the small business guide - The Business Link Niagara

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the small business guide - The Business Link Niagara
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E
THE SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
ENTREPRENEURIAL SUCCESS BEGINS WITH A PLAN
By Rena Posteraro, Coordinator
Niagara College’s Business Development Centre
E
ntrepreneurs are a distinct breed
of individuals—they are doers, not
just dreamers. The Niagara region is
well-known for its growing population of small business owners. There are over
27,000 small and medium-sized businesses,
with more than 3,800 businesses opened between 2001 and 2007—a 17% increase in the
number of firms located in the region. According to Statistics Canada, about 36% of Canadians are self-employed, with new businesses being registered every day; however, more than
50% of new businesses fail within the first five
years. So, what’s the problem?
Many entrepreneurs have a great concept,
but a problem arises when they don’t know
where to start. When starting a new business, time needs to be dedicated to developing the idea, as passion does not always
translate into profit.
There are three key steps to help a dreamer become a doer:
20
Step 1: Research, Research, Research!
The first step should always be research.
Knowing your business and its potential will
prepare you for the road ahead. You wouldn’t
buy a car without test driving it first, so be
sure to test drive your business. The more
you know, the more successful you will be:
• carefully evaluate your idea;
• identify your consumer;
• familiarize yourself with the industry
/competitors;
• analyze effective promotional techniques;
• determine the potential for profit.
Step 2: Write a Business Plan
A business plan is an essential roadmap to
success. Without a well-researched and upto-date business plan, profits can prove to
be unreachable.
One of the biggest issues in starting
and growing a business is a failure to
plan. The key to success is being wellprepared and knowing what to do every
step of the way.
Whether it’s a new or established business,
THE BUSINESS LINK NIAGARA NIAGARA’S BUSINESS NEWSPAPER
the direction the business will take is guided
by the business plan. When beginning the
planning process, be critical, realistic and
set measurable goals. Nothing leads to failure faster than unrealistic expectations. So
again, research, research, research... and
write it down!
Step 3: Find a Business Advisor
or Mentor
Advisors help to mentor you and your dream
as you start on the road to running a successful business. An advisor will be there to help
through changes and advise in all areas of
business, including marketing, advertising,
finance and human resources, to ensure that
measurable goals are reached.
Remember, you’re not expected to know
what to do alone. There are many resources
to seek when starting up a new business, including government-funded programs.
Organizations, such as the Niagara
College Business Development Centre
(BDC), provide business knowledge and
experience to ensure efficient and effec-
tive results. A long-term managementmentoring relationship is established
and maintained with the owner, assisting with the creation of a business plan
and a distinctive strategic plan carefully
catered to each individual business. With
the assistance of the BDC, 75% of businesses are still operating successfully
after three years.
When taking the plunge into small business ownership, success can be reached if
you research, write a plan and always ask
for help.
The Niagara College BDC has assisted
over 2,100 business get started in the Niagara Region and coordinates services
for the Ontario Self Employment Benefit
Program, funded by Employment Ontario,
in Beamsville, Grimsby, Jordan, Niagara
Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, St. Ann’s, St.
Catharines, Thorold and Vineland. For
more information, visit www.mybdc.biz.
www.BusinessLinkNewspaper.com
OCTOBER 2010
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
‘TOUCHING’ YOUR TARGET MARKET AND
FUTURE CUSTOMERS
“…to get attention today
will take a minimum of 12
touches with a prospect.”
By Neil Thornton
I
f you are like most owners and sales
professionals, you are looking for
ways to grow your business development, capture new customers and
grow market share. It seems people are now
coming out of this economic downturn and
realizing new sales is a priority. You can no
longer rely on your existing client base to
grow the way you want. (You have probably already developed their relationship
to capacity....right?) The pressure is on and
you want to stay ahead of your competitors.
Ready, set....GO!
Wait a minute, before you head out with
your traditional sales tools, we need to caution you that the rules have changed and
getting attention is harder than ever before.
