How to better understand your small business’ industry

By Samantha Garner | August 30, 2014

food-services-industryExploring an industry involves gathering large amounts of data, as well as talking to members of the industry – the ones who know most about it. Important information to get about your industry includes:

  • Is the industry growing?
  • Where are the opportunities in the industry?
  • How is new technology being used in the industry?
  • Are there young, successful businesses in the industry?
  • Who are the key players in the industry?
  • What are the typical financial results for businesses in this industry?

Do research, both primary and secondary, to learn more about your industry. Make sure you can answer the questions above before you start or expand your business.

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Quick eight-part customer survey

By Samantha Garner | August 23, 2014

Want to get preliminary feedback on your product or service idea? What better way than to ask your customers directly? Administering a small convenience sample of 20-30 consumers or industrial buyers is a good starting point to get well-rounded feedback.

Here’s an eight-part sample customer survey:

  1. Describe your product or service idea to the respondent.
  2. Note their reaction to your idea – what they liked/disliked about it, problems it would solve for them, needs that would be satisfied, and other comments about your idea.
  3. What benefits would they get from buying your product or service?
  4. What price would they pay?
  5. How often would they buy your product or service?
  6. What level of service and support would they expect you/your company to provide?
  7. Do they currently buy a similar product or service to yours? If so, from whom? Why? What do they like/dislike about the company that offers the product or service they currently buy?
  8. Collect demographic information (things like age, sex, and income) from your respondent to help you analyze your data and, later, to segment your market more conclusively.

There you go – quick, painless, and infinitely informative!

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Quiz: How’s your personal productivity?

By Samantha Garner | August 16, 2014

Do you wonder if you could be more productive? Take our Personal Productivity Quiz. Answer yes or no to each question below.

  1. Do you waste time looking for papers that you need?
  2. Do you waste time looking for information you know is on your computer?
  3. Would an impending audit make you nervous?
  4. Do you have very little uncluttered space in your office?
  5. Do you have difficulty prioritizing your daily workload?
  6. Are you frequently overwhelmed by what you need to accomplish at work?
  7. Do you lose important slips of paper, usually with customer contact info on it?
  8. Do you often feel unproductive?
  9. Do you waste time looking for phone numbers?
  10. Do you procrastinate on handling paperwork?

If you answered yes to any of the questions then you may need to review your personal productivity tools, skills and strategies for staying organized and on top of your game. Invest in the right technology, office equipment and office space to help you deliver top quality work, each time, every time.

Check out a previous blog post outlining some useful personal productivity tools for the entrepreneur.

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How to get copyright and trademark protection for your small business

By Samantha Garner | August 9, 2014

Last week, we talked about how Canadian entrepreneurs can obtain a patent. This week, we’ll help you get copyright and trademark protection (you can learn about what exactly copyright and trademarks are here).

How to get a copyright in Canada

Informal copyright exists as soon as a song is sung or something is written down — in other words, as soon as it’s created. To mark the creation of a song, for example, people often will send themselves a copy of the song in the mail, keeping the envelope unopened. The date stamp on the postmark is proof of the date the letter was sent, and therefore proof of copyright. Formal registration is performed through constructive notice, which lets you claim statutory damages up to $20,000 for any copyright infringement.

The application process involves sending a completed form to CIPO’s Copyright Office, with a fee of $50 to $65. You might need to send copies of your work to the National Library of Canada. This process usually takes about four weeks. To show that you have copyright protection, you may use the copyright symbol: ©. You’ll be protected against the copying, reproduction, publishing and performing of your creative work. Once you get it, your registered copyright protects you in most other countries of the world.

How to get a trademark in Canada

We have some good news — the process for registering a trademark is way more simple than the process of getting a patent. You may want to hire an agent to help you with the process. To register your trademark, do your research to make sure nothing similar is already in use. You can do this on the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) website.

If it’s all clear, your next step is to file an application to be published in CIPO’s Trade-marks Journal to see if anyone opposes it. The process usually takes about a year to get registered and costs around $450 to $500. Once registered, your trademark will be protected in Canada. You can show your trademark registration through the use of the following symbols: TM, ®.

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How to get a patent in Canada

By Samantha Garner | August 2, 2014

small_business_patentIf you’re ready to get a patent, the first thing you should do is find an agent to help you to get your invention ready for the patent process. Be sure the agent you hire is registered with the Patent Office.

Next, do research to see if any patents already exist for an invention similar to yours, which can be done on the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) website. If there’s nothing similar, you’re free to apply for a patent! You need to provide a summary of the invention, a complete description of the invention and its purpose, and drawings of your invention.

Then, your application must be filed within one year of any use or disclosure of the invention. Once you’ve begun filing for a patent with CIPO, you get a “patent pending” title, which lets you begin production before actually getting the patent. If the patent is accepted, you’ll pay an annual fee from $0 to $225.

With all of these fun legal fees, plus the registration and application fees, the whole process can cost upwards of $15,000 (and that’s just if you want to patent in Canada). Also, you must formally request an examination and pay an additional fee to request that the patent be granted. This process can take up to three years to complete, and the patent could still be rejected. If it does get rejected, you can file an amendment letter with the Commissioner of Patents to have your patent reconsidered.

What does all the paperwork and fees get you?

With a patent, you get 20 years of monopoly with your invention. However, patents are not renewable. Once those 20 years are up, the patent falls into the public domain, which means anyone can produce and sell your design. If you have patents internationally too, you must register again in each individual country.

One thing to keep in mind: with your design information available to anyone, there’s a chance that someone could copy your design, make a few tweaks and develop a similar product even before the 20 years of your patent are up. However, you can sue for patent infringement if someone has copied your patent directly.

If the lengthy process and disclosure requirements don’t have you reconsidering the advantages of getting a patent,they can also be incredibly expensive to defend and are usually less effective at protecting intellectual property than most other options, especially for technology. Check out last week’s blog post on intellectual property protection for small businesses to find out more.

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