Friday, March 30, 2007

The $60 video: More on wireless broadband

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post on wireless broadband. A blog-reader from Montreal, better versed in the economics of online cellphone services, reported:
"I posted a 5-minute video to my blog, and asked my brother-in-law to download it so I could see how it looked on a cellphone. He told me it would cost him $60.

I said, I wasn't that desperate to see how it looked on a cellphone."

Clearly, the new broadband/wireless era will have to get a lot cheaper before mass-market content and services sort themselves out. Which is what makes this an evolving business opportunity.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The future is mobile

As a former editor of two national magazines, I’m a regular reader of D.B. Scott’s Canadian Magazines blog, to find out what’s happening in my old industry.

Yesterday’s post makes me feel the phrase “old industry” is way too apt. DB was summing up a new study on wireless broadband users, and concluded that this new medium is going nowhere. DB writes:
According to a story published by the Centre for Media Research (Media Post), a new study has found that barely 5% of people access the internet from a mobile device -- even if their handheld is equipped for it. And only 1 in 5 access news or television on their devices. 50% of respondents to the study by Media-Screen say mobile internet access doesn't fit into their lifestyle. 58% have internet-equipped mobile devices that they don't bother to use.
I too wonder who all these people are who want to watch "Pirates of the Caribbean" on their teeny cellphone screen. But I know that bad connections, inadequate hardware (so far), and high prices for broadband data services have held up development of this whole sector.

DB concludes that magazine publishers can go back to sleep when it comes to adapting their content to wireless devices. (They can keep working on developing desktop applications, which has been tough enough so far.)

I don’t buy it. In a comment on his blog this morning, I wrote:
It's not so much that people are rejecting mobile Internet applications, it's that these services are not yet ready to serve a mass market. Much like cellphones in 1984 or the Web itself in 1996, they are not ready for prime time.

They key lesson of new media is that they create all-new forms of content we couldn't have imagined previously: like reality TV programs, or eBay and MySpace. Clever magazine publishers should be looking not at how consumers are using wireless data now, but how they might use it in future.

Substitute the phrase “savvy entrepreneurs” for “clever magazine publishers,” and you’ll realize that this is a job for readers of Canadian Entrepreneur. There is huge long-term opportunity in wireless broadband applications. People are still devising exciting new applications for the Internet (e.g., my PROFIT magazine stories this month on Canadian Web 2.0 case studies, here and here).

Mobile broadband is a whole new frontier – one of many new opportunities that make being an entrepreneur today so exciting. Too bad some people don't get it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How do you rate?

The Business Link, the federal-provincial small business centre in Edmonton, has compiled a list of the key characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.

Here is an edited version of their findings.

The most important thing you can do as an entrepreneur is understand your own strengths and weaknesses. So why not compare yourself to this list and see how you rate - and where you may need help.

Researchers and experts have found that, on the whole, the entrepreneur:

* works long, hard hours and is driven by a need to challenge one's self
* likes to compete and is a self-starter
* is able to determine risk and has the courage to take risks but is not a gambler
* is independent and self-confident, yet knows when to get help
* is able to do many things at once and likes a challenge
* is creative, and has dreams and goals
* likes to work for him/herself and be in control
* is hardworking and willing to stick with a project
* has lots of energy and can handle stress
* has a strong sense of self-worth
* is motivated by a strong desire to achieve and attain financial success
* is a positive thinker who does not dwell on setbacks
* focuses his/her attention on the chances of success rather than the chances of failure
* has a high tolerance for ambiguous, unstructured situations
* possesses a desire for change and constant improvement
* listens and communicates well
* is influenced by entrepreneurial role models
* sets realistic, attainable goals
* is able to get along with and adapt to all types of people
* is able to exert influence and inspiration on others without a need to impose status or power

Imagine: many people in big businesses think entrepreneurs have it easy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Daring Feet of Courage

Here's one more PROFIT 100 image that didn't quite fit the tone of the previous post, below.

