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54% of Small Businesses Blame Extra Unemployment Benefit for Worker Shortage

Additional unemployment benefits is a leading reason for the shortage of workers. This was a key finding in Alignable’s May State of Small Business Report, which found 54% of small business owners blame extra unemployment handouts on worker shortages.The small business referral network’s ‘Road to Recovery Report’ (May 2021) surveyed 7,751 small business owners from April 24, 2021 until May 9, 2021. The research found that 50% of small business employers are unable to fill vacancies.Survey: Unemployment Benefits Causing Worker Shortage54% say the reason they are unable to fill positions is because government unemployment handouts are preventing workers from applying. 30% of the small business owners surveyed believe the government’s $300 weekly supplemental benefit is encouraging people to stay at home and not apply for jobs. 24% say the stimulus checks are preventing people from applying for jobs. Stimulus checks are part of the American Rescue Plan Act 2021, which provides $1,400 Economic Impact Payments for eligible people.21% said workers seeking a higher-paying profession is discouraging them for applying for jobs. 12% blamed the scarcity of applicants on a fear of contracting Covid a work. The same amount raised young patents being able to afford day care as the reason for a lack of candidates.A Changing Recruitment LandscapeThe Covid-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of life and work, and none more so than recruitment. Businesses have been forced to adapt to new working practices, including either increasing or decreasing workforces depending on the industry they operate in and business demand.On a brighter note, Alignable’s report found that jobs are beginning to stabilize in the US, with 88% of pre-Covid employees being back on the payroll. This is an all time high in employment since the start of the coronavirus crisis.That said, as optimism builds towards a late-summer recovery surge, many businesses are struggling to fill vacancies with appropriate talent.Subsequently, many business owners are feeling frustrated and are pinning the blame on handouts being made by the government.Alignable’s report featured quotes from small business owners related to their recruitment situation and their difficulty to fill positions. Some of the quotes read:“Labor is extremely difficult to find and getting more expensive.”“Unfortunately, so far, we’re seeing a lack of qualified workers for our industry.”“We’re in a small town with limited talent.”“The lack of interested (never mind qualified!) jobseekers is scary, even in the floral industry. Never have I seen so many opportunities posted, and even while offering $2 to $3 above minimum wage for entry level jobs, no one applies.”Higher Wage Demands than Pre-Covid-19Another key finding of the report is the growing demand for higher wages. 51% of the business owners surveyed said that when they hire people, they are having to pay higher wages that before the health crisis.The impact of inflation on small business recovery was also explored in the report. It found that 67% of small businesses fear that inflation will deter recovery. These concerns are even more significant amongst industries facing supply shortages and delays, such as wood and metal.The research also points to a gloomy revenue outlook. 58% of small businesses are only earning half or less of their monthly revenues compared to before the pandemic.Alignable’s research confirms that despite industries opening up as lockdown restrictions are lifted, turbulent times are still ahead for many small businesses.With recruitment proving challenging, small business owners may have to be more creative with hiring efforts. Such creativity could include using social media to source potential candidates, conducting online interviews, and even considering virtual reality to show candidates what it is like to work for their business.Image: Depositphotos

What To Look For In A Project Manager

What To Look For In A Project Manager

By Kahl Orr, the founder of Rise, a digital agency that builds high-performing, custom websites and apps for some of the fastest-growing brands.
Running your own company can be extremely exciting and overwhelming at the same time. You spend every waking moment doing everything to ensure the continued growth of the company, but at some point, you may realize that the growing pains are too much to handle on your own. Cue the role of project manager. Hiring a project manager can give you and your executive team room to focus on building the business while the project manager holds the responsibility of making sure nothing slips through the cracks.
According to 2020’s Pulse of the Profession® from Project Management Institute, organizations that undervalued project management as a strategic competency for driving change reported 67% more of their projects completely failing. Growing your company successfully can begin with your team prioritizing project management and performance. Finding a highly capable project manager to run essential tasks and projects for you, as you and your team focus on the bigger picture, can lead to success in marketing and networking as well as on client projects and deliverables.

