Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Expecting More from our Leaders

We just got in a new shipment of reverse motivational posters in our "We Expect More from You" series.

Instead of exhorting employees to work harder and have better attitudes, these posters encourage bosses to set better examples. After all, leaders are supposed to create aligned organizations by example, not fiat. 

"We Expect More from You" is all about building stronger leaders. Because strong leaders build stronger, more motivated teams. 

Feel free to copy and paste your favourites. Post them on your cubicle, tack them to the bulletin board, or turn them into stickies and hand out to others. 

Building better leaders is everyone's responsibility. Don't leave it to your boss's bosses, because you know how busy they are. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

"We Expect More from You"

Announcing "We Expect More from You" -- a bold new series of motivational posters. 

Instead of exhorting employees to work harder and have better attitudes, these posters exhort managers to set better examples.

"We Expect More from You" is all about managers learning to become leaders. Because in the end, leaders build better and stronger teams than managers do. Everyone benefits when leaders step up.

Here are just a few of the proposed new poster designs. Feel free to copy and paste, and then post them on your cubicle. Or just outside the executive dining room.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Catching Up

If you haven't been following my Financial Post columns and blogposts, you've been missing some great stories.

Here are a few of them:

In today's column, some great tips and ideas from the day I spent with Peter Thomas, 76-year-old founder of Century 21 Real Estate, and a serial entrepreneur and dealmaker who has much to teach today's hotshots.

"Ten key things to help you succeed in business, according to real estate legend Peter Thomas"

Last week's column looked at another classic Canadian entrepreneur: the late Adam Chowaniec of Ottawa, who passed away in February a week shy of his 65th birthday. Ottawa high-tech mentor, Startup Canada founding chair, longtime CEO of Tundra Semiconductor - and a pioneer in personal computing, no less!

"Adam Chowaniec: The very real legacy of a little-known tech pioneer"

These three Canadians cracked the code on crowdfunding with the "Coolbox": 

"How a group of friends used crowdfunding to create ‘the world’s smartest toolbox’"

(Their $50,000 campaign on Indiegogo has hit $221,000 with more than  a week left to go.)

A Vancouver company dares the big league of mass marketing: A Super Bowl commercial on U.S. TV.
"Pro Draft League’s Super Bowl gamble pays off in unexpected ways"

(Click video to watch)

My Post blogposts are web-only stories I post weekly. They're usually a little less "story" and more prescriptive. And somewhat offbeat. 

Why saying ‘I don’t know’ could inject new life into your business

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

7 tips for building a better business network

Along with interpersonal communications pro Barbara Katz, I have just started a new business to help business people overcome their jitters about “networking” and become more effective relationship builders. Here’s a copy of a press release we just sent out to mark International Networking Day, with terrific tips for building your social capital:

7 tips for building your business network

7 tips for building a better business networkAt its core, business is about people doing business with people they trust. Which is why everyone should care about International Networking Day (Feb. 3) this year – even if, like most of us, you hate networking.

“When most people think of networking, they think of those dreadful events where people simply trade business cards with each other as they search for someone to sell to,” says Barbara Katz, an expert in interpersonal communication. 

”Networking should be about meeting people in all walks of life, anytime. Your network should be partners, advisors, referrers, as well as clients and prospects – people whom you know and can turn to whenever you need help or support.”

