Everyone likes to save money. Some save it in an account. Some save it under the mattress. But, if you could save money, while spending money. Counter-intuitive right? Well, we here at the Chamber of Commerce would like to show you this wonderful way of saving money. If you have just a little patience, you can save hundreds and possibly thousands every year. So, shall we start saving money?
The secret to saving money while shopping is not clipping a whole bunch of coupons. No, the secret is to have patience, and by items at end of each season. Then, if you insist, clip those coupons, and save even more money.
Best Things To Wait Until Spring To Buy
Don't buy spring fashion, furniture or new cars.
Wait Until Summer and Save Big
FYI: Weddings are the most expensive in Summer, we suggest staying away from buying suits and accessories.
Prices on These Items Will Fall in the Fall
See our Comox Valley General Retail page for a list of businesses.
Winter Wonderland of Price Cuts
Most of the things that you would buy in the Winter, should probably wait until after Christmas. After Christmas, they are generally steep, steep markdowns, as manufacturers race to get products off their books, in preparation for the following year's taxes.
Here at The Chamber, we hope that these shopping tips will keep you shopping -- but more importantly saving -- throughout the year!
Tipping in restaurants has long been the norm here in Canada, but despite the fact that it's a common (and expected) practice, how much you tip, when, and where, remains a personal and often highly controversial choice.
A recent survey by CreditCards.com shed some light into the differences between tipping habits not only across the country, by between different age groups, genders, and even political affiliations.
Facts About Tipping
Collectively, about 80 percent of the survey's 1,002 respondents reported always tipping in restaurants, with the median tip rate being 18 percent, and people earning over $75,000 annually top the charts in terms of the average size of their tips.
Tipping isn't limited to restaurants - nearly one-third of those surveyed tip both the baristas in coffee shops and housekeepers in hotels, while two-thirds also tip their stylist or barber. Whether you tip when getting your hair done often depends on your age - the older you are, the less likely you are to tip outside of restaurants.
In fact, tipping isn't the norm across the world - in many countries tips aren't expected, while leaving a tip in some regions is considered to be an insult. In Japan, leaving a tip can lead to confusion, while China is also a no-tipping country. Switzerland's labor laws mean that restaurant staff are already well-compensated through their salary, and therefore, servers do not rely on tips to make up part of their wages.
The Chamber provides resources to local businesses to help you succeed, with a focus on creating a strong thriving community. We encourage local entrepreneurs to stop in and get acquainted and learn more about what we offer. Sometimes learning from other's mistakes will keep you from having similar problems. Read more from Cindy and what she refers to when she looks back as her biggest regret in business:
Cindy: "I have owned and operated several businesses in entirely different fields. These experiences have helped me to identify what I consider the top challenges, which have led to my biggest regrets. Although they were all different fields, I will address the restaurant, as it is the one area where I have learned the most about my mistakes after the fact."
My Biggest Regret in Business
Small and large businesses benefit from greeting clients and welcoming them to their business. It can be difficult to compete with other businesses, but by providing them with your best service and quality, you can succeed.
Teamwork is critical for businesses in just about every industry, so it is likely that you will work as part of a team at some point in your career. Depending on your position within your organization, you may be called upon as a team leader as well. Here's what you need to know to keep your team members in line and ensure they follow your instructions willingly.
When you first form your team, you need to establish yourself as the leader right from the start. Make sure that you are well-prepared for your first meeting so you can drive discussions and answer your team's questions. Let your team know that you are available to help whenever they need. Remember, you are the guiding light for your team members throughout the project, so stay on top of your tasks so that your team can follow you.
Listen as Much as You Talk
Of course, you'll do plenty of talking as the team leader, but it is just as important that you listen to your team. Because they are the ones who will be doing most of the work as you manage, they can provide unique insight as to how the project is progressing and any trouble areas that might arise. Take your team's feedback to heart, but always keep your mind on the bigger picture as well. Your team members are each dealing with individual aspects of the project, and it is up to you to keep everyone on track towards your common goal.
Focus on the Business
While you may be able to choose the members of your team, this is not always the case, and you may be required to work with people with whom you don't necessarily get along as friends. Although it is difficult, do your best to set your personal feelings aside. Keep your focus on the task at hand. Even if you don't like a team member on a personal level, that doesn't mean that you can't still work successfully together.
