Friday, June 29, 2007

Happy Canada Day

I found myself explaining to someone this week why I still prefer the name Dominion Day for Canada's national holiday on July 1.

"Dominion" was a descriptive name Canada created for itself to describe a country that was not a colony, not a kingdom, not a republic. The "Dominion of Canada" was something new in the world, a sovereign state that looked ahead to an independent future while refusing to sever ties with the past. Several other countries in the British Commonwealth (okay, it was still called the "Empire" then) picked up the label, so it became a gift from Canada to her sister nations.
Now few people use the term. We are just "Canada." The name of our holiday celebrates the country in a bland, obvious sort of way. It lacks the originality and bold character of "Dominion."
Nonethless, it's a great country, and a beacon of hope to tens of millions of people. Have a great Canada Day weekend.
Update, July 7: My old buddy, Link Byfield, offers an Alberta-First view of why "Dominion Day" is not a better name than Canada Day. I rarely agree with Link's logic, but he's always worth reading. Click here for the full scoop.

Seth Godin on understanding sales people

Marketing whiz Seth Godin offers a great blogpost today on “Nine things marketers ought to know about salespeople.” Most of his points apply equally to bosses, so if you as a business owner are having trouble understanding why your sales people do the things they do, this post could change your life.

Seth’s 9 points, condensed:

1. Selling is hard. Harder than you may ever realize. So, if I seem stressed, cut me some slack.

2. Selling is personal. When I make a promise, I have to keep it.

3. I can't tell you when the sale will close. No one knows, especially the prospect.

4. I love selling great stuff, well marketed. Don't ask me to sell lousy stuff.

5. I'm extremely focused on the reward half of the equation. So don't change the rules in the middle.

6. I have no earthly idea what really works. I'll keep experimenting if you will.

7. Your job is to make it so I never need to make a cold call.

8. Once in a while, I actually learn something in the field. Ask!

9. I know you'd like to get rid of me and just take orders on the web. But that's always going to be the low-hanging fruit. The game-changing sales, at least for now, come from real people interacting with real people.

I would have added one more point: 10. I'm a people person. I don't relate well to processes and reports. Tie me down with forms and procedures and you reduce my abilty to make magic. If you don't believe me, ask your bookkeeper to make a sales call.

Seth’s full post is well worth reading, and contains two extra points not summarized here. (I have to give you some reason to click on Seth’s story.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Dragons' Deal

By the traffic on this blog tonight I can tell that the CBC has just re-run the Dragons' Den episode in which the Dragons do a deal with four nattily-dressed Toronto guys who have a job-posting website called JobLoft.com. (I started watching, but having seen it before, I left halfway through to eat some watermelon on the back deck. It is that kind of night.)

This was probably the most notorious deal closed on the first season of Dragons' Den. All 5 millionaires collaborated on the deal with four recent Ryerson grads, with the Dragons promising to work the team to the bone in order to get their business to the next level. It seemed a happy ending all 'round.

But in the real world, about half of all equity deals fall through in the end -- and this one was no exception. A follow-up show last November (which will be repeated this summer) showed how the deal fell apart at the last minute -- in a televised showdown between the four principals, one of their mentors, and the dragons. It made for great TV, but it cost the kids a lot of money, as they were on the hook for all costs related to the deal (as is also standard in such things).

Here's a link to my post from last fall talking about the deal: Hot Times in the Dragons' Den.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Quebec steps up

Maybe it’s all the work I’ve done this year with so many dynamic Quebec entrepreneurs in planning the recent Visa Small Business Big Thinking conference in Montreal, but I’m totally bullish on the business energies coming out of Quebec.

Once the economic powerhouse of Canada, the Quebec economy seems to have been in consistent decline (relative to Ontario and the West, anyway) since the election of the first PQ government in 1976 – which sparked the “chicken run” that saw so many anglo businesses and individuals head down the road to Toronto.

But that's all changing now. A new story in Canadian Business magazine looks at several reasons why Quebec is in good shape to compete and win in the 21st century.

Jeff Sanford writes, “It has long been a given that Ontario is the economic centre of the country, challenged only by Alberta in terms of financial might. The eastern areas are, it is usually assumed, economic backwaters destined to forever trail the other areas of the country in growth.

