Business Tips

     Looking for an expert's point of view - and maybe even some great ideas? Our business tips are written by our founder who is a recognized expert author on several ezine sites!

    • 05 Nov 2009 2:25 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

      I laugh when I hear that question – “Are we there yet?” As a child, I know I said it every time we went on a trip over an hour. And there were many of those! We drove regularly from Montreal Quebec to the other side of Brantford Ontario to visit my grandparents on their farm. It was a seven hour drive – so I am sure that I must have asked at least a dozen times each way on every trip!

      As a Mom to four children – I also heard that question asked over and over and over!

      I chuckled last week when speaking with a friend about where she was headed – and where I was headed. And she said, “I am just getting so impatient!” I know the feeling well.

      Unfortunately many of us are impatient about where we want to go in life. If we are focusing on growth and advancement in our businesses, and we are thinking from the end, sometimes coming back to momentary reality just plain sucks.

      I talk often about thinking from the end, seeing ourselves as already achieving whatever it is we set out to achieve. Learning to visualize is a big part of the success we will achieve. However, each time we become impatient with ourselves, we are taking our focus off where we want to be and thinking about what we do not yet have! And folks, what we think upon grows! When we focus on what we do not have or have not yet achieved – we just attract more of the lack!

      I am sometimes pulled back to reality when I get asked questions about my business. “How many members do you have? Is there a chapter in upper Timbuktoo?” As much as I want to see myself with ten thousand members, or with a chapter in every city on Canada and the United States, unfortunately I am not there yet. When I answer truthfully to the person that asks the question I want so much to let them in on my vision. Because in reality, I spend my time acting ‘as if’. In other words , I plan my business as if I have ten thousand members. I go to speak at a meeting as if there are five hundred people.

      I recently heard a millionaire mentor of mine talk about his goal setting experiences. He said that in 1978 he made the goal of becoming a millionaire. But it did not happen in the first year. And it did not happen in the second year – or third year or fourth year.

      When year five rolled around, I am sure he began to ask himself if it would ever happen. But instead of focusing on what he had not achieved, he instead focused on what he HAD achieved. And he was grateful for that. He also learned to appreciate himself for the work he had put in and things he had accomplished. Gratitude and appreciation are not only the greatest forms of love, but they are also the fast track to Law of Attraction and attracting into your life the things you need to get to where you want to go.

      In the end it took sixteen years to reach his goal. That is 5,840 mornings of getting up and being tempted to feel impatient. Fortunately, he had developed appreciation and love for himself which fed the belief in himself that he could accomplish the goal.

      The trick to not becoming frustrated about lack of progress – is to become the observer of your own life. Be curious about the great things that may happen next. Step outside yourself and look in at the wonder of your own life.

      Become grateful for the progress you have made and know deep inside it will happen – it is just a matter of ‘when’.

      Enjoying the journey to our own success is really what makes it all worthwhile. Stepping outside our lives and reality, and looking at what we have created and being grateful for what we have will bring what you want - faster. Looking in from the outside, it is also much easier to become excited about what is going on in our own lives.

      Don’t become frustrated at your lack of progress. Instead focus on the long term view and take a look at your life from the perspective of the observer – it is a fantastic view!
    • 22 Oct 2009 3:27 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      Are you someone who consistently goes the extra mile and routinely over delivers on your promises? It\'s rare these days, but it\'s the hallmark of high achievers who know that exceeding expectations helps you stand above the crowd.

      Almost by force of habit, successful people simply do more.
      As a result, they experience not only greater financial rewards for their extra efforts but also a personal transformation, becoming more self-confident, more self-reliant, and more influential with those around them.
      These high achievers stand out from the crowd because of their extra efforts. They are unwilling to give up, even in the face of difficult times.

      They get the promotions, they get the loyal customers, they grow their businesses twice as fast, they get financial rewards, job security, and they go home feeling satisfied.

      Do you exceed expectations?

      Do you surprise people with more than they were expecting from you?

      Do you have the opportunity - but also the personal initiative - to go the extra mile?

      To be successful you must change your thinking. You can only win by making extra efforts. People who go the extra mile always get payback. You will discover yourself becoming more self-confident, more self-reliant and more influential with those around you.

      People notice the special services and all the small touches that make dealing with you so pleasurable. And when they are talking to their friends they will mention you and recommend you because you are the one who stands out.

      People will see that you pay attention to detail, that you consider all the small things that really make a business successful, that you care about your image, and that you belong with all the other people who work hard to achieve. You will attract new business and new opportunities.

      Listen to any success story and you will hear of someone who worked exceptionally hard to get what they wanted.

