CanadianSME Small Business Magazine July 2021 Issue

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JULY 2021

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Welcome to the July issue of CanadianSME, a magazine directed towards small business owners in Canada! This month, we officially took the game up a notch by including the most exclusive insights, strategies, and advice to small business owners and entrepreneurs. Oh, and that’s not it! We also have some of the most exciting developments and the latest news included in this month’s issue to help you learn and thereby ramp up your business strategy. We strive to be Canada’s top magazine, and our mission is to include the best of the inclusive interviews and top business insights from reputable industry experts. Our team works very hard to deliver the most valuable content to our readers to ensure that you stay up to date on all the latest business trends. Empowering small and medium-sized businesses is our prime and ultimate goal. For this month, the CanadianSME magazine has brought a unique overview of Canada’s upcoming and roaring top 50 startups. Apart from that, we have also included interviews with some of the most inspiring business leaders and the businesswoman of the month. Are you wondering how to get your small-scale venture funded? Well, don’t stress because our magazine will give you a detailed outlook into the intricacies of various funding opportunities as well. We are excited to announce that CanadianSME’s Editorial team has chosen Anna Sinclair as the Business Woman of the Month. You can read an empowering short Q/A with Anna in this issue that’ll not just help empower all the women entrepreneurs but also boost their confidence as we move to the reopening stage amidst the current situation. Next on our list, we are featuring some exclusive content from Advanced Analytics and Research Lab. In the pipeline, we have “Data and Analytics; Not Just For Big Business” by Eric Huang and “How financing is beneficial?” by Michael Garrity. In addition, Steve Hansen’s “Top 3 “Moments of Truth” is another excellent piece for Financial Services Companies serving Small Business Customers in 2021. You will also get detailed information and learn about 5 Reasons Why Your Business Value Is Dropping by Trisha Paguyo. Additionally, we have lined up premier interviews with David Adams, the VicePresident, Business Development at Medavie Blue Cross “Benefits for small businesses,” “How the pandemic has impacted small businesses” with Danish Yusuf, who is the Founder and CEO of Zensurance, “The potential pros and cons for SMB owners of moving a business to a new location” by Faye Pang, Canada Country Manager, Xero. CandaianSME’s July issue will also help you learn 5 Ways Brands to Make Brands Unforgettable with Karla Jo Helms, CEO and Chief Strategist of Anti-PR Agency for JOTO PR Disruptors. Oh, the CanadianSME small business magazine is also delighted to announce the fourth episode of Canada Business Talks 2021. Want to learn what it truly takes to be a resilient entrepreneur during challenging times? Well, then what are you waiting for? Join us for an up-close and personal interaction with Chau Lui on Monday, August 9th, from 12:30 to 1:30 pm EDT. Register Now! Visit canadiansme canadian_sme canadiansme canadiansme

Publisher Shaik Khaleeluddin (SK) Consulting Editor Shiraz Siddique Creative Designer Rakibul Islam Client Manager Maheen Bari Social Media Cmarketing Inc Sales Abdul Sultan Shaik Photography Deposit Photos Web Ashraf S

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At CanadianSME, we understand the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on small businesses. Therefore, we are dedicated to providing our small business leaders with the latest trends in small business startups, along with exclusive interviews and advice from industry experts on any measures or processes to help their businesses meet the daily challenges in these challenging and unprecedented times.

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These articles provide insights into the tools and resources available and startup trends to keep top-of-mind this year. We hope that this month’s issue will help give you the knowledge and information you need to stay ahead in the market. Until next month, happy reading!

The contents in CanadianSME Magazine are for informational purposes only. Neither Cmarketing Inc, the publishers nor any of its partners, employees or affiliates accept any liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of its contents.

All Images, trademarks, service marks and logos referred to or appearing in this magazine are the property of their respective owners.

IN THIS ISSUE CanadianSME small business magazine



Business Woman Of The Month Anna Sinclair

How the pandemic has impacted small businesses

41 The pros and cons for SMB owners of moving a business to a new location

55 22

Josh Shteiman’s Bold Career Move to Build a New Legacy

Women Entrepreneur From Nova Scotia Is Changing The Meaning Of Mentorship Programs All Images, trademarks, service marks and logos referred to or appearing in this magazine are the property of their respective owners.

IN THIS ISSUE CanadianSME small business magazine



Recovery phase of the crisis and how c-suite leaders can effectively lead for the post-COVID future

The importance of reskilling and upskilling new graduates

46 Top 3 “Moments of Truth” for Financial Services Companies Serving Small Business Customers in 2021

13 Data and Analytics: Not Just For Big Businesses

82 Future-Proofing Your Business: Clamping Down on Cash Flow & The Value of Real-Time Financial Insights

All Images, trademarks, service marks and logos referred to or appearing in this magazine are the property of their respective owners.

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

What to Include in Your

Post-Pandemic Business Recovery Plan COVID has prompted changes to business continuity. What will your recovery plan cover to prepare for re-opening, especially where marketing is concerned? No greater disruption to the business landscape has had tremendous impact thanthe coronavirus. Consumer behavior has changed. Employee priorities have also shifted. Markets now must be resilient to future risks from the virus. So resuming your operations will not be the same even as restrictions ease, enabling businesses to re-open. Beyond assuring the safety of your workers and consumers when re-opening, reinvention is necessary to continue commercial growth postCOVID and into the future.

What Your Business Recovery Plan Should Cover Optimize Marketing Efforts: The global crisis sped up the transition for people to go digital, giving power to many industries online. People are more dependent than ever on online shopping, using communication platforms like Google Meet or Zoom. Whether buying or researching about product, consumers are using the internet to find you. You must be there to meet them.

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According to research, 93 percent of online experiences begin with search engines. This means that your website will be doing most of the work when it comes to engaging users and potential customers. The challenge here is that search engines show thousands and thousands of search results.

How is your website going to rank better than others? Your business needs an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. SEO lends you online visibility and improves your reach. It’scost-effective and practical when done right. The right SEO company will start with helping you define customer segments because they likely have changed, which means the terms their searching for online may have changed as well. A change in customer segments calls for a modified approach in your marketing. For starters, your customers may now be more concerned with their health rather than experiencing new products or that affordability has become more important to them than minimized impact to the environment. When you identify those segments, your marketing message will be more targeted and more effective.

Enhance Remote Work Model Apply a people-first mindset.Since the coronavirus hit, millions and millions of people around the world found themselves working remotely. As the world continues to recover from the outbreak, the future workforce will want to be given a personal choice: continue working from home or go back to the office. Businesses need to make the employee feel safe while staying productive. People won’t be able to focus on professional responsibilities if their health, or their family’s health, are on the line. Companies should be able to provide a safe workplace for their peopleand offer the necessary support.

Here are the key areas you need to focus on and prepare:

Handling the logistics (equipment and supply that will be allotted to employees) Applying policies to ensure the effectiveness of the initiatives Managing the network and bandwidth of your system

Migrating internal and external communications online (and implementation of collaboration tools needed for this happen) Providing the right web security and support to everyone (staff and clients)

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Re-align Your Business Model You need to know if your current model enough to carry the company through these past few months. And determine if it will be able to help the business re-open successfully.

Some things to consider: What is your recovery or re-opening objective? How has the global crisis affected your target market? How did their buying behavior change? How you can stay relevant by adapting to the changing needs of your consumers Can you digitize your processes, products, or services? How soon can you start offering them online? What is the current financial position of your business? Have you analyzed the balance sheet, and P&L statement from the beginning of the previous fiscal year to the time the pandemic hit? Have you used this data to analyze the financial health of your business at the current time? What are the requirements to re-open your business? Do you have adequate resources to bring the business up to normal operating standards? How much will it cost you? Do you have a marketing strategy in place to promote your business? Have you thought about what products to include or remove in your product line? What are your sources of funding?

Ensure recovery in a post-COVID world by exploring alternative solutions that reinvent your business. Prepare to put in the work, and experiment to grow and thrive the coming years. Itamar Gero is the founder of SEO Reseller, a global digital marketing solutions provider that empowers agencies and their local clients all over the world. When he isn’t working, he’s traveling the world, meditating, or dreaming (in code).


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Data and Analytics: Not Just For Big Businesses By Eric Huang, Founder and CEO of Advanced Analytics and Research Lab Often, SMEs owners, operators and managers must wear many hats and are often working with limited resources and focused priorities. One thing that often gets overlooked is their digital, data and analytics initiatives. There is a common perception that advanced data and analytics technologies and techniques are only affordable and beneficial to large corporations. According to Eric Huang, CEO of Advanced Analytics and Research Lab, "Not

only are investments in analytics very cost-effective for smaller companies, but in many cases, they reap a very high ROI." He further explains that "smaller companies are typically not burdened by entrenched processes or legacy systems and can often leapfrog directly to the most creative and cost-effective approaches. With open-source technologies and cost-effective analytics, all you need is an open mind and a willingness to start.” In the age of digital disruption, not having a data and analytics strategy is simply not acceptable.

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Where do you lie on this spectrum?

High Level Data and Analytics Strategy for SMEs Industry experts often categorize two general approaches to getting started with analytics. First is the “low hanging fruit approach” and second is “the holistic approach”. In the first approach, the team would assess existing processes and brainstorm opportunities for data and analytics. They figure out the value and the cost for each potential initiative. This step usually requires a clear understanding of the value of data and analytics, and it is highly recommended for a company starting out to look for an external partner or hire a director in data or analytics who is experienced to help guide you through this complicated process. In the holistic approach, you identify both short-term and long-term strategic goals and align your data and analytics initiatives accordingly. Beyond the high-level strategic considerations, analytics can be broadly applied in two ways within an organization. To support core business functions and decision making or to be part of an actual value add to your client.

A real life example. As an example of data analytics that supports business functions, let’s look at a sushi restaurant with 9 stores. On a day-to-day basis, the CEO wanted to better understand their revenue, staffing costs, and scrap. An analytics project was executed with an external vendor where the data from multiple systems (point of sales, HR, scrap, digital ads, website, and social media traffic) were brought together into a single report, and benchmarks were made on a weekly, quarterly, and monthly basis. This gave the CEO real-time opportunities to make micro-adjustments on marketing spend to increase revenue, staffing adjustments on costs, as well as understand overall operational effectiveness. Beyond that, a product bundling and pricing study was completed. This helped the organization understand opportunities to bundle products together as well as raising or decreasing prices on specific days of the week to balance demand to the store and achieve an overall increase in revenue. Oftentimes, these activities lead to a 3-25% increase in revenue and a 5-40% decrease in marketing costs. As demonstrated in this example, analytics can help organizations find significant cost savings and revenue opportunities just from being able to fine-tune operations through a more granular understanding of data from operations.

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Benefits of Analytics The benefits of analytics can be narrow to solve specific issues or broad and far-reaching. Analytics can help the team remove decision-making blind spots and resolve problems proactively instead of reactively. It can also find key levers that would not be obvious without deep pattern recognition to drive bottom-line improvements and saves time via automation. Most importantly, analytics help you ask more questions and discover patterns that can’t be recognized using surface numbers. As stated by a board member of a family-run business who had established their firm’s analytics strategy with an external partner, “Our analytics partner has helped the management and operations team uncover new insights and provide in-depth data and analysis that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered when making critical decisions. Furthermore, we custom-built a revenue analytics engine that ultimately increased our revenue by 5-10%. The project and investment paid itself back within months and have continued to contribute to the company’s overall efficiency and effectiveness. I’m happy to say we’ll continue to invest into this field going forward”.

4) Do I have good quality data? Is it well organized? Am I leveraging my systems to their fullest potential? 5) Do I have a continuous improvement process?

Overcoming fear and doubts: People are often fearful of change. The promises of analytics often sound lofty, confusing, and sometimes magical. It’s not magical. It’s driven by the idea that to achieve excellence and be the best, an organization needs to have a relentless drive to understand and improve, day in and day out. Analytics is simply problem-solving but with the best and most information available. It is about creating a feedback loop within your organization that will drive intelligent conversations and answers. As with any strategy and culture change, it often involves the five pillars of organizational (or analytical) excellence.

You want to get into analytics, now what? The first thing that a management team or owner should recognize is that data and analytics is a complicated ocean that requires skill sets from multiple disciplines to navigate. It often combines the understanding of technologies, business, organizational (and change management), domain expertise, mathematics, and statistical skills. As such, it is often difficult for an organization to know where to start. Most SMEs find a partner or an advisor who can walk them through the intricacies of the journey and help them get started. These are the general guidelines and questions you should ask to get started: 1) What are my biggest challenges? How might better data and analytics help with that?

2) How am I currently tracking my most important activities and goals? How often am I reviewing those goals?

3) Do I need to be more defensive or offensive with my data? Defensive suggests you want to keep your data safe and comply with regulatory requirements. Offensive implies you want to actively leverage analytics to find opportunities.

The world is changing faster than ever, and the cost of inaction is greater than ever before. The longer you wait, the further you will be behind.

Industry leaders are investing and working on it. It is affordable to get started. Not only will data and analytics help you be more profitable, but it will also help you stay competitive in the long run. What are you waiting for?

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BUSINESS WOMAN OF THE MONTH Anna Sinclair Founder and CEO, Total Mom Inc. Anna Sinclair, a supermom and the Founder of Total Mom Inc. is our Businesswoman of the month. Canadian SME got the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with this amazing mind behind a startup that is doing its bit in helping change the personal and professional lives of many women across the globe. In this excerpt, we will try to understand from Anna herself how this fire to help the moms ignited, took a shape, and developed into something so magnificent

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Total Mom Inc. is a social enterprise and media company taking moms from overwhelmed to supported both personally and professionally through programs, products and services. What started out as Canada’s largest holistic festival for moms called “ The Total Mom Show’, has ignited a movement that inspired many mom communities to turn back the focus to mom. Today, Total Mom's founder Anna Sinclair is working on developing an innovative life management system for moms that incorporates AI via a membership platform to support moms anywhere in the world at any time. The global hub will provide transformation in all areas of life and access mentorship, resources, high-quality content, courses, and howtos by leading experts to be elevated by empowerment, meaningful connections and support all while being on the pulse of their life through a personal dashboard unique to each Total Mom member.

What inspired you to start your own digital network, Total Mom Inc.? Total Mom Inc started out as Canada’s largest holistic festival for moms called “ The Total Mom Show’. I was inspired after coming home from a baby show, which I found more so focused on babies and kids’ needs and was personally in dire need of help in many areas of my life once my son was born. I saw a gap when it came to supporting moms. I have to say, this festival validated moms who too felt somewhat left out of the equation when it came to getting our needs met too. What I found was it wasn’t so much the inability to access support, it was more so about the permission to access it and the lack of messaging to empower moms to get what they needed. I knew that after speaking to first, second and even thirdtime moms, I realized that they too were lacking meaningful support just like me. I wanted to take control of my life again and was on a mission to create something impactful. Our community of entrepreneur moms has grown quite significantly this year following our National Initiative “ Canada’s Total Mom Pitch presented by The Scotiabank Women Initiative, powered by Visa Canada '' where we supported thousands of Canadian SME’s with their entrepreneurial journey. With plans to activate a festival in major cities across Canada, the world looks quite different now and as with many startups, we had to digitally transform our services and experiences and it’s about to become much more. With my 5-year psychology studies behind me, I saw a correlation. We need to provide support to moms on a holistic level beyond shopping experiences for their babies. Today I am working on developing an innovative life

management system for moms that incorporates AI via a membership platform to support moms anywhere in the world at any time. The global hub will provide transformation in all areas of life and access mentorship, resources, high-quality content, courses, and how-tos by leading experts to be elevated by empowerment, meaningful connections and support all while being on the pulse of their life through a personal dashboard unique to each Total Mom member.

And what would you say is the biggest challenge of being a female entrepreneur in the business industry that is largely male-dominated. It's always been funding. It's best to grow a network of women in your circle and join organizations that support women in business. Don't worry, we got this!

What do you find is most important to working professionals today? Are priorities changing? I would say that based on the recent studies and surveys on working professionals, it would have to be the need for flexibility. We live in such a different world now and require to invest in our wellbeing more than ever before so that needs to be a priority on a daily basis. I think we can all agree that the quality of our lives needs to be great for us to perform and stay motivated. I would say balancing personal and professional needs to the best ability is key.

Tell us who your role model is? Women in business? I have been asked this question many times and I honestly don’t have one woman that is a role model. I see so many beautiful attributes from women all over the world in their diversity across the board. I am just as inspired by a young thought leader starting from scratch as I am with Opera who is wildly successful. I am inspired by vulnerability so if she possesses that, I am probably going to be moved by that. Vulnerability in leadership is an incredibly brave way to inspire and empower.

