Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Business Examiner Kelowna - Recession 2009 the Okanagan Impact

Recession 2009 the Okanagan Impact

Business Examiner – July 2009 - Craig Brown Publisher

A survey sent out to Okanagan businesses on the impact and duration of the current recession yielded a cautious optimism the part of a bare majority of businesses surveyed.

The first two questions asked if the recession had affected their business, and if they had lost business on account f it. Intuitively one might expect both answers to be nearly identical, but that is only partly correct.

The ‘4’ and ‘5’ answers, meaning a very strong effect was felt, is almost the same for both questions: just over 37% say the recession has strongly affected their business, and 35% say they lost quite a bit of business.

Peter Jeffrey of FormaShape in Kelowna has definitely felt the impact. The company produces water slides and what it calls its “architectural side”, which are the outside signs and design elements seen at gas stations. Sales are down.

He says it’s not all bad news. Faced with shrinking revenues, the recession “goaded us to bid on products in other places. “Right now they are looking at custom one-off products for the film industry. Jeffrey says, “That is a market we wouldn’t have dreamt of looking at before.”

The other end of the scales on those first two questions produced quite different results. A score of ‘1’ meaning there was virtually no effect on their business was given by only 12% of respondents, but 35% said they had lost no business because of the recession.

This suggests that while more than a third of the respondents have not lost sales or revenue, there are other impacts.

The Digital Art School says the recession has brought them more business. This makes sense as, in tougher times more people will go to school or upgrade their skills to enhance their chances of getting job.

Another business doing well in this recession is Donald Robichaud’s Floodlight Consulting. Most companies experiencing a strong downturn, he believes, got used to the good times of the boom economy and didn’t reinvest through marketing. “Those that are waiting for the phone to call are the ones suffering. The sales are there to be made and those that understand it takes longer to close leads know they need to have more leads and contacts.” Donald Robichaud says his business was up 18% in May over last year and expects 2009 to be up by 15% over 2008.

On the question of marketing and advertising 59% say they have not spent any more money this year. This result is hard to interpret. Companies with well developed marketing plans, as Donald Robichaud points out, may not need to increase their budgets. Others may be cutting expenses including advertising, to keep costs down.

Donald Robichaud also believes that the Okanagan is buffered somewhat by the large number of retirees still wanting to move here who will help to keep the economy going.
Responses to the question of employment suggest that business owners would seem to believe he is right. Less than a quarter of respondents (22%) say they have laid anyone off. Looking ahead 71% feel it is very unlikely they will be laying anyone off this year even though only a slim majority (56%), believe the worst of the recession is over. A nearly identical number (55%) believe their sales, if they declined, will recover as the year goes on.

Greg Salloum is the owner of the Best Western Inn in Kelowna. He is a nay sayer on the immediate prospects for the economy. He explains, “Two reasons that lead me to believe this are: How can the solution to our problems be also the cause of our problems? Cheap money. Second, there is another wave of mortgage renewals coming in the U.S. that is a bit larger than the last one that caused the recession to begin with. So, while I am generally still an optimist, I am being very cautious these days”.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Facebook Violates privacy laws in Canada - How will this influence Social Networking in Canada?

How will this influence Social Networking in Canada?

As Social networking expands people need to understand that they are putting themselves at risk when joining social networking groups.

How much information should your social networking club have about you?

How much control should you have as an individual?

Is “Big Brother” really watching?

Donald Robichaud
FloodLight - Build Your Business

OTTAWA - The writing is on the wall for Facebook, the popular social networking site: do more to protect the privacy of Canadian users or face the threat of court action.

Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart posted that message for all to see Thursday in a report that warns the personal information of Facebook members may be at risk.

Facebook, with nearly 12 million Canadian users and some 250 million worldwide, allows people to keep in touch with friends and family by updating their pages with a stream of fresh messages and photos.

Stoddart said Facebook breaches federal privacy law by keeping users' personal information indefinitely - even after members close their accounts.

She also raised concerns about the sharing of users' files with the almost one million third-party developers scattered across the globe who create Facebook applications such as games and quizzes.

Stoddart applauded Facebook for making some changes, but urged the site to remedy outstanding privacy shortfalls, raising the possibility of legal proceedings if it doesn't comply.

In a statement, Facebook said it would "soon be introducing a number of new additional privacy features" that will address any remaining concerns the privacy watchdog might have.

Stoddart launched the probe in response to a complaint last year from the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, based at the University of Ottawa's law faculty.

