Want all of the information on this page and more in one handy resource? We’ve got you covered. That’s why we created The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing and Scaling a Business: Human Resources, a free downloadable guide full of expert advice, handy templates and rich resources that lead you through how to build and manage your team and company culture as you grow. Save it to your computer, and have this guide on hand as you grow your business to the next level.
So you’re looking into human resources for your growing business—congrats! That means you’ve successfully made it through the first few years of entrepreneurship, which is no easy task. We’ve collected information from all kinds of industry experts and resources to give you a comprehensive guide to HR as you expand your team and business. Here’s a quick look of the topics we’ll cover:
- Navigating business risk and failure
- Prioritizing mental health: 5 mental health care tips for entrepreneurs
- Managing your employees
- Building a strong team
- Hiring and firing: the need to know;s
- Demonstrating diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- Inspiring leadership in the workplace
- Creating a culture
- A glimpse into taxes and hiring
- The group investment plan
- Planning for retirement as a small business owner
Navigating business risk and failure
Starting a business is super hard—but you’ve already done that. Now, you’re boldly going where very few business owners dare to go—into the growth phase. Like anything worth doing, growing your business comes with risk. Learning to embrace failure is important for business (and as an entrepreneur, it’s part of the job), which is why we want to help you prepare for the worst, and see that failure doesn’t have to mean the end when you take a business risk.
Here are four tips to help you grow and learn from failure and your growth journey:
- Learn to be flexible: your customers should mould your business, which means that you have to be open to your original business idea changing and growing.
- Find out if failure is something you can control: for example, you can’t change demand, but you can change the way you frame your product.
- Learn from your mistakes: as long as you’re learning and growing, you don’t need to regret anything. A great entrepreneur can succeed with a bad idea, but a negative entrepreneur can kill even the best idea.
- Fail fast: find out what doesn’t work as quickly as possible. This way, you can evaluate your business efficiently.
Prioritizing mental health: 5 mental health care tips for entrepreneurs
As an entrepreneur and business owner, you’ve most likely experienced first-hand how blurred the lines get between your personal and work lives. And when lines blur, all of our life can get a little messy—and that mess can take a toll on our mental health. These blurred lines are part of why mental health is key to success in business—if you’re not at your healthiest mentally, then the rest of your life will suffer, including your work.
If you’re feeling burnt out on the business owner life, if sh*t’s hitting the fan, or you’re just wondering if you’re ever going to have a day off, here are a few mental health care tips for entrepreneurs that we hope can give you the boost you need.
1. Review and prioritize your life
Your business can’t live without you, but you can live without the business. It’s important to take time to step back, and review your priorities to see how you’re spending your time and energy, and if something needs to change. Even making seemingly simple changes, like scheduling a coffee date with a friend once a week, or going on a run before work, can make a huge difference in your mental health.
Taking stock of your priorities can also give you some perspective on your business. Ask yourself, “why did I start it in the first place? Is that purpose being fulfilled? Is it bringing me joy? If not then it may be time to make a bigger change.
If your business is your only source of income, take some pressure off yourself by taking on a second, less responsibility-intensive job. This is also a great opportunity to see if it’s time to hire on some new staff to help ease your load, whether it’s a full-time employee, some student interns or contracted freelancers.
Our point is, you have options if you’re overwhelmed, and at the end of the day, your sanity is far more important than any amount of money you could make.
2. Develop a routine
Once you know what you care about, you can start creating a routine that allows you to feel balanced. This could include anything from meditation to (prescribed) medication. The key here is to not only plan a routine but stick to it.
Structuring your day will help you quell anxiety about fitting everything in. And taking time for activities that rejuvenate you gives you more resilience when challenges come up, and will have substantial long term effects on your mental health.
3. Build a support network—and lean on it
Asking for help isn’t easy—or a sign of weakness. Struggle and failure are usually the best teachers and no one, not even the most fearless entrepreneur, can go through life’s journey alone.
You can gain so much knowledge and support when you engage with a community of others who’ve also tried, failed and learned to keep going. It’s amazing what you can face when you’re not alone. Consider enlisting a partner, advisor or mentor—or joining a mastermind group or local business community who can help you work through challenges and share your stress with others to lighten the load.
The ATB Entrepreneur Centres are a great place to start if you’re not sure how to build your network. They offer free events and workshops, giving you opportunities to meet other entrepreneurs and learn from industry experts.