How can women better enable each other instead of competing? What needs to change in your opinion? What I have gathered from previous conversations with other women is to work on your self-development and emotional intelligence first. When we are in alignment, we see collaboration over competition and we understand that there is more than enough space for us all to shine.

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We need to break the generational trauma of women not being seen as business leaders and feel worthy. We can get much farther when we are united and I think it’s important to serve others and the universe will truly show you that there are a million women ready to serve you.

What advice would you give to young women who want to improve their presenting skills? You have many ways in which you can present something, but to truly enroll and register an audience or potential partner, you need to come to the table with passion, storytelling, and stats! I use the power of video and visuals to elevate my presentations and I always do research before I present anything. Don’t worry about a thing. Just be you, show your passion and people will feel that. Don’t focus on anything other than what you want people to feel.

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How Design Can Create Post Pandemic Business Resiliency

Stanley Sun Partner at Mason Studio The recent pandemic has shaken away strategic business models for small and large businesses alike. Therefore, Stanley Sun, a Partner at Mason Studio talk about how design can be that deciding change in creating a post-pandemic resiliency. Sun discusses the future of design in the retail business and how his venture will help young entrepreneurs who are still finding their feet.

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BID HONS, BSC HONS, NCIDQ, IDC, ARIDO, BCIN Stanley Sun’s design vision is informed by a unique blend of formal studies in human sciences, fine arts and interior design training. Approaching each new design challenge with a combined scientific and humanistic perspective, he first observes how people experience and react to the built environment to then create a rational and intuitive design solution. Of particular interest to Stanley’s practice is the science of light, and the physiological and psychological response people have to lighting. Throughout his career, Stanley has led major interior design projects across Asia, North America and Europe. He recently led the award-winning Jing'An project in Shanghai. As an advocate for Canadian design, Stanley has been published widely and has participated as a keynote speaker at leading design conferences. He has also lectured as a sessional instructor at his alma mater, Ryerson School of Interior Design

What is the inspiration behind the launch of Mason Studio? And what do you hope to accomplish with it? Mason Studio is an established, multi-awardwinning international architecture and design firm. We create luxury hospitality, retail and multi-unit residential design projects, and experimental exhibitions. Based on our core value of “less but better”, our work blends art and science with the aim of delivering meaningful and unexpected experiences to our clients and end-users.

What is your vision of the future of retail and service businesses, and how can design help them adapt to not only the current crisis but future economic, physical, social and environmental impacts as well? The pandemic has presented us with many challenges, notwithstanding having to rethink the way we interact with our physical spaces. However, we believe that with great challenge comes great opportunity: retail and service businesses can now rethink the way they use design to create longterm resiliency. It’s clear that digital now plays a leading component in our shopping experiences, even in physical environments – for example, ordering products on your phone for curbside pickup.

But often, an online experience is very disconnected from a physical one. One opportunity to leverage design lies in more deeply connecting our virtual and physical experiences. What if we were to create reimagined, hybrid businesses, where physical and digital aspects are more intertwined? Additionally, having more flexible thinking around different modes of selling and location, such as creating mobile retail environments, can enable businesses to reach and sell to their customers in fast, safe and convenient new ways.

Why is it important to change the way we think about design and consider how it can be used to facilitate innovation? Design is not just object or space-based; it can actually be utilized to rebuild businesses, promote wellness and contribute to the bottom line. As a result, it is incredibly important that we shift the mindset to better appreciate how design can facilitate innovation. We are seeing more and more disciplines converging, so we are looking at how we are going to use design to merge these different programs – be it health and wellness, retail or technology – to add value, not just from a revenue standpoint, but from a lifestyle standpoint as well.

Design can be used to blur the lines between segmentations in the market to create more cohesive, experience-based shopping environments. This could be in the form of using the common areas in residential units for pop-ups and concept stores or transforming the space from a hair salon by day to a cocktail bar by night. A lifestyle based on this type of convergence is not only reflective of the times where people are wanting to stay closer to home, but it also presents the opportunity to create a more comprehensive brand through multiple interconnected experiences. Design is a crucial aspect of this from both an aesthetic and functional perspective.

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What are some ways that businesses can effectively implement design thinking principles? Design thinking helps test assumptions, ask questions and use experimentation as part of the process – and these principles can be applied to any business. It is a more flexible, less regimented approach that encourages seeing things from a different perspective, drawing upon concepts from other disciplines and allowing this to teach us new ways of thinking or looking at things. It’s about taking a step back and looking at the business as a whole, for example, how businesses are framed and developed, and using design to create better solutions. Businesses have an opportunity to rethink how design can help sell products and services in a way that’s resilient and engaging for the customer. It’s more than design solutions – it’s business solutions. For instance, the pandemic has given us the opportunity to see how we interact with each other and how important that human interaction is in a physical environment.

What is your key advice to small businesses during these challenging times? I think some people are more fearful to start a new initiative because the future is so uncertain. Design can help fuel flexibility, and can be used as a powerful tool to provide comfort, confidence and resilience. Thinking ahead enables us to design with ideas that are relevant for the future, and not just 3-6 months down the line.

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Women Entrepreneur From Nova Scotia Is Changing The Meaning Of Mentorship Programs As the future of work and learning continues to evolve as a result of the pandemic, employees and professionals both young and experienced have been propelled to think much more critically about their careers. The demand for more flexible workplaces and valuealigned employers is increasing. Research suggests that millennials are already seeking workplaces that focus on physical and mental health, over those solely driven by the bottom line For some, this time has encouraged career pivots, reskilling and upskilling, revisiting passions, more time investing in“side hustles”, pursuing the gig economy, while others have been forced to begin their job hunt again. Yet no matter the stage in your career, the pandemic has taught many that resources and tools are crucial for career development, which is why many have found the value in seeking out mentorships, and learning opportunities within their relevant industries.

Alternatively, employers are also now required to think more about both their hiring practices and employee retention strategies. To adapt to these shifts, many industries are rethinking or implementing the concept of work-integrated learning (WIL) within the workplace. In order to appeal to new employees and retain their existing talent, employers will have to foster an environment that both nurtures their employees and accelerates their skills. Mentorship programs in particular have become a successful and cost-effective way for employers to support the career development of their employees, new hires and nurture future prospects. After having her own transformative experience with mentorship, Chantal Brine, Founder and CEO of EnPoint was fueled to create the same experience for others. Working in an industry that was predominantly male-oriented, Brine found a lifelong and invaluable mentor in one of the very few women who worked with her at a time. She describes the experience as watching the “magic” of her mentor bringing groups together to deliver groundbreaking strategies.

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“The term and label of mentor, when I was able to work with her, wasn’t one we used but now I’ve come to understand 100% that’s what she was. She would take me for lunch, and explain how she was maneuvering the bits and pieces at the time, and I really appreciated it.” However, this was not Brines’ only substantial experience with mentorship. She began quickly discovering that the relationships that she built and facilitated reflected in her overall job satisfaction and positive career outlook. A turning point came in 2014 when Chantal was volunteering for Techsploration, an organization that encouraged young women to pursue education and careers in STEM through creating awareness of math and science courses that were available to them. Not just Chantal herself, but Wayne Crawley, her mentor at the time, took note of how doing impactful work in mentorship boosted her overall morale and positive career outlook. Crawley has always had a strong belief that “human beings are put on earth to find purpose, and serve others. In fact, you’ll live longer than others if you do, and engaging in mentorship is part of that.” For Chantal, it was clear that finding the right person, at the right time, can be life-changing. Having a mentor like Crawley, was the helping hand that lifted and propelled her to a place she was not able to get to on her own.

“I was with people whom I knew were aligned in terms of what we were doing there – a common purpose. We were passionate about the work that we were doing and were getting sh*t did. We were making a difference for 3,000 girls in this province. It showed in my body language! For the next year and a half, I worked with my mentor to actually figure out what was going to be the next step for me…it was a beautiful, amazing opportunity. I got to see so many examples of things that worked really well in terms of building a team, culture and product so I did learn a lot. It’s just that it was someone else’s baby. It was someone else’s vision and company.” Chantal’s journey to entrepreneurship however was not overnight, as she actually went on to a few different roles over the next two years across different organizations. Yet the roles always somehow brought her back to mentorship, and its impact on team building and culture.

When Chantal first founded EnPoint in 2018, it was initially created to address Nova Scotia’s problem of needing to keep young, talented professionals in Nova Scotia after graduation. Brine saw the need for young professionals to receive tools and meaningful connections to enable them to transform their passion into a career. Today, EnPoint is a B2B company that partners with organizations that are committed to working with, facilitating and supporting the passion-fueled careers of individuals.

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EnPoint Mentorship allows its businesses to implement, manage and monitor custom mentorship programs. EnPoint allows its clientele to alleviate the administrative burden that is often associated with creating mentorship programs. With EnPoint, you are able to set up custom questionnaires that provide the best mentor to mentee match-up, while simultaneously track the progress of these relationships with measurable results within the platform. Where impactful mentorship programs required complex and time-consuming communication and planning, EnPoint offers a seamless and scalable implementation and maintenance all within a single platform. However, EnPoint Mentorship’s work goes beyond software. From her years of experience in mentorship and consultancy for other businesses both in the public and private sector, Chantal was determined to continue doing the same for others through her business. As a result, EnPoint also has what they refer to as “Mentorship Program Design & Consultation” which offers advisory and planning services to help clients create their own mentorship program. Above all, Chantal and her team at En Point believe that “intrinsic motivation” and a connection to the work that you do will ultimately increase productivity and job satisfaction, which naturally, is beneficial for both employers and their employees.

“ As human beings, we all want to feel valued, to add value and while those things have always been important, the pandemic has forced all of those things to the forefront for all organizations. Using productivity as a metric for employers, economic engines and communities rely on the people doing the work to be connected to that work, to want to do that work…Intrinsic motivation is such a different driver than externally driven motivation. If you are able to get somebody that’s intrinsically connected AND you compensate them fairly, man you got a rockstar. ” Today, EnPoint is continuing with its mission to support one million people to make the right connections at the right stages in their careers. To Chantal, the ambitious goal means that there are finally enough people from all backgrounds who are happy and fulfilled in their work. About EnPoint: EnPoint’s mission is to support one million people to make the right connections at the right stages in their careers. EnPoint leverages its proprietary mentorship software and expert services to build custom mentorship programs for organizations and institutions. Visit to learn more. 1.

Our mantra is to think differently and be original in everything we do. Yoann & Dominik are serial entrepreneurs. They have always strived to be dynamic business owners and Coco Village is years in the making. Yoann, from a young age, had an entrepreneurial and creative spirit. As early as fourteen he was producing events and shows. His childhood passion quickly turned into his first business venture in event production. He’s always had a flair for design esthetics, and it showed in the events he managed and in the products Coco Village makes today. Dominik originally comes from a corporate professional background, having worked in the IT field for Lotto Québec and Hydro Québec for the majority of his professional career. Wanting to break away from the norm of a 9 to 5 government job, he wholeheartedly embarked on this exciting entrepreneurial adventure. He brings structure and rigour to a young company as a father gives to his young son. Fathers of two amazingly energic twins, Auguste and Sidney, they live each day in the quest to feed their and your childrens wildest imaginations.

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What was the inspiration and motivation behind the launch of Coco Village? What are you hoping to achieve from your company? The motivation behind the launch of Coco Villlage is quite simple. As parents, we were unsatisfied with the toys and furniture that were available in the North American marketplace. We wanted toys and furniture that were both eye-pleasing and fun for our kids at a reasonable price. This is why we created Coco Village. As founders, designers and parents, our mission is to design stylish, affordable and high-quality products for cool families with happy children. Through our products, we’re hoping to demonstrate that children can learn while playing with modern and fun toys, while not compromising the aesthetics of a family’s home.

What makes your products unique from the other children’s furniture and toy brands? What sets Coco Village apart is without a doubt, our designs! Everything is hand-drawn by our fantastic designers in-house. We offer unique yet playful prints and designs, created to solicit maximum engagement with children in mind. From our beds to our bags, everything is imagined here, at Coco Village. As parents, our children inspire us every day. We are constantly evolving with them. This allows us to learn, adapt, and follow trends in order to continuously improve our designs.

What did you implement to create an office space eco-friendly, modern and dynamic? We were inspired by Google and the best tech firms in the world! We've always admired their modern, collaborative and fun office spaces. We really liked the idea of a large open space and adding several collaborative work areas. We strongly encourage teamwork and we feel like our office truly supports that dynamic. We added lots (and lots) of greenery throughout to make it feel more inviting and less corporate. Our space encourages creativity, communication (especially since ALL our workspaces are on the same floor and doors are rarely closed!) and productivity. We believe our employees can thrive in this new work environment and have a great space to birth, share and see their beautiful ideas come to fruition. The open space allows for better air circulation and recovery, which reduces heating and cooling requirements. Our naturally light-filled office also significantly reduces electricity needs, thanks to our floor-to-ceiling windows. As for the warehouse, we use natural gas heating and all our packaging is made from our own recycled boxes! Recycle - reuse! We try to constantly rethink and improve our process for a better future.

What are some tips to start an online toy business? Please share some dos and don’ts. Do’s Our mantra is to think differently and be original in everything we do. Each and every one of our products has been custom designed and made for our clients. We strive to stand out in the masses and be as unique as possible. This is why we pour so much effort into our designs and the manufacturing process to offer the most outstanding products possible. Put thought into all the product designs. Regardless of the scale of the project, make sure that each and every design has been thought through, researched and tested. Every product that comes out of our warehouse needs to have the utmost attention to detail. Know your audience and create value for them. Parents these days have a bevy of information available at their fingertips at all times and have never been as knowledgeable as before. When speaking to our audiences we have to keep in mind their needs and not ours. The product has to be safe, aesthetically pleasing, made of sustainable materials, adds value to the child and their family while remaining affordable.

Don’ts Don’t stay in one place. We always tell our teams to think outside the box and always be innovating. Complacency is your biggest enemy, and you always need to be adapting to the ever-changing trends in the industry. One of the biggest misconceptions in the e-commerce space, especially in the children’s furniture and toys field, is that you should always expect organic traffic just because you have a presence online. This is false. You must always be trying to build new relationships with clients and nurture the ones you already have. We always tell our team ‘if this is being sold by anybody else, don’t do it.

What is your key advice to e-commerce entrepreneurs during this challenging time? These times are unprecedented, there is no handbook for a situation such as the one we are all in right now. Our advice would be to look ahead, plan forward and avoid any last-minute thinking. You don’t have the luxury of time like we have had in the past.

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SMALL BUSINESS CHAT WITH Dave Adams Vice-President, Business Development Medavie Blue Cross Canadian SME got an incredible opportunity to get into chitchat with the Vice-President of Medavie Blue Cross, Dave Adams. Aimed at providing services ranging from medical and dental care to travel and disability benefits, Adams reflects on how this idea took shape and turned into a mission, one directed towards the well-being of fellow Canadians. David Adams is the Vice-President, Business Development at Medavie Blue Cross, a premier all-in-one carrier that provides health, dental, travel, life and disability benefits. He leads the execution of the company’s growth and retention strategies. David brings an intuitive sense of customer service, gained throughout his 20 years of client relationship experience in group insurance and other client-focused industries. As a chartered professional accountant, David offers a unique perspective to the world of group benefits, service and sales. He is based in Moncton, New Brunswick.

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What are some principles that have guided your organization in maintaining business continuity? With challenges and uncertainties comes opportunity – for us at Medavie Blue Cross, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportunity to further demonstrate our core values of being caring, accountable, responsive, innovative and communityminded. Throughout the pandemic, we have stayed true to our mission of improving the wellbeing of Canadians by focusing on the people we serve, growing and diversifying our offering, enhancing our operational and clinical excellence, taking a digital-first approach and strengthening our partnerships. Back in March of last year, we quickly transitioned 98 percent of our employee base to work from home — where the majority remains today. As we continue to redesign our workplace of the future, we will continue to actively consult, listen and communicate with our team, taking their feedback and preferences into account. We know we will not be going back to 100 percent of our employees at our offices. Instead, we will provide flexibility to our team based on preference and other considerations.

