Success Takes Work

You do not make it to the top without doing what others will not. This is true in life, and especially accurate in business.

Taking a proactive approach and expecting more of yourself everyday does take effort, strategy and discipline; however, in the end it will save you time, make you money and help you build an enterprise customers are naturally attracted to.

Everyone is looking for the secret to success, but few are willing to do the work it takes to get it. Here are a few simple ways to stand out in business and beat the competition every time by doing what others find difficult.  

#1 The 5% Rule. This is my favorite and seriously, if you do nothing else, do this. Always work to do five percent more than you think you can. Most people (and business owners) are looking for ways to do less. Focusing on being five percent more effective, connecting with five percent more customers or taking five percent of your time to work on the future of your business is at least ten percent more than others are doing.

#2 Quit products. Be ready to let go of products and services that do not make you money. An easy method to achieve this is to evaluate your sales and product offerings by talking to customers in a continuous way. Typically, this form of market research is completed at the startup phase of a business; however, it is very helpful to infuse customers conversations into your regular business activities. After all, customers know what they want, and what they don’t.

#3 Get your pitch on. Simply communicating what you do or what you sell is one of the most important business strategies for entrepreneurs. While it can be challenging to define a statement that succinctly communicates your product offering, is definitely worth the time it takes to craft and practice it. If potential customers cannot understand what you do, they definitely cannot find a reason to make a purchase from you.  

Competitive advantage is everything in business. It’s easier than you think to stand out, if you make the extra effort to expect more, evaluate quicker and communicate better than the competition. So stop making excuses and start making business success a reality.

The MHC Entrepreneur Development Centre helps students and alumni bring their entrepreneurship dreams to life. We offer 1-1 coaching, training, mentorship and access to a diverse network of startup funding.  

30 years in business

Community Futures Entre-Corp in Medicine Hat is celebrating 30 years of business.

During this time, we have helped over 1,200 small businesses get started in Southeast Alberta by helping entrepreneurs access approximately $32 million in loans, leveraging another $28 million, creating or maintaining another 3,452 jobs in the region. We have helped train thousands more through our training and seminar programs offered in the region.

We have been delivering business services to startups and expanding businesses in our region since 1988.  We offer these primary services: lending, small business advice, training and community economic development.

Community Futures offices are located all across Canada. They are strategically located in rural communities with a goal to provide programs and services that help create new employment and align with the needs of each community. Community Futures is part of the national Community Futures organization which is funded by Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD).

We are a non-profit corporation run by a volunteer board of directors who bring local knowledge and insight to the team for planning and direction. Day to day operations are run by experienced business professionals who have a like-minded passion to support and assist entrepreneurs and small businesses in our region.

As we reflect on the past 30 years, we have accomplished great things in our region.

Community Futures Entre-Corp has offered the Self-Employment Training program since 1993.   This program is designed for people who have never been in business before. It is a 7 week program that focuses on the key elements of running a business. Topics covered include:  GST/payroll, bookkeeping, income tax matters, understanding sole proprietorship/partnerships/corporations, pricing, cash flow budgeting, operations, market research, business plan preparation and many others.

Another long-standing successful program is the Alberta Youth Entrepreneurship Camp (AYEC) which has been held annually since 1998.  This program has been helping create the next generation of entrepreneurs in our region.

Community Futures Entre-Corp is also part of the provincial support system called the Alberta Regional Innovation Network. The Regional Innovation Network (RIN) collaborates to put their collective resources together to support and improve the development of innovations among small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The Regional Innovation Network in Southeast Alberta is known as APEX

For more information about how our programs can help your business, please call Elizabeth at 403-528-2824.

Elizabeth Blair is the regional innovation network coordinator for APEX Alberta. APEX Alberta supports the growth of innovative and technologically-oriented businesses in Southeast Alberta. APEX Alberta is a collaborative initiative between three core service providers: Community Futures Entre-Corp, Medicine Hat College and Alberta Innovates

Business Model Canvas Explained

Writing a business plan can be a daunting task for entrepreneurs.  But it doesn’t have to be.

In fact, writing a solid plan can be a fun collaborative process that helps entrepreneurs save time, improve team collaboration, and look deeply at the integral pieces of any new product or business venture.

