Sunday, October 30, 2005

Why Jack Welch loves small business

When he was the visionary, no-prisoners CEO at General Electric, Jack Welch tried hard to make his behemoth of a company more focused, effective and efficient. In other words, he wanted GE to be like the best small businesses.

Why does Welch admire smaller businessess? "For one, they communicate better," he says. "Without the din and prattle of bureaucracy, people listen as well as talk; and since there are fewer of them they generally know and understand each other.

"Second, small companies move faster. They know the penalties for hesitation in the marketplace.

"Third, in small companies, with fewer layers and less camouflage, the leaders show up very clearly on the screen. Their performance and its impact are clear to everyone.

"And, finally, smaller companies waste less. They spend less time in endless reviews and approvals and politics and paper drills. They have fewer people; therefore they can only do the important things. Their people are free to direct their energy and attention toward the marketplace rather than fighting bureaucracy."

That's one for your bulletin board. An indictment of modern business and a guide to success - all in 125 words.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

7 Deadly Business Mistakes

Courtesy of B.C. entrepreneur Cherilyn Lester, here are 7 mistakes entrepreneurs make before they even start their business:

Mistake # 1: Selling themselves as just another commodity supplier. There nay be a million carpenters in the world, but the most successful ones have a specialty: wood carving, house renovation, specialized pieces.

Mistake # 2: Failing to plan. An idea is not a business plan, a marketing plan, or even just a goal. Although planning may seem tedious, the process will benefit you more than you can imagine: when you are seeking funding, for example, or when your indstry changes.

Mistake # 3: Spending too much on brochures and business cards. Most startup businesses change too quickly for these materials to be effective for very long. Don’t waste time or money on brochures and cards until you can keep your sales presentation the same for six months.

Mistake # 4: Creating a domain name and arranging website hosting before you've completed the marketing plan.

Mistake # 5: Selling yourself instead of your product. Don’t promote your experience or qualifications: promote your solutions.

Mistake # 6: Stopping marketing. If you stop marketing when you run out of new ideas, your new business will peter out too. The key to successful marketing is repetition.

Mistake # 7: When nothing happened, you didn’t try again. Nothing says failure like someone who quits. Motivate yourself! Get up in the morning and say “I’m going to get hits to my website.” Or “I’m going to get a client this week!” You have to try, make mistakes, learn, and try again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Have no fear, BMO's here

Every business goes through rough spots. And not acknowledging tough times only makes bad situations worse.

What can you do about it? Here are some useful tips from Bank of Montreal.

(Don’t be so surprised. Years ago, the banks pledged to significantly raise their support for small business. Now if you go to BMO’s site, they have maybe two dozen stories with tips and ideas for small businesses. It’s a pretty sad effort, but you’ll probably find something of value by clicking here.)

So what do you do in tough times? BMO’s article, “Eight Tips and Steps That Can Help,” offers, umm, eight tips.

1. Face the facts
Be realistic about your company's situation.

2. Identify and address the root cause of your problem
Make sure you know exactly how your company makes money. Which activities are the most profitable? Which are the most expensive?

3. Seek help
Look to others within and outside your business for their expertise and assistance.

4. Generate cash quickly
Can you sell some assets that you are not currently using? Can you sell and lease back key assets that are tying up working capital? Can you collect receivables faster?

5. Keep your key business partners fully informed
Inform business partners of your situation well before breaking any commitments with them.

6. Negotiate extended terms with your creditors
Can your banker live with interest-only payments until you get your new plan in order? Did you have an aggressive repayment plan on your loan that can be amended? Will key suppliers accept a partial payment prior to shipping goods?

7. Restructure your debts
Can you restructure your operating debt and obtain a term loan to free working capital? Can you convert some debt into equity? Can you inject personal funds into the company?

8. Formulate a turnaround business plan
Have you got a plan in place to address your root problems? Will you be able to measure the success of your plan in a short time?

Bravo BMO.
Later on we'll check in with some of the other banks to see if they have any better ideas.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Focus on Winners (or, Managing Expectations)

That's the gist of the following press release we received here this morning (our first!). It was personally e-mailed to us by the PR guy at Babson College - which suggests an interesting blurring between blogs and mainstream media.

But it's right up our alley here at Canadian Entrepreneur, because it's all about growth companies. So here's my version, edited and annotated.