How has Medavie Blue Cross supported employees since the onset of COVID-19, what are some new support programs and services in place? At Medavie Blue Cross, we are committed to fostering a culture of engagement - regularly consulting with our team, across markets, is our top priority. While continuing to ensure our team feels valued, respected and safe, we have also expanded employee support by:

Offering flexible work arrangements Increasing employee wellness dollars Providing greater access to mental health care Expanding our computer purchase program Offering a series of virtual coaching and wellness sessions Encouraging meeting-free Fridays

The pandemic has underscored the importance of connectivity. Regular workplace communications have been expanded to include virtual conferences, employee webinars, online lunch-and-learns and more. To support the health and wellness of our employees and maintain our award-winning culture, we have also:

Collaborated with organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association to host wellness webinars Added Meditation Mondays and Yoga Fridays to our calendars Published a staycation guide, a cookbook and a family fun activity book Sent care packages to employees’ homes

We hope the greater emphasis employers have placed on health and wellness continues long after the pandemic.

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What are some benefits Medavie Blue Cross launched for established small businesses, up to 10 employees, to offer employees the protection they need and expect? Small and medium-sized businesses are vital to Canada’s economy and have a huge impact on the job market. With a strong commitment to improving the wellbeing of Canadians, Medavie Blue Cross is always looking at ways to reimagine benefit plans that best support the needs of Canada’s diverse workforce, including the vital small and medium-sized business sector. This includes launching new offerings like Benefits for Small Business.

Can you share some ways for entrepreneurs and small business owners to power through these rough times? Employers, by and large, have gone above and beyond their core responsibilities and areas of focus. One of the biggest challenges is mental health. Surveys confirm the heavy toll the pandemic has had on mental wellbeing. Employers, in general, responded by increasing services and supports for employees. An industry report published in February found more than two-thirds (68%) of employed Canadians felt their employer has supported their mental health amid the pandemic.

Currently available in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, Benefits for Small Business provides coverage for extended health care, including vision care, prescription drugs, dental, disability, life and travel insurance. The plan is designed to pool claims together with other small businesses, lowering the financial impact of high claims activity and ensuring that the plans remain cost-effective for small businesses over time.

Key features include:

Stable pricing for must-have employee benefits that can be up and running within days No deductibles or medical questionnaires are required for core benefits Digital tools for easy, on-the-go plan access and claims management Direct payment of claims through Medavie Blue Cross’ vat provider network Access to virtual health care options at preferred member rates Easy activation and simple administration

This plan also provides added flexibility with a health spending account option and employee-paid optional coverage for critical illness and additional life insurance. Additionally, and throughout the pandemic, we have worked with SMEs and their advisors to make modifications to their plans to adjust to the new realities and help meet the needs of their employees.

That really speaks to the incredible resilience of small business owners who are shifting and adapting to meet the needs of their employees as they continue to serve Canadians. Understanding that their needs are dynamic, our job at Medavie Blue Cross is to continue to support them and equip them with the services they need to move safely and successfully toward economic recovery.


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Medical Technologies Inc.

Dr. Asha Parekh CEO and Co-Founder of Front-Line Medical Technologies' COBRA-OS Device

Dr. Asha Parekh discusses the challenges of being a women entrepreneur with CanadianSME in our next segment and what should another aspiring person learn from her journey in bringing Frontline Medical Technologies Inc. to life. Targeted towards bringing a device to help save many more lives especially those of the critically ill, Dr. Parekh elaborates on her journey until now and what more does she aims to achieve.

Dr. Asha Parekh is co-founder and CEO for Front Line Medical Technologies Inc. Asha has a PhD in biomedical engineering from Western University with a specialty in biomaterials and medical devices. She has several patents and publications and has secured multiple grants and funding for her projects. She is passionate about medical device innovation and looks forward to making a global impact with the COBRA-OS. In her spare time, she enjoys playing and watching soccer and F1 racing. Front Line Medical Technologies Inc. is a medical device company that has developed a product called the COBRA-OS™ (Control of Bleeding, Resuscitation, Arterial Occlusion System). The COBRA-OS™ is the first 4 French REBOA (Resuscitative Endovascular Balloon Occlusion of the Aorta) device, making it the smallest ever available. It is an innovative, easy-to-use aortic occlusion device with an extremely low-profile for temporary hemorrhage control and resuscitation. The medical device allows front line personnel to save more lives by controlling patients’ bleeding in fewer steps with the potential to decrease complications.

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As a female CEO and co-founder of a company, what would you say has been the biggest challenge you've faced?

What are some of the initiatives that should be taken that can help women when it comes to holding leadership roles in the MedTech industry?

One of the biggest challenges I've faced and continue to overcome is something I'm sure many women executives and entrepreneurs experience, and that is being heard. I'm often the only woman in the room and have experienced not being addressed or asked to chime in at all. There are still people that will defer to the man in the room over a woman 100% of the time, whether it’s in person or by any other mode of communication. And so, I show up and keep trying to (appropriately) make ways for my voice to be heard. Change won’t happen overnight, so we must continue to stand up and rise to the challenge as best as we can – this is the only way to affect change.

We are seeing more women in STEM, which is excellent, but there's obviously a lot of room for improvement. Many STEM programs (and women-specific STEM programs) are opening new, less traditional doors for young students, such as the startup and entrepreneurial routes, which have embedded leadership aspects. Having programs and groups that host conferences, provide educational sessions on women in STEM, and offer observatory roles to get a taste of what it’s like to be a woman in a (STEM) leadership position are also great initiatives.

As the woman behind Front Line Medical Technologies' COBRA-OS Device, how does it feel to have achieved significant success in the MedTech industry? We're just getting started, but it's very gratifying to know we're bringing a device to the market that can help save more lives. Apart from that, the collaboration on the development of COBRA-OS is another aspect that I'm proud of. Utilizing Dr. Adam Power's experience as a vascular surgeon and my background as a biomedical engineer, we created an innovative device that has the potential to increase the use of REBOA, which lends to our ultimate goal of helping to save lives.

Only 19% of leadership roles in the MedTech industry are held by women and only 10% of healthcare startups are owned or founded by women. What do you believe is the main cause of the lack of women in the healthcare industry? In my opinion, people often get pigeon-holed into specific industries based on their gender, which doesn't need to be the case. This starts with conditioning from a very young age, so it’s sometimes hard to address at the adult level with those who have already formed engrained thoughts. However, I do believe it is possible to make changes. We need to be cognizant of addressing these issues the right way; we don’t want only women to go into STEM, either. We want to open doors for women who are interested in STEM so they know it’s an option and feel comfortable moving towards it.

You're very passionate about inspiring the next generation of women in STEM and increasing the number of females in the industry. Why do you believe this is an important topic that requires awareness? I believe it’s important that everyone feels and knows that they have equal opportunities as the next human being to pursue a career of their choice. I think that many people carry biases on the subject, even unintentionally. Deconstructing gender bias needs to start at the formative ages to have a lasting impact, so we need to address our biases from a younger age and normalize men and women to have similar interests. If young girls see themselves represented in STEM careers, they will feel more inspired to work toward their dreams in the field and it will feel more attainable for them. Representation for women of colour and diversity is also crucial.

On a final note, what would you say has been your biggest achievement in your professional career? What are you most proud of? I am most proud of founding Front Line and bringing a medical device product to market – period. It’s one thing to invent something, but the undertaking of commercializing a medical device is not a small, easy, or cheap one. As I was told from very early days, execution is key! I’m extremely proud to have dedicated and committed myself full-time to Front Line.

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Nancy Harris has more than 35 years of experience in sales, marketing, partner development and leading large SaaS and enterprise software companies, including BMC Software and Asure Software. Nancy joined Sage in 2011, serving as vice president and general manager of Sage 50 Accounting, Canadian Edition, and later as managing director of the company’s Canadian business. Today, Nancy resides in the U.S. and is managing director of Sage North America.


Nancy Harris EVP and Managing Director, Sage North America

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What are the greatest unknowns we face as COVID-19 recedes into the distance? How will we work, live, and thrive in the post-pandemic future? At Sage, we know that what is most important will remain: focusing on customer success and supporting the well-being of employees in a changing work environment. According to the Forward Togetherreport, 76 percent of Canadian businesses will continue to allow some level of remote work for employees. It is therefore not surprising that 47 percent of business leaders plan to increase their technology budget to digitize their business and help facilitate the evolution to a hybrid work model. After the massive shifts to remote work, we now face adapting to a hybrid model that combines the collaborative nature of the office, and the flexibility of working from home. There will be challenges – but also opportunities – to create a more engaged, enjoyable, and successful business environment through a hybrid work environment.

What are the most important elements of strong company culture? Why is building a strong culture so important? A strong culture helps employees believe in what they are doing, perform better and enables companies to attract and retain top talent for the organization. The most important asset of any business is its people, and cultivating a dynamic culture requires engaging with and listening to employees while responding to their diverse needs. In 2018, Sage CEO Steve Hare and Chief People Officer Amanda Cusdin launched an initiative that became crucial for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic: the Always Listeningsurvey, which invites Sage colleagues from around the world to regularly share their thoughts and offer suggestions for improving their work environment. By actively listening to the needs of employees across the entire business, the leadership team is equipped to respond in a way that tangibly supports and benefits employees.

How can companies plan and implement a flexible culture that adapts to and even thrives during – and after – unanticipated disruption? In the Forward Together report, Canadian business leaders cited increasing productivity (42 percent), reducing burnout (34 percent), and having a greater ability to attract and retain talent (41 percent), as the top three reasons for adopting a hybrid work model during and after the pandemic. Implementing a flexible work culture starts with the leadership team recognizing that they want to build a resilient culture and outlining what that entails for individual employees. A strong culture is not rigid.It is flexible,

responsive to employee needs and requires continuous innovation from everyone across the business, from the CEO to the newest intern. As demonstrated over the past year and a half, organizations that thrive during periods of disruption have done so by listening to each other, responding in a meaningful way, and readying themselves to adapt to the changing tides. This holds true whether you are building a work culture from scratch or upholding a long-standing one.

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How can companies adopt a remote workforce model while retaining a distinctive culture that fills its employees with pride and a sense of purpose? According to the forward Together report, 68 percent of employees expect that the company where they work will allow some level of remote work once life returns to normal. A hybrid approach, however, creates some unique challenges for building and cultivating a great work culture. At Sage, we take a proactive approach to fostering our culture, in both physical and remote work environments. This requires a regular cadence of touchpoints, whether through employee surveys, all-hands meetings with the senior leadership team, frequent and targeted communications from newsletters, company intranet, and company social networking platforms. Regular company broadcasts – known as Sage TV Live – allows Sage CEO Steve Hare to discuss current events at Sage and in the world at large, with a focus on the health and wellbeing of colleagues. Companies should adopt the work model that is best suited for their organization, and that takes into consideration the needs and wants of employees, so they can do the best work of their lives.

What is your key advice to small businesses during these uncertain times? The resilience and heart of the small business community during the pandemic has been incredibly inspiring to me, and for the Sage community at large. Small businesses learned that to sustain their presence during times of disruption, agility, resilience and flexibility are key. Meeting evolving customer expectations in a fluctuating business environment and keeping an engaged culture in a remote work setting does not happen by accident. It starts by actively listening to employees and having a flexible infrastructure in place that allows continuous feedback to be incorporated into the organization. Successful companies rarely rely solely on past achievements; they continuously innovate and strategically invest in their people to chart new paths and elevate the company to bold, new heights.

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HOW FINANCING IS BENEFICIAL? Financing is a way in which a product and/or service can be paid for. It is generally over an extended period of time, with four or more installments. It allows SMEs to not only maximize business profits but maximize their service offerings as well. In the home improvement sector, in particular, financing can be especially beneficial. This is because home improvement projects can be quite expensive. For example, the average cost of a hot tub in Canada will run just under $10,000. This isn’t an amount most people have sitting in their bank accounts. And even if they do, it doesn’t mean that they should pay in one lump sum as they then lose the interest that could have accrued on the extra funds.

Can Financing Make Home Renovations More Efficient And Economical For Your SME? Globally, throughout the pandemic, we have spent more time in our homes than at any time in recent history. That time gave Canadians pause to consider the unfinished projects and the new changes that they would consider making to improve their homes and their yards. As a result, nearly half of all Canadian adults have already renovated or are planning to renovate in the near future. From the typical gutter cleaning, roof re-tiling and deck revamping, to new bath and spa areas with hot tubs or home gyms, the home renovation boom will continue well into 2022. As such, for SMEs in the home improvement space, it is important to understand the benefits of incorporating financing into business models.

How can financing set your SME up for success? To ensure you’re reaching all demographics and maximizing business, it is important to offer a suite of payment options. This is why businesses likeFinanceit, offer to finance for projects and purchases up to $100,000.

Financing can help set SMEs up for success in a number of ways. From increasing their product offerings to the scope of their projects, by offering financing options, businesses are able to bring in more revenue, as more customers are able to afford and execute projects. This in turn creates a business boom with ripple effects to increased employment, increased revenue, increased service offerings and more.

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How can financing help your customers? Customers don’t always have the funds to pay upfront for a product and/or service. Financing, however, allows them to still secure the product and/or service by breaking down the one big lump sum into smaller, more affordable installments. By offering customers the ability to finance their projects, you are giving them more purchasing power which then increases projects and revenue for you and your team. This is all to say that as SMEs continue to grow and pivot their businesses, and Canadians continue to renovate their homes, it is important to remember that financing can be extremely beneficial both to business as well as to consumers. I would urge you, if you haven’t done so already, to do some research, or even reach out to my team, to see how exactly you can incorporate financing into your business model to continue to thrive through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. About author: Michael Garrity is the Co-Founder and CEO of Financeit, Canada's leading point-of-sale financing provider in the home improvement sector. Financeit works closely with a number of small and medium-sized businesses to help them increase their product offerings and in turn, grow their businesses.

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How the pandemic has impacted small businesses with Danish Yusuf, Founder and CEO of Zensurance

Danish Yusuf is the Founder and CEO of Zensurance, a Toronto-based technology company revolutionizing the property and casualty insurance space. After completing his degree in Engineering at the University of Toronto, Danish went on to Harvard Business School, where he graduated in 2009. Before starting Zensurance, Danish was a leader in McKinsey & Company’s Digital Financial Services practice, focusing on both Insurance and Banking clients. During this time, he realized how underserved small business owners were by these larger insurers, and how often they were left as an afterthought as big business was prioritized. Danish founded Zensurance in 2016 to provide a unique, modern and affordable solution to small businesses and help bring the latest technology innovations to the industry. Zensurance works with leading Canadian companies to change the way small businesses manage all their insurance needs.

Danish Yusuf Founder and CEO of Zensurance

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Can you highlight the key findings from Zensurance’s latest report “Zensurance Reveals Pandemic Insurance Trends for Small Businesses”? The data findings in the report were fascinating in a few areas related to shifting trends due to the pandemic. Priorities for Canadian small business owners are changing rapidly and possibly indefinitely as we find a surge of 200% in policies for cybersecurity and e-commerce. We found that many small businesses had to shift to digital commerce. This left them vulnerable, sometimes unknowingly, to cyber liabilities but that this paradigm shift has also resulted in some positive benefits such as the geographic expansion of customers and reduced costs associated with a physical presence. We believe that this trend is most likely here to stay well beyond the pandemic. Secondly, what we saw from the survey where 75% of business owners were concerned about the health of their business in the short term was particularly concerning and we've pivoted accordingly to meet these needs by hiring more brokers so that we're able to be even more communicative with faster turnaround across more hours in the day. We've aggressively renegotiated rates with all of our partners to deliver more savings to our customers and invested greatly in technology to make the buying process even more transparent and seamless. Right now it is critical that Canada's small businesses get the concessions and relief they need in order to remain steadfast throughout the remainder of lockdown and post-pandemic period.

What are the major trends and shifts across small businesses insurance including across Ontario, Alberta and B.C., and in different industries? A few different factors at play, some that hit all industries while others are specific to certain industries. The insurance industry was already seeing increasing rates prior to COVID. Industry insiders call this a "hard market", and it refers to a time where losses surpass premiums collected. The feeling inside the insurance industry is that prices were driven down due to competition, and the rates we are seeing today are more reflective of the true price of insurance. Although claims have increased in many areas, they have not increased in all areas. The micro-business segment has not seen an increase in claims, but many insurers are using this as an opportunity to increase rates across the board to make up for losses in certain segments. When COVID hit, many insurance companies were not prepared for the barrage of claims and issues. It was a tough time for everyone involved. Some insurance companies stopped writing new business for a period of time, others increased the minimum price (e.g., from $750 to $5000) to allow them to focus on larger policies,

while others became much more selective in the types of business they would insure. This is in addition to price increases across the board. All this resulted in many business owners shopping around for better prices on renewal, which dramatically increased the workload in the industry.

