Wednesday, February 28, 2007

25 years of entrepreneurial revolution

I'm working on a story about the growth of entrepreneurship in Canada over the past 25 years.

As part of the festivities surrounding PROFIT Magazine’s upcoming 25th anniversary, we’re trying to trace the “great moments in small business growth” over the past 25 years and measure the impact of entrepreneurship on Canadian society.

I’m particularly interested in stories from individual Canadian entrepreneurs. What made you become an entrepreneur? Who were your inspirations or role models? What technological, culutural or economic forces do you think have most influenced the growth of entreprenurship in Canada?

Do you consider Canada today an especially entrepreneurial culture? How could we improve? And are we doing enough now to build a more entrepreneurial society tomorrow?

Or should we all go back to working at the Post Office?

If you have any stories or opinions to share, please email me. rick (at)
(If you don't want your comments published in a national magazine, please let me know.)

Top 10 search engine resources

Using search engines to market your business is hot, but many entrepreneurs still don't know what’s involved or how to get started. E-business specialist John Beauchamp, coordinator of the Alberta E-Future Centre, found lots of clients asking about search engine marketing last month, so he researched the best SEM online resources for small business and posted them on his blog.

Here, carefully copied and pasted for your edification, are John’s top SEM links. As he writes, “If you are a non-tech savvy small business person, who wants to learn about marketing your site online, here are some great places to start.”

Paid search information -
Search engine information -
A good place to start for background information -
Good general tips -
Good general information for driving traffic -
Good information on building links -
Good general tips -
More good general information -
Good link building information -
For when you are looking at your competition and potential sites to get links from -

If you're going to be in Edmonton on April 18, the Alberta E-Future Centre is offering a three-hour search engine marketing seminar. For more information, click here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

20,000th Visitor!

On Oct. 6, 2006, after 14 months in operation, this blog recorded its 10,000th visitor – and I was reporting that traffic was exploding.

Today I am pleased to announce that we just landed our 20,000th visitor – which means we gained our second 10,000 visitors in just 4 ½ months.

According to my web stats (accessible to you, too, by clicking on the “Site Meter” logo at the bottom of the right-hand column) our 20,000th visitor came from somewhere in the United States. He or she found us by doing a Google search for “entrepreneur stories.” We're always glad to share Canadian success stories with our American cousins.

Meanwhile, overall traffic to this blog continues to explode. We now average well over 100 visitors a day – that’s about a 50% increase over December’s average.

Merci a tous for your patronage and support.

Last day to vote for Greatest Canadian Entrepreneur

Don't forget: today is the last day to vote for the Greatest Canadian Entrepreneur of all time.

Make your vote count at

You can vote more than once if you have more than one e-mail address to submit for verification.

Voting closes at midnight tonight. (Whether that's Eastern, Central or Pacific time, I don't know. But why push it?)

I can't tell you who's winning, because they've taken down the running tallies on each candidate that I copied for you last week. (See previous post).

But let's just assume that Alexander Graham Bell and Jimmy Pattison still need your votes to overtake the league-leading McCain brothers.

(Did you know that the McCains were just small fries before my great-uncle Cecil Spence, a Royal Bank manager in Woodstock, NB, stepped in to help them out? True story!)

Best Entrepreneurship Quotes Ever: Week 21

Continuing our series of powerful motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

This week: what power is all about.

"True power is controlling what people say behind your back."
- Andy Nulman, CEO of Airborne Entertainment, Montreal, and founder of the Just for Laughs comedy festival

Think about it.

Andy is a smart man with a gift for communication. You can follow his blog "Pow! Right between the eyes" here.

Friday, February 23, 2007

We have a horse race!

I posted a few days ago about the the search for Canada's greatest entrepreneur of all time - and how someone was stuffing the ballot box for the McCain brothers. I also announced my vote for BC builder and salesman extraordinaire Jimmy Pattison.

The good news is that things are starting to work out. The McCains are down from 39% support to 24%, which is a sign either that market forces are working or that the organizers are dealing with the hanging chad issue.

Better still, Jim Pattison has charged into second place, at 16%. My sentimental favourite, the hugely deserving Max Ward, has slipped to third place, with 8%.

Also mounting a late charge: Alexander Graham Bell, at 7%. Isn't this fun? (Last summer I took my kids to visit his house in Brantford. Another "oh no, not another field trip, dad," that the kids ended up enjoying immensely. They have the first phone there. Go see it. )

The updated standings (as of midnight Thursday) are below. Click on the names for thumbnail bios of each candidate. And act soon: voting closes midnight Monday (Feb. 26).

Paul Desmarais Sr. - 3% vote
Ken Thomson - 7% vote
Frank Stronach - 4% vote
Max Ward - 8% vote
Ted Rogers - 4% vote
Joseph-Armand Bombardier - 3% vote
Alexander Graham Bell - 7% vote
Terry Matthews - 1% vote
Timothy Eaton - 2% vote
Frank Sobey - 1% vote
Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis - 4% vote
Izzy Asper - 4% vote
Samuel Bronfman - 1% vote
Galen Weston - 1% vote
Conrad Black - 1% vote
Ron Joyce - 3% vote
Roy Thomson - 2% vote
Harrison and Wallace McCain - 24% vote
Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving - 4% vote
Jim Pattison - 16% vote

Hint: If you have more than one e-mail address, you can vote more than once.
No ballot-stuffing, please.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Secret Origin of the CFIB

I’m sorry I missed the 35th anniversary party last year of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It’s truly a milestone worth celebrating.

