Steven Persaud of Everest Financial Will Help You Reach The Top

Owner Stories, Steven Persaud, President, Everest Financial Services, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

Steven Persaud has a love of helping people achieve their financial goals. His company, Everest Financial Services, is designed precisely to help guide people towards those goals. Steven loves the end results, which is making a difference in people’s lives. We met Steven via 10|20 Marketing’s friend Nikki Gillingham. Our interview with Steven is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Steven. Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. When it comes to financial matters, it’s crucial to establish trust with your clients. So maybe let’s start with your background. How did you get into this field? What did you study? Why finance?

Steven Persaud: The field of finance was never in my scope. I never thought I would work in this field growing up. My father has a background in commerce and accounting, while my mother is a master statistician. I, on the other hand, always wanted to be an architect without knowing what that meant. I just knew I liked drawing and design. 

I moved to New Jersey in my senior year of high school when my father started working with my uncle as a CFO for his financial firm. They employed traders in financial markets, and their company was my first exposure to finance and the business world. Living so close to New York, I got to experience firsthand the ups and downs of the New York Stock Exchange and the speed of trading in this industry. 

10|20 Marketing: That’s amazing. So what brought you to Montreal and a career in finance?

Steven Persaud: When I graduated high school, I moved back to Montreal and pursued a commerce degree, bachelor’s finance. Every summer, I would return to New Jersey, spend some time shadowing traders, and had the opportunity to intern for a New Jersey-based hedge fund. 

While all that sounds exciting and interesting, I quickly realized that I did not want to be a trader or stockbroker. You can make your annual salary as quickly as you can also lose your shirt. My family had great relationships when they were living in Montreal. When I graduated, I was introduced to my father’s Financial Advisor, Gord Shipley, who took care of him and us as children. Meeting Gord was the beginning for me and led me to the career I am so fortunate to have today. 

10|20 Marketing: What a fantastic backstory, Steven! What is your approach to helping your clients succeed with their investments?

Steven Persaud: Financial advice and what I do is so much more than returns or dollars; it’s about educating clients and taking care of people—understanding that everyone is different and has different needs. One size fits all doesn’t work in today’s economy. A tailored approach with careful consideration of a client’s goals and helping them achieve them is why I do what I do. Assisting clients to find simplicity among all the noise of where to invest, what tools do I use, what insurance they need, how to protect their business, and the list goes on is what makes me different.

10|20 Marketing: So how many years have you been in the industry, and what are the things you like the most about what you do?

Steven Persaud: I’ve been in the industry for 13 years. You can see on my website that I was a manager/director for eight of those years. 

What I like is the fact that doing what I do doesn’t feel like work. Don’t get me wrong, yes, it’s a career and some days are more complicated than others. But in a given day pre COVID I would have breakfast, lunch and sometimes dinner with clients, helping them while joking around. In between eating and drinking, I’d be making calls and doing some paperwork. So every day was different and always super rewarding. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that working didn’t feel like work. The absolute best thing about my job is seeing what my advice and help can and have done for clients. Seeing them retire, buy a house, and achieve their goals is super fulfilling for me. But by far, the most significant impact I’ve had on some clients is the death benefit checks or critical illness claims I’ve settled. Knowing that the products I use work and give people hope and peace of mind. 

10|20 Marketing: How has the last year been in terms of what your clients need most from you? Have you seen a shift?

Steven Persaud: My clients are used to the level of service I give them and are not very demanding. I have found that many clients have taken to self-investing and playing in financial markets since they’ve been stuck at home. While I encourage clients in this area, I also encourage them to play with a small portion until they are comfortable. There is too much noise in the market with tech companies and cryptocurrencies. People feel they can do it all themselves when, to be honest, they cannot, at least the majority. 

The main question is that while everyone is happy and riding the stock market wave last year, what are they doing now? Where are their opportunities now? Did you sell at the right time? What advice are you getting now? It’s easy to advise when things are going well, but when things are flat or not doing so well, how are clients treated and serviced?

10|20 Marketing: So how has that changed your approach?

Steven Persaud: One thing that has come out of this in the last year is the efficiency of meeting clients. We were starting to get into video conferencing and meeting virtually and electronic signature, among other things. But with the pandemic, I have seen a considerable shift in how we reach clients. The accessibility and ease of virtual meetings have made it easy for them and me too. 

A lot of the travel time has diminished. But with all the good comes some negative. What I have seen is that relationship building and conversations are now lacking. A virtual meeting I always say is basically “Hi, how are you, now let’s get down to business,” whereas meeting a client in a café, restaurant, or even their homes allows for a much friendlier experience. 

Conversation and the overall client experience is what we pride ourselves on—being client-centric and having an inviting space to receive clients and give the option to do things virtually. Everyone has different preferences and precautions when it comes to business, so adapting to the client you are dealing with is paramount in helping them.

10|20 Marketing: One last question. How has the advice you give your clients changed in the last year? Any words of wisdom to share with our readers in terms of investing?

Steven Persaud: The last year has been a crazy time for investing. We have experienced some of the most significant returns I have seen in my career. At the beginning of COVID, I would often hear questions and concerns that clients wanted to pull their investments due to the uncertainty of the market. When everything rallied, I would listen to the same clients suggest that there would be another drop and we should pull back. 

The fact is this: clients who try to time the market always end up buying high and selling low. My approach to giving financial advice has never changed and never will. What I do is take the emotion and stress out of the equation. I always tell clients and prospects that if you have a financial plan that you follow, you don’t have to be nervous. Making sure your asset allocation is in line with your time horizon and risk tolerance is the key. 

If there are any words of wisdom to share, it’s this. Review your financial plan and make sure it is still in line with your goals, then circle back and re-align your investments to that plan.

10|20 Marketing: Thank you, Steven!

Steven Persaud: Thank you!

**

This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Blue Whale’s Nikki Gillingham Puts Content Into Marketing

Owner Stories, Nikki Gillingham, President, Blue Whale Communications, Kelowna, British Columbia

Nikki Gillingham is a content wizard, able to take a topic, learn all about it and turn a subject into likeable, relatable content. And that’s what social media, and in turn, Blue Whale Communications are all about. It’s the variety of clients that keeps Nikki buzzing, as she loves to learn about new people, industries and services and help clients of all different business types succeed online. From a personal standpoint, we’ve been working and collaborating with Nikki for over a year now, and we’re always impressed with Blue Whale’s output. So we were excited when she agreed to participate in our Owner Stories series.

Our interview with Nikki is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

10|20 Marketing: Thanks for participating, Nikki! So how did you get into social media, and what is the origin of your business?

Nikki Gillingham: Thanks for the opportunity, Mark!

When I was in school for Communications and PR, social media wasn’t even a part of our projects, aside from including some Tweets in our communication strategies! After graduating, I worked in marketing and communications for several years, from government agencies to national organizations to small non-profits. Social media was a growing but small aspect of the work I was doing.

