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10 Startup Expenses You Shouldn’t Waste Money On

Posted on June 24 2015 | Author: Admin

While I’m happy that Single Grain is now in a financial position to support two individual offices – both filled with full-time employees and the latest tech gadgets – I can easily remember back to the days when we were a bootstrapping startup like so many other companies out there today.

If you’re in startup mode yourself and haven’t yet received the million-dollar financing rounds you hoped for, you’re going to encounter plenty of temptations to spend money you don’t have.  If you want to keep yourself going and make it past that critical first-year hump, I’d highly recommend avoiding the following ten expenses until you’re on more stable financial ground.

Expense #1 – Office Space

Trust me – you don’t need a prestigious office address to be taken seriously.  These days, there are so many alternative options for office space that commercial leases should be the furthest thing from your mind.  Instead of blowing your budget here, look for coworking spaces or business incubators that offer extra perks for growing businesses at a fraction of the cost of traditional office rentals.  Even consider keeping your company remote until your finances match up with your leasing aspirations.

Expense #2 – Office Furniture

Now, even if you do decide to lock in to a traditional office lease, there’s no reason you need to waste even more money loading it up with new furniture!  Look for office furniture consignment stores, companies that are going out of business, university disposition programs or Craigslist ads to pick up everything you need at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

Expense #3 – Expensive Subscriptions

While paid subscriptions to services like Basecamp or Sprout Social might seem like they’ll take your business to the next level, keep in mind that there are nearly always free alternatives to these programs.  Trello and SocialOomph, for example, are two options that provide many of the same features as their paid counterparts.  Start with free subscriptions now and amp up your spending in this area later on when you can really afford to do so.

Expense #4 – Conference Travel

Being seen at conferences is great for your business’s profile, but it’s a pretty damn expensive way to get noticed.  Until your cash flow grows, look for local networking events or free online forums.  There are plenty of networking opportunities out there – it’s up to you to take advantage of them!

Expense #5 – Info Products

Info products are a huge weak point for me.  I love learning – so whenever somebody I trust and follow comes out with a new ebook or training course that promises to show me something new, it’s hard for me to keep my hand off my credit card.

But the thing is, I can afford to buy these products now.  If you’re starting out, buying in to a $999 course might mean the difference between paying all your bills one month or falling behind financially.  Not to mention, spending too much time learning can take away from the amount of time you’re actually implementing – and that’s much more important for a young company.

Stick with free online resources for now and make sure your time is focused primarily on actions (rather than learning).  There will come a time in the future when you can learn as much as you want!

Expense #6 – Shipping Supplies

Single Grain doesn’t ship products (unless we’re sending t-shirts to our followers), so we haven’t had to worry too much about the expenses that this process entails.

But if you do ship products, there are a number of ways you can trim your expenses in this area:

Take advantage of the USPS’s free packaging program (if flat rate shipping makes sense for your business).
Get the major carriers to compete for your business by asking them to match – or beat – each other’s shipping rates.
Constantly compare your actual shipping and handling costs to what you’re billing the customer.  If you’re coming up short on each transaction, you need to adjust your margins somewhere.

Expense #7 – Printed Marketing Materials

There’s nothing that says “I’ve arrived” like logo-printed envelopes and glossy custom brochures.  But when you’re first starting out, there’s also nothing quite as unnecessary as printed marketing materials.

Everything we do these days is online, which – for the savvy business owner – means that most traditional printing costs have become obsolete.  Sure, it might be worth it to pick up a box of business cards from Vista Print or Moo – especially if you plan on attending a lot of free networking events.  Just skip everything else and send electronic document versions to cut down on costs.

Expense #8 – Employee Salaries

At some point, your startup will grow to the point where bringing on traditional employees and compensating them with salary and benefits packages will make sense.  However, until you’ve reached a point where your cash flow is relatively stable, it may make sense to pursue alternative employment options.

Can some of your admin tasks be handled by a virtual assistant hired through Odesk?  Can you use a cloud-based accounting subscription service, rather than hire a traditional bookkeeper?  Or, if you must have employees on-site, can you come up with creative ways to compensate them based on performance incentives, rather than with set salaries?  There are options out there – and you can save a lot of money if you look for them!

Expense #9 – Brand New Computers

Sure, your buddy’s shiny new Mac laptop looks pretty appealing – and, as a business owner, don’t you deserve one too?  As Suze Orman would say, “Show me the money!”  If you can afford to buy brand new computers and tech equipment without negatively affecting your business’s finances, then go for it.  And if you can’t, look for manufacturer refurbished or “scratch and dent” models until your cash flow improves.

