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Coach or Mentor?

I am often asked what the difference is between a business coach and a business mentor.  At WWCFDC I work as a business coach, helping business owners to strategically plan and develop their business.  We often keep regular appointments to follow up and make sure the business is developing according to plan.  We may also discuss obstacles to generating business and often address personal mental and emotional challenges the owner may be facing in pushing the business forward.

With years of experience and training around the coaching process, a business coach looks at the development of the business and the owner.  The coach helps to keep the business owner focused and on track.

 

Our WWCFDC business Business teammentors are volunteer, experienced business professionals that have a keen desire to give back to their communities.  They love the game of business and want to see other entrepreneurs succeed and prosper, bringing economic health to the rural communities.

 

A meeting with one or more of our WWCFDC business mentors is generally more casual.  The business owner brings one or two issues for discussion.  They may just want some perspective and new ideas or need someone to bounce their thoughts off.  This friendly meeting is a great way to generate new possibilities, allow business owners to think things through, and it creates a supportive relationship that a business owner can count on when things get hectic.

 

But hey, business is a challenging game, why not have both a coach and a business mentor on your team.

 

Contact me to discuss how you can get involved in our coaching and/ or  mentorship program and give your business the structure and support it needs to grow strong and profitable.

 

Tina Heathers, MBA, Certified Coachccf-certexecutiveweb-228x300

WWCFDC Business Coach and Trainer

contact: tina@wwcfdc.com

 

Posted in: Small Business Advice

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Anti-Spam Stuff

New Blog Post from Teresa Renee, Designed to Connect www.designedtoconnect.com

 

Keep Calm and Carry On

(Until June 30, 2017)

On July 1, 2014 the new Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) comes in to affect.  In speaking with some small business owners this seems to be causing panic.  Some believe that they have to receive consent from everyone on the list again and some believe that sending out emails to their list after July 1, 2014 could put them in violation with the laws.  Some business owners have talked that they need to dump their email lists entirely and starting over.  However there is no need to take such drastic measures, at least not yet.

Here are the important points you need to know:

  1. There are two types of consent- express and implied.  The new laws affect implied consent.  Examples of implied consent are someone handing you a business card and you add it to your email list without them specifically asking you to do so, using the connections from your social media lists (such as Linkedin) to send out emails.  Examples of expressed consent include someone opting into your newsletter on your website or filling out a form in your store that expresses that they wish to join your mailing list.
  2. In order to confirm expressed consent you need to be able to show:
  3. Your emails whether expressed or implied must all include an unsubscribe mechanism and provide identification information.  If you are not already doing so, you must begin complying with this right away.
    1. How consent was obtained writing, orally, opt in on the website, etc.
    2. when it was obtained,
    3. why it was obtained, and
    4. the manner in which it was obtained.
  1. If you are able to prove a-d in point 2 above for your entire email list you do not need to do anything as expressed consent does not expire until the sender withdraws consent (opts out).  If you are using an email software such as Constant Contact and your obtained your entire email list through an opt in button on your website you should be able to prove this information.
  2. If you are unable to prove a-d in point 2 you may be in a situation where you have implied consent and you will need to begin converting your list over to expressed consent.  There is a 36 month transition period.  You may take advantage of this transitional period to seek expressed consent, therefore you do not need to dump your implied consent email list until June 30, 2017.

Disclaimer:

The CASL overview provided here is incomplete and does not constitute legal advice.

 

Further information on CASL go to Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/h_00050.html#Commercial

Posted in: Small Business Marketing, Uncategorized

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The Butterfly Approach

I loved this article as it reinforces how entrepreneurs need to think differently, develop new skills and not get lured into thinking they should have their life remain the same as it always was.  Embrace change for the wondrous opportunities it provides for growth and expanded wisdom.  To be an effective entrepreneur we need to think and act differently…we need to transform, to change, to release our inner butterfly and leave the caterpillar behind.

 

Becoming a Professional Butterfly
by Nido Qubein

When corporate leaders decide to re-engineer the corporation, they don’t just set out to improve the present system. They set out to create an entirely new system. When you set out to re-engineer your life, you’re not just improving your present circumstances. You’re creating a whole new set of circumstances, in keeping with your vision of what life should be. Harvard Business Review compares it with the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly.

