Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Magna, Manga and the Rising Sun

Speaking of exporting… (see previous post), the Globe’s Marcus Gee has an eye-opening article today on Japan. Basically, he’s reminding Canadian business people that in their rush to make their fortune in China, they shouldn't ignore the opportunities in the land of the rising sun.

Marcus dug up these facts you may not have known:

* Japan is still the world's second biggest economy, bigger than China and India combined.
* Greater Tokyo alone has a larger gross domestic product than China.
* Canadian high-tech exports to Japan are growing 15% a year. More than 60 Canadian high-tech companies are now based in Japan - surpassing the number of companies in more traditional export sectors such as agriculture and resources.
* Between 1994 and 2006, the share of Japanese imports from Canada in non-resource areas - aerospace, pharmaceuticals, machinery, consumer goods – has risen to 9.5% of total trade from 4.5%.
* “Magna and other Canadian car parts companies are active in Japan, as are more than 20 Canadian software companies, some of them exploiting the thriving animation business around Japanese comic forms such as anime and manga.”

Gee says all kinds of opportunities beckon to Canadian entrepreneurs: in financial services (Manulife Financial is a winner there), medical services, elder care, and pharmaceuticals. And also in high-end fashion, outdoor wear and cosmetics, biotech and nanotech, aerospace, and environmental industries.

Rightly, he admits there are still many barriers to doing business in Japan. “Its efforts at reforming and deregulating the economy to make it more flexible and more open to foreign interests have been halting at best. Since the departure of reforming prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, they seem to have run out of steam altogether.”

Still, he concludes, as industrialized democracies, "Canada and Japan have lots in common - more, you could argue, than Canada and China. They should start showing it.”

Until it slips behind the dreaded pay wall, you can read Marcus’s column here.

Going Global - Together

It’s a big day here at Canadian Entrepreneur. We’re launching the first in a three-episode series of podcasts from UPS Canada on business growth and exporting.

To quote the official release:

"Reaching out a helping hand to Canada’s small business market, UPS Canada today announced the launch of a new advice-oriented podcast series called Logistically Speaking. Hosted by Canadian small business expert, journalist and blogger Rick Spence, the podcasts will be available for download through iTunes and other podcast directories, as well as on UPS.com.

“We’re always on the lookout for new ways to reach Canada’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), providing them with advice to help them stay competitive in today’s global marketplace,” said Greg Kane, vice-president of communications for UPS Canada. “With limited time and resources on their hands, we felt a podcast would be an ideal way to reach out to busy entrepreneurs and offer downloadable tips and tools for improving their businesses.”

UPS deserves a lot of credit on this project. This is not a “sell”-- it’s an attempt to provide information that real people need. The focus is on information, and there’s good information here if you give it a listen.

Of course, if enough people listen to the podcast, we'll do more of them.

And it’s on iTunes. Next maybe I’ll be hanging out with Bono at the Grammies.

In this month's episode, I’m interviewing Justine Hendricks, Regional Vice-President of Small Business Sales, Export Development Canada, on the topic: Why Go Global? Lots of great info and inspiration from a woman who knows her stuff.

You can hear or download the 'cast here. It’ll take you 10 minutes to listen.
Let me know what you think.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 82

Here's the latest instalment in our series of motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspired start.

This week: management advice from a Candian icon who never really managed much, but seems to have developed good instincts.

As a leader, "You've got to cultivate the ability of your colleagues... It's very important to have strong people around you."

Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada
quoted in today's National Post

Canwest journalist Peter O'neil interviewed Campbell in her Paris flat, which she shares with husband Hershey Felder. Now "a consultant and roving public speaker," she calls current PM Stephen Harper a control freak and urges him to lighten up if he ever wants to win a majority.

While she believes the Harper government has been "quite competent," she worries about Harper's "controlling" tendencies. "Maybe he doesn't trust the ability of his ministers, but I think it's very important to have strong people around you."

That's good advice for any leader. If you want your organization to have a future, empower the people around you.

Campbell also suggests that Harper make better use of another key leadership tool: communication. She says his party is stuck at 40% in the polls because Canadians are nervous about the potential impact of the many social conservatives in his caucus.

"Maybe what he needs to do is be a little bit franker about what he would do if he got a majority government."

Absolutely. Secrets create uncertainty and suspicion. Shared visions create trust and credibility.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Are You ETDBW?

How easy are you to do business with?