People are overwhelmed, attention spans are
short, we are flooded with marketing images,
people are critical of pitches, e-mails are out
of hand and the lists of distractions are end-
OCTOBER 2010
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less. So how do get attention today?
Even if you have a prospect in front of you,
you have less than 10 seconds to make an
impression, get attention and provide your
value proposition. If your message is solely
about you and your product, you are shut
down immediately. Where is the ‘value’ to
your customer in your value proposition?
(For more resources on value propositions
please contact us.)
In talking with most sales producers, the
sales cycle (time required to take a client from
introduction to billing) is much longer than
ever before. We hear stories of what used to
take days now becoming weeks, months and
even years. Wow, you had better fill up your
pipeline it is going to be a long ride.
Our research over the past few years has
revealed that to get attention today will take
a minimum of 12 touches with a prospect.
Here is the kicker; most sales people give
up after 3-5 attempts!
So what are touches you say? Touches are
the various ways you and your company can
stay on your prospect’s radar and in their
heads. If you consider a touch a brochure
solely about you, your products and how
good you are you are going to struggle with
this and most likely end up in the trash. A
touch is something the prospect would consider of value and a resource for what they
are trying to accomplish.
Here are 4 examples of touches we
have seen used by local leading edge
companies.
1. An industry article with useful business
tools that you have written that your prospects can apply.
2. An invitation to a resourceful workshop
run by you that your prospects want to
attend.
3. A white paper, written by you, on upcoming industry and market changes and ways
your prospects can prepare.
4. An invitation to receive valuable tips by
signing up to your e-zine or blog.
Note: If you do not have the resources, energy or time to develop your own material,
you can use an industry expert’s work. Caution: Just be prepared to loose the business
to them.
We have developed a list of 12 ways to
touch your prospect customers. If you want
a copy of that list, please contact us and we
will send it over to you.
To execute your plan properly you will
need a ‘touch campaign’ and a clear structured strategy.
Keeping track of your campaign will require tools and software. Few people, if
any can reach their targets without a good
CRM (Customer Relationship Management
Program). Keith Narsansky at The Business
Solution is someone who can help you immensely if you are looking for help in this
regard. www.thebusinesssolution.com.
For more ideas about business strategy, growing sales, communications
and getting into action, please visit us
at www.thorntongroup.ca.
Neil Thornton is the President and Lead Executioner of the Thornton Group of Companies. Neil can be reached at 905.401.1434 or
[email protected] © 2010 All Rights Reserved - Don’t even think about reproducing
this document without written permission from
Neil A. Thornton and 1707021 Ontario Limited
– The Thornton Group • 905.401.1434
THE BUSINESS LINK NIAGARA NIAGARA’S BUSINESS NEWSPAPER
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S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
BRAND IT WITH
CONSISTENCY
“…branding is something that should be taken very seriously
and given weight in your company’s thought process.”
By Joe Jones
M
ost people that I talk to often
have the wrong idea of what
branding means. They usually
assume I am referring to their
logo. Branding is the overall vision or plan
on how everything relates to each other. The
word brand began simply as a way to tell one
person’s cattle from another by means of a
hot iron stamp. This branding took thought
and time, from the appearance of the brand
itself to what the brand stood for. A cattle
owner could have a brand that displayed
that this livestock was a higher grade then
the other livestock. However everything with
the cattle owner’s brands always had consistency. This consistency allows you to grow
and build on your previous achievements
and reputation.
Without consistency your brand suffers
and will become obsolete. Imagine that
cattle owner using a different brand, style
or placement on each cattle that he or she
owned. This image would be considered as
unprofessional, the reputation would not
suggest organization or worth. It would
end up portraying the very opposite of his
desired reputation. However, in business
I often see the same mistakes happen as a
result of inconsistent brands: the logo looks
different from the letterhead, a different font
on the business card and the brochure has a
different colour scheme.
