and focus on being accountable, work with them on the solution.  Provide feedback in a positive manner.

As a business leader you are in business to make money and one of your greatest assets is your people.  Do your best to train them, mentor them and help them grow.  Help them understand the immense benefits of accepting responsibility and being accountable.

Coach them on saying “the buck stops here”.  I made a mistake and here’s how I’m going to fix it.”   You’ll get more respect from your staff, loyalty, productivity and solutions to your everyday business problems.

And if you do it only for selfish reasons, you’ll feel good about yourself for helping another human being.  As we all know, if you help enough people achieve their goals, they will help you achieve yours.

David is a seasoned business owner and management professional with 30 years experience. He is also the host of In Business on Rogers TV.

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Management

david

By David Pasieka

We have seen some exciting new technologies in the past couple of months and our work to “accelerate the path to commercial success” has been intensifying. Of particular interest are some of my clients with Waste to Energy, Solar, Water Treatment and Smart Grid technologies. Those organizations will be the backbone of the Ontario economy in the not too distant future.

As we work with these early stage organizations, a set of patterns are starting to emerge that are worthy of emphasis. Clearly, these technology companies are focusing in exciting and growing sectors. They are based in science and are well on their way to securing Intellectual Property (IP) protection for their inventions. Businesss models although initially “a little crude”, are being re-worked to demonstrate the ability to successfully “turn a profit”. Any investor who takes a “quick look” is quickly impressed on all three fronts.

So why aren’t we reading more about the successful financing of these companies by Angels, VC’s, Government grants and larger institutions?

A quick canvas of any investor group will tell you that management and its ability to execute often eclipses the process for securing early stage funding. Due diligence teams will ask the leadership team questions such as:

  • How many years of experience does the team bring to the table?
  • Have you successfully built other organizations to a successful exit?
  • Does the CEO have the depth and breadth to move the organization to its next level?
  • Are all key functional disciplines appropriately represented by the organization?
  • Does the management actually act and respond as an effective team?
  • Is the team able to articulate an action plan and deliver those promised results?
  • What kind of dashboards are used to track weekly, monthly and quarterly success?

These are extracts of a long list of diligence questions that any investor will need to be comfortable with before opening the cheque book. How about the one that Kevin O’Leary made famous on Dragon’s Den: “What if you get hit by a bus and you’re road pizza?”

The key for these emerging technology companies will be to do a detailed assessment of their team and its story around executing strategy. The assessment will no doubt uncover several holes that will need to be proactively addressed to mitigate investor risk. These may include:

  1. Identifying key hires that will be added once funding is secured
  2. Assembling that Advisory Board and ensuring that they are engaged
  3. Hiring part-time Mentors to work with lessor experienced executives
  4. Encouraging the completion of supplementary training programs
  5. Joining key sector networking forums and in some cases
  6. Identifying that the existing CEO may need to step aside in favour of a “been there, done it before” leader.

The good news for Entrepreneurs is that if their technology really is a “Game Changer”, the “Path to Profitability” is reasonable and the tactics to augment the “Execution Strategy” are sound, many seasoned investors will take a “serious second look” at the company with great result.

David Pasieka is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the RIC Centre. Learn more here.  Visit Our Contributors page for more information about David. Read his blog at www.cedarvue.blogspot.com

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FredHausmann-PortraitBy Fred Hausmann

Free Government money?  Does it really exist?

The answer to this is YES and YES.

The government — and particularly the Canadian government — has a  mandate to support various business development initiatives and they achieve this through incentive programs. Many of these incentive programs include tax rebates, direct funding, loans and other forms of grant money.

The challenge faced by most companies is awareness.

It’s simply not easy for the uninformed to know where to begin.

After all, you can’t search for something if you don’t know how to ask!

And therein lies the rub because it’s quite unintuitive to discover what government funding your company qualifies for.

So how do you figure out what programs you may be eligible for?

Unfortunately there is no “master list” out there.

Remember, many of the programs are constantly changing, or they are short lived due to sometimes limited funds available (i.e. first come, first serve).