A few industries have seen particularly significant increases in prices, including hospitality (e.g., restaurants, bars) and transportation (e.g., taxi). Also, Cybersecurity and Directors & Officers has seen multiple fold increases in pricing. This is due to the number of claims in these spaces over the last 12-18 months.

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Can you please elaborate on how the pandemic has impacted small businesses?

What is your key advice to small business owners during these uncertain times?

This has been a very tough time for small businesses, financially, emotionally and physically.

We definitely have to acknowledge that these are unique times that have none of us have ever been through before.

Main street business like restaurants, salons and retail shops have had crushing restrictions put on them by the province. Although their revenues shrunk to a fraction of their pre-COVID levels, their costs did not. Despite much needed government subsidies, many business have been forced to close down.

Businesses that could work remotely, such as consultants, technology companies and e-commerce retailers have seen their businesses skyrocket. In some cases more traditional businesses have been able to adapt their business to take advantage of these trends (e.g., traditional retailer shifting to online retail).

So many successful businesses were launched during challenging times. Companies like WhatsApp, AirBNB, Uber, Square all started during the 2008 financial crisis, and upended big industries. Everyone should be watching out for such shifts and seeing how they impact their industry. I think business owners should look at their unique strengths and see what they can do to take advantage of the new consumer trends. For example, online retail and healthcare is here to stay: if you were focused on more traditional channels, can you adapt? Although people will go back to restaurants once open, the order out model will likely persist more than before: can you support restaurants in this transition?

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The pros and cons for SMB owners of moving a business to a new location. Faye Pang

Canada Country Manager, Xero A business to make the small-scale businesses even more beautiful? Well, that’s what Xero aims to achieve and we landed the amazing shot at interviewing Faye Pang, who is Xero’s Country Manager for Canada. In this segment, Pang gives us an insight into her own journey in the Canadian technology industry and what has she learned over the span of her career. She also touches upon the various steps that small-business owners can take to make an impact on their individual ventures.

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Faye Pang is the Canada Country Manager for Xero, the global small business platform with more than 2.7 million subscribers worldwide that's dedicated to making business beautiful. Faye brings nearly 15 years of experience building businesses from the ground up. Prior to joining Xero, Faye helped launch Uber Freight into the Canadian market. She also helped launch the Uber Eats app in Toronto in December 2015, scaling the business from 80 restaurants on launch day to 20,000 partners by the end of her tenure. As a leader, Faye prioritizes growth above all else, and practises authenticity, transparency, and empathy in the way she manages her team. She strongly believes that we all have a set of values that we have to live by at all times (rather than keeping our work and personal lives separate), and keeps this consideration top-of-mind when championing her team’s growth, both personally and professionally. She is passionate about creating systems that lift women up, while tackling the hierarchical barriers that have disproportionately affected women in the workplace.

How did you become involved in the Canadian technology industry? What have you learned, and how have things changed for you?

while others became much more selective in the types of business they would insure. This is in addition to price increases across the board. All this resulted in many business owners shopping around for better prices on renewal, which dramatically increased the workload in the industry.

Business transformation and how cloud accounting can help are key topics. What do the business leaders you talk to think about these concepts? These are two topics that really go hand-in-hand, especially now. If you want to see countless examples of business transformation, just take a look at the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had. Business leaders tell me that one of the biggest transformations they’ve seen is an unprecedented acceleration in the adoption of digital technologies. That’s a pretty broad topic, and it includes everything from making a website to the technology needed to support a remote workforce, to the digital infrastructure required to run a successful e-commerce business. The same business owners who have been the quickest to adapt to this changing landscape are also the ones who are most likely to embrace a cloud-based accounting platform like Xero.

Getting involved in tech was not something I had deliberately planned on. I actually started my career in consumer packaged goods, but I always had an entrepreneurial streak in me. That led me to tech quite naturally, because I could see how much faster technology companies were moving. I was lucky to be a member of the original team that launched Uber Eats in Toronto, and I also helped scale Uber Freight into the Canadian market. That experience certainly satisfied my desire to work in a fast-moving industry—I would compare it to climbing aboard a rocket ship without truly knowing the destination! It made me excited to get out of bed every morning, which is also how my current role at Xero makes me feel. One of the most important things I have learned over my career is that I am happiest when I’m working for a company whose values reflect my own. It took me a few years to get to the point in my career where I felt established enough to stand up and say, “I want to work for an organization that aligns with my values”, but it’s been a game-changer for how I view my work.

Can you tell us about Xero’s momentum in Canada over the last couple of years? We’ve seen some incredible growth in the Canadian market, but we’re really just getting started. Our Toronto office is also Xero’s North American hub for product development and technology innovation which is really exciting for the Toronto tech ecosystem. We’re working on some exciting projects involving artificial intelligence and machine learning—but we’re also all about maintaining a very real human connection with our customers. That takes great people, and we’re always looking for new Xeros!

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What is required of small business owners to create high-impact results during these challenging times?

Any advice on creating systems that empower women, while tackling the hierarchical barriers that have disproportionately affected women in the workplace?

I’ve been so impressed by the adaptability and flexibility of small business owners and their teams during the last year and a half. As tough as it’s been to watch the ups and downs, it’s given me so much hope to see the incredible resilience of Canadian small businesses. The biggest skills we’ve seen used are flexibility and creativity. From a purely practical standpoint, I can’t stress enough the importance of financial literacy, and of having a good accountant or trusted adviser on your team to help you navigate things like government support programs and access to capital.

I think one of the most important ways that organizations can promote and encourage female participation, especially at the senior level, is to support working moms. I’m speaking from personal experience—when Xero gave me the formal offer to join their team, I was due to give birth in a week, and I immediately went on parental leave. I’m passionate about issues like parental leave—and compassionate leave for employees who have suffered miscarriages—because they’re about making a more inclusive workplace. It all comes down, once again, to values, and creating a corporate culture that embodies those. That’s not just good for women; it makes things better for everyone.

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Overcoming labour shortage – the road ahead for Canada’s labour market The onus to finding the right balance and maintain the talent demand is now on Canadian businesses

By Jim Mitchell

Throughout the past year, employers and employees across the world experienced unpredictable uncertainty that forced innovative strategies to mitigate the relentless disruption. As we move closer to a post-pandemic world, Canadian businesses have optimistically started preparing for recovery with return-towork plans. The key question that lies ahead of Canada’s labour market is, how can we maintain the equilibrium of talent demand and supply when a record surge in job openings is anticipated?

Learning from neighbouring labour markets Looking at the reopening roadmap of the United States, where the hiring surge was synonymous with labour imbalance, it is reasonable to anticipate that a similar trend could occur in Canada. As Canadian businesses begin to reopen after months of restrictions, severely hit industries like retail, hospitality and transportation will likely have the strongest rebound. This reopening also presupposes a surge in job openings and a struggle to find replacements for employees who were laid off. According to Statistics Canada, a significant number of job losses (54,000)were shed in part-time work, provoking worry amongst businesses seeking to fill positions.

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In 2020, approximately 10 to 15 percent of hotels and restaurants in Canada closed their doors, accounting for 71 percent of the 500,000 Canadian jobs that disappeared early in the pandemic. Now, as these full-time and part-time jobs begin to return, many previous employees have redeployed to other sectors resorted to the wage subsidies offered by the Canadian government. Over the coming few months, the Canadian labour market will open its doors to a range of jobs across the service sector and the onus to attract Canadian workers back into the labour force will fall upon Canadian employers across these industries.

Moving away from subsidies to build sustainable talent Currently, around three million Canadians are receiving jobless benefits through Employment Insurance (EI) or Canadian recovery benefits. Many Canadian workers have come to rely on the income support offered by the government, creating another headwind for Canada’s labour market recovery which could be shaped by the heavy reliance of potential employees on these wage subsidies. The pace of job openings may soon outweigh the number of job applicants across the labour market in Canada. With this imbalance of supply and demand for talent, organizations and employers will need to introduce innovative strategies that re-engage potential employees and break away from existing income supports. The early stages of the recovery will potentially see an increase in overall wages.

Remove barriers to training and skilling Statistics Canada data from March showed that the professional, scientific and technical services sectors had more than 46,600 job vacancies. While there is a plethora of opportunities for labour entrants with STEM skills, industries and companies seeking new employees need to offer training opportunities to new hires from other educational backgrounds. They also need to encourage lateral employee career moves and help employees upskill and reskill for indemand roles. This will soon be a core selection criterion that will define an employee’s decision to accept a job. Keeping this as the foundation of their talent strategies, companies will need to make structural changes that better reflect a confluence of factors such as training, reskilling and upskilling of new hires. It is also important for companies to help employees identify transferable skills to be considered for other internal roles.

As Canada’slabour market bounces back from the shock of the pandemic, the summer months should witness staged growth as public health measures are relaxed. A healthy combination of lower entry barriers for new hires, relevant training opportunities and incentives will ultimately help Canada’s labour market recover more evenly.

Jim Mitchell, President of LHH leads the Executive Committee for LHH in Canada and is a Global Executive Vice President. He is responsible for all Canadian lines of business: Career Solutions, Talent & Leadership Development and Executive Search & Recruitment.

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Stephan Sigaud

EVP of Marketing - Phase 5

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If you are a large enterprise that provides products or services to small business owners (SBOs), you know well how challenging this past year has been for your customers. From navigating the ever-changing rules around when and how to open stores, to reinventing the shopping experience in order to follow COVID-safe protocols, SBOs have had to demonstrate outstanding agility, creativity, and resilience to survive. Supporting small business owners is critical to the economy (99% of North American businesses are small or medium), and therefore it’s also critical to understand what kind of support they need. That’s why in February 2021 we partnered with B2SB (Business to Small Business) agency Cargo to conduct a study of over 2000 small & medium businesses in North America. Our research explored drivers of SBO purchase and loyalty behaviour, and investigated what SBOs currently fear, forecast, want, and need from enterprise brands. This article is the first in a series that will highlight key findings by industry vertical, i.e. Financial Services, Technology, and Logistics providers. Read on to learn about the top 3 moments of truth specifically for Financial Services firms serving SBOs. Based on answers to the question, “What is the most critical point where you need support from your business bank?” as well as additional insights obtained from some of our other quantitative & qualitative studies, we’ve gained a better understanding of how a corporation can stand out from its competitors and strengthen its customer relationships with this important segment. As well, we’ve developed a recommended approach for applying these insights to re-map the small business customer journey for 2021 and beyond.


Proactively Support Small Businesses with their Day to Day Issues As reported by those surveyed for our 2021 State of Small & Medium Business study, the #1 most critical point where support is needed from banks is “Day to Day Issues”. More specifically, this includes transactions such as invoicing and payments but is different from setting up an account or securing a loan. Over a quarter of respondents overall (27%) rated “Day to Day Issues” as number one. These answers mirror findings from our 2020 State of Small Business Banking study presented in August 2020 for the Financial Brand, which listed the top 3 financial concerns as “Payroll”, “Rent/Mortgage”, and “Paying Invoices/Suppliers”. That same study also revealed that many small business owners were dissatisfied with the level of communication and support received from their banks. As of June 2020, 86% reported that their bank had not reached out to see how their business was doing, and 37% reported being “unimpressed” with their bank’s reaction to COVID-19. Fast forward to our 2021 study

The takeaway? Small businesses (who may already be stretching their resources and themselves every day) need and expect support from their banks to make their daily operations run as smoothly as possible. Proactive communication and offers of support from real people, as well as digital tools that make invoicing and payments easy and reliable, would be welcome.

Ensure Digital Tools Pass the User Confidence Test The critical moment in second place from our February 2021 survey was “Timely Transfers and Confirmations”. 20% of total respondents reported it as most critical, with an even higher proportion (32%) of businesses with 2-3 employees choosing this option first. It may not be surprising then to learn that 30% of respondents also rated their satisfaction level at 6 or below (out of 10) with respect to “ability to fully accomplish what you set out to do using digital channels”. These findings suggest an opportunity for financial institutions to review their digital toolset for efficiency, dependability, and perhaps most importantly, User Experience. In our whitepaper, “The Future of the Interface”, Phase 5 Partner Arnie Guha discusses the concept of the User Confidence Test in developing new tech-based capabilities for customers. In addition to creating a good experience, he explains, corporations need to ensure customers feel completely assured that their needs have been fulfilled, e.g. that their transaction was processed.

“People still phoned into call centers after they were given the option to reach out for support online. This often comes down to a sense of user confidence in the new channel they’re being offered.” In the case of small business owners with limited cash flow and negligible margins for error, it is easy to understand the importance of a reliable financial services provider who not only delivers as promised but removes any nagging doubt or stress as to when or whether payments have been completed. Furthermore, in addition to ensuring user confidence in timely processing capabilities, banks must continuously reinforce user confidence in data privacy and security practices at the same time.


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Don’t Rush New Account / Service Set Up Number three in terms of the “most critical point” where small business owners need support from their bank is “Setting Up Accounts / Services”. 14% of respondents overall ranked it first, with an even higher percentage of businesses sized 2-3 employees choosing it first (23%). Perhaps related to this data point are two others from our February 2021 survey: 95% of respondents said they prefer to keep the majority of their banking services with the same bank, however only 63% actually use the same bank for both their personal and business banking needs. Of course small business owners are also consumers, so the same individual may represent 2 distinct banking customers. The findings above suggest an opportunity to allocate additional resources to new account/service onboarding, with the goal of learning more about the customer at that key moment, and then deepening or broadening the customer relationship as a result. The large majority of small business owners say they would prefer to consolidate their banking services with one institution; how often are banks offering them an easy opportunity to make this happen? The concepts from #1 and #2 above can also apply to moment #3. On the day it needs to happen, account/service set up might be considered a “day to day issue” which a small business owner needs to resolve quickly in order to get back to the real business operations. Banks should be available to offer support in the form of efficient, dependable tools combined with a personal touch where needed. And for those small business customers going through purely digital channels to set up something new, ensuring a user experience that they can be confident in will help make this critical moment go smoothly. Perhaps an automated follow up communication would show support, build confidence in the system, and leverage an opportunity to deepen the relationship.

Summary For Financial Services providers who are serving Small Business Owners, we know from our February 2021 study that the following 3 service interactions are the highest-ranking “moments of truth”: Day to Day Issues Timely Transfers and Confirmations Setting Up Accounts / Services Our findings suggest that banks have many opportunities when it comes to their small business customers. More specifically, banks can proactively offer more regular support (in the right combination of human and digital), revisit user experiences to ensure they consistently instill trust and confidence, and take advantage of new account/service set-ups to learn more about each of their SBO customers and identify any unmet needs.

While these opportunities may sound broad, research can help to define the customer base, map the customer journey, and identify key points where a change would yield results. Phase 5 can also recommend a Customer Journey Mapping approach (leveraging the Jobs To Be Done model) that is proven to improve customer experience. Working together, we can optimize investment by directing resource allocation to the areas that will have the greatest impact. Please contact us to learn more about any of the above studies, or to schedule a discussion about your specific business challenges.

Written by Stephan Sigaud Stephan Sigaud, MBA, is Phase 5’s EVP of Marketing. Stephan is passionate about partnering with clients to address their challenges and opportunities around customer centricity. With more than 25 years’ experience in Market Research and Customer Loyalty and Experience, Stephan has been volunteering with both the Customer Experience Professionals Association (as member and past Chair of the CXPA Toronto Network) and the Canadian Marketing Association (as member of the Leaders Network and past co-Chair of the CMA CX Council).

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5 WAYS BRANDS TO MAKE BRANDS UNFORGETTABLE with Karla Jo Helms, CEO and Chief Strategist of Anti-PR Agency for JOTO PR Disruptors

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Being alumni of crisis management, Karla Jo has worked with litigation attorneys, private investigators and the media to help restore companies of goodwill back into the good graces of public opinion—Karla Jo operates on the ethic of getting it right the first time, not relying on second chances and doing what it takes to excel.

In a nutshell, we're seeing the end to big media because we're seeing the end of what's called “mass society”. Mass society was the kind of industrialized society that developed at the end of the 19th century and thrived in the 20th century. That's when we first started seeing these centralized, bureaucratic institutions and structures, which the world has basically revolved around. Next, life began to recalibrate around Washington DC, or eventually, around Brussels in Europe. The next phase of the evolution began to recalibrate around Silicon Valley in terms of finance and the coastal cities, like San Francisco to San Diego. We are seeing this shift again to southeastern cities like Austin, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. This is happening in the world of big media. Society is being replaced by what has been called “the network society.”