But is this really true? I traveled to Montreal this May to interview Real Raymond, the outgoing CEO of National Bank Financial, and took some time to wander the streets, which were packed with folks hitting the patios to throw off the winter blues... But what was most interesting was the notion I came away with — that the Quebec economy may be set to buck stereotypes about its economic destiny."
Among the positive signs Sanford sees:
* Like many regional banks in the US, Montreal-based National Bank is on a roll;

* The Montreal Exchange’s focus on financial derivatives is helping position Quebec as an international thought leader in specialty finance;

* “Everyone talks about the strength Alberta has in the energy sector, but few realize Quebec is similarly well-situated to step up as a regional energy superpower as a result of its massive James Bay hydro projects. These are going to be hugely valuable in the new post-easy-oil, carbon-constrained economy that seems to be emerging.”

* Quebec's water assets. Canada has roughly 40% of the world's fresh water, and Quebec has 40% of that. "Considering the shortages of water that are looming around the world as a result of rising demand and new rainfall patterns from global warming, water may end up a more valuable commodity than energy. The future looks good for la belle province.”

Sacre bleu! Read the whole story here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 38

Here's for your motivational Quote of the Week, specially selected to get your week off to an empowering start.

"The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair,
who steps down this week after 10 years in office.

There's an irony to this quote: had he not agreed to join the War on Iraq, Tony Blair would probably not be stepping down now. But that's not the point. I chose this quote because one of the hardest jobs for all entrepreneurs is to focus their attention -- and their teams' -- on just a few priorities, and firmly say "no" to the rest.

In focus lies success - even if it means deferring other good ideas, possibly forever.

10 Questions to ask before signing a contract

I'm about to sign an agreement to work with a particular group. The relationship could last for a while, so I wanted to make sure that the terms for our working together were optimal - for me as well as the other party.

I Googled "Questions to ask before signing a contract," but found nothing useful. So this weekend I sat down and wrote up my own "Top 10 list" of questions - all designed to create greater value for both sides.

So here's my list. It's incomplete and probably naive. But it helped me work out what I wanted from the relationship, and it may help you. If you see a way to improve this list or add to it, please leave a comment by clicking on "COMMENTS" at the end of this post. Best suggestion wins a Canadian Entreprenur coffee mug.

So here is my list of 10 Questions to ask before signing a contract

1. Are these people I want to do business with / be associated with?
2. Is this agreement a fair representation of what I want?
3. Is this the best I can do? How could I get more/pay less?
4. Are both parties being treated fairly?
5. How might we create more value for both sides?
6. What can we do right now to create greater trust on both sides – which could lead to a better deal all-round?
7. How long will this agreement last? Do we have a formula for ending it on an efficient (and civil) basis?
8. What “exit” do I have if I get a better offer from someone else?
9. Is there a balance of value for both sides? Where do I get more from them than they get from me? (unstable and unsustainable)? Where do they get more than I do (ditto)?
10. Who else should look at this agreement for me?

Friday, June 22, 2007

How to contact important people

Every entrepreneur encounters this problem: How do you get important prospects to return your calls?

Andy Nulman, award-winning Montreal entrepreneur and president of wireless content pioneer Airborne Entertainment, discusses this subject in his blog last week.

As a speaker at the Visa Canada small business conference in Montreal June 4, and at many other events, he often hears afterwards from people who want to get in touch - usually to sell him something. So in his June 12 post, he points out what sort of e-mails are likely to garner a resonse from him - and which ones go straight to the trash bin.

His bottom line:
If you're going to try to engage a busy person you just KNOW is being besieged by others, don't be coy. Get to your point, and fast. Do the ask, and do it clearly. Don't play games and try to pique one's curiosity with oblique obscurities.

Sadly, someone from the Montreal conference emailed Andy offering to discuss "various possibilities of business." No way, says Andy.
For to get me off my busy schedule, you had better let me know:
1. What ARE these various possibilities? Give me a clue or two.
2. Why on earth WOULD they interest me?
3. Uh buddy, you emailed me. You wanna sell, you do the contacting!
Thanks for the marketing lesson, Andy.

To read his full post, click here.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Secret Summer Project

Name one tactic that any business owner could undertake that has the potential to move his or her business to a whole new level of success. And yet costs almost nothing.

