Archive for September, 2007

Annual SOHO/SME Conference – October 16

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

For those of you who are not aware, the third annual SOHO and SME Business Conference and Expo is taking place at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre on October 16. (For those not familiar yet with the abbreviations – “SOHO” means “Small Office, Home Office” and “SME” stands for “small or medium-sized enterprise” and is used interchangeably with “SMB” for “small or medium-sized business”.)

You can register at the following web site.  If you don’t have the money for the registration, you should still go as you can attend the trade show for free so long as you pre-register (otherwise it will cost $25 at the door).

I have gone to the show the past two years and it has been a worthwhile time.  Even if all you do is go to the trade show, there’s usually something there that will peak your interest in changing ways you currently do things.  My trip there two years ago convinced me to go with the TREO instead of the Blackberry.  Last year I saw a booth that had a paperless office system (or something close to it) and while I wasn’t interested in the product for my business, it did get me thinking about ways to streamline my paper organization.

Maybe I’ll see you there.


Alternative to Tossing a Coin?

Monday, September 17th, 2007

We all have our little “guilty pleasures” that we indulge in from time to time.  One of mine is reading my weekly horoscope.  My favourite place to go is Tim Stephen’s website.  Of the many astrologer’s web sites, most deal with the key ways to improve your love life, get along with your boss or dealing with close relatives.  However, in my case, since I’m married with young children I am told that my love life is dead until they reach age ten (at least).  If I can’t get along with my boss at work then I should stop looking in the mirror, and if I can’t deal with my relatives that’s okay because they’re all on the other side of the continent.  So, most daily horoscopes do little for me.  However, Tim’s web site has a twist – he often talks about business aspects and how the stars could affect the markets, oil prices, etc.  It’s a neat twist on what is otherwise standard fare.

This week (September 16 to 22) Tim has his weekly predictions with a suggestion on how to select, among other things, a lawyer.  First, you take the alphabet and divide it into twelve sections.  1: A (sometimes R). 2: B, I. 3: C, E, X. 4: M, O (sometimes D). 5: F, W. 6: G, N (sometimes R). 7: P, L. 8: K. 9: J, U, Q. 10: S, H, Y. 11: V (sometimes D) and 12: T, Z.

Next, take the first letter of the first name of the person who is involved in the lawsuit with you or, if he/she is represented by a lawyer, take the first letter of the first name of the lawyer.  To give a simple example from a matter I dealt with all day today, the lawyer on the other side was named Marvin and his client was named Michael – so “M” in both cases.  You then find the section with the letter “M” (section 4) and, including that section, count out 8 sections.  In this example, my client should be represented by someone with a first name starting with V (or sometimes D) since that is section 11.  Um … er … OK, from now on you can all call me Verne, alright?

Needless to say, probably not the most scientific way of choosing between possible lawyers to represent you.  But, if you just don’t feel like tossing a quarter and calling heads or tails to make your decision you might want to give this a try – especially if your first name starts with a K, then give me a call ’cause I’m your guy!


Business with a Buddy

Saturday, September 15th, 2007

There is a very interesting article from the Washington Post’s web site entitled “Think Twice Before Jumping Into Business with a Friend” by Mary Ellen Slayter. (You may have to subscribe to view the article, but subscription is free and easy to sign up.)  The article discusses the potential pitfalls that await and how going into business with your buddy can be different from going into business with an acquaintance or someone you know from work.

Beyond the issue of doing business with your friend(s), the issues and factors mentioned in the article are recommended for consideration by anyone who is thinking of starting up his or her own business.

The only thing I would add to the article is the following personal story.  My firm was not originally intended to be just my firm.  Rather, it was going to be a partnership of myself and two friends of mine who worked at my old firm before I left.  We shared a common vision and our practices did not overlap but complemented each other nicely.  On paper, this was like the Blue Jays this year, on paper, at the beginning of the season – there was no reason why this would not work out perfectly.  For the Blue Jays, they got saddled with injuries from the very beginning (Reed Johnson, BJ Ryan, AJ Burnett, etc.) or off-season free agent signings did not live up to expectations (Tomo Ohka, Royce Clayton, etc.) and the promise was never realized this year.  (Ah well, there’s always next year, sigh.)  In our case, we quickly focused in on the minute details.  To make a long story short, it became clear that I was better prepared to go forward and to deal with the minute details than the other guys were.  By focusing on these details quickly, the differences in our practice styles and minor personality differences became clearer.  Could the partnership have worked?  I’m sure it could have and I do not rule out the possibility of resurrecting the idea at some point in the future.  However, I ultimately had to make the decision of going out on my own because I saw some aspects which may have been good for the business but would have put a strain on our friendship.  In the end, I don’t have two business partners but I have a good law firm and still have two friends.  If things had not worked out for the partnership, I likely would not have had either.


State of SME Affairs

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

I received my latest copy of Enterprise Magazine yesterday and it had its annual “SME Report Card” or, as I like to think of the “SME State of the Nation as Shown in Statistics Canada’s Data”.  The gist of the report is that thinks have slowed down for SME’s (Small and Medium Enterprises).  Of particular interest, though, is the fact that in 2006 Statistics Canada has shown for the first time negative growth in self-employment.

Last year’s SME Report Card had noted that self-employment and the number of small (10 to 99 employees) and micro (1 to 9 employees) business was decreasing.  The reason given at that time was that jobless rates were down, salaries were stable or improving and this made more people content to stay where they were as employees rather than starting new businesses.  While these reasons were not cited this time around, it appears that the trend has continued.

The view of the trend put forward this year, though, is that self-employment, for example, is increasing for women and people over age 55 – both demographics being more conservative.  The result, it is said, is that while less people are choosing self-employment and starting their own businesses, those who do are more mature and prepared in their ventures.  I think that this is a fair assessment and a welcome trend.  But, by the same token, it also means that the opportunities are growing for the true entrepreneur.  Seniors and women may make less mistakes and have more solid foundations when they start their businesses, but often the time it takes to create those solid foundations is paid for in lost opportunities.  Which means either there are opportunities which the bold and brash can seize in their startup businesses or else there are opportunities which can be acquired by already established businesses. 

Hmmm, more opportunities to be had and less competition compared to earlier years.  Sounds like it’s going to be an interesting time.  Meanwhile, as a quick warning mentioned in the SME Report Card, the worst businesses to run in 2006 were drinking establishments, scientific and technical consulting services and support activities for printing.  All of these industries had losses of over 1/3 of the number of businesses in that industry from the prior year.  Conversely, computer companies, the residential building construction industry and doctors offices all had large growth in their industries.  I guess if you don’t have that pub down the street to spend all your money on a pint or two each day after work, you can buy a new house, a new computer and get your liver checked out.