Here’s a link to a speech by founder John Bulloch last year recalling the “untold story” of the CFIB’s founding. Such a big, nationwide marketing machine, you'd think there’d have been some strategy behind it, right?

Nope. Like most small businesses, it started as a half-formed notion and grew shakily, almost anecdotally. With lots of “fake it till you make it” moments that will be familiar to anyone who ever launched a business.

Here’s a highlight:

"I created a national Board of Governors in early 1971 although the CFIB was not incorporated until August 1971. They were friends who had helped me organize [tax-reform] Rallies across Canada and they allowed me to use their offices as CFIB virtual offices. So the image was of a powerful national organization. The reality was a family business financed with the help of my father that was soon to deplete its cash reserves and line of credit. What I thought would be viable after 10 months took 18 months, and the feelings of sheer terror associated with failure lived with me each day during that eight-month period…

"Like most small business owners trying to create something new, you are a ‘Jack of all Trades’. I took off the monthly trial balance, wrote Mandate questions and articles often working through the night at the Toronto Star library, and then sold memberships every Friday to pay my own income. And on top of all this, commenting to the media on every public issue, when half the time I did not really know what I was talking about.

"Mary and I used to come over to the office at night. She vacuumed the rugs and I cleaned the washrooms. To save the cost of an envelope, the first Mandate ballot was designed to be something members could fold over and staple. How was I to know members would put close to ten staples on each ballot to ensure no one saw how they voted?

"This created the first big function at CFIB--taking the staples out of the ballots which were sprinkled over the floor of our offices. I can still hear the sound of staples being sucked up by Mary’s vacuum cleaner..."

Read the full story here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"We went into the backwoods and paid the price for it"

Legendary retailer Harry Rosen answers readers' questions in this month's PROFIT Magazine. All part of the magazine's new "Ask the Legends" feature.

Here are two sample questions and answers that I liked.

You have locations across the country, but you provide service that one would only expect at a small, family-owned store. How do you still make each customer believe they are the most important one you have?
Catherine Proulx, Managing Partner, twistmarketing, Calgary

Harry: From the very first day, it has been our intention to befriend the customer. We try to enter into some sort of personal relationship with them, where we learn something about them and always use that information to help sell them the right things. As we expanded, I would go from store to store and work on the selling floor. It meant so much to the staff to see that the principles we espoused in training were in fact the practices of senior management. That's the glue: management walking the talk. We've also been able to select the kind of employee who enjoys living by this idea that there's nothing more important than the customer.

If you could change a business decision you made in the past, what would it be and why?
Lorne Merkur, PresidentAdwear + Promostuff, Toronto

Harry: When we were well positioned in the seven major markets in Canada, I felt that there wasn't any further growth available and decided that the place to start in the United States was Chicago. I found a location that was right on the Miracle Mile, with Saks Fifth Avenue in the other part of the building. Midstream, the developer sold it off to another developer, who wanted to renegotiate after I had already come to a verbal agreement with the previous developer. I walked away in spite and wound up going into Buffalo. If we'd gone ahead with Chicago, it would have altered the whole future of Harry Rosen in the U.S. Instead of that, we went into the backwoods and paid the price for it.

Click here for the rest.

101 Things To Do in Business Before You Die

Colorado-based executive coach and consultant Debra A. Benton offers a fabulous article on her website, 101 Things To Do in Business Before You Die.

Chances are you’ve already done many of them. And some of her recommendations are clearly filler. But there is much truth in a list like that that reminds us that we must always be stretching and learning and experiencing – or we are missing out and falling behind.

You can read her full article here.

Here are my 15 favourite things on her list:

3. Take a sabbatical.
5. Start a business.
6. Sell a business.
7. Fire a family member.
12. Take a psychological test.
13. Give a speech to 100 people.
14. Give a speech to 1000 people.
21. Reprimand an employee.
29. Contribute to or write a business book.
32. Have a mentor.
33. Be a mentor.
68. Take a course in some new technology.
69. Be on a company sports team.
92. Fly international first class.
101. Write a list of what you want to do in business before you die.

Leave a comment below to let us know what's on your list.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How To Name Your Company

Over on ThinkVitamin, implausibly young and bright Toronto entrepreneur Michael McDerment, founder of web-based invoice service, offers his tips for finding the right name for your product or business. He’s been down this road a few times already, so he has learned a lot and has some great advice.

“As the online marketplace becomes increasingly cluttered,” he says. “it is more important than ever to be memorable and to stand out. The name of your company is a critical factor in this.”