Along with uber-entrepreneur Greig Clark, founder of College Pro, I am undertaking an exciting summer research project. We’ll be investigating this powerful tactic, which is known to many entrepreneurs but remains sadly underused. We’ll talk to people who use it and find out how they do it and how it has changed their business life. We’ll discover how they make this tool work for them, and what advice they have for other entrepreneurs hoping to repeat their success.

Our objective is to share the best practices of businesses that use this tool, thereby encouraging many more entrepreneurs across North America to take one step that will improve their lives.

I’m sorry if this sounds a bit mysterious, but we’re keeping the topic under wraps for a few weeks yet.

In the meantime, why not guess what this tool is? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think is the single most powerful business improvement tool for entrepreneurs.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll find a new research project for next summer.

Meantime, keep watching this pace for more information on Project Pro.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Your best ideas from the PROFIT 100

PROFIT Magazine has posted my new "Bright Ideas" story featuring some of the best practices and best management tips from this year’s PROFIT 100 companies.

You can read the whole story here. Or settle for a blog-friendly summary of my key points:

MANAGEMENT
Open your books
Treat managers like entrepreneurs
Make your business plan matter
Delegate!

HIRING
Poach for profit
Make your applicants sweat
Try before you buy

INTERNATIONAL EXPANSION
Climb the family tree (Leveraging local subsidiaries of international companies to snag international contracts)
Be a night owl (how staying up late can help you get much more done when dealing with Asia)
Disappear the border (Look transparent to U.S. customers)

MOTIVATION
Treat your culture well
Wear your ethics on your sleeve
Pay—don't delay! (offering quarterly bonuses)

SALES & MARKETING
Call in the Army (using celebrity spokesmen)
Make your clients rich (helping clients make the most of your services)
Match sellers with what you're selling (sales strategies)
Pour on the referrals
Party with your partners

FINANCE
Drop your banker, call your buddies (borrowing from your employees)

Click here for the full story.
Unless you think you have nothing to learn from Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 37

Here's for your motivational Quote of the Week, specially selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing."
W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993), statistician and consultant

Deming is considered the father of the modern quality movement. Although widely credited with improving industrial production in the United States during World War II, he became best known for his work in Japan, where he taught top management how to improve design (and thus service), product quality, testing and sales. He helped postwar Japan become a world leader in innovative, high-quality products.

As more entrepreneurs recognize the need to work ON their business, not IN it, Deming's emphasis on process is more timely than ever.

For more Deming quotes and concepts, click here.

Friday, June 15, 2007

25 Alternatives To Venture Capital

Houston-based entrepreneur Rich McIver of BizNiche Ltd., a search-engine optimization company, has started a blog on small business financing at www.BusinessFund.com. Not all the information applies to Canada, but most of it is pertinent to cash-strapped entrepreneurs anywhere.

His latest post is on The Top 25 Alternatives To Venture Capital .

Nothing radically new here, but it’s a great summary of different approaches entrepreneurs can take to finance their businesses that don't require them to go hat in hand to demanding venture capitalists.

Here are the alternatives that McIver outlines:

* Angel Investorss, Private Placement, Initial Public Offering, Bootstrap Financing (including Factoring, Trade Credit, Customer financing, and Leasing).

* Fund From Operations; Licensing; Launch Customers (customers willing to fund R&D in exchange for product rights);Vendor Financing, Sweat Equity (by others); Self Funding.

* SBA Loans; SBIR and STTR Programs; State Funding (these three probably not applicable to Canadian entrepreneurs); Home Equity Loans; Community Banks (probably equivalent to our credit unions).

* Microloans, Finance Debt (financing your equipment, facilities and receivables to up cash in the short term), Silent Partner, Friends and Family (click here to see an article I edited on this topic earlier this year).

* Form A Strategic Alliance; Sell Some Assets; Business Lines of Credit; Personal Credit Cards; Business Credit Cards.

I would add a few more sources to this list: getting more leverage at the bank by mortgaging your home, offering personal guarantees, or playing two or more banks against each other; going public through the Toronto Venture Exchange's capital pool program; venture debt; subordinated debt; asset-based financing; export insurance; innovative financing through BDC; borrowing against anticipated SRED credits; startup financing through the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (for "youngsters" up to age 35).

