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August 2008 - Issue 75
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BBB, Better Business Bureau

An Export Minute

It's A Hold Up!

When bringing goods into Canada, importers are always best advised to check with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) before engaging in an import. CBSA can verify for you any regulatory issues surrounding your product and advise you of any permit or certificate requirements that may be necessary to clear your goods at the border.

Although this verification is a key step in evaluating and planning an importing endeavour in the start-up phase, businesses should not discount the importance of regularly checking with CBSA. CBC recently reported on a small coffee business in Ontario that, having no previous issues with their coffee imports, had their shipment held at port for nearly a month. This was due to new regulations for CBSA that require marine containers to be examined and tested for formaldehyde. Although the company felt their shipment was an unlikely candidate for the chemical, the company's products were still held for inspection at the border.
(See the CBC coverage for more information on this particular issue.)

While frustration often peaks when goods are delayed at the border, importers and exporters should be aware that CBSA enforces over 80 acts, which are initiated by various government bodies. Should CBSA indicate that your import could be subject to the regulations of a government agency or department, such as Health or Environment Canada, it is imperative that you monitor relevant regulations that could affect your shipments. This pertains not only to the goods you're bringing across the border, but also to changes in the packaging and labelling requirements for shipments.

Keeping on top of regulatory changes can have a huge impact on the success of your import and ultimately your bottom line. The loss of a shipment of perishable items can have enough of a negative impact to destroy a small business, while a delay in inventory can damage customer confidence in your business's ability to deliver. Having a response plan allowing you to react to delays, which do happen, will help to reduce the potential impact that hold ups can have on your operations. However, planning ahead and checking regularly with CBSA will help you to mitigate a number of the risks associated with importing before they negatively affect your business.

For further details on Canada Border Services Agency as well as import/export regulations and procedures, please contact our International Business team at 1-800-272-9675.

E-Future Bytes

Don't Forget E-business When Doing Your Planning

In today's technological world, an E-business strategy needs to be integrated into your general business plan right from the start. When writing your business plan, consider how you can incorporate e-business technologies in key areas of your business. How can you use the Internet as a marketplace, a communications tool and a method to reduce cost and inefficiencies and improve revenue?

Your planning goal should be to produce a solid document for your business that you can review and update regularly that includes an e-Business model. Planning is crucial if you do not want to lose time and money when you start your business. Plus, a thoughtful plan could facilitate financing of it.

Resource Feature

Getting With The Plan

"Businesses do not plan to fail… but they often fail to plan."

Planning is an activity which is essential for success at every stage of operating a business. From the business plan created prior to start-up - to the strategic, operational, and marketing plans done in the course of running the business - to the planning of business succession or sale of the business - well-informed and thorough planning is often the deciding factor between success and failure.

The Business Link Library offers many books and other useful information on all types of planning for small business. It's all available to you free-of-charge, and can also be borrowed for reading at home with our library card ($12 per year).

Here's some good basic online information on various kinds of planning for business.

Free online tools for business planning from Canada Business:

Interactive Business Planner
Business Start-up Assistant
Starting A Business

Sources for free sample business plans, outlines and guidance

Business Plans Handbook /Gale (online version - Vol.1-11, for Vol. 12 & 13, call us)

Business Plans & Profiles /Carnegie Library

Centre for Business Planning
includes sample plans and articles

Business Plans/Entrepreneur Magazine

U.S. Small Business Adminstration:
free online courses
planning guides

The Business Link website:
Business Plan for Retailers
Business Plan for Small Service Firms
Business Plan for Small Construction Firms
Business Plan for Small Manufacturers


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Latest from the Link

August is always a good time of year to do planning--whether it's getting ready for a busy school year, preparing to manufacture new products or getting a retail business ready for the holiday gift-giving season. Our issue this month will focus on various aspects of planning for business whether startup, expansion, marketing or export. You can plan to improve your business skills at the training sessions we offer this Fall.

Two New Seminar Series

The Business Link is pleased to be offering two new industry-focused seminars: Arts and Culture Business Start-up and the Agriculture Info Series.

