Whether you’re just coming out of your business’s financial year-end, or are just about to head into it, it’s a great time to sit down and make a winning business plan that will guide you through the new year. However, business planning is easier said than done – and, if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that even the best-laid plans can be challenged by unforeseen circumstances.
Watch expert speakers who have extensive experience working with small businesses provide their top tips and advice for how small companies can set up their business for a successful year, including:
- Why business planning is critical to your company’s growth
- Common planning pitfalls to avoid
- How to stay accountable to your plan and what to do when your plan is disrupted
Speaker 1: Go back where we belong? This. This is where we belong.
Leigh Smout: As a result of COVID, businesses are realizing that they actually have to manage their workforce virtually, they need to find new customers without being able to go to a trade show, they need to manage disrupted supply chains. RAP has been designed by the Toronto Region Board of Trade to help companies improve their digital maturity during these challenging times. A participant in the program will have their digital assessment done, their DNA. Once we have their DNA, we are able to direct them into the programs that help educate companies, help them create a plan, help them get in touch with the resources that are going to support them as they manage through these challenges.
The program is about long term improvement for businesses, about running your business more efficiently. Even after the pandemic, that is going to be a critical thing for any business. And it's in this case, it's going to make all of businesses stronger. A business can sign up for the program simply by registering at our website and then we'll get them into that digital needs assessment.
Mary-Anne Meera...: Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us today. My name is Mary-Anne Meerasabeer and I'm a program specialist here at the World Trade Center, Toronto. Welcome to the latest installment of our RAP webcast series. RAP was generously funded by the government of Canada and the government of Ontario until the end of September of last year and continues to be supported by RAP program sponsors, Cisco Designed, Lenovo, Rogers for Business, Scotiabank and Xero and partnerships with the board's principal sponsors, The Globe and Mail, Scotiabank and the University of Toronto. Some notes right off the top. If your video is lagging or freezes, there is another stream that can be accessed by clicking the switch stream button on the right side of your screen. For any other technical issues, click request help in the bottom right corner of your screen and someone will be in touch. To submit any questions at any point, in which we encourage, please click on the questions tab.
And finally, a recording of this webcast will be available on supportbusiness.bot.com. Now the Toronto Region Board of Trade's Recovery Activation Program, otherwise known as RAP provides support for Ontario businesses who are not only looking to weather the pandemic, but to emerge from it even stronger than before. Through online workshops and mentorship sessions with industry experts, RAP has helped 1900 Ontario businesses in over 30 industries stay in business, adapt digitally and build a reliable path towards future growth. If you're interested in getting involved, all you have to do is visit rap.bot.com and take our digital needs assessment. It takes about 20 minutes to complete and assess the digital maturity of your business and how it ranks relative to your industry. The best part is there is no cost to participate in any RAP programming for businesses across Ontario. So I strongly encourage you to join the 1900 businesses that have benefited from rap by visiting rap.bot.com.
Furthermore, we have got some great news for you today. We are extremely excited to be launching a brand new program for the new year. I am pleased to introduce our newer growth development program also known as the GDP, which will support businesses in overcoming barriers to growth, building resiliency and enhancing competitiveness. The GDP is an end-to-end suite of highly practical hands-on curated programs focused on the six key success factors to business growth, executive leadership, recruiting and retaining talent, growing sales, protecting intellectual property, improving processes including digitization and accessing growth capital. The program consists of intensive workshops for entrepreneurs and business leaders with leading experts in business scaling and curating one-on-one mentorships. Participants graduate with a professionally vetted strategic growth plan and become a part of a dynamic professional community through our peer-to-peer network. To learn more about the GDP, please wtctoronto.com/gdp.
There's also a new element in the GDP, which is the jumpstart series. Curated for early stage businesses, the jumpstart series is an online collection of practical hands on modules for self-directed learning. This series will provide novice entrepreneurs with the ability to learn subjects essential to getting their business up and running at their own pace. To enroll in the jumpstart series, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org today. Now on today's program, I'm excited to introduce our wonderful moderator, Faye Pang, Canada country manager for Xero will be leading us and our panel of experts through today's discussion.
