Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: business

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to business.

Maybe Your Client’s Terrible Decision Wasn’t That Bad

Bad decisions happen all of the time in the business world. Sometimes independent contractors show up at a client site and learn their job is to fix a project due to bad decisions. Other times you may sit through meetings, watching a client make bad decisions despite your advice. And, of course, there are the times when we make bad decisions ourselves.

Next time you’re digging yourself out of a hole due to an unwise choice, or are furious at a client for taking a terrible route, sit back and watch this video from Alltime10s. You’ll appreciate that the situation could be much, much worse given these are the 10 worst business decisions of all time!

IT is No Longer Just About Technology

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

IT is No Longer Just About TechnologyAs explained in this recent article from Dice, the marketplace for IT contractors and technology employees is changing at a pace similar to that of technology itself. With many of the “heavy lifting” IT jobs having been outsourced either on or off shore, the IT employees or contractors that remain in high demand are those with both technical and business capabilities.

What does this mean?  In order to add the value companies are looking for, prospective employees and independent contractors need to be able to both understand and communicate the business objectives of any IT activity.

The Agile framework is being implemented in more and more large organizations and communication is a pillar of Agile delivery, as all disciplines work together and collaborate throughout the development process.  Agile delivery cannot be successful without all stakeholders clearly understanding the business objectives and able to communicate as such.

Furthermore, the concept of performing a single function on “an island” within an organization has either been outsourced, as mentioned, or become entirely a thing of the past.

How do you as a contractor address these changes?  Firstly, take the time to understand the big picture: What is the overall project objective, not just your piece?  Understand the company you are working for, their history, their results, their major projects and initiatives.

Most consultants today work with one or more staffing agencies.  Hold your recruiter accountable for as much information as possible on each particular job opportunity.  This information will allow you to demonstrate your business capabilities and understanding as well as your valuable technical skills.

Keep up-to-date on the overall technology landscape. If you are in Telecommunications, know what the big 3 Telco’s’ major initiatives are.  If you have focused on the financial sector, know what major initiatives are coming from the big banks.

It is no longer possible to maximize your earnings and potential with technical skills alone.  All aspects of IT and business have become too interdependent.  Businesses rely more and more on technology every day as we know.  With this increased reliance comes a greater need for technology resources to understand business objectives and vice versa.

Ironically, the single most effective way to increase your business knowledge and communication skills… is a good old face to face conversation.

Should You Use a Business Credit Card?

This post, written by Heaven Stubblefield of CompareCards.com, first appeared on the Freshbooks Blog on March 3rd, 2016.

Credit CardsWhen I first started working as a freelancer, I was thrilled to call myself a business owner. All I could think of were all the cool loans, opportunities, and credit cards I could get with my own company. So I went in search of the biggest business credit card I could find. I wanted to rack up tons of rewards and get money back at the end of the year. But what did I get instead? A $120 annual fee that wiped my minimal rewards out completely.

Now, that didn’t mean I couldn’t benefit from my business credit card. Along with the “cons”, there are some clear “pros”. In today’s article, I’ll take you through some key points to help you evaluate if a business credit card is right for you.

Why business rewards don’t work for small businesses

Did you know the average business owner can get $1,750 back a year using the Chase Ink Classic card? This sounds great, but the study that gathered this data assumes you’ll spend $55,000 per year on your credit card.

And so we see a major issue with business credit cards: They’re not designed for most freelancers, who typically spend only a couple hundred bucks a month on business expenses. When you aren’t spending 5-figures on expenses, the rewards won’t add up to huge financial gains.