      You’ll hear how they put in the extra time, did what wasn’t part of their job description, and over-delivered on what was asked of them. You’ll hear how they stuck at it until they broke through, and usually you’ll hear how it only took them a couple of years to do it.

      What have you been doing for the past couple of years? Think of what you could accomplish if you made it a habit to exceed everyone’s expectations. Image what doors could be open to you if you decided to be of better service and value.

      How are you willing to go the extra mile? What kind of extra service are you willing to provide in order to stand out from the rest? What areas of your life could you be giving more of your effort and time, becoming more valuable, and improving your reputation?

      Be willing to treat everyone like you’d treat your dearest friend. Don’t skimp on service. Don’t be mediocre or run of the mill. Show people what you are capable of. Show them that you care about your image and reputation.

      When it comes to success, the people who are willing to go the extra mile get there that much faster!
      © 2009 Jack Canfield
    • 03 Sep 2009 3:30 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      An admission: I love getting my butt kicked.

      Since I was a teen, I have been active in one form of martial arts or another. Starting off with Tae Kwon Do, moving to Karate, then to Kickboxing and Muay Thai, finally ending up back in Tae Kwon Do... where I still train regularly.

      The sweat and rush from a great workout is highly addictive, and, for me, broken bones and injuries are all part of the game. All said and done; probably 5 or 6 broken bones in my feet or hands, numerous tears and sprains, one black eye for my wedding day (not by my, now, wife), and many a sore nose.

      The other day someone asked me why I still do this, as I hobbled around on a gimped ankle. To me, the whole experience is one I thrive on.

      As much I thrive on growing my business, and helping my clients grow theirs. There are a lot of similarities between getting beaten up in business and getting beaten up in class.

      Earning your black belt is much like finally achieving that big goal or dream in your business as well.

      Some of the similarities:

      1) We ALL start out as white belts. No matter how cocky you are going into it, very quickly you learn how little you know and how much more you need to learn.

      Usually it is some black belt (marketer) that takes you down and leaves you sitting in a pool of blood. Even if you get lucky here and there and whip out a great promotion (much like kicking the butt in class of someone who is senior in levels to you), the next time around you quickly learn a one-hit-wonder doesn\'t last long.

      There is always someone better, more determined, willing to put up with more pain, and is willing to work a hell of a lot harder than you are.

      2) Drop kicked... or dropped out? After many years in martial arts, I have seen a huge percentage of drop outs. No different than in business.

      Not everyone can handle getting knocked down and humiliated in front of everyone.

      Some of us thrive on it, knowing that the better we get, the more likely it will be that we are the ones kicking butt sooner than later. Others will move from school to school, each time they get knocked down, they blame it on someone else, or something else other than themselves.

      The ONLY way to succeed in business and in the ring is to get used to getting knocked down... and to thrive on knowing that each time you got knocked down, you just learned one thing that didn\'t work for you.

      Let the next battle begin!

      3) Those who do get up and keep going, showing up regularly to learn and practice, are the ones you see getting better and better at their craft, ultimately become a master and a black belt.

      Those who get cocky and think they know it all, end up getting their ass handed to them on a platter, and slink away never to return (silently mumbling behind their back on how shady the school or lessons are, how poorly run things are, how slow the learning curriculum is, etc)

      As you well know, it takes a very unique (and rare) individual to keep taking a whooping, just to get up again and \"SIR, yes sir... may I have another?\"

      4) You have to learn how to spar with the big boys. All the class training in the world is great, but it is useless if you never step into the ring to test your skills.

      Much like the seminar and information junkies in the business world, there are martial arts students who do all the classes but shy quickly away from actually testing their skills in the real world (sparring in class or in tournaments).

      Book and theoretical knowledge is good, but nothing compares to getting a bloody nose because you dropped your guard down at the wrong time.

      You can own the biggest library in the world on your craft, but if you have never once actually applied the golden advice in the books, you are no further ahead than someone just getting started.

      5) Respect your teachers. Grand Master Yu runs the school I now attend. He\'s a hard ass. He is intimidating (despite him being half a foot shorter than me, his presence is enough to scare the wits out of most students... me included).

      He was brought up studying Tae Kwon Do in Korea and has brought many of their hard core tactics to Canada. He was one of the judges for Tae Kwon do in the Beijing Olympics.

      He is on the World Tae Kwon Do committee as one of their most senior advisors. His walls are adorned and filled from floor to ceiling with medals, awards, accreditations, accolades and articles.

      Despite all of this, there is the odd person who thinks they are king you-know-what and challenge him in one way or another. The challenge doesn\'t last long, and the challenger quickly is tossed from the school permanently.