A successful business leader with more than 15 years experience, Faye leads Xero's go-to market strategy in Canada, helps the brand increase its market share and elevate its position as a leading cloud accounting software provider. Prior to joining Xero, Faye helped launch the Uber Eats app in Toronto in 2015 and grew the business from 80 partners on launch day to 20,000. She was also the first female general manager at Uber Canada and is passionate about diversity and inclusion in the workplace. It's so great to have you here with us today, Faye. Welcome.
Faye Pang: Thank you so much Mary-Anne and thank you for that wonderful intro. Listen. Good morning, good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining today's webcast. We're going to discuss how you can create a winning business plan for 2022. Now, your business might just be coming out of the financial year end or maybe you're just about to head into it. Regardless, it's a great time to sit down and develop a plan that will guide you through your next financial year. As Mary-Anne said, my name is Faye and I'm the country manager for Xero. Xero is a cloud accounting software that's used by over 3 million subscribers globally. And as a result of that scale, we've got a unique pulse on what some of the challenges are that small businesses are facing and how they must account for that within their planning.
Now, you don't need me to tell you there's continued uncertainty that's been brought on by COVID-19 and as a result, business planning can sometimes seem like a futile pursuit. What's the point if you're just going to have to scrap it and start from scratch anyway? Whether it's challenging lockdowns, supply chain issues, labor shortages and the war for talent, there's so many unforeseen and in a lot of cases, uncontrollable circumstances that small business owners are facing today. Now, Xero is very well attuned to that. We recently released a guide to small business trends that small businesses can keep in mind for 2022. And based on these survey results from business owners in Canada, the US and several other countries, I wanted to share some stats with this audience as we think about the most top of mind challenges for small business owners heading into the new year. So just a few examples to share.
38% of businesses say that getting inventory is still an issue and if my local supermarket is any indication, that continues to be true. And while there's growing hope of recovery, more than half of the small businesses surveyed, they're still really nervous about how they're going to pay their bills. 49% of them in fact remain in cost cutting mode versus growth mode. We also asked new e-commerce business owners what's caused you the most grief in the first six months of running your business and roughly 60% or two thirds had trouble calculating fees and taxes on online sales. It's not easy, it can be quite complicated and painful, right? And then last data point I'll share is that 38% still remain concerned about their ability to handle another crisis. So this notion of resiliency that Mary-Anne brought up at the start is something that's absolutely top of mind.
So before I introduce our panel of esteemed experts, I want to ask everyone in the audience to participate in a quick poll that Z Sean's going to throw up, which is what's the biggest challenge that you typically experience when you're trying to create a business plan? Is it that you don't know where to start? Is it that you don't know how to set goals, how to reach those goals or is it this uncertainty that hangs as a cloud? So please go ahead and click on that poll.
I think the results are coming in, but it's still showing me 100% so I assume that it's unanimous. Okay, here we go. It's starting to shift. Okay. I don't know where to start. I don't know how to set some of my goals. Okay. Very interesting. These are lead topics that are starting to bubble up as the poll results come in and something that our panelists will know to keep in mind as we go through the session today. So without further do, let me go ahead and introduce our panel of experts. First of all, I'll start with Mike. He's the co-founder and partner at ConnectCPA. They're a virtual accounting and bookkeeping practice focused on scaling companies. Prior to co-founding ConnectCPA, Mike worked as a senior associate for PricewaterhouseCoopers specializing in small and medium sized business advisory. Mike has also spent time as a tax and accounting manager at a midsize accounting practice and as an investment associate at a real estate private equity firm/ he holds a bachelor of business administration degree from Schulich School of Business and is a chartered accountant. Welcome Mike.
Mike Pinkus: Thanks so much Faye.
Faye Pang: Thanks. Next. We have Bianca Mueller. She's the community manager at Wagepoint, a small business payroll software solution and a longtime Xero partner. Bianca is an award-winning certified professional bookkeeper with 14 years of experience as a respected thought leader and social influencer in the Canadian bookkeeping industry. She is an early adopter of cloud technologies, which enables her to excel in the FinTech industry and surround herself with a trusted community of like-minded accounting professionals. Bianca also has experience working as a full cycle bookkeeper, a financial controller, an HR manager, workflow automation and accounting software consultant, just to name a few, so welcome Bianca.
