What It Takes to Create an Award-Winning Business

Out of the blue, I received an email from the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce one day notifying me that we were nominated for a 2016 Business Excellence award.

Say what?

Once I got past my shock and disbelief that they must have the wrong Susan… it began to sink in that someone out there thought we were worthy enough of this nomination. Wow, what an honour!

Part of the nomination process consisted of a 30-minute interview in front of a 3-judge panel. Imagine being forced to actually brag about yourself for a half an hour! Talk about squirming in my seat!

Fast forward to last week where the awards ceremony took place. Much to my relief, our category was up first so I could relax the rest of the evening.

To be honest, I wasn’t all that anxious – I knew the odds of winning was only 1 in 7 so I waited patiently for the winner’s name to be announced, not at all expecting it to be us.

But it was! We were declared the winner!

Say WHAT???

Shock and disbelief once again came over me as I took a moment to grasp what just happened. Walking to the stage was quite the blur but I managed to do it without tripping up the stairs to get our award.

In the aftermath of winning this wonderful recognition, I reflected some more about that judge’s interview and how they deemed us the winner from the other worthy nominees in our category.

With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the attributes I feel helped us win this prestigious award. Without further ado, here’s what it took for me to create an award-winning business:

1) Be Passionate About What You Do

We are not the first business I’ve created; there’s been plenty others ranging from creating craft pieces to faux finish painting. But no matter what I did, I was very passionate about it.

Don’t waste your time trying to run a business just to make money. You’re going to tire of it very quickly and it will be harder to make sales.

But when you’re passionate about what you do, others will immediately see that and will be drawn to you like a magnet.

2) Love Working With the People You Serve and Offer Exceptional Customer Service

One of the truest joys I receive is the knowing how much we are able to help a new business owner get their online presence up and running. Being a part of their joy at seeing their dream materialize into something tangible gives me just as much joy.

If you avoid answering the phone or responding to emails because you dread having to talk to a client, then you need to adjust your marketing so you attract the right people to work with.

If you don’t love who you’re working with, then it’s hard to establish a successful business that needs to cater to your clients by making customer service a #1 priority. And that means answering the phone, responding to emails in a prompt manner, and treating every person as if they were your only client. And when you’re attracting your perfect ideal client, then this should be easy to do.

Make your business about them, not you. Just remember, if you had no clients, then you’d have no business.

3) Know Your Stuff

Before even thinking about starting a web development/digital marketing business, I ensured I got the education I needed first. I attended the Vancouver Film School in their Multi-Media program and then later earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with a concentration in Computer Information Systems (with an A+ GPA).

Not to mention the countless online courses I’ve taken over the years to ensure my skills are kept up-to-date with this ever changing industry.

Sadly, I see a lot of entrepreneurs wanting to start a business with not a lot of skills or experience under their belt and then they wonder why they’re struggling.

Reading a book or taking one on-line course is probably not enough to reach award-winning status. But if you’re passionate about building a successful business, you’ll find a way to ensure you become as qualified as needed.

4) Be Committed

Is working 15 hour days, 6-7 days a week committed enough? Yep, that’s what Daniel and I do every week. We have to in order to fulfil points 2 and 3 above.

It takes a lot of time and effort to ensure your clients are taken care of properly. You also need a “do whatever it takes” level of commitment.

You might not need to work such long hours as us and trust me, we’re continually working towards lessening that kind of volume but until then, we are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure our business is successful. Are you?

5) Be Consistent

Consistency shows up in many forms when running a successful business. For me, it’s being consistent with my message, my brand, my Social Media presence, my newsletters, my team management, and the level of quality we bring to our clients.

Do I miss sometimes? Absolutely. But being consistent in these areas are very important to me, and I do what needs to be done in order to show up the best I can for my team and our clients.

Without consistency, it’s hard to create brand ambassadors (such as the ones who nominate you for an award), loyal team members, and a steady flow of clients.

Whatever you have decided to commit to, be consistent at it and you’ll be amazed at how things start to flow your way.