How do you build a network of trusted business partners? Katz is co-founder of Connectinc, a Toronto-based startup that helps business people build better business relationships. She offers seven tips for becoming a master networker:
  1. Be open to interactions at any time: “Don't wait for a ‘networking event’ to meet other people,” says Katz. “Be bolder about starting conversations anywhere you tend to meet people: on an airplane, waiting for a bus, at parties, special events and conferences. Start up a conversation, and you never know where it will take you.”
  2. Never pigeon-hole people. Don't pass up meeting people because they don't look like your idealized prospect, says Katz. The boring-looking guy in the corner guy might be an adventure traveler with a million stories; the woman with the tattoo may own her own business. “Be open to new people and new ideas,” says Katz. “They may bring a different way of looking at the world that could open new opportunities and experiences for you.”
  3. Don’t worry about opening lines: Many of us miss the chance to meet new people because we're too busy trying to think of a brilliant “opening line” that will break the ice. “The simplest opening line is “Hi there, I’m Barbara. Nice to meet you,” says Katz. “After that, most people will happily start talking.”
  4. Overcome your stress by focusing on the other person.Chances are, they’re just as nervous as you about the networking experience. Put them at ease by asking them about their interests and experiences. “Showing genuine interest in others is one of the highest compliments we can give people,” says Katz. “It’s also a great way to reduce the stress you might feel about having to carry the conversation.”
  5. Don't sell. Get to know others as people first before you talk business. “You build trust by talking about values, emotions and experiences,” says Katz. “If you bring up business too soon, people may think they're being sold something, and they’ll shut right down.”
To kindle warm, interesting conversations, Katz suggests asking fun, open-ended questions that get people talking. She recommends questions such as “What always makes you smile?” or “What’s one thing no one would ever guess just by looking at you?”
6. To build rapport, look for “common ground” statements to connect you both. Simple comments such as “My sister also went to Queen’s, she loved it,” or “I hate cheesecake too!” can spark lively conversations that quickly shift new relationships to a deeper level.
7. Look for ways to create value for other people. Maybe you can recommend a restaurant or an accountant, or volunteer to refer someone to your colleague’s business. “Always try to help people before you ask for anything from them,” says Katz. “Your goal should be to make a memorable impression on anyone you’d like to meet again.”
“A network isn’t a stack of business cards in a drawer,” concludes Katz. “It’s a group of people you care about, and who care about you. It’s a valuable asset, so you have to treat it with care and respect.”

About Connectinc
Connectinc is dedicated to improving the networking experience and building long-term, win-win business relationships. We help business people become more effective and confident in connecting with others, and teach people how to develop deeper, more lasting and more personal business relationships.
About Barbara Katz
Barbara Katz is a trained Co-Active Coach through the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, California, and specializes in interpersonal communications. She owns a special-events business focused on large-scale event logistics and corporate events for clients in the financial, automotive, communications, IT and retail industries.
You can contact Barbara at 416-994-2555, or
Follow us on Twitter at @Connectinc_

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Today’s Youth: A Generation Ready to be Found

These are some notes I wrote up for myself after Global News called and asked me to comment on youth unemployment (i.e., the job prospects for this year’s class of college and university graduates).

I'm not one of the doomsters who lament  “a Lost Generation.” I fell for that line (and reported it) two recessions ago. I kicked about it for years because the economy cycled on and found jobs for everyone who wanted them. The same thing will happen again. Except this generation has it better, because they already live in the digital future that businesses everywhere are working so hard to understand.

My interview in the Global Toronto newsroom lasted all of two minutes, so I thought I would share the rest of my thoughts on youth job prospects here.

They’re just notes. But feel free to comment.

I truly believe that young people entering the workforce have a chance to contribute significantly, and much earlier, than any generation before them.  The main reason is that they have grown up in the social, always-connected world of Internet media and mobile devices. There’s virtually no question that this is the key environment businesses must master over the next 10 or 20 years, but few business decision makers understand this milieu as well as the 20-somethings who have grown up in it. 

This puts new job-seekers in an enviable position.  They can hit the ground running in new jobs, rather than taking six months to a year to learn the ropes – as happened when previous generations came to work in organizations more stable over time.  To benefit from this advantage, however, job seekers have to be aware of it, and figure out how they can add value to an organization.

A few other ways that the Millennials have a better shot at new jobs than previous generations:
·       They understand business better.  Kids have been playing online games that require monetary transactions (real money, gold coins, life points, etc.) since kindergarten.  They understand limited budgets, deferred gratification, and know the difference between spending and investing.
      My own kids were playing Lemonade Stand when they were 10, which allowed them to choose how much they would spend on lemons and sugar and cups, and plan for how much they would buy on cloudy days or sunny days. So business decision making is nothing new to them.

·       They understand entrepreneurship.  Many kids online have been selling their know-how how for a long time.  I have met kids who create Wordpress websites, edit copy, curate photographs, create computer games and design logos. They understand how to create value and get paid.