Here’s the gist of his process:

Five characteristics of a good name:

  1. Easy to remember
  2. Easy to spell and requires no explanation
  3. Describes your business category
  4. Describes your benefit
  5. Describes your difference

Four more characteristics McDerment likes:

  1. It has to be one or two syllables long - no more
  2. Each syllable starts with a strong consonant (B, C, D, G, K, P, Q, T)
  3. It’s fun to say (”…that just rolls off the tongue”)
  4. You should be able to buy the dot-com version of your name.

How to get started:
1. Establish a ‘Naming Team.’ Expect the process to take eight to ten sessions of one hour each.
2. Get the tools you need (thesaurus, dictionary, spreadsheet, etc.)
3. Identify a ’secretary’ to keep everything organized.
4. Conduct structured brainstorming.

Best book to prepare with: “Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind ” by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

Finding a name is one of the toughest jobs in business, because it's a relentlessly practical consideration that requires creativity, imagination, vision, customer insight, patience and dsicipline. Mike's post is must reading. For the full story, click here.

PS: FYI, I was on the team that renamed Small Business Magazine as PROFIT Magazine back in the 1990s. It took us forever, with lots of false starts and focus groups. Ironically, long after we switched to PROFIT, I ran across the original business plan for the magazine. I was astonished to discover that the name PROFIT was also the first choice of the team that founded the magazine a decade earlier.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Great Canadian Tradition

There’s a tempest brewing in the Greatest Canadian Entrepreneur contest at www. (see two posts below).

Since I posted the list of finalists four hours ago, I see the brothers McCain have shot up from 34% of the votes to 39%.

This continues a fine Canadian tradition of ballot-stuffing. A few years ago, the NDP mobilized members across Canada to elect former NDP leader Tommy Douglas (father of medicare, grandfather of Keifer Sutherland) as the CBC’s Greatest Canadian.

I wonder who’s doing the stuffing this time out.
Dave Keon - Toronto Maple Leafs Blast from the Past

This is a self-indulgent post that has nothing to do with entrepreneurship. But the 12-year-old inside me was delighted to see his childhood hero, Dave Keon, back in Toronto this past weekend.
The accompanying video provides more individual heroics than any six hours of Hockey Night in Canada today.

Greatest Canadian Entrepreneurs

As mentioned in a previous post, Roynat is continuing with its search for Canada's all-time best entrepreneur at (Year of the Canadian Entrepreneur, as you may know).

There are 20 finalists to choose from. I have copied and pasted the list below, along with their current vote totals.

Comments: looks like a pretty conventional list. Mostly household names, all men, and mainly from central and eastern Canada.

I think it's too bad that Ken Thomson is siphoning away votes from his more entrepreneurial father, Roy. I'm pleased to see a few historical figures on the list: Eaton, Bell and Bombardier. And speaking of historical figures, Max Ward is flying high. But it looks like Florenceville, New Brunswick is stuffing the ballot box for the McCains.
And what the heck is Conrad Black doing on this list?

Who do you think is the Greatest Canadian Entrepreneur…of all time?
Paul Desmarais Sr. - 3% vote
Ken Thomson - 3% vote
Frank Stronach - 3% vote
Max Ward - 26% vote
Ted Rogers - 2% vote
Joseph-Armand Bombardier - 1% vote
Alexander Graham Bell - 4% vote
Terry Matthews - 2% vote
Timothy Eaton - 1% vote
Frank Sobey - 1% vote
Jim Basillie and Mike Lazaridis - 3% vote
Izzy Asper - 2% vote
Samuel Bronfman - 1% vote
Galen Weston - 1% vote
Conrad Black - 1% vote
Ron Joyce - 2% vote
Roy Thomson - 1% vote
Harrison and Wallace McCain - 34% vote
Kenneth Colin (K.C.) Irving - 2% vote
Jim Pattison - 8% vote

Make your vote count by clicking here. (One name per email address.)

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 20

Continuing our series of powerful motivational quotes, personally selected to get your week off to an inspired start.

This week, the secret of smart management, from Peter Lewis, CEO of Ohio-based insurance company Progressive Corp:

“If you want to improve something, start measuring it." ­
Peter Lewis

There’s actually a rarely-quoted second sentence to this quotation that really spells out the message: "Then attach rewards to positive measurements, or penalties to negative ones, and you'll get results."

Friday, February 16, 2007

Best of the Net

PROFIT Magazine has a great cover-story package this month on “The Fabulous New Internet.”

Especially noteworthy is the package on “21 essential web tools”, which seems to have been written by the whole darn PROFIT staff. It covers all kinds of Web 2.0-type tools to help business owners connect, transact, network, manage information, and get lots more done faster and cheaper than ever before.

The topics range from Basecamp and Skype (which I only recently signed up for, and it’s a great backup phone system), to Backpack, SearchMash, PageFlakes, ClipClip and other two-syllable tools you may not know.

The story won’t be officially posted on the PROFIT site till next week, but becuz they still like me there, they are letting me link to it a week early. At last, a benefit for the people who read this blog!

Feb. 1 UPDATE: The story is now online in the regular place. You can view it here.

Secret Search Terms Revealed!

As you probably know, web analytics give webmasters access to the actual search terms that users have used to find their websites.

