Use these 3 Useful tools to save your Organization Money…..

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The non profit sector is filled with extraordinary people. Most of them caring and mission-driven. One area where the sector needs improvement, is developing a start-up attitude.  This is where non profits can learn from startup-ups. They can learn about doing things efficiently and cost effectively.  Over the years, I have found a few tools that I always recommend to my clients:

 

a. LawDepot

Law Depot is a subscription service that costs a whopping $75 dollars per year or so. It is a “depot” of contracts, agreements and legal resources, that I use over and over again. It gives me a starting point for all legal and business agreements and is super easy to use. I rarely use it without consulting a lawyer, but it does give me a foundation to start from, thereby reducing costs, plus it is super cheap. It is also based on Canadian law, which is a bonus. Check it out at https://www.lawdepot.ca/

b. AppSumo

AppSumo in itself is not a product, but a service. It lists “deals” for entrepreneurs–think Groupon for business. You can get incredible deals there on everything from social media tools to digital images. I have used this site to grab so many deals over the years I have lost count. One service I purchased, was Plannable. I was previously using Hootsuite. I was very happy with Hootsuite, but it was costing me over $20 per month.  Plannable sounded similar and I could get it for $49 forever. That means, I paid $49 once and have this tool as long as I want to use it.  A year later, I am still using it, and Plannable costs over $25 per month now.  See what I mean by costs savings? Definitely, sign up for this site. Get your deals at: https://appsumo.com/

c.Google

Not enough non profits take advantage of these free services. From email to server space, free Adwords and Youtube–I cannot say enough about this. Non profits are literally throwing away money by not utilizing these free services correctly. Did you know that as a non profit you potentially qualify for up to $10,000 in free Adwords? i.e you can advertise your services, events, and more to grow your organization and impact? Too few non-profits utilize this service correctly.Find out more at : https://www.google.com/nonprofits/

What other resources do you use? Drop us a line and let us know other great tools. As always feel free to reach out with questions, comments or inquiries at 519-520-3443 or email Carmen@ReimarGroup.com.

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When Data Metrics and Non-Profits Meet

When data and Nonprofits meet.

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Over the last few years, many nonprofits have jumped on the data train. Some for the first time, either through their own efforts or through the coercion of funders, have begun to evaluate and track their data. Others, evaluate project to project, with no interconnectedness between evaluation systems. Others still, are fighting a losing battle and standing their ground, refusing to collect any data at all.

Welcome to nonprofits and data. Many of us who have worked in the sector have watched (with glee I might add) as non-profits finally started using data to tell their stories over the last few years. Generally, in the form of impact statements, these numbers talk about the total clients served, the social return on investment, or other comparable metrics.

 

 

Summative Vs Formative Data

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Much of the data organizations are using is summative in nature. It talks about what they have done over a time period. It has a discreet beginning and end, and talks about projects AFTER they are finished. It is like  analyzing a sports game, after the game, play by play. Summative assessments are also like tests teachers give in schools. They summarize what you know, and how you did.

In data driven organizations and in assessment culture, a different type of assessment is often used.  Formative assessment tools, such as those that occur in the middle of something, whether it is a unit of study, staff evaluations, project evaluations are a critical strategy that separate those who lead with data, compared to those who simply follow the pack.  What these data focused organizations have learnt, is that data can be used for learning, not just to assess what you have learnt. Let me rephrase. In the sector, we often use data to tell our story to our teams our funders and stakeholders and demonstrate why we are worthy of the dollars granted. One thing few organizations do well, is to use their data to analyze HOW they are doing in the middle of a project, or better yet, when nothing special is going on.

Why would organizations go through the trouble of collecting even more data, particularly data not required by funders?  Think of formative data, like a feedback tool. It can be used by staff and leadership to assess how each is doing. It is a learning tool, essential particularly to innovative organizations to see what works best, when and how. It can be used by leadership to assess big picture items, and by staff to assess and take control of their own performance.

What about the cost of collecting data?

 

 

This is an argument I get from most of my clients. Here is my canned response if you will.

First and foremost, data collection and analysis need not be expensive. Smart organizations can invest in automated tools that make this easier. Second, what is the cost of the mistakes you may be making? If you never measure, you never know. Third, your costs are only high on the front end. Once you adopt a data centric approach, costs in theory, should go down. Finally, time and time again, in my experience, the organizations who have the best data, get more grants and funding. They can tell their story better, they learn faster from their mistakes and develop overall, better programs and services.