      If you don\'t respect those who went before you, you will NEVER succeed.

      6) Respect yourself. There is this girl in the class who is always apologizing for things. She makes a wrong move and apologizes. She kicks wrong, she apologizes. It is annoying...
      and it is definitely costing her in her training. She doesn\'t think high enough of herself to think she deserves a higher belt.

      If she keeps at it, she will never rise through the ranks. No different in business. You MUST learn to give yourself some credit for the good things you do... and learn from the bad (rather than berating yourself for a mistake).

      In writing sales copy, you will never succeed if you don\'t show your readers that you respect yourself, that you respect your products, and that you honestly feel you are the king (or queen) of the castle. If you constantly apologize and beat yourself down, they will buy form someone else who DOES

      7) Don\'t be afraid of pointing out inconsistencies or to ask questions when you are unclear on how a certain skill works on the street. I was in kickboxing and Muay Thai for 5 years and absolutely loved it.

      By far the best workout I have ever had and the best shape I was ever in. It was a martial art that always fares well in real life self defense. Tae Kwon Do is easier on my body (now that I am 40, the idea of sparring with 19 year olds with huge egos and quick healing abilities just doesn\'t do it for me anymore!).

      But Tae Kwon Do lacks some of the street smart fighting skills that would be needed if you were ever in a real life and death situation.

      So I am constantly asking my trainers (my masters) if we can work on more boxing, and if they can show me how certain skills would be used in an actual street situation.

      And they do their best to help.

      Sometimes they realize the skill just taught applies in the ring for competition, but is useless in the street... but at least I know. I also quite enjoy having another black belt in my class who trained in more hard core martial arts, like I did.

      Him and I get in there sometimes and bash each other around much harder than usual. It is good to keep ourselves in shape, and to show each other where our weaknesses are starting to show through (thanks to that getting old problem).

      Much like all the information out there on the internet, this blog included. You must ask and find ways to make the skills being taught work for you, in real life, in your own business.

      8) Expect to feel pain. In a dream world, we start up a business, have the perfect product, a hungry market, and make millions in our first year. But we all know that is rarely the case. It takes a lot of bloody noses, sore muscles, endless workouts and practice... even then we still have to work just as hard (even harder) to reach our first big dream.

      We have to be willing to take our lumps, get up and do it all over again.

      Whining about sore muscles won\'t get you anywhere... running laps to work through the pain will though.

      Now, I\'ll be the first to admit that much of the content in this post is fairly basic. I know that... and I share that... because many people are so stuck on learning the advanced techniques first, they forget that advanced techniques DON\'T work the way they should UNTIL you know the basics.

      All the advanced SEO techniques are useless for putting money in your pocket if you have no clue you are supposed to collect a lead or convert a lead into a buyer.

      Despite this fact, some of the more unscrupulous marketers will pitch you their magic pill with little regard to if you know the basics or not... they just don\'t care. Give them your money and they are happy. Complain about the fact that the course you bought is too advanced and isn\'t working properly for you... and they will be happy to blame you, call you names and publicly humiliate you.

      Imagine if someone walked into Grand Master Yu\'s school and told him they wanted to \"buy\" a black belt from him. After he was done laughing, he\'d kick them out. He would first try and get them to understand that they need to understand the basics first... but most people with the attitude that they can \"buy\" success will never get it and would keep moving until they DO find a school that will sell them a black belt (they are out there... always good for a laugh when they tell you it\'s possible to get a black belt in a year).

      I have been training with Grand Master Yu for 3 years now, and have my Red Belt. Black is next... and it will take me a year or more to go from Red to full Black Belt.

      Even then, I am not done - I want to get my Second Degree (Second Dan) Black Belt, third, etc.

      So I am busting my butt to get my black belt in Tae Kwon Do...
      despite having been in different martial arts all my adult/teen life. I don\'t feel like I am owed a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do...
      I know that I have to EARN IT.

      More people need to get that.
    • 16 Jul 2009 3:44 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      “Your true character is revealed by the clarity of your convictions, the choices you make, and the promises you keep. Hold strongly to your principles and refuse to follow the currents of convenience.”
      -Taken from a "Successories" print.

      Wisdom is knowledge of the right path to take … integrity is taking it.  Simply put, when you have integrity, your words and your deeds match up.
      John Maxwell says, “Integrity is not what we do as much as who we are. And who we are, in turn, determines what we do.”

      Integrity is never easy, but most of all requires self-discipline, inner trust and honesty at all times. Practice integrity by saying what you will do and then doing what you promised.

      Look for the best in everyone and encourage and help others through the power of a compliment …the power of positive words …, but, most importantly conducting your life from a place of love.

