Monday, December 17, 2012

What City is This?

Don't forget our regular "Name that City" game. What is the Canadian city in the new header photo?
And can you guess the month this picture was taken?
For extra points, name the river.

Seasonal confections and tactical connections

During low-content month, please feel free to catch up on some of my previous columns for the National Post. It's been a busy couple of weeks!
* Today’s Column:
Year-round wrap-up: The best lessons from Rick’s 2012 columns – in handy quiz form.
 Question 3 of 10. Intuit Inc., maker of Quicken, became an innovation leader with its “Follow Me Home” philosophy, in which Intuit engineers and other staff go to customers’ homes and offices to watch them work and identify problems worth solving. In March I asked CEO Brad Smith if he still participates in this program. What was Smith’s answer?

A No, I’m the CEO and I’m too important.
B No, I don’t have time, though I wish I did.
C Yes, I give it 60 hours a year.
D Yes, I give it 6 hours a year.

(Click here for more questions and answers)

* Yes, manufacturing still has a place in North America. The most promising producers are those who make complex, customizable products “built to order.” Click here to see how to succeed in this challenging niche.
Excerpt: In a variable environment, the authors say, the pursuit of perfect will require trial and error, practise and full involvement. Your job is to ensure that continuous improvement becomes a corporate mission that is “felt, enjoyed and fostered by everyone involved.”

* Dreaming of a green Christmas: Make sure the holidays don't distract you from wringing all the sales you can out of the last crucial weeks of the business year.

* The Skid Row CEO: How Vancouver entrepreneur Joe Roberts went from homeless addict to successful executive – and the lessons he learned on that arduous journey.
Excerpt: Roberts says he is often asked how a homeless addict could possibly become a business success. “I tell them: I wasn’t successful in spite of living on the streets; I became successful because I lived on the streets.”

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The 7 People Every Business Needs in its Network

In business, there's so much you need to know to get everything right. Yet, maybe you don't need to know it all. Maybe you just need to know the people who know what you don't.

That's the premise that led to this month's column in PROFIT Magazine: the seven people you need on speed-dial to make sure you get authoritative, objective answers when you need them.

Who are the Munificent Seven? The industry old-timer, a marketing guru, an exit specialist, and more. Click through to meet the whole gang.

I got a kick out of the illustration PROFIT commissioned for the piece (a nice piece of work by Marc Sullivan). Somehow, my name slipped onto the speed-dial menu, too.

Please don't call after 10 pm.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Five modest proposals for President Obama

A few suggestions from north of the border for President Obama as he embarks on his second term victory lap.

Now that he is relieved of the need to be re-elected, which has consumed most of his time, energy and attention the past year, I hope he can get down quickly to the neglected business of accelerating the ailing economy. Here are a few things he should start doing immediately.

·       Announce some objectives: Obama was silent throughout the campaign about how he would fix the economy. Time for a plan: how can his 150 million fans support his efforts if they don't know what he’s trying to do?

Is his plan to focus on job creation, economic stimulus, or deficit reduction? He should explain what challenges he wants to take on, and set some specific objectives, or targets, for the improvement he would like to see. Then he should announce how he is going to tackle the problem. He doesn't have to do this all himself: appointing prominent and committed citizens to get-’er-done task forces would focus attention on the problems and ignite a public dialogue on the most effective solutions.
·       Be specific. I liked Romney’s shout-out to the “job creators" in last night’s concession speech. Start investing, start creating jobs. It was a clarion call to the people who can make a difference to start making one. The fact that he did it now, following the end of partisan campaigning, gave the issue (and Romney’s commitment to it) greater credibility.

·       Tell people how they can help. From the start, Obama’s campaign has always been about a shared revolution. So he should harness the power of his followers and get them started fixing the issues he has identified as priorities. What can “we the people” do immediately to help jump-start the economy, create jobs, reduce demand on government services, or even preserve the environment? Give people some direction and watch them go.

·       Do it now. Strike while the iron is red-hot. Obama’s win has revitalized his followers, and his victory speech ignited hope and emotion. Leverage that passion now; it's such a powerful resource. In a few weeks (possibly days) it will have dissipated into the usual daily apathy.