6) Surround Yourself With a Dedicated and Knowledgeable Team

I started off as a one-woman show. Because of my educational background, I was able to do the design, build and marketing of a website quite easily. I’m what you would call a “generalist”, someone who knows a lot of about a lot of things and is a specialist in a few areas.

But my one-woman show was not going to create a successful business. Especially in this technologically-driven industry. It quickly became apparent my skillset was only going to get me so far.

So my first hire was someone who could offset my biggest weakness. Warren was a student at UFV and applied for my part time programmer position. He was a perfect complement to our company and the moment he came on board, I was relieved of having to do all the site builds myself. I could then take that time and focus on building the business instead.

It’s tough to try and do everything yourself when it comes to running a business. Sure, there are expenses involved in hiring but if you hire smart, keep an eye on your bottom line, and know when to let go of those that aren’t serving you best, your business will escalate far quicker than if you try to struggle with everything yourself.

This topic is worthy of a whole article itself so I encourage you to read How to Take a Solo-Entrepreneurship to the Next Level for more.

7) Have Honesty, Authenticity and Gratitude be a Part of Your Daily Life

It’s sad I even need to list this as an attribute but I’ve been in business long enough to know not everyone adheres to these principles.

To me, this is a no-brainer – I’m not certain I could live any other way?

But judging from the stories I hear from new clients about how they were treated by their previous web developer, it sounds like many people need to be reminded of this.

No business will thrive without honesty and integrity. And a little secret: gratitude will not only make your business thrive, but your whole life too. Give it a try and see what I mean.

8) Persevere

Every business, including ours, has its ups and downs. The key to success is to not let those “downs” overcome your enthusiasm. Pick yourself back up, learn from whatever lesson there was to be learned, and keep moving forward.

If we had quit when we only had $20 credit left on our credit cards at Christmas time just a handful of years ago, we wouldn’t be award winners now!

9) Invest in Your Business

Building the company has been one investment after another. It never ends really.

There’s always something that needs to be worked on. Here’s a short list of my recommendations on where you need to invest in your business:

a.Branding & Website

b.Marketing

c.Education

d.Building a Team

10) Understand You’re Running a Business, Not a Hobby.

I think this is an important distinction to make and one many entrepreneurs aren’t differentiating.

I’ve always looked at our company as a business and that’s mostly due to my business mind and having a business degree.

But for those that simply are passionate about something and have a dream to make money off of it, it’s hard to know exactly HOW to turn that dream into a business.

They end up blindly doing what they think they should be doing, all by themselves, in order to save money (or not spend money they don’t have) and hope for the best.

If this sounds familiar, I’m adding another business investment to consider as your top priority: A business coach or mentor. ASAP. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up just running a hobby.

11) Set up a Systemized Business Structure

I’ve worked with a lot of clients over the years. Some amaze me at how organized and systemized they are. And others, well, not so much.

Having a systemized business structure in place is the only reason I haven’t gone insane with my daily workload.

Here’s the tools we use to be more organized, efficient and less stressed.

12) Get Comfortable With Sales

Sales. It’s a dirty word for many entrepreneurs and business owners alike. Me too. I hate to think of myself as a “sales person” but at the end of the day, if we’re not selling our wares, we don’t have a business.

Now that’s not to say you need to become a pushy, in-your-face predator. Far from it.

Remember attribute #1 about being passionate? That’s what you need. People will trust your passion and will respond to it. But be careful, sometimes passion can be too intense and will turn people away.

Find your sweet spot as to what resonates with your ideal clients and keep working at it. But do embrace the fact you’re selling your wares and learn some strategies that fit with your personality and comfort level that will work.

13) Give Back

Giving back is an imperative attribute to have when building a successful business. We give back in several ways, here’s some ideas to consider that we do:

-Offer discounted prices for non-profits

-Volunteer your services to community groups

-Send cash donations to worthy charities you believe in

-Make purchases that support worthy causes

-Donate door prizes and/or silent auction items for fund raising activities

-And support your own clients whenever you can

14) Be Accessible

When new clients approach me due to being disenchanted with their existing web developer or marketer, the most often complaint I hear is they can never get a hold of the person. Either they take forever to respond to an email or never answer their phone.