      The energy of love can overcome anything. Mother Teresa said that we can do no great things, only small things with great love. Many times we think that if we are only one person, how can we make any significant change in the world?

      Can you imagine what an impact we could have if we practiced doing all of the small things in our life with great love. Others would see our example and do the same and we would ultimately impact thousands.

      Be true to your convictions. With every decision you make, you are shaping the person you will become. Choosing right over wrong, truth over popularity…these are the choices that will measure your life and become the values you live by. Remember the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have done onto you.”

      People who understand who they are, and who know where their power comes from, can be people of great influence. They are not dependent on other’s people’s praise and affirmation. Their self-worth comes from a higher source in their lives.

      I have committed to God my career and business future and I will accept the results, no matter what, and just try each day to be a good ambassador for Him. I somehow suspect that it will be a faith walk, exciting and wonderful all at the same time.

      I also know that God can do some incredible things in my business that I could never have done alone. He has already sent me some special people and circumstances to help me live out my mission. It is no longer about me and my ego (EGO – Edging God Out), it really is doing what God wants me to do.

      We cannot compartmentalize our spirituality or relegate it to Sundays only. Our career and our spirituality are rolled up together. God dwells within you wherever you are. The whole world is the arena of His divine activity.

      How does one apply spiritual principles to business and work?

      1) Do all things in a positive spirit, without complaining or disputing. Keep a positive spirit and a smile.

      2) Watch what you say. Think before you speak. Winning an argument brings fleeting gratification, but winning a friend brings lasting satisfaction. I remember my mother always saying to us….”If you have nothing good to say, then don’t say it.”

      3) Keep learning and maintain a teachable spirit. Don’t let pride hinder you from growing spiritually. Keep good people around you to help you process ideas and issues.

      4) Guard your integrity. It is priceless. Do not allow anyone to dismantle it.

      5) Work hard. The reason many people underachieve is that they are not willing to pay the price of focused work to reach their goals.

      6) Give to others – your money, your time, your support, your ear. “Give and it will be given to you….for the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

      7) Show mercy to others and control your emotions. You are where you are by God’s grace. Remember to be gracious and grateful to others willing to help you along the way.

      8) Do not fear people, nor allow others to intimidate you, as this can make you vulnerable to compromising your faith and integrity. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and sound mind.

      And, never forget that God’s ways are not necessarily our ways. God values and loves people, not necessarily profits and He wants our lives to bless others. It would be wonderful to know that our colleagues at work or in business appreciated and were even grateful to have worked with or for you, but we are not to seek gratification for our integrity-based behaviour.

      God will guide us in specific and practical ways if we just ASK Him. The closer you walk with Him, the more clearly you will recognize where He is leading. God always acts with truth and grace in perfect balance. He can guide you to stand up for truth while continuing to show grace toward those around you.

      People today are tired and disappointed by the often lack of honesty and unethical behaviour displayed by others. Follow your heart and your head, and don’t do the easy thing, do the right thing.

      Ethics plus competence is a winning equation. Our society is evolving to a higher standard and we can all contribute to this evolvement in our own businesses and workplace situations by practicing integrity principles.

      Being integrity-driven means two things, doing what’s right and taking a stand against what’s wrong. Both of these require guts, fortitude and most importantly, courage.

      So, work with love and from love, displaying kindness and reciprocity.
      Most importantly, commit to excellence and integrity. And remember that our life is a journey and not a destination.

      Look forward to the future and smile kindly on the past…your experiences and lessons have made you what you are today.

      Remember this: Your personal decisions have eternal impact, not only on you and your family but on hundreds of people around you. Think for a moment of the impact of your prayers, the influence of your donations, and the positive ripple effect of your good deeds. Your choices are powerful. Allow your spirit to help you make even better choices.

      Learn the art of asking, believing and receiving.

      We cannot live life nor can we do anything of significance alone. We need to connect with and focus on win-win interactions with everyone.

      Contemplate these brief spiritual success tips:

      1) Remember people’s names and acknowledge their accomplishments. Everyone craves attention.

      2) Ensure encouragement is genuine and comes from your heart.

      3) Find ways to compliment people in an honest, sincere manner.

      4) Encourage people to become who they really are instead of trying to change them.

      5) Be generous and appreciative.

      6) Be slow to correct and quick to praise.

      Make a difference by walking a higher road and living your values in your business or workplace with conviction and courage.

      “In the end it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining who we are.” Max Depree
    • 31 May 2009 3:46 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      Have you ever wondered about credit card fraud? I know many people are afraid to use their credit card on the internet for fear that the site is not secure - or that somehow someone can get the number for the card and purchase something over the internet without their knowledge.

