Thursday, September 12, 2013

Leap Is Going Off Air

The idea for the Look Before You Leap: Self Employment Survival Strategies project emerged from our passion for helping career development practitioners explore career options beyond government funded programs which, for many, included work as career consultants. We also wanted to ensure career development practitioners gained an increased awareness of self-employment, helping them to support clients. Our work on the project was supported by our 20+ years of self-employment endeavors and our awareness that many leap into self-employment relatively uninformed and unprepared.

The Leap project was made possible thanks, in large part, to funding received from the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC). Project deliverables included a 2-week facilitated e-learning course focused on self-employment, a corresponding workbook useful for those considering self-employment and those supporting self-employed persons, and a research article published in the Canadian Journal of Career Development (available at: The project’s final report is available at:

Having launched in 2010, the project agreement has now come to an end and the Life Strategies team has decided it is time to wrap up all remaining activities. We are thrilled to announce that the PDF version of the Leap workbook will now be available for free – click here to download.

The Leap website will remain live for the foreseeable future, but will not be updated. Don’t hesitate to visit as the site includes links to many useful resources.

The Leap Blog will also remain live, but we won’t be contributing new posts.

The Twitter feed will also go silent; our last Tweet has been set for September 2013 and the account will close soon after.

Our team is still passionate about supporting career development practitioners interested in self-employment, either for themselves or for their clients. Do not hesitate to connect if you’d like more information on customized training options.

Huge thanks to CERIC, Leap students, and research participants for your support of this project. We also want to thank Miranda Vande Kuyt for managing the Leap site, blog, and Twitter feed, and for teaching the Leap course, over the last few years. We also can’t forget our project coordinator, Cassie Saunders; without her support our self-employment endeavours would be infinitely more challenging!


Roberta and Deirdre

Monday, August 5, 2013

Top 10 "Lacks" That Cause Business Failure

All too often new business owners sink their hearts, souls, and life savings into starting their business only to have it fail. They are good people: intelligent, articulate, ambitious, and motivated, and yet they still fail. Sometimes it is for external reasons, but usually it is because of things they haven’t done or things they lack. So why did they fail? Here are 10 of the most common “lacks” that cause businesses to fail.

Photo by Dreamstime
1. Lack of Funds. More businesses fail from lack of funding or under funding than anything else. It may be 18 months before income exceeds outgo, so where is the money coming from to withstand that drain? Do a thorough cost analysis in advance. Set competitive yet profitable prices. Make your revenue projections conservative and over estimate your expenses. Set up a contingency fund or a line of credit to cover unexpected expenses.

2. Lack of Research. Research everything and then research it again. You have to do a thorough SWOT analysis of every aspect of your business: your competitors' businesses, who your ideal customers is, what rules and regulations are involved, what your costs are (fixed and variable), what's your niche, and what makes you different from the others. Use Statistics Canada or LMI or good old fashioned leg work but check everything out in advance. What registrations, licenses, certifications, or regulations will you have to comply with? Find it all out before you start so you don’t get suprised by them six months down the road.

3. Lack of Planning. I have said this before and I will say it again. "Fail to plan and you plan to fail." Most small businesses don't plan, they just DO. The business fatality rate is so high because of things that have NOT been planned for. People start a business before they even know what they don't know. You need to have a strategy going in. A thorough Business Plan will become the blueprint for running a successful business. Your business plan should include an exit strategy.

4. Lack of Passion. Unless you have a true passion for what you are doing, you are doomed to fail. Find something that you love to do and figure out a way to get paid to do it. I would (and do) coach entrepreneurs for free periodically because I want to pass along my knowledge and experience. Getting paid to do it is a huge bonus! Going into a business that you care nothing about just because there are huge profits in whatever widget it is will ultimately lead to failure. Find something that excites you and devote your energies to it willingly and you will increase your chances of success

5. Lack of Training. Businesses fail because business owners attempt to start in unfamiliar industries. Entrepreneurs should try to find part time work in the field they are planning to open their business in so they can learn more about it. They should have advisory boards to bounce their ideas off before they implement them. They should take certifications that are required for the industry they are entering, and do the appropriate professional development they need to run their business adequately. I have seen hundreds of entrepreneurs who dreamed of opening their own restaurant yet they have never worked in one in any capacity, let alone managed one. Unsurprisingly, many of them fail.

