True Patriot Love

What a time to be Canadian, eh? Our rowdy neighbours to the south are not only putting on a spectacle, but they’re also giving us one more reason to be feeling proud and patriotic.

All this crazy American fanfare has truly made me more grateful than ever to be Canadian—but I’ve always tended to favour our home and native land over world domination.

Over the years, as I’ve launched multiple businesses in this market, I’m often asked why I build companies directly targeted at Canadian consumers. Most of my brands have been by Canadians for Canadians with little opportunity (or interest) in expanding over the border.

It has been more of a personal decision than a business one, based on my philosophy around building brands and cultures. I don’t need to be a “unicorn” (VC speak for a $1B plus venture). To me, success is building a sustainable business, that becomes a brand cherished by consumers and an organization where employees get as much as they give, and therefore love to work at. And I certainly don’t need 300 million potential customers to achieve that. The size of the Canadian market, coupled with the generally positive and welcoming attitude of its constituents, is just fine by me, thank you very much.

And I know I’m stating the obvious to my fellow Canucks, but there are a few tried-and-true Canadian-isms that have served me well, both professionally and personally (and perhaps that internet troll of a US President-elect might consider trying them):

Being nice is always the right thing. Nice guys may sometimes finish last, but they sleep better at night.

Saying sorry is a good thing. Even if you’re just saying it to keep the peace.

Diversity is not only nice to have, it’s a must-have. It makes the world go round. It makes us and our children more empathic, engaging, and enlightened. It is something to be leveraged not limited.

And finally, size matters, but big isn’t always better. What you do with smaller budgets can be more creative and profound than unlimited funds. Doing amazing things for the Canadian economy, local workers and minority groups can be a lot more meaningful than riding the wave in Silicon Valley and owning your own emu. (I don’t know why I said that, but really rich people tend to do really weird things.)

Anyway, that’s my two cents, or should I say toonie, on living (and loving) this True North, strong and free.

What Was I Thinking?

By Joanna Track

I love starting businesses. Yes, I do. While some people find that less palatable than root canal, for me, the inception is my sweet spot (see what I did there?). And the recent launch of my latest brain child, The Bullet, makes it my fourth time at this particular rodeo.

While I’ve relished in the adrenaline rush I get from developing the idea, bringing my team together (I’ve already got two Sweetspot alum back in the fold!), and breathing life into the concept, I can admit that there are moments when the words “What was I thinking???” are raging through my head (usually at 3am).

This is the voice inside of me that rolls all of my fears and insecurities into one lovely giant ball of anxiety. This is also the voice of the skeptics and naysayers. They (and I) want to know why I would put myself on the line again, take a chance, dance with potential failure, make more work for myself, and so on.

But then the more philosophical, mature self takes over and reminds me exactly what I was thinking, and feeling, when I decided to give it another shot (see what I did there?). And that is…

  • I needed to feel the love, again – While I’ve met some great people and done interesting work over the last three years at Good Eggs & Co., at times I felt like the overqualified water girl – very supportive, but not part of the action. I needed to flex my creative muscle and get back in the game!
  • I wanted to practice what I preach – I’ve spent over a decade building content platforms and strategies both for my own brands and for clients. I tell people that content development is not easy, but it’s simple. What does that mean? It means it’s not rocket science, but requires dedication, commitment and passion for a subject. So consider developing The Bullet kind of like a dare, to myself.
  • I like to be uncomfortable (for those of you who missed it, I came to this realization a while back). When I started Sweetspot I had never worked in digital or publishing, so I learned it. Now I find myself writing about the news. And I mean WRITING about the news. While I have an incredible team, I’m deeply involved. Why is this uncomfortable? Because I spent the early part of my life getting degrees and jobs that limited my requirement to string a sentence together (that may seem like an odd reason to major in mathematics, but it’s true).
  • I like to make things simple – in all of my businesses (and my experience as a tutor, and teacher) I find great joy in taking information and dishing it out in a fun, accessible and, hopefully, enjoyable way for my students/clients/friends. Think of it as part of my personal brand.