Karla Jo has patterned her agency on the perfect balance of crisis management, entrepreneurial insight and proven public relations experience. Helms speaks globally on public relations, how the PR industry itself has lost its way and how, in the right hands, corporations can harness the power of Anti-PR to drive markets and impact market perception.

And the network society is different from mass society in that mass society was always very location-driven. The gambling industry was centred in Vegas. Finance on Wall Street or Silicon Valley. Country music in Nashville. But we are changing and are doing that less and less because we're no longer connected by virtue of our regions to one another.

Karla Jo Helms is the Chief Evangelist and Anti-PR(TM) Strategist for JOTO PR Disruptors(TM). Karla Jo learned firsthand how unforgiving business can be when millions of dollars are on the line—and how the control of public opinion often determines whether one company is happily chosen, or another is brutally rejected.

What are some of the strategies you use when it comes to creating a consistent marketing message to help companies have their brand stand out? Combining paid, owned and social media with EARNED media along influencer channels. What does this mean? Let me give you a short history of what has been happening… There is a series of colossal developments going on right now that are already changing the way we consume news media and information in such a way that will never, ever be the same again. In reality, it has been going on for years now. No one refers to the public as THE PUBLIC anymore. There is no such thing as the masses anymore.Markets and even the media are partitioned into super-segmented categories of publishers, influencers, and content creators today; reaching super-targeted audiences in a massive way like never before. What we have to understand is how this started, which is with the mainstream media (big media) and the rise of smaller outlets, causing big news media as a whole to shrink and even implode in its ratings. This affects marketing because the way people are consuming news and information is being mirrored in how they want to be marketed to.

We're now connected by virtue of the internet—or networks. It’s the network society we are living in now— and the mass movement to a remote workforce has only accelerated this. I started to see it in 2016… more and more new outlets and influencers were being added to my database. And what’s more – they were growing in circulation and subscription numbers month to month exponentially. It's now a decentralized network of content creators who are no longer dependent on big media or increasingly even big tech in order to communicate. And so, what this means is that decentralized content creators, like what we have here on YouTube and new social media sites popping up, and a whole host of other publications and platforms, is really just the beginning of the future of news and marketing channels—being increasingly replaced with independent content creators.

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What are the benefits of using a positive pairing when it comes to marketing? How can it benefit the brand of a business?

What would you say is the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs are facing when it comes to marketing their brand?

Positive pairing is basically winning the battle of the human mind. You take up space in your target audiences’ minds and thereby limit other brands from taking up that space.

Finding, targeting and creating a PR>Marketing>Sales machine that has enough targeted volume of outflow that brings in immediate leads and sales meanwhile creating a long-term strategy for consistent lead nurturing that facilitates sales.

Everyone has loyalties to their favourite brands. Shared values create a natural connection with brands consumers already love to another one that shares the same values or quality. But it is more than that. It is an influencer world today—capturing the attention of key opinion leaders captures the attention of those that follow those KOLs. There is no such thing as communicating to the masses today. It is a super-segmented targeted set of publics that make up the masses. Speak to the leaders and influencers that impact those segments and you 1) lower your marketing spend 2) increase your marketing ROI – but more importantly, give confidence and credibility to your brand…. Money is an idea backed by confidence. Make your brand have confidence and credibility by positive pairing and promote the hell out of it – and you have more money. It’s simple math, actually. Earned media is a form of positive pairing.

The formula is quantity < then quality on that quantity, while you continue to raise the quantity & quality, < in order to obtain viability. It entails: a. Having a complete and thorough strategy created that you are following, based on b. marketing research c. the current public opinion landscape competitor research d. the size of the target audiences you are selling to their mindset, likes, dislikes, fixed ideas, need and wants e. the human emotion and reaction barriers in the marketplace that you have to overcome to break down the brick overcoat of resistance long that will take you f. the speed of growth you need to follow to obtain your goals g. your current resources-- time, money, personnel (manpower) and needed resources as you scale h. all to determine your estimation of effort, messaging, positioning, and marketing rollout plan (BLUEPRINT). i. then testing, tweaking, following stats, pivoting based execution of that strategy. Most businesses don’t have that formula. Most don’t follow it because they get into the execution and forget to monitor the strategy. It can be a painful process, but crucial to win market share.

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Why is it crucial for businesses to create a strong content strategy? How can it help them grow their customer base? Speak to influencers today – not the masses. Influencers, or Key Opinion Leaders, control these segments of the population in terms of mindset, thinking, judgement over data, etc. You get to the influencers and change their minds or get them thinking newly, then you will have reached your targeted audiences FASTER. This is the new age of disruptive PR & marketing.

The takeaway? Small businesses (who may already be stretching their resources and themselves every day) need and expect support from their banks to make their daily operations run as smoothly as possible. Proactive communication and offers of support from real people, as well as digital tools that make invoicing and payments easy and reliable would be welcome. Business is War. Marketing battleplans are tactics based upon Marketing Strategies that are aligned with an overall business plan.

How would you say COVID-19 has impacted the way entrepreneurs market their brand? What we have seen from companies intent on growth since COVID is this undaunting persistence to never be affected like this again. They are planning for 1) plenty in reserves to carry them through for 6-12 months AND 2) a robust and prolific marketing plan to withstand and rise above another pandemic, recession or pandemic. We have seen many more disruptive companies taking charge of their brand and learning how to control public opinion.COVID being the catalyst. During the pandemic, it was those brands that could speak to the media and influencers about what was happening in their market that was impacting the economy, society and the innovative solutions being developed to out-create the pandemic that made the news. That increased exposure and media coverage carried these companies from possible oblivion to being noticed by major investors, potential clients and enterprises to create new lines of business and/or salvage what they lost. Again, they spoke to influencers where people got their data from… and evaluated their data. When they entered into the KOL mix – they were instantly given credibility and confidence their brand didn’t have before. So, if this can be done in times of crisis – what about in a non-crisis? The same formula holds true.

On a final note, what advice can you give to entrepreneurs when it comes to creating strategic B2B marketing tactics? Create the strategy first. Hire an outside firm to help you create it – they can be objective and see what you cannot. Tactics don’t do anything without a strategy in place to tell you where those tactics go and when. You wouldn’t go to war without a WIN-THE-WAR strategy. Battleplans are based on strategy. They are altered and changed based on what happens in each battle—but the overall strategy mainly stays intact.

Treat it as such and you will see faster improvement than just trying out a new tactic. The strategy takes time—while you are creating it you can implement interim tactics in volume to give you the time and bandwidth to create the right strategy – while at the same time seeing what tactics are working (stats) which you can incorporate into the mid-and long-term strategy. Then you can scale back on those tactics not working and start implementing programs from your strategy that will carry you to viability. Good luck!!

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HOW TO ADAPT YOUR SME FOR THE POST-PANDEMIC ECONOMY By Mostafa Sayyadi Executives today are under a tremendous amount of pressure in today’s post-pandemic knowledge-driven economy. They began to listen and respond to the plethora of information in the form of articles, books, and models attempting to provide effective leadership to help impact not only the productivity and profitability of the SME but also the competitive advantage. This article is set in place to inspire leaders to effectively lead their SMEs to meet and exceed the global challenges today. It is about getting the information needed to be successful in the right hands of executives worldwide in a postCOVID world.

The Pillars of Post-Pandemic Knowledge-Driven Economy In a post-pandemic world, the business environment is constantly changing. Knowledge is a crucial part of hypercompetitive environments. SMEs can design, copy, or update products and services easier with more adaptability than ever today. SMEs compete globally but must think locally if they expect to exceed. And new markets place demands on the roles of change leaders in SMEs operating in this modern environment. Today‘s knowledge-driven economy is placing more pressure on SMEs to employ effective leaders who are capable to develop knowledge-based SMEs and create competitive advantage. Culture, structure, strategy, networks and stakeholders are internal resources that can increasingly facilitate knowledge-driven performance and improve the search for knowledge.

Executives are now introduced to The Proposed Model

Based on an integrated framework of the above ideas and scholarly research, I depict an applicable and reliable model for executives as Figure 1. This framework of the model highlights a relationship between organizational resources and knowledge-driven performance and organizational competitiveness. In Figure 1, organizational resources have sizable impacts on knowledge-driven performance which also leads to better competitive advantage. In fact, better strategy, better culture, better structure, better networks and better stakeholder orientation can lead to higher knowledge-driven performance and organizational competitiveness. There are some executives that like to look at academic journals but unfortunately, the crossover literature has not reached them enough. I attempt to blend scholarly concepts with real-world application. In this article, executives see that I expand upon the subject matter of an SME’s internal resources. Insufficient consideration of the impacts of organizational resources on knowledge-driven performance and organizational competitiveness has been exposed. Thus, for executives, this article can portray a more detailed picture of the effects of these organizational factors on knowledge-driven performance and organizational competitiveness that have been mentioned but not placed in a model in the past.

Mostafa Sayyadi Management Consultant | Business & Technology journalist

Mostafa Sayyadi, CAHRI, AFAIM, CPMgr, works with senior business leaders to effectively develop innovation in companies and helps companies—from start-ups to the Fortune 100—succeed by improving the effectiveness of their leaders. He is a business book author and a long-time contributor to and Consulting Magazine and his work has been featured in these top-flight business publications. Figure 1: The New Proposed Framework

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JOSH SHTEIMAN’S BOLD CAREER MOVE TO BUILD A NEW LEGACY VP of Development Operations for Platinum Vista For our next segment, we interviewed Josh Shteiman, the VP of Development Operations for Platinum Vista. Shteiman talks about the vision and mission of his company and what he aims to achieve with Platinum Vista. Additionally, Shteiman discusses the hurdles of the unpredictable Canadian market for someone hoping to take an entrepreneurial leap.

Please share your compelling journey from graduating from Schulich School of Business to the VP of Development Operations for Platinum Vista. When I graduated from Schulich School of Business, I launched an experiential marketing company with a close friend and we were fortunate to land major clients such as Rogers and Coca Cola. Alongside this business, I kept up my passions for construction and development greatly influenced by my father, Boris Shteiman, who is a widely respected developer and general contractor. He also founded Kadima Group in 1980, a Canadian construction company with international experience.

In the early 2010s, I ventured into my first major real estate project with my father, building the Q Loft on Queen West. It was a challenging but rewarding project. It opened my eyes to an exciting industry that my family has long been involved in. I loved how multi-faceted a career in development could be and this matched my personality well. You can wear many different hats and every day will be different from the next, whereas I found that marketing was grounded in the same daily routine. When it was time for this project to go to market in 2010, I made the bold, permanent career change and sold the marketing agency to establish a new path. Alongside my partner John, I launched Towncore Developments which is known for developing exceptionally beautiful modern homes and commercial projects across Toronto, such as 8 Cumberland (in partnership with Great Gulf and Phantom) and Annex Townhomes. In 2015, I also took on the role of VP of Development Operations for Platinum Vista, a new development company as a fusion between two minds: my father Boris and Hunter Milborne (known as the ‘Dean of Condos’).

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What was the inspiration behind the vision of Platinum Vista? What are you hoping to accomplish through this company? Boris and Hunter coming together as the lead principals for Platinum Vista seemed like a natural fit. There was no one better in real estate sales and marketing than Hunter. With over 40 years of experience in the industry, he understands what any given buyer is looking for and maximizes efficacy and design. On the other hand, Boris leads the construction piece as a structural engineer by trade and more than 40 years in general contracting. Through my experience, I’ve developed acute knowledge and appreciation for the planning side of things. The three of us fused together with a strong mix of specialties that created a force in development. Platinum Vista has worked on many successful projects since its foundation. As a crown jewel and labour of love, perhaps the most notable are No. 7 Dale - one of Toronto’s few ultra-luxury boutique residences in the heart of Rosedale in partnership with best-in-class Canadian talent Siamak Hariri (Hariri Pontarini Architects), Alessandro Munge (Studio Munge) and Janet Rosenberg (Janet Rosenberg & Studio).

At Platinum Vista, we pride ourselves on finding urban sites to launch projects that are exceptionally unique - those that will stand in contrast to the common glass tower. We are not married to low-rise or high-rise projects; we aim to push the boundaries of construction and design to form truly amazing projects that each positively contribute to their community. We hope that for many years to come, we are able to leave this lasting impression. When taking this entrepreneurial leap, what challenges did you face in leaving behind a successful marketing agency to follow your passion? And how did you overcome them? While there are sure risks with the entrepreneurial leap I took leaving behind the marketing agency, it was early into my career and I had the confidence to pursue my passions. In my 20s, I may have been naive of the risks that came with a major career change; however, this worked in my favour because looking at where I am today, I can certainly say it was the right move. It would have been the easy choice to keep a role in an industry I didn’t truly love, safely maintaining a strong steady income, but it is not just about money - it is about challenging yourself to find meaning in work that stimulates you both mentally and emotionally.

What is your key advice for all the young entrepreneurs across the field during these challenging times? Analyze everything - listen and learn as much as possible and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I was fortunate enough to receive teachings from my family early on, but I also constantly sought out opportunities to further educate myself. Even when you think you’ve mastered something, there is always room to learn. I can look back over the last 10 years and pride myself on what I’ve accomplished, but I know I have a lot more in me to give, and I can’t wait to see where my career takes me.

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Tim Merry Systems Change Strategy

Tuesday Ryan-Hart Systems Change Strategy Tuesday (she/her) leads large-scale systems change with a deep understanding and practice of how equity, when put at the centre of new movements, frees the path to better ideas that work. She helps diverse organizations and communities with shared interests reframe commonly-held assumptions and persistent issues.

As an engagement specialist and systems change facilitator, Tim (he/him) helps businesses, government agencies, local communities, and regional collaboratives create the conditions for people to organize together and solve their own problems.

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It’s common practice to bring in outside help when a business is stuck with a big problem. After all, it’s one matter to identify that an issue exists, and it’s another to address it. Feeling stuck can be demoralizing for workplace culture and organizational success. So what is the answer? Using experts to provide training and advice specific to an issue can help organizations strategize to get unstuck. However, the trick is to make lessons resonate and have changes stick after the experts leave. Instead of getting caught in an endless cycle of action and feeling frustrated, engaging in Shared Work can result in forward movement. Too often, when a company culture or process faces change, short-term, unsustainable solutions are implemented, resulting in the same issues recurring down the road. Lasting, systemic change can best be achieved by engaging teams to tackle the real-world issues they face every day in a safe environment that fosters communication and learning.

The Outside takes a holistic approach to help facilitate change; it involves immersing participants in solving their toughest challenges, allowing them to work past surface level problems and address underlying issues. Years of experience in developing this unique approach have shown that it results in real change. Tim Merry and Tuesday Ryan-Hart, founders of The Outside, have relied on the technique of Shared Work to help the changes they implement take root in organizations. Shared Work is the idea that by putting work at the centre of what you do, businesses and organizations can overcome challenges and make a concrete difference. When faced with a real life challenge in the workplace, people are forced to collaborate and put their differences aside to overcome it. This benefits them on both an operational and personal level and focuses attention to a task, not participants’ potential differences.

To achieve organizational change, through Shared Work, it is imperative that companies follow a regimen of openness, honesty, and commitment to working across all levels of the organization in order to achieve their goals. If an organization is too top-down focused it can miss what’s going on and shut off ideas from employees who face the core issues on a daily basis. By engaging participants at many levels in open and productive dialogue and activity, businesses can see their challenges with renewed clarity and address them with fresh insight. Once the full scope of the problems within an organization is visible, participants can develop a plan of action - their Shared Work - that addresses the identified problems and acts as a roadmap to resolving them. Without a defined plan to follow through with actionable Shared Work, many organizations will struggle to achieve meaningful change. The Outside’s revolutionary take on collaboration by immersing people in their Shared Work is causing a stir with organizations of all sizes in Canada, the US, and across the globe. Tim, Tuesday and their globally diverse team excel at creating meaningful change in challenging situations and have created a reliable, revolutionary methodology to accomplish it.

