Two similar and occasionally underrated tools for business are remote control of other devices and screen sharing. Screen sharing is a critical tool, not just for one-way meetings and presentations, but also for interactive collaboration among colleagues in different locations. Remote control is useful not only for troubleshooting and technical support, but also as a convenient way of using multiple separate computers or devices from a single workstation, regardless of where the computers are physically located.
In the screen-sharing camp, tools such as GotoMeeting, join.me and Skype for Business are also popular. For remote control, in addition to built-in or bundled options such as Windows Remote Desktop, Chrome Remote Desktop, and Mac OS X Screen Sharing, more feature-rich or cross-platform tools are also available, such as various VNC-based tools like RealVNC.
TeamViewer includes both functions, and supports a wide range of platforms, including Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Chrome OS on the desktop, and Android, iOS, Windows and BlackBerry on mobile. This app is free for non-commercial use such as family and friends; one-time commercial licences start at CDN$759.
Scanner by JotNot Pro
Ever want to make a copy of a client quote or a sales document while at a remote location but had no photocopier or scanner with you? For simple tasks, the built-in camera app and email might be sufficient to snap a picture and send it by email. A dedicated scanning app, such as Scanner by JotNot Pro, may offer features like cropping and image processing to tidy up the picture and then save it as a PDF or JPEG.
Once the scan is complete you can send it off by email or into iCloud, Dropbox or a number of other storage facilities. The software allows you to password-protect files, sort data by name or date or rename or delete files on your smartphone.
By importing a Word or PDF document into your smartphone and entering the fax number, a fax can be sent to any U.S. or Canadian fax number by simply tapping the Send icon.
Consider a video conferencing app for your business.
Video and voice conferencing are useful business tools to connect colleagues, vendors and clients. Skype allows for video and audio communication and is widely available on nearly any platform including desktop operating systems, mobile devices, and even Xbox consoles.
Skype for Business (formerly Lync), however, is an internal business communications tool, generally for medium or large-sized companies, that now comes bundled with Microsoft Office 365.
Many other video conferencing apps can be considered for your business. Apple’s Facetime, included for free on Apple’s devices, may be suitable if most of the people you work with primarily use iOS or a Mac. Unfortunately, Facetime is not cross-platform compatible. Google Hangouts is a free Google platform alternative which, in addition to Android, is also available for iOS and most computers via a web browser.
Although fully functioning spreadsheet apps such as Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers or Google Sheets can handle more than just margins and taxes. For quick answers to relatively simple problems, an app such as iMargin (iOS), or Margin Markup Calculator (Android) might suit your purpose.
The software instantly calculates the markup or margin to keep a reasonable profit when negotiating the sale. If you want to determine a markup based on a selling price, enter the cost and the selling price, and the markup amount and percentage are displayed. Selling to a foreign entity? Some apps offer an upgrade for an additional fee to include a currency converter, although there is always the free option to convert currency via a separate app.
Big fingers, little keyboard, make typing, dragging or accessing items on your smartphone a productivity nightmare. Enter AirDroid 3, an app that allows access to everything on your Android phone through your Windows or Mac computer or web browser.
The free app can be enhanced with other features such as unlimited file transfer by remote transfer with one GB for Windows or Mac and 100 MB with Web. You also have the ability to connect six devices to the software using one AirDroid account. The app also allows you to see through the lens of your camera remotely and will take pictures of individuals attempting to unlock your smartphone. And it also permits dialing phone numbers remotely from the Web and talking on the phone. The premium app costs US$1.99 per month or US$19.99 annually.
If you use an iOS device and a Mac, there is no need for an app like AirDroid since many of those capabilities are already included for free, such as Handoff, AirDrop, AirPlay and iCloud.