So here I am. Now I get up at 5:45am to watch and read the news, edit copy, update HTML, and send the Daily Bullet into the world. Could it be a colossal failure? Possibly. But I’ll survive. I’m still here, aren’t I?

 

5 Simple Steps for Putting Passion Back Into Your Business

By David Lester, Financial Coach & Good Eggs Ambassador

After working on your own business for a few years it’s easy to forget why you got into it in the first place.  Years of working all hours, passing on dinners out with friends or family time, and always being “on” it’s easy to lose some of your momentum.   But what’s a better cure for a lack of momentum than passion?  It’s what got you to start your business in the first place and can get you the “Go Go” juice to help you take it to the next level.  Here are FIVE ways you need to honestly ask yourself to bring your momentum back five fold.  Go grab and pen and paper and work through these questions with me.  I’ll wait for you to get a pen.  Ready?  Let’s get it.

  1. What will your ULTIMATE business look like when you have crafted it to perfection?  Will it generate millions of dollars?  Will you sell it off for millions of dollars?  Do you want it to be an annuity and be able to sip Bahama Mama’s by the beach while you business is on autopilot with a well trained staff?  How many people will it employ?  Describe it in colourful detail and feel your motivation coming back.  How much will you pay yourself and what level of revenue do I need to hit to be able to get that level of income or valuation to sell it for millions?!
  2. Why do you want that perfect business?  Is it to provide for your loved ones and family?  Is it to make a name for yourself in your chosen industry?  Is it to provide security for the future?  Ask yourself if you had your business in its perfect form, what would you really have?  Wisdom? Security? Freedom? More time to love your family? Education? A sense of peace? Is it something else?  Whichever value word gives you “sparks” when you read it, that’s why you are working on your business. Write the word on a business card and when you open your wallet it should always be there to remind you what is behind your passion and to keep going!
  3. What do you have to do next?  Find an open boardroom or move everyone off a big table at Starbucks (I do this all the time) and start plotting where you want to go with your business.  Take five pieces of paper and write “Year One, Two, Three, Four and Five” across the top of the paper.  Now take the piece of paper with “Year Five” on the top of it and write what you want your business to look like then.  What are your sales?  What are you selling and the break down?  What customers do you have?  Work backwards through the next five years.  It will train your brain what you have to do next to get your business firing on all cylinders.
  4. Budgeting for your success.  The three ways that companies fail are 1. Running out of money 2. Running out of money, or 3. Running out of money.  So don’t run out of money!  To reach your next level of success go through your expenses and cut anything that isn’t necessary.  Do you have lots of overheard?  Move to a cheaper place.  Do you have an expensive car that you don’t really need?  Get a one that does the same job but costs less or take the ever so efficient metro!  Are there ways to barter your services for other services?  Try to run your business for free and bank all of your savings.  There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you have an account for of cash for slower times.
  5. Put your Plan in Action!  Believe it or not after working through these questions with me you not only have a renewed passion BUT also have a new plan to implement.  Evaluate your plan with these final questions to work out the kinks.
  • Is your plan achievable?
  • Is your plan realistic?
  • Does your plan have a timeline?
  • Is the plan specific?
  • Are you enthusiastic about your plan!?
  • Is the plan natural to you?
  • Does your family know about your plan?
  • Are you ready for the journey?

If you can answer the above questions with solid and confident responses, you are now officially passion packed again.  Go through the questions one more time and make sure you feel the “sparks” of excitement.  Re-ignite your drive and commitment to your business and enjoy the renewed motivation.  Use your passion as your fuel and thrive!

David Lester is a personal finance writer and financial expert. He has written two books, for the Huffington post, and his popular money blog, Iheartmoney.ca. He’s also a repeat guest on CBC, CTV, Breakfast Television and more.  

We’re Living In A Freelance World: Finding The Right Eggs For Your Business

You need more people on your team, so you write a job posting. That’s a great place to start – but wait, don’t post that job yet!

While it’s great to have a concrete sense of what skills and qualifications you’re looking for, there’s a chance you may not need them ALL of the time. I’ve spent the last decade acting as part-time HR resource for businesses that don’t need/want a full-time person, so I know of what I speak (or write).