6. Lack of Organization. Most new business owners don’t even start with “Shoe Box Accounting” and as a result they get into cash flow difficulties without even realizing they are getting into trouble. Basic record keeping should be implemented from the very outset. Get someone who is qualified accountant or bookkeeper to set up a basic manual record keeping system for you even if you plan to keep the records yourself. Invest in Sage Simply Accounting or QuickBooks and someone to set it up for you and teach you how to use it.

7. Lack of Marketing. If you're thinking, "I have built a better mousetrap so the world will beat a path to my door. My business will grow by word of mouth." WRONG! People can't beat a path to your door if they don't know where your door is or that you have a better mouse trap. The Marketing Plan portion of your Business Plan is a separate plan all of its own. How are you going to reach your ideal customer? Have you even defined who that ideal customer is? (No, "Everybody" is not a valid answer.) How much are you going to spend on advertising? Where? When? How often? How will you TRACK the results?

8. Lack of Networking.  Networking relates back to number seven. Far too many entrepreneurs set up their businesses and then just sit back and wait. Without customer interaction the business withers and dies. Whether it is good old fashioned handshakes and conversations at Chamber of Commerce meetings or a social media marketing plan, they need to be out there promoting their business and getting their message out. Which platforms fit your business? If you sell B2B you need to be on LinkedIn. B2C is better suited to Facebook. Is your business visual? Put it on Pinterest. Set up a web site. Attach a blog to your web site. Create presentations and movies on Slideshare and You Tube. Are you in the hospitality industry? Put yourself on Foursquare. Link all of this stuff together. Don’t know how? Hire someone who does!

9. Lack of Focus. AKA: “Re-inventing the wheel.” The tendency of small business owners is to wear too many hats, especially during the first year of a start-up. As a result they wind up spending hundreds of hours working on their business without actually working in their business. The owner takes the time to learn how to do every aspect of business and get themselves bogged down doing things they could be delegating to others. If the owner’s wage is of 40 hours a week generating revenues is worth $150.00 per hour ($6000 per week), why on earth would they spend 10 hours doing simple tasks that they could outsource to someone else at a lower rate of pay?

10. Lack of Coaching. Entrepreneurs have a tendency to “Go it alone”. Too often they embark on projects or full fledged business ventures without any input whatsoever. Many do this because they don’t want to hear negative thoughts about why what they are trying to do wont work. Unfortunately that attitude can lead the bold entrepreneur into ruinous mistakes. It is critical to establish an “Advisory Board” of experienced business people who you can use as a sounding board. Look for people who are strong in areas where you perceive weaknesses and elicit their opinions.

If you can’t find an advisory board on your own, try hiring a business coach to be your mentor.

Richard Lindfield is a Business Coach specializing in Business Planning, Business Management, LinkedIn Basic Training, LinkedIn Company Page Development, Social Media Marketing Strategies, Content Development and much more. Visit the Fraser Valley Training Group to connect with Richard at

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

10 Tips For Managing Time And Prioritizing Tasks

Photo by Microsoft Images
1. Know yourself. Keep a detailed log of how your time is spent. Identify what tasks take the most time, when you’re most productive, and common time wasters.

2. Avoid multitasking. Studies suggest that we can only focus on one project at a time and only for 40-90 minutes. Multitasking is a myth. Strive to “chunk” your time; trying to get everything done at once can result in nothing getting done at all.

3. Set goals and reward yourself. Set SMART goals; break down each large goal into key tasks and smaller “to-do” items. To stay engaged, celebrate each milestone as it is achieved.

4. Use a prioritizing formula. A structured format can help with important decisions concerning how to spend your time / what tasks to do first. Sample formats include Deadline/Payoff, Paired Comparison, Importance/Time, and Richard Bolles’ Prioritizing Grid (discussed in That Elusive Work-Life Balance).

5. Invest time in scheduling. Use calendars, task reminders, and/or Gantt charts to schedule your time. Chunk smaller or similar tasks together, but remember to build in some wiggle room, leave time for interruptions, and schedule regular breaks.

6. Be clear and concise when communicating. Use e-mail subject line, to, and cc fields effectively (i.e., subject line links to email purpose, to notes key recipients(s), cc reserved for FYI). Ensure any requests for action are clearly stated, addressed to specific individuals, and include due dates. Leave clear and concise voice mails; don’t assume someone has your phone number. Develop appropriate/effective agendas to guide meetings.

