Evoking emotion and influencing action through clear, clever content

Category: Career & Business Advice (Page 2 of 2)

Blogging for Google juice

Bob James

While millions of fierce business competitors are salivating for just a sip of sweet, rich Google juice to quench their SEO thirsts, one small business owner has managed to keep his cup overflowing.

“You can bolt to the top of Google’s search rankings by consistently publishing fresh, authoritative content that other people want to read and link back to,” shared one of my favourite bloggers Bob James, president and chief storyteller of Bob & David James, who coined my favourite new marcom term: Google juice!

The secret, he advised, is to not fill your posts with industry keywords that are too competitive. Instead, hone in on keywords that are niche-specific to grow a targeted fan base.

Blog Cents

With more than 10,000 loyal blog readers, Bob should know. For the past 10 years, he has blogged everyday, minus a vacation day or two, to enhance his small business profiles. In fact, several of his long-term customers started out as fans of his blog, or friends of fans.

“If you’re looking for an audience of prospective customers searching the web, blogging is one of the best, if not the best, ways to do it,” he said.

“They may never do business with you, but they will know who you are, and influence other people.”

Credibility at no cost

There maybe 1000s of bloggers in your industry, but probably very few with the same niche, which gives you a tremendous competitive advantage, according to Bob.

“Your only real investment is time,” he explained, “and your payoff is the opportunity to differentiate yourself as an expert, and establish credibility in your area of specialty.”

Know your niche

It helps to determine in a word or two what your blog is about, Bob advised, but it isn’t easy.

“I blogged for five years before realizing my blog is about persuasion, as in the phrase, ‘the art of persuasion’,” he admitted.

Knowing what your blog is about helps you stay “on course,” he added, and makes it easy to explain the value of your blog to others.

If you’re wondering how Bob finds fresh story ideas to share with blog followers 365 days a year, he shares his inspiration on LinkedIn.

For an informative, bold, and witty perspective on persuasion in marketing, communications, and events, check out Bob’s current blogs: The Mighty Copywriter and Explorer’s Journal.


~Write-or-die girl   

Networking naturally through volunteerism

Tourism Toronto President & CEO Johanne Bélanger

Introverts, exhale…

Schmoozing at networking events isn’t the only means to building meaningful relationships that can advance your career.

Case in point:Tourism Toronto President & CEO Johanne Bélanger has more than 2000 global LinkedIn contacts, each whom she has been personally acquainted with on some level. Of course, it helps that she is self-assured and effortlessly extroverted, but she credits her ever-growing network of diverse professional contacts—and much of her career success—to volunteering.

“Although people may come from different backgrounds and walks of lives, when they volunteer or sit on a board, they are there to fulfill the organization’s mission which provides them with a source of commonality from which to start having discussions and networking,”she explained.

No stranger to working pro bono, Johanne has donated her time and energy to numerous charity and industry boards throughout her career. Most notably, she served on the Board of Directors for Tourism Toronto for six years beginning in 2009, before eventually being hired to run the entire association in 2015…

Read the rest of this article on the Avanti Women website.

~Write-or-die girl   

Coffee Shop Etiquette

Most reasonable professionals are aware that there are certain behaviours that are inappropriate in an office setting. For example, whistling while you work is likely to irk your neighbours, and poor hygiene is just plain icky!

Alas, there don’t seem to be a set of etiquette rules for independent workers at my headquarters where the average office space costs a cup of Joe an hour. Fortunately, I have created a top ten list of coffee shop etiquette rules for the mindful, modern-day worker.

10. Order something. We all know Starbucks has an open-door policy, but don’t take advantage of the chain’s kindness, or you might ruin it for the rest of us. If you’re going to park there for three hours with your laptop, at least order a coffee. Really, it is the classy thing to do.

9. Remove your garbage from the table when you leave. No one should have to clean up after you when they arrive.

8. One table/seat per worker. Please don’t make someone have to ask you to remove your backpack from the chair or table beside you. Be considerate, and only use the space you require.

7. Share the outlets. If you are fortunate to be sitting beside a power outlet, use one socket, and leave the other for your neighbour.

6. Wash your hands. According to many research studies, office work spaces carry an extraordinary amount of germs. When you work where you—and others—eat, washing your hands on washroom trips just makes sense.

5. Use your indoor voice. No one wants to hear you barking orders at the top of your lungs into your cell phone. You can chit chat; just tone it down a bit please.

4. Be tolerant. Believe it or not, coffee shops do not cater to starving writers and college students exclusively. Expect some noise and commotion from families with children and bad-mannered boneheads (they usually don’t stay for very long, anyway).