I think I’m going to write a book on how NOT to run a successful business based on this alone. It boggles my mind when I consistently hear stories like this. How are these people keeping a business going with such poor service and accessibility?

I have a policy to answer emails within a day of receipt. I often exceed that policy but sometimes the volume is too much and I get delayed in responding. Same thing with the phone. If we’re available to answer, we do so. If we’re not, we’ll call the person back right away.

Being accessible provides peace of mind to our clients; they know we care enough about them to take care of their needs in a timely manner. ’nuff said.

There you have it. My honest take on what created the company to be an award-winning business. Maybe I need to write a book about this because, honestly, I could have added more but, it’s coming into the 15th hour on this Sunday night of working so I’ll leave it at that.

What about you? What would you add to the list? Please leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!

Susan Friesen is the founder of eVision Media, a boutique web development and Digital Marketing firm of over 15 years that specializes in designing, building and marketing professional, unique websites for entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations.

The Obstacles Home Business Owners Face When They Start A Home Business

If you have made up your mind and you are 100% certain about starting a home business, then you might have in mind what product or service you want to market. You should also know that for the first two years you will be devoted to making your business grow. If you are willing to take a huge risk such as this, you will need to be motivated, determined and confident. There are numerous obstacles that you could run into if you don’t take the necessary precautions.

To work your way through the start-up of your business you will need to take the following steps

SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). By knowing and using this method, you will be aware of what competition you are facing, where your business can grow, and you will get a better understanding of the business market.

Form a business plan. Forming a business plan can be overwhelming and slightly confusing. A business plan should include the audience that will be looking at your plan, an outline of the business plan, a collection of research and data, a general abstract of the market, an inquiry profile, finances, and finally the executive summary.
Funds for the business startup. Do you have the resources needed to start the business or do you need to find the money or money lender?

Naming your business. What will be the name of your business? This is a crucial and significantly important element.

Electing your business structure. Sometimes people get confused due to the business types. You will need to elect the right business partners. The choice you make will cause an impact on your business.

The license and permit. This entails registering your business, you might also need a business identification number, and may also include other tax licenses and zoning permits.

The location. This step also entails many minor tasks such as finding the right location for your business, buying office supplies and equipment and designing your business place.

The insurance. You are responsible for any risks associated to your business. Getting a business insurance will protect your office of any disasters or litigations that could occur.

Lastly, create an accounting system. Many individuals that want to start their own business tend to fail because they get caught up with location and buying supplies and other details that they forget to keep an account of money going in and out. A good option would be to hire a professional accountant that will keep track of the businesses finances.

A Compaq Guide About Business Setup in Dubai

Dubai is the one of the fastest growing business hub with the state of the art facilities available for local and international business. Dubai is an integral part of business world and is leading with innovation. Dubai is politically stable and has strong economic culture and government of Dubai offer friendly business regulations which attracts the investors from around the world. This article will provide you a Compaq guide regarding business setup in Dubai. Before you start your business in a unbeaten economy like Dubai first you need to under the culture of it. Dubai being an international city is a multi-cultural city, people from all around the world are present in Dubai. After familiarizing yourself with the cultural you must learn about the rules and regulations and kind of the business you can start.

Legal structure of business setup in Dubai is according to UAE Federal Law No. 8 of 1984, and after the amendment in Federal Law No. 13 of 1988 – the Commercial Companies Law, and its by-laws regulate the function of foreign business in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In wide terms the requirements of these regulations are: The Federal Law requires a total local equity of not less than 51% in any commercial business and describes seven categories of business organizations which can be established in the UAE. This regulation explains the requirements in terms of shareholders, directors, minimum capital requirements and business incorporation processes. This law further lays down the requirements of governing conversion, merger and dissolution of companies and businesses.

