Monday, March 31, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 79

Here's your Monday motivational quote, specially selected to get your week off to an inspired start.

This week: an anthem for all pioneers.

"The poor man of one idea is always in danger of being laughed at by people who have none."
Bob Edwards, The Calgary Eye Opener, June 6, 1902

Rick (and friends) on the Radio

Looking for an entrepreneurial boost? I and several other small-business experts are taking part in a weekly “internet radio” show on Sunday nights, hosted by Mandie Crawford, the Calgary-based dynamo behind the Roaring Women association.

Right now, Mandie is in the middle of a cross-country tour in her “Coaching Coach,” meeting with small groups of business owners right across Canada, in her cozy RV. She asks what’s going on in their businesses and then helps them find answers to questions of motivation, management, marketing and growth.

In last night’s show I turned the tables on Mandie, who usually asks all the questions. I asked her about the questions she’s getting from entrepreneurs in her travels, and what kind of answers she’s handing out. If you're interested in the state of small business, this is must-listening. You’ll also hear our musings about marketing, planning, cash flow, raising your prices, and the new boom in multi-level and home-based marketing. Plus, we talk about the most common reasons for business failure, and what you can do to avoid them.

My fellow panelists are Calgary-based Troy White, of Smallbusinesscopywriter.com, and graphic designer/business consultant Isabelle Mercier of Vancouver-based Leapzone Strategies. (I'm the token Easterner.)

To listen in, click on over to BlogTalk Radio and decide for yourself if it’s the future of mass communications. The program lasts one hour. One advantage over conventional radio: if you're bored by one topic, you can fast-forward and skip to the next one.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Success Traits of Dogged Entrepreneurs

I’m a big fan of junior hockey and the Ontario Hockey League in particular – and the way entire cities galvanize around their teams come playoff time, in a way that “big-league” cities such as Toronto can only dream of.

So the playoffs are now underway, and last week when I was in Sault Ste. Marie the Greyhounds made short work of their first-round opponents, the Saginaw Spirit. Pondering a way to customize my speech to Soo businesspeople, I realized the Greyhounds gave me an opening . Because they’re a terrific team this year, and “greyhounds” themselves are such a unique breed.
So here, live from Sault Ste. Marie, are 7 reasons why Greyhounds make great role models for entrepreneurs.
* They get off to a fast start. They can hit 70 km an hour in just 1 ½ seconds. Virtually no one can keep up with them.
* Two of the keys to the phenomenal speed of the Greyhound are its large heart and its flexible spine. In my experience meeting thousands of Canadian entrepreneurs, I can assure you it’s their flexibility that enables them to outmanoeuvre bigger, stronger competitors – and that their hearts really are as big as all outdoors.
* Although greyhounds are medium-sized dogs, they can thrive in small spaces. Similarly, the best entrepreneurs adapt to small market spaces – we call them niches. They thrive in specialty markets that larger businesses overlook.
* Greyhounds are pack-oriented dogs, which means they get along well with others. In business today, relationships and alliances are king – you can't get very far without like-minded partners, customers, suppliers and supporters. Being a pack animal, or a team player, will get you further on the road to success than just being a lone wolf.
* Greyhounds are focused. They're said to be “prey-driven,” although I prefer the phrase, results-oriented. Give them an objective and they head straight for it. They let nothing get in their way.
* Greyhounds have very little body fat, which means they are susceptible to extreme temperatures, either heat or cold. Entrepreneurs are similarly lean and lithe – but vulnerable. They’re mentally resilient, but they tend not to have much protection against adverse business conditions. So you as entrepreneurs have to be wary of risky and extreme situations.
* Finally, the greyhound has a unique "Double suspension gallop," which means all four feet are off the ground twice during each full stride. I think this is an important warning for entrepreneurs. Dream big, run as fast as you can, but make sure you keep your feet on the ground – at least half the time.
Go Greyhounds!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fashioning reality anew in the Soo

I just got back from a quick trip to the Soo, where I was the keynote speaker at a Business Bootcamp sponsored by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre and the Enterprise Centre Sault Ste. Marie.