3. Avoid conversations with people wearing headphones. Generally, when people have their headphones on while they’re working in a coffee shop, it means they are trying to block out noise and focus, you know? They might even be in the (sacred) zone.

2. Eyes on your own laptop screen. It might be tempting to peek at your neighbour’s screen and check out what (s)he is working on, but it’s also rude. If you’re really curious, and (s)he is not wearing headphones, simply inquire (in a non-creepy way). You might just make a friend or meet a future business associate.

1. Proper hygiene still applies. Do I really need to explain this rule? Icky, remember?

Do you care to add to this list of politeness policies, or dispute a rule in this new set of civility bylaws? Please submit your cases for review below. 😉

~Write-or-die girl   

How to select the appropriate structure for your business

Alex Koch

In business, as in life, ignorance of the law is not a legitimate defence for violating it. Thank goodness Alex Koch, founder and principal at Insight Legal, is committed to simplifying the legal aspects of entrepreneurship for small business owners. I’m thrilled to have her share her legal expertise on business structures, in this week’s Write-or-Die Girl column.

With every new venture, there are new challenges. Not all, but some challenges can be avoided with better planning. One of the most common steps overlooked by new businesses is choosing the appropriate business vehicle. Selecting a business structure may not seem as important when you are trying to turn an idea into a business venture; however, it is one of the most important pillars on which your business is going to stand, meaning that it is something that must be given thought to at the outset.

Most businesses use one of the following five structures:

  • Sole proprietorship;
  • Partnership;
  • Joint venture;
  • Corporation; and
  • Co-operative.

Each of the above business structures has unique features and the choice of a business vehicle will depend on the individual needs of your business. We will briefly discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of each business structure below.

Sole proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the most commonly used form of organization by new businesses and startups while their costs of operation and income are low. In a sole proprietorship, one individual owns and controls the business. This type of business structure does not require cumbersome reporting to regulatory authorities and thus is easy to establish and maintain. Nonetheless, there are some registration requirements applicable to sole proprietors. For instance, if a sole proprietor carries on business under a name other than his/her legal name, he/she must register such trade name. It is prudent for a sole proprietor to conduct a name search prior to registering a business name to ensure that the chosen business name is not the same as, or similar to, the name of an existing business.

As with other business vehicles, there are some disadvantages of operating a business as a sole proprietorship. For instance, a sole proprietorship is not considered to be a separate person under the law meaning that taxes and liabilities of the business are borne by the sole proprietor, making sole proprietorships one of the riskiest business vehicles since (1) the sole proprietor may pay more taxes as he/she will not be able to take advantage of the lower corporate tax rate; and (2) the sole proprietor may be held personally liable for acts or omissions of the sole proprietorship.  Further, it is difficult for a sole proprietorship to obtain financing for the business as it may only draw from personal finances or loans and its ability to obtain a loan will depend on the personal credit of the proprietor. Lastly, a sole proprietorship ends upon the death of the sole proprietor.


A partnership is used as a business vehicle when two or more individuals decide to engage in a business venture and wish to share the profits and liabilities of the business. Discussed below are three types of partnerships. While each type of partnership has its unique features and registration requirements, there are certain features that are shared by all types of partnerships. For instance, all of the types of partnerships are similar to sole proprietorships with respect to liability and tax repercussions discussed above, with each partner reporting losses and income on his/her personal returns.

General Partnership

A general partnership is a relation between two or more individuals (or companies) carrying on a common business.  Similar to sole proprietorships, general partnerships must register their name if they plan to use any name other than the first and/or last names of the partners. While it is possible for a general partnership to operate without a partnership agreement as the Partnerships Act guides the conduct of a partnership in Ontario, most prudent partners execute a Partnership Agreement to define their business and their relationship to one another.

Limited Partnership

A limited partnership consists of at least one general partner and at least one limited partner. The general partner has all the rights, liabilities and responsibilities that a partner may have in a general partnership.  On the other hand, the limited partner contributes to the business in form of capital and/or assets and is prevented from becoming involved in the day-to-day management of the partnership. Given their status as limited partners and their inability to participate in the management of the partnership, limited partners enjoy reduced liability. A limited partner’s liability is limited to the value of money and other property the limited partner contributed or agreed to contribute to the limited partnership. If a limited partner becomes more involved in the day-to-day management of the partnership, he/she risks losing his/her limited status and exposes him/herself to the same liabilities as a general partner. For this reason, it is important for partners to have a well drafted Limited Partnership Agreement that clearly defines the responsibilities of each partner. Unlike general partnerships, limited partnerships must register their business (and not simply their name) with governmental authorities.