While having your work tribe around you is necessary, it’s just as important to develop a support system outside of work with friends and family. As simple as it sounds, grabbing a beverage of choice or going on a walk with a friend and talking about something besides business might give your mind the break it needs.
4. Seek professional help
If you’re struggling with your health in any way—mental, emotional, physical or spiritual—don’t hesitate to reach out for help and any resources available to you. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help when you need it.
Speaking with a trusted friend or clinician, engaging in therapy or getting a medication prescription might be exactly when you need to find some stability when things feel shaky.
We encourage you to shake off the outdated, negative stigma surrounding seeing a physiological healthcare professional. A certified professional is trained to help you with whatever you’re going through, and to equip you with the skills to become your healthiest self—that’s something we can all benefit from.
If you don’t have medical coverage for mental health services, not to worry. The Canadian Mental Health Association can connect you with free psychological counselling, peer support and wellness programs.
5. Be kind to yourself and practice gratitude
This isn’t just a catch phrase for yogis—choosing to direct your thoughts allows you to regain control over your mind and reframe your outlook. Oprah suggests writing down three things that you’re grateful for at the end of every day. On the days that it’s hard to think of three, write down five—those are the days you need to remember them most. These lists can alter your thinking to make room for hope, and the recognition that not everything is as bad as it seems.
We hope these tips can help you on your mental health journey as an entrepreneur. We have five more mental health tips—plus expert advice and resources on growing your business—in our free sixty-four page guide to human resources for growing businesses.
Managing your employees
Building your own HR and best practices comes with the territory of growing your business and making some new hires. We at ATB have some of our own wisdom to share, having built HR practices for a large organization, but whatever kind of human resource management you put in place, the Alberta labour laws need to be the foundation.
These laws should be your first and most carefully followed resource when you start developing your own human resource management guidelines and best practices. Our suggestions for employee management are based on a whole lot of experiences in HR, but they don’t have legal backing (like the provincial labour laws do).
What is the best way to manage employees?
Your employees are your most important resource. They are the lifeblood of your company and often the connection between your business and your customers. Here are our top tips for employee management as your business grows.
Finding top talent
Getting the best of the best to work with you always comes back to your brand. Start by building a workplace culture and brand that your existing employees are proud of and excited to participate in—word will spread.
Performance evaluations should be happening regularly to make sure that you can help set your employee up to do their best work. Every time you have a one-on-one meeting with an employee, you should be asking three questions:
- What are your barriers?
- Where do you need help?
- How can I help you remove these barriers to get you to where you want to go
The key to turning evaluations into achievable goals and results is documentation. Whether you’re doing a formal yearly evaluation, or taking notes during something more regular and informal, you should be getting them in writing for future reference, and to hold you and your employee accountable.
Promotions should be based on well-rounded performance, not just on impressive numbers.
Before you promote anyone, your employee should be consistently working at a higher level than their current role demands and demonstrating that they’re ready for bigger challenges and additional responsibility.
What if someone is looking for a promotion but isn’t quite ready yet? Don’t crush their spirits. Instead of promoting them before they’re ready or denying them the opportunity fully, give them a chance to grow in the areas that need strengthening. Ask them to take on a challenging project, have a tough conversation, take a workshop, etc.
It’s your responsibility as their leader to manage their performance and coach them through their growth periods. When your employees get the opportunities to grow, they can be empowered to take control of their prospects within your company and beyond.
There’s so much more we want to share with you about employee management—including topics like recognition, overtime and vacation time, and red flags—but we can’t fit it all here. That’s why we created our guide on human resources for growing businesses. It has tons of information on employee management, plus other HR-related topics to help you out as you grow your business.
Building a strong team
How do you build a strong team at work? Here are three ideas to get you started.
- Define yourself first: building a great team starts with knowing your own strengths, weaknesses, and work style. Round out your team with people who excel in the areas you don’t.
- Bring the right people aboard: build a team with people who have the talents, passion and proven ability to get results—then teach the finer skills. Protect your team by courageously and quickly removing those who don’t respond to coaching and can’t deliver.
- Unite your crew: develop a vision of what you’re going to achieve together and why you’re doing it, and communicate it with passion to your team. Make sure every team member understands their contribution to meeting these shared goals, how they impact the final results and what happens to the outcomes if they don’t show up. Make everyone accountable to each other and don’t allow excuses or compromise.
