Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: planning

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to planning and organizing.

The T4 and T5 Deadline is Approaching

The T4 and T5 Deadline is ApproachingWhether you’re an independent contractor who receives a salary from your business or a contractor who receives compensation through dividends, you’ll want to pay attention to this reminder.

The Canadian T4 and T5 filing deadline is the last day of February, which this year is Tuesday, February 28th. Sure there are still a few weeks and February feels like the longest month of the year, but if you’re like many others, procrastinating on accounting comes fairly easily. At the very least, take a minute to create a plan and schedule some time to get this task completed.

While we always encourage and strongly recommend you seek advice from an accountant, here are a few other resources:

Happy filing!

Contractor Quick Poll: When Will You Retire?

Independent contractors enjoy many benefits working for themselves. Unfortunately, there are also some downsides, including a lack of pension or employer RRSP contributions, as enjoyed by some employees of large corporations and public sector organizations. This doesn’t mean that you can no longer retire, or that you must wait longer to retire, but that you need to plan your finances differently to achieve your retirement goals.  In fact, the nature of your work also means that you may enjoy partial retirement much earlier than the average person!

That being said, we’re curious to know when most independent contracts plan to retire. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re asking how old you plan to be when you finally fully retire from work and start enjoying a quieter, less hectic life.

IT Contractors: Are You Being an Ant?

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

Hard-working ant representing an IT contractor in good timesAesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is a timeless tale that makes the link between hard work, saving and the security that comes from doing both. It tells the story of a hard-working ant who spends the summer collecting food, while a more relaxed grass hopper sings the summer days away. Come winter, the grass hopper is stuck begging for food while the ants are prepared for the rough season.

In the present day, we see this story playing out on a macro-scale, right down to the individual level.  I recently attended a speaking engagement featuring Larry Berman (BNN’s “Bermans Call”) and he suggested that the future of the EU is uncertain should the Germans eventually get fed up working to older and older ages to support countries such as Greece where people can take an early retirement pension as early as 45 years old.

Closer to home for me, living in Calgary, current economic conditions are certainly rewarding “the ants”.  Although it is hard to predict when the tough-times are going to hit, they surely come; and when they do, that rainy-day fund (and all the sacrifices made to accumulate it) really does provide some much-needed security.

Along with the many benefits of being an independent contractor, one of the common risks is that these “winters” are more likely to happen, and for any number of reasons extending beyond a challenging economy. For example, sometimes projects being shut down or personality clashes cause gigs to end abruptly. Although you may have relationships with a number of IT recruiters in your region, they may not be able to find you new work immediately. In other situations, you could suddenly get sick or have to take time away from work for a period of time which, again, would leave you in a stage with no revenues.

In any case, the story referenced above can be used as a lesson for independent contractors to always be gathering for the winter. Perhaps that means taking on multiple contracts when they’re available or ensuring you’re always setting some cash aside for times when IT jobs aren’t coming as quickly as you’d hope.

There are many benefits to taking an “ant-like” approach to both your work and your life, as discussed in this article from Success, but should there be a balance? Just because you’re in a “summer” period, does it mean you have to work 24/7 to prepare for a “winter” that may not arrive for a while? What approaches have you taken as an independent contractor to prepare for winter and balance your life?  I encourage you to leave a comment and share your ideas with our readers!

How to Secure Your Data Using the Cloud

Backing up data is one of the most crucial tasks any company can perform.  Without proper security measures, the slightest glitch can temporarily bring down your business and potentially even set you back many years’ worth of work.  There are many options for backing up data, including on a hard drive, but this infographic from Novastor argues that the best way to prevent a computer disaster is by taking advantage of the cloud. Would you agree?

info-back-that-comp-up

Your Basic Emergency Plan

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice-President, Government Services at Eagle

The tragic and senseless death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the War Memorial in Ottawa last month served as a shock to many Canadians and will have ramifications for years to come in a lot of the things we take for granted, even in the workplace. While many of us are familiar with the urban office building, fire drills, we are far less prepared or even fathom practicing an emergency situation like a lockdown as we experienced in the urban office core of Ottawa the day of the shooting.

