Archive March 2017

Harness Your Company’s Public Relations

thmb_ink_pen_writing_paper_amKeep the Message Consistent

If your company is planning an acquisition, merger, sale, corporate restructuring or a major management change, you may want the public to be informed and you want to control the flow of the information.

Once you announced the news publicly, your company is likely to be in the limelight for quite some time, so it’s important that you develop a plan to cover all the bases. Here are some areas to prepare for when planning a communications strategy:

 Influencing Expectations

 If your company is making a material acquisition or sale, the way you present the message can influence the expectations of shareholders and the market over the long and short term.

Among the questions that you should consider answering:

  • Did the company get a good deal?
  • With a purchase, how long will it take to integrate the new asset and how much is that going to cost?
  • How is the company financing the purchase?
  • If a sale is involved, how will you replace the lost revenue? What do you plan to do with the money from the sale of the asset? Pay down debt? Invest in expansion or new plant and equipment?
  • Does the transaction accurately reflect the company’s long-term growth strategy or does it indicate a new direction?

Craft your message – This is the starting point and it must reflect your overall corporate strategy. Although you will probably tailor the message to different audiences, such as employees, the media, stockholders and analysts, the overall message should be consistent.

Highlight the benefits – When explaining the transaction, include the business or financial rationale, how the deal fits into your short and long-term strategy and what your company expects to gain from the transaction, such as a boost in sales or earnings or an expansion of your market.

Clear a path – Outline the process from beginning to end. Determine a timetable for disseminating information fairly and in a timely manner. Keep in mind any disclosure requirements. Be prepared for the unexpected.

Pick the right people – Name the individuals who will act as your company’s spokespersons, both to the public and internally to staff members. Line up people who will put your plan into effect, report on its status, and sign off on all intermediate transactions.

Brief and rehearse – Key players need to know the facts and be prepared for interviews or news conferences. Draft answers for the most difficult questions and for those you don’t want to answer for competitive or regulatory reasons. Prepare news releases. Be ready to offer timetables, quotes from top executives, and the company’s long-term outlook. Include phone numbers and e-mail addresses to contact individuals for interviews.

Tap into the Power of Customer Testimonials

thmb_sign_ask_me_bzOut of the Mouths of Customers

“You have a great product. It was delivered quickly and in perfect shape. I’ll be sure to tell my friends.”

Statements like this can boost your company’s sales as much as 250 per cent. Even better, when you get a testimonial from a consumer, that person is likely to become a more loyal customer and help spread the word about your company’s products.

What Makes a Good Testimonial?

Not all testimonials are created equal. To ensure yours have an impact, keep them:

Real — Testimonials have to be honest and believable. Otherwise, your company won’t gain credibility and it could lose some.

Specific — Customers should say exactly what they like. Whether it’s fast delivery, great customer service, or excellent quality, the more specific the details, the more believable and powerful the testimonial.

Comparative — Ask customers to discuss how your product or service has made life easier for them. Potential customers are likely to identify with those same problems.

Varied — Testimonials should reflect different aspects of your products and services so they appeal to different customers. The more benefits described, the more business will be generated.

If your company is a small or medium sized enterprise, it probably doesn’t have the built-in credibility of a national brand. But even on a tight advertising budget, you can build credibility with the help of satisfied customers.

Testimonials increase the comfort zones of potential buyers and help them overcome their concerns about trying new products. So consider a campaign to snag customer testimonials. Among the benefits:

Feedback – Customer testimonials provide valuable insight into what your company is doing right.

Increased loyalty – People who are willing to attach their names to your product are likely to become repeat buyers. These devoted customers also tend to develop a vested interest in your company and believe they have a hand in helping it grow.

Free advertising – Satisfied customers who put their names and reputations at stake for your company’s products or services become a source of free, viral advertising.

The first step in gathering testimonials, of course, is to provide top-notch products or services and to support them with consistently high customer service. Then, start the testimonial collection process by taking these steps:

File away positive customer comments that come in. These comments might come from casual conversations with your employees on the phone or in person. Ask employees to write down complimentary comments they hear from customers and submit them to someone in the company who is assigned to manage the file. And ask customers to write down their opinions in a letter or e-mail after you hear a flattering comment.