We’ve got two more tips on building your best team in our human resources guide for growing businesses. Save this comprehensive PDF guide to your desktop and keep it handy as you grow your business and team.
Hiring and firing: the need to know’s
The best kind of recruiting starts way before you need to hire. Relationship recruiting builds long-term professional relationships with people you might hire in the future. Get to know potential talent wherever you go, whether that’s at networking events, workshops, visits to local universities and colleges, trade fairs, maybe even your favourite coffee shop. The point is, you just never know when you’ll meet someone who could be an amazing addition to your business.
Perks of relationship recruiting include:
- Getting to know people in more than one context over time
- Finding talent who care about your company and your story
- It’s proactive instead of reactive
- Being able to hand-pick people to join your team
Hiring best practices and FAQs
When you’ve become too busy working in the business to work on it. That means you’re spending most of your time doing administrative work, or at least 20 hours/week on ongoing tasks. Also, only hire full-time when you can afford to!
If you’re swamped with admin work but you don’t have the budget for a full-time hire, here are a few options:
- Remote hires: lowers overhead costs.
- Part-time employees: you can always increase their hours later if your budget allows.
- Contract workers: alleviates the stress of having to commit to full-time employees.
- Co-op students: hire for temporary positions while attracting university talent.
A red flag in the hiring process is anything that demonstrates a lack of commitment to your business. These can include:
- The absence of a cover letter in the application.
- Short, unexplained employment records.
- Spelling or grammar mistakes in the application.
After you’ve warmly welcomed your newest team member, you can handle the majority of the payroll onboarding process with these three steps:
- Open a payroll account with the CRA.
- Calculate the deductions you take from their pay—the CRA has awesome resources like an online payroll deductions calculator to help you out with this one.
- Send the CRA the deductions you withheld from your employee, and your own share of CPP and EI.
Want more resources to help you out with payroll? We’ve got that, plus a pre-hiring checklist and a ton of other helpful resources in our human resources guide for growing businesses. You can download it (for free!) and keep it on hand as a reference.
What you should know about firing an employee: firing best practices
It can feel a bit backwards, talking about firing before you’ve potentially even hired any staff. But having a system in place in case that happens allows you to let someone go in a way that respects them and protects you.
There are two main types of firing you need to be aware of if you’re letting someone go:
Your employee has given you an objective reason (according to your employee handbook/policy manual or the law) to fire them and so you don’t owe severance. You have a right to fire them because they’ve broken their terms of agreement with you or the government. Chat with a HR lawyer if you think there’s a chance your former employee will sue for wrongful termination.
Your employee hasn’t done anything wrong, but their job no longer exists because you’re downsizing, restructuring, or looking for a different skill set. It can simply be because they’re not a great fit for their role or your company.
If your employee has been with you for more than 90 days (the legal requirement for probation) then you’ll have to give them termination notice, termination pay, or a combination of both.
If you terminate them with payment in lieu, that means you’re paying out your employee the amount you would have given them if they continued to work until their official last day. The relationship can get a little weird in the office—paying them out can save everyone from an awkward relationship.
You don’t have to give notice if:
- They’ve been employed less than 90 days
- There’s a different industry standard
- Continuing their position would harm the employee’s health
- They quit after a reduction in earnings
If an employee quits, they owe you the same amount of notice you would have owed them.
Five questions to ask yourself before you fire someone
There’s no doubt that firing anyone can be a nerve-wracking process—it’s never easy to break the bad news. Before you get to the firing itself, take a step back and ask yourself a few questions. It never hurts to do a little self-reflection before making a big decision like this.
Generally, if you’re doing regular performance evaluations with your employees, providing feedback and giving warnings if necessary, the reason why you’re firing them should be pretty clear. Make sure you know your “why” and that it’s been communicated to the employee.
If the “why” behind your decision to fire an employee has never been communicated (provided that it's performance-related, not criminal or something serious like that), then you shouldn’t be firing them just yet. It’s only fair to clearly communicate an issue with an employee, give them feedback and support, set goals together, and check in to see if they’re improving. Otherwise, you’re not giving them the chance to change their behaviour.
Don’t jump the gun and rush to a hasty firing decision and sloppy execution. Once you’ve made the decision to fire someone and all of the details are in place (having IT on hand to remove them from the network, payroll is informed and ready to give them their payout, etc.) is the best time to take action.