Whether you are a new business starting
out or an established company, branding is
something that should be taken very seriously and given weight in your company’s
thought process. Ralph Lauren once stated
“I am not looking like Armani today and
somebody else tomorrow. I look like Ralph
Lauren. And my goal is to constantly move
in fashion and move in style without giv-
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THE BUSINESS LINK NIAGARA NIAGARA’S BUSINESS NEWSPAPER
ing up what I am.” The best way to achieve
consistency is to develop using your original
files. Find a design company that is capable
of designing everything for you. This will
ensure you are always using the same fonts,
colour schemes and styles. Using multiple
companies for each item is often a recipe
inconsistency. When using multiple companies you are often paying for them to recreate the previous work.
“Branding is the reputation of
who you are, what you do and
what you offer. The important
question to ask yourself is what
message are you branding?”
Branding should not be something that
you are constantly redeveloping. Branding
should be something that allows you to build
up and set yourself apart from your competition. Branding is the reputation of who you
are, what you do and what you offer. The important question to ask yourself is what message are you branding? “A business based
on brand is, very simply, a business primed
for success,“ –David F. D’Alessandro, former president and COO, Manulife Financial
Corporation.
Joe Jones is the President of Symetric Productions. At Symetric Productions our graphic & web
designers are capable of developing all of your
branding needs. We often handle everything for
our clients: logos, newspaper ads, vehicle graphics, business cards, billboards and more. This
process is often less costly for our clients because
we are using the same original file and reworking it fit the new piece. For more information
on branding please call 905-933-4910 or visit
www.spcan.com
www.BusinessLinkNewspaper.com
OCTOBER 2010
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
WILL YOUR NEXT
CUSTOMER SERVICE REP
BE VIRTUALLY ALIVE?
By Keith Narsansky
I
want you to imagine for a minute what your business will be like in the future. What
if you could reduce your costs while providing your customers with better service,
and at the same time, maximizing your sales and profit? What if you could provide
your customers with the product information they require to make a buying decision,
without you having to be there? What if you could answer customer’s questions without
even speaking to them?
Stop imagining! The future is now!
An interactive kiosk and digital signage system can augment your CSR staff.
Virtual Sales Person
Virtual Greeter
Virtual Receptionist
Virtual Information Booth
Virtual Concierge
And More
Display products you don’t normally stock, so that you can provide the full product line without having the extra cost of carrying those products. Change your in-house display’s content yourself, so that
you could quickly and easily respond to changing conditions, such as, daily or weekly specials. This
customer service rep is available 24/7, never takes a break, and is never sick or in a foul mood.
It can virtually perform many functions that your current staff does now. This allows your
staff to spend quality time with customers whose needs are more complicated and need the
human touch. The kiosk can provide customers with product or business information at a high
and consistent level. The kiosk can pre-sell customers on what they want to buy so that when
a customer service rep does become available; their order can be quickly processed so you can
move on to the next customer more efficiently.
Front line staff on a daily basis performs the tasks in the table below. If the volume of your
customers is too great for your front line staff, customers will have to wait and if they wait too
long, some of them will move on. Now if you had a kiosk, your customers could self-serve this
minimizing or eliminating wait time.
Common Front Line Staff Activities and In-House Displays
• Occupy your customer’s dead time while waiting
• Display detailed product information
• Display specials
• Information booth while staff is busy or not available
• Display product or service while in use
• Show where to find product
• Display schedules
• Display maps
• Provide a tool for customers to find the right product or service based on their needs
• Encourage impulse buying
• Display featured products
• Answer questions
• Give product recommendations
• Display events
• Place orders
• Display announcements
What’s the Solution?
Skeptical? If you are like most people, you use the internet and ATMs to do most of your banking. Would a kiosk ever fully replace human CSR? Doubtful, we always need human interaction
to assist in complicated issues. However, it was not that long ago that if I told you ATMs would
greatly reduce the times you went to a bank teller, you would think I was crazy.
Kiosks and digital signs can reduce your operating cost while providing better service to your customers. Whether you need a kiosk to assist in selling product or service or to act as a virtual information
booth; with a kiosk on your side, it will be a competition killer. Contact The Business Solution today
and discuss your business operation with us. If we can help, we will, and if not we’ll let you know.