So how will you know what will work for you?

Some things to consider when deciding whether to hire a full-time employee vs. a contractor or freelancer:

  • Do you have the budget for a full time resource? When you factor in full time salary, benefits, vacation pay and bonus, the cost of a full time employee can be quite high compared to a resource you pay on an ‘as needed’ basis.
  • Do we need a full time resource? Is this really a full time role that you need on a daily basis? Especially in the case of projects or new initiatives, the responsibilities at the outset are often vastly different from the requirements once the new innovation is in place or once you’ve reached a certain milestone in the project. In the case that there are some initial responsibilities that are highly specialized and strategic, it’s best to use a freelance resource for those responsibilities, then hire full time talent to handle the day-to-day requirements for the project or role.

Are there really high quality people who are consulting and freelancing?

Definitely. Flexible approaches to work are increasing in popularity. There are a growing number of professionals who seek more variety in their careers, want to have multiple streams of income and/or want to have more work/life balance. You can find more tactical resources, like designers and web developers, and even senior strategic ones, like Controllers and CMO’s.

Is ‘fit’ still important?

Not to the same extent as when you’re hiring a full time employee and you need them to be a ‘fit’ for your culture. But, ‘yes’ in terms of this person being an extension of your organization. It’s likely that in his or her role the consultant is dealing with third party vendors, clients and suppliers on your behalf and so it’s crucial that they conduct themselves in a way that is consistent with your brand and culture. You also want to make sure they work well with your team and don’t negatively impact any of your employees.

When it comes to staffing, you want to find good eggs you just may not need them living in your hen house.

Sari Friedman is a Human Resources Consultant and Coach who specializes in offering high-quality, sophisticated HR support and guidance.

Marketing Math: It’s Not Rocket Science

I know for many math feels just as daunting as rocket science (and more painful than root canal), but when it comes to making investment decisions for your business it all comes down to numbers.

I often have the same chicken and egg discussion (I’m saving the egg jokes for later) with a client. It goes something like this:

GE: “What’s your budget?”

CLIENT: “I’m not sure…you tell me how much it will cost”.

GE: “Do you have a range? Marketing budgets can vary greatly depending on your revenue and needs”

CLIENT: “How ‘bout you just tell me how much it will cost?”

GE: “Ok, it will cost $X”

CLIENT: “WTF? That’s way too much, I was thinking of spending $1500”.

Ok, I may be exaggerating, but you get the point.  And I’m not trying to be a math snob (yes, I did get a BA in Mathematics), but it’s really quite a simple equation. If you have certain goals for your business — grow revenue by 10%, get 1,000 new customers, increase site traffic by 20% — then, unless you are the rare but fortunate soul who comes up with some shocking and witty viral video, you most likely need to spend proportionately to reach your goals. So how much is that?

While everyone has different goals, and different measures for success, there are a few guidelines you can use to determine how much to spend and/or if you’re spending appropriately.

I came up with this handy dandy example to demonstrate. For the purpose of this illustration, I’ve made the assumption that “success” is a 4:1, or 400% ROI. This is based simply on what we’ve seen as an average expectation across the brands and businesses we’ve worked with.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 11.51.41 AM

Of course, you can adjust the revenue and/or the growth target and/or the ROI but the outcome is the same. You get what you pay for (I’m pretty sure my fellow good egg Lori said a version of that last month). Put another way, you get out what you put in. That may be money, or time, or resources. It may be hard costs like creative development, media space or swag, or the addition of a member of the team; but whatever it is, I can assure you you will not reached the promised land without some skin in the game.

Do you love math now too? If you want to play with the numbers just like me, send me an email and I’ll send you my handy dandy spreadsheet.

Going Down the Ecomm Road: 5 Things You Need To Know

When thinking about an ecommerce venture, many entrepreneurs focus most or almost all of their time and energy on the product(s) they intend to sell – often neglecting other equally important elements of an ecommerce launch.