Firing shouldn’t be done impulsively. Plan out your execution, paying attention to the details. Maybe you can call the rest of the team into a meeting so the employee doesn’t have to clean out their desk in front of everyone post-firing. Who will go into the room with you when you have to make the decision, so you have a witness?
Plan to have one employee help the terminated employee clean out their desk and make sure that they leave peacefully. You can provide compensation for a taxi or Uber if they don’t have a car of their own. Make sure you have any forms and payout ready. These are the things that will help everything go as smoothly as firing can go.
When it comes to the employee, be as straightforward as you can and remain calm. Once you’ve communicated the decision, jump into their compensation and the terms. The employee could react emotionally, and ultimately you want to help them save face. By trying to keep things as business-like you can, you could spare them any embarrassment that crying or a burst of anger could bring.
When it comes to the rest of your team, be candid and respectful of the employee. Share your decision in a way that makes it clear how it benefits the company and the team, admit to any failures on your part, and be mindful of the employee’s perspective.
Demonstrating diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion are often buzzwords in the business world—it’s rare to find a successful business that isn’t talking about them. Unfortunately, it’s almost equally as unusual to come across an organization that’s created an environment that truly succeeds in including and making the most of all its diverse members.
Inclusion is not about fulfilling some kind of quota in your workforce—it’s about taking action to facilitate a culture where all people are treated equally (including pay and access to opportunities), respected, feel at home as they are, and are represented and included across the business.
Inclusion roadblocks for many businesses include:
- After hiring a diverse group of candidates, these new employees leave because they aren’t included in the company culture.
- Struggling to hire diverse candidates because of biases, either conscious or subconscious.
Your team members will be more productive and engaged if they don’t feel pressure to fit in in the workplace, and customers are more likely to trust your business if they can see themselves reflected in it.
How can I incorporate diversity and inclusion in my business?
So, we know that prioritizing diversity and inclusion is essential to bring equal opportunity to all people, but the big question is “how?”
As we’ve discovered at ATB, diversity and inclusion start with trust, thoughtful conversation, tons of feedback, and senior executives getting on board.
To kickstart intentional action towards diversity and inclusion at ATB, our Director of People and Culture and Director of External Equity & Inclusion looked to data. The stats were used to expose assumptions, and show reality. They compared the data on diversity in Alberta with diversity at ATB to help leadership see what needed to change, with a wonderful response.
Using employee engagement surveys, they identified five underrepresented groups at ATB:
- Women in leadership network
- Indigenous people network
- Team members with disabilities
- Members of the LGBTQ2+ community
- A Black team member network
- A South Asian team member network
- MHAT: Mental Health Action team member network
- A group for team members who are new to Canada
- A group for ATB team members of Filipino heritage
A key to making sure that everyone in the organization got on board with taking action was designating Allies. These were team members who didn’t self-identify with any of the underrepresented groups, but who were advocates for diversity and inclusion.
Next came the creation of internal communications tools, with the goal of sparking conversation between leaders and team members across the business. Using what they called the “What’s your story?” mailer, they anonymously gathered stories from ATB team members who shared their experiences—whether good or bad—with diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
These stories were featured in a digital flipbook, as well as in six internal communication pamphlets that featured a face and symbol that represented the five underrepresented groups at ATB. Each pamphlet showcases a quote from a member of the underrepresented group, stats that compared Alberta’s diversity with ATB’s diversity of that group, and an outline of what ATB and their team were doing to improve the diversity and inclusion for that group.
All of these communications tools were put through rigorous rounds of feedback from the highlighted groups and external experts, to make sure that they were accurately representing each group.
Another step towards inclusion and diversity was the creation of inclusion networks. ATB team members created six distinct networks, all unified with their mission to empower every team member to courageously be themselves and allies for each other. These include:
- An Indigenous network
- A Black team member network
- A South Asian team member network
- MHAT: Mental Health Action team member network
- An LGBTQ2+ network
- A group for team members who are new to Canada
- A group for ATB team members of Filipino heritage
- Elevate, a group for empowering women at ATB
- The Ability team, for team members with disabilities
These groups have allowed like-minded people to connect with and support each other. Plus, they serve as guides to ATB as an organization in how we communicate with and attract diverse talent and customers.