FIRST GLOBAL STUDY OF HIGH EXPECTATION ENTREPRENEURSHIP (note: you know their story is weak when there's no verb in the headline!)

Wellesley, MA -- The first global study of high-expectation entrepreneurship has found that just 9.8% of the world’s entrepreneurs expect to create almost 75% of the jobs generated by new business ventures.

(What's high-expectation entrepreneurship? It's defined as all start-ups and newly formed businesses which expect to employ at least 20 employees within five years.)

A research consortium co-directed by Babson College and London Business School analyzed 505,000 survey responses across 44 countries over a five-year period to study high-expectation entrepreneurship.

These ventures have far-reaching impacts, because of their contribution to job creation and innovation. The report’s key findings include:

* More high-expectation entrepreneurial activity occurs in North America (U.S. and Canada) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) than in other country groups. For these groups, high expectation entrepreneurial activity ranges from 0.1% to 1.6% of the adult population;

* High-expectation activity is highest in the U.S. (1.6% of adult population), roughly twice the rate in the UK and Germany;

* High-expectation ventures are most prevalent among well-educated men aged 25-34, with high incomes;

* Worldwide, 9.8% of entrepreneurs expect to create 74.1% of all jobs born out of new business ventures;

* Governments should encourage high-expectation entrepreneurial activity through selective support measures, such as removing disincentives for entrepreneurial growth, and facilitating spin-offs from knowledge-intensive organizations (in high-income countries), and improving elementary and secondary education (in lower-income countries).

Lead researcher Erkko Autio concludes: “This study shows that it is only a small fraction of all new firms that really matter for job creation. Therefore, selective policy measures by governments targeted at high-potential ventures are likely to prove more effective for job-creation purposes."

[Note from me: Ontario, thank goodness, has been targeting its growth-business assistance for years (see here and here and here). The feds, not so much.]

For a copy of the report, click here.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Lucky Entrepreneur

Being a successful entrepreneur is 50% luck,” says Greg Kiessling, one of Toronto’s most accomplished yet least known entrepreneurs.

Greg co-founded software developer Sitraka, which had about 250 employees when he and his partner sold to a U.S. software company in 2002. While he worked hard to grow the company, and planned the sale with the detail of a military operation, Kiessling knows entrepreneurship is always a crapshoot –with a thin line separating the winners from the losers.

That’s one reason so many entrepreneurs, having made their money early, go on to tackle socially responsible projects. Greg could be sitting on a beach now, but instead he is investing in high-risk small businesses, and pushing green energy in Ontario though his newest company, Bullfrog Power.

(If you buy your power from Bullfrog, 100% of your bill goes to support renewable wind, solar and hydro power – not the nuclear and coal industries. Costs a little more, but as they say, it’s worth it.)

Why would a comfortably affluent entrepreneur work full-out on public interest projects? Greg says it’s only natural. Entrepreneurs who have made it, he said, often feel a need to give back – and they are fortunate to have the means to try to do so. He notes he has met several other Canadian software entrepreneurs – Mike Green of Visual Systems and Ron Dembo of Algorithmics – who are tackling similar environmental projects.

And Greg stated his belief that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will someday have a bigger impact on the world than Microsoft.

As part of a project to explore the problems facing growth companies, I did a Q&A with Greg today in Toronto. He offered some telling insights into the business-building process.

* On the two biggest challenges he faced: “An entrepreneur’s two biggest problems are: Do you have a strategy that makes sense, and do you have the skills to execute that strategy?” He says he invested a lot of time in putting the right people in place, with the right motivation to succeed. As for the strategy, well, software was changing all the time. The key, he says, was to continually re-evaluate Sitraka’s strategy, because what worked one year was never going to work two years later.

* Asked to name the biggest problem he never solved, Greg replied: adequately financing the company. “We were two software geeks – we know nothing about finance,” he says. Greg calls Sitraka Canada’s biggest self-financed software company at the time, but adds, “I say that as if it were something to be proud of.” He suggests Sitraka might have grown bigger and seized more opportunities had the partners taken advantage of some of the financing offers presented to them over the years.

* Greg also had an eloquent explanation for why marketers find the entrepreneurial market so price-sensitive: As the boss, he says, “You’re spending every dollar like it’s your own – because it actually is your own.”