Limited Liability Partnership (“LLP”)

An LLP may only be used as a business vehicle by members of professional associations such as lawyers, certified accountants and doctors. This structure allows the partners to limit their liability to the extent of their own wrongdoing thus protecting themselves from liability with respect to acts or omissions of the other partners. Unlike with other forms of partnerships, LLPs are burdened with more cumbersome obligations such as (1) a requirement to have a signed Limited Partnership Agreement; (2) a requirement to include the letters “LLP” in the name of the partnership; (3) registration with the Ministry of Government Services; and (4) a requirement to maintain a minimum amount of liability insurance.

Joint Venture

A joint venture (“JV”) is used when two or more individuals or businesses wish to bring their resources together to achieve a common business goal. There is an effort made by the parties in a JV to work together on a common project for a limited period of time. There can be many different reasons for forming a joint venture including business expansion, selling of products through the distribution network of a bigger company, moving into new markets, sharing resources, sharing expertise, new product development, etc. Unlike with partnerships, there is no legislative document that governs the relationship of two venturers, making it very important for the venturers to capture their intentions and relationship in a legal document. A Joint Venture Agreement will include various detailed provisions including those dealing with capital invested by each party, how profits will be shared, responsibilities of each venturer, the extent of each venturer’s liability, ownership of intellectual property and process of dissolution of the joint venture. A well drafted Joint Venture Agreement can help each party avoid lengthy and costly litigation to resolve matters that may arise.

Some advantages of forming a joint venture include:

  • Market access – a company/individual entering a new market may join forces with a company already in such market to take advantage of the established company’s distribution and supply network.
  • Broad resource base – when two parties come together to achieve a common goal they bring together two teams forming a larger resource base.
  • Access to capital and expertise – a relatively smaller business or a startup can gain access to capital and expertise through the other, usually more established, joint venturer.

Few disadvantages of using a joint venture as a business vehicle are:

  • Complicated relationship management – when two individuals or companies get together they may have very different ideas about operation of the business due to factors such as experience in the field, technical know-how, market know-how, etc.
  • Managing two businesses – individuals or businesses that enter into a JV also have other business and/or a routine job which also will need their time and attention. Thus, one needs to find the right balance to manage both during the course of the JV.
  • Finding the right balance in terms of goals – it is difficult but very important to define goals to help each venture understand and plan for better performance during the course of JV.


A corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners. Corporations enjoy most of the rights and responsibilities that a natural person possesses; that is, a corporation has the right to enter into contracts, loan and borrow money, sue and be sued, hire employees, own assets and pay taxes. A corporation is also the most regulated form of business structure. Further, it is more expensive to set up, maintain and dissolve. When incorporating a business, it is very important to determine whether the company should be incorporated under federal or provincial jurisdiction. The decision to incorporate either federally or provincially can be based on a number of factors such as, price, the geographic area of operation or proposed operation of the business and the need to protect the business name across the country. Choosing a jurisdiction can have important ramifications for a business for instance, for a business interested in expanding nationally or in securing a business name nation-wide, a federal incorporation may be preferable. On the other hand, provincial registration may be preferable when the operation of a business is limited to one or few provinces only.

When a business is incorporated federally it must register in every province where it conducts business and make annual filings federally and provincially.  On the other hand, a provincially incorporated business must only register and make yearly filings in the province of its incorporation.

Regardless of whether a business is federally or provincially registered, as discussed above, one of the key benefits to using a corporation as a vehicle for a business is that a corporation is considered a person under the law. As such, corporations get to take advantage of:

  • Continuity in case of death or severance of any shareholder as the company does not dissolve when a shareholder departs or dies;
  • A lower corporate income tax rate;
  • Reduced liability for the company’s shareholders and directors of the company;
  • The ability of the company’s shareholders to transfer shares;
  • The ability to grant stock options to its employees; and
  • Greater access to financing.

Some disadvantages of using a corporation as a vehicle for a business are:

  • The cost, time and requirement of expert advice to register, maintain and dissolve a corporation; and
  • The requirement to file separate tax returns for the company and for each individual shareholder.


A co-operative is an organization where its members join together with a common goal of sharing their resources in a democratic way. Unlike with corporations where the voting power of each shareholder depends on the amount and class of shares held, co-operatives normally have a one person one vote policy allowing each member to contribute to the decision-making process of the company. Co-operatives can be structured as a not-for-profit or for-profit organization and just like corporations, co-operatives can be incorporated provincially or federally.  What makes most co-operatives different from corporations however, is the fact that members of co-operatives normally make policies and by-laws for their decisions. While co-operatives allow businesses to operate in a democratic fashion, this structure may prevent progress in a business as it may take significantly longer for co-operatives to reach a decision – especially if there is a high number of members.