Android Device Manager/Find my iPhone
Anyone who has lost their wallet or handbag knows the gut-wrenching panic that sets in knowing the problems that arise with lost identification. Magnify that 100 times when your smartphone, with all client contacts, emails, and calendar data is lost. Both Android Device Manager (for Android devices) and Find my iPhone (for iOS devices) are a free-platform solution. For peace of mind, you should install this app on your smartphone as soon as you get it. Both apps allow you to locate the devices tied to your Google or Apple account, respectively. For a selected device, you can lock the screen (requiring a password), display a message and, if necessary, erase all data on the phone. Both services allow tracking via the app, which is useful if you have another device on the same platform, such as from a tablet; both can also be accessed on a PC via a website.
Because lighting, heating and cooling represent 19%-25% of the cost of operating a commercial business, control of energy costs is essential to improving profit margins. A reduction of even 10% in these costs can produce a significant improvement. But, because Canada is located in a part of the world where temperatures can range from 40C below zero to 35C above, it is inevitably expensive to keep internal temperatures at levels needed to maintain comfortable working conditions through the changing seasons.
Setting the price point for your product or service is not simply the process of determining the cost of production then adding a mark-up. It is more a matter of understanding the price the consumer will accept as the value of your product or service and keeping the costs of production to a level that will give you a profit at that price.
The significant rise in the cost of equipment, vehicles, real estate, and inventory has prompted many businesses to increase business debt. Low interest rates, combined with the ability to obtain larger loans with extended payment terms, have allowed businesses to operate in a “business as usual” mode with less consideration for the actual cost of borrowing.
To give some idea of the effect of even low interest rates on an owner-managed business, the following key elements of most businesses have been put forward as an example of the effect of interest costs on a business. The effect of domestic borrowing has been added to show the full impact of current interest rates on the owner-manager. Since lending rates vary widely depending on a variety of factors such as risk, item to be funded and the term, and are usually negotiated, the interest rates used below have been chosen at random from Internet sources; calculations are approximate and for illustrative purposes only . All loans have been made effective June 1, 2017.
For those already thinking about their 2017 income taxes, the following summarizes some of the changes from 2016.
The use of cut-out and email coupons to create consumer awareness of your business and your products has been around for a long time, but their effect on your revenue and profit is notoriously hard to measure. Some marketers are now hoping to get around this problem by offering WiFi services to their in-store customers to get them to stay within the store environment. This idea is based on the well-tested principle that the longer a person stays in the store, the more likely they are to buy something. In fact, a recent survey has shown that 62% of customers will linger longer in shopping environments that provide free WiFi. The same study showed that half of those customers actually spend more money while they remain in the store.
“The government gave me money back” is a common phrase often heard after the April 30 or June 15 filing deadline. The truth is that the government is not being charitable; it is only refunding the tax that you or your employer had overpaid throughout the year.
Because the rate of tax withheld at source throughout the year may be different than the tax rate applicable to your actual taxable income (after taking into consideration all other income and deductions), you might have remitted more money to Ottawa than was necessary. Your "tax refund" is the difference between your remittances and your actual tax liability.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that, upon filing of their personal income tax returns, people with a lower income will likely receive a tax refund while people with a higher income will usually end up owing tax. This is not necessarily true because the tax refund/liability is not based on your income level but rather on the difference between the remittances paid compared to the actual tax liability.
Fred Tarasoff loves music. In fact, he used to own a record store, but had to go out of business in 1989 in large part because of inventory losses through shoplifting. Then he was assaulted by a shoplifter while he was running a health food store. Since that time, he has devoted himself to researching shoplifting and the retail industry in order to develop training programs to prevent and detect shoplifting. He currently works closely with law enforcement, industry associations and security firms to fight this crime. In the course of this work, Mr. Tarasoff has developed a simple way to calculate the losses suffered from shoplifting.
According to Mr. Tarasoff, even if your business has excellent controls, you can expect losses will approximate 1% of gross sales. Thus, if your retail store sells $600,000 a year, at least $6,000 will be missing from your sales figure. But, if your business does not have good controls, losses could be as high as 8% or $48,000 on $600,000 of gross sales. If your store works on a 20% gross margin your business is out $38,400 (i.e., 80% the sales loss of $48,000).
