• MINGLING WITH TARA MACDONALD – SCALING DOWN AND BUILDING UP

    If the expression “beach bodies” conjures up images of sculpted, lithe physiques glistening in the sun, don’t chastise yourself. You are programmed to think that way; a lifetime of media-defined images is hard to ignore.

    You probably also imagine a health and fitness coach to fit the mold of buff parts and toned muscles, too. Molds, however, can be broken and Tara MacDonald is determined to bust that one. She is on a very public journey toward a healthier self and, no stranger to entrepreneurism, she sees possibilities for making the journey a profitable one, financially as well as physically.

    An important factor in having your own business is passion for what you do. Another is finding your market. Tara is passionate about getting in shape and, as a plus-size woman, she recognizes a plus- sized niche market she can tap into. If those of us who are average-sized are coyed by the nubile-looking, yoga-bodied instructors that urge us to push our bodies, what must it be like for those who have a very long way to go before ever being considered lithe or sculpted? Statistically, they are a large percentage of our North American population. In Nova Scotia alone, the rate of obesity doubled between 1987 and 1995.Tara is right about market potential, and she has first-hand knowledge of what is motivating that market.

    Tara graduated with a degree in english literature from Trent university, then did a six year stint in Toronto working for a publishing house. She came back east to do Marketing and Management at Mount Saint Vincent. While at the Mount, she came to terms with the fact that she was gaining too much weight, too fast. As she says, “size 26 went by, and passed”. She needed to do something. She had been strong and active through high school, playing rugby and other sports. however, too many years sitting in front of a computer for work and school, combined with unhealthy eating habits, had caught up with her. Determined to make changes, she started a non-profit for plus-size women called NSFIT4u. She had a trainer design a program for them, and made it available for free.They worked out for 6 weeks.

    When she graduated in 2006, she decided to go to banff to work for the summer because “everything was uphill”. She was 400lbs, and something had to give. The hills would force her activity level. It was while she was there that she came across the beach body® products. She and her friends were trying to get in better shape and saw the ads for the Turbo Jam® DVD on the Shopping Channel. She ordered the DVD and became a beach body® member.

    Losing her dad to a heart attack that same year was the first serious wake-up call. She came back to Dartmouth to go to film school and to start her film production business, Charlie Mac Productions, named in his honour. Tara invested heavily in it over the first two years, and while getting the business off the ground, she continued to try to get herself grounded.Through a combination of personal trainers, workout DVDs and new approaches to nutrition, she dropped 115lbs. Charlie Mac was doing well. She teamed up with a l.A.-based producer with whom she had connected through linked In, and they specialized in film shorts- videos, trailers, ads. She also had a direct selling business on the side, representing a Canadian jewellery line called Fifth Avenue Collection, and used her income from sales to finance her love of travel.

    She was still losing weight, albeit sporadically, but her energy was more focused on her business than on herself or her health. Then came another wake-up call. This time it was the death of a beloved aunt, whom she describes as having been “a rock”. her aunt had been primary caregiver for Tara’s grandmother, and had been devoted to her. Shortly after her grandmother passed away last year (at 102 years old),Tara’s aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had denied the symptoms, and not gone for care or investigations. That was october 2012. She died a month later.

    This sudden death has been a huge motivator, not only for Tara but for many in her family, to be more proactive about their health.Tara had had her beach body® membership status for years when she discovered through her own coach that beach body® was bringing their direct selling business to Canada. She sold her Fifth Avenue stock, and signed on with beach body® .

    So now Tara MacDonald is a beach body® coach. beach body® is responsible for products like P90X® , Shakeology® , and Turbo Jam® . In her role as a coach, she reps the products and helps to keep people on track with their fitness goals. beach body® uses a team and buddy support system that Tara finds tremendously helpful. buddies email each other daily and are accountable to each other.

    She uses her website and blog, Facebook page and the beach body® coach site to reach clients. With the online buddy system, her clients can be anywhere. She knows that her market is with the plus-size men and women who find her approachable because of her own goals. The biggest obstacle her clients face is the same one many businesses face: not seeing instant results. but she advises “goals need to be measurable, there are always set backs. have a big vision goal.”

