10 ways to be more effective at work

Our friends at Priority Management posted the following article and I though it might be helpful as everyone knuckles down at work for the winter. The original post by John Rampton can be found at http://www.prioritymanagement.com/newsletter/2018_02/effective_0218.php

If you aren’t familiar with Priority Management, it is a worldwide training company with 55 offices in 15 countries. The company says it has successfully trained more than two million graduates — including me! — in its time management workshops. Its programs help companies and people be more effective and manage their workflow in and out of the office by providing tools, processes and discipline.

10 Ways To Be More Effective At Work

We are creatures of habit, and so are our brains. When we establish routines, we can carry out tasks faster since we don’t have to ‘think’ about the task

Regardless of your job or industry, there aren’t always enough hours in the day to get everything done. As a result, you constantly feel like you’re always behind. And that’s just not good for your productivity or your health.

So, what’s the answer? Work more hours?

Not necessarily. As Bob Sullivan explained on CNBC.com, “Research that attempts to quantify the relationship between hours worked and productivity found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours — so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University.”

Instead of putting in those extra hours, you can become more effective at work by focusing on what really matters. And you can get started with that ASAP by following these ten simple tips.

1. Trim the fat

You’ve just been assigned a major project. Naturally your mind is racing with a million different thoughts on where to start and what you’ll need to get the job done on time. As a result, you start creating a to-do-list that is massively bulky.

The problem with these out-of-control to-do-lists is that they’re overwhelming and prevent you from being productive. That’s because you’re multitasking and directing your energy to unimportant tasks and activities.

Instead, keep your to-to-lists lean and mean by only focusing on your 3 to 5 most urgent, important, and challenging tasks for the day, aka your Most Important Task (MIT). Focus on one task at a time before moving on to less critical tasks. When you do, you’ll feel more productive and less anxious.

Lou Babauta of ZenHabits suggests that at least one of your MITs should be related to your goals and you should work on them in the AM Whether if it’s at home or in the office, tackle your MIT first thing in morning.

According to Lou, “If you put them off to later, you will get busy and run out of time to do them. Get them out of the way, and the rest of the day is gravy!”

2. Measure your results, not your time

When it comes to productivity we often focus on how long something takes to complete; as opposed to what we actually accomplished in a day. For example, you just spent four hours writing a 1,000-word blog post. You may be be a bit bummed since that took a nice chunk out of your day.

But, what if you focused on the smaller parts of the blog post? For example, you broke into five 200-word sections, formatted it properly, added headings, ran a spellcheck and added images. Suddenly you realize you actually completed a lot in that timeframe.

In fact, research from the Behance team found “that placing importance on hours and physical presence over action and results leads to a culture of inefficiency (and anxiety).”

“The pressure of being required to sit at your desk until a certain time creates a factory-like culture that ignores a few basic laws of idea generation and human nature: (1) When the brain is tired, it doesn’t work well, (2) Idea generation happens on its own terms, (3) When you feel forced to execute beyond your capacity, you begin to hate what you are doing.”

One way to assist you with measuring results instead of time is by generating done lists. This is simply an ongoing log of everything you completed in a day. By keeping this list you’ll feel more motivated and focused since you can actually see what you accomplished.

Additionally, according to Buffer co-founder Leo Widrich, done lists allow “you to review your day, gives you a chance to celebrate your accomplishments, and helps you plan more effectively.”

3. Have an attitude adjustment

The team over at Mind Tools state that we’re more effective at work when we have a “positive attitude.”

“People with a good attitude take the initiative whenever they can. They willingly help a colleague in need, they pick up the slack when someone is off sick, and they make sure that their work is done to the highest standards.”

And, you’ll never hear them say that their work is “Good enough.” That’s because they go above and beyond.

Furthermore, a good attitude at work will help you set standards for your work, ensure that you’re taking responsibility for yourself, and make decisions easier since they’re based on your intuition. “This admirable trait is hard to find in many organizations. But demonstrating ethical decision-making and integrity could open many doors for you in the future.”

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Regardless if you’re freelancer, entrepreneur, or employee, there will be times when you will have to work with others. As such, you should strengthen your communication and collaboration skills. When you do, you’ll eliminate unnecessary rework and wasted time from straightening out any misunderstandings and miscommunications.

You can start by enhancing your active listening skills and staying on one topic when communicating. For example, when composing an email, keep it short and to point. Don’t throw too much information in the message since it will only confuse the recipient.

5. Create and stick to a routine

“We are creatures of habit, and so are our brains. When we establish routines, we can carry out tasks faster since we don’t have to ‘think’ about the task – or prepare for it – as much, and can work on autopilot,” says Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach, speaker, and author.

For me, I use an online calendar management tool to create and stick to the following routine:
– I wake-up at 5:15 a.m., exercise, shower, get dressed, write and reflect, respond to emails, and set my goals for the day.
– From 630 a.m. to 8 a.m. I work on the hardest and most important tasks of the day.
– Work on my next most important tasks from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.
– Regroup after lunch, which may include a nap.
– Plan for meetings, calls, and distractions from 3 p.m. on.
– 6 p.m. I leave work to relax and spend time with my family.

6. Automate more tasks

Want to the secret of getting more done? Reduce the amount of decisions you have to make throughout the day. That’s why Mark Zuckerberg wore that same outfit for years. Most days he still does. It prevented fatigue. I will say though, I tried this and it was hard on my relationship with my wife. Make sure you find your balance.

“The counterintuitive secret to getting things done is to make them more automatic, so they require less energy,” wrote Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, in the Harvard Business Review.

“It turns out we each have one reservoir of will and discipline, and it gets progressively depleted by any act of conscious self-regulation. In other words, if you spend energy trying to resist a fragrant chocolate chip cookie, you’ll have less energy left over to solve a difficult problem. Will and discipline decline inexorably as the day wears on.”

In other words, build routines and habits so that you’re not deciding. You’re just doing. Hence why Zuck wore the same clothes everyday. By eliminating those silly or frivolous, he could focus all of his energy on more important work decisions.

7. Stop multitasking

We all believe that we’re multitaskers. In fact, humans just aren’t capable of doing multiple things at once.

“People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves,” said neuroscientist Earl Miller. “The brain is very good at deluding itself.”

Instead, we’re simply shifting our attention from one task to another very quickly.

“Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not,” Miller said.

“You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.”

In fact, researchers have found that they can actually see the brain struggling when multitasking.

So the next time you have the urge to multitask, stop. Take a breather and then go back to focus on the one thing that needs to get done right now. Once that’s done, then you can move on to something else.

8. Take advantage of your procrastination

This may sound counterproductive. But, there’s actually a method to the madness here.

According to Parkinson’s Law, which was named after after historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson, “If you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute to do.”

Think about it. You’ve had a deadline at work looming over your head for a month, but you just cranked it during the final week.

This doesn’t give you permission to wait until the 11th hour. It does, according to Thai Nguyen of the TheUtopianLife.com, provide “great leverage for efficiency: imposing shorter deadlines for a task, or scheduling an earlier meeting.”

9. Relieve stress

Since stress can cause physical, emotional, and behavioral problems – which can impact your health, energy, well-being, and mental alertness – it’s no surprise that stress hinders your work performance.

The good news is that you may be able to relieve that workplace stress.

According to the American Psychological Association, “the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby.”

The least effective strategies, however “are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.”

Another effective stress management technique is to increase your control of a situation in advance. You can start by planning tomorrow the night before and sticking to your routine. This way you know what to expect in the morning.

10. Do more of the work you enjoy

Not everyone is privileged enough to do what you love for a living. Even if you are chasing your dreams and following your passions, there will still be tasks you’re not fond of doing. In either case, focus more on the work that you actually enjoy doing.

For example, if you’re a chef, then you obviously have a love for cooking. Instead of spending your days doing administrative tasks, outsource or delegate those tasks so that you can spend more time in the kitchen or at the market finding fresh ingredients.

When you do, you’ll feel more fulfilled, inspired, challenged, and productive.

7 ways to be more successful in 2018

Our friends at BDC have come up with some suggestions to help small businesses be more successful in the new year. We thought you might be interested in hearing about them.

1. Track your cash flow

Making cash flow projections is easy, and you will have a tool to anticipate times when cash will be tight. This allows you to better plan your financing needs.

Use a spreadsheet to record your expected cash inflows and outflows for each week for the next three months. This way you will get a handle on cash coming in from customers versus cash going out for fixed expenses and to suppliers.

If there are weeks where more cash will go out than comes in, it means you need a reserve of working capital. These projections will let you see how much you need.

Update your projections every week with the previous week’s actuals and add another week on a rolling basis. Once you understand the pattern of your cash needs, you can move to updating your spreadsheet on a monthly basis.

2. Get creative in hiring

The growth of Canada’s workforce is slowing, and that means more competition for skilled workers. One talent pool many entrepreneurs overlook is immigrants. It is estimated that immigrants will account for 80% of Canada’s population growth by 2032 — but just 6% of entrepreneurs currently rely on them for skilled labour. Your business may be missing out if you’re not seeking out immigrants and making your workplace more welcoming for them.

Another way to find and keep great people is by offering them more than just a job. Study after study has shown that people want a sense of purpose in their work. Can you infuse your company with a higher purpose, such as greater environmental sustainability?

3. Diversify your business

As you consider the coming year, focus on diversifying your business by finding new customers, opening new markets and adding products to your line-up. Even a modest degree of diversification is associated with superior financial performance, regardless of the size of the business.

4. Up your technology game

There’s lots of talk about artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and big data. It may all seem beyond the reach of smaller businesses. But the reality is that businesses of all sizes can enjoy the benefits of technology, thanks to a new generation of apps that are both low cost and easy to use.

The beginning of the new year is a good time to re-evaluate your technology strategy and assets. What solutions could help you improve your financial management, operations and online marketing?

5. Broaden your export horizons

Nobody knows what the outcome of the NAFTA renegotiation will be. Whatever happens, our neighbour to the south will remain an important market for Canadian goods and services. However, this is a good time to consider other international markets. Many developing countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa are experiencing exceptional growth rates. And Canada has signed a free trade agreement with the European Union that allows 98% of Canadian goods to enter the EU duty-free.

6. Benchmark against the competition

Boosting your company’s productivity will make it more competitive and profitable today while making it stronger to withstand any future downturns. You can start by benchmarking your performance against your competitors. Measuring your productivity level and comparing it with similar businesses in your industry lets you know where you stand. Then you can work on improving by making your business processes leaner and investing in technology and equipment.

7. Energize your sales with content marketing

It’s getting harder to reach your customers with traditional advertising. One solution is to build a community around your brand by becoming the go-to source in your area of expertise. Think about how you can help your customers answer a question, solve a problem or avoid a hassle. It’s not hard — just think about the questions you hear every day. And then start producing helpful content such as blogs, videos, and eBooks. You can use social media and your other marketing to promote your content.

Happy holidays!


Happy holidays to you and yours,
and our best wishes
for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2018!

We would like to thank all of our clients for their business over this past year. We appreciated the opportunity to work with you.

Market Metrics will be closed for the holiday season
from Monday, December 25 through Friday, December 29,
re-opening on Tuesday, January 2.

photo of skaters on Rideau Canal in Ottawa Ontario

Skaters on the Rideau Canal (image courtesy of the City of Ottawa)

5 tech trends that will redefine your business

Information Week says that digital transformation will require fundamental changes to a business. Is your business ready yet? If you’re not thinking about how the following trends affect your business you need to start doing so now.

  • Artifical Intelligence
  • Robotics Process Automation (RPA)
  • Cross-Functional Analytics
  • Mobility
  • Agility

You can see the original Information Week post at:

https://www.informationweek.com/5-tech-trends-that-will-redefine-your-business/d/d-id/1330397?page_number=1

5 D’s of business loans

As we mentioned in our last post, bankers are very cautious when making loans to small businesses — they really want to be confident that your business will be able to make the payments and if not, that they can seize sufficient assets to get their money back.

Our last post discussed how to make bankers feel comfortable by providing them with a solid business plan that presents the financial and non-financial information bankers need to know, although they may not know to ask for it.

But there are other risks too. Here are what is referred to as the “Five D’s of Business Loans”.

Disability usually means that the owner has to work at a reduced level of effort, and maybe can’t work at all. Either way, the business could be jeopardized.

Even worse than disability are drugs, because the best case is that the owner keeps working but squanders the profits on drugs. He/she may become so addicted that he/she takes all of the cash out of the business and liquidates its assets to support his/her drug habit. If the same thing happens with personal assets, there’s nothing left for the bank to seize.

Say a couple who jointly own a business decide to divorce. Usually one keeps the business, and the other wants his/her share of the business as part of the divorce settlement. The big question is where does the spouse who ends up with the business get the cash to buy out the other one? Sadly, business valuators and brokers often see divorcing couples — divorce is a major driver of their business.

Of course, death is tragic on all levels. Bankers aren’t insensitive, but it can mean dealing with an executor who is one of the children of the business owner. It isn’t a rosy prospect for the bank if the kids don’t know anything about the business and its financial affairs.

All of these can lead to default, the banker’s nightmare. There isn’t much you can to do about these risks, except to present yourself as the fine, upstanding citizen that you are, someone who can be trusted to make your loan payments.

How banks look at small-business loan applications

Bankers don’t see themselves as being there to take a risk on your business, so they want to ensure that your small business have the ability to make the payments on your loan.

Based on our experience, this usually means that they check on four basic items before approving your loan. These items might not be done in any particular order, but the process goes something like this.

  • Bankers first assess your specific opportunity and the financial strength of your company – in particular, your cash flow. If you can’t demonstrate strong cash flow they will probably say no right away. Cash flow comes from revenue, so if your company is a pre-revenue start-up or sales are low, you’re probably out of luck. To evaluate your business the bank looks at your past historical, and projected future, financial statements. That’s why you need to provide past financial statements from your accountant, and a business plan with properly-prepared financial projections.
  • Next, it checks for collateral — assets that could be seized if your business goes under. No bank actually wants to seize your assets, because then the bank is stuck with a house/car/boat that it has to sell, and selling it will cost them money and take time. That’s not their business, but it does provide security.This is one of the reasons why the owner has to almost always personally guarantee a loan for a small business – the business itself doesn’t have much in the way of assets. If your personal financial situation is weak or worse, in a mess, you probably won’t get a loan no matter how well everything else checks out. Banks can obtain a comprehensive report on your personal finances in a jiffy, so don’t try to mislead them.
  • Banks will also examine your management team. As the old saying goes, people invest in people. If your team doesn’t have all of the skills to do a good job of executing the business plan, the bank could take a pass on the loan.However, bank loan application forms usually stress financials, not your management team. Attaching your own business plan that profiles your management team, their track record, and their qualifications lets you get this point across.
  • Finally, the bank considers your industry. Some industries – like restaurants – are riskier than others, and the bank can have a policy that it won’t lend to certain types of businesses. Or the bank may be over-invested in some industries and be trying to diversify its portfolio of loans to reduce its overall risk.

So, it’s up to you to explain why your industry is attractive to investors, how you have identified a lucrative opportunity within that industry, why your management team is qualified to seize that opportunity, how you be able to make the payments, and, if all else fails, how you can guarantee the loan. The tried and true way of explaining all this is to have a solid business plan in hand before you apply for a loan. You will still have to fill out the bank’s loan application form, but you can go through your business plan with the loan officer to ensure your business is presented in the best possible light.

Blue Monday? It’s just marketing!

Apparently the third Monday in January is the gloomiest day of the year, named “Blue Monday”.

Marketing fans might be interested to know that Blue Monday — just like Mother’s Day — was originally a marketing tactic.

Created for a British travel company, the date came from an analysis of when people book holidays. Many factors were considered, including weather conditions, debt level, time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and feeling of a need to take action. The third Monday in January is the day when the combined total of these factors were thought to be at the maximum.

Of course, January weather here in Ottawa isn’t always great. But cheer up — Blue Monday is just about somebody trying to sell you a winter vacation. And what’s so bad about that?

Here’s a theme song for today, thanks to CCR: Feelin’ Blue

Are you starting 2017 with the same old resolutions?

Get in better shape. Learn new stuff. Grow your business. Volunteer. Actually take a real vacation. Same old, same old. Just like last year — and the year before and the year before that.

Mix in the winter blues, Trump, Brexit, Syria, and a slow economy.

Here’s something that I found inspirational, courtesy of Tim Wackel. Hope you do too.

Make 2017 a year to remember!

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

Market Metrics gives presentation on strategic management for small businesses

We are pleased to announce that Greg Graham, the Principal of Market Metrics, has been invited to give a presentation to the Eastern Ontario Chapter of the Canadian Association of Management Consultants.

In this presentation, Greg will present a practitioners’ overview of challenges faced by small- and medium-sized businesses undertaking a strategic management project, and common issues experienced by the management consultants working with them. The presentation will include suggestions and discussion on overcoming these challenges.

This presentation is based upon Greg’s experience conducting about 100 consulting engagements with 75 clients over the last decade. These projects involved some aspect of strategic planning and/or strategic management, from industry analysis to developing complete business plans to operationalizing strategic plans, and in industries including telecoms, software, and manufacturing.

November 10, 2016
7:15 – 9:00 AM

The Rideau Club (Macdonald Room)
15th Floor, 99 Bank Street
Ottawa

$25.00 per ticket (includes breakfast, presentation, and networking opportunities)
Tickets will be available at the door, but registration in advance is preferred to ensure sufficient catering.

Click here to register http://www.cmc-canada.ca/professionaldevelopment/events/event-description?CalendarEventKey=4b2e18ea-fdb8-42f6-ab72-2bbd93c1ed8b&EventTypeKey=&Home=/professionaldevelopment/events/calendar
www.cmc-canada.ca

Back-to-work marketing ideas

September is the time when everybody gets back to work after vacations, time at the cottage, back-to-school prep, and the many other pleasant distractions of summer. What’s a consultant to do if they’ve let their marketing efforts taper off? Here are half-a-dozen simple back-to-work ideas that don’t take hardly any budget.

  • Call that prospect who had a project on hold… you probably keep in close contact with your biggest clients over the summer, but what about those prospects who never made a decision? Call them and see if they want to get started now that summer’s over.
  • Attend a new networking event… try out that industry association or Chamber of Commerce meeting that you’ve been meaning to go to but never did.
  • Drop off donuts — or bagels — the day after Labour Day… at a client’s office and include a note wishing them a good start to the fall.
  • Start a client referral program… if you can identify other businesses that deal with the same target client, see if you can collaborate on referrals. It doesn’t have to be too formal, but even just letting them know what kind of services you can provide and equipping them with a few business cards and brochures to hand out is a start. Of course, you’re going to do the same for them.
  • Do an email blast — or mail out — to past clients… and let them know that you’re still around and open for business. They might be kicking around ideas and just need a reminder that you’re there to help.
  • Bump up your social media efforts… put a little more effort into your social media efforts. Chances are everybody else will be doing this, so you might lose out if you don’t do it.

Difference between market research & intelligence

So, what’s the difference between market research and intelligence? We get asked this question a lot.

Most business people are familiar with market research that is based upon focus groups, questionnaires, interviews, and surveys. This type of research usually describes past customer behavioural and future intentions. Market research is helpful on a tactical level to determine basic metrics such as competitors’ pricing and market share, and to identify key features.

The collection and analysis of such data is an activity conducted at one point in time. On-going monitoring efforts are provided by holding a series of activities (such as surveys) over time. Larger companies may budget for an annual market research survey, while SMEs often find that they are missing information and make an ad-hoc decision to conduct a survey.

How is market research conducted?

The survey etc. work is usually out-sourced to a market research firm that specialises in the field. This is called “primary research” since it is new research, carried out to answer specific questions.

The cost of primary research is usually a function of two factors: the number of questions asked, and the size of the survey sample. Add questions and the cost increases. Increase the sample size for better accuracy or multivariate analysis, and the cost increases.

For example, asking “how many women buy our products” is a question with two variables. Asking “how many women who live in the GTA and have incomes above $100,000 buy our products” is a question with four variables. The survey sample has to be large enough to be statistically valid for each such combination of variables, or the results can be unreliable.

Market research firms can provide considerable expertise in developing survey instruments, conducting focus groups and surveys, and performing statistical analysis upon the results. However, in general, market research firms cannot be relied upon to produce strategic insights beyond the survey questions. This is because both the market research and the firm have inherent limitations.

First, results are limited to an analysis of a limited number of survey questions answered by a random sample of people. Don’t ask the right questions, and you won’t get the answers you need. Second, obtaining a truly random sample is logistically difficult, so the sample may be skewed in some manner. Remember that market research firms have to find people (who usually require compensation) willing to participate in your focus group or survey. Ask the wrong people and you get incorrect answers.

The final issue is that most people at market research firms are either in customer service functions or statisticians, and so are challenged to add value that requires expertise in your specific industry. To be fair, some market research firms specialise in a specific market and are quite knowledgeable, but such firms typically only serve mature industries that are large enough to support a specialised firm.

In recent years, a major trend in the field of market research is that it is being increasingly conducted on-line, both through on-line versions of the above techniques and by monitoring how customers and prospective customers search for products and navigate web sites. These developments can offer cost and time savings, but creating a random sample is still a challenge. Web-site monitoring activities are often called “web analytics” since navigation and conversion data is automatically collected and reported by the web site itself.

How is market intelligence different?

Market intelligence creates a broad, more strategic perspective of your overall industry and its stakeholders by considering customers, competitors, suppliers, and investors. It can help formaulate or improve your business and product strategies, and even be used to predict a competitor’s behaviour.

Market intelligence is concerned with creating a comprehensive view of all aspects of your market. Just as financial analysts try to consider all relevant information when valuing a stock, market intelligence analysts try to consider all relevant information when analysing your market.

How can you use market intelligence?

In practice, factors usually considered in a market intelligence analysis include:

  • Corporate strategy and capabilities
  • Mergers and acquisitions, and alliances with third parties
  • Executive teams
  • Cost structure
  • Market size, segments and growth forecasts
  • Market trends
  • Pricing strategy
  • Product advantages and differentiators
  • Promotions and advertising
  • Distribution networks

Market intelligence has the potential to answer higher-level strategic questions because it is based on multiple sources of data to provide context and create a more balanced, accurate view of the market.

It is also not confined to a limited set of survey questions. Once the analysis has been conducted, an informed analyst can provide answers to, or at least informed opinions about, future questions as well. Specific questions that might be answered include:

  • How does our company’s performance compare to industry benchmarks?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors?
  • Where do customers buy?
  • What is the replacement cycle for our products?
  • What different pricing strategies are used by our competitors, and what is industry-average pricing?
  • Does anyone else already offer this new product we are developing?
  • What are the primary drivers of value in our market?

How is market intelligence conducted?

Large enterprises may have an on-going market intelligence program that collects, analyzes, and reports intelligence to executives and other decision-makers on a regular basis. This can be done by a dedicated department or outsourced. Results are communicated via internal newsletters, intranets, wikis, and/or presentations at quarterly business reviews and strategy workshops.

SMEs more commonly outsource the development of a custom market intelligence report highly focused on their business. They either have the report updated every year or two, or else contract a strategic marketing firm to monitor their industry and provide on-going information in the fashion described above. This decision is partly determined by the intensity of competition and maturity of their market.

Where can you find high-quality market intelligence?

Intelligence gathering involves the use of secondary research, meaning existing information previously researched for other purposes. Examples of secondary research are census data, annual reports, investor calls, product brochures, competitor’s advertising and sales promotions, executive interviews in the business news media, etc.

Sifting through data and secondary sources requires a significant investment of time. While much of the basic information can be obtained by an experienced analyst through public sources, it is more complex than simply spending an hour or two on Google. Information needs to collected, its quality assessed, organized in some fashion so it can be found and re-used in the future, analysed, and then used to formulate answers that satisfy a company’s information needs.

Often a data point creates a new question and need for further information. The best analysis is based upon multiple data points. This increases reliability of the analysis and reduces risk. Sometimes multiple data points must be “triangulated” to obtain an estimate of the desired information.

Not all necessary information may be publicly available or easily accessible. There is almost always a trade-off between time and cost, and this is where the skill level of the analyst can play a role in efficiency. To get in-depth research quickly and benefit from an objective third-party view, many analysts use off-the-shelf market reports that allow them to access key benchmarks and data points. With this information, they can more easily assess how your company is faring.

Market Metrics – Your Market Intelligence Specialist

Conducting a rigorous process of data-gathering, analysis, and reaching objective conclusions for these types of strategic questions is often simply not feasible for entrepreneurs and executives, who are already busy with a long list of urgent, day-to-day responsibilities.

For this reason, Market Metrics is often contracted to develop customised market intelligence, either on a one-time or on-going basis. We have successfully executed dozens of such projects to the complete satisfaction of our clients. We specialise in technology marketing where business, customer, and technological issues intersect, but our approach is well-proven and can be applied to most industries, with the most notable exception being retail.

The knowledge created by our projects is typically packaged as a comprehensive report with substantiated analysis based on a variety of reputable sources. A report may range from 25 pages, for a situational analysis, up to 200 pages for a comprehensive industry analysis, depending upon the level of detail and the information sought. At Market Metrics, we deliver reports in both hard and soft copies, and a supplemental “evidence binder” of all material used to prepare the report. The evidence binder (also provided in soft copy) is often over 500 pages in length, and clients find it to be a valuable reference resource.

Upon request, we can also create customised electronic solutions such as web sites and Evernote notebooks, handy for mobile reference by sales and marketing staff.

Round-up of 2016 tech trends & impacts

Need a review of technology trends for your strategic plan? Below is our round-up of the top technology trends for 2016 as predicted by consulting and market research firms Gartner, McKinsey, and Deloitte. Our comparison table lets you see where the three firms agree, and includes potential functional impacts.

GARTNER MCKINSEY DELOITTE IMPACT/S
Device mesh Mobile Internet Ambient computing IT, Marketing
Amibent user experience IT, Marketing (product management, new product development)
3D printing materials 3D printing Operations
Information of everything Amplified intelligence All functions
Advanced machine learning Advanced robotics HR, Operations
Automonous agents & things Automation of knowledge work IT worker of the future HR, IT, Marketing (customer service)
Adaptive security architecture IT
Advanced system architecture IT
Mesh app & service architecture Cloud technology Software-defined everything IT
IoT platforms Internet of Things IT, Marketing (product management, new product development)
Energy storage Marketing (product management, new product development)
Genomics Marketing (product management, new product development)
Advanced materials Marketing (product management, new product development)
Autonomous vehicles Marketing (product management, new product development), Operations
Renewable energy Marketing (product management, new product development), Operations
Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery Operations
CIO as Chief Integration Officer HR, IT
Dimensional marketing HR, Marketing (product managment, sales)
Exponentials All functions



Gartner Identifies the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016
http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/3143521

Analysts from Gartner, Inc. highlighted the top-10 technology trends that they believe will be strategic for most organizations in 2016 at the company’s Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2015 held in Orlando from October 4-8, 2015.

Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with the potential for significant impact on the organization. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, end users or IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt. These technologies impact the organization’s long-term plans, programs and initiatives.

“Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends will shape digital business opportunities through 2020,” said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow. “The first three trends address merging the physical and virtual worlds and the emergence of the digital mesh. While organizations focus on digital business today, algorithmic business is emerging. Algorithms — relationships and interconnections — define the future of business. In algorithmic business, much happens in the background in which people are not directly involved. This is enabled by smart machines, which our next three trends address. Our final four trends address the new IT reality, the new architecture and platform trends needed to support digital and algorithmic business.”

The company believes that the top-10 strategic technology trends for 2016 are:

  1. The Device Mesh

    The device mesh refers to an expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses. The device mesh includes mobile devices, wearable, consumer and home electronic devices, automotive devices and environmental devices — such as sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT).

    “In the postmobile world the focus shifts to the mobile user who is surrounded by a mesh of devices extending well beyond traditional mobile devices,” said Mr. Cearley.