The Soo, once one of Canada’s most prosperous communities (lots of high-paying union jobs at the mill and Algoma Steel), now faces the same uncertain future as most of Canada’s commodity-processing centres: where will future employment come from, and how do you get the bright kids to stay around? Right now, government is the biggest employer (even though the Ontario Lottery Corp. left town), but the Soo is doing lots of things right. (More on that in a minute.)

For my part, I did my best to argue that innovation and entrepreneurship is the best route to the future - but you can read the rest in my Financial Post column on Monday.

The bootcamp featured lots of fabulous presenters with great messages. Word-of-mouth evangelist Sean Moffit (blogging as BuzzCanuck) offered multiple examples of how to turn customers into raving fans. Retail consultant and trainer Kevin Graff was polished and upbeat in offering tips for boosting sales. I especially liked the exercise in which he challenged us to play as many games of tic-tac-toe as we could in 90 seconds.

(Key learning point: when you invest the first 30 seconds of your time in strategizing with your partner about how you’re going to accomplish this task, you get much higher scores – even though it reduces your “doing” time.)

But the rock star of the day was Ben Barry, the implausibly young and smart modeling agency owner from Ottawa. He started the Ben Barry Agency when he was just 14. Now it has a staff of 35 and represents models from across Canada, the U.S. and the UK. But Ben’s story isn't just about plucky business growth –his commitment to diversity (ie, not all his models are white and implausibly skinny) is having a transformative impact on the “beauty” industry.

After he spoke, Ben spent hours talking with local high school and college students about business, the modeling biz, and life. People were thrilled to meet him, and he dominated the newspaper coverage of the event. And deservedly so. To me, Ben represents all that’s good and important about entrepreneurship: using your own character, energy and life experience to create something new and positive, and then lobbying for needed change in your industry.

Ben encourages people to start businesses while you're young: your ideas are still fresh and new, he says, and “we have less to lose when we make mistakes.”

Click here to read my May 2007 PROFIT column on Ben and his book, Fashioning Reality.
Or read about his talk in the Sault Star or at SooToday.com.

Meantime, Sault Ste. Marie is a city that really gets it. Here's a list of recent new-economy accomplishments, as supplied by Tom Vair, the Innovation Centre's executive director.
• Largest wind farm in Canada - Brookfield Power’s Prince Wind Farm (2006) has 126 wind turbines and an installed capacity of 189 megawatts.
PodGenerating is developing a 60MW, $400M solar generating facility
Lucidia, an award-winning local communications company, develops websites for Fairmont, Legacy Hotels, and Westin.
Enquest Power Corp. - One of two companies that has received MOE approval to turn municipal waste into energy with their unique steam reformation system
BioForest Technologies, Inc. – Patented tree injection system and Decision Support System for forest pest management
• Forest BioProducts, Inc. – Development of biodiesel technology with significant international sales that allow small communities to develop their own fuel from biomass

Go Greyhounds!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Early in the Morning with Jim Balsillie

I just noticed a comment appended to Monday's post about the two CEOs of RIM being named among the top 30 chief executives in the world.

CBC staffer Jeffrey Parrin wrote to say that George Stroumboulopoulos will be interviwing RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie for his talk show, The Hour, on Monday March 31 at 11 pm. The interview itself will take place Monday morning at 9:30 at the CBC Broadcast Centre in downtown Toronto, and Jeffrey is (or at least was) giving away free tickets to the taping.

If you're interested (they'll be serving breakfast!), email thehouraudience@cbc.ca. Let them know how many tickets you would like for Monday morning, and they'll let you know if there are any left. Use the subject line JimB, and provide your name and phone number.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 78

Here's your Monday motivational quote, personally selected to get your week off to an inspired start.

"In the business world, everyone is paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first; the cash will come later.”

Harold Geneen (1910-1997), former president and CEO, ITT Corp.

RiM CEOs ranked among "World's Best"

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of Waterloo, Ontario-based Research in Motion (have been for years) and its co-CEO management team. Together, founder Mike Lazaridis and frontman Jim Balsillie continually prove that Canadian entrepreneurs can come up with world-class innovation (the Blackberry), brand it properly, roll it out globally, and beat the big boys at their own game. Today the FP reports that Balsillie and Lazaridis have been named to Barron's fourth annual list of the world's 30 best chief executives.