Yes, you too can march your way to the top with PROFIT Magazine's PROFIT 100 issue.

Found at "Daily Dose of Imagery," a remarkable daily photography blog by Sam Javanrouh.
Check it out.

Growth deadline looms

My friends at PROFIT Magazine have asked me to remind you that the deadline for entering the 2007 PROFIT 100 is upon us!

To qualify for the latest ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, you must contact PROFIT by March 31. Which would be the end of this week.

If you run a fast-growth company, you have a chance to enjoy many great benefits as a PROFIT 100 company, including coverage in the June 2007 issue of PROFIT Magazine and online at

PROFIT 100 leaders also receive an invitation to the PROFIT 100 CEO Summit, Canada’s most exclusive and rewarding conference for business achievers. What’s more (someone at PROFIT wrote this part but I know it's true, I've seen it happen), "a PROFIT 100 ranking can inspire your staff, attract new clients and investors, and spark relationships with other dynamic companies."

If you know someone with a fast-growth company who deserves this kind of recognition, please pass this message along. There's no better way to forge powerful business relationships than by introducing people to opportunities such as this one.

For more information or to enter online, visit

PROFIT's list is the real thing. It has made stars of hitherto unknown entrepreneurs, catapulted companies to the top of their industry, and created multi-millionaires. (Many big companies use it as a shopping list.)

Who dares, wins.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Two months later....

Here's an interesting approach to customer service.

I e-mailed someone today and got back this reply.

"Please note that I'm working on an exciting marketing project and am unavailable for the next 60 days."

What do you think of that?

10 Website Tips

Stephen Jagger, co-founder of Ubertor, a Vancouver-based real-estate software company, has a great blog on real-estate marketing at

And if you understand marketing, that means it has lots you can learn from even if you're not in real estate. Any professionals marketing their services can benefit from Stephen’s experience.

I especially like March 19 posting on 40 ways to make a great real estate agent website. Because virtually every tip applies to anyone trying to market themselves and professional products or services.

Here’s his top 10. I’ll let you visit his site for the next 30.

1. Add a blog: write about you, your business, your expertise, your area, etc.

2. Write a good biography that talks about you, your education, past employment, places you’ve lived…

3. Include home page content that contains your full name, company name, neighbourhoods you work, phone number, etc.

4. Add video about yourself

5. Get testimonials from clients. Be sure to include their full names as it adds more credibility to the testimonial

6. Get rid of all canned content and take the time to write your own text in its place

7. Add Meebo to your site so that you can chat with your visitors

8. Use Google Analytics to track your traffic

9. Add a feature listing to your home page, be sure to change it every few weeks

10. Make your cell phone and email address known. Have them on every page

Click here for the rest of Stephen’s list.

Best Entrepreneurship Quotes Ever: Week 25

Continuing our series of motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

This week: the essence of leadership, from a born leader.

"When you have to reach large numbers of people, you can't possibly overcommunicate and overclarify."

Andy Grove, founder and former CEO, Intel Corp.
as written in his book, Only the Paranoid Survive.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hail the New Pioneers

I attended an amazing, inspiring (if a tad overlong) event last night thanks to my buddy Bruce Poon Tip of GAP Adventures, one of Canada’s most celebrated entrepreneurs (and rightfully so).

It was the New Pioneer Awards at the Toronto Convention Centre, produced by Skills for Change, a wonderful street-level organization in T.O. that helps immigrants and newcomers to Toronto find jobs and economic opportunity.

The awards celebrate achievers in business, the arts, science, service and youth. Despite the glitzy stage design and the glossy professionalism of the whole evening, the stories the awards tell are very human and moving. And they make you wonder what you've done that compares with the trials and the successes these winners have encountered.

Congrats to all the 2007 New Pioneer Awards winners:

Hari Krishnan (Arts): South Indian dances with a Canadian twist;

Beverley Halls (Community Service): overcame deafness and a reckless youth to become an advocate for at-risk kids. (Her a cappella song for her mentors, “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” brought the house down);

Dr. Michael Siu (Science and Technology): expert in mass spectrometry at York University, now working on early detection of endometrial cancer.