In Dubai, you are given plenty of opportunities; you get benefits of best economy based on strong administrative foundations. Authorities of Dubai have divided the city in different economic jurisdictions. You can start different types of businesses in Dubai bases on type of business and location; types are divided in three main categories which are Mainland, Free Zones and Offshore. Another thing to remember is that Dubai welcomes foreign investment but there are rules and regulations that must be followed. In order for you to enter in Dubai, UAE you need to have sponsor, a sponsor will take your responsibility. Importance of a sponsor can be determined by the fact that for any purpose if it is business or you are just visiting you must have a sponsor. When it comes to start a business in Dubai you are require having a sponsor, any kind of business needs a sponsor or service agent. In mainland a local resident or a of United Arab Emirates based company act as a sponsor, for professional service you need service agent as sponsor and for setting up a free zone business you also need a sponsor, in this case free zone acts as your sponsor.

Business setup in Dubai mainland requires you to have a valid license issued by the administrative authority. The name of the authority is Dubai Economic Development (DED); it is a government agency responsible for issuing the business licenses. Renewal of the license, cancellation and up-gradation are also handled by Dubai Economic Development (DED). To ease the investors Dubai Economic Development (DED) operates for different localities, thought scrutiny process of the application is strict but department ensures the quick application processing. In Dubai mainland, Dubai Economic Development (DED) issues four types of licenses, commercial, professional service, Branch office and industrial license.

To setup your business in Dubai mainland under commercial license you are by law mandated to have the help from local UAE resident which is also called local sponsor. Local sponsor is by law hold the 51% shares of your business and you will hold only 49% of shares. However you are given full administrative rights. You can draw contracts with local sponsor and allocate a yearly fee for being a sponsor. Local sponsor sometimes work as silent partners. Local sponsor can be an individual or it can be a UAE based company or group.

However, if you are setting up a business which involve professional services you don’t need to have a local sponsor, in that case you only need a service agent. Service agent works on your behalf and helps you deal with the local administrative authorities to start your business. You are allowed to hold 100% of your professional business and service agent will only be paid once for the service he offered.

Free zones are special economic zones in Dubai which are specially designed to attract the foreign investment. Free zone based business are fully owned by the investor and there are plenty of options to choose with. Every free zone in Dubai has a governing authority or free zone authority. For business setup in Dubai you would need deal with the free zone authority. You may be asked by the authority to provide different legal documents before you finally give the go ahead in form of license by that authority.

Free zone offers different attractive options for foreign investors such as you are given 100% of ownership of your business. There are many options free of tax you can avail like no personal income tax, corporate tax exemptions. There are different types of business setup options in Dubai free zones like you can start of your business enterprise as a limited liability company or service provider organizations, there are different licensing options. Business setups in free zones are allowed to perform international trades. When time comes you can easily wind your business. There is less paper work involved when it comes to end your business from a free zone.

Offshore is another type of business setup offered in Dubai and has been very famous. Offshore means a business entity setup outside of the resident country in an offshore jurisdiction. Dubai offshore jurisdiction provides number of benefits to your business in terms of asset protection, tax optimization and business expansion. Businesses setup in Dubai offshore jurisdiction must abide the offshore companies rules and regulations and is not allowed to trade inside the offshore jurisdiction.

To sum up, after making decision with the kind of business you are willing to start in Dubai you need to deal with the concerned authority. The best way is to hire a professional help. You will be able to find number of consulting firms who are willing to help you deal with the paper work and the authorities. You will be asked by regulating authorities to provide different documents and submit paper work.

Here are few steps you may follow, first of all do research and decide the type of business you are willing to embark, choose jurisdiction and follow through. It is recommended to get the help from a professional when it comes to business setup in Dubai. Ready your paper work for the licensing and get a guide on licensing terms and conditions as there are certain activities you are allowed and certain activities you are not allowed to perform. There are license you can choose which allows multiple business activities.

Pressures That Dominate Real Estate Value

When people usually think of real estate value they think of two forces; supply and demand. Yes, this is correct; however supply and demand only fall under the one of the four main categories that drive/depress real estate value. Supply and demand fall under the economic category of influences in real estate value. The other three include; social impact, government subjection and environmental forces.