How do I get started using data better?

 

 

If you have internal expertise, use it. Talk to individuals who have experience in program design, data design and collection. Join networking groups and communities of practice centered on this. Finally, hire or talk to an expert, internally or externally. Buy them a coffee. Most practitioners will gladly give you some free time.

Most organizations are still not using data as effectively as they can. Those who want to be leaders have discovered the power of data and use it well. Those who don’t risk being left behind in an ever more innovative nonprofit sector.

 

 

Have a question? Send us an email (carmen@reimargroup.com) or Connect with us on social media:

Facebook @Reimargroup

Twitter: @carmenreis

Linkedin/Carmenreis

Disclaimer: ReimarGroup is a consulting firm focused on organizational sustainability, program design and evaluation. We believe good data makes sense and creates more powerful organizations. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Summer Jobs Extension to Feb 9th, 2019

The Canada Summer Jobs Program Deadline is Tomorrow February 9th!

 

For any small businesses or not for profits looking for some extra help this Summer, The Canada Summer jobs program represents a great way to get funding to cover the expenses associated with hiring Summer students.  With the additional expenses associated with increases to minimum wage, fewer organizations will be hiring for the Summer.

 

How Much Funding Can I Get?

 

Not for profits get all of the wages associated with hiring a student. So up to $14 per hour. You are expected to cover the cost of CPP and EI.

Small Businesses get up to 50% of the cost of Minimum wage covered. While this is not as generous, it also enables you to get projects done that you might not have done otherwise. It sweetens the deal to help give young people work.

 

How Does the Application System Work?

The application system is done on a points basis. Non profits, and businesses with a social purpose will score higher, than those with a pure profit motive. Organizations hiring individuals from visible minorities, low income neighbourhoods, and/or those with barriers, will score higher than those who plan to hire just anyone.

You also get “points” if the position is vital and will help your small business to be more successful, if the student gains valuable work experience related to their degree, and if you offer training and/or mentorship.

Finally, you also get “points” for aligning your positions to the “regional priorities”, that is, in every constituency, there are priorities that politicians want to fund. In some, it is economic development, in others, fostering the arts. The list is unique to each MP’s region.  By connecting your roles to regional priorities, your chances of getting your grants are higher. The higher your “points” the higher your chance of winning.

 

When Do I Find Out?

 

Generally you would hear around mid-April. Remember, you cannot hire the student before that and expect the government to reimburse costs. The reimbursement comes only after you have received notification of the grant’s award.

 

Want help completing your application? Contact our team and we are happy to help you get your application done and submitted on time.  Our fees start at $197, and increase with the number of positions. Email us at Carmen@reimargroup.com, or call 519-520-3443.

When Your Mission Stinks….

When Your Mission Stinks….

Having worked in consulting to both for profit and non-profit organizations over the last decade, one of the time honoured truths that I often see, is that very often, mission statements stink. While this may seem like a harsh statement, consider the weight and importance we place on mission. Your mission, is the driving force behind all you do. It is how you deliver your product or service and particularly, in the non-profit world, it represents your organizational goals, and your purpose of existence.

 

For young organizations, that are figuring out their way, the mission can and should be flexible. Let’s ponder that for a moment. It is OK if your mission changes?  We are told that Missions must drive organizations. The mission must be the focal point that guides you through. Simultaneously, we are told, fail early, fail forward and fail often.  At a glance, these statements are in opposition to each other.  How, can you have a guiding statement and yet be failing? The easy conclusion to draw, is that after each failure the mission has to be changed. Here’s why.

 

What a Mission is Supposed to Be….

A mission statement, its very definition, is a statement that communicates, what you do, for whom and how you do it. Sometimes, we add where for clarification.  It is from the mission, that we draw HOW we do things, what will make us competitive and our key success factors.  Failure, often arises because there is misalignment or misunderstood assumptions between how the different components need to work together.

 

A simple example is a product that was intended for one purpose, but ended up having another. There are several famous examples. Bubblewrap was intended to be textured wallpaper. Rogaine, the hair replacement solution, originally was designed as a blood pressure medication. In these cases, the need to change the mission is easy to see.

 

The need to change a mission is harder when you are providing services and/or delivering programs.  One example I have seen involved the failure of an organization, originally intended to deliver entrepreneurial services to a very narrow segment of the population.  In this case, there simply weren’t enough people to justify a market, and the mission had to be changed to be more inclusive.