    While devices are increasingly connected to back-end systems through various networks, they have often operated in isolation from one another. As the device mesh evolves, we expect connection models to expand and greater cooperative interaction between devices to emerge.

  2. Ambient User Experience

    The device mesh creates the foundation for a new continuous and ambient user experience. Immersive environments delivering augmented and virtual reality hold significant potential but are only one aspect of the experience. The ambient user experience preserves continuity across boundaries of device mesh, time and space. The experience seamlessly flows across a shifting set of devices and interaction channels blending physical, virtual and electronic environment as the user moves from one place to another.

    “Designing mobile apps remains an important strategic focus for the enterprise,” said Mr. Cearley. “However, the leading edge of that design is focused on providing an experience that flows across and exploits different devices, including IoT sensors, common objects such as automobiles, or even factories. Designing these advanced experiences will be a major differentiator for independent software vendors (ISVs) and enterprises alike by 2018.”

  3. 3D Printing Materials

    Advances in 3D printing have already enabled 3D printing to use a wide range of materials, including advanced nickel alloys, carbon fiber, glass, conductive ink, electronics, pharmaceuticals and biological materials. These innovations are driving user demand, as the practical applications for 3D printers expand to more sectors, including aerospace, medical, automotive, energy and the military. The growing range of 3D-printable materials will drive a compound annual growth rate of 64.1 percent for enterprise 3D-printer shipments through 2019. These advances will necessitate a rethinking of assembly line and supply chain processes to exploit 3D printing.

    “3D printing will see a steady expansion over the next 20 years of the materials that can be printed, improvement in the speed with which items can be printed and emergence of new models to print and assemble composite parts,” said Mr. Cearley.

  4. Information of Everything

    Everything in the digital mesh produces, uses and transmits information. This information goes beyond textual, audio and video information to include sensory and contextual information. Information of everything addresses this influx with strategies and technologies to link data from all these different data sources. Information has always existed everywhere but has often been isolated, incomplete, unavailable or unintelligible. Advances in semantic tools such as graph databases as well as other emerging data classification and information analysis techniques will bring meaning to the often chaotic deluge of information.

  5. Advanced Machine Learning

    In advanced machine learning, deep neural nets (DNNs) move beyond classic computing and information management to create systems that can autonomously learn to perceive the world, on their own. The explosion of data sources and complexity of information makes manual classification and analysis infeasible and uneconomic. DNNs automate these tasks and make it possible to address key challenges related to the information of everything trend.

    DNNs (an advanced form of machine learning particularly applicable to large, complex datasets) is what makes smart machines appear “intelligent.” DNNs enable hardware- or software-based machines to learn for themselves all the features in their environment, from the finest details to broad sweeping abstract classes of content. This area is evolving quickly, and organizations must assess how they can apply these technologies to gain competitive advantage.

  6. Autonomous Agents and Things

    Machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations — including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors — that act in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. While advances in physical smart machines such as robots get a great deal of attention, the software-based smart machines have a more near-term and broader impact. VPAs such as Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri are becoming smarter and are precursors to autonomous agents. The emerging notion of assistance feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.

    “Over the next five years we will evolve to a postapp world with intelligent agents delivering dynamic and contextual actions and interfaces,” said Mr. Cearley. “IT leaders should explore how they can use autonomous things and agents to augment human activity and free people for work that only people can do. However, they must recognize that smart agents and things are a long-term phenomenon that will continually evolve and expand their uses for the next 20 years.”

  7. Adaptive Security Architecture

    The complexities of digital business and the algorithmic economy combined with an emerging “hacker industry” significantly increase the threat surface for an organization. Relying on perimeter defense and rule-based security is inadequate, especially as organizations exploit more cloud-based services and open APIs for customers and partners to integrate with their systems. IT leaders must focus on detecting and responding to threats, as well as more traditional blocking and other measures to prevent attacks. Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behavior analytics, will help fulfill the adaptive security architecture.

  8. Advanced System Architecture

    The digital mesh and smart machines require intense computing architecture demands to make them viable for organizations. Providing this required boost are high-powered and ultraefficient neuromorphic architectures. Fueled by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) as an underlining technology for neuromorphic architectures, there are significant gains to this architecture, such as being able to run at speeds of greater than a teraflop with high-energy efficiency.

    “Systems built on GPUs and FPGAs will function more like human brains that are particularly suited to be applied to deep learning and other pattern-matching algorithms that smart machines use,” said Mr. Cearley. “FPGA-based architecture will allow further distribution of algorithms into smaller form factors, with considerably less electrical power in the device mesh, thus allowing advanced machine learning capabilities to be proliferated into the tiniest IoT endpoints, such as homes, cars, wristwatches and even human beings.”

  9. Mesh App and Service Architecture

    Monolithic, linear application designs (e.g., the three-tier architecture) are giving way to a more loosely coupled integrative approach: the apps and services architecture. Enabled by software-defined application services, this new approach enables Web-scale performance, flexibility and agility. Microservice architecture is an emerging pattern for building distributed applications that support agile delivery and scalable deployment, both on-premises and in the cloud. Containers are emerging as a critical technology for enabling agile development and microservice architectures. Bringing mobile and IoT elements into the app and service architecture creates a comprehensive model to address back-end cloud scalability and front-end device mesh experiences. Application teams must create new modern architectures to deliver agile, flexible and dynamic cloud-based applications with agile, flexible and dynamic user experiences that span the digital mesh.

  10. Internet of Things Platforms

    IoT platforms complement the mesh app and service architecture. The management, security, integration and other technologies and standards of the IoT platform are the base set of capabilities for building, managing and securing elements in the IoT. IoT platforms constitute the work IT does behind the scenes from an architectural and a technology standpoint to make the IoT a reality. The IoT is an integral part of the digital mesh and ambient user experience and the emerging and dynamic world of IoT platforms is what makes them possible.

    “Any enterprise embracing the IoT will need to develop an IoT platform strategy, but incomplete competing vendor approaches will make standardization difficult through 2018,” said Mr. Cearley.

McKinsey: The 12 Disruptive Tech Trends You Need to Know
http://fortune.com/2015/07/22/mckinsey-disruptive/

“No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends” is a recent book from McKinsey’s in-house think tank, McKinsey Global Institute, that offers insight into which developments will have the greatest impact on the business world in coming decades. Below is their list of the “Disruptive Dozen” — the technologies that McKinsey believes have the greatest potential to remake today’s business landscape.

  1. Energy Storage

    The book’s authors predict that the price of lithium-ion battery packs could fall by a third in the next 10 years, which will have a big impact on not only electric cars, but renewable energy storage. There will be major repercussions for the transportation, power generation, and the oil and gas industries as batteries grow cheaper and more efficient.

  2. Genomics

    As super computers make the enormously complicated process of genetic analysis much simpler, the authors foresee a world in which “genomic-based diagnoses and treatments will extend patients’ lives by between six months and two years in 2025.” Sequencing systems could eventually become so commonplace that doctors will have them on their desktops.

  3. Advanced Materials

    The ability to manipulate existing materials on a molecular level has already enabled advances in products like sunglasses, bike frames, and medical equipment. Scientists have greater control than ever over nanomaterials in a variety of substances, and their understanding is growing. Health concerns recently prompted Dunkin’ Donuts to remove nanomaterials from their food. But certain advanced nanomaterials show promise for improving health, and even treating cancer. Coming soon: materials that are self-healing, self-cleaning, and that remember their original shape even if they’re bent.

  4. Autonomous Vehicles

    Autonomous cars are coming, and fast. By 2025, the “driverless revolution” could already be “well underway,” the authors write. All the more so if laws and regulations in the U.S. can adapt to keep up. Case in point: Some BMW cars already park themselves.

  5. Renewable Energy

    Wind and solar have never really been competitive with fossil fuels, but McKinsey predicts that status quo will change thanks to technology that enables wider use and better energy storage. In the last decade, the cost of solar energy has already fallen by a factor of 10, and the International Energy Agency predicts that the sun could surpass fossil fuels to become the world’s largest source of electricity by 2050.

  6. Advanced Robotics

    The robots are coming! “Sales of industrial robots grew by 170% in just two years between 2009 and 2011,” the authors write, adding that the industry’s annual revenues are expected to exceed $40 billion by 2020. As robots get cheaper, more dexterous, and safer to use, they’ll continue to grow as an appealing substitute for human labor in fields like manufacturing, maintenance, cleaning, and surgery.

  7. 3D Printing

    Much-hyped additive manufacturing has yet to replace traditional manufacturing technologies, but that could change as systems get cheaper and smarter. “In the future, 3D printing could redefine the sale and distribution of physical goods,” the authors say. Think buying an electric blueprint of a shoe, then going home and printing it out. The book notes that “the manufacturing process will ‘democratize’ as consumers and entrepreneurs start to print their own products.”

  8. Mobile Internet

    The explosion of mobile apps has dramatically changed our personal experiences (goodbye hookup bars, hello Tinder), as well as our professional lives. More than two thirds of people on earth have access to a mobile phone, and another two or three billion people are likely to gain access over the coming decade. The result: internet-related expenditures outpace even agriculture and energy, and will only continue to grow.

  9. Automation of Knowledge Work

    It’s not just manufacturing jobs that will be largely replaced by robots and 3D printers. Dobbs, Manyika, and Woetzel report that by 2025, computers could do the work of 140 million knowledge workers. If Watson can win at “Jeopardy!” there’s nothing stopping computers from excelling at other knowledge work, ranging from legal discovery to sports coverage.

  10. Internet of Things

    Right now, 99% of physical objects are unconnected to the “internet of things.” It won’t last. Going forward, more products and tools will be controlled via the internet, the McKinsey directors say, and all kinds of data will be generated as a result. Expect sensors to collect information on the health of machinery, the structural integrity of bridges, and even the temperatures in ovens.

  11. Cloud Technology

    The growth of cloud technology will change just how much small businesses and startups can accomplish. Small companies will get “IT capabilities and back-office services that were previously available only to larger firms—and cheaply, too,” the authors write. “Indeed, large companies in almost every field are vulnerable, as start-ups become better equipped, more competitive, and able to reach customers and users everywhere.”

  12. Advanced Oil and Gas Exploration and Recovery

    The International Energy Agency predicts the U.S. will be the world’s largest producer of oil by 2020, thanks to advances in fracking and other technologies, which improved to the point where removing oil from hard-to-reach spots finally made economic sense. McKinsey directors expect increasing ease of fuel extraction to further shift global markets.

Deloitte: Tech Trends 2015: The Fusion of Business and IT
http://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/technology/articles/tech-trends.html

Deloitte believes that a fundamental transformation is happening in the way C-suite leaders and CIOs collaborate to leverage disruptive change, chart business strategy, and pursue potentially transformative opportunities. The company’s sixth annual Technology Trends report outlines the trends that could potentially disrupt the way businesses engage their customers, how work gets done, and how markets and industries evolve.

  1. CIO as Chief Integration Officer

    As technology transforms existing business models and gives rise to new ones, the role of the CIO is evolving rapidly, with integration at the core of its mission. Increasingly, CIOs need to harness emerging disruptive technologies for the business while balancing future needs with today’s operational realities. They should view their responsibilities through an enterprise-wide lens to help ensure critical domains such as digital, analytics, and cloud aren’t spurring redundant, conflicting, or compromised investments within departmental or functional silos. In this shifting landscape of opportunities and challenges, CIOs can be not only the connective tissue but the driving force for intersecting, IT-heavy initiatives—even as the C-suite expands to include roles such as chief digital officer, chief data officer, and chief innovation officer. And what happens if CIOs don’t step up? They could find themselves relegated to a “care and feeding” role while others chart a strategic course toward a future built around increasingly commoditized technologies.

  2. API Economy

    Application programming interfaces (APIs) have been elevated from a development technique to a business model driver and boardroom consideration. An organization’s core assets can be reused, shared, and monetized through APIs that can extend the reach of existing services or provide new revenue streams. APIs should be managed like a product—one built on top of a potentially complex technical footprint that includes legacy and third-party systems and data.

  3. Ambient Computing

    Possibilities abound from the tremendous growth of embedded sensors and connected devices—in the home, the enterprise, and the world at large. Translating these possibilities into business impact requires focus—purposefully bringing smarter “things” together with analytics, security, data, and integration platforms to make the disparate parts work seamlessly with each other. Ambient computing is the backdrop of sensors, devices, intelligence, and agents that can put the Internet of Things to work.

  4. Dimensional Marketing

    Marketing has evolved significantly in the last half-decade. The evolution of digitally connected customers lies at the core, reflecting the dramatic change in the dynamic between relationships and transactions. A new vision for marketing is being formed as CMOs and CIOs invest in technology for marketing automation, next-generation omnichannel approaches, content development, customer analytics, and commerce initiatives. This modern era for marketing is likely to bring new challenges in the dimensions of customer engagement, connectivity, data, and insight.

  5. Software-Defined Everything

    Amid the fervor surrounding digital, analytics, and cloud, it is easy to overlook advances currently being made in infrastructure and operations. The entire operating environment—server, storage, and network—can now be virtualized and automated. The data center of the future represents the potential for not only lowering costs, but also dramatically improving speeds and reducing the complexity of provisioning, deploying, and maintaining technology footprints. Software-defined everything can elevate infrastructure investments, from costly plumbing to competitive differentiators.

  6. Core Renaissance

    Organizations have significant investments in their core systems, both built and bought. Beyond running the heart of the business, these assets can form the foundation for growth and new service development—building upon standardized data and automated business processes. To this end, many organizations are modernizing systems to pay down technical debt, replatforming solutions to remove barriers to scale and performance, and extending their legacy infrastructures to fuel innovative new services and offerings.

  7. Amplified Intelligence

    Analytics techniques are growing in complexity, and companies are applying machine learning and predictive modeling to increasingly massive and complex data sets. Artificial intelligence is now a reality. Its more promising application, however, is not replacing workers but augmenting their capabilities. When built to enhance an individual’s knowledge and deployed seamlessly at the point of business impact, advanced analytics can help amplify our intelligence for more effective decision making.

  8. IT Worker of the Future

    Scarcity of technical talent is a significant concern across many industries, with some organizations facing talent gaps along multiple fronts. The legacy-skilled workforce is retiring, and organizations are scrambling for needed skills in the latest emerging, disruptive technologies. To tackle these challenges, companies will likely need to cultivate a new species—the IT worker of the future—with habits, incentives, and skills that are inherently different from those in play today.

  9. Exponentials

    The rapid growth of exponentials has significant implications. Powerful technologies—including quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, additive manufacturing, and synthetic or industrial biology—are ushering in new and disruptive competitive risks and opportunities for enterprises that have historically enjoyed dominant positions in their industries. This year’s Technology Trends report explores discusses exponentials to build awareness and share new knowledge about their trajectory and potential impact.

We hope that you found this round-up of tec trends to be informative. Please note that all trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners and holders.

UPDATE: The Office Preppers EDC

Canned stew with pull-tab
My blog post back in July 2013 (The office preppers EDC) described a small everyday-carry kit that could help office workers cope with emergencies. Since then, we’ve seen plenty of nasty winter storms and other events that would indicate this isn’t a bad idea.

These days I’m driving to visit out-of-the-city clients more often. Many manufacturing companies tend to like less-expensive locations such as Kemptville, Perth, and Smiths Falls. So, I’ve had to change my EDC accordingly.

LEFT: Campbell’s Chunky Chili is a meal ready-to-eat straight out of the can, no opener required. Amy’s vegan stews also have a tab top.



Of course, a Roadside Assistance Plan is a great idea, and most new cars come with one. Call CAA if you don’t have one.

The basics are still in my briefcase, and there’s the usual stuff in the car — jumper cables, blanket, tarp, small shovel, duct tape, a liter of engine oil, 12-volt tire pump, and a few hand tools.

Apparently they say in the military that “two is one, and one is none”, meaning it’s good to have redundancy. That’s why there’s also a 12-volt phone charger, another first aid kit, a second flashlight with spare batteries, and — since I have an amazing talent for getting lost — a well-stocked map case to back up the GPS. In the winter I keep winter boots, an old parka, a toque, and mittens in the trunk.

Some people like to have a small battery-operated radio, in case their car battery dies or they have to leave their car. Some mobile phones — like my trusty Blackberry — have a built-in FM radio, and these should work even if there is no cellular service. Note that radios in phones usually require your headphones to be plugged in for use as an antenna. If you want to stretch your phone battery, turn off the cellular, Wi-Fi and BlueTooth radios individually. “Airplane Mode” turns off the FM radio as well.

What about food & water?

The main difference is that these places aren’t really within walking distance of home. If the worst occurs, walking 80-100 km would take two days, and more in the winter. That means food and water are important. You can survive for three days without water, and three weeks without food, but there is great comfort in having water to drink in the summer and hot food in the winter.

Keeping food and water in your car over the long-term isn’t without its challenges. Bottled water is a problem in the winter since a full bottle can explode if it freezes. Packaged food can have a short shelf life, and repeated freezing/thawing results in food that isn’t very appetising and may not be healthy.

So, my solution is simple — a tote bag that I take with me and toss in the back seat. It holds my EDC kit, plus a reusable one-litre bottle of water, a spork, paper napkins, power bars, and a couple of cans of ready-to-eat stew. I take the tote bag back inside when I get home, and replace anything that has been consumed.

I choose to carry water, but some people like to have water purification tablets or a filter with them. BTW, if you fill your water bottle only three-quarters full, it will have room to expand and won’t explode if it freezes (in theory anyway).

Why stew?

Personally, I like ready-to-eat stews and soups, and they can be eaten cold right out of the can. Stew is more-or-less a complete meal and has lots of fluid for hydration.

Others might prefer military-style Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), but these are hard to find in stores. You can order them online by the box. The freeze-dried meals popular with hikers and campers are easy to find and lightweight, but need to be mixed with boiling water. Another alternative for a day trip is a bottle or two of Boost or Ensure.

Canned food might not be the healthiest choice, but we are only talking about occasional emergency use here. Cans have a long shelf live, often well over a year. Items with a pull-tab don’t even need a can opener. Ever tried opening a can with a Swiss Army knife? Sure, you can do it, but it isn’t what anyone would call convenient. “Road chefs” might be able to heat a can, at least somewhat, by setting it on your hot radiator (not while you’re driving!). Get lots of contact area between the can and the radiator.

BTW, you can use a metal can to boil water if you don’t have a pot or metal cup handy. Boiling water for 1 to 5 minutes will purify it by killing off the majority of bacteria and other micro-organisms in the water. It can also remove some chemicals by vaporizing them. Be careful not to burn yourself when handling a hot can!

However, boiling water will not remove solids, metals, or minerals. If you have a coffee filter with you, you can use it to strain water before boiling. Fold a couple of paper coffee filters flat, and tuck them away in a pocket of your gear bag — they can also be used as tinder and emergency face masks.

The other additions to the tote bag are a package of Starbucks VIA instant coffee, a mug, an immersion heater, a clean shirt, and a toothbrush. If stuck overnight, caffeine hounds will be more comfortable with a cup of coffee the next morning.

What do you keep in your car for emergencies? Comment below to let us know.

Market Metrics judges UofT business case competition

The principal of Market Metrics, Greg Graham, was recently a judge at the University of Toronto’s Graduate Management Consulting Association (GMCA) Business Case competition.

The competition is an opportunity for GMCA members to develop hands-on experience in consulting. A short business case was released to the students on Monday, November 2, and they then had the balance of the week to work in teams of four to develop a solution and prepare a presentation detailing their solution. Coaches assisted the students.

Approximately 60 students entered the competition, and formed 15 teams of four students.

At the end of business on Friday, November 6, the competition began its two-round format. Five groups of three randomly-chosen teams each made an initial presentation of their business case submission. Judges ranked the teams’ placing within each group, and the highest-ranked team from each group proceeded into the second play-off round. Each of the five finalist teams then presented their case a second time, with a longer question-and-answer period. The judges selected an overall winner from the five finalist teams.

After the judging was completed, the students adjourned to a nearby pub for refreshments and a networking session.

Says Greg: “It was a honour to be a judge at U of T’s GMCA Business Case Competition. I was really impressed with the quality of the students and the hard work they put into preparing their cases.”

Safeguarding your IP in a global market

How can a company protect its intellectual property when its products and services get copied in other countries?

This is the question that Milton Kotler, chairman of both Kotler Marketing Group USA and Kotler Marketing Group China, asks in the March edition of “Marketing News”. He comes up with four options.

1. Confine your business to your domestic market where the law protects you.
Easy, but this approach limits your market to a fraction of the global market.

2. Go through the rigmarole of trade protection with carrots and sticks.
Sounds like lots of work for the legal team, and cheaters will always be out there.

3. Brand your products and services so powerfully that customers will pay a higher price for them, despite the availability of cheaper knockoffs.
This is where it gets interesting. Branding has emotional and intellectual components. Business buyers hold onto higher-cost suppliers because of trust and convenience, often based on personal relationships. Consumers buy higher-priced originals because of status, celebrity and prestige. The downside is that building and sustaining a strong brand is expensive.

4. Innovate at a faster pace than your companies in low-cost countries can copy and export.
Even when new products and versions are constantly developed, marketers still have a vital role to play. The old products have to be replaced, which means messages explaining new benefits have to be crafted and promoted. The pricing has to be right, and distribution channels managed and incentivized.

A publication of the American Marketing Association, you can find “Marketing News” magazine on the web at Marketing News

Thinking about getting your business ready to sell?

Most entrepreneurs want establish their start-up and then sell it. But potential buyers will want to assess the odds of sustaining the business without you, and growing it in the future. So you can improve your chances of being acquired if you work towards making it obvious to potential buyers that this is the case. In general, this means creating a unique business that is easy to run, and has a stable customer base, and strong financials.

Here are a few questions that will help you determine where your business stands.

How replicable is your business model?

Will it be easy, or less expensive, for the potential buyer to build their own business from scratch instead of buying yours? The less replicable your business is (meaning hard-to-duplicate products and services, top-notch team, secure market access, etc.), the better.

Will it be easy to run your business post-acquisition?

What this really means is that there less risk if a new owner is confident they can run your business without you. Are there systems in place so your day-to-day operations chug along smoothly? Are employees trained to handle important issues that might arise? Will your customers continue to buy if you aren’t there?

Has your business performed well financially?

Buyers will obviously conduct a thorough review of your business’ financial performance, and will want to see growing revenues and profits. Even if much the value of a tech start-up is intellectual property, a buyer will still want to see sales so that they can be confident that the market had accepted your value proposition.

Is your customer base stable?

Customers are the lifeblood of any business. The most important question is how many customers will leave after acquisition? 50%, 25%, 10%, or none? The answer to this question might be found in historical industry behaviour, so look at what happened to other businesses similar to yours after they were purchased. Having signed contracts with customers for long-term supply arrangements is great, since it means they will continue to buy. You can also demonstrate a high level of customer satisfaction — which means you’ll have to measure it and resolve any challenges – since satisfied customers will likely come back.

Business continuity: How to prep for winter

Winter’s coming, and according to the City of Ottawa, so are increased chances of encountering an emergency situation.

We’ve all heard the advice about householders stocking up on water, a few days worth of non-perishable food, flashlights, a radio, batteries, and a first aid kit, but businesses should also prepare.

Fortunately the City has lots of help available for businesses as well as householders on its website.

First, there is a schedule of “train-the-trainer” courses offered. And you can read how to prepare with the “Are You Ready?” booklet available at http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/emergency-services/emergency-services-and-preparedness/are-you-ready

The booklet references a document that lists the suggested contents of a household emergency kit at http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/emergency-services/emergency-preparedness/emergency-preparedness-kit-checklist, and there’s also a version available for businesses at http://documents.ottawa.ca/en/document/emergency-preparedness-kit-checklist-businesses

The one of main differences between the two lists is the concept that businesses prepare their essential business documents in case it has to be evacuated. You can get the City’s list of suggested business documents at http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/emergency-services/emergency-services-and-preparedness/essential-corporate-documents-and

The main issue is that these documents might represent quite a bit of paper, and some are working documents that probably exist electronically on a computer. You have a couple of options to deal with this.

The first approach is to create a monthly paper backup, and keep it ready to go in a portable waterproof container (a large Tyvek 10×13-inch catalogue envelope or a plastic courier package would be good choices). That way your backup records would never be more than a month old, and you could archive these for a complete month-by-month archive.

The City suggests using a portable plastic file box for your documents, but that means working out of it. Not too practical for any business with more than a few documents.

And both of these are pretty old school.

A better method might be to scan PDFs of any documents that exist only on paper, and save electronic backups of your lease/s, insurance policies, accounts, supplier contacts, contracts, reports, spreadsheets, etc. on a backup system. While you should save your important data files and databases, a good assumption to make is that you won’t have access to any specialized software that your business currently uses during an emergency. That might mean that you should generate reports from your accounting system, exporting customer lists from your CRM, etc.

Even if your business already has a backup system, you might not be able to take it with you quickly, especially if it runs on a server connected to your LAN (such as network-attached storage devices or subsystems).

You could supplement the backup system with cloud-based storage, or even a USB drive that fits in your pocket for emergency use.

But no approach will work well unless you take the following steps:

  • Figure out what information you need to keep working
  • Determine how this translates into specific data files and reports that need to be backed up for emergencies
  • Develop a process to create and back up this information on a regular basis
  • Test the recovery process to make sure it works
  • Make someone responsible for executing the process (and a backup person in case the primary person is away when an emergency occurs)
  • Check periodically that it is indeed being done
  • Keep any portable devices handy but secure (use a password!)

With any luck you’re never need to use any of this. But, it’s like any other kind of insurance — better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

No business plan? That’s like Ready, Fire, Aim!

Developing a business plan takes effort, and many entrepreneurs prefer to just jump in and get started. We understand why. It feels good to be doing something and seems like it will save time.

Unfortunately, execution without strategy usually yields poor results. Remember the Charge of the Light Brigade? The British cavalry didn’t even know where they supposed to attack, and charged right into a three-way crossfire from a heavily-armed enemy.

On the other hand, strategy leads to better execution. Studies consistently show that businesses with business plans do better than those without.

In case you aren’t persuaded, consider these 20 ways your business can benefit from preparing a written-down, thought-through business plan.

