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The best of the Harvard Business Review

July 28, 2011 | Teresa | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I love magazines - both for work and pleasure.  And while my intentions are always noble in terms of reading them in a timely manner, I generally fall short.  So I have unread piles at home, and piles at work. 

If you are like me, then this newest series of books published by the Harvard Business Review Press is for you.  The editors have combed through the archives of the venerable Harvard Business Review and have selected the most significant articles they have published over the years on a range of topics. 

If you aren't familiar with the Harvard Business Review (HBR), you should have a look.  HBR began in 1922 as a project of the faculty and students of the Harvard Business School.  Its aim from the beginning was to share research and experiences with other business practitioners.  Many top management thinkers, such as Peter Drucker, have written for the magazine over the years. 

Check out these titles, recently received by the library:

Hbr managing people      Hbr managing yourself      Hbr on change

 

Hbr on leadership      Hbr on strategy      Hbr the essentials

And check out the real deal either in print or on-line, using your TPL library card. 

 

 

How To Make Sure You Get Your Money

July 21, 2011 | Margaret W. | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

One of the greatest risks small businesspeople face is that of not being paid for their services. What can small business owners do to prevent this, and how can they deal with it once it has happened? Have a look at some of these resources for help.

Articles

The following articles are good reading on the subject. They can be found through some of the Toronto Public Library's databases, and can be accessed with a Toronto Public Library card.

Strategies to Streamline Collections For Businesses of All Sizes, by Karen Stahl

Making Sure Clients Pay Bills, by Jacqueline Taylor 

Web Sites

The Government of Canada's Canada Business has an article on how to get paid by your customers

Books

The Library has some good books on how to deal with this difficult situation.

Guide to Getting Paid   Get Your Money   How To Collect Debts and Still Keep Your Customers 
 

“It is very iniquitous to make me pay my debts -- you have no idea of the pain it gives one.”
-Lord Byron

A Fine Balance - Dealing With Questions During Presentations

May 2, 2011 | Margaret W. | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Seldom during our working lives can we avoid speaking in front of groups. Technical presentations, sales presentations, staff training sessions, and training of the public are ever-present requirements of business.

Those of us who speak in public regularly know that the learning process for making good presentations never ends. We are always learning, often the hard way.

Take the example of dealing with questions during a talk. 

I taught a seminar some years ago that started off well. As I moved along, the attendees started to ask lots of enthusiastic questions. I decided to switch around my presentation to accommodate these questions, instead of waiting and answering them in the sections of the presentation that dealt specifically with their topic.

Things went off the rails almost immediately. One slightly off-topic question led to another even more so, until the thread of the presentation was completely lost. The originally enthusiastic participants were left confused, annoyed and disappointed.

How do you deal with questions during a presentation?  Here are some suggestions.

Right at the beginning, clearly outline the scope of the presentation. Many people ask questions that are either too broad or too technical for the level of your talk. Making the depth and level of the course clear at the outset can - sometimes - prevent this.

Have a backup. Know ahead of time where to direct people who ask too-technical or off-topic questions. One suggestion is to mention other courses offered by your institution or other courses offered in the area that deal with aspects of what you are discussing. You might also want to consider having a Frequently Asked Questions sheet prepared ahead of time that answers briefly some of the questions that you have noticed come up often.

Deal with questions in their particular section of the presentation. When you say, "Good question, we are going to come to that just a few minutes", participants appreciate knowing that you are in control. If you decide to manage questions in this way, when planning the timing of your talk leave about 5-7 minutes at the end of each section to answer questions.

A different option is to indicate, at the beginning of a presentation, that you will not be taking questions at all during the talk but will have time at the end for discussion and queries. People don't mind this at all; just make sure you really do make time at the end. Leave fifteen minutes at least for this part of your class.

Here are some books at the Toronto Public Library that include information on different kinds of presentations and how to make them work well:

Making the Technical Sale     How To Run Seminars and Workshops    Speaking Effectively 


People need to trust you and know that you are in control before they can relax and learn in your class.
Do them a favour and allow them to do just that!

 

 

 

 

Business Disaster Planning

April 7, 2011 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

When I was visiting my family in Quebec many years ago, we were all aghast to see on the television the news that the roof of a very large grocery store in town had collapsed after days of heavy snow. I still remember the shocked look on the owner's face as he was interviewed, with the badly damaged building as the backdrop.

Most people, when a crisis takes place or a disaster happens, spring into action to contain the damage. But afterwards, once the adrenaline has dropped and the initial danger has passed, they collapse. They have no idea what to do next, and for a few hours, even a few days, they are unable to function productively.

But if a disaster happens to your small business, wandering around in a daze is not an option. Keeping that initial action going productively is what is needed to keep your business alive.

What kind of disasters could happen to a small business?  Besides roof collapses, disasters include power failures, equipment malfunctions, storm damage, fire, floods, environmental hazards such as smoke or toxic fumes from a nearby fire, IT malfunctions, employee error, theft, and pandemics. I'm sure you can think of many more.