And last, but certainly not least, we have Shane Murphy. He's the chief operating officer at Ownr, a portfolio company of RBC Ventures that makes entrepreneurship simple, quick and cheap. In his role, Shane oversees the legal processes that serve thousands of Canadian entrepreneurs. He was previously the co-founder of Founded Technologies, a legal tech startup that was acquired by RBC Ventures in 2020. Prior to starting his own company, Shane was a corporate and commercial lawyer practicing in Toronto and he holds law degrees from McGill and a master's degree from the London School of Economics. Welcome Shane. We're so happy to have you.
Shane Murphy: Great to be here.
Faye Pang: Awesome. Well with that, let's get into the question. So we've got about 20 or so minutes of discussion plan before we open it up to broad Q&A from the audience. Let's dive into it, right? Business planning can mean so many different things to different people. Let's start with the basics so that we're all on the same page. Mike, I'll throw it over to you first. ConnectCPA works with so many different types of businesses and you've probably seen and had a hand in developing a number of business plans. What constitutes a business plan in your mind and why is it important for small businesses to have a plan in place?
Mike Pinkus: Definitely. I think as a starting point, as you already alluded to with these polls, is things are changing and there's so much uncertainty in the market. What is even the point of a business plan? But I think it's a document with just your objective as a business, what your goals are, who you're going after in terms of your customer. And think of it, it can be starting at the macro, which is vision, mission strategy, meaning what are you trying to achieve as a company and then it can get into the micro, which would be what is the competitive landscape? How are you going to deal with the unit economics of your pricing strategy?
And so it's really that blueprint that you keep coming back to as things evolve as a business. And the question is it important? Yeah, you need to have something to refer to not only guide your team as you scale and grow as a company, but also something to revisit as your business changes that things evolve as a company. So it's better to have a plan than not have a plan, but in today's changing environment, you do need to be ready to adapt as things move.
Faye Pang: I love that notion of revisiting, right? It's not about not having a plan at all. It's have one, strong views, weekly held< come back to that and revisit as you get new data. So I think that's a great point. Thanks. Thanks Mike. All right. Let's move over to Shane. Many of the entrepreneurs that Ownr helps are really in the early, early stages of starting a business. What are some of the pitfalls or mistakes that you see business owners making when they first approach business planning?
Shane Murphy: Yeah. I think it's especially looking at the early stage businesses that some are just being way too strict and stringent about their strategic planning and they're not leaving that ability to change and adapt. And so much of starting a business, especially if it's the first time you've started a business isn't learning process and that there'll be things that you'll be adapting based on what you're learning, various experiments you're conducting with your business. And then the reality is, and I think Faye you alluded to it, the world is changing so quickly too that if your business plan doesn't account for changes in the overall economic landscape such as the pandemic has taught us, then your business plan isn't going to be much use to you and it'll be very much an academic document.
The other one just very quickly is I think some entrepreneurs are too independent when they do their strategic planning and they're not drawing insight from experts for things that they don't know. So talk to lawyers, talk to accountants, think about things like tax planning earlier rather than later and it'll make your plan a whole lot stronger by getting input from other people.
Faye Pang: That's great. Thanks. Thank for that insight Shane. Bianca, I'll turn things over to you. You mentioned in your bio the community that Wagepoint has built and being at the heart of that community and payroll software, I can imagine you've witnessed many businesses make that leap, that digital transformation, particularly over the last two years. What are some of the way that you've seen business owners including and considering technology inside of their business plans?
Bianca Mueller: Yes. Well, definitely the adoption of cloud or online based accounting software. I'm a digital advocate, so implementing software that allows your business records and transactions to be accessible from anywhere is essential to keeping not only your staff working, working safely and your operations running. These include things like payroll, receipt capturing, e-banking, payment processing. Think about it, in the last two years, check processing almost became obsolete overnight. It became a logistical nightmare. E-banking and payment processing, some of the biggest immediate necessary shift in what I saw.
Another example of this is small businesses that had to implement e-commerce solutions literally overnight just to keep the revenue sources going. Another consideration that I saw and things that I saw implemented were the implementation of digital communication and collaboration tools to engage a remote workforce. This includes everything from employee portals to the compliance distribution of online payroll information and shared drives for document storage and collaboration, let alone time tracking options for your remote staff. Yeah. There was a lot going on in the digital transformation.
