Sunday, February 28, 2010

Final Olympics notes on Closing Ceremonies

My sporadic coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Winter-ish Olympics concludes tonight with a few thoughts on the closing ceremonies.

I loved the mime hauling up that reluctant fourth leg of the Olympic flame, Catriona Le May Doan’s welcome redo on lighting the torch, Neil Young’s solo rendition of Long May You Run as the torch expired, and even the speech by VANOC ceo John Furlong (Was there ever a worse public speaker? And his French is a national disgrace!). I also liked that he subtly, quietly, thanked Jack Poole.

By the way, I was pleased there was a much higher Quebec and French-language presence in this event than in the Opening Ceremeonies. The Olympics aren't just about BC.

I also loved the artistic and technological boldness of the Russian tribute, and even the giant Mounties, table hockey players and flying moose of Michael Buble’s big Busby Berkeley number.

There was big thinking there, and a tremendous sense of humour and irony. Although using O Canada over and over in an over-the-top takeoff seemed out of place.

The comics, however, from Bill Shatner to Michael J. Fox, were woefully underscripted (as Dragons’ Den stalwart W. Brett Wilson, at left wearing his moose hat, noted in his Twitter feed). They were painfully un-funny. (Is Canada really the ‘Final Frontier”?)

Besides, I was hoping the comedy would address and respect the global audience that waited up so long to watch – not just dig up old in-jokes that only Canadians would care about. (NBC signed off at 10:30 and shifted to Jerry Seinfeld.)

And the random bands getting one song each – I dunno. Not enough for those who love them, and too much for those who don't care for rock and rap. And why no boffo, emotional ending? Suddenly there were fireworks and it was all over.

It would also have been nice if a few members of the Canadian men’s hockey team could have made it to BC Place to join their fellow Olympians. According to CTV commentators, they were celebrating “quietly,” “with their families.” (Although they did say captain Scott Niedermayer tried to make it to BC Place, but no one seemed able to spot him.)

A few random remarks from folks on my Twitter feed:
startupcoach: RT @AdeleMcAlear: After the high of winning hockey gold, I hang my head in shame at the worst closing ceremonies ever. I'm so sorry ...

startupcoach: Agreed! RT @DavidLutzy: Ohhh yah! ... Closing ceremonies are over! .. we all deserve a gold medal for watching!
KevinGaudet: so much for a big ending.

MFBazzo: Il est temps que Stephen Harper proroge la cérémonie de clôture des JO!
KevinGaudet: There are audience members over 30, right?! country fans too...

WBrettWilson: Energy in the stands is slipping to the point people are leaving early. I was the biggest fan of the show until it became a random showcase.
derekhat: RT @gresco: This closing ceremony is why Canadians drink so much.

SusanDelacourt: Ok. Bring out Harper, let him play another Beatles tune and let's be done with this.
derekhat: I get the impression that a thirtysomething middle manager was given the job of selecting the performers for #van2010 closing ceremonies.

SusanDelacourt: Cdn host rules: hog good stuff, play music meaningful to only us, do comedy only ironic if you live here. And force ppl to eat seal.
rayluk: Oh no! Nickelback. Those poor Llamas

Overall, the Olympics were a huge success, and the performance of Canada’s athletes should make us all proud.
But I believe the city and people of Vancouver were the real stars. Friendly, efficient, world-class, and smiling through the rain.
Congratulations from a jealous Torontonian.

Movie contest ends tonight (tomorrow morning in Newfoundland)

Congrats on the gold-medal win for Canada's national men's hockey team.
(How cool is it that we don't just say "Canada's national hockey team" any more?)

You can be a winner too! Enter the contest for 2 free tickets to the premiere of the Young Entrepreneurs Movie in Toronto on Friday, March 5. Contest closes tonight at midnight, Pacific time.

Details are two posts below, or click here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Clara Hughes: Grace Under Pressure

We interrupt this business blog to bring you this breaking sports story.

Congratulations to Clara Hughes, the Canadian flagbearer in the Vancouver Olympics, who just won the bronze medal in the 5,000 metres speed-skating event - at the age of 37.