That puts them in the company of Apple's Steven Jobs (now RiM’s arch-rival, due to the iPhone), as well as Warren Buffett, Cisco's John Chambers, Hewlett-Packard's Mark Hurd and IBM's Samuel Palmisano.
Barron’s, a weekly Wall Street newspaper, credits RIM’s co-CEOs for successfully guiding the company through encounters with "patent trolls, bearish investors and pesky regulators." At the same time, its shares have gained more than 120% in each of the past five years. (Full disclosure: I own a few RiM shares myself. And thank goodness for that.)
You can read the Post story here.

The Barron’s article, “World’s Best CEOs” is here, but the full text is available only to paying subscribers.
Click here for a free “slideshow” of the new CEOs on Barron’s list.

Dragons' Den, Season 3

Seems I was out of town two weeks ago when the CBC officially announced that Dragons' Den has been renewed for a third season.

You can read the original announcement at the DD blog here. (Scroll down to the March 10 post.)

I hear there will be some changes this year, so that story will be worth following.

No word yet on when auditions will start, but you can bet it will be soon. So start polishing your pitch already.

To stay in touch with the show, or to be the first on your block to know when the DD Auditions Crew is rolling into your town, you can register with the show to receive its e-mail newsletter. Click here to sign up.

In the meantime, to get your fix of business shows from the People's Network, don't forget that Dragon-tamer Dianne Buckner also fronts Fortune Hunters, on CBC Newsworld several times a week. It dissects social and business trends to help you identify bold new opportunities, so catch it while you can. Click here for more details.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Say this to yourself five times

I caught part of an interview with U.S. cartoonist Sam Gross on CBC Radio the other day. He’s the New Yorker artist who has just issued a book of cartoons based on swastikas – the idea being to drain the dreaded symbol of its power by making it a figure of fun.

The CBC interviewer asked what he would do if the critics attacked his new book. Gross’s reply was classic – reflecting a hearty self-confidence that more people should exhibit. Especially entrepreneurs.

His reply: “I've had bad reviews before. I'm still around.”

I wish all Canadian entrepreneurs could get over setbacks and criticisms so easily. “I've been rejected before. I’m not giving up. And I’m not going away.”

Kudos to Sam Gross for saying it so boldly and simply.

“I've had bad reviews before. I'm still around.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Exploring entrepreneurial inertia

I've had a lot of feedback on my latest column in the National Post (March 17), on "entrepreneurial inertia." That's the weird phenomenon in which business know exactly what they should do to drive their businesses forward, but for some reason or other - they don't.

The column itself was inspired by reader reaction to my previous column (March 10), which explored branding. It was based on a recent HP survey that found that only 45% of Canadian business owners say they are “very satisfied” with their company’s current brand, and just 32% are confident they are making the right branding decisions. Yet 59% say branding is a priority! I went on to write:

Sadly, such disconnects aren’t rare in small business. Entrepreneurs know they need to market smarter, or become better employers, or revamp their product line. But most don't know how to do it, they have no time to learn, and yet they're reluctant to pay for professional help. I warn many would-be suppliers to this sector that small business is a “heartbreak” market – you can go broke marketing to business owners who need your services, and can afford them, but never buy.

This week's column explored more examples of this "entrepreneurial inertia" and speculated as to its roots. I identified 4 probable causes:

* Entrepreneurs are just too busy to do anything new.

* The people promoting these actions or solutions (e.g. marketers, consultants) have not devoted enough attention to execution.

* Failure of owners to motivate themselves.

* The "I bought the book, don't expect me to read it, too" syndrome. As Concordia University marketing prof Harold J. Simpkins mentioned in an e-mail to me last week, for some entrepreneurs simply having a plan may satisfy their need for actual marketing.

Responses to this week's column came primarily from consultants who have noticed this phenomenon and blamed themselves for their clients' inability to execute, or from entrepreneurs who have been struggling with turning intentions into action.