7. Make effective use of technology. With such a wide range of technologies available pick something that will work for you – not what’s “hot” today. Invest the time to fully understand every technology you use. Remember, low-tech solutions (e.g., tickler file) can sometimes work the best so don’t rule those out.

8. Avoid management by crisis. If you’re always fighting fires, you’re not productive. Plan your time and tasks effectively; don’t ignore upcoming deadlines as they tend to “sneak” up. Remember – stress and emotions interfere with productivity and impact decision-making capabilities, help if you get overwhelmed and/or feel unable to cope.

9. Delegate effectively. Only pass items on to someone who understands the task specifications/deadline and has the skills/ capacity to complete it effectively. Build in some extra time to monitor progress and review the product.

10. Learn to say no. If you can’t complete a task, it’s alright to say no. Be sure to provide a reason and work together to find solution (e.g., shifting priorities, delegating tasks, getting more resources).

This post was written by Life Strategies and is available in a pdf tip sheet format:

Thursday, July 4, 2013

10 Strategies For Managing Your Stress

Nearly 61% of respondents to a recent survey on stress reported they were at least somewhat stressed; however, 81% reported they managed their stress at least somewhat effectively. We’ve pulled together these tips, based on their responses, to help others manage their stress. 

1.  Know your triggers. Stress produces physiological responses – your body tenses, your heart rate rises, and you become flustered/scattered. Reflect on what, or who, triggers your stress and develop effective coping strategies or, if possible, avoid those situations altogether.

2.  Stay healthy. Keeping your body and mind strong by maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help build your stress tolerance and resiliency. Avoid unhealthy coping strategies (e.g., drinking, smoking) and focus on eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.

3.  Regain control. According to Professor Cary Cooper, the “feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of stress and lack of wellbeing.” Recognize and accept that there will always be situations outside of your control and give yourself permission to let those things go. Be sure, however, to regain control of the things you can, even if they seem small.

4.  Maximize your support network. Maintain healthy relationships with your friends and family. Ask for help when you need it – whether it is just someone to talk to or one who can offer assistance. Remember that these relationships are reciprocal . . . be prepared to support those in your network as well.

5.  Sort out your priorities. Consider all the things that you’re juggling and identify what’s really important. A prioritizing grid is a great tool to help with this activity.

6.  Plan ahead. If you know there is going to be a particularly stressful time coming up at work or at home, reflect on what you’ll need to help you cope. Consider both what you can add to (e.g., an additional fitness activity, more sleep) or remove from (e.g., carpool duty for the upcoming school trip) your routine.

Photo by Microsoft Images
7.  Remember to play. Think about the activities that you love and make you laugh and feel energized (e.g., hiking, running, reading, knitting, listening to music, painting). Recharge and re-energize yourself by taking time, every day, to enjoy life; laughter truly can be the best medicine.

8.  Reframe your thinking. Consciously make an effort to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Consider what you can do rather than what you can’t. Ask yourself, is this a small inconvenience or a major catastrophe and be realistic in your appraisal. Remember that a small problem can seem huge when you’re either already feeling overloaded or not taking care of yourself.

9.  Take a moment. When experiencing a stress response, take a moment to practice stress reduction strategies. Focus on your breathing, count to 10 in your head, or repeat a mantra (e.g., “I am calm. I can handle this crisis”). After a brief break, you’ll be able to better process what’s happening and respond appropriately.

10.  Relax and reward yourself. Take time to relax and unwind after a particularly stressful time. Whether it’s a sweet treat, a night out on the town, or a vacation to a tropical island, a reward for “surviving” stress is always well deserved.

This post was written by Life Strategies and is available in a pdf tips sheet:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

10 Tips For Business Planning

By Richard Lindfield
By Microsoft Images
Obviously there are many more than 10 tips on how to write a business plan and I have included links to some of them. If you are an entrepreneur getting ready to write your first business plan, these first few tips will give you something to consider.