Expense #10 – Traditional Land Lines

If you need to set up phone service for your company (if, for example, you’re in a traditional office, rather than a coworking space), there’s simply no reason to buy-in to traditional land lines anymore.  Solutions like Google Voice or VOIP services will save you tons of money without compromising your overall service.

Now, with all of that said, I do want to make it clear that there are some areas where I don’t think you should look to save money at all costs.  The following three expenses are ones that I believe every small business owner should prioritize – regardless of how young, old, successful or financially devastated the company is.

Expense #1 – Legal Advice

When you’re starting out, find a good lawyer who specializes in your business’s area of expertise and pay for the advice you need to keep everything kosher.  There are plenty of things you can do to save money on legal expenses (for example, doing some of your own background research or filling out documents yourself), but the financial implications of failing to start out on the right legal foot can be enough to tank your company down the road.  Don’t skimp when it comes to good legal advice!

Expense #2 – Financial Advice

The same thing goes for anybody who’s handling your money.  While you can save money hiring a cloud-based bookkeeper rather than a staff clerk, don’t mess around with cheap advice when it comes to major financial planning issues.  Having a qualified accountant or tax attorney assist with setting up your books, advising you on potential tax saving strategies or determining your long range financial plan will be well worth any upfront costs.

Expense #3 – Taxes

And finally, don’t think that you can save money by skipping out on your taxes!

When I was much younger, I used to be terrible about setting aside the money I knew I’d need to pay my taxes later on.  Instead, I’d reinvest it in my business – rationalizing that the increased growth would leave me with enough income later on to cover each April’s tax bill.  Of course, that never happened – and every year, I’d wind up scrambling yet again to come up with the money I owed to the government.

Don’t be like me!  Whenever your startup receives a payment, make sure that the appropriate amount is set aside in a separate account that won’t be touched until it’s tax time.  It takes discipline, but trust me – there’s nothing worse than that mid-April scramble to come up with more cash!






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Perfecting Your Pitch

Posted on June 15 2015 | Author: Kelly Laidlaw

Gaining the support of investors is an integral part of growing your business. However, the thought of pitching to investors creates a tremendous amount of anxiety for many entrepreneurs. To help you succeed with your next pitch, here are some tips to get you on the right track.

Perfect your elevator pitch: You will likely make an elevator pitch before making an official pitch presentation. These are short, carefully-planned speeches that are meant to grab investors’ attention in less than one minute, or in the time it would take to ride up the elevator. The purpose of the elevator pitch is to say just enough to introduce your company in a compelling way, which will hopefully result in a subsequent meeting where you can present your idea in more detail.

Do it with passion. As an entrepreneur, you probably live and breathe your technology or product. Let that passion and enthusiasm shine through during your pitch! In order to stand out from the crowd, you need to be able to connect with the audience in an honest and exciting way. Including an element of storytelling is an effective way to make your pitch compelling and resonant.

Be clear about your financial plan.  Explain what value will be created with the capital you are raising and how you intend to use it.  Whether it will be for technology development, customer traction, or regulatory approval, outline the events that add value to the company given successful execution on attaining milestones. Be sure to include what your main revenue stream is, your timelines, and the exit strategy.

Market size matters. Investors want to know that you have the potential to grow. You should be able to demonstrate size and a gap in the market and a need for your product, technology or service.

Be prepared to wing it. Technology is a wonderful tool that helps us succeed in business. However, from time to time, technology can fail. If your computer crashes or there are problems with your slideshow, be prepared to wing it and present without technology. Don’t lose precious time in front of an investor while attending to a technology issue.

Have a business plan. If you want to raise money you will need a well-written business plan. The elevator pitch and presentation are needed to spark interest in your idea, but you will only close on the money after the investor buys in to your business plan. Although business plans vary, they all contain common elements. The Canada Business Network site offers selections that you may want to include in your business plan. At the end of the day, no matter how effective your pitch is, it will not result in an investment unless you can provide an analytical and feasible business plan that specifies how and when the investor will see a return. For more information on writing business plans, see a previous Bioenterprise blog post here.  Additional related resources can be found below.

In addition to my own insights, I have gathered some advice from one of our in-house experts, Joe Regan, who is the Managing Partner of Bioenterprise Capital. He brings extensive venture capital expertise gained from within two of Canada’s largest funds. Here are some of the insights that he shared.

Know your audience. Do your own due diligence on the audience to understand their specific needs so that you can tailor your presentation to resonate with their mandate and investment strategy.