4.5 years ago, when I started Blue Whale Communications, the intent was to be focused heavily on strategy development and content marketing. However, the requests I kept receiving were often for social media support. So I took the strategy and content and applied it to social media, focusing on gaining leads instead of followers, and things took off from there!

10|20 Marketing: That’s excellent, Nikki! Often the marketing dictates the direction you go in. I was once told that it would take at least five years to figure out what your business will be. Are you there yet? How do you see Blue Whale evolving?

Nikki Gillingham: That’s a good question! At the risk of putting words in my own mouth… I think we’re getting there! We are now at the point where social media management is the core of the business, and I’d like to see that continue to grow. I have brought on several freelance content creators to the team, and we’re really taking Blue Whale from ‘online business’ to ‘agency,’ which is exciting! The extra support allows me to work more on the business instead of in it. I’m taking the opportunity to coach those interested in learning and doing it themselves and launched an online course for those interested well. So I think Blue Whale has settled into a nice rhythm. We’ll continue to expand on the current business model, which is a combination of done-for-you social media management services and coaching or consulting. Of course, ask me again in 12 months, and my response might be totally different!

10|20 Marketing: I might ask you again next year! So what’s your wheelhouse in terms of clientele? Do you service a specific type of business, or is your client roster more random? An immediate follow-up to that question is, If you have an ideal client, how would you describe it?

Nikki Gillingham: One of the things I absolutely love about running an agency versus when I worked in the field as an employee is getting to work with clients in all different industries – it’s fascinating, I learn so much! The majority of our clients are small, service-based businesses, for example, laser and aesthetics clinics, wineries, dentists, real estate agents and brokerages, nutrition coaches, and even other communications agencies and consultants. It’s really all over the map, and it’s a lot of fun! An ideal client for social media management services is a business owner with an established business, already earning consistent revenue, and who wants to generate more leads with a smarter social media strategy.

For the coaching aspect, ideal clients are either new to business and entrepreneurship and want to create their own unique marketing strategy. They have an admin overseeing some of the marketing work and want them to optimize what they are already doing. We offer a 1-hour strategy call called a Power Hour. It’s an opportunity for anyone to hop on a video call and ask me any questions they have at all about marketing and social media. I get to chat with everyone from those whose businesses haven’t launched yet, to those with 20+ years of experience wanting a fresh perspective.

10|20 Marketing: Love it! You certainly know who you’re after and how to attract new clients. Let’s switch topics now. I want to ask you what your thoughts have been about the last year. How has your business adapted? Have you seen a change in how your clients are approaching their marketing?

Nikki Gillingham: The past year has been one for the books, hasn’t it? Initially, things really slowed for Blue Whale – marketing is always the first thing that gets cut from budgets! But that opened the door for me to pivot into the coaching space and allowed me to create the online course and other offers at a lower price point. So the second arm of Blue Whale really grew out of the pandemic. I don’t know if marketing, in particular, has changed so much as life in general has – of course, many had to move online, and that change in operations changed the overall messaging.

Instead of booking appointments, salons are suggesting products that to purchase for at-home care. Instead of promoting gym memberships, health and fitness experts share at-home workouts, renting equipment out, or offering virtual classes. The other big question is, when you go from seeing loyal customers regularly to not at all, how do you maintain that relationship? Maybe that’s where the marketing has shifted (or rather, more businesses are embracing the online side of it). We see more faces on social media as owners go there to share their stories and stay connected with their audiences.

10|20 Marketing: Do you see a one-size-fits-all approach with social media for your clients, or do you see some networks work better for certain types of businesses? Do you have favourite networks? What else do you do? Email, content writing, other approaches?

Nikki Gillingham: I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, but I think all platforms can work for all businesses. Even when we’re in the B2B – or Business to Business – market, at the end of the day, a human is on the other end making those decisions for the company. That human goes home at the end of the day and scrolls through Instagram, watches videos on YouTube, or chats with friends on Facebook. All places where they can inadvertently discover your business when they’re not thinking about business. That’s why messaging and understanding your audience is so important, more so than the platform you’re on. That’s not to say all businesses should be on all platforms, but I don’t think one platform over another will make or break a business.

Personally, I love Instagram. It has a higher engagement rate than other platforms, meaning users are more likely to interact with content than elsewhere. I’ve built real, genuine connections on that platform and have made new friends, business connections and generated leads from showing up and talking to people. THAT’S what social media for business is all about – having fun, building connections, and generating leads in the process.

Besides social media, we also manage email marketing, blogging and copywriting, and even basic website design.

10|20 Marketing: Nikki, thanks so much for taking the time for us. We loved spending this time with you!

Nikki Gillingham: Thank you! I had fun too!

**

This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Community is the Key At Metspace

Owner Stories, Caterina Mazzone, President, Metspace, Montreal, Quebec

Late last summer, we joined Metspace West Island to network and access the lounge. The minute you walk through their doors, you feel at home. That’s the sense that Caterina Mazzone and Paolo Catania have worked so hard to create at their two co-working locations. Mission accomplished. Starting in April. we’ve moved into a closed office and couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. We now have a wonderful space to work out of that’s private, but also still very much associated with the community. Our interview with Caterina delves into their plans for now and down the road, and includes an inspiring message for those looking for positivity as we move deeper into our new normal routines.

Our interview with Caterina is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Caterina! Thank you for agreeing to this interview! We’re excited to have you participate. Can you give us a little bit of background on how Metspace was started and walk us through your business concept?

Caterina Mazzone: Thank you for the opportunity!

How Metspace started was quite a natural process. In 2013, we closed a family business and we had an office that was empty. My husband decided to go to real estate school in 2014 and as his courses went on, his fellow students started coming to the office to study or to work. Shortly thereafter, the questions were asked if they could rent an office and voila, Metspace was born!

Our business concept is simple, we are building a community and offering the space as a tool to help you feel empowered, to help with your growth and to help with achieving your goals!

10|20 Marketing: Can you walk us through your locations, give some context on why the two locations were chosen? Why St. Leonard and the West Island?

Caterina Mazzone: St-Leonard is the first location and it is where we had the empty office so it just happened! As for the West Island, it is part of our expansion plan. We are aiming at the 4 corners of Montreal and then increase the radius nationally and eventually internationally!

10|20 Marketing: Have your plans changed over the last year in terms of expansion? How did the pandemic change things for Metspace? And how did you see it affect your tenants?

Caterina Mazzone: At Metspace we try to make all our members feel comfortable. When the pandemic first hit, we had to make necessary adjustments. We took every precaution to ensure our members felt secure but most importantly safe in our workspace. One of the values we uphold in our community is that once you join Metspace you become family. We adopted habits and rules that took care of not only our members but our staff as well. In terms of expansion of course some of our plans were delayed. We had to put a pause on some projects.