Planning ahead can help you avoid complex and lengthy dispute resolution. Choosing the right structure for your business and complying with the applicable legal requirements will help you ensure the sustainability and continuity of your business. The ideal structure can help you protect yourself from complicated disputes and will help define the role, responsibilities, profits and liabilities of each person involved.

Each business venture is unique and requires special consideration. Please contact Insight Legal at info@insightlawyers.com and we will help you select a business structure that meets your business needs.

Productivity advice for the time-starved entrepreneurs

Jeff Goldenberg

Abacus Co‐Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Jeff Goldenberg has a full-time staff of 11 but conducts business as if he has an army of 100. That’s because Jeff is a hardcore growth hacker who has learned to leverage the handiest digital resources and apps to reclaim his time and increase his work output.

Last week, about 65 entrepreneurs and I crammed inside of the Rogers Small Business Centre in Toronto to find out the veteran start-up founder’s favourite online tools for ramping up his productivity.

“Every year, as I get a little older, I realize more and more that productivity is the whole ball game,” Jeff told the crowd. “The only way we can be better than our competition is if we are more productive and more creative than them.”

Cut the complication out of meeting scheduling

If you’re like me, and the majority of other small business owners I’ve met lately, you likely don’t have a secretary to take your calls and schedule your appointments. To help make the process swift and seamless, Jeff recommends using Calendly for scheduling meetings without the back-and-forth emails.

After creating a free account, users are prompted to indicate their availability preferences. Calendly then populates a URL displaying a list of meeting times that can be accommodated for users to email to their colleagues. Recipients of the email simply click the link, and select the time frame that is most convenient.

“I love it because it can be synced directly to your Google or Outlook calendar,” said Jeff. “This service actually helped me figure out how I want to manage my time during the week.”

Who says you can’t squeeze the cost of a personal assistant into your budget?

..not Jeff. He understands that we can’t possibly do everything ourselves and, doggonit, we shouldn’t!

“Multitasking is the enemy of productivity; it’s a symptom of not knowing what you should be focusing on,” he explained.

When you need someone else to pick up the slack on other tasks occasionally, Jeff suggests trying Fancy Hands.

As explained on its website, Fancy Hands is a team of US-based assistants who will tackle anything on your to-do list—from price and vendor comparisons to making restaurant reservations—at any time of the day. I checked out their pricing, and I think it’s quite reasonable for the services they provide.

“Fancy Hands is really crazy amazing!” Jeff exclaimed. “I’ve offloaded a whole bunch of stuff to them, and use them for research all the time.”

Invoice like a boss

Fresh books is small-business accounting software that allows you to customize your invoices, make invoices recurring, and bill customers by credit card—it even alerts you once an invoice has been opened. The service is free to use for up to three clients, and then still fairly cheap.

Jeff swears by it.

“This is probably my favourite company and app for business…period,” said Jeff. “It’s the easiest way to invoice when you’re small.”

Learn to become a full-fledged growth hacker

Jeff shared many more useful tips and tricks on productivity during his presentation, but for the sake of my managing my own time and productivity, I suggest you hear him speak on the topic when he’s at a venue near you. 😉

If you’re interested in skyrocketing your company’s growth through proven digital marketing strategies, consider checking out the book A Growth Hacker’s Guide to the Galaxy, co-authored by Jeff in 2015.

~Write-or-die girl


Networking in the 6ix: My triple-threat advantage

Still high off the motivational vibes from last Saturday’s Avanti Women’s Career and Networking Expo, I gained much more than I had bargained for with what I’ve coined my triple-threat advantage : the priceless opportunity to receive coaching from, and ask questions to, three influential and fascinating female professionals, each successful in her own right, on her own terms.

Giving forward

Avanti Women identifies itself as an organization that “gives forward,” due to its numerous charitable initiatives and, more importantly, its mission to move women forward professionally and personally.

It wouldn’t be the Avanti Women way (nor would it be very thoughtful of me) to hoard my newly-attained leadership knowledge for myself. So in the spirit of giving forward, I’m sharing the top three insights I gained from my experience at Avanti Women’s annual event.

Karen Elkin

1. We create our reality through our perception. Karen Elkin, certified leadership coach and workshop facilitator at Karen Elkin Leadership, hosted a workshop about energy leadership for career development. She taught us that we can affect positive change in ourselves and others through self awareness and mindfulness.

“If you look at people through the eyes of compassion versus judgment, you will see them differently,” she explained. “Similarly, they will feel your shift in energy and respond accordingly.”

