Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mentors and Movies

My column in this week's Financial Post looks at the role mentors can play in small business. I met with a trio of experienced business mentors with the Innovation Synergy Centre in Markham, Ont., and grilled them on their best advice for other entrepreneurs who don't have mentors. The result was some great, road-tested wisdom anyone can benefit from.

• Go where the money is. [Mentor Reza] Reza Alavie once mentored a home-services company that provided quality service but was barely breaking even. "Like a lot of SMEs," he says, the company wasn't charging enough for its services. That doesn't mean it could just raise its prices; Alavie helped the owner recognize she should reposition the company to serve high-end consumers at higher price points. Today the company has a carriage-trade reputation and a long waiting list for appointments.

Click here to read the full story.

Holiday Bonus: Last week’s column took its lead from my recent visit with an economic-development agency in Saskatchewan. I was impressed by the work done by Sagehill Community Futures in creating jobs and businesses in its territory, north and east of Saskatoon. In fact, I realized it reminded me of something: George Bailey’s community co-operative Building & Loan Society, in the Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

In the movie, Jimmy Stewart’s character gets to discover how different things would be if he had never been born. Productive ventures like Sagehill get to see the difference they make every day.

Playing the part of Bailey’s Savings & Loan is Sagehill Community Futures Development Corp., headquartered in Bruno, a 500-person town 90 km east of Saskatoon. Under the direction of an all-volunteer board, Sagehill’s five-member staff provide loans no one else will make, hand out free business advice, offer management training and development, and help new or insecure entrepreneurs navigate the bureaucracies of banks and governments. They also play a key community-building role co-ordinating the economic development activities of more than 50 small towns in an area three times the size of Prince Edward Island.

For the full inspiring story, click here. And savour a government-funded program that works.

1 comment:

Rick Spence said...

I wanted to share with you an excerpt from a letter in the Post that referred to this column. Patrick MacKinnon of Victoria, B.C.
wrote to say that "one doesn't usually expect the Financial Post to offer cheerful Xmas stories, but Rick Spence's tale of capitalism in Bruno, Saskatchewan ( "It's still a wonderful life," Dec. 13) is heartwarming indeed.
It is how most of us think capitalism is supposed to work and not the Lehman Brothers-style horrors we have come to know."

I love that line: "This is how capitalism is supposed to work." I love the way it repositions entreprenurship from "small business" to the epicentre of business.

I think I'll use it a lot.