·       They are social.  Young people they are very sharing and supportive of each other. They have high expectations for their work, but once they get there they will be very resourceful and creative collaborators, with their peers and with their elders.

·       They know how to find information.  The key challenge in most white collar positions is accessing the right information at the right time.  These kids know all the best search engines, they’re not just limited to Google, and they’re used to demanding – and finding - the right information at their fingertips.

·       Businesses today are embracing key performance indicators, measuring output, and generating productivity metrics.  Today’s kids are used to that; they all have hundreds of apps on the phone that speak to this new culture of digitizing every activity.  They can help businesses embrace new technologies to become more efficient, especially in non-tech areas like personal and professional services, construction, hospitality and government.

Also, the unemployment numbers for young people aged 20-24 are not as bad as most people think. Their unemployment rate is about 10%, which is pretty close to the long-term trend, and a big drop from about 13% five years ago. So things aren't as bad as we sometimes hear.

(The relevant chart is the second one in. But read the full myth-busting story if you have time.)

Where are we seeing job growth? What sectors are doing well?
Resources are having a bad time of it, but they will come back. Alternative energies will also do well. Non-profits and social enterprises are enjoying a new lease on life, led by Gen Y and millennials who are using technology and internet communications to rejuvenate these sectors and find new solutions to longstanding problems.

Education, social media, ecommerce, and marketing agencies are all promising. Many businesses need more hands-on help using and customizing technology, so that’s a huge and very lucrative area. And even old-fashioned brick and mortar retail is going to offer great opportunities. Target’s demise means millions of Canadians are looking for new places to spend their money.

And anyone who knows anything about sales can write their own ticket.

When a person graduates from university how should they go about finding a job?
Know what you can do. Develop specific skills: coding, apps, content creation, computer maintenance, hacking, whatever. Target the sectors and companies where you would like to work, and approach them with passion and confidence. Tell them how you can create value for them! (Be an investment, not a liability.)

When all else fails, make your own job. Buy and sell on eBay, resell cool technology from China, make your own jewelry or design websites, write an eye-catching blog and find sponsors for it. Buy a 3d printer and make stuff to sell to friends and gift shops. Do landscaping, cooking, snowshovelling, dogwalking, video production, tutoring and child care for clients with more money than time. There are more opportunities today than ever! 

