Monday, August 27, 2007

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 47

Here is your motivational Quote of the Week, personally selected to get your week off to an inspirational start.

“I have learned that the only shortages we face are in our own minds. And that the more we give of our approval, our time, our smiles, our energy, our wisdom and our ideas, the more accepted, less stressed, happy, energetic, wise and creative we become. Building people and relationships can serve both the ‘giver’ and the ‘getter.’ There is enough for everyone!”

Calgary entrepreneur Mandie Crawford, founder of Roaring Women
From her book, Seven Simple Principles … that will change the way you do business and live your life

Roaring Women is a fast-growing women’s networking and referral organization. For more information visit

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Correcting Mistakes

Today's reversal by Google underlines a customer-first approach to service that I think more businesses should emulate.

According to an Associated Press story today, Google has decided to offer full refunds to users who had paid for video sales or rentals through Google Video, a service it is shutting down.

The company had announced it would only give credits through its Google Checkout offering, thereby requiring users to buy coffee, magazines or other items from merchants who accept Checkout payments.

“When your friends and well-intentioned acquaintances tell you that you've made a mistake, it's good to listen,” Bindu Reddy, Google's video product manager, said on the company's official blog.

“We thought offering the refund in the form of Google Checkout credits would entail fewer steps and offer a better user experience,” Reddy wrote. “We should have anticipated that some users would see a Checkout credit as nothing more than an extra step of a different (and annoyingly self-serving) kind. Our bad.”

You're allowed to make mistakes in business. What's important is recovering from them quickly.

10 Gems from the Archives

I found a document on my hard drive today that collected some of the best wisdom of Canadian entrepreneurs interviewed by PROFIT Magazine over the past few years.

Some of these individual have moved on since I first compiled these clips, so I won’t cite names with each quote. But I think you’ll find some gems in this list anyway.

"Without customer service, you've got nothing. To me, customer service means that when people call our toll-free number with a problem, you solve it - whatever it takes. Make sure they go home happy and tell 10 other people."

"You have to build relationships with companies at all different levels. If you don't have that team networking, one day you could end up dead."

"Effective negotiating is accomplished with the ears, not the mouth."

"Hold the pen." (i.e, control negotiations to ensure your points are heard)

"Good ideas don't come from the top all the time. They come from the guy that's making it work at the ground level."

"We're not controlled by the amount of people we have or the money we've got. We're controlled by opportunity."

"Technology is not a product problem, but a design problem. Buying technology can't solve a problem any more than buying two-by-fours will build a house."

"Bad news travels 10 times as fast as good news, so you want to make sure a customer is always promoting your good name."

"Marketing is wonderful because it's about listening to clients and being responsive to them and letting them know what you can do for them."

"Everyone's born an entrepreneur, but it's crushed out of them before adulthood. You're lucky to survive with your enthusiasm intact."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Online forum re franchising - tomorrow!

With its 500-page manuals and rigid operating systems, some say franchising is the opposite of entrepreneurship. Others consider it another side of the coin – an option for entrepreneurs who have more money than experience, or lack a surefire a business idea of their own.

The argument becomes immaterial when you think of franchising as an entrepreneurial tool: a way to expand your business with other people’s capital.

In its ongoing attempt to carve out a niche in cyberspace, The Globe and Mail is scheduling an interactive discussion tomorrow (Wednesday, Aug. 22) on franchising. (Yeah, yeah, slow news day, huh?)

The guest expert, Vancouver consultant Mark Wardell, will be answering your questions at 1 pm, Eastern time. If you've ever had a question about buying or running a franchise operation, or turning your business into one, this is a great opportunity to get some answers and benefit from his responses to other entrepreneurs’ questions as well.

Wardell is president of Wardell Professional Development Inc., a Vancouver-based strategy-consulting firm. He often works for franchisors and for clients exploring franchising options.