Never say you don’t have competition. Sharing information about your competition actually helps you because it validates that you have a strong business idea. Also, it demonstrates that you have done your market research and understand your prospective place in the market.

Be realistic. Most investors see hundreds of pitches and can quickly detect overstatement of reality. Being realistic about valuation, market adoption and other aspects of your business with gain the trust and respect of the investor.

Be open to input and advice. Understandably, it can be hard to hear criticism about your idea. However, synthesizing the feedback and acting on it can help you build a strong relationship with the investor. A venture investment is a long-term relationship so there needs to be an ability to work together over the long run, with the tone being set at the first meeting.

Exploring these guidelines is an excellent first step in preparing your pitch. Should you require further advice or assistance about growing your business, feel free to reach out to our experts here at Bioenterprise. We are happy to help.

Kelly Laidlaw
Project Coordinator

References:
The Government of Canada Business Network
Canada Business Network Sample Business Plans and Templates
Elevator Pitch Tips

Photo Credit: Getty Images
 






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What Happens When Farming Goes High-Tech?

Posted on May 29 2015 | Author: Admin

 

Soil maps, GPS guidance, and even drones are becoming critical tools for modern farmers. These methods of precision agriculture can help increase yields and efficiency—and save farmers a surprising sum along the way.

By 2050 we'll need to feed two billion more people. Click here for a special eight-month series exploring how we can do that—without overwhelming the planet:
http://food.nationalgeographic.com

Watch more Food by the Numbers videos:
http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodbynumbers/#.VWiwP2bOUoss

Click here to view original video






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Food Fax Edition Part 1 of 4: Caught Out

Posted on May 06 2015 | Author: Carol Culhane

The theme for the 2015 Food Fax series is "Caught Out", an examination of the practice of food adulteration for economic advantage.  The first issue introduces the issue and how reputable members of the food industry are systematically dealing with the issue.  The three subsequent editions of Food Fax 2015 will examine:  the changing role of the regulator as food fraudulence becomes more prevalent; how primary agriculture has become associated with global human trafficking;  and how inferior ingredients pose food safety hazards.

“The man who took chalk out of bread”
Prior to his passing last year, Professor John Postgate, a renowned figure in the field of sulphate- reducing bacteria, wrote a biography of his great- grandfather (his namesake) entitled Lethal Lozenges and Tainted Tea which recounts the fatal effects of adulterated food and drugs of 18th and 19th Century Britain, and the financial sacrifices, perseverance and political will undertaken by Postgate and two colleagues - Hassall and Accum - to bring Britain’s Sale of Food & Drugs Act of 1875 into being. Legislators relied on smell, taste, feel and appearance until a published paper showed that a new invention - the microscope – revealed chicory, roasted corn, ground acorns, bean flour and crushed mangelwurzel in coffee. They were on to something.

Mold, Meat and Misleading in the USA
The USA’s Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906 was a direct response to Upton Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, written to expose the hardship of immigrant life but also revealed unsanitary conditions in the USA’s meat packing industry. Widespread deaths from an adulterated elixir led the US Congress to enact the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1938, expanded to include the oversight of Food Additives in 1958. In 1962, the partner to adulteration, misleading, was first legally curtailed, when Congress required drug manufacturers to provide scientific evidence that their offerings were not only safe, but effective as well.

When Canada was a province
Sections 15-22 of The Statutes of the Province of Canada and the Dominion of Canada and Ontario (1876) deal with the “penalty on persons mixing deleterious articles with food” (first offence, $100 fine; second offence, six months imprisonment with hard labour), and “offering articles so mixed for sale” ($100 and $200 fine, for first and second offences, in turn). As well, the analytical costs related to the conviction were levied. In 1919, a federal Department of Health was formed, followed by the introduction of Canada’s Food and Drugs Act in 1920. Subsequent to the thalidomide tragedy of the 1960’s, drug efficacy was subjected to regulator review, in addition to safety.

