Friday, December 08, 2023

'Tis the season to be present

 A blast from the past. "Presence" is about putting your best self forward at every opportunity. The ebook of Amy Cuddy's book "Presence" is currently on sale for just $1.99 at or

My 2015 interview with Amy Cuddy, from the Financial Post:

How adopting Wonder Woman's power pose might change the outcome of a meeting, or even your destiny

Harvard professor Amy Cuddy’s message is simple: 'Our bodies change our minds. Our minds change our behaviour. And our behaviour changes our outcomes'

Thursday, September 14, 2023

When Friends Fall Out

 I talked to an entrepreneur the other day who was very excited about but his business, but disappointed in his friends.

It seems that the more successful this entrepreneur became in his business, the more some friends shrank back. They didn't share the excitement of his success... In fact, some seemed to resent it.

This type of behavior concerns me, on multiple levels. Entrepreneurs run on adrenaline and confidence. They need positive energy, from within and without, to keep going. When friends don't align their energies with yours, you slow down. It's like running on broken ground.

There's no one cause for this lack of support. Some friends may begrudge the time and attention you're lavishing on your business. They may feel left behind. Others may feel jealous of your success. Some might even feel they could have had the same success, maybe more, if they had only stepped up to the plate as you did. Human emotions are complicated.

As entrepreneurs, we have to stay focused and reduce the negative energies around us. But that doesn't mean cutting off friends who are less than supportive. Here are two things you might try:

* Reach out to any friends who seem to have become more distant lately. Find time to spend with them. Don't talk about business. Make sure you're talking about their lives, their successes, their challenges. Really listen. Show that nothing has changed, you're still you, and this personal relationship really matters to you.

* If someone is being overtly negative, call them out. Let them know you value their friendship, and how important it is for an entrepreneur to feel supported by their social group. Doubts, resentment, negative energy are all lethal to entrepreneurial gusto, so let these friends know you really appreciate their positive support. 

Lots of so-called experts will advise you to cut negative people out of your life. I'm not an expert, so I won't tell you that. But do talk to them. Let them know you care. Let them know how important it is for you to have the support and confidence of your friends.

Business will eat up as much of your time as you let it. Make sure to consistently make time for yourself and your friends. The break will do you good, and the positive vibes will strengthen you.

Entrepreneur or not, be the best friend you can be.

Monday, August 28, 2023

The 25 Strengths of Great Entrepreneurs

 I sat down to ask myself,  "What makes a great entrepreneur?" 

What skills, attitudes, learnings and outright gifts can most help people to build good products and successful companies?

Here's a list of 25 essential skills and traits I came up with. Only the top 10 are in any sort of priority order.

Which of these do you think are most important? Which other skills/attitudes would you add? 

And which of these strengths should you be actively working on? 

  • Vision and creativity, to see things that aren't there, but could be.
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership
  • Stamina
  • Confidence
  • Optimistic
  • Ability to plan
  • Project-management abilities (all businesses start as a project)
  • Financial literacy
  • Resourceful; scrappy
  • Budgeting skills
  • Influence and persuasion
  • Sales and marketing skills
  • Trustworthy
  • Empathy
  • Ability to focus
  • Ability to delegate
  • Ability to make good decisions
  • Hard work ethic; hustle
  • Able to ask for help
  • Sociable
  • Able to assess other people, see their potential
  • Open mind + ability to be decisive
  • Ability to manage income uncertainty
  • Resilience

Feel free to add other skills and traits in the comments.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

A very imperfect phone call

What you can learn about communication from listening to Trump’s 2001 call with Georgia election officials

I just listened again to Trump’s Jan. 3, 2001 phone call with the Georgia Secretary of State to discuss voting irregularities in November 2000’s presidential election – won by Joe Biden.

This hour-long call, recorded by the Georgia side, preserves live evidence of Trump’s lies about the election, his disregard for protocol, his arrogance, and his willingness to bully and threaten any honest administrators who stand in his way.

And now we know the call will likely end up being key evidence in Trump’s upcoming criminal trial in Georgia for his efforts to overturn the election results.

But the call is also a faithful record of a neurotic fraudster hard at work, used to getting his own way.

As a professional communicator, here are my observations about Trump’s historic call. 