Faye Pang: Yeah. One of the things that we joke about at Xero is when COVID first hit, we were accounting software, go to market team second and Zoom and Slack trainers first because so many companies and partners that we were working with were learning how to use some of those tools at scale for the first time. So totally resonates with me.
All right. Thank you. Thank you so much everyone for leading us off here. Let's switch a little bit from the what of business planning and move more into the how. So business planning can be accomplished in a number of ways, right? You mentioned it off the top Mike with the vision, the mission strategy. Starting with that end goal in mind, you can look at historical benchmark data, you can book a day team workshop or a week retreat to get into it in real depth. There's an added layer of uncertainty as well with COVID that you've all touched on that makes planning incredibly difficult. And so with that context in mind, Mike first, how do you recommend businesses actually go about that planning process and specifically talk to us about how that differs versus size and maturity of the business and talk a little bit more about the role that an advisor can play in that process.
Mike Pinkus: Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head, Faye, start with the end in mind. And what I mean by that is you have to start with what are the goals and objectives? So if a company wants to build a $100 million business, it's going to have to move at a different speed than a company that wants to build a $50 million business, a $1 million business, a $500,000 business. And so start with what is the goal and objective of the company and I have a bias towards finances and financials, given to our background and I'm sure Faye, you share that sentiment coming from Xero. I think you have to have a financial plan.
And so what that means is you have to think of if we're selling a unit for X, how many do we need to sell and what does that look like at one year, two years, three years? I don't believe modeling further than three years, but start going with what do we want the valuation of this business to be in three years from now and reverse engineer that all the way down to today of thinking what do we have to price our product or service that based on our end goal or objectives?
To answer your other two questions of how does that evolve over time, it's as a team grows and matures, cashflow becomes more and more important, meaning you have to start understanding where is capital going to come from? The more audacious the goal, you have to understand whether you're going to bootstrap, get debt equity in order to capitalize the business through its growth journey because you have to hire people and employees and cash is king, meaning it's the lifeblood of keeping a business alive.
And that's why planning is so important. Like I said, my bias is towards the financial side, but having that planned in place, you keep revisiting it every month, every quarter and the more strategic you are about it, even though it's a moving target, I think the better you will do as a business. And to answer the final question about an advisor, I think mentorship is important. You should have mentors, advisors, people that you reach out to in your community, fellow entrepreneurs, fellow people that are just part of your network because those insights, they've probably been through what you've been through in some variety and it's very important to get those insights from them.
Faye Pang: Thank you for that. Cash is king. We've definitely seen that over the last two years. It's just been so critical to survival and thriving, right? With that in mind, Bianca, what do you recommend for businesses? Mike touched on this a little bit, really diving into the numbers. What about for those businesses that don't have much data to work with to begin with or don't have that many tool in place to capture the data? What do you recommend for them? And then as a second question to that, that ecosystem that you talked about, right? The different ways that they can plug into different technology, that can be really confusing and overwhelming for small businesses. What are some suggestions that you might have for how they could research the right tools and tech for their business?
Bianca Mueller: Well, the minimum recommendation, I always say for small business owners is to try to at least digitize your receipts or source documents. This can be as simple as just taking a picture with a mobile phone or device and saving them to an album. The options become endless once your documents are digital and utilizing a simple affordable receipt capture software such as Hubdoc can be extremely helpful. It gives small business owners the ability to reference, sort, tag, store receipts for safekeeping and reconciliation at a later time when required. This can also be a huge stress relief for entrepreneurs in the long run. Once a receipt is digitized, it can be later integrated into an accounting system, shared with an accounting professional or even extracted using artificial intelligence, which is built into this receipt capture software nowadays and then exported into simpler spreadsheets to be used for sales tax and compliance reporting purposes.
Faye Pang: I'm sure Mike has lots of thoughts coming from practice on that side and getting receipts and shoe boxes at the end of a financial year. So that's a, yeah, huge plus one to that.
Bianca Mueller: Well, hopefully the shoebox is not happening anymore.