In this day of unfettered and increasing competition, your ability to distinguish yourself through being “easy to do business with” could become a strategic differentiator. But first, you have to be genuinely customer-focused: you have to put the customer's needs ahead of your own.

That's harder to do than it sounds. Every organization has rules and policies for its own health that interfere with its ability to satisfy customers quickly and efficiently. Think of companies that rush to market with buggy software, hoping to make up for it with updates later; products with warranties that aren't what they seem, with the truth buried in the print; retail stores with spotty inventory records and untrained staff who can't tell you the difference between Product A and Product B; and companies that make you regret ever doing business with them at all when you try to make a return or exchange.

My column in this month’s PROFIT magazine looks at ways to make your business “easier to do business with.” To remind you that bad service is still all around us, the article also recounts the ludicrous story of a company that put one barrier after another in front of me when I went to it for help.

How do you lead your business on the path to being Easy to do Business With?

* Look internally first. Find out where your own people are “roadblocked,” where your own rules prevent them from helping customers.

* Analyze your business from the client's point of view. Survey your customers, track their complaints or ask your front-line people what’s preventing their prospects from buying more. They'll have lots to tell you.

* Empower your employees to take the customer’s side. Seattle-based department-store chain Nordstrom reduced its employees handbook to one rule: “Use your good judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.”

Read the full story here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"My name is Rick and I'll be your interrogator today"

Here's the link to today's Financial Post column recounting my experiences at the Dragons' Den auditions.

In this article I give the CBC TV show credit for raising "investor awareness" among Canadian entrepreneurs:"

"Dragons' Den is doing a great job educating Canadian innovators about the cruel realities of markets. This was my second stint as a deputy dragon. I was delighted to see pitches were much stronger than last year. The essential message of capitalism is getting through: To win investors' support, you must know your market and offer a return that more than compensates the risk. Pitchers are talking more about the size of the opportunity, market growth and
return on investment."
Of course, nobody's perfect. I found 5 common errors that should be taken into account by anyone pitching business ideas and opportunities:

* Not clearly stating what you want.
* Putting too much faith in the idea.
* Failing to differentiate your product.
* Not selling yourself.
* Taking too long.

Read the article here.

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 81

Here's your motivational quote of the week, personally guaranteed to give your week an inspired start.

This week: a quote from "name-withheld." I just thought it did a great job summarizing the entrepreneurial condition.

Last week I was chatting with an entrepreneur who was glorying in his discovery of the value of financial statements. It turns out they're not a chore at all -- they're fabulous tools for planning, managing and reviewing your business! This was a revelation to my contact, who had been shunning budgets and P&Ls until his accountant finally sat him down and set him straight.

Why didn't he get on this sooner? Here's his quote:

"I’m one of those people that if I don’t understand how to do it, I just avoid it till it hurts."

I think he's speaking for thousands of Canadian entrepreneurs when he explains what held him back. And it shows just how important it is to educate your audience if you want them to get the most out of your products and services.

Memo to the accounting industry: there's a huge opportunity for you to help small business owners strengthen their businesses by entering the information economy - simply by helping them set up get the right forms and reports for their business.

Mandie Crawford, president of Roaring Women, was saying the other day on our Internet radio show that she encountered many entrepreneurs on her recent coaching tour who are totally clueless when it comes to bookkeeping and accounting. Some said they haven't even filled out a tax return in years.

Maybe we need an Accounting Amnesty Day: come out of the woods, talk to a professional, get your books back in order, get your business back on track. Stop hiding. End the pain. Because eventually it will really hurt.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Never Ask for an Audit

It’s spring, so entrepreneurs’ minds are naturally filled with thoughts of – taxes.

Visa Canada’s small business site has a slew of articles targeted at Canadian entrepreneurs, but none is more timely than “Beat the Taxman,” by Roger Pierce of BizLaunch.ca.

He reminds us that financing your taxes isn't just a chore in small business: it’s also a revenue opportunity. “Having business income gives you more options for tax reductions than a T4 slip... (But) without proper knowledge, tax reduction can quickly become tax evasion.”