  • Uncover new opportunities. Through the process of reviewing market research, brainstorming, white-boarding and creative interviewing, you will likely see your business in a different light. As a result, you will often come up with new ideas for marketing your product/service and running your business.
  • Better understand your competition. Creating the business plan forces you to analyze the competition. All companies have competition in the form of either direct or indirect competitors, and it is critical to understand your company’s competitive advantages (and/or develop some!).
  • Better understand your customers. Why do they buy when they buy? Why don’t they when they don’t? An in-depth customer analysis is essential to an effective business plan and to a successful business.
  • Articulate previously unstated assumptions. The process of actually writing the business plan helps to bring previously “hidden” assumptions to the foreground. For example, the length of your sales cycle can dramatically impact your financing needs and chances of success. By writing these assumptions down and assessing them, you can test them and analyze their validity and their impact on your business.
  • Document your revenue model. How exactly will your business make money? This is a critical question to answer in writing, for yourself and your investors. Documenting the revenue model helps to address challenges and assumptions associated with the model.
  • Assess the feasibility of your new venture. How good is this opportunity? The business plan process involves researching your target market, as well as the competitive landscape, and serves as a feasibility study for the success of your venture.
  • Determine your financial needs. Does your business need to raise capital? How much? The business plan creation process helps you to determine exactly how much capital you need and what you will use it for. This process is essential for raising capital and for effectively deploying the capital.
  • Uncover red flags. In the process of developing your business plan, you will often come to “stopping points”; points that make you stop and think, “Hey, this may not work this way.” By identifying these points and developing new strategies to address them now, you will be in much better shape later.
  • Establish business milestones. The business plan should clearly lay out the long-term milestones that are most important to the success of your business. Reaching each milestone is one more step towards your goal, and also tangibly reduces the risk of your business for investors.
  • Attract investors. A formal business plan is the basis for financing proposals. The business plan answers investors’ questions such as: Is there a need for this product/service? What are the financial projections? What is the company’s exit strategy?
  • Reduce the risk of pursuing the wrong opportunity. The process of creating the business plan helps to minimize opportunity costs. Writing the business plan helps you assess the attractiveness of this particular opportunity, versus other opportunities.
  • Force yourself to research and really know your market. What are the most important trends in your industry? What are the greatest threats to your industry? Is the market growing or shrinking? What is the size of the target market for your product/service? Creating the business plan will help you to gain a wider, deeper, and more nuanced understanding of your marketplace.
  • Attract employees and senior people for your management team. To attract and retain top-quality talent, a business plan is necessary. The business plan inspires employees and management that the idea is sound and that the business is poised to achieve its strategic goals.
  • Plot your course and focus your efforts. The business plan provides a roadmap from which to operate, and to look to for direction in times of doubt. Without a business plan, you may shift your short-term strategies constantly without a view to your long-term milestones.
  • Attract partners. Partners also want to see a business plan, in order to determine whether it is worth partnering with your business. Establishing partnerships often requires time and capital, and companies will be more likely to partner with your venture if they can read a detailed explanation of your company.
  • Position your brand. Creating the business plan helps to define your company’s role in the marketplace. This definition allows you to succinctly describe the business and position the brand to customers, investors, and partners.
  • Judge the success of your business. A formal business plan allows you to compare actual operational results versus the business plan itself. In this way, it allows you to clearly see whether you have achieved your strategic, financing, and operational goals (and why you have or have not).
  • Reposition your business to deal with changing conditions. For example, during difficult economic conditions, if your current sales and operational models aren’t working, you can rewrite your business plan to define, try, and validate new ideas and strategies.
  • Document your marketing plan. How are you going to reach your customers? How will you retain them? What is your advertising budget? What price will you charge? A well-documented marketing plan is essential to the growth of a business.
  • Understand and forecast your company’s staffing needs. After completing your business plan, you will not be surprised when you are suddenly short-handed. Rather, your business plan provides a roadmap for your staffing needs, and thus helps to ensure smoother expansion.

So prove that you’re serious about your business. A formal business plan shows all interested parties — employees, investors, partners and yourself — that you are committed to building your business.

The difference it makes when you don’t use Other People’s Money

Developing a business plan is one thing, being able to execute it is another. We’ve worked with lots of entrepreneurs who have big ideas but bank accounts whose size don’t match up. Their hope is that they will find an investor who will realize the potential of their business concept, and provide them with the means to fund their business plan.

Of course, this does actually happen. Sometimes.

Taking advantage of Other People’s Money (OPM) is a time-honoured approach. But when this is the only option considered, it becomes an all-or-nothing proposition. If you don’t find an investor, either your business never launches at all, or does so in some feeble stripped-down version doomed to fail since vital elements aren’t affordable.

So it was quite refreshing to work recently with a group of clients who took the approach that they are responsible for funding their own start-up. We started with a concept, researched the market, set targets, debated the assumptions, and considered many different approaches to verify their strategy is as workable as possible. Every detail was triple-checked because there was no doubt that the plan is going to be executed. When the clients were satisfied that they had a workable plan, we figured out how much working capital they need and fine-tuned the plan accordingly. This became their base case, and the group intends to go ahead.

Like any other start-up they will have to focused, work extremely hard, and get a few breaks, but I bet they’ll make a go of it — if for no other reason, because they are extremely determined to find a path to success with the resources they have to deploy.

The second phase of developing their business plan was to figure out what they could do if they did have investors. This is the real role of venture and early-stage capital, to accelerate viable businesses by providing them with the resources to grow faster than they would otherwise. We determined both the magnitude of the investment that would be required to make a significant difference, and quantified what this difference would be. This is the business plan that will be used with potential investors. But they consider it to be Plan B.

This is the difference it makes when you don’t use OPM. Things are real. The business plan isn’t just a theoretical exercise. If you find an investor, great. You’ll get there faster. If not, it will take you longer and be harder. But to me, that’s the difference between a real entrepreneur and a wannabe.

Our new values statement

We were working with a new client when we realized that we recommend having a values statement — but we didn’t have one ourselves! Kind of a case of the shoemaker’s kids going barefoot.

The textbooks say that a values statement should represent the core priorities of the organization, and be reflected in the organization’s culture. These values can help set the direction for business planners, especially when it is needed to acknowledge non-profit concerns.

At Market Metrics, our values are:

Dedication: We don’t just show up. We are dedicated to providing real and meaningful value to our clients.

Listening: We treat clients with respect and actively listen to what they say.

Substance: We value robust concepts, substantiated ideas, and facts — not fluff and hype.

Improvement: Whether it is using new analytical techniques or the latest business planning tools and technology, we’re never done pursuing a better way.

Curiosity: We’re always curious — about your business, about your customers, about how things work, and about how new innovations could be used to benefit our clients.

Don’t fail the bozo test when negotiating with big companies

If your small business is going into a negotiation with a much larger company, it’s vital that you present yourself as a credible partner.

Remember that you — the entrepreneur — are as important as the product. Be professional, reasonable, prepared, and passionate about what you do and what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t fail the bozo test by making unreasonable demands!

And equip yourself with four essentials:

  1. A short PowerPoint presentation;
  2. A prototype and demo that works well enough that people can get the idea — it doesn’t have to be perfect. If it is a new product, forget about any fancy bells and whistles for now;
  3. A reference customer; and,
  4. Protection of your intellectual property so that your concept doesn’t get stolen.

Remember that big companies have more negotiating power than you do. Most likely they will have their own standard legal boilerplate agreements (NDAs, MOUs, supplier contracts, etc.) and these will be their starting point. That means your starting point also.

You may be used to being in the driver’s seat with your suppliers, so accept that the situation is reversed and go from there. Don’t slow everything down — or blow the deal — by getting the lawyers arguing.

10 things successful people do differently

Here’s a great article that I found inspiring. The original post is at http://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/10-things-successful-people.html

Bill Gates.

Oprah Winfrey.

Steve Jobs.

These names all come to mind when we think of successful people.

And even though all three are great examples of success, there are lots of other people who are successful in their own right, although we may not be as familiar with their names.

But their habits? Well, that’s a different story. You see, successful people all do similar things. As Brian Tracy says, “Success leaves tracks.” It’s these “tracks,” the behaviors and habits, that set them apart from the ordinary folks who just work their 9-to-5 jobs, clocking in and out every day, never looking to get ahead.

If you want to be one of the greats, if you want to be a big success in life and leave ordinary behind, do these 10 things successful people do, and get ready for the big results that are sure to follow if you do them consistently.

1. They commit to their goals
When successful people set a goal, nothing gets in their way of achieving it. They commit 100 percent to the outcome, knowing that one difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that the successful ones commit to a goal and don’t stop until they achieve it.

2. And they persist until they achieve them
Obstacles to success are normal and should be expected. They can’t always be planned for. However, you can decide when you commit to success that you’re going to persist no matter what obstacles arise. Go around them, go over them, or push through them, but persist no matter what happens. That’s what successful people do, and so should you if you want to mimic their success.

3. They take responsibility
Successful people know that they are the masters of their own destiny. You don’t hear them complain about the things that stopped them from success. You won’t hear them make excuses. Instead, they push forward knowing that they are the only thing that will make or break their success.

4. They work hard
Have you ever met someone who is super-successful and lazy? Neither have I. The truth is that the road to success is paved with hard work. If you want to achieve great results, you’ll need to wake up early, stay up late and put in your time. Success doesn’t just come to those who want it. You’ve got to pay your dues.

5. They find people who are doing what they want and emulate them
A college professor once gave me some of the best advice I ever received. He said, “if you want to be wealthy, hang out with wealthy people. If you want to be funny, hang out with funny people. And if you want to be poor, hang out with poor people.” The truth is that people naturally mimic the behaviors of those around them. Mindset is contagious. So if you want to be a big success in life, spend time with others who are already successful. Don’t know anyone successful? That’s ok. You can read books written by them or about them. Listen to their radio interviews or watch them on TV. Attitude and success is contagious, so catch it by hanging around some of the greats.

6. They believe in themselves and their vision
The school of hard knocks ain’t easy, so if you want to achieve big results, you’ve got to believe in yourself. The world’s most successful people have unshakeable confidence in themselves and in their vision. Without it, they’d have to give up too easily after a few obstacles got in their way. How’s your confidence? Do you believe you can achieve your dreams? I’ll tell you something in case nobody told you before: you can do whatever you want in life, you’ve just to first believe it, and then work like mad to get it.

7. They take care of themselves
When was the last time you saw a successful person who was obese or extremely overweight? Sure, these people exist, but they’re the exception to the rule. Most successful people know they need energy to get ahead, and the best way to have that is to eat right, exercise and get proper rest. Which brings us to our next point…

8. They rest and recharge
Hard work is a requirement for success, but you can only push yourself 24/7 for so long. Successful people work hard and then unplug so they can refresh their minds and bodies. If you’ve been pushing it to the limit, think about unplugging for a long weekend or more. Once you get back to the grind, you’ll be more effective at getting the results you want.

9. They constantly learn
Successful people believe that learning never ends. This doesn’t mean they’re going to school to get new degrees, although they may. Even without formal education, they’re constantly reading and learning from others around them, perhaps from books, trade magazines or conferences, or from others who are ahead of where they want to be. What have you learned recently that can get you closer to the success you want? If you haven’t picked up a book, trade magazine or listened to CDs or MP3s that can get you smarter in your field, it’s time to start.

10. They make mistakes and learn from them
Successful people aren’t afraid to take risks. Because of their unshakeable confidence, they treat any mistake as a learning opportunity. Think about the last mistake you made. Didn’t make a sale? Re-evaluate your sales call and make it better next time. Screwed up a presentation? Read a book on how to present successfully so you can crush your next one. Failed in your last relationship? Call your ex and ask what you can do better with your next partner. So go take some risks, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, and if you stumble, learn from it so you can be better next time.

These are 10 things successful people do. How many of them are you doing today? If not all, or most of them, it’s time to upgrade your behaviors so you can get the success you deserve.

How to get your Canadian tech start-up acquired

Canadian entrepreneurs looking for a liquidity event can find it tough going. I recently heard about a sure-fire path to getting your Canadian tech start-up acquired. Although it smacks of a get-rich-quick scheme, amazingly enough, it does make some sense.

Here is the though process in seven steps.

1. Recognize that Canada is not where the action is. Take your brilliant idea, and identify the three or four large American technology companies that would be the most likely to acquire it.

2. The window for IT products is usually 3-5 years, so get these companies’ roadmaps. Figure out how your stuff could fit into their stuff in the next 1-2 years.

3. Start developing THAT. Work on it like crazy! The premise of this entire strategy is that when they realize they need what you have, it’s faster and cheaper to acquire your company than to develop it themselves. It usually takes months to put together a top-notch engineering team in Silicon Valley.

4. Do some business development to generate a few sales. American companies don’t really place a lot of weight on Canadian customers, so you only need a few reference customers. Don’t waste all your resources developing sales — you just need to be able to demonstrate that someone thought your product was a good enough idea to buy it, and provides a testimonial saying how great it is.

5. Patents add significant value to your company, so focus on them and obtain as many patents as possible. Set yourself a target like one patent per quarter.

6. Use these testimonial customers and patents to strike partnership deal/s with the companies that you identified as potential acquirers. Structure the deal so that they pay you royalties each quarter to have your product in their catalogue, and sell it with their logo on it. Don’t make a fuss about logos — putting their logo on your product is a step closer to selling your company.

7. If sales are decent, chances are their CFO will get tired of making royalty payments every quarter, and decide that it is better to acquire your company.

A typical acquisition deal might have three parameters, placing $X on each patent, $Y on each engineer who stays post-acquisition, and $Z on sales. A patent can easily be worth as much as an engineer, and the total of both can be comparable to, or even worth more, than the value of your sales (assuming your volume is a few million). All deals are different, but let’s assume some could place a value of $1 to $1.5 million per engineer, and $1 to $2 million per patent. The sales multiplier might be 1X to 1.5X annual revenues.

So, a company with $5 in annual revenues, 5 engineers and 10 patents could be worth somewhere in the $20 to $30 million range.

How do you maximize this value? Simple. A) get as many patents as possible, B) give your engineers attractive bonuses to stay on after a deal is made, and C) generate lots of revenue. But a little time spent crunching the numbers might show that the cost of growing sales (head count, overhead, sales expenses, advertising and promotion, etc.) could make that your lowest priority. So instead of growing your sales by a million, you might just hire another engineer or get another patent or two.

Of course, the whole process will take a couple of years, and we think your biggest challenges will be to finance it during this time and making a distribution deal. You’ll also need to equip yourself with a business plan, presentation and prototype to market your company to the potential acquirers.

We’re renovating!

We are having renovations done, and our office may experience temporary outages in power, telephone, LAN and Internet connectivity as work proceeds throughout the month of May. We appreciate your understanding and patience should you call/fax us and the telephone rings unanswered (this could happen if our service provider is working on relocating the lines), or there is a delay in responding to your email (this could happen if our Internet access is interrupted). We will do our best to mitigate any outages.

Peter Drucker on how to use objectives

A common theme in entrepreneurship is self-management, and key to self-management is setting objectives. Of course, entrepreneurs must be able manage themselves effectively before being able to mange others. Here’s some useful advice from Peter Drucker, the consultant’s consultant, on objectives (courtesy of our friends at Priority Management, the experts in productivity and time management training.

HOW TO USE OBJECTIVES by Dr. Peter Drucker

Objectives are not fate; they are direction. If objectives are only good intentions, they are worthless. They must degenerate into work. And work is always specific, always has — or should have a clear, unambiguous, measurable results, a deadline, and a specific assignment of accountability.

But objectives that become a straitjacket do harm. Objectives are always based on expectations. And expectations are, at best, informed guesses. The world does not stand still. The proper way to use objectives is the way an airline uses schedules and flight plans. The schedule provides for the 9 am flight from Los Angeles to get to Boston by 5 pm. But if there is a blizzard in Boston that day, the plane will land in Pittsburgh instead and wait out the storm. The flight plan provides for flying at thirty thousand feet and for flying over Denver and Chicago. But if the pilot encounters turbulence or strong headwinds, he will ask flight control for permission to go up another five thousand feet and to take the Minneapolis-Montreal route.

No flight is ever operated without a schedule and flight plan. Any change is immediately fed back to produce a new schedule and flight plan. Objectives are not fate; they are direction. They are not commands; they are commitments. They do not determine the future; they are meant to mobilize the resources and energies of the business for the making of the future.

You can see more at http://www.prioritymanagement.com/newsletter/2014_04/objectives-0414.php

Mark Cuban’s 12 rules for start-ups

12 Rules for Start-Ups
Mark Cuban is a serial entrepreneur, co-founder of Denver-based cable network HDNet, and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. He is an active investor and regularly appears on ABC’s reality series, “Shark Tank”. This is an edited excerpt from Mr. Cuban’s book “How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It,
You Can Do It” (Diversion Books, 2011).
The original article is at: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/222524


Mark Cuban’s 12 Rules for Start-Ups

Anyone who has started a business has his or her own rules and guidelines, so I thought I would add to the memo with my own. My “rules” below aren’t just for those founding the companies, but for those who are considering going to work for them as well.

  • Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love.
  • If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.
  • Hire people who you think will love working there.
  • Sales cure all. Know how your company will make money and how you will actually make sales.
  • Know your core competencies and focus on being great at them. Pay up for people in your core competencies. Get the best. Outside the core competencies, hire people that fit your culture but aren’t as expensive to pay.
  • An espresso machine? Are you kidding me? Coffee is for closers. Sodas are free. Lunch is a chance to get out of the office and talk. There are 24 hours in a day, and if people like their jobs, they will find ways to use as much of it as possible to do their jobs.
  • No offices. Open offices keep everyone in tune with what is going on and keep the energy up. If an employee is about privacy, show him or her how to use the lock on the bathroom. There is nothing private in a start-up. This is also a good way to keep from hiring executives who cannot operate successfully in a start-up. My biggest fear was always hiring someone who wanted to build an empire. If the person demands to fly first class or to bring over a personal secretary, run away. If an exec won’t go on sales calls, run away. They are empire builders and will pollute your company.
  • As far as technology, go with what you know. That is always the most inexpensive way. If you know Apple, use it. If you know Vista, ask yourself why, then use it. It’s a start-up so there are just a few employees. Let people use what they know.
  • Keep the organization flat. If you have managers reporting to managers in a start-up, you will fail. Once you get beyond start-up, if you have managers reporting to managers, you will create politics.
  • Never buy swag. A sure sign of failure for a start-up is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts. If your people are at shows and in public, it’s okay to buy for your own employees, but if you really think people are going to wear your branded polo when they’re out and about, you are mistaken and have no idea how to spend your money.
  • Never hire a PR firm. A public relations firm will call or email people in the publications you already read, on the shows you already watch and at the websites you already surf. Those people publish their emails. Whenever you consume any information related to your field, get the email of the person publishing it and send them a message introducing yourself and the company. Their job is to find new stuff. They will welcome hearing from the founder instead of some PR flack. Once you establish communication with that person, make yourself available to answer their questions about the industry and be a source for them. If you are smart, they will use you.
  • Make the job fun for employees. Keep a pulse on the stress levels and accomplishments of your people and reward them. My first company, MicroSolutions, when we had a record sales month, or someone did something special, I would walk around handing out $100 bills to salespeople. At Broadcast.com and MicroSolutions, we had a company shot, the Kamikaze. We would take people to a bar every now and then and buy one or ten for everyone. At MicroSolutions, more often than not we had vendors cover the tab. Vendors always love a good party.

Rules for entrepreneurs from Shark Tank’s Daymond John

Rules for Entrepreneurs

I didn’t know much about Daymond John, creator of the FUBU clothing brand and one of the investors on the popular reality TV show “Shark Tank”, so when I came across a “Behind the Brand” interview with him on YouTube, I took the time to watch it.

At one point Daymond articulates his rules for entrepreneurs. Here’s a brief summary.

  1. Start small, and stay small while you learn the industry.
  2. Surround yourself with a great set of people.
  3. The only proof of concept is sales, although Daymond notes that sales can also be non-cash transactions such as page views or likes. Don’t listen to your friends, or rely on their purchases — the only real proof is when someone you don’t know buys your product or service.
  4. Take affordable next steps to grow on that.

You can see the entire 35-minute interview on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uff4661PV_Q

How to nurture your prospects for the future

I was at a professional networking function, chatting to a fellow who mentioned that he tries to contact his past clients once a year.

After we spoke some more, it was obvious that he didn’t really have any formal method of regularly staying in touch with his clients — let alone sales leads and prospective clients (qualified leads). He didn’t want his clients to feel that he was spamming them, so he erred on the side of caution and didn’t email them unless they had a project in place.

Most service businesses find that they often come across potential clients who could possibly use their services, but these prospects don’t need them just at that point in time.

So what do you do when someone responses to an ad, an email, a direct mail piece, or registers on your web site for a download, but when you follow up doesn’t want to buy anything just now? You have two choices — hope that they remember you when they’re ready to buy, or stay in touch on a regular basis so they will be reminded of you when the time is right for them.

This is a fundamental part of building any professional service practice.

It takes a light touch to do it well. You need to maintain contact with people in a non-threatening, personal manner that isn’t pushy or aggressive. You could call them and chat, send them something (an article, infographic, e-book, press release), call them, write them an email, see if they want to meet at an event you’re attending, — whatever, but when you do reach out, it has to be in a personal and sincere manner that builds trust, comfort, and credibility.

What you are trying to do is to “nurture” a relationship with your clients and prospective clients. This is similar to “drip marketing”, a concept borrowed from agriculture whereby plants are nourished by drips of water on a regular basis until they are ready for harvest. Note that drip marketing isn’t about a flood of contacts and then a draught — rather a steady stream of messages.

The most common approach is to collect all of your leads, prospects (qualified leads), and clients into some sort of system by which you can manage this process. There are lots of choices — your system could be something like the Priority Manager (a paper-based contact management using forms called Communication Planners), Outlook (you probably have your contact info in Outlook already, but it isn’t too powerful for anything other than email), a purpose-designed contact management system such as ACT! (the grandpappy of this type of software), or a marketing automation system such as Hubspot (great for those who have a nurturing program in place and want to automate it). The point is that you need a method to look up people, see the history of your contact with them, plan follow-ups, and make sure that you keep in touch.

Once you have collected your data, the next step is to categorize it. A simple A-B-C system works great. For me, A’s are clients, B’s are prospective clients, and C’s are sales leads. You can prioritize and decide how to best stay in touch. For example, I send A’s a Christmas card with a personalized message in December, and maybe a few A’s get gifts. B’s get a card with a personalised greeting and a generic message. And C’s get a “happy holidays” e-mail. My database lets me sort out who’s who, and I can get all of this done in a few hours.

The next thing is to set some goals about how frequently to stay in touch, and how to stay in touch. Ideally, you’ll mix things up — a letter here, an e-mail there, and a phone call once in a while. Like all plans, you need to consider your resources, and how much time you can put into it. If you have a few dozen clients, you can probably call them all once a quarter. If you have hundreds of clients, you may have to prioritize and call your best clients more often.

And you can shuffle things around to fit your available time — maybe you can only do one lunch or coffee meeting per week. If you can only call two clients a week, that’s still two dozen calls per quarter. Maybe the others get a simple “how are things?” email. Spread out your time to reach everyone by some means regularly.

So, here’s your action list.

  1. Decide what contact management system will work best for you.
  2. Gather together your client, prospect and sales leads contact information.
  3. Import or enter it into your contact management system.
  4. Categorize it.
  5. See how many there are in each category and set some achievable goals for how often you can reach out.
  6. Prepare a calendar of what you will do each month, and break that down into what you will do each week. Put it on your to-do list.
  7. Brainstorm possible messages and means of reaching out.
  8. Be disciplined about getting it done on a regular basis. Try to enjoy it — it will be more sincere, and you will use a lighter tone. Remember, it isn’t about selling anything today.
  9. At the end of the month, see how you did and plan the next month’s activities. Try to improve every month until you get into the grove.

Good luck, and let me know how your nurturing program goes!

Peter Drucker on effectiveness

More on being effective in 2014 — sterling advice from Peter Drucker, the consultant’s consultant, courtesy of our friends at Priority Management.

The following seems to be a summary of Drucker’s business classic “The Effective Executive”, first published in 1996 and still in print. You can find out more at Peter Drucker bio @ Wikipedia

THE FIVE PRACTICES FOR EFFECTIVENESS by Dr. Peter Drucker

All that effective people have in common is the ability to get the right things done. The effective people I have seen differ widely in their temperaments and abilities, in what they do and how they do it, in their personalities, their knowledge, their interests — in fact, in almost everything that distinguishes human beings. But all effective people I’ve known perform only necessary tasks and eliminate unnecessary ones. Five practices have to be acquired to be effective

  1. Work systematically… Effective people know where their time goes. They work systematically at managing the little of their time that can be brought under control.
  2. Outward contributions… Effective people focus on outward contributions.
  3. Build on strengths… Effective people build on strengths — theirs and others. They do not build on weaknesses.
  4. Stay within priorities… Effective people concentrate on superior performance where superior performance will produce outstanding results. They force themselves to stay within priorities.
  5. Make effective decisions… Effective people make effective decisions. They know that this is a system — the right steps in the right sequence. They know that to make decisions fast is to make the wrong decisions.

Whenever I have found a person who – no matter how great in intelligence, industry, imagination, or knowledge — fails to observe these practices, I have also found a person deficient in effectiveness.

The Priority Management monthly newletter can be seen here: Priority Management monthly e-newsletter

New CMC-Canada advertising campaign debuts

CMC-Canada has just launched a new ad campaign called “we handle the tough stuff” to raise the awareness of the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation.

In business, situations sometimes arise that fall outside of the ordinary. When these crises occur, you need someone who immediately grasps the problem, and who will work with you to solve it. A CMC is usually your best choice, and the CMC designation separates a professional consultant from someone who is just between jobs.

image of CMC Slay Your Dragon poster In the first ad, called “slay your dragon”, the monster represents an organization that is resistant to change. It is composed of legacy computer systems, paper-based processes, and disgruntled employees. The fearless woman represents a combination of the client and the consultant — confident, armed with tactics that will succeed, and ready to do battle. (Click the thumbnail to see it full-sized.)

The CMC designation is obtained through a combination of education, experience, and evaluation. It is recognized and respected in 45 countries around the world. Since it is a peer-reviewed designation, senior practitioners help ensure that new consultants have demonstrated a solid understanding of the common body of knowledge, combined with strict adherence to a uniform code of professional conduct. Certified Management Consultants stand for the betterment of their profession, themselves, and your business.


For more information about the Canadian Association of Management Consultants and the CMC designation, please see www.cmc-canada.ca

How to get things done in 2014

I was inspired by this article in the recent Priority Management e-newsletter, and thought you might be too.

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year!

Your performance this year, to have any meaning at all, must not be vague New Year goals or good intentions. Rather it must be actions and good practices. Priority Management has now trained over 2 million professionals around the world and here are some of our observations. I hope they help you shape a terrific 2014!

  • People are a resource, not just a cost.
  • Everything takes more time than expected, so trim the time wasters from your schedule. Ask of all your activities; “what would happen if I were starting from scratch — would I still be doing this?”
  • Maintain a constant focus on ‘contribution’ — to family, friends and your organization.
  • Your focus should be on performance and the first requirement is that you set high performance standards for all your objectives in and out of the office. This is true both for you as an individual and for your work team.
  • Your goals must be centered on opportunities rather than on problems. People often expend too much precious energy on negative goals. You will be more motivated to pursue something new and exciting rather than fixing something you perceive to be wrong. That you will accomplish very little without energy.
  • Put your health and physical well being to the top of your agenda. Get enough sleep and exercise to make you feel ‘well and enthusiastic’.
  • Make your goals an expression of your values and beliefs.
  • Try not to ‘think your way into a new way of acting’-rather ‘act your way into a new way of thinking’. We tend to think that ideas always come first, which lead to new behaviors. As a rule, theory seldom precedes practice.

Start immediately and you’ll see your performance and happiness soar. I wish you and your families a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Daniel Stamp, dstamp@prioritymanagement.com

NOTE: You can see more at: http://www.prioritymanagement.com/newsletter/2014_01/intentions-0114.php#sthash.G50KQchI.dpuf

Holiday schedule: Office closed Dec 25 through 30

Happy holidays to you and yours,
and our best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2014!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our clients for their business over the past year. We appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with you.

The office will be closed for the holiday break from Wednesday, December 25 through Friday, January 3, and re-open on Monday, January 6.

Skaters on the Rideau Canal (image courtesy of the City of Ottawa)

 

The importance of quantifying your value prop

A client was excitedly telling me about his marvellous new product under development, and the tremendous benefit that customers would get from using it.

Since the new product targets the enterprise market, I asked if he had an economic justification or ROI calculation. Business customers tend to like to see how potential benefits can actually turn into time or money savings for them.

His next words were “No, I don’t.” This was, of course, a problem.

Quantifying your value proposition lets you understand the value you deliver to your customers in dollars and cents. This leads to a better understanding of what a customer might think is a reasonable price, and that in turn helps you set your price.

For example, if you are pursuing a value pricing strategy, you could set your price near, but a little less, than the value to be derived by the customer. If you are pursuing a low-cost pricing strategy, you’ll need to discount the value to give a larger portion back to the customer.

