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Weekly Business News Roundup

News Roundup for SME Businesses & Startups

CNE Emerging Innovators Pitch Competition Happens This August

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), founded in 1879, continues its reputation as the place for people to view the latest innovations with its CNE Emerging Innovators Pitch Competition. The competition invites Canada’s young innovators to pitch their products or services at the CNE Innovation Garage over three days, from August 17th through the 19th, in seven distinct categories: Health and Wellness, Women Entrepreneurs, Indigenous Entrepreneurs, Travel and Leisure, Home and Everyday Life, Kids Technology, and Agriculture and Urban Farming. The top winners of each category will be endowed with a $5,000 cash prize and then move on to compete in the Ontario Semi-Finals on August 19th.  The two winners of the Ontario and Alberta Semi-Finals will compete in the National Finals, also held on August 19th, for the grand prize of $25,000.

To Sell More, Make It Easier and Safer for People to Purchase From You

In today’s highly competitive market, small businesses seem to be lagging behind when it comes to offering the simple, streamlined and secure purchasing options customers have come to expect. This holds true for both e-commerce retailers and brick-and-mortar stores. What should a small business owner do to remain viable? Three things: embrace online sales with an e-commerce website (only 44% of small businesses do); adopt new payment types such as digital wallets, both online and in-store; and safeguard customers’ data.

The Future Is Freelance: How to Optimize Independent Worker Output

A recent Upwork study found that about 47% of millennials, and 36% of the total U.S. workforce, already do freelance work. By 2027, more than half of all U.S. workers are expected to freelance. Many of these freelancers are happy to work with startups than can offer flexibility, in turn offering entrepreneurs a large and growing pool of cost-effective expertise. Besides flexibility, freelancers are seeking autonomy, but also value a consistent income.

To optimize the productivity of your independent workers, harness these motivations in the following four ways: retain top freelance talent by providing them with a flexible schedule and workload, and offering them bigger opportunities; build relationships between freelancers and staff; provide regular constructive feedback; and make sure nobody feels like a second-string team member (which is especially important for business entrepreneurs who manage a small, tight-knit team).

How Teams Can Be Productive When Everyone’s On Different Schedules

Productivity doesn’t remain at a constant throughout the day. Studies have found that time of day is responsible for a 20% variance in the performance on cognitive tasks, and can be highly specific to a person’s natural rest and productivity cycles, or “chronotype.” So it can be a tough proposition when teams need to be at peak performance, but some members are in their productivity “trough.” Another layer of complexity is added when members are working in different time zones. How can you get the most out of teams in this scenario?

According to Daniel Pink, the author of “When: The Scientific Secret to Perfect Timing,” the key lies in understanding the rules of how groups synchronize. To “create the architecture for groups to have a better chance at synchronizing effectively,” he recommends the following: consider the type of task when scheduling; build autonomy into the system; spread the pain evenly (among different member time zones); have a clear leader (which may be a deadline or benchmark rather than a person, in some situations); and foster a sense of belonging among group members.

Hockeystick Launches Open Database of Canada’s Innovation Economy

In an effort to provide funders and companies “better data to make better decisions,” Hockeystick, the premier data and software provider for the private markets, has released an open database of Canadian startups and investors. What’s more, it is freely available at its website.

Hockeystick’s founder and CEO states “entities should own their own data, control how it’s used, and have clear incentives to share it if they choose to.”  This unique database offers a clear picture of Canada’s innovation economy, and already has more than 8,000 entities in the system, including venture capital firms, government programs, angel groups, accelerators and private equity funds, in addition to companies.

This Tech CEO’s Top Two Tips For Hiring A Great Leadership Team

Recounting his high-caliber executive team hires as a first-time and early-stage startup, Thumbtack founder Marco Zappacosta notes that “hiring execs is extremely high beta.” He adds, “When it goes well, it can be an enormous force multiplier, accelerating your company in ways that you won’t appreciate right away. The flip is that a high-upside hire is also a high-stakes hire.”

With that, Zappacosta shares his two best tips for vetting C-level leaders. First, rein in your job descriptions to hire for the three most essential skills to the role, so you’re hiring for explicit strengths rather than a laundry list of requirements.  Second, interview separately for skills and fit, with the more important interview being for fit. Zappacosta elaborates on the three specific questions he asks candidates to determine their fit, including those that reveal their ambition, what motivates them, and their past failures (as those with a long career have “failed immensely at some point.”).

Avoiding the ‘Shiny Object’ Trap: How to Focus on What Matters Most in Business

With technology causing rapid changes in most every industry, it can be tempting to try out new tech possibilities in an effort to out-innovate your competition. However, yielding to this temptation can come at the expense of diverting your focus from the critical functions of your business. To strike the proper balance between embracing new opportunities and sticking to what you know, here are some straightforward guidelines, from trusting your data to keep you on track to being willing to outsource those things that are outside your core competencies and functions.

No Pain, No Brain Gain: Why Learning Demands (A Little) Discomfort

Quality learning requires what brain scientists call “desirable difficulty”: the more challenging the learning process, the better your comprehension and recall as it causes your brain to build stronger connections between neural networks. Unfortunately, the trend in many organizations is to design training programs to be as easy as possible in the interest of increasing course completion rates and encouraging positive feedback from employees. This doesn’t mean learning needs to be unpleasant to be effective. The key is to strive for that “desirable difficulty.”

Lessons From A Triathlete: Small Startup To Large Enterprise – Which Is Right For You?

Drawing on an analogy of her experience as a triathlete, an entrepreneur who succeeded in making the leap from a startup of less than 100 people to a large enterprise employing 380,000 writes that to do the same, you need to: stay focused on the business goals (revenue targets); define more distinct KPIs for your team and “clearly articulate up and out” how those measures will positively impact revenue; and “balance thinking fast and slow,” noting that fast is easy for an agile startup, while slow is more appropriate for an enterprise.  As for finding your “perfect-fit company,” she recommends entrepreneurs to try going from startup to enterprise (or vice-versa) and when making the switch, to “go all in” by making a learning plan, chasing down and evaluating data, and beginning with the end in mind.

Air Canada, WestJet betting on benefits of artificial intelligence

Canada’s two largest airlines are joining those around the world by investing in artificial intelligence (AI), saying it can be a game-changer by boosting revenues while reducing costs, as well as benefiting passengers with a more personalized travel experience. The cost savings to the airlines are expected to be in the millions with AI systems’ capabilities, such as predicting when maintenance is required even before a part is broken and optimizing fuel requirements days in advance of a flight’s departure.

For passengers, AI technology can personalize offers based on the customer’s interests and price preferences. Air Canada will be partnering with Amadeus IT Group to install an AI-powered passenger service system to improve on everything from reservations to simplified rebooking. WestJet’s new CEO said he’d like to use AI to create a “virtual concierge service” similar to Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

About Laura Crest

With an educational background in journalism, Laura began her career as a professional writer and editor 35 years ago with an internship for a magazine while an undergraduate at Michigan State University. After the advent of the internet, Laura transferred her skills from print to digital with a small online consulting business specializing in SEO and content strategy. Since, she has also served as the blog writer, managing editor, and content curator for several small online businesses before joining Telsec Business Centres, where she continues to apply her expertise in content discovery and curation for small businesses.

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