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Teresa Barreira is a transformational leader and innovator. Currently, she is the Chief Marketing Officer at Publicis Sapient. Barreira’s creative thinking coupled with her 25 years of global B2B marketing expertise has enabled her to break the mold of traditional marketing in Technology and Service companies. A dynamic and fast-paced changemaker, Barreira has reinvigorated the Publicis Sapient brand, repositioning the company to drive profitable growth and become a leader in digital business transformation. She created an agile operating model to focus on speed, data, and innovation and built a multidisciplinary, multi-cultural global team, to foster diversity and inclusion. Most recently Teresa created and launched a new immersive platform, the first of its kind, shifting content creation from linear engagement to an interactive experience. Under her leadership, marketing-influenced revenue has more than tripled. Teresa was formerly CMO for Deloitte Consulting LLP where she helped to drive over $8 billion in revenue. During her tenure, she transformed the company’s approach, realigning marketing to drive growth and become data-driven. Teresa has held numerous leadership positions with technology companies including IBM and Accenture and startup software organizations such as Lotus.

Recovery phase of the crisis and how c-suite leaders can effectively lead for the postCOVID future

Teresa Barreira Chief Marketing Officer at Publicis Sapient

Barreira is known for her passion to innovate and think differently, she embraces the unknown and operates with fearlessness. Recently named one of the Top 25 Women Leaders in IT Services of 2020 by the IT Services Report, and a 2019 recipient of the Silver Stevie Award for Female Executive of the Year, Teresa makes the complex simple and converts challenges into opportunities. A proud Hispanic and a native of Portugal, she’s lived and worked in the US, Canada, and Europe, and spent most of her career leading teams through transformation, launching new companies, brands or lines of business, and cultivating a culture of experimentation and learning. Teresa holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Northeastern University in Boston and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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What can you tell us about your role as Chief Marketing Officer at Publicis Sapient? What does a typical workday look like to you? My focus as CMO is about driving profitable growth. Two years ago, we relaunched our brand and it emerged as a powerful growth driver for our business. Today the focus has shifted to sustaining that growth and continuing to reimagine and evolve marketing to be future-ready. Truthfully there aren’t ‘typical’ workdays right now. Every day is different and brings new opportunities and challenges, the most exciting part is that my role allows me to have conversations with various members of my team, to learn from them and get energized by their ideas and passion.

What would you say has been the biggest impact that COVID-19 has had on your role at Publicis Sapient? How has it affected the way you work? COVID-19 obviously disrupted our lives, but for us, we were able to drive greater speed of execution and more experimentation as a team. We were already working on a distributed work model, but I feel COVID brought us closer together. It allowed for more synergy, collaboration, and most importantly innovation and agility. We really put our test-and-learn approach into action. One of the ways we did that was with the launch of The HOW Channel, a platform for short-form video content, all under 5-minutes in length, and we did it in under 30 days. I don’t think that would have been possible before the pandemic

What are some of the ways that CMOs can confidently navigate through the coronavirus crisis and help employers create an efficient work-life balance? The crisis presented an opportunity to lead with a greater sense of empathy. We aren’t spending time with each other face-to-face, but I’ve spent so much time getting to know my team members in different ways. It’s important to be present and make it a priority to connect more frequently—especially while isolated and distanced as we’ve been. I’ve made a point to have monthly calls with each team, sometimes just to ask people, “how are you?”, doing that has gone a long way.

In your expert opinion, why do you believe it’s important for employees to bring their personal and most authentic self to work on a daily basis? How can it impact their productivity and the success of the company? The crisis enabled us to “show up” as our full selves every day, which has been a positive for companies. Video calls are a great equalizer, they don’t discriminate or differentiate an analyst from a C-level exec, no one is at the head of the table and no one is in the back of the room. In many ways that created a sense of empowerment for people to feel more

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comfortable speaking up in meetings and showing up as themselves. Ultimately, when we bring ourselves to work, we bring our best, which fosters more innovation, creative-thinking and as a result, improves the product or services of a company.

What would you say are some of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs are currently facing when it comes to the recovery stage of their business post-pandemic? Talent scarcity and the battle for skilled labour will soon be one of the biggest challenges all companies face— both large and small. Even more so than health concerns, executives, today are aware of this pressing issue, a recent Russell Reynolds survey of 1300 executives stated that 59% see talent scarcity as a top concern, placing it higher than health in the next 12-18 months. 61% of the C-suite and 73% of next-generation leaders are willing to change employers for the right opportunity. This figure climbed by 5% and 8% respectively since pre-COVID numbers.

There is huge opportunity here too—with the pull of talent, we need to explore new talent pools and unlock the potential in skill-based vs. degree-based hiring. Exclusively hiring four-year degree holders is antiquated as companies hire individuals with the skills needed for jobs and the ability to learn new ones. Companies who invest in their employees and continuously upskill and reskill workers end up with highly skilled and loyal employees with more robust professional profiles of their own. It’s a powerful cycle—when companies are known for having top talent, top talent seeks employment with those companies.

What advice do you have for c-suite leaders when it comes to leading a company effectively and positively following a global pandemic? The future of work will be defined by a hybrid model that suits multiple needs and preferences. We aren’t going back to the workplaces of 2019. Leaders now need to address different populations of the workforce, with different life circumstances and expectations. In many ways, the right approach is much like our approach to our products and services—test-and-learn. We’ll pilot these hybrid models and keep employees involved in that process so we can ensure their needs and preferences are considered, and it’ll be iterative. We’re going to enter this new normal together and I think everyone needs to share a collective understanding of that.

On a final note, what are some of the initiatives that Publicis Sapient has taken when it comes to adapting to a new way of doing business during COVID-19? We’ve always been focused on helping our clients stay relevant in the digital world, COVID only accelerated that need, making it an even higher priority. We’ve seen huge demand and new opportunities from current clients looking to expand to new clients. COVID challenged the world and our clients and reminded us why the work we do, why digital business transformation is so important. We’ve taken on some transformational work making a difference in our clients’ and their customers’ lives. We made it possible for some of the most vulnerable populations to stay home and keep the heating and lights on. Our work made it possible for vaccinations to get into peoples’ arms faster. We sped up and made food deliveries possible. We enabled people to buy energy at more efficient prices. Overall, we’ve stayed committed to our strategy and the impact is clear now more than ever.

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Euro Asia Pay’s

Flagship SideKick Card Peter MacKay CEO, Euro Asia Pay Peter MacKay, Chief Executive Officer at Euro Asia Pay is next on our list of successful entrepreneurs in Canada that we got an opportunity to chat with. MacKay reveals his inspiration behind the vision of SideKick card and discusses his aspirations with this flagship card launched by Euro Asia Pay. MacKay also has a plethora of useful advice for small-scale business owners who are aiming to survive in the pandemic-hit Candian business market.

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Why does the Canadian education market remain highly lucrative and ranks among the first globally despite challenges brought on by the pandemic? Peter is a senior business leader with international experience in both private and public companies. His expertise spans 20 years with a track record of building and growing successful technology businesses, as well as two successful exits and two public listings. He founded Expert Agent in 2003, the leading real estate SaaS solution in the United Kingdom, connecting more than 14,000 realtors and almost 9 million home buyers. Prior to joining EAP, Peter acted as the President, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Venzee Technologies Inc, the Managing Director at Websky Ltd. (Expert Agent), and the Chief Operating Officer at PDT Technologies Inc., a global, full-service product design and development firm which is now called Kabuni Ltd. and is traded on the Australian Stock Exchange. Peter holds a MBA degree from the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University, a diploma in Business Management from Salisbury College and a BTEC in Computer Science from Boston College (UK).

What was the inspiration behind the launch of the SideKick card powered by Mastercard? How is it helping parents and students? Euro Asia Pay’s flagship SideKick card was conceived with convenience in mind. We recurrently saw hurdles international students in Canada and their parents/guardians in the countries of origin faced with traditional ways of transferring money and financial transactions. We recently announced our expansion of SideKick to support Canadian parents and their children, thereby increasing the addressable consumer base from approximately 700,000 people to more than 6 million. Parents/guardians/funders can rest assured with SideKick, they are bypassing unfavourable exchange rates, the need to open traditional bank accounts in Canada and are monitoring and managing how much and on what their kids are spending money. It is the new age of banking and SideKick addresses all the pain points faced by this audience. Students can access their funds instantly once they are deposited onto the Sidekick card while taking advantage of budgeting tools and curated content to promote financial literacy.

Canada’s international student population has grown six-fold over the past 20 years. It remains among the world’s leading destinations for international students, with a staggering 642,000 foreign students (3rd globally). Canada’s colleges and universities consistently rank among the best in the world, and that fact has been relatively unfazed by the pandemic. Additionally, Canadian cities often top the Quality of Life index by being highly multicultural and offering a safe and welcoming environment for international students. The Canadian education market is highly lucrative with many international students who benefit from services aimed directly at them. With the SideKick card, we saw an unmet need for fintech solutions specific to this segment; and the solution has been received with praise from our customers. In terms of the domestic market, Canadians place great value on tech and financial literacy, economic independence and saving for their future. We are confident that our product will be able to support these core values through our feature-rich technology. Backing this is our commitment to financial education and empowering Canadian youth to learn critical fundamentals to ensure their financial future is promising.

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How is Euro Asia Pay leading the way in parental control, transparency, and enhanced security functions?

How new, bespoke and tailored fintech solutions catering to specific groups and customer needs are poised to grow?

Parents can rest assured that with SideKick, they have increased security and control of how their kids spend their budget while also having access in real-time. For example, SideKick allows the creation of shopping blocklists so that parents can prevent spending at merchants related to certain products or services, such as using their cards at liquor stores, dispensaries, or gambling establishments. We have added budgeting tools and resources to make their child's experience with money (and transition into adulthood) more manageable and enjoyable. With our recent announcement of plans to launch SideKick in Canada, these valuable features will soon be accessible to parents here as well.

We are seeing more and more innovative companies leading the way towards next-generation neo banking to thrive in the competitive financial services marketplace. Changing customer expectations and demographics, as well as regulatory shifts supporting greater interoperability have fuelled the growth of neo banks. Neo banks have quickly captured market share globally with an expected market size of USD $450 billion by 2027. EAP’s proprietary technology is revolutionizing the basic concept of neo banking and forging partnerships to make the experience of the end-user extremely convenient, safe and affordable. We evolve with our customers by being intuitive and listening closely to their needs in order to deliver value and products that are relevant to them.

How students, parents and the global education sector are increasingly using fintech for budgeting and daily financial transactions. Innovative fintech solutions have enabled both parents and students to bypass limitations associated with traditional banking. We kept the unaddressed needs of the global education market in mind when developing SideKick, and we keep expanding our total addressable market to support more countries. We recently integrated another transfer partner to our platform, now we can support students coming to Canada from 241 countries. While formerly associated with millennials and the younger generation, more mature users worldwide such as parents are increasingly relying on fintech solutions for their child's day-to-day financial management needs. Professionals in the global education market are increasingly recommending SideKick as a one-stop-shop solution for their clients.

What is unique to Euro Asia Pay is its robust proprietary technology which is highly adaptive. For instance, the 'digital wallet' can be customized to suit the user; employee-employer, company-customer, loaner-borrower user model. Our technology can be adapted to suit the needs of any kind of audience, regardless of the type of employment or demographic. We see the need for budgeting and daily financial transactions on a neo banking platform increasing day by day, and our technology addresses much wider audience needs and demands. Therefore, our plan is to extend the market to cover local parents in Canada in the next few months.

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5 REASONS WHY YOUR BUSINESS VALUE IS DROPPING (AND ONE LITTLE KNOWN TRICK TO CHANGE IT) By Trisha Paguyo We’re in a challenging environment as business owners right now. Faced with continued lockdowns, uncertainty around upcoming waves of Covid19, and external factors that seem to put our economic outlook on a rollercoaster ride, we press forward hoping that our businesses will remain the same. Unfortunately, this is not likely the case. Here are five reasons why your business value may be dropping, and one little-known trick to reverse that trend.

Understanding Business Value There are many ways to value a business. While the investor or institution that’s looking at your business will review different factors, the most common forms of evaluating an SMB (Small Medium-sized Business) are as follows:

Market Based - either determined by how much revenue is generated by your business, or by how much profit is made in your business? In both cases we factor in a multiplier based on the valuation of other companies in your industry (for example 2x-6x) and end up with a rough estimate of your business value.

Earnings Based - here you’d be taking a discounted cash flow analysis of your future earnings, and bringing it to the present value. This is an estimate of what you think the business will make in the future, brought to a value today.

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Asset-Based - one of the most common forms of business valuation weighs heavily on your business Balance Sheet. Banks typically assess your business in this way when you’re looking for business loans or capital to grow your business. Investors also take this into consideration when looking at your overall business value, even if they are using one of the previously mentioned revenues or profit multipliers. To assess the book value of your business you subtract your liabilities from your assets. The final value is the value of the assets in your business. Unfortunately, regardless of how you plan on evaluating your business, your business value is likely dropping. Let’s first look at why, and then explore a little-known trick to help your business mitigate some of the external pressures that are reducing your business value.

Your Customer Base Is Shrinking Tied closely to lockdowns, a shrinking customer base is every business owner's worst nightmare. Customers are the lifeblood of every business. Without them, your business is, well, just an idea. As Covid has shifted customer’s purchasing habits, moving a greater portion of spending online, businesses that fail to adapt accordingly will continue to see their business value eroded. Stats Canada estimates that while retail sales fell by nearly 20% in 2020, e-commerce sales approximately doubled. This is visualized by the graph below.

The Market Is Changing Covid has drastically changed the landscape for small business owners. Retail and restaurant business have been heavily restricted in opening hours. E-commerce shops have faced setbacks with shipping and logistics. Service-based businesses have been hit hard by market closures. Regardless of your business, negative market forces will typically affect your business in a negative way.

An estimated 1 in 6 small businesses in Canada have been thinking about closing, The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has said. As Canadian’s face upcoming waves and Covid variants, the looming threat of continued business restrictions remains a damper on business development. This does not bode well for business valuations. Both banks and investors want to see a growing market opportunity, not a shrinking one. And with the uncertainty of the future, unless you make adjustments to your business practices, we will likely continue to see business valuations decline.

While your customer base may be shrinking due to external market forces, it is worth noting that this does not mean that customers have completely evaporated. It simply means that you’ll need to heavily shift your business strategy, to find new customers, and keep existing ones if you want to keep your business valuation at pre 2020 levels or higher.

You’re Not Keeping Up With The Latest Consumer Trends Consumer trends shift and adapt depending on a variety of factors. Sometimes these shifts are slow and methodical and span years or decades. This was the case for a trend such as online shopping. Other times these shifts are quick and near-instant, such as forced country-wide lockdowns and a near-instant global shift in the world’s supply chain. When market conditions, technology trends, and consumer preferences change, if you’re not keeping up with the latest trends, your business is falling behind.

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As a quick example, with the near-instant change in consumer trends over 2020 has your business is done all it can to move some, or all of your products or services online? Have you considered not only what to move online, but how your customers will discover your business? You’ll need to keep up with both purchasing trends and discovery trends as the business moves forward in an uncertain time. If not, your business will continue to lose value.

Your Liabilities Are Increasing Faster Than Your Assets This unfortunately goes hand-in-hand with the previous points. As the market adapts, you may have found that the essentials your business needs to operate have increased in both price and quantity. This compounds the effects of a shrinking customer base. You’re now forced to spend more to service fewer and fewer customers. The impacts are further dramatized when consumer trends move quicker than you’ve anticipated, and your business has not kept up with rapidly changing preferences. Keeping your liability to asset ratio consistent will become increasingly important as we move forward in uncertain times. But maintaining your current asset-to-liability ratio is just a piece of the puzzle. As inflation starts to impact our society, you’ll likely notice that the value of the money your business makes, simply does not go as far. This means that unless you increase your prices to improve your asset-to-liability ratio, your liabilities will continue to increase as it will cost you more and more to provide the same products and services to your customers.

The Value Of Your Dollar Is Decreasing An unfortunate but very real impact of the Covid lockdowns has been that governments around the world have needed to print money to keep the system afloat. Printing money, regardless of the currency or country, always affects inflation. Inflation in turn always affects the real purchasing power of a single dollar. And this negatively affects the value of your business. As an example, the Bank of Canada has stated that “even with a low inflation rate of 2%, the dollar will lose ½ its value in 35 years.”

While the verdict is still out, experts estimate that our shortterm inflation rate might range anywhere from 3-10%. As the Wall St. Journal shared in a recent article, investors were shocked by the 0.9% month-overmonth inflation rate in April of this year. This, if continued, would peg annual inflation at an astounding 10%. To put this in perspective, a 10% inflation rate would mean that the value of your dollar would be worth approximately 50% less in just 4years. While it's highly unlikely inflation will continue at such a staggering rate, It’s extremely important to consider that every dollar that your business brings in, or that your business saves in cash reserves, will lose some of its value over time. You’ll need a strategy to ensure your business continues to grow and thrive in uncertain economic conditions.

