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: http://sqz.co/o9DQd38 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. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Your Year-end Roundup

A good time to bring you up to date on some of my significant columns of the past few weeks.
This list includes a look back, a very cool profile of a food-industry innovator,  some useful how-to articles, the adventures of a group of young Canadian entrepreneurs in Israel, and a revisionist interview with one of the pioneers of the "lean startup" movement.
Just click on each title for more.

The top lessons we learned from gutsy Canadian entrepreneurs in 2014









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 (www.myownbusiness.org), 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 www.scu.edu/business/mobi.

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. 
http://business.financialpost.com/2014/10/24/people-who-take-holidays-are-losers-and-other-dubious-advice-from-rock-star-gene-simmons/
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 www.canentrepreneur.com. 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. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=jan%20peerce


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." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puvavzSbgS0

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.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Taking the 'work" out of Networking

Do you dread business-networking events?

Worse, do you consider them a waste of time, because all the people you meet are trying to sell you something, instead of buying from you as they ought to?

If so, it’s time to change your attitude. Next week, business coach Barbara Katz and I will show you a better way to meet people in our new presentation, Rethink The Way You Connect: Taking The ‘Work’ Out of Networking!

We’ll be presenting at 3:45 pm at the SOHO/SME Expo  in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 15. This will be a free one-hour seminar to close the show, and I can even get you into the show for free: 
Just click here and use the promotion code Rickspence.

Why should you attend our seminar? We're going to bust the myths about networking, then show you how to do it better. And then we’ll give you a chance to try out what you've learned in small groups with other attendees. You can put what you're learning into action right away! I promise this session will be fun, fast-moving and mind-expanding.

If you wish, you can also sign up for SOHO’s after-party, which begins at a nearby King St. club just after our session finishes. So you can practice your new skills that very evening.

I'm delighted to be working on this with Vancouver-based SOHO, which has been running its SOHO/SME Expo across Canada for nearly 20 years. (Another edition takes place in Vancouver on Oct. 30.)

To find out more about the schedule and speakers at the Toronto show, click here. 

If you want to see more of me, I’ll be taking part in two panels on Wednesday morning: a marketing panel at 9:30 a.m., and a finance panel, entitled “Money Money Money: How to Get It, Manage It and Grow It,” at 10:45.

Other entrepreneurs speaking at the show include Marcus Daniels, Co-Founder & CEO of the new Highline acelerator; Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprises; Paul Engels of SME hosting site Veloxsites, Mike Agerbo of Blink Media Works, and more!

Again, you can get a free day pass by clicking here and using that secret promotion code I mentioned earlier. 

(Regular admission is $20 for the 8 a.m. “super meetup” and another $20 for the main conference/trade show.  Or $35 if you pay at the door.)

Finally, here’s the full bumph on our seminar. Please register soon, because seating is limited.

Networking is often thought of as a stressful chore, an unpleasant but unavoidable task for those who want to grow their businesses. But what if networking didn’t have to be so daunting? What if you could meet other business people in a fun, enjoyable way?
In this unique interactive workshop, Barbara Katz and Rick Spence will teach you:
  • what networking really is
  • new ways to re-think connecting with others
  • how to be a more effective networker
  • the single biggest way to reduce your networking stress.
And you’ll get to try out the new techniques with your fellow attendees. Bring your most pressing business challenge and find new solutions – by connecting with others in a fun, relaxed and effective way.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Regina Report: The lowdown on Based in Business

