Wednesday, January 17, 2007

No teeth, no glory

A while back I was asked to participate in a “graduation day” ceremony for prospective entrepreneurs who had just finished business startup training through the Toronto Business Development Centre.

The grads presented their business plans to a panel consisting of their instructors and me.

It was sort of like Dragons’ Den, the TV show pitting investors against entrepreneurs. Except the mood here was one of graduation-day celebration, rather than the merciless interrogation that the pitchers on Dragons’ Den went through.

Which of course left me in a quandary. When the “students” presented what I thought was faulty logic, or were missing some key connections, what was my role? To keep the mood light and say, “good job,” or go all serious on them? *

My recent column in PROFIT Magazine tells the whole story. Click here.

Excerpt, for those too busy to click:

“I've argued before that marketing is the glass jaw of Canadian entrepreneurs. But there is no excuse for someone coming out of a business startup program not to put marketing front and centre. I thought Google's targeted AdSense messages (online ads you pay for only when someone clicks through to your website) would be perfect for one of these businesses, but the entrepreneurs had never even heard of them.

"And the basic idea of guerrilla marketing — saving your money by piggybacking on other people's contacts and sales efforts — seemed to be a concept they hadn't heard before.”

(Last chance: click here for the full article.)

* You can probably guess how I resolved the dilemma. I feel that sending entrepreneurs out into the world without testing their knowledge and pushing them to the limit is insane. The harder you push them, the more they will be thankful for it later, when the world is pushing back harder than they ever expected.

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