Juan Orozco (Skills for Change Graduate): professional engineer from Colombia who fought for professional certification in Ontario and how helps other Latin American engineers navigate Canada’s accreditation maze;

Sadia Rafiquddin (Youth): Pakistani refugee and University of Toronto student committed to international affairs, peace and tolerance – and touted as a future Prime Minister;

Bruce Poon Tip (Entrepreneurship): Trinidadian-born founder of GAP Adventures, one of the world’s largest – and surely the most eco- and culture-sensitive – adventure travel companies.

In a story I've just written to help celebrate the 25th anniversary of PROFIT Magazine, I credit Canada's good fortune in attracting so many talented immigrants as a key driver of Canada's entrepreneurial revolution. And these winners exemplify that spirit and determination.

Read more about these winners here, or click on their names to read their individual writeups from the Toronto Star . But it still won’t be the same as being there.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Seven lessons for Canadian Entrepreneurs

My latest column in the Financial Post deals with seven key entrepreneurial lessons I think I've learned in my three years as a Canadian Entrepreneur.

Here they are:
  1. Live with uncertainty
  2. Don't bite off more than you can chew
  3. Stick to what you do best
  4. Leave detailed phone messages
  5. Eat at your desk
  6. Don't be a hermit
  7. Confirm how much time you have
For all the embarrassing details, see the original story here.

The article ended with a request for other entrepreneurs to contribute their own hard-knocks business lessons. If you'd like to share your favourite learning, leave a comment below or send me an e-mail. (Let me know if it's okay to use your name in crediting sources.)

It'll be interesting to see which generates the better response: a national newspaper or a 100-visitor a day blog.

Monday, March 19, 2007

What kind of entrepreneur is Conrad Black?

A fascinating debate is taking place on TheTimesOnline, the website of Britain's quality newspaper. The question: what kind of entrepreneur is Conrad Black?

Former Times editor William Rees-Mogg got things rolling with his column standing up for his old friend Black, who is now on trial in Chicago for corporate chicanery. Rees-Mogg stepped in it when he wrote,

"It is not obvious to me that the disputed “non-complete” payments necessarily belonged to the Hollinger shareholders rather than to Conrad Black. In practical terms, Conrad was the competitive entrepreneur, and Hollinger without him was a mere holding company. No doubt the point will be argued in court..."

As a mere journalist, perhaps Rees-Mogg is unaware that corporate officers are not supposed to take side positions in corporate transactions. Or at least not without board approval, which may turn out to be a key issue in Black's trial.

Many "commenters" responded to Rees-Mogg's sympathetic essay with different views.

As Robert in London pointed out:
"A company - even a holding company - is a separate legal entity from anyone else, however important to that company that person may be. Had Conrad Black
wanted unfettered control and benefit he could have operated as a sole trader.
Why didn't he? The main reason people operate through companies is not because they love risk, but because they are avoiding it. Limited liability is a device to avoid responsibility. Its price is losing a degree of control. Taking risks with other people's money is not entrepreneurialism, it is recklessness."

Mark in Silsoe, UK, added, "Society does need entrepreneurs and journalism needs proprietors who are big enough to appoint editors they may not always agree with. This does not give them carte blanche to break the rules nor to avoid charges that they may have done so."

Ian in Biggleswade, UK, added, "If the allegations against Black are true, then it is an error to describe him as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs create jobs; those who spend company money as if it is their own destroy jobs. "

Interestingly, some Canadian entrepreneurs have come to the defence of the embattled Lord Black. Dave from Ottawa writes:
"Anyone who holds a salaried job hasn't a clue about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. And that especially includes politicians and the tax man. The price of failure is enormous. There is no consideration for creating jobs and exports that contribute to the balance of payments. At 59, I have no assets, no pension, etc., after my high-tech company crashed and burned. But I would do it all again and, indeed, have some new business ideas bubbling. I admire Conrad Black."