Actively solicit testimonials by sending out postcards or e-mail messages. Ask buyers what they like the most about your products or services.

Act fast. The best comments come shortly after a purchase when customers are satisfied. That is when they are the most likely to take the time and write something positive.

Once you receive complimentary comments, get permission to use them. Ask the customers if you can use their names, titles, and locations. A positive testimonial from a respected customer in your field goes a long way toward boosting your company’s credibility. Depending on your company’s marketing strategy, you may even want to get a picture with customers using your product or service.

What about surveys? Avoid asking for testimonials in the course of conducting them. Surveys are generally meant to be anonymous and customers need to feel free to make negative comments that can help your company improve.

Customer testimonials are among the best promotional copy around. In the end, let the customers speak for themselves so that the comments reflect their excitement and satisfaction. Edit them only when they need a little polish and get permission for the final version.

Why You Might Want Some Title Protection

You know that you can insure against what might happen to your home and its contents in the future, but are you aware that you can also protect your home from matters that happened in the past?

lores_insurance_file_folder_am

The Risks That Are Covered

Title insurance policies cover a broad range of risks that include:

  • Unpaid property taxes;
  • Survey defects;
  • Construction liens;
  • Defects in title;
  • Costs arising from building code violations;
  • Title fraud;
  • Zoning issues;
  • Claims of mental incapacity;
  • Defects in title that may occur from conflicting ownership claims, liens, or unreleased mortgages, and
  • Compliance and access issues such as work orders, permit violations, fences, boundaries, tenancies, rights of way, and certain easements.

Consider this situation: A man knocks on your door and tells you that he actually owns the home you purchased several years ago and have lived in since. The problem, he explains, is that a deed was forged twenty years earlier that illegally transferred the property owned by his now-deceased father. Even though you later bought the property in a legitimate deal, the forgery voided that original sale and all subsequent sales, including yours.

This is when you want to be able to pull out your title insurance policy.

Depending on the age of the home, it may have gone through many changes of ownership in the past, and before the house was built, the bare land may have gone through many more. Every transfer of ownership provides an opportunity for error, deliberate omission, or crime.

When you purchase a property, the seller generally provides a deed that contains a guarantee that the title is good. The seller is stating that no other party will show up and claim to own your home because of an improper transfer in the past and you won’t be hit with years of unpaid property taxes or other potentially devastating problems. However, that seller may be completely unaware of a past problem that, if discovered, would void the sale.

Title insurance is aimed at protecting you from such problems.

Title insurance companies assume the risk that a homeowner may be required to remedy a title problem at a later date. When covered title problems arise, it is the role of the insurance company to correct the problem or pay for any loss the policyholder incurs up to the policy amount. Additionally, all title insurance companies pay for legal costs incurred in defending title against the claims of others. (See right-hand box for a list of risks title insurance generally covers.)

Most title insurance policies contain exceptions for such matters as failure on your part to disclose pertinent information that could affect the title.

The policy remains in effect as long as you or your heirs own the property, and you can purchase a policy long after you bought it.

Many lenders require title insurance to protect them against a loss on the mortgage up to the principal amount of the loan. Those policies remain in effect as long as the mortgage remains on the title.

Before a title insurance policy is issued, the title company or an attorney examines all public records that pertain to the ownership of the property, usually going back 50 years, to ensure that the chain of title is problem-free. Once the company is certain that the title is clean and unencumbered, a title insurance commitment will be drawn up, and a policy issued.

Title insurance can cut a homebuyer’s costs by eliminating many of the searches a lawyer would normally do as well as the costs of having a survey prepared and the expenses involved to remedy any problems a survey would have disclosed.

Depending on the problem, title insurance companies will sometimes provide coverage for issues that would otherwise prevent a deal from closing with problems. For example, if a bank refuses to release funds because the homebuyer has the same name as someone who is subject to a court judgment, title insurance can be used to ensure the transaction closes.

Or if it is discovered that the garage or pool of the house being purchased extends onto a neighbouring property, title insurance can cover the cost of removing the structure if that is necessary. Considering the costs that could be involved in such situations, title insurance can be a cost-effective proactive move.

The one-time cost for title insurance ranges from around $200 to about $325, depending on the province and the type of property.