In some cases the programs expire when funding is all allocated, or they shift into a neutral state until such time as the government allocates more money.

A good proactive accounting firm will help you identify available tax programs – but finding a firm that’s able to commit the required time to your business while maintaining deep ties into the available programs is often easier said then done. In fairness, while your accountant is likely excellent at managing the day to day financial aspects of your business, it’s quite an additional time commitment to stay informed about the ever changing landscape of available government tax deduction and tax credit programs.

That being said, here’s a brief example list of programs funded by various foundations and government ministries.

These ministries include:

  • Ontario Ministry of Economic development
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Business Development Bank of Canada
  • The Department of Canadian Heritage
  • Industry Canada
  • CANARIE
  • Defense Research and Development Canada
  • Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
  • Canadian Institute of Health Research
  • Ministry of Economic Development and Trade
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • Export Development Canada (EDC)
  • Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
  • Ontario Chamber of Commerce
  • Federation of Canadian Municipalities
  • Fednor
  • Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation
  • Ontario Ministry of Colleges, Training and Universities
  • National Research Council Canada
  • Ontario Centre of Excellence
  • Ontario Media Development Corporation
  • Ontario Ministry of Revenue
  • Sustainable Development Technology Canada

While this is not an exhaustive list, it gives you a good idea where the main potential sources of funding are for Ontario based companies. Currently all of these ministries have their own websites and investing some time reviewing them will identify the funding programs they are currently offering.

But What is the Best Option For My Business?

Each company’s needs are unique and your specialist can guide you, however at this time the most lucrative and largest funding source is the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program.

The SR&ED program gives business owners like you a total of $4B per year! This program refunds up to 68% of the eligible costs your business incurred (in Ontario) on ‘special’ projects.

In a nutshell, eligible costs are the costs associated with attempting to overcome technological uncertainties where it is not readily known how to overcome those technological limitations or barriers.

Needless to say, navigating the maze of government programs and obtaining free money is a complex process and with professional guidance often leads to a successful result.

Naturally you can use your current accountant or attempt the process alone, however it makes much more sense to have an experienced professional shepherd you through the application and manage the process for you.

About the Author:

Fred Hausmann is the founder and senior managing director at the FRED Group Inc. a business development and specialty tax service whose mandate is to source, secure and support your business through the maze of government funding options. Specialties include SR&ED and other tax refund/credit programs. Visit FRED Group’s website or contact Fred at  email fhausmann@FREDgroup.ca

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ingo koenig 2By Ingo Koenig

By definition innovation can be a creation (a new device or process) resulting from studying and experimenting or the act of starting something for the first time.  Innovations are results of knowledge, curiosity and drive. And they start with – an idea.

In institutions (companies, government agencies, universities, etc.) innovation can only prosper if the (corporate) culture fosters new ideas.

You want more innovation in your company? Well, do you have the right culture to stimulate and encourage people to enthusiastically engage in new ideas to start the innovation?

Is making a mistake or a failed trial a learning opportunity or something that scars someone’s career? Are lines of communications open? Does everybody’s opinion count equally in a discussion about new ways? Or are you judging by who (eminence) is saying something compared to what (ideas and evidence) the person is contributing?

BrainstormingA friend of ours in the automotive industry recently complained:  “I cannot do any brainstorming with my people because as soon as the first idea is thrown into the discussion someone will jump up and explain why this idea cannot work. The brainstorming then dies right away and becomes a “brainmourning””.  Can you imagine how many fruitful ideas get lost and how people get frustrated in such an atmosphere? Sounds familiar?

Creativity needs some space. Does it need to be chaotic and random?  No, there are lots of systematic processes and techniques, like brainstorming, that when applied correctly lead to reliable results. More so, if people are open minded and not judged right away when coming up even with “nuttiest sounding” ideas.

Let’s strive for that culture in our organizations.

Ingo studied business administration and economics at Kiel University where he received a PhD in economic policy and also earned an MBA from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, USA. Visit www.koenigconsultants.ca

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