Here are Roger’s top timely tax tips:

Organize. “Speak to your accountant. Learn how they want to receive your information, which reports are useful and how you should organize your back-up material.”
Know your Deductions. “You can deduct all reasonable expenses that you incur for the sole purpose of earning business income…. and keep the evidence for six years.”
Use tax splitting as a way of reducing tax liability
Employ your family
Draw a salary package that minimizes your tax liability.
Talk to your accountant about such “pleasant tax surprises” as :
* Using a provision for bad debts as a means of deferring the payment of tax.
* Certain household expenses are deductible if you work from home.
* If you operate as a sole proprietor, you can apply losses against other income.
And in the category of “Don't Even Think About It,” Roger reminds you not to cheat by trying to deduct:
* Personal and domestic expenses not eligible for the "business-use-of-home" deduction
* Investments purchased for personal use
* Fines for illegal acts, including traffic violations, and professional fees paid to defend these fines in court
As Roger warns, “Attempt to include the wrong deductions and you may be asking for an audit.”

Click here to read the article at Visa.ca
Click here for more on Bizlaunch’s services for entrepreneurs

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What drives the world’s richest man?

Nick Kuzyk, an MBA student at the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, was one of a handful of Western students who traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to meet with the world’s savviest investor – Warren Buffett – on March 31. I just now discovered Nick’s short blog, which chronicles his preparation for the trip, and the meeting itself.

Kuzyk was impressed with Buffett’s plain-spoken modesty and honesty. In his post about the visit, he says he didn't really learn anything specific from the man – even though Kuzyk cannily arranged the seating so he would be right across the table from Buffett throughout lunch. (Buffett had a double-sized root beer float for dessert, and yes, he picked up the tab.)
But as Kuzyk struggled to find the meaning in the meeting, he came up with one beautiful image: “The overall moral that he taught us was that all the riches in the world are nothing if you can't stroll the streets of your hometown as did you when you were a kid.”

A little later, Kuzyk discovered a few more "takeaways" in a post he called “Key Learnings from the Oracle.” Here are five of the lessons he learned from meeting Warren Buffett.
* Brilliance is the ability to funnel a massive amount of information into a simple yes/no decision
* Being an inherent optimist is a key trait to success
* Start playing Bridge
* Happiness is tap dancing to work every day
* Success begets success. And it starts from the inside and flows out
For more of Kuzyk’s Lessons, click here.
To read his post, My time with Warren Buffett, click here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How many hats do you wear?

Dan Bannister of OneWord Photography in Calgary takes great pictures and writes a pretty good blog, too.

In a recent post entitled “A Million Hats,” he wrote about the many different hats that a professional photographer must wear in order to be successful. Like most craftspeople who get into a job because they like doing the work (think artists, writers, composers, coaches, athletes, inventors, etc.), he finds himself spending surprisingly little time doing what he loves – and most of his time doing business “stuff”.

As he writes, “there is so much more to being a professional photographer that taking good pictures almost comes in near the bottom of the list of what it takes to run a successful photography business.”

Here are Dan's 9 hats:

* Web Designer
* Computer Tech (“Anyone trying to make money at photography today has to be pretty tech-savvy. As a result, the number of “Dummies” books I have is actually causing the shelves to sag.”)
* Accountant (“If you can’t keep track of what’s coming in and going out, the cold hard truth is, you’re not gonna make it.”)
* Salesperson (“The communications and marketing people at most typical corporate accounts don’t get the whole “artist” thing and they expect you to able to communicate and interact with them as a business person.")
* Marketing Guru (“You need to be good at this and you need to be consistent.”)
* Lawyer (“Sadly, you’re eventually going to run into the need for some legal advice… You’d be well served to at least know where the law library is in your town and know how to look up the fundamentals of whatever issue you’re dealing with.”)
* Secretary
* Travel Agent (“You gotta be able to get there and back on your own, feed and shelter yourself while on assignment, and do it all at a reasonable cost.”)

Oh yeah, says Dan. “You have to able to take decent pictures, too.”

Check out Dan’s blogpost here. (And browse his pics while you're there.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 80

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

This week: one of my favorite quotes from PROFIT Magazine's PROFIT 100 research in the 1990s.

"There are three kinds of service you can give to people. Less than they expected, which we call 'Yuck'; what they expected, which we call 'Blah'; and more than they expected, which is 'Wow'. We only deliver Wow."

Igor Korenzvit (IKOR Integrated Facilities Inc., office furniture dealer, Toronto)

What does Mr. Korenzvit mean by "wow" service? Here's what he told us:
" If somebody asks me to call them tomorrow, I call them today. If they want a price on a chair, I'll get them the price, and then tell them there are two other chairs that are just as good but cost less. If we're supposed to install 100 work stations in a week, we'll do it in four days. And then, we'll ask what else we can do, like moving their old furniture into the basement. You'd be surprised how many dealers wouldn't think of that."