“A butterfly is not more caterpillar or a better or improved caterpillar; a butterfly is a different creature,” note authors Tracy Goss, Richard Pascale and Anthony Athos.

Becoming the butterfly you want to be means putting the old circumstances in the past and concentrating all your resources on creating the new ones. This can be risky and scary. You’re leaving the comfort and security of the old cocoon and accepting the challenges and uncertainties of a free environment. It’s natural to want to leave the path open for a return to the old ways if the new ways don’t work out. But if you leave the path open, you’re quite likely to retrace it.

 

A butterfly, of course, cannot return to its cocoon. The moment it makes its way to the outside and flutters its wings, it is committed to a new type of existence. Its life as a butterfly is not just a matter of what it does. It is also a matter of what it is. You can shut off the path to retreat by transforming yourself into something you never were before.

The process of education can be transforming. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. wrote that when a mind stretches to embrace a new idea, it “never shrinks back to its original dimensions.” There is a qualitative difference between an educated person and an uneducated person, a worker and a professional, just as there is a qualitative difference between a butterfly and a caterpillar.

The worker mentality sees a job as a necessary evil that has to be endured until quitting time sets you free to pursue your real life. Professionals see their careers as rewarding components of their real lives. They learn to integrate their careers and their personal lives so that one meshes with and supports the other.

Workers wait for someone to tell them what to do and how to do it, and they let others worry about whether the way they’re told to do it is the right way. They may concentrate on performing their assigned tasks well, but won’t worry about what happens outside their own areas.

Professionals take responsibility for their own success and for the success of the organizations to which they belong. They see themselves as partners in prosperity with the organization, and see the organization’s ups and downs as their own. They are constantly looking for things that they personally can do to contribute to organizational success.

Professionals are usually perceived as good because they go the extra mile to be good. They keep up with the latest developments in their field, and share their knowledge with others. They communicate confidence, dressing and grooming themselves for success and always conscious of the importance of image.

 

To achieve this type of professionalism, you must set a high standard for yourself and never allow yourself to fall below that standard.

 

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How Do I Pay Less Tax?

How do I pay less tax (legally)? 

Now that the year has closed and we are reflecting on our businesses in preparation for our tax return, some may start to feel that dull ache in their stomach begin to grow.  But paying tax is a good thing [it means you made a profit].  However, there are ways to make a healthy income and pay less tax.   I’m sure you have heard of the word “Incorporation”.

Let’s look at the Pros and Cons to determine if this is something that would benefit you:

Pros

  • Liability – Having a separate legal entity ensures creditors or legal actions go against your corporation and its assets, not your personal assets. (There are exceptions, such as personally guaranteed loans, government tax obligations and payroll deductions, among others.)
  • Personal Income – You can choose the most tax-efficient way to pay yourself, including dividends, salary, bonus or a combination. You can even use dividends as a way to split income with your spouse if he or she is a shareholder in your Canadian-controlled private corporation (CCPC).
  • Tax Shelter – If you don’t need all business earnings for personal income, you can leave them in the business, deferring personal taxes on withdrawals and possibly enjoying an approximately 15-per-cent preferred tax assessment on the first $500,000 of profit in CCPCs. Personal rates start at 20% and can be 46% or more.
  • Spread the Wealth – Your business has tax flexibility from which you may personally benefit. If you sell shares in your CCPC, capital gains could be tax-free up to $750,000.
  • Flexibility – the rules for sole proprietors are fairly rigid.  Incorporated companies have many more options open to them for tax planning and also attracting investors.

Cons

  • Incorporating costs money. You can do it on your own, technically, but it’s more advisable to get the help of a lawyer and an accountant.  It’s just as expensive to “fix” your articles of incorporation as it is to do them right the first time.
  • Incorporated entities must file more paperwork, such as separate tax returns, an annual return, one-time articles of incorporation and notifications of share sales, moves or changes of directors.
  • Losses in an incorporated company can’t be personally claimed. A failed startup can only be “written off” personally to the amount you had invested, not the accumulated negative earnings.