Friday, January 23, 2015

January guide to getting your business in shape for a new year

My Financial Post column of Jan. 12, 2015:
Success in business rarely comes from building a better mousetrap, raising a million dollars on KickStarter, or landing a great-white-whale-sized account.
True success comes from getting the little things right: working your lists, managing cash, watching the competition, and never giving up. It won’t make headline news, but mastering the basics will at least keep your business off the obituary pages.
And January is the time most people look at developing better habits. “This stuff isn’t rocket science, but starting off the year properly is a good idea,” small-business consultant Andrew Patricio says. “It’s the details that make you a good business owner.”
As founder of Toronto-based BizLaunch, Patricio held an online webinar last week in which he offered numerous tips for mastering the basics and putting your business on track for a bigger and better year.
Here are a few of his key points:
— Conduct an expense audit to start managing expenses in your business. Year-end gives you an opportunity to spend more time than usual with your accountant, so Patricio suggests conducting an expense audit to find out where you’re spending too much.“Go through your P and L with your accountant and look at every single line item — advertising, office expenses, petty cash, whatever — and try and see where you can save money. I urge you, in January, to get [suppliers] to re-quote you on a lot of the expenses you’re incurring.”
— Another timely resolution is to try to understand your financial statements this year. “It’s really not that complicated,” Patricio insists. When businesses have weak balance sheets — too much debt, not enough equity or cash — it’s usually because the owners don’t understand their financials, so they don’t know how to improve them, he says. “It’s really the detail that makes you a better business owner,” Patricio says. “When you can look at the numbers and analyze them, they help you improve your business.” Once you understand your gross profit margin, for instance, you can see how you’re doing compared to industry averages, and compared with last year.
— Start setting more precise expense budgets. When it comes to many big-ticket categories, such as advertising, “we spend as we need, when we need,” Patricio says. “You need to become more strategic. You want to make sure your employees understand the effect of expenses on your bottom line, and that they don’t waste money. The only way they’ll do that is if you set specific budgets and timelines.”
— You knew this was coming: pay attention to cash-flow forecasts. “The one thing I’ve learned in 30 years in business is that you never ever want to run out of money,” Patricio says. “Understand that as a business owner, managing cash flow is the most important thing you do.”
— He advises all entrepreneurs to develop cash-flow forecasts for the next 12 months. Not only will this keep your company off the rocks, he says, it will ensure you have cash on hand in times of liquidity shortages, such as the next recession. “Once you know you have cash available to you, you can make much clearer decisions.”
— If you realize your business may need additional financial support over the next year or two, don’t wait, says Patricio – arrange your financing now. “Look for money long before you need it. Start doing your research six to 12 months ahead of time.”
— Have a business plan – and update it regularly. Sure, you’ve heard this before. You’ve probably also heard many successful entrepreneurs brag that they’ve never written a business plan. (Business moves too fast today, yadda yadda yadda.) Patricio doesn’t buy it, and neither should you. A business plan represents a vision of a business — all its inputs and outputs — at a specific point in time. Its value comes from regularly reviewing it to ensure you know which of your initial assumptions still hold true, and which need to be revisited. “A lot of business owners don’t like this part of the business,” Patricio says. “But it can be a really simple document that you use to keep yourself on track and focused.”
— Include first-hand industry research in your business planning, Patricio adds. “Go and see other businesses similar to yours, see how they’re doing and how much they’re charging. Look for the best practices in your industry and copy them.”
— Finally, Patricio addressed a common entrepreneurial pain point: How to start selling to big business. Polish up your benefits statement, he said: “I have found that big companies will let you come and meet with them only when you offer them real value.” Noting that many big enterprises are nervous about buying from small businesses, Patricio revealed BizLaunch’s strategy: convince the prospect to give you a minor project to start, and prove yourself with that.
As for getting through the gatekeepers to talk to executives, Patricio avoids the office altogether. “We tend to meet top-company people at a conference or trade show, so we’ve never had trouble with gatekeepers.”
“Be patient,” he concluded. “Getting into these companies is not hard, but it is a lot of fun. They have got the money to spend, and they want to give you the work. As long as you’re reliable and you produce the goods, they want to do business with you.”

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All you need to know about small business in one post. Thanks, Twitter!

Here’s a transcript of my Dec. 30th Tweet Chat with GotoMeeting Canada, on entrepreneurship and the Future of Work. I have eliminated most of the Twitter address/hashtag clutter.

The beauty of Twitter’s short-messaging model is that you have to get to the nub of each issue: make your point, then stop. No frills, no vacillating, no buts. I hope you find some value in the following distillation.

@GoToMeetingCA: We're excited to have @nationalpost columnist and consultant @rickspence with us today to chat about #entrepreneurship and the #FutureofWork
@GoToMeetingCA: First off, what does it take to make it as an #entrepreneur in Canada?

Rick: To make it as an entrepreneur, you need a vision, commitment to quality and service, courage, persistence. 
You need to be prepared to work harder than ever before. You have to think about business 7 days a week. 
To start, you must do something better than anyone in your market, whether you create apps or open a café 
You also need to understand your market, what makes other people in it successful.  (Get out and ask people!)
Also, you have to understand basic finance.
How long till your business reaches break-even? What sources of capital can you tap?
I believe we all have to be entrepreneurs. Full-time jobs will be scarce; we'll have multiple client/employers
So we must all think of ourselves as entrepreneurs. We must know how we create value in our chosen markets.

@GoToMeetingCA All fantastic points. How does the climate for #SMBs and #entrepreneurs in Canada look to you right now?

Rick: The outlook is always favorable for entrepreneurs. They specialize in seeing connections that turn into opportunities. 
We all have to learn to zig when others zag. There is always opportunity to do something better, cheaper, faster.
E.g., in tough times, businesses outsource work. Great opportunity for entrepreneurs who do 1 thing well.  
Most markets evolving. Businesses, consumers demand new products, eg security solutions or balsamic vinegars
Lots of room for entrepreneurs to supply specialty products and services to demanding clients with more money than time 
For established small businesses, leverage your flexibility. Be first to see new trends, meet changing demand 
Markets and consumers are changing fast. You can zig and zag while big competitors wait for board approvals!