Be Willing to Take the Blame
Just as the captain goes down with a sinking ship, you are the responsible party as the team leader. While it may be easier to place blame on your team members for any mishaps, at the end of the day, it is you who is responsible for the successful completion of the project. Your team looks to you for direction, so if something goes wrong, you need to take responsibility.
Practice What You Preach
No matter what type of project you are working on, you need to show your team that you are in it with them. No one likes to see their team leader sitting back while they do all the work, so you need to be working just as hard as your team members. At each meeting, review their progress, but also show them your progress. This way, they'll see that you are working just as hard as they are, encouraging them to work harder for you.
Managing a team is not easy, but with careful planning and preparation, as well as a good dose of respect for your team members, you can give yourself your best chance of delivering your project successfully.
Deciding between hiring in-house talent or outsourcing the job can be a tough call to make, and both options have their benefits and drawbacks. Here are some things to consider when choosing between the two recruitment options.
Why Independent Contractors Make Sense
It's easy to understand the draw that outsourcing certain tasks has for business owners.
First of all, while you should work closely with an independent contractor, there are no employee-related expenses; no training costs, health care, vacation time, or sick leave. Additionally, in many cases, you will be working with and benefiting from the experience and insight of a team of specialists, rather than a single worker.
Outsourcing may also spare you business expenses. For example, perhaps you are interested in making some promotional and informational videos for your website. You could invest in expensive equipment, along with hiring someone with the proper know-how, or you could outsource the job to a video production company that already has the knowledge, experience, and the equipment. Finally, outsourcing certain tasks can free you and your workers up to focus on the core areas of your business without pouring time and effort into peripheral tasks.
Making the Call
While outsourcing can be a good thing, it also has its drawbacks. Your project may not receive the focus it deserves, you lose a little bit of control over the timeframe, and you have less control over the quality of the finished product. Before deciding whether to outsource a task or operation, consider these questions.
Is it a Business-Critical Function?
Generally, anything that relates directly to the operation of your business should be handled in-house. For example, for some businesses, their social media marketing strategy is an essential part of their competitive advantage. In this case, a social media manager should likely be an in-house hire who shares your goals and vision for marketing campaigns.
However, duties like payroll, bookkeeping, and administrative tasks, though they don't relate directly to the vision of your business, tend to take a significant toll on overall productivity. Outsourcing these tasks, rather than hiring in-house, makes sense for most businesses.
What Is Your Budget?
There may be a significant cost difference between a trained employee and an independent contractor. Oftentimes, if you're shooting a single promotional video or you want to create an app, outsourcing the job may make the most sense because it will spare your business the expense of investing in expensive equipment and providing highly specialized training. On the other hand, independent contractors may charge a relatively high daily rate, making outsourcing less than ideal for long-term projects.
What Is Your Time Frame?
If you have a skills gap that needs to be filled quickly, then outsourcing makes sense. Rather than taking the time to go through the hiring and training process, you can hire an experienced professional who can hit the ground running.
In the end, whether or not you choose to outsource hinges on your timeframe for project completion, budgetary considerations, and how it will impact the efficiency and goals of your business. Using these as guidelines will help you choose the recruitment option that is right for your business.
If your business were a car, your key employees would be the engine. These are your superstars, the heavy hitters who apply their talents and skill sets in their positions and generate massive results every time.
As most managers already know, however, the reason why key employees are so in-demand is precisely because they don't grow on trees. If you're hunting for your next key employee, here is some of our best advice on where to look.
1. Professional Recruiters
The thing about key employees is that they're generally either employed or snatched up very quickly during the brief times they're unemployed and looking for a position. So who better to help you find your next key employee than someone whose business it is to match companies with excellent clients day in and day out? Professional recruiters have the relationships, experience, and the avenues needed to find candidates and find them quickly.
Although the saying, "It's not what you know but who you know" gets thrown around at job-seekers a lot, the same logic also applies to employers who are searching for talent. You may not be immediately aware of anyone who could fill a key position, but perhaps a colleague you met at a seminar or a fellow professional association member might know someone. Or maybe instead of a professional peer it's a friend of yours who knows a recent college grad or a veteran who would be perfect for your position. All of this is to say that your professional and personal network is a resource that just might surprise you.
Do you have any high-flying talent in your organization? Is there an employee who seems to have all the knowledge and personality traits needed to step in and do a fantastic job? Sometimes your future key employee is standing right in front of you. A lot of companies get so caught up in internal policy and creating a rigid system for potential advancement that they overlook the talent and potential for growth that's already there. An added bonus with this approach is that the candidate's familiarity with you and your company's culture are a potentially easy way to guarantee a relatively smooth transition.