·       Stay in touch. We have become accustomed to seeing you on TV every day. Take a few days off to recharge, but don't be a stranger. Americans reacted warmly to the confident, re-energized winner they saw last night on TV. They liked it when you spoke of climate change and “straight or gay” – clearly, the pre-election fetters are off and you can be yourself again. So often you have been accused of being aloof and distant. Last night you re-engaged with the electorate: stay hungry, stay passionate, stay casual and confident, stay in touch.
When leaders and followers are engaged like that, anything is possible.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The word for today is “Accelerator.”

My column in the National Post this week (Oct. 29) looked at JOLT, the “accelerator” for startup tech companies run by Toronto’s MaRS innovation centre. Last week, six promising new companies pitched for investor attention at the program’s high-spirited Demo Day. My article summed up the companies and the accelerator dynamic – and then deflated the whole thing by quoting an unnamed investor who wasn’t very impressed.
You can check out the story here:

The previous week’s column offered several brilliant and original ideas for super-charging your business, from the experienced mind of U.S. executive and consultant Bob Prosen. Check out his "Business Accelerator" framework now to amp up your 2013 business planning.

Excerpt: Prosen prescribes a better way to document progress toward your goals. On every report you receive, ask that those metrics on or over target be coloured green, and those below expectations be red. (No yellow, he says. Yellow just yields excuses.) When discussing underperformance with team members, keep your questions simple: “When will this turn green?” and “What do you need from the rest of us for that to happen?”

Want to really accelerate your business? Read how a Kingston Ont. boatbuilder teamed up with the No. 1 company in its industry. My column from the November issue of PROFIT.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tweeting FEI Small Business conference

So hard these days to find time for blogging!

But here's yet another creative workaround: a collection of my tweets from the 2012 SME Conference held by FEI Canada, which I hosted today (Sept. 25.) in Mississauga, Ont. Retrace the following tweetstream and you'll meet new friends and at least one old one. And maybe learn something, who knows...?

Note: Most of the links will take you to a front-row photo of the speaker in question. A few others connect to more detailed information. Such are the ways of Twitter.
Eric Hart of BMO opens FEI smallbiz conference. Says SMEs produce 47% of GDP, 60% of all jobs.

At FEI Confce, Navdeep Bains, former Liberal small biz critic,urges entreprneurs to engage with govt
PROFIT 200 winner Ty Shattuck at FEI Conference: "Both innovation and leadership are forms of art"
Ty Shattuck offers new model of innovator: the pirate-sailor. Pirates chase bounty, but team players
Why Canada is in deep economic doo-doo.
Can Canada close productivity gap with US?Jan van der Hoop tells FEI confc "the odds are against us"
Jan van Der Hoop:1 hire in 5 is a success; 46% of new hires leave within 1 year;less than 1/3rd of workers are fully engaged with their work
Paula Harrington on great leadership: strategic clarity, successful execution, culture of innovation
Deloitte's Paula Harrington at Ontario FEI confc, on the paradox of innovation: "Everyone wants innovation. But failure is not an option."
8aazj.jpgIan Portsmouth: Traits of high-growth entrepreneurs "Resilience, determination, willing to innovate"

Portsmouth: "A lot of entrepreneurs think they're good at listening to customers, but they're not."
PROFIT's Ian Portsmouth at FEI Conference: Less than 1% of entrepreneurs belong to peer boards (e.g. YPO). Percent of PROFIT 200 CEOs: 50%

At FEI conference,Michael Cangemi leads charge for "continuous monitoring" to cut costs, manage risk
Michael Cangemi translates finance jargon: "'What's the ROI on that?' is CFO talk for, 'I'm busy'."

Brand strategist JP Lacroix: "Great brands live in the reptile brain -the emotive side."

JP Lacroix at FEI conf'ce: "We make our decisions through the reptile brain. Do I trust you or not?"
Social Media Group's Ruth Bastedo at FEI conference: "Before you engage in social media, you have to get your brand sorted out."

From Ruth Bastedo, here's your social media Strategy Roadmap. From FEI SME Conference   
FEI Conference ends with hearty group "ARRRR" saluting Ty Shattuck's concept of innovators as Sailor/Pirates: Team-playing treasure-seekers.

Friday, September 14, 2012

You too can be a Dragon!

With the season premiere of Dragons' Den looming (Sept. 19), CBC publicity is pulling out all the stops. This show is one of their biggest hits ever, so it's fun to see how they ramp things up every year.