The business model canvas, a graphical business model worksheet, was developed by Alexander Osterwalder of Strategyzer, with a goal in mind of helping entrepreneurs be more innovative and focus on the value they provide to the customer when validating and moving a business idea forward.

The easy-to-use business model canvas template is available online and can be used in digital or print format.  It works well for individuals and groups and serves as a conversation generator.  Too, it helps idea focused entrepreneurs organize thoughts and concepts before beginning a formal business planning process.

The main categories included in the model are:  customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, key activities, key resources, key partnership and cost structures.   Addressing these categories helps bring focus to an entrepreneurs thinking, bring out opportunities easier and address customer opportunities as a primary motivator for building the business. 

The categories in the model and the design thinking process are helpful in developing the content requirements of most traditional business plan templates, assisting entrepreneurs to build a solid and concise plan in an effective way.

The business model canvas works very well for small startups with limited budgets and business complexity, and can also be useful to existing businesses looking to innovate their product line or address new market opportunities.

The model can be used individually or can be facilitated externally.  Either way, this tool is a simple, liberating and enjoyable way to build a business model, clarify ideas and validate a move forward strategy for any new venture. 

The process of building a business model and plan doesn’t have to be boring and uninspiring.  Give the business model canvas tool a try, and see for yourself. 

The MHC Entrepreneur Development Centre helps student and alumni bring their entrepreneurship dreams to life.  We offer 1-1 coaching, training, mentorship and access to a diverse network of startup funding.  To connect into our network email edc@mhc.ab.ca or call 403.502.8433.

 

The art of networking

Many good things, can truly be “lost” unless they are continually practiced and exercised.  I believe that there is an art in the practice of business networking and referring business. Once a business owner learns to do this well that skill can turn into increased sales.

Networking and referring business may be one of the most important things you do, especially in the face of a market with intense competition.

Several years ago I worked as an independent financing specialist. For about 8 years, my business was a sole proprietor under the authority of a licensed mortgage brokerage. It was my responsibility to advertise my services and generate my own leads. Advertising and marketing were outsourced while I used my relational personality to network and build business contacts.

Not only did I grow my customer base, but I continually invested time and energy in meeting network partners with whom I could cultivate reciprocal business. Each year, as I continued to build the business, I added more contacts to a database which grew to over 750 people including: prospects, clients, lawyers, appraisers, lenders, realtors, professional trades, and other service providers. I began to see a direct correlation between the referrals that I gave out to others and the referrals that I received back from others. A steady stream of referral business, along with constant networking and relationship building, allowed me to grow annual sales from $0 to almost $10 million by my third year of business.

While diligent efforts to promote oneself with advertising are certainly beneficial, be careful not to underestimate the growth power that comes with intentional networking and referral business. If you want to reap the reward of constant referred business coming your way, follow the basic rule: give if you expect to receive. What a straightforward concept, but yet so difficult for many to put into practice.

There are great structured networking programs out there that help motivate members to refer business so use these opportunities to learn more about others. Don’t simply promote yourself. Here are some local networking opportunities that you can explore. The Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce posts regular networking opportunities, for members, on their websiteThe Medicine Hat Women in Business is another group that hosts three annual networking events for local professional women.  The local Rotary Club of Medicine Hat also offers opportunities to network and serve the community. There are also many other small service groups that meet throughout the city.

Does your business allow you to get out of your office, meet people for coffee, and learn about other businesses that can connect you with excellent leads? Focus on building an established network of businesses and professionals that you believe in and would endorse.

Take time to practice the art of networking and discover how this skill can lead to growth for your business.

Community Futures Entre-Corp has been supporting small business since 1988. We provide the tools and guidance you need to run your business. For more information about our programs and how we can connect you with helpful resources, please call Community Futures at 403-528-2824.

Elizabeth Blair is the regional innovation network coordinator for APEX Alberta. APEX Alberta supports the growth of innovative and technologically-oriented businesses in Southeast Alberta. APEX Alberta is a collaborative initiative between three core service providers: Community Futures Entre-Corp, Medicine Hat College and Alberta Innovates