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How to get your small business ready for year-end 2023

Another year is quickly wrapping up, and it’s time to start getting your small business ready for year-end. There’s a lot to keep track of this time of year, but here are 15 tips to help the process go as smoothy as possible.

Some of these tips assume a December 31 fiscal year-end, but they still apply if your small business has a different year-end.

Getting your small business ready for year-end 2023

  1. Plan for holiday time off, whether or not you have employees. Ensure that you and your team take some time to unwind and recharge.
  2. Organize your files, records and receipts.
  3. Go through your contacts and update information or remove as necessary.
  4. Check to see if any of your licenses or permits are up for renewal.
  5. Update your payroll records.
  6. Report all 2023 paycheques on T4 slips.
  7. Make sure all tax deductions are in order.
  8. Make any business purchases that would qualify for tax deductions for 2023.
  9. Create a to-do list for the first week of January and make appointments now with key advisors, especially your bookkeeper and accountant.
  10. Keep your important information safe by updating your passwords. Investigate password apps that create safe passwords for you that you don’t have to memorize, or see if your internet browser has a built-in password “keychain.”
  11. Update your personal productivity and technology tools – download updates and templates and make sure your current apps are still working for you. Even more fun – look for new ones! Check out some productivity apps you may find useful.
  12. If you have employees, prepare and give evaluations. Discuss expectations and performance, and listen to any concerns your employees may have.
  13. Review your business plan. Take this time to think of new strategies based on what worked and what didn’t – or what changes in the business environment might necessitate a plan update.
  14. Review your marketing, human resources management, financing, and operations. Can you improve in those areas next year?
  15. Brainstorm ideas for next year. Are any ways you can diversify to mitigate your risk or grow in a new way?
Good luck, and we hope your year-end preparation goes well!
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The basics of personal selling for entrepreneurs

Personal selling means selling a product or service directly to customers, highlighting product or service features and persuading the customer to buy.

Benefits of personal selling

This face-to-face type of selling is very common in the initial stages of business to get your product or service seen and known — especially for retail businesses. Although it can be very costly (because it’s so labour-intensive) it’s also very credible, clear and focused on your target market.

Tips for face-to-face sales

To be effective, the customer has to be interested first. You can help this along by letting people know that you have a product or service that can meet their needs and offer a solution.

Next, determine what needs to happen for this customer to buy what you’re selling. It’s important to ask the customer what they’d like included with the product or service, or particular elements or characteristics that they’d like to see. Be sure to meet your customer’s conditions and requirements when producing and selling your product.

Aside from meeting conditions, you must also address your customer’s hesitations. Assess your offerings honestly and consider some of the “turn-offs” or downsides to your product or service, and be sure to come up with ways of improving or defending any potential concerns or objections that your customer may have. Be sure to answer questions persuasively and comfort concerns.

To close the sale, avoid letting the customer leave with an excuse or a conditional promise. Ask them directly how they’d like to pay for the product or service, or book an appointment for delivery.

Finally, to satisfy the customer and encourage loyalty, perform post-sales activities and follow-up to ensure customer satisfaction.

Personal selling is a particularly important method for business-to-business customers. Salespeople are the face of your small business, so make sure they’re well-trained, know your products or services, and know how to develop a solution to your customer’s problems.

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Interviewing tips for entrepreneurs

Hiring your first employee (or employees) is an exciting time! However, many entrepreneurs worry about making the interviewing process a success. What do you need to include or keep in mind? Here are some tips:

  • Try to decide beforehand how many candidates you’d like to have before beginning the interview process.
  • When it’s time to begin the interview process, screen the candidates carefully. Only contact the candidates that you truly feel would be a good fit for the job.
  • Ask each candidate to provide work references from past employers.
  • Review resumés carefully before each interview, making note of the specific questions you’d like to ask each candidate.
  • It’s also a good idea to go over the job description before beginning interviews to remind yourself of the skills and qualities that you’re looking for.
  • Set reasonable time limits for each interview to be sure that your own workday won’t be cut short and you won’t keep other candidates waiting.
  • Have a list of general questions prepared so that you can easily compare the results of each potential employee once the interviews are over.
  • Don’t settle for short or vague answers. If you want more details about an interviewee’s answer — such as their strengths or a previous accomplishment — ask!
  • Take notes throughout each interview so that you can refer back to them at the end of the interview process.
  • Remember: the interviewee is also deciding on whether or not this is a company that they would like to work for. Dress for the occasion and hold the interview in an appropriate environment.
  • Listen carefully and avoid doing too much of the talking during this precious time with the candidate.
  • Try to get a good understanding of the potential employee’s personality and gauge how they may fit in with the current corporate culture.
  • If necessary, have business partners or shareholders sit in on the interviews to help provide feedback on each candidate. Hold a decision-making meeting with those who attended interviews, or with anyone else in the business that might have valuable opinions and input, to help you make the final decision.
  • Don’t hesitate to contact references to hear another person’s perspective on the quality of work and work ethic that this candidate possesses.
  • Hold second or third interviews if you’re still having trouble making your decision.