As we now continue in our new normal, we are starting to once more branch out and begin new ventures and partnerships. We have adjusted and have maintained a clean and healthy workspace for all our members and tenants by having routine cleaning, monthly sanitization treatments and hand sanitizers distributed throughout the space. This not only made our members feel safe but our tenants and staff feel comfortable as well.

10|20 Marketing: That’s amazing, Cat! What’s the profile of a typical member? Metspace caters to people and businesses of all sizes, but what do you think they all have in common? And what type of business really thrives within your Coworking concept?

Caterina Mazzone: The typical member profile is an individual or small group that is an entrepreneur or works for corporate. We have seen that the common factor of them choosing to come to Metspace is that they want a place where they can work yet feel like they are part of a community. In the past 6 years, we have witnessed so many friendships, partnerships, and business transactions happening between our members!

10|20 Marketing: Speaking from experience, I agree that you and Paolo have done a great job of making everyone feel a part of a community! Can you describe some of the events you put on that help create that community feel?

Caterina Mazzone: Thank you Mark! We are doing our best to make everyone’s experience at Metspace, an exceptional one! One of our events that everyone looks forward to is our monthly lunches! It gives our members the opportunity to meet one another while having lunch provided by us! Our community loves this event so much that they ask us for the dates a few months in advance to block off that lunch hour!

10|20 Marketing: Yes, the lunches are great! Any last words of encouragement for our readers as they try to find the light at the end of the tunnel regarding the pandemic?

Caterina Mazzone: Yes, absolutely! What I know for sure is that we are all in this together. The beauty of our Metspace community is that the common values are focused on 6 c’s! To connect, to collaborate, to create, to cultivate, to conquer, and of course, to celebrate! I invite your readers to come by Metspace and take a tour or to come work for the day! We will make sure you feel right at home!

**

This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Joelle Dorfman sees the new reality of realty

Owner Stories, Joelle Dorfman, Real Estate Broker, Groupe Sutton Performer, Montreal, Quebec

We’ve known Joelle Dorfman since we were kids, as she grew up in our neighbourhood and was friendly with our family. More recently, we’ve reconnected through our common networking group, The Networking Club here in the West Island of Montreal. getting to know them through our community sports programs and then as clients of 10|20 Marketing. Joelle has been a real estate broker since 2006 and has an interesting perspective on the market, the pandemic and just plain old hard work.

Our interview with Joelle is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place. And with the second wave now upon us, it’s the right time to prepare your business online.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Joelle! Thanks so much for agreeing to participate. So when did you get into real estate? Is this what you’ve always done? Where did you get your start?

Joelle Dorfman: I officially got my licence in June 2006. Before that, I went to McGill University and earned my Bachelor’s of Social Work. After I graduated, there weren’t many jobs in that industry so I worked as a Montessori school teacher for three years. After that, I worked as an office manager at my father’s engineering consulting company until he sold the business.

I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father, brother and husband all ran or run their own businesses. I believed that the business experience I had working for many years in a professional engineering company, along with my social work education gave me the perfect tools for a career in real estate.

10|20 Marketing: Can you describe what kind of market we’re in now. And what advice do you have for anyone looking to buy a home now?

Joelle Dorfman: Well, it’s been a strange one! Lol. This year is a very unusual one, just like in most industries. The real estate industry was basically “on pause” and since things have reopened, any properties that had been on the market or have been put on the market, have sold quickly, often with multiple offers. It’s been a great market for sellers and often a frustrating market for buyers.

If you’re looking to buy a property, act fast and don’t hesitate! Work with a broker who is active in the current market and is consistently looking for anything new that comes up for sale.

10|20 Marketing: How do you see the housing market changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

Joelle Dorfman: Predicting is an imperfect endeavour. I think what this pandemic has taught us is that working from home can be a positive, as employees can be just as productive! So after the pandemic, companies may still allow their employees to either work from home on a full-time basis or allow them to work part-time from home. This will require people to have more space to set up proper permanent at-home offices which will, in turn, translate to the need for larger family homes.

10|20 Marketing: Great perspective, Joelle! What have you personally learned during the last few months from a professional perspective? From a personal perspective?

Joelle Dorfman: From a professional perspective, I have realized how my education in social work has really helped me to understand how to work with clients who may be feeling stressed out and unsure about their future during these unprecedented times.

On the personal side, I have learned how much I enjoy spending time with my family but also how much I miss the social aspect of life. I’m a very outgoing and sociable person and have realized what an integral role my friends play in my everyday life.

I think this pandemic has forced us all to look at our lives through different eyes. We’ve learned that we shouldn’t take anything for granted because we never know when it will be taken away from us, at least temporarily.

10|20 Marketing: Do you have any advice for other brokers out there? What about for brokers who may be starting out in the industry and only just now getting their feet wet?

Joelle Dorfman: In this business, it can be a lot of ups and downs. When you first start out, you have to really want it because it’s very challenging to get started and establish yourself in the industry. Like in anything in life, hard work pays off!

10|20 Marketing: Great advice, Joelle! I appreciate your time and participation in our series!

Joelle Dorfman: My pleasure! Thanks for having me!

**

This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Joel Goldenberg believes in the power of putting his customers first

Owner Stories: Joel Goldenberg, Business Owner, Premier Ostomy Centre, Montreal, Quebec

We’ve known Joel Goldenberg and his father Nat for about 20 years, getting to know them through our community sports programs and then as clients of 10|20 Marketing. In business since the 90s, Premier Ostomy Centre has become to the go-to for ostomy supplies in Quebec.

Our interview with Joel is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. Also, remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Joel! Thank you for agreeing to participate in our spotlight series. Let’s get started by having you describe your business, Premier Ostomy Centre.

Joel Goldenberg: Premier Ostomy Centre is a family-run medical supply store.  As most of our customers have health issues, customer service is our number one priority. We make sure our clients’ needs are met in every way.  We sell all medical products, including, but not limited to, ostomy bags and supplies, catheters and accessories, mobility aids, bathroom equipment, compression stockings and more.  In addition to our brick and mortar store on Côte des Neiges, we also have a transactional website to help our clients.

10|20 Marketing: How long have you been in business? Can you discuss how your store started and evolved over the years?

Joel Goldenberg: My father started the business in the late 1990s. My Dad had a small pharmacy and started to have a significant demand for ostomy supplies. He decided to open a second business in the pharmacy as a medical supply store. I joined him about ten years after he opened with the idea of expanding the business. We started carrying other medical products, with catheters and supplies being our most important addition. I started visiting remote areas of the province to bring product expertise to underserved cities. We have since moved into our current location, which doubled our space and finishing an expansion. We have also diversified and are now distributors and importers for specialized products. However, our original goals and principals remain the same. We provide excellent customer service, have a very knowledgeable staff and provide fair and competitive pricing.