(Originally published on FinancialPost.com)
REGINA — If you read my Financial Post column on Tuesday, you will know that I am reporting from the University of Regina, which is hosting Based in Business, an innovative week-long bootcamp that is helping 19 Canadian military veterans become smarter, savvier entrepreneurs.
As a business journalist in Toronto specializing in entrepreneurship for 25 years, I have had limited exposure to military personnel or veterans. After two busy days of classes and conversation, it’s clear to me Canada’s veterans are incredibly intelligent, engaged people who are deeply concerned with the world around them and still anxious — whether they’re 39 or 59 — to make their mark on it.
For this update, a few observations about my classmates and the program:
Stereotypes aside You can’t stereotype veterans. There’s a wide range of personality types here, from grim, results-first types to class clowns and process-oriented intellectuals. In general, however, they are eager to learn, they ask great questions, and they’re quick to respond whenever an instructor asks for volunteers. If there’s a new experience to be had — even if it’s exposing your nascent business plan to the scrutiny of the entire group — they are quick to grab it.
Pride and patriotism They’re proud of their military careers and fierce patriots. They believe in the Canadian Forces as the home of high-performing specialists who continually form and reform teams based on shared values, trust, and willingness to sacrifice their individuality for the sake of the mission. They’ll kid each other mercilessly, but watch out for each other like brothers and sisters.
Equality in the classroom I’ve been very impressed by the absence of rank. At this camp, majors and corporals and warrant officers work and socialize with each other as equals. In their heads, they have probably all figured out the approximate ranks of all their colleagues, but they know this is a new world where everyone can learn from each other.
Shared Values The veterans at Based in Business Regina — many of whom are still on active military duty, for one more week, six months, or up to two years — miss their military experience, but are excited about the business adventures on which they’re embarking. They worry, however, that the culture of shared values and trust will not be present in the business world. I have tried to convince several of them that in most industries and markets, trust plays a huge role in business. Indeed, we could barely make agreements, collaborate or buy from each other without a strong sense of mutual trust. They’ll believe it when they see it.
(On Tuesday evening, the veterans met nine Regina entrepreneurs for speed networking: a series of 10-minute get-to-know-you sessions. Many seemed blown away that so many successful local entrepreneurs would take the time to meet with them, and show so much interest in their business plans. I tried to tell them that they will find caring and supportive business networks wherever they go in Canada. They’ll believe it when they see it.)
No sympathy expected In general, these veterans think the Canadian public is indifferent to their military experiences and their sacrifices. But they don’t really expect anyone to care; “the man on the wall” does it out of a sense of duty, not for other people’s appreciation. Several of these vets have suffered injuries, both mental and physical, but they have worked hard to overcome them and expect no sympathy. Just a fair shake.
Competitive, confident Yes, they’re competitive. And they have no doubt their business ideas are going to succeed.
Slowly, however, these veterans are realizing confidence is not enough, and that in business, overconfidence can kill. So far, the instructors from the University of Regina have managed to sow some healthy self-doubt. They’ve demonstrated that the first job of any startup — selecting a promising market and the most appropriate business model for it — is more complex than these budding entrepreneurs thought.
That’s a good thing. These veterans know every successful mission begins with an objective assessment of its threats and opportunities.
The participants’ resilience has been seen again and again. Between Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon, many changed the way they described their business objectives. Some who arrived with a dram of pursuing two or three business ideas at once have winnowed them down to one — the most promising opportunity they can see. Others learned to finesse their plan, narrowing down their addressable target market or resetting their expectations of how long it would take to succeed.
Based in Business has a difficult mission: Improve the prospects of its confident, capable participants while showing them how much they don’t yet know. Without that kind of tough love, how can they learn to put in the huge effort required to succeed?
But so far, the process seems to be working. Probability of mission success: almost certain.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Business, life and 3D printing


I wrote a few years ago that 3D printing changes everything. Here's a phenomenal example. 

TurboRoo, a tiny Chihuahua, was born without front legs, an innocent victim of random genetic dysfunction.

Every critter on the planet wants to be mobile, to roam, to explore. TurboRoo's owner asked for help on the Internet - and got it.

According to a story on TechCrunch, "Mark Deadrick, president of 3dyn, saw TurboRoo’s call for wheels on the Internet and designed a small wheeled cart, estimating the size from online photos. He printed the card in bright orange, slapped on some Rollerblade wheels, and sent the cart to TurboRoo’s owner. Now the wee doggie is scooting along on a free, fully hackable set of super-legs."