Once in a while it’s fun – and occasionally even instructive – to review the terms my visitors used to get here. Here's how a few of my 110 visitors in the past 24 hours found their way to this blog.

There are the obvious searches:
Canadian entrepreneur
trends in Canadian entrepreneurship
selling a canadian small business
angel investors in Toronto
pitch for profit
entrepreneur succession founder
successful Canadian ventures
motivational quotes entrepreneur
women- training entrepreneurship Toronto
top three canadian entrepreneurs
Canadian business billionaires

There are the offbeat search terms:
one line quiz questions on entrepreneurship
pitchers of dragons
saying goodbye to client
entrepreneur jokes
small quotes on teeth
18" rims, toronto
equinox magazine ceased publication
buy "Artisan Bakery" software
emsdale trout

And then there's the just plain mean:
Doug Hall arrogant
employees do not like jim estill
(Just to reassure you, I never said anything of the kind about either gentleman.)

And then there was this one:
rick spence the number one problem in entrepreneurship

Hail the Internet, fount of all wisdom.

Four words I never thought you'd read in this blog: Top 10 Fashion Tips

Larry Rosen, CEO of men’s fashion retailer Harry Rosen Inc., spoke last November to members of the Upper Canada (!) chapter of CAFÉ, the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise.

He offered 10 Fashion Tips for sartorially challenged males, which is most of us, I suppose. Try them on for size:

1. You can only under dress, not over dress.
2. Men in suits look powerful, authoritative and sexy.
3. Successful people get their shoes shined-often.
4. Dress for who you want to be and the position you want in life.
5. If there is something in your closet that you haven’t worn in a year, it’s trying to tell you something. Give it to Charity.
6. God is in the details (architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe)
7. (a) the leather colour of your belt should match that of your shoes
(b) the colour of your socks should match that of your pants.
8. Eyeglass frames that are ten years old look ten years old.
9. More expensive clothing should look and feel better. If it doesn’t, don’t spend the extra money.
10. Try something new. Everyone can benefit from getting out of their rut and dressing more eclectically.

Click here to visit the website of CAFÉ Upper Canada.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Make the job fit your employee

Some common sense from Toronto career coach Stephen Freidman in yesterday’s Financial Post.

He wonders why, when people discuss the "fit" between employee and employer, the focus is always on how well the employee fit into the organization, rather than the other way ’round.

“If organizations want to win the war for talent and attract the best and the brightest, it makes more sense for them also to consider how well the organization fits with its employees.”

At a time when so many companies are crying out for new talent, he says employers need to be more innovative about what it takes to attract and retain good people.

For instance, employers must be prepared to accommodate employees who have interests and responsibilities outside of work. He cites a new employee who was unable to commit to five days a week – and instead rejuvenated the position by working only three days a week. Sadly, the company's president insisted on finding a full-timer, and let the prized part-timer walk away.

Freidman warns that there are many dedicated part-timers in today’s workforce, especially among those aged 25 to 35, who consider their "career" to include work plus family, friends, interests, etc. “This way of looking at work and careers is becoming the norm,” he says.

The moral: Stay loose. Be flexible. Don't be blinded by conventions – such as the 40-hour work week – that were created for a different time and a less creative world.

You can check out the original article here.

Dealing with Doubt

U.S. business consultant Tony Alessandra wrote an article recently on self-confidence, and how his father bred it in young Tony at an early age by sending him out to fight a schoolyard bully. “Confidence in yourself gets built up gradually, one success at a time,” he writes.

I certainly agree that self-confidence is essential in business (if you don't have it, you’ll have to fake it). It’s confidence that makes you go out and sell to people who have never heard of you, and to make that 10th call of the day when the first nine were all rejections.

Self-confidence is all about knowing that you can deal with just about anything the world can throw at you. And about making other people believe that about you, too.

Here's Tony’s recipe for developing confidence:

Take an inventory of the major accomplishments you've achieved over the past few years. Then remind yourself of the minor ones too. What about the computer course you completed? Have you built anything that's still standing?“

Don't be modest. Tell the truth about how hard you worked, what sacrifices you've made. If you can't think of any, then begin by congratulating yourself for living as long as you have. Sheer survival is an accomplishment these days! What's unique about you? What skills do you bring to an organization or project that you can count on?”

In my experience, the next step is to write these stories down. Make a habit of referring to them often. Be ready to use these success stories whenever people doubt your ability to accomplish what you say you can.

The very act of dealing with doubt can give you the self-confidence you need.

Learn more about Tony at

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Do family businesses really run like this?

North Carolina family-business consultant James Lea obviously had something to get out of his system. In a recent column I found at, he lists several ways that family business clients dodge, ignore and otherwise run away from key issues.

Read his opening paragraph carefully:
“One of the ways I assist family owned companies is by helping them to identify, understand and resolve issues that get in the way of sound business decision making. And one of the best ways to do that is to talk through those issues in order to reach a conclusion and get on with business, something that a lot of families are pretty good at not doing.”