The Arts and Culture Business Start-up Series is supported by the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. There will be three Brown Bag Sessions commencing on Tuesday, September 16 with Breaking Into the Music Industry, followed by Starting a Studio Craft Business on October 21 and Get Writing! Get Published! on November 18. So, if you are into music, crafts or writing, you will want to take in one of these sessions.

The Agriculture Info Series also consists of three Brown Bag offerings. In Behind the Scenes at Alberta's AG-Info Centre September 25, find out who's who in the Centre and the specific services they provide. The Centre's Rob Spencer will be doing the presentation.

Staying on Top of Provincial & Federal Agriculture Grants, October 23 is a must for anyone in the business of agriculture. In this session, Ted Nibourg of the AG-Info Centre will explain current government policies on financial support and identify the main programs and how to find out more about funding.

In Keeping the Tax Man Off the Farm, November 27 you will learn how to minimize tax liabilities to reduce taxes now and how astute succession planning can reduce taxes in the future. Merle Good, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development, will be presenting.

For more information on our Seminars and Brown Bag Sessions this Fall, see the Around Alberta and Aboriginal Circle columns below.



Mark Your Calendar - Events

Events at The Business Link

Our new season of seminars and brown bag lunch sessions will begin on Tuesday September 2, 2008. Details will be posted on our website by the end of the month. If you are on our mailing list you will receive a print copy. To add your name to our mailing list, give us a call or stop by our office in Calgary or Edmonton.


Networking Events and Organizations

The Business Link will begin our new season of networking events starting Tuesday, September 16 at 2:30 PM.

Around Alberta

Fall 2008 Small Business Presentations

Whether you are an established business owner or just embarking on your entrepreneurial journey, The Business Link's upcoming season of Small Business Seminars and Brown Bag presentations has something for you! The Fall season begins Tuesday, September 2 with the first offering in our Trade Tuesday series, Importing Documentation and Procedures. Presented in partnership with the Canada Border Services Agency, these afternoon sessions are free-of-charge, however registration is required.

New this season is the Arts and Culture Business Start-up Series and the Agriculture Info Series--see details above in Latest from the Link.

The Brown Bag season commences Thursday, September 4 with E-Business Considerations. The month will feature a total of seven Brown Bags, including the French session, Le Marketing sur Internet on Tuesday, September 30. Brown Bags are free of charge and are held from 12:00 noon until 1:00 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays. Seminar season gets underway Wednesday, September 10 with Web 2.0 Marketing Answers. Other seminars for September include: Financing Your Business - Are you Ready? and Do-It-Yourself Incorporation. The season consists of 15 seminars and over 20 Brown Bag presentations. Offerings for each month will be posted in E-News!

If you would like a copy of the brochure, please send us your name mailing and e-mail address to All sessions will be held at The Business Link in Edmonton and Calgary, with most sessions being offered in regional sites via video conferencing by members of the Entrepreneurship Learning Centre Network. See the ELC website to find a location near you.

The Business Link's Border Session

Beyond Borders USA
Beyond Borders USA is a two-day seminar consisting of key speakers, focused workshops, networking opportunities, and a trip to the Canada/U.S. border for our popular tour of the Coutts border crossing facility — all designed to assist companies with entering and navigating the U.S. market while accurately portraying the challenges inherent to doing business in the country. The event will focus on engaging the U.S. market to conduct business, and provide discussion on how Canadian companies can remain competitive in light of the strong Canadian dollar and the state of the current U.S. economy. Beyond Borders USA will offer a venue for companies and service providers to better understand how the U.S. market can play a role within their business strategies.

For more information and to register, visit our website at or contact The Business Link.

Wednesday, September 24 & Thursday, September 25
Various Presenters

Fee (non refundable): $100.00 + GST = $105.00 (includes both days, meals and transportation from Calgary to Lethbridge and Coutts)

Early Bird Special! - Registration prior to August 15th: $75.00 + GST= $78.75 (includes both days, meals and transportation from Calgary to Lethbridge and Coutts)

Training at Community Futures Development Corporations in Alberta

For business training in your region, check the website of the Community Futures Development Corporation in your area. You can find the websites listed by name and location in The Business Link Regional Sites Directory.