Before now, notes writer John Biggs, "TurboRoo’s owners would have had to build something out of ready-made pipes, cloth, and other materials at great cost. Now, however, the cart can be custom-fit to TR’s body, reprinted at will, and even modified by other designers. Best of all, they can make multiple carts for almost nothing and in almost no time."

This is the miracle of 3D printing. With a little design help - and the number of freely available templates for 3D printed objects is growing every day - it's now possible for the consumer (or entrepreneur) to manufacture virtually anything they can dream of - out of almost any substance. (Chocolate is becoming an increasingly popular building material.)  


The business implications are staggering. Sell designs. Create and sell works of art. Scan in and reproduce spare parts. Medical devices. Sculptured foods. Customized bobbleheads. 

Remember Star Trek's transporter? We still can't actually teleport, but you can now download the plans for almost any device to your home or office, and reproduce it on a 3D printer costing less than $1,000. (20 years ago,we paid more than that for a fax machine.)

How can 3D printing enhance your business or industry? 
How can you get ahead of the trend?

Youth entrepreneurship, making a difference, and trying to smash an iPhone

video
All this and more was on the agenda Thursday, Aug. 7 when Rick appeared on Global's "Morning Show" with 20-year-old entrepreneur Richard Waters, founder of Toronto-based Phantom Glass. The company produces an amazing glass cover for smartphones that is scratch-proof and highly protective.
I had seen a video on Richard's website that depicted someone striking an iPhone with a hammer to prove how tough Phantom Glass really is, so I asked if he had brought a hammer to the studio. He hadn't, so we borrowed one from the production crew. 
It was, of course, the highlight of the segment.
Take six minutes and bask in the new frontier of youth entrepreneurship.
What happens when the hammer strikes?

Monday, August 04, 2014

"We had no business plan, just an idea"

You can help our veterans start stronger businesses and make more successful returns to civilian life.
Through my Indiegogo crowd-funding project, serving military personnel and veterans alike will be able to access a free startup eBook geared to their specific needs.
Startups for Heroes (tentative title) will offer the best business information and startup guidance from “Based in Business,” a one-week business bootcamp being held for Canadian Forces veterans later this month in Regina. I’ll be there to cover the lessons learned and tell some of the participants' stories.
Why do veterans need this help? Because while the Forces and Veterans Affairs offer military retirees lots of advice on how to find a job, they don't do such a good job on starting your own business. Given today’s economy, many veterans are eager to start a business – but don't know what to do first.
Help them start their new lives on the right foot. Please visit “Startup for Heroes” and support one of my funding levels.
How can a startup bootcamp change people’s lives? Here’s a new story by Amanda Moore of Niagara This Week on a veteran who retired this month and just completed a “Based in Business” course in St. John’s. Leendert Bolle served one tour in Bosnia and two tours in Afghanistan. He and his wife Annemarie now own Hero Dog Treats in Beamsville, Ont.
"We had no business plan, just an idea that we put into action," says Leendert. Based in Business "made a difference in my business, taking it from surviving to thriving."
Besides creating a living for the couple, the business employs veterans who may be struggling with their own return to civilian life. "The struggles of veterans became apparent to me two years ago," Leendert told Niagara This Week. "I told my wife we had to do something to help them."
With the information he learned at Based in Business, Leendert hopes the company will grow to the point where it can employ 20 to 30 veterans. "The program has given me the tools to make it happen," he says. "It has given me the opportunity and support to go out into the world and give it all I've got."
This is the power of a smart business: the ability to create confidence for individual entrepreneurs, value for customers, and jobs for those who need them.
But “Based in Business” is an expensive program. It can only help a few dozen veterans a year. Please support my eBook project so we can get this information into the hands of every veteran – and every Forces member – who wants it.
Click here to visit the “Startups for Heroes” page on Indiegogo.