@GoToMeetingCA:  Are you seeing evidence of any big changes or trends coming our way for 2015?

Rick: Lots of trends for entrepreneurs to chew on this year. Health, fitness and environment: We need new solutions in these areas
Canadians want change, and they’re willing to pay, For healthier foods, better workouts, greener products.
Also, so much opportunity in tech. Apps, games, video. And biotech, nanotech, big data, materials, security.
In general, our increasingly complex society breeds new problems that demand better solutions. All opportunities!
Plus, social issues are hot. How can business create new solutions to poverty, education, mental health? 
And for those who know nothing about nanotech, personal services and anything re pets are huge opportunities
When looking for new opportunities, ask yourself two questions:
What are people spending more money on today?
What nagging problems can we (as individuals, businesses or society) not seem to solve?
The intersection point of these two lines of thought is where your best opportunities lie.

@GoToMeetingCA: Can you tell us about a Canadian #smallbiz that has really impressed or inspired you?

Rick: I love G Adventures, world’s largest adventure travel firm. Socially conscious, very successful.
Just talked yesterday to a Toronto entrepreneur making 3D printers that are safe for children and easy to use.
Check out Poieo3D. Your kids will love you! They might even put down their phones.
@GoToMeetingCA  Amazing! Could be the next new #Techvibes20 company? :)
In Waterloo,Thalmic Labs soon to release gesture-control armbands. Amazing home-grown tech to control video games, appliances, etc.
In Vancouver, Indochino sells fashion-forward custom suits at half off retail. Neat mix of tech and tailoring.
So many great companies. Innovation, value and values are alive and well in Canadian entrepreneurship.

@GoToMeetingCA: You mention one of the top 5 dos of small businesses is to innovate: via @financialpost
What advice do you have for #entrepreneurs to stay innovative?

Rick: To stay innovative, stay curious. Always ask yourself, Why are things done this way? What other solutions would work better?  
Find people to brainstorm with. What’s not working? How could we do it better?
Always look for fast, easy, cheap ways to test your ideas, theories and solutions. Test, test, test.
Crowdfunding can help you test new ideas. Even if you don't raise the money you want, lots of great feeback.
Plus, crowdfunding helps you build a community that cares about your solution. What could you accomplish together?
If you're a business owner, encourage innovation by staff. Reward ideas. Give people resources to test their theories.

@GoToMeetingCA Good point. Many #startups we've spoken to mentioned the right team is crucial for business growth
Rick: As Silicon Valley guru Steve Blank says, startups aren’t businesses. They're research lab testing new ideas.

@GoToMeetingCA What are the most common mistakes #entrepreneurs make as they build their #startups?

Rick: So many common mistakes entrepreneurs make! Like, neglecting to develop a business plan!
Not vetting potential partners properly for alignment, work ethic, resiliency. Know who you're teaming with!
Not looking into insurance and other red-tape chores entrepreneurs need to pay attention to.
Being undercapitalized, and not spending enough time trying to raise money. Not seeking "smart" money
Spending too much time trying to raise money.
Entrepreneurship is a complex business, and opportunities for mistakes abound. Stay focused, have fun.

@GoToMeetingCA Do you have any tips for #entrepreneurs when it comes to making connections and building a network?

Rick: Entrepreneur or employee, building strong business relationships is the most important thing you can do.
Get out and meet people, build friendships, stay in touch. Find ways to create value for people in your network.
Strong networkers make the best leaders. And your network will help you in so many ways.
Your network can provide ideas, encouragement, advice, references, testimonials, leads on funding. Work it! 
I’m doing a lot more work on networking lately, including a new presentations series. It’s the secret sauce of success!

@GoToMeetingCA Good to hear, looking forward to that!
Who are some of your favourite, must-follow #SMB experts on social media?