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One Little Known Trick The Best Companies In The World Are Using To Offset Lower Business Value There is one factor listed above that compounds the effects of the previous four factors. This is: The value of your dollar is decreasing due to inflation. If you don’t have a plan to combat inflation in our current economic environment, your business will continue to lose value by the eroding dollar value alone. This is not a trivial amount. A 50% reduction in the purchasing power of your dollar in 8-years would mean you’d need to spend 50% more of what your business makes to keep your business afloat. This is assuming there are no other increases in operational business costs. Fortune 500 companies understand just how devastating this could be, which is why they’ve started allocating portions of their treasuries (or cash reserves) into alternative assets. Their asset of choice? Digital assets such as Bitcoin. By moving a portion of their cash reserves to an asset that combats inflationary pressure, these businesses reduce their exposure to eroding business value, by not holding excess cash that continues to lose it’s purchasing power. It’s a trick that some of the most successful companies in the world have started to use, and is a strategy that’s available to any small or medium sized business in Canada.

In Summary There are many external factors that cause your business to lose value. Succeeding in our uncertain economic environment will require: A reassessment of your business and general business strategy Keeping abreast of the latest in consumer and market trends Having a plan to combat inflationary pressures that compound all other factors Post-pandemic has shown us that smart companies are pivoting their business strategy and adding Bitcoin to their balance sheet to combat inflation and prevent further reductions to their business value. Have you considered how to do the same?

Trisha Paguyo

leads Bitbuy’s Corporate Accounts Team Trisha Paguyo, leads Bitbuy’s Corporate Accounts Team. As an ex-Senior Financial Analyst at CGI, she transitioned to the cryptocurrency space with one of the leading crypto-exchanges in Canada - recognizing the massive potential of the industry. Now she leads BitBuy’s Corporate Accounts Team, guiding other SMB’s into the world of cryptocurrency, highlighting how they can safely reduce risk, gain exposure, and minimize the impacts of pandemic inflation with the fastest growing financial asset in the world.

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Restructuring the Business Model to Meet Customer Needs in a Pandemic Era Are you one of the enterprises that had to remodel its business processes to stay operating during the COVID-19 era? Or are you still running your business in survival mode? Innovation in remodelling the business is what truly differentiates businesses that are meeting their monthly revenue from businesses that are struggling to survive. They actively operate focused on one objective; that is, to meet customer needs in a pandemic that really hit the small business community hard.

4 tips to guide a business to innovatively remodel its offerings: 1. Time to Reflect: Take time to reflect, evaluate and write down the current offerings of the business. It is very important to have a clear view of what’s current in order to identify the sudden change that took over since the pandemic started.

2. Identify Changes: With an open mind, identify the changes and modifications that were imposed on the business, and write them down. Sometimes business owners find it difficult to embrace change; when in the world of business, change has proven to be evident. In normal days business owners have to keep watch for new trends and quickly adapt to the deviations that come with them. While the pandemic brought major changes to the business world, business owners still have to adjust and be open to alter their practices.

3. Brainstorm: Reflect on the list of modifications that the business had experienced one at a time. Consider the current needs of your target audience, and write down innovative remodelling ideas for the business. It can be amendments to existing practices and operations or it may be the introduction of a new product or service. While brainstorming, focus on jotting down creative and innovative ideas as they come to mind, keeping customers as the core mark to the new model.

4. Create a Plan: Now that all the facts are at hand, it is time to organize the collected data and edit the list of remodelling ideas.By doing that, businesses willestablish a readiness to

Grace Nasralla Owner of e-presence Consultants Inc, founder of OSBN® and HUDDLESPACE by OSBN®

come up with an effective plan that will implement change. And that change will be geared to regain consumer confidence and recommence consistent growth for the business. That process will restructure the business model to meet customer needs in a pandemic era. Once that exercise is complete and the business starts running with the new model, then it is time to craft a marketing plan that works in sync with the new changes.

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3 Ways For SMEs to Win at Customer Service Automation Here's 3 ways automation can boost your customer loyalty and improve your bottom line By Lemuel Operario Think of a business. That business wishes it could automate more. Basically, every organization is interested in increasing their use of automation because it can save them so much money.

Think of an Amazon Alexa, built specifically to provide service and answer questions about your business. Customers phone in and get through to the AI system. They don’t have to get service that way… but plenty of people *do* choose to.

That’s a fair reason! But an even better one is the potential to improve the experience your customers will have.

Which makes total sense – lots of people are used to speaking with Alexa or similar systems every day. This is a pretty small step for them.

Here are 3 kinds of automation that fit the bill:

The benefit for your business is the big potential cost saving.

#1 Conversational AI

If just 5% of your callers take this self-service route instead, that’s probably worth a lot, right?

What used to be the domain of large businesses (with tons of money) is now available to a far wider pool of people.

On top of that, the callers which do still go through to agents have likely provided some info to the AI.

First – what is conversational IVR?

That info is delivered to the agent, so the call is far easier to handle.


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#2 Helpdesk Automation Helpdesk tech is another tool that used to be exclusive to rich businesses. But not anymore!

Automate contact routing draws from data records like your CRM and your Helpdesk to figure out what kind of service any given customer needs. Everything gets faster, and customers get the service they actually need – not generic service.

Now the world and his aunt have a helpdesk system with some kind of supporting ticketing in place. But don’t you find that new tech sometimes solves old problems and introduces new ones? With Helpdesk ticketing, the new problem is acting on tickets, making sure they’re up to date, and creating tickets from different contact channels. Helpdesk automation effectively removes this problem by integrating your cloud helpdesk software with any other channel – even telephony! That means getting automated ticketing. Agents are prompted to follow up on outstanding issues and, if a customer calls back, the agent can immediately see what they last called about. It’s a pretty huge deal to automate all that work; it definitely saves agents dozens of hours each and means that more of each call can focus on actual conversation rather than manual research.

#3 Contact routing Another piece of automation that saves an incredible amount of time – contact routing.


Here’s a scenario – you walk into your local coffee shop. You go there all the time, but the barista still asks, “Hey – who are you?”

There is a ton of automation that small businesses can benefit from.

You give the barista your name and ask for your usual… but the barista doesn’t know what that is.

As a rule of thumb, look for affordable projects that make life easier for your customers and you can’t go far wrong.

And you start wondering why you keep coming here! That’s the scenario most contact centers create for their customers. Their customer satisfaction metrics are in the gutter because they hardly ever use available customer data to tailor their services to that customer’s needs. That’s a major CX problem but it’s also more expensive than it needs to be.

Serving people is what makes the difference between whether or not they choose you over the competition.

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Small Businesses Strategic Response to COVID-19 What we have learned so far By Karim Tabah

Small businesses strategic response to COVID-19: What we have learned so far The recent pandemic has shaken away strategic business models for small and large businesses alike. Many business researchers and practitioners have made bold calls to change existing business approaches and processes so that companies could build their own resilience capabilities and become more adaptive to the new realities.

Small businesses are commonly viewed as being vulnerable to external shocks because of their resources’ constraints. Yet, they are considered to be flexible, which can help them to make fast and efficient responses to crises. As we have already entered year two of the pandemic, it is important to see if there are clear patterns about how some small businesses successfully responded to the current challenging times by first overcoming their resources’ constraints and survive, and second using their flexibility advantage to find the silver lining.

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Financial Sustainability One common response that many small businesses applied during the pandemic was to achieve financial sustainability. Many business owners' first response to the crisis was to implement relentless cost control measures, especially when it comes to non-revenue generating expenses. They have minimized their payroll costs strategically by reducing working hours and suspending working benefits to avoid major layoffs. Having said that, one should bear in mind that over-cutting, especially when it comes to revenuegenerating activities, might limit small companies’ abilities to rebound when the business conditions improve. Entrepreneurs also paid more attention to working capital management. They spent considerable time chasing unpaid bills and managing their cash flows. They have also leveraged their relationships with banks, suppliers, and buyers to manage their liabilities. Some researchers suggested that small business owners should take a step further and start implementing risk management practices. This could be done by preparing contingency plans, scenario analysis, and revising their cash flowscontinuously.

Use of technology State-of-the-art technologies are becoming increasingly important for businesses to survive global competition. Such technologies were perceived by small business owners as expensive or restricted to tech-savvy individuals. After COVID 19, entrepreneurs became more aware of the numerous cloud-based solutions that are affordable and easy to use. Many small businesses used these technologies to maintain their existing customers and to reach out to fresh prospects. Evidence from developing countries also illustrated how micro-businesses defeated many operational challenges by using social platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.

While there is enough evidence about how the use of lowcost technologies enabled business owners to generate income and remain operational, one should pay attention to whether a new generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs would resurrect out of this pandemic bringing new digital ideas into our world. April Brown and Sarah Sklash, the founders of The June Motel, quit their jobs in 2016 to pursue their dream of re-imagining the local hospitality experience. Having opened two motels in Prince Edward County and Sauble Beach, April and Sarah had to deal with the declining demand that hits the hospitality industry during the pandemic. They both thought of bringing their motel experience to people’s homes by expanding into e-commerce. Their online shop now offers a variety of products that are usually experienced at their motels such as wine, candles, throwback blankets, and even decorating wallpaper. In a recent interview with the Financial Post, Co-founder Sarah Sklash stated that working with cloud-based systems made their decisions to pivot to e-commerce much easier, allowing them to build a new offering while maintaining their existing business.

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Thrive it your way There is no doubt that the current pandemic is far more tragic than other crises that we have encountered before. However, there are still many lessons that could be distilled from previous tragic events that damaged many businesses in the not distant past. Professor David Smallbone, who was the president of the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, concluded that there is not a consistent story that explains small business resilience during a recession. Entrepreneurs can select their optimal strategies by paying more attention to their own contexts. For example, small businesses that were considered as ‘essential businesses’ had to deal with challenges related to supply chain issues such as increasing demands, shortages of supplies, and new hygiene regulations. Such businesses are more likely to be concerned with addressing uncertainties associated with having to operate in a risky environment as well as balancing supplies and demands. Businesses that were deemed as ‘not essential’ in a pandemic context were forced to examine their internal resources and capabilities, and then diversify into sectors that are experiencing increasing demand. Companies that were already considered as ‘digital natives' found an unprecedented opportunity in the pandemic and are in a perfect situation to thrive. In addition to understanding their own contexts, entrepreneurs should remember that their strategic choices are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they should consider implementing a hybrid strategy that enables them to follow more than one strategic path simultaneously. As concluded by Professor Smallbone, many small businesses followed an ambidextrous strategy by reducing costs and conducting revenue-generating activities to survive the financial recession of 2008. The first task that small business owners should do when designing such hybrid strategies is to think of the optimal way to reconfigure their existing resources and processes, perhaps with the use of low-cost technologies, to increase efficiency and open up to new opportunities.

About the author: Karim Tabah is a Toronto-based entrepreneur. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration Degree from the University of Liverpool. His research focus is on small business profitability strategies and survival.

Akpan, I. J., Soopramanien, D. and Kwak, D.H(2020). Cutting-edge technologies for small business and innovation in the era of COVID-19 global health pandemic, Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship, 1–11. Akpan, I. J., Udoh, E. A. P. and Adebisi, B. (2020). Small business awareness and adoption of state-of-the-art technologies in emerging and developing markets, and lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, Journal of Small Business & Entrepreneurship,1-18. Ali, M.H., Suleiman, N., Khalid, N., Tan, K.H., Tseng, M.L. and Kumar, M. (2021). Supply chain resilience reactive strategies for food SMEs in coping to COVID-19 crisis, Trends in Food Science & Technology, 109, 94–102. Bartz, W. and Winkler, A. (2016). Flexible or fragile? The growth performance of small and young businesses during the global financial crisis — Evidence from Germany. Journal of Business Venturing, 31(2), 196-215. Dastoli, C.(2020). Covid-19 and Cash Flow Management, Strategic Finance, 101(12), 19–20 Financial Post (2021). Five to Survive: 65% of Canadian Small Businesses Surveyed Give Themselves 5 Years or Less to Make It [Online]. May 18, 2021. Kimuli, S.N.L., Sendawula, K. and Nagujja, S. (2020). Digital technologies in micro and small enterprise: evidence from Uganda's informal sector during the COVID19 pandemic. World Journal of Science, Technology and Sustainable Development.18(2), 93-108. Nurunnabi, M. (2020). Recovery planning and resilience of SMEs during the COVID-19: experience from Saudi Arabia, Journal of Accounting & Organizational Change, 16(4), 643–653. Ravindran, T. and Boh, W. F. (2020). Lessons From COVID-19: Toward a Pandemic Readiness Audit Checklist for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises. IEEE Engineering Management Review, Engineering Management Review, 48(3), 55–62. Smallbone, D., Deakins, D., Battisti, M. & Kitching, J. (2012). Small business responses to a major economic downturn: Empirical perspectives from New Zealand and the United Kingdom. International Small Business Journal, 30(7), 754-777. Tabang, J. J. T. (2020). The Relationship Between Working Capital Management and Risk Management Among SMEs in the Philippines, Journal of Accounting & Finance (2158-3625), 20(6), pp. 202–207. The June Motel (n.d.). The June Motel Website, [Online].

Why Data-Driven Hiring Is the ONLY Way to Go (ESPECIALLY in Sales!) If you’re looking for a Hunter—and you likely should be—don’t rely on intuition or interview performance. You need science. Here are seven reasons to assess sales aptitude before you hire. How many times have you said (or heard someone in your company say), “Wow, I just know in my gut this person will be a good salesperson.” This is how too many sales managers go about hiring. But according to Dr. Chris Croner, there’s really no such thing as the “golden gut.” And when you rely on your intuition to hire salespeople, rather than on objective aptitude data, you can end up getting burned.

“It happens all the time,” says Dr. Croner, a psychologist, sales retention and recruitment expert, and principal at SalesDrive, a content-rich resource center overflowing with educational articles, podcasts, masterclasses, science-based sales psychology strategies, and other tools and techniques aimed at helping companies maximize their sales team’s performance. “It’s just too easy to hire candidates who seem great in the interview but end up underperforming over time.

“And right now, when markets are opening back up and your competitors are launching a full-scale comeback, you can’t afford to make a bad hire,” adds Dr. Croner, who is also coauthor along with Richard Abraham of Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again: Selecting Candidates Who Are Absolutely Driven to Succeed (The Richard Abraham Company LLC, ISBN: 978-0-9741996-1-0, $19.95).

You really need to hire a “Hunter,” he asserts. These revenue-producing superstars have the innate ability to develop new business opportunities and close new accounts. Problem is, Hunters are rare (only 20 percent of the population). The only reliable way to snag one is by taking a data-driven scientific approach. Dr. Croner advises sales managers to apply a sales aptitude test early in the hiring process to both capture high-potential candidates and avoid low-potential candidates. Then, follow it up with a well-conducted behavioural interview to get past the candidate’s initial impression and unearth what’s actually under the surface.

Here are seven reasons why data-driven hiring is the only way to go: There are lots of sub-par salespeople out there. According to HubSpot, 40 percent of all salespeople do not understand customer pain, which plays a large role in the fact that 75 percent of salespeople miss their quotas.

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There are lots of sub-par salespeople out there. According to HubSpot, 40 percent of all salespeople do not understand customer pain, which plays a large role in the fact that 75 percent of salespeople miss their quotas. If you don’t want to inadvertently hire one of the many smooth-talking duds that fake their way through phone and in-person interviews, you’d better weed them out with a good sales aptitude test.

A bad hire simply costs too much. According to the SalesDrive website, the average cost to onboard a new employee is $240,000. Wrong hires account for nearly 80 percent of all turnover rates in the business. And when you look at the big picture, you will see that if you onboard a bad hire to your team, you can actually see a bottom-line cost of $840,000. This includes the cost of hiring new employees, how much it costs to keep employees on staff, the cost of paying your employees, their severance pay when you let them go, missed business opportunities, and the potential for damage to your company’s reputation and/or client relationships. Drive matters more than anything else and it’s not easy to identify. Dr. Croner says Drive is the most critical personality trait needed for success in sales. It’s made up of three non-teachable traits: the need for achievement, competitiveness, and optimism. SalesDrive’s proprietary DriveTest®—an assessment based on 90 years of research on the subject as well as on the company’s own work—helps businesses identify this elusive trait in candidates before they hire one. “They either have Driven or they don’t,” asserts Dr. Croner. “And it’s hard to tell if someone has it in an interview. Once you know Drive is present, you’ll need to identify and help them sharpen other skills like persuasiveness, resilience, and so forth—but Drive should be the price of entry.”