How could your firm deliver "Wow Service"?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Recession Watch, part V

On the recession front, I just read an interesting report in a recent issue of Fortune magazine.

“Affordable luxury” brands such as Tiffany & Co. and Coach are suffering in the current U.S. economic slowdown. As the middle class trims its sails, upscale retailers are abandoning the mid-priced luxury market. In tight times, the middle is no place to be.

Examples: Coach recently announced it would shift 40 of its nearly 300 stores into a more exclusive format offering higher-end bags (no more $300 handbags for luxe-class wannabes) and personal concierge service.

Taking the opposite tack, Tiffany is opening a new California store that will forgo the Audrey Hepburn diamonds and focus on inexpensive jewelry, such as $200-and-under silver baubles.

Clearly, these marketers are betting that the high end and the low end will both do better than the muddy middle through the current economic slowdown.

What is your business doing to adjust to today’s emerging consumer realities?

Friday, April 11, 2008

How to Pitch a Dragon


Just a reminder that I’m scheduled to help out at the Dragons’ Den Toronto auditions tomorrow at the CBC Broadcast Centre downtown on Front Street.

The goal is to find entrepreneurs whose products, services or business ideas are worth putting in front of the real dragons on national TV when the show returns next fall. That means that both you and your ideas must be credible. (Unless you want to be one of those “comic relief” pitchers that the producers stick in occasionally for laughs!)

This is (mostly) serious business. You must be able to answer the questions that any investor would ask, anytime you pitch a business idea. And you have two minutes to do it.

Here are the 10 most important questions you're likely to be asked – on Dragons’ Den, or wherever you make a business pitch like this.

1. What is your product/service/idea? (Be able to answer this question in about 10 seconds).
2. Who/what is the market for this product?
3. How big is this market?
4. What makes this product different from its competitors?
5. What is proprietary about your idea? (i.e., what prevents someone from copying your idea?)
6. What research have you done to make sure this product will succeed?
7. How much outside capital does your business idea require? How much of your business are you prepared to offer in return for that money?
8. What will the money be used for?
9. How big can this business be?
10. Why are you there right person to make this work?

When I auditioned pitchers last year, I discovered that almost nobody could answer more than three of these questions. Note that this doesn't give you an excuse to cut corners - but it should give you some idea of the opportunity you have to stand out from the crowd!

Essential Advice: When pitching a project like this, prepare. Practice, practice, practice. Don't look or sound like you;re making this pitch for the first time.

And bring a high level of energy and passion to your presentation. If you can't get excited about this opportunity, why would anyone else?
To audition for Dragons' Den, or for a schedule of audition dates, click here.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Cure for Inertia

I wrote a while ago about the dreaded disease known as entrepreneurial inertia. Well, here’s a cure.

Synnex Canada CEO Jim Estill, who blogs on time manstery and his peripatetic life at Time Leadership, wrote a recent post on “11 tricks for Self Discipline.” In it he reveals 11 ways he cajoles, bribes, tricks, tempts and compels himself to Get Stuff Done.

I won't spoil things by revealing all 11. But here are five.

1 - To add to the motivation, tie in an added reward. Take something you want and "reward yourself" if you do the task you want to discipline yourself to do.

2 - Same thing, but punish if you do not do it. Often punishment is more of an incentive than reward.

4 - Create an environment that supports what you want to do. If you always work in a specific place, you become acclimatized to it so it is easier.

10 - Work with a buddy. Often just having someone to hold us accountable makes us work harder.

11 - Track it. Ideally track it positively. Rather than lose weight, weigh X. What gets measured gets worked on. I write my workouts in a book.

Read Jim’s full post here.

Let someone else do it!

More and more I realize that the secret to running a successful business is delegating.

You already have too much to do. To succeed, business owners must: leverage their time and their strengths; empower and engage their employees by assigning challenging tasks that encourage initiative and creativity; and restrict their time on projects to simply adding that extra drop of value that only they can provide.

Otherwise, they will never develop their employees properly, create the mutual trust they need, or build a business that will ever reach its full potential.

How do you start delegating? MarketingProfs.com’s small business newsletter today has an article called, “Be a Super Delegator.” In it Jane Schulte, author of Work Smart, Not Hard!, offers six pointers for successful delegation:

* Start small, then increase delegation as skills develop.
* Define clear goals, deadlines and criteria for success.
* Provide all the needed resources and information.
* Give your subordinate full authority over the project.
* Offer guidance and advice without interfering.
* Focus on results, not the process.
If the project is successful, says Shulte, credit the person who got it done. If there was a problem, shield the subordinate from blame. "Learn from the experience so you can delegate more effectively, provide more training or delegate the next project to a different person," she says.