If you're reading this too late to get in on the conversation, follow one of these links and you may find the transcript. It gives you 100% of the information discussed, in 30% of the time.

Aug. 23 update: For the transcript (it's pretty short), click here.

Or click here to visit Wardell’s website.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 46

Here is your motivational Quote of the Week, personally selected to get your week off to an positive start.

"Business opportunities are like buses, there's always another one coming."
Sir Richard Branson, founder of UK-based Virgin Enterprises

A useful reminder not to get too attached to any one deal or opportunity: if it doesn't work out, there are lots more just as good. And to all those aspiring entrepreneurs in love with their first idea, keep in mind that concepts are common currency. It's what you do with them that counts.

Your one-day MBA

I've been meaning to tell you that Visa Canada has uploaded the “executive summaries” from its Small Business Big Thinking Conference held in Montreal in June.

The whole conference provided a one-day MBA-level course in everything you need to know to run a business: finance, marketing, management, the Web, negotiating, exporting, standing out from the crowd, selling to government, and so on. I think it’s great that Visa makes these summaries available so that everyone can benefit from the ideas and wisdom discussed at the conference.

The summaries are available in PDF form. Check them out at

Aussi disponible en francais:

You can also watch videos of the two keynote speakers: U.S. author Donna Fenn on her best-selling book, Alpha Dogs: How Your Small Business Can Become a Leader of the Pack; and Charles Desourdy, CEO of, on the remarkable turnaround that has made his Montreal-area ski resort a local legend – and earned him a national ranking as Entrepreneur of the Year.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 45

Here is for your motivational Quote of the Week, personally selected to get your week off to an inspiring start.

The best business advice you'll ever get:

"Fail often, fail fast, fail cheap."
Synnex Canada CEO (and faithful blogger) Jim Estill

Failure is an essential business tool - if you learn from it. For Jim's recent blog post on the importance of failure, click here.
While you're there, check out the readers' comments for some more interesting observations. I like the comment from "David," who says that he was taught "It's OK to be wrong, it's not OK to stay wrong."

Friday, August 10, 2007

In praise of praise

For the last year, I have been coaching some of the principals in a manufacturing business just outside Toronto. Recently we engineered a change in sales management: a junior salesperson who seems to have his act together took over as sales director. (To make room, the incumbent is moving more into marketing.)

This was a bit of a gamble, intended to shake up the sales team. The new director is quite young and new to the business. I was confident he could do the job, but not certain.

Until yesterday, when I met with the new guy for a debrief. I found that he’s structuring more regular meetings with sales staff, setting new targets and devising new incentives. All based on instinct.

So I asked, “What do you think is the key difference in approach between you and your predecessor?”

His answer made me smile. “Where he would harangue and complain, I support them and praise them.”

I think he is going to work out just fine.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Best-Ever Entrepreneurship Quotes: Week 44

Here is for your motivational Quote of the Week, personally selected to get your week off to an empowering start.

On this day in 1858, Ottawa was chosen by Queen Victoria as capital of Canada. So our quote is from Sir Terry Matthews (Mitel, Newbridge Networks, Celtic House, Mitel), probably Ottawa’s most succesful entrepreneur.

In a speech at a business awards event in Ottawa in March, in his energetic Welsh accent, Matthews offered these nuggets of wisdom to aspiring business leaders:

"I'm an engineer, I'm a business person, and I'm an enthusiast….[But] I'm not only an enthusiast, I have a go…

“It's not good enough to stand aside and say I've developed something. Ideas are 10 a penny. But you have to convert it to a business. And you have to meet with clients."

"If there is one characteristic that really embodies a winner, it's persistence… I am the most persistent son of a bitch you've ever come across."

"Go for it. Have a crack. Start up a business."

"You must be competent. You must be bold. You must work hard. You must be enthusiastic, be passionate. And absolutely, you must go visit the clients."

Thanks to Mark Sutcliffe and the Ottawa Citizen for covering the event. To find out how Sir Terry went to visit a client, peed on his shoes, and still got the order, read the original story here.