Faye Pang: Wonderful. Let me turn it over to you Shane. Where do you see businesses, both those that are experienced and inexperienced or just starting struggle with accountability to their plan. And what would you recommend to those that you like I start every year with a plan and then by month two I'm off track? What words of wisdom would you share with them?
Shane Murphy: Yeah. I think a few people here, we've alluded to it, this thought of being flexible and being dynamic with your plan. But I do see a lot of entrepreneurs who get a little bit trapped by their plan because it no longer reflects their goals and the reality of their business. And I think it really comes down to being kind of honest about what's working and what's not working with your business and rather than staying, we can say being accountable to your plan but if the plan is well thought out, then it'll allow you that flexibility to make fairly drastic changes with your business when they need to be made. I can speak from personal experience, the first iteration of my previous business that I launched had a terrible business model when it was first launched and it made sense on paper, but the reality didn't pan out. So we had to do a drastic change to our revenue model.
In the startup world, we talk a lot about pivoting from one model to another, but it was that pivot that brought our business success and eventually attracted the attention of RBC to acquire the business. So I think you have to be decisive. You have to make the hard decisions and realize that your plan is there to guide you along rather than locking you into to a certain track. It doesn't mean you're bad or doing a bad job of running your business to make a drastic change from your plan. So account for that in your planning as hard as that is, but make sure that if what isn't working is holding you back, you can still make those changes. And so it's almost like having a few different paths you can follow built into your plan from the start, but also, I do agree with Mike that there has to be some end goal in terms of what you want to achieve from your business, but the way you're going to get there could follow a course, which is tough to put in your plan at the start.
Faye Pang: I love that Shane and there's so many tech startup history and law around the pivot. I'd be really curious as a follow up question, how did you know when it was time for you to pivot with Founded Technologies? What were some of the signals that you were reading to say we probably need to revisit?
Shane Murphy: Yeah. It was about a year and we saw we had some initial traction, but the revenue from that traction wasn't really where we would've projected it to be in our original business plan. So it was making a hard decision in terms of what we needed to build and how we needed to just restructure pricing and operations around that. So there wasn't exactly one light bulb moment, but it was more just saying that end goal is awfully far away from where we are now. How can we bring it closer? And it meant going off the plan A and moving on to plans B, C and D until we went through the alphabet a few times, but then we didn't manage to find that path that got us the traction we needed.
Faye Pang: That's great. Thank you for sharing that. Wonderful. Let's move on to a topic that has been brought up a couple times on this call and it's this notion of resiliency, right? The last two years have been nothing but curve ball after curve ball. As I mentioned, lockdowns, labor shortages, supply chain challenges, really forcing those best made and best laid business plans off track. This question is going to be open for all panelists so Bianca we'll start with you and then Shane then Mike, but I'd really love to hear from you three, what have you seen in terms of adapting your business plan to a readily changing environment and what are your top tips for building resiliency into the plan? Bianca, you first.
Bianca Mueller: Well, you can probably guess from my previous answers what my recommendation is, but I'll wrap it up with this. My advice for small business owners is to put plans in place that enable them to adapt and pivot quickly in our ever-changing landscape as this has been echoed throughout this webinar today. Now, this involves first making steps to move as much of the manual and mundane business transactions online to the cloud. It sounds daunting and it sounds expensive, but it can actually be done fairly efficiently and cost effectively to save you time, let alone energy. Also knowing when to engage with the professional is key and I know Shane brought that up in the beginning of the conversation here. Many small business owners who took advantage of the government programs required a minimum consultation with an accounting professional at some point to help navigate the numerous updates and changes to the programs that were made available and the changing legislation.
I found that businesses who had their accounting records in the cloud were able to share information and collaborate with qualified professionals to get the funding and the reporting requirements done in a much more timely manner, giving them access to very necessary funds. Some of the applications had very steep learning curves for accounting professionals, let alone small business owners. And we saw this especially in payroll, but at the end of the day time is money. If you have to meet... I'm yet to meet a small business owner that regretted moving their books to the cloud. So make it easy, accessible anytime, anywhere and in real time is my recommendation.
Faye Pang: Thank you. Love everything you said and couldn't agree more. It feels daunting to do that adoption, but in the end, it gives you back time, which is the most valuable resource for any small business owner or entrepreneur. Shane, let's move that over to how do you feel about the question? What are your recommendations for building resiliency?
