Deconstructing The Fake News

Like Mom Told You: Don’t Believe Everything You Read!

Like so many life lessons, it should go without say – don’t believe everything you see on the internet.

 

The same goes for deconstructing fake news.  Despite this, with social media being such a quick easy way to stay on top of current events, there is a lot at risk.  Articles like “Apple’s new MacBook Wheel?” or “Donald Trump selects Kanye West as Secretary of State” certainly grab people’s attention, and it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate fact from fiction.

 

As a business owner, you make decisions based upon the information you have.  Therefore you need to be doing constant fact checking, rather than taking such articles at face value.

 

Something as simple as “Googling” information to gain a better insight of what you’ve read will help. Scrolling through social media, it’s hard to differentiate between the fake news and the real news. Before sharing a trending piece of news, do some research and make sure that what you’re sharing is correct and isn’t being substituted for real information.

 

It’s easy to believe anything you want to believe. If you read a headline that coincides with your own beliefs, then it becomes harder to accept that as false information.

 

Like it or not one thing is clear — technology has made it easier than ever to spread false information online and conventional media’s capacity for fact checking is being stretched in unprecedented ways.

Be sure to visit the Bullfrog Blog often for more tips on marketing, sales and risk mitigation — and follow us on Instagram!

 

 

 

Instagram – Hidden Business Opportunity?

Leverage one of social media’s fastest growing channels

Whether you’re trying to promote your brand, stay connected with the online world or trying to launch a new product or service, you need to be using social media.

 

When it comes to business, everyone thinks of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but Instagram remains a bit of an afterthought.  This leads to many  small businesses signing up, getting confused as to how to use Instagram and then giving up which is quite unfortunate given how well Instagram lends itself to image based communications and distribution across social media channels.

 

Here are 4 strategies on how to get the most out of Instagram as a small business:

 

Connect Your Company’s Social Accounts

Instagram allows you to connect your company’s social accounts. If your business already has other social media accounts like Facebook or Twitter, connect them! Write a quick and creative bio on your profile that explains what your company is all about, and by adding a clickable URL to your website in your bio it’ll draw potential new customers directly to your site!

 

Capitalize on Instagram Ads

Instagram Ads present a great opportunity for small businesses because it’s extremely affordable! Compared to LinkedIn and Google Ads, advertising on Instagram is an economical means of advertising. If you already have a Facebook Advertising account then this’ll be particularly simple because it’s all built into the same platform. How much it costs to advertise depends entirely on the amount of money you’re willing to spend.  As well, creating a custom image specifically for Instagram Ads instead of reusing the same ones you’ve used on other social platforms will generate a much better engagement.

 

Videos Are Better Than Photos

Fact:  A puppy chasing a ball on video is better than a picture of puppy with a ball.  Out of all the updates on Instagram, being able to publish videos has got to be the most beneficial for small businesses. Even though photos currently generate terrific engagement, video is on the rise and can grab the attention of consumers much quicker and keep them there longer. With Instagram Stories and live videos, the app is making a clear push toward video content and this is great because they don’t require a ton of production. You just need your phone and a creative idea!

 

Slide into Your Competitors Slipstream

Make a list of your top competitors who are active on Instagram, follow anywhere between 50-100 of their followers, you’ll gain new followers.  They’ve done the hard work of building credibility and a following – why repeat the effort?  Besides it will make for great stare downs at the next industry conference.  Beyond getting followers, you have to interact and keep them engaged with your profile. They’re already interested in your industry and they like the content you post, these are two of the most important characteristics of an engaged Instagram follower.

 

The beauty of Instagram is that it’s an openly creative platform. That said, if your business is looking to have an impact with it’s community, it’s important to leverage this app by actually being creative. Growing a dedicated Instagram won’t just happen overnight, but Instagram users love to engage and are always active. Once you get the ball rolling using these techniques, you’ll begin to realize how useful Instagram can be for your small business.  Be sure to visit the Bullfrog Blog often for more tips on marketing, sales and risk mitigation — and follow us on Instagram!

 

 

 

Taking A Salary vs Taking A Dividend

Should You Take A Salary or a Dividend?

For income, a small business owner can salary themselves or receive a dividend. This decision is not a superficial one, but rather a taxation-related dilemma. This choice is one small business owners have to make for themselves, unless they seek help from a personal advisor. This topic is one with a lot of intricacies.

Why consider dividends?