Rick: I’m a huge fan of Twitter. It’s my network for keeping in touch with thought leaders in areas I care about most. 
Breakfast with Twitter is like sitting down and having coffee with the smartest people you know. Or don't know.
@GoToMeetingCA: Best quote ever.
Rick: To make it more two-way, of course, you have to work Twitter. Retweet, respond, ask follow-ups, engage.
And of course @FPEntrepreneur!

@GoToMeetingCA: Any words of wisdom for young entrepreneurs who may be considering getting into the #startup scene?

Rick: Know your stuff. Partner with great people. Develop a partnership agreement. Don’t skip the business plan.
Prepare to work harder that you've ever worked before. But you won't mind, because you're in business for yourself.
Also, I was once asked for my best three-word piece of advice. I said, "Make the Call.”
"Make the call" means something different to everyone. We all have conversations we've put off. But it works!

@GoToMeetingCA  Thanks for your time, @rickspence! It was great chatting with you about the #FutureofWork. All the best for 2015.

Rick: Thanks for this! All the best to you and yours. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Philanthropy + Internet = Free Entrepreneurship Course

We don't usually publish press releases here at Canadian Entrepreneur.
But this one speaks for itself.

Santa Clara University Receives $10 Million Gift and
Leading Online Entrepreneurship Course Content
To Create the My Own Business Institute and
Expand Global Small Business Education Programs

SANTA CLARA, Calif., — Santa Clara University’s (SCU) Leavey School of Business today announced the generous gift of Phil and Peggy Holland's popular, free, online small business course content and business-training website (, together with $10 million for Santa Clara University to expand and improve the course, and to create the My Own Business Institute (MOBI) and a related fellows program.

“This is a wonderful gift for Santa Clara and our dreams for expanding entrepreneurship education here and around the world.” said Michael Engh, S.J., president of Santa Clara University. “I am grateful to the Hollands because their generosity will help us build on the entrepreneurial spirit of students, startups, and small business owners near and far. The expanded reach of Santa Clara's entrepreneurship education will help provide creative and sustainable economic opportunities for individuals and their communities.”

The Hollands set out to nurture entrepreneurship and help individuals start and build their own businesses following the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, and have been the principal funders of MOBI since inception. Mr. Holland, a successful entrepreneur and founder of the Yum Yum Donut Shops, and Mrs. Holland, an accomplished school administrator, principal, and teacher, developed the original course to teach people how to start their own businesses and to support the return of a vibrant, healthy community.

“Much of what motivated the Hollands to create MOBI 22 years ago is what motivates Santa Clara’s business school,” said S. Andrew Starbird, dean of the Leavey School of Business. “We both seek to build stronger communities by creating economic opportunity for everyone in our society.”

Since 2000, when MOBI became the first organization in the world to offer a free, comprehensive, and graded online course on starting a business, more than 40 million people have accessed the website. The course is available in more than 50 countries and 14 languages through partnerships with the World Bank/International Finance Organization and a license to Cisco Systems’ Entrepreneurship Institute.

SCU will use the MOBI platform to help teach entrepreneurs through two existing Santa Clara programs: the California Program for Entrepreneurship, which provides MBA-level courses and mentoring to 25 to 35 California entrepreneurs a year, and the Neighborhood Prosperity Initiative, which provides support for small businesses in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
A video describing the history of MOBI is available at

About Phil Holland
Mr. Holland is a lifelong entrepreneur. His businesses have included building "spec" houses, the manufacture of automatic doughnut machinery, designing and building apartments, restaurant franchising, doughnut retailing, and the development and management of shopping centers. He founded Yum Yum Donut Shops in 1970 with $5,000 and guided it from a one-shop operation to become the largest chain of privately owned donut shops in the United States. 
Many of the lesson topics in the MOBI courses are based on his experiences in building the Yum Yum chain of stores. Following its sale in 1989, Yum Yum went on to purchase the Winchell chain of donut shops. Mr. Holland received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Southern California.

Monday, November 03, 2014

That Gene Simmons story

My yarn last week on Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons and his new book was a tough one to write.

On one hand, Simmons is a tremendous innovator and entrepreneur in the world of rock and roll. And in reality TV, for that matter. And maybe even Arena Football.