10|20 Marketing: What are some of the approaches you’ve taken to grow your customer base? Do you actively run marketing programs?

Joel Goldenberg: Our business relies a lot on referrals. Our best marketing is offering the best service we can. That’s how we get so many referrals from health professionals and current clients. We do other marketing as well. We advertise in local support group journals and nurse publications. We have an active presence on Facebook and are trying to be more active on other social media platforms. But I will always believe that offering good service and treating people with kindness and respect is the best marketing you can do.

10|20 Marketing: We agree, Joel! How has the business been since the pandemic hit? How have you been coping?

Joel Goldenberg: It has been interesting, to say the least, since the pandemic started. First, we had significant panic buying from our clients, so we were insanely busy. We also had so many calls for masks and other PPE that we couldn’t access. Then things quieted down as may of our clients had stocked up. Staffing has been an issue as our customer service team had to stop working. Most have young kids and needed to stay home with them. I finally have some staff back working from home, which poses many other challenges. We had to slightly reduce our opening hours, so I didn’t burn out the rest of the staff. For the most part, the supply chain has held up, and we have been getting our products as usual. I have even managed to find stock on most PPE items at fair and reasonable pricing.

10|20 Marketing: Final question, Joel. As a seasoned business owner of a retail location, what advice do you have for others in your shoes as they deal with this new normal?

Joel Goldenberg: That’s a good question. First off, I would say, don’t panic. Take your time before making any decisions and think them through. Another crucial thing is to take care of your staff. You need happy and productive employees, so you need to consider them when making any decisions. It is also essential to plan ahead. You need to try and figure out what’s going to be required over the next few months and try to be ready for anything. We have gone through many scenarios, and I continue to do so each day. There is nothing worse than being unprepared.

10|20 Marketing: Great advice, Joel! I appreciate your time and participation in our series!

Joel Goldenberg: My pleasure! Thanks for having me!

**

This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

When it comes to leasing, Jamie Goren sees both sides of the coin

Owner Stories: Jamie Goren, Commercial Asset Leasing Consultant, Affiliated Financial Services, Montreal, Quebec

Nepotism comes to the Local Business Owner Spotlight series and we won’t apologize for it! Jamie Goren is not only my brother, he’s also an experienced businessman who has worked for others and owned several business. He now guides other business owners through the process of leasing equipment earmarked to help grow their revenues. In this discussion, we touch on what he does, who he helps and the importance of distinguishing between good debt and bad debt.

Our interview with Jamie is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. Also remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

Interview with Jamie Goren, Commercial Asset Leasing Consultant

10|20 Marketing: Thanks for agreeing to do this, Mr. Goren. Your participation is greatly appreciated. How would you describe what you do if you were asked by mom?

Jamie Goren: Very basically, we help companies and sole proprietors alike to purchase commercial use assets without tying up working capital or depleting their cash. We can help companies to purchase everything from used or new trucks and construction equipment, to machinery, racking, telephone systems, alarm systems and even websites. We can even help professional offices to purchase furniture. We do this using lease-to-own contracts that typically go to a $10 buyback at the end. This the most tax efficient way to finance these purchases.

10|20 Marketing: So why would someone come to you for financial help rather than go to a bank or another lending company?

Jamie Goren: There are a few reasons, depending on the type of business you are running. For some proprietors (electricians, plumbers, contractors) it’s often a way to get commercial credit established while not tying up the amount of credit their bank will allow them to run their businesses.

For larger companies, the approval process is much quicker than traditional financing, the financing is off balance sheet (in many cases), and it does not tie up their working capital.

Lastly, for companies of all sizes, we will look at assets that traditionally a bank would not finance. We will also look at credit profiles that banks don’t usually touch.

10|20 Marketing: What advice would you give to business owners as they try to manage cash flow during what is now a very uncertain period of time with a lot of unknowns?

Jamie Goren: Managing your working capital is critical to buffering the uncertainty and the unknown. Even if you have the money in the bank it doesn’t mean it is the right time to reduce that balance and spend it.

There is such a thing as good debt just like there is such a thing as bad debt.

If you have the opportunity or the need to acquire an asset that will help you to grow revenues and it will generate positive cash flow when weighed against the payments, you should really consider leasing that asset and using the increased revenues/profits to make the payments.

I know it sounds self serving in this case, but adding debt to manage cash flow and punt the problems down the road is bad debt. Adding debt to purchase an asset that allows you to bill more or make more profits is good debt.

10|20 Marketing: You raise a great point. How do you help clients to see the good debt-bad debt point by coming across as help and not self-serving?

Jamie Goren: Having been in manufacturing businesses for 30 years prior to this career change, I feel like I know the experience from both sides of the coin. I truly believe that I am now selling a service that is really needed and in demand.

I will never put a gun to anyone’s head to sell them something that is not the right fit for them if they are not comfortable with it. I can help with the cashflow calculation, I can help with the weighing of pros and cons. I am in this for the long haul and want to be viewed as a client’s ally. I tell clients all of the time that I work for them, not for the lenders. In the end, my objective is to find a solution that fits their situation and that fits their business. If I cannot provide it, I will refer them to someone who can.

I recently did a financing for a company that I had that exact conversation with back in January. They opted to use cash for their purchase because an older member of the management team believed that there is no such thing as good debt. We had the conversation about good debt/bad debt, I let him know that I greatly respect his life experiences and his decision but I am always here if they need me. Not only did I recently do a deal with them, I have also been referred to another prospect by the same person.

10|20 Marketing: Do you see business getting back to normal now? What was your take of the market during the last three months of lockdown and pandemic panic?

Jamie Goren: Let me address the second part first. The business climate was really difficult in the months of April and May especially. Deals that were signed and ready to be funded were cancelled, especially in the event production space, and they won’t be coming back until next year at the earliest.

I hope that governments learned enough during the last three months to figure out a way to do target shutdowns on a much more micro level as best they could. But like any black swan event there were business opportunities to be had. And money to be made. We were busy with transport companies, Amazon delivery couriers, and some packaging equipment manufacturers.

I am thankful that we aren’t very focused on the restaurant trade, because that is going to be a really difficult industry (credit-wise) for an extended period of time.

As for the first part of the question, truthfully I am not sure what normal is. I have long felt that companies and consumers have very short memories and habits will return to the norm. I am not sure about that as a blanket statement in this case.

New credit approval will definitely be more challenging to get for a while. I certainly wouldn’t bet on an immediate return in travel and tourism.

On the other hand, home renovation companies, pools and drive-in entertainment venues are areas where we are seeing lots of demand.

I believe in the ability of entrepreneurs to innovate and adapt, but don’t think that the worst fallout has really hit yet. Lots of businesses are being propped up with payment relief and government subsidies.