Dividends have the distinction of not being deducted through the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP). This has the advantage of placing more of your income into your pocket to do as you wish with it.  This also has the disadvantage of you now having to manage your own finances in a manner that ensures you will have retirement savings. Dividends avoid employment insurance contributions as well, which has additional implications. Dividends are taxed at a lower rate as people receive a credit back to equalize some of the taxing that occurs on them.

Why consider salaries?

Dividends in some circumstances may be less beneficial than taking out a salary. Companies get taxed on how much they make. Dividends can get taxed as well. This leads to the organization’s earnings being taxed multiple times before reaching your hands; which is not ideal. Salaries are tax deductible (unlike dividends), leading the opposite phenomenon to occur. Salary tax moves the burden from the company to be dealt with in personal tax expense.

How much to take out with a salary?

If you are going with a salary, understanding where you want to set the salary is another important consideration. In order to reap the maximum benefits that having a taxed salary can provide you, there are certain benchmarks to consider. In order to maximize CPP benefits, it is required that you have a salary of at least $54,900. Maximizing the benefits of a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) requires a salary of at least $144,500.  A salary of $12,000+ qualifies for child tax credit. Taking advantage of maximizing benefits is ideal as you are pay into them and will receive a suboptimal return by not meeting their conditions.

Recommendation

It is often advisable to take both dividends and a salary. It is ideal to hit the $54,900 salary mark for CPP and possibly the $144,500 RRSP amount if the business can afford it. Small businesses need to ensure they are under the $500,000 level of income to retain their small business status; therefore keeping their small businesses tax credits. How much more of a dividend/salary should be taken depends on a lot of specific situational factors that are constantly changing; from both regulation and the business itself. Optimizing the dividend/salary amount is a constant process which has a lot of flexibility as the amounts you withdraw may be modified easily.

Be sure to visit the Bullfrog Blog often for more tips on marketing, sales and risk mitigation

 

 

 

Differentiate Your Workplace to Attract The Best Employees

In the increasingly competitive pursuit of the best and brightest employees, fostering a workplace that is conducive to innovation, team building and productivity is a terrific way to attract staff that operate at a higher level than your competition.

 

In order to create an environment that allows for brilliance, teamwork and creativity, you have to be committed to organizational change, not simply curious about it. Hosting team building activities such as a softball games or an off site get together, can come across as insincere or contrived to serve ulterior motives.  Savvy employees are often the first to perceive this, so such efforts are made in vain.  If you really want to attain employees with higher levels of passion, here are some of the best methods to reboot things and modernize your organization.

 

Schedule accommodations

While they may come off as yet another “buzz” term, flex hours, afford many the ability to be more productive and more available to their job.  This allows individuals to operate at a higher and often more focused level because they are not distracted by many of the outside responsibilities of life. As well, for individuals who cannot work a standard work week implementing a 4 day work week structure at 80% pay is a solution currently being piloted by the likes of Amazon, Netflix and many other innovative and reputable firms.  Accommodating employees in this way bolsters diversity and commitment which leads to a very powerful team.

 

Working from home

Similarly offering the option to work from home not only allows for great convenience for the employee, but also provides significant benefits to the team and the business. When passionate employees are working from home, they will often work longer more focused hours (e.g. no chatter by the water cooler), allowing for increased amounts of productivity. As well the business requirement or real estate is diminished, resulting in significant cost savings.  Finally, employees who work from home also take fewer days off due to being sick.  Contrary to what you might think, people working from home typically provide a higher output than average.

 

Office Pets

Allowing people to bring elements of their home life to work is a fantastic way to make the work experience more personal for some employees.  Often out of concern for their pet who is home along, many employees feel a bit distracted or guilty about the time at work. Allowing their pets in the office often alleviates this; leading to increased time and focus to work. Pets also often have great character which tends to put employees in higher spirits, allowing for increased energy around the office.  While it may not be conducive to have someone bring in a pet alligator, allowing for smaller – less threatening pets — is a great concept employed by several successful companies.

 

At Bullfrog Insurance, we believe in continually questioning the status quo and pushing the limits of corporate innovation.  Likewise seeking to improve things often causes entrepreneurs to launch a business — but it is their talented staff that keep the business growing and progressing.

 

Be sure to frequently visit our Bullfroginsurance.com blog for more tips and business advice on everything from staffing to marketing to risk management.

 

Does Your Business Have a Fire Safety Plan?

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Does Your Business Have a Fire Safety Plan?

In the last year we’ve all seen stories on the news about the destruction which can be caused by fire. Fires can happen anywhere and anytime so its important to be aware of fire hazards and have a safety plan in place to mitigate risks, injuries and even fatalities.