As mentioned Monday, when the indomitable cyclist-turned-speed-skater was featured in our Quote of the Week feature, Clara is one of very few Olympians to win in both the Summer and Winter Games - and apparently the only athlete ever to win multiple medals (i.e., more than one) in both.

Earlier this week we praised Clara for her can-do attitude - she competes with herself, not her opponents. Today, let us praise her for her graciousness in victory (yes, I think 3d place is a win). When she won her medal, she credited the Canadians watching her for the victory:

“It’s such an amazing feeling,” Hughes told CTV. “I want to say thank you to this amazing crowd once again. You gave me wings.”

Surely all business peope could learn from that kind of grace under pressure.

Hughes actually set the course record for the Richmond Oval in today's race, although it was eclipsed by a skater who followed.

The QMI Agency story at the Toronto Sun website makes the case that Hughes is "arguably the greatest Olympian in Canadian history."

Great job, Clara!

Join me at Young Entrepreneurs: The Movie

“Rebel millionaires at the cutting edge of every industry .. rather than following the conventional path created centuries ago, these modern day nonconformists had an idea, trusted their instincts, took a risk – and that risk paid off big!”

Yes, there is now a movie about the hot young (mainly American) entrepreneurs who are redfining business and success today. The Canadian premiere of The YES Movie (YES stands for Young Entrepreneur Society) is being held in Toronto on Friday, March 5. Read on for how you can win two tickets to the premiere!

"Individually and collectively, they are helping to create a paradigm shift of personal consciousness in what is possible for your life today!”

Louis Lautman is the young film-maker who interviewed 50 top business pundits and young new business leaders to find out how you make it in business today. It promises to be fast and frenetic and full of counter-intuitive advice, such as not just going out and building your product: sell it first, then build it.

"The YES Movie isn't fiction," says Lauter. "It's real and the experts are living luminaries of enthusiasm and ambition."

It may all be hype - Lautman is also trying to build a for-profit training and sales organization called the Young Entrepreneur Society. But real entrepreneurs don't write things off till they check them out, so I'll be at the Bloor Cinema at 7 pm on March 5 to see the movie for myself. And Lautman will be there too, to do a post-film Q&A.

(If you don't want to wait to see the movie, you can also order the DVD for US$29.95.)

Here's info on how to attend the premiere: http://yesmoviecanada.eventbrite.com/

If you'd like a chance to win two tickets to the premiere, here's what you do. Send me an email and tell me the name of the famous sculpture seen in the middle of the movie trailer (and no, not the big green statue). I will draw one name randomly from those who email me by midnight Sunday night, Feb. 28. And we will see you at the show!

Click below to watch the trailer. Or click here for the link.


Monday, February 22, 2010

The Champions' Way

While we’re talking about the Olympics (see previous post on Clara Hughes), my column today in the Financial Post looks at another aspect of the Olympic experience: Life After the Games.

Roman Hatashita, a three-time Canadian judo champion who competed in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, today runs Hatashita International, which may be Canada’s biggest distributor of martial arts clothing and equipment. And he’s full of ideas for expanding web sales and moving into the U.S. market.

And he credits much of his success to the lessons he learned in his athletic training:
• Passion
• Identifying competitors' weaknesses
• Hard work
• Persistence

"You don't always win," says Hatashita. In sports, "you lose most of the time. It makes you stronger."

Read his complete story here.

Best Entrepreneurial Quotes: Week 3

Clara Hughes of Winnipeg is the dynamic Canadian flag-bearer in this month’s Vancouver Olympics who made history as the first Canadian to win a medal in both the summer and winter games. She won two bronze medals in cycling in 1996 before earning two bronze, silver and gold in speed skating in 2002 and 2006.

Hughes, now 37 (pretty ancient for an Olympian), finished fifth last week in the 3,000 metres. She competes in the 5,000 metre speed skating event in Richmond on Wednesday.
Here’s a great quote from Clara that speaks to the need for athletes, entrepreneurs and other competitors to avoid complaining about the conditions of the competition and focus on your own personal performance:

“I'll skate on concrete if I have to. I'm not worried about how fast the ice is. I'm worried about how fast I can go on the ice.”