·       When trying to influence other people’s behaviour, you should listen hard to what they say, and work diligently to earn their trust. Trump, by contrast, probably spoke for 50 minutes of the 60-minute call, offering examples after examples (all unproven and unsupported by any evidence) of Democratic cheating and ballot-box stuffing. His Big Lie: “Everyone knows I won the state by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

When Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger tried to get a word in edgewise, Trump would simply interrupt, pointing (without details) to all the official sources and YouTube videos that supposedly prove his charges. He never bothered to listen. He never asked Raffensperger to explain what steps Georgia had taken to assure the legality of the election. He had become too used to dictating outcomes.

·       A phone call with Trump can be very intimidating. With his booming voice and confident air, he’s a hard man to argue with. He runs roughshod over your assertions the same way he owns the media, by ignoring your arguments and pressing his own talking points again and again. His sources are always “Everybody says,” “very smart people say,” “everybody knows this,” and “you know this is true.”

“It’s very simple,” Trump kept repeating. “We won the election.”

·       “Now you know it.” To support his case. Trump told a number of horror stories, about cheating by Dominion voting machines, Democratic vote dumps, ballot-fixing by one election worker, and even a dump of military and overseas votes that Trump argued should have all gone to him. “Maybe you didn’t know that,” he said, “but now you know it.” This suggests that Trump still believes, despite his reputation as a serial liar, that when he states something, that’s equivalent to it being an unqualified fact – or at least should be perceived that way. His self-confidence is admirable, but his ability to delude himself is somewhat less so.

·       Of course, what works in a press scrum or at a Trump rally isn't as effective when dealing with sophisticated, articulate professionals. Trump kept punching, but he wasn’t smart enough to land a single blow. Georgia election officials had already re-counted the ballots and reviewed supposed irregularities, and they stood by their statement that Biden won the state fairly. Finding himself facing ethical people who knew their stuff, Trump had no idea what to do except… up the ante.

·      Trump aimed threat after threat at the Georgia officials. “You're approving an illegal election… Georgians know it … the people of Georgia are so angry…. They will hate you.” He also suggested that they should change the result soon, to avoid angering state Republicans who would be voting in two senate runoff votes a few days later. (Both seats were won narrowly by Democratic candidates, crucially shifting the balance of power to the Dems).” The final threat: that both Raffensperger and his lawyer, who was also on the call as a voice of reason, could face legal jeopardy for supporting an illegitimate election outcome. Defending Biden’s victory, he warned darkly, “could be very costly in many ways.”

 Had Trump tried to reason with the Georgia team rather than threaten them, how might history have changed? The Senate elections a few days later might have gone different ways: the Democrats won one election by just 1% of the vote and the other election by just 2%.

        ·      The Georgia team remained calm and steadfast. “Mr. President, you have people that submit information, and we have our people that submit information, and then it comes before a court. And the court then has to make a determination. We have to stand by our numbers, we believe our numbers are right.”

Trump’s rebuttal: “Your numbers aren’t right, they’re really wrong. And they’re really wrong, Brad… Ultimately, I win, because you guys are so wrong, and you have treated the population of Georgia so badly.” Then he went on to complain about what a mistake it had been to endorse Georgia’s governor in the last election… proof that if you let a blowhard talk long enough, he will usually just lose his focus and his way.

 ·        Of course, Trump also played the party card. Knowing he was dealing with Republicans, he added, “Why don't you want to find this? What’s wrong with you?” It’s a clear insight into Trump’s belief that loyalty to party should rank above one’s obligation to the public or democracy. (Unless, of course, he’s the one being disloyal to the party.)

·       When Trump saw his bullying wasn’t working, he resorted to bargaining. “Brad, what are we going to do? We won the election, and it’s not fair to take it away from us like this.”

How his lawyers must have squirmed when Trump pleaded, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” (the difference between his vote count and Biden’s).

 ·       At the end, the lawyers on the call agreed to meet again the next day to review the evidence on both sides. But it was clear Georgia’s officials weren't going to budge. Trump tried to play the statesman by saying, “Brad, we just want the truth. It’s simple.” But then Trump revealed that only he gets to define what is the truth. “The truth is that I won by 400,000 votes.”


I’ve always maintained that Trump’s narcissism, ego and lack of self-awareness make him the opposite of a successful entrepreneur. Great leaders tell the truth, listen to others, prize reputation over ambition, and guard their integrity. With none of those virtues, Trump will go down in history as a historic loser.

