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Management & Accounting

Shopping for a cause.

November 10, 2011 | Teresa | Comments (0)

I have always been a big fan of Coke and its iconic red can, so the recent announcement by Coke to change the color of its can to all white for a brief time (from November 1, 2011 to January 15, 2012) to help support the World Wildlife Federation's efforts to save endangered animals in the polar region, caught my eye.  By buying a "white" Coke during this time I will be helping contribute to saving the polar bears!

With the Christmas season around the corner, and more shopping to be done than any other time of the year, do efforts like this influence how we shop? 

A number of companies donate a portion of their sales to worthy causes.  A few examples include Tom's shoes which donates a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold,  Better World Books, an on-line used book site that  helps find new homes for unwanted books, donating 3.3 million books to date to partner programs around the world.  Their five primary literacy partners are : Books for Africa, Room to Read, Worldfund, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Invisible Children and The Body Shop, which runs a program called Community Trade, that has the Body Shop purchasing ingredients, gifts and accessories from marginalized countries - giving small entrepreneurs access to a global distribution market. 

Corporate social responsibility (CSR, also called corporate conscience, corporate citizenship, social performance, or sustainable responsible business), has become one of the benchmarks when a company is evaluated by investors and well as potential employees.  If done right, it can elevate a company's profile and is good for the bottom line.  If done incorrectly, it can smack of hypocrisy and insincerity.   

Check out some other examples of CSR done right and wrong.  Toronto Public Library has a number of books on this topic.  Check out a few recent examples below:

CSR Business ethics for dummies     CSR Business ethics     CSR Corporate Social Responsibility

TPL also subscribes to a periodical entitled Corporate Knights, which is devoted entirely to this topic, as well as having a number of websites bookmarked that discuss CSR. 

Do you support a company that is trying to make the world a better place?  





Free Help With Hiring And Keeping Staff - Through The Career Foundation

November 7, 2011 | Margaret W. | Comments (0)

I attended the Enterprise Toronto Small Business Fair a few weeks ago, and came away with some great information about services to start-ups and new businesses.

One of the most impressive services I came across was The Career Foundation's Recruitment and Training Assistance Program.

The following is a quote from their information brochure about the program's benefit to you, the employer. They include:

  • Having their experienced staff identify candidates with the right fit for your employment and retention success
  • Advertising your job opportunities anytime, anywhere on their on-line database or searching for and recruiting job ready candidates
  • Accessing financial incentives that offset your costs of training new employees and other services to support your training needs.

This is all free!

The Career Foundation is a "non-profit organization which partners with government agencies, private sector companies, educators and community organizations".

Check their website for eligibility requirements.

It sounds like a great opportunity for small businesses to get help with a difficult aspect of the process - hiring and keeping staff.


What do you look for in a leader?

September 8, 2011 | Teresa | Comments (0)

Three individuals have been in the news the past few weeks - each from different walks of life.  Each considered outstanding leaders.  I wanted to have a closer look at what qualities each possessed for people to consider them great, since the topic of leadership is one that is perhaps the most written about in management literature. 

So what do we look for in a leader of an organization, be it a company, political party or a social movement? How important is a good leader to an organization?  I think most will agree that a company that has a strong front line staff, is wasted, if there isn't someone there to lead them towards a common goal. 

All of the below have any number of "great leader" skills, but these were the qualities that stood out for me.

Approachable personality: Recently deceased NDP leader Jack Layton had many strong attributes, but one that was frequently written about at the time of his funeral was how open and approachable he was as a politician.  During the most recent campaign, he was voted the leader most Canadians would want to sit down and have a beer with.  A good leader can dialogue with people on a variety of levels and make them feel like their voices are heard in the organization.  Many ordinary people who came to pay their respects during the funeral spoke of how Mr. Layton's values and causes spoke to them.

Visionary: Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple, recently stepped down from his post as CEO due to health problems.  A lengthy article in a recent Globe and Mail article entitled "Right up there with Edison and Ford: He may have been the best boss or the worst, but Jobs earned his place in the pantheon of great industrialists" by David Ebner (August 26, 2011, p A3) describes a man who founded 2 successful companies (Pixar the other), who had a vision of where he wanted to take Apple.  He was an inventor, who personally held over 300 patents, including 85 iPod and iPod related items, and despite being accused of being a micro-manager, made stellar hiring choices and motivated his company into dominating the market.  His favorite quote is of Canadian Wayne Gretzky: "I skate where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been".