"I, too, admire Conrad Black. His ilk is hard to find in Canada," adds Roger from Toronto. "If loyalty, intelligence, gumption, humour, entrepreneurship and panache are still virtues, Conrad's is a legacy which we all can learn with enduring profit."

You can read the full article, and all the comments pro and con, here.

The best way to keep on top of the Conrad Chronicles, from both sides of the Atlantic, is through Toronto Life magazine's mini-site, The Trial of Conrad Black. It features daily links, comments and updates.

Canadian Entrepreneur products now available!

So, the previous post gave me an idea. Today, anyone can design a t-shirt, upload it to a printing company and have it delivered within a day or two. So why not?

Here is the link to my brand new Canadian Entrepreneur store at It's a US site that does exceptional custom work at reasonable prices (though if anyone knows of a similar Canadian competitor, of course we would like to know about it).

You can now buy a Canadian Entrepreneur mug for your very own. Or a CE hat. Not to mention:

* A t-shirt with the old PROFIT slogan, "Entrepreneurship: It's not a job. It's more than a business. It's a way of life."

* A new t-shirt with a newly updated version of that slogan, as devised in our previous post: "I control what happens to me."

* A mug that says "I control what happens to me."

All those products are for sale at CafePress's base prices; I receive no markup or percentage. (I'd rather you buy them than complain about the cost).

To retain my credentials as an entrepreneur, I did add a markup to one product: a wall clock with the slogan, "I control what happens to me."

Its motivational value alone is worth much more than the tiny pricetag of US$12.99 (plus shipping and taxes, where applicable).

To shop my store, visit

And if your company needs small volumes of promotional products, check out CafePress for yourself. No longer are logoed baseball caps only for the rich and famous!

Best Entrepreneurship Quotes Ever: Week 24

Continuing our series of powerful motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

This week: Wisdom You Wear. When I first became editor at PROFIT, many people still asked what "entrepreneurship" was. So we decided to communicate our viewpoint through that most universal of media, a T-shirt.

The long-since sold-out PROFIT t-shirt had the magazine's logo on the front and this saying on the back:

"Entrepreneurship: It's not a job. It's more than a business. It's a way of life."

In later years, I realized that entrepreneurship is more than a way of life: it's a way of thinking. It's an opportunity-oriented approach to life and all its challenges that stems from a way of thinking that begins, "I can control what happens to me."

And I just happen to think that that is the most important message of all. Maybe it's time for a new t-shirt?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Your window seat on The Rise of the West

Speaking of Alberta Venture, as I did in my previous post, I have been remiss in not keeping you up to date with my monthly column in the Edmonton-based business magazine, which may be one of the best magazines you never read.

As part of their continuing coverage of the Rise of the West, I write a back-page column examining how the East (that would be Ontario, mainly) views Alberta. In two years, of course, the Eastern attitude has changed from one of smug neglect to shock and awe as Canada's wealth (and many of its best and brightest) heads West in pursuit of petrodollars and the boom they create.

Although Ontario-born and bred, I love Alberta and its fresh, bold, can-do spirit. If it is destined to eclipse tired old Ontario as the economic heart of the country, we couldn't ask for a better outcome.

Anyway, here are links to my three most recent columns to help you stay updated on one of the most seismic shifts happening in Canada today:

January: Advice from the East for Alberta’s new premier

February: Nova Scotia business claims a piece of Alberta's boom

March: Canada's cultural leadership is heading West, too

Great Entrepreneurial Mistakes

One of the best features to come out of the Globe and Mail's Report on Small Business online section is the "My Best Mistake" interview (although their inventory is still pretty slim, and my friends at Alberta Venture magazine did it first).

Click here to browse through the Globe's eight or so interviews online to see how prominent Canadian entrepreneurs - from Teresa Cascioli to Dan Aykroyd - learned some of their most valuable lessons.

