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The True Value of the Small Business Consulting Community

The Small Business IT consulting community is a dynamic and exciting community to be active in at this time. Many different opportunities are gaining some serious momentum in this underserved marketplace in Canada. The Small Business marketplace will be the fastest-growing segment in the information technology market. Currently, approximately 97% of the businesses in Canada have five hundred employees or less, which equates to a fantastic market to specialize in.

Microsoft launched their Small Business Specialist program in the summer of 2005 at their annual partner conference. Since that time, a number of information technology consulting firms have taken advantage of this program to commence their consulting practice. The Small Business Specialist program is designed to promote Microsoft’s offerings to small business. It establishes SBSC members as leaders in the small business IT consulting marketplace that has been thrust into the spotlight for growth potential.

The Small Business Specialist program serves as a best resource for IT professionals to access information, promotions, partnership opportunities and assistance to service a small business oriented client base. Groups have emerged on international, national and regional levels that assist the small business specialist in obtaining not only technical but also important business assistance. In addition, each year SMB Nation brings together the small business consulting community to network, learn, share and play.

The small business consulting community has grown out of the leadership of corporations like Microsoft, SonicWALL, and Symantec. It has also grown because of people like Harry Brelsford of SMB Nation and several other leaders in the community. Their leadership has provided Small Business Specialists with additional resources to sharpen their craft long before the official launch of programs from corporations like Microsoft.

The SMB community is open to sharing experiences, ideas, concepts and best practices so that emerging IT companies can seek knowledge to develop and grow. “I like focusing on a market segment where I can really get to know my clients and have a direct, tangible impact on their businesses,” claims Jeff Anderson, General Manager of Red Deer’s Bulletproof Networks, the city’s leading Small Business Specialist. Business development, however, is often overlooked by those text book technicians who have decided to start their own businesses. Learning from others in the SBSC community allows the small business consultants like Jeff to learn two or three markets and become the expert specialist in that field in order to have the potential to gain new business clients.

New service offerings are demanding small business consultants start planning now on how to bring them to their client base. Clients today are in search of options that are evolving and they must be presented in a manner and language that they understand. Managed services, remote monitoring, software and hardware as services are starting to gain some traction in the market and as a new offering they need to be available from their SMB consultant. Small businesses want a company that they can trust. “When you and your peers are representative of 97% of the Canadian marketplace, it makes sense to be working with the very businesses that share the same concerns and deal with the same issues you do. Who better to give them the right tools to succeed?” states Elisabeth Vandervelt of Conamex International, an award winning Microsoft Small Business Specialist in Montreal.

Today’s small businesses need innovative solutions to keep them competitive in the fast paced, on-demand, we-needed-it-yesterday and downtime-is-not-an-option environment we call today’s business world. SBSC members have the luxury and the ability to have direct interaction with decision makers therefore sales cycles are generally shorter while the demand for services has never been higher.

Another luxury in the small business community is the ability to share work with each other across regional, national and international boundaries. Many firms are partnering locally to provide a one stop shop for their clients who need a specialized service or coverage in other locations where their clients may have a remote user or branch office. Partnering in the SBSC community is critical to the success of the small business consultant’s business since it gives small firms the reach and abilities of a much larger IT company and can be the their advantage over their competition in today’s marketplace.

The Small Business Specialist can rest assured that they have the pride and recognition of a job well done combined with a community to back them up. All of these positive aspects provide an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for participants in the SBSC program.

I reflect back to when my youngest son was in Beavers and their leaders consistently reminded them of the Beaver motto, the same motto that is the cornerstone of the SBSC community and all other small business consulting groups: Sharing, Sharing, Sharing! Share your successes with others; help others who are struggling; and share of yourself to make our community strong.

Why Is Vision So Important To Your Small Business!

What are you trying to achieve? Where are you going? What do you want your small business to look like in 5 years time? Answer these questions and your day to day decision making will change…

A small business vision can be compared to planning a holiday! People usually decide where they want to holiday based on the offerings of the destination.

If it’s a relaxing holiday they are after, they may go to Fiji. But if it’s for shopping, then Dubai may be their choice. If it’s to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge then they will go to Sydney, Australia.