Keith Narsansky, CMA is the Software Architect and Business Process Engineer at The Business Solution. Better serve your customers while maximizing sales and profit; integrate your entire company;
and get a real time view of your business. Virtually Live: The ultimate marketing and management
system. www.TheBusinessSolution.com
OCTOBER 2010
www.BusinessLinkNewspaper.com
THE BUSINESS LINK NIAGARA NIAGARA’S BUSINESS NEWSPAPER
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S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
Social Media With Adam White
CONTENT IS ALL AROUND YOU, START CAPTURING IT
“It sure is easy to be
enthusiastic about the
company blog a week after
it launches. The challenge
is keeping it active and
updated six months or a
year from that date.”
“The trick is to let the
hustle and bustle of life
create these updates
for you. The content
you need is already out
there, so why not start
capturing it?”
By Adam White
I
stood at the edge of the Niagara River
in Chippawa grasping my dog’s leash,
bracing my feet on the rocky shore
to avoid an unwanted dip in the cold
water. My companion was waste deep and
would have been quite content to take a brisk
swim out to Navy Island. Once I was confident
I would not topple, I used a free hand to snap a
picture of him with my iPhone. With a few taps
of my fingers I uploaded the image to my blog
hosted on Tumblr, the perfect place to quickly
share fun multimedia content. My Tumblr
account is linked to Twitter, and a link to the
image was automatically sent to my followers.
The photo was syndicated to Facebook before
my shoes were dry. By the time I had pulled the
headstrong fur ball back onto the path people
I had never met were commenting on the
image via the discussion system Disqus. Other
Tumblr users had found the picture amusing
and passed it on to their own readers. This
was a private, meaningless moment, but with
absolutely minimal effort I was able to turn it
into a social experience. Why can’t we do this
with our businesses?
The biggest hurdle businesses face when
entering the social media arena is maintaining
a regular schedule of content creation. It sure
is easy to be enthusiastic about the company
blog a week after it launches. The challenge is
keeping it active and updated six months or
a year from that date. A system that becomes
a burden will fall by the wayside. Before you
get started blogging, or utilizing Facebook,
Twitter and YouTube, you need to have a
frank and realistic discussion about what you
can contribute and how often. We tend to
be too precious about what we say with the
company’s voice and assume that every blog
post need be an epic. We worry that every
tweet should be a nugget of pure insight and
that every video be produced to the highest
standard. What we fail to realize is that such
perfectionism is paralyzing and extremely
difficult to sustain without a significant
investment of time or money. Instead, look
at how you can incorporate and share your
day-to-day experiences.
As an exercise, carry around a notepad
for a week and start making observations.
Assume you have all the web tools hooked up
and configured, and you are simply hunting
for things to share. As a rule keep everything
short. You are looking for things you could
photograph, events that could become short
web videos and observations which would
take no more than two or three sentences
to express. This is content which will prove
to observers that your business is active and
engaged. What you share is not a substitute
for in-depth writing, it is instead what you
share in between those more effort-intensive
pieces. It is the answer when you suddenly
realize you were too busy to update the
businesses’ Facebook page this week.
The reality is that you need to regularly
maintain and update your businesses’ social
media accounts, and you need to slot this
work into your already busy day. If you decide
to only participate when you have spare time,
then it will never happen. Your ability to
impact others will be diminished the more
scarce you are. The trick is to let the hustle
and bustle of life create these updates for you.
The content you need is already out there, so
why not start capturing it?
Adam White (AdamWhite.org) is a developer at
JMR SoftwareSystems (JMR.ca). Visit his new
Niagara video blog at CheckInNiagara.com or
join the Social Media Club (SMCNiagara.com).