Plus ça change
Economically-motivated food adulteration is more prevalent today than ever previously recorded. As food science matures and technology becomes more precise, paradoxically, opportunities for fraudulence to gain an economic advantage have increased. The Rockland, MD-based USP (U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention), who purchased the Food Chemicals Codex in 2008, published a Food Fraud Database in 2012. Recordkeeping, analytical skills, and stakeholder collaboration have identified the foods most susceptible to being passed off¹:

Most prone to clone Some whys and wherefores
Olive Oil Dilution with inferior oils; natural forces curtail supply, leading to price increases; buyers are motivated.
Fish and Seafood Higher-priced varieties replaced by those of lesser value
Milk and Milk Ingredients Milk from cows adulterated with milk from sheep, buffalo, and goat antelope and with reconstituted milk powder, urea, rennet, and other food and nonfood products.
Natural Sweetening Agents such as Honey and Maple Syrup Colour, sweetness, and viscosity can be mimicked; honey: rising prices due to Colony Collapse Disorder
Saffron To the world's most expensive spice has been added: glycerin, tartrazine, sandalwood dust, barium sulphate, and borax
Expensive Fruit Juices

Such as pomegranate, diluted with apple juice

Coffee See second paragraph!

¹Mermelstein N. 2015. Fighting Food Fraud. Food Technology. Vol. 69 No. 3.

What the Food Industry is Doing
The naysayers abound, as surely as they did when Sinclair published The Jungle. Yet, reputable members of the food industry refuse to be smeared by crooks. The USP has published Guidance on Food Fraud Mitigation, a framework, matrix and flowchart to assist all members of the food industry to fend off food shikesters of every description.

Carol T. Culhane, PHEc, MBA
President, International Food Focus Ltd.
Bioenterprise Regulatory Advisor
 






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6 Steps to Becoming a Successful Student Entrepreneur (Infographic)

Posted on May 05 2015 | Author: Kim Lachance Shandrow

Bill Gates. Mark Zuckerberg. Larry Page. Sergey Brin. They share more than a few enviable accomplishments. They’re billionaires, they made their fortunes in tech and they started their businesses while they were still students. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re seriously smart cookies.

However you slice it, they’re all living proof that you don’t have to wait until after graduation to launch your own business. And, as was the case for Gates and Zuckerberg, you might not have to graduate at all (though, to be clear, we’re not advocating for dropping out).  

If you’re considering becoming a student entrepreneur, just like any other endeavor you undertake, you should have a clear plan -- not like a half-assed term paper hobbled together the night before it’s due. Researching the steps needed to successfully bootstrap a business from your dorm room is key.

Here's a six-step snapshot of the basics of starting up. At first glance, it looks easy, but, as many student entrepreneurs will attest, it's very challenging, especially while juggling a course load and keggers:

  1. Evaluate your business skills, knowledge and goals.
  2. Find the business idea that suits you best.
  3. Research your competitors (and prepare to crush them).
  4. Make a stellar business plan.
  5. Seek out a helpful mentor.
  6. Register your business, open up shop and rock it.

Luckily the people behind the U.K.-based Westminster Bridge Student Accommodation and Urbanest Student Accommodation have neatly packed specific, actionable instructions pertaining to each of the above steps into the helpful infographic below. We couldn’t help but notice that a good chunk of the information visualized within it hails from our very own wordsmiths, right here at Entrepreneur.com.    

From inception to launch, here’s how to startup while you’re still a student. Good luck!

By Kim Lachance Shandrow, Senior Writer Entrepreneur.com






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Becoming an Ag Entrepreneur

Posted on April 22 2015 | Author: Admin

Today’s agriculture isn’t your grandmother’s agriculture.  While we still till the soil and practice animal husbandry, we do it in wonderful ways that past generations could never imagine.  From lasers to GPS to genomics to drones, agriculture has become a hotbed of innovation.

And ag-innovation is no longer the exclusive domain of the major multinational companies. Farmers and non-farmers alike are dipping their toes into the ag-innovative pool with an endless supply of novel ideas. But the journey from creating an idea, to converting that into an actual product or service, and then moving that through to market can be daunting. Fortunately budding entrepreneurs don’t have to take that journey alone.

There are a number of ag organizations available to help aspiring entrepreneurs turn ideas into commercially successful products, or where necessary, offer a bit of tough love. One with which I have worked closely for almost 10 years is Bioenterprise Corporation (www.bioenterprise.ca) located in Guelph. Bioenterprise is a not-for-profit centre whose sole purpose is to foster innovation in the agri-business sector* across Canada. Their team of agribusiness professionals provides entrepreneurs with early stage feedback on the validly of their business idea, areas that need continued work, and help to fill in the gaps.

Here’s how it typically works. At Bioenterprise, if a business concept looks interesting and passes the initial evaluation phase, prospects are invited to expose their idea to an Entrepreneur’s Reality Check, a sort of friendly Dragon’s Den.  Here, a group of senior industry experts will apply their skills and experience to give entrepreneurs a deeper evaluation based on the specific dynamics of the industry they plan to enter. The Reality Check gives entrepreneurs direct access to industry-specific professionals that they would otherwise have little chance of meeting.