Filing fees and professional fees for an incorporation can range from $800 to $2,800, so the cost itself maybe be prohibitive for some.  If you are starting a business, with low liability and legal risks, and are likely to incur losses at first, postponing incorporation may make sense, primarily for the cost savings and tax advantages.  As your business grows, the need to incorporate may become greater. So revisit the business case for incorporating periodically.

As for the accounting side, as long as you remain a sole proprietorship, all your profits will be taxed as personal income, which could involve tax rates potentially as high as 46 per cent.  If you run an incorporated business at a loss and then shut it down, you can’t claim the business’s losses personally – they are gone. All you can claim personally is money you lent or invested in the business as stock or loans, whereas, in a sole proprietorship, you may be able to claim the full amount of your business losses against other income.

So, when is it time to incorporate? The answer is: It depends. To start looking at it seriously the very general rule I share with my clients is “When your business starts to make a profit of more than you need for your personal monthly expenses”.

 

Mike Widdis
www.upsideaccounting.ca

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The Value of Your Website

Guest Post by Teresa Renee of Designed to Connect

When running a business you have a direction that you want to go. In order to get there you know that you need to market your business and your services to your targeted demographic. So you take out an ad, you get business cards and you build a website to represent that business.

Many business owners think that they can just throw up a website by adding some content and sprinkling it with some pictures. However that doesn’t cut it in the business world. Your website is your calling card. It’s the face of your business. In many cases, your website will be the first impression that people get when it comes to your business. So what does your website have to say about you? What face is it putting with your business brand?

The following are 2 website examples for the same company.  The one on the left is their old website they paid a developer to create the second one was the redesign of their website.  How does one website over the other change the way you see the company?  Before hiring a web designer be sure to look through their portfolio of work.

 

Your website is not a static page. What it says; how it looks all reflects your business. There is so much value in your website, it will be the #1 viewed marketing tool your company will ever have. Whether you spent $5000 on your website design or $500, it doesn’t matter if what the website has to say is not a good reflection on your business, doesn’t clearly identify what you do or doesn’t convert visitors into customers.

Content is king but design and optimization can mean more than the words you’ve put on the page. Don’t take that the wrong way, your content needs to be valuable and make a statement but the design of the site is important. The appearance of a site is supposed to entice your customers and invite them to learn more about your business and the services that you provide.

Your website should identify what you want them to do; call us, email us, visit our store, shop online, join our email list or any other call to action.  You need to compel them to want to make a decision to go with your company.  In the site featured here you can see the call to action is to Book a Room.

The way the website is designed will determine its appeal to all those who view it. If the design is unattractive, the flow  is confusing then what you do or what you have to say won’t matter.

Think of it like chocolate. When you go by a confectionary you see workers pouring the silky chocolate onto a sheet. As it pours from the crock that it’s in you see the silky flow and it looks so delicious. You stand there imagining how the chocolate will taste. It looks so creamy and tasty and before you know it you go inside and buy you a pound of creamy milk chocolate bites. That visual drew you in. If you had walked into the confectionary and a worker said “Hi, we have some good chocolate, want some?” you probably wouldn’t have bought any. Seeing it for yourself is what made you feel the need to try it. That’s the same magic and power that a website has for the businesses they represent.

While it costs to build a website, its value cannot be under estimated. Once that website begins to pull in your target audience its worth becomes evident. Optimizing it so that it gets into the right hands, creating a design that lures people in and provoke them to act and adding content and search engine optimization that has meaning is what makes that website turn to gold.

So take a look at your website and determine how valuable it is. Today is here and it’s the perfect time to revise your website and turn it into what you’ve always wanted it to be – a money maker for your business.