I think my proposed solutions still apply:
* Learn time-management principles to create more time every day.
* Use common motivational techniques (visualization, goal-setting) to commit emotionally to the projects you've been putting off.
* Delegate!
* Seek external motivation, e.g. coaches or “accountability buddies.”

If I'd had room for one more paragraph, I would have cited putting together a board of advisors - as outlined in the series of columns I wrote last year with Greig Clark for PROFIT Magazine. Having someone hold you accountable, knowing that they are going to ask, "Did you get this done last month?" -- that's the best motivation I know.

Read the column on "inertia" here.
Click here for the previous column on branding (and the branding disconnect).

Free online "Small Business Summit" next week

An entrepreneurial company called Microsoft is making next week Small Business Week – all around the world.

Microsoft is holding a free online Small Business Summit, from March 24 to 27, from 12 noon till 4 pm EDT each day (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Pacific time). It looks like quite an extravaganza, with oodles of expert speakers offering tips, advice and secrets for small business success.

There’ll be 12 one-hour seminars a day. You can choose between three different sessions every hour.

Among the presenters: John Jantsch of "Duct-Tape Marketing," one of the world’s most popular marketing bloggers, speaking on “low-cost, high-yield” marketing strategies; and Entrepreneur Magazine editor Rieva Lesonsky.

Other topics include: how to find and keep customers, building a brand, “Building Buzz,” “Net Success,” Blogging for Bucks, “PR Toolbox,” technology solutions that help you understand your customers, and the “$100,000 Total Technology Makeover.” And that’s just on Monday!

Microsoft is expecting 25,000 business owners from all over the globe to take part over the four days, so don't let your competitors get a jump on you. Why not promise yourself to take in at least one session? I’m sure it will jump-start creative thinking and new ideas.

I give Microsoft lots of credit for trying to overcome entrepreneurs’ typical excuses for not going to conferences (“I don't have time to get away,” “it costs too much”), and coming up with a format – and lots of content – geared to business owners’ needs.

Check out the program (and register now if you want) at http://www.sbsummit.com.

Wednesday afternoon update: I just checked with Microsoft's Canadian PR company, and they say that if you can't find time for the conference next week, Microsoft will be making recordings of the sessions available for you to watch online. The on-demand sessions will be available at www.microsoft.com/smallbusiness.
Sweet.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 77

Here's your Monday motivational quote, personally selected to get your week off to an inspired start.

Ever think what you do in small business isn't important? That it's not "real" business? Listen to one of the titans of the oil patch - and the man after whom the University of Calgary's business school has been named.

"If I learned anything about business, I learned as much from my old dad — and he came here from England in 1913 with a Grade 8 education — and his butcher shops, as I ever did after that with a B.Com, a CA, business school and so on."

Richard Haskayne, Alberta entrepreneur, quoted in the March 31, 2008 issue of Canadian Business.

Dick Haskayne led Canada's resource industries through two decades of turbulence. He became president of Hudson's Bay Oil and Gas in 1980. From 1996 to 1998, he was chairman of TransAlta Corp. From 1996 to 1999, he was chairman of the Board of MacMillan Bloedel. From 1992 to 1998, he was chairman of NOVA Corp. until it merged with TransCanada PipeLines.
In 1997, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada for his fund-raising efforts and "high ethical business standards." In 2006, he received the Alberta Order of Excellence.
Last year Haskayne published Northern Tigers: Building Ethical Canadian Corporate Champions.

Battle of the Bloggers

Ouch! Canada’s entrepreneurial blogosphere heated up this weekend. It’s entrepreneur vs venture capitalist in a battle to the last post.

In this corner, Albert Lai, 29-year-old wonderkid of Toronto’s high-tech scene. He recently sold his third or fourth startup, photo-sharing site Bubbleshare, to Toronto e-commerce company Kaboose for some $3 million. (I presented him with a North York Business Award 12 years ago, when he was 17).

In that corner, Rick Segal, former high-tech executive (Microsoft, Chapters.ca, Microforum) and now a VC with JLA Ventures. He’s also a great friend of Canadian startup companies, and a frank and outspoken blogger at The Post Money Value.