Aboriginal Business Circle

Aboriginal Awareness Training

This three hour session is an addition to our regular seminars this year. The session will provide resources and techniques for breaking down barriers, enhance awareness of Aboriginal relationship practices and aid in developing culturally friendly environments in organizations. This session will be presented by Dan Martel, Four Winds & Associates, Wednesday October 1, 1:00-4:00 PM.


Business Feature
Planning Hints - The Little Things

Many Entrepreneurs understand the importance of a business plan, a budget, and any of the common planning tools utilized by small businesses. But what about those little things that often get overlooked and can dramatically effect your operations? Here are a few hints for planning for those overlooked elements.

Plan for the small stuff - It may not be something you do every day, maybe just once a year. But make sure you think about the little things that can have a big impact on your business, like filing your Annual Return. Different from your corporate tax returns, the Annual Return is a simple one-page form letting the government know you are still alive and kicking. However, if you forget this, you will get a letter of dissolution of your company in the mail, and have to deal with the hassles and expenses of reviving your corporation. The same goes for any changes of directors or address - report these to the government to stay out of trouble!

Plan for unexpected expenses - When you are making your budget and planning your expenses, you need to think outside the physical operations of your company. Are you hiring employees and taking into account your contribution to their EI and CPP? Have you planned out a payment schedule for supplies and taken into consideration possible late payment charges? Have you seriously considered what marketing your product or service may actually cost? If you can plan for unexpected expenses, you will be better prepared when they arrive on your door step.

Plan for the hard times - What if your product isn't successful or you don't make profit in your first years? You may think you have the best thing since sliced bread, but do your customers? Planning for 'failure' forces you to anticipate roadblocks and adapt to the customers needs. Not only will this stimulate creativity, but if sales are not going your way, you have a strategy to apply to turn it around.

Unexpected forces of nature - Are you prepared if lightning literally strikes? Defining what areas of your business are susceptible to natural risks and disasters can help you effectively prepare for any turn of events. Don't let Mother Nature dictate the success of your company.

Don't stop the planning! - There is a lot of planning required to start your small business, but many entrepreneurs forget about planning once they are up and running. Don't let the everyday operations of your small business detract you from your future goals - revisit your startup plans for evaluation, and make weekly, monthly and yearly plans and goals to keep you company growing and building a strong future.

Be Aware

We hear about trends daily whether they are economic, political, social, stock market, technological or other. Future Watch is all about trends and innovation - important elements in business planning.

Benefits to awareness of trends, especially in your industry, include: maintaining appropriate staffing (planning for more staff at busier times of the year), carrying a good mix of inventory, making the right buying decisions (major purchases may be put off if the trends indicate that a slump in the industry is coming), and choosing the best suppliers and knowing when particular products are being phased out or new product lines are being considered.

How do I get a handle on where to find trend information? There are several sources: libraries, newspapers, magazines, industry associations, your customers, and suppliers. They all can contribute to your understanding of what is affecting you and your competitors.

Examples of specific sources include the online Canadian Business article 7 Trends Fueling the Most Business Opportunities, reports from Statistics Canada and community reports on Alberta First. The economic development office for your community or region may also have pertinent information.

Putting a system in place to collect and analyze trend gathering will help identify changes that will impact industry and your business. Analysis, whether done formally or informally, can assist the entrepreneur with plans to overcome obstacles and innovate to take advantage of trends.

Time management plays a part in how you, as the business owner, can read and synthesize the information you are receiving into something that is useful to you. You will need to assess whether a particular trend will affect your business. Talking to others in your industry could be helpful. Tips on how to keep up with what's happening that can affect you are available on the Trendwatching web site as well as other current information.

The Business Link Library
has a pathfinder--Business and Consumer Trends--that can be sent out or picked up. It has specific resources that could help you on your way to having a better handle on the shifting nature of your market and allow you to make informed decisions about your business.

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