My favourite interview is the one with my PROFIT 100 friend John Nemanic, of Tucows, iDirect and Hostopia fame. John talks very frankly of the entrepreneurial obsession and overwork that led to the breakdown of his first marriage, and takes full responsibilty for messing up.

"During my days as CEO of Tucows and Internet Direct, I worked 12-14 hour days, six days a week, and on my day off, I would spend it catching up on my business and economic readings," recalled Mr. Nemanic. "My view was that working very hard and ensuring that my family would be prosperous and secure justified
ignoring my wife and not paying attention to my children.

"The end result was great business success, but personal failure expressed in the form of divorce and estrangement from my children."

Now married again, Nemanic worked hard to restore balance in his life. "Finding that balance isn't easy," he says. "Every person has to find their own answer to that. And find out what really works."

Read the full story here.

No-Meeting Day

I'm not one to bash meetings - I think they're essential to gathering opinion, communicating values and and aligning efforts and expectations. But there's no doubt that many companies overdo meetings or mismanage them utterly.

So I loved this week's productivity tip from Canadian time-management expert Harold Taylor:

Relief From Meetings: Have a company-wide NO MEETINGS day so people will know that they can count on at least one free day to concentrate on their projects.

Taylor doesn't specify, but I presume that No Meetings Day is supposed to be held once a week. If that's not what he means, I still think it's a good idea.

For more time tips, or to sign up for Taylor's weekly email tipsheet, click here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Looking for a parking spot in Calgary?

Last fall I posted about a UK entrepreneur who set up a web service,, to help sports fans, concert goers and other frazzled consumers save money by renting driveways in which to park their cars while attending major events.

As I said at the time, “It's one of these simple ideas, like Ebay, that matches buyers and sellers with complementary needs but no previous way of identifying each other and building trust.”

Now I'm pleased to announce that a Canadian entrepreneur is launching a similar service to help frazzled motorists in one of Canada’s most car-choked downtowns: Calgary.

Will Kriski e-mailed me yesterday to tell me about his new web service. Parking in Calgary, he says, “is a huge problem not only in availability (6+ month waiting lists) but in cost, too ($400+/month range - one of the highest in Canada).”

I think that’s more than the rent I paid on my whole Calgary apartment (with free parking) a couple of decades back.

“The site is similar to the UK idea but the focus is on monthly parking for people who need to work downtown,” says Will. “People who have homes, condos, apartments, etc., can rent their parking space out.”

Will also hopes this will encourage alternative forms of transportation by helping commuters park near C-train LRT stations or bike paths.

Will’s site includes a rating/review system, Google maps (using AJAX technology) and Digg tags. Plus, it’s free to use, “at this point.” Will says he’s looking at different business models, such as charging per post, selling ads, or offering premium services for commercial clients.

Here’s the site:
Go to town.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Best Entrepreneurship Quotes Ever: Week 23

Continuing our series of powerful motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

Albert Einstein, who was born 128 years ago this week, is most famous for finding the formula that related matter to energy. What's more important to entrepreneurs, though, is his formula for relating persistence to success.

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

~Albert Einstein

Financial Protection for the Self-Employed

Must be Helpful Lawyer Week at Canadian Entrepreneur (see previous post).

This afternoon Albert Luk, "The Entrepreneur-Friendly Lawyer," forwarded me an article worth blogging about. US personal-finance expert Suze Orman, writing on Yahoo, offers her four-step formula for "Protecting Yourself When You're Self-Employed."

"You should mention this on your blog," says Luk, "since small biz discussions are often done in a vacuum without addressing the personal finance part of running your own biz."

Okay. Here are Suze's four main financial cautions for people starting a business:

• Figure out the replacement cost of lost benefits. People who don't anticipate these expenses, she says, "run through their emergency cash fund at about double the speed they anticipated."

• Don't access retirement savings. Your RRSP (or 401K, as Suze calls it) "is not a business-financing tool." She says that even those who are old enough to make penalty-free withdrawals "are reckless to touch their retirement savings."