      This morning (Sunday), I received a call from Capital One - one of the companies that manages one of the credit cards I carry. They asked if I had made a purchase this morning over the internet of $268.98. I told them that I had not. Someone had tried to use the card number over the internet. I thought for a minute. This was a card that I had NEVER used over the internet. In fact, I have only used it one time in February of this year for a $6.00 purchase. This was an \"in person\" transaction. (for chocolate!)

      Thankfully, the credit card company was alerted as this purchase over the internet was out of character for that card - so they called to verify the purchase.

      This occurrence though, just proves a point I have made before. It is not that you use your credit card on the internet that puts you at risk. You are at risk if you have a credit card number at all. (It\'s kind of like you are at risk of having your car stolen if you have a car)

      Here is how it happens. The thief accesses a website where they can make purchases. They fill their cart - and proceed to exit. When asked for the credit card information - they begin entering a credit card number.

      The numbers they enter are often generated by a program that generates random numbers. They continue to enter numbers until they find one that works. When it does they make the purchase.

      They do not need your name. They do not need your address. They do not access your credit card number from another site. They randomly generate 16 digit numbers until they find one that works.

      Then what?

      If the transaction goes through successfully, the thief then continues to make purchases until they are stopped - or the credit card number is refused.

      This is not identity fraud. This is simply credit card fraud. If you have a good credit card company - they will notice if there are some inconsistencies in the amounts and locations that transactions are generated from.

      Will the credit card company notify me?

      The credit card company may call you to question you about your transactions - or to alert you that a fraudulent transaction may have occurred - make sure to get their employee ID number from them.

      - They will NEVER ask you for your card number. (They may confirm the last 4 digits of the card.)

      - They will NEVER ask you for your social insurance or social security number

      - They will NEVER ask you your birth date - or other personally identifying information.

      - They will NEVER send you an email to notify you that your account has been breached

      What they will do is cancel your card and send you a new one in the mail.

      Never ever give out any personal information over the telephone unless you are sure you know who you are speaking with. This is how identity theft occurs. If you need to verify their identity - all businesses will co-operate with you if they are legitimate.

      Credit card fraud happens all the time - but it happens most often by a thief generating random numbers and trying to use them. Most good credit card companies will protect you against fraud by alerting you if they notice an unusual transaction. There is however a time limit for this coverage that ranges between one week and one month.

      How do I know if a site is safe?

      Internet transactions are safe if the page you are entering the information on is preceded by \"https\". This means that the page is secure.

      Email phishing is different still from fraud - but it is a way to collect information to steal your identity.

      For more information on email fraud - we now have a short webinar you can watch in your members\' area. It is only a few minutes long but it will help you to understand which emails are fraudulent or phishing emails, easily.

      If you are not member - and cannot access the webinar contact us at \'admin at\' and request the webinar.

      If you would like to protect you identity - we have a program available for you here for only 9.95 a month. You can visit the link below for more information.
    • 23 May 2009 3:49 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      Marketing is not a hit and miss strategy – it is 24/7/365. Surprised? Don’t be! Too many businesses don’t have good marketing strategies to begin with – so how can they market 24/7?

      I have seen it over and over, small business owners buy marketing on a hit and miss basis. They see a sale on newspaper ads, or the local radio station calls and offers them a deal that they cannot refuse.

      So for 2 weeks, or 2 months, a business advertises – likely with a poorly written ad that looks pretty and then cancel the advertising because it was not effective.

      Who gets blamed in all of this? The marketing expert. People say – marketing does not work – but have no substantial statistics to prove it.

      When your advertising efforts are ‘hit and miss’ there is no way to truly measure the efforts – or to tweak it to become more effective.

      So what do you need to do to make sure that your marketing is effective?

      Know your market:

      WHO really buys your product? (Not who ooo’s and aaaah’s over it – who buys it?)
      Where do they live?
      What do they drive?
      Where do they go?
      Do they have time to read the paper?
      Do they surf the internet?
      Do they read community news?

      These are only some of the questions that need to be asked before you spend a dime on any kind of marketing.

      Determine a budget

      If you expect to sell something – you will need to let the right people know why they need to buy it. Good ‘copy’ is essential. Otherwise you are simply putting a pretty picture in front of people and fail to give them a reason to read it or to DO something after they read it. What will you spend your money on?

      Research to identify where to advertise
      Make sure you have good copy
      Find effective ad space
      Create an ongoing program
      Be Patient, Measure and Tweak

      Measure everything.

      Find out what is working and build on that. Get rid of advertising that has a poor ROI. In other words if you busy an ad that costs $400 and no one calls – consider how you can better get some inquiries for the same amount.

