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Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy

Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy

Being an Entrepreneur Isn’t Easy

Raising money can be humbling. Really humbling. None of us likes being told our baby is ugly…..again and again and again. “Come back when you have two years of financials… it’s  great idea, but call us once you have established sales…”

B2B sales are humbling….and take longer than you can imagine. No, your phone calls aren’t returned as quickly as when you worked in your big company job. You expect that. The more interesting insight to me has been how often people try to be nice and end up stringing you along. They don’t recognize that a “fast no” is ok; it’s the “slow no” that kills you.

And even a “slow yes” can put you out of business. I worked with one guy at a big bank who loved a start-up so much…and encouraged them so much…that the start-up ran out of money and shut its doors as all of the approvals for doing business with them were working their way through the system.

So sometimes a “fast no” can even trump a “slow yes.”

Hiring people is hard. Hiring people is always hard. But at a start-up, the stakes are so much higher. That’s in part because there are simply fewer people, so one has to be more thoughtful about making sure there aren’t any holes in the start-up team’s skillsets (and that includes filling in the founder’s “flat sides”). That’s why, for me, team diversity is so important.

And is it just me?  Because I’ve found, amongst entrepreneurs, some of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with, by good measure; they love the rush of entrepreneurialism and would never thrive in the constraints of a big company.

And then there have been some others. I’ve come across a couple of screamers. By that I mean, people who scream. At work. A lot. The screamers are filtered out of big companies pretty quickly. So watch for people who’ve bounced around a lot, and particularly watch for people who receive less-than-effusive recommendations. And always, always do back-channel reference checks. I once hired someone from a bank who never showed up for work and when asked for his accountability, decided to have a 45 minute screaming match in front of the staff.

Hiring people is hard, Part 2. If you come from a corporate background, many of your contacts won’t fit your job descriptions and needs: the jobs pay less cash than what big company folks are making, the jobs may be broader than what they are doing , and parts of the jobs can be more junior. Everyone wants to be part of the startup once it’s successful, but few can stomach the beginning of the journey.

And everybody’s a critic. If your idea is truly innovative, you’re going to hear from the naysayers. After all, if it were such a good idea, someone would have already done it, right? I was told that a financial advisor doesn’t need all this vision and planning – go sell to anyone and everyone.  Many people didn’t understand my need to build something bigger than what was in front of me.

Oh, and it’s terrifying. Something I never thought about in my job: cash flow. When your business has billions of dollars in revenue, you can make a lot of mistakes and still have a viable business. But in a start-up, make a few hiring mistakes (it takes several months to find the right person, a couple of months to figure out they’re not the right person, a couple of more months when you try to coach them and give them the opportunity to become the right person, then another couple of months after you part ways to find the next right person)….oh, and the work they’re supposed to be doing doesn’t get done in that period of time….well, do that a few times and you’re out of money.

How about business partners who enjoy the title but don’t enjoy sharing the expenses?  When you all sign personal guarantees on a lease but they refuse to contribute to the expenses and you worry about losing your home? When you spend more money at the lawyer’s office trying to remove them from the company than their financial contribution to start the business?

Being an entrepreneur is the only time in my career that I’ve lost sleep (and I don’t need much sleep to start with!).

There is a lot of paperwork…and taxes….and regulations…. I can’t tell you the number of people who tell me they slipped up on some of the paperwork needed for their company. It’s one of the no-fun parts of being an entrepreneur that nobody talks about. Wonder why I’m at the office from 9am to 2am? Trying to figure out liability and compliance procedures.

You can’t coast. You know those days at the office when you used to come in and didn’t really do that much? You don’t have those days as entrepreneur. If you don’t do much, then not much happens. And remember what I said about cash flow? Yeah….that.

This last paragraph is the one in which I am supposed to say that, even with all of this, I wouldn’t trade being an entrepreneur for anything. And, for me, this is right. But the failure rate for entrepreneurs is high, so I have to be very, very honest with myself about my, and my family’s, willingness to take on this professional risk. This risk isn’t always financial – without the support of your family, you can end up losing the thing you are building this for.