Help Pump up Business by Listing Yours on a Popular Federal Database

031017_Thinkstock_497366187_lores_kwSome Canadian companies and individuals seek opportunities to export their goods or talents. If you’re one of them, how do you get potential foreign business associates to notice you?

There are many ways you can drum up export business. You can make contacts in a foreign country starting with foreign consulates, find a local mentor or investor and develop a supply chain.

Or you can start more simply, by registering your company on the federal government-run Canadian Company Capabilities (CCC)

Canadian businesses have much to offer the world. We ranked second among 80 nations evaluated in the recently published 2017 Best Countries Report in U.S. News & World Report magazine. Canada is the largest trading partner of the United States. The biggest economic driver is the service sector, but it’s also a significant exporter of energy, food and minerals. Canada ranks third in the world in proven oil reserves and is the world’s fifth-largest oil producer.

The country’s top exports1 are:

1. Vehicles (16.5% of total exports)

2. Mineral fuels including oil (16%)

3. Machinery including computers (7.7%)

4. Gems and precious metals (4.8%)

5. Wood (3.4%)

6. Electrical machinery and equipment (3.2%)

7. Plastics and plastic articles (3.1%)

8. Aircraft and spacecraft (2.6%)

9. Pharmaceuticals (2.2%)

10. Aluminum (2.1%)

Clearly there is ample opportunity to provide goods and services beyond your borders, and CCC can help. (It can also be used to find suppliers, services and technology in Canada.)

The website houses an Industry Canada database of more than 60,000 Canadian businesses. Over 500,000 domestic and international companies browse the site each month looking for Canadian businesses that can fulfill their needs.

The database includes hundreds of specialized product, service and manufacturing directories. Each directory has an advanced search capacity and the business profiles contain comprehensive information on contacts, products, services, trade experience and technology.

Registration is free and the site lets businesses create profiles and custom printable reports. It’s specifically designed to help companies find enterprises that can supply the goods, services and technology they need.

The main page lists the 20 broad industries that the database includes, each with its own subcategories. Among the main industries, users will find:

Agriculture

Construction

Manufacturing

Wholesale Trade

 

Retail Trade

Finance and Insurance

Professional, Scientific and Technical Services

Arts, Entertainment and Recreation

Users can then search subcategories. For example, under the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services category, subcategories include:

Legal Services

Offices of Accountants

Architectural Services

Geophysical Surveying and Mapping Services

Computer Systems Design

Scientific Research and Development Services

Users may also browse by specialized directories, such as businesses owned by Aboriginals or women, Canadian social enterprises, Aerospace & Defence and aftermarket exporters, to name a few.

Searches can be refined by many factors including company name, province or territory, city, postal code, product or service, number of employees, total sales and export sales.

So, let’s say a company is looking for a business that supplies industrial moulds. That term can be entered into the search function on the site and an alphabetical list of links and brief descriptions of businesses pops up.

Each link takes you to that company’s profile page with more detailed information, including:

  • Mailing and location addresses,
  • Links to the business’s website and its president’s email, and
  • A description of the business that includes its age, whether it exports, its primary and alternate industries, total sales, export sales (if any) and number of employees.

Drill deeper and you can find information about a company’s product names, licenses and export experience, such as where it generally exports.

And it isn’t just businesses that list here. Under the category of Arts, Entertainment and Recreation, a single performer from Calgary, Alberta, lists himself as:

“A one-man physical comedy show performed around the world [that] has been booked on cruise ships, exhibition, festivals, county & state fairs. The United States is our main export … has also showcased his talents in Singapore, Asia and Europe. We also book other entertainment for a variety of events in Canada from coast to coast.”

Participation in CCC generally is open to all Canadian businesses and related organizations, although Industry Canada reserves the right to exclude enterprises that:

  • Are identified as ineligible for support, in particular projects or activities that provide or are likely to provide sexually exploitative or sexually explicit entertainment, products or services,
  • Market products or services that are illegal or restrained by court order (for example a court order regarding the right of a company to use a trademark),
  • Can’t be independently verified as a fully operational business in Canada, and
  • May be or whose activities may be inconsistent with or non-compliant with federal or provincial legislation, policies or programs.