To read Rich’s full report, click here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hot 50 deadline looms

Do you run a young, fast-growth company that deserves more recognition? Apply to the PROFIT Hot 50 ranking and you could get national publicity - and credibility – as part of PROFIT Magazine’s eighth annual survey of Canada’s Emerging Growth Companies.

The PROFIT HOT 50 ranks and recognizes Canada's Emerging Growth Companies based on two-year revenue growth. If your company was founded in 2003 or 2004, just fill out the online entry form found here. PROFIT honours the HOT 50 companies in the September 2007 issue of PROFIT, year-round at PROFITguide.com and at GrowthCamp, an exclusive three-day summit for HOT 50 leaders.

I devised the Hot 50 in 2000 because we realized that business was moving so fast that the PROFIT 100 list – companies ranked by five-year revenue growth – no longer reflected the cutting edge of new growth companies in Canada. The younger, fresher companies on the Hot 50 don't have the P100’s track record – but they have passion and innovation to spare. And experience has now taught us that most of them go on to do very, very well.

For entry information, click this way. For information on last year’s winners, click here.

Just remember that the deadline is June 30.

Dragons' Den flies again

A week ago I suggested the CBC should be rerunning the first season of Dragons’ Den. Well, either they were listening, or I should read the TV listings more closely.

Dragons’ Den returns to the air in tonight and every Wednesday (except when pre-empted by junior soccer games and such), at 8 pm (Eastern time). Even in reruns, it’s worth checking out. It’s great viewing for entrepreneurs wanting to know more about financing, pitching, or just selling (and let’s face it, we could all use better selling skills).

When I moderated a seminar on growth financing last week at the Ontario government’s Wisdom Exchange conference, I asked how many of the folks in the room had been watching Dragons’ Den. 19 of the 20 participants put up their hands.

I know lots of business owners don't watch TV. (I met one yesterday who proudly told me he doesn't even have cable.) But if you're serious about succeeding, about finance, or about improving your communication skills, this show is worth your time.

On tonight’s show (from CBC.ca): Two Winnipeg brothers who mortgaged their farm to raise money, asking the dragons to fund their customized gift card business. A Toronto woman tries to sell the Dragons on her plan to open "napping centres" for overtired office workers. An entrepreneur from Edmonton pitches an exercise machine that he thinks will be the next Bowflex. An engineer from Newfoundland tries to sell his plan to generate electricity from tidal power on the coast of Labrador. A London engineer and stay-at-home mom pitches her line of organic salad dressings and food seasonings. A Kingston woman asks the Dragons to invest in her device that tightens Kegel muscles.

I believe this episode also marks the first time that dragon Kevin O’Leary offered to pay a pitcher NOT to start her business.

For more information, visit http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bill Gates on Giving Back

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, perhaps the world’s most successful entrepreneur, has been called “Harvard’s most successful dropout.” Last week Harvard made up for that indelicacy by granting Gates an honourary degree.

Gates’s valedictory speech to the class of '07 focused mainly on his newest cause: social entrepreneurship. Here are two excerpts from his speech. One is fun, the other more serious. And inspiring.

“Harvard was just a phenomenal experience for me. Academic life was fascinating. I used to sit in on lots of classes I hadn’t even signed up for. And dorm life was terrific. I lived up at Radcliffe, in Currier House. There were always lots of people in my dorm room late at night discussing things, because everyone knew I didn’t worry about getting up in the morning. That’s how I came to be the leader of the anti-social group. We clung to each other as a way of validating our rejection of all those social people.

Radcliffe was a great place to live. There were more women up there, and most of the guys were science-math types. That combination offered me the best odds, if you know what I mean. This is where I learned the sad lesson that improving your odds doesn’t guarantee success.

…..

“Imagine, just for the sake of discussion, that you had a few hours a week and a few dollars a month to donate to a cause – and you wanted to spend that time and money where it would have the greatest impact in saving and improving lives. Where would you spend it?

For Melinda and for me, the challenge is the same: how can we do the most good for the greatest number with the resources we have.

During our discussions on this question, Melinda and I read an article about the millions of children who were dying every year in poor countries from diseases that we had long ago made harmless in this country. Measles, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis B, yellow fever....