I started Exceedia Consulting Ltd because we wanted to help micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and develop together… to soften the risk, share our wisdom and most of all, to be a support to each other in the hard times while celebrating our small wins along the way

Changing unhealthy behaviours

Changing unhealthy behaviours

Most Canadians know the fundamentals of good health: exercise, proper diet, sufficient sleep, regular check-ups, and no smoking or excessive alcohol. Yet, despite this knowledge, changing existing behaviors can be difficult. Look no further than the New Year’s Resolution, with its 9% success rate.¹

Generally, negative motivations are inadequate to affect change. (“I need to quit smoking because my spouse hates it.”) Motivation needs to come from within and be positively oriented. (“I want to quit smoking so I see my grandchildren graduate.”)

Goals must be specific, measurable, realistic, and time-related. In other words, “I am going to exercise more” is not enough. You need to set a more defined goal, such as, “I am going to walk 30 minutes a day, five days a week.”

Permanent Change is Evolutionary, not Revolutionary

As a rule, individuals travel through stages on their way to permanent change. These stages can’t be rushed or skipped.

Phase one: Precontemplation. Whether through lack of knowledge or because of past failures, you are not consciously thinking about any change.

Phase two: Contemplation. You are considering change, but aren’t yet committed to it. To help move through this phase, it may be useful to write out the pros and cons of changing your behavior. Examine the barriers to change. Not enough time to exercise? How could you create that time?

Phase three: Preparation. You’re at the point of believing change is necessary and you can succeed. When making plans, it’s critical to begin anticipating potential obstacles. How will you address temptations that test your resolve? For instance, how will you decline a colleague’s lunch invitation to that greasy spoon restaurant?

Phase four: Taking action. This is the start of change. Practice your alternative strategies to avoid temptation. Remind yourself daily of your motivation; write it down if necessary. Get support from family and friends.

Phase five: Maintenance. You’ve been faithful to your new behavior. Now it’s time to prevent relapse and integrate this change into your life.

Remember, this process is not a straight line. You may fail, even repeatedly, but don’t let failure discourage you. Reflect on why you failed and apply that knowledge to your efforts going forward.

  1. StatisticBrain.com, January 1, 2017

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by Exceedia Consulting Ltd provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2018 Exceedia Consulting Ltd

5 Common Business Challenges

5 Common Business Challenges

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of owning your own business. But it also involves plenty of challenges you need to understand and be prepared to handle.

Here are five common small business problems and suggestions for how to deal with them.

5 small business problems

1. Insufficient Capital or Cash Flow

By far the biggest hurdle faced by start-ups and other small enterprises is money. Too many times, entrepreneurs don’t start out with enough capital. Start-up costs often exceed budget. When starting out, get multiple bids for large-ticket items and always set up a contingency reserve for possible cost overruns.

The other factor is cash flow. It’s easy to be overly optimistic when projecting a break-even point. Be careful about forecasting unrealistic sales figures, or cutting your operating budget too thin. Many experts suggest having enough cash on hand to sustain the business for two years, at a minimum.

2. Failure to Plan

All too often entrepreneurs “fly by the seat of their pants.” Unfortunately, many of these businesses become casualties before they get very far off the ground.

If you want to succeed, you’re going to have to treat your small business in much the same way that larger, successful companies treat theirs. Have a strategic plan with your vision, goals, and some market analysis. Develop a business plan with a detailed budget, cash flow and break-even analyses. These don’t have to be long, narrative documents. In fact, you can create most of what you need with a few flowcharts, mind maps, project charts, and other business strategy diagrams.

Business plan

But don’t cut corners in your research and analysis. It’s easy to get anxious about your new venture and overlook the difficulties you will face. Take your time and create well thought-out plans. Dealing with and planning for tough issues in advance will be a huge step toward your ultimate success.

3. Not Getting Expert Advice

You will pay a little more for a lawyer and a CPA to get your business established than if you do it yourself. But this isn’t replanting the flower bed in the front yard. Mistakes can be extremely costly. Good professionals will more than pay for themselves over time and you’ll sleep better knowing that you have things set up properly.

4. Time Management

A plan is only good if you stick to it. That requires managing time well. Now, managing time well doesn’t mean packing so much into your calendar that you can’t possibly get it done. Pick and choose what’s important, focus on the critical stuff, and get it done. Little things will fall through the cracks. Let them. If they’re really important, they’ll come back up.

Use tools to help you, such as Gantt charts or Kanban boards. The visual displays make it easy to quickly decide on important tasks and follow them through to completion.