YouTube Social Statistics
As of May 2010
Over 3 million people are connected and
auto-sharing to at least one social network
An auto-share Tweet results in 7 new
youtube.com sessions
YouTube Video Consumption across
social networks:
Facebook: 46.2 years of video watched a day
MySpace: 5.6 years of video watched a day
Orkut: 12.7 years of video watched a day
Hi5: 1.2 years of video watched a day
– www.website-monitoring.com
24
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OCTOBER 2010
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
POWER UP YOUR BUSINESS:
INVEST. INNOVATE. GROW.
Provided by the BDC
T
he economy is recovering and entrepreneurs are gearing up to seize new
opportunities. They need to hone
their competitive edge with dynamic
plans and a renewed commitment to meeting
the needs of a rapidly changing marketplace.
This is the message endorsed by the 31st
edition of Small Business Week®, an event
created and organized by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), under the
theme “Power Up Your Business: Invest. Innovate. Grow.” Events held from October
17 to 23 will bring entrepreneurs together
at conferences, luncheons and trade fairs
where they will have the opportunity to
learn, network and exchange information
and ideas with their peers. Last year, hundreds of activities across Canada attracted
more than 10,000 businesspeople.
BDC supported Canadian businesses
through the recession with financing, consulting and venture capital services and now
stands ready to help them during the economic recovery. In our last fiscal year, we
boosted our lending to Canadian businesses
to a record $4.4 billion, a 53% increase over
the previous year.
BDC offers a variety of financial products
designed to help Canadian businesses grow,
such as term loans, subordinate financing
and venture capital. We are also a major
player in helping businesses improve their
management techniques by providing tailored consulting services through a national
network of consultants.
Consulting
Our national network of professional business advisors can help you assess, plan,
and implement results-driven, cost-effective management solutions, whatever your
company’s development stage. BDC offers a
full range of services from strategic and succession planning to production management
and ISO certification.
Subordinate Financing
An innovative form of financing, subordinate financing combines the characteristics
of term financing and venture capital. Businesses with strong growth potential and
good management may be eligible for quasiequity and equity financing for expansion
and market development projects.
Venture Capital
BDC Venture Capital is a major venture capital investor in Canada, active at every stage of
the company’s development cycle, from seed
through expansion, with a focus on technology-based businesses that have high growth
potential and that are positioned to become
dominant players in their markets.
BDC business solutions include:
BDC is committed to helping entrepreneurs
succeed, and looks beyond the numbers to
your whole business—your goals, vision,
projects, management team, strengths, and
weaknesses—to find the right solutions at
the right time. We understand the value of a
patient, flexible and knowledgeable approach
to financing entrepreneurs. For more than 65
years we have given our clients across Canada
the support needed to take their business to the
next level. At BDC, it’s entrepreneurs first.
Financing
Obtain long-term loan to increase your working capital and purchase fixed assets. Repayment is flexible with possible deferred principal payments as well progressive or seasonal
options tailored to your business’ cash flow.
For more information about our business solutions and eligibility criteria visit our BDC Branch
located at 39 Queen Street Suite 100, St. Catharines, Ontario L2R 7A7, call 905-322-3028, or
visit www.bdc.ca for more details.
OCTOBER 2010
www.BusinessLinkNewspaper.com
THE BUSINESS LINK NIAGARA NIAGARA’S BUSINESS NEWSPAPER
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S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
A Tradition Of Success
HUB INTERNATIONAL
Enterprising insurance
brokerage celebrates
100 years of continuous
service to the Niagara
community.
By Scott Leslie
The Business Link
I
In today’s insurance industry, “commitment,” “selection” and “personalized service” are all critical to the
success of any progressive insurance
broker. But when you’re dealing with a foremost insurance brokerage like HUB International Limited, you can add another quality
to that list—“tradition.” Over time, their firm
has built a proud 100 year legacy of making
their clients’ lives easier, secure and most
of all, better.
Located at 63 Church Street in St. Catharines, HUB International Limited is a North
American insurance brokerage focused on
mid-sized commercial clients and the personal insurance sector. Their wide range of
products and services include property and
casualty insurance, life and health insurance,
risk management, reinsurance, employee
benefits and wealth management.
