Friday, October 30, 2009

Starting a blog

I received an email this morning from a business contact who wants to get into blogging. Some may think blogging is being displaced by other social media such as Facebook or Twitter, but I still think it's a huge opportunity for business professionals with specialized expertise and an interest in sharing it for the benefit of clients, prospects and others.

In case you are still thinking of starting a blog, here is an copy of my response to her. It has been slightly edited to preserve confidentiality.

Hi, xxx. Thanks for your note. I just looked at your website and yes, I think you are a prime candidate to blog. You obviously possess high-value information and expertise in a narrow but crucial niche, and one that can make a big impact on company strategy and performance.

My definition of a successful business blogger is someone who has a lot of information that his/her clients would love to understand better, and who keeps him/herself updated on an ongoing basis. By sharing some of that knowledge, you A) help companies recognize the value of your service, and B) position yourself as a uniquely confident specialist who is open and easy to do business with. And of course Google will love you and position you highly in its search results.

After you get the blog up and running, you should also look at buying pay-per-click Google ads to make sure that anyone looking for your keywords (name of industry, product or service, location, etc.) will be more likely to find you. It's cheap and very targeted, and you pay only when someone clicks on your ad and goes to your site.

If it is important to you to be seen as a high-end blogger, I suggest you contact an Internet expert who can set you up with your own custom-designed site and custom blog tools. That is the best way to create a professional (and professional-looking) site. If you want to play around for a while to discover if this is for you before you invest any money (not that it's that expensive), then the free service I use is perfectly adequate: is owned by Google and is one of several popular free blogging sites. You can go there, register, then pick a design from among the free templates on offer. You can be posting articles in 10 minutes. You can also post photos and other graphics. There are also lots of choices for added tools and "sidebar" gadgets, such as favourite links, accessing older content, serving up related business headlines, linking Facebook and Twitter, etc.

The coolest thing about blogging is that you don't have to write everything yourself. It is perfectly legit, and useful to your readers, to post links to (and maybe summaries of) other interesting articles on the Web you run across that relate to your topic.

If you can be a one-stop shop to update your readers on all the significant ideas and issues in your space (ie, both an aggregator and a filter, giving them only information of value), you will be providing a welcome service, which again positions you well as a preferred advisor.

One other point: a blog can take some time to develop traction (ie, people find out about it and return regularly). So you need to work actively to promote it, by linking from your website and emails, mentioning it as often as possible, putting the URL on your business cards, etc.

You might also propose a "link exchange" with other sites in your industry, in which you agree to post links to each others' site/blog in order to provide a more well rounded service to your readers/clients.

One final note before I overwhelm you: Blogger will give you a URL that reads something like . You should create an alternate URL to point your readers to (shorter, more professional looking and easier to remember) as soon as possible. Best thing for you would probably be to tuck it into your current site (eg, Any web consultant can help you do that.

Best of luck. Let me know if you have any questions.


Death of a Growth Company

What's sadder than a fast-growth company that falls victim to its own success?

My latest column in PROFIT magazine looks at a PROFIT 100 company that took a one-way trip to the seven circles of hell. Dante Manufacturing (not its real name) had a great concept and a great future, but executive blindness did it in.

Here’s an excerpt:

Explore alternative financing before you need it
"As conditions worsened, the bank warned that its continued support was contingent on Dante raising more equity capital. Suddenly, Ghieri had to learn all about private equity, mezzanine financing and asset-based lending. Identifying potential suppliers took weeks; negotiating possible deals took months. Ghieri was just days from a deal when the firm’s creditors blew the whistle. Dante died of self-inflicted wounds."

You can read the full sad story here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Here's an opportunity for someone

The following item is reprinted in full from a Dec. 27, 2007 post on this blog. After all, Santa Claus is coming to town in just 60 days.

"Every problem is an opportunity for someone"

There’s gotta be a business opportunity in here somewhere.

A recent Globe & Mail online poll asked the question, “After the holiday season, how do you feel?” Out of nearly 6,000 respondents, 31% said they felt “more refreshed.”

The other 69% say they feel “totally exhausted.”

How could your business help these exhausted consumers next year?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jack Poole: 1933-2009

Heavy traffic on this blog today following the death of Jack Poole, legendary Western Canada entrepreneur and chairman of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Organizing Committee.