I think the best method of quantifying a value proposition is still the tried-and-true “before and after” comparisons. How does the customer’s business process change? What steps are eliminated or improved? What are the labour and overhead savings? What materials or supplies can be reduced or eliminated? How often will the customer achieve these savings? Is it on a regular basis or infrequently? Can they defer or avoid a capital expense? When you add it all up, what’s the total savings compared to the status quo and the alternatives? How much will it vary from customer to customer?

This is an even more important exercise if your product is to be resold in some manner. Your cost will impact your customer’s profitability — and maybe for the better! Perhaps the value is greater than you imagined before doing the math.

Unfortunately, sometimes it goes the other way. This is one situation when you will probably play up the emotional sell and don’t provide some sort of economic justification to prospective customers. You might simply tell them factors that could change for the better and let them figure it out themselves. But, if you haven’t gone through the exercise first yourself, you won’t be informed when making this decision.

“We have widgets” is not a value proposition

I was speaking to a prospective client the other day who was looking for help attracting more leads to their web site, and converting more leads into sales. The company offered useful technology, an impressive self-serve portal, free trials, and on-line payment processing. So why wasn’t this thing taking off?

The problem was the value proposition presented on the web site — there wasn’t any.

Of course, technical experts can sell technology to other experts — because they both know what the technology does and can see what how it might be useful (also known as “benefits”). They can establish credibility and create a bond. That’s why technology companies often have success recruiting technical people for sales positions. Unfortunately, mere mortals need a lot more help.

Consider the sales cycle for someone who wants to sell widgets on-line. Their buyers have to:

  • Be aware that such a widget exists (e.g., torque wrenches)
  • Know what the widget does (tightens bolts to a specified maximum torque)
  • Understand what the benefits of using the widget are (won’t damage the fastener — or the material being fastened — while ensuring it is sufficiently tightened)
  • Know that your web site sells these widgets (through your promotional efforts such as search engine optimization, etc.)
  • Evaluate your widget by deciding “is this for me?” (Maybe the buyer is a DIY’er who wants good value at low cost, or a professional auto mechanic who wants a robust tool and is willing to pay more for it, or maybe a heavy-equipment mechanic who needs the biggest and strongest tools available regardless of cost, or maybe someone who needs some sort of specialized tool?)
  • See how your widget is better than others (our widgets are the best quality for the price and we offer free shipping, or our widgets never break so they save you money replacing them, or maybe our widgets can adapt to any situation because they are so versatile)
  • Decide to buy now (or not), and process a transaction

This company had a product and the back-office customer service parts, but none of the strategy.

You may do okay if your company sells a commonly-purchased item with a large and broad addressable market and your web site is highly-ranked by the search engines. But that doesn’t describe most technology companies, especially start-ups.

Instead of immediately focusing on SEO and conversion rates, I suggest that the path to improving a company’s performance is to address the strategic issues first by defining your target customer and developing a compelling value proposition.

It’s time to support your local School Supplies drive

As the back-to-school season approaches, now is the time to support local programs that provide children from low-income families with essential school supplies.

How big a problem is this? Staples says that its survey of Canadian teachers recently conducted with Vision Critical found that one third of students will start their school year without basic supplies, and that poverty is the number one reason they don’t have what they need.

It’s obvious that education helps people lead better lives, and prepares the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs for our local business community.

In Ottawa there are several programs that you and your business can support.

  • The Caring and Sharing Exchange’s Sharing in Student Success Program provides redeemable gift certificates to low-income families to help with the cost of their children’s required school essentials such as backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes, snacks and much more. Donations can made on-line and/or supplies can be dropped off at CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) and OPL (Ottawa Public Library) locations; see the web site for details.

  • “Help provide school supplies for children in need”, an article from the Ottawa Citizen.

  • The Staples for Students Annual School Supply Drive has generated $6.3 million for schools, non-profit organizations and community groups. The campaign helps local students go back to school with the essential school supplies they need. Each Staples Canada store collects and distributes donations for local charities within the immediate community surrounding that store. You can check on-line which organizations and schools your local Staples store supports.

  • The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board’s page for parents about List of School Supplies (this page has a link to a list of recommended supplies for elementary school students at the bottom, and instructions on how to get more information). A few minutes on the net will yield many more such lists.

  • “School supplies for under $15”, another article from the Ottawa Citizen has shopping suggestions.

While most programs prefer the flexibility of cash donations, sometimes you can also donate supplies. In-kind donations are easy even for small businesses; just add a few extra items to your next order for office supplies and donate them. Most programs request that businesses avoid giving branded items with corporate logos or promotional messages.

We urge your business to support a local program that provides children in need with essential school supplies.

The office prepper’s EDC (Every Day Carry kit)

The recent floods in Calgary and Toronto made me think about what it would mean for people at work, or commuting to work, if a disaster were to occur here in Ottawa. And I realised that I’m often meeting with clients in unfamiliar buildings.

I don’t want to be an alarmist, and while the chances that anything like this will happen here are probably small, they aren’t zero. Most businesses tend to think of business continuity in terms of employees watching the weather report and deciding to work from home, rather than situations where lives are endangered — commuters being caught in a flash flood and having to abandon their cars, or office workers escaping a burning high-rise tower in the midst of a power outage. There were reports during Hurricane Sandy that New Yorkers were ditching their laptops and briefcases after they realized these items were making it even more difficult to get back home.

So, maybe a small “every-day-carry” (EDC) survival kit for office workers isn’t such a crazy idea. It might make the difference between struggling or being able to cope with an emergency. You can keep a few things in a desk drawer or, if you are often out and about, in your briefcase. That means your kit has to be small and light.

The purpose of my kit is help get me out of a building and back home. That might involve going back to the car and driving, taking a taxi, taking public transportation, or even walking home if the roads can’t be used. Plan B is to stay somewhere safe until help arrives (experts call this “sheltering in place”). It’s a sensible idea to keep an emergency kit in your car, and you can get some additional supplies from your car even if you can’t drive home.

Of course, I always have my phone with me. The charger, a powerbank, a Swiss Army knife, and a protein bar are in my briefcase. Everybody should keep a pair of “sensible shoes” at work — meaning something you can walk in. A pair of old sneakers are perfect.

After reviewing lots of web sites and YouTube videos, here’s what I came up with for my EDC to supplement these items. Packed up, the whole kit fits in a 9×12 envelope, is about one inch thick, and weighs about one pound. Instead of an envelope I prefer the heavy-duty plastic bags that banks use for coins; they have handles and could be used to carry water. Many experts recommend a backpack so you can carry your EDC kit, along with some spare clothing, while keeping your hands free.

Top-5 Items

  • A small, bright, durable LED flashlight with a spare set of batteries. Check the batteries at least monthly.
  • A pair of light-weight leather work gloves in case you need to clear a path by moving something sharp or hot.
  • A space blanket to keep warm and dry, block the sun, or use the reflective surface to signal.
  • A whistle to attract first responders. Whistles are louder than your voice and won’t get hoarse.
  • A disposable surgical mask; these filter out 95% of bacteria, ash and perhaps larger smoke particles. You can also use drywall dust masks but they don’t pack flat.

Additional Items

  • A chemical lightstick. These typically last for 12 hours, and can be used for marking a location or signalling for help. Their shelf life is a couple of years.
  • About $15 in toonies, loonies and quarters; enough for a bottle of water and a snack from a vending machine, calls from a pay phone, or bus fare for you and a friend (wanna bet your Presto card won’t work in an emergency?).
  • A city map to plot a course home. The free OC Transpo map covers the entire city, shows bus routes and — unlike a GPS or smart phone — doesn’t need batteries. Don’t forget to get a local map when travelling to another city.
  • A few hand sanitizer wipes; thinner to pack than a bottle.
  • A package of pocket Kleenex; in a pinch, it can double as toilet paper.
  • A camper’s towel; I like the the tiny compressed ones that are formed into a little puck about 4 cm wide and 1 cm high. These can also be used for first aid and tinder.
  • A travel tube of aspirin, with a few Benadryl tossed in for allergic reactions.
  • Some 4×4-inch gauze bandages to stop bleeding from cuts.
  • A laminated (water-resistant) business card for ID.
  • Strike-anywhere matches in a water-proof container. I strongly recommend that you NEVER START A FIRE INDOORS but fire can be used for light, heat, and to boil water (you’ll need a metal container to boil water).
  • A small ice scrapper in case the car is iced up. I found a small flat one at Eddie Bauer, but some people say credit cards work fine. Maybe experiment with an expired one!

Consider your specific needs. You might not need all of these items, or want to add others (water bottle? hard copy of emergency contact numbers? medication? first aid?). Some web sites recommend planning with your colleagues and buying things together to keep costs down; you can split a package of something among a few people.

Let me know what you put in your office EDC kit!

The single most important marketing metric

We believe that the single most-important marketing metric for growing businesses is the cost of acquiring a new customer. This is sometimes called the Customer Acquisition Cost or abbreviated to CAC.

Every Director of Marketing needs to know their CAC and, fortunately, the math is easy. To calculate your own cost of acquiring a new customer, take all of the your sales and marketing costs over a time period (a quarter or year) and divide it by the number of new customers acquired in that time.

Of course, you’ll need to know how many new customers you acquired and some people might argue that’s a second metric. We won’t disagree.

Start up adding up all of the marketing costs — advertising, PR, promotions, events, marcom material development costs, web site development — plus sales costs — salaries, commissions, bonuses, travel, accommodation, meals and entertainment — and you may be surprised at the whooping big number that results.

If you spent, say, $1 million last year, and acquired 1,000 new customers, then your cost of acquiring a new customer is $1 million / 1,000 new customers, or $1,000 per new customer (thanks to my engineering background, I like to check that the units work out). Tracking this metric helps control costs, and digging into it may help you find efficiencies through possible improvements, savings, or budget re-allocation.

You might want to exclude some costs if you are examining a specific product, product line or product category, and perhaps exclude some web site costs if your web site does more than just marketing (most do). An example might be a web site whose primary function is e-commerce or post-sales customer service. The costs of developing and delivering these functions may be substantial and you may come to the conclusion that they don’t contribute to acquiring new customers. BTW, this is often easier to do in a small business than a large enterprise since costs may be cleaner, meaning more directly attributable.

But the acid test is how this acquisition cost compares to the value of your customers. If your CAC is greater than the lifetime value of your customers, you obviously have a problem because your business won’t be sustainable. We’ll discuss this more in our next posting.

“The value of promotional marketing” infographic

This infographic is a great summary of the costs of typical B2C promotional vehicles, in some cases, the total U.S. annual expenditures on these promotional vehicles. We pass it along with thanks to the folks at iaspromotes.com

Resource links updated to reflect NRC cluster closings

Over the past two years, the National Research Council (NRC) has closed several of its technology clusters following a review of the organization’s cluster initiatives. The corresponding NRC web sites for these closed clusters were subsequently archived.

We believe that these archives still contain valuable information, so we’ve updated the links on our Resources/Links:Technological page to point to the NRC archives. We offer these links to assist clients in performing an industry PEST (Political, Economic, Social, Technological) analysis of their external business environment.

You can find out more about NRC’s cluster review here: Portfolio Evaluation of the NRC Technology Cluster Initiatives

Get ready for 2013 with a quick business tune-up

Instead of making a long list of New Year’s resolutions, here are five concrete things business owners can do right now to prepare for the year to come. Each item only takes between 30 and 60 minutes, and all you’ll need is last year’s financials and some yellow stickies.

1. Rough out a sales forecast

If you don’t already have a sales forecast for the new year, now’s the time to make one. You need to understand where the business is going and to prepare a budget (more about that later).

The first step is to review last year’s sales. Many businesses have a small number of large customers and many small customers. Determine who your largest customers are, and quickly make a plus/minus judgement call on each. Do you expect more, flat, or less sales from these customers? Guestimate a multiplier for each major customer (plus 10%, less 25%) and add it up. If you’re having trouble making these estimates, you may not have kept in close enough touch with these customers — perhaps something to work on this year.

Next, group together all the rest of your customers and make an estimate for the entire group. Remember that you’ll probably lose some of these customers and gain some new ones. You may find that that sales from this group stays about the same, or grows at a similar rate from year to year.

Add the two together and you have a first — but rough — draft of your sales forecast that gives you an indication of where sales are headed. You’ll probably need to work on it further, but at least you’ll have a good start. You’re also be better prepared for a review with the sales team, something you should do ASAP when everyone is back from the holiday break.

2. See if you can improve your marketing cost-effectiveness by exploiting seasonality

Were sales more-or-less flat throughout the year, or were there peaks and valleys? Are your peaks caused by seasonal factors? If seasonal, think about what you can do to take better advantage of these inherent spikes in demand -– such as advertising campaigns, event marketing, special offers, etc. Task your sales and marketing folks with planning a handful of specific projects you could do at these times of year. Although it’s probably more productive to focus on making the peaks higher, spend a little time to see if you can boost up the valleys as well.

3. Brainstorm new opportunities

Get a pad of yellow stickies and start brainstorming ideas for new opportunities. Write one on each sticky and — without evaluating it — immediately go on the next idea. After a while you’ll run out of ideas. Put the stickies on a wall and move them around to group ideas into related themes: new products or services, new markets, customers groups, promotions, etc. Then spend a few minutes considering what each could be worth and what it would require to do, and how it fits in with your existing work. Prioritize them and take your list of new opportunities in to work on your first day back so you can get started right away. Here are two freebies -– if your business doesn’t have a web site, make this the year to develop a web presence. And if you’re not already using social media, consider how to get started.

4. Update your budget — or not!

If you don’t yet have a budget for the new year yet, shame on you, but you may be able to buy some time. Compare your rough sales forecast to last year’s expenses. If you’re happy with the difference (meaning a healthy profit!) and you’re not planning any major new expenditures, you can delay making your budget for a few weeks. This would give you time to refine your sales forecast and get started on those new opportunities. But don’t wait too long; get it done in time for your February monthly business review, or March quarterly review.

And here’s one resolution you should really make: get your budget done earlier next year! Many businesses fit their strategic planning and budgeting into one of those seasonal valleys when it isn’t so busy.

5. Make friends with your balance sheet

Small business owners typically manage by cash flow and are pretty familiar with their income statements. But make this the year to think about long-term value, and learn the in’s and out’s of a balance sheet.

Most small businesses don’t have a lot of economic value, since their inventory, used fittings/furniture/equipment, and laptops don’t have much salvage value. So consider how you can build up some long-term value in your business. The quick answer for many is real estate; a small business’s major asset is often their land and building. Sole proprietors can invest in paying off their home mortgage or perhaps buying a small commercial building. We suggest making an appointment with your accountant or financial planner to discuss ways you can build up value in your business. After all, you may want to retire some day!

BONUS TIP: Spend a few minutes day-dreaming about your future

Day-to-day operations don’t leave a lot of time and energy for planning. Try to find a few minutes over the holidays when you’re in a relaxed mood to think about what you would like your business — and your role in it — to be in the future. Coaches who work with professional athletes know that visualizing the future can help you understand what you need to do to get there.

We wish you a successful 2013!

Holiday schedule: Closed from noon Dec 24 to Jan 3

Happy holidays to you and yours,
and our best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2013!

We would like to take this opportunity to thank our clients for their business over this past year. We appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with you.

The office will close for the holiday break at noon on Monday, December 24, and re-open on Thursday, January 3.

Skaters on the Rideau Canal (image courtesy of the City of Ottawa)

Kaspersky developing super-secure operating system

Earlier this month Eugene Kaspersky confirmed in a blog posting that his IT security company, Kaspersky Lab, is developing a new super-secure operating system for industrial control systems that will be “exploit-proof” — meaning safe from viruses, malware and cyber-attacks — to protect critical facilities such as nuclear reactors, power stations, telecommunication systems, transportation systems, and financial systems. The operating system will be designed to prevent break-ins and won’t execute third-party software or unauthorized applications.

To Kaspersky’s statement that the company’s new operating system is not intended for applications like “playing Half Life, editing your vacation videos, or blathering on social media”, I can only cheer and say “bravo!” Won’t it be great to have a secure operating system for routine business use, and stop squandering cycles and money on all those essential but wasteful antivirus, security and system diagnostic products? Kaspersky might even find that SMEs are an unexpected but lucrative market for his new OS.

Eugene Kaspersky’s original blog posting is here.

For those who may doubt this is possible, Kaspersky has a lot of credibility. Kaspersky Lab describes itself as “an innovator in IT security (that) provides effective digital security solutions for consumers, SMBs and large enterprises”. The company claims to operate in almost 200 countries and territories, provide protection for over 300 million users worldwide, and was recently ranked by research firm IDC as one of the world’s top four vendors of security solutions for endpoint users. If you’re interested in investing, note that Kaspersky is the largest privately-held vendor of endpoint protection solutions.

More information about the company and its products at www.kaspersky.com.

More tech predictions for the year to come

Icreon Tech, a global IT services, recently released its top-10 predictions for technology trends that are expected to drive innovation and influence decision-making around IT spending in 2013.

“Technological advances that connect the digital and physical world will make 2013 the year of integration,” said Himanshu Sareen, CEO of Icreon Tech. “From the integration of fragmented IT systems to all encompassing smartphones and smart televisions, in 2013, technology will keep the heavy lifting confined to the backend and enable incredible intuitiveness, simplicity and seamlessness for users.”

Internet of Things

In 2013, the physical and digital worlds will fuse. From the RFID tags on a runner’s bib to the real-time camera feed from traffic lights that informs driving routes, the physical world is becoming an information system. Icreon has been working on cutting-edge apps and solutions for 2013 that are using IT to instill everyday “things” and gadgets with a flow of information and an overall sense of intelligence.

Formalization of “Agile-ish”

Agile has been very popular but may not be applicable to organizations that are not solely focused on software product development and have limited resources to make the investments required to make agile a success. Icreon predicts that a greater number of companies will turn to agile-ish development, which is still iterative and collaborative but requires less ongoing support from the client.

IT’s Human side

There is no such thing as an IT project; there are only business projects that are enabled by IT. IT professionals are becoming more attentive than ever to business and the role end users play in the ultimate success of the software. 2013 will involve businesses setting aside more time and budget toward intangibles around IT: communication plans, continuous user training and implementation support.

Reverse Outsourcing

The early days of globalization triggered a mass movement of work eastward. However, as the world truly becomes flat, the trend is less about jobs lost and instead about the new kinds of jobs being created. In 2013, Icreon anticipates the discourse of “offshoring” to be replaced by smarter “redistribution” of labor based on core capabilities and opportunities in market places.

All-Encompassing Smartphones

As 2012 comes to a close, consumers are increasingly relying on their smartphones for just about everything. From researching purchasing decisions to mobile commerce, expect to see more brands start to innovate and cater to the needs of mobile audiences, both customers and staff, to allow for more seamless use and integration of smartphones into our daily lives.

Community Across Devices

With more users working across multiple devices, 2013 will see a move to provide the missing link in today’s computing experience – the ability to pick up the session on a different device in exactly the same place you left off. Innovation will occur behind the scenes, to provide a continuous experience for users across call logs, text messages, notes and activities as they move from laptop to desktop, from tablet to mobiles.

Transformation of the Television

2013 will continue to be a renaissance period for television content, but not because of cable network providers. Television will be increasingly connected to mainstream computing experiences rather than just isolated content-viewing sessions. The app-ification of curated media by innovative firms like Netflix and SnagFilms across devices such as Rokus, Boxees and tablets will further drive content delivery beyond traditional TV.

Niche Social Networks

Past social networks like MySpace, Orkut and Friendster were decimated by Facebook’s domination. Today, however, Facebook’s ubiquity has led to the proliferation of the niche social network. From photo and video sharing on Instagram and Vimeo, to music and theater lovers using Spotify and Playbill Memory Bank. In 2013, expect to see more custom networks that use Facebook’s login mechanism as a gateway to smaller, more focused social networks.

Content Over Chrome

Skeuomorphism, the act of using physical textures, such as stitched leather, for no particular function, has become a principle on how not to design software. With Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Google’s Android operating systems as indicators, in 2013 the user experience of software will be vastly different from years past, with solid colors, clean type and pure UI, avoiding the “noise” that comes with gradients, glossy buttons and flashy banners.

Data Liberation in Government

Long crippled by red tape and black box processes, governments have been the place where great data went to die. However, with the adoption of sustainable standards, private enterprises and governments alike will be able to tap into a trove of valuable data to create exciting and technology-forward public services. As an IT partner for state governments, Icreon has witnessed this wave of technology innovation first hand.

For more information, see www.icreon.us

Gartner’s top technology trends for 2013

Gartner, a leading global IT research firm, presented its top-10 list of strategic tech trends for the year to come at the annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo event held in Orlando, Florida on October 23-25, 2012. The event gathers together CIOs, senior IT executives, and key technology providers. This posting was prepared using information from the Gartner website.

Gartner believes these trends have the potential for significant impact on enterprises in the next three years. The impacts could include a high potential for disruption to IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt. These trends may impact an organization’s plans, programs, and initiatives.

1. Mobile Device Battles
Gartner predicts that by 2013 mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide and that by 2015 over 80 percent of the handsets sold in mature markets will be smartphones. However, only 20 percent of those handsets are likely to be Windows phones. By 2015 media tablet shipments will reach around 50 percent of laptop shipments and Windows 8 will likely be in third place behind Google’s Android and Apple iOS operating systems. Windows 8 is Microsoft’s big bet and Windows 8 platform styles should be evaluated to get a better idea of how they might perform in real-world environments as well as how users will respond. Consumerization will mean enterprises won’t be able to force users to give up their iPads or prevent the use of Windows 8 to the extent consumers adopt consumer targeted Windows 8 devices. Enterprises will need to support a greater variety of form factors reducing the ability to standardize PC and tablet hardware. The implications for IT is that the era of PC dominance with Windows as the single platform will be replaced with a post-PC era where Windows is just one of a variety of environments IT will need to support.

2. Mobile Applications and HTML5
The market for tools to create consumer and enterprise facing apps is complex with well over 100 potential tools vendors. Currently, Gartner separates mobile development tools into several categories. For the next few years, no single tool will be optimal for all types of mobile application so expect to employ several. Six mobile architectures – native, special, hybrid, HTML 5, Message and No Client will remain popular. However, there will be a long term shift away from native apps to Web apps as HTML5 becomes more capable. Nevertheless, native apps won’t disappear, and will always offer the best user experiences and most sophisticated features. Developers will also need to develop new design skills to deliver touch-optimized mobile applications that operate across a range of devices in a coordinated fashion.

3. Personal Cloud
The personal cloud will gradually replace the PC as the location where individuals keep their personal content, access their services and personal preferences and center their digital lives. It will be the glue that connects the web of devices they choose to use during different aspects of their daily lives. The personal cloud will entail the unique collection of services, Web destinations and connectivity that will become the home of their computing and communication activities. Users will see it as a portable, always-available place where they go for all their digital needs. In this world no one platform, form factor, technology or vendor will dominate and managed diversity and mobile device management will be an imperative. The personal cloud shifts the focus from the client device to cloud-based services delivered across devices.

4. Enterprise App Stores
Enterprises face a complex app store future as some vendors will limit their stores to specific devices and types of apps forcing the enterprise to deal with multiple stores, multiple payment processes and multiple sets of licensing terms. By 2014, Gartner believes that many organizations will deliver mobile applications to workers through private application stores. With enterprise app stores the role of IT shifts from that of a centralized planner to a market manager providing governance and brokerage services to users and potentially an ecosystem to support apptrepreneurs.

5. The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that describes how the Internet will expand as physical items such as consumer devices and physical assets are connected to the Internet. Key elements of the IoT which are being embedded in a variety of mobile devices include embedded sensors, image recognition technologies and NFC payment. As a result, mobile no longer refers only to use of cellular handsets or tablets. Cellular technology is being embedded in many new types of devices including pharmaceutical containers and automobiles. Smartphones and other intelligent devices don’t just use the cellular network, they communicate via NFC, Bluetooth, LE and Wi-Fi to a wide range of devices and peripherals, such as wristwatch displays, healthcare sensors, smart posters, and home entertainment systems. The IoT will enable a wide range of new applications and services while raising many new challenges.

6. Hybrid IT and Cloud Computing
As staffs have been asked to do more with less, IT departments must play multiple roles in coordinating IT-related activities, and cloud computing is now pushing that change to another level. A recently conducted Gartner IT services survey revealed that the internal cloud services brokerage (CSB) role is emerging as IT organizations realize that they have a responsibility to help improve the provisioning and consumption of inherently distributed, heterogeneous and often complex cloud services for their internal users and external business partners. The internal CSB role represents a means for the IT organization to retain and build influence inside its organization and to become a value center in the face of challenging new requirements relative to increasing adoption of cloud as an approach to IT consumption.

7. Strategic Big Data
Big Data is moving from a focus on individual projects to an influence on enterprises’ strategic information architecture. Dealing with data volume, variety, velocity and complexity is forcing changes to many traditional approaches. This realization is leading organizations to abandon the concept of a single enterprise data warehouse containing all information needed for decisions. Instead they are moving towards multiple systems, including content management, data warehouses, data marts and specialized file systems tied together with data services and metadata, which will become the “logical” enterprise data warehouse.

8. Actionable Analytics
Analytics is increasingly delivered to users at the point of action and in context. With the improvement of performance and costs, IT leaders can afford to perform analytics and simulation for every action taken in the business. The mobile client linked to cloud-based analytic engines and big data repositories potentially enables use of optimization and simulation everywhere and every time. This new step provides simulation, prediction, optimization and other analytics, to empower even more decision flexibility at the time and place of every business process action.

9. In Memory Computing
In memory computing (IMC) can also provide transformational opportunities. The execution of certain-types of hours-long batch processes can be squeezed into minutes or even seconds allowing these processes to be provided in the form of real-time or near real-time services that can be delivered to internal or external users in the form of cloud services. Millions of events can be scanned in a matter of a few tens of millisecond to detect correlations and patterns pointing at emerging opportunities and threats “as things happen.” The possibility of concurrently running transactional and analytical applications against the same dataset opens unexplored possibilities for business innovation. Numerous vendors will deliver in-memory-based solutions over the next two years driving this approach into mainstream use.

10. Integrated Ecosystems
The market is undergoing a shift to more integrated systems and ecosystems and away from loosely coupled heterogeneous approaches. Driving this trend is the user desire for lower cost, simplicity, and more assured security. Driving the trend for vendors the ability to have more control of the solution stack and obtain greater margin in the sale as well as offer a complete solution stack in a controlled environment, but without the need to provide any actual hardware. The trend is manifested in three levels. Appliances combine hardware and software and software and services are packaged to address and infrastructure or application workload. Cloud-based marketplaces and brokerages facilitate purchase, consumption and/or use of capabilities from multiple vendors and may provide a foundation for ISV development and application runtime. In the mobile world, vendors including Apple, Google and Microsoft drive varying degrees of control across and end-to-end ecosystem extending the client through the apps.

About Gartner, Inc.

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to technology investors, Gartner is the valuable partner to clients in 12,000 distinct organizations. Through the resources of Gartner Research, Gartner Executive Programs, Gartner Consulting and Gartner Events, Gartner works with every client to research, analyze and interpret the business of IT within the context of their individual role. Founded in 1979, Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A., and has 5,000 associates, including 1,280 research analysts and consultants, and clients in 85 countries. For more information, www.gartner.com.

Attracting investors | Real-world investment criteria

Here’s a real-world example of the investment strategy used by an extremely successful private equity firm — one that claims it has completed $27 billion of leveraged transactions and other private equity investments involving 450 properties since being founded in 1989. That averages out to over $1 billion and 20 properties (companies) per year!

“Our investment criteria are highly consistent. We seek high quality companies led by motivated and skilled executives who want to own as well as run their businesses. We have successfully executed this strategy in several sectors; however, regardless of the market being served, our portfolio companies exhibit certain specific characteristics:

  • High barriers to competitive entry
  • Predictable, recurring revenues such as subscription businesses with high customer retention rates
  • High operating leverage whereby moderate increases in company revenues can yield even more rapid increases in operating profit
  • Opportunity to significantly increase profitability through revenue growth, consolidation of expenses, add-on acquisitions leading to efficiencies of scale, or other operating improvements”

This pithy statement does a wonderful job of articulating the importance of early and strong revenues as per our earlier posts.