Check out what they're saying now:

For the first time ever, people at home will have the chance to have their say in the Den. By visiting, viewers at home will be able to play along with the show, and have their activity displayed back on TV - in real time. This kind of social TV integration is the first of its kind in the world to occur live, in each time zone.

Become an Armchair Dragon and play along while you watch Dragons' Den on CBC with an interactive platform that allows you engage with the broadcast in real-time. For the best experience, participate using your mobile device or PC by visiting during Dragons' Den Wednesday evenings at 8 PM.
Also, this season there's another new Dragon in town. Replacing the ever-popular Robert Herjavec is David Chilton, aka "The Wealthy Barber." Here's his official bio from the CBC (believe it or not). Read it with tongue firmly in cheek:

Required Reading

My column in the National Post this week looks at the new book, Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success. Written by Ken Segall, who did a lot of creative work with Apple and coined the name "iMac," it examines the constant conflict in every business between Simplicity and Complexity. And of course it offers lots of great advice on how to champion Simplicity in your own company.
Here's the money quote:
"The simpler way isn’t always the easiest. Often it requires more time, more money and more energy. But more times than not, it will lead to memorably better results.”

My column in this month’s PROFIT Magazine looks at the advantages of "Lean" production, from the perspective of Canadian fashion icon Linda Lundstrom.

"You can apply the principles of lean to any size company, in any sector," says Lundstrom. "You identify what the customer wants, and eliminate waste as you deliver what the customer values most." Although lean has been around since the 1980s, Lundström believes it's the way of the future—and could even reverse the decline in Canadian manufacturing.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Keeping up with the Next 36

Jane Wu, valedictorian of the Next 36 cohort of 2012
Someone (yeah, it was me) once called the Next 36 “the most intense, hot-house effort to force grow entrepreneurs ever attempted in Canada." It’s a fascinating social experiment: take 36 undergrads – bright, driven, and proven leaders – give them capital to form companies, and expose them to the best business thinking from successful entrepreneurs and innovative academics from the U.S. and Canada. The goal: to encourage a new generation of high-impact entrepreneurs who will understand opportunities, risk and resources, and will never think small in their lives.
I've been a big fan of the program, which has just finished its second year. It’s got Bay Street and the Canadian Establishment rubbing shoulders with the new app/Meetup/lean/startup/incubator/accelerator economy, and that alone is an amazing feat. Plus, the program has turned many accomplished entrepreneurs into experienced, thoughtful mentors, and that could also pay dividends for years to come.
I've been writing quite a bit about the program recently, mainly for the Post, so here’s a recap and some links to get you caught up with the Next 36’s world of frenetically modified entrepreneurs:
·     Driving home the importance of the pitch – in which I sit through a class with the Next 36 on a hot summer afternoon, and watch Next 36 co-founder Reza Satchu doehis best to make his charges as uncomfortable as possible.
·     How Facebook Canada keeps in fighting trim – a sort of sequel to the above story, since Facebook’s Jordan banks was the guest speaker in the class I attended. He had some cool points to make about Facebook culture that I thought all entrepreneurs should hear (not just the Next 36).
·     Why the Next 36 matters for all Canadian entrepreneurs –summing up my thoughts on the Next 36 experience during “Venture Day,” the venture fair-cum-graduation exercise that marked the formal end of the program for the class of 2012. Excerpt:
“The Next 36 isn’t about the seven new app-based companies that pitched their business plans at last week’s graduation ceremony in Toronto. The Next 36 is a bet on the long term: that 10, 20 or 30 years from now, these kids will find ways to shake things up, whether they’re on Bay Street, in their own businesses, or in academia, the arts or non-profits. “

Next 36 co-founders Reza Satchu & Claudia Hepburn,
with Rackspace chairman Graham Weston (centre)
·     Entrepreneurship Lessons From Graham Weston – A final letter from Venture Day, written for, covering the thoughts of guest speaker Graham Weston, chairman and cofounder of web hosting upstart Rackspace. Again, his comments were too good to limit them to just the overachievers of the Next 36. "Entrepreneurship is about being famous for something very specific—something you do for your customers,” says Weston. And yes, Rackspace owes all its growth and success to that one simple idea.

What will your company be famous for?
The Next 36 is now inviting applications for its 2013 program. For more info, click here.