If the idea passes the Reality Check, the entrepreneur can continue working with Bioenterprise staff to receive help with writing patents, building a business plan, assembling financial forecasts, conducting market research, and of course, finding sources of seed money. The best part is that there is only a nominal cost for all these services, in the range of $300 per month. You’d do well to get two hours of a consultant’s time for that kind of money.

But how do you know if your business idea is even worth giving Bioenterprise a call?  Too often we fall in love with our own ideas, especially if well-meaning friends and family provide encouragement. Although their intentions may be genuine, rarely are these the best sources to ask for an evaluation of whether you should devote the next few years of your life and much of your savings to your innovation.

However, after working with dozen of ag entrepreneurs over the past 10 years, I have found six simple questions which, if answered honestly,  can provide entrepreneurs with a good initial self-evaluation of whether their innovation is ready for the big stage.

1. Does my invention work?
And more importantly, can I prove it using industry recognized standards? The more third party data you can generate to prove your product delivers its claims, the better. If you can’t prove to the satisfaction of industry professionals that your product works, there is no need to even consider the next 5 questions. As the saying goes, “Without data, you’re just another guy with an opinion”.

2. Can my invention be protected?
That is, can my invention be patented, or is there some other form of intellectual property protection that can be used to keep competitors at bay. If it cannot be protected, it will be copied. And without protection, you can forget about enticing a major company to ever make you an offer. Along the same line, an often neglected question is whether you have Freedom to Operate. In other words, are you sure you are not infringing on someone else’s patent? Many entrepreneurs forget to check this, only to have the rug pulled from under their feet after they have invested a large chunk of their savings.

3. Can I register my invention?
Although not necessary with all products, many areas of agriculture are highly regulated. Do you know how your invention will be regulated, what government agencies will be involved, and whether you will be able to satisfy their questions? Some products, such as pesticides, food additives, or nutraceuticals can be very difficult to register and can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some technologies may not be registerable at all.

4. Can I Manufacture my Invention?
Making a prototype in your workshop is far different than scaling up into mass production. Do you have the expertise and capital resources to construct a modern manufacturing facility? Are the raw materials readily available, and will the raw material suppliers sell to you? It is not uncommon for competitors to have exclusive contracts with suppliers of specialized raw materials to keep others out of the industry.

5. Will I have Customers?
What makes me believe that customers will switch from what they have been using for years and adopt my product? And how will I reach those customers? Distribution tends to be one of the most difficult steps for entrepreneurs. The best distributors tend to be tied up with the best suppliers, and may be unwilling to carry your product if it could put that larger relationship at risk. And if your product is destined for the mass retail market, such as a novel food, gaining shelf space with one of the major food companies can be daunting task.

6. Will I Make a Profit?
After investing all my time, energy and money into this venture, will the returns be worthwhile? Entrepreneurs often over-estimate the market share they can obtain and underestimate the total cost to bring an invention to market. Unless you have previous experience, you may be surprised by the cost of patent protection, regulatory compliance, third-party research, and marketing. Building an early relationship with your accountant can help avoid nasty surprises along the way.

It isn’t necessary to have full answers to all six questions right away, but eventually each will need to be addressed. In my opinion the first question, “Does my invention work?” is the most important. If you can honestly say that you have invented something new and useful and can prove it works, it may be time to engage the professional help available at organizations like Bioenterprise and become one of Canada’s next successful ag entrepreneurs.

*Agri-business Sectors serviced by Bioenterprise

Agri-Based Life Sciences Food
Agri-Based Health Food Ingredients
Ag Management Tools Functional Foods
Animal Science Growth Stimulants
Aquaculture Nutraceuticals
Agri-forestry Organics
Bio-Energy, Bio-fuels Pest Control
Bio-Materials Water Management
Cleantech Software (ag)
Crop Science Waste Management
Equipment Technology Crop and Seed Varieties
Fertilizer, Nutrients  

 

Warren Libby
Chairperson, Bioenterprise Board of Directors
         






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Why You Should Invest in Your Employees

Posted on March 18 2015 | Author: Mary Dimou

You’ve found yourself at the head of an enterprise; you may be at the stage where you’ve just recently scaled up your business or perhaps you’re undergoing expansion. Either way, it’s time for you to assess your resources, manpower, and finally, start making critical decisions for your company’s future. For that, you will need a dedicated team behind you that you can trust to operate collaboratively and effectively, while providing the appropriate level of support to your customers.