Round 1: Albert Lai, who appeared on the cover of Canadian Business magazine a few months ago as poster boy for the new economy, resurfaced in the latest issue of CB (March 17) in a story called “Venture Gap.”

The reason: he’s starting his next business in Silicon Valley, not Canada. And it’s because he says venture capital is too hard to find in the Great White North. The money quote: Unless you can source capital from the U.S., he says, “as a purely business decision, you’d be an idiot to start a company in Canada.”

Enter Rick Segal (who is also quoted in the article, saying that Canada’s venture capital community isn't dead yet.) In his blog on Friday, March 14 he posted an unusually personal article called “Albert Lai and the Idiot Gap.”

While he admits the article is pretty much accurate, he says, "As a purely business decision, you'd be an idiot to listen to Albert Lai when it comes to where to start up a company."
First he takes issue with Lai’s claim to have been a founder of one of the companies he’s been associated with, MyDesktop. Then he rips into Lai’s complaint that "it's been very challenging to get the level of support from the [Canadian] venture community."
“Great stuff,” writes Segal, “except it isn't true. Albert had multiple offers for funding, including, surprise, from my firm. Actually, from me personally. In writing. In the FIRST meeting when I saw Bubbleshare.”
According to Segal, Lai turned down offers of Canadian VC money. “It turned out to be a smart move because had he taken the equity investment, he would have been giving up some of that U.S.$3 million to me. $3 million is a great exit when you pocket virtually all of it and a crappy exit when you give a hunk to a bunch of suits, I suppose.”
After congratulating Lai on his exit, Segal says “now STFU." [Note from Rick: it took me a minute to figure out what that meant. You can Google it if you wish.] Segal says "it is disingenuous (at best) to be complaining about your "deflating" funding problems when you had the opportunity to take VC money and turned it down…. Makes for good reading but is complete nonsense."
Segal then goes on to cite six reasons why the Canadian startup scene is not just for idiots. Among his arguments:
* The SRED claims and other federal and various provincial benefits are superior to those of the United States.
* In terms of government support of business, no country does more than Canada when it comes to export help, worldwide promotion, use of little things like Embassies for hosting business meetings, etc. The country is off the charts amazing when it comes to support her business community from the smallest one person start up to the multi-million dollar enterprises.
* Canada has a superior work force.
* Fact: There are dedicated programs in Canada specifically designed for start ups.
Segal's post is followed by comments from several readers – including Albert. Lai defends his status as one of three founders of mydesktop “as a company/commercial entity.” Then he explains that his comment, "you'd be an idiot to start a company in Canada," was “meant to convey the lack of sufficient risk capital in Canada to fully support all the opportunities and talented entrepreneurs in Canada… It was not meant to convey that VCs themselves aren't doing their job, but rather we need to have more support and capital.”
He goes on to say, “It’s unfortunate that some might have interpreted the article to think I was bashing the VC community or being anti-Canadian, when it was meant to be a rallying call to action to support young entrepreneurs (i.e. grass roots and student efforts) and innovators in Canada.”
Sounds laudable and very Canadian, right? But just when you think things are winding down, Segal fires back: “You were not, have not, and never will be consider[ed] a co-founder of MyDesktop. You word-spinning about roles takes your otherwise talented personality and lowers everyone's view of your results. Your embellishments of what you did aren't required.”
Ouch, indeed.
Naturally, I deplore seeing important discussions like this interrupted by personal attacks. Especially between two people who are both very important to the Canadian startup community. But maybe this is what it takes to get people to notice the serious problem of venture finding in this country. A few more exchanges like these, and perhaps Canada’s capital shortage will get sexy again.
Read Segal’s post (and the comments) here.
Check out the original Canadian Business article here.
See Albert Lai’s blog here.

Where’s your head trash at?

Are you talking yourself out of a sale? If your mind's made up about how a customer is going to behave, even before you've had a chance to talk with them, you may be guilty of listening to your own “head trash.”

That’s the point made by Oakville, Ont., sales trainer Kelley Robertson in one of his recent weekly newsletters. He describes "head trash" as the mental garbage that affects your performance in key interactions – especially sales conversations. “Head trash is a collection of limiting thoughts or ideas that prevent you from taking specific action that will help you generate better results.”