Here are our top five critically important to-do’s and considerations before you go down that road…

  1. Clearly Define Your Goals. Ask yourself: are you launching an online store to build on an already established bricks and mortar location, or is it to be a standalone business? Are you building an online business that is intended to compete with the Net-A-Porters of the world or do you have something a little more modest in mind? Who is your target audience? The answers to these and other similar questions will help you set realistic growth targets – and will also help you set your expense budget (yes, you need a budget).
  1. You Can’t Really Build a Great Website for Nothing. Yes, it’s true – these days you can put up a website very quickly and inexpensively. But the old adage is also true – you get what you pay for. You don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune to build a website, but the more customized the site and the functionality you need, the greater the cost. Best to put together a wish list of features, and prioritize them in order of importance. You may find that, due to budget constraints, some of the desired features are not feasible at the outset – but depending on the versatility of the platform, they can very likely be built in at a later date (when budgets permit!).
  1. Don’t Underestimate Your Other Startup Costs. There are many expenses relating to the launch of an ecommerce business and many entrepreneurs often don’t budget for them. Here are some of these costs to keep in mind:  branding, graphic design, photography and video, content creation (social media, blogging, etc), technology (hosting, hardware, software), payment processing, packaging and more. It isn’t necessarily required that you spend a mint on any of these things, but they should all be factored into your budget. A well-defined set of goals will also go a long way in helping you figure out how best to allocate your budget among these costs.
  1. Marketing is Critical. Many seem to be of the view that ‘If I Build It, They Will Come’.But this is most definitely not true. It is critical to develop a marketing plan and put the right resources and budget behind it. Generating awareness and driving traffic to your site, leads to sales; but only a small percentage of people who visit ecommerce sites convert to customers. So you’ll need to drive lots (and lots) of traffic to your site – on an ongoing basis – to generate and grow your sales. Here too you don’t necessarily need to spend a fortune, but you do need some budget. And even more importantly, you need resources to market your site – through various channels on a frequent and regular basis.
    5. You Can’t Do it All! Consider all of the skills and resources that you have at your disposal and what you will need to launch and manage your ongoing business. Do you have the skills or resources to look after technology, marketing strategy and execution, finance, logistics, etc? If not, you’ll need to figure out how to fill the gaps. Not to worry though – you won’t necessarily need to hire a large, full time staff. In many cases, the gaps can be filled by part time or contract experts – like us!

Four Email Newsletters I’m Reading (and Loving) Right Now

Rumours that “email is dead” have been greatly exaggerated.  Email marketing is alive and well, thank you very much.  According to Marketing Sherpa, 72% of consumers say that email is their favoured form of communication and 61% say they like to receive promotional emails weekly.  Go email!

Remember Sweetspot.ca, that pretty little pink email that could?  I fell in love with email as a medium back in 2004, and I’m just as committed as ever.  Not just as a marketer, but as a consumer.

Here are some of the emails I’m currently devouring and why:

Lenny – the latest creative outlet for Girls creator Lena Dunham and her producer/friend, Jenni Konner.  This long format email goes deep on feminism, friendship, politics and more.  I love girls who support girls, and especially ones that do it smartly and with a sense of humour.

Need 2 Know – I was a fan of The Skimm until I was introduced to Need2Know.  It’s the shorter, little less silly version, dishing world news into 10 quick digestible bits, 5 days a week.  In their words, it’s “news over easy” and let’s face it, the news is so dark these days it’s easier to take it in small bites.

Vogue – I’ll admit it, they get me every time with their catchy headlines and their simple, yet sexy photos.  “Is 30 minutes a week enough for a better body?”  I didn’t know, but I found out.  And I now know the only 12 beauty products I need for 2016 (what will I do with the other few dozen in my closet?).  It’s a simple formula that they repeat over and over but it works.  And as glam as Vogue is, they keep the emails clean, simple and consistent, and I just keep on clicking.

Really Good Emails – need I say more?  Seriously, it’s an email that showcases really good emails and best practices for email marketing.  Their website is also a great resource for creative inspiration, breaking emails out by categories such as Transactional, Customer Service, Welcome and more.  And if you think your emails are publicity worthy, you can submit yours to be included.  How’s that for some good email love?