You can read the full article here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Entrepreneurs' confidence sinks in U.S.

A Bloomberg story in today’s National Post reports that small business confidence has sunk to a 28-year low. Business owners say they're scaling back their hiring and spending plans.

The National Federation of Independent Business's "Optimism Index" declined last month from 92.9 in February to 89.6, the lowest reading since the second quarter of 1980.

"These are recession readings," says NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg. "The sharp decline in job creation plans does not augur well for economic growth in the near term."

The share of owners expecting to create jobs over the next three months dropped 8 percentage points to 3%, the lowest reading since March 2003. Those expecting to spend more on new equipment and construction over the next six months fell 1 percentage point, to 25%.

You can read more depressing statistics here.

Continuing the recession theme, my column in yesterday’s Post dealt with marketing in tough times – a topic which now looks even more apt. While the business slowdown will be less pronounced in Canada than in the U.S., all marketers should be reviewing their budgets and revising their plans given the gloomy outlook in the U.S. (which is not only our nearest neighbour but by far our most important trading partner).

What should marketers do? Focus on direct marketing for faster payback. And tweak your approaches (and measure the results) so you know which initiatives, offers and pitches work best.
Here's the link to "Market wisely in tough times."

Monday, April 07, 2008

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes, Week 79

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

Today, a Canadian business guru on how leaders create an "innovation culture" in their companies:

"They’ve managed to instill a culture that has everyone thinking about what can be done – they are forward-oriented. It’s a culture in which people are thinking less about the problems that have occurred and more about the cool strategies that could be pursued. They don't run change-management workshops: they have strategic session on “growing the business.” It’s not an easy task, but innovative organizations have managed to get their people away from “right now” to “our next step.”

Jim Carroll, Mississauga, Ont. innovation expert and futurist, in his 2007 book, Ready, Set, Done.
http://www.jimcarroll.com/

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dragon Alert!

Canadian entrepreneurs, start your engines! Dragons’ Den is back, and on the road again.

Producers for the third season of CBC-TV’s Dragons’ Den are fanning out across the country this month and next to audition contestants for the show. Potential "pitchers" must have a promising business idea and be able to handle rejection and ridicule (not from the CBC staff, most likely, but from the Dragons themselves).

Here’s the newly released audition schedule:
Prince George, BC - April 7th at Prince George Civic Centre
Kingston, ON - April 8th at St. Lawrence College
Regina, SK - April 9th at Paul J. Hill School of Business, University of Regina
Saskatoon, SK - April 10th at Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan
Winnipeg, MB - April 12th at CBC Winnipeg
Toronto, ON - April 12th at CBC Toronto
Kitchener, ON - April 12th at The Accelerator Centre
London, ON - April 16th at Richard Ivey School of Business
Kelowna, BC - April 16th at Rotary Centre
Calgary, AB - April 18th &19th at Fairmont Palliser
Vancouver, BC - April 18th location TBD
Ottawa, ON - April 19th location TBD
Edmonton, AB - April 21st at CBC Edmonton
Victoria, BC - April 21st at Royal Roads University
Thunder Bay, ON - April 28th at Valhalla Inn
Sault Ste. Marie, ON - April 30th at Water Tower Inn
Montreal, QC - May 2nd location TBD
Moncton, NB - May 5th location TBD
St. John's, NL - May 5th at CBC St. John's
Cornerbrook, NL - May 8th location TBD
Charlottetown, PEI - May 8th at CBC Charlottetown
Halifax, NS - May 10th at Centre for Entrepreneurship Education & Development

I'm disappointed to see Summerside PEI has been dropped from the schedule this year, but hey, they've added the Soo! (See multiple Soo posts over the past week.)

I'll be helping out again at the Toronto audition on April 12. So if someone says, "Hi, my name's Rick and I'll be your interrogator this afternoon," you'll know it's me.

For audition details, click here
This year you can also "pitch" online. Click here for details.

For Sean Wise's instructional video on pro pitching, click here.
And click this way for my 2007 PROFIT column on my "Two Days in the Den."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Selling with your blog

A Canadian writer of electronic books wrote me the other day. He’s been writing a weekly blog to promote his wares, but it’s not doing much for him, and he wondered if I had any ideas.
Me? Ideas?
Here’s a slightly edited version of my reply. Many of the suggestions I made apply to just about any business, so I’m hoping it sparks a few ideas for you, too.


Hi, Bob (not his real name). I don't know much about the business of selling e-books, so I can only offer a few general observations.

1. I don't see a lot of links to your books in your blog. Surely when you mention one of your titles, you should link directly to the page where one can buy it. It's easy to do in most blogging platforms.

2. You seem to promote your books in every blogpost. I would suggest you tone it down. Why not write more about writing in general, or Shakespeare, or other books you like? Make sure people know you are interested in the conversation, not just in selling. That may also free you up to write more straightforward promotional posts - but not all the time!

3. Blogs work best when you engage your audience to contribute, too. Why not ask your readers to share their favorite books, poetry or places? Why not hold some sort of contest, and the winner gets to be a character in your next novel?

3a. To increase traffic, participate in (and link to) other related blogs. Leave comments on other blogs with links back to yours. And encourage the authors of other blogs to visit your site in return.

4. More, shorter posts are always better than longer and fewer.

5. Why not look into supplying RSS feeds? That way your fans can be alerted whenever you write a new posting.

6. Come up with a purpose for your blog. Why should people come to read your stuff? What's in it for them? Think of your readers as customers you have to please. Once you've established what their payoff is, maybe you'll attract more of them.

7. Your style is thoughtful and warm, but why not mix it up a bit? Be funny, or outrageous. Imagine one of your heroes coming into Starbuck's: how would they behave, how long before the police are called? Or attack a hack genre writer for releasing a trashy book without substance or value. Or offer to lead a crusade to teach our children to read more. These may be silly examples, but they represent new ways you could engage with your audience and extend your relationship.

8. SELL! Think of five reasons why people should buy your books: A) they only cost the price of a latte. B) you can buy them for others as gifts, or to cheer up a sick friend... I'm sure you can think of lots more.

9. Why not launch a group e-mail exchange with other writers and share marketing and promotion ideas? Look for ways to do joint promotions. Maybe you could gang up on the publisher and get them to offer half-price books on special holidays.

10. Raise a fuss with Sony and Amazon and Best Buy and anyone else who is standing in the way of creating an e-book culture in Canada. Anything you can do to attract attention is good.

Sorry, no brilliant thoughts. Just lots of hard (but inexpensive) slogging.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"There is no need for small dreams"

This week's Financial Post column was on economic development. The specific subject was the evolution of Sault Ste. Marie from industrial powerhouse to entrepreneurial centre (currently a work in progress).

(Writing Tip: How do you get people to read a column about economic development in the Soo? Work the Nazis into it!)

But the main theme of the story was much bigger: the need for all of Canada's commodity resource-based towns and cities to adapt to the Internet Age. A few years ago, any bright kid wanting a future outside the mill had to leave town: my thesis is that with the rise of e-mail, e-commerce and online collaboration, bright, ambitious people can live and work almost anywhere.

But they - and more importantly, the teachers, business leaders and economic development officials responsible for the future of these towns and cities - have to understand the information economy and the promise it holds for enterprising people in formerly remote resource towns. And they have to know there'll be lots of competition, from all over the world.

It's not just a new type of job, it's a whole new attitude. And the future of Canada (and many other places) depends on this attitude/awareness shift. So you can expect me to write about this more from time to time.

Click here to read my Post column.

"Thanks to the Internet, there will still be small towns. But there is no need for small dreams."

Online Resource Directory

Marcus P. Zillman, a U.S. expert on online business resources, has just compiled a new list of nearly 200 online sites for entrepreneurs. They range from Canadian Entrepreneur (you knew that was coming, right?) to Bplans.com, Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Business Owners' Idea Cafe, information for food entrepreneurs from PennState, Onvia.com (a former Canadian portal company now helping U.S. entrepreneurs win state contracts) and the Women's Business Center.

Check it out for the resources you need to build and grow your business. Click here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Handy Pocket-Sized Startup Guide

If you're interested in startups, or you know someone who is, run out and pick up a copy of today's Financial Post Business Magazine (April 2008 issue). It has an insert containing the entire 12-part startup series I wrote earlier this year for the Post, "12 Weeks to Startup."

Thrill once again to headlines like "Know your market by testing, talking," and "Dreaded paperwork comes before fun." Learn the three pitfalls of most business plans, and the three pillars of successful marketing plans. Find out what to do on Opening Day, and what to start doing the day after that.

To read the original "12 Weeks" series online (and in expanded form), click here. Special Bonus: You can also watch my "12 Weeks" videocasts at the same site.