When looking at social impact, there are a few things one would want to consider determining the effect it will have on real estate value. Most of all the value would fluctuate accordingly with population characteristics. This tie into the potential for demand in the economic section of value; the more demand, the more value a property can derive. Population however should be looked at in more depth by breaking down the sample by age and gender, rate of household formation and partition, as well as analysis of the social values such as education, law and order, and lifestyle preferences. Careful consideration of these factors will help establish trends in what would be reflected in real estate values.

Next is the government subjection, accounting for a large aspect of real estate value. This includes political and legal activities on several levels of government. These government influences have the power to overwhelm natural market forces such that you would find in the economic category. Government has their hand in providing facilities and services that affect values as well as a one of the main contributors to patterns of land use (zoning, by-laws, etc). The following are some things to look out for when assessing the government subjection of a market; fire and police services, garbage collection, transportation arrangement, utilities, zoning, building codes, health codes, and fiscal policies. Also the legislation that is set forth by the governmental factor must be accounted for, this would include; rent control laws, rights to farm, rights for managing forest, rights to agricultural land, restriction on ownership, new development laws, control of hazardous and toxic materials, and laws affecting investment power, loan terms, and mortgage lending institutions. All in all this is quite the category and its understanding will provide for a great idea of where values are currently and where they are headed.

In addition to the social impact, as well as government subjection, the environmental forces also play a part in real estate values. These can be natural or man-made and are analyzed by observing several aspects. Climatic conditions (snowfall, rainfall, temperature, humidity) would be an obvious one that would affect the values of building somewhere as well as maintenance and carrying costs, as well as the quality and type of build. Topography, soil and consideration of any toxic contaminants would also be of great importance as well as natural barriers, such as rivers, mountains, lakes, etc.

Just to get out of the 4 factors of real estate value; it is important to mention that there are some overlying factors that would be part of 2 or more of the categories. Once such factor is location, this is the link of a property in time/distance to any given origin or destination of a resident/user of the property. Location could fall under for environmental and economic, if not all categories. Due to the area and property type, properties access to public transport, schools, hospitals, stores, employment, suppliers, recreational and cultural facilities, parks, and places of worship would of importance.

This would also lead us back to the economic factor of influence on real estate value. The fundamental aspects to look for here include: employment, price levels, wage levels, industrial and commercial expansion, mortgage credit availability and cost, stock of vacant property, stock of improved property, occupancy rates, construction costs and rental/price trajectories of existing properties.

And there you have it, the 4 major pillars of real estate value; social, governmental, environmental, and economic. Taking a deep look at each of these sections one would assemble the entire spectrum of current real estate values and more importantly future real estate values.

Why Sky-High SoCal Housing Costs Just Keep Rising

Any SoCal Resident Can Tell You Rent is High,

But did you know the average cost of a home in Los Angeles ($658,000) is more than double the national average for houses of the same size? Real estate experts say that the gap between the cost of living in LA and the rest of the country will continue to get larger, all the way through 2018. When gainfully employed, educated people with salaries hovering around $250,000 a year are looking to move to nearby cities due to the inability to find a home within their budget that meets their standard of living, it is clear that California is pricing out its own residents. And the truth is – there isn’t really much anyone can do about it.

The Cause

While no single problem is exclusively to blame for the incredibly inflamed housing cost in Los Angeles, the generalized answer is that there are not enough houses to meet the demand, and in addition to that, the cost to build more housing keeps developers away. It is a vicious cycle of economics – people want housing, construction companies can’t fill that demand because the cost to them is too high, this takes money and jobs out of the metropolitan area as builders, investors, and developers look to the suburbs to build, so the demand grows, and the cost grows alongside it.

What is even more unexpected, is that the positive growth in jobs and the rest of the economy is actually putting more of a strain on housing cost. Los Angeles has added tens of thousands of jobs in almost all sectors of the market, from the lower level entry jobs, all the way to opening space for new executives and CEOs, and as you can expect, that means more people look to move to the city to fill the openings which the jobs have created; thus adding to the demand for housing that seems insatiable in Los Angeles.

The Proposed Solutions…

The answer seems simple, right? Just build more houses. Unfortunately, nothing is ever that easy. Up until recently there was a push among lawmakers to, at the very least, keep the cost of housing under control through litigation.