Two other aspects that venture capitalists usually mention are market size and the management team.

Although market size targets vary, it is common to hear a desire for the addressable market to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This may sound excessive, but consider that 10% share of a billion-dollar market is $100 million — a size to which VCs would typically like to see their portfolio companies grow.

We’ll save a detailed discussion for a future post, but savvy investors realise that the composition of the management team is key. Start-ups need someone who has vision and sound judgement, someone who can quickly develop the product, and someone who can sell. Proven expertise in these areas is a critical success factor.

Market Metrics qualified to provide IRAP DAS service

Market Metrics Inc. announced today that it has been qualified by the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC-Canada) to provide consulting services under an agreement between the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) and CMC-Canada.

NRC-IRAP and CMC-Canada have entered into an agreement whereby CMC-Canada administers a new program called the Digital Advisory Service (DAS). Similar to NRC-IRAP’s original Management Advisory Sevice (MAS), eligible companies can receive up to 40 hours of management advisory services with the consultant’s fee covered by the DAS program. The company is charged only a nominal $150 administrative fee, and the consulting fees do not have to be repaid in the future.

The DAS program has the goal of helping small- and medium-sized Canadian businesses increase their competitiveness by increasing revenues, adding value, or pursuing other productivity goals enabled by digital technology. Under the DAS program the consultant assists the client in developing a business case assessing the new digital strategy. Additional funding for implementation may be available through IRAP in some cases.

Participating companies must be eligible to receive NRC-IRAP assistance. DAS projects are initiated by an NRC-IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor, administered by CMC-Canada and delivered by a Certified Management Consultant. Gregory Graham, the principal of Market Metrics, is a Certified Management Consultant and has satisfied the qualification and registration requirements of the DAS program. Mr. Graham has been fulfilling NRC-IRAP MAS consulting engagements since 2009.

NRC-IRAP Industrial Technology Advisors, located geographically throughout Canada, meet and interview companies as the first step in forging a long-term client relationship. In the event that an ITA decides that a DAS project is appropriate for a client, the ITA triggers a project by submitting a request to CMC-Canada.

We regret that Market Metrics cannot initiate DAS projects and refer interested parties to the NRC-IRAP program (see web link below).

About NRC-IRAP

Delivered by a network of over 210 professionals located in more than 100 communities across Canada, NRC-IRAP supports the needs of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) engaged in innovative or technology-driven activities. The program provides a suite of advisory services, networking and linkages, and non-repayable financial assistance to SMEs.

More information about NRC-IRAP can be found at www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/irap

About CMC-Canada

CMC-Canada fosters excellence and integrity in the management consulting profession as a whole. CMC-Canada administers, and its provincial Institutes confer, the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation in Canada. The Association and its members advocate for the CMC designation and are dedicated to advancing the profession and delivering the benefits of those efforts to the client community.

More information about CMC-Canada can be found at www.cmc-canada.ca

Market Metrics moves to Wellington West Village

The Market Metrics office will be closed from Friday, March 9 through Friday, March 16 as we relocate and set up shop in a new office in Wellington West Village. The new location is more than 20 km closer to downtown Ottawa than our current west-end location in Kanata. We plan to re-open on Monday, March 19.

Wellington West Village is described by the local Business Improvement Area as having “a unique blend of arts, food services, historical neighbourhoods and specialty shops that provide a wonderful experience for those who visit and enhances the lives of those who live nearby.” The village has about 400 small businesses, a farmers market, park, galleries, restaurants, and the Irving Greenberg Theatre, home of the Great Canadian Theatre Company.

There will be a brief interruption in our communications facilites as our phone lines and Internet access are disconnected at the old office and reconnected at the new one. We probably won’t be able to respond as quickly as usual throughout the move, so please be patient if you have trouble getting through.

Our new coordinates will be:

MARKET METRICS INC.
93 Ross Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 0N6
Canada

Our toll-free number remains the same but our local telephone number will change to (613) 728-5949

Updated study of Canadian IaaS published

Market Metrics and The Gottlieb Group announced today that the updated edition of their joint study of the Canadian market for hosting services has been completed is now available from the publisher, NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The two firms jointly define “hosting services” as the provision of IT services based upon outsourced infrastructure operated in a data centre by a third party; this is sometimes also called “infrastructure as a service” or IaaS.

The Canadian Hosting & IaaS Cloud Computing Market Report, 2012 Edition describes the competitive landscape of the hosting market in Canada, and divides the market into three segments — collocation, shared hosting and managed hosting. Estimates of the size of the Canadian market, market segments and vendor market shares are presented, as are in-depth profiles of the top dozen leading hosting service providers active in Canada. Major industry trends are identified and discussed. The 2012 edition is 140 pages in length with 23 detailed exhibits that provide comprehensive quantification and analysis.

The report will be exclusively available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

About NBI/Michael Sone Associates

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community. More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

About The Gottlieb Group
In business since 1999, The Gottlieb Group specializes in the wireless and VoIP sectors, assisting telecom firms to navigate Canadian government and regulatory agencies, negotiate intercarrier agreements and assess the market for potential entry. This experience is buttressed by significant market analysis expertise, having successfully completed numerous major research projects for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The Gottlieb Group
325 Hillhurst Blvd.
Toronto, Ontario
M6B 1M9

Telephone: (416) 782-2750
Email: agottlieb AT gottliebgroup DOT ca

Attracting investors | Presenting the opportunity

Presenting a business opportunity usually entails at least one discussion followed up with a written document. Your potential investors will want to understand the opportunity and — unlike the popular TV show Dragons Den — will probably wish to thoroughly discuss it instead of simply bombarding you with snide questions. Your initial discussion might be a short one, and they will want to talk through the specifics if still interested after reading your business plan, or there could be one or more lengthly meetings where what you say is compared to what’s in the business plan.

Long or short, you’ll need to use that precious face-time to create a positive impression and describe the nitty-gritty of the opportunity in terms they can understand. That means telling them who buys what from whom, what the economics are, how large you envision the business growing, where you are now, what it needs to grow, and what stands in the way of its success.

Of course, investors have to like your industry as well. The industry must be, or become, structurally attractive. Your market must be either large enough or growing rapidly enough that your goals are feasible. Some investors like to bet on new markets since they feel it is easier to obtain a share of a growing market than switch customers away from established competitors in an established market.  

All opportunites have both potential and vulnerabilities. The natural inclination is to puff up the potential. Don’t whitewash the vulnerabilities — acknowledge them and demonstrate that you understand how to take advantage of your strengths and shore up the weaknesses.

Of course, investors want to be confident that they will get their money back with a return. A “give-us-your-money-and-we’ll-pay-you-back-someday” approach doesn’t work too well, so be clear on what the terms are and how your venture will create a positive return. If you want a loan, demonstrate that your venture will be able to make the payments.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Present investors with your business model — not just your product — so that they can understand how you will be able to pay back their investment with a return.

Kickstart 2012 with a 5-point business tune-up

This is a repeat of a post we made at this time last year. But we feel it is worth repeating. Best wishes for a successful 2012!

Instead of making a long list of New Year’s resolutions, here are five concrete things business owners can do right now to prepare for the new year. Each point should only take 30-60 minutes, and all you’ll need is last year’s financials, pen and paper, and some yellow stickies. Or your shiny new tablet if Santa was kind to you!

1. Rough out a sales forecast

If you don’t already have a sales forecast for the new year, now’s the time to make one. You need it to understand where the business is going and to prepare a budget (more about that later).

The first step is to review last year’s sales. Many businesses have a small number of large customers and many small customers. Determine who your largest customers are, and quickly make a plus/minus judgement call on each. Do you expect more, flat, or less sales from these customers? Guestimate a multiplier for each major customer (plus 10%, less 25%) and add it up. If you’re having trouble making these estimates, you may not have kept in close enough touch with these customers — perhaps something to work on in 2011.

Then group together all the rest of your customers and make an estimate for the entire group. Remember that you’ll probably lose some of these customers and gain some new ones. You may find that that sales from this group stays about the same, or grows at a similar rate from year to year.

Add the two together and you have a first — and very rough — draft of your sales forecast that gives you an indication of where sales are headed. You’ll need to work on it further, but at least you’ll have a good start. You’re also be better prepared for a review with the sales team, something you should do ASAP when everyone is back from the holidays.

2. See if you can improve your marketing cost-effectiveness by exploiting seasonality

Were sales more-or-less flat throughout the year, or were there peaks and valleys? Are your peaks caused by seasonal factors? If seasonal, think about what you can do to take better advantage of these inherent spikes in demand -– such as advertising campaigns, event marketing, special offers, etc. Task your sales and marketing folks with planning a handful of specific projects you could do at these times of year. Although it’s probably more productive to focus on making the peaks higher, spend a little time to see if you can boost up the valleys as well.

3. Brainstorm new opportunities

Get a pad of yellow stickies and start brainstorming ideas for new opportunities. Write one on each sticky and — without evaluating it — immediately go on the next idea. After a while you’ll run out of ideas. Put the stickies on a wall and move them around to group ideas into related themes: new products or services, new markets, customers groups, promotions, etc. Then spend a few minutes considering what each could be worth and what it would require to do, and how it fits in with your existing work. Prioritize them and take your list of new opportunities to work on the first day back so you can get started right away. And here’s your first sticky -– if you’re not already using it, “get started with social media”.

4. Update your budget — or not!

If you don’t yet have a budget yet for the 2012, shame on you, but you may be able to buy some time. Compare your rough sales forecast to last year’s expenses. If you’re happy with the difference (meaning a healthy profit!) and you’re not planning any major new expenditures, you can delay making your budget for a few weeks. Maybe a little risky, but it gives you time to refine your sales forecast and get started on those new opportunities. But don’t wait too long; get it done well in advance of your February monthly business review, or at absolute latest for your first quarter business review (if you use quarterly instead of monthly reviews).

And here’s one resolution you should really make: get your budget done earlier next year! Some businesses fit their strategic planning and budgeting into one of those seasonal valleys when it isn’t so busy.

5. Make friends with your balance sheet

Small business owners typically manage by cash flow and are pretty familiar with their income statements. But make this the year to think about long-term value, and learn the in’s and out’s of a balance sheet. Most small businesses don’t have a lot of economic value, since their inventory, used fittings/furniture/equipment, and laptops don’t have much salvage value. So consider how you can build up some long-term value in your business. The quick answer for many is real estate; a small business’s major asset is often their land and building. Sole proprietors can invest in paying off their home mortgage or perhaps buying a small commercial building. We suggest making an appointment with your accountant or financial planner to discuss ways you can build up value in your business. After all, you may want to retire some day!

DOD’s headache? Save $3.5 billion a year on IT!

The lead story in the November 28th issue of InformationWeek (you should be able to read the story online at www.informationweek.com in another week or so) is about the challenges faced by the U.S. Department of Defense. The Pentagon has an IT budget of US$38.4 billion (that’s BILLION with a b!) and needs to slash it by tens of billions over the next five years — without loss of functionality, performance or security.

For those of you who want to compare this to your own budget, the DOD spends a bit under 6% of their US$671 billion budget on IT. Since most enterprise IT departments find that the bulk of their budget, typically 70-80%, is allocated to simply operating and maintaining existing systems and facilities, this will obviously be a huge challenge.

Not surprisingly, CIO Teri Takai’s IT strategic plan took a year to prepare. But surprisingly, it’s only 48 pages long — an inspiring feat in itself. Ms. Takai is obviously no amateur at this stuff. She’s the former CIO of the State of California, the State of Michigan, and worked at Ford and EDS before that.

Among the plan’s 26 initiatives is a goal to close 344 of the DOD’s 772 data centres. Market Metrics is currently working on a study of the Canadian hosting market, and I can tell you this — the number of data centres the DOD wants to close is about four times the combined total number of data centres operated by the top dozen Canadian hosters!

I reckon there’s two ways for CIOs to view this story. The first is to bless your luck stars it isn’t you. The second is to be inspired when preparing your organization’s 2012 IT plan. If Ms. Takai can pull off what she has to do, perhaps you can face your own organization’s challenges by following her lead… defining goals, setting priorities and creating an action plan.

Updated study of Canadian IaaS market underway

Market Metrics and The Gottlieb Group announced today that an updated edition of their joint study of the Canadian market for hosting services has been commissioned by NBI/Michael Sone Associates. The firms define “hosting services” as the provision of IT services based upon outsourced infrastructure operated in a data centre by a third party; this is sometimes also called “infrastructure as a service” or IaaS.

The Canadian Hosting Market Report describes the competitive landscape of the hosting market in Canada, cheap and divides the market into three segments — collocation, ed shared hosting and managed hosting. Estimates of the size of the Canadian market, diagnosis market segments and vendor market shares are presented, as are in-depth profiles of the top dozen leading hosting service providers active in Canada. Major industry trends are identified and discussed. The 2010 edition of the report was 110 pages in length with 20 detailed exhibits that provided comprehensive quantification and analysis.

The updated report will be similar in content.

Planned for publication in the first quarter of 2012, the report will be exclusively available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

About NBI/Michael Sone Associates

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community. More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

About The Gottlieb Group
In business since 1999, The Gottlieb Group specializes in the wireless and VoIP sectors, assisting telecom firms to navigate Canadian government and regulatory agencies, negotiate intercarrier agreements and assess the market for potential entry. This experience is buttressed by significant market analysis expertise, having successfully completed numerous major research projects for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The Gottlieb Group
325 Hillhurst Blvd.
Toronto, Ontario
M6B 1M9

Telephone: (416) 782-2750
Email: agottlieb AT gottliebgroup DOT ca

Enhanced strategic planning capabilities to better serve our clients

Market Metrics would like to congratulate Greg Graham, Managing Director, on his successful completion of a Certificate in Strategic Management at the Canadian Management Centre.

Says Mr. Graham “I started the program last year in order to keep current with the latest techniques in strategic planning. As a Certified Management Consultant I am required to continually hone my professional skills, and the Certificate in Strategic Management program is extremely relevant to my practice area. I’m looking forward to using these new skills and techniques to serve our clients even better.”

The Certificate’s program of study includes courses in strategic planning, strategic execution and succession management.

About the Canadian Management Centre

Established in Toronto in 1963, the Canadian Management Centre is the leading provider of professional development and management training programs in Canada.

The Centre’s wide range of courses include leadership, strategic planning, finance, communications, change management, project management, human resources, and marketing and sales. Named one of TrainingIndustry.com’s “Top 20 Leadership Training Companies” in 2010 and 2011, the Canadian Management Centre is recognized as one of the best leadership workshop providers in the training industry worldwide.

More information can be found at www.cmctraining.org

Attracting investors | Moving past the numbers

So far we’ve looked at the aspects that are table stakes for potential investors in your business — profit potential, IRR, and early cash flow. We also discussed quantifying risk and reward.

Let’s say a potential investor hasn’t screened you out yet. What does she do next after setting down her calculator? Can she make a decision now?

Probably not. We’ve found that investors cannot answer all of their questions just by examining your financial statements. Here are some of the questions most frequently asked by potential investors:

  • Why are you seeking investment?
  • What is your vision and business strategy?
  • Who are the target customers, and how successful is the business in reaching and selling to these customers?
  • How satisfied are your customers? What is the reputation of the business?
  • Is the business threatened or not profitable?
  • How long has the business existed? Is it a growing business?
  • How many years has the current owner operated the business?
  • How easy is it to replicate the business?
  • How competitive is the industry?
  • Is the industry growing and by how much?
  • What are the quality of the location and facilities?
  • Are this business and industry attractive to other investors?

The interesting thing is that only two of these questions are financial in nature! Some of them do have numerical answers, but they aren’t numbers internal to your business and don’t explicitly appear on your financials. Looking outwards to get the answers is imperative.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Your business plan can’t just be financial statements. You need an accompanying narrative that answers the many non-financial questions that investors will be sure to ask.

Attracting investors | More numbers for start-ups

As we discussed in our previous posts, if your company can provide credible financial statements that indicate a positive financial position or outlook, you’ve passed a potential investor’s first hurdle. Explicitly, that means:

  • the profit potential should be high, at least 10% to 15% after tax;
  • a high internal rate of return, ideally 25% to 30%; and,
  • strong and early free cash flow through a combination of recurring revenue, low assets and low working capital.

Existing companies can demonstrate their ability to meet these criteria by providing investors with audited financial statements. They have some success that they want to build on. 

But what’s a start-up to do?

Unfortunately, a start-up has to rely on pro forma statements — projections based on industry averages, benchmarks, and other comparables, all held together with (hopefully) reasonable assumptions documented in a well-thought out business plan. But there is always uncertainty.

Two additional numbers — graphs, actually — help investors assess the uncertainty of a start-up, and think about risk and reward.

What is often called dead weight is the amount of cash that needs to be injected into a business before it starts earning a positive cash flow. This is the amount that you and your investor pool collectively need to invest and put at risk.

Consider a graph of monthly cash flow plotted against time. Initial start-up costs will usually create a large negative cash flow that extends below zero (the X-axis) for the first several months. We would expect that monthly cash flow will become less negative with time until the break-even point is reached. At break even, the curve hits the X-axis, and should continue into the positive above the X-axis. Such a graph visually depicts three things:

  1. how much “dead weight” the volume of the negative cash flow represents;
  2. how long it takes to break even; and,
  3. how quickly the positive growth is.

This is why investors are usually persistent in their efforts to verify that the claimed start-up costs are accurate; under-stated start-up costs reduce dead weight. You don’t often see this graph in business plans, because it makes marginal investment situations brutally clear.

A second way to assess risk is to consider the likelihood of achieving different possible returns, ranging from a total loss (-100%) to a big hit (+200%). The shape of the curve formed by plotting IRR values against their probability shows investors what category of risk they face — are they being asked to gamble on a highly-speculative venture that has a small chance of paying off big, or a conservative venture that could make a modest return but probably won’t lose their capital?

This sounds hard to do. And it is, particularly for tech start-ups creating new or emerging product and service categories for which relevant industry history and close comparables don’t exist.

If your new company was going to make the first DVD player, you could base your business plan on the VCR market. Lots of information was known about the VCR market — its size, manufacturing capital requirements, returns, pricing, buying behaviour, distribution requirements, etc.  And a semiconductor firm coming out with a new generation of chips can base their plans on their previous experience. But if your start-up wants to offer something completely new — say, vacations at the first resort on the moon — you won’t have much to go on.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Start-ups need to help investors assess risk as well as reward. And since their new venture doesn’t have any operating history as proof, this wil be difficult.

Just for keeners: You can find out more about these two risk assessment techniques in William Sahlman’s classic HBR article called “How to Write a Great Business Plan” (Harvard Business Review, July-August 1997).

Attracting investors | The numbers that count

We’ve blogged before about the need to step back and take a hard, cold look at whether your business plan will be attractive to bankers, lenders, and investors. This is particularly true for small private companies seeking investors, or those going public with an over-the-counter (OTC) issue.

Over the course of my career, I’ve personally seen the negative impact of the inability to access capital. For many businesses, it is a showstopper. Others carry on, although they have trouble financing much growth, and these can max out as “lifestyle businesses” — businesses that can provide the owner with an income sufficient for a good lifestyle but destined never to go beyond that point. If that is the owner’s ambition, fine… but those who want to take it to a higher level will probably need more capital than they can muster from family, friends, and credit cards. It’s a truism that the more you want your business to grow, the more cash you need.

So, our next few posts will be about how savvy investors evaluate business opportunities, so that your company can be more successful in attracting investors.

While novices often assume that the most important aspects of concern to investors are entirely financial, we think a decent financial outlook is just table stakes — a must-have — and that other factors can make the real difference. We’ll talk about this issue more in future posts, so let’s look now at what are considered to be the ideal financial characteristics of a new venture. If a new venture can’t meet these guidelines, it probably isn’t worth starting it. The same guidelines can be applied to existing businesses.

A quick aside here is about something that business owners and entrepreneurs sometimes overlook — no investor can take an existing business very seriously if it don’t have audited financial statements. It just implies that there is something to hide, especially if they already see evidence of desperate measures like capitalizing the office supplies in an attempt to boost profits. The best case is to have up-to-date financials prepared by a reputable accounting firm; the second-best is to either have an audit in progress or immediately agree to getting it done; and the least preferred situation is to resist making proper financial statements available. It won’t save any money in the long run if it prevents you from getting the capital you need.

Of course, start-ups without any operating history have to rely on projections. Your projections should be based on stated assumptions reinforced by industry benchmarks and market research.

Back to the numbers themselves. Jeffry Timmons, a former professor at Harvard Business School, Babson College and Northeast University (Dr. Timmons recently passed away), teamed up with another expert on entrepreneurship, Stephen Sinelli, to examine this issue. Sinelli brought real-world experience to the subject — he was the co-founder of Jiffy Lube who later earned a Ph.D. in economics and went on to become a business professor and director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College. Together they wrote a popular textbook called “New Venture Creation” that is widely used at business schools. In their book they defined the following financial characteristics for a high-potential new venture.

First, the product or service must create significant value for the customer or end-user; meaning that it solves a significant problem and/or meets a significant need for which someone will pay a premium above the cost of providing, selling and delivering the product or service. This premium is, of course, PROFIT, and the profit potential should be high, at least 10% to 15% after tax. You’ll find a company’s profit on their income statement, also sometimes called the Statement of Profit and Lost (P&L) for just this reason.

Second, there must be attractive returns for investors, meaning an INTERNAL RATE OF RETURN of 25% to 30%. Technically, the internal rate of return — or IRR — is defined as the discount rate at which the net present value of an investment is zero. The net present value (NPV) is a discounted cash flow calculation. If your cost of capital (the return that capital could be expected to earn in an alternative investment of equivalent risk) is less than the investment’s IRR, then the NPV is positive and the investment is (in theory, at least) profitable. Where will investors find these cash flows? On the company’s income statement and statement of cash flows, sometimes called a statement of change in financial position. You’ll need an NPV calculation to determine your IRR.

Third, Timmons and Sinelli say the venture should generate strong and early free cash flow through a combination of recurring revenue, low assets and low working capital. Why is this important? Actually, it is closely related to the point above. Since a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow, near-term cash flows will contribute more to the net present value than the same cash flows longer out in the future. Ditto for larger early cash flows. And the more positive the NPV, the more favourable the IRR. Cash flow also allows the company breathing room, since it then has the financial ability to go beyond meeting its obligations and can use its profits to further reward investors and invest in more growth.

Fans of Dragons Den, the popular TV show where entrepreneurs try to persuade professional investors to invest in their ideas, will probably have see the dragons demand a share of revenue until their invetsment is paid back. That’s because the dragons want to gain strong and early cash flow on their investment, as well as reduce risk.

So, a little analysis is required to evaluate the financial characteristics of an opportunity. In practice, investors — or their financial analysts — also routinely calculate various ratios based on your financial statements to determine the health of your existing business. If you need help, you can ask your accountant or a corporate finance expert to see how your company stacks up.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Your company or start-up must provide credible financial statements that indicate a positive financial position or outlook. But you’ve only passed a potential investor’s first hurdle — not being screened out does not mean he or she is ready to write you a cheque. Tune in next week for part two.

New links on Resources/Social page

We have just added some links to the “Links:Social” page of the “Resources” section on the Market Metrics web site that helps you perform a PEST analysis. As you probably know, a PEST analysis is a required step in developing a business plan. It examines the external business environment by considering political, economic, social, and technological factors and influences.

Frankly, this page was a little skimpy. Most industries have sources of information that have already gathered and analysed social trend data, but if you need to start from scratch, these links may help.

New links added include the following.

Bloomberg Businessweek, our long-time favourite generalist business magazine, provides top-notch coverage of U.S. business news, trends, and interviews with corporate leaders. In our opinion, Businessweek has benefited from its recent acquisition by Bloomberg, receiving a completely new re-design while maintaining a high level of business journalism.

Frankly, we’re not big fans of the Wall Street Journal’s pay-wall scheme; we think clipping databases that license its content along with other publications offer a better value than buying access to just the WSJ itself.

We think that the Financial Times, easily recognized since it is printed on salmon-coloured paper, is the de facto leading business newspaper in the United Kingdom. If you do much business in Europe, you probably should read it since you won’t get the same perspective from North American newspapers. Personally, I like the Weekend Edition that has witty columnists, a real estate section with over-the-top listings, and a challenging Sudoku.

The Economist also has country profiles, but the free versions are no longer updated. The web site has some for-pay premium services, including a research service. You can still find top-notch country profiles at the CIA World Factbook, and Canadian international trade data at the Export Development Canada web site.

Global Edge is a web site that offers free content on a wide range of international trade and business topics. It may not have exactly what you want, but can be a good start that points you to other sources. 

We’ve beefed up our national statistics agency section by adding China and filling out the balance of the G8 — France, Germany, Italy and Russia supplement our existing links for Canada, Japan, the UK, and the United States.

Other sources of international data is available from the IMF, OECD, and World Bank; links to these organizations and others are on our “Links:Economic” page.

Don’t hesitate to make suggestions about sites that you think should be listed on the Resources pages.

Are you ready for a disaster at work?

After the recent tsunami and earthquake in Japan, I started to wonder about what — heaven forbid — it would be like if a disaster should ever hit our business premises.

If you are able to, please donate or participate in a fund-raising activity to benefit the victims. The Japanese Embassy has a comprehensive list at http://www.ca.emb-japan.go.jp/canada_e/JapanCanada/Earthquake_fundraising_events.html

I don’t want to be an alarmist and the chances that something will happen are probably small, but they aren’t zero.

There was a 5.0 earthquake in Ontario last June  — although nothing like the one in Japan, it was strong enough that many people felt it. Last week we had a storm with near-tornado force winds that toppled trees and damaged houses. And those with longer memories will recall the terrible Ice Storm of January 1998 when there was a power outage in the height of winter that lasted for up to three weeks in some areas.

Ottawa has an international airport and is situated on the bank of a large river, both typically considered risk factors. It is also the national capital, and so is a potential political target.

And apparently fire is also a major threat to small businesses; here’s a link to a story about what happened after a fire at a network software developer, Wild Packets: http://www.eweek.com/c/a/Data-Storage/A-Trial-by-Fire/ The main problem in such stories usually seems to be keeping backups on the premises; when the business burns up, so do the backups.

A comprehensive business plan should have a section discussing contingencies, but disaster recovery isn’t typically included. BTW, disaster recovery is the field of planning how to resume operations after a catastrophe occurs, such as a fire or earthquake. It often involves activating vital information systems in a new location. If your business doesn’t have a disaster recovery plan, you should get started on one ASAP. However, this is usually an IT department concern, so what can the rest of us do at the user level?

While we sure aren’t experts in disaster recovery, here are a few MOSTLY FREE common-sense things anybody can do, picked up mainly from the days when computers weren’t as reliable as they are now.