But he doesn't have much value to give to entrepreneurs. And neither does his new book, ME Inc.: Build an Army of One, Unleash Your Inner Rock God, Win in Life and Business.

As I wrote in my column, the subtitle is the best part of the book.
I don't usually write negative stories. If a book, a person or a company has nothing to offer, provides no new ideas or nothing to learn from, I figure it's generally not worth my time or yours to write about.

After my phone interview with Simmons, which was a negative experience because he had no interest in answering my questions, I debated whether to even write a story on him and his book. In the end, I decided that writing about the intersection of a four-decade rock icon with the new world of entrepreneurship was probably worth while. Especially if it sparks any thoughts or questions about what constitutes an entrepreneur, or inspires someone who had never thought about running their own business to consider taking that path.

So here's the story.
Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Rick's new bio: Changing the world, one opportunity at a time

A few people still ask me what I do. And slowly (as you know, this process takes years), I have figured out how to say it. Here's a copy of my latest bio.Leave a comment to let me know what you think.

Rick Spence
President, CanEntrepreneur Communications

Through the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Montreal Gazette and other Postmedia newspapers, Rick Spence’s columns on entrepreneurship, innovation and opportunity reach up to a million people every week.

Rick’s goal is to create a more dynamic economy by promoting the 7-part Entrepreneurial Mindset: confidence, responsibility, initiative, collaboration, innovation, execution and differentiation. With these skills, Canadians can build a much more prosperous country, and thrive in the increasingly complex global marketplace.

Rick is an entrepreneur, a business writer and speaker, and a consultant specializing in entrepreneurship and business growth. He has been chronicling Canadian entrepreneurship for more than 25 years, as editor and Publisher of PROFIT magazine, a weekly columnist for the National Post, and in his writings for other magazines such as MoneySense, Entrepreneur, Canadian Business, Alberta Venture, and Corporate Knights.

Rick is the author of Secret of Success from Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, and of the forthcoming Startups for Heroes: The Military Veteran’s Guide to Entrepreneurship. He has taught at Ryerson University and sits on the board of directors of a multinational, Canadian-based geophysical software company.

He is also a partner in ConnectInc, an organization that helps Canadians improve their networking skills, and an advisor to Startup Canada. Rick has also worked on content strategy and development for clients such as the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, IBM, RBC, Visa Canada, UPS, HP, Lenovo and other leading organizations.

In 2014 he won the national Startup Canada award as Canada’s outstanding business journalist.

Rick invites you to join his crusade for innovation, jobs and growth by visiting His Twitter handle is @RickSpence.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The 35 most famous people I have met. Plus, One Degree from Kevin Bacon.

Preparing for my phone interview tomorrow with Kiss co-founder Gene Simmons (he has a new book out about entrepreneurship), I wondered where he would fit in the list of celebrities I have met in my life.

These are some of the famous folks I have met in person, whether as a journalist, traveler, fan or parent. They are listed in approximate order of epic coolness:

John Cleese: Met over lunch in a rooftop restaurant in Monte Carlo. He agreed with my contention that Life of Brian is a better film than Holy Grail.

Prince Philip: Chatted at a press conference in Toronto, about World Wildlife issues.
Bill Gates: Asked question at press conference in Toronto.

Dave Keon: Lent him a pen in an arena hallway. Never got it back.
Bobby Hull: Met and interviewed him at a community festival in Consort, Alta. He was the Guest of Honour.

Gordie Howe: Talked in dressing room in Edmonton. Felt funny calling him “Mr. Howe.”

Gerald R. Ford: Calgary Convention Centre. Chatted briefly about the potential for a U.S. invasion of Canada. (He assured me it would never happen. I was unconvinced.)

Elijah Wood (Frodo): At Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto, on LOTR press tour. My daughter was interviewing him, and I was just her escort.
Andy Serkis: At Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto, on LOTR press tour. “Precious” memories of shaking hands with Gollum!
Billy Boyd ("Pippin" in LOTR). Twice, in Toronto.

Michael Moore: Sat together at annual meeting of Canadian Society of Magazine Editors, in Toronto. We argued over his proposal for a law prohibiting layoffs by Michigan employers.