Let’s take a look at what you should look for when bringing on a project manager.
Internal Vs. External Hire 

The first option when looking for a project manager is to elevate an existing team member into the role. For creative agencies, for example, this may be a developer or a designer. Hiring a project manager from within minimizes the onboarding process, as the individual already understands the culture and needs of the organization. This person may already have established relationships with the individuals and vendors that they will be working with and can easily direct your internal resources.

However, bringing a project manager on as an external hire can have its benefits as well. While your company culture may be well-established, an external hire can bring new ideas and objectivity to the project. They may have a fresh perspective on your strategies that have not been brought to the table quite yet, as well as access to other resources outside of your standard vendors.
Task Management And Delegation
One of the strongest skills a project manager can have is the ability to sort through the strengths and weaknesses of each person on the team.
By having a deep understanding of who is best at what, the project manager can delegate responsibilities to the correct employees in order to get the project done in the most efficient, and successful, way.
Great Communication 
Earlier this year, Zety compiled the skills most mentioned on project manager resumes. Two of the top three of these skills were communication (seen on 18% of the resumes) and leadership (seen on 17% of the resumes).
Communication is another skill that may seem obvious, but good communication is truly essential for a successful project manager. They’ll be wearing a lot of hats and dipping their toe across multiple teams, so clear communication will keep the project organized.
If a deadline is missed, a change has to be made or something isn’t yet approved, the project manager needs to be able to clearly communicate this across the teams and to each manager involved.
Leadership Skills
It’s not surprising that leadership was one of the top three skills, considering that many of the people the project manager will be working with will look to them for guidance and solutions while the project is being completed.
As well, in order for employees to easily take direction, they must trust and respect the project manager as a capable leader.
Ability To Move Projects Forward And Create A Schedule
Any project management role will have a fair amount of logistical work involved, which means that the ideal project manager will be able to develop a schedule for each team member and know what each day of the project involves. This includes billing due dates, scheduling meetings that work with team members’ availability, task deadlines and more. If the project manager is handling multiple projects, perhaps for several clients, for example, they also must be proficient at capacity planning and balancing available resources against other commitments.
If a due date is missed, it’s important that the project manager does not stress and instead is able to shift around the schedule to make the change work.
Problem-Solving Skills
That brings us to problem-solving. Challenges happen, due dates are missed, budgets go over and employees don’t get along or get sick. There are endless hurdles to get over when you’re running a business, but a project manager should be able to react swiftly during times of conflict.
If you find a candidate who can think on their feet and figure out a solution for any challenge thrown at them, don’t let them go.
Negotiation, Relationship And Team-Building Skills
When challenges arise, part of the solution may require negotiation or team-building efforts. Perhaps a pricing quote that was provided at the beginning of the project is now higher, throwing the bottom line off. Maybe a team who was supposed to have a deliverable to you by a certain date is a week late.
Whatever the challenge may be, the project manager should be able to solve the issue with poise and ease, negotiating a solution and building strong relationships both within the organization and with vendors.
Final Thoughts
As a business owner, you have enough on your plate while focusing on the mission and success of your organization. Hiring a project manager will not only help with business growth but will efficiently and effectively free up your time from what could be day-to-day distractions. Finding a candidate with a majority, if not all, of the above skills will alleviate those growing pains and take your business to the next level.

What Does Slow Fashion ‘Actually’ Mean?

What Does Slow Fashion ‘Actually’ Mean?

On average Americans buy a new piece of clothing every five days.  Prices are so cheap that clothing is now seen as essentially disposable. According to a McKinsey study, for every five new garments produced each year, three garments are disposed of. Incredibly, research has shown that 90% of our clothing is thrown away before it needs to be.

The rise of this fast fashion has created large-scale environmental and social side-effects. For instance Zara alone produces about 840 million pieces of clothing for sale in its 6,000 stores around the world each year, mostly by workers whose wages are below the poverty line. In China, India and Bangladesh, once prosperous rivers have been destroyed by these very same factory wastewater discharges; they have now become biological dead zones full of carcinogenic chemicals. Additionally, the tiny plastic microfibers that fall from synthetic clothing during the laundry process are flooding our water supply and food chain.
But some brands are pushing back against these trends and focusing more on “slow fashion,” producing clothes with trendless designs and premium, long-lasting quality. For example, one company that is working in this area is Toronto-based, Encircled, one of the few apparel brands in Canada that is a B Corp, so certified for their social and environmental performance. Encircled’s factories are in Toronto, Canada, and they are OEKO-TEX(R) 100 Certified, meaning that no harmful substances are used to make their clothing, just sustainably sourced, ultra-soft fabrics. They are also transparent about their materials and provide an online listing of their core fabrics. 