• Keep the home-equity tap turned off. "It's the height of financial lunacy to tap your home equity to finance a startup. Even if it's relatively safe to assume that your business is going to be successful, you're still converting what was an asset (your home equity) to a debt."

• Don't rely on credit cards. "If you insist on financing some of your startup on your credit card, please give yourself a set-in-stone conservative limit you will not exceed. Remember, you can pull the plug on your business, but if you have $20,000 or $30,000 of credit card debt you're going to be paying for that for years to come."

The common factor in all of this: remain rational about your business's prospects. Assume your worst-case scenario will come true before you sink your life savings (or your kids' inheritances) into your enterprise.

Albert and I recommend you read the full story here.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Raising Money from Family and Friends

I was talking the other day with an entrepreneurial couple whose business is totally underfunded. They're wondering why their product isn’t selling, and it’s because they don't have the cash to market it properly.

They say that if they need money, they have lots of obliging friends and colleagues and family members who could help them. My question: why wait? Too many entrepreneurs bite off too much too soon. Most should either hold off until they have more resources, or they should raise the money they need first – usually from friends and family.

The sad part is, there aren’t many resources available to help entrepreneurs understand how to raise “love money.” It’s a tricky step whose implications will affect the business for years to come, so it’s important to get it right. Yet there’s not a lot of good information on this topic.

So here’s good news. Suzie Dingwall Williams, a Toronto lawyer who runs Venture Law Associates, is holding a special seminar April 11 to help entrepreneurs deal with the minefield that is early-stage financing. She calls it “Friends, Family and Angels: How to Prepare and Close the Deal (and keep them happy)”

Attendees will learn how to structure, paper and complete an investment from friends, family and angels. You’ll also learn the principles for valuing an investment. The two-hour session in downtown Toronto will also cover special issues such as receiving investments from U.S. relatives, deal "sweeteners", and RRSP eligibility. And if I know Suzie, who's very funny and irreverent, she'll make the whole thing fun and engaging.

Suzie, whom I wrote about in a column in January in the Financial Post, is an experienced corporate lawyer and venture capitalist who could be earning much more in the corporate world, but really enjoys helping entrepreneurs find growth financing. She tells me in an email that she’s putting on the seminar because, she says, “We spend FAR too much time dealing with legal issues that result from founders doing paperwork without advice (or, in a lot of cases, deciding to forego paperwork altogether). We figure, if we give people the basics, we're doing some good.”

For registration details email:

Meanwhile, if you want more information on love money, check out this article: "What’s Love Got to do with it?” It’s one of the few magazine features I’ve seen on how entrepreneurs raise money from family and friends. It ran in the February issue of Essential Guide for Entrepreneurs, which is a monthly supplement produced by The Year of the Canadian Entrepreneur consortium (Roynat, Rogers, National Post and PROFIT/Canadian Business magazines).

It’s an easy-to-read introduction to the world of family financing, if I do say so myself. (No, I didn't write it. I just edited the issue.)

Friday, March 09, 2007

It's my birthday

How fast is the world changing?

The top 10 jobs in 2010 didn't exist in 2004.

There are more honours students in China and India than there are total students in North America.

If you took every single job in the US and shipped it to China, China would still have a labour surplus.

For more facts and challenges about today's global economy, click here to watch the video, Shift Happens.

It's unnerving, scary, and exciting, all at the same time.
Which means you wouldn't want to be anything but an entrepreneur in the years ahead.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Smart Man

A few years ago, when I was at PROFIT Magazine, I convinced a major Canadian business school to offer a free executive-development course to the founder of the No. 1 firm on the PROFIT 100 – Canada’s fastest-growing company.

The entrepreneur who won was pretty dubious about his "prize." He wasn’t sure he’d even find time to go. But on his return from the weekend course he admitted it was the best education he'd ever received. It opened his eyes to greater ambitions and more systematic ways of doing things. It made him realize he wasn’t the first person to run a fast-growth company and didn't have to have all the answers himself!