Registration is simple. You first set up an Industry Canada account (the site supplies a link) and then create a CCC username and password. The accuracy and reliability of the information you provide is up to you and you’re expected to monitor it and modify it when necessary.

CCC also lists other company directories, including the Canadian Trade IndexContact CanadaFRASERSProfile Canada and Scott’s Canadian Business Directory and Database.

If you’re looking to expand your business, CCC could be a good place to start to make your company more noticeable and gather ideas for expanding its operations abroad.


1Source: World’s Top Exports, an independent education and research website.

Investment Expenses Can Lower Your Tax Liability

031417_Thinkstock_509536872_lores_kwAs an investor, you incur many expenses related to your investment activities.

Some of these costs are tied to the purchase and sale of securities and others are for maintaining and administering an account.

Basic Rules for Fee Tax Deductions

There are two main types of investment expenses that can be deducted. First, you can claim some, but not all, of the costs associated with investing, including some fees you pay your investment advisor and your accountant.

Much of the interest on investment loans can be deducted, provided the money is used to earn investment income. However, the interest isn’t deductible if your investments earn only capital gains.

Because investment income is added to your income, it makes sense to take advantage of these tax breaks. By reducing your taxable income, you might wind up in a lower tax bracket with a lower tax rate.

For 2016, the tax rates for individuals are:

Taxable Income Tax Rate (%)
First $45,916 15
Between $45,916 up to $91,831 20.5
Between $91,831 up to $142,353 26
Between $142,353 up to $202,800 29
More than $202,800 33
Marginal tax rate for dividends is a % of actual dividends received (not grossed-up amount). Marginal tax rate for capital gains is a % of total capital gains (not taxable capital gains).
Gross-up rate for eligible dividends is 38% Gross-up rate for non-eligible payouts is 17%.

As an example of how your tax bracket can be lowered, let’s say your taxable income is $150,000.

You would owe $43,500 in taxes, based on the 29% rate, before taking any tax credits or deductions. If you reduced your taxable income to $142,353, you reduce your tax rate to 26% and your tax liability to $41,282.

Understanding what Lies under the Fees

You can’t deduct just any fees. You need to understand what they are for.

For example, fees for advice on what to buy, sell or hold are deductible. But any portion that relates to financial planning doesn’t qualify. Fees you pay for retirement-planning advice aren’t deductible. Generally, you may claim fees to manage or take care of your investments (other than administration fees for your registered retirement savings plan or registered retirement income fund) and for certain types of investment advice (your advisor can guide you on this.

Commissions paid for the purchase or sale of securities are transaction fees that can’t be claimed. Commissions on stock purchases are added to the cost of the investment. Sales commissions reduce proceeds from the deal. Ultimately, however, commissions will reduce any capital gain or increase any capital loss you claim.

Non-Registered Accounts

Another key element in the tax deduction of management fees is that they have to relate to advice only on  non-registered-account investments. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) won’t allow any fee deductions that relate to Registered Retirement Savings Plans, Registered Retirement Income Funds, Registered Education Savings Plans or Tax-Free Savings Accounts.

Another consideration is how you pay the fees. You don’t deduct mutual fund fees because they’re part of the management expense ratio. They’re deducted from the income reported on the annual tax slip the fund sends to you.

But it’s different if you invest in a wrap account, where brokerage account costs are “wrapped” into a single or fixed fee. Because you pay the fees directly, you can deduct them.

Tax Preparation

You may deduct fees for the preparation of income tax returns when they relate to accounting and to reporting various investment activities on the return. If you own a business, the fees are generally deducted when you calculate net business income. You may also deduct payments for advice and assistance when appealing a CRA assessment or reassessment of tax, interest or penalties.

The CRA requires that investment management fees be reasonable. Generally, fees that are based on a sensible percentage of the fair market value of investments are considered acceptable.

Also take into account the amount of time spent and type of work done by the person providing the investment services. Arm’s length terms and conditions also should apply to fees, although this doesn’t come into play if you have no familial or corporate relationship with the investment manager.

Documentation

Hold onto any proof you have of your expenses, including receipts, statements and bills — in case the CRA requests it later.

Deducting investment fees and expenses is complex. Consult with your tax advisor, who can help ensure you use those costs to your advantage.