 

Another more common example, are organizations that drift from their mission, as they pursue projects, grants, and other funding.  We often talk about mission drift as a way to refocus the organization, but rarely do we discuss the need that if the organization has drifted so much from its core, is there a need to rewrite the mission to focus on the core activities of the organization?

Bottom-Up Mission

Missions, are most powerful when they are created from the bottom-up. However, this is rarely the case. Missions, tend to be created by Boards of Directors, Executives and Consultants. They are crafted for how they sound, market and branding appeal, and less by direct front-line staff, or program development staff who in reality, know far more about the challenges of delivering services and building programs than executives and boards. If they are not included in the Mission development process, then failure and drift are likely to result.  Consultant’s don’t generally like bottom-up missions as they represent more work to develop. However, better tools such as 360 degree feedback,  stakeholder analysis and customer surveying do change the discourse, but not nearly enough.

Understanding Mission Drift

When mission drift is occurring, we need to question why.  Is it to obtain funding for sustainability, or is it because the program has a genuine need that must be filled. In other words, are you writing the grant because your organization needs money, or are you really trying to solve a problem you see in your everyday work.  If your answer is the latter, and your front-line people consistently are building services and designing programs that stray from your mission, then my advice is that it may be time for a new mission; one that better reflects the real market need of the individuals you serve. And, the bad news? Your mission may stink. If, that’s the case, change it. Change it fast and change it often, until you can figure out what you should be doing and how.  While there are expenses to changing the mission, it can be far more expensive if your mission is just wrong.

 

 

How has your mission been used in your organization? Do you find it effective? Drop us a line carmen@reimargroup.com.

 

Business in a Slump? It’s time to Growth Plan

Develop A Business Growth Plan

It seems like all we do is plan.  We write business plans, strategic plans, marketing plans, and disaster recovery plans. We plan our businesses to death.  In the early days of your business, your need to plan less. Personally, I am a planner by nature. Planning is how I organize my thoughts, how I mitigate my risks and develop my to- do lists. When our businesses are first being developed, we need to focus on the DO, and less on the planning. Yes, you heard me correctly. You need to plan less and DO MORE.

Let me explain.  This does not mean the abolition of “Planning” but rather it needs to evolve to Growth Planning. As a small business you always need to be in growth mode. This does not mean chasing the aggressive growth of early business days, but it does need to evolve to be focused on implementation and the “how” rather than the “what”.

A growth plan, in its purest sense, is a cross between a business plan and a strategic plan. A business that is growth oriented has to evolve with its customers, in needs to be in touch with the market, it has to be aware of trends and the social and environmental impact of its products or services.  Most importantly, a business that is not growing is stagnant and not healthy. It is reaching the peak of its life-cycle and beginning its decline.

Should businesses be in perpetual growth? Some people may say no. Some experts will tell you that a business where the owner seeks to exit, may begin to think about succession and naturally, as we age we begin a process of seeking to “slow down”.  However, think about it from viewpoint of a prospective buyer for your business. Would you rather buy a business that is healthy and growing? Or one that has shown decline over the years leading up to the sale? The answer from this perspective is simple. Focus on the growth, and the rest takes care of itself. The following are what I define to be the 10 Key Components of a Business Growth Plan.

The 10 Key Components of a Growth Plan

 1. Where Are You Now?

Examine the following for your organization:

  • a. Mission- this is the “DO” of your organization. What you do, and how you do it.
  • b. Key Success Factors – What do you do well or better than your competitors?
  • c. Key Constraints-What are you limited by? Who are you limited by? What is the financing available?
  • d. Stakeholder analysis-What do your customers think? How about your suppliers? Your employees? Your partners and family? Get everyone’s input, it matters

 

2. Where Do You Want To Be

 

  • a. Vision Statement-Define where you want to be in 5 years and build a vision for your company around it.
  • b. The Magic Number- What do you want your company to be worth in 3-5 years?  How much do you want to make? This is your magic number that you will be working towards.

 

3. What is Going on In Your Environment and Industry?

It is vital to understand what is going on in your industry and how your company fits into it. The following analyses should be conducted to understand how all the pieces fit together.

  • a. SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Look inward and outward to your company and industry and judge how you fit.
  • b. Porter’s 5 Forces-This business school classic has staying power for a reason. The five “forces” of Porter identify how you work within the broader industry. It examines your customers, suppliers, competitive rivalry within the industry, the threat of new entrants and the threat of substitutes in the industry for your product or service. It creates a picture of how dependent or independent you can be of industry trends in general.
  • c. PESTLE Analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental). This examines the broader trends in your industry, from each of the above contexts and how they can potentially impact what you do.