It’s going to be a long summer and fall for the local economy and for the labor force, especially in retail and service based jobs.

10|20 Marketing: Thanks for this discussion, Jamie. Any final thoughts on credit, funding and moving forward?

Jamie Goren: I guess if I can leave your readers with a thought it is this: now is the time to make smart decisions. To conserve working capital but to not be fearful of capitalizing on opportunities. Some of the biggest success stories today are companies that took chances coming out of the recession back in 2009/2010 because they saw opportunities and pursued them.

There is money available for good businesses. While credit is tougher to get, it is far from impossible. There really is such a thing as good debt, especially for small and medium sized businesses.

I am available to discuss this with anyone who would like to.

I work for the clients. Not the lenders. Not a bank. Not anyone else. My job is to help businesses purchase the assets that they need for success. I can help you too.

Thanks so much for doing this, Mark. I have truly enjoyed reading every one of the stories and am grateful for you doing this one (even if I did have to wait my turn!)

10|20 Marketing: My pleasure. And the list is long! Thanks for playing along. See you later!

Jamie Goren: Of course!

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This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Sorin Pavelesco knows how to tell a story with the right frame of mind

Owner Stories: Sorin Pavelesco, Creative Director/Owner, Sorin Media, Montreal, Quebec

We met Sorin Pavelesco through our membership in The Networking Club here in the West Island of Montreal. Sorin has had an important impact on our group and he regularly shares the importance of visual branding and storytelling to further a company’s message. He understands how vital it it is to not only listen to his clients, but distil the information he’s been given into beautifully shot videos that highlight the client’s business. Through the process of putting together this interview, we’ve gotten to know Sorin a little bit better too, seeing his meticulous thought process put to action via the answers to these questions. We encourage you to read all about Sorin’s business below and reach out to him should you have any video needs.

Our interview with Sorin is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. Also remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

Interview with Sorin Pavelesco, branding specialist (design, video and music)

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Sorin! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. So tell me a little bit about your business and core services.

Sorin Pavelesco: I am a digital content producer, which means that I create content for my clients to help them brand themselves on social media platforms and the web. Because of my vast experience in branding and advertising I realized along the way that I’m very good at listening to the client’s story, distilling the information and identifying the key points and messages that need to be brought forth. Having taken journalism classes way back and having collaborated with many talented copywriters throughout the years I also realized that I have strong writing skills and this has really helped me when I need to write a script or narrative for my clients’ promotional videos. The real skill is to say a lot with few words. Everybody is competing for your attention and you don’t have a lot of time to tell your story. Classic elevator pitch!

Once the script is solid and agreed upon I start filming.

10|20 Marketing: What kind of videos do you make?

Sorin Pavelesco: I have filmed corporate testimonials, product launches, events, concerts, business spotlights, music videos and short documentaries. The range is quite varied as you can see. The editing is the third part of the process and this is where everything comes to life. The magic happens here. I also happen to be an accomplished music producer with my own recording studio and so I naturally compose the music to all my videos… this is extremely rewarding!

10|20 Marketing: So tell me a little bit about how your business has evolved over the years.

Sorin Pavelesco: Regarding the evolution of my business I would say this: 20 years ago people said that if you didn’t have a website you might as well not exist. This is when the white and yellow pages were starting to disappear and the big shift was towards advertising online. And so people spent thousands of dollars on their website only to realize that they also needed to give people a reason to come back to their site. Consequently the LATEST NEWS section became trendy for a while because it gave website owners the ability to quickly make daily updates—they thought that would suffice but that wasn’t nearly enough!

Social media eventually came along and companies were happy because they could interact directly with their clients but they were also faced with a new reality: the need to feed the media machine! After a few years companies finally realized you couldn’t just post anything, they needed to provide quality content because, after all, their brand was at stake by process of association. Not a single company wants bad publicity or negative comments on social media. It is like a cancer… one unhappy customer can destroy years of dedicated hard work because his negativity will spread to others.

10|20 Marketing: And in comes video…

Sorin Pavelesco: And so now we are here. If you don’t have a good quality video content with a coherent message that is relevant to your brand and your customers then you might as well not exist. As you all know Google (which owns Youtube) gives priority to videos that are featured on websites. If you do not rank on the first page on search results you are in trouble. Most likely your competition has a video, either on their website, Youtube channel, Facebook business page or Instagram page. If you do not… well… you are severely behind! Business-wise there are so many opportunities to create videos today for my clients, it is the greatest time for digital content creators in history. Almost overnight online communications transitioned from a supplement to the main form of reaching audiences. There will be a reduction in business travel, conferences, trade shows, in-person meetings, and with the increase in working remotely it becomes quite evident that digital content will only grow exponentially.

10|20 Marketing: And let’s not forget about the potential of video post to Google My Business!

Sorin Pavelesco: Let’s not!

10|20 Marketing: Do you have some concrete examples of how your videos have helped customers increase awareness, sales?

Sorin Pavelesco: A few weeks ago one of my clients started manufacturing high-quality homemade masks to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. I realized right away what made his models different from many other local productions was that his featured a front pocket with a high-density protective filter. I knew this was the greatest selling point and I made sure to highlight this key point in the 30 second video. We arranged the safe-distancing pick-up of the product, the briefing was done by phone and it was all filmed at my studio without ever needing to meet in person. He has been using this video to advertise online locally and nationally (Toronto Star and Globe & Mail) and the feedback has been fabulous. He is delighted!

Another example is a corporate video I produced for BASF (Black Academic Scholarship Fund). This organization helps young black adults complete their post-secondary education by way of grants. This cause truly moved me as I realized how only a few thousands dollars can directly impact someone’s life. Yes, corporations donate millions of dollars to combat disease, famine and poverty worldwide, it is important and we will always need that, but on a small local scale, to be able to help a young adult obtain his/her University degree… well that resonated with me greatly!!! It turns out their main fundraising event is a yearly golf tournament, the Jackie Robinson Charity Golf Tournament. I couldn’t believe they didn’t have a corporate video to showcase their wonderful organization!!!

Then again I wasn’t so surprised… there are so many worthy and important organizations that simply do not have a budget for professional video productions and so I donated about 30 hours of my time to produce a video worthy of their cause. I met with the Director, helped her write a heartfelt message that eventually became the introduction to the video and recorded her in her beautiful backyard garden. The other portion of the video was me filming the entire golf tournament at the St-Raphael Golf Club, starting with the 8am golf registration process to the end of the dinner ceremony at around 9pm. It was a very long but equally rewarding day. If my first video example was about sales then this one was all about bringing awareness to a great organization by donating my time, talent and services to make a difference locally.

10|20 Marketing: That’s amazing, Sorin, and so great to hear. What are some of the goals you typically aim for when embarking on a new video project?