1. Why am I doing this? Understand why you are writing a business plan in the first place. A good business plan is a blue print for how your business should be run. If (God forbid) something happens to you that keeps you out of commission for 6 months or more, you should be able to hand over your business plan to someone who can temporarily run your business for you using the Business Plan as a guide. You might be writing it as a start up looking for funding, or an established business looking to expand. In each case you will write it slightly differently so decide up front why you are doing this. A decent Business Plan takes 100 hours or more to produce, so it is not a task to be taken on lightly.

2. Start small. Here is a fun exercise that I have posted about in numerous LinkedIn Groups and I find it very interesting to read the responses. Before you sit down to start writing your Business Plan sit down and describe your business in 10 words or less! Think in terms of what your business will do to improve the lives of your potential clients. What’s the benefit to them? Don’t even try to list any features of your products or services. Try it now, tell us what you do by leaving your 10 words in the comments below!

3. Stay small. Before you write a full business plan write a one page business plan to use as an outline for the full sized one. You already have your one sentence description of your business. Now be succinct in your description of the company, your products and services, marketing strategies, operational information, financial information, any funding requirements, and an appendix showing sources. Use one paragraph of 3 sentences or less for each topic and keep the entire document to 500 words or less.

4. Research, research, research. Now that you have a vague idea of what your business will look like, go and do a feasibility study that will confirm (or not) your assumptions. Do both primary and secondary research on the market and your niche in it. Research your competition. Research EVERYTHING! Use the internet, do surveys, talk to suppliers, identify your distribution methods, get quotes on capital acquisitions and create cash flow projections.

5. Identify your core values. We all have personal values that are important to us. It is crucial that the values of the company be consistent with your personal values or you will not be satisfied with the results you obtain. Incorporate your top 3 or 4 personal values into your company’s mission and vision statements. I use the Values Preference Indicator from Consulting Resource Group International to determine the values of the clients I work with who are developing their business plans.

6. Set goals. Set SMART Goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time sensitive) for 6 months out, 1 year out, 2 years out and 5 years out. If you don’t know where you are going you might wind up somewhere else. It is a good idea to brainstorm your goals with your advisory board. If you don’t have an advisory board, go recruit one. Try to include an industry mentor, your banker, key staff and trusted family members on your advisory board.

7. SWOT everything. SWOT stands for identifying the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT your business idea. SWOT yourself as an industry expert and as a Manager and Owner. SWOT any business partners you might have. SWOT EVERY competitor. SWOT your suppliers. SWOT the business model you have decided to implement. This research will help avoid getting bitten on the butt by something at a future date.

8. Create a critical path for your business. When will you do what and at what cost for the next 12 months. Not all steps in your critical path will have a cost associated but will still be sign posts of the progress of your business towards the ultimate goal.

9. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Go online and search for free downloadable Business Plan Templates. A good place to start would be the financial institution you normally do business with. If they have a template on their web site, chances are that is the way they want to view information when they evaluate your business for a loan. DO NOT buy Business Planning Software. You are going to spend over 100 hours writing it so why would you want to add a software learning curve into the mix?

10. Do it last! Even though your Executive Summary is the first section of your business plan is the executive summary you should write it last. Why? It is written last because you don’t really know what to put into it until you have done all of the other sections so you can summarize them. You could start with the One Page Business Plan you learned about in tip # 3 and compare it to the reality of your fully researched plan and revise and expand it accordingly and use that as your executive summary.

Richard Lindfield is Director of Training for The Fraser Valley Training Group. Services include Business Plan Writing. You can connect with Richard on LinkedIn at

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

10 Keys To Accelerating Success In Any Business

Photo by
1.  Think like a millionaire. Brian Tracy, author of Million Dollar Habits, coaches entrepreneurs to think BIG! He says, “We become what we think about most of the time.” If you want financial independence, it must be top of mind. Set goals and make sacrifices. Develop a mindset of saving, investing, and growing your money.

2.  Be frugal. Stop spending! Never pay full price, negotiate everything (e.g., lower price, lower rates, better terms, deferred payments). Save something from every cheque. For lasting results, “Get rich slowly.”

3.  Do the work you love. Use your natural talents and abilities and arrange your day to spend more time on the things you do best. Find the “thing” that is easy to learn AND easy to do for optimal alignment. Still searching? How long will you stay in a situation when you know it is not right for you?