The key to success is planning. Small businesses need plans - for preparations to avoid a disaster, for responding if an emergency occurs, and for recovery once damage has been done. Here are a few websites and books to get you started.

The Canadian Centre for Disaster Preparedness is a federally-funded, non-profit organization whose aim is to prepare small businesses and non-profit organizations for disasters.  Their program, B-ReadyNow, takes you through a six-step process to building an on-line business disruption plan. This is a program that you subscribe to, at $250.00/year. Have a look.

The Ontario government also has a Disaster Relief Assistance Program in place for small business, farms and non-profit organizations.

As well, the Government of Canada website includes an excellent section on the types
of insurance a small business may need.

Have a look at some of the books the Toronto Public Library has on emergency preparedness for small business:

 Prepare for the Best   Business Continuity Management    Protecting Your Business in a Pandemic 
 
The first book, Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best, is a book by Donna R. Childs, who owned a small business on Wall Street on 9/11. Some of the advice in her book was drawn from her experiences on that day and those following.

These resources will get you on your way to knowing that your business is secure should a disaster come your way.

Keeping it Creative

February 8, 2011 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

This morning I was browsing through the Huffington Post, and in their comedy section I came across a short but hilarious send-up of the kind of thing people dream up in their quest for creative business innovation.

It was a clip* from Jimmy Fallon (host of the television show "Late Night").  Fallon said he was considering doing the show on ice for a month.  After all, there was a skating rink right next door, and so what if he couldn't skate?

Many people have to deal with the problem of how to keep their businesses fresh and creative.  The library has some great books on this topic.  Have a look:

The Creative Executive   Business Innovation for Dummies   Edison on Creativity 

*The clip originally appeared in The Daily, a "newspaper" only available on iPad.

 

 

Are you your company's Steve Jobs?

January 24, 2011 | Teresa | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

My brother is a die hard Mac/Apple fan.  I tend towards PC/Microsoft.  Just like the commercial, we have spirited discussions on the pros and cons of each.  But we are united in one thing - the hope that visionary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs comes back to his position as CEO.  Mr. Jobs recently stepped down from his position for medical reasons.  Investors feel so tied to Jobs and his leadership of Apple, that the price of shares of the company dropped with this announcement.

Now your company probably is not in the same league as Apple, but if you are a founder of a company or part of a family run company and are crucial to its day to day activities - or even its survival, then it is essential to have a plan to ensure that your business survives you.  Lawyer Peter Lillico gives these hints, published in an article in the Globe and Mail, (Wednesday, January 19, 2011, p.B10) entitled "Planning for the loss of a leader" by Richard Blackwell. 

  • Buy disability insurance and "key man" insurance.
  • Have a succession plan.
  • Make up a separate will and power of attorney for your business
  • Have a partnership/shareholder agreement that spells out what happens

Read up on this subject with books from the Toronto Public Library collection:

Succession planning kit for Canadian business by Lynne Butler

Tax and family business succession planning by David Lewis

and

The ceo within          Leaders at all levels          Effective succession

Ensure your company's life for another lifetime.


 

Business Plans: Not Just for Entrepreneurs

October 18, 2010 | Christina | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Business plans are beneficial because they help entrepreneurs and well-established business owners set and reach attainable goals in relation to their businesses.

A business plan is a written statement that "describes your business, its objectives and strategies, the market you are targeting, and the financial forecast for your business."  (Source:  Canada Business)

According to the Canada Business website, there are many benefits to preparing a business plan.  If you are starting or already have a business, they may assist you in:

  • thinking about your business, recognizing opportunities and risks, and testing some of your expectations
  • helping you determine the cash needs of your new business's (or established business's) goal(s)
  • seeking financial assistance from banks and/or investors
  • providing a benchmark against which to compare the progress and performance of your business

The Business, Science and Technology Department at the Toronto Reference Library  is hosting a free program with professional advice on Business Plans:

Business Plans for Small Businesses
Speaker:  Sally Wilkie, Toronto Business Development Centre
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
6:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Beeton Auditorium, 1st Floor, Toronto Reference Library
All are welcome

For on-line information about business plans, try the recommended websites by Toronto Public Library staff at the TPL home page under Books, Video, Research & more > Recommended Websites > Business, Finance and Economics > Small Business and Entrepreneurship > Business Plans & Planning.  Thirteen recommended websites on business plans and planning are listed that contain advice, samples, templates and more.

For a variety of business plan samples, try the Business Plans Handbook located in the Gale Virtual Reference Library via the Toronto Public Library homepage.  A TPL library card is required to access this on-line database.

 

For additional information, check out the following titles at the Toronto Public Library:

Chambers, K. Dennis.  Entrepreneur's Guide to Writing Business Plans and Proposals.  Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2008.

Covello, Joseph A. and Brian J. Hazelgren.  Your First Business Plan. 5th Ed.  Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks, 2005.