As part of my research on purpose-driven businesses, I recently had a chance to catch-up Kristi Soomer, founder of Encircled. Below is an edited excerpt of our on-line discussion.

Christopher Marquis: Why did you found Encircled? 

Kristi Soomer, Founder of Encircled


Kristi Soomer: I founded Encircled in 2012 with a mission to design clothing that would enable women to travel light, and to do so without sacrificing comfort or style. Over the years, the brand has evolved into focusing on how our customers can create a streamlined capsule wardrobe at home. We believe the most sustainable thing you can do is to wear all the clothing in your closet. So, we design multi-functional, timeless, comfortable, and stylish pieces that we know customers will feel confident reaching for any day of the week. All our clothing is proudly made in Toronto, Canada from sustainably sourced fabrics, which we’re super transparent about! We believe in making clothing without compromises – our customers receive genuine sustainable pieces that are stylish and that will last a lifetime. Encircled is the wardrobe that does it all. 
Marquis: What does slow fashion mean? 
Soomer: Slow Fashion is an approach to producing clothing which takes into consideration all aspects of the supply chain and in doing so, aims to respect people, the environment, and animals. It also means spending more time on the design process, ensuring that each piece of apparel is quality made.
Fast Fashion retailers have taught us that more is better, and thereby have created a huge consumption issue. The fast fashion industry is driving down quality, exploiting the environment and their workers to create cheap garments that do not last. Slow fashion is the exact opposite of this. It’s about creating mindful, curated collections based on quality finishes, versus pumping out large quantities of seasonal and trendy clothing. 
Our mission at Encircled is simple. We encourage customers to be more thoughtful and intentional about their clothing – and choose pieces that will last a long time in their wardrobe.
Marquis: How many fashion B Corps there are in North America and why do you think there are not more?
Soomer: The B Corporation website states that there approximately 70+ certified B Corporations in the fashion space in North America. In Canada, where Encircled is based, there are approximately 15 fashion B Corps., with only a handful being female founded.
In my opinion, I believe that there are not more Certified B Corps in the fashion industry because it’s an extremely hard certification to gain – and for good reason!  To become a Certified B Corp,  apparel brands and companies alike need to demonstrate that they are committed to balancing profits with a purpose that has a positive impact on the community and meets high environmental and transparency standards. Many fashion brands in North Americ have not yet prioritized a sustainable and ethical supply chain as a top priority. Additionally, the certification process can be a deterant, especially for smaller brands because of the time and resource investment required to get through the assessment and certification. 
For fashion brands (and other companies) to receive B Corp Certification, they are measured on various aspects of their business, including governance, workers, community and engagement. Each Certified B Corp receives an ‘Impact Score Card’ that outlines their performance and rating, and companies must achieve at least 80 out of 200 points to gain certification. To ensure transparency, this information can be publicy viewed on the B Corp website, allowing the public to view any potential shortcomings, which some apparel brands may view as a hinderence. I personally view this score as a way to continue building our brand and making it the best that it can be.
Marquis: What have been the benefits and challenges of gaining B Corp certification? 
Soomer: There are numerous benefits of obtaining becoming a Certified B Corp for both companies and consumers. From a business perspective, it allows customers to trust that our actions are consistent with all the standards we advertise. You can trust what you’re seeing as the company’s values and actions are vetted. 
That said, it is a thorough process to go through to get qualified, and companies need to renew their certification every three years.We are constantly having to consider how our business impacts everyone along the way, not just shareholders. This includes our supply chain, processes at our office headquarters, materials used, etc.
Ultimately, it is 100 per cent worth it because it helps us to create a great working environment for our employees and stakeholders, and our customers trust that they are making a positive impact with their decision to purchase from Encircled.
Marquis: What are your top 3 recommendations to create a more sustainable fashion industry? 
Soomer: Creating a more sustainable fashion industry requires a multi-faceted approach. It’s such a broad issue that touches all areas of the apparel supply chain – from raw materials to the end of lifecycle of a garment. 
The first recommendation is for consumers to actively become more curious and intentional with their clothing purchases. Thirty years ago, we each owned way less items in our closet on average and the fashion industry had 2-4 seasons. Now, fast fashion brands produce up to 5,000 styles a week, with many of them operating with 52 ‘micro-seasons.’ This creates a huge consumption issue. In general, we’ve found that most people only wear about 20% of the clothing in their closet, so a great start is for consumers to focus on being mindful – only purchasing what they need, investing in trendless pieces vs. trendy and focusing on quality over quantity with clothing purchases.
Secondly, I recommend more regulation, accountability, and transparency in the fashion industry. It is still a very secretive industry, with many brands hiding where they produce, what they pay and how workers are treated. Forcing brands to be accountable for their actions in countries other than their own, is a big step towards intensifying big brands to pay living wages and to be more accountable for working conditions in the garment industry. If there’s no accountability on the brand’s part, it’s too easy for fashion brands to not take an interest in the full lifecycle of their garment production. This includes learning about how the raw materials are harvested to make the yarn, needed to knit and the dyes used, and how a customer should dispose of a garment when they’re done wearing it. 
Third, the media needs to bring more attention and awareness to brands that are doing good things in the fashion industry. There are thousands of small batch and slow fashion brands globally that have emerged with ethical supply chains over the past decade. Yet, the large media share of voice goes towards the big brands, who can afford to buy it. Featuring more up and coming brands who have genuine sustainability and ethics built into the core of their business model will create awareness and showcase that problems need to be solved, and help consumers make better choices.