A member of the Council of Insurance
Agents and Brokers and Worldwide Broker
Network, HUB International Limited is one of
the largest privately held insurance brokerage
firms in North America and licensed in every
province and state in the U.S. and Canada.
26
A Long Distinguished History
HUB has developed into a large international firm with over 250 offices and 4,000
employees across North America. But this St.
Catharines brokerage also has deep roots in
Niagara—and a long distinguished history of
serving Niagara’s insurance needs.
It all began with the vision and initiative of
a young St. Catharines teen named Howard
E. Rose. Born and raised in Port Dalhousie,
Howard had been working for some time
as a clerk with the early N.S. & T. Railway.
But he also dreamed of operating his own
general insurance firm, and offering a personal brand of service his clients couldn’t
get anywhere else. In 1910, the 18-year-old
realized that very dream, establishing the
“H.E. Rose & Company” on St. Paul Street
in downtown St. Catharines, not far from
James Street.
Back in the early days, it wasn’t unusual to
find Howard answering the phones personally, providing insurance advice to everyone
from dairy farmers to blacksmiths. When
his brokerage began to outgrow his modest
office, Howard would move the company in
1930 to 3 Queen Street—a location that became known as The Rose Building.
During these years and well into the 1950s,
everything was done by hand. Paperwork
was very detailed and bookkeeping and ledgers were common-place. Many employees
remained with the brokerage for decades.
And the insurance industry focused mainly
on areas like fire and property insurance.
But there were changes on the horizon for
H.E. Rose & Company. Looking to expand
their business, they merged with a promi-
THE BUSINESS LINK NIAGARA NIAGARA’S BUSINESS NEWSPAPER
“Times may have changed since the days of Howard E. Rose. But the
insurance professionals at HUB International are looking forward to
meeting the challenges of the future and serving their clients’ insurance
needs for another 100 years.”
nent insurance firm called G.C. Horne & Son
in 1967. A prominent local firm at the time,
G.C. Horne & Son had been serving the Niagara area since 1932 when G. Charles Horne
moved to St. Catharines and purchased the
George E. Jones & Son brokerage.
Following the new merger, the company
name was officially changed to “Rose, Horne
& Stevenson”—incorporating the Horne
name and that of Clark Stevenson, the manager of H.E. Rose & Company.
According to one-time company owner
Peter Horne who had joined his father’s
firm out of high school back in 1954, the
merger proved beneficial to both sides in a
number of ways.
“Mergers give brokerages the opportunity
to expand their range of insurance provid-
ers,” he explains. “They also allow you to
take on larger accounts and better serve
your clients.”
The merger was a major turning point for
the brokerage. Together, the two firms were
able to provide their clients with an even
wider range of products and a combined 90
years of general insurance experience. Peter
Horne and Clark Stevenson were able to increase their client base from a few hundred
to well over 5,000 clients. The newly merged
business would also move from its Queen
Street office to a new location on the corner
of King Street and William Street.
By 1975, business was booming and Rose,
Horne & Stevenson would move to a new…
Continued on page 28
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OCTOBER 2010
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27
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
Continued from page 26
…headquarters on 71 King Street. Here, they
established a new expanded modern office
and offered a new in-house life, health and
group benefits department. The brokerage
also began to develop a more comprehensive
approach to areas like coverage, analysis,
risk management, bonding, account service
and property evaluation.
The company’s spirit of change would
carry well into the 1990s when Rose, Horne
& Stevenson merged with Gosen, Anderson,
Rigby (G.A.R.) Insurance in 1992. G.A.R. also
had a long history in the Niagara Region,
having been established by Earl Thompson
back in 1947. By merging with the St. Catharines firm, Rose, Horne & Stevenson became
one of the largest insurance brokerage firms
in the Niagara Peninsula with 24 employees. Their client base also increased to over
9,000 private individuals, businesses and
organizations.
A Monumental Event
As the decade progressed, the firm would
go on to merge with MacDonald Ohm Insurance Brokers Limited—another historic
Niagara-based firm that had been operating
in Thorold since before the turn of the century. But there were bigger expansions and
opportunities yet to come.