For more on Bullfrog Power, click here.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Maybe I’m dumber than a sack of hammers...

... but today was the first time I used that Bell Canada service where, when the line I call is busy, they offer to monitor the line and let me know when it is free. Whether it is the 95-cent charge or the frightening Big Brotherness of it, I had never tried this service before.

Well, it really works! When my target hung up, my phone rang. I picked up the phone and it immediately dialed his number. Five seconds later, we are talking. We exchange the info we need to exchange before he had to hang up to join a conference call that was just about to start.

So this service enabled me to jump into the tiniest of 15-second windows between when my target hung up on one call and when he dialed the next.

O Brave New World! Are there any other similarly valuable services I’ve been missing?

(Of course, if the guy just got voice mail, I wouldn’t have had that problem at all…)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In a hell all their own

I blogged a few days ago about my column this month in PROFIT Magazine. It’s a personal look at some of the frustrations and disappointments of life as an entrepreneur, but kinda funny and kinda hopeful.

As I mentioned in the post “Nine hard truths,” (click here), that column has received an unusually high number of positive responses. I find that interesting, because journalists tend to value the reporting we do (objective, formally researched stories) much more highly than the “lighter,” more personal essays. The readers’ responses are a nice reminder that there is more than one way to serve an audience.

That post was written before I finally got into my previously locked-out PROFIT e-mailbox, where last week I discovered more letters from readers. It was fascinating to see how much other entrepreneurs identified with the problems I wrote about: phones not ringing, customers crying for innovation but having no budget, or “At any given time, everyone you want to contact is in a meeting.”

As I learned long ago, entrepreneurs often feel they are in a hell all their own - that nobody understands what they go through. That’s one of the things that kept me at PROFIT magazine for 13 years – helping entrepreneurs connect with each other.

For insight into entrepreneur isolation, here are excerpts from some of the e-mails I received:

“Hi Rick: As an entrepreneur and a consultant I sometimes feel that my experiences are mine alone. Then I read your Frontlines article; I could have written it myself. Most of the wisdom in the article I have seen first-hand…”

“Good article! You speak the truth and I know the pain of it all too well; I’ve been at this a long time and I still live with it regularly.”

“I wanted to just pass on my endorsement of your lessons and rules and encourage you to keep ‘passing it on’ so that we can successfully grow the entrepreneurial community in Canada!”

“Hello. I enjoyed finding out I am not the only one. Thanks.”

“Mr. Spence: Upon reading your article about entrepreneurship, I immediately searched my home office for hidden cameras and transmitters; you have perfectly described the realities of an entrepreneur. ”

Nonetheless, that last writer adds, “ it is still better to be an entrepreneur than to not be one. We're part of the contrarian subset of culture, like musicians or farmers, who marvel at the throngs of people drinking hot coffee in barely creeping cars on their way to go work for someone else's ideas.”

I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks to all who wrote.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Marketing Tip No.212, or “Hulk Hanging Up Now”

I love this business! Hollywood is Calling is a tacky little company that will someday be huge. It lets ordinary people buy a phone call or message from real Hollywood stars ... well, assuming you consider Ron Palillo (Welcome Back Kotter’s Arnold Horshack), boxer Leon Spinks or Russell Johnson (the Professor from Gilligan’s Island) to be Hollywood stars.

The service works. I paid $40 a few years ago to have Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) call a business acquaintance to say Thank You for appearing at a conference. When I talked to the recipient later, she was pleased as punch – even though Lou wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. As soon as he read his little spiel, he hung up. (The company says it is up to the stars whether or not to continue the conversation beyond the script they contract to do.)

It’s a wonderfully sick business: Its latest promotion is to suggest you hire horror stars to call your friends on Hallowe’en. Their top suggestion: Kane Hodder, who played Jason in the Friday the 13th movies. (I personally think the guy who played Horshack would also qualify.)

Other celebrity callers include James Drury (The Virginian), two actors who played the killer Leatherface in various Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, former Bond girl Lana Wood (Natalie Wood’s sister), Lorenzo Lamas from Falcon Crest, former Blue Jay pitcher Tom Candiotti, Diff'rent Strokes’ Todd Bridges, and notorious housesitter Kato Kaelin.