      A newsletter that gets sent to a current data base might cost the same amount for full design and mailing for a full year. This means you have 12 – 24 opportunities to get in front of your audience instead of once.

      If you are featured on the internet for less than $20 a month or can buy an ad linked to your website for less than $400 a year – you are way ahead of the game compared to one or two ads in a magazine of newspaper costing you the same or more.

      Finally though, the real trick to running great marketing campaigns is to recognize - nothing happens over night. Marketing efforts must be consistent and target your market correctly. Remember, Marketing is a 24 hour 7 day a week task. Finding better marketing strategies is a great idea. But getting rid of marketing all together is not a wise decision.

      If you don\'t know where to start - invest in good advice. . There is no better time than now. You have the time - and need the help.

      Marketing requires a strategy, a budget and commitment. Even if you start with $50 a month, you will be farther ahead than if you use a hit and miss strategy.

      Look for 24/7/365 opportunities that cost you less than a cup of coffee a day. This will give your business a bigger boost than that java fix – that lasts only 30 minutes!
    • 07 May 2009 3:51 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      Canadian businesses are facing hard times. Fortunately, I think there are many fixes – some quick, some longer-term – that entrepreneurial businesses can make to ward off the worst of the recession.

      Here are 10 quick ideas to think about:

      1. Measure your marketing. Today’s electronic media offer huge advantages over old-style advertising (print, direct mail, etc.). Websites, e-newsletters, pay-per-click ads, even blogging and Twittering, all allow you to quickly test, measure and refine your messages and your offers. It’s low-cost, targeted marketing that doubles as research.

      2. Leverage partnerships. No company succeeds alone. Form strategic, marketing and referral alliances with supply-chain partners, neighbouring businesses, networking colleagues, customers, friends and possibly competitors. As Hillary Clinton almost said, “it takes a village to grow a business.”

      3. Figure out how you can offer more value to your customers. If you\'re serving consumers, ask yourself, “How can I ‘wow” customers with my product or service?” It’s not enough to meet expectations any more – you must go above and beyond. That gets people talking about you and guarantees loyalty, even in hard times.

      4. If you are serving business markets, your No. 1 question should be: “How can I help my clients succeed?” Helping them pull through the downturn is your best guarantee of sales today and repeat business tomorrow.

      5. Make a plan, have a vision. Figure out what it will take for your firm to thrive through the downturn (new products, better quality, lower prices?), and decide how you\'re going to get there. Share this plan with everyone who matters: employees, customers, suppliers, bankers, investors, friends and family. Knowing there’s a plan is always reassuring.

      6. Learn more about your customers: Every team member should be looking for (and reporting back) customer intelligence that helps you plan your business, refine your prices and offer timelier solutions.

      7. Make customers top of mind. Bank of Montreal has found a great way to do this: “Every meeting begins with a customer story.” (See my story in the Financial Post, April 20: “Telling stories makes for happy endings.”) I consider this the simplest and most potentially powerful business tip I have ever encountered.

      8. Keep your eye on your cash. Study your financials daily. Pre-recession, most companies chased sales and growth. Today the goal is positive cash flow. Dump products with low margins and customers who cost too much to serve. Offer incentives to fast payers to keep the cash coming in.

      9. Become Easy To Do Business With. ETDBW businesses eliminate unnecessary processes, rules and roadblocks that stop people from doing business with them. Think of retailers that don\'t mark prices clearly, dimly-lit restaurants with unreadable menus, and suppliers who are always out of stock. Ask your customers how you can serve them better.

      10. Ask more from your staff. Tough times are the best time to ask them to work harder, make more calls, or increase their performance-based pay. According to Parson and Keyes, authors of Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins, “shared adversity is powerful glue.” Assure your team that sacrifice today will make a healthier future.

      For more survival tips and ideas, read my blog, Canadian Entrepreneur, at
    • 02 May 2009 3:53 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      Last month my husband slipped away on a mission to buy a can of coke. As we were in a remote location and it was late – the only way to buy a pop was to find a pop machine. After a few minutes of searching, he found just what he was looking for. The promise of bubbles tingling the sides of his throat and the refreshing familiar taste made him fumble in his pocket for those four seemingly elusive quarters.

      Eureka! His pocket change matched the price on the front of the machine and he deposited his coins, one at a time and selected his flavour.

      Then, nothing happened. Still nothing. Nothing still. No pop. He pushed the button again and again – and then finally resorted to a gentle shake on the machine. (do not EVER do this by the way. Pop machines have fallen over and crushed people)

      After his shake, the pop machine began to spit our quarters, nickels and dimes like a slot machine that has just hit the jackpot. (well almost)

      After counting his change her realized he had over five dollars in change – but no pop. Which got me to thinking… often do we as businesses promise one thing and then over deliver another? Sure the customer might get a great ‘deal’ or lots of stuff, but is it what they were expecting?