Funny stuff. Here’s an example:
Lea says some families in business resist dealing with matters of substance is by "preserving ancient ruins." Here’s how that works. (JL is Lea, trying to settle a family dispute…)

JL: "I have the feeling there's a background issue that's keeping us from reaching closure here. Is there some tension between you two sisters that we should deal with?"
Martha: "No. Absolutely not. Nothing."
Susan (glancing at Martha): "Well, there was that little falling out in 1983 over which one of us would inherit Mother's ring. Now that you mention it, we've had a hard time agreeing on anything since then."
Martha: "That was so long ago I don't remember a thing about it, so we don't need to bring it up now. But I'm still not willing to sign that buy-sell agreement with you. And by the way, it wasn't a ring, it was an opal pendant with eight diamond chips on an Italian 18-carat gold necklace."
You can read the whole article here.
For those who want more, that page also links to other recent articles by Lea.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Pitching for Fun and Profit

PROFIT Magazine’s Pitch4Profit contest has attracted a surprising number of entries. Most are painful to sit through, but that’s Web video for you. It’s still fun to hear about (and see) all these new business ideas and products.

Check out the pitches for less than $1 million here.
You’ll find the folks looking for more than a million here.

And if you can't wait to make your own pitch, you can get your 90-second elevator speech put on tape following the Toronto Venture Group meeting Wednesday morning (Feb. 14).

Special guest at the meeting is Scott Paterson, the former Yorkton Securities superstar who has reinvented himself as CEO of JumpTV (speaking of Web video), which may be the world's leading internet ethnic television broadcaster with 254 channel partnerships and subscribers in 90 countries.
(It’s a bit of a coming-out party for Paterson, who has been pretty quiet since his 2001 agreement with the Ontario Securities Commission to settle allegations that he acted “contrary to the public interest” in helping convince Yorkton clients to buy into a lot of sketchy, tech-related IPOs prior to the 2000 market meltdown.)

Click here for the TVG homepage.

Back to the pitches: Once you've viewed the videos at Pitch4PROFIT, don't forget to leave a comment or vote for your favourites.
If you do make a pitch, come back and let us know. Feel free to ask the whole community at Canadian Entrepreneur to vote for you!

Note: The entry deadline is Feb. 15!

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 19

Continuing our series of powerful motivational quotes personally selected to get your week off to a flying start.

This week, the secret advantage of small business:

"One of the unique things we small companies have over the big guys is the ability to establish personal relationships. Big companies really can't do that. You read about effective organizations, learning organizations, lean and mean organizations, but small companies can be virtuous. We as small companies can have virtue because we as small companies are basically the embodiment of one or two people, and people can have virtue, while organizations really can't."

-- Jim Koch, founder of Boston Beer Company, maker of Sam Adams beer.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Who is... the Greatest Canadian Entrepreneur?

Nominations close Feb. 9 to name Canada's Greatest Entrepreneur of All Time, as part of the festivities around the Year of the Canadian Entrepreneur (see previous post).
I have no idea why they're in such a hurry, but you can cast your vote by clicking here.

You can vote once a day. I voted for Franz Strohsack today. Tomorrow I'll likely vote for someone else.

Special Offer if you're looking for a speaker: The Future of Entrepreneurship

I am developing an exciting new presentation, suitable as a luncheon or keynote speech for entrepreneurial organizations, business associations and service clubs.

It’s called The Future of Entrepreneurship, and it’s based on five years of conversations, interviews, trends and original study.

This presentation explores the reasons that entrepreneurship has exploded in this country, and offers 10 reasons why this revolution will not only continue, but grow. Then it looks at the flipside: the challenges facing Canadian entrepreneurs, and why they must become stronger to seize the opportunities of today and tomorrow.
Finally, it looks at innovative strategies developed by today’s most successful Canadian entrepreneurs to survive and win in today’s global, get-tough markets.

It’s everything but the kitchen sink (although a kitchen sink does make an appearance) in 45 minutes.

I’m eager to road-test this speech and get some reaction from live audiences. If you'd like to be among the first to hear this original, informative and empowering presentation, drop me a line.

The first five organizations to book me will get 75% off my usual speaking fee.
For more information, please e-mail Rick (at)

Other workshop and keynote topics available at regular prices. Feel free to contact me for information:

Secrets of Entrepreneurial Success
20 business-building strategies in 40 minutes
The Four Communication Gaps in Business
Writing for Results
Breakthrough Questions
Get the Publicity you Deserve: PR for CEOs
Why Businesses Fail

Previous testimonials for Rick Spence:
“You gave us a delightful, insightful talk and I want you to know that I carry your list of 10 business success factors in my purse like a portable mantra. I have had very positive comments from our members... It was a pleasure to be with you.”

“Thank you for speaking at our recent conference. Your generosity, preparation and participation were all import to the success of the event. Your event was of extreme interest to our members, and very important to the organization.”

“The audience thoroughly enjoyed your presentation. You were able to set the stage for the balance of the Symposium.”

Straw homes, bongo drums, horror movies and climate change (Long post, but you can quit any time)

You can build businesses on trends – if you can tell a fad from a trend.
A fad, of course, is when one person you know is doing something new or different: e.g., having their baby at home, trekking to Nepal, building a barn. A trend is when you know two people doing it.