It probably goes without saying that US organizations are far more used to these scenarios than their Canadian counterparts and may have better evolved communication plans and practices as a result. Ironically, and sadly perhaps, the next generation of business leaders and workers are also better prepared since their schools are now practicing lockdowns and how to handle similar situations. Many of today’s Canadian organizations and business leaders, however, do not appear to be so prepared.

While Business Continuity Plans for most medium and large organizations are in place, many have not been dusted off or updated, often due to budget cuts and perhaps a sense of complacency. Many will have contemplated a pandemic like H1N1, but not a lockdown in a fluid urban office setting.

As independent contractors, it’s also important to be prepared and have a plan for such Emergency Plan Bookemergencies, especially if you’re at a client site where there is no clear plan.  One very simple way to do this is to know your Basic Emergency Plan for any situation.  For example:

  1. Perform a preliminary assessment.
  2. Evaluate the risks to determine your next steps.
  3. Develop a communication plan.
  4. After the dust has settled, evaluate the situation and determine what you could have done better. Document your ideas and develop a preventative plan.

In the above, when an emergency strikes, steps 1 to 3 will happen almost immediately. One of the most evident and clear observations I had first-hand in Ottawa last month, however, was the absence of reliable information that was needed to go through these steps.

Ironically, in today’s age of ubiquitous and lightning fast information at our finger tips, the flip side of that phenomenon was also true. All information — right or wrong — gets out.  The day became a track meet of what we soon found out was misinformation courtesy of Twitter, Facebook and even other more traditional mediums available on desktops. “Two shooters”, “three shooters “, “another shooting at a nearby mall”, “shooter(s) on roof tops,” and “stay away from windows” were just some of the scenarios that gained speed throughout the day.  People would have had to sift through all of this and determine for themselves if it was safe to leave a building, if they should close their blinds or if their children should leave school.

This only seems to be getting more challenging in today’s technology-driven world and filtering through information isn’t going to get any easier.  What you can do is research your local media outlets and determine which one you trust the most and stick to just that (Tip: this probably shouldn’t be Facebook).  Also, ask yourself a few important questions now:

  • Do you know your client’s emergency plans?
  • What about your agency’s?
  • Will you follow all of their procedures, or follow your own when you feel it’s safer?
  • What’s your family’s emergency communication plan?

As most urban buildings already do with the basic fire drill, organizations and independent contractors alike also need to ensure they have a plan for all emergency situations and lockdowns.  It’s nearly impossible to predict every scenario, but the more basic preparation you take, the easier it will be to take on the unexpected emergencies.  Do you have a Basic Emergency Plan? How much have you prepared?  Share your strategies with our readers in the comments below.

Do You Have an Emergency Plan?

Independent Contractors Should Always Be Prepared for the Unexpected

Independent contractors have many advantages; however, they also accept risks. One of the risks they face is downtime, for whatever reason, because they are not paid.  At one point or another, most companies’ management teams sit down and strategically build an emergency plan based on different scenarios – whether it’s a fire, health pandemic, natural disaster or some other terrible event that causes a shutdown.  We believe that all businesses should go through this exercise, especially one-person businesses or independent contractors.

FACTS

  1. These situations have happened in the past, are currently happening in other countries and will happen again, and while some we can predict, others come out of nowhere. Just look at the Calgary Flood in the summer of 2013 or the H1N1 pandemic back in 2009 and of course, the Ebola breakout happening today in many African countries.
  2. When these unexpected, uncontrollable events occur, workplaces are closed, and there can be widespread disruption to the economy.

As important as it is, being prepared for this type of situation doesn’t have to be extensive.Crisis To get started, ask yourself a few of these questions:

  1. Can I afford to not be paid for a month? Two months?
  2. Can I plan, with my current client, to be able to complete some work from home if the office environment is closed?
  3. Does your client have any sort of plan?
  4. Is there a way risks can be minimized?  For example, for health scares, does your client have education programs, flu shots, hand washing policies, etc.?