The solution seemed concentrated on reducing the cost for contractors to build homes and new developments. Prior to this year, litigation seemed to offer great tax incentives to builders willing and able to quickly build new multi-family units, especially in urban areas. Especially to those builders who made such new developments more eco-friendly and energy-efficient.

Many state law makers have focused energy and attention on low-income housing subsidies. The legislative analyst’s report estimated that building affordable homes for the 1.7 million low-income households in California that now spend half their salaries on housing would cost as much to finance each year as the state’s spending on Medi-Cal.

… And why they have failed

As much as state litigators may want to deal with the overwhelming housing shortage in LA, there is a huge problem – namely, that most decisions regarding new developments and building fall into the laps of city and local government. The state governments’ hands are tied. Unfortunately, the smaller governments tend to have a much more narrow view of the situation, seeking to raise gains and find solutions for /their/ city, without much consideration for the surrounding areas.

Additionally, the main tool that state legislators could use to quickly build homes, is in direct opposition to a myriad of business and environmental interests. The C.E.Q.A (California’s governing environmental law), in many ways, prevents the building of new housing developments at any rate which would make an impact on the housing shortage.

So the question becomes… what can we do? Should we sacrifice environmental protection laws to lower housing costs? It is a question that has to be addressed, but with so many political influences and issues, most lawmakers won’t touch it.

And SoCal residents and home owners associations aren’t making it any easier. Many of these local governing bodies are in stark opposition of rapid development of housing- because that means that their neighborhoods would have to face the dreaded “D” word… Density.

Push-back from neighborhoods and suburban areas is obvious- no one wants to be crowded in, especially in the areas which are the most affected by the housing shortage (affluent coastal communities). So it seems as though lawmakers are blocked on all fronts.

Have Lawmakers given up?

This year, it seems as if state lawmakers have given up on dealing with the increasing housing cost. Little to no new solutions have been proposed, and those that have are not being passed through and put into place. The state is at a stand-still and lawmakers seem to take the “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens” approach.

As litigation passes to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, many people believe that this increase will ease the burden on low and middle-income families and low for economic growth and eventually lead to a reduction in the housing shortage.

British Home Owners Are Waiting Longer to Move Up the Property Ladder

Research carried out last year revealed that British home owners are waiting longer than expected to move up the housing ladder.

The survey which was carried out by Lloyds Bank found that a whopping 33% of Brits should be further along the property ladder than they currently are. Thanks to the never-ending rise in house prices, the research also found that an incredible 83% of home owners have to wait longer than ever to reach their goal of owning a long-term family home compared to just a decade ago.

40% of people surveyed said that they feel the highly competitive housing market has an impact on their aspirations as it’s so difficult to become a home owner in the first place, let alone move to a bigger property. This figure has fallen since 2013 however when 47% of people felt this way and 2012 when this number was at 53%.

Naturally, first-time buyers are being hit hard with nearly half (48%) saying that the housing market has an impact on how long it takes them to become a home owner.

Despite the difficulties that Brits are facing to get onto or move up the property ladder, it seems as if they still have high hopes for their future. 44% say that even though it’s harder than ever, they still won’t make any compromises when choosing a home and they believe that this is something that’s still a realistic achievement.

63% believe that this is a goal they will reach within the next five years and 64% think they will only have to make one more move before they will be able to achieve their long-term housing aspirations.

If you live in London or the South East then chances are that you will have to wait longer then the rest of the country to own your dream three bedroom property. The average age of applicants for this type of house is 35 which is a year older than the national average. Many are all too aware that these areas remain the least affordable in the country.

This is a stark contrast to the North and Wales however where properties are much more affordable. The average three-bedroom house in these areas will set you back between £129,000 and £135,000. In London, the average price of a three-bedroom property will set you back a staggering £1.3 million.

Lloyd’s survey also revealed that the majority of home owners (43%) aspire to own a three-bedroom property. 24% want four bedrooms and many dream of having a nice garden, high quality kitchens and bathrooms and conservatories.