Browsing through the “Class Notes” of the latest issue of York University's alumni magazine, I discovered numerous offbeat careers and lifestyle changes that reflect dozens of trends and changes in society.

So here’s a list of interesting choices some people are making these days. Which do you think offer the best business opportunities?

Class of 1970: A female grad is building a straw-bale home.

1978: A musician has just released a new DVD, The Art of Bongo Drumming.

1981: A PhD is teaching archival sciences. A BA grad working for a disaster-services organization also runs a private psychotherapy practice. A couple just bought a Kumon Math and Reading Centre franchise.

1982: A grad is working on South Africa’s National Transportation Master Plan, made more challenging due to South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup in 2010.

1988: One grad is a “Six Sigma Black Belt” with PricewaterhouseCoopers. An MBA grad works for a Texas software company from his home in Thornhill, Ont.

1989: An MBA grad has returned to the west coast to “resume retirement” after taking a break to work on a two-year engineering contract in Ontario.

1992: One grad started her own concierge business in Toronto. Another grad has a job in dispute management for the Canada Revenue Agency. Another grad exchanged vows with his life partner in the Himalayas.

1995: A grad left teaching to go into housing construction.

1996: One grad reported she is working “in a job she enjoys.”

1997: A BA grad has become director of a Centre for Conflict Resolution Studies at UPEI.

1998: A science grad is working as a contaminants-surveillance biologist for the Great Lakes. Two guys named Steven just got engaged. A self-described “artist with disabilities” has just released her third CD.

1999: A BA grad is a technical writer in Australia.

2002: An honours business grad is running several used-car dealerships in Indonesia.

2003: A BA grad is working in marketing for a sci-fi and horror film festival. A science grad is managing Telus’s wholesale U.S. marketing strategy.

2005: A law grad is now a policy analyst for the climate change division of DFAIT in Ottawa.

What’s it all mean? As mass markets fragment, a list like this demonstrates that there are more emerging market niches and new opportunities than any of us can really imagine.

Monday, February 05, 2007

My latest column in the National Post

My new column in the “Entrepreneur” section of today’s Financial Post is online at the Post’s website today (and still available on newsstands if you hurry).

It tells the story of Shaheel Hooda, a 35-year-old entrepreneur running CodeBaby, an exciting software company in Edmonton that makes 3-d “virtual agents” for customer service portions of websites. The company was founded to license animation software from a local games developer, BioWare, but since then it has blazed its own trail.

The story was supposed to be a profile, but it developed a life of its own as Shaheel described to me some of the company’s mistakes, decisions and life lessons. And so it became a step-by-step guide to one entrepreneur’s education in business (made all the more interesting by the fact he already has a degree from Harvard).

You can read the story here.

Here’s the six lessons learned, for those who have no time to read newspapers:
  1. Talk to customers. When Hooda arrived at Code Baby as chief executive in 2002, the company was still in stealth mode. "They had multiple concepts of what they wanted to do."
  2. Simplicity rules. Code- Baby presumed that Bio Ware's artificial intelligence technology would give its clients the most powerful "virtual agents" in the business. Real life, however, indicated clients wanted virtual agents to just follow the scripts they were given (like live call-centre employees).
  3. Follow the money. CodeBaby learned while most companies support employee training, they don't like to spend as much money on it as they do on other things.
  4. Avoid exclusives. As much as the company loves blue-chip clients like RBC, it offers customers just six months' exclusivity with its technology before it will talk to their rivals.
  5. Make things easy for your customers. Code Baby has moved away from proprietary processes to open-source tools like Flash to ensure customers get the most from its products. Tech-savvy companies can walk away with a licence to the technology and develop their own scripts and animations in-house.
  6. Leverage the biggest price-insensitive market you can find.

Entrepreneurship Quote of the Week, part 18

Continuing our series of powerful motivational quotes personally selected to start your week on an inspiring note.

This week, we hear from a contemporary Canadian entrepreneur who has figured out the difficult business of delegating. It’s a management manifesto in miniature:

“I expect people to work hard and take charge in their areas, but to have the judgement to be able to tell me when they can't handle a situation."

Nick Laperle, president of Sonomax Hearing Healthcare Inc. of Montreal, quoted by Libby Znaimer in the Financial Post, January 27, 2007

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Your starter guide to Social Media

Sean Moffitt of BuzzCanuck is probly be Canada’s top expert on word-of-mouth marketing – which in these days of wikis and blogs and YouTube and social media can be more powerful than ever.
“Unfortunately,” says Sean, “word of mouth just doesn't happen, and like most great things in life, it starts with a first courageous step into the unknown.”
Fortunately, he has offered 29 links to get you started. I hope he doesn't mind sharing them with you here.
Visit for much, much more.