When you’ve made your decision about who to hire, you may want to consider hiring for a probationary period to see how things work out. Either way, develop an employment contract to be signed by each party. When you bring the new employee or employees into the workplace, be sure to make them feel welcome and make every effort to include them in the corporate culture, like inviting them out with the other staff members on your Friday lunches at the nearby restaurant. You should also contact other candidates that you will not be hiring and thank them for their time — this lets them move on with their job search and it also heightens your company’s professional reputation.

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Pros & cons of buying an existing business

Existing businesses are often sold when owners want to retire, move or do something else and may not have a family member to turn the business over to. Buying an existing business has a few advantages and disadvantages. You may be able to pick up where someone else left off with an existing location, product or service and network of employees, suppliers, and customers. However, you may also inherit messes the owners have left behind, like soured relationships and a poor reputation. Depending on the business you choose, the benefits and detriments can vary greatly. Let’s take a look at a few pros and cons of buying an existing business.

Pros of buying an existing business

  • As the owner, the business decisions are in your hands. You set your own vision for the company and make your own plans about how things will go.
  • There’s room for creativity and innovation. There may not be as much room as there would be if you were starting your own company, but still much more room than there would be in a franchise.
  • It’s often easier to get financing in place for an established business than for a brand new one, because existing businesses have financial records which show past profitability. Also, if you choose a company with a good history, your likelihood of success increases.
  • Equipment, staff, inventory, location and customers likely already exist. That cuts out a whole lot of those first steps and research that a business owner has to undertake when starting from scratch.
  • The product or service is already being produced, distributed and sold. You won’t need to worry as much about logistics and the finer details of starting this process at the beginning of your venture.
  • Relationships with suppliers, banks, investors, trade creditors, and other sources of financial supportare already established.
  • If you choose carefully, the equipment needed for production and operations processes should already be established. By studying existing processes, you can determine strengths, weaknesses, limitations and capabilities in advance.
  • You don’t have to pay any franchising fees or royalties. You may even be able to get a really good deal, particularly if the owner happens to be forced to sell at a lower price than the actual value of the business’ assets.

Cons of buying an existing business

  • Although they already exist, location, equipment and assets may be unusable or out-dated. You may have to spend a great deal of time and money replacing these assets.
  • A lot of inventory loses its value very quickly after it has been purchased. Don’t get stuck buying a great deal of “dead” stock, and make sure you know the quality of inventory you’re paying for.
  • The location may not be good for this business. You could end up paying as much as you paid for the entire company just to move to a more profitable location.
  • Depending on why the previous owner wanted out, the company may have no growth potential. Take some time to assess your plans for growth before deciding to buy.
  • Relationships with banks, suppliers, customers, and staff already exist — but what if the last owner was a jerk? It can take a long time to earn back a person’s or a company’s respect, trust and loyalty.
  • Watch for hidden reasons behind the sale of the company. Make sure the business’ great location the business can continue as your location. Is the lease renewable? Are the local conditions or economy worsening?
  • Check out the staff. Are they qualified? Are they productive? Do they have a good track record? Staff can be fired and re-hired, but you don’t want to spend a great deal of resources doing so.
  • Be careful of any legal issues. Make sure there are no lawsuits or unlawful activities that are either currently taking place or that took place in the past.
  • Perhaps the most challenging snag with buying an existing business is determining what the business is worth and how much you should pay for it. Be aware and get assistance from a trained business valuation accountant. If an existing business owner is reluctant to show their accounting records to you — the prospective buyer — or your accountant, stay away, far, far away.
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