Liberalisation of Canada's marijuana laws appears to be imminent. The Cannabis Act is currently expected to become law in 2018 and will decriminalize certain activities and make marijuana more widely available under a controlled production, distribution and sales system. Whether or not you agree with the intent of the proposed Cannabis Act , the loosening of the laws governing the sale and use of marijuana raises important questions for businesses regarding health, safety and legal liability.
Most provincial and territorial occupational health and safety regulations require an employer to take all reasonable means to ensure the protection of their workers. The employer also has a reasonable expectation that employees should not be impaired on the job. The question then becomes when are employees impaired and whether, if they believe themselves to be impaired, they are required to inform their employer.
Our need for passwords to access everything in our life has become pervasive. Every agency, every computer, every credit card, every smartphone requires an exponential explosion of letters, numbers, and symbols to secure all information from hackers, whether it is personal data or corporate information.
To complicate matters, it is no longer permissible (or advisable) on many sites to use a simple password that is easy to remember, such as a word or name. Instead you must create a password with numbers, special characters, upper and lower case letters, and a minimum length.
One study suggests the average individual has at least 25 Internet-accessible accounts with passwords, while other sources suggest that number could be substantially higher. Is it any wonder that most individuals will, whenever possible, assign the same password to as many accounts as they can? Hackers know this and once they compromise one account, it often doesn’t take long to gain access to your other accounts.
Use Different Passwords
The best means of protecting your personal information is to use a different, unguessable password for every account. Most password management software includes the ability to generate passwords, and then store them for you. The beauty of using a password manager is that you only have to remember one password to access all of the passwords you need to remember.
High-end password managers support multiple languages and are able to tie in passwords with hundreds of websites. Two-factor authentication is usually required (and should be!) to protect data in the event someone finds your password and logs in on your device or tries to log in on a new device that is not registered.
Setting up a password management app generally requires you to download and install the software and add browser extensions for each browser you use. If you use multiple devices, you will need to load the app on each one. To set up an account, you will use your email address and will need to come up with a master password or passphrase (i.e., one long, hard-to-guess password to rule them all).
One primary password gives you access to all your passwords.
After creating the master password comes the arduous task of entering data about the various accounts or sites you need to access.
Some password managers will import your user names, auto fill standard information, and pull passwords from your existing browsers, although, if you haven’t saved the passwords in the browser, the data will have to be entered manually. The password manager will typically assess the strength of your current password, and prompt you to generate a new, stronger password (typically at least 16 characters) for that site. Experts also suggest that you revisit your security questions and determine whether you want to change them as an added security measure.
Don’t Forget Your Master Password
Unlike a typical website with a “forgot password?” feature, the master password is often not recoverable in that way. There are very few password manager systems that provide a “hint” to enable you to try to rebuild your password. For most, you will have to start all over and rebuild the passwords for every site and every account keystroke by keystroke. Commit your master password to memory; do not click “remember my password” for your master password; typing it often will help you to remember it.
Most of the providers of password manager software provide free trial subscriptions; several offer a limited version of their software for free, with the ability to upgrade for additional features and support for an annual fee. Freebie options aside, password manager services typically range in price from $20 to $60 annually.
In Case of Emergency …
If a person is incapacitated or dead it will be impossible for someone else to access the accounts. It is important to ensure that the software used provides the ability to set up an emergency contact to inherit your passwords. Some providers allow you to set a waiting period before a trusted individual can access the codes so that the accounts cannot be accessed while you are alive. If someone tries to access your accounts, you will be notified by email. Other providers allow you to designate specific accounts, such as the business account, that can be accessed by specific people, such as your business partner, or to designate personal accounts to a trusted relative or friend.
Large Benefit for Small Cost
Strong passwords are a necessity for everyone, and we all tend to use passwords that are easy to crack; this makes us easy targets for nefarious people looking to steal our information, money or identities. Using a password manager is an inexpensive way of ensuring access to the ever-growing number of sites we must access in our interconnected world while making it difficult for anyone else to gain access to our personal and financial information.