      My husband left the pop machine surprised and yet still disappointed. His hopes were dashed but he had more jingle in his jeans.

      What is your customer looking for?

      What has your customer come to get from you? If you sell widgets – and he comes for widgets- well then great. The only thing left to decide is the price point. But if he comes to you for widgets and you sell him chewing gum – it won’t matter what price you sell it to him for, or whether or not it is his favourite flavour – in the end it will leave a bad taste in his mouth.

      Here are a few tips to make sure you and your customer are on the same page.

      Use plain language to connect to your client
      Stay away for corporate jargon and double speak. (If you have a service be very wary of your professional jargon) Tell people what you have available and what it does.
      Target your market
      Make sure to know who your customers is (demographically that is) and why they need your product
      Articulate the problems you solve and how you solve them
      People easily relate to problems – and they know if they have them. When you do your advertising or write web or marketing copy – remind them of the problem and tell them how you solve it.
      Clearly articulate the benefits
      Make sure that your client or customer knows the benefits they receive with product or service.
      Add a guarantee
      In the case where your product may not measure up – or fails to perform – or is not what you said it would be, be sure to offer a quick and full refund- and a referral to where the client may find what they are looking for. They will thank you for it.

      There will sometimes be misunderstandings

      No matter how hard you work at ensuring you are clear with your messages, remember that there are always people who do not know what they are looking for and are so anxious for a solution that they transfer their solution on to your product or service in hopes they have solved their problem.

      If you see this happening - slow the process down and be sure you talk to your customers expressing concern about what you see as a mis-communication. I have even turned customers away. In the long run it is more productive and less frustrating. Some people really just do want a drink, but aren't sure how to ask for it.
    • 21 Mar 2008 8:06 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      Put yourself in charge
      The primary difference between a life insurance policy and mortgage insurance from a mortgage lender is control. With a life insurance policy, you decide who the beneficiary will be; with mortgage insurance, the financial institution is the beneficiary and gets all of the death benefit.

      With life insurance, your beneficiary chooses how to spend the tax-free death benefit from your life insurance policy. That could be to pay down the mortgage or other debts, invest rather than pay off a low-interest mortgage, cover living expenses, or make important purchases. These options don\'t exist when your mortgage lender controls the proceeds.
      Many homeowners don\'t realize that mortgage insurance is often what\'s called \"decreasing term insurance.\" The amount you owe on your mortgage goes down as you make payments on the principal. At the same time, the death benefit -- the amount required to pay off your mortgage -- goes down by the same amount. But your mortgage insurance premiums stay the same, so you\'re actually getting less and less for your money every time you make a mortgage payment.

      Here\'s another point worth considering. Many homeowners will change the mortgage lenders during the time they\'re paying off their home, especially if they can get a lower interest rate somewhere else. If you take your mortgage to another company, in most cases, you lose your mortgage insurance and have to apply again at the new company.

      In short, you lose control, value, and flexibility when you sign for mortgage insurance with your mortgage lender.

      An alternative to consider
      Using an individual life insurance policy to protect your mortgage offers numerous advantages. It\'s important to note the difference between an individual and group insurance policy. With mortgage insurance, you\'re a member of a group -- a collection of people who have mortgage debt with the same lender. The lender or insurer may cancel a group policy at any time, and that means you could lose your coverage.
      With an individual life insurance policy, you\'re in control, so you\'re the only person who can cancel or alter your policy.

      Another benefit if you choose the life insurance route: the value of the death benefit doesn\'t decrease as you make mortgage payments. A life insurance policy with a face value of $100,000 will be worth that much as long as you make the premium payments.

      Control leads to flexibility
      If you have a life insurance policy to protect your mortgage, and a better mortgage rate exists at another company, you can transfer your mortgage to that company knowing your insurance remains in force. You don\'t need to re-apply, and you\'re protected from the danger of losing your insurance because of a change in your health.

      If price is a concern, be sure to consider all your options and what value you get for your money. Depending on the policyholder\'s age and the amount of the insurance policy, individual life insurance may be cheaper than the lender\'s mortgage insurance. It\'s worth talking to an advisor to see how the policies compare.

      Articles supporting mortgage insurance rather than a policy to protect your mortgage have indicated the lender probably won\'t ask you to fill out a medical questionnaire. If you\'re applying for a large mortgage, however, banks in particular will likely demand that you fill out a more detailed health application, and perhaps ask for a blood or urine sample.