Cher Jones

2. When it comes to personal branding, a “mullet” is never in style. Cher Jones, social media trainer at Socially Active, gave the ladies a lesson in online personal-brand management. She strongly advised us to Google our names to see what information the public can view, and then audit our social media pages to control the message.

This isn’t to say that we can’t show off our fun and fabulous personalities, Cher assured us. In fact, she noted, displaying a healthy mix of our professional and personal lives makes us appear more trustworthy in the eyes of employers and clients—but we must find the right balance.

Having an uber-professional LinkedIn page simultaneously online with a Girls Gone Wild-esque Facebook profile is “the mullet of personal branding: all business on the top, and a party in the back!” she joked. “You can show that you’re a real person with an exciting life, but professionalism must ring throughout.”

Lissette Edward

3. Make sure your personal brand is in line with your values. Marketing and communications leader Lissette Edward facilitated a personal branding Goddess Lean-In Circle. Through guided discussions, she assisted a small group of women in determining our unique personal brands. She also shared her own journey in crafting her brand.

“If you’re not confident in your personal brand, you will start doubting yourself,” she warned. “You must be able to say to yourself, ‘this is my brand essence, and it will guide all of my professional interactions.’”

…So back to that dreaded N word (a reality check from last week’s post)

The good news is that, by attending Avanti Women’s annual event, I developed a diverse range of solid, applicable leadership skills from three inspirational women that I will practice in my career going forward.

Not so impressive is that, including the friend who accompanied me to the expo (and a couple volunteers I asked for directions), I probably “networked” with about six other women, only two with whom I exchanged business cards.

But I’m starting to understand that that’s not the point…

I get the feeling if I keep showing up—which, in fact, proved to be the hardest part of the Avanti Women eventand showing a genuine interest in professional development and intriguing people, networking will get easier and more natural, and conversations and connections will occur organically with like-minded professionals.

Fortunately, with my triple-threat advantage, I’m armed with new knowledge and a little more courage to face networking situations with confidence and grace.

~Write-or-die girl

Embracing the N word

Whenever I hear the N word, I cringe. I actually get a little sick to my stomach.

Networking can be very intimidating, especially when the most social part of my workday as a self-employed writer is that convivial conversation with the Starbucks barista, in which she rambles off my meticulously-customized latte from memory—but can never seem to recall my first name.

Networking in the 6ix

Click to enlarge

I wasn’t looking for a networking event to attend when I discovered Avanti Women online. While doing my due diligence by researching the association’s website before applying to fill its vacancy for a volunteer position, I learned (among other things) that Avanti Women was hosting its third-annual career and networking expo in just a few weeks.

A little intrigued, I emailed the info address with some questions about the expo. Within hours, the organization’s founder, Dina Barazza, called me back. She not only answered my questions about the expo; she asked me questions about myself and my goals. And then she did something that totally blew my mind: she asked me if I’d like to meet for coffee!

One on one with Dina

Dina Barazza

We met last Monday evening at my office. Dina was gregarious, genuine and humorous, with a little bit of a potty mouth. We had a few chuckles, and then I asked her to tell me her story.

“When I look back at my career, mainly the in corporate environment, over the last 25 years, it was a struggle,” she shared. “I would get home and ask my mother, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ ‘What do I have to do to get noticed?’”

Her mother’s response was, “Avanti! Avanti!” which, in Italian, means, “move forward” or “stay positive.” But despite Dina’s positive attitude, she continued to face rejection and couldn’t find the nurturing she needed from her colleagues to help her reach the next steps in her career.

“I realized, OK, I’m going to have to figure this out on my own,” Dina continued. “And with that, the Avanti Women’s recipe for success was born: networking, mentoring, and learning. All three of those ingredients were critical success factors in my career world.”

She and I also discussed my business goals to great lengths, and she was adamant that I can—and must—learn to network to achieve my professional objectives. I later learned, after our meeting, that Dina is widely known by many GTA business professionals as a “networking guru.”

Who am I to argue about networking with a guru?

Needless to say I was sold on the value of networking with very little convincing. Dina also reassured me that the first activity of the expo on Saturday morning is a fun networking exercise to break the ice between members. (Phew!)

To find out how I fare at my first networking event of 2017, check my column next week for the good, the bad, and the awesome details.

Visit NETWORKING IN THE 6IX for more details on Avanti Women’s Career and Networking Expo, this Saturday, April 1, at Centennial College.

*Special thanks to Avanti Women Founder Dina Barazza and Marketing & Events Manager Mandy Kaur for their contributions to this post.

~Write-or-die girl

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