Inspirational: Late August marked the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech.  To commemorate the event, a statue of Dr. King was unveiled honoring this event and his legacy.  His electrifying speech, almost 50 years after being given, still gives one goosebumps in its soaring oratory and inspirational message.  It gave voice to the civil rights movement.  It is still studied today in classrooms as an example of motivational speech.



Want to read up on these leaders or on leadership in general?  Check out these books available at the Toronto Public Library.  The system has many books on leadership.

Leadership jobs       Leadership kings dream     Leadership speaking out
“Leadership demands vision to see the path before us, the courage to take it and the strength to follow it.”    Dr. Jeff Turnbull, outgoing president of the Canadian Medical Association.


Toastmasters International: Not Just Another Meeting

September 5, 2011 | Margaret W. | Comments (0)

Toastmasters International, a non-profit organization, is well known for its excellent public speaking training. Less is known about the leadership skills that can be developed through Toastmasters clubs - skills from which small businesspeople can certainly benefit.

If you want to learn how to run better meetings, Toastmasters is for you. If you want to learn how to deliver constructive criticism, Toastmasters is the place to do it! If you are interested in learning firsthand how to motivate people to push their limits and do their best, Toastmasters is for you too. 

How is this accomplished?

  • Every Toastmasters meeting has a Chair whose job it is to organize a meeting, appoint the other people who will be in charge of various parts of the meeting, make up an agenda, and make sure everything is covered in the meeting, on time 
  • Each meeting also has a Toastmaster. The person in this role recruits (from among the club's members) the evening's speakers at least a week ahead. This person also writes and gives the toast of the evening, which is a set length of two minutes.
  • Meetings usually has a section for people to practice impromptu speaking. The Tabletopics Master's job is to choose the topic (and keep it secret until the Tabletopics section begins), and then keep people to their time limit, which is usually one minute.
  • Evaluators praise and critique speeches. Here is a real opportunity to learn how to offer critiques in an effective, supportive way - one that motivates a person rather than alienate or discourage them.
  • Club members can run for president, area governor, district governor and other higher leadership roles within the organization.

All of this may seem like a lot of work, and it is - but the opportunities for learning to be a leader are many. It is another tool that can be used to build a smooth-functioning business, and it's fun!

Here are some books on running meetings. All can be found at the Toronto Public Library.

Meeting Skills for Leaders   Plan and conduct effective meetings   10 Steps to Successful Meetings

 The only real training for leadership is leadership.
~Antony Jay


Help With Small Business Bookkeeping

September 1, 2011 | Margaret W. | Comments (0)

Small business owners either love or hate bookkeeping - there seems to be no middle ground. If you are looking for help in doing your own bookkeeping, Enterprise Toronto is sponsoring  a program in September called Does It Add Up? Basic Bookkeeping for the New Business Owner. Click on the link for more details.

Here are some books at the Toronto Public Library that will help you get started:

Bookkeeping for Canadians for Dummies  Bookkeeper's Boot Camp  Alpha Teach Yourself Bookkeeping in 24 Hours

If you decide you want to hire a bookkeeper, how do you find one? Have a look at the Canadian Bookkeepers Association website. It includes a list of association members organized by province and city.

You may also wish to check the Scott's Business Directory Online, one of the online databases to which the Toronto Public Library subscribes. Using Scott's you may narrow your search to bookkeepers close to you - for instance, in your forward sortation area (the area represented by the first 3 letters of your postal code). You can also sort by how long the company has been operating.

You will need your Toronto Public Library card to access this database from home. You may want to come into the library the first time you use the Scott's so a librarian can assist you.





The best of the Harvard Business Review

July 28, 2011 | Teresa | Comments (0)

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)

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.


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


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)

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)

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)

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.



Welcome! We are specialized librarians in our business department and we write about current issues for small business owners and those interested in personal finance matters. For more information and resources see our Small Business & Personal Finance page.