Jan Peerce (renowned 1940s tenor , favorite of Toscanini): Interviewed him in Calgary hotel room, where he was still touring as Tevye the Milkman at age 75.

Samantha Bee: Got a big hug after winning “Test the Nation” at CBC studio in Toronto.
James Doohan: At a Star Trek convention in NYC. Such a nice guy, "Scottty."
Isaac Asimov: Star Trek convention, NYC.

Joey Smallwood: In his home in St. John’s. Nfld. I interviewed him, mainly as an excuse to meet the last living Father of Confederation.
Mary Tyler Moore: At luncheon in Toronto. She still turns the world on with her smile.
Carol BurnettAt Ottawa airport.

Roger Bannister (first to run a mile under four minutes): In Vancouver.
Marshall McLuhan: In Windsor, Ont., and by phone from Toronto.
Tim Minchin: I held his shoes while he gave an autograph to my daughter outside a Toronto comedy club.

Peter Mansbridge: On an escalator in Toronto.
Jimmy Pattison: In Vancouver and Toronto.
Conrad Black: On various occasions, in Toronto.
Ted Rogers: Various encounters in Toronto and GTA. First met him when I was managing the CHFI radio booth at the Canadian National Exhibition as a summer job.
Galen Weston: Forest Hill, Toronto.
Hillary Weston: Forest Hill, Toronto.

Prime Minister Joe Clark: In Alberta and Toronto.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney: Toronto annual meeting (he walked out of it at the behest of his U.S. bosses).
Prime Minister Paul Martin Jr.: Various occasions in Montreal, Ottawa.
Prime Minister John Turner: In Ottawa and Toronto.
Alberta premier Peter Lougheed: Calgary.
Alberta premier Ralph Klein: At his City Hall office in Calgary.
B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm: Met him and wife Lillian at their Fantasy Garden World park south of Vancouver.

Rob Ford: Met him while participating in All-Candidates’ meeting in Toronto, 2010. Didn’t like him much.

Ships Passing in the Night (“Almost Encounters”):

Ray Bolger: The former Scarecrow was the mystery guest at a live taping of Front Page Challenge I attended in Windsor. Afterwards, he led the audience in an impromptu singalong of his theme song: "Once in Love with Amy."

Valéry Giscard d'Estaingformer president of France: he was one table over at a hotel dining room in the French Alps.
Paul McCartney: We passed each other at Rockefeller Centre, NYC. New Yorkers are too cool to care, so I left him alone.
Charlton Heston: I walked past his table in Toronto at the World’s Biggest Bookstore where he was signing books.

Dick Cavett: The once-controversial talk show host and I were the only visitors at a small museum in New Orleans. But we merely nodded to each other and did not speak.
Charles Bronson: two tables away at NYC comedy club, but he left early.
Hilary Duff: My daughter interviewed this teen popstar in an exclusive Toronto club while I played escort at the ground-floor bar.

Ted Danson: Saw him (with wife Mary Steenburgen) at a Hollywood taping of their short-lived sitcom, Ink. But I saw him again last spring on the streets of Monte Carlo.
Kevin Bacon: My daughter's babysitter nannied his kids while he shot a movie in Toronto. One degree of separation!

The lead actors in Spartacus, one of my Top 10 movies:
Peter Ustinov: To be fair, he was on stage in London, and I was just in the audience. Still, Peter Ustinov!
Laurence Olivier: I met his son Richard in Toronto, and we spoke later by phone.
Kirk Douglas: Umm, I bought a plaid couch from a Muskoka BandB that Kirk’s son Michael (and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones) once sat upon.
Jean Simmons. I got nada. Except, Gene Simmons!

I’m pretty sure there are more. I’ll add to this list as the names come back to me.

First addition, later the same day:
Former PM John Diefenbaker, in Ottawa as a kid on a tour of the Parliament Buildings.
"Bad boy" sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison: NYC. To me, his most memorable work is Memos from Purgatory, for which he joined a street gang in Brooklyn.

Wayne Greztky: In Oilers dressing room, Edmonton, and at a Toronto book launch.