Holiday destinations are determined by desires, with a few restrictions like budget and time available.

The same should apply to your small business. In 5 years time what do you want your small business to look and feel like?

Do you want a large street frontage or small office at home?

Do you want to be actively involved or have a manager controlling your employees?

How many employees do you want?

Do you want a business with excellent cash flow or a business that is worth a large sum of money when sold?

Answers to these questions and much more will help to provide a clear vision of your small business in 5 years time. And often this will completely shape your growth.

The majority of small business owners start a small business based on their trade or what they know. They never usually give much thought to their small business vision.

While it’s comforting running a small business using the skills you have, sometimes this can be a recipe for disaster.

Business should be kept simple and always be fun. But business owners tend to make a simple thing into a complicated thing and let others control them.

Owning a small business should mean a better lifestyle – flexible and shorter working hours and more money. But this is hardly ever the case; it’s more like working 60+ hours a week for about $4 an hour.

Why is this so?

Because small business owners have never sat down and thought about their vision. They don’t know where they are heading, they have nothing to aim for. They have no idea what the finished product will look like, so the business eventually takes control.

Decisions are based on what happened that day, instead of the business vision you are working towards.

Take the time now and think of your small business vision.

What will your small business look like in 5 years?

Why should your customers remain loyal to your small business?

How will you beat your competitors?

What will make your small business attractive to any buyers?

What are all the potential risks?

Think carefully about these questions and then write your vision down. This will immediately tell you, the universe and anybody else, exactly what you are creating.

It gives you a defined target to aim for and achieve.

Why Entrepreneurs Need Small Business Credit Cards

Small business credit cards are a special type of credit cards that are meant for use by small business (as opposed to the normal credit cards or personal credit cards which are meant for the use of an individual). Some people wonder why they should go for a small business credit card when they already have one or more personal credit cards.

This is a very valid question indeed. By logic, if something like small business credit cards exists in market as a separate entity altogether, there must be a special need for it. It must have some features which are useful to small businesses in particular. Though there are a lot of similarities between personal and small business credit cards (of course there would be similarities since both of them are credit cards after all), there are a few differences too. These differences are mainly in terms of the flexible credit limit, lower APR offers and attractive terms and conditions which are better for small business credit cards.

Besides all the benefits which are quoted for credit cards and the additional attractive offers, there is another important reason for going for a small business credit card. The reason is business expense accounting. A lot of small businesses face this is as a major challenge. One needs to keep track of each and every business expense and log the information somewhere for the purpose of business expense accounting. Business expense accounting is needed not only for tax purpose but also for financial strategy evaluation and budget tracking. Generally speaking, two main problems quoted for small business expense accounting are business expense segregation and expense classification.

By using your small business credit card for all your small business outgo, you can very easily separate your business expenses from your personal expenses. This will thus solve your business expense separation problem. What you receive on your small business credit card bill is your business expense directly. Moreover, this report is something which your tax consultant will love too.

The second problem is also solved automatically. Most small business credit cards also group together the business expenses under proper heads. Some credit cards even provide credit card statement as data feeds which can be directly fed into accounting software. Just imagine how much hassle you are saved from with this business accounting feature. Wonderful, isn’t it?

The other great thing about small business credit cards is the help they offer in terms of managing the expense peaks. Though such variations are part of almost every business, they are even more critical for small businesses. So when that need for immediate purchase arises, you wouldn’t need to worry if you had the backing of a small business credit card. Also, generally small business have to pay first and receive later i.e. make payments for purchases before receiving payments for services/goods, so small business credit card also acts as an intermediary who fills in the time gap at little or no additional cost.

The credit card membership benefits are at its best when it comes to small business credit cards. There are discounted ticket offers, car rental offers, gift offers and many other good offers for small business credit card holders. Just check all such benefits that might be available on your small business credit card and ensure that you use them whenever and wherever required.

The small business credit cards are ranked higher by the credit card suppliers too. So everything associated with a small business credit card, including the customer service, is better than the personal credit cards.

Thus, small business credit cards aren’t something that a small business owner can afford to miss especially with what all it offers.