It is important to strategize how to maintain that trust with your seasoned staff as well as begin to develop that trust with new hires.

This is a matter of opinion and the methodology is uncharted; but as a small operation, the salaries you can offer are likely not competitive with large corporate counterparts. The challenge becomes deciphering what you can offer that is unique to the small business environment to entice your new hires and sustain your loyal staff. The truth is fairly straightforward; you can invest in both their professional and personal growth.

Here are a few critical points to consider while you are moving into this next step and recommendations to overcome these hurdles:

  1. The job market is perpetually changing. New graduates are entering the market with more credentials than their predecessors. This means a highly competitive applicant pool to choose new hires from; but on the other hand can translate to your current employees feeling pressures and insecurities. Diminish this by being proactive. You may consider creating a small allocation of your capital to a Professional Development Fund for each employee; or embark on creating company-wide training initiatives for all employees’ growth.
  2. Nurture them to be a resident expert in their field. Allow your employees to assume leadership roles on company initiatives and inspire them to share ideas of their own. Promoting an interactive and safe environment can stimulate creativity that could have positive effects on your current process efficiencies. Further, allowing your employees to work within interdisciplinary teams, or allowing them to shadow other positions in your company, can aid them in finding their niche. Once they have, take the time to plot a career path to alleviate any ambiguities about where they currently are in the company and where they could be.
  3. Support their network development. Encourage your team to expand their networks. Why? A greater network will contribute to greater self-assurance, confidence in their performance, and their opportunities to encounter relevant information. It’s imperative to keep your employees at the forefront of industry adaptations and educational criteria. As their employer, attempt to help them stand out in the crowd by introducing them to influential people in their expert field. You may even consider creating a Mentor Match program for your new employees to expedite their learning curve.

Ultimately, an employee that feels appreciated and invested in can be one of your greatest assets. A small investment, (be it monetary, time, or both) improves the productivity and workflow of your company; creates a champion in your corner, and can reduce your turnover rate. Consider what this could mean for your company and assess the amount you can allocate to employee development. 

Mary Dimou, M.Sc.
Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Photo Credit: Project Resource






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The Importance of Languages in Business

Posted on February 25 2015 | Author: Natalya Smardon

If you’re thinking about broadening your spectrum by engaging in international business, it’s important to consider which languages will be most frequently used for interactions with other businesses, clients and customers. Of course, most places around the world have large English-speaking communities and for the most part, English is used by professionals from all over the globe. You may be considering the idea that, knowledge of another language is not needed or not worth the time and effort it takes to learn. After all, why should you bother having multi-lingual employees when English is commonly the default language for communication? There are considerably large benefits to second language use that are invariably overlooked.

 

The foremost reason is respect. Believe it or not, even if your skills are a little rusty, people appreciate the effort. Showing a willingness to use another language even if you make mistakes demonstrates your confidence, dedication and willingness to connect – traits that are important for all entrepreneurs. Speaking another language not only helps with first impressions, but eases communication with business partners. Having both parties able to communicate in more than one language is ideal, as it can lead to a deeper understanding and thereby aid in a smooth transition from a national to international market. In this fashion, languages help with foreign affairs, correspondence with governments and institutions, and essentially any and all international exchanges. There is a growing demand for multi-lingual individuals as the global market expands, and the world becomes smaller.

 

If you or your business can be officially labeled as multi-lingual, you will find that more doors are open to you. With increased means of communication, you become more accessible to overseas markets that may have previously been unavailable to you, and can signal boost to reach a more extensive range of markets. Furthermore, you have the potential to access new sources of funding and sponsorship and can provide better services to clients.

 

Translators / communication platforms
One who is not already convinced on the importance of multi-lingualism, might say they have the use of electronic translators. These devices may be available at every turn in today’s society—apps on smartphones, computers and laptops, tablets and iPads, but unfortunately they are incorrect most of the time. Sure they can get the general idea across, but can you afford to blur the lines in your meetings and discussions? Electronic translators are inconveniently slow, do not understand acronyms, slang, jokes, and most importantly dialects. Having a real person translating and interpreting for you is much more personal, and accurate, and even better if you can do it yourself!

 

Cross-cultural communication
Cross-cultural communication is an important aspect of international business that should not be looked upon lightly. There are many customs, gestures and signals that elude the less-traveled individual, which can lead to inconvenient and embarrassing misunderstandings. The last thing you want to do is strain relationships based on cultural miscommunications, but fear not! When you can speak a mutual language or two, it is much easier to explain your actions, discuss foreign customs and clear any confusion and misinterpretations. Here are a few gestures that may be unknown to you:

 

Eye Contact
In some African countries, it is considered insulting to make eye contact with your superiors. In contrast, Arab cultures see eye contact as very important and it is often constant. The same can be said for Brazil, where people look into one another’s eyes much longer than in North America, as they view the eyes as mirrors of the soul and see this as a way to get to know a person.