 

About the Author

Teresa Renee is the owner of Designed to Connect a full service web design company that specializes in creating WordPress and ecommerce WordPress  Website.   They work to bring your “Bring Your Brand to Life Online” with a focus on building your brand image, engaging your current customers and finding new leads.  Additional services offered include; Search Engine Optimization, Online Marketing Consulting, Graphic Design, Social Media Marketing training and creation.  She can be reached at 1-855-348-4122 or info@designedtoconnect.com


 

 

 

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Getting Noticed with Direct Mail Die Cuts

Guest Post by Dave Ward of Highland Marketing

We often hear reactions to creative work expressed with an air of excitement, “oh, that’s interesting” or “is that ever different”; quite simply, people just like experiences that go beyond the humdrum things seen every day. The same applies to direct mail and pieces that attract attention are far more likely to generate desired results for your small business when compared to familiar, “same old” pieces that normally land in our mailboxes.

Over the past few years one of our favourite “stand out” techniques here at Highland Marketing has been the use of unique, die cut mailers and promotional materials. However, die cuts are not the only way of getting noticed. We’ve seen favourable results through the use (or even combined use) of techniques such as:

  1. clear polybags – where the contents can be seen without opening the package
  2. the use of larger items – we mailed over 14,000 full-size wine bottles (unfortunately empty) on one campaign
  3. insightful, personalized targeting – through the use of powerful techniques for Variable Data Integration (VDI)

Example of a coffee cup die cut created for a Highland Marketing client. What kind of Die cut could your small business create?

Building Excitement

Die cuts are not only effective for getting your business noticed, they can also put a lot of fun into direct marketing. Sure, they need to be consistent with your brand and image, but it can be very rewarding to generate new and creative ideas. While we have designed numerous die cuts, we’ve also enjoyed watching clients come up with some outstanding ideas on their own after discussions with us.

On Results

Obviously, businesses are curious about how well die cut mailers work. Although we are strong proponents of die cuts, and as much as we often ask our client to measure, we do not always have access to actual campaign results.

I can say, however, that we use die cuts ourselves and have seen returns far in excess of the investments we have made. We also have one client who launched a pilot program earlier this year, in which they sent different Roundcards to different customers, based on specific information that they had collected. The program was such a success that they have continued to mail every two weeks.

We also had a client for whom we’ve mailed over 400,000 house-shaped postcards, over the course of 20 different mailings. It’s probably a safe bet that this company has also seen positive results. Consider that their first drop was a mere 2,500 pieces. Since then, the quantities have grown to upwards of 30,000 pieces per drop. They would not be continuing to increase quantities in this manner if the program was not tremendously successful.

It’s Only Expensive If…

Another question people often ask me is: how much do die cuts cost? Typically, we have found that they add about 25% to 50% to the cost of a standard print job, with the difference diminishing as volume increases. Of course, this does depend on both the size and complexity of the die.

Although this adds to the cost of the mailing:

  • direct mail is only expensive when it doesn’t work, and
  • the incremental cost of well-designed die cuts, with good copy, certainly enhances the likelihood of their success.

Although we are focusing on die cuts in this post, I will often stress these particular points by referring to a project where we mailed about 14,000 messages in wine bottles (over an 18 month period). Amazingly, this campaign actually returned every dollar budgeted to it long before it was even completed – and that was with an all-in cost of $16 per piece. It was a great project, but certainly not for the faint of heart.

Repetition is Still Key

We must never underestimate the value of repetition. Yes, it’s possible that you may come up with an awesome design, great copy, and a superb offer that gets your phones ringing off the hook with just one mailing, but more often it can take two or three mailings (or sometimes more) to the same audience to really see significant results. I often tell new clients that if they want to be successful, rather than mailing to 9,000 new prospects once, they might consider mailing to the best 3,000 prospects three times. If the product is good, the copy is good, and there is a solid offer – it does work.

It really does pay to be tastefully different and die cuts can help you stand out. Many of our clients have already put their “marketing in shape” and as we mentioned, it not only adds value, it also adds a lot of fun.

About the Author

Dave Ward is the president of Highland Marketing, which he founded in 1993 and built on the foundation of strong technical skills and a commitment to always trying to help clients achieve that most effective balance between cost and creativity. Dave is also the founder of the DM-Toolkit, a one-stop resource for integrated direct marketing, as well as a published author, with several of his articles appearing in Direct Marketing News. You can follow him on Twitter.

