Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All you need to know about small business in one post. Thanks, Twitter!

Here’s a transcript of my Dec. 30th Tweet Chat with GotoMeeting Canada, on entrepreneurship and the Future of Work. I have eliminated most of the Twitter address/hashtag clutter.

The beauty of Twitter’s short-messaging model is that you have to get to the nub of each issue: make your point, then stop. No frills, no vacillating, no buts. I hope you find some value in the following distillation.

@GoToMeetingCA: We're excited to have @nationalpost columnist and consultant @rickspence with us today to chat about #entrepreneurship and the #FutureofWork
@GoToMeetingCA: First off, what does it take to make it as an #entrepreneur in Canada?

Rick: To make it as an entrepreneur, you need a vision, commitment to quality and service, courage, persistence. 
You need to be prepared to work harder than ever before. You have to think about business 7 days a week. 
To start, you must do something better than anyone in your market, whether you create apps or open a cafĂ© 
You also need to understand your market, what makes other people in it successful.  (Get out and ask people!)
Also, you have to understand basic finance.
How long till your business reaches break-even? What sources of capital can you tap?
I believe we all have to be entrepreneurs. Full-time jobs will be scarce; we'll have multiple client/employers
So we must all think of ourselves as entrepreneurs. We must know how we create value in our chosen markets.

@GoToMeetingCA All fantastic points. How does the climate for #SMBs and #entrepreneurs in Canada look to you right now?

Rick: The outlook is always favorable for entrepreneurs. They specialize in seeing connections that turn into opportunities. 
We all have to learn to zig when others zag. There is always opportunity to do something better, cheaper, faster.
E.g., in tough times, businesses outsource work. Great opportunity for entrepreneurs who do 1 thing well.  
Most markets evolving. Businesses, consumers demand new products, eg security solutions or balsamic vinegars
Lots of room for entrepreneurs to supply specialty products and services to demanding clients with more money than time 
For established small businesses, leverage your flexibility. Be first to see new trends, meet changing demand 
Markets and consumers are changing fast. You can zig and zag while big competitors wait for board approvals!

@GoToMeetingCA:  Are you seeing evidence of any big changes or trends coming our way for 2015?

Rick: Lots of trends for entrepreneurs to chew on this year. Health, fitness and environment: We need new solutions in these areas
Canadians want change, and they’re willing to pay, For healthier foods, better workouts, greener products.
Also, so much opportunity in tech. Apps, games, video. And biotech, nanotech, big data, materials, security.
In general, our increasingly complex society breeds new problems that demand better solutions. All opportunities!
Plus, social issues are hot. How can business create new solutions to poverty, education, mental health? 
And for those who know nothing about nanotech, personal services and anything re pets are huge opportunities
When looking for new opportunities, ask yourself two questions:
What are people spending more money on today?
What nagging problems can we (as individuals, businesses or society) not seem to solve?
The intersection point of these two lines of thought is where your best opportunities lie.

@GoToMeetingCA: Can you tell us about a Canadian #smallbiz that has really impressed or inspired you?

Rick: I love G Adventures, world’s largest adventure travel firm. Socially conscious, very successful.
Just talked yesterday to a Toronto entrepreneur making 3D printers that are safe for children and easy to use.
Check out Poieo3D. Your kids will love you! They might even put down their phones.
@GoToMeetingCA  Amazing! Could be the next new #Techvibes20 company? :)
In Waterloo,Thalmic Labs soon to release gesture-control armbands. Amazing home-grown tech to control video games, appliances, etc.
In Vancouver, Indochino sells fashion-forward custom suits at half off retail. Neat mix of tech and tailoring.
So many great companies. Innovation, value and values are alive and well in Canadian entrepreneurship.

@GoToMeetingCA: You mention one of the top 5 dos of small businesses is to innovate: via @financialpost
What advice do you have for #entrepreneurs to stay innovative?

Rick: To stay innovative, stay curious. Always ask yourself, Why are things done this way? What other solutions would work better?  
Find people to brainstorm with. What’s not working? How could we do it better?
Always look for fast, easy, cheap ways to test your ideas, theories and solutions. Test, test, test.
Crowdfunding can help you test new ideas. Even if you don't raise the money you want, lots of great feeback.
Plus, crowdfunding helps you build a community that cares about your solution. What could you accomplish together?
If you're a business owner, encourage innovation by staff. Reward ideas. Give people resources to test their theories.

@GoToMeetingCA Good point. Many #startups we've spoken to mentioned the right team is crucial for business growth
Rick: As Silicon Valley guru Steve Blank says, startups aren’t businesses. They're research lab testing new ideas.

@GoToMeetingCA What are the most common mistakes #entrepreneurs make as they build their #startups?

Rick: So many common mistakes entrepreneurs make! Like, neglecting to develop a business plan!
Not vetting potential partners properly for alignment, work ethic, resiliency. Know who you're teaming with!
Not looking into insurance and other red-tape chores entrepreneurs need to pay attention to.
Being undercapitalized, and not spending enough time trying to raise money. Not seeking "smart" money
Spending too much time trying to raise money.
Entrepreneurship is a complex business, and opportunities for mistakes abound. Stay focused, have fun.

@GoToMeetingCA Do you have any tips for #entrepreneurs when it comes to making connections and building a network?

Rick: Entrepreneur or employee, building strong business relationships is the most important thing you can do.
Get out and meet people, build friendships, stay in touch. Find ways to create value for people in your network.
Strong networkers make the best leaders. And your network will help you in so many ways.
Your network can provide ideas, encouragement, advice, references, testimonials, leads on funding. Work it! 
I’m doing a lot more work on networking lately, including a new presentations series. It’s the secret sauce of success!

@GoToMeetingCA Good to hear, looking forward to that!
Who are some of your favourite, must-follow #SMB experts on social media?

Rick: I’m a huge fan of Twitter. It’s my network for keeping in touch with thought leaders in areas I care about most. 
Breakfast with Twitter is like sitting down and having coffee with the smartest people you know. Or don't know.
@GoToMeetingCA: Best quote ever.
Rick: To make it more two-way, of course, you have to work Twitter. Retweet, respond, ask follow-ups, engage.
And of course @FPEntrepreneur!

@GoToMeetingCA: Any words of wisdom for young entrepreneurs who may be considering getting into the #startup scene?

Rick: Know your stuff. Partner with great people. Develop a partnership agreement. Don’t skip the business plan.
Prepare to work harder that you've ever worked before. But you won't mind, because you're in business for yourself.
Also, I was once asked for my best three-word piece of advice. I said, "Make the Call.”
"Make the call" means something different to everyone. We all have conversations we've put off. But it works!

@GoToMeetingCA  Thanks for your time, @rickspence! It was great chatting with you about the #FutureofWork. All the best for 2015.

Rick: Thanks for this! All the best to you and yours.