Prevention is the best safety measure.  It pays to know about your business premises and your surroundings —  an electrical fire caused by old wiring, or by the upstairs tenant or human error can be devastating.  Knowing your building, your neighbors and the habits of your employees and patrons can be a great way of avoiding mishaps that cause fires.  You should also have a plan for emergency situations to protect your patrons, staff and property. Below are some easy things businesses can do to mitigate their risk.

Ensure You Have Working Fire or Smoke Detection Equipment

Not only is early detection key to putting out a fire, it is also mandatory in many places to have functioning equipment, whether its fire alarm, smoke alarm or a sprinkler system. You should frequently check that this equipment is in good working order. A good rule of thumb is to change batteries in smoke alarms bi-annually; many people use the spring-forward and fall-back time changes as guides.

Ensure You Have a Fire Evacuation Plan Complete With Designated Fire Marshal

A fire safety plan will help ensure that if disaster were to strike, the damage will be mitigated and that there will be no human loss.  A good fire safety plan will detail all possible exists from the premises. It will also identify a safe meeting place where you can get a proper headcount of staff and guests to your location. It will also identify a person, and a backup person to act as the company fire marshal who will be in charge of making sure everyone made it to the safe location off site and will inform the fire department if anyone is missing. It will also identify ways to slow and stop damage from occurring. Closing windows and doors on your way out of the building (if it is safe to do so) can slow the spread of smoke and fire.

Conduct Regular Fire Drills

Fire Drills should be conducted bi-annually to ensure all staff members are familiar with the fire evacuation plan. Ensure your staff take these drills seriously and ensure participation is mandatory.

Ensure You Have The Proper Coverage

In the event of a fire, having the appropriate insurance in place is critical.  Each business has unique risks and requirements and a broker can be an invaluable source of knowledge and advice to ensure you have the right coverage for your business.  Bullfrog Insurance covers businesses across Canada and we have experienced agents here to help you get the right coverage for your business- nothing more, nothing less. Just Insurance – Without the Bull.

Ditch the 9-5 and Turn your Passion Into Cash

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Maybe you’re a student searching for a summer job or an experienced worker looking to escape the 9-5. Starting your own business allows you to leverage your passion and skills for profit and a flexible schedule. Being your own boss brings tremendous opportunity, but also presents risk and responsibility. Check out these tips and resources to help you get your business off the ground.

1. Figure Out What Your Business Will Sell and to Whom

Almost anything can be turned into a business. The possibilities are virtually limitless if you just start to think like an entrepreneur. For example, someone who likes kayaking could run guided kayak tours and someone who likes making accessories could make hair bands from recycled materials. These days entrepreneurs provide all sorts of products, services and solutions to solve problems and make life better. Many include smart phone apps and disruptive technologies such as Uber for example.  When thinking about what you want to sell, remember that whatever the product, it must be of interest to your target market. You should solve a problem or improve on something that already exists.

2. Write a Business Plan and Build a Budget

A business plan is defined as, a document that summarizes the operational and financial goals of a business and contains the detailed plans and budgets showing how the goals are to be met. A budget is defined as an estimate of the income and expenditure for your business over a set amount of time. In this plan you will outline how your business will run, and what risks will be associated with it. With a little research you’d be surprised how much free information is available from banks and on the internet – just be certain the source of information is credible.

Considerations for your budget should include expenses related to: equipment, office supplies, gas money, advertising costs, bank fees, insurance costs, inventory, rent and any other expenses you may have. There are a number of companies that can help make this process easier. For example, at Bullfrog Insurance you can buy business insurance online in under 90 seconds. You fill in some questions, get a quote from up to 4 insurers and can purchase insurance your business.  That way you can get back to the more exciting parts of starting a business faster.

3. Find Financing

Most of us can’t afford all of these expenses alone, and since starting a business involves significant overhead it might be in your interest to seek out some financial assistance until you start bringing in some revenue. It is important that you have a thorough business and finance plan for your company when approaching investors. Luckily, the Canadian government and venture capitalists across Canada are looking to invest in innovative start-up businesses. You can also pitch to a growing number of business incubators popping up across the country.

4. Launch your Business.   

So you’ve got a plan and a great product, now what? Let your customers know that you are available for business. You can do this through advertising and word of mouth. Choose where you are going to advertise carefully, think about who your target market is, and where will they go for information. Having an online presence in the form of a website and social media handles is one of the most important ways for your customers to find you. Depending on your product you might want to consider advertising in local print publications like newspapers and magazines. Building relationships with social media influencers can also help boost business.