So when I read in January that a Nova Scotia development agency had awarded Cape Breton entrepreneur Doug Milburn a week-long entrepreneurship course at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, I got on the phone and asked if I could interview him about his learnings after he finished the course.

And so we meet a few weeks later during one of Milburn’s visits to Toronto.

Much to my chagrin, he claimed to have learned almost nothing from the big brains at MIT. Most of the lessons taught by his entrepreneurial-minded professors – focusing your marketing, raising venture financing, creating high-performance teams – he had already learned in founding and growing Advanced Glazings Ltd., a producer of high-tech translucent insulation materials.

He didn't say so, but after 10 years fighting for innovation and energy efficiency in the North American architecture and construction sectors, I’ll bet Milburn thinks he could be teaching the course!

Of course, there were a few lessons learned. "They taught us to make sure we create a group that's coherently aligned and marching in one direction," he said.

Doug also learned that companies such as AGL should focus on no more than three types of customers, not the 15 or so segments it currently chases. "The rule of selling is to have a tight market conversation with your market segment. Other people are listening and will want to talk to you, too. But you'll get more sales that way than by trying to talk to all these markets at once."

You can read the rest of the story in my column this week for the Financial Post, under the sorry headline, “MIT couldn't teach an old dog.” (Milburn is a ripe old 42.)

Bonus: The Post editors cut my last two paragraphs for lack of space. I thought they were instructive and fun, so I re-present them here as they were meant to be read:
Still, AGL employees were probably relieved to find nothing would change right away. “I try to avoid flavour-of-the-month transformations,” says Milburn. “I’ve
done that too many times.”

In the end, Milburn admits MIT did teach him something important: “If I’d had any sense. I’d have paid the money and taken the course 10 years ago.”

See? Smart.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Attention Growth Companies

PROFIT Magazine is busily compiling its 19th annual PROFIT 100 list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.

Renown, respect, and a free pass to Canada’s most exclusive business event (the PROFIT 100 Summit, held each June) could be yours if your company qualifies for the list.

For more information on balloting, click here. (Submission deadline is March 31).
For more information on last year’s survey, including the full 2006 PROFIT 100 list, click this way.
You can also visit the P100 FAQ page or call their toll-free hotline, 1-800-713-GROW.

Having met so many prosperous founders of PROFIT 100 companies, I can vouch for the fact that the ranking is also used as a shopping list by major corporations looking to acquire some entrepreneurial vigour and new blood. I’ll bet the PROFIT 100 has created more millionaires than Lotto 649!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Best Entrepreneurship Quotes Ever: Week 22

Continuing our series of powerful motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

Given today’s anointing of Wallace and Harrison McCain as the Greatest Canadian Entrepreneurs (see post below), today’s quote showcases the McCains’ vision and courage.

Due to growing public concern, McCain’s, one of the world’s largest producers of frozen french fries, announced in 1999 that it would no longer purchase genetically modified GM potatoes.

“We think genetically modified material is very good science [but] at the moment very bad public relations,” said the late Harrison McCain. “We’re in the business of giving our customers what they want, not what we think they should have.”

Putting the customer first – a true Canadian value!

The McCains bring it home!

The votes are in! The winners of the Greatest Canadian Entrepreneur of All Time competition are: Wallace and (the late) Harrison McCain!

The men who made fries famous won 21% of the vote, which according to today’s Financial Post totaled 6,777 votes. Readers of this blog may remember that the McCains jumped out to an early lead (up to 39%), which caused some observers (okay, me) to wonder if enthusiastic fans of McCain’s juice boxes were also stuffing the ballot box.

Roynat, creator of the contest, made no mention of irregularities in announcing the winners today. Their statement: “While results can be interpreted many ways, and this initiative was in no way meant to be a "definitive" search for Canada's Greatest Entrepreneur of all time, the results do tell us that Canada has a great entrepreneurial spirit and no shortage of great entrepreneurs.”