  1. Save your files frequently! There are few things more frustrating than working for several hours and losing your work due to a power bump or PC problem. Get in the habit of saving files frequently as you work. An unsaved file won’t be backed up.
  2. Back up your personal work daily. Some IT departments might take issue with this, but I plug in a USB drive and back up my work at the end of each day. You can take the USB drive home with you for your own personal off-site storage. Most USB drive can be password-protected, and some fancy ones even have built-in fingerprint scanners. Many USB drives come with synchronization software, but I like to keep it simple by having all my current projects as sub-folders in one directory called ACTIVE PROJECTS. I just copy the whole thing to the USB drive; only takes a minute or two.
  3. Synch your smart phone regularly. Aside from being a fantastic business tool, your BB or iPhone is a great backup device for your Outlook information. If you use a PC-based PIM, contact management or sales force automation tool, check if you can sync your smart phone to keep your calendar, contacts and tasks up to date and handy. And don’t forget to keep your phone charged up. If you are out and about a lot, a car charger or external battery pack might help.
  4. Take your Day-Timer or Filofax home every night. If you still use a paper planner — and lots of us do! — take it home every night.
  5. Don’t rely on Windows to do keep track of your passwords. It’s very convenient for day-to-day use, but if your PC crashes, or you have to work from another location on a different PC, you better know your passwords. I’ve seen IT departments keep all their passwords, service provider info, router configuration data, etc. on a PDA or laptop that someone takes home every night.
  6. Test out remote access before you need it. If you have remote access or VPN capabilities, try it before you need it. Many disaster recovery plans count on people working from home for at least a temporary period, so make sure that your home PC has whatever software you need installed, configured and working.
  7. Use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) on desktop PCs and servers. OK, this one costs money. Unlike laptops that have an internal rechargeable battery, even a momentary power glitch can freeze, shut down or reboot an AC-powered desktop. A UPS boosts up the voltage when there is a brown-out and powers your PC for some minutes during blackouts so you can save your files and shut down without losing data. Well worth the $100 investment — mine was clicking on and off as many as half-a-dozen times a day last summer during air conditioning peaks. The battery in a UPS typically lasts for about three years, but don’t wait for a blackout to see if it still holds a charge. Test it by pulling out the power plug now and then. I do this on the last Friday of each month.
  8. Keep a few essentials in the office and your briefcase. The company break room probably has a first aid kit, some water, a little food and bathroom supplies available, but it doesn’t hurt to keep a bottle of water, energy bar, Swiss army knife, and small flashlight in your desk drawer or even your briefcase. Some people might add a hat and pair of thick gloves (both for the winter and so you can move something sharp or hot out of your way if necessary). You can use a flashlight to find your way out of a building or down an emergency exit when the lights are off. BTW, modern LED flashlights are tiny, lightweight and very bright, so don’t think we’re suggesting that you haul around a big bruiser or a feeble penlight in your briefcase — check out what’s available at Mountain Equipment Coop, Home Depot, or Costco. Remember to check the batteries regularly.
  9. Plan to where to meet up with your co-workers if something happens. This is only one tiny aspect of an evacuation plan, but agree on somewhere where you can meet up, check that everyone is out of the building, and stay safe. Once you’re all together you can figure out what to do next.
  10. Keep your car gassed up and have an emergency kit in the trunk. If you drive to work, be prepared to make it there and back despite unforeseen problems. The facilities manager at a former employer once told me that a precaution most people overlook is keeping your car ready to go with a full tank and an emergency kit. You can buy an auto emergency kit for about $35 to $50, or put one together yourself. Here’s what the CAA suggests that an auto emergency kit should contain: http://www.caasco.com/insurance/auto-vehicle-insurance/emergency-kit-checklist.jsp Personally, I go light on the tools since I’m not a mechanic, but anyone can use flares and a can of tire inflater/sealant. Chances are that a multi-tool, a few bungee cords and a small first aid kit will come in handy on lots of occasions.

Why setting the right price is so important

“If you’ve got the power to raise prices without losing business to a competitor, you’ve got a very good business.
If you have to have a prayer session before raising the price by 10 percent, you’ve got a terrible business.” 
Warren Buffet

A while back I was working with a software company and we were discussing the price of their new product. I thought that their proposed pricing was too far below industry average and could be raised a little. It’s an age-old dilemma -– do you price lower for market penetration (growth) or higher for profit? What’s the optimum?

Of course, the point is that price will impact volume. If you want to develop a larger customer base so that you can maximize revenue from support and software upgrades, lower prices might be better. But if you wish to maximize profits from greater product sales revenue, higher prices might be better.

Although this brief explanation may sound simple, setting a price isn’t a simple process at all — it depends on many factors, including your business goals, the competition, and your target customers’ buying behaviour.

We reviewed different pricing models, and I had prepared a forecasting spreadsheet so we could plug in the client’s pricing assumptions and see what the impacts would be on the customer base and various revenue streams (product sales, support sales, distributor sales, distributor commissions, etc). These revenues were then compared to the targets that made the business case work for the client and their distributors.

But here’s what really got the CEO’s attention.

Consider a product with an average selling price of 395 (dollars, thousands of dollars, millions of dollars, it doesn’t matter). Raise the price by 1% and it goes up to 399. If you have any pricing power at all, chances are this price difference won’t deter buyers.

And if it doesn’t increase volume (except for ultra-pricy prestige products, a higher price rarely increases sales volume!) it won’t increase your production, fulfillment, support and other operational costs. That means that extra 1% is profit that goes straight to the bottom line.

The median profit as a percentage of revenue for Fortune 500 software companies was 16% in 2009. Add one percent and it goes up to 17% — 6.25% more! So, in this scenario, a 1% price increase yielded a 6.25% increase in profit.

I had a professor in business school who used to say that pricing is the single most important marketing decision. This is a big part of the reason why.

Once you’ve got your pricing strategy in place, don’t be afraid to consider keeping your manufacturer suggested price (MSP) a tad higher than you might be inclined to. While raising a low price is hard, it’s easy to discount a higher price a bit more or reduce your price in the future. In the mean time, even a slightly lower price can sacrifice a surprisingly amount of profit.

This concept also demonstrates the connection between branding and pricing. Strong brands often command price premiums of 10% to 15% above their competitors. Now that’s pricing power!

A reality check for your business plan

When working on a strategic marketing or business plan, you need to step back every so often and take a reality check. Is your plan feasible? And will it be attractive to bankers, lenders and investors?

Naturally, this depends on your goals. The first checkpoint is that your plan must achieve your goals, or at least complete a first major phase towards your ultimate goal (after all, a new venture probably can’t start from scratch and overtake industry leaders like Cisco, Toyota or Walmart within the usual three-year planning horizon). But if your plan doesn’t achieve your goals, go back and think it through again.

Once it does, how do you know what others will think?

Jeffry Timmons, a former professor at Harvard Business School, Babson College and Northeast University (Dr. Timmons recently passed away),  believed that there are three important questions which entrepreneurs must consider in their planning.

  1. What is the opportunity? Distinguish between good ideas and real opportunities. In assessing opportunities, Timmons emphasized catching the “window of opportunity,” assessing the long-term financial rewards, and addressing the nature of the risks.
  2. How good is the founding team? Timmons stressed the importance of a skilled and experienced management team versus a lone wolf. He was also concerned that entrepreneurs have the toughness for the long haul, and a philosophical makeup that would keep them ethical.
  3. Does the venture have access to the necessary resources? Financing is obviously key. And aside from financing, the management team needs to be able to access outside experts. Ownership of the venture should be fair so that everyone involved has an incentive.

Timmons teamed up with another expert on entrepreneurship, Stephen Sinelli, the co-founder of Jiffy Lube who later earned a Ph.D. in economics and went on to become a business professor and director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College. Together they wrote a popular textbook widely used at business schools called “New Venture Creation” in which they defined the following characteristics of a high-potential new venture:

  • The product/service creates or adds significant value for a customer or end-user; that means it solves a significant problem and/or meets a significant need for which someone will pay a premium.
  • The market for your product/service is robust, with sufficient margin and money-making characteristics. Specifically, the target market is large enough ($50 million or more) and exhibits a high growth rate (20% or more).
  • The new venture will generate strong and early free cash flow through a combination of recurring revenue, low assets and low working capital.
  • There is a high profit potential of 10% to 15% after tax.
  • There are attractive returns for investors of 25% to 30% IRR.
  • The venture fits well with the existing founder and management team at the time of start-up, in the market, and balances risk/reward.
  • The venture can scale with an eye to sustainability and impacts.

Comparing your business plan to these criteria is a worthwhile exercise that will give you a good indication of its real-world feasibility.

Can your U.S. web site serve the Canadian market?

For our readers’ convenience, we’ve combined two previous blog posts into a downloadable PDF and made it available on our Resources/Downloads page.  The download is divided into two parts.

Part 1 shows how you can ensure that your U.S.-based e-commerce web site can accept, bill, fulfill, and support orders from Canada.

Part 2 discusses factors you need to consider before embarking on the development of a localised web site — or even two in English and French — specifically for the Canadian market.

We also offer a service for U.S. firms to determine their Canadian market potential. Many U.S. firms think that entering or succeeding in the Canadian market will be easy, but may not be aware of important market differences. Find out more at our Services/Canadian Market Assessments page.

Software review: Business PlanMaker Professional

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are more business plan templates, lists of suggested business plan content, and samples out there on the net than you can shake a stick at. There also are free on-line (commonly offered by banks in case you’re seeking a loan) and commercial software products intended to help you develop a business or marketing plan.

Business PlanMaker Professional Deluxe

In this post we look at one such commercial offering called “Business PlanMaker Professional”. We’ll call it BPM for short. In case you don’t get the hint, the package also has the word “Deluxe” on it. The vendor, Individual Software Inc., claims that BPM is the number 1 best-selling business plan software for under $50.

We purchased it at our local Staples store for $49.99, indeed under $50.00. For some unknown reason, the copy we bought just months ago is Version 9 instead of the Version 12 currently offered on the web site at http://www.individualsoftware.com/software/business_planning/business_planmaker_professional/

Old stock? In any case, the differences described on the manufacturer’s web site for later versions appear to be tweaks rather than a major redesign, so we believe that most of what we say here will still be relevant. If not, our apologies to Individual Software and we hereby offer to correct any factual errors.

I’ve purchased half-a-dozen of these planning software products over the years, and BPM is very typical of how they work. However, most of its competitors are priced from $100 to $250, so you have to expect that BPM is an entry-level product. In my opinion, it is a low-end product with serious limitations.

Excessive claims? You decide.

The claims made on the box are, in my opinion, a little over the top. Among over things, BMP will “ensure financial success”, “beat the competition”, “achieve your goals”, and “receive funding”. Full points for benefit-oriented copywriting!

How it works

The software uses a series of wizards that prompt you to enter information about your company, income, expenses, etc. This process tries to replicate the face-to-face meetings that a management consultant would use to learn about your goals and your business concept.

Here’s what a typical editing screen looks like.

BPM user interface

 

You can click on the tabs across the to move from wizard to wizard. An outline of the business plan down the left side lets you navigate from section to section. The large window at the bottom is where you edit the text of your business plan. Above it is a window that provides explanations and hints.

An essential feature included in BPM is the ability to re-order, delete and add new sections to the outline. A Table of Contents is automatically generated based on the outline.

When you’re done working on your plan, the software creates a nicely formatted version for printing. You can also save it as a Word or PDF file. A “review” feature checks for conflicting numerical data and incomplete sections, meaning blank sections and charts.

These features are all pretty typical, and contribute the bulk of the value of using this type of product. Marketing and business plans are long and complex documents, so being able to quickly jump between sections and having charts and tables automatically generated from your input data can save lots of time.

Want help with financials? Hmmm.

One of the main reasons that people buy this type of product is that they think it will let them develop pro forma financial statements without requiring help from an accountant. This is true only to an extent. In this release of BPM, you can only use up to twenty line items for expenses, and you have to define them yourself. The software explains that this is so that the income statement will fit on a single page when the plan is printed. However, if you can create an income statement that meets GAAP or IFRS accounting standards (yup, we now use IFRS in Canada), you probably don’t need a software wizard to help.

Other more powerful software products include budgeting tools that roll your various estimates into a summarized income statement. Some even let you track your actuals, and compare them to budget.

A few other limitations

As to be expected, BPM has some other limitations that more powerful products don’t. For example, you can’t add to the spell checker. Since every industry has its own jargon, you may get tired of clicking “Ignore”. The cover page is quite plain and can’t be edited; it is automatically produced.

In general, BPM’s approach seems to target those focused on finding investors. Just like resumes and cover letters, a one-size-fits-all business plan format doesn’t work for all audiences: you need to tailor them for investors, lenders, and internal management purposes.  

General issues with business planning software

However, I find that all business and marketing plan development software products seem to suffer from some general issues.

First and foremost, giving someone who doesn’t play the violin a Stradivarius won’t turn them into a concert violinist. This type of software can’t produce a high-quality business plan if the person using it doesn’t know how to plan a business.

Filling in the blanks just isn’t enough

These types of software products feature dozens of standard and optional section headings, charts and diagrams. This implies that following a fill-in-the-blanks approach is sufficient to get the job done. In reality, you need to set goals, do your research, and think through your business thoroughly. The software doesn’t help with these tasks.  

And you have to know which blanks to fill in

Every management consultant I’ve worked with has his or her own client interview processes and business plan templates that they developed over time. Naturally, some are better than others, and probably none are perfect for every business. My own marketing plan template is based on the American Marketing Association’s model.  

It is likely that many of the sections, headings and charts in the software are irrelevant for your purposes. But if you’re just filling in the blanks, how do you know what you can safely ignore, or if vital information is missing?

If you complete every section and chart that’s included in the software, you’ll waste loads of time on unnecessary content that clutters up your plan. While strategic marketing plans often run to a hundred pages or more with multiple appendices, there’s a school of thought that the ideal business plan length is a dozen pages or less. The thinking is that you can always give potential investors more detail later if they’re interested in the opportunity.

Crummy sample plans aren’t useful

Another major selling feature is the inclusion of dozens of sample business plans. As one of BPM’s competitors points out, if you developed a winning business plan, would you post it on the Internet? Or allow a software vendor to distribute it with their software? As a result, the quality of the sample plans is usually questionable.

I looked at two examples from the library included with BPM and, in my opinion, both were pretty poor. I suspect one was written by a student as a class assignment; it rambles on for 50 pages with quite a lot of background data of little applicability. In the end, there isn’t much substance — no concrete business strategy, vague descriptions of the proposed offerings, no competitive review, no sources for data, and the inevitable conclusion that: “we’ll capture significant market share within three years because we’re better than everyone else”. That’s not an example you want to follow!

So, do these products have any value?

Sure they do.

Business planning products are a fast way to document a business concept after you have thought it through. They allow you to focus on the writing since they take care of the formatting.

Although business planning software products produce nicely formatted documents, you can also export to Word and put on the finishing touches. Personally, I’ve never been able to complete an entire plan without using additional software such as Word, although the more sophisticated the business planning software, the less need for additional software. At minimum, I use Word to make a fancy cover page with logos and contact information (consultants often like to add their own as well as the clients), and PDF editing software to merge together files.

Some people find it useful to use planning software to capture and organize information during the process. Drafts are handy for discussion.

But frankly, these products are probably most beneficial to consultants who use them regularly to improve their productivity; someone who uses the same software regularly learns it inside out. But if you’re an entrepreneur writing just one business plan, you have enough work to do to produce a well-thought-out business plan; struggling a marginally-useful product like Business PlanMaker Professional just adds to the burden.

Market Metrics to supply 2011 Edition of “Canadian PBX Market Report”

Market Metrics announced today that the firm again has been commissioned to provide a study of the Canadian market for business telephone systems by NBI/Michael Sone Associates — for the eight consecutive year.

“We’re pleased to have the opportunity to work again with NBI/Michael Sone Associates, and to examine this dynamic market” says Greg Graham, the founder and principal of Market Metrics, a boutique consultancy that provides research and strategic marketing services to the Canadian ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) sector.

Market Metrics has researched and authored 15 market studies for NBI/Michael Sone Associates since 2003, including seven editions of the publisher’s “Canadian PBX Market Report” as well as the “Canadian Unified Communications Market Report” and “Canadian Ethernet Switch Market Report”.

Published annually since 1982, the “Canadian PBX Market Report” is the cornerstone of NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ CPE series of syndicated research reports. The report presents quantitative and qualitative information on the Canadian market for key telephone systems (KTS), private branch exchanges (PBX) and IP private branch exchanges (IP-PBX) as well as profiling the leading vendors in Canada -– Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, HP Networking, Mitel, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba. Included are estimates of vendor market share, product shipments, installed base, revenues at end-user levels, and segmentation by system size, technology, end-user vertical industry, and geographical region.

The updated edition will be similar in content and cover the time period 2009-2012. Planned for publication in late summer or early fall, the report will be exclusively available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

About NBI/Michael Sone Associates

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community. More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

Canadian market tips for U.S. e-commerce sites, part 2

In last week’s blog posting we discussed the most common barriers that U.S.-based e-commerce web sites face in serving Canadian customers. If your site can deal with those issues, you’ll be able to accept, bill, fulfill, and support international orders from Canada.

But what’s the next level?

Manufacturers that do business internationally typically adapt their product packaging, documentation, sales literature, marketing messages, and service processes to create a local market “look and feel”. A successfully localized product fits in and appears to have been developed within the local market, while still taking advantage of its brand.

For your web site, it means considering such items as language, legal regulations, time zones, currency, national holidays, dealer and service deport locations, cultural aspects, colour implications, local product names, and social and gender roles.

So, the next level would be a separate localized Canadian web site with different content. You can’t make your U.S. site do double-duty and use the same content while addressing all of these items; this is why multinationals have a drop-down menu on their home page that allows you to select a country-specific version.

 We hope this posting will help you decide if you need to create a localized site for your Canadian customers. Expect it to be a major project, even more difficult than making a Spanish version of your web site for U.S. customers. And remember — you’ll have two separate sites to maintain so your webmaster’s work will be doubled.

BTW, we assume that you won’t be setting up a Canadian subsidiary, but continue to operate from within the United States. Firms often link these two decisions together by setting up a national sales subsidiary with the mandate to develop a local market web site.

Localization means translation, doesn’t it?

 Localization of written materials usually starts with translation, but don’t worry too much about the differences between Canadian and U.S. English. Canadians see U.S. spelling and hear U.S. slang all the time thanks to media spill-over; the typical cable TV viewer probably watches just as many U.S. channels as Canadian ones.

If you feel it is a concern, you can always import your web content into Word, change the language setting to Canadian English, and spell check away. You might also wish to start a writing guide for your webmaster, a list of words in American English and their equivalents in Canadian English such as “color” and “colour”, “mile” and “kilometre”.

What about French?

French is one of Canada’s two official languages and a significant decision will be whether you offer a French-Canadian version of your site. Doing so means you will need TWO additional localized Canadian versions.

Under Canada’s Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, product labelling and accompanying materials such as warranties must be in both English and French for pre-packaged products sold to consumers. But that’s for retail operations selling consumer products on Canadian soil (it might be prudent to verify this with a Canadian legal expert if you carry consumer products).

So a French version of a U.S.-based e-commerce web site isn’t mandatory -– that’s a marketing and business decision under your control. According to Statistics Canada (Languages in Canada, 2001 Census), French is the mother tongue of 23% of Canadians and about 18% of Canadians are bilingual. Assuming that you aren’t specifically targeting francophones, you can serve over three-quarters of the Canadian population in English.

Just as UK English is much different from American English, Canadian French is different from the French used in France. If you do develop a French version of your site, it makes sense to find a translator or writer who is French Canadian, and check any existing French translations provided with products imported from France or other francophone countries.

Are your technical specifications in SI?

Canada is officially metric, but — surprisingly — most Canadian adults are not comfortable with all measurements in either the metric or the British Imperial systems.

Not much changed when Canada started its multi-year conversion to the metric system (officially called the Système International d’Unités or SI) in the early 1970s. Most products continued to be produced in the same package sizes with modified labels since the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act required that SI units be shown.

For example, supermarkets are full of products packaged in 454 gram tin cans; this the former one pound size. But there are plenty of exceptions. 2×4’s are still sold as 2×4’s and a sheet of plywood is still sold as being four by eight feet.

The norm today is to provide specifications in both systems. If you decide to use only one, use the SI system.

Here’s the checkpoint: Do you have -– or can you obtain — metric specs (dimensions, weights, cable lengths, temperature ratings, etc.) for all of your products? Do your suppliers provide them?

This issue is proportional to the number of products that you carry; not such a big deal for a manufacturer with a dozen or two products and a very big deal for a site selling thousands of SKUs.

One catalogue database or two?

Your localized web site will need to access product descriptions suitable for the Canadian market. The site can either use a second catalogue database with Canadian information (and maybe a third for French), or you can add and revise information in your existing database.

This is a business as well as a technical decision.

From the business side, consider if your marketing messages and product descriptions need to be changed for the different markets. If so, you’ll need to create a second database as part of your web site development project.

If you go with one database, will the operational process of modifying all the catalogue information interfere with sales?

Global or localised pricing?

This is a complex multifaceted question: what price do international customers pay, in what currency do they pay, with what financial instrument do they pay, what are the terms and conditions, and in what currency do you receive revenue? If you want to invoice, you should investigate exporting to manage the risk of bad debts.

To oversimplify, if you can use credit card payment there are two basic choices:

  1. State prices and accept payment on the Canadian site in U.S. dollars, and let the customer’s credit card company convert currency and add on their conversion fee; or,
  2. State prices and accept payment in Canadian dollars, and have your merchant account handle the currency conversion.

If you use Canadian currency you’ll need either a software widget that dynamically converts your U.S. prices to Canadian dollars on the fly, or to set local fixed prices in Canadian dollars. Setting fixed prices will require price reviews. Canadian cross-border shoppers are always looking for bargains, so keeping your Canadian prices competitive with Canadian suppliers is vital, especially now when the two dollars are at parity.

Don’t just stick a maple leaf on it!

Seriously consider if your current web site might be poorly designed — or even off-putting — for Canadian visitors.

One key cultural difference between Canadians and Americans is their approach to patriotism. In my opinion, Canadians are quietly proud of their country, while Americans seem to be more forthright. One area where this comes into play is the use of slogans such “made with pride in the USA”. (We note this is a different message from “manufactured in the United States”, which implies higher quality than off-shore manufacturing.)

Unless you know that for a fact that this is something your international customers value -– as opposed to being a potential point of sensitivity — such slogans might best be treated with caution, especially when dealing with public sector customers.

We suggest adopting a neutral tone. A subtle approach is to restrict information about U.S. value-add, GI bills, segregated housing, trade unions, and the such on a corporate page in your U.S. site.

Good intentions aside, we suggest that you don’t produce a Canadian version of your web site unless you truly have a positive business case, management commitment and resources — financial, technical and marketing — to develop and maintain a high-quality web site.

Ask yourself if one site that supports basic international business processes for Canadian customers may be better than two distinct sites, especially if there is a risk that the Canadian version will be poorly maintained and slow to add new features.

Canadian market tips for U.S. e-commerce web sites

In today’s connected world, your customers may not come from your home town, state, or even country. If you operate a U.S.-based e-commerce web site, an easy way to expand your potential market by an extra 30 million people is to make sure that your web site works as well for your Canadian customers as it does for your domestic customers.

Whether your existing web site offers products, services, or content or services, here are some pragmatic suggestions on how you can quickly audit your web site for its “Canadian-friendliness quotient”, and some low- or even no-cost fixes — without developing a separate web site just for Canadians. We bet you won’t find a less-expensive international marketing program anywhere!

1.  How important is the Canadian market to your web site?

Look at your web analytics to see how many hits there are from Canadian visitors and how many of these hits convert to sales. If you have a goodly portion of Canadian visitors and customers, it makes sense to cater to them.

If your site has disproportionately more visitors than customers, it could be an indication that there are challenges that need to be addressed. Of course, there may be a fundamental business issue that makes your e-commerce offer unattractive in Canada — such as high shipping costs or a strong Canadian competitor.

2.  Identify & rank your target national markets

One of my pet peeves are pull-down menus that list Canada alphabetically after Cameroon. If you want Canada to be one of your target markets, why give it the same prominence as countries like Liechtenstein and Zimbabwe? (I’m betting that you don’t get much — or any — business from these two countries). Rank your top national markets, list them in that order, and then put the rest of the world in alphabetical order. For many web sites the United States will be first on your country pick list, and Canada second.

3.  Does your phone ring when dialled from Canada?

If your company has a 1-800 number, chances are pretty good that it doesn’t work from Canada. Ask a friend in Canada to call you as a test (we’ll help you with this if you don’t know any Canadians). Either extend the coverage to include Canada, or list a regular number that can be dialled from anywhere. No telephone contact number implies limited customer service or technical support, and can lose you sales if international customers need assistance to order.

4.  Pretend you live in Toronto… can you enter your address?

Or Montreal or Calgary or Vancouver. Now try using your company’s web site. Does it have a list of provinces? A quick tip-off to shoppers that the site might not accept Canadian orders is a field labelled “State” instead of “State/Province”. Does pressing “O” offer Ontario, or just Ohio?

Does your web site reject Canadian postal codes? Automatic verification of zip codes is a terrific idea to prevent data entry errors, but maybe not so great if the software rejects alphanumeric postal codes. You can test your site using the Market Metrics postal code, “K2K 2P4”.

4. Can your site process international payments?

Here’s an example where someone clearly wasn’t thinking past the border. I frequently get time-limited offers via email from a company whose web site I have registered on. I really like their products, and would buy them on-line. Too bad their on-line credit card authorization doesn’t work with Canadian credit cards!

I’ve also encountered U.S. sites that can only validate Canadian credit cards during business hours, which means people can’t place orders during the evening, prime on-line shopping hours. Having customers abandon their shopping carts because the payment processing didn’t work is a sale that was made — and then lost.

5. Learn how to ship across the border

If you sell products, your Canadian customers will need shipping and customs brokerage. First, check with your existing shippers for these services.

Next, check that your web site can accommodate any special procedures involved. Some items, like food and drugs, have legal restrictions. You have the choice of either implementing any required procedures or at least notifying the shopper that a product they have selected cannot be exported. The Canadian Border Services Agency (http://cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/import/courier/menu-eng.html) is a good resource for information on moving goods across the U.S./Canadian border.

Don’t forget that there will be a delay getting goods across the border. If you promise overnight delivery, you probably won’t make it overnight to a Canadian destination. That’s usually acceptable; just let customers know in advance that it will take longer.

Best of all is a checkout system that recognizes where the package is going, and offers a selection of shipping options. Some web sites offer different delivery times and price points as well as optional insurance.

Remember that customers will be looking at the all-in price, meaning the total delivered cost including shipping and currency conversion charges. Maybe a Christmas present bought on sale in July and shipped by surface mail is an attractive offer, but becomes too expensive if the only delivery option is via courier.

These five tips won’t give you a localized Canadian web site, but can significantly improve your web site by enabling it to accept, bill, fulfill, and support international orders. We’ll look at web site localization in a future posting.

Forget resolutions! Here are your back-to-work essentials

Instead of making a long list of New Year’s resolutions, here are five things business owners can do to prepare for 2011. Each one should only take about 30 minutes, and all you’ll need is last year’s financials, pen and paper, and some yellow stickies. Or your shiny new iPad if Santa was kind to you!

1.  Rough out a sales forecast

If you don’t already have a sales forecast for the new year, now’s the time to make one. You need it to understand where the business is going and to prepare a budget (more about that later).

The first step is to review last year’s sales. Many businesses have a small number of large customers and many small customers. Determine who your largest customers are, and quickly make a plus/minus judgement call on each. Do you expect more, flat, or less sales from these customers? Guestimate a multiplier for each major customer (plus 10%, less 25%) and add it up. If you’re having trouble making these estimates, you may not have kept in close enough touch with these customers —  perhaps something to work on in 2011.

Then group all the rest of your customers together and make an estimate for the entire group. Remember that you’ll probably lose some of these customers and gain some new ones. You may find that that sales from this group stays about the same, or grows at a similar rate from year to year.

Add the two together and you have a first — and very rough — draft of your sales forecast that gives you an indication of where sales are headed. You’ll need to work on it further, but at least you’ll have a good start. You’re also be better prepared for a review with the sales team, something you should do ASAP.