Sorin Pavelesco: As far as goals are concerned I always strive to make my clients look good by elevating the perception of their service or product and hopefully make them look even better than they are! That means finding the best camera angle, the most flattering light, the strongest marketing message, the most poignant narrative or story to tell. The end result has to be memorable and hopefully incite the viewer to respond either emotionally or physically by purchasing, calling or emailing. Obtaining likes, positive comments and sharing is also highly desired on social media as you have to be “top of mind” to your customers. This is in the case of a commercial video of course… if I am doing something more artistic and personal then my goals are less focused on the marketing message and the call-to-action. For example I am currently developing a web series on artisans and the primary goal is to capture the beauty of their craftsmanship through the music, the narration and the visuals. The episodes are about 12-15 minutes long and I want them to be entertaining so I can afford to be more artistic and have the camera dwell on certain beautiful details if need be.

10|20 Marketing: Can I ask you what your advice is for small business owners in this new COVID-19 climate we’re in now?

Sorin Pavelesco: It has become quite clear during this global pandemic that the companies who had a digital strategy in place have fared better than the ones who did not. Posting relevant content on a regular basis on social media helps businesses to remain “top of mind” to their customers and this naturally implies strategic decisions regarding tone and messaging. I have seen some local small businesses in the health & wellness industry selling online gift certificates with a 20-30% discount but redeemable at full value once their business reopens and this is a great initiative especially since there is a growing trend to support local economy.

Another example is the local restaurants who have delivered free food to hospitals and caregivers… this wonderful and generous gesture also helps these businesses to gain new potential customers and provides them with the opportunity to be featured on local blogs. People will remember the ones who were there to help during the hard times and I think there is still a potential for many businesses to be relevant during this crisis, they just need to deliver the right content with the proper message. A personal fitness trainer can give free tips on how to stay active at home… A wedding photographer can celebrate the one-year anniversary of a newly married couple by posting the pictures they took last year… A chef can share photos of new, exciting recipes they are testing at home right now while their kitchen is closed… these are just a few simple examples off the top of my head on how you can stay relevant and “top of mind” right now.

10|20 Marketing: And how have you adapted your business as a result?

Sorin Pavelesco: For myself I have had three live events so far that I was supposed to film that were cancelled: two fundraising golf tournaments and one very important gala showcase in June, the highly-publicized Strangers In The Night benefit concert with Loverboy.—quite disappointed with that!!! Consequently I have shifted my focus to products and services, connecting with people that are selling products and offering certain essential services.

10|20 Marketing: It’s been really good having you participate in our series, Sorin. We appreciate you taking the time to so thoughtfully answer our questions.

Sorin Pavelesco: It’s been my pleasure, Mark. Thank you and all the best to you!

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Here are some examples of Sorin’s work:

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This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Brad’s financial advice is most certainly wise

Local Business Owner Spotlight, Brad Wise, Investment Advisor and Financial Security Advisor, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec

We go back a long way with Brad Wise, having attended school together and now as a neighbour who lives down the street. Brad has always been meticulous in his work and developed a passion and knowledge for investments at a very young age. From as early as eight years old, he can remember listening to his father’s advice at dinner. His dad would often talk about the importance of dollar-cost averaging, compound interest and putting aside money for a rainy day. Brad believes that this dinnertime discussion resonated because he followed a career path to give the same advice to his clients.

This was a very interesting interview with Brad. And due to the uncertainty of our times, I’d encourage you to really listen to his advice. This interview is the result of several days of back and forth emails, plus some light editing. Our interview with Brad is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series, including our interview with Brad’s wife, Kim Hannah. Also remember to  support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

Interview with Brad Wise, Investment Advisor and Financial Security Advisor

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Brad! Thank you for agreeing to participate in our series. So perhaps we should get started by having you explain your area of specialty.

Brad Wise: Thanks for doing this, Mark! I have been working as an Investment Advisor and Insurance broker since 2002 and am a fully licensed Investment Advisor. The products and services I offer include: mutual funds, low cost ETFs, stocks, GICs, and retirement planning. I am also licensed to offer insurance products, including life insurance, disability insurance, salary insurance, critical illness insurance, mortgage insurance, travel insurance, and health insurance.

Although I do work at Manulife Securities, we are a brokerage firm so we could place investments and insurance through many companies such as Manulife, RBC, BMO, Desjardins, Canada Life and many others! This allows us to be objective in our advice and offer our clients the best value on the market.

10|20 Marketing: Great! So how do you stand out from all the advisors in your field? What makes people want to work with Brad Wise?

Brad Wise: It sounds like a cliché but it’s my honesty. I am upfront with my clients in terms of the fees and commissions they are paying for the investments and insurance products that I offer them. Some products have higher fees and commissions and are not necessarily the best value for my clients. I am very transparent with everyone I deal with.

Another area that differentiates me is my customer service and response time. I always ensure I respond to my clients in an efficient manner. Whether I get an email at 10 o’clock at night or on the weekend, I will always respond to my clients the same day. There’s nothing more frustrating to me than calling an institution and waiting on hold for 30 minutes or waiting until Monday if you absolutely need a response on the weekend.

I am very passionate about my job and love what I do. Even prior to becoming an investment advisor in 2002, I would follow the stock market and read books on various financial investing techniques. I welcome all questions from my clients as I love sharing my knowledge and passion about the market and helping them choose the right financial services based on their goals and risk tolerance. For some advisors, this is just a job. Personally, I don’t dread Monday mornings as I love what I do.

Not all investment advisors are fully licensed to offer all types of investment products. I am also a fully licensed IIROC advisor, which means I can offer all types of investments including low cost ETFs and stocks. Of course I do offer mutual funds as well but many people would benefit from having both mutual funds and low cost ETFs in their portfolios. Although I do work at Manulife Securities we can place business with several investment and insurance companies which ensures that my clients are getting the best value on the market for all their financial needs.

10|20 Marketing: Very interesting. Let’s change gears here for a bit. How have you been handling investments in the current market climate? What advice have you been giving people as the economy starts to suffer as a result of the pandemic?

Brad Wise: With over 17 years experience as an investment advisor, I have helped my clients manage their expectations and concerns during extreme market volatility including the 2008 Great Recession. I am always there to help my clients make informed decisions during these difficult times and guide them to make rational and logical investment choices rather than decisions based on their emotions. Prior to this correction, we had the longest bull run ever so I have been preparing my clients for an inevitable correction in the market by ensuring they had sufficient exposure to asset classes such as bonds to help reduce their volatility. Diversification across several sectors and asset classes is the key to ensuring your portfolio experiences less volatility than the market. Some government bonds, for example, have made money during this downturn.