The whole thing may be cheesy, but the price point is right. And a strategically contrived call from the right person might just impress certain clients. Check out the complete list of former stars here.

Four reasons why I think this business is a fabulous entrepreneurial venture:

* It plays into people’s growing obsession with celebrity;
* It offers a unique interactive experience at a time when bored consumers are looking for one-of-a-kind experiences they can brag about;
* It has both business and consumer applications (celebrate a friend’s birthday in a memorable way, or use it to cut through the clutter in communicating with a client or prospect);
* It uses communications technology to create the illusion of a relationship.

Homework: How could you exploit these trends in your business?

Friday, October 14, 2005

SOHO Report: Love what you do, hire those you hate

I attended the Soho Business Conference in Toronto today, and was privileged to moderate the opening panel featuring three wildly successful entrepreneurs: Andrea Slingsby of Flight Centre North America, Franc Nemanic of Hostopia (No. 1 on the PROFIT 100 list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies), and Bruce Poon Tip of Gap Adventures.

I have known Bruce for a while (since his company made the PROFIT 100 seven times), but he really impressed me today (and the audience) with the news that his adventure travel company has just bought its first icebreaker. How cool is that? The M/V Explorer is 300 feet long and used for touring the Arctic ocean in summer and the Antarctic Ocean in winter (although I guess that would be their summer, wouldn’t it?). Bruce said it costs $30,000 a day to run. But its trips are sold out till 2008, so he’s not worried.

The panelists’ job was to offer the audience inspiration and ideas for succeeding in their own businesses. A few highlights:

Frank Nemanic on vision and strategy: “I believe that everything is created twice: once in your head, once in reality. To succeed, you have to know what you want to accomplish.”

Asked which are more important to pursue, new customers or existing ones, Andrea Slingsby acknowledged a common business failing: “We don’t spend enough time taking care of our [existing] customers. It’s a mistake we’ve made, that we’re making up for now. It really should be 50-50.”

“I can’t invest enough in HR,” said Bruce Poon Tip in response to a question on the importance of employees and motivation. “Most companies have physical assets. My assets leave every day, and I want them to come back.” While admitting that HR remains an undervalued function in most companies, he said employee excellence also stems from having a unifying vision in your organization. “You need to focus on something more than just selling what you’re selling.”

A little later, Bruce tossed in a zinger that had attendees buzzing afterward: “Hire people you don’t like.” He believes entrepreneurs tend to hire people they like – which usually means people with backgrounds and skills very much like their own. But entrepreneurs need to ensure they hire people with complementary skills, he says: “So I hire people I hate.”

One attendee later asked me if I thought Bruce was serious. I hope not, but I believe he was pointing out a basic truth: the need to hire people who will challenge you. As Franc noted: “If two people agree on everything, one is not necessary.

At the close, I asked each panelist for the best advice they’d offer other entrepreneurs.

Bruce Poon Tip: “Love what you do and be passionate about it. If you’re not passionate about your product, no one’s going to buy it.”

Andrea Slingsby: “Surround yourself with the best people – which is not necessarily people you hate.”

Franc Nemanic: “Be bold. And take more risks.”

I hope to report soon on the other conference speakers, including Michael Gerber.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wisdom for Winners

What makes a business person successful? John S. McCallum, professor of finance at the University of Manitoba, has taught MBA students for 32 years – and given a lot of thought to this question as he's watched his students make their mark (or not) on the business world.

He put down his thoughts on this subject in a column in the Ivey Business Journal in October 2004. If you missed it, click here to link to a very engaging and thoughtful article.

If your clicker isn’t working, here is McCallum’s top 10 list of characteristics that he believes play into executive success.

1. CONFIDENCE: If you don’t believe you can lead, then it will show and hurt your progress, says McCallum, “especially under pressure when the stakes are highest.” And why is it, he asks, “that those with the fewest legitimate reasons to be confident are so often the most confident, while those with real talent struggle with insecurity?"

2. BE ETHICAL: “Ethics is not only honesty, justice and fairness but also treating people with dignity and respect.” If doing the right thing for its own sake doesn’t inspire you, he adds, do it because unethical players will always be caught out.

3. THINK: “So often I have seen things go wrong because those responsible did not think things through.” The key, he says, is self-discipline and taking your time.