5. Network, Network, Network and Seek Mentors 

One of the best ways to get your name out there is through word of mouth. Keep your business cards on you at all times. You never know who you’ll meet or how they could possibly help you. You should also take advantage of local business events such as Business Development groups. These events give you the opportunity to tell people about your business and for you to make local connections in the business world.  These connections can form lasting mentor/mentee relationships which will help you to avoid mistakes that someone has already learned from, saving you time and money.

6. Get Your Clients and Keep Them Happy.   

Client retention is cheaper than acquiring a new client. Make sure that every interaction with a client is pleasant for them. Customers are more likely to share a negative experience than a positive one. This can be extremely damaging in the start up phase of your business.

7. Have Fun! 

You are starting this business because you are passionate about something. Have fun and share that passion with everyone you meet and it will translate into profit.

5 Resolutions for Your Business to Adopt in 2016

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As we wave goodbye to 2015 and welcome 2016 with open arms, this time of year presents small business owners, such as yourself, with a great opportunity to set New Year’s resolutions for your business. What important decisions should you make to propel your business forward onto the route of success? Now is a great time to make these decisions and an action plan to support them.

Here are some potential resolutions to make in 2016 to aid in your business’ growth and success:

 

1. Review and Assess Your Brands Online Image.

Has it been many years since your company’s last website facelift and/or are your customers not interacting with your website as intended? If the answer is yes, to either of those points, you may want to refresh your brands image and/or your site to make it easier for your customers to navigate and utilize. Your website should always be updated with promotions, news, and important insights for it to reflect your current offerings and to create a great first impressions for potential new customers.

 

2. Let Go of Employee’s That Bring down You and Your Team.

Do you have an employees on your team that make team-work extremely difficult and who bring an overwhelming cloud of negativity towards the business’s environment and objectives? If yes, then it may be time to let them go. By holding on to employees that emit such a negative influence and vibe in the office, you put your business on the brink of losing extremely valuable employees who drive your businesses success.

 

3. Can Clients and Potential Customers Find Your Business Online?

Depending on the services and/or products your business sells, potential customers who may be  interested in your offerings will search for your business online to read available reviews and to just get a sense of the value that your business offers. If your company doesn’t have an online presence in this day and age, it is as if your company doesn’t exist.  Without knowing, you may be turning away many potential customers by not having an a foot in the online sphere.

 

4. Focus on Making Your Existing Customers Happy.

As a small business owner, a lot of your focus and time is placed upon ways to attract new clients and how to offer them exceptional value. While this is great, it’s very important to remember to keep your current client base happy and satisfied in order to keep retention rates high. Although you strive to make new customers happy, the benefit of having a strong group of loyal customers will help your business soar for years.

 

5. Look at Expanding Your Business.

Gaining a lot of business and ongoing success? If things are in the positive and you see potential for expansion, now would be a great time to investigate your options and see what would work best for your business to continue its growth. Whether it be an additional physical location, additional staff or even opening an online version of your store, the options are endless. Be sure to keep your target market in mind when making such important decisions.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

5 Tips: Protect Your Business & Grow Sales During the Holiday Rush

Holiday_Rush

It’s the holiday season once again and your small business is most likely knee deep in the hustle and bustle of the season. As this is a very busy time of year for small businesses in Canada, like yours, it’s important to remember some important best business practices and to be cautious while taking advantage of the holiday rush.

Here are some tips to protect your business’ bottom-line this holiday season and increase sales in the process:

 

1. Be Sure to Not Over-Order Inventory yet Have Enough to Satisfy Demand.

A good way to estimate how much inventory you will need for the holiday season is to review your sales from the previous year and look at the various products you had available for sale and examine the quantities that were purchased. This will offer you a good starting point for planning your inventory numbers and allows you to estimate sales numbers.

 

2. Prepare Your Business for an Increase in Online Sales.

Does your business run predominantly online or does your physical store location also have a web purchasing option? As more and more Canadians are turning to online stores to do the majority of their purchasing during the holiday season, it’s important to expect and prepare for an increase of sales. Whether it be having enough inventory on hand or enough staff members available for preparing orders, don’t forget about having enough essentials on hand; shipping labels, bubble wrap, and even boxes.

 

3. Be Active on Social Media and Promote Your Sales.

Utilizing your social media platforms this time of year is a great way to boost your marketing efforts and highlight any sales you may be offering. As customers or members of your online communities post and interact with you on these platforms, take it as an opportunity to boost your customer service and build loyalty with them. From quirky contests to humorous holiday images, the options for utilizing your social accounts are endless. Remember to keep things tasteful!