Some people tend to become very nervous during these corrections and look to sell all their investment when the markets are falling. This rarely proves to be the right strategy as markets are resilient and investors who stay invested will recover their losses and grow their wealth. Generally the best days in the market follow a downturn so you don’t want to be on the sidelines when this happens. For many of my clients, I highly encourage investing the same amount each month to benefit from dollar cost averaging. This strategy helps reduce the impact of volatility by spreading out your fund purchases so you’re buying more shares at a lower price and less shares at a higher price. Dollar cost averaging works incredibly well in volatile markets and helps take emotion out of investing.

I am always there for my clients to talk about their investments and help respond to any concerns they have about the market, their finances and their general health and well being.

10|20 Marketing: Smart advice, Brad. What would you say are the top three areas where you help people the most. In other words, don’t answer with what you can do, but rather with what kind of work you find yourself doing the most!

Brad Wise:

  1. Responding to inquiries about my client’s investments whether it would be something simple as providing tax slips or an overall analysis of its diversification and past rate of returns.
  2. Finding life and health insurance solutions for potential clients. I search the market for the lowest pricing and best value and see which insurance product fits their needs. Some people assume they can’t get life or health insurance if they have any current health issues but there are plans that give coverage to those who are traditionally hard to insure.
  3. Keeping myself informed on the latest updates on the markets as well as insurance products by attending several webinars on a weekly basis.

10|20 Marketing: And in terms of the products you offer?

Brad Wise: The top 3 Insurance products I sell the most are:

  1. Manulife Vitality life insurance. Both my wife and I are personally on this life insurance plan and love it! It gives us the opportunity to earn rewards like Amazon gift cards and hotel discounts and lowers our life insurance premiums. In addition we get a free annual checkup from a nurse who comes to our home. Most importantly it encourages us to stay active thus improving our overall health.
  2. Health Insurance plans for people who are retiring or leaving group health plans. Everyone is accepted without any medical underwriting, which ensures that everyone could get complete coverage. I offer these plans through Sunlife, Manulife and Greenshield.
  3. Travel insurance for snowbirds. I have several clients who travel to Florida every year so I find them the most competitive pricing on the market.

10|20 Marketing: This has been great, Brad! Any last words of advice?

Brad Wise: To my knowledge, there is no crystal ball to help foresee the future of the market. Instead, I make sure to work with my clients to find the right strategy by building portfolios in anticipation of market volatility, not in reaction to it. I help people stay on track with their short-term and long-term financial goals and provide guidance during difficult times.

There are thousands of advisors to choose from with incredible credentials. When choosing an investment advisor, you want to make sure you are working with someone that actually cares about you. Any advisor can sell you products but it’s essential to find someone you can truly trust in helping you plan for your financial future. Find someone who will put your needs first and do what is in the best interest of you rather than the advisor. Make sure to B. Wise with your decision.

I wanted to thank you for including me in your spotlight series. I have read all the interviews you have conducted the last several weeks and I think it’s an incredible initiative on your part especially during these challenging times.

10|20 Marketing: Thank you, Brad! It’s been our pleasure.

Brad Wise: Thank you!

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This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Helen Papazian’s work as a bookkeeper really counts

Owner Stories: Helen Papazian, Bookkeeper, Ville-Saint-Laurent, Quebec

Helen Papazian is a member of The Networking Club, a West Island based group that meets every second Tuesday. Helen is a Certified Bookkeeper and QBO Advanced Pro-Advisor who, having started and successfully run a wholesale/distribution company for 16 years and a bookkeeping firm for the last 6 years, is distinctively qualified to understand the plight of the entrepreneur. Having gone through learning about marketing, sales, HR, and finance, Helen is now able to share her knowledge with clients and support them with various aspects of their business.

Like we have with our other spotlight guests, we spent a few days going back and forth via email to discuss Helen’s business and where she stands out among bookkeepers. Our interview with Helen is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series and support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

Interview with Helen Papazian, Bookkeeper

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Helen. Thank you for doing this with us! Can you tell us a little bit about your bookkeeping business and some of the philosophy you have that sets you apart?

Helen Papazian: Thank you, Mark, for including me as one of your spotlight businesses. I appreciate this opportunity. You ask what sets me apart as a bookkeeper, well, I work to empower my customers to make better, more informed financial decisions. I do this by continuously upgrading my skills. I regularly meet with my clients and review their goals and help them plan for profit, setup processes, and implement new technologies. I am not merely their bookkeeper. I am their advisor, their company comptroller. My clients tend to call me before making significant financial decisions. I treat their money as if it were my own. This is what sets me apart from other bookkeepers. I can give you some of my business background if you like.

10|20 Marketing: Sounds great, Helen! Please go right ahead.

Helen Papazian: I started my first business venture at the age of 7, it was not a lemonade stand 😊, but I can tell you about that some other time. I started several companies in my life, some with partners, most on my own. In 2002, I started a wholesale company. I grew the business working part-time for 14 years, building the sales to $500K a year, I was selling to Costco and Indigo Chapters, yes all that part-time. I did this purely on intuition, creativity and innovation.

Throughout those years, I had hired several bookkeepers and accountants. I realized that neither was giving me any information or financial guidance. I was ready to take the next step and needed advice. I needed processes, a financial plan. So I decided to go back to school and learn all about accounting and finance myself. That is when I realized I was less interested in building the wholesale company and enjoyed managing the financials of the business, planning for profit. I finished my classes, passed the test with the IPBC, Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada, and became a certified bookkeeper. I also got my certification as a pro advisor with Intuit. Then I started my firm some six years ago, we are now two in the office, and planning to grow.

10|20 Marketing: So you must really understand the entrepreneur’s mindset then.

Helen Papazian:

I understand the anxiety they feel around numbers or their lack of accounting knowledge, the stress around navigating Revenue, Quebec and the CRA. I intimately know how it feels to have a vision for your business but not know what it takes, financially, and how to plan to get there. Because of this lack of financial planning, most startups fail. And for those companies who have successfully operated and want to grow their business, they can’t because it takes a new and higher level of understanding to grow the business without becoming overwhelmed and losing control. Planned growth is essential at that stage.

I am their advisor, their company comptroller. It is important to me that my clients succeed. I treat their businesses as if they were my own. If I am not able to help, it weighs on me, and I try to find ways I can be helpful. That said, not all clients require or ask for this level of help, so I listen to them, I try to understand what their goals are, and I guide them accordingly. I train them if they want or need training. I help them with implementing new online technology.

10|20 Marketing: So what are your core values as an advisor?

Helen Papazian: My core values are gratitude, innovation, creativity and mindset. We are grateful for our client’s trust in us and respect our client’s goals and vision and work to support it the best we can through my life experiences, creativity, mindset and accurate, relevant financial data.

10|20 Marketing: This is great, Helen! Can you give us some examples of how you’ve made a difference for a client of yours? Something that you noticed that most bookkeepers wouldn’t flag?