If you’re looking for some stats on ATB’s diversity and inclusion, check out our 2019 Annual & Corporate Responsibility Report. If you scroll down the page, you’ll see that we’ve ranked how we’re doing in integrating diversity throughout our workplace, along with our goal and action plan to get there. Maybe this can inspire some tangible steps that you can take in your business.
5 tips on integrating diversity and inclusion in your business
While you may not have thousands of employees or a large leadership team to work with, you can apply some of the ideas we mentioned into your business. Plus, it’s a lot easier to build a culture before you hire than guiding a team of hundreds (or thousands) through a culture shift.
Here are a few ways you can integrate diversity and inclusion into your business:
- Start with data: how diverse is the area you’re operating in? Compare them to your existing team, if you have one. These numbers can serve as guidelines into what the demographic of your workplace should look like, whether you already have employees or not.
- Get leadership on board: if that’s you, then great! If you have other leaders on your team, make sure that they see the stats, and that they understand the need for diversity and inclusion.
- Learn from the source: it’s important to listen to underrepresented groups to learn what diversity and inclusion should look like in your business.
- Take the time to reach out and ask thoughtful questions, and use their answers to inform how you shape your workplace culture.
- Get feedback again, and again, and again: as you form your mission, vision, HR guidelines and company culture to include diversity and inclusion, make sure you circle back to those underrepresented groups to make sure you’re on the right track. Just make sure that you’ve agreed upon how much you can contact them from the get-go.
- Focus on your internal communications and operations first: your culture will always start from the inside. Focus on creating tools, resources, teams, and/or networks that encourage and communicate your stand on inclusion and diversity. Equip your team leads and managers to facilitate conversation on the topic, and educate all of your staff. How will your hiring and onboarding processes be shaped by inclusion and diversity? What about in the everyday workweek? Even if you don’t have a full team (or maybe even an employee) yet, you can set up these systems so that they’re in place when you do.
Benefits of diversity and inclusion in the workplace
Diversity and inclusion should never be primarily focused on you—but it does have some incredible benefits for your business.
- Happier employees: when you're truly inclusive of all your people, morale increases and employees become more empowered and satisfied.
- Increasingly innovative culture: starting hiring for cultural addition, not just culture fit—your company’s culture will evolve and become more creative and effective. Instead of reinforcing a set of homogeneous ideas, your team members will bring diversity of thought to the table.
- More educated employees: your business and team will benefit from the unique knowledge and experiences each team member brings to the table. When you include everyone in the discussion, your team will combine its many perspectives to create smarter products and solutions that work for everyone.
- Increased productivity: when the workplace is inclusive and team members feel safe presenting their opinions and ideas, they’ll be motivated to speak up and share.
Looking for more ways to integrate diversity and inclusion into your workplace? We’ve included some suggestions for practical application in our human resources guide for growing businesses, along with a ton of other helpful resources and expert advice to help you as your business grows.
Inspiring leadership in the workplace
As you begin to grow your team, it’s important that you’re taking the reins and steering your people in the right direction. Here are some tips for you as a leader as you grow your leadership team.
- Developing the culture of your business with your new hires begins on the first day you hire, and is rooted in conversation.
- First, talk about your values and your company’s rules of engagement.
- Talk about your dream! What are you passionate about? Create a personal and emotional connection to your purpose.
- Outline your rules of engagement. Be upfront and direct about your needs and you’ll set your employees up for success.
- Don’t stop having those conversations about purpose. Restate where your business is going, how your business model works and what your core values are.
- Write all of this down so you can reference it on an ongoing basis.
Building out your c-suite & executive
- Watch out for the moment when you’re no longer dealing proactively with potential areas of conflict or shortfall.
- Find out what you’re not good at, be clear about what you need, and hire someone who can fill in the gaps in your skill set.
Should you automatically be the CEO of your business?
- Not necessarily. Turn to a business coach right away—they’ll be honest about what your strengths and weaknesses are so you can see if being a CEO is the right move for you.
- If you opt not to be the CEO, you can still be a principal shareholder and bring in a CEO to manage the day-to-day of running your business.
Diversity and inclusion: essential for leadership
- Conduct blind screenings for interviews. This way, you’ll hire someone for a leadership role based on their abilities and experience—not unconscious bias—which levels the playing field.