4. WORK HARD: “Working hard is not sufficient to get you to the executive suite and keep you there, but it certainly is necessary.”

5. GET OVER IT: Everyone experiences setbacks. In McCallum’s experience, those who do not let disappointments distract them enjoy the most career success.

6. LISTEN: Most communications training focuses on writing and speaking, says McCallum – not listening. Yet it is through listening that we gain most of the information we need to succeed.

7. GET HELP: McCallum says he’s seen many executives stubbornly fight their way through problems when they should have asked for help. “A reputation for not getting help when you clearly need it is no help to those who appoint and promote.”

8. READ: Books (fiction and non-fiction), professional and technical material, magazines and newspapers, short stories and poems can all help you gain business knowledge and, more importantly, wisdom, people smarts, and judgement. (No mention of blogs, though.)

9. BE BOLD: In talking to business people on their retirement, McCallum says many expressed regrets they had not been bolder in their careers. Not only because it might have brought more rewards, “but also because it might have been more fun and satisfying.”

10. NEVER GIVE YOUR HEART AND SOUL TO AN ENTERPRISE: “Hearts and souls belong to family and friends.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Let's All Work with Google!

A few years back, everyone was talking about the new economy. Then the bubble popped, and we all went back to sleep.

But business continues to change. And in a recent blog by Chris Sacca, who is one of Google’s Principals for New Business Development, I found a masterful summary of the new improved rules of doing business.

Google is a relentlessly innovative company. Sacca’s job is to find new ideas and new people to partner with – even though 90% of the people he meets will never be appropriate partners. Many of us could learn from Sacca's proactive attitude. Our chances of meeting people who can help us are probably much better than his. So how open are we to new ideas?

Sacca's guidelines (he politely calls them “hints”) for proposing deals make rewarding reading. You can click here, or read my summary below.

Email rules - Phones are very yesterday. Voicemail is so broken. Email allows me to ensure that I get back to you. It also helps me bring in all the folks whose input would matter on your topic.

Thesis Statements - Lead with what you want [from Google]. Put it in the first sentence or two. Please don't make me go too far. This is particularly tough when I have to forward your message to a lot of other execs who are also looking for a thesis statement.

What problem are you solving? - Many times I have conversations with folks who can't answer that question.

Differentiate - Tell me right away why you guys are different and what comparative advantage you have on the market. Why are you the best to help us?

Follow-up - Following up by repeat email is perfectly fine with me and may often help if I have fallen behind. When doing so, please propose a concrete next step. That said, what doesn't help is when you go over our heads to other execs.

Meetings aren't always necessary - Often, vendors are in a rush to meet in person. Start with email. Send us a deck. Maybe next we can do a brief call. There is no need to hold a meeting with me to build a relationship. I swear I have done business over instant messaging networks.

Lead with engineering - I would rather have a meeting with technical people in the room than just business people any day.

Threats don't work - A surprising number of people write to me saying "If you do not act in 5 days I am taking this to Microsoft . . . " I am very inclined to let those proposals go. To me, partnerships are as much about the partner as they are about the technology.

Don't assume we have thought about X already - [People] presume we have a big honking master plan document somewhere and have the next few years set forth step by step. Truth is, we are constantly learning. You have a killer idea for us? Fire away!

Bottom line is that I/we want to work with you and your company! Partnerships are an essential part of our strategy and have been the impetus for massive value creation at Google. So, send those proposals and let's do some cool deals! Thanks.”


Thanks?!
If I were a smarter man, I would kill to do business with this guy.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Nine hard truths

I’ve received an unusual number of positive comments about my most recent “Frontlines” column in PROFIT Magazine.

It’s called “Nine hard truths: The immutable laws of being your own boss, and five ways to transcend them all.” Basically, I just tried to set down a few thoughts about some of the lessons I’ve learned in two years of being an entrepreneur instead of a wage slave.

For those who don’t want to click, here’s an excerpt:

“Lesson 1: The 40-hour workweek is not your friend. There is no way to do everything you need to get done between 9 and 5-especially since most of the people you deal with in big corporations only work from 10 to 4 (and take a lunch, too). Fortunately, the entrepreneur has two secret weapons that competitors in big business usually shun: Saturday and Sunday.”

To read more, click here:

And have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Free Ticket Giveaway!