If you believe that every life has equal value, it’s revolting to learn that some lives are seen as worth saving and others are not. We said to ourselves: “This can’t be true. But if it is true, it deserves to be the priority of our giving.”

So we began our work in the same way anyone here would begin it. We asked: “How could the world let these children die?”

The answer is simple, and harsh. The market did not reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not subsidize it. So the children died because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system.

But you and I have both.

We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism – if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes.

If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world. This task is open-ended. It can never be finished. But a conscious effort to answer this challenge will change the world.

I am optimistic that we can do this, but I talk to skeptics who claim there is no hope. They say: “Inequity has been with us since the beginning, and will be with us till the end – because people just … don’t … care.”

I completely disagree. I believe we have more caring than we know what to do with."

You can read Bill's entire speech here.

Best Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 36

Time now for your motivational Quote of the Week, specially selected to get your week off to a powerful and inspiring start.

This week, something to tell your sales force when they say they're on the verge of huge breakthroughs.

“If you can't measure it, I'm not interested.”

Laurence Johnston Peter (1919-1990) Canadian educator. Author of The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong (1969).


Remember The Peter Principle? "In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence." The entrepreneurial implications: stagnant companies may have incompetent employees at many levels of their organization, while growing companies who add new positions and employees can forestall the Peter Principle as long as their growth continues.

Your FREE guide to the New World of Marketing

What’s new in marketing? How about everything?

With today’s paradigm shifts in communications technology, consumer-media overload and the rise of audience-generated content, smart marketers are questioning everything. The basics of marketing – targeting your audience, grabbing their attention, speaking with authenticity, making a call to action – still work. But today’s changing media and consumer environment is creating whole new opportunities to cut through the clutter and engage with your market.

To explore this further, you should be subscribing to One Degree, a daily, made-in-Canada journal of digital media, now edited by enthusiastic new owner Kate Trgovac. There are few answers here, but lots of food for thought, and great ideas to try.

Here are links to two recent One Degree articles that will get you thinking:

1. In "Eight is Enough: Take-aways from Mesh 2007," Kate logs the best ideas she heard at last month’s Mesh/Web2.0 conference in Toronto. Excerpts:

* “The next big thing - virtual reality environments and mobile.” … To me, this is a clarion call to creativity."
* “Don’t orient to control. Orient to experimentation.” Richard Edelman gave an awesome keynote conversation. I want to paste this on every boardroom wall in the country. Change your philosophy; change your perspective. Control is an illusion. Instead, get people to come along with you as you experiment. Fail, learn, fail again…”
Read more here.

2. A week earlier on One Degree, Internet strategist Bill Sweetman wrote about “15 Cool Things I Learned at the 2007 CMA Annual Convention” (the Canadian Marketing Association’s May conference in Ottawa). Excerpts:
· Marketers need to develop mechanisms to detect and nurture brand ambassadors (i.e., those consumers who will willingly act as promoters).
· “Don’t fear theft of your ideas; fear obscurity.”
· To today’s ‘Net Generation,’ “choice is like oxygen.”
· 74% of bloggers say they are open to receiving product or service information from companies, but only 9% actually do.
Click here for the complete story.

Yes, much of this stuff sounds random, even confusing. But it's well worth exploring. We're talking about a new type of marketing that is more powerful, more immersive, and possibly even cheaper. The fact that so little is proven means there's lots of room for experimentation and breakthroughs.

What's holding you back?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Two days in the Den

If you don't mind one more report from the Dragons' lair, here's a link to my PROFIT column this month on the lessons I derived from two days as a deputy dragon at the DD auditions in April. Title: Two days in the Den.

Here's an excerpt for those too busy to click:

Ever since I began covering entrepreneurship, I have been puzzled by the great venture-capital divide. Entrepreneurs complain they'd have to be Bill-bloody-Gates to raise venture funding, while VCs say they can't find enough ideas worth investing in. It's easy to side with the people who sacrifice everything for their business and still come up short in the eyes of professional investors. But as a deputy Dragon, I soon realized entrepreneurs are responsible for some of this gap.