- Resist the temptation to hire someone based on “culture fit,” which can lead you to building a business with a bunch of people who are the exact same as you. Look instead for a “culture add,” someone who can bring unique perspective, voice and experience to the table, and help grow the culture in ways it hasn’t before.
Want some more leadership tips for growing your team, including topics like attracting millennials and a list of organizations that support new leadership? We’ve got you covered with our downloadable HR guide for growing businesses.
Creating a culture
Every business has a culture, whether it’s intentionally created or not. And you, as the business owner, are the one who sets the tone—even unconsciously. While corporate culture can get dismissed in favour of more tangible business priorities, it’s been shown time and time again that company culture is key to any business strategy, and should be the top priority for any entrepreneur wanting to grow a successful business.
Translation: corporate culture should be second to none when it comes to organizational priorities.
Here are four steps to guide you on your journey of creating your own company culture:
- Determine your destination: what is your ideal culture? Use these three questions to help you figure out your answer:
- What’s your purpose? Why do you do what you do?
- What are your values? These things you care about will become a set of rules that will guide how you and your people behave.
- What’s your vision? What do you want to accomplish with your business
- Identify how far you’ll need to travel: evaluate the gaps between the aspirational culture you’ve developed and what’s actually happening within your team.
- Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat. Take action to make necessary changes. Here are a few steps to help you get started:
- Lead by example. You need to live and breathe your values—if you don’t, your employees won’t either.
- Make the right hires. Prioritize culture as much as possible when hiring—your employees are who will add to and shape your culture.
- Make sure your team knows your values. Make sure that everyone is constantly reminded of your values and that they aren’t forgotten.
- Set up camp: once you’ve reached the organizational culture that you aspired to, you’ll see it implicitly in how your team interacts with one another and explicitly through exercises like employee engagement surveys. The key is to continue to maintain and grow on what you’ve built on your journey to create a corporate culture.
A glimpse into taxes and hiring
Something to keep in mind when you’re hiring: bringing on new team members can bring up new tax issues for you to be aware of.
Source deductions are one of those tax-related things to keep in mind as you grow your team.
What are source deductions?
Source deductions are the funds you withhold from your employees’ paycheques to submit to the CRA. In Alberta, these deductions include Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI)—many other provinces have to account for payroll tax.
You, as the employer, are also required to contribute to CPP and EI, along with your employees, up to a maximum threshold that changes each year. Employers match employee CPP contributions, but pay 140 percent of the employee EI premium.
Be on the lookout for changes to CPP contributions. It’s been rising regularly for both employer and employee over the last few years.
Why does this matter? Well, for each of your employees, you’ll have to make CPP and EI contributions on top of their salary. These extra business expenses can add up quickly—that’s why it’s important to think about the tax implications before you hire, so you can make sure you can afford increasing your staff.
What about the taxes for part-time employees?
If you opt to hire part-time staff, you could inadvertently end up paying more in payroll contributions. Say you’re trying to decide whether to hire one full-time employee with a $70,000 salary or two part-time employees who are paid $35,000 each.
With your full-time employee, you’ll max out on the EI and CPP contribution limits, but with the two part-time employees, the maximum won’t be met—you’ll end up paying CPP and EI on the full $35,000 salary for each employee, increasing your payroll burden more than if you had hired the one full-time employee.
The group investment plan
What is a group investment plan?
Groups investment plans are part of a total solution for staff retention and loyalty. They are investment strategies that allow employers to offer a complete financial wellness program so employees can easily save for their future and take care of their day-today needs and expenses.
How will a group investment plan help my business?
- It shows that you’re an employer who cares for their team in a concrete, practical way.
- It provides a powerful incentive to attract and retain qualified, productive, motivated and loyal employees.
- Your staff will know that they can count on you as their employer to make an investment in them, so they’ll most likely want to invest themselves in your company.
- Simply put, if your employees are happy (who isn’t when they know they’re taken care of?) then they’ll want to work for you and enjoy working for you—those kinds of employees stick around and produce the best work.
To learn more about group investment plans, including how they work and how they benefit your employees, check out our comprehensive HR guide.
Planning for retirement as a small business owner
Unless you’re planning on working your whole life, developing a financial plan for retirement is a must. If this is a struggle for you, you’re not alone. Many entrepreneurs end up putting any extra money back into the business to expand, not into their retirement savings. Here are a few questions to get you warmed up to the idea of creating a retirement plan.