In other words, when you listen to that negative voice in your head, you're beaten before you've even started.

Robertson offers several examples. “In a sales training workshop I conducted for a specialty retailer, several people stated that they didn't bother trying to close any business before 11:00 AM because they "knew" that everyone who came into their store before that time was just comparing their price with another store located close by. A sales person in a manufacturing company told me that her customers would not pay full price for her service because a major competitor sold a similar product for less money.”

Sounds like what my old psych prof called a "self-fulfilling prophecy." You get the results you expect.

To achieve the results you deserve, says Robertson, dump the head trash. “Replace this garbage with possibility thinking. With thoughts of what you CAN do. With positive outcomes. Take out the trash and improve your results.”

Click here to listen to Robertson’s audio version of this tip (and others).
Or visit Robertson Training Group here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Birth of a Catch-Phrase


Down in Ann Arbor for a conference earlier this week, I snapped this photo outside a local restaurant. It's my new favourite catch-phrase.
I assume new management wanted to let customers know they are welcome - although this could be a subtle cry for help from some poor beleaguered staffer.
At any rate, "New Management Welcome" will be my new slogan every time I lambaste some company for poor management or marketing.
Follow the friendly neon sign to find out how not to do business.
Like, not proofreading your message for unintended meanings before you put it out for all to see.
June 5 Follow-up: I love the idea of writing about mismanagement so much that I have just launched a new blog on the subject. It'll be a little more satirical and off-the-wall than this blog, but hopefully just as thought-provoking. Click on over to... New Management Welcome.

The Power of Testimonials

I regularly urge entrepreneurs to take greater advantage of testimonials. When a customer says you’ve done a great job, that carries so much more weight than anything you could ever say about yourself.

And if you have no positive customer testimonials, you should go out and ask for them.

Some people ask me, “But won't people assume we just made these up?” (Especially since customers’ identities are often obscured, for reasons of confidentiality). My response is that when you have positive, customer-written testimonials, they usually have a personal energy and tone that anyone can recognize as genuine.

So don't sit there making excuses – go out and collect some testimonials.

This rant was triggered by a recent e-newsletter article by Michael Hughes, the Ottawa-based “Networking Guru.” He calls customer testimonials “the perfect promotional strategy.”

After quoting an enthusiastic testimonial for another Ottawa-based speaker (Voyageur Bob), Hughes goes on to write:

“This unsolicited testimonial represents the most powerful, productive and profitable promotional strategy I have ever encountered. Stop looking for a magic bullet recipe that will attract clients or advance your career.

"Instead, hone your craft, develop your expertise or build your skills to such an extent that clients and colleagues will brag about you and your value."

Well said, Michael.
And you can quote me.

Read more about Michael Hughes or sign up for his free e-mail tips here.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Great Canadian Migration

I just learned that a story I wrote last year for Alberta Venture magazine has just won a Showcase Award from the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association. Not being a resident Albertan, I feel guilty for scooping one of the three awards presented this year, but since I didn't even know I’d been nominated, I'll just enjoy the glow.

The story was called “Roughing It in the Patch,” and appeared as part of my monthly back-page column on the always testy East-West relationship in Canada, which ran from 2004 though 2007. The column began by making fun of Easterners (especially Ontarians) and their ignorance of Alberta, but morphed over those few short years as oil prices soared and Alberta’s role evolved from resource-supplier to economic kingpin.

I was proud of this particular column, although it didn't require much writing at all. I did some Google and blog searches to look for candid comments from people who had relocated recently from Eastern Canada to Alberta. Having made the move myself when I was 23, I had some idea how wrenching it could be. But I was surprised to see how emotional and difficult this transition still is, even in these days of WestJet, instant messaging and almost-free long distance calling.

So I let those writers (cloaked in anonymity, of course) tell their stories. And I concluded with a more-emotional-than-usual ending that sounds kind of corny, but represents my real response to the stories I had read. “Oh Alberta, the East sends you its children. Hug them close.