The most monumental event in the com-
28
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SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
pany’s history took place on November 30,
1998 when Rose, Horne & Stevenson and ten
other insurance brokerages across Canada
merged to form The HUB Group.
“In the early 1990s, several Canadian insurance brokers had formed an organization called Insurance Network Solutions,”
explains Jim Henry, Senior Account Executive with HUB and president of the firm at
the time. “For years, we’d all been trying to
find ways to strengthen our businesses—and
this presented the perfect opportunity.”
The merger was a landmark occasion for
Rose, Horne & Stevenson—but it was also
borne out of necessity. Over the past decade,
major banks such as CIBC, RBC and TD
Canada Trust had begun offering their own
insurance services. As a result, mergers had
become a critical strategy for smaller brokerages looking to grow their business.
“Most of the insurance brokerages in the
community today have a long history of mergers and acquisitions,” Jim says. “Consolidation has simply become a natural method of
growth in a mature marketplace.”
By the following year, HUB had purchased
44 brokerages across North America and increased its annual revenues to $140-million.
Over the past several years, the firm has experienced unprecedented growth, acquiring
a long line of prominent insurance brokerages in the U.S. and Canada.
With its expansion into the U.S., the com-
pany became known as HUB International
and the “Rose, Horne & Stevenson” name
was phased out in 2001. HUB International
is now the largest insurance broker in Canada by premium volume and the ninth largest
in the world.
“The industry has changed so much over
the years,” Peter says of the firm’s formative
years. “Nowadays we have things like environmental liability insurance—products no
one would have thought of years ago!”
Times may have changed since the days of
Howard E. Rose. But the insurance professionals at HUB International are looking forward to meeting the challenges of the future
and serving their clients’ insurance needs for
another 100 years. Their legacy will always
be there to guide the way.
63 Church Street, Ground Floor
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Tel 905-688-1534
Toll Free 1-800-263-4927
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www.BusinessLinkNewspaper.com
OCTOBER 2010
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
CHOOSING AN HONEST, RELIABLE,
AND COMPETENT COMPUTER SUPPORT COMPANY
“Your data is the single
most important asset you
possess—protecting it
ensures continuity. ”
By Scott Putman
C
hoosing a computer support company can be a tedious and painful experience. After all—on paper
they may all sound the same. Your
company’s data is perhaps the most valuable asset you have—and you don’t want to
place it in the hands of just anyone. Trust
is a major factor—perhaps the single most
important one to determine who to choose.
Here are some factors you’d want to consider in this process:
Is the company financially stable? Taking care of a client’s information systems
requires that a service partner is willing to
re-invest in the latest support technology,
so that your systems get the best support
OCTOBER 2010
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available at all times. Longevity may be an
indicator, but the kind of clients and the nature of support are equally important.
Will they guarantee a minimum response
time? When your computer network goes
down, you need it fixed immediately so you
can get back to running your business. Professional service organizations will be able
to provide crisis response within 1 hour of
your call (if not sooner).
Can they schedule system upgrades and fixes
after normal business hours so as not to interrupt your business? System upgrades and installations can bring down your system for several
hours. Make sure that your support company
can schedule these types of upgrades during the
evening or weekends so as not to interrupt your
business more than strictly necessary.
How would it compare with, for instance,
hiring full time internal computer support
staff? By outsourcing your computer support, you can often save your company thousands on hiring, salary, and benefits.
Are their technicians highly trained to
solve your problems fast and cost effectively?
Professional service organizations make sure
that their technical skills are up-to-date, and
that they are trained to find the most cost
effective solution to your problem instead of
charging you for expensive upgrades, hardware, and solutions that aren’t necessary.
To what extent do they guarantee their work?
Make sure that they can GUARANTEE that
pricing? A professional service organization
should be able to provide you with a detailed,
flat rate quote for a project—and guarantee
to deliver your solutions without charging a
penny more. This will give you peace of mind
knowing you won’t end up with a bill 2 or 3
times more than you anticipated or getting
hit with hidden charges or extra hours.