The real reasons to use business credit cards

You can’t rely on cash back bonuses or rewards points as a freelancer, but you can still benefit from having a credit card for work. Here are some reasons why:

  • Building business credit:Your business credit is different than your personal credit, and you’ll need it to get a business loan. The bank can look at your personal income and credit, but it’s harder to land large capital that way.
  • Managing expenses:It’s easy to keep track of your overhead when you put all of the transactions on one card. Rather than buying office supplies with the same money you use for Cheerios and toe socks, you can separate your money to budget better in the future.
  • Preparing taxes:If you keep all of your costs on one credit card, all you need is a copy of your card statements to total your loss for the year. Then you’ll easily be able to figure out your profit level, taxable income, and all that other fun stuff that can be a nightmare if your personal expenses are mixed up with your business expenses.
  • Sharing funds:If you are in a partnership or you have a couple contractors working for you, you can give them access to your company’s money by way of a business credit card. You can get the card in the other person’s name so you know who’s spending what. Then you can spot any problems that may arise.

What to Look for in a Business Credit Card

If the info above has convinced you to apply for a business credit card, here are some things to watch out for:

  • Intro rates vs. Actual rates:A lot of card companies will offer low APRs and annual fees at first, but then they increase those rates after a year or so. Don’t get stuck with a card that you can’t afford long-term.
  • Annual fee:This is money that you have to pay every year just for using the card. If you don’t earn enough rewards to cover the cost, you’re essentially losing money by keeping the card around.
  • APR:This is the annual percentage rate, or the interest you’ll have to pay if you don’t pay off your balance. If you do manage to pay this off every time you buy something, the APR won’t matter at all.
  • Balance transfer fees:These fees occur when you move a balance from one credit card to another. You should only have to worry about this if you’re trying to consolidate your debt.
  • Foreign transaction fees:These fees happen when you buy items from another country. If most of your business involves drop shipping or travelling overseas, look for the lowest foreign transaction costs possible.
  • Credit acceptance:If you know your credit is bad, don’t apply for a card that requires excellent credit. This will make someone pull your credit report for no reason, and excessive pulls can lower your score over time.
  • Rewards:Even though the rewards you get will probably be minimal, you should look for a card that complements your spending. For example, if you mostly drive for your job, find a card with great gas rewards.

Don’t get fixated on the way a card looks or the money it has to offer. Compare all the terms to find the best one for your situation.

There is a lot more to business credit cards than meets the eye. You may not be able to fully enjoy the rewards from them, but you can at least build your credit and save some headache meds when tax season hits.

I use my card to pay for every single thing I need for my business, which allows me to see how much I need to save for the next month. Simply put, I use my card as a wallet-sized accountant, keeping me in line from month to month.

Do you plan on getting a business credit card? And for those that already have one, share how you’re using it in the comments below. I’d love to hear everyone’s tips.

About the author: Heaven Stubblefield is the content director for CompareCards.com, one of the leading credit card comparison sites on the internet. You can see more helpful tips and tricks from her on the site’s blog,CompareWallet.

Business Etiquette Around the World (Infographic)

Sometimes independent contractors need to travel to work with clients from around the world. It could mean you are travelling to other countries, delegates are travelling to your country, or more commonly, meetings over the phone or video.

Regardless of where or how you meet people with different cultural backgrounds, you can save yourself awkward misunderstandings or conflicts by first reviewing this infographic from CT Business Travel. It explores different customs from different countries when it comes to introductions, meetings and even dining etiquette. Are there any tips you would add based on your own experiences? Share them in the comments below.

Business Etiquette Around the World #infographic
You can also find more infographics at Visualistan

IT Industry News for February 2016

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
CEO at Eagle

This post first appeared on Eagle’s CEO Blog on March 7th, 2016

Tech News HeaderThis is my 30,000 foot look at events in the tech industry for February 2016. What you see here is a précis of the monthly report I produce, which will be available in more detail at the News section of the Eagle website, where you will also find back issues.