You can read the original story here. It may be the story of my children, or yours.

Thanks to editors Ruth Kelly and Michael McCullough for letting me rant in their pages for so long. Although my stay in Alberta lasted only about 18 months, the land calls me still, and Alberta's spirit has never left me.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 76

Here's your motivational quote, personally selected to get your week off to an inspired start.

This week: what does "Competition" mean to you?

"Bill Maher and I are on against each other, and we're friends. He can do my show any time he wants, and I've done Politically Incorrect several times. There's no reason to think competition has to be adversarial."

Tonight Show host Jay Leno

Does this make sense to you?
How could your business work constructively with a competitor - without letting any of your other stakeholders (especially your customers) down?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Making More from Your Money

Another gem from this month's issue of PROFIT Magazine (in addition to the ones I mentioned on Feb. 15) is the 2008 Wealth Guide - a handbook for building and safeguarding wealth, all from an entrepreneur’s point of view.

It’s got a lot of meat on its bones:

* There’s a story on how to invest in private companies, from people who know how.

* Pay less tax! offers six tips on reducing the taxman’s take.

* You’ll learn the 5 deadly sins of wealth planning;

* How to retire rich, by setting up an individual pension plan (IPP) or retirement compensation arrangement (RCA)

* How to Safeguard your money

* The investment strategies of four Canadian entrepreneurs;

And much more. Kudos to the PROFIT staff and freelance writers who did all this work and asked all these questions – so you don’t have to.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Can a blog help my business?

Can a blog help your business? I've marshalled my best arguments in this week's Financial Post column. (The article is also about how important it is that you keep practicing your pitch in front of customers until you get it right.)

I'm not trying to convince you to blog. If you don't see the value, don't worry about it. A successful blog takes passion and commitment. Only people who are committed to stimulating conversations in their market, and who have valulable things to say, should bother to blog.

Having said that, if you have passion, content, a flair for writing, and an urge to create deeper relationships with customers and prospects, you should explore what a blog can do. It's the opposite of advertising - it's content, not style, and benefits, not promises. And it's cheaper, too.

Check out the article here.

Barack Obama and Media 2.0

What is social media? Does it apply to any industry outside technology or entertainment?

You bet. Yesterday, Toronto brand-marketer Sean Howard blogged about how Barack Obama has used social media tools such as web video, crowdsourcing and social websourcing to bring hope to millions of Americans, raise tens of millions of dollars and build a giant-killing campaign.

Excerpt:
"Sure, blogs might become something else. Wikis will evolve into new toolsets and even YouTube will transform and be usurped by something else.
"But personal expression will not disappear. The desire of people to have a voice and to participate will only increase in the days to come. This is what technology is enabling on a scale never before seen on this planet.
"The organizations that embrace this shift will accomplish things never before thought possible. They will learn things that will amaze both them and their competitors. If this isn't worth the risk of "letting go of control" then I don't know what is."

A great read, with lots of examples. Click here for Sean's post.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 75

And now the 75th entry in our series of motivational quotes.

Well, this one may be more insightful than inspirational. Today Conrad Black goes to prison. To mark the occasion, here's a quote about Black from former journalist John Fraser, now master of Massey College in Toronto, who was Black's classmate at Upper Canada College in the late 1950s.

"Childhood was a prison for him. I remember Conrad as someone whose head was practically splitting because he was so impatient to get out into the real world and away from this nonsense of a boys' school."

"My earliest memory of [Black] would be in about grade six and how terribly, terribly conscious he was of wealth and power," recalls Fraser. "He was constantly sketching scenarios for taking over the college."

UCC eventually expelled Black for stealing exam papers and selling copies to other students.

Fraser's quotes were compiled by biographer Peter C. Newman in his 1998 book, The Titans. Although Newman has always lionized Black, sometimes he saw cleaarly. In the same book, Newman observed that Black "seems unable to take a single step that isn't aimed at his personal or corporate aggrandizement."

The best entrepreneurs I know all have egos. They are eager to make their own mark. But they don't try to subvert institutions they don't like. And they take pride in advancing the interests of customers, employees and partners, not just their own.