How To Develop A Company While Transforming Your Industry: A Case Study With Natera

Healthcare is a fascinating industry as the start-ups aren’t just building their respective companies, they are helping transform their industry. One such example is Natera. 

Natera is a leading medical technology company that provides cell-free DNA testing that can predict disease. They specialize in women’s health, oncology and organ health, and have developed a noninvasive way for people to understand their health risks.
Their company reached significant milestones over the years, and along the way, learned to scale while keeping up with the demands of their industry. I had the chance to interview CEO Steve Chapman about the company’s journey from startup to a major leader in medical innovation.

Shama Hyder: What is one tip you learned as a developer of an emerging technology? How can innovators have their ideas heard and what’s required to make new technology more widely accepted?

Steve Chapman: We started work on our non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) technology, Panorama, nearly a decade before it became widely accepted in the market. Our initial vision was that every pregnant woman in the U.S. would be eligible for NIPT, and that professional societies and physicians would advocate for this technology to be available for all pregnant women.

The extensive research we provided around our product was a critical element in our success. In the medical world, this is what matters most, and we proved over and over again that our tests could detect genetic abnormalities with high accuracy as early as 9 weeks of pregnancy. Innovators need to have the facts behind why their product or service will work for their consumers. 
When scaling our business, we identified areas where there were significant unmet clinical needs and where our technology could make an impact. After our success in women’s health took root, we looked to cancer and organ health, and created new technologies that can detect cancer recurrence or monitor the success of an organ transplant.
Hyder: How did you keep your start-up roots while learning to adjust to rapid growth and become a successful business? 
Chapman: We learned how to transition from a start-up environment to a highly scalable growth business by implementing processes that we could rely on as our company grew. We had to put a lot of strategies in place, but wanted to keep that agility and culture of a start-up so that our employees were motivated. Those processes ultimately were the foundation that helped us reach our goals, and the culture is what sustained us through nearly a decade of slow and steady growth. 
Hyder: Now that your technology has become the new leader in the industry, what pieces of wisdom helped you grow from a start-up to a multi-billion dollar business?
Chapman: Working with industry leaders, and drawing from their expertise, helped us push our technology forward. We invested the time and effort into these relationships, and into the clinical data necessary to support changing the standard of care.
When we brought in outside leadership, it amplified the credibility of our work and gave us the opportunity to find placement in top medical journals and be recognized by the FDA three times for breakthrough device recognitions. 
We did this to meet our goals as a business, but also to reach our broader goal of making this care available to every person who needs it. The high-quality data we collected made it possible for our technology to be covered by Medicare. This increases who has access to our tests, and is a core part of our strategy both financially and philanthropically.