Facebook user Harley Finkelstein, one of the students who lodged the grievance, said Thursday that users share responsibility for guarding their privacy. But he said the site must also do its part, particularly since millions of members are less-than-savvy teenagers.

"I don't think Facebook is bad, I think it's a wonderful application," said Finkelstein, 25. "But I think there needs to be a little bit of constraint put on, and (we shouldn't) necessarily leave everything up to the user."

Stoddart acknowledged that the social networking phenomenon has highlighted the fact some people are quite comfortable showcasing their lives online.

"Canadians live more and more in a virtual world," Stoddart told a news conference. "It brings many advantages."

Her investigation found that although Facebook provides information about its privacy practices, it is often confusing or incomplete.

"It's clear that privacy issues are a key concern for Facebook, and yet we found some serious gaps," she said. "In some cases Facebook must make some changes to its site to bring it into compliance with Canadian privacy law."

For example, the "account settings" page describes how to deactivate accounts but not how to delete them, which actually removes personal data from Facebook's computer servers.

Stoddart wants Facebook to wipe the information in deactivated accounts after a reasonable length of time.

Facebook agreed to add information about account deletion to its privacy policy, but refused to come up with a policy on retention of old accounts.

Facebook lacks proper safeguards to prevent independent developers of games and other applications like horoscope services from seeing users' profile information, along with details about their online "friends," the investigation found.

The report recommends technological measures to ensure developers have access only to the user information actually required to run a specific application. It also says Facebook should prevent disclosure of personal information of any of the user's friends who are not themselves signing up for the application, unless they consent.

Facebook hasn't agreed to the recommendations on third-party access.

However, it agreed to more fully explain the advertising used to generate revenue and to inform members that their profile information, such as a person's favourite movie, is used to decide which ads to feature.

In general, Stoddart's report calls for more transparency to ensure the site's Canadian users have the knowledge they need to make meaningful decisions about how widely they share personal information.

The privacy commissioner will review Facebook's actions after 30 days to gauge progress. She can take the case to the Federal Court of Canada to have her recommendations enforced.

"It's discretionary. We're very hopeful that things can be solved," she said. "But we can go to Federal Courts on a variety of things."

Stoddart found four of 12 aspects of the complaint were well-founded. Four were well-founded but resolved after Facebook agreed to make changes. The final four issues were dismissed.
As posted by Yahoo News

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Reaching your business goals in 2009

The first half of 2009 is over and we are well into the summer months.
This is a great time to review your business goals for the year and your results for the first half of the year. Are you on track? If so, great! Pat yourself on the back. If not, Why? What do you need to do to get back on track and ensure success for the balance of 2009?

I’ve had many discussions with business owners and entrepreneurs in small to medium sized companies and some are struggling to find new leads, close sales, and grow their business. In fact, some are losing market share or seeing sales decline, and aren’t sure what to do. When I ask if they’re experts in their field or whether they have a plan, I get all types of answers from, “I’m not sure what to do”, to, “I’m not smart enough”, or even worse, “It’s the market’s fault”.

If you’re not an expert in your field and fully confident of your products and services, then your customers and potential customers will sense your weakness and not be motivated to purchase from you.

Many businesses are held back because key people in the organization lack the skills to manage effectively and deliver results or, they lack the ability to utilize new technologies like the internet to leverage their business.

To be a successful business in this challenging climate you must to continue to stretch yourself and learn new skills. You are the key to your own success! You need to have an open mind and become and expert in your field. And the only way to do this is to continue learning and growing. Here’s how:

1. Write down the top ten must improve areas of your business for 2009.

2. Now divide the top ten in to the following areas of Sales, Marketing, and Operations.

3. You will notice that one area will become painfully obvious in that you need more work to do.

4. Now go buy a couple of books to read in that obvious area. (Possibly Marketing).

5. Monday to Friday get up early every morning or shut off the TV early at night and read every day for one hour.

Five days a week for one hour. Write down the things you like and implement them as soon as possible.

5 hours x 26 weeks = 180 hours dedicated to learning.

To really achieve any goal or to learn a meaningful new skill, we need to discipline ourselves to stay on track until it’s accomplished. There are several ways to effectively track your goals.

•Keep a list and review your goals regularly, preferably daily

•Break down a goal into action steps

•Measure your results by establishing key performance indicators

•Set new goals and repeat the above

The investment in learning will pay multiple dividends for the balance of 2009 and help you to “Build your Business”.


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