Great introductions to word-of-mouth marketing:
- How To Sell In Word of Mouth Campaigns to Your Boss
- The 10 Steps to Building Your Corporate Podcast
- An Entry Level Guide to Vlogging
- How to Visit Second Life
- How to Be Blogged About
- How Bloggers Should Approach Companies
- How Companies Should Approach Bloggers
- Setting Up in My Space
- Posting on YouTube
- Mastering Word of Mouth Conversations
- Setting Up a Photo Blog
- How to Get Traffic To Your PhotoBlog
- How To Generate Buzz
- How to Use Linked In
- Conducting an SMS Campaign
- Nailing the Tricks to Viral Advertising
- Researching Word of Mouth
- Measuring Word of Mouth
- Keeping it Ethical
- How to Look At Social Media from 3 Corporate Angles
- Steps to Building Brand Communities
- Mastering The Ultimate Question You Should Be Asking
- BuIlding Great Brand Experiences
- Setting Up Corporate Blogging Guidelines
- Building Your Social Media Optimization
- How to build Consumer Generated Media
- How to Harness Happy Employee Word of Mouth
- How to Start a Wiki

Visit Sean’s website

Friday, February 02, 2007

The New Outlook for Exports

If you're interested in the latest outlook for specific geographical markets, commodities, or selected industrial sectors, look no further.

Export Development Canada's newly revised Global Export Forecast has everything you want to know, from forecasts for advanced technology markets to the outlook for canola prices.
And most of it is surprisingly readable.

Here's the bottom-line forecast, for those with no time to click on the above link:
"For 2007, we now expect a better export performance for agri-food, industrial metals, high-tech goods and communications equipment. Export volumes (where price effects are netted out) are also expected to come in a little stronger in 2007. On the downside, the export outlook for energy, chemicals, fertilizers, forestry, aircraft and services have deteriorated."

The remarkable coup of Teresa Cascioli

The big news today is Labatt’s $200-million bid for Hamilton-based Lakeport Brewing. It’s one of Ontario’s biggest entrepreneurial success stories.

Teresa Cascioli was brought in by a group of Hamilton investors to revive a bankrupt brewery. She brought it back to life by producing branded alcoholic drinks (I swore not to tell about Mike’s Hard Lemonade) for other companies, as well as producing a line of largely generic beers.
Then in her backyard one day, she came up with the concept of “24 for $24” – the idea of owning the value-priced beer market. With that single, crystal-clear marketing message, she built Lakeport into Ontario's third-largest brewery, with 11% of the market.

And now, according to the Globe & Mail, she stands to make $40 million out of the deal. That’s because she rolled up her sleeves and sacrificed salary for equity – shopping the supermarket specials and drawing down her savings (once earmarked for law school) because she believed so strongly in Lakeport’s future.

Congrats to Teresa, for demonstrating the incredible value of one good idea – and executing so well and so courageously.

Strategic Note: Under Cascioli, Lakeport became Ontario’s third-largest brewer. "This looks quite a bit like an attempt to take out a low-cost competitor," one investment analyst told the Globe in a burst of stunning clarity.

Best Advice: Cascioli was the closing keynote speaker at last year’s Small Business Big Thinking Conference in Toronto, sponsored by Visa Canada. Here are five management lessons she shared with the audience:

• Be passionate and work hard.
• Listen to your employees. Their insights can give you a competitive advantage.
• Partner well. Surround yourself with good advisors (lawyers, bankers, accountants), and
don’t nickel-and-dime them.
• When you think you've done well, forget it. Don't rest on your laurels or do things just to
win awards.
• Whenever you're in front of a microphone, sell, sell, sell!

(For more on Cascioli's Visa presentation, or other presentations from the conference, click here.)

Disclosure: I helped plan the conference last year, and am doing so again in 2007.

YokeSmoke's resource list of entrepreneurial sites

One more gala birthday post.

Here's a list of entrepreneurial blogs and websites dug up by YokeSmoke, a blog for Web 2.0 entrepreneurs.

If you have a minute, why not check some out? In the spirit of Web 2.0 community, you could even leave a comment if you find anything of value on any of these sites.

Happy Surfing! Canadian entrepreneurs will thank you.

Site Point
Digital Point
Young Go Getter
Young Entrepreneur Forums
SEO Chat
TalkSEO Forums
TheWarriorForum - Online Marketing