The Internet has long been used for research, networking, and business. Now, with the help of sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, and even Facebook, finding talent is literally just a few clicks away.
As effective as these relatively mainstream sites can be, companies don't have to resign themselves to these relatively mainstream avenues. Forums, Twitter, specialized job boards, and Internet hotspots like Reddit are all places where employers can find and discover talent with relative ease. When you're searching for your next key employee, you don't want just anybody to take the wheel. You want the best person for the job. However finding that future key employee is often easier said than done. Online sources, tapping into your existing network for possible referrals, promoting internally, and hiring professional recruiters are all options that can make finding your next key employee easier. Try one of these options and see how it works for you.
When you shop local, you do far more than get the items that you want quickly and conveniently. Buying local stimulates the economy in our community, helps benefit local schools and charities — and it even helps the environment.
Look at some of the many reasons why it is important to shop and buy locally.
Buying Local Keeps Money in Our Community
When you buy locally, the small business you are making your purchase from certainly benefits, but the benefits keep growing. A small business that does well is likely to hire more people, who then spend more money in the community.
Buying locally also pours money into the local institutions who need it. Taxes are paid locally, boosting the community's libraries, schools, and infrastructure. Local businesses are also more likely to donate to charities in the local community, helping make improvements that all can enjoy.
In fact, when independent think tank The New Economics Foundation compared similar purchases made at chain stores vs. those made with local businesses, the experts determined that buying locally puts double the money into the community than occurs when you make a purchase at a chain store.
Buying Local Is Better for the Environment
Whether you buy online or from a major chain store, it typically requires some major effort to get your item to you. Trucks must haul products across the country, burning up fossil fuel and contributing to pollution.
In addition, products that must be packaged for shipping typically end up requiring extra packaging to survive the journey intact. Compare buying, say, a pre-packaged set of nails at a big box store — with your purchase sealed in one of those packages that practically require power tools to open — to picking out just the nails you need at your local hardware store, with the friendly local owner popping them into a simple paper bag (or even into the bag you brought yourself). All that extra packaging typically ends up in landfills or the ocean, adding to environmental damage.
Buying Local Results in More Diverse Choices for Customers
When you go to one big box store after another, you will see the same product choices, over and over. The only real difference is in price — and often that difference is a matter of pennies.
Buying locally is a whole different experience. Each small business in our community is unique, offering a true connection with customers and a real understanding of their visitors' needs. Think about the diversity of stepping into a local boutique to do some clothes shopping versus perusing the offerings at chain stores, which all seem to look the same. Local artisans and craftspeople can show off their wares and build a following when you shop locally.
In addition, local businesses are typically far more flexible, adjusting to meet the immediate needs of customers much more quickly than giant national chains can do. They can also do a better job of stocking the products our community members want, since they are part of the community.
Buy Local to Help Keep Our Community Unique
Related to the previous reason to buy locally is the idea that those unique products lead to a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. No one goes to a big box store to browse or to enjoy recreational shopping. But when your local shopping district is filled with local retailers, you create a sense of self-image that help defines our community. Our unique businesses are something to be proud of, and when we all support them, they create a reason for other shoppers to come visit our community.
By supporting local businesses, we can also help entrepreneurship thrive, which adds to local prosperity and innovation. Every local retailer is one of our neighbors who has taken a risk to try to make our region a better, stronger place, boosting the economy and helping lift friends and neighbors into the middle class.
When we all look for ways to buy local, we tell all our neighbors that we believe our community is worth investing in. We put our money into things we care about, including our local schools, and we enjoy a better purchasing experience overall personally. Shopping and buying locally is a win-win for you, for small businesses, and for our community.
Events, Products and Head-shots... Oh My! Choosing The Right Photographer For Your Business Needs
Whether you need full-color photos for your restaurant menu, head shots for your annual report, or mobile-friendly videos to add to your website, investing in professional photography services can deliver great returns for your business.
Here's what you need to know about choosing the right photographer for your business needs:
Consider Your Priorities
While virtually anyone can snap digital pictures, there's a real art to taking clean, attractive photos that enhance your business and appeal to your audience.
Start by making a list of what you need a photographer to do for your company. Are you looking for head shots to add to your webpage, static product shots for a brochure, or action photos for your social media feed? Professional photographers tend to specialize in one or two types of photography such as portraits, real estate, product photos, or live-action images.