Salespeople are masters at fooling you in an interview. Too often, the interview is the best sale you will ever see out of your candidate. They are on their best behaviour, probing for your pain and promising you the world. But their performance in an interview is NOT a reliable gauge of whether they will actually be able to sell your products and services. “Sales candidates can trick you in all sorts of ways,” says Dr. Croner. “They use their personality and charisma to build rapport with you. They exaggerate previous results. They say what you want to hear. But in the end, long after you’ve hired them, you realize you were fooled.”

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It’s too easy to mistake confidence for Drive. There’s nothing wrong with confidence. In fact, it is necessary for success in sales. But as too many hirers have discovered, you can’t rely on the confidence you see in a job interview to steer you toward the right candidate. For one thing, it can be faked and can overshadow true sales aptitude. It can fluctuate. It can go hand in hand with arrogance. Finally, it can manifest in different ways. “It’s easy to overlook qualified candidates because they don’t express confidence in an outward way,” notes Dr. Croner. “Introverts are a good example—and yes, they can be great at sales.”

“Demonstrated success” isn’t always enough. You might think that because a candidate has years of sales experience you don’t need a sales test. Not true. What if they have a track record of success with established products with a short sales cycle, yet your product is new and has a long sales cycle? What if the products they represent have strong brand recognition and that’s what was doing the heavy lifting? Bottom line: you can’t assume a good track record means the person will be right for you.

Personality tests are easy to fake. Quite often sales managers use basic personality tests to help them hire a salesperson. Unfortunately, says Dr. Croner, this falls short in many ways. They’re not science-based. They’re broad, subjective, and inconsistent. Worst of all they can be faked by a candidate angling to get hired. If the question asks the test taker to rate the statement “I am very persuasive” from 1 (not at all like you) to 5 (very much like you), they need to be honest if you’re to get accurate data. In a high-stakes scenario when the candidate is motivated to score well and knows the qualities important for the role for which they are applying, they can shape their responses to fit what the employer is likely seeking (a persuasive person for a sales role). “That’s why we designed the DriveTest® to have a forced-choice format,” he explains. “All the answers are positive so the candidate can’t really guess what the ‘right’ one is.” Dr. Croner says that it always surprises him when people balk at the $200.00 price tag on a solid, science-based assessment. “It’s really a tiny investment with a huge ROI,” he says. “When you consider the huge amount you save by not hiring the wrong person—and the huge amount of revenue you generate by hiring the right one— there’s no reason not to go the data-based route.”

About the Author: Dr. Christopher Croner is principal at SalesDrive and co-author (along with Richard Abraham) of the book Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again, which details his research and practice in identifying the non-teachable personality traits common to top producers. Dr. Croner received his BA in psychology from DePaul University and his master’s and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He developed the proprietary DriveTest® online sales test and The Drive Interview®, both used for hiring “Hunter” salespeople. Using this methodology, he has helped over 1,200 companies worldwide to hire and develop top-performing salespeople. To learn more please visit About the Book: Never Hire a Bad Salesperson Again: Selecting Candidates Who Are Absolutely Driven to Succeed (The Richard Abraham Company LLC, ISBN: 978-09741996-1-0, $19.95) is available from major online booksellers.

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The 3 Reasons Why Established Marketing Will Help You Franchise Setting your business up for success By Kendall Ansell

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With 1,200 to 1,300 franchise companies in Canada, what can a new entrepreneur looking to invest in a franchise do to ensure they stand out and succeed? Join a franchise with successful marketing and public relations strategies already in place. Not only do you want to know the company you plan to join has a presence, but you’ll also want to ensure their existing marketing has a positive impact and will best benefit your business when you choose to franchise with them. Using successful and positive marketing strategies is how female-led Belle Construction plans to put their franchisees ahead of the curve. They’ve been building a long-lasting reputation that is authentic to who they are via strategic media and PR techniques. By taking the time to build their reputation, any future franchisee will be well prepared to dive into their new business venture. Read the 3 reasons why this strategy will help a franchise.

The groundwork is laid out Let’s put it simply - as a new business owner of a franchise, you’ll have less work that is needed to build your reputation. The company is well-known enough that you can build upon this in your particular region. While there will be effort and continued marketing strategies employed by the franchisee, the guidelines and basics have already been completed on their behalf to ensure they can succeed. You can additionally take support and guidance from previous PR & marketing strategies employed by the original franchise owners. This will help lead you in your particular franchise tactics as well as the messaging behind each step you take within the business.

The popularity of franchising is rising, you’ll want to stand out from the rest As mentioned above, the number of existing franchises is high and is becoming increasingly popular for young entrepreneurs to join to make their way in the world of business. If you choose to franchise with a company that is not only known in the media with its marketing techniques, but celebrated for its uniqueness, what it offers, and more, your franchise will be much more likely to stand out amongst other businesses. When people see your business name, there are positive associations already tied with the brand and will have people in your region more likely to support you through your business endeavor.

You have a clear idea of what type of Franchise you are walking into By choosing to franchise with a company that is well known in the media, you have the opportunity to get to know them as well. The existing marketing and advertising in place will give a potential franchisee a good idea of what they are stepping into and whether they truly align with the overall business goals and values. As mentioned above, the core motives will be involved in every aspect of the business, so it will be important to gain a true understanding of what those mean prior to signing on. These are the three reasons why established marketing will help you become a franchisee and set up your building blocks for growth. Now it is time to get out there and take your franchise goals to the next level!

Kendall Ansell is an award-winning interior designer who started the successful, female-led construction company, Belle Construction. Belle Construction has recently become a franchise and has been well-prepared for future franchisees through detailed craftsmanship, positive company culture, and well-established marketing practices. If you’re looking for support in franchising, reach out to Kendall Ansell and her team at Belle Construction to learn more!

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Kim Spurgeon Senior Vice President, Customer Experience, Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge Kim Spurgeon is the Senior Vice President, Customer Experience at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge. Speaking exclusively about the multi-faceted nature of training requirements while hiring new graduates, Spurgeon also talks about the latest trends in Canadian HR and recruitment strategies and shares some of the best practices for reskilling and upskilling initiatives during COVID-19. Kim Spurgeon is Senior Vice President of Customer Success at LHH, responsible for setting the overall sales strategy, direction and execution of LHH’s growth plan in Canada. As a member of the LHH senior leadership team, Kim brings over 20 years’ experience in Human Capital consulting. Prior to the sales leadership role, Kim was responsible for finance, delivery and operational effectiveness of the Career Solutions business in the GTA and Western Canada. She is a certified coach, specializing in career management, coaching and transition.

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Can you highlight key findings from the recent LHH LinkedIn poll in relation to the skill and training requirements when hiring new graduates during COVID-19?

Not only do training programs enhance the quality and retention of new hires, but they also increase the long-term success of the company itself.

LinkedIn polls have been a useful resource to collect inputs on various topics as we find new and strategic ways to connect with our audience within the remote work landscape. In a recent LHH LinkedIn poll, undertaken to better understand the biggest barriers for organizations in hiring recent graduates during the pandemic, 22 percent of respondents shared that a lack of skills was a key obstacle. Additionally, 18 percent of respondents shared that increased training is required to help recent graduates fit into new job positions.

By investing in employees, companies are investing in the future. Organizations have an opportunity to differentiate themselves by making employment more attractive to entry level talent, while also accelerating productivity and engagement.

New graduate hires are reinforcing the need to build up specific skills for future career success. Spurred by the next generation of young professional entrants, career development and training opportunities will have to be a core competency. As new grads increasingly look for opportunities to develop skills and enhance their experience, a key deciding factor will be the training or development opportunities offered in the early recruitment stages. Although some organizations may want to focus on training and upskilling only at the top of the talent pipeline, it is imperative that new grads, along with the staff at all levels, are equally considered to promote skills relevance and accelerate professional growth in an ever-evolving workplace.

Why do companies need to focus on training programs for new graduates? It is important to encourage training programs for new graduates, however, learning and development opportunities are essential for all employees across the talent pipeline. The digital transformation, coupled with the pandemic, has highlighted an anticipated skills gap within the next five years. This has created an opportunity for new graduate hires to fill a portion of this gap through appropriate training. In addition, to attract and retain new graduate recruits, organizations must allocate ongoing professional development training and skilling opportunities to appeal to this younger generation’s expectation for continual growth throughout their careers. Companies that overlook employee development and training programs face the risk of slowing the growth of their talent pipelines. A recent survey conducted by LHH on Global Redeploymentfound that 36 percent of Canadian companies have not considered reskilling or upskilling programs to future-proof their talent pipeline.

What is the long-term impact of talent development initiatives by large organizations? This year’s Global Redeployment Survey, which was conducted to over 2100 senior HR professionals, indicated that among the organizations that participate in training programs; the most experienced benefits are increased productivity (56 percent), and increased employee loyalty (54 percent). When companies initiate reskilling, upskilling, and training programs, it helps them stay relevant and competitive. Companies can improve their future value by tapping into these types of talent strategies. A culture of continuous learning improves the employer value proposition strengthens employee retention, engagement and overall productivity which can contribute to the organization’s bottom line.

What are the latest trends on Canadian HR and recruitment strategies for new graduates? The outset of the pandemic, digital disruption, and changing demographics in the workforce have changed the labour market for new grads and other employees as well. Pandemic-driven virtual recruitment and onboarding is a key trend that has forced organizations to adopt new ways and approaches to connecting, analyzing and hiring candidates. Organizations need to ramp up their recruitment efforts and find innovative ways to onboard new grads virtually. In the recent LinkedIn poll, 47 percent of respondents identified virtual hiring and onboarding as the biggest obstacles for new graduate recruitment. The trend that will redefine recruitment strategies for new graduates is robust onboarding plans consisting of virtual welcome sessions and engaged support from teams to streamline the process.

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Building effective remote teams within any company, from junior to senior levels, is also being reshaped. Organizations are creating alternative and innovative strategies to enable productivity and develop enriching relationships with new hires. An increased focus on the implementation of a diverse and equitable workforce is crucial. The virtual workplace allows organizations to now recruit from broader geography. This gives workers in more rural locations the opportunity to work in highly populated cities with greater job options. Hybrid remote work models will also increase employment opportunities for those located anywhere in the country.

Can you please share some of the best practices for reskilling and upskilling initiatives during COVID-19? The pandemic has forced rapid changes, creating a rising demand for enhanced digital capabilities. As companies look to remain competitive in the marketplace, they need to look to all candidates, both internally and externally, to fill the growing skills gap. Key initiatives to prepare for the futureinclude:

Ensuring that reskilling & upskilling strategies are aligned to future business goals Ensuring that executive sponsorship creates a culture of continuous learning Identify the key skills gaps for the future and align them with the training strategy Consider the workforce as renewable and identify segments that can be upskilled or reskilled regularly Provide career development coaching so employees understand where they fit in the future workforce

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Six months to Series A. The Next Unicorn Is Disrupting The Multi-billion-dollar Petcare Industry

Mark Bordo CEO and Co-Founder, Vetster

The CEO and Co-Founder of Vetster, Mark Bordo gives us an insight into the several disruptions in the pet care industry in our final segment. Focusing on the importance of telemedicine for pets to improve veterinary care, Bordo discusses the role of Vetster and how has it helped in making veterinary care more accessible, convenient and affordable for pet owners. Mark has been a tech entrepreneur with a focus on consumer marketplaces for over 20 years. He is excited to have the chance to pair his love for animals with his tech marketplace experience and work with this great industry helping to transform pet care.

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How the rise in pet ownership - coupled with the need for virtual veterinary telemedicine as a result of the pandemic makes the petcare industry perfect for disruption? There are several elements making now the right time for Vetster to transform the way pet owners and veterinarians approach pet care. The first is the rapid growth of the pet care industry. In the last year, it’s risen more than 25% to nearly $100-billion. The pandemic created a silver lining with many people having the opportunity to adopt or own a pet. Over the last year, we’ve seen pet stores, breeders and human societies empty as people made room for pets in their lives. This growth in turn has resulted in an increasing need for veterinary care. Vet clinics across North America have seen up to 50% more patients. But that growth has also been within the context of a year where seeing patients in-clinic has been challenging with added safety protocols, limited staff, and longer working hours. The pet care industry is going through a technology revolution. The introduction of numerous software and industry tech is pushing pet care forward. As technology advances in this space, the opportunity for telemedicine will grow simultaneously. There is now a dire need for pet owners to access care. Vetster is stepping forward as the fastestgrowing on-demand veterinary platform to help veterinarians serve more clients and supplement their clinic practice, while enabling pet owners to find, book and meet with a veterinarian at a time that is convenient to them and when and where their pet needs care. It’s been six months since we launched and we have already established Vetster as the largest platform in North America with veterinarians in every state and province in North America.

Can you share your vision for a pet care marketplace, based on your experience building Canada’s largest short-term rental marketplace that was sold to Expedia? In 2008 when we created CanadaStays, we were one of the first short-term rental marketplaces in Canada and the first to build a marketplace at scale. It was a time when mobile technologies were just emerging, social media was nascent, and the idea of finding and booking a vacation rental without speaking to someone was unfamiliar.

Our success was a direct result of our ability to build an elegant platform, quickly attract a large inventory, and connect customers to ideal vacation properties based on their preferences. We honed those skills and grew quickly, attracting the attention of HomeAway, VRBO & Expedia which ultimately acquired us. As part of the HomeAway/ Expedia team, we were introduced to the rigour and big thinking of a global organization. This combined experience of building a startup in an emerging market, with the massive scale and resourcing of a large enterprise that has Vetster setting its sights on building the world’s preferred pet care platform and a global brand. We raised our Series A after only six months in the market, are already working on our next round, and are quickly expanding to new markets and introducing new services and products into our marketplace for pet owners.

How Vetster is making veterinary care more accessible, convenient and affordable for pet owners? Pet ailments can occur at any time. While travelling, in the middle of the night, on Christmas Eve whenever... Pet parents often don’t know where to turn and worse, in an emergency aren’t always confident in their decision to go to an urgent care hospital. This is where Vetster steps forward to make it easy to access veterinary care 24/7. Whether you’re up at the cottage, in your RV or stuck at the office on a major work deadline, Vetster provides access to high-quality licensed veterinary care. Our web and mobile app make it convenient to find a veterinarian at a time that works for the pet owner. With secure video, audio and chat options pet owners can speak to a trusted, verified veterinarian who can help to assess the pet, diagnose and even prescribe medication. Vetster manages payment and invoicing, provides a summary of the appointment, and keeps the appointment records on file for future appointments. The overall experience is seamless, modern and generating 5-star reviews across the board!

How telemedicine for pets is helping to improve veterinary care? Telemedicine for pets marks a fundamental shift in how pet owners can care for their pets. No longer do they need to delay making an appointment to wait for availability or because of their own busy schedule. No longer do they hesitate to make an appointment for a minor ailment.

Now we see pet parents become proactive about their pet’s health in a more holistic way. Because it’s convenient, accessible, and affordable. Vetster gives pet parents the ability to connect with veterinary care more often throughout the year to improve the health outcomes of their animals. For veterinarians, Vetster augments the in-clinic care they offer and provides a new delivery method of care. Clinics can expand their practice online and direct what types of care are offered online vs inperson. This empowers veterinarians to optimize the in-clinic resources while expanding their practice in new ways. At the same time, we are seeing other veterinarians establishing themselves online and building their specialty in telemedicine. This marks the beginning of a seachange moment where petcare is expanding, becoming more sophisticated, and digitally driven. With Vetster, no matter where you’re located - in the city, a remote area - no matter what time of day, or what ailment you are concerned with, Vetster is a click away from finding the care and answers you need.

On a final note can you please share the top 3 tried and tested tips for Building For Global Scale with our readers? 1. Think globally from the beginning. Our mindset has evolved from our days at CanadaStays. We built an incredible Canadian platform, but competitors were emerging in other markets. With Vetster we’re thinking global and moving quickly to establish Vetster as the goto platform for pet care. Our mindset is a key contributor to being in every state and province in North America. 2. Find the team that knows what you don’t. Great startups work together in concert, and to move quickly you need a team that brings experience and bench strength in order for that growth to happen. The team is everything. 3. Live faithfully in your mission. In the early days of building a business, more people will tell you the obstacles and challenges than they will show you the opportunities. Be resolute and optimistic.


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