 

Finger beckoning
In North America, beckoning your finger at someone means ‘come here’, but in Malaysia it has an effect of ‘come here animal’. In Indonesia and Australia, it is used to call inferiors, and is an insult. Additionally, in North America the “okay” hand sign means everything is alright. Do that gesture in France, Australia or Islamic countries and it’s a great insult meaning zero, or worthless. Another commonly unknown gesture is the North American ‘halt’. In Iraq, putting your hand out in front of you with your palm facing outwards means hello.

 

Handing out Business Cards
In Hong-Kong, Singapore or Japan, when someone hands you his/her business card, they will do so with both hands. You have to receive it in both hands, look at it, acknowledge it and then put it into your pocket. Otherwise, it is considered quite rude. Whatever you do, don’t write on a business card in front of the person that gave it to you!

 

Yes and no
In many countries the nod forward is the symbol for ‘yes’. In Bulgaria, Pakistan and India you shake your head back and forth to say ‘yes’, the way North Americans and many Europeans say ‘No’. In Greece, ‘No’ is represented by shaking your head briefly backward and a mild tongue-clicking.

There are hundred of customs that could get you into trouble, be it manners, body language, verbal queues, forms of politeness, or attire. Do plenty of research before traveling!

 

Fun Facts

  • Canada's French-speaking population ranks second only to that of France worldwide. It is larger than the Francophone populations of Switzerland and Belgium combined.

  • The number of French-speaking Canadians living outside of Quebec is equivalent to that of entire provinces such as Saskatchewan, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.

  • Almost one Canadian in four has French as a mother tongue and close to one Canadian in three speaks French.

  • 1.6 million of Canada's French-speaking population have an ancestry other than French or English.

  • According to the Linguistic society of America, there are between 6900 – 7000 languages spoken worldwide.

  • Not surprisingly, Mandarin Chinese is the most useful language for business after English, spoken by 845 million people in the world's second-largest economy, China. French is no. 2 and Arabic No. 3.

  • Studies from Rosetta Stone have shown that bilingual employees earn on average 10% more in their salary than those that are monolingual.

 

It is no question that business and language compliment each other. More and more, businesses are beginning to require language to be successful. The end result is that you can only benefit from learning and using a second, third or fourth language. Convinced? Read more from the Government of Canada on Making your Organization Bilingual.

“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein

 

Natalya Smardon
Junior Marketing & Projects Coordinator

Resources:
ABC News
The Linguistic Society of America






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The Evolving Food Landscape

Posted on February 11 2015 | Author: Jessica Taylor

When reflecting on 2014’s major trends such as the local food movement, transparency and the clean label, it is undeniable that consumer demand is driving innovation and change in the food sector. The Information Age has created a generation of consumers who are used to having answers at their fingertips and they expect the same from the food they are buying. Today’s consumer wants to know what they are eating, where it’s from and how it travelled through the supply chain.

So what should you keep your eyes open for this year? According to Innova Database here are a few of the trends we can expect in 2015:

Protein: Old Trend, New Sources
Consumers are still looking to increase their protein intake and we will continue to see more high-protein products enter the market but the difference this year will be the source. New sources of protein such as pea and milk will be introduced and novel sources like algae and insects will also hit the market. That’s right, last year’s “bug trend” is expected to continue! However, as we saw in 2014 insect-based products will be picked up quicker in Europe than here in North America. Keep your eyes open for products like Chirps, cricket chips, and Chocolate Chirp Cookies by Six Foods.

Gearing Up for a New Generation
Millennials, the biggest generation since the Baby Boomers, are now becoming the primary customers of food products. These individuals are 15 to 35 years old and are very different than any consumer the food industry has seen before. Unlike their parents, and generations before them, Millennials are very concerned about the story behind the products they are consuming; brand loyalty is a thing of the past. In 2015, we expect to see the food industry respond with marketing geared towards Millennials – more storytelling, more information.

From Clean to Clear: Changing Labels
With the consumer growing increasingly interested in their diet, food labels have evolved to provide appropriate information. In recent years food labels have become “clean” with statements such as: no additives; no preservatives; nutritious, wholesome ingredients; and claims about consumer health benefits. This year we will see another evolution of the food label, from clean to clear. The clear label will boost simple claims and hone in on the transparency trend providing consumers with a better idea of what they are eating.