 

4. What have others in your field doing?

Competitor Innovation Analysis. In the history of your industry, how have your competitors innovated? Can this type of innovation still be useful to you? What products or services do competitors offer that are successful? Can you mimic them? What is not working? Is this something you are currently doing?

5. What are people doing in in other industries that can be applied to your Industry?

External Innovation Analysis- what are others doing that is innovative in another industry that can be applied to your industry? Can you change the business model of your industry to become more innovative?

6. Prioritize Your Current Opportunities

Prioritize opportunities based on a model that identifies needed inputs, available resources and constraints. Identify your resource requirements based on:

  • a. HR
  • b. Technology
  • c. Financial
  • d. Network and contacts needed to help you grow

 

 7. Do you Need Extra Capital or Resources to Make Growth Happen?

How will you raise it? What can you cut, divert or change from your current operations or business model to make this happen?

8. New Initiatives

What new initiatives will you develop? Identify your identify your CIPD Strategy- How will you Concentrate, Innovate, Penetrate (Market) or Diversify your company’s products or services?  This is the foundation of growth. Your CIPD Strategy can happen in any of the following areas:

  • a. Marketing
  • b. Sales
  • c. Technology
  • d. Partnerships
  • e. Alliances
  • f. Products

Find the ones that work best for your industry and company.

 9. Develop Your Implementation Plan.

Your implementation plan should be detailed and should include quarterly goals (financial and growth) and should identify key resources and steps needed to accomplish your vision and get you to your “Magic Number” of growth. Identify the riskiest steps, and develop action items to specific how you will address each item.

10. Just DO It!

At some point, you have to start growing your business. The faster you get this point, the faster your business will grow. For most entrepreneurs, this is the scariest, but most exciting part.  There are ways to make this manageable. Develop a daily checklist. Do 3 things every day that will grow your business in a solid way and contribute to growing your business based on your Growth Plan. A growing business requires daily infusions and care to push it forward, but not at the detriment of the owner.

Business growth needs to be sustainable, responsible but ever pushing forward and upward.  Implement these strategies, and watch your business and profits soar.

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The Geography of Funding Inequality.

Around the country, incubators are popping up. Tech incubators, health incubators, manufacturing incubators. Venture capitalists continue to create to new opportunities to attract the next big tech company and angel investors sit poised, ready to be mentors and investors to new entrepreneurs.

Every start-up at some point in their existence, considers chasing venture capital. The funding may be a life-line to emerging companies, who have been boot-strapping to just get by. Location plays an irrefutable role in the ability of these firms to get funding. Location determines both the likelihood and the amount that start ups are likely to receive. Consider that start-ups in Vancouver receive typically receive 80% less funding than start-ups in silicon Valley?

Where is a Firm Most Likely to succeed?

Several studies have examined the likelihood of venture capital success. In a 2009 study in the Harvard Review by Chen, et al, and another in 2010 by Josh Lerner, found that start-ups who received funding that were OUTSIDE of the geography of their venture capitalists, significantly outperformed, those closer to the VC’s office.

This posits an interesting phenomenon, why is that investors continue to be scared of secondary markets? Start-ups are naturally attracted to cities where VC’s exist. VC’s often set higher hurdle rates for firms that are outside of their area due to increased monitoring costs for items such as travel time. Do those firms, because of their higher hurdle rates, outperform start-ups in NY, Silicon Valley and Boston? Or, to actually attract VC attention, are these firms better to start with?

How does this affect firms seeking VC funding?
Is it better for firms who are seeking VC funding to pack up and head to a larger tech center?
The  propensity of these firms receiving funding would increase. What does this mean for firms located in smaller cities? Should local governments invest more in encouraging more VC’s and investors in an area?

We will examine these topics in the coming weeks and provide insight and recommendations for firms looking for VC investment.

Reimar Group – Real World Business Growth

Welcome to our website! We are experts in creating strategic, marketing, business and social enterprise plans. With over 10 years experience in a variety of industries and sectors, our team of experts can help you to achieve your strategic goals. We will work with you to develop flexible, relevant and effective business growth strategies.

If you are a start-up, a lean business, or looking for business continuity, you have come to the right place.  Contact us today to start growing your business now.
Do you have a business question for one of our experts? Be sure to tweet @carmenreis or get in touch with us – we would love to hear from you!