No matter what the economic conditions, some business worries never go away. Here are a few tips on how to handle some of these eternal problems.
Customers will continue to extend payments over 90 days.
Understand your cash flow. At the end of each week, review accounts receivable, and accounts payable and make sure you know what you must pay in withholding taxes. Do not use your source deductions to pay suppliers unless those deductions are actually in the bank. Send requests for funds to suppliers before the end of the month.
Overworked and underpaid will continue to be the mantra.
Learn to pace yourself. Work to make money not save money. Work at what you do best and delegate the rest. Consider that if you work 2,000 hours per year and your business has sales of $400,000, you are effectively generating $200 of revenue per hour. Ask yourself why you are trying to learn how to do something a subcontractor can do in a day.
Maintaining Customer Base
Maintaining clients while working to get new ones is going to be a challenge.
In tough times, even long-time customers may ask you to cut your costs or they may cut back their orders. Review the profit on your best customers, not just their sales volume. Visit the customer and find out their expectations for the coming year. Consider limiting services to marginally profitable customers.
Finding and keeping good employees is never easy.
Older employees may retire and good employees may leave. New, inexperienced employees do not solve short-term problems.
Happy employees are loyal and productive. Be approachable. Let employees tell you what they need. Employees always appreciate a bigger pay cheque, but a good working environment and feeling valued will also go a long way to keeping employees.
The cost of everything will continue to rise.
Capital asset costs, fuel, property taxes, light, heat, power, insurance, and maintenance will continue to rise and put pressure on your cash flow. The same cost pressures will also affect the standard of living of your own family and the families of your employees.
Evaluate all aspects of business costs and perks. Look at discounts, value added and other incentives provided to clients. Review perks to employees and determine whether there are more economical solutions that will retain the good will of the employees but not put more pressure on your cash flow.
Technology and Changing Demands
Keeping up with new developments will be a challenge .
Changes in technology, process, or client needs require training and financing to transition from the tried and true. Budget for the inevitable or you risk being outflanked by the competition.
Social media is changing the entire marketing process.
Marketing and Advertising
Connecting with customers will continue to be a challenge.
Maximizing your brand is difficult at the best of times; unfortunately, social media is making the entire marketing process even more problematic. Analyze your market and decide whether the best way to reach potential customers is: one-to-one contact, social media, online advertising, television, radio, newspapers, or magazines. You may find that more and more dollars have to be spent to create a cross-media presence that provides the same information without any guarantee of a return on investment.
Consider a short-term contract with a marketing specialist to review your company and its client base to help determine the best combination of media to reach your target market. Then, develop a plan to deploy your advertising budget to the appropriate media.
Managing all sectors of the business will continue to be a challenge.
Managing sales, manufacturing, ordering, marketing, human resources and administration as well as dealing with the considerable number of regulatory agencies will continue to become more complex. Trying to do everything yourself will undoubtedly lead to failure in one or more areas.
Control your business by managing rather than doing. Find the best person to run each particular part of the business. Define their responsibilities with a detailed and accurate job description and schedule regular reports. This will enable you to understand what is happening within the organization, solve problems and improve operations. Have faith in your subordinates.
Red tape is and will continue to be the nemesis of small business.
Research suggests that these compliance issues consume eight weeks of employee time per year.
Because collecting and providing information to governments and regulators cannot be avoided, owner-managers should institute in-house procedures and write manuals. Reduce the use of employee time and associated costs by purchasing reporting software. If you do not have in-house expertise, arrange for a third party to prepare regular reports. Filing reports correctly and on time eliminates the cost and stress that follows from non-compliance.
The size and complexity of these and similar issues will move forward in lockstep with the business. Analyzing each potential conflict area and developing a process to stave off potential problems is an excellent offensive tactic that will lessen the cost and uncertainty of moving forward for the balance of 2017 and beyond.