Shane Murphy: Yeah. I completely could echo everything Bianca just said, but I'll put on my lawyer hat, which I think, yeah, I love working with entrepreneurs because of their incredible optimism and the energy I get from entrepreneurs and the legal world tends to be a whole lot more cynical about business planning and business objectives. So to put on my lawyer hat, I would say it's important not to be blindly optimistic although you will need the energy and enthusiasm to start a business and to run it successfully, but do plan for the worst. And I think that's something a lot of entrepreneurs gloss over especially in the early stage enthusiasm, but do give careful consideration to what happens if this doesn't work? How can you protect your personal assets? At what point should you consider things like incorporation, which will help draw a line between your personal assets and your business assets. Things like that.
Again, you do need to consider that most small businesses at their least on their first go are not particularly successful and it's a hard reality for entrepreneurs in Canada. So to do some planning for the worst, but don't lose that optimism either that's going to be needed to grow your business.
Faye Pang: Thanks Shane. Audience is getting some free legal advice as well so that's wonderful. Mike, can you bring it home? What are your suggestions for resiliency?
Mike Pinkus: Yeah. I think the build on what Shane said, which is plan for the worst is it is reality of business and I think it was, I don't know if there's boxing fans that are watching this right now, but I think Mike Tyson had a quote and I'm embarrassed if I get this completely wrong, but he said something along the lines of everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face. And that's kind of what COVID was, I think to the entire business community over these last two years. And I think the key, at least from our standpoint, like at ConnectCPA has been the focus on the customer. When COVID hit, we were adamant to get the government subsidies filed for all of our customers so they get cash in the door really quickly.
And there's not a lot you can do when things go really wrong, like a global pandemic. And so I feel like sometimes you just have to take a step back and ask why am I in business in the first place and just phone on the customer because customers will see that and they will stay with you through the long haul when things go really wrong and when things are really good, you want those same people to remember that you were there with them during tough times.
Faye Pang: I think that's just about the perfect sentiment on which to end this section. So we're actually going to turn it over to the speakers for final thoughts before we kick into Q&A and I can see that those questions are coming. If you've got any others, please drop them into the questions tab. Thank you to all the panelists for your insights and what has been a great conversation so far. Before we open it up to audience questions, let's just wrap it up with a few final tips and takeaways from all the panelists. Bianca, I think you're up first.
Bianca Mueller: Again, I recommend having a conversation with your account bookkeeper. Someone like ConnectCPA and Mike here. Software synchronization between small business owners and accounting professionals will make everyone's job so much easier and smoother and help get the money in the door, save the time and the energy. Like we say, cash is king, time is valuable. Keep those in mind when you're going through the steps and making these plans and just, yeah, digital documents, they allow people to transition and adapt and access the information from anywhere and anybody. So it gives you a lot more flexibility.
Faye Pang: Thanks so much. Let's move over to Shane and his top tips.
Shane Murphy: Sure. Yeah, really my first one was I think emphasizing your business plan should be both precise and purpose driven. A lot of the times when entrepreneurs are making a business plan, it's because someone has requested it from them, that's when they get down to writing it. And that can be a lender like a bank, a potential investor. But what they're asking for could change a lot depending on who they are and what their objectives are. So I definitely think there's a type of business plan, which for example, your bank is looking for, but that will not sit well with your growth oriented startup investor when they're...
So it could be anything from if someone wants a 30 page detailed document in a business plan, that could be something, but other people will a five page or less pitch deck from you. So clarify your audience really for your business plan. This isn't necessarily just for you. It's to communicate your objectives for the business and tailor it for them. And my second tip, I think, has been spoken to by everyone and this real sense of keeping that business plan dynamic, flexible and timely and don't don't plan for five years in the future. I think Mike said three years max. I wouldn't say if you're just starting out your first 18 months or about as far as you can realistically foresee.
Faye Pang: Thanks Shane. And Mike, over to you for top tips.