Kanban board

5. Resistance to Change

Whether your company is a start-up or has been around for 100 years, innovation can be a frightening thing. But change is real. Don’t get stuck in archaic ways of doing things. Embrace a culture of forward thinking. Be open with your staff about changes taking place in your organization, as well.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by Exceedia Consulting Ltd provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2018 Exceedia Consulting Ltd

Top Ten Reasons for Project Failure

Top Ten Reasons for Project Failure

1. Unclear Goals

Having a project without clear goals will just confuse and frustrate people. It’s like asking them to shoot an arrow blindfolded with no idea where the target is. After all, if you don’t know what your intended destination is, how will know when you arrive?

A good project goal should be short and simple—you should be able to fit it into a tweet (140 characters).

2. Insufficient Plan Detail

All too often, project plans don’t provide sufficient detail to ensure success. Not only can this be confusing to team members, but it can lead to inaccurate time and cost estimates.

The solution to this is to break down each segment of the project into more detailed tasks and sub-tasks. These should be tasks that can be completed in no more than a day or two in most cases. For larger, more complex projects they should take no longer than five working days.

Project chart example

3. Scope Creep

Every project suffers some degree of changes in scope. It’s inevitable, because unforeseen issues will arise that demand some change. The key is to not let them derail the entire project.

A good manager must carefully consider requests for change in scope. If the scope of the project is expanded, make sure to expand the budget and deadlines accordingly. Otherwise, the project and team members will become too strained to accomplish everything on time.

4. Wrong People for the Job

Make sure the right people are working on the project. They need to have the experience, skills, and knowledge needed to complete the tasks assigned to them. A careful, honest evaluation should be done by the project manager prior to the start of the job. Sometimes some training or mentoring can fill the gap. Other times it may be necessary to outsource some of the work involved.

5. Accountability Issues

It’s critical that each person on the team is clear on his or her roles and is accountable for their completion. A lack of accountability can lead to a total project breakdown, particularly where there are task dependencies.

You’ll want to make sure that any project is translated to actionable items assigned to team members. You can use tools like Trello to make sure responsibilities are clear.

6. Inconsistent Processes

Having consistent templates, tools, and procedures make projects easier to manage and run more efficiently. While each project may change in size, scope, and team members, the process is often the same, or very similar.

Diagram the work flow using a flowchart. Create it from the perspective of the job, not the individual doing the work. That way, new team members or outsourced contractors can quickly understand their role and how it fits into the overall project structure.

Flowchart example

7. Poor Communication

Project managers need to keep lines of communication open with team members at all times. This needs to be a two-way street. Set this up as part of the project process, so that there is regular communication. Knowing about any possible delays or issues early can help you avoid more serious problems down the road.

8. Unrealistic Deadlines

Sometimes, a short deadline for a high-profile client with an important project can get a team focused and energized. But successful project managers know that setting unrealistic deadlines on an ongoing basis is a recipe for disaster. It will kill morale and lead to late deliveries, making for unhappy customers.

9. Risk Mismanagement

Sometimes a project is planned out in detail, everyone is on board, and things are running smoothly. Then an unforeseen occurrence happens and the project skids off the rails. Why? Failure to manage for risks. A good project manager must not only plan but also prepare for contingencies. Constantly ask “what if?” questions – both of yourself and of your team members.

10. Stakeholder Apathy

Often, this is a byproduct of projects that don’t mesh with the organization’s strategic plan. Those that do are far more likely to receive management’s support for resource and budget requests.

It’s also critical for the project manager to communicate clearly and consistently with all stakeholders—team members, vendors, contractors, management, and the client—throughout the life of the project. Encourage feedback, as well. Keeping all parties engaged in the process will lead to less stress and a more positive project experience.

Need help setting financial goals and define clear projects for your businesa growth? We can help!

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by Exceedia Consulting Ltd to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2018 Exceedia Consulting Ltd

When heirs are imperfect

When heirs are imperfect

Passing your estate to an heir with credit problems or a gambling or alcohol addiction might not only lead to that wealth being squandered, but the inheritance could worsen the destructive behaviors.

Of course, you don’t want to disinherit your child simply because of his or her personal challenges. There are potential solutions that allow parents to control and incent behaviors long after they are gone, ensuring that a troubled child’s inheritance won’t be misused.¹

Some Common Approaches

A trust is one idea since it can pass wealth to an heir while maintaining control over how, when, where and why the heir can access funds.²

When establishing such a trust, you can appoint a trustee, which is typically an independent third party (e.g., trust company) or family member. Appointing a family member, however, may be fraught with problems. For example, who do you think is more able to resist the pleadings of a desperate beneficiary, a close relative or a corporate entity?

