Small business blog posts we liked this week

By Samantha Garner | October 18, 2014

This week, we’re sharing some great blog posts we read, ranging from cat photos to cyber security. Enjoy!

Topics: Small Business Tips and Advice, Uncategorized | No Comments »

22 job interview questions for employers to ask

By Samantha Garner | October 11, 2014

You know that hiring employees for your small business is an important consideration, and the interview is the best way to get to know your candidates. It’s your only chance to gather as much information as possible to make your decision. Prepare a detailed list of measurable and comparable questions before beginning the interview process. Here are 22 basic question types to get you started:


  • What is your experience in relevant positions?
  • If I were to ask a past employer or supervisor, what would they say one of your biggest strengths on the job was?
  • If I were to ask a past employer or supervisor, what would they say one of your weaknesses on the job was?
  • What do you consider to be your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • If your friends, co-workers or colleagues were asked to describe you in three words, what would they say?
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • What has disappointed you with previous jobs?
  • What motivates you to do your best with a job?
  • What do you look for in a job?
  • What was the most important decision you’ve ever had to make?

Company/Position Specific:

  • What do you know about this company?
  • What skills can you bring to this company?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Do you work well as a team player? Do you feel most comfortable working alone or with a team?
  • What are you looking for in this position?
  • Do you have experience with the particular computer programs/equipment that we use here? (List all relevant programs or equipment)
  • How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to this company?

Situational/Hypothetical Questions:

  • Ask things like “If an unhappy customer were to approach you with a complaint about a malfunction with one of our company’s products, how would you respond?”
  • What would you do if . .
  • How would you react if. . .
  • Who would you tell if. . .
  • Tell me about a problem that occurred in the past at a workplace and how you handled it.

Topics: Small Business Tips and Advice | No Comments »

Where is your competitive advantage?

By Samantha Garner | October 4, 2014

Your business has a competitive advantage when customers believe your products and services are superior to your competitors’.

Many small business owners do what they see will succeed. Tempting, but it can get you into trouble. Why would customers buy from you if you’re indistinguishable from your competitors, who they already have history with? From the customer’s point of view, you’re the more risky alternative.

How do you lower that risk? By crafting a competitive advantage and clearly communicating your advantage to the customer. Let’s take a look at the most popular forms of competitive advantage:

Price/Value Competitive Advantage

  • This competitive advantage can include things like:
  • Improved process efficiencies
  • Skilled staff
  • Favourable location
  • Optimal outsourcing
  • Access to cheaper resources and inputs
  • Cost avoidance
  • Superior technology
  • Lower marketing expenses
  • Efficient distribution channels
  • Effective partnerships or alliances
  • Lower overhead
  • Waste reduction

Your small business may have lower costs than your competitors, while still seeing reasonable profit margins, by either selling your products at average prices to earn a profit higher than the competition, or at below average prices to gain market share. If superior prices aren’t possible, you can also get an advantage over the competition by offering superior value in your products or services.

Niche Markets Competitive Advantage

Serving a niche market means selling to a region overlooked or not currently being served, or a distribution channel.

You can get a niche market advantage by offering a product or service with unique attributes that customers of an underserved market love. There’s a potential for high demand here, which means you may be able to offer your product or service for a premium price. In this case, you’ll need to keep up with research and demand. Stay innovative while remaining connected to the customers in your niche.

Adaptability Competitive Advantage

Your small business may get an advantage over competitors through your ability to adapt to changing markets and demands. Small businesses can often adjust processes and procedures much faster than some larger competitors. When you adapt faster and more accurately, your business may be able to offer a superior product or service to the market first, before your competitors can get back on their feet. This opens up the possibility of a monopoly (where you would be the only company in the market offering the product or service) for a while.

Topics: GoForth Institute Small Business Training | No Comments »

All about small business permits and licenses

By Samantha Garner | September 27, 2014

small-business-permits-licensesWhen you’re staring your small business, it’s important to make sure you have all of the required permits and licenses in place right from the start. Without them, you could be facing some pretty hefty fines – so don’t cut corners!

A license shows you’re allowed to operate in your area, while a permit is a document that shows proof of compliance with certain laws.

The permits and licenses your company needs will not only vary by industry, but also by city and province. You may need both a municipal and provincial license to operate your business. Most businesses – even some home-based ones – need a license of some sort to operate. License fees are required, so be sure to budget for this.

Often, you’ll need to get approvals or inspections before you can get licenses, sometimes including background checks. Commercial business locations are usually inspected by the fire department. Even if you’re working from home or coordinating a charitable fundraiser, you may need a home occupation permit, or must follow other provincial regulations.

There are lots of different types of licenses and permits depending on your location and your industry. An aerobic instruction company in Calgary, for example, could require an Alberta Sign Application, an Alberta Business Name Registration as well as a Canadian Business Registration, a Calgary Sign Permit, a Calgary Development Permit and a Commercial School License. It’s a good idea to contact your local city or provincial department to discuss licensing. The costs and wait times for each of these permits vary, so be sure to look into the required permits and licenses for your business early on.

Industry Canada runs an online service called BizPal, which helps you find the permits and licenses you’ll need in particular areas of Canada. You may also have to get in touch with local authorities like Development and Building Approvals, Health Services, Fire Department, Gaming and Liquor Commission, Police Services and Motor Vehicle Industry.

Topics: Small Business Tips and Advice | No Comments »

How to make managerial decisions in a small business

By Samantha Garner | September 20, 2014

Decision-making for a small businessMany entrepreneurs are the sole employee of their small business, or are in charge of a team. That means that the tough decisions may fall on your shoulders. But fret not – decision-making is a management skill that can be honed!

When making decisions, keep these things in mind:

–  Have a clear understanding of the decision
–  Consider the vision and values of your company
–  Evaluate the consequences and outcomes of your decision
–  Brainstorm as many alternatives as you can
–  Evaluate the pros and cons of each of those alternatives
–  Be sure the correct person is making the decision
–  Understand how long you have to make the decision

Once you’ve made your decision, you should re-examine it and the effects that it’s had. Avoid relying solely on outside information, but ask experts for their opinions when it’s necessary. Be realistic when you evaluate alternatives – don’t hear only what you want to hear. Remember the importance of the decision, but don’t focus so much on its significance that you’re too stressed to make an effective assessment.

Practice making managerial decisions with friends, family and other colleagues. No, “My way or the highway” is not effective managerial decision-making for a small business. Learn to evaluate, solicit opinions, contemplate, make decisions and follow up.

Topics: Small Business Tips and Advice | No Comments »

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