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Marketing, Small Business Solutions

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Back to Basics: Small Business Accounting Simplified

If your small business were audited tomorrow, would you be ready?

If not, you’re probably not alone. It seems many small business owners struggle to keep their finances in order.

We sat down recently with one of our business mentors, known for their excellent bookkeeping throughout 28 years in business, and asked for some tips on becoming more organized. Although some prefer an online method, or to use accounting software in attempts to ‘go green’, our mentor suggests that some small retail businesses might benefit from going back to basics and the good ol’-fashioned print-and-store method.

Overall, good bookkeeping isn’t an intimidating process exclusive to those who are good with numbers, rather it’s a system you can create and follow as long as you’re dedicated. In fact, as our mentor points out, you really only need a box and a binder to make this system work.

How the System Works

What you’ll need: a banker’s box, a binder, envelopes, and commitment.

Step 1: The Banker’s Box

In a large banker’s box dated with your fiscal year, label large envelopes for each month and file accordingly. Print all of your bills for the month and separate them into the envelopes based on ‘bills to be paid’ versus ‘bills paid’. Mark each of the bills with the cheque number or the confirmation number; this labeling allows the bills to be reconciled at the end of the month with your bank statement.

Step 2: The Binder

With a business checking account, your bank will send a monthly statement summarizing your transactions. In a binder with separated sections from January to December, keep a copy of each month’s bank statement.

Step 3: Reconcile

At the end of each month compare the contents of the envelopes in your box with the charges listed on the monthly bank statement in the binder to make sure they are the same.

Some useful tips for using this system:

      • Even if you’ve paid for something with your debit card, print the confirmation or write down the confirmation number and how you’ve paid the bill to include in the box. This information is featured on the monthly bank statement and keeping track of small transactions is important with respect to accounting for everyday purchases.
      • Keep track of your sales and label them as income as it accumulates. This tracking ensures that there are no sales that go unaccounted for.
      • For expenses under $10, pay cash and keep the receipt. When you have accumulated a couple hundred dollars worth of these receipts, write a cheque and label it according to the category it belongs to (e.x. “supplies”). It’s important not to lose track of small daily expenses as they can add up quickly; you should know where your miscellaneous cash is going.
      • Confirm what your bank charges for debits and deposits so that you can ensure you’re not spending unnecessarily on the convenience of using debit. Sometimes cash for small expenses can actually save you money as long as you keep your receipt.

While the box & binder is a basic system and may not work for everyone, our mentor who owns a retail business found it very handy because she was able to simply hand over the box and binder to an auditor which eases the stress of an audit overall. Even after implementing a system like this however, it’s also a good idea to keep track of your finances with other resources as well.

Other things you’ll need to stay financially responsible…

Accounting Software

Many small business owners can benefit from organizing their finances with accounting software. Our mentor recommended Quickbooks, but there are other options to look into as well. Accounting software can generate financial reports so that you can literally visualize your sales and compare from year to year. Furthermore, it can help with sales forecasting to determine future sales based on current figures. If you’re looking for free online software to get started, Wave Accounting is also an option to explore.

An Accountant you can Trust

Our mentor advises asking other small business owners to recommend strong accountants in the area. When you aren’t sure of accounting practices yourself, it’s best you have an accountant who will look after your best interests while adhering to proper standards and avoiding the pitfalls of creative accounting.

Book a Consultation with us

Ultimately your financial health needs to be observed regularly so that you make sound decisions in all aspects of your business. Better bookkeeping can seem daunting, but once you have a system in place, it’s easier to manage your finances and you won’t have anything to fear if an auditor comes to call. Additionally, you can contact our business development officer Tina Heathers to book a meeting to review your financial situation and bookkeeping practices via tina@wwcfdc.com.

 

Posted in: Small Business Solutions

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5 Things You Should Know Before Starting a Business

With Guest Blogger Jenn Hall of OSIM Interactive

When starting a business it’s always better to know as much as you can beforehand. Over the 10 years I have worked with businesses I have seen some costly mistakes, affecting both the bottom line and the owner’s personal success, which could have been avoided.