The trust can specify the precise circumstances under which money will be paid to the trust’s beneficiary, or specify that the trustee will retain complete discretion in the disbursement of funds.

Structuring Ideas

Trusts can also include incentives, such as requiring drug or alcohol testing before the funds are paid out, or that a lump sum payment be made only upon graduation from college.

To ensure that an heir is committed to change, lump-sum amounts can be paid out after prescribed periods of time, e.g., five years of sobriety. To encourage your heir to seek gainful employment, the trust might pay out a dollar for every dollar in wages.

Alternatively, the trust can be written whereby payments are made directly to service providers, like a landlord or utility company.

Trusts can be flexible in their design, but before moving forward with a trust, consider working with a professional who is familiar with the rules and regulations.

  1. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation.
  2. Using a trust involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. Before moving forward with a trust, consider working with a professional who is familiar with the rules and regulations.

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by Exceedia Consulting Ltd to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2018 Exceedia Consulting Ltd

 

How to prioritize using a master checklist

How to prioritize using a master checklist

Prioritization happens on different levels. You have the tasks that need to be done today. The goals you have for this week. And the accomplishments that would make you feel like the past month has been a success. At Exceedia Consulting Ltd., when we work with clients, we often find those lists don’t always match up. It’s all too easy to default to what seems urgent today and ignore the fact that it isn’t getting you any closer to your bigger priorities. So before you can learn how to prioritize your daily work, you need to get everything down in one place.

Start by making a master list—a document, app, or piece of paper where every current and future task will be stored. One great way to do this is David Allen’s Get Things Done (GTD) methodology.

Once you have all your tasks together, it’s time to break them down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals.

As productivity consultant Brian Tracy explains, your monthly list pulls from your master list. Your weekly list pulls from your monthly list. And so on. This way, you know your daily priorities are aligned with your bigger goals.

However, when setting your priorities, try not to get too “task oriented”. Sure, checking items off a list feels good. But you want to make sure you’re prioritizing the more effective work.

When filling out your different lists, remember the Pareto Principle—or, the 80/20 rule—which says that 20% of your efforts tend to produce 80% of your results. Look for those tasks that don’t just get checked off, but that bring you real results.

How to build a planning mind map

How to build a planning mind map

When you first start a project you may want to spend some time brainstorming the main tasks that will make up your work. This will naturally lead you to think of smaller sub-tasks. When you start, you may not know what you want to assign to who or how long each task may take. The first step should be just trying to get a sense for the scope of the project by writing down everything needed.

This is where a project planning mind map really helps.

After you finalize your mind map, you can convert it to a Gantt chart or project chart or assign tasks to other people on your team using a Trello integration.

Let’s walk through making the project plan.

Step 1: Identify Your High-Level Priorities

Start by identifying all of the major projects or activities you need to accomplish within a given time frame. We’ll map out a weekly plan for this example.

It may be difficult to estimate the length of complex task categories like these. Especially if they are dependent on other people completing portions of them. It’s much easier to accurately estimate the length of smaller, simpler subtasks that comprise the major activity categories.

Step 2: Break Complex Tasks into Simpler Tasks

Simply expand your planning map to include all the sub-tasks for each category.

Notice how easy this is to read. It’s clear to anyone, without special training of any kind, how the tasks flow outwardly from the center of the planning map

Step 3: Convert the Planning Mind Map into a Project Chart

You can start with a simple brainstorming outline and end up with a complete project chart

Problems with Probate

Problems with Probate

Many people have heard they should avoid probate, but few understand what probate is and how the process works.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process that wraps up a person’s legal and financial affairs after their death. During the probate process a person’s property is identified, cataloged, and appraised. In addition, probate makes certain any outstanding debts and taxes are paid. It can be a complex process, filled with very specific legal requirements.

For example, if someone dies without a valid will, the probate court sees that the deceased person’s assets are distributed according to the laws of the state.

If someone dies with a valid will, the probate court is charged with ensuring the deceased person’s assets are distributed according to their wishes.