PS: Kudos to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who defied Trump, party interests and the MAGA mob to defend the truth. Just the other day he tweeted: "The most basic principles of a strong democracy are accountability and respect for the Constitution and rule of law. You either have it, or you don’t.”

(I just learned that Raffensperger graduated from engineering at the University of Western Ontario. Go Mustangs!)

Thursday, July 06, 2023

Top 10 ways to hire and retain top talent

Busy times here at Canadian Entrepreneur, so here's another blogpost written by my AI friend, ChatGPT. Don't forget to use it yourself when pondering new strategies, evaluating new markets, or wrestling with any problem.

Today's question: Based on university level research, what are the best strategies businesses can use to hire and retain top talent?

Hiring and retaining top talent is crucial for businesses to maintain a competitive edge. Based on university-level research and industry best practices, here are some strategies that businesses can employ:

  1. 1. Employer Branding: Develop a strong employer brand that showcases the company's mission, values, and unique attributes. Highlight employee success stories, career growth opportunities, and a positive work culture. A compelling employer brand helps attract top talent who align with the organization's values.

  2. 2. Targeted Recruitment: Implement a targeted recruitment strategy to identify and engage with high-potential candidates. Utilize multiple channels such as online job boards, social media platforms, professional networks, and industry events to reach a diverse pool of candidates. Leverage data analytics and applicant tracking systems to streamline the recruitment process.

  3. 3. Competency-Based Assessments: Utilize competency-based assessments during the hiring process to identify candidates with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for success in the role. These assessments can include interviews, work samples, case studies, and psychometric tests.

  4. 4. Competitive Compensation: Offer competitive compensation packages that align with industry standards and reflect the value the organization places on its employees. Consider additional incentives such as performance bonuses, profit-sharing, stock options, and comprehensive benefits packages to attract and retain top talent.

  5. 5. Professional-Development Opportunities: Emphasize professional development and growth opportunities to showcase the organization's commitment to employee advancement. Offer training programs, mentorship initiatives, conferences, workshops, and tuition reimbursement to foster continuous learning and skill enhancement.

  6. 6, Flexible Work Arrangements: Recognize the importance of work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements such as remote work options, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks. Such flexibility can help attract and retain talent, particularly those seeking a better work-life integration.

  7. 7. Employee Recognition and Rewards: Implement a comprehensive employee recognition and rewards program to acknowledge and appreciate top performers. This can include regular feedback, public recognition, performance-based bonuses, promotions, and opportunities for challenging assignments or leadership roles.

  8. 8. Strong Leadership and Communication: Develop strong leadership capabilities within the organization to create a positive work environment and foster effective communication. Encourage open and transparent communication channels, solicit feedback from employees, and provide regular updates on company strategy and goals.

  9. 9. Employee Engagement Initiatives: Implement initiatives that promote employee engagement and foster a sense of belonging within the organization. This can include team-building activities, employee resource groups, social events, wellness programs, and community-involvement opportunities.

  10. 10. Continuous Feedback and Performance Management: Establish a robust performance management system that includes regular feedback and performance evaluations. Provide constructive feedback, set clear goals, and offer opportunities for career growth. Regular check-ins help employees stay motivated, aligned with organizational objectives, and identify areas for improvement.

It's important to note that every organization is unique, and these strategies should be tailored to align with the company's culture, values, and specific talent requirements. Regularly evaluating and adapting these strategies based on feedback and market trends will help businesses stay competitive in attracting and retaining top talent.

Thanks, ChatGPT.  Ask it your questions here!

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

How can cities encourage entrepreneurship and innovation?

As big companies shrink their workforces, cities have to work harder to support and promote economic growth and good jobs. Luring companies away from other cities is a zero-sum game. That's why cities have to get serious about leveraging the talent and imagination of all their own residents. Entrepreneurs develop new business ideas, create jobs, help each other, and inspire creative and economic resurgence.  

There are many ways to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation. Here's ChatGPT's menu of 10 ways your city can foster a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem:

1.       Establish Supportive Infrastructure: Cities can invest in creating a robust infrastructure to support entrepreneurs and innovators. This includes providing access to affordable office spaces, co-working spaces, research and development facilities, and technology incubators/accelerators. These spaces can facilitate collaboration, idea exchange, and access to necessary resources.

2.       Foster Collaboration and Networking: Encourage networking events, workshops, and conferences that bring together entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, and industry experts. Creating platforms for collaboration enables entrepreneurs to share knowledge, form partnerships, and seek guidance from experienced individuals.