    There are the nay-sayers. When people say “you’re overweight, how can you call yourself a beach body® coach?” she’s ready for it.“Success stories” she says,“only happen if you start somewhere. I’m already a success because I’ve lost 5 pounds.”

    Last year Tara brought back NSFit4u, formalizing it with a board of directors and running a program through 360fit in Dartmouth. She hopes to keep it going. She still has Charlie Mac Productions but now has an employee run it. She says this is her “year to make it happen”.

    Continue Reading ...
  • RECRUITMENT TRENDS – GETTING THE BONA FIDES RIGHT

    In today’s local economy we are experiencing declining labour market pools, an aging market and a shortage of skilled workers. Consequently, employers are looking for highly developed employees who can do the job coming out of the gate rather than looking at what they may have the potential of doing.

    historically, interviews explored an applicant’s education, skills and experience. The wild card in the process came in determining that applicant’s fit with the organization, as well as their fit for the specific job for which they were being considered. The current trend we are seeing is employers asking about the “bona fide occupational requirements” of the job.

    bona fide occupational requirements are the qualities or attributes associated with a job that employers are allowed to consider when making hiring decisions.These qualities or attributes, when considered in other contexts, might constitute discrimination and breach the intent of the human rights Act.

    Consider the following scenario: you hire an employee who will be required to regularly lift up to 50lbs only to have that new employee provide you with a doctor’s note indicating that they cannot, in fact, lift because of a medical condition.

    If you found yourself in a situation like this, it would mostly likely be because the recruiter failed to ask about the applicant’s ability to carry out bona fide occupational requirements during the formal interview. Without confirming an applicant’s ability to meet those occupational requirements, employers risk experiencing scheduling issues, gaps in operations, and perceived favouritism. If not managed correctly, employers might also face costly human rights complaints.

    In Nova Scotia there are 14 Prohibited Grounds of Discrimination; age, race, colour, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease, ethnic/national/aboriginal orientation, family status, source of income, marital status, political belief or association with an individual or class of individuals.

    Interview strategies should include bona fide occupational requirement questions. To be legal, those questions must directly tie the requirement- for example, a physical requirement- to the actual job duties as outlined within the job description. When formulated correctly, employees are bound to honestly answer bona fide occupational requirement questions, providing an assurance to the employer that they are making the best hiring decision, and alleviating the possibility of a human rights complaint.

    Knowing and documenting the bona fide occupational requirements of the job, and respecting obligations set out within the human Rights Act, are necessary pillars of strong recruitment strategies and tools.

    Continue Reading ...
  • MIRTH IN MARKETING

    Who wouldn’t want to be laughing all the way to the bank when you look at your year-end figures? Perhaps, if you gave your market a little mirth, profits would improve.

    Consumers love to be entertained rather than pitched, and humour can be injected into a whole realm of marketing endeavours. If done really well, a campaign with comedy can have great longevity as consumers continue to discover and share it. Who knows, maybe you’ll have the next viral hit on YouTube or the tweet that circulates ad infinitum.

    When it comes to humour, it can be applied to almost any situation in marketing. Humour can:

    • help a brand break through and get noticed, maybe even after they’ve fallen off of the consumer radar (remember Diamond Shreddies?)

    • help a brand talk about issues that are potentially sensitive (Philips Bodygroom is a great example)

    • give a brand personality (has certainly worked well for Virgin over the years…)

    • help a brand reach a new audience (Samsung’s recent Galaxy S3 campaign has certainly helped introduce the brand to Apple devotees)

    Simply put, not taking yourself so seriously can sometimes be an awfully serious way of improving your bottom line.

    A FEW TIPS:

    KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.
    Put in the time and research to know your potential market. Reduce the risk of your humour falling flat by anticipating what your audience will think. Unfunny is annoying, but then again not everyone has a sense of humour.

    USE TACT.
    Impeccable tact is paramount. In this big old www dot world, your content must be tasteful to the masses. Know what is politically correct, and know when sexy becomes lewd.