Probate Process

Probate can take a long time — anywhere from a few months to more than a year. If there is a will, and one or more of the heirs chooses to contest the document, the process can take a lot longer.1

Probate can be expensive. Even though probate costs are capped in some provinces they may reach 5% or more of the estate’s value. That’s calculated on the gross value of the estate — before taxes, debts, and other expenses are paid. And if the probate process is challenged, the legal costs can rise.2

Finally, probate takes place in a public court. That makes everything a matter of public record; there is no privacy. Anyone who wants to can find out exactly what was left behind (and how much each of a deceased person’s heirs received) and can review the court records for the deceased person’s estate.

Those who have concerns for their heirs’ privacy may want to take steps to manage the probate process.

Every estate passes through probate following the owner’s death. Probate can be a public process that exposes all your assets, or it can be managed to include as little information as possible. When preparing your estate documents, consider how you want the courts to handle your personal finances after your passing.

Property That Avoids Probate

Some assets can be structured so they may not have to go through probate. Here’s a partial list:

  • Property held in a trust
  • Jointly held property (but not common property)
  • Death benefits from insurance policies (unless payable to the estate)
  • Property given away before you die
  • Retirement accounts with a named beneficiary

1,2. Nolo.com, 2018

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by Exceedia Consulting Ltd to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2018 Exceedia Consulting Ltd

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Spotting Credit Trouble

Spotting Credit Trouble

Spotting Credit Trouble

Canadian households with credit card balances owe an average $1.70 for every dollar of income he or she earns per year, after taxes.

The wise use of credit is a critical skill in today’s world. Used unwisely, credit can rapidly turn from a useful tool to a crippling burden. There are a number of warning signs that you may be approaching credit problems:

  1. Have you used one credit card to pay off another?
  2. Have you used credit card advances to pay bills?
  3. Do you regularly use a charge card because you are short on cash?
  4. Do you charge items you might not buy if you were paying cash?
  5. Do you need to use your credit cards to buy groceries?
  6. Are you reluctant to open monthly statements from creditors?
  7. Do you regularly charge more each month than you pay off?
  8. Do you write checks today on funds to be deposited tomorrow?
  9. Do you apply for new credit cards so you can increase borrowing?
  10. Are you receiving late and over-limit credit card charges?

It is important to recognize the warning signs of potential credit problems. The quicker corrective action is taken the better. Procrastinating is almost a sure way to guarantee that you may face financial difficulty down the road.

  1. Bankofcanada.ca, 2018

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by Exceedia Consulting Ltd to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2018 Exceedia Consulting Ltd

Planning for Special Needs Children

Planning for Special Needs Children

It has been said that the best inheritance we can give our children is a few minutes of our time every day. It’s also true, though, that our children will not always have us in their lives.

Children with special needs may require lifetime assistance, which can necessitate that parents prepare for their child’s care after they are gone, or are unable to care for him or her any longer.

Envisioning a Life Without You

Parents have to think about the potential needs of their surviving child. Will he or she requires daily custodial care? Ongoing medical treatments? Will their child live alone or in a group home? Can family assume some of the care? Answers to these and other questions can help form the vision of what may need to be done to plan for your child’s care.

Planning Your Estate

Supporting lifetime needs can outstrip your resources. One funding resource is government benefits, which your child may qualify for when he or she becomes an adult, e.g. AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped). Because such government programs have low asset thresholds for qualification, you may want to consider whether to make property transfers to your special needs child. Ensure you have an up-to-date will that reflects your wishes. Consider creating a special needs trust, the assets of which can be structured to fund your child’s care without disqualifying him or her from government assistance.

Involve the Family

All affected family members should be involved in the decision-making process. You will want a united front of surviving family members to care for your child after you’ve passed.

Identify a Caregiver

In order for caregivers to make financial and healthcare decisions after your child reaches adulthood, the caregiver must be appointed as guardian. This can take time, so contemplate starting early. Consider a “Letter of Intent” to the caregiver and family to express your wishes, along with information about your child’s care. This isn’t a legal document, but it may help to communicate your desires. Store this letter alongside your will in a safe place. Planning for a special needs child can be complicated, confusing, and even overwhelming. Be sure to work with qualified professionals to help you navigate the myriad considerations that come with this challenge.

  1. Using a trust involves a complex set of tax rules and regulations. Before moving forward with a trust, consider working with a professional who is familiar with the rules and regulations

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by Exceedia Consulting Ltd to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright 2018 Exceedia Consulting Ltd.

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