In second place was this column’s favourite, Jimmy Pattison. Pattison’s Proteges managed to drive his vote total up from 7% near the beginning of the contest to 17% at the close. We almost did it, people!

Not that the McCains are unworthy winners. Far from it. Their devotion to potato products, and the strategic expansion of their food empire in underserved niches around the globe, makes them pre-eminent entrepreneurs of the world, not just in Canada.

The Post’s coverage of the winner today shows an interesting bias. They point out (in the first paragraph) that the McCains rank way down the list of Canada’s Richest Canadians (they’re 18th, in fact). That seems an odd way to measure entrepreneurial capability. That would be like ranking Canada’s greatest hockey players by their net worth; an interesting exercise, but a dubious gauge of their ability to put the puck in the net.

The Post then twists the knife by quoting a University of Toronto business historian, Joe Martin, who said, “They certainly would not have been among my top choices.” Martin cites a preference for Frank Stronach (whom this blog nominated in the contest’s early days, though no doubt we were not the only ones) and Roy Thomson (who, ironically, finished behind his son Ken).

Congrats to the McCain family and to runner-up Jim Pattison. And kudos to Roynat, for creating the contest and getting people talking about great Canadian entrepreneurs.

Here is the final ranking by percentage of votes:

Harrison and Wallace McCain - 21%
Jim Pattison - 17%
Ken Thomson - 7%
Max Ward - 7%
Alexander Graham Bell - 7%
Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis - 5%
Izzy Asper - 5%
Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving - 5%
Ted Rogers - 4% Visual verification
Frank Stronach - 4%
Paul Desmarais Sr. - 3%
Joseph-Armand Bombardier - 3%
Ron Joyce - 3%
Roy Thomson - 2%
Galen Weston - 2%
Timothy Eaton - 2%
Terry Matthews - 1%
Frank Sobey - 1%
Samuel Bronfman - 1%
Conrad Black - 1%

For more on the contest and the winners, see

Friday, March 02, 2007

Networking for the rest of us

For many entrepreneurs selling high-value goods and services to niche markets, personal networking remains the primary source of new leads, sales and partnerships. But how many of us are any good at it?

Here are seven great networking tips from Montreal marketing consultant Lucy MacDonald.

1. Go by yourself. As scary as that may seem, it is often the best strategy.
2. Dress the part.
3. Have a goal in mind before you enter the room.
4. Skip the food and drink if you are attending a stand-up networking event. It’s difficult to focus on networking if you're crunching your way through the vegetable dip.
5. Ask questions like “Tell me about your business”, or “What business are you in?” and follow it up with “what kind of clients are you looking for?”
6. Have your verbal business card ready. Be ready with an answer when someone asks you “What do you do?”
7. Before you or the other person move on, close the conversation with a “thank you” and perhaps an offer to follow-up with an email.

See the original article, with the full details, here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Red flags for bad businesses

Theresa Ebdem from Report on Business Television filed an interesting story for the Globe and Mail last month on knowing when to throw in the towel.

“If a business is teetering toward financial collapse, recognizing how and when to fold isn't something that comes naturally for many smaller operators,” she writes. But identifying the warning signs early may give you time to turn things around.

Here are some of the red flags the story warns about:
  • recurrent operating losses
  • being unable to pay creditors on time
  • being placed on cash-on-delivery status
  • negative trends in financial ratios
  • a buildup of accounts receivable or inventory
  • poor financial records
  • owing money to government for sales taxes or employee deductions
  • breaches in lending covenants and borrowing limits
  • being placed in the bank’s "special loans" department
  • losing good employees
  • excessive turnover and absenteeism.

"Any of these signs on their own may not be an issues, but if there are a number of them occurring or continuously occurring, then there should be concern," says Matthew Lem, a trustee in bankruptcy at BDO Dunwoody Ltd.
For more information, read the original story here.