And here’s why she became flag bearer and was awarded the Order of Canada. After giving up cycling to focus on skating, and then coming back from the middle of the pack to win her gold medal in the 5,000 metres in Torino in 2006, she said, “If you dream and you allow yourself to dream you can do anything. And that's what this Olympic medal represents.”

A great competitor, and a wonderful role model. Good luck, Clara!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Keep Your Clients Coming Back for More

Following up on the “customer first” theme of the previous post, I found an interesting article today called, “Seven Tips to Keep Your Clients Coming Back for More.” While it’s written primarily for freelancers, I think any meeting-oriented business could benefit from its ideas.

Author Lexi Rodrigo, creator of The Savvy Freelancer blog, advises that it’s easier to get more business from existing clients than from new ones. She offers seven tips to increase repeat business:

1. Offer packages for recurring work.
2. Give your best clients special treatment.

3. Revive “zombie clients.” (Nudge a client today whom you haven't heard from in a while.)
4. Mark important dates (e.g., send a card [not an e-card] on clients’ birthdays. Include a coupon or offer.)

5. Foster a feeling of belonging in an exclusive club (e.g., create an email list and send regular tips).
6. Create promos throughout the year.

7. Ask for referrals (having a client refer a prospect to you increases her loyalty to you).

“As a general rule in life,” writes Rodrigo, “it’s always worthwhile to show your appreciation to people who have treated you well.”

Putting the Customer First

My column in this week’s Financial Post picks up on a theme that has been emerging in my work over the past year: the growing need for companies to become “customer-first” organizations.

By putting customers’ needs ahead of your own, your organization can build deeper relationships with your best clients and greater trust. And technology has come along just in time to make sure you can do that in powerful new and cost-effective ways.

Excerpt: “For years, businesses have talked about getting closer to their customers. That's not enough: You have to put them first. Customers like being in charge and prefer to do business with companies that make them feel like they are.”

The column explores the strategies a few companies – from small businesses to Bank of Montreal – are using to put their customers first. And it ends with a request for readers to write back with examples of what they are doing to put customers at the centre of their business. I hope you will take the opportunity to write in, too. Or leave a comment below.

Click here to read the full story.

Art for Business's Sake

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the need for businesses to embrace design and design thinking as a tool in solving nagging problems of identity, marketing and innovation.

(At a Chapters bookstore I recently saw a whole display of business-by-design books, presumably inspired by the release of U of T academic Roger Martin’s book, The Design of Business.)
I totally agree that business people should round out their left-brain tendencies by learning more about art, and how design can solve problems in addition to addressing esthetic issues. Still, I have worked with enough off-the-wall designers to understand that undisciplined estheticism can be as much hindrance as help. (“Why are you proposing this design?” “Because I like it. I don't have to explain it.”)

(If nothing else, you need some familiarity with art in order to push back with your designers.)

As a timely start to your art education, I recommend a recent article from BC Business magazine on the history of Olympic logos. Designer David Allison of Braun/Allison starts by examining the esthetics of the Vancouver Olympics logo, and then goes on to look at the designs from previous Olympic Games. It’s a fun walk down memory lane (I love that Barcelona logo. at left), but also a useful and very readable introduction to theories of commercial art.

Imagine how surprised your company’s designers will be when you use phrases like “wins the gold for minimalism,” “embraces the precepts of op art,” and “a Matisse-like quality.”

Allison also offers this useful observation about corporate logos: “A good logo not only stands apart from that crowd; it also effectively represents, in graphic form, the essential elements of a brand. It’s the brand’s flag, capturing all the feelings and experiences that a company or organization bundles together to form its persona.”

Read the full story here.
Then marvel at the excesses of the logo for the 2012 London games:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Best Entrepreneurial Quotes, Week 2

Bob Young is the Canadian co-founder of Red Hat Inc., the open-source pioneer that helped break Microsoft's grip on the software industry.

He gave up his role as CEO in 1999 and the title of chairman in 2002. In 2005 he stepped down as a director of Red Hat because he thought he could no longer contribute sufficiently to the operations of the company.

Instead, he went to work full-time on Lulu.com, a personal publishing service that he knew would take time to grow and succeed. Here's how he justified his decision and in doing so, explained his M.O. as an entrepreneur:

"I don't do today or next month well. I do five years from now well."