Here is a list of 5 things that you should know before you start your business:

The government will find you

You can’t hide from the government. They will find out you are in business and expect you to follow applicable regulations. The rules for HST, source deductions, taxes, labour, and other laws are all published online and all levels of government are more then willing to help you in the process of setting up your business properly. Federal, Provincial, and most municipalities have a website that has vast amounts of information for reference. Each level of government also has a telephone number to contact and ask questions. Overall, do the work to know the rules. Claiming ignorance when the government comes looking for payments will not save you the penalties, interest, and fines imposed if you’re breaking a law.

Find an advisor who knows what they’re taking about

Anyone can claim to be a business advisor, they just need a business card and sales pitch. When starting a business you should not need to pay for a first meeting with an advisor. A real business advisor can be found by contacting your local CFDC or Business Centre, asking business professionals (your lawyer, accountant, or banker) for a referral, or contacting a local college or university for referrals. If someone is claiming to be able to make you millions of dollars with the contribution of some of your hard earned cash…run, fast! As to the role of an advisor, they’re available to guide and help you; they will not do the work for you. Advisors help you get connected to the people, mentors or other businesses that can help you in the process of building your business.

Pick one thing and do it well

You cannot be everything to everyone. It is physically impossible, so stop trying!  When starting a business most people know what they want to do. They have decided that whatever skill, product, or service they offer is something that they can do well enough to generate an income. Most people go wrong when they stray too far from the original item or idea. It’s always better to say no to a project that you’re truly unsure of rather than to take on a project and fail horribly. The possible negative response from a unsatisfied customer will have a long-term affect on your business and isn’t worth the risk. Be honest with people, they will appreciate it more than a costly mistake.

Know who you’re in business with

Not every personal relationship can handle the stress of a business relationship. The best marriages can end over a business and friendships can be ruined. It’s always important to test the waters before you go into business with someone you wish to have a future with. Care must also be taken with the contacts that you make in business. You need to identify staff and suppliers that work well with you. Trust your gut, it is usually right. Never hire or work with another business out of desperation, it’s guaranteed to come back to haunt you.

Plan, Plan, Plan

The best thing you can do for your business? Write a business plan. A business plan will allow you to organize all of your ideas and gives you time to think the process though. A plan will encompass the rules are you need to follow, who you will work with, what you need in a potential staff or supplier, and what you are going to sell/make/do. The most vital piece of the plan is the financial planning. It is much easier to find out on paper that the numbers don’t work in advance than to be up to your ears in debt too far into the growth of your company. Your business advisor will be able to help you work though the process of building a plan.

 

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Advice

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Accessibility Standards: Is Your Business Prepared?

Come to the WWCFDC office to check out a copy of the Compliance Manual for Small Businesses from our resource library.

You may already know that as of January 1st, 2012 every private, public, and not-for-profit sector organization must comply with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), but figuring out what this legislation means for your small business can be a bit confusing.

Basically, if you have at least one employee or provide goods and services to the public, you must meet the requirements or risk fines ranging from $200 to $15,000. However, removing barriers to accessibility in your business has less to do with possible fines and more to do with doing the right thing; it’s your role as part of a responsible business community to ensure respect for equal opportunity.

So how can you become compliant with the AODA?

Establish policies, practices, and procedures – This standard involves listing specific policies allowing customers with disabilities to maintain their independence (i.e. letting your customers do things in their own way and ensuring that all customers receive the same level of service). Identify any gaps between your policies and what people with disabilities might need in order to access your services.

Example: a clothing store might include an exception on a “no refunds, credit only” policy if fitting rooms are not wheelchair accessible.

Provide training  Training must include an overview of the purposes of the AODA and must be provided to employees, volunteers, agents, contractors, and others who may interact with the public on your behalf. You can determine the content of your training and find some helpful resources at ontario.ca/AccessON.

Establish a feedback process – Your business will need a process for collecting feedback as well as a process for responding to questions or concerns.

Example: a bed-and-breakfast might include a notice on receipts that informs guests they may submit any feedback at the front desk or through their website. Furthermore, detailed information about the feedback process is posted on their website.