 

4. Keep an Eye out for Potential Fraudsters.

This is a very important area of caution to keep in mind this time of year. As your business experiences an influx of customers coming through its doors, your employees are doing their best to juggle both their usual tasks and trying to provide great customer service to everyone who comes through your business’ doors. Fraudsters take advantage of these busy and hectic situations by intentionally confusing employees at the cash register for their own gain (financially). Here are some things you might want to implement with staff members who may be managing the cash registers on their shifts:

  • If a customer is making a very large and expensive purchase on credit card and doesn’t appear to ask any questions regarding their purchase, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for ID just to verify that the name on the credit card matches the name on their ID. Be sure to match the image on the card with the individual making the purchase.
  • If a customer is asking a lot of questions and seems flustered when making a payment, be sure to focus and double check the amount of cash handed to you before you enter it into the till. The customer may claim they provided you with more cash in order to fool you into giving them more change than required. If you find yourself confused by such a situation and questioning how much money the customer actually gave you, count you’re till to be sure.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

Webinar: Risky Business – Are Your Real Risks Covered?

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Many small businesses in Canada often purchase too much or not enough insurance, are unsure what their business’ risks are, and are even unprotected against the real risks facing their business. To help small business owners, like yourself, properly protect their business, we invite you to join us on December 1st from 2pm-3pm EST for our first Bullfrog webinar that touches on these issues.

The webinar is roughly 15 minutes in length and will offer insight on the following topics:

  • Learn to only buy the insurance you need, not what you don’t need;
  • Find out what the real risks related to your business are;
  • Be certain that money spent on business insurance actually covers you for risks related to your business.

Join us to gain valuable insights to save time, save  money, and keep you business properly protected.

Sign up for Webinar

Tips to Make Your Website More Reputable and Trustworthy

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Consumers love the convenience of shopping online but they’re also savvier than ever before.  They are also likely to have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of websites that they can pick from to purchase their goods and/or services from. If you want consumers to purchase from your site they need to feel confident that their personal information including payment details will be secure. They need to trust in what they’re buying, what kind of quality it will be, and what the experience will be like if they have a problem along the way. Trust is important because people tend to do business with those that they know, like and trust. If someone trusts your brand, they are more likely to purchase from you.

Here are some tips to help make your website more reputable and trustworthy:

 

Build a Professional Website.

Make sure that your site is visually appealing and easy to navigate. Also, make sure that the design elements fit your dedicated target market. Audit your site regularly to update content, fix broken links, and make regular improvements.  If you have a blog, try to keep it updated with new content. If the last post on your blog was 2 years ago, people will wonder if your business is still active.

 

Tell People Who You Are and What to Expect.

Have an About Us page that gives the story of your business; remember that people like to do business with those they know and like. Have a Privacy Policy that tells people how you handle their personal information and a Return Policy so they know what to expect in the event their purchase doesn’t meet their expectations. You can implement a FAQ page for any miscellaneous info specific to your site that consumers should know.

 

Legitimate and Easy to Find Contact Details.

The Contact Us page deserves its own category because it’s very important. If consumers don’t think there are real people behind the site then they are definitely less likely to trust it. The page should display contact information including a phone number, email address, mailing address and physical address (if applicable). Don’t be afraid to get personal by listing specific contact people rather than generic contact details. Most importantly, reply to all inquiries in a timely manner. Not replying is the easiest way to an unhappy or lost customer or both.

 

Get a Trust Mark or Certified Seal.

This reassures people that your website is safe and reputable. Check out Trust Guard or the Better Business Bureau (among others) to see what you need to obtain this type of third party endorsement. You will likely have to meet some guidelines for approval, which only helps improve your site in the long run.

 

Use a Secure Checkout.

By partnering with a reputable payment vendor you will help ensure that you don’t lose a customer at the very last stage of the purchase process. PayPal is one that most consumers know and trust, but you can also do your research and pick one that you think is best for your site. Make sure to use SSL encryption to prevent unauthorized access to client information and don’t be afraid to advertise this to clients in the checkout area.

 

Include Reviews.
Post reviews and testimonials from real customers to help new customers feel more confident about their purchase. Build credibility for the reviews by including a picture and some background information on the person giving the review.

 

If you have any questions regarding the information above or if you would like to discuss getting the right insurance for your business or for personal risk management, our Bullfrog Insurance brokers would be happy to help you out. Contact us today for a free quote!

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