3.       Provide Financial Support: Establish funds and programs to provide financial support to entrepreneurs. This can include grants, loans, and tax incentives for startups, especially in sectors aligned with the city's economic development goals. Facilitating access to capital helps entrepreneurs overcome financial barriers and pursue their ventures.

4.         Develop Entrepreneurial Education: Collaborate with educational institutions to develop entrepreneurial education programs and courses. These initiatives can equip aspiring entrepreneurs with essential skills and knowledge, covering areas such as business planning, marketing, finance, and technology. Workshops and mentorship programs can also help entrepreneurs build their capabilities.

5.       Streamline Regulatory Processes: Simplify bureaucratic procedures and regulations related to starting and operating a business. Reducing barriers and complexities in licensing, permits, and registration processes can encourage more entrepreneurs to establish ventures. Establishing a dedicated agency or office to support entrepreneurs and guide them through the regulatory landscape can be beneficial.

6.       Promote Public-Private Partnerships: Foster collaborations between the public and private sectors to drive entrepreneurship and innovation. Engage with local businesses, corporations, and investors to provide mentorship, funding, and market access to entrepreneurs. Public-private partnerships can leverage each other's strengths and resources to create a conducive environment for startups.

7.       Encourage Diversity and Inclusion: Promote diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship by supporting underrepresented groups, including women, minorities, and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Create programs that provide training, mentorship, and funding specifically targeted at these groups. Encouraging a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem leads to a broader range of perspectives, ideas, and innovations.

8.       Support Research and Development: Collaborate with universities, research institutions, and industries to foster innovation. Encourage the commercialization of research outcomes and provide support for technology transfer and intellectual property protection. Promote collaborations between academia and industry, facilitating knowledge exchange and the development of innovative solutions.

9.       Market the City as an Entrepreneurial Hub: Implement marketing campaigns and branding initiatives to showcase the city as a vibrant entrepreneurial hub. Highlight success stories, local startups, and the overall ecosystem to attract talent, investors, and resources from outside the city. Developing a positive image of the city's entrepreneurial ecosystem can create a magnet effect for innovation-driven individuals and organizations.

10.    Embrace Digitalization: Embrace digital technologies and platforms to facilitate entrepreneurship and innovation. Support the development of digital infrastructure, high-speed internet access, and platforms for online collaboration. Encourage the use of digital tools, such as e-commerce platforms and online marketing, to help entrepreneurs reach broader markets.

By implementing these strategies, cities can create an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship, encourages innovation, and attracts talent, ultimately driving economic growth and development.

Why not send this list to your local city council/mayor/economic development office. Ask how many of these things  they are doing. Then ask how many of them they are doing well!

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The climate revolution is already here

As regular readers may know, I do a lot of writing on sustainability and climate change for a unique Canadian magazine called Corporate Knights. I am proud to be associated with the world’s flagship magazine of “Clean Capitalism.”

This is an exciting time to be writing about business and sustainability. Right now, we are at the tipping point for renewable energy the clean energy transition. As I wrote in a story earlier this month:

 “A new report from climate statisticians at BloombergNEF (BNEF) says global investment in the low-carbon energy transition totalled a record $1.11 trillion (all figures in U.S. dollars) in 2022 – up 31% in a year. For the first time, global investment in green energy technologies – such as renewable energy, electrified transport and energy storage – has reached parity with the total capital deployed to produce new fossil fuels.

 “Report author Albert Cheung raved about the results, saying, “Our findings put to bed any debate about how the energy crisis will impact clean energy deployment. Investment in clean energy technologies is on the brink of overtaking fossil fuel investments, and won’t look back.”

The best part is, the clean energy transition will not just cut carbon emissions that are choking our planet. It will result in cleaner, greener cities, better health, and lower energy costs.

All we have to do is slap down the oil companies, who are determined to stymie and delay the energy transition until they have sold every ounce of their oil and gas reserves – a prospect that would cook our planet to life-threatening levels.

This week, I had three key stories on the Corporate Knights home page chronicling key aspects of this business/lifestyle revolution.

Companies that invest the most in green growth earn triple the returns

This story chronicled new research that indicates the best stock market returns come from companies actively embracing the clean-energy transition. Corporate Knights’s Sustainable Economy Intelligence database tracks more than 2800 public companies, based on the percentage