Listen and Understand

It’s a point we've made before on this blog and will undoubtedly do so again: make sure you're selling what your customer wants to buy.

In an e-newsletter yesterday, Burlington, Ont. retail-sales specialist Kelley Robertson talks about the importance of listening to your customers and making sure you're focusing on what they want to hear or know – not what you want to tell them.

Sure, you say, that’s Sales 101 – but how often is this essential rule actually followed in day to day sales? Think back to your recent sales conversations (whether you were buying or selling), and ask yourself if they followed the right track – and specifically addressed the target’s needs, not the seller’s.

Kelley talks about a recent sales training program in which participants tried to push their values on a “customer." "The majority of people in attendance felt that it was critical that they completely "educate" their customer about their products or services.”

But most customers don't want or need all the information you think is important, says Kelley. “What they want is a solution to their specific problem.”

Understanding customer needs creates two benefits, Kelley says: they inolve the customer more and take less time. “In many cases, we can reduce the length of our presentations by focusing ONLY on what our customer/prospect wants. Far too often, we talk about aspects of our product or service that have little or no relevance to their particular situation. But, because we think they should know about those aspects, we tell them.”

Bottom line: “It doesn't matter what is important to us. What really counts is what is important to our customer or prospect.”

Checkout Kelley's blog for more useful tips at

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Penguins win the Internet!

I confess that even though my kids have been talking about the site for months, I didn’t realize that Club is Canadian until it got bought yesterday by Walt Disney Co.

Disney has agreed to pay US$350 million (or more) for Kelowna-based New Horizon Interactive, which launched in October 2005. In two short years, it cracked the nut of the Internet: convincing people to pay for content. More than 700,000 subscribers pay $5.95 a month ($57.95 a year) for access to the site’s games and immersive experience. (You get to assume the identity of a penguin and accept “missions” in a snow-covered cartoon landscape.)
With all the other diversions on the Internet, I asked experts (my kids) what they like about Club Penguin. “It’s fun. You get to be a penguin and walk around, and talk to people… and it’s safe. It’s censored.”

According to the writeup on the site, the company’s three founders (and sole shareholders) “set out to create an online world for kids where they could safely play games, have fun and interact…. The Club Penguin team got to work, consulting with educators, law enforcement representatives and other parents, doing extensive research into online safety, and conducting widespread testing. Eight whirlwind months later, in October 2005, Club Penguin opened to the public with about 25,000 users.” It now has more than 12 million activated players. And no advertising or marketing of any kind. (Well, for now.)

I find it interesting that even my kids appreciate the safety of the site: no nasty lurkers allowed. Some 80% of Club Penguin’s staff is made up of safety personnel and moderators.
CEO Lane Merrifield, who once worked at Disneyland, founded the company with Lance Priebe and Dave Krysko. Yesterday he told reporters: “For us, this whole decision was based around being able to connect with infrastructure that we wouldn't be able to build on our own and being able to take this thing further, and to more countries and more children around the world than we would be able to on our own."

A Disney spokesman said, “What Lane, Dave and Lance have achieved in creating such a large community around this incredibly engaging, immersive environment in so short of a time is phenomenal… We welcome their unique culture, and both we and they are excited about seeing what can come from combining their innovations with Disney’s brand strength and entertainment assets.” The press release (you can read it here) also contains interesting details about the rest of Disney’s strategy for dominating the Internet like it once owned prime-time TV on Sundays.

Merrifield says 10 per cent of the purchase price will go toward Club Penguin's foundation, which supports child-focused charitable work in developing countries.
According to the Ingram 2.0 blog of the Globe and Mail’s Mathew Ingram, the deal could be worth as much as $700 million to the founders if certain performance targets are met.
In the language of the kids today, three Canadian entrepreneurs have just won the Internet. It couldn’t have happened to nicer guys.