4.  Be a top performer. Stand out and get noticed (take on more responsibility, act fast, be thorough, be the go-to person, take initiative, be action/results-oriented). Work the whole time you work. Don’t “major in minors”; instead, work on high priority tasks that contribute to your earning potential.

5.  Learn what you need to learn to earn what you need to earn. You are the “architect of your own future.” What you do today will determine the quality of your tomorrows. Benchmark your skills, learn, and realize that you get hired for what you know. As a knowledge worker, value is determined by the results you get.

6.  Be a visionary and provide leadership. Create Vision, Mission, Goals, & Values Statements for yourself and your business. Involve others and share your passion. Remember the Biblical adage, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The best leadership is when the people say, “We have done it ourselves” (Tzu).

7.  Act like an entrepreneur. Make money work for you. Act fast on opportunities and problems. Delegate, don’t abdicate. Join or create a “mastermind group” and recruit the best when you need a team. Remain open to feedback and new ideas and never consider the possibility of failure. Navigate setbacks.

8.  Be customer-oriented. Businesses succeed and fail because of customers. According to Brian Tracy, customers buy only one thing – improvement. Do everything you can to understand your customer’s wants/needs and focus on ways to satisfy those needs. Cultivate customer relationships and accept that you must sow before you can reap. Go the extra mile as this brings better opportunities in the future.

9.  Market like a pro and focus on sales. You must, without any doubt, know what you are selling (Specialization), how you are better than your competition (Differentiation), and who buys from you (Segmentation), and then maintain focus as you generate sales. Apply Tracy’s 7 key habits to sales success and the 7 P’s of marketing to grow your business.

10.  Choose to be a person of good character. You have two paths laid out before you. You will choose to be a person of character or not. You will do the right thing in every situation or not. You will leave a legacy or not. You will live with courage or with fear. If you act as if success is completely possible, it will be.

This tip sheet was adapted by Jayne Barron, CHRP, CCDP,  from Brian Tracy’s (2004) "Million Dollar Habits".  Jayne Barron is a Career Management Consultant & HR Professional.  To learn more about Jayne visit her LinkedIn profile: This tip sheet is also available in pdf format

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

10 Tips For A Great Website

1.  Provide good navigation. Clear headings that get readers to the information they’re looking for quickly and easily are imperative. Search bars are great, but even something as simple as a site map listing all links in one place can help. For more tips on good navigation, click here.

2.  Use a clear, consistent, and clutter-free layout. Headers, sidebars, navigation, and footers should be clear and concise, remaining in the same place on every page. Consistency is key to making a professional-looking website. De-clutter your pages using a simple layout to relieve visual stress.

3.  Pay attention to fonts. Keep with the same font for all paragraphs with a separate one for headings to provide emphasis. Classic fonts, such as Times and Cambria, are always in style. Feel free to get creative but avoid over-used and difficult to read fonts such as Papyrus or Comic Sans.

4.  Plan out your colour scheme carefully. Think of the emotions and symbolism behind your colours and make sure they reflect what your company or service is offering. Stick to two or three complementary bold colours. Use subtle tones in the same colour families for backgrounds and sidebars.

5.  Keep it short, but not too short. On the Internet, patience is not easily found. If it takes too long to read, people won’t read it. Use subheadings, indentations, and bullet points. Alternatively, try linking to a new page that reinforces your ideas.

6.  Ensure browser compatibility. Making sure your website looks great on other browsers is a must. There are five main browsers competing for users: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera. While it may be difficult to work with all of them, making a webpage with at least three in mind should please readers.

7.  Keep links current. Nothing is more frustrating than clicking on a dead link. Be sure to check your website at least once a year to update links and resources. Adding new links regularly keeps content fresh and demonstrates that the company takes time to research their resources.

8.  Integrate with social media. Take advantage of the huge communities behind networking sites, where media can go viral overnight. Facebook fan pages are one way to attract new customers, but other great social media can also show off your company’s best qualities; Twitter, Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn are just a few.

9.  Add a comments section. Allowing readers to instantly respond to what they’ve read not only increases the connection between your company and your client, but shows you what works and what doesn’t.

10. Remember speed is key. Not everyone has access to a fast Internet connection, so keep flash files, video clips, and intensive graphics to a minimum. The decision to exit out of a page is a quick click away if visitors get frustrated waiting for your page to load.

This post was written by Life Strategies and is available in a pdf tips sheet: