Blog

Hometown attraction deserves professional comeback

February 15, 2017

As our name suggests Community Futures is concerned about the health and sustainability of our North Island and mid-Coast communities.  For many years now we have seen our community populations shrink to some degree every year.  People move away for jobs or school.  Fewer families move here or stay here, which is evidenced by the closure of schools across the region in the past few years. We are also not attracting young families to our region in the numbers that are needed to support our industries, schools, businesses and services.

In addition to a decreasing population, the workforce that we do have here is, like all regions of the province, getting older.  Estimates indicate, for example, that the average age in the forest industry is now around 55 years of age.  Given that it is often our younger population that moves away from the region, it is likely that other industries and businesses on the North Island also face the impact of an aging workforce.

There are some promising signs, as the forest industry remains strong and other industries are helping to diversify our job market, but we need to do more to attract or retain young workers and their families to our region. 

Young people from the North Island often have to leave to attend post-secondary institutions, whether for academic, professional or trades-related career training. One of our challenges is to find ways to encourage them to return to the region, pursue their careers and ultimately raise their families in our beautiful North Island region.

This series of columns will profile individuals who have done just that.  These are individuals who were raised on the North Island, left to further their education and have returned.  The profiles will reflect their lives growing up, the careers they have gone on to pursue and how they see the North Island now that they have returned to live here again. 

We’re calling this series “Professional Comeback.” The stories are meant to inspire our young residents and those not living here now, to consider the benefits of returning to the North Island after they have completed their education.

We look forward to hearing your comments and perhaps your own experiences with “coming back home.”

David Mitchell, General Manager

The Art of Innovation

September 22, 2016

 

 By: Jeff Dawson

Buzz words and their assorted hyperbole have become increasingly prevalent across the landscape---and nowhere are they more common than in the world of small business. Every expert, guru and self-proclaimed pontificator is continually weighing in on the latest business trends, habits, and phraseology.

If ‘innovation’ wasn’t continually mentioned the last time you read your favourite business book, then chances are that book was handed down to you by your great-grandparents.

The word ‘innovation’ itself is one of those words that if you canvassed ten random business people about what it actually meant, you’d likely hear at least fifteen different definitions. Thankfully smart business people often spend much less time defining the word for their peers than they do demonstrating it to their clients, customers and co-workers.

Just an hour north of Vancouver, off the scenic Sea to Sky highway, Dave Fenn, his sister Leslie and nearly 200 driven employees run the Howe Sound Brewery. It’s a highly successful craft beer business that is now in its twentieth year of operations. The Fenn’s know an awful lot about innovation but they are careful to acknowledge that being innovative doesn’t mean you have to be an M.I.T. graduate either. ‘Innovation is important because it sets you apart’, revealed Dave. ‘But it doesn't have to be a whole new product based on the latest technology. It can be returning a customer's phone call the same day in an industry that ignores customers. Or delivering your product on a weekend, when typically it would only be delivered mid-week. Innovation of your products or your services is the key.’

Dave Fenn’s uncanny observations about innovation are no surprise to Lori Schmidt. As the CEO of Edmonton-based Go Productivity she is one of the nation’s brightest minds in the field of productivity. She has easily forgotten more about productivity and innovation than the rest of us have ever retained; Schmidt knows her stuff. As a much sought-after expert for energized and entrepreneurial Canadians wanting to take their companies to the next level, she can appreciate what Dave Fenn is saying. ‘We know that when many people hear the word innovation they immediately think of technology innovations but that is only one kind of innovation’, she says. ‘Innovation goes well beyond new product development or new technology to the adoption of technologies and innovative practices.’

Young and energetic, even on her worst day, 30 year old Jessica Laberge has been running Pacific Paramedics in Prince Rupert for three years now. For her, innovation meant getting ahead of the line before the line really even existed. She saw a growing need for important safety services for the mining sector, LNG and other sectors where growth was seemingly right around the corner. She wanted to get ready to service that growth before it was apparent to any of her competitors. Her company now is ideally set up to handle much of the expected increase in job sites all around her Prince Rupert home base. Jessica has essentially defined innovation by her astute pre-emptive actions: ‘being innovative for us was all about discovering what opportunities exist now or are likely to emerge in the future.

Successful businesses not only respond to the current customer but also anticipate future trends and then develop an idea or service that allows them to meet that future demand rapidly and effectively.’

Regardless of how we each personally define innovation, it is abundantly clear that an innovative business has a much better chance to be a successful business in today’s fast-paced economic landscape. Sitting idle at work, oblivious to change and ignorant of new opportunities, while the rest of the business planet runs circles around you, is a sure fire way to ensure you’re eating cat food for dinner six nights a week, before you know it.

However, it is also very important to remember that innovation alone cannot provide any business professional with a 100% guarantee that they will flourish. The women running Vernon’s very successful Room Collection have some sage advice on this compelling observation: ‘You could have the most innovative business in the world but if you don’t build and maintain satisfying relationships with your clients, you’re going to be in deep trouble’ warns co-owner Alison Ludditt. Business partner and best friend, Karen Miller, couldn’t agree more: ‘Few things matter more in business than how customers feel after an interaction - real or virtual - with you.’

Go Productivity CEO Lori Schmidt didn’t get to the top of the mountain by being a one trick pony. While she preaches innovation at every opportunity, she is also wise enough to acknowledge that to ultimately succeed in business today, no one thing will get you there: ‘A successful business in today’s economy is more than technological invention’, says Schmidt, ‘it takes exceptional insight into emerging technologies and innovations with an ability to quickly validate and adjust business strategy; leverage that into existing and new products; and then into the market –and do it all at the speed of light.’

Accomplishing all of this on a daily basis isn’t easy but today’s best entrepreneurs know that if they can’t do it, somebody else will---and it’s that motivation that drives them in today’s competitive and innovative economy.

Reality of Risk

September 22, 2016

 


Reality of Risk

Dr. David E Bond


Humans can be certain that every day we are alive we are growing older – but we can be certain of little else. Every day we all face uncertainties or risks that affect our communities and businesses, some of which we can limit or neutralize and others which are beyond our individual or collective control. For example, we cannot prevent adverse weather events - wind, rain or snow, earthquakes or even, in some places, volcanic eruptions – though we can make plans to deal with them if they arise. 

Every business, be it a start-up or long-established, faces business risks and most of these can be mitigated if not avoided. Therefore, recognizing risks and their potential impact and determining what, if anything, can be done cost-effectively to reduce negative impacts is one of the most important tasks faced by businesses.

First, consider your business’ key resources. Your finance and accounting records, computer data, inventory, labour force and customer base are all key components. That means the business needs insurance against theft, fire, cyber security, perhaps earthquakes and floods, and certainly business interruption which would provide help after a disaster causing the business to shut down temporarily as seen in Fort McMurray. And, depending on the nature of the firm, key person insurance may be necessary. This insurance provides investors some confidence that either they will recoup their investment or have financial resources sufficient to find a replacement or potential purchaser if the founder or key manager is no longer able to work. These basic actions are really essential.

The records of the company are normally kept in electronic files. First, make sure you have continuous back-up that is stored in at least two, and preferably three, distinctly separate places. Second, and this is just as important, make sure your operations are protected against viruses and hackers. There are any number of providers of the needed services, so take the time to examine your present needs as well as your foreseeable requirements and get knowledgeable advice from trusted and respected providers.

All businesses operate in a changing environment. You need to think seriously about the types and frequency of internal and external reports you will require to understand what is happening to your sales, costs of operation, growth, personnel, and, if possible, what the competition is doing. Those reports will, in turn, provide you with indications of what might lie ahead and alert you to any adjustments you should consider. More importantly, they should make you aware of any vulnerabilities and opportunities. Vulnerabilities require your prompt attention and opportunities may lead to growth -which brings its own financial risks.

To reduce operating risks as much as possible, consider assembling a Board of Advisors of experienced people you trust and respect. Two or more knowledgeable individuals who will provide frank and honest observations and opinions as to how things are going and what, if any, corrective action you might wish to take can be invaluable. This is a vital and often overlooked source of advice to those running any enterprise. They may be interested friends, or have some skin in the game themselves, or be paid professionals, but they should have substantial experience in business.  They should also be willing to make their views known and not always expect you to agree with them. They should know that you will accord their views respect and thoughtful consideration.

Finally, no matter what your enterprise does, it’s highly unlikely you will be doing it alone. The people on your team constitute one of your most important resources and you want to avoid high turnover. Keeping good employees can be the difference between success and failure. My late friend Leonard Lee, the founder of Lee Valley Tools, understood this. He had two cardinal policies regarding his staff. First, every employee, himself included, shared an equal cut of 25% of pre-tax profits as an annual bonus. Second, no employee earned more than 10 times the salary of the lowest-paid worker. As he said, “Empowered and properly compensated employees work hard to make customers happy, and happy customers return often and encourage others to try Lee Valley.”  

Leonard was also quick to recognize risks and opportunities. What began as a mail-order operation became vulnerable to postal strikes as it grew and to offset that he started to open retail operations across the nation. Mail-order is still important for sales outside Canada but retail is now a major pillar of the company.

There are risks over which you have little control but they can play an important role in the success of your enterprise. Financial risk is a fact of daily life, but making sure you have a good relationship with your lender or financial institution will stand you in good stead as your business grows. Such a relationship won’t prevent interest rates from going up, but you will be in a better position to ask for assistance if needed. Your lead financial institution can and should provide you with economic forecasts that will allow you to plan better. 

There are other risks such as actions taken by governments, local, provincial or national, that include not only levels of taxation but also legislation and regulations regarding social policies from healthcare to labour laws and information requests. Some of these can have enormous impact on your business’ bottom line. Claiming ignorance of the rules is usually not either an effective or a successful defence if you are caught offside. Also, from time to time, these rules change. You will need early warning and perhaps some advice on actions to consider. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good source of information as are provincial or national trade associations. Your lawyer and accountant should also be consulted from time to time, not only at start-up and year-end but throughout the year, as warranted. 

Thinking about and preparing to manage risks is not always front and centre when an entrepreneur considers a new venture but it should form an essential part of any business plan. Your business plan should not be a promotional document full of hype and unrealistic sales forecasts. It needs to be a well-reasoned and conservative document showing that you have considered the potential risks and know how to deal with them. Potential risks should not automatically be regarded as reasons not to pursue a project you are excited about. But recognizing them and dealing with them, in a deliberate and cost-conscious manner, is a key to success for any enterprise.

 

The Big Fish - Little Pond 'Ruralpreneur' Guide

April 04, 2016

5 Reasons to Consider Self-Employment in Rural BC

You don’t have to live close to a big city or town to start your own business, or buy an existing business - there are plenty of reasons why being an entrepreneur in small town BC can be rewarding, both financially and in terms of your career. Here are five things to consider:

  • There’s a lot to be said for being a big fish in a small pond - you will be supporting your local community and be looked up to as a business leader, rather than being small fry (pun intended) in a big city. You will get to know your customers more and it’ll be far easier to build a loyal customer base.
  • You may be thinking that there is limited business in a small town, but here’s the thing - commercial space often costs less, and the overall cost of living compensates at least in part for lower sales. Not only that, small towns almost always have a selection of small businesses for sale at very reasonable prices that can give you a head start on becoming self-employed.
  • Your financial risk is often lower in a small town. In larger towns and cities you’ll probably have to commit to longer leases, and the more business you expect the larger the inventory you’ll need to carry, the more staff you’ll require, and that all means increased financial exposure.
  • It’s a slower pace of life out in our rural community - you’ll feel more in control of your life. Being self-employed in rural BC means living in a place “where everyone knows your name” - and you’ll be on first name basis with your customers. And - consider the non-commute!
  • Rural communities invest in themselves and their futures - being an integral part of the growth and sustainability of your town can be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. Being self-employed in rural BC means you can actually make a difference.

Self Employment - Is It Within Your Reach?

December 09, 2015

Have you ever dreamed of being self-employed? Not necessarily starting a company, or building a business empire, but just being your own boss? Does the thought scare you, intrigue you, or excite you? Probably all of those emotions are felt when you consider “going out on your own” but is it really that scary? Is there help out there? Could it be within your reach?
4 Reasons Self-Employment Might Work For You
1. You’re not afraid of hard work and long hours and you’re a self-starter. You’re comfortable making decisions - being the leader.
2. You’re passionate about what you do - either your primary work skill, or your hobby.
3. You’re not afraid of taking risks and are willing to invest time, effort, and money into your future. Uncertainty doesn’t faze you.
4. You like people, enjoy networking and love promoting your ideas to anyone who will listen. The idea of going out and selling your product or service is an exciting proposition, not one you’re afraid of.
4 Reasons Why It’s Within Your Reach
1. Some 2.7 million (2010 labour force survey) people are self-employed in B.C. And, 21% of total employment in rural areas is self-employment. In line with the general trend toward an aging population (i.e. Baby Boomers), people aged between 55 and 64 make up 24% of self-employed individuals in rural and small town Canada.
2. Depending on what products or services you want to offer, the risk doesn’t need to be very high. You can make a start while still employed if you want, or take a part-time job while establishing your new ‘business.’
3. If you sit down and create a solid business plan, members of your family and friends will support your efforts, some may even help with funding your start-up. You then have a support group that can help you through the first year or so.
4. There are many organizations in your community to assist you, including Community Futures Mt. Waddington (www.cfmw.ca) which provides counselling services to support individuals wanting to establish and grow their businesses. They also operate a loan program.

Making the transition from employment to self-employment can be scary. There is certainly security in knowing that you’ll get a pay cheque every two weeks, or see the money appear in your bank account on a regular basis. But, how secure is any employment really? Companies can close down, lay people off, it happens all the time. The bottom line is, how strong is your desire to be your own boss? Do you have the temperament, work ethic, skills, personality, and drive to go it alone? If the answer is yes, then self-employment could be a new beginning for you and your family; one where you are in control of your destiny!

Community Futures, 10 million ways we are making an impact

June 17, 2015

Many people don’t know what Community Futures does and in many cases they’ve never heard of Community Futures.  Fair enough.  Unless you’re starting up or expanding a business, or unless you’re involved in one a number of economic development projects in the region, why would you need to know about Community Futures?

Some important facts that you should know about our business and community development activities in the 2014-15 fiscal year (April 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015):

  • We were the facilitator for $10 million worth of investment in our Mt. Waddington region.

  • In that year Community Futures Mt. Waddington itself loaned over $2 million.A record for this office.

  • We also partnered with several other Community Futures on Vancouver Island and on the Mainland, to bring in an additional $4 million in loans in this region.

  • And finally, that $6 million in loans leveraged further investments by the entrepreneurs totalling $4 million.

$10 million dollars for business development and expansion in one year in this region is a laudable accomplishment!

Our lending activity is helping to create or maintain jobs in our region; more than 300 last year alone and since we started over 20 years ago we have helped to create or maintain over 2000 jobs in the region. 

People in this region are independent and self-reliant in many ways.  Those are two key characteristics of a successful entrepreneur.  Our success is based on connecting with an ever-growing network of entrepreneurs, individuals who just want assistance and support to start their own business or to expand the one they’ve already got. 

Community Futures Mt. Waddington understands what new or aspiring business owners are going through.  We understand the challenges of getting the business off the ground and surviving the early ups and downs.  We understand the “seasonality” of many tourism and hospitality businesses. 

We have built those understandings into our lending model.  We work with our business “partners.”  We don’t just lend money and sit back and wait for payment.  We assist new business owners as they develop, launch and then maintain and grow their businesses.  Your Success is Our Success. 

So if anyone asks, Community Futures is an organization that is having a positive impact in this region.  What we are today is a community-oriented, business-based success story!  We’ve got 10 million reasons why we can make that claim. 

Come and see us. You won’t regret it. 

  • ~ David Mitchell, General Manager

Two Thousand and Fourteen on the North Island

January 20, 2014

2013 definitely had its fair share of dramatic news events and stories: The passing of the world- changing South African leader, Nelson Mandela, the tragic Filipino typhoon, the Syrian civil war and use of chemical weapons and the Boston Marathon bombing.

And closer to home we had: the Senate scandal, Mayor Rob Ford’s crack troubles, the election of Justin Trudeau as Canada’s Liberal leader and of course, the somewhat surprising re-election of Christie Clark’s BC Liberals. Practically comical compared to the world stage.

What about really close to home: on the upside North Vancouver Island had a year of major project development with the Cape Scott wind farm and the Kokish “run of river” project.  On the downside, announced changes to the Port Hardy-Prince Rupert Ferry service will be felt by many sectors in 2014 and beyond.

It looks like the forest sector will remain in good shape for 2014, as lumber prices continue to hold or even rise.  Oh….note to self…we need to discuss developing a value-added sector in our forest industry…you know, a sawmill!

Manpower for the major energy projects will wind down to small maintenance crews. As a result accommodations that may have been rented over the past year and a half may be left vacant as the rental and sales markets cool.

The impact of ferry cuts will be felt as the tourism season commences in the spring. Though tourism may not be able to compete with our traditional resource sector industries, it is growing on North Vancouver Island. A setback, like the changes announced for the coastal ferry runs, will hurt the sector at a time when it needs support.

This, in part, is the back drop as three local administrations launch themselves into economic planning exercises in 2014.  Malcolm Island, Port McNeill and the Regional District are all retaining consultants to help them develop plans for how they can support and hopefully increase economic development in their areas.

The question needs to be asked: “what are the elements of the economy that we can control and grow?” So much of what happens to our region and communities is driven by external government policies or corporate decision making; by people or agendas that don’t really have any kind of connection to our communities, homes and families.

I am glad to see these planning processes being started. At a minimum it’s important that North Island industries, employers and the taxpayers be aware of these planning processes, and better still, that they engage in the discussion that will occur over the coming months.  For this to happen the communities themselves and their consultants need to create the mechanisms that will allow individuals, companies and organizations to be heard.

David Mitchell
Manager, CFMW

How are we going to compete?

December 17, 2013

I imagine that there are a few communities on the southwest coast of BC, and the southern interior that look at the prospects of LNG in the north with some degree of envy.  Communities across the north have been attracting workers to their petroleum and gas rich areas for years now.  LNG will just extend that and deepen it over the next couple of decades. 

Projects in the south can offer nice tidy 3-5 year projects, probably all well-paying jobs, but then what?  The lure of the north is that one can count on moving there and raising a family there…the work won’t run out any time soon.

On the north island we have been dealing with population loss for many years.  Perhaps it has slowed most recently, but we still see declining populations of students in our schools and workers in our core industries.  A recent survey of Port McNeill and Port Hardy high school students indicates that the trend is continuing.  Yes, students want a safe community to live in, but they also want good jobs and the “amenities” that communities to the south, or perhaps further north can offer. 

How do we create a region, communities and neighbourhoods that are attractive to young workers and their families?  What’s it going to take to compete with the petroleum and gas rich north?  What’s it going to take to get our young adults to move back here after their training is complete? 

Not everyone wants to work in a community with a single industry focus, where housing will be hard to come by and the winters are far more severe than our ocean-tempered south coast.  But does that mean that young workers and their families will locate here for the jobs that do exist in our forest or marine industries? 

It doesn’t.

We have to attract workers and their families here.  We have to create a region, communities and neighbourhoods where outsiders can see themselves living.  We have to lead with our natural beauty and wilderness, but we have to offer more. 

Families want employment for themselves, good education and recreation opportunities for their families and a sense of community pride. 

We need a vision for our region and communities that takes us down the road to the (re)development of communities that have a lot to offer. 

It’s not just about the wilderness and cheaper housing!  It’s got to be more than that to be a difference maker to outsiders looking in.  We need to make investments in our future: good schools, recreational facilities and welcoming town sites.

The choice is ours.  We can make those investments or we can continue to watch populations dwindle and our towns slowly die. 

David Mitchell,
General Manager

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Communities Served

Alert Bay, Bella Bella, Coal Harbour, Echo Bay, Holberg, Kingcome Inlet, Klemtu, Port Alice, Port Hardy, Port McNeill, Quatsino, Rivers Inlet, Shearwater, Sointula, Telegraph Cove, Winter Harbour, Woss, Zeballos

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Community Futures Mount Waddington
14 - 311 Hemlock Street
Box 458
Port McNeill, BC
V0N 2R0

T: 250.956.2220
T: 877.956.2220
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