2.  See if you can improve your marketing cost-effectiveness by exploiting seasonality

Were sales more-or-less flat throughout the year, or were there peaks and valleys? Are your peaks caused by seasonal factors? If seasonal, think about what you can do to take better advantage of these inherent spikes in demand -– such as advertising campaigns, event marketing, special offers, etc. Task your sales and marketing folks with planning a handful of specific projects you could do at these times of year. Although it’s probably more productive to focus on making the peaks higher, spend a little time to see if you can boost up the valleys as well.

3.  Brainstorm new opportunities

Get a pad of yellow stickies and start brainstorming ideas for new opportunities. Write one on each sticky and — without evaluating it — immediately go on the next idea. After a while you’ll run out of ideas. Put the stickies on a wall and move them around to group ideas into related themes: new products or services, new markets, customers groups, promotions, etc. Then spend a few minutes considering what each could be worth and what it would require to do, and how it fits in with your existing work. Prioritize them and take your list of new opportunities to work on the first day back so you can get started right away. And here’s your first sticky -– if you’re not already using it, “get started with social media”.

4.  Update your budget — or not!

If you don’t yet have a budget yet for 2011, shame on you, but you may be able to buy some time. Compare your rough sales forecast to last year’s expenses. If you’re happy with the difference (meaning a healthy profit!) and you’re not planning any major new expenditures, you can delay making your budget for a few weeks. Maybe a little risky, but it gives you time to refine your sales forecast and get started on those new opportunities. But don’t wait too long; get it done well in advance of your February monthly business review, or at absolute latest for your first quarter business review (if you use quarterly instead of monthly reviews).

And here’s one resolution you should really make: get your budget done earlier next year! Some businesses fit their strategic planning and budgeting into one of those seasonal valleys when it isn’t so busy.

5.  Make friends with your balance sheet

Small business owners typically manage by cash flow and are pretty familiar with their income statements. But make this the year to think about long-term value, and learn the in’s and out’s of a balance sheet. Most small businesses don’t have a lot of economic value, since their inventory, used fittings, office furniture, and laptops don’t have much salvage value. So consider how you can build up some long-term value in your business. The quick answer for many is real estate; a small business’s major asset is often their land and building. Sole proprietors can invest in paying off their home mortgage or perhaps buying a small commercial building. We suggest making an appointment with your accountant or financial planner to discuss ways you can build up value in your business. After all, you may want to retire some day.

Happy holidays!

Happy holidays to you and yours,
and our best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2011!

We would like to thank all of our clients for their business over this past year.
We have appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with you.

Market Metrics will be closed for the holiday season from Friday, December 24 through Friday, December 31, re-opening on Monday, January 3.

photo of skaters on Rideau Canal in Ottawa Ontario

Skaters on the Rideau Canal (image courtesy of the City of Ottawa)

Better presentations, less PowerPoint

Recently I went to see a presentation by Jim Gray, who is described as “a leading speaker, communication skills coach and media strategist”. A former CBC journalist, Mr. Gray lives in Toronto and contributes to the Globe and Mail. You can find him online at www.jimgray.ca

In an age when we all seem addicted to bloated PowerPoint presentations -– sadly, me too –- it was impressive to see someone hold the audience’s attention just by speaking. This would be a persuasive and powerful skill for any executive to have in his or her tool kit.

What a refreshing change to see an hour-long presentation with one slide! That’s right… 60 MINUTES & JUST ONE SLIDE!

Of course, few of us have the speaking skill of Jim Gray. He was in town to promote his new book called “How Leaders Speak”, and his talk was a sort of “media skills lite”, very practical and interesting. And he did show half-a-dozen short video clips to keep the audience engaged and demonstrate his key points. Most of the videos were clips of politicians giving speeches, ranging from Trudeau to Harper and George W. to Obama. Mr. Grey kindly distributed free copies of his book to attendees. I’ve only skimmed it so far, but it looks to be packed full of helpful info.

Of course it takes some work, mainly lots of preparation and practice, to become a smooth and confident speaker who doesn’t need the crutch of PowerPoint.

For those who want a more free-flowing style but aren’t ready to give up the structure and aide-memoire of canned visuals, maybe Prezi is an interim step. Prezi is a presentation tool that provides an experience more like looking at a huge pre-written flipchart or chalkboard than slides; you can zoom in and out and move freely between ideas.

It’s a visual concept that is hard to explain in words, but you’ll get the idea immediately when you see it. You can watch a demo and sign up for a free web-based Prezi tool at http://prezi.com/hgjm18z36h75/why-should-you-move-beyond-slides/

But regardless of what presentation style and tools you use, wouldn’t you like to streamline your presentations so they go faster and yield more effective communication?

P.S. By the way, Mr. Gray’s one slide was the cover of his book. How’s that for communicating effectively?

Gartner’s tech trends for 2011

This posting presents what Gartner believes are four converging trends that will impact enterprise business and IT for the next decade.

Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, Gartner, Inc. is a leading global information technology research company with 4,300 associates, including 1,200 research analysts and consultants, and clients in 80 countries.

On November 15, the company held its 20th Gartner Symposium/ITxpo event in Sydney, Australia to gather together CIOs, senior IT executives, and key technology providers. This posting was prepared using information from the Gartner website and supplemented with additional information from IT Business Edge.

Speaking in the keynote presentation, Peter Sondergaard, senior vice president at Gartner and global head of Research, said that successful organizations are those that can quickly evolve their strategies from recessionary cost control to innovative implementations of technology that generate revenue. “At the heart of the change in the next 20 years will be intelligence drawn from information,” Mr. Sondergaard said. “Information will be the ‘oil of the 21st century’. It will be the resource running our economy in ways not possible in the past.”

From social media to intelligent devices to cloud computing, evaluating how these technologies fit into an organization and their impact on the bottom line will become a critical function of the C-level executive, according to Gartner. In the future, the financial compensation of CIOs may even be tied to the impact of IT on revenue.

The company believes that the worldwide IT industry will show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4 percent for the next five years.

Gartner has identified four broad trends that will change IT, and the economy, in the next 10 years.

“The combination of these four trends creates an unimaginable force impacting not just IT and the IT industry, but the capability of business and government,” Mr. Sondergaard said. “Each of these four trends is about driving IT business value. Whether IT acts now or not, the combination of these trends will drive dramatic change in your enterprises’ business model and strategy.”

The trends are:

1.  Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a style of computing where scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service” to external customers using Internet technologies. It constitutes the basis of a discontinuity that amounts to a new opportunity to shape the relationship between those who use IT services and those who sell them.
“Cloud computing will transform the IT industry as it will alter the financial model upon which investors look at technology providers, and it will change vertical industries, making the impact of the Internet on the music industry look like a minor bleep,” said Mr. Sondergaard. “For the CIO, it will require a shift from multisourcing to microsourcing, which is quite a different skill.”

Gartner predicts that all Global 2000 companies will use public cloud services.

2.  The Business Impact of Social Computing

The second major trend is the business impact of social computing. Not simply more platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, the real impact will come as the underlying ethos, culture and attitudes which shape social computing and have driven growth to date, pervade the enterprise and blur the boundaries between personal and professional activities.

“The rigid business processes which dominate enterprise organizational architectures today are well suited for routine, predictable business activities. But they are poorly suited to support people whose jobs require discovery, interpretation, negotiation and complex decision-making,” Mr. Sondergaard said. “Social computing, not Facebook, or Twitter, or LinkedIn, but the technologies and principals behind them will be implemented across and between all organizations, it will unleash yet to be realized productivity growth, it will contribute to economic growth.”

Gartner predicts that 80% of organizations will lack a coherent approach for dealing with information from the collective.

3.  Context-Aware Computing

The third major trend impacting IT leaders is context-aware computing. The proliferation and availability of wireless technologies — coupled with an explosion of super intelligent devices such as notebooks, tablets and smart phones in the hands of consumers -– linked to cost effective compute and communication capabilities in all physical products has created a new Internet fabric.

“This enables the creation of software and services that will blend data, text, graphics, audio and video with context such location, language, desires, feelings. Services not imagined today will use people’s location – whether physical or virtual – as the foundation and then use data that determine your patterns of behaviour, your desires,” Mr. Sondergaard said. “Context Aware Computing while linear in its impact on IT will have profound impact on organizations, on the way we do business.”

Gartner predicts that by 2016, one-third of worldwide mobile consumer marketing will be context-awareness-based.

4.  Pattern-Based Strategy

The last trend is pattern-based strategy, a framework to proactively seek patterns from traditional and non-traditional sources, model their impact, and adapt according to the needs of the pattern.

This builds on pattern-based technologies such as social network analysis, context aware technologies and predictive analytic tools. It will allow IT leaders to seek-out patterns amidst the burgeoning information sources and model future possibilities.

Gartner predicts that pattern-seeking technology will be the fastest-growing intelligence investment among the most successful Global 2000 through 2015.

Other Enterprise Issues

Two other enterprise IT issues identified at the conference include operational technology management and sustainability.

Cost savings and management efficiencies might be able to be gained by integrating information technology and operational technology (OT) groups. Such integration could include coordinated planning and consistent technology architectural decisions, yielding greater technology purchasing power and streamlined budgets. Although integrating these two groups could be challenging, the benefits might yield a compelling business case.

Enterprises should expect that the current focus on energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions will continue, and that other environmental issues may potentially come to the fore, including resource depletion, species extinction, bio-diversity and environmental justice. If so, there will be continued — and perhaps additional — trade-offs between financial, operational and environmental performance. Information systems will be critical for governance, risk, and compliance as organizations adapt new and more-sustainable business models. Gartner believes that, by 2016, sustainability could be the fastest-growing enterprise compliance expense worldwide.

10 tips for planning your business

People often ask us for tips about creating a marketing or business plan for their small business. We believe that the following steps are essential and can help you successfully develop an effective plan for any size of business.

1.  Make the Time to Put Together a Plan

The stereotype is that entrepreneurs fly by the seat of their pants. But according to studies, successful entrepreneurs overwhelmingly use business plans — those who completed a business plan are six times more likely to start a business than others, and thriving entrepreneurs are much more likely to have a formal business plan (1). Why? Simple — putting together a business plan forces you to think through your opportunities, make best use of your strengths and shore up your weaknesses.

And planning isn’t just for start-ups — established businesses that wish to grow need to keep up with changing market conditions, trends, and competitive offerings.

So whether you’re an entrepreneur starting a new business or a business owner wanting to grow your existing business, a market analysis and internal review are the best way to get the facts needed to answer the core strategic questions faced by all businesses:

  •  What exactly is your product or service?
  •  Who is your customer?
  •  How will you compete?

 2.  Focus on the Thinking — Not the Presentation

 A marketing plan focuses on the revenue-generating part — sales and marketing. It examines your market, sizes and segments it, specifies your product, identifies your target customer, and explains how you will reach your target customer and sell to them. It usually includes a sales forecast and a budget of sales and marketing expenses. An established company that wants to grow usually needs a new marketing plan.

 A business plan is an expanded version that covers all aspects of a business, and includes details of the management team, HR and IT requirements, projected financial statements and other operational aspects. A start-up usually needs a complete business plan.

 Remember that the thinking is what’s most important in your plan, not a pretty format. Invest your time in answering the strategic questions above — don’t get bogged down making pretty presentations or using complex planning software.

 3.  Cover the Essentials in Your Plan

 The core of a marketing plan are the internal review and market analysis.

 The goal of your internal review is to define the current situation faced by your business, and what you want to do. The internal review should cover:

  • A review of your company’s current situation
  • Your company’s vision and goals
  • Your target customer definition
  • A description of your products
  • A VCP calculation and its implications
  • Your company’s historical sales analysis
  • Your company-specific strengths and weaknesses
  • Your company-specific opportunities and threats

 The market analysis should include:

  •  An industry overview
  • Identification and description of relevant industry codes
  • A description of your product category or categories
  • The industry value chain
  • An analysis of industry attractiveness using Porter’s 5-force model
  • Identification and profiles of key competitors
  • Competitors’ pricing strategies and levels
  • A review of industry-wide opportunities and threats
  • Industry trends from product and operational perspectives
  • A PEST review of  political, economic, social and technological factors
  • A SWOT analysis summary
  • The total market size and growth
  • A market segmentation model
  • Definition of your target customer
  • Targeting of specific market segment/s
  • The size of your addressable market
  • An understanding of how your target customer buys  

4.  Gather Together the Tools You’ll Need to Get it Done

 You’ll need to make time, discipline to get it done, and a PC with a high-speed Internet connection — but that’s just the start.

 Most importantly, you’ll need access to information resources not usually available to employees at most companies. The following lists essential information resources (note — links to some of this information can be found on our web site by clicking the RESOURCES tab).

  • Industrial classification manuals to define what industry or industries your company is involved in; these classification systems were developed by economists to track industry and statistical data
  • Purchasing directories, catalogues and mailing lists to identify industry participants
  • Security Exchange Commission (SEC) filings to get detailed information about publicly-traded competitors and industry participants
  • Business press clippings; while Google and other search engines can provide some info, professionals use on-line databases that often include material from sources that don’t put their content on-line for free
  • Credit reports to determine the location/s and size of competitors and industry participants
  • Financial ratio handbooks for financial benchmarks to help in forecasting and budgeting
  • Industry reports to identify the latest trends
  • Executive interviews to find out what industry leaders think about the future
  • Poduct reviews to compare product attributes

 A suitable marketing plan outline, spreadsheets and/or templates are very handy. If you work at a large company, there may be internal templates available. There are many free templates on the Internet, and an endless choice of books and PC software available for purchase.

 5.  Involve Your Key People

 It isn’t realistic to expect your people to wholeheartedly support a plan if they had no input to it. You should involve your management team and perhaps some key employees.

 In most SMEs, the business owner, President or General Manager frequently assumes responsibility for developing strategy with assistance from the VP of Sales & Marketing. Your sales and marketing staff should definitely help flesh out the go-to-market plan. The Controller can help with historical financial data and analysis, while the COO or VP Operations will want to understand and discuss any business process impacts.

 If you have had any recent management turnover, it might be a good opportunity to review and even fine-tine your marketing plan. At worst, your new managers will learn the thinking behind the plan; at best, they can contribute fresh ideas. Either way, they’ll obtain a better understanding of your company’s plans and maybe even a higher level of commitment.

6. Develop a Go-To-Market Action Plan

After identifying a viable opportunity, you have to figure out how to seize it. You will need to develop a “go-to-market” action plan that defines how you reach your customers and sell your product or service to them. After you’ve answered this conceptually, you need to identify specific practical actions, and budget the time and money to do them. Then use your plan to manage your activities.

Developing a go-to-market action plan typically involves activities such as:

  • Creating a positioning statement
  • Targeting prospects
  • Forecasting and monitoring sales
  • Developing a distribution plan
  • Finding distributors and/or recruiting salespeople
  • Setting up service processes for your customers
  • Budgeting sales and marketing expenses
  • Deciding how to promote your business
  • Writing a brochure
  • Creating a web site
  • Developing creative materials for advertising
  • Identifying trade shows, conferences and other marketing events
  • Designing an effective customer demo and setting up equipment

 7.  Evaluate Getting Help versus Doing It Yourself

 If you are performing your own market analysis, don’t underestimate the time required to source relevant information, analyze it, draw meaningful conclusions, and clearly articulate the results. This process usually takes 6-10 weeks, although it can easily drag out longer if nobody is dedicated to it. From a financial perspective, consider what the value of your time — or a member of your senior management team’s time — is worth.

 Consultants can help you with any or all of the activities discussed above. Some companies hire consultants because they lack the resources to create a marketing plan in a timely manner. Other firms bring in external expertise to quarterback the process and supplement their internal skills and/or knowledge. Most find that a consultant can offer at least two important benefits: experience managing the planning process, and objective and independent viewpoint.

 If you use a consultant, make sure that the consultant understands your company’s specific needs and prepares a custom proposal for you. An experienced consultant will want to learn about you and your company before putting together a proposal, so make time for a briefing meeting. When evaluating consultants, we suggest that you look for the following qualifications:

  • Real-world work experience in management positions
  • Appropriate professional credentials such as the Certified Management Consultant designation
  • A proven consulting track record
  • Formal business education
  • Access to the resources required to carry out the project

 Remember that consultants sell their expertise by units of time, so be sure that you jointly define what the consultant will — and won’t — do. This is called the “project scope”. If something isn’t included in the project scope, you probably won’t get it. A reputable consultant won’t start a project without an agreement in place since this might lead to disagreement later over the project scope. For this reason, such practice is explicitly forbidden by the Canadian Association of Management Consultants’ Code of Professional Conduct.

 Of course, consultants may offer you a fixed price for the scope of work. With a fixed-price proposal you will have to pay extra for anything not included in the proposal.

Most consultants use a payment schedule that combines an advance with progress payments. An advance commits both parties to the project and is a tangible sign that the proposal satisfactorily addressed the client’s needs.

 8.  Know When to Stop Planning

Making a good plan is important, but your success will come when the plan is executed. Don’t let the planning process drag past the point when further improvements are marginal — just so you can add that little bit more detail or polish the prose further. Use this checklist to determine when it’s time to move on from planning to execution.

  • Can you clearly explain the business concept to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?
  • Can you answer their questions?
  • Have you identified the key success factors, meaning the most vital aspects that will determine if your business concept will be successful? (In our experience, small Canadian businesses often suffer from insufficient financing, poor marketing, and lack of access to good talent.)
  • Have you adequately determined how to address the key success factors?
  • Do you have a well-thought out action plan?
  • Have all major revenues and costs been quantified?
  • Have you properly evaluated the risk by running different financial scenarios? For example, what if your first year’s revenues are only half of what you expect them to be?
  • Do you feel confident about moving forward?

9.  Communicate Your Results… to Everybody!

 The best market analysis and go-to-market plan won’t help if your people don’t know about it and work towards executing it. Prepare a concise summary and present your marketing plan to all of your staff.

 It might be appropriate to share some of this information outside the company, too. Prospective investors will definitely want to see your marketing plan. So will your advertising agency or free-lance writers. It could help suppliers anticipate your needs as a customer. Don’t worry about giving away the company secrets — you can prepare a short for-external-use version that doesn’t contain confidential information. And you can use it to help customers understand your company and its direction — big companies usually like to see a “corporate introduction” presentation before doing business with a new supplier.

 10.  Put a Review Process in Place

In practice, start-ups often work simultaneously on their market analysis and go-to-market action plan since they don’t have either on-hand. Established companies may wish to revamp their marketing strategy and/or focus on better execution. Larger companies almost always have an established management practice whereby an annual planning cycle is used to update market analysis, revise go-to-market plans, and prepare a budget to quantify both the desired results and the necessary resources.

After you’re finished, put together your own process to come back and review your results on a regular basis. After all, you need to monitor the execution of your go-to-market plan. You may need to make mid-course corrections and a good review can be your “early warning” system.

And since the business environment changes over time, you’ll eventually have to adjust your strategy. That means re-analysing your market.

The ideal process for an established business is a thorough quarterly business review — a half- or even full-day meeting that includes your management team and key staff — with an annual planning review. Start-ups need to be even more focused. A shorter monthly business review meeting is a reasonable frequency for most start-ups.

SOURCES

 (1) “Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics”, 2004, Dr. William B. Gartner, Spiro Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership, Clemson University and Jianwen (Jon) Liao, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Illinois Institute of Technology

(Note: This post is also available as a PDF download frm the Market Metrics website.)

3 reasons why you shouldn’t use on-line business planning tools

There are more business planning templates, outlines, and articles on the Internet than you can shake a stick at. Some are terrific; others, not so much.

But while you can shift through loads of online material and find some useful stuff, I really don’t recommend using the on-line business planning tools that you’ll probably come across.

Sure, these tools do have their advantages. First and foremost, they’re free. And they’re easy to get started using them — no software to install on your PC. Nothing to download. You can use them anywhere you have access to a browser. Lastly, you can collaborate with others; each person can log on and do a section or two.

But… ask yourself these questions before starting.

1. Is the on-line tool really appropriate for your needs?

Many on-line tools are intended for use by someone looking for a personally-backed loan from a bank. This means that their audience is the bank. They tend to be light on strategy, market analysis and other areas, and heavy on the financial information used for risk analysis. There usually is a significant amount of information required about your personal financial situation and that of any other loan guarantors. This is perfectly natural since the most important issue for the bank is to have the loan repaid.

It also means that after you enter your answers to all of the software’s questions, it spits out a business plan in a predetermined format designed for a quick and easy review by your banker. The ones I’ve seen use a format that definitely is NOT appropriate to either show prospective investors or use as an internal document to focus your staff and operations. Even re-use for a loan application from another financial institution may be dodgy — you might think twice about going to XYZ Bank and showing them a business plan with ABC Bank’s name and logo all over it.

2. What about security?

You need to be more than just confident that whatever you  find on the Internet is free of viruses and malware. It’s in your best interest to keep your ideas and information CONFIDENTIAL until you’re ready to unleash your business plan on an unsuspecting world. It may take anywhere from weeks to months to complete your business plan. Are other eyes looking at it in the meantime? Does the web site have good security? The web site operator certainly hasn’t signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with you.

And tempting as it is, don’t work on your business plan using the Wi-Fi network at your local coffee shop. IT security experts say that it can be risky since eavesdropping on public wireless networks is so easy to do.

3. What about backup?

Your business plan document will be lengthly (even the most minimal business plan is at least a dozen pages long) and you will need to spend a lot of time working on it. That means you’ll want to protect it — and your effort — by having a backup. Does the web site offer any guarantee that your data won’t get lost or deleted? I bet there’s a disclaimer somewhere. Check if you can save your plan off-line, on your own hard disk or flash drive, and restore it later if there is a problem.

OK, but what if my bank insists that I use their on-line tool to apply for a business loan?

Of course, if you do need a business loan from a bank, and they have an on-line business planning tool, they probably would prefer that you use it. In this case, what should you do?

First, we suggest that you download or print out a hard copy of a blank or sample plan. Sometimes you can export a copy to Word. Then, work off-line on your PC developing your answers to all of the questions that the planning tool demands. Take the time that you need to do a good job. When you are finished and happy with the results, have a trusted third party review it. A good proofreader not only turns up any typos, but they will probably also have some valuable comments. 

Only then should you log on. Fill out the entire plan all at once, or at least over the course of just a day or two. Print a hard copy for the bank and make an appointment to see your banker ASAP. This will keep your plan confidential and avoid security concerns. And don’t forget — after you get the loan, log back on and delete your plan! You don’t want to take a chance of any copies floating around online.

Relaunched web site supports focus on strategic planning

November 5, cialis 2010 — Market Metrics announced today that the consultancy has relaunched its web site, malady with a completely new look and content that reflects its renewed focus on strategic planning services.

“Strategic planning requires setting goals, researching your market, and formulating a strategy to reach your goals. While we provide high-quality market data, we find that clients often still need help intepreting it and understanding its implications. We see a real need to help clients with the complete strategic planning process rather than just supplying information.” says Greg Graham, principal consultant.

New to the web site is a blog that features regular postings on strategic planning issues, marketing best practices, tips, and opinions. Also available is a comprehensive set of links designed to assist in performing an analysis of the external business environment. These links are organized into groupings that facilitate the popular political, economic, social and technological (PEST) analysis model.

The new site adds support for popular social media, with one-click links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and MySpace. Readers can now also subscribe to an RSS feed.

Just what is a strategic marketing plan, anyway?

This is a pretty common question.

A strategic marketing plan is much like a traditional business plan. It has a thorough analysis of your business’ current situation and should include a business description; a description of the firm’s products and services; industry background and analysis; and a thorough market analysis that includes sizing, adiposity growth, trends, segmentation, targeting, and positioning.

But it doesn’t cover operations and corporate functions such as human resources and legal. And the financial analysis covers mainly the top half of the income statement, meaning sales volume and revenue, plus sales and marketing expenses.

A strategic marketing plan should: 

  1. Reflect the appropriate goals set out in the business plan, such as revenue generation;
  2. Set some additional goals -– like customer base growth, customer satisfaction, product innovation, etc.; and,
  3. Detail a marketing strategy and all supporting aspects of the go-to-market programs required to achieve these goals.

This means crafting detailed answers to tough questions like who your target customer is, where you can find them, how you will reach them, and how you will compete. Who will sell your products, how much it will cost, and how you can manage the process. What new needs are emerging in the market that your products do and don’t satisfy. How you can use new technology to market more efficiently, or provide better support.

A business plan only touches on these topics in sufficient detail to satisfy its own purposes, usually to attract investors or secure a loan. But a strategic marketing plan becomes the day-to-day operational guide for the sales and marketing team, with a detailed listing of major marketing programs, their objectives and activities, deadlines and costs. With a good strategic marketing plan, you can work from it throughout the year, measure your progress against it, and have a well-thought-out rationale in place to help make the unexpected decisions that will inevitably crop up.

This is in contrast to purely tactical marketing plans that skip the analysis and strategy formulation, and are chock full of marketing program details such as advertising schedules, promotional events, and -– a particular favourite of technology companies — new product introductions or software releases.

Existing businesses usually prepare a tactical marketing plan every year as part of their budget cycle. After all, Finance needs both a sales forecast and an estimate of sales and marketing expenses.

This is hard enough that some companies only review and update their strategic marketing plan every few years. From my experience, the larger the company, the more common this is -– because there is so much inertia in the way things are done that they just carry on until some earthshaking event like a merger, or a downturn, or a successful new competitor, forces them to rethink things. Such companies aren’t necessarily unsuccessful –- many are -– but they may respond faster to competition or miss opportunities that would have made them even more successful if they had reviewed their strategic marketing plan.

Help for the first-time entrepreneur

With pragmatic advice for the would-be entrepreneur, case the “Aboriginal Business Planning Workbook”  provides a realistic approach to figuring out if running your own business is really for you.

The workbook is one of a series of business guides developed by Alberta Aboriginal Business Services in conjunction with The Business Link, buy a not-for-profit organization supported by the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta that provides information and advice to Alberta’s small business community.

A big part of the reason that I recommend this guide is because it targets people who haven’t started businesses before and may not know how to go about it. Making the shift from being an employee to entrepreneur is a major life decision. This is one of few resources that I have seen that addresses this issue, with sections on how to find and quickly assess business ideas, make a preliminary decision to proceed further, and review the skills that you’ll need to run your own business -– before investing a significant amount of time and money in a complete business plan and other start-up activities. This helps take the emotion out of the decision to start a new venture, and puts it on a rational basis.

The workbook covers essential topics such as determining what resources you’ll need to start up and how much revenue your business will need to generate in order to support you. It also includes an introduction to other basics such as researching your industry and competition.

The workbook format can be printed out and completed with pen and paper, so you don’t even need a PC. Blank areas for your thoughts are included and you could always use additional pages if required. One downside is that you don’t get a nicely-formatted business plan document when you’re done. But you will have done enough of the preliminary thinking that you are prepared to take the next step and create a proper business plan if you elect to proceed.

And no, I don’t advocate that anyone attempt to research, analyse, write, and format a business plan without the use of a PC and a high-speed Internet connection. If you don’t have this essential tool, see if you can book time on a PC at a local public library.

For some people, starting their own business and being their own boss is a dream, or a way to turn a hobby into an income. For others it may be an economic necessity. Regardless of your motivation, the Aboriginal Business Planning Workshop offers a way to consider the reality of starting your own business before taking the plunge.

Goals + Research + Strategy = Business plans that get results!

Revitalize your business and focus your efforts by using our services to identify new opportunities, research markets, assess competitors, understand buyer behaviour, and audit sales and marketing performance. Market Metrics is a no-nonsense strategic marketing consultancy with a commitment to excellence and the skills to help your business.

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New study of the Canadian market for hosting services completed

July 12, 2010 — Market Metrics and The Gottlieb Group announced today that an update of their joint study of the Canadian market for hosting services has been completed.