As an entrepreneur, you must know what you're good at.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Canada is the “what” in “what’s new"

I'm pretty "meh" about the Winter Olympics, but I loved last night's Opening Ceremony in Vancouver last night. It was a wonderfully eclectic combination of art, music, design, celebrity, dance, acrobatics, native culture, high culture and low culture, with some truly breathtaking moments (whales? in BC Place?).

Seeing Bobby Orr and Donald Sutherland and Barbara Ann Scott and Anne Murray and Betty Fox and Romeo Dallaire carrying the five-ring flag was pretty exciting for any fan of Canadian culture and history. And Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado?

But the highlight for me was that the organizers found a place in this primarily visual spectacle for the spoken word. They made a hero of a bespectacled "slam poet" from Yellowknife named Shane Koyczan, whose poem "We Are More" summed up Canada and the Canadian spirit better than any other single moment of the $30-million opening event.

Kudos to the organizers for a brave move. Based on the Internet chatter I have read today, it was a popular choice.

Commissioned by the Canadian Tourism Commission, "We Are More" talks about the people and promise of Canada. It contains some wonderfully evocative images:

* "Canada is the “what” in “what’s new"

* We are an experiment going right for a change

* we are hammers and nails building bridges
towards those who are willing to walk across
we are the lost-and-found for all those who might find themselves at a loss

* we are more
than genteel or civilized
we are an idea in the process
of being realized

* we reforest what we clear
because we believe in generations beyond our own.


Beautiful, beautiful stuff. Poetry for the people - what a concept.

If you want to read the full poem, click here (Shane's website).

Click here for a Youtube video of Shane reciting his poem on Vancouver's waterfront. But he was better last night. If I find a video, I'll post it here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Check out RIM's new Small Business Webinars

A little Canadian company named Research in Motion is about to launch a four-part Small Business Webinar Series this month. Great speakers with lots of great information, and it’s all delivered free, live to your computer.

I’m proud to be a part of this lineup:

Tues. Feb. 16, 1 pm Eastern Time
Tools and Tactics for Connecting with Today's Customers
Presenter: Brent Leary, partner with CRM Essentials, and co-author of Barack 2.0

Thurs. Feb. 18, 1 pm Eastern Time
Building a "Customer-First" Company
Presenter: Rick Spence, Canadian Entrepreneur Communications

Tues. Feb. 23, 1 pm Eastern Time
How to Get Found Online in Your Town
Presenter: John Jantsch, author of Duct Tape Marketing

Thursday, February 25, 1 pm Eastern Time
Moving Your Business Forward Even When the Economy Won't Cooperate
Presenter: Anita Campbell, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Small Business Trends

The organizers promise you’ll get “practical information and strategies to improve your bottom line.” This is the group that will deliver.

To register for any or all sessions, click here.

Saying "No thanks" to social responsibility

My Financial Post column this week takes a look at the notion of corporate social responsibility, and in particular the growing feeling that business owners have an obligation to “give back” to society and help create a better world.

I don't agree. I think business owners have their own problems to face first, and that “giving back” to the community – while appropriate, satisfying and always needed – is and must always remain optional.

Having said that, I think that companies that don't give back will face a growing disadvantage as customers, employees and suppliers increasingly demand that companies they deal with reveal more and more about their track record on environmental and social issues.

(Look at the two US retailers that this week announced they won't buy petroleum sourced from dirty sources such as Alberta’s oil sands. The pressure is just beginning.)

As if business wasn't tough enough already.

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Why do I need a business plan?

How do you write a business plan? What should be in it? How can it give you a competitive edge? Why do plans have to be so detailed?

And what’s the worst that can happen if you blow off the plan and just start your business sooner?

These are just a few of the questions answered by Steve Stunt and myself in a new “webinar” on business planning produced by TD Canada Trust. The 50-minute program looks at the role of planning, why you need a plan, and how to make sure that every moment you spend on planning (before your startup) will pay you back several times over.

I know lots of entrepreneurs who despise planning and want nothing to do with business plans. I hope luck continues to be with them, because that attitude is about as mature as driving to Gimli, Manitoba without a map.