A Little History of previous years’ Februarys …

Five years ago in February 2011 IT was a quiet month for M&A with HP buying Vertica; Opentext bought Metastorm ($182 million); and Rackspace acquired Anso Labs.  World news was dominated by the popular uprisings in a growing number of countries and the reactions of those governments including the brutality of Gaddafi’s Libyan supporters.  February 2012 was not a blockbuster month for M&A, but there was some interesting
Oracle logo a large software company originally noted for its databaseactivity.  The biggest deal of the month saw Oracle pay $1.9 billion for talent management company Taleo.  Siemens Canada paid $440 million for networking equipment company Rugged.com.  IBM bought BYOD company Worklight; Dell bought backup and recovery company AppAssure; Apple bought mobile search company Chomp; and LM Ericsson bought Ottawa based BelAir Networks.   Three years ago in February 2013 Dell went private in a $24.4 billion deal, that included a $2 billion investment by Microsoft.  Oracle paid $1.7 billion for networking company Acme Packet Inc.; Rackspace bought big data company ObjectRocket; Telus was busy with two acquisitions, electronic medical records division of the Canadian Medical Association and digital forensics company Digital
HP logoWyzdom; HP also sold the Palm operating system to LG for their smart TVs.  February 2014 was busy in M&A. Facebook make a big move with the $16 billion acquisition of Whatsapp.  Comcast made a $45 billion play for Time Warner Cable and regulatory approval or otherwise is imminent; Oracle paid a reputed $400 million for data management platform company Bluekai; LinkedIn paid $120 million for online job search company Bright; and Klout was bought for about $100 million by Lithium Technologies.  Google made a couple of acquisitions, online fraud company Spider.io and secure logon company Slicklogin.  IBM bought database as a service company Cloudant; and Monster bought a couple of companies, social profile company Talentbin and job aggregation and distribution technology company Gozaic. Finally, Microsoft announced Steve Balmer’s
Microsoft logoretirement and appointed a new CEO, Satya Nadella. Last year in February 2015 saw some interesting activity.  The $6.3 billion merger of Staples and Office Depot and the $1.6 Billion purchase of Orbitz by Expedia are two examples of sectors experiencing massive consolidation.  There was a big buy in the communications and IT space with Harris paying $4,75 billion for Excelis to establish a 23,000 person company.  There was a big data center play with UK based Telecity Group paying $2.2 billion for Interxion Holdings.  Microsoft made a couple of acquisitions, paying $200 million for pen-tech maker N-Trig and $100 million for mobile calendar company Sunrise.  Samsung bought a mobile payment company (competing with Apple pay), LoopPay.  Also out buying was Twitter which picked up Niche, a network of social media creators.  There were a number of interesting deals in Asia, including Sapdeal buying luxury fashion estore Exclusively; Foodpanda made six acquisitions of online meal delivery services to establish itself as a powerhouse in that space.  Showing some forethought Australian job board OneShift has bought Adage, which is a job board serving people over 45.

Which brings us back to the present …

Cisco logoFebruary 2016 saw some action in the M&A world.  The biggest deal saw HNA Group of China pay $6 billion for Ingram Micro.  Two other billion dollar deals included Cisco paying $1.4 billion for IoT company, Jasper Technologies and a consortium of Chinese internet firms making a $1.2 billion bid for Opera. Microsoft was busy with a couple of acquisitions, Xamarin a cross platform mobile application development company, and Swiftkey which produces predictive keyboard technology.  Another busy company was Alibaba Group which was investing in a bunch of companies, including a $100 million investment in Groupon, and smaller investments in microblogging site Weibo; software company Momo; augmented reality startup Magic Leap; Chinese retail chain Suning; and Singapore telco SingPost.  Other companies of note out buying included IBM who bought digital agency Aperto and Blackberry acquired cybersecurity company Encription.

The apple logo and apple with a bite out of itIn other news Apple is in a battle with the US government about privacy concerns after being ordered to develop a back door into its operating system.  It was also interesting to see the projected growth in the mobile space with 5.5 billion users expected by 2020.

There wasn’t much good news on the economic front as both Canada and the US had a bit of a slow month.  Canada lost about 5,700 jobs and the unemployment rate jumped a little to 7.2%.  Various US indicators were down but everything is relative and general consensus is that things overall are still positive for the US economy.