    COMEDY 101.
    Poke fun at situations not people, and do it in an original and genuine way. Study what has worked for other companies and what different types of humour (whether dark, parody, satire, etc.) work best for selling different products or services.

    TEST IT.
    Whether friends, colleagues, or focus groups, test your humour first. Is it really funny? Is it relevant, thought provoking and inoffensive? Eliminate the need for damage control at the front end.

    Continue Reading ...
  • DOWNTOWN – WE HAVE COME A LONG WAY.

    It wasn’t that long ago that Dooley’s was the marquee of barrington Street. I, for one, am sick and tired of hearing about the doom and gloom of our “hollowed-out core”, which is strewn with vacant lots and store fronts. This depiction, while colourful, does not in any way accurately reflect the current condition or the economic state of our downtown. Nor does it give any credit to all the good things that have occurred in our downtown over the past decade.

    Yes, we have vacant storefronts, but most are vacant because they are being redeveloped or plan to be redeveloped in the very near future. And yes, there is turnover as some businesses just don’t survive, but that is not a problem unique to Downtown halifax. We have more great shops in our downtown than a decade ago and things will only improve in the coming years.

    Is our downtown perfect? No. Can and should it be better? Yes. But put things into perspective: there is currently more development and redevelopment happening in downtown halifax than at any point over the past 20 years.The rumours of its demise are far from true.

    New hotels, office buildings, a convention centre, residential and retail spaces are all being created – right now. Yes, office vacancy rates are up, but there is also more office being accounted for and any increase is temporary. The positive impact these developments will have will affect the downtown for decades and will be a catalyst for more businesses and people who move to downtown.

    We do need more public infrastructure and beautification in our core, but make no mistake, private companies continue to invest in downtown and more will be coming. Downtown is convenient, has lots of amenities, and since 1749 has been the heart of halifax – suburbs be damned!

    Continue Reading ...
  • UPWARD DOG BACK STRETCH

    For most of us, whether it is at home or at the office, working those countless hours all week takes a toll on your body.

    One of the main issues most people have is backache .When you experience back pain you may begin to slouch causing shoulder and neck pain as well.

    If you don’t have that perfectly ergonomic desk/chair set up and you work all week, here are some stretching tips to help get back into the swing of things.

    1. Start with laying stomach down on the floor

    2. Put your hands directly under your shoulders, shoulder-width apart

    3. Slowly lift your upper body, arching your back, toes facing the wall behind you, looking up towards the ceiling

    4. Slowly come back to original position and repeat

    Tip: Do not over-extend the arch, simply bend until you feel a good stretch, but not so it is uncomfortable.

    Continue Reading ...
  • ICY RECEPTIONS

    Got a hankering to revisit the childhood wonderment of a homemade snow fort? Willing to pay to  bed down on a block of ice? Perhaps you’ve always wanted to stay in one of several grand ice hotels around the world. You could travel to majestic mountainous or riverside settings in Sweden, Finland, Norway or Romania but there’s no need to voyage so far because North America boasts ice hotels in both Montreal and Quebec City. Romantic, adventurous, and unforgettable.

    Wrap your head around this- these icy masterpieces, resplendent with ice furniture and artwork, are newly constructed every winter because they do indeed melt every spring. What an amazing annual feat of craftsmanship and artistic vision!

    An ice hotel is generally part of a larger snow village complete with ice restaurant, ice bar, and even an ice chapel for a totally unique wedding experience. The debut year for the Montreal Snow Village had a Montreal city theme, but next year they plan to take on a New York City vibe. And you needn’t stay the night to visit.

    How cold is it? Not as cold as you would think. The insulating properties of the structure keep the ambient temperature between -2 to -5°C. For the outdoor enthusiast, it’s a novel winter vacation. In Montreal, you can spend the night in a prestige room, a standard room or an igloo. Quebec City’s Hotel de Glace has a premium deluxe suite with a fireplace and private spa. Wherever you choose  to indulge your icy whims, a well-insulated sleeping bag is guaranteed to top a deerskin or mattress, on a bed carved from ice. You toes will stay toasty.

    Continue Reading ...