Ask About Ownership
Simply hiring a photographer to take pictures for your business doesn't necessarily give you the rights to use the photos they take on your website, print materials, or business cards. Be sure to discuss ownership of the images up front, and get your agreement in writing. For example, you may need to negotiate a Digital Rights Fee - a contract that clearly outlines how you can use the photographs and whether or not you need to give the photographer credit each time you publish a photo they took.
Discuss Retouching Fees
Thanks to the magic of photo-editing programs like Photoshop, many photographers now offer value-added services to remove small blemishes, clean up backgrounds, and even edit in people into photographs. All this digital photo magic comes at a price, so be sure to explore exactly what photo editing will cost before you sign a contract.
Ask For A Portfolio
Professional photographers are expected to maintain an active portfolio of their work so they can show of their skills to prospective clients. Review recent work of photographers you're considering using, and as with all contractors, take the time to ask for references.
Check out our Chamber member McKinnon Photography to see if they would be a good fit for your company.
When you start a new business, there are a lot of decisions you need to make — and one of the most important decisions is your business location. Most business owners take their time looking at the inside of spaces but forget all about the parking situation. The last thing you want is lack of available parking to ruin your customers' experience. Learn how to determine how many parking spaces your business really needs.
Check the Official Parking Regulations
The first thing you need to do is check with your local municipality to see if any current parking requirements affect your business. Usually, the amount of parking spots a business is required to have depends on the type of business. For example, a restaurant might be required to have 50 parking spots and a large retail store may be required to have 75 spaces.
City of Courtenay Zoning Bylaws - Part 11 Page 26
Conduct Some Local Research
Talk to other local business owners with similar businesses to determine how many parking spots they fill during peak business times. You can simply give a few businesses a call or meet other business owners in the area by attending networking events. Researching the needs of businesses similar to yours gives you a good idea of what to expect.
Think About Your Employees
Parking availability affects your employees as much as it does your customers. So when you're trying to determine how many parking spots you need, don't forget about the number of workers on-site at any given time. Try to find a building that has available parking out back for employees — with backdoor access. This way, they don't have to park all the way in the back of the lot and walk up to your establishment before and after their shift.
Ultimately, it's better to have too many parking spaces than it is to not have enough. You should aim to have enough parking spaces available for both your customers and your employees during your company's busiest times.
The best phone system for your business depends on the size of the business, how you communicate with your customer and the rate of call volume. For medium to large-sized businesses enjoying steady growth and increasing call volumes, implementing scalable phone systems is essential to sustain your success.
4 Reasons Why You Need to Update Your Phone System
1. Your Company's Phone System is, well, OLD
Has your telephone system evolved as far as it can go? Scalability, or the ability to add new features as they are developed, is vital to achieving all growth goals you've set for your business. If your existing phone system can't handle an increasing amount of outgoing and incoming calls, how can your company thrive? Static phone systems inevitably break down due to network congestion complicated by outdated technology.
2. Busy, Busy, Busy
Patience is no longer a virtue of today's consumers. Digital technology has made it easy for customers to instantly communicate with businesses that have upgraded their phone systems. If you're wondering why your company has experienced a gradual but significant reduction in customer calls, it may be that your phone system is obsolete and overloaded. Did you know that less than 5 percent of potentially buying customers actually call back if they receive busy signals or are put on hold for more than 15 seconds?
3. Your Old Phone System Struggles to Breathe
In other words, your company's phone system can't support any more devices, such as fax lines, additional phone lines, teleconferencing technology, etc. Plugging in another feature is essentially "pulling the life support plug" on your existing phone system. On the other hand, you could invest in high-tech ports to entertain more lines. However, you're still stuck with an antiquated phone system that could collapse at any time, leaving your business isolated from both old and new customers.
4. Your Business is Approaching Call Center Readiness
You know it's time to add a call center--and the sooner the better. But you can't add a call center because your old phone system is practically senile. Now you're stuck with losing customers to other business while you wait for someone to install a VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone system to accommodate call center functionality. Take the time to upgrade your old phone system if necessary to begin growth-supporting call center services
More about VoIP
Integrating VoIP into your business from the beginning lets you profit from interactive voice response. IVR allows your customers to communicate with a host system using speech recognition software or keypad functions. This lets customers self-service inquiries they may have following interaction with the IVR system.