Helen Papazian: I don’t just enter data and call it a day I analyze it, I pay attention to the customers purchasing habits. I had a client who had posted a job ad on one of the websites after he had hired his employee I noticed that the job site kept charging him a monthly fee of $500, I flagged it and sent him the information so he could have them reverse the payment. You can’t just assume it’s a legitimate expense and pass it through.

I also look at the income statement at the end of each month to see if anything looks like it does not make sense. I’ve caught many errors this way! Paying bills twice, for instance, even some credit card fraudulent activities. It’s important to ask a lot of questions! I don’t plug the numbers just to get the month closed. I ask questions.

10|20 Marketing: Do you have any other examples?

Helen Papazian: Of course! Another way I help my clients is by reviewing their data. I had a client who owned a corporation and kept trying to pin him down for a review meeting. He kept postponing it. When I finally got him to sit with me, we went through his financial statements I told him even if he was showing an $80K profit, his cash flow was in a bad position. He was offering terms to his customers and had no terms with his vendors, this was creating a cash flow problem since he had an immediate cash outlay, but his receivables were 30 – 90 days down the line. He was using his line of credit to keep him floating.

As a result, I implemented two procedures. First, I got him to collect from customers sooner since most of them were passing the 30 days. We implemented monthly reminders, every 15th of the month, a statement would be sent to the client reminding them of upcoming due dates, and if over 45 days, a phone call would be made. Secondly, I told him to work on getting terms with his largest suppliers to defer the payments. After the review, my customer understood how important it was to sit with me every quarter to go over his financial statements and make adjustments and corrections. He never postponed another meeting request since.

I also have smaller clients who are registered businesses. I take the time to sit with them as well and review their data and always start by asking them what their goals are. What kind of income they are looking for, just enough to be comfortable or do they want to grow their business and eventually hire employees? These questions are important since their answer will determine the strategy. I had a client who was struggling with her finances. She had no idea what kind of income she needed to be comfortable, no clue as to her expenses so I gave her some homework. I gave her a spreadsheet and asked her to fill it in, list all household expenses, credit card balances and minimum payments. We did some analysis to see how much income she needed to generate to be financially comfortable, pay all her bills, bring down her credit cards and line of credit as well as save.

I empower my customers to make better, more informed financial decisions. This is what sets me apart from other bookkeepers.

10|20 Marketing: This has been great, Helen! Thank you for taking the time to participate. It sure sounds like you really do make an effort to help your clients in real important ways!

Helen Papazian: My pleasure, Mark! Thank you for including me in your spotlight series.

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This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.

Kim Hannah really knows the art of woodworking

Owner Stories: Kim Hannah, Artist, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec

We’re big fans of Kim Hannah and her work. Through her company Ampersand Designs, Kim works with wood in true artistic fashion to make gifts for her clients that have lasting emotional connections. And we should know, as Kim was responsible for reimagining our logo as a sign, literally taking our vision and making it come to life. While Kim does have an impressive roster of corporate clients, she also has a loyal and growing following among those who are looking for gifts for friends and family. Kim runs her business through her home workshop and has maintained a solid and consistent presence on social media to help her promote her work.

We spent a few days going back and forth with Kim via email to discuss her business, her favourite kinds of work and what makes her business tick. Our interview with Kim is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series and support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.

Interview with Kim Hannah, Artist

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Kim! So happy you’ve agreed to this interview! Can you tell me about Ampersand Designs and how you first became interested in woodworking?

Kim Hannah: Thank you for taking the time to spotlight local businesses, this is a great initiative! Woodworking has always been an interest of mine. I come from a long line of wood workers. My grandfather and his many siblings all did wood carving, and I grew up watching my dad carry on their family tradition.

I started Ampersand Designs almost three years ago when I found myself out of a job. I wanted something that would afford me the flexibility to be home for my kids after school, and that would allow me to do something I love. As a result, I decided the best way to have my own hours was to work for myself. I’ve always seen myself as being creative, in fact when my children were much smaller I had my own mural business called Off the Wall murals.

The question was how did I turn my passion into a profitable business? After some brainstorming I decided on making hand painted items in wood. I started making a few gift ideas for friends and family and slowly through social media and word of mouth I was able to develop a small following. Since then I have met a lot of great people and expanded my product offering. I am continuously teaching myself new techniques and tools in order to improve and expand my business.

10|20 Marketing: That’s awesome, Kim! Can you describe some of the items you make and which techniques you specialize in?

Kim Hannah: All of my work is custom. I decided to take this approach for my business model for two key reasons:

  1. It allows my customers to be able to create a fully customized, personalized item.
  2. It allows me to pour money back into my business instead of it being held up in inventory.

I have been very fortunate to have dealt with many customers over the years and have created over 500 custom items. They range from personalized signs to commemorate the birth of a new baby, decorative trays, family trees, growth charts and more! Last year I invested in a new tool called a scroll saw which has allowed me to expand my offering to now include three-dimensional wood cutouts that are very popular for room decor and company logos.

If I had to choose one item as my specialty I think it would be the scroll saw items. The market of handcrafted wood items is growing each day, and a lot of these small businesses produce very similar items. I am always watching what the competition is doing, and part of my focus is on differentiating myself from the rest.

10|20 Marketing: Two follow up questions: 1) Would you say that you’re primarily in the gift-giving business and 2) how has business been over the last months or so with the lockdown in place? I would think other than the challenge of getting supplies, you should be able to turn out orders. Safe assumption or not?

Kim Hannah: Without actually crunching the numbers I would say it’s 50% gifts and 50% of people are purchasing for themselves.

At the beginning of COVID I saw a huge drop in business. Which to me was understandable given that many people were becoming unemployed and with the economic uncertainty. As the weeks have progressed, and people have more free time, business has picked up. I am still accepting orders as long as I can obtain the raw materials that I need to complete my work.

10|20 Marketing: So what’s the most creative things you’ve made? What is your favourite?

Kim Hannah: Wow that’s a tough question! I would say everything I make requires at least some degree of creativity, it would be more of which were the most challenging. Logo signs always test my skills because I am trying to replicate a businesses’ existing logo.
And any new woodworking project where I have to create the design build from scratch.

The word scrambles really test my creativity because I have to incorporate many words in various fonts and sizes to come up with an overall design that is pleasing to the eye. The sound wave was like nothing I’ve ever done before so it is one of my favourites, but
I would have to say my all time favourite project was the replica I did of my grandmothers recipe in her actual handwriting. That one hangs in my office. 🥰

10|20 Marketing: These are amazing, Kim. So well done. Well thanks for all these great answers and pictures and, of course, for doing our logo as well! Any last words?

Kim Hannah: Just a special thank you to you for not only supporting my business this past year, but for taking the time to spotlight it on this platform!

10|20 Marketing: It’s our pleasure! And by the way, this is the sign that Kim made for us!

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This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.