The two consultancies’ initial Canadian Hosting Market Report described the competitive landscape of the hosting market in Canada in the period 2006-2008, and divided the market into three segments — collocation, shared hosting and managed hosting. Estimates of the size of the Canadian market, market segments and vendor market shares were presented, as were in-depth profiles of the ten leading hosting service providers active in Canada. Major industry trends were identified and discussed. The report was 88 pages in length with 20 detailed exhibits that provided comprehensive quantification and analysis.

The updated 2010 edition is similar in content but covers the time period 2008-2010. Coverage was also expanded from ten to twelve service providers, including Allstream, AT&T Global Services Canada, Bell Canada, Cogeco Data Services, Fusepoint Managed Services, HP Canada, IBM Canada, PEER 1 Hosting, Primus Canada, Q9 Networks, TELUS and Verizon Canada.

Planned for publication this summer, the report will be exclusively available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

About NBI/Michael Sone Associates

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community. More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

About The Gottlieb Group

In business since 1999, The Gottlieb Group specializes in the wireless and VoIP sectors, assisting telecom firms to navigate Canadian government and regulatory agencies, negotiate intercarrier agreements and assess the market for potential entry. This experience is buttressed by significant market analysis expertise, having successfully completed numerous major research projects for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The Gottlieb Group
325 Hillhurst Blvd.
Toronto, Ontario
M6B 1M9

Telephone: (416) 782-2750
Email: agottlieb AT gottliebgroup DOT ca

New study of the Canadian market for hosting services underway

April 12, 2010 — Market Metrics and The Gottlieb Group announced today that an update of their joint study of the Canadian market for hosting services has been commissioned by NBI/Michael Sone Associates. The firms define “hosting services” as the provision of IT services based upon outsourced infrastructure operated in a data centre by a third-party.

The initial Canadian Hosting Market Report described the competitive landscape of the hosting market in Canada in the period 2006-2008, and divided the market into three segments — collocation, shared hosting and managed hosting. Estimates of the size of the Canadian market, market segments and vendor market shares were presented, as were in-depth profiles of the ten leading hosting service providers active in Canada. Major industry trends were identified and discussed. The report was 88 pages in length with 20 detailed exhibits that provided comprehensive quantification and analysis.

The updated report will be similar in content and cover the time period 2008-2010. Planned for publication this summer, the report will be exclusively available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

About NBI/Michael Sone Associates

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community. More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

About The Gottlieb Group

In business since 1999, The Gottlieb Group specializes in the wireless and VoIP sectors, assisting telecom firms to navigate Canadian government and regulatory agencies, negotiate intercarrier agreements and assess the market for potential entry. This experience is buttressed by significant market analysis expertise, having successfully completed numerous major research projects for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The Gottlieb Group
325 Hillhurst Blvd.
Toronto, Ontario
M6B 1M9

Telephone: (416) 782-2750
Email: agottlieb AT gottliebgroup DOT ca

A sad day for Silicon Valley North

It was a bittersweet event for Ottawa’s tech sector — and a sad day for Nortel fans, if there are any left — as the blue-and-white sign marking the entrance to the Nortel Networks Carling Campus was removed today. A highly-recognized landmark in the west end of Ottawa, the sign’s Nortel logo was painted over and covered up with a list of the campus’ new occupants.

This event symbolized the demise of Nortel, once Canada’s proudest and mightiest technology company. Nortel’s 370-acre Carling Campus was the company’s global R&D headquarters and, a decade ago, was populated by six thousand employees distributed among eleven interconnected buildings with a combined total of over 2 million square feet. Nortel claimed it was the largest industrial tech campus of its kind in Canada.

New occupants of the campus include Avaya, Ciena, and Ericsson, the acquirers of Nortel’s former divisions. We wish these companies great success in their future ventures at the campus.

Now available… “Canadian PBX Market Report, 2009 Edition”

March 16, 2010 — Market Metrics today announced that the consultancy’s latest annual study of the Canadian market for business telephone systems has been published and will be available shortly from NBI/Michael Sone Associates. This is the sixth consecutive year that Market Metrics has researched and authored this study for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community.

Independently recognised as the leading study of its kind, the “Canadian PBX Market Report” to examine in detail the Canadian market for the key telephone systems (KTS), private branch exchanges (PBX) and IP private branch exchanges (IP-PBX) and the accompanying telephone stations used voice and unified communications for small businesses, the mid-market and large enterprises. The top-10 manufacturers active in the Canadian market — 3Com, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, Nortel, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba — are also profiled in the study. Covering the 5-year period 2007-2011, the 2009 edition is over 200 pages in length and contains 132 tables summarizing the overall market as well as detailing the revenues and shipments of each of the ten profiled manufacturers.

The report is exclusively available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates; for more information, please see the publisher’s website at www.nbicanada.com

FREE for Canadian market planners… Economic update and over 100 vital info links

February 18, 2010 — Market Metrics today announced the update of its Quarterly Canadian Economic Update, a time-saving quick reference that gathers together in one spot economic assumptions to help clients with their 2010 planning, forecasting and budgeting activities.

Available on the consultancy’s web site, the Quarterly Canadian Economic Update draws upon a variety of sources to present our view of the 2010 Canadian economic outlook as well as detailing a number of economic parameters. Included are real GDP growth, exchange rate, interest rate, inflation, unemployment rate and IT salaries for the past three years as well as estimates for the current year. The outlook is updated quarterly.

Says Greg Graham of Market Metrics, “We offer this information to our clients and prospective clients for their convenience since gathering it together is a time-consuming process. We hope this helps sales and marketing managers since the Canadian economy is expected to remain challenging — and volatile — this year.”

The Quarterly Canadian Economic Update is accessed from the Planning Resources page of the Market Metrics web site.

Also available on the same section are over 100 links to vital sources of information about the Canadian economy, government, and other topics.

Happy Holidays!

Ottawa at night featuring the Canadian Museum of Civilization. (Photo courtesy of Ottawa Tourism)

Happy holidays to you and yours,
and our best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2010!

We would like to thank all of our clients for their business over this past year. We have appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with you.

Market Metrics will be closed for the holiday season from Thursday, December 24 through Friday, January 1, re-opening on Monday, January 4.

New secure mailing address

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Please note that this post office box is no longer in use since we moved in spring 2012. Our new mailing address can be found using the “Mail & Packages” link under the “Contact Us” tab.

October 30, 2009 — After hearing from a colleague about a client’s mailed cheque being pinched from his company’s lobby and washed — a process by which the payee of a genuine company cheque is altered so that the thief can deposit the cheque in his own account — we decided to bolster our physical security for mail by using a post office box.

This change allows us to securely receive your payment and any other mailed information — including that which might be covered under a Non-Disclosure Agreement — without threat of tampering or delay.

Effective immediately, please send all mail to the following address:

MARKET METRICS
4048 Carling Avenue, PO Box 72038
Ottawa, Ontario
K2K 2P4

Market Metrics provides free management advisory services to eligible SMEs

September 30, 2009 — REVISED SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 — Market Metrics Inc. announced today that it has been qualified by the Canadian Association of Management Consultants (CMC-Canada) to provide management advisory services under an agreement between the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) and CMC-Canada.

NRC-IRAP and CMC-Canada have entered into an agreement whereby CMC-Canada administers a new program called the Management Advisory Service (MAS). Eligible companies can receive up to 40 hours of consulting with the consultant’s fee covered by the MAS program. The company is charged only a nominal $150 administrative fee, and the consulting fees do not have to be repaid in the future.

The MAS program ensures that small companies will have access to qualified management consultants to help them deal with management issues that could limit their success. Typical MAS projects involve defining issues, setting priorities and establishing action plans.

Participating companies must be eligible to receive NRC-IRAP assistance. MAS projects are initiated by an NRC-IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor, administered by CMC-Canada and delivered by a Certified Management Consultant. Gregory Graham, the principal of Market Metrics, is a Certified Management Consultant and has satisfied the qualification and registration requirements of the MAS program.

NRC-IRAP Industrial Technology Advisors, located geographically throughout Canada, meet and interview companies as the first step in forging a long-term client relationship. In the event that an ITA decides that a MAS project is appropriate for a client, the ITA triggers a project by submitting a request to CMC-Canada.

We regret that Market Metrics cannot initiate MAS projects and refer interested parties to the NRC-IRAP program (see web link below).

About NRC-IRAP

Delivered by a network of over 210 professionals located in more than 100 communities across Canada, NRC-IRAP supports the needs of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) engaged in innovative or technology-driven activities. The program provides a suite of advisory services, networking and linkages, and non-repayable financial assistance to SMEs.

More information about NRC-IRAP can be found at www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/irap

About CMC-Canada

CMC-Canada fosters excellence and integrity in the management consulting profession as a whole. CMC-Canada administers, and its provincial Institutes confer, the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation in Canada. The Association and its members advocate for the CMC designation and are dedicated to advancing the profession and delivering the benefits of those efforts to the client community.

More information about CMC-Canada can be found at www.cmc-canada.ca

What’s the Canadian market for Unified Communications? New report under way

March 17, 2009 — Market Metrics today announced that a new market study is underway to assess the Canadian business market for Unified Communications.

Unified Communications, often called “UC”, is the integration of voice, presence, instant messaging, conferencing and other communication media and applications into a single system. Proponents claim that unified communication systems help improve employee productivity by reducing the time that it takes for them to contact each other. This helps speed up projects, resolve problems faster, and creates a platform for automated businesses processes that require human-to-human communication.

The report will size the Canadian UC market, profile leading vendors active in the Canadian market, quantify market shares, and identify major trends.

Researched and authored by Market Metrics, the new report will be published by NBI/Michael Sone Associates, a leading Canadian market research firm based in Toronto. This will be the first time that a market study examining Unified Communications will be published by NBI/Michael Sone Associates. Market Metrics has contributed market studies to the NBI/Michael Sone Assciates research program for the last six years.

Publication is planned for June 2009. Copies of the report will be available exclusively from NBI/Michael Sone Associates; for more information, please see the publisher’s website at www.nbicanada.com

“Canadian PBX Market Report, 2008 Edition” now published

January 23, 2009 — Market Metrics today announced that the consultancy’s latest annual study of the Canadian market for business telephone systems has been published and will be available shortly from NBI/Michael Sone Associates. This is the sixth consecutive year that Market Metrics has researched and authored this study for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community.

Independently recognised as the leading study of its kind, the “Canadian PBX Market Report” to examine in detail the Canadian market for the key telephone systems (KTS), private branch exchanges (PBX) and IP private branch exchanges (IP-PBX) and the accompanying telephone stations used voice and unified communications for small businesses, the mid-market and large enterprises. The top-10 manufacturers active in the Canadian market — 3Com, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, NEC, Nortel, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba — are also profiled in the study. Covering the 5-year period 2006-2010, the 2008 edition is 206 pages in length and contains 132 tables summarizing the overall market as well as detailing the revenues and shipments of each of the ten profiled manufacturers.

The report is exclusively available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates; for more information, please see the publisher’s website at www.nbicanada.com

Happy Holidays! December 2008 holiday schedule

(Photo courtesy of the City of Ottawa)

We would like to thank all of our clients for their business over this past year. We have appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with you. Happy Holidays to you and yours, and a healthy, happy and prosperous 2009!

Market Metrics will be closed for the holiday season from Wednesday, December 24 through Friday, January 2, re-opening on Monday, January 5.

Market Metrics launches “Quarterly Canadian Economic Update”

November 13, 2008 — Market Metrics today announced the launch of its new Quarterly Canadian Economic Update, a time-saving quick reference that gathers together in one spot economic assumptions to help clients with their 2009 planning, forecasting and budgeting activities.

Now available on the consultancy’s web site, the Quarterly Canadian Economic Update draws upon a variety of sources to present our view of the 2009 Canadian economic outlook as well as detailing a number of economic parameters.

Included in the initial release are historical GDP growth, exchange rate, interest rate, inflation, unemployment and IT salaries for the past two years and the current year to date, as well as estimates for the coming year. This information will be updated on a quarterly basis.

Says Greg Graham of Market Metrics, “Gathering together this information is a time-consuming process and we usually update our planning assumptions at least quarterly, especially when the economy is in a period of rapid change like it is now. We decided to offer this information to our clients and prospective clients for their convenience. This should save sales and marketing managers time as they prepare or update their sales forecasts for 2009, especially in small businesses where staff don’t have a lot of time to dig out Canadian data and rely on the news. News reports — like today’s reports about the recent OECD forecast — often feature the U.S. point of view without much Canadian context.”

The Quarterly Canadian Economic Update is accessed by selecting “Downloads” from the “Resources” menu on the Market Metrics web site.

“Canadian Hosting Market Report, 2008 Edition” published exclusively by NBI

October 7, 2008 — Market Metrics and The Gottlieb Group today jointedly announced that their new study of the Canadian market for hosting services is now available exclusively from NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The Canadian Hosting Market Report, 2008 Edition is a survey of the competitive landscape of the hosting market in Canada, defined as outsourced infrastructure operated in a data centre by a third-party. The report divides the market into three segments — collocation, shared hosting and managed hosting. In addition to estimates of the size of the Canadian total market, market segments and vendor market shares for the period 2006 to 2008, in-depth profiles of the ten leading hosting service providers active in Canada are provided, and major trends identified and discussed. The report is 88 pages in length with 20 detailed exhibits that provide comprehensive quantification and analysis.

Although this is the sixth consecutive year that Market Metrics has researched and authored studies for publication by NBI/Michael Sone Associates, and the seventh year for The Gottlieb Group, this report marks the first occasion that the two consultancies have collaborated on a research project.

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community. More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

About The Gottlieb Group

In business since 1999, The Gottlieb Group specializes in the wireless and VoIP sectors, assisting telecom firms to navigate Canadian government and regulatory agencies, negotiate intercarrier agreements and assess the market for potential entry. This experience is buttressed by significant market analysis expertise, having successfully completed numerous major research projects for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The Gottlieb Group
325 Hillhurst Blvd.
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M6B 1M9
Telephone: (416) 782-2750
Email: agottlieb AT gottliebgroup DOT ca

“Canadian ACD/Contact Centre Market Report, 2008” now available

June 23, 2008 — Market Metrics today announced that the Kanata-based consultancy’s study of the Canadian market for Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) and other contact centre equipment has been published and is now exclusively available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The Canadian ACD/Contact Centre Market Report has been published every second year for over 15 years. Along with the Canadian PBX Market Report and Canadian Ethernet Switch Market Report, it forms the NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ series of customer premise equipment (CPE) reports describing the Canadian enterprise market for network equipment manufacturers. All three of these reports are researched and authored by Market Metrics and published by NBI/Michael Sone Associates. This marks the sixth consecutive year that Market Metrics has researched and authored studies for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

Since yesterday’s call centres have evolved into multimedia contact centres encompassing the many means by which customers interact with enterprises — telephone, web chat, instant messaging, e-mail, facsimile and mail correspondence — this report covers automatic call distribution and associated in-bound contact centre equipment. The new report is 134 pages in length with 41 detailed exhibits providing comprehensive quantification and analysis.

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community. More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

Market Metrics to contribute contact centre study to NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ 2008 market research programme

April 25, 2008 — Market Metrics today announced that the Kanata-based consultancy will contribute a study of the Canadian market for Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) and other contact centre equipment to NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ 2007 Market Research Program.

This marks the sixth consecutive year that Market Metrics has researched and authored studies for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

The Canadian ACD/Contact Centre Market Report has been published every second year for over 15 years. Along with the Canadian PBX Market Report and Canadian Ethernet Switch Market Report, it forms the NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ series of customer premise equipment (CPE) reports describing the Canadian enterprise market for network equipment manufacturers.

Since yesterday’s call centres have evolved to multimedia contact centres encompassing the many means by which customers interact with enterprises — telephone, web chat, instant messaging, e-mail, facsimile and mail correspondence — this report covers automatic call distribution and associated in-bound contact centre equipment. The previous edition, published in 2005, was also authored by Market Metrics and was 135 pages in length with over 30 detailed exhibits providing comprehensive quantification and analysis.

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community. More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

2007 edition of “Canadian PBX Market Report” now available

February 4, 2008 — Market Metrics today announced that the consultancy’s latest annual study of the Canadian market for business telephone systems has been published and is now available from NBI/Michael Sone Associates. This is the fifth consecutive year that Market Metrics has researched and authored this study for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community.

Independently recognised as the leading study of its kind, the 175-page “Canadian PBX Market Report, 2007 Edition” examines in detail the Canadian market for the key telephone system (KTS), private branch exchange (PBX) and IP private branch exchange (IP-PBX) systems and stations used to provide voice communications for small businesses, the mid-market and large enterprises. Leading manufacturers active in the Canadian market — 3Com, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, Nortel, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba — are also profiled in the study.

Copies of the report are available exclusively from NBI/Michael Sone Associates; for more information, please see the publisher’s website at www.nbicanada.com

Market Metrics turns 5!

January 3, 2008 — As we celebrate the successful completion of our fifth year of business, we would like to take this occasion to thank all of our clients, past and present. We have appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with you and look forward to productive collaborations again in the future.

December 2007 holiday schedule

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients for their business over this past year. We have appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with you!

Market Metrics will be closed for the holiday season from Monday, December 24 through Wednesday, January 2, re-opening on Thursday, January 3.

We wish you Happy Holidays and a healthy, happy and prosperous 2008!

“Business Phone Reseller” database — 2007 Edition underway

September 12, 2007 — As part of our consulting practice, Market Metrics is sometimes asked by manufacturers of business telephone systems and related products to assist in developing their Canadian distribution networks. For this reason, and for use in our own market analyses, we maintain a database of interconnects, value-added resellers, systems integrators and other distributor partners that are authorised by manufacturers to carry new KTS, PBX and/or IP-PBX systems.

This is a free opportunity for your company to be considered when a manufacturer is looking for new Canadian partners.

Our existing information about your company is available upon request — just contact Greg Graham at (613) 270-9676 or greg_graham@marketmetrics.ca and we will fax it to you for your review. You’ll see that we don’t request anything confidential, just contact information and the brands that your company is authorised to carry. In return, we ask that you review it, either mark it “OK AS IS” or note any changes, and then fax it back to us at 613-270-0290.

You may have also received a mailing from us with your company’s information for review. If so, please review it and fax it back as described above.

Please note that only firms that sell and install new KTS, PBX and/or IP-PBX systems are eligible -– sorry, but we don’t track used/refurbished equipment brokers or retailers that sell residential equipment.

We regret that only responses received by September 22 can be included in the 2007 edition.

DEADLINE EXTENDED:
Responses are still coming in, so we have extended our deadline to September 29.

About Market Metrics

Market Metrics helps companies better understand their markets, customers and competitors by providing tailored research and strategic marketing services. Located in Silicon Valley North, Market Metrics can reach directly into the heart of the Canadian technology sector to drill down from markets to players and products.

First edition of the “Canadian Ethernet Switch Market Report” published

July 30, 2007 — Market Metrics today announced that the consultancy’s study of the Canadian business market for Ethernet switches has been published by NBI/Michael Sone Associates. This event marks both the first time that a market study examining the Ethernet switch product category has been published by NBI/Michael Sone Associates, and the fifth consecutive year that Market Metrics has researched and authored studies for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community.

The 95-page “Canadian Ethernet Switch Market Report” examines in detail the Canadian enterprise market for the Fast Ethernet, Gigabit and 10 Gig layer 2/3 switches used to connect workstations, IP telephones and local area network other endpoints. Leading manufacturers active in the Canadian market — 3Com, Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Dell, Foundry, HP Procurve and Nortel — were also profiled in the study.

Copies of the report are available exclusively from NBI/Michael Sone Associates; for more information, please see the publisher’s website at www.nbicanada.com

Market Metrics to attend the 2007 Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto, June 11-13

June 1, 2007 — Greg Graham of Market Metrics will be attending the 2007 Canadian Telecom Summit at the Toronto Congress Centre from June 11 to 13, and is available for meetings with Toronto-area clients and conference attendees at that time.

The conference features a stellar lineup of speakers including senior executives from Alcatel-Lucent, AT&T, Avaya, Bell Canada, Cisco, Ericsson, IBM, Microsoft, Mitel, Motorola, MTS Allstream, Nokia Siemens Networks, Nortel, Palm, Polycom, Redback Networks, RIM, Rogers, Sandvine, SaskTel, Solace Systems, SR Telecom, Telus, Toronto Hydro Telecom, Videotron, Virgin Mobile, Vonage and more. As in previous years, the National Post will provide extensive coverage of the Telecom ummit.

The conference brochure describes the Canadian Telecom Summit as:

“The Canadian Telecom Summit is Canada’s pre-eminent gathering of the telecommunications industry and those with vested interests in its welfare. Attracting the senior-most professionals from around the globe, The Canadian Telecom Summit provides a forum for the broad cross-section of stakeholders to exchange views, share ideas, challenge assumptions and plan for the future.”

“The 2007 Canadian Telecom Summit reviews where we have been as an industry, provides an understanding of the dynamics that propel it and forecasts future trends & expected developments. Now in its sixth year, attendance is a must for telecom and IT industry professionals — corporate users, carriers and manufacturers — financial analysts, consultants and investors.”

More information about the conference can be found at www.gstconferences.com

One of the two co-organisers of the Canadian Telecom Summit conference is NBI/Michael Sone Associates, a leading Canadian market research firm focused on telecommunications. Market Metrics will provide three market studies describing the Canadian enterprise market for customer premise equipment for NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ 2007 market research programme.

To arrange an on-site meeting at the conference, contact Greg directly at (613) 270-9676 or email greg_graham@marketmetrics.ca

Market Metrics to contribute multiple studies to NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ 2007 market research programme

March 12, 2007 — Market Metrics today announced that the consultancy will contribute three Canadian market studies to NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ 2007 Market Research Programme. This marks the fifth consecutive year that Market Metrics has researched and authored studies for NBI/Michael Sone Associates.

Founded in 1977, NBI/Michael Sone Associates is a leading Canadian market research and consulting firm whose mission is to provide statistically-based, primary-sourced information on the Canadian telecommunications industry. NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ independent, full-service research information provides vital tools for strategic and market planning to service providers, equipment manufacturers, start-ups and the investment community.

The three planned market studies to be authored this year by Market Metrics include:

  • An updated edition of the “Canadian PBX Market Report”, published annually for over 25 years. This report presents detailed quantitative and qualitative on the Canadian market for key telephone system (KTS), private branch exchange (PBX) and IP private branch exchange (IP-PBX) systems as well as profiling the leading vendors in Canada — 3Com, Alcatel, Avaya, Cisco, Mitel, Nortel, Panasonic, Siemens and Toshiba. The 2006 edition, also authored by Market Metrics, was 161 pages and contained 42 exhibits detailing shipments, installed base, and market segmentation by system size, technology, vertical industry and region.
  • An updated edition of the “Canadian ACD/Contact Centre Market Report”, published every second year for over 15 years. Since yesterday’s call centres have evolved to encompass the many means by which customers can interact with enterprises — telephone, facsimile, e-mail, web chat, instant messaging and mail correspondence — this report covers automatic call distribution (ACD) and associated in-bound contact centre equipment. The 2005 edition, also authored by Market Metrics, was 135 pages and contained over 30 exhibits providing comprehensive quantification and analysis.
  • A new study, the “Canadian Ethernet Switch Market Report”, to be published for the first time in 2007. This study will examine in detail the Canadian enterprise market for Fast Ethernet, Gigabit and 10 Gig layer 2/3 switches used to connect workstations, IP telephones and other endpoints. Leading manufacturers active in the Canadian market will also be profiled.

These three studies are major elements in NBI/Michael Sone Associates’ series of customer premise equipment (CPE) reports describing the Canadian enterprise market.

More information about NBI/Michael Sone Associates can be found at www.nbicanada.com

Market Metrics study submitted to CRTC

January 10, 2007 — A study prepared by Market Metrics on behalf of Shaw Cable was submitted to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for use in preparing the CRTC’s report examining the future facing Canadian television broadcasters.

The CRTC is the public authority that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada, and is currently conducting reviews of its regulatory frameworks for radio, television and broadcasting distribution with a focus on the impact of technological change.

In the Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2006-72, the CRTC called for comments regarding how “the evolution of audio-visual technologies is profoundly changing how Canadians, communicate, express themselves, and interact with various media bringing with it important economic and social implications and leading to a new communications and media environment.”

Included in Shaw Cable’s submission, our report was one of 52 from consumer groups, broadcasters, distributors and industry associations. This information was then used by the CRTC to inform the Government of Canada’s policy determinations regarding the future of broadcasting in Canada.

The CRTC’s subsequent report, called “The Future Environment Facing the Canadian Broadasting System”, was released on December 14, 2006. In their report, the CRTC acknowledged our study by stating “Market Metrics identified five enabling technologies, which have emerged since the year 2000 and are now being used by unregulated new entrants to offer services that compete with the Canadian broadcasting system.”

The CRTC further agreed with the findings of our study and stated that “… all of these technologies will continue to improve rapidly. In addition to these technological advancements, new types of competitors and new business models that compete with traditional broadcasting distribution undertakings will be aided by the increased availability of new technologies, and the increasing familiarity and comfort of Canadians with the use of technology.”

The CRTC report concluded that any negative impact from shifting media consumption patterns has been marginal to date since Canadians still consume the vast majority of programming through regulated broadcasting undertakings. However, the report notes that younger Canadians in particular are increasingly accessing programming through unregulated electronic platforms, and that new audio-visual technologies will have an increasing effect on broadcasting undertakings over time. The possibility of public policy action being required within the next 3-7 years is suggested.

The CRTC’s complete report, as well as public submissions, is available electronically from their website at: www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/NEWS/RELEASES/2006/r061214.htm

December 2006 Holiday Schedule

December 2, 2006 — We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients for their business over this past year. We have appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work with you!

Market Metrics will be closed for the holiday season from Monday, December 25 through Tuesday, January 2, re-opening on Wednesday, January 3.

We wish you Happy Holidays and a healthy, happy and prosperous 2007!

New white paper service combines market research with writing

July 17, 2006 — Market Metrics and ThatWhitePaperGuy.com today announced a turnkey white paper service for advanced technology companies. The new service will be provided jointly by the two firms.

“Clients can sometimes double-up their return on research by using it for white paper background as well as market planning,” says Greg Graham, a senior consultant with Market Metrics. “After having a savvy client use our services to research customer stories and a white paper, we decided to formally partner with ThatWhitePaperGuy.com, one of North America’s top specialist firms in writing white papers.”

Gordon Graham of ThatWhitePaperGuy.com says “Facts, not hype, provide an essential grounding for white papers. Jaded customers are bombarded with advertising and have little tolerance for vague or exaggerated claims. Market Metrics and ThatWhitePaperGuy.Com work together to determine tangible customer benefits and clearly articulate them for our joint clients.”

About ThatWhitePaperGuy.com

Gordon Graham helps B2B technology firms get a better return on their case studies and white papers, by planning, creating, and publishing them more effectively. He is a former VP marketing for a fast-growing wireless firm, and a seasoned technology writer who has created 100+ white papers and case studies for clients like Autodesk, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intuit, and Oracle… plus lots of smaller firms with big dreams. And since 1985, Gordon has won more than a dozen awards from the Society for Technical Communication (STC).

More information can be found at www.thatwhitepaperguy.com

About Market Metrics

Market Metrics helps companies better understand their markets, customers and competitors by providing tailored research and strategic marketing services. Located in Silicon Valley North, Market Metrics can reach directly into the heart of the Canadian technology sector to drill down from markets to players and products.

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  • Meet Greg Graham

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    Market Metrics Inc. helps knowledge-based businesses with strategy, planning and innovation and was founded in 2003 by Greg Graham, a seasoned marketing professional. Greg is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), an Accredited Small Business Consultant (ASMEC), a member of the American Marketing Association, and holds MBA/BEE degrees as well as a Certificate in Strategic Management. He frequently performs consulting engagements on behalf of the Government of Canada's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). Prior to Market Metrics, Greg's 21 years of corporate experience encompassed tech start-ups through Fortune 500 companies.

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