Communication – This aspect of the AODA concerns how you take into account a person’s disability when interacting. Think about how people with various disabilities communicate and how you may have to alter your communication to suit the situation and the person’s needs. The best thing to do is ask your customer how best to communicate with them and how you can help.

Example: if you offer a schedule in paper format, perhaps your website can include an accessible format that can be read with a a screen reader so that a customer with low vision may access the schedule at home on their computer despite it not being available in braille.

Service animals & support persons– Service animals must be permitted onto any part of the premises that is open to the public, except where the animal is otherwise excluded by law. Furthermore, those with disabilities must be able to bring a support person with them when accessing goods or services.

Example: A theatre informs patrons that support persons are permitted and not charged admission to the show.

Notice of temporary service disruptions – Prepare a template of a notice for any interruption in service that may affect access to your goods and services. Your notice should include a reason for the disruption, how long the service will remain unavailable, and the alternative facilities when possible.

Documentation – Pertaining to businesses with 20 or more employees, you must prepare documentation that includes specific information on each of the aforementioned aspects of AODA compliance.

Which requirements apply to your business? 

To determine what you’ll need to implement for your business in particular, check out the AODA E-Wizard. It’s free and sums up a personalized list of things you need to do.

More summarized information on the regulations can be found by clicking here.

Posted in: Small Business Solutions

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What can Social Media Really do for Your Business?

Guest Post by Matthew Piggott from Community CarShare

We live in an online world where Facebook is your town square, Twitter is a local group of opinion leaders, and LinkedIn is your virtual Rolodex. Many platforms exist and your business is trying to find out what works best. At Community CarShare the majority of our growth still comes from word of mouth and traditional forms of promotion, but an increasing amount of sales are coming from online marketing driven by social media. Every business should be monitoring whether, and to what extent, to be part of social media.

A common question asked is, “what is the return on investment of social media?” Any responsible business should be asking that question, but ultimately the question is best answered with your gut rather than your head at this point.  Sites like Klout.com, Google Analytics, and the ad section of Facebook will give you lots of data, but it doesn’t paint a complete picture of the true worth of social media. When your BIA sends you an invite to this month’s networking meeting, do your rush to quantify the value of attending? I’m guessing not, so base your decision to get involved on Twitter, or other platforms, based on questions such as: Will this help improve my brand? Can I get better customer engagement? Etc…

I can best illustrate the benefits of social media involvement with an example. For years we have been working with our insurance company to lower our minimum driving age and this summer succeeded in having it lowered to 21! This was great news for us but, in the rush of our summer, business expansion only had a chance to compose one tweet about it in the first few days of receiving the news. A few days later a prospective member approached me at an event; turns out the message had spread so fast that it went beyond our immediate network and was being repeated back to us in a very short time frame.

In the end, that one tweet was re-tweeted over two dozen times and has been our most broadcast message of any we’ve composed. If you compare what we invested (the time to compose a 140 character phrase) with what we received then you can understand why we’re enthusiastic about the ROI that social media can bring to your business.

That being said, Facebook likes and Twitter followers don’t necessarily translate into sales.  So while you’re working to build your platform, don’t be afraid to branch out and tap into other established networks. We’ve used online deal sites like Groupon and WagJag, and have considered others like Living Social. Those deals have offered great returns because they give access to an already established network of several hundred-thousand people depending on which site you choose.

As always make sure you know your target audience and do some research on the particular demographic of each site and its potential successes/failures to avoid disappointment. Is your business based on a membership service? Then these deals are a no-brainer because you’ll have an easy chance at a repeat customer. Pick a site that works best for you and go for it.

Our experience at Community CarShare is that social media has helped drive word of mouth advertising, allowed us to engage with a community of interested people, and brought in new business opportunities that would not have been possible before. Studies show that social media adoption is currently in the “early majority” so it’s not too late to jump in. Define your goals, pick a few platforms, and follow us @GrRiverCarShare  or on Facebook if you’d like!

Matthew Piggott is the Member Services Coordinator at Community CarShare. He enjoys using social media to find new CarShare members, and also to ensure they have good service once they join.

Posted in: Guest Blogger, Small Business Solutions, Social Media Tips

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