Today’s consumer is all about the DIY. They want to Instagram a photo of their Tuscan Tortellini Vegetable Soup, Berry Green Smoothie and the incredible breakfast burrito they made this morning, but they want it to be as convenient as possible. These same Foodies who are looking to make gourmet meals at home are also in a rush and convenience is of utmost importance. We are a society that has come to expect instant gratification, even when it comes to food preparation. This year we should expect to see the food industry cater to this demand with pre-cut fruits and veggies and other products to speed up meal prep time.

The Rise of the Snack
Finally, more and more consumers are eating meals on their own and on-the-go. Many people have shied away from large family-style meals due to their increasingly busy lifestyles and the difficulty of finding a time where everyone can sit down. In 2015 the food industry should pick up on this trend and launch more “snack foods” to replace traditional meals. Breakfast is no stranger to this movement, but products this year will aim to replace lunch and dinner options with snacks as well!

Through a snap shot of the food industry we can see that many changes are on the horizon. As society evolves, so too must the food industry in order to meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer. It looks like innovation is the name of the 2015 food game – who is up to the challenge?

Jessica Taylor
Business Analyst, Food, Nutrition & Health

Resources:
PR News Wire
Food Navigator

Photo Credit: iStock






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Conference Common Sense

Posted on January 21 2015 | Author: Jennifer Kalanda

Attending the right conferences can be an important element to the success, expansion or survival of your business. Once you’ve established your conference schedule however many, it’s important to make sure you show up with a plan and some common sense!

Get connected.
Many conferences have mailing lists that you can sign up for and receive updates about the upcoming event.  You can also follow their social media accounts.  Using their event related hashtags in your social media communications might even garner you a “retweet” or “like”, giving you exposure to others followers of the event (or even potentially new customers).  The event will use their electronic communications to promote things like, when registration opens, when early bird discounts expire or when they have booked an exciting keynote or sponsor.

Schedule meetings in advance.
Review the schedule in advance of the event and determine what panels, keynotes or workshops are going to be of greatest interest to you.  Armed with your event related agenda, try to schedule a few meetings with people in your network who are from the area or are attending the event as well.  Having a few key meetings already set up, will help ensure you are able to get the most out of your time away from the office.

Follow the dress code.
This seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised!  It’s important for you to be comfortable and you have a long day ahead you, but following the event suggested dress code will ensure you present yourself as the well prepared professional you are.  If you are unable to determine the dress code, by the type of event, or pictures from the previous events, just be sure to dress for success!

Bring a lot of business cards.
Again, obvious but important enough it bares mentioning.  Make sure you have more than enough business cards with you at all times.   After you have had a conversation with someone and have swapped cards, take a few seconds and jot down some notes about your chat.  You don’t want to miss an opportunity when you are sorting through your contacts and following up.  You stand to meet a lot of people and have a lot of conversations to remember.

Network! Talk to people!
Understandably this, for some, is easier said than done.  But that’s why you are there; don’t miss out on the opportunity to make a valuable connection.  If you’re a little new to attending industry events, a good conversation starter to ask a fellow attendee is what brings them to that event.  This question is great because it encourages them to identify their goals and objectives to you right away.  Their answer should set you up to ask more relevant or engaging questions.  Another easy icebreaker is asking what they thought of the most recent speaker/panel/workshop.
Practice your elevator pitch, you are going to have to say it a lot — and if you haven’t already, read up on the latest industry news prior to the conference.

Position yourself as an expert.
Becoming and staying active in your industry could help you to develop a reputation as an expert to your industry peers and clients.  Those who are able to separate themselves as a leader could be asked to speak at events or write articles for related industry publications.  Your existing and new clients will feel good about doing business with someone who is celebrated by their industry.

Try to have fun.
Being in business should be rewarding and fun.  Industry conferences can add a layer of enjoyment to managing your company’s growth.  Conferences and networking events add a valuable social aspect to your business development and branding efforts.  Some events have fun activities such as group exercise, golf, or tours of the host city.  If time and budget permit, it’s worth taking an extra day at the beginning or end of the trip to explore a new city.  Attending an event and maximizing your meeting opportunities can be tiring, especially if you went to a great city and only saw the inside of a hotel!

But most importantly, follow up!
After the conference, send a quick message to those you connected with the most.  Don’t send out a generic email – make sure you personalize it.

Jennifer Kalanda
Marketing & Events Coordinator






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