I have just been given a free ticket to the SOHO-SME Business Show in Toronto on Oct. 14 (see just a few posts down, or click here).

Even the discounted value of this ticket is $159.

The conference features special guests such as authors Michael Gerber and T. Harv Ecker, along with many other notables. I myself will be moderating the panel of leading entrepreneurs, consisting of Franc Nemanic, Andrea Slinsby and Bruce Poon Tip, at 9 in the morning.

To get your free ticket, you must be the first email I receive that says FREE TICKET in the subject line. Plus (since Ontario law requires a skill-testing question), you must tell me: What is your favourite post here on Canadian Entrepreneur?

Note: You must let me know where you live. I reserve the right not to send you the ticket if you are not from the Toronto area or otherwise unlikely to use it.

Email me at rick@rickspence.ca
Good luck!

Eight measures of a winning business

When you're assessing a company, how do you know it is a healthy business that is going to grow?

If you're a banker of venture capitalist, you look at all sort of measurements, mainly financial. But what if you're not privy to the balance sheet?

Here's a handy list of non-financial indicators that often I use to divine the prospects for entrepreneurial businesses. Take a look to see if I'm missing anything:

Eight indicators that a business will thrive and grow

1) Written business plan, reviewed and updated at least once a year
2) The company exists at the convergence of two or more compelling trends (e.g. iPod: storage technology, great design, miniaturization, digital-music management);
3) Management is a partnership of experienced people with complementary skills (i.e., finance and technical)
4) The company targets niche business-to-business markets that have money to pay for innovative products
5) The company’s product offers a clear solution and a unique selling proposition (i.e., we can help you manage your geophysical data faster than anyone else)
6) The company is well capitalized in anticipation of future financial needs
7) Management is constantly (and willingly) developing new administrative processes to help the firm “keep its edge” as it grows
8) Presence of a paid board of directors (consisting mainly of outsiders) or a board of advisors

If I left out any other essential factors, feel free to leave a comment here.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Week to Remember

My idea of Small Business Week is the week that oil prices drop 30%, the feds roll back business taxes, the prime rate falls 50 basis points, customers pay in 10 days instead of 60 and Microsoft offers free software to everyone using bootleg programs who promises not to do it again.

Until then, we’ll have to settle for the real Small Business Week, founded by the Business Development Bank and coming your way Oct. 16-22. (Regional dates may vary.) The theme this year: "YOU'RE THE POWER behind the Canadian economy, let's share the energy!"
(No, I am not making this up. That really is the theme. If you’re so smart, come up with something better.)

SB Week is an opportunity for local communities to put on awards dinners, business conferences, speaker breakfasts and other events to aid and celebrate local business. You wouldn’t think they would need a Crown corporation to get them to do this, but this is Canada, after all.

If you want to locate an event in your area, visit http://www.bdc.ca/en/no_navigation/prov_events.htm

If you’re in southern Ontario, click here
http://www.bdc.ca/en/branches/ontario/barrie/calendar.htm

I am surprised to see no big Toronto events. Guess you will have to settle for the SOHO SME Business Conference (put on by a bunch of entrepreneurs from British Columbia) on Oct. 14. It is cited in my previous post (below).

Let's share the energy, darn it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Upcoming conference alert (and discount!)

Michael E. Gerber has been writing (and rewriting) the entrepreneurial rulebook for three decades. As author of The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work, and What to Do About It, he was instrumental in helping thousands of business owners discover the secret of success: "working ON the business, not IN it."

Just a reminder that Michael Gerber is coming to Toronto on October 14, at the Soho Business Conference and Expo at the Metro Convention Centre. (He will also be in Vancouver on Oct. 20, if you’re that way inclined.) A lot of people I know are really looking forward to this.

In preparation, I am currently reading Gerber’s latest sequel, E-Myth Mastery. Cleverly, the book is divided into two parts: overcoming your personal limitations to achieve success, followed by “seven essential disciplines for building a world-class company.”

Do you know what the seven disciplines are? Give it a guess.

Ok, here they are:

* Leadership
* Marketing
* Money
* Management
* Fulfillment
* Lead Conversion (maybe he’s an alchemist)
* Lead Generation

Fulfillment, by the way, refers to how well you fulfill your customers' needs. Some businesses use the term to refer to merely delivering a product or service, but Gerber’s definition actually incorporates the imperative of delivering well.