I talked with people who have worked on their product for decades but have never done any market research. I pleaded with people to tell me what makes their product unique. I called one woman on her claim that Canada has 93 million consumers. And I tried to persuade several entrepreneurs that saying, "If we could get just 2% of this market …" does not constitute an investment-grade marketing plan.

For more, click here.

Watching Dragons

I had a great time Thursday on the set of Dragons’ Den. I renewed acquaintances with producers Stuart Coxe and Tracy Tighe, host Dianne Buckner, consultant Sean Wise, and dragons Robert Herjavec, Kevin O’Leary, Laurence Lewin and Jim Treliving.

I also got to meet Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Calgary-based Venture Communications, the new Dragon for season 2.

If you're a fan of the show, you’ll be pleased to know they are planning 10 episodes this year, almost twice as many as last year. The show starts airing in October on CBC.

The dragons were in fine form, with Kevin calling a particularly bad business idea “sinful,” Robert telling an entrepreneur not to feel bad that all the Dragons hated his idea, because they were saving him from wasting several more years of his time, and Laurence Lewin taking regular pot-shots at Kevin. Arlene is a gem, because she is as tough as the other Dragons, but less likely to be swayed by their bad-boy banter. She also focuses the group and ensures that the entrepreneurs get to tell their stories.

I got there in midmorning, so I missed seeing two deals get done. But I saw several interesting pitches that had the Dragons thinking, and a few concepts so promising that some Dragons offered to help out by providing advice or contacts – although, tellingly, not money. There was humour, sadness, and some standout emotional moments that will have everyone talking come fall.

Today showed that the heart of Dragons’ Den is not the Dragons, but the infinite variety of incredible stories from the entrepreneurs that the producers have found. Some are “happy stories,” as Betty Kennedy used to say on Front Page Challenge, and some are not. But they are all authentic and human.

This season's show has the same flaw as last year. Most of the people I saw pitching deals were selling the right to participate in new products – most of them so new they had no sales. They weren't offering opportunities to invest in businesses, which is what the Dragons really want. So there’s an essential disconnect in the show. But of course that creates much of the entertainment value, too.

High Point: Today we got to see the Dragons talk on camera about what they are doing and why. After ganging up on a bad idea, they engaged in some rare introspection, asking themselves whether or not they are really helping the people who pitch to them. I come down on the side of one member who said that if the Dragons don't tell the truth – if they encourage people to pursue business ideas better left behind – they risk leaving the entrepreneurs open to exploitation by less benevolent parties, who could sweet-talk them into paying high fees for unnecessary legal or consulting services.

Let’s hope the CBC re-runs Season 1 over the summer. This is a show we can all learn from.

Adventure has a Name... and it's Bruce, not Indiana

One of my favourite Canadian entrepreneurs, Bruce Poon Tip of GAP Adventures, was featured on the CTV National News Wednesday night.

It's an exciting story that could inspire many, many people not just to tackle entrepreneurship, but to live lives with greater purpose.

I'm not sure how long it will last, but here's a link to that story.

(It's kind of ironic that Bruce gets profiled the same week as Visa held its Small Business Big Thnking conference. Bruce often credits his initial success to the Bank of Visa.)

Thursday, June 07, 2007

RIP, TVG

I just heard that the Toronto Venture Group has gone out of business. (See note below.) Very sad.

I was on the TVG board about 10 years ago, when it was still struggling to reach critical mass in its objective to bring entrepreneurs and growth capital together. In recent years it succeeded in becoming Canada’s pre-eminent forum for introducing venture capitalists to entrepreneurs, and vice-versa. It held many events, made lots of connections, and accomplished much.

The TVG will be missed. But hopefully something equally valuable will take its place.

Here's what you find now at www.tvg.org:

Effective May 18th, 2007 the Toronto Venture Group has ceased operations. As of the same day a proposal has been filed and all suppliers, sponsors, annual subscribers, members and angels will be receiving a communication package outlining the process that is underway.

The Board of Directors would like to acknowlege the support we have enjoyed over the years from our corporate sponsors, subscribers, members and those who have given so generously of their time as speakers, volunteers and board members. We are proud of our 17 years of service to the industry and we wish all investors, entrepreneurs, business founders and service providers a healthy future of continuous success.

Catching Up

Sorry about the dearth of posts lately. Just too much going on!