3 questions to ask yourself about retirement planning as a small business owner
- When do you want to retire?
Even having a rough idea of your retirement date gives you a goal to work with, and allows you to take actionable steps towards it. Think about how long you want to keep working, your physical health, what you hope to do during retirement, and how much money you can save while you’re still working—all of these factors play a role in your decision.
- What kind of lifestyle do you want once you’ve retired?
Do your future plans involve travel? How about volunteering? Spending time at home or with your family? Maybe you want to have enough extra cash to donate to a charitable cause or help out with your grandkids’ education. Having an idea of the life you want to live post-work helps you determine how much money you’ll need saved up.
- What future would you like for your business?
This question gets you kickstarted in creating a succession plan for your business. You could transfer or sell your business to a family member, sell the business to a business partner or employee, or sell it to a third party.
Keep in mind that once you’ve decided on who you’re going to handoff your business to, it’s going to take time to prepare your successor.
Four steps to retirement planning for entrepreneurs
We hope those questions sparked some curiosity and initial brainstorming about how you’ll retire. But where do you go from here? How do business owners retire? These four steps to retirement planning for entrepreneurs provide a great overview:
Step 1. Make time for financial retirement planning
Start your retirement planning by scheduling an appointment—first with yourself and then with someone who can answer yours questions and get everything set up. Make it a priority.
The options out there can be overwhelming. Sitting down with a professional financial planner can help you decide what’s the best for you and your goals. They can help you strike the balance between investing in your business and your future.
Step 2. Develop an exit plan
You’ll have to make sure your business is capable of running without you—otherwise, who’d want to buy it from you? Whether you’re planning on selling it to a family member, third party or employee, you’ll have to create a transition plan so you can smoothly pass the torch to the new owner.
A banker, accountant, or mergers and acquisitions representative can help you maximize the value of your business and help you make sure your legacy is left in good hands after the business transition.
While we understand that creating a transition plan probably doesn’t feel like a top priority when you have a ton of day-to-day responsibilities as a business owner, we recommend that you make transition planning a key part of your operational strategy to ensure your plans are in place when you need them most. Selling your business at the last minute could not only cause you to miss out on the best successor and best price for your business, but also cause significant disruption to your estate planning. Create your plan now and revisit it every few years and tweak it when you need.
Step 3. Offer a retirement savings plan to your employees
On top of paying your employer portion of the Canada Pension Plan, you’ve got opportunities as a small business owner to offer a retirement savings plan to your employees. Options can include:
- Contributing a percentage of each employee’s salary to a retirement savings plan to match an employee’s contribution.
- Matching RRSP contributions made by their employees up to a certain amount.
- If you have a smaller group of employees, you might want to look into benefit plans that include investment contribution packages.
Step 4. Remember—one size doesn’t fit all
As a business owner, you actually have more options when it comes to retirement planning compared to someone who’s an employee. Here are some of your options:
- You can take a salary and make RRSP contributions.
- If you find you don’t have a lot of RRSP room, you can maximize your tax-free savings account (TFSA).
- Leave extra funds within the company for investment, deferring the personal tax and investing low-tax business profits. This deferral advantage could allow the business to invest a larger principal until you need the funds for your personal use, including for retirement.
Are you new to Canada? Here’s what you need to know about succession planning as an entrepreneur.
No matter what option(s) you go with, diversifying your retirement savings plan is key. Our top tip? Sit down with a financial specialist to get advice from the pros. They’re the best resource to help guide you through the (sometimes overwhelming) process of retirement planning.
Looking for more advice on retirement as an entrepreneur? We cover topics (and acronyms!) like RRSPs, TFSAs, OAS and CPP in our human resources guide for growing businesses. Grab it and keep it on hand as your company continues to grow.
Preparing your business for your exit: transition planning
Transition planning is a critical part of the future success for any business.
Essentially, transition planning is structuring the transfer of a privately-owned business to a new owner and/or management team. It is a roadmap for how you’ll transition yourself out of the business and transfer the business ownership.
There are 7 steps to business transition planning:
- Setting and managing transition objectives
- Select your preferred exit strategy
- Know the value of your business
- Enhance your business value
- Plan to minimize tax implications
- Plan to accomplish personal financial goals
- Build a team of trusted advisors
Want to take a deeper dive into transition planning? We go into each of these steps in detail in our Business transition guide.