“When you hire a professional to solve a problem, it should be fixed
right the first time so you can get back to running your business.”
they will solve your computer problem or it’s
FREE. When you hire a professional to solve a
problem, it should be fixed right the first time so
you can get back to running your business.
Are they big enough to handle any computer job, yet “small” enough to still provide
you the individual attention you deserve? As
a customer, you should have direct access
to key persons, such as the owner or senior
manager, to handle any problems, concerns,
questions, or issues you may have.
Do they provide a detailed, flat-rate project
Your data is the single most important
asset you possess—protecting it ensures
continuity. There may be other variables
that are important to your unique situation,
but following this guideline will provide you
with a basis for evaluating potential service
organizations.
Scott Putman is the President of I/O Vision. For
more information please call 905.937.7658, email
[email protected], or visit them at 3-23 Nihan Dr.,
St. Catharines, ON. www.iovision.ca
THE BUSINESS LINK NIAGARA NIAGARA’S BUSINESS NEWSPAPER
29
S P E C I A L F E AT U R E :
SMALL BUSINESS GUIDE
WRITE YOUR BUSINESS PLAN IN A WAY THAT WILL
PROVIDE THE MOST VALUE TO YOU
“Without committing your
plan to paper, it is too easy
to lose track of your initial
goals and vision when your
life gets taken over by
running the business.”
By Cameron Tulloch
O
ne of the biggest misconceptions
we hear from our clients is that
business plans are only for entrepreneurs seeking financing. A
great business plan can be so much more. It
can provide a blueprint for your company’s
future. This blueprint can provide entrepreneurs with a realistic starting point and
a vision or goals to work towards once the
business is fully operational.
I like to describe to my clients the value of
a business plan by looking at the time they
will spend working “ON” the business compared to working “IN” the business. Before
launching any new venture, we have all the
time we need to think about who our ideal
30
customer is, how we are going to effectively
deliver our product or service, how we are
going to build and promote our brand, how
we want to grow our operations over time,
and how much money we want (or need) to
make. After we launch, we spend almost all
of our time working IN the business-chasing sales leads, delivering services, making
products, paying bills, managing staff, and
everything else that goes into an entrepreneur’s work-day. Without committing your
plan to paper, it is too easy to loose track of
your initial goals and vision when your life
gets taken over by running the business.
The most important advice I can offer is
to write your business plan in a way that will
provide the most value to you in your future,
while setting realistic business goals. Clients
too often try to make their business plan fit
into a template. While a template may be a
great jumping off point, forcing your business to fit into precontrived headings will be
time consuming and frustrating.
Start by setting objectives. Ask yourself
“What sections will I refer back to in the
future?”. Financial projections usually add
the most value as you can use them to set
concrete and measurable goals, these projec-
THE BUSINESS LINK NIAGARA NIAGARA’S BUSINESS NEWSPAPER
tions will also be critical for your business
laying the foundation for future business
opportunities. A market analysis and marketing plan is worthwhile to understand how
to best use your marketing time and money.
Planning your business processes will help
you to efficiently and effectively deliver your
service to clients.
After taking the time to write your business plan, make sure you use it. Let it be your
guiding light while you are too busy
working “in” the business to see
where you are going next. Share
the business plan with anyone
you want to share your vision
with—a new hire, a banker, a
marketing professional. Last
but not least, update it. If your
business changes as you learn
along the way, open up your
plan and commit yourself and
your business to your new
direction.
Centres in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines.
Angela and Michael in Niagara Falls, and Jessica, Jennifer and Cameron in St. Catharines
support people as they work to start and grow
their small businesses.
Cameron Tulloch is a Small Business Consultant for the St. Catharines Enterprise Centre.
For more information call today.
Niagara Falls: 905.356.7521 x 5004
St. Catharines: 905.688.5601 x 1767
Business planning support
is just one of the many
services available free of
charge at the Enterprise
www.BusinessLinkNewspaper.com
OCTOBER 2010

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