The Visa Small Business Big Thinking (Petite Entreprise Grandes Idees) conference in Montreal on June 4 was a huge success. Several attendees told me it was very professional, inspiring, and just the sort of conference the city needs.

A team of writers is working to prepare executive summaries of each session, so everyone can relive the conference and share in the content. I will link to them when they are ready.

Especially top-notch were our keynotes: Donna Fenn (left), author of Alpha Dogs, and Charles Desourdy, CEO of SkiBromont.com (at right).

Donna did an in-depth analysis of several fabulous American businesses who just refuse to think small, while Charles discussed how he turned a failing ski hill into one of Quebec’s premier year-round resorts. Best of all, he made sure the presentation had lots of takeaways for the entrepreneurs in the audience – such as, how to create more value for your customers. Charles’s speech wasn’t about himself – it was about what the attendees wanted to hear.

Which is itself a great lesson in thinking like a customer.

On Tuesday I attended the Wisdom Exchange, the Ontario government’s annual conference for the province’s leading growth companies. I hope to blog about that too, if I ever catch up on my other work.

But first: Today I’m on-set with the cast and crew of Dragons’ Den. No rest for the wicked.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Best Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 35

Time now for your motivational Quote of the Week, personally selected for business relevance and inspiration.

Here's the worldview of Stéphan Crétier, founder and CEO of Montreal-based Garda World Security Corp., the 5th largest company on this year’s PROFIT 100. I used this gem of advice, collected this spring by PROFIT Magazine, to close out my speech on Success Secrets of Quebec's Fastest-Growing Companies, at the Visa Small Business Big Thinking conference in Montreal today.

“Keep the mindset of a child who wants to build. Keep the mindset of a leader, who wants to go forward.
And if your accountant, your attorney and your banker say you shouldn’t be doing something, it is probably best that you do it.”

Sunday, June 03, 2007

2007 PROFIT 100 ready for launch

I forgot to blog earlier to note that Monday, June 4 marks the launch of the 2007 PROFIT 100 survey of Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies. I got a sneak peak at the new June issue and it's full of great advice for entrepreneurs from growth leaders who know what it takes to succeed in today's economy.

If you have time to catch it, PROFIT editor Ian Portsmouth is scheduled to be unveiling the 2007 list on BNN (the former Report on Business TV) at 8:30 Monday morning.

If you don't catch him at 8:30, the interview will probably be available on the website at http://www.bnn.ca//. I'm away from the computer all day Monday at the Visa Small Business Big Thinking conference in Montreal, so if anyone reading this during the day feels like helping out, you could look for the link and post it in the Comment section below this post.

I'd appreciate it. And I'll see if we can't send you out a copy of the issue for your trouble.

Thanks.

By the way, my speech Monday is on the success secrets of Quebec's Fastest-Growing Companies. Play your cards right and I will post a summary soon.

Friday, June 01, 2007

How to really win friends and influence people

What do you think when you see the words? “Please help us serve you better.”

You figure they're asking for something that will mainly help them and not you, right?

That's what I thought today when I got an e-mail from Ottawa sales coach Colleen Francis with that cheesy headline. I only read it because I dec ided not to do whatever it was they wanted me to do.

To my surprise, though, Colleen’s business manager, Casey, had written a very friendly letter explaining how they were upgrading their database. “We currently have 3 databases (UGH!) and we are streamlining them into 1,” wrote Casey. “In order to help us ensure you continue to receive the sales information you want, we would love you to update your profile.”

By using real language (“love”) and a little humour, and by giving us some insight into the human side of their database search, they got me onside.

But then they added the flourish. "Now, you are probably wondering "What's in it for me?" - right? Well - I will tell you. When you update your information I will personally send you a CD! A $79US value for simply filling in 10 little fields.” You could choose a CD on coommunicating through "gatekeepers" and email, or another on “Turning No into Yes.”

”Once you have completed the form please reply to me with your choice of CD and I will pop it in the mail,” writes Casey. “We do hope you will help us with our spring cleaning.”

Congrats to Casey and Colleen for demonstrating how to turn No into Yes - using positive, informal language and appropriate incentives to motivate and engage people. Which could be why their company is called Engage Selling Solutions.

How could you use these techniques in your next communication with members or customers?