Karlson, Carolyn Boulger and James S. O'Rourke.  Writing and Presenting a Business Plan.  2nd Ed.  Mason, OH : South-Western Cengage Learning, 2009.

Ramsey, Dan and Stephen Windhaus.  Everything Business Plan Book:  All You Need to Succeed in a New or Growing Business.  Avon, Mass.:  Adams Media Corp., 2009.

Sahlman, William Andrews.  How to Write a Great Business Plan.  Boston, Mass.:  Harvard Business School Press, 2008.

Tiffany, Paul, Steven Peterson and Nada Wagner.  Business Plans for Canadians for Dummies.  Mississauga, Ont.:  J. Wiley & Sons Canada, 2008.

 

For more titles on this topic, search the Toronto Public Library's catalogue with the subject heading of 'business planning'.

 

When Public Speaking Disaster Strikes

October 4, 2010 | Margaret W. | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

Not long ago, I was teaching a business-related workshop here at the library - one that I was presenting for the first time. In the middle of my talk, I realized that things weren't going too well.  My computer demonstrations to the class were not making sense with the script and at one point I got lost in a website and had a hard time finding my way back to where I wanted to be.

It was then, in the middle of the class, that I realized: in haste that morning I had picked up the wrong script!  I had grabbed from my desk an earlier version which I had revised several times since.

What do you do when disasters such as this happen?  Here's some advice:

  1. Relax.  Step back for a minute and take a deep breath or two.  People will not notice a few moments of silence, especially if they are looking at a computer screen.
  2. Don't apologize. "Oh, sorry!" doesn't sound good and could actually be introducing into people's minds the fact that you are lost, which up to that point may not have been apparent to them!
  3. Most importantly, if you are lost, remember your goal.  You are not up there to read from a script. You're there to help the people in front of you learn what they need to know. With this in mind, put down the script, turn to the computer, turn on your brain, and get going!

Remember that what may seem like a public speaking disaster to you can just seem like a minor blip to your audienceIf you don't make a big deal of it, they won't either.

Here are some books on public speaking that can be found at the library. Click on the book covers for more information.

Public Speaking and Presentation Demystified   Confessions of a Public Speaker   Present Your Way to the Top 
 
 
 

Revenue Canada's Small Business Tax Seminar: It Can Help

May 27, 2010 | Margaret W. | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

"I have in my hand 1,397 pages of tax simplification."  These words of Del Latta, former member of the United States House of Representatives, are cringe worthy.  If you are a small business owner in Canada trying to understand what's required of you regarding taxation, they may even have a ring of familiarity.

However, there is a way to make the topic of business taxation a little simpler without having to plow through tomes.

The Revenue Canada Agency holds regular, free seminars for small businesses which cover such topics as:

  • Starting your own business (record keeping, fiscal periods, accounting methods etc.)
  • Income tax
  • Payroll withholding
  • Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax

    In Toronto, these seminars take place at the Training Centre at 1 Front Street West.  The next seminar will be held June 11th, 2010, from 9:30 am - 12 pm. Seating is limited and pre-registration is required 48 hours in advance.

    To get more information about the seminars, or to register, call 416-954-0235. There is also a toll free number (1-877-681-1156), or you could send an mail to Outreach.Group@cra-arc.gc.ca.  You can also register through the Small Business Information Seminars website.

    Here are some books at the library about small business taxation which will also help:

    167 Tax Tips For Canadian Small Business
    Make Sure It's Deductible
    167 Tax Tips For Canadian
    Small Businesses

    Make Sure It's Deductible: 
    Little Known Tax Tips For Your
    Canadian Small Business


    Getting your small business taxation requirements clarified will allow you to focus on what's most important - providing the best service to your customer.

     

  • I Made the Cake Myself: Learning About Leadership

    May 10, 2010 | Margaret W. | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

    I belonged to a public speaking club for a number of years, and during one of those years I served as president of the club. At the final meeting of the executive at the end of that year, we were looking back and evaluating how things had gone.

    "One thing -", one of the executive members said to me, "you don't let people use their own talents. You always want to do everything yourself."

    I was astounded.  She continued, "For example, you know I studied at a culinary institute, and yet you insisted on making the cake for our club's anniversary party yourself."

    What could I say? It was true. I had made the cake myself!

    When I look back I can see that this was a turning point for me - the beginning of a bit of understanding about how I "lead" and why others reacted the way they did sometimes. Yikes. At least everyone nodded and smiled knowingly as she spoke, instead of growling and throwing things at me!

    I've become more aware of leadership styles since then - and I can't help but notice the many, many books that have been published on the topic of leadership in business.

    What I notice about these books is that the topic always boils down to the personal - at heart they are always about how people are, how they act and react, and how they can learn and change.

    That's why maybe one of the best ways to learn about business leadership could be to start on a personal level - by reading the stories of the lives of business leaders.

    If you're interested, here's one to begin with: the autobiography of Henry Ford.
     

     
    My Life and Work
     
    My Life & Work:
    Henry Ford

    "The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it."  - Theodore Roosevelt

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