That is it for my monthly look at what was happening in the technology space over the last month, compared to the same month in previous years.  I’ll be back in about a month’s time, until then … walk fast and smile!

Are Business Ethics Any Different Than Regular Ethics?

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Whether you’re a manager, a contractor or an employee, don’t surprise yourself with the answer!

Palmer and CecilThere has been a lot of recent news about the Dentist who, along with his paid guide, lured a protected lion from a sanctuary to shoot it as a trophy.  Did he trust his guide too much and forget to question his own ethics as he claims?  Or was it more likely that his own personal ethics had been “expanded” to allow for this behavior?  The latter happens much more often than one might think.

There is a lesser known concept called the Normalization of Deviation that explains the human tendency to “push the boundaries”.  Astronaut Mike Mullane speaks about this concept in a speech, where he explains the details around the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion and how normalization of deviance created a situation that he calls a “predictable surprise”.  Mike uses this story to illustrate how on-the-job safety can be and often is compromised.

Are Business Ethics Any Different Than Regular Ethics?This concept can also be used to explain how one finds themselves on the wrong side of an ethical dilemma, without even realizing how this came to be.  It goes something like this:  you are an ethical person and you draw a line in the sand that you would never cross.  However, life happens and you inadvertently – not on purpose – put your toe over the line.  Not a big deal, not much over the line, and when you realize it you quickly correct the situation.  What happened to you as a result of crossing that line?  Most typically, nothing.  In fact, you may have reaped a small reward or benefit from having it happen.  Hmm.

What separates us from other animals is our ability to rationalize and this kicks in. There were special circumstances, no one was hurt, no “real damage” was done, it could even be said that it was a good thing that it happened.  You’ve now rationalized the deviation from your ethics.  This was “ok” and, after all, at heart, you are an ethical person.

Time goes by and a similar situation comes up. The last “solution” actually worked pretty well and there were no negative consequences.  A quick fix where no one really gets hurt, solves the problem and lets you continue on your way?  Well, you’ve already rationalized this  so this time you cross the line on purpose.  Again, not a big deal, no negative consequences, and the issue is resolved.  All good, right?  Yes, except that your “line” has now moved — just a little — hardly worth noticing.  This new line becomes the new normal and you don’t even think about it anymore. It works, it’s ok, no repercussions — it’s now a good solution.

The next time, maybe the situation is just a little different and your toe inadvertently crosses the line again.  You pull it back quickly and… hmm… nothing bad really happened, but you swear that this is too far, you should never do it again.  But over time you rationalize again. It’s what humans do and has been a successful strategy bred into us over eons.  It happens again,  it becomes your new “normal”, and the line moves again.

Over a few cycles of this, if you stopped to consider, you would realize that you are no longer just a toe over the original line that you had drawn in the sand but rather a giant step past.  Then you get caught and wonder how did you ever let yourself get to this place?

ChallengerThis concept can help explain how some, completely avoidable, accidents could have been prevented (even predicted as in the case of the space shuttle disaster).  But it also explains how people can find themselves fighting addiction, how people find themselves on the wrong side of the law, or how they get caught compromising some of their most fundamental beliefs and personal ethics.

In this respect, Business Ethics are no different.  In fact, I would argue that there are more frequent opportunities for finding your toe over the line in business.  More iterations of the cycle and the further over the line you can go.  You may have wondered how people can start “Ponzi Schemes”. Their beginnings may have been as innocuous as a simple toe over the line that did not immediately get stepped on.  They may not have started out as “bad people”.

It is worth taking some time to review your own beliefs, your own ethical standards and look to see if your own line has moved over time.  If not, very good, carry on.  If so, consider, is it something that should be corrected, before it does catch up on you?

There is nothing more soul-wrenching than finding yourself a victim of your own personal predictable surprise.