If you are concerned about your potential financial situation, NOW is the time to do something.

  1. Change your lifestyle to allow you to put away some money for a rainy day. Reduce costs, put in more hours now, force yourself to save.
  2. Work with your bank to establish a line of credit.
  3. Create a budget that will allow you to “weather the storm” of a forced layoff.

We all hope that we’ll never be affected by a disaster or pandemic, but the probability is that it will happen at some point, and we all need to be prepared.  Do you have a plan? What are some back-ups you’ve prepared?  Share your advice in the comments below.

How to Remain Successful When Your Plan Fails

It’s easy to talk to people and find articles offering advice and stressing the importance of creating a plan. You need to plan your career. What’s your plan for your next contract? You obviously have a project plan. Do you have a life plan? The Talent Development Centre definitely is a great place to look for these articles.

A topic commonly avoided with this advice, though, is the fact that sometimes plans don’t work out! What if the world changes on you? Your client goes bankrupt? Your project is cancelled? Your priorities change? What if you are just not achieving the targets that you set for yourself?

So, what if your plan fails? The answer: Make another plan!

  • Learn the lessons from the first plan.
  • Make sure that you understand why the plan failed and address those issues.Making a Plan
  • Don’t keep doing the same things.
  • Don’t use it as an excuse to accept failure, rather use it as a motivator to do better!
  • Ask yourself HARD questions, and give yourself honest answers.
  • Did you believe in the first plan? If you don’t believe a plan is possible then don’t bother! You will NEVER succeed at a plan if you don’t believe it is doable.
  • Did you do everything in your power to meet the plan? Did you work hard, avoid deviating from the path, focus on the task, get advice and help as needed?
  • Were there circumstances beyond your control?
  • What could you have done differently? Better?
  • What should you have NOT done?
  • Who can help you to meet your plan? Are you engaging them?

At the end of the day, a good plan is the roadmap to reach your goal, whatever that goal is, be it personal or professional. Missing a plan is not the end of the world, BUT it means you need to either plan better or execute better.

Have you had a plan crash and burn before?  How did you handle it? What did you learn?  Share your experiences with our readers below.

10 Tips on Working your Plan

If you want to be successful as a contractor, then you need to focus your energies on the types of activities that move you towards your goals and the work that you want to do.

Some excellent advice says Plan your Work and Work Your Plan.  We would take it one step further: Plan Your Work and Be Very Focused in Working Your Plan!

Person creating a planHere’s some quick tips:

  1. When working on any contract, be VERY focused on those activities in your plan! Always perform all tasks with 100%, but ensure you’re especially building good references to help land future contracts that fit into your plan.
  2. When you’re at a client site, be social with those around you but do NOT get sucked into long conversations, solve- the-world discussions or “whine sessions” about the company’s internal problems.
  3. Stay Positive! Your attitude will ultimately determine your success.
  4. Use GREAT time management techniques and continually upgrade your time management skills. The most successful people are incredibly productive and that is no accident!
  5. Don’t focus on other people too much. YES emulate those who are successful, YES learn from those around you and YES be happy for your colleagues’ success. But do not worry that “she” is better than you, that “he” is getting better contracts or that “they” should do their job better. Focus 99% of your energies on making YOU better, getting YOU where you need to be and on YOUR success.
  6. Keep focused on the positive. It doesn’t matter what happened last month, last week, yesterday or even an hour ago. By “working your plan” with a view to now and the future you will be moving towards success.
  7. Remember that we are all human and we all make mistakes so don’t sweat it!
  8. Remember to revisit your plan often enough that it is not stale, but not so often that it never gets a chance to be executed.
  9. Look for solutions not problems.
  10. Did we mention Stay Positive? Positive people make things happen, focus on the good, and, from our experience, clients love having them around!

Do you have a plan?  If so, how do you keep the right attitude to drive towards it?  We’d love your input!  Leave us a comment below.