Mike Pinkus: I'd just say be adaptable. Business is constantly changing. You can't plan everything. And I think the key takeaway, I would say, about a business plan is you can't plan everything. It's like you're going to have new challenges every day so have a growth mindset, be optimistic and when you do face challenges, remember those are just challenges and opportunities. As a business owner, they're not negatives. And so having a mindset day to day that you're just tackling challenges and then you should have a North star. So revisit that business plan, like I mentioned beforehand, but it should be just that. You're not going to plan everything and you'll probably hear this guidance from a lot of people that say when you get into business, action is everything.
So there is such a thing as overplanning. So have a business plan, know what you're starting with, but then just take action and things will kind of work themselves up from there. And then Bianca and Shane are in businesses that they help you in those early stages. Dealing with payroll, dealing with getting incorporated, protecting your assets, find the right partners early on. So I'd say that. And obviously I'm biased with accounting systems. We use Zero as a shop. Having an accounting system early on is very important as well, but get the fundamentals down and then take it from there.
Faye Pang: Wonderful. Well, thank you panelists for those top tips. We're going to dive into audience questions now. And Mike, the first one is for you. How do you incorporate foreign exchange risk into your business plan?
Mike Pinkus: Isn't the excellent question, because if you're an e-commerce business, a SaaS company, a software as a service company or you're in any global business now, everything's online, it's easier to sell into different jurisdictions. And so again, this is we... I come from an accounting background, we use Xero as our platform, it updates foreign exchange at the spot rate daily. And so again, start with the right tools. So when you think of foreign exchange risk, the Canadian dollar is weaker than the US dollar. You are going to have to realize that if you're buying software or other type of expenses in the US market and then you are selling into the Canadian market, you are at a disadvantage.
Conversely, if you're selling into a market where it has a better foreign exchange rate like you have US customers and you are buying or hiring people within the Canadian market, you are at an advantage, but either way, it goes back to planning. Foreign exchange risk is just a more recent topic, but you have to plan around it and go back to the numbers. Like I said, you should always revisit the numbers.
Faye Pang: Wonderful. Thanks for that insight. Bianca, next question from the audience is for you. What's the best way to upscale a force with new digital skills without a big budget?
Bianca Mueller: Great question. And a lot of what a lot of small business owners are struggling with these days. So obviously start with reaching out to the accounting software core that you're using. So say you're using Zero, I would start with the Xero app store and look at what integration options and opportunities you want help with in your business. And then what you do is you go into those company websites, you look through webinars, you reach out to the sales reps and partners and you go to them for the resources. They have all that stuff available for you. A lot of SaaS companies and accounting software online companies, they all have free webinars quite regularly. So signing up for those and they're all free and utilizing the community. I mean, I know there's a massive group of accounting professionals and accounting communities available on Facebook. So even starting in those groups, putting the questions out there, being a fly on the wall, seeing what other people are going through, those are really good places to start, but reach out to the accounting software companies.
Faye Pang: I do not ask you to say that, but I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you for that. Next question for Shane here. I'm just going to paraphrase because it's quite a long question, but the crux of this, we've seen so many small businesses transition to online and e-commerce out of necessity over the last two years and the example given here is a coffee store, right? That's got to go online and start selling their beans and their products via e-commerce. How do you still have that connected tissue and back to Mike's point around really focusing in on the customer when you've had a brick and mortar and now you need to pivot that? How do you help them long lasting loyalty and customer experience in that context?
Shane Murphy: Yeah. I think this is a fantastic question and such an interesting transition to take advantage of an opportunity. And I think the companies that have done this well of melding the sort of physical space with the virtual e-commerce space have just focused on having a very strong own brand and making sure that the online experience and even the delivery of goods somehow reflects the same brand experience that you'll get from visiting store locations. So it's really doubling down on good design, good branding and I think that will carry through. Second point there is, yeah, this idea, I heard you call it the Bezos effect or the Amazon effect, but everything that you build for yourself and as you're gaining that digital acumen and learning these skills, find ways to implement that into your business.
It shouldn't just be learning all of this about e-commerce so you can just do a single thing of delivering coffee. You can build on that and find what the opportunities are. But what it's a great thing to learn that you've transitioned to an e-commerce business. So I think taking advantage of that sort of Amazon type thinking in terms of, well, what's next? Now that you've been able to deliver coffee, there's got to be other opportunities with the logistics and digital skills you've developed through this process. So it opens up doors and it'd be exciting to see what you can do with that business next.