Steve Stunt is a consultant, broadcaster and business advisor for the Business Development Centre at Niagara College. Rick Spence has been poring over business plans for 20 years. Irene Law is the MC who tries her best to get these guys to offer brief answers to her questions.
If you're working on a business plan, or starting a business without one, grab some popcorn, curl up to the computer and watch this webinar. You have nothing to lose, and a world to win.

Check out the program at http://events-dev.slidecast.com/tdbank/20100112/?referral=0009

Free registration is required. As far as I know, no salesman will call.
And feel free to click on "Comments," below, to let us know if you found a business plan useful in your business.

Best Entrepreneurial Quotes, Week 1

Persistence. Desire. Will.

Here’s the secret to success in one sentence, courtesy of the champ himself, Muhammad Ali:

"I discovered that all I had to do to become the greatest was to go to the gym when I wanted to, and to go to the gym when I didn't want to."

What activities are you putting off that could make you stronger?

Happy Birthday, Five-Year-Old!

This week marks the fifth anniversary of Canadian Entrepreneur. Thank you for supporting this blog over the years.

We're still in growth mode. Traffic last month was up almost 100% over January 2009. Coincidentally, yesterday also produced our highest traffic ever (other than the day in 2008 when I won the CBC show “Test the Nation”). We had over 200 visitors yesterday, not counting those who follow this blog using their preferred website readers.

So, now that we have been dating for five years, it’s time to kick things up to the next level. This site needs more feedback!

From now on, every post on Canadian Entrepreneur will ask you to comment. And this time, the person with the best comment of the quarter will receive a free copy of my book, Secrets of Success from Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies. The current quarter will end on April 30, 2010, so get your comments in!

Because as I said way back in my very first post, business is a team sport.

And as one more salute to our fifth anniversary, Canadian Entrepreneur is bringing back the most popular feature of this blog, from away back in 2007: our Quote of the Week. These “Best Entrepreneurial Quotes” will move you, bring a smile to your face, and inspire you to achieve even more.

The future starts now!

P.S.: Please feel free to leave a comment telling us how Canadian Entrepreneur has helped you. You could win a free out-of-print book!

Friday, February 05, 2010

How to profit from your business blog

Blogging evangelist Grant Griffiths, founder of BlogforProfit.com, posted a recent article on “44 Ways To Use a Blog as a Small Business Owner.”

He believes so firmly in the power of blogging for business that he now runs a business helping companies maximize their R.O.B. (Return on Blogging).

How can your business benefit from blogging? In his article Griffiths breaks the benefits of blogging down into four categories:

1. Build Trust, Authority and Credibility: This includes discussing issues in your marketplace, answering common questions about your business or product, celebrating your accomplishments and noting upcoming events (e.g. awards you've won, speaking engagements). I also like another tactic Griffiths suggests: Promote your competitors when they have earned it and deserve it. A great way to show off your confidence and professionalism!

2. Market Your Business or Firm: This includes explaining what your company does and how it does it, profiling deserving team members, talking about new initiatives, offering discounts, soliciting referrals, etc. Griffiths also suggests publishing testimonials on your blog. (All I ask is that you keep the hard sell to a minimum.)

3. Listen to and Engage With Your Customers and Readers: Encourage reader comments, write about what is working and not working for you and your products, ask readers for their opinions, and invite readers and customers to write “guest posts.”

4. Grow Your Online Presence and Network: Link your blog to your other online presences, such as your Twitter stream, your Linkedn profile or your Facebook Fan Page. Ask readers to follow you on Twitter – that way you don't have to wait for them to visit your site before you talk to them again.

It’s a great article that will get you thinking. Read the full story here.

Fixing Entrepreneurship for Women

My column in this week’s Financial Post looks at specific problems facing women entrepreneurs.

A symposium hosted last week by the Women Entrepreneurs of Canada association brought together leaders of women’s business groups from across half the country (mainly Ontario and east). The goal: to identify the common problems facing those groups and their members, and to see how they could work together, through WEC, to solve some of those problems.

Among the problems they identified: a financial system more geared to the needs of male-owned businesses; a reluctance to collaborate among women entrepreneurs; the need for more gender-specific government policies that address the needs of different groups; and the overlap and duplication of the support and recognition programs that do exist.

To see how the participants intend to move forward, check out the full story here.