      Usually the more detailed medical information required by insurance companies actually protects you. If you don\'t fill out a medical questionnaire with a lender, that lender could use a serious medical condition as a reason to refuse to pay your beneficiary.

      In short, these articles often fail to explain the benefits of value, control, flexibility, and security when an individual life insurance policy covers mortgage debt.
      The final choice is up to you. Weighing your options will help you get the most out of your money.

      Karly L. Berry, BComm, EPC
      Sun Life Financial
      Bus: (403) 266-2061 ext 266
    • 19 Mar 2008 8:03 PM | Mandie Crawford (Administrator)
      Women, Men, What’s the difference? Logic and emotion. Isn’t it really just all about business?

      For many women leaving the corporate world and starting their own business, it is a welcome break from having to deal with the politics that often come with a large or even medium sized workplace. Workplace bullying and aggression, limited opportunities, lack of recognition and office gossip top the list for reasons women leave the corporate world.

      Why we leave and start business:
      On exiting, women cite work/life/balance, but the underlying reasons are disturbing. Many women do not want to admit defeat in being able to function in the mixed gender office environment. Much of the real problem lies in the different ways men and women do things.

      As a woman I have worked with men most of my life – in some non traditional roles such as policing and even while acting as contractor for a house we had built. I developed a thick skin some would say and an ability to remove emotion when necessary and deal on a more logical plane when making decisions or dealing with difficult people.

      But in the end, it was my policing career that best prepared me for merging the small business arena with the corporate world. I still some days struggle with it though, and cringe when I see other women fall into traps they set for themselves that undermines their ability to grow their businesses or advance in their careers because of their lack of understanding in how to survive the corporate jungle. Let me explain.

      A Case Study ,
      A recent occurrence was brought to my attention that revealed a gap between how men handle misunderstandings and conflict between companies and even between superiors and colleagues.

      In a collaborative effort two women from different companies forged a gentleman’s agreement that began out smoothly enough. But timelines became tight on a project that had to be launched. Although the desired results were agreed upon, there were parts of the project that each had different views on.

      A dispute between the tow- for one became personal.
      When a dispute arose one of the parties involved became emotionally upset when it appeared she was not going to be able to have things done precisely as she wanted. (or as her boss wanted) In an excited state of mind she threatened to remove funding from the project. The other took a different view of the project and determined that if the timelines were not met – the project could suffer irreparable setbacks. In the end one defied the other and made a ‘business decision’.

      For men, this would not have happened quite this way. Although not all men are reasonable, they rarely let emotion rule so strongly unless it is for reasons of respect. When a man feels disrespected – he can have a passionate and emotional response.

      When a women becomes upset – it is a natural response for her to think “how can she do that to me”, and for her it becomes a personal slight against her. Disagreements between two men are often resolved without hurt feelings. Women do not easily understand this way of thinking. It’s like watching two men punch each other in the nose, then laugh and slap each other on the back and head out for a beer. I have yet to see two women do anything like that!

      Women connect and then have difficulty separating personal feelings and business logic.
      Many women when they begin to work together connect socially and in a business sense. In fact it is not out of the ordinary to see two women give ‘good bye’ embraces at the end of a business deal. This connection can be a very uplifting experience for both – however can also interfere with logical thinking, especially when disputes arise.

      Many women who have connected to another woman in a business relationship or deal feel that if they have a common goal they will think, feel and handle the matter in the same way. But in reality - each person still has their own agenda. Women are often afraid to disagree openly and strive always for consensus. So when a dispute arises – many take it personally.

      In the end in the example mentioned above, the woman who felt ‘undermined’ got even more emotional and repeatedly sent emails and phone calls pleading with the other and asking her ‘how could you do this too me’ and sending the “I am hurt” message. This further frustrated the communication issues as the other felt she made the best decision considering all the facts. And she could not convey to the offended party that it was not about trying to hurt anyone – it was only about the viability and success of the project.

      Third party solutions are often the answer
      Finally a mediator was sent in to resolve the issues at hand. He was able it isolate the issues without involving ‘feelings’ and brought both parties to agreement. Without emotion.

      Do men and women do business differently? Yes they do. In general, women bring community and demand meaning from their work. Men bring the objectivity in most cases and see things very differently. A disagreement becomes about the facts and issues at hand. In business this is true.

      General Advice
      In general many women could benefit from stepping back a few feet from an issue and removing the emotion from disagreements. And men could benefit by watching women develop community and passion in their work.

      All of us could benefit from taking the time to learn from one another. Bring in the emotion when a goal is reached – leave it out when problems arise. Maybe that should be a plaque on the employee lunchroom wall.

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