Faye Pang: Thanks Shane. Yeah, there's a great example from the Xero portfolio. One of our partners is the June Motel. So you have Netflix fame and they've just started a new show, but they at the start of the pandemic obviously had to pivot and take a lot of their products online and leverage their brand, to your point, right? It's not your brand is not necessarily your physical place or the products you sell in person. It's everything around it and they were able to pivot successfully into e-commerce and actually start selling the wallpaper and the design features that people so loved about their physical spots. So completely agree with what you've said.
Mike, next question is for you from the audience. SMEs are the backbone of the economy. Why am bust a new SME show $200,000 in revenue to be accepted for any economic growth and grants? COVID-19 has impacted many companies, including green tech startups and green tech is needed to address many of the environmental issues. So I think the crux of the question here is what are your thoughts on sort of the minimum for a lot of these government programs and what is the impact of that on SMEs?
Mike Pinkus: I think it's a really valid point and I'm guessing the question is coming from someone in the green tech space. And so it is a very important space and we're moving in a world where there's global warming, there's environmental issues and green tech in itself is extremely important. I think there isn't really specific benchmarks related to revenue levels and getting access to grants and there's many, many things out there from career foundation to IRA, the scientific research development credits if you're building out technology. There's also the banks. There's Business Development Bank in Canada, BDC in order to get access to capital.
But I think even beyond all those different capital sources, including friends and family, I think the biggest thing is investors are probably also interested in green tech, meaning it's a up and coming space. It's something where there's capital following major issues in the world and green tech service is that. So I would say any small, medium size business that's struggling with where they're going to get capital when they're below 200,000 or 100,000 in revenue, start with all those places I just suggested because there's probably more out there than you've seen. Maybe talk to an advisor too because they can open up a page full of grants that maybe you haven't seen before. So I think it's about gaining information of what there is because I don't believe there is a fast rule related to revenue level. But to the question, there should be more access to capital for businesses that are tackling major issues so I do agree with them.
Faye Pang: Perfect. Thanks for that, Mike. Listen, I think we've got time for one more audience question before we wrap here. So I'm going to pitch this one over to Bianca. I think it's particularly timely giving which points news from last week. Any recommendations for time management when you're responsible for various initiatives in your company?
Bianca Mueller: Sure. Yes. And I can take this from a couple different perspectives. There's the perspective of as a manager and you need to block your time. Time block. I am a huge, huge advocate of time blocking my calendar and allocating time. So that's one step you can take and just break down your schedule, take your high level initiatives, scale out your time and block them. And don't be super flexible with your calendar. And the other one is time keeping and time tracking. Yes, Wagepoint did just acquire Timesheet company and tracking time, you got geo sensibilities, there's department abilities and integration with upcoming software and your payroll is all seamless and continuity and all of that is very, very, very important, especially with remote workforces these days.
Faye Pang: Thank you so much for that. So listen, I'm going to wrap things up here. We've got a couple minutes left. I just wanted to try and summarize what we heard today, which was some really great insights from our panelists, right? Start with the end in mind, your vision, your mission, your strategy, really build that plan, but be okay and be flexible in how you execute that plan. Revisit the assumptions often, take in those new points of data, but try to automate as much as you can so you can have the time to really step back and think about your business holistically. And one of the things that Mike said really resonated with me, which is just take action, right? If you are thinking about whether a business plan is the right thing for you, it probably is. Start to put pen to paper and put it down so that you can come back and have a North star.
So thank you so much to all the panelists. It was a great conversation. I hope the audience took something away from today. Before we sign off, I just want to remind everyone about the digital needs assessment or DNA for short, that Mary-Anne mentioned at the start of the program. This online tool is completely free and only takes 20 minutes to complete and it gives you an assessment of your organization's core competencies and any gaps that you have in the digital capacity of your business. It's a wonderful tool and it really helps you benchmark relative to other companies in your industry. If you're interested in taking the digital needs assessment today, you can click on the graphic on the right of your screen in the info tab or visit rap.bot.com. And if you want to register for upcoming webcast, please visit supportbusiness.bot.com and select webinars and videos. That's all the time we have for today. Thank you so much for making the time to join us and we hope you have a great day.