For mroe info on Gerber, visit http://www.e-myth.com/
For more info on the conference, click here.

If you want to register, I can get you an $80 discount off the $249 price. Click here. And don’t forget to quote your SOHOSavings Code, soho-RISP, to claim your discount.

See you there. I’ll be moderating a panel of three dynamic entrepreneurs at 9 am.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Motivation spelled backwards is noitavitom

You know all those plaques with the beautiful nature photographs and the meaningful, motivational statements that make you feel like you're doing something important and worthwhile...?

Well, http://www.despair.com doesn't sell those.


Move ’em up, clear ’em out

Next Wednesday (Oct. 12), the Toronto Venture Group is holding a breakfast meeting featuring a speaker on Topgrading – the title of a book with a revolutionary approach to HR development. It might be worth attending.

The book is Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win by Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People, by industrial psychologist Bradford D. Smart. It came out in 1999, but its principles seem to be gaining traction now. The idea basically is for companies to rank their employees as A, B or C players – A being those in the top 10% in their field. Then companies must learn to develop and attract more A players – and clear out the C players.

Sounds like a plan to me. As an employee, journalist and consultant, I have constantly been frustrated by companies’ unwillingness to cull staff for poor performance, potential or attitude (It’s not just the right thing to do for the organization – I believe it’s the decent thing to do in the long run.)

And most companies have no clue about training and developing their best people, beyond “You’re doing a good job. Keep it up.” So bringing some discipline and sense of process to both these neglected management functions is long overdue.

This technique probably works best with growth companies whose needs are always changing and growing, which is probably why the TVG is getting involved. Should be a good session.

Click here for more on the Toronto Venture Group
Click here for reviews and excerpts from the book

Monday, October 03, 2005

Google vs the Universe


“Search Engine Optimization” has become the tactic of choice for many marketers, and the most powerful example of it is Google’s AdWords service. AdWords is so simple, it terrifies many companies.

AdWords allows marketers to place ads on search results pages when web surfers use specific key words. If you were Burger King, you could make sure your ad popped up under "Sponsored Links"(see example at right) every time someone did a search for McDonald’s. (Yes, I know how expensive that would be. It’s just an example!)

The question is: is this legal? Or does trademark protection mean that other companies have no right to buy or sell ad space on pages that include your trademarks?

The answer is: no one knows. For the first time, one U.S. court (in Virginia) has ruled that what Google is doing is okay. But it drew the line on allowing companies to use competitors’ trademarked names in their own ads. (A lot of people have been running ads that say things like, “Looking for Coca-Cola? Try Pepsi instead.”) And Google has apparently not been very consistent about shutting these offending ads down.

But similar cases are heading toward other U.S. courts, and the experts aren’t sure the AdWords business model can survive them all. Here’s a link to a recent story by Bob Heyman that says the whole thing could end up in the Supreme Court.

Heyman’s conclusion: Marketers shouldn’t worry – yet. In the meantime, “Do be sure that client search ads don't include third party trademarks...

"While lawsuits so far have only named Google as a Defendant, no agency would want to be responsible for having a client be sued as a party to yet another Google lawsuit. And good search practice needs to include policing competitor's ads to be sure they don't infringe your clients' marks. Don't rely on Google to enforce this...
“But nothing about the Geico rulings changes the fact that buying competitors’ trademarked keywords remains a best practice for SEM. Indeed, anecdotal evidence indicates it may well be the most successful of all search tactics.
"However, the wise Search marketer will prepare for the day when a Federal District Court may rule against Google and backup strategies will be needed.”

My take? AdWords is a powerful medium that levels the playing field between entrepreneurs and giant marketing organizations. Expect big business to fight it all the way.

The news story you thought you'd never see

Scientists are now talking seriously about: Teleportation.

According to today's Globe & Mail, "the U.S. military recently spent $25,000 for a report on teleportation by U.S. theoretical physicist Eric W. Davis. He identified several possible types of teleportation, including "psychic teleportation," moving objects through space-time deformities called wormholes, and manipulating empty space or "the cold vacuum."

Apparently, even Einstein is in on this action. Transport yourself here for the full story.

(And guess how the story starts.
If you guessed "Beam me up, Scotty" you too can get a job with The Globe and Mail.)