Entrepreneur’s Journey
Trizoko Business Journal
Guy Kawasaki’s Blog
Ben Casnocha’s Blog
Josiah MacKenzie’s Blog
Problogger - Darren Rowse
On Startups
Startup Nation
Startup Guide
Flush the Toilet
Young Money Blog
Networking Blogger
Just a Week
New Age Entrepreneur
MBA Xploit
The Entrepreneurial Endeavor
Trep Network
Entrepreneur in the Making
Scott Taylor’s Blog
Mind Petals
Dorm Room Biz
Driven Entrepreneur
ePublishing Daily
Results Driven Solutions
PA Services
Free Internet Marketing Resources
Selling to Small Business
Canadian Entrepreneur
Jack Yoest
Emmanuel’s “Business Traveller”
Selling it Online
Wil Schroter
Customer Experience Strategy
Local Internet Marketing
Small Business Trends
Virtual Assistant - THE Blog
Duct Tape Marketing
Online Marketing Resource Blog
Ben Reich
R.E.A.L. Marketing
Burts osCommerce & More Blog
Blog SEO
Internet Marketing Blog Directory
The Marketing Tools Review
Professional Freelancer
Steven Cardinale
Java Entrepreneur
Craig McGinty
Wise & Young: The Blog
The Millionaire Blog
BarryBlog - Barry Moltz
Business Opportunities Weblog - Dane Carlson
HomeOfficeVoice - Martin Neumann
PlusOne - Matt E
SavvySolo - Michael Pollock
Apollyon - Alborz Fallah
The Marketer’s Podcast - Alan & Andrew
A crash course in entrepreneurship - Chris Pund
Thinking Home Business - Des Walsh
Young Entrepreneur Journey
Retire Young And Wealthy
Affiliate Moneymaking
Dave Ryan’s Internet Marketing Blog
Attract More Customers
Marketing Defined Blog
Marketing Comet
Spiritual Marketing
IF from PSFK
KeyLiberty Marketing
Franco’s e-commerce World
The Bar Project Project
Higher Profits
The Internet Cashflow Guy
Reid Morrow

Entrepreneur Magazine - [ ]
Fast Company Magazine - [ ]
Inc. Magazine - [ ]
Business 2.0 Magazine - [ Business 2.0 Site ]
Wired Magazine - [ ]
Harvard Business Review
Home Business Magazine
Business Resource Center
BusinessWeek Small Business
Home Business Journal
Home Business Magazine
Minority Business Entrepreneur (MBE)
Joshua Feinberg’s Small Biz Tech Talk
Fortune Small Business
Work-At-Home Success
ZDNet Small Business Advisor
Home Business Report
Upsize Magazine
Smart Business Network Online
Entrepreneur’s Home Office Magazine
Edward Lowe PeerSpectives
CanadaOne Magazine

Articles, & News Sites
Entrepreneur America - Rob Ryan
The Secret to Successful Startups
Where are all the Angel Investors?
The Notion of Entrepreneurship: Historical and Emerging Issues
The Entrepreneur’s Help Page
Free Legal Forms
Entrepreneur Career Guide
Minority Business Entrepreneur Magazine

Small Business Resource Sites
Small Business Adminstration (SBA)
Idea Cafe
Business Know How
Yahoo Small Business
Working Solo
Power Home Business

22 Dollars
Personal Money Tips
Quicken Small Business
The Money Spot
The Million Dollar Portfolio
Expletus Blogger
Financial Freedom 4 All
The Dividend Guy
Very Personal Finance
Byrne’s Marketview

Venture Capitalists
William Tai, Charles River Ventures
Devin Thorpe, Thorpe Capital Group
Ari Newman, Newman Venture Advisors
Tim Keane, Kohler Center at Marquette University
Stu Phillips, Ridgelift Ventures
Robert Goldberg, Ridgelift Ventures
Stewart Alsop, Alsop Louie Partners
Sophie Forest, Mark Skapinker, Tony Davis, Brightspark Ventures
Kara Nortman, Battery Ventures
Leland Cheung, Masthead Venture Partners

Personal Growth
Can You Become Good At Everything?
Success Begins Today

Internet & Technology
Web Teacher - Resources for teaching web design
Skype Journal

Entrepreneur Podcasts
500 Entrepreneur Podcasts on Loomia
Entrepreneur Podcasts on Odeo
Entrepreneur Podcasts on Podomatic
Venture Voice
Venture Week
IT Conversations
American Copywriter
Revision 3
WebMaster Radio
The Marketer’s Podcast

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Happy Birthday, Two-Year-Old

It’s Feb. 1, and that means this very blog is two years old today.

Since then we’ve had 425 posts and more than 17,000 visitors. ranks this as the 910,087th-most popular site on the Internet. I thank you for your support.
As a birthday present to you, I have renovated the “Most Popular Posts” section in the right-hand column. You can now catch up on the best posts of the past two years with a single click. New entries range from “Are you ready for recession?" to Rick’s advice for better blogging and more powerful writing.

What’s the best part of blogging? Having a reason to sort your thoughts out on paper. Providing people with helpful information that can make a difference in their lives. And being part of a global dialogue. The accompanying map shows the location of the last 100 people to visit this site – from Indonesia and Australia to Iceland and Nizhni Novogrod.

New Small Business Statistics

How many Canadian Entrepreneurs are there, anyhow? (about 2.3 million)

Who creates more jobs, small biz or big biz? (pretty much a tie – as of the latest stats, 48% [second quarter of 2006])

How much does small business contribute to Canada’s GDP? (about 22% as of 2005, down from 27% 10 years earlier. The decline is probably to be expected, given the phenomenal growth of big business and mergers & acquisitions in this country - due to the fact that so much more risk capital is available to big businesses than to small ones).

How many small businesses use e-commerce? (about 33% have websites, but only 6% actually sell online).

All this data and much, much more is available from Industry Canada’s “Key Small Business Statistics” report, newly updated for January, 2007. Should be good for winning a few bar bets.

For more information on these and many other trends, see the full report online .
Or download the PDF version here.