Poole died early today of cancer - just 24 hours after the torch for the Vancouver Olympics was lit in Greece. He was 76.

Poole rose from modest Saskatchewan roots to become one of Canada's most successful real-estate developers. A few months ago, journalist Gary Mason wrote an epic profile of Poole in BC Business Magazine. On July 9th, I wrote a blogpost linking to that article and highlighting some of Jack's classic quotes, as compiled by Mason.

Tough guy, straight shooter, community builder, inspiring entrepreneur, Order of Canada honoree: RIP, Jack Poole.

Read CTV's hastily compiled yet eminently detailed obituary story here.
The National Post weighs in here.

Click here for the original BC Business article (July 2009).
Or click here for my blog's "condensed" version of that article: The Epic Struggle of Jack Poole.

Asking for Referrals

My column this week in the Financial Post looks at the lost art of asking for referrals.

I have been hearing from more and more entrepreneurs lately that most means of marketing just aren't working for them this year. What still works, they say, is old-fashioned word of mouth and referrals. So I thought I'd look into why referrals are so hot.

"Done properly, referrals solve lots of problems endemic in our low-trust age. Despite today's hyper-competitive markets, buyers are still beset by doubts: Will this new supplier come through? Will the product do what they say it can, and will I get value for my money? Nobody trusts anybody anymore.

Referrals break this logjam of uncertainty by helping you tap into established trust networks of already satisfied customers. They transform you from just another marketer-on-the-make to a proven problem solver. But only if you remind customers to recommend you
. "

How do you get great referrals? Click here for more

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Great speakers, great speaking tips

Want to meet the next generation of professional speakers?
Would you like to pick up practical, useful tips on how to become a better speaker?

Come out Thursday night to the Speakers Gold Talent Showcase, featuring 12 specially selected, up-and-coming speakers battling head-to-head to win gold. And you get to vote for the winner!

(Think of this as a live version of American Idol, or So You Think You Can Dance, except that you will hear great stories, emotional epiphanies, and many more metaphors.)

The event is this Thursday, Oct. 22, at 6.30 pm, at the King Edward Hotel in downtown Toronto. The venue was just changed due to high ticket sales, so there are a few more tickets available.

I will be a judge in the competition, as I was last year. The 2008 event was fun and memorable – a classy way to spend an evening in the big city.

My fellow judges will be James Erdt and Alizabeth Calder. (James, founder of, won last year’s competition. Alizabeth is author of the new book Growing Up: Practical Strategies for Sustainable Business Growth.)

The judges will be commenting on each performance and trying, as best we can, to be helpful and practical without being discouraging.

These speakers will make you laugh and they’ll touch your heart. They’ll challenge your thinking and open your mind to new possibilities. Or you could stay home and watch The Office.

For tickets, contact Cathleen Fillmore at Speakers Gold (, or call 416 532-9886. For more details visit

And here’s a link to the Financial Post column I wrote distilling the 10 best speaking tips learned at last year’s event. I just reread it and it's good stuff.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Happy SB Week!

Small Business Week is a great time for entrepreneurs to get up out of the trenches for a moment, reflect on their accomplishments and plan their future growth.

Well, any day is a good day to do that. But this week (and to some extent, next week) there are lots of resources to help you, from the SBW Mega Mixer Trade Expo in Grand Prairie, Alta., on Oct. 22 to the Hants County "Turning the Corner: Seizing Opportunities After the Recession" workshop in Windsor, NS, on Oct. 30.

Best single source of info for SBW events is the Business Development Bank (BDC) website at . In Ontario, Google "Bridges for Better Business" in your community to see if there's a full-day business conference scheduled close to you.

Or contact your local economic development/Community Futures office to find out what's going on. Even if they're not doing anything special for SB Week, chances are they have useful seminars and events coming up that you really should be taking advantage of. And you can look forward to swapping cards with other growth-minded entrepreneurs while you're there.

The best entrepreneurs I know are sponges for information, always trying to get smarter and do better. Jump right in to SB Week. The water's fine.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

7 "subject line" blunders you may be making

Want more people to open your emails? Pay more attention to the subject line.

It’s your headline, the scene-setter, the call to action that should grab your target's attention and create credibility and excitement at the same time.

In a new article posted at, email expert Wendy Roth reveals how to get your subject line working harder for you. “Sending an email message with a lacklustre subject line is like building a house without a front door,” she writes. “Maybe your recipients will walk around the house to find a back door, or try to crawl through a window. More likely, they'll just shrug and walk away.”

Roth, senior manager of training services for Lyris, Inc., a pioneer in email and online marketing, says that everyone now gets more email than ever, so your messages have to work harder than ever to stand out.

Here is Roth's list of the 7 most common blunders marketers make when crafting subject lines.
1. Personalization run amok: When you use names in your database to ”personalize” emails, you run the risk of offending people or turning them off. They might not use that name regularly, or it might be a pseudonym. “Write meaningful subject lines that speak to their interests instead of slapping a name on another boring subject line,” says Roth.

2. No "oomph" to the urgency: State a time limit in your subject line if your offer has one.

3. Call-to-action is MIA: “Always tell the reader what you want him or her to do. The call-to-action doesn't have to be "Buy Now." It's the hook that will persuade the reader to act: an incentive, an urgency reminder, a price, a store opening.”
4. Call-to-action amputation: Assume most inboxes will cut off subject lines at 60 to 70 characters. Make sure your critical information appears in that space.

5. "Same-old, same-old" syndrome: When you publish regularly, a standing headline (e.g., “News from Gocter & Pramble”) might save you a few minutes, but it doesn't give readers a reason to look further. Use your top story or best offer to create the subject line.

6. Funky punctuation: Use punctuation sparingly in subject lines. It confuses more often than it clarifies.

7. Cryptic subjects: Recent real-life example: "NEW: Samsung 23" LCD $199... Sony 40" 1080p HDTV $749...Core 2 Duo Laptop w/ HD Graphics $579 & More New Deals" “You shouldn't have to know geek speak to understand what's going on," says Roth. "Focus on a key deal or two in your subject line and include more detail.”

To fix these problems forever, take advantage of email’s flexibility for research. Test different offers, different subject lines, different approaches. It takes only moments to fine-tune your emails, offers and subject lines to test different approaches with every mailing. The response from your list will let you know if you're on the right track.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

100,000th Visitor!!!

One of the 170 visitors to my blog yesterday was our 100,000th visitor. It happened early yesterday morning, and because I was on the go from dawn till dark, I never got a chance to acknowledge it or hand out the book prize I’d intended to give away.

I will make amends by handing out a copy of my book, Secrets of Success from Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, to one lucky attendee at my morning keynote presentation at the SOHO Vancouver conference tomorrow. Hope to see you there!

And thanks, as always, for visiting this blog. Your interest and comments are always appreciated.

Maslow and "Deep Loyalty"

My column this week in the Financial Post looks at how you, your products or your company can absolutely maximize customer satisfaction and create “deep loyalty.” And you may have first learned about it in first-year sociology.

According to Chip Conley, founder of the California boutique hotel chain Joie de Vivre, the secret is to use Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" to delight your customers, employees and other key stakeholders. By supplying not only basic needs (e.g. food and shelter), but also people’s needs for safety, belonging and esteem, we can turn the customer experience into a significant competitive advantage.

Using this strategy, Joie de Vivre has not only survived the latest recession, but it is gaining market share. Better still, Conley told me in our interview, “We're creating an operating manual for working with humans."

Read the full story here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Rebuilding the Dream: 10 Reasons to Attend

Mandie Crawford of Roaring Women is the entrepreneur behind Rebuilding the Dream, a two-day business conference in Hamilton, Ont., October 16-17. Since Mandie (an ex-cop, visionary and marketing whiz) is behind it, it'll be a weekend like no other!

And yes - I will be involved. I am doing the Oct. 17 lunchtime keynote, and a workshop on how to build buzz for your business. You can see the full agenda here.

Mandie's goal: to help you prepare your business to thrive and succeed for the next 10 years!

Mandie has written up 21 reasons why you should attend. Here are just 10 of them:

1. To see your future you need to live it now!
2. Business is changing - you need to be in the know
3. Build your contact list - meet good contacts
4. Develop long-term vision
5. Connect with media
6. Break through barriers of time
7. Guerrilla marketing techniques unleashed
8. Become accountable to yourself and your dreams.
9. Learn how to fire the wrong clients while building your business !
10. Learn how to laugh at disasters, reduce stress and move forward

For the rest of Mandie's list, click here.
See you in Hamilton!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Most Impressive Launch

This press release received today is about the most impressive business launch I have ever seen. This is how you build a business: with product, supply, distribution, message, design and mission all figured out and working in harmony.
I can't wait to see how this goes.

Oliberté Launches 1st Urban-Casual Shoe Company Made in Africa

Oliberté is a new shoe company showcasing the true potential of Africa. Working to-date in Liberia and Ethiopia the company looks to work in over 10 African countries in the next years. Shoes are sold and targeted in Canada, USA, Europe, Japan and Australia.

Oakville, Ontario October 1st, 2009 -- Headquarted in Canada, Oliberté has launched the first international footwear company to work exclusively in Africa. Designs for men and women shoes are urban-casual inspired and sold online ( and in select stores this Fall in Canada and the United States. Initial styles include ROVIA (Men) and ELIKA (Women) which retail for $95-120 are sleek and have colourful pop with Oliberté`s signatures including thin crepe rubber soles and circles throughout designs.


Oliberté is a new revolution showcasing the true potential of Africa. Every time someone buys a pair of Oliberté shoes, they are showing to the world that Africa is more than just poverty - that it is full of pride, power and liberty .

"Oliberté is a new revolution showcasing the true potential of Africa. Every time someone buys a pair of Oliberté shoes, they are showing to the world that Africa is more than just poverty - that it is full of pride, power and liberty," said Tal Dehtiar, Oliberté's Founder and President. "All the attention on Africa is focused on alleviating poverty, but the only real way to alleviate poverty on this beautiful continent is to build a middle class that includes fair-paying jobs. The more shoes sold, the more fair jobs will be created at local factories where Oliberté works which ultimately changes lives for the better."

The rubber for Oliberté footwear comes from natural milk from rubber trees that have been tapped in Liberia. Liberia has the largest amount of natural rubber in Africa, but because of decades of civil unrest, it has been difficult to work in this West African Country. Today, Liberia is moving forward and Oliberté is thrilled to work with the country in creating local jobs and the first to process its rubber into natural crepe soles.

The shoes themselves are manufactured in Ethiopia, which has the largest selection of natural hides in Africa and a growing footwear manufacturing industry. By 2015, Oliberté looks to work in over 10 countries in Africa to source material, accessories and manufacture its shoes that will be sold from Canada to USA to Europe to Australia to Japan.

"If we wanted to make cheap shoes, we'd simple go to Asia, but this is NOT about cheap shoes or labour. This is about premium quality and fashionable footwear that creates fair paying jobs in the poorest countries of the world. Pride. Power. Liberty. This is the real Africa. This is Oliberté." -- Tal Dehtiar

Launched in 2009, Oliberté Limited is headquartered in Canada and founded by Tal Dehtiar, who, in 2004, launched the international charity MBAs Without Borders (MWB) that supports small businesses in Africa, Asia and Latin America. MWB was recently acquired by CDS Development Solutions but for his work, Tal was recognized with the International Youth Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award and nominated for the YMCA Peace Award, Canada's Top 40 Under 40 and Ernst and Young's Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

Rick again: Very impressive debut. Only thing missing is a list of participating retailers; the website says it is "coming soon." I hope so. I'd hate to see them lose the momentum of such an impactful launch. And at any rate, you can buy the shoes through

After the recession: more trouble

My Financial Post column this week looks at the economic prospects of the long-awaited recovery – and why things may not turn out as rosy as we would like.

According to an economic briefing I attended last week, the post-recession period will be marked by high interest rates and resurgent inflation, which could reach 6% by 2012 – which would be a 25-year high.

But forewarned is forearmed, so the column also offers counter-strategies to help entrepreneurs make the best of these conditions. A few ideas:

• Borrow now: “If you wait until there's undeniable proof of the recovery, then you'll be paying higher rates along with everyone else."

• Cut back costly entitlements: "Don't give people raises for nothing,"

• Use automation to control rising labour costs

• Burrow deeper into your market niche: The narrower and more exclusive your niche, the more you can set the pricing trends.

You can read the full story here.

The Robots Are Coming!

This real-life "Transformers" video is wonderful and eerie at the same time - with the background music adding a melancholy note. Auld lang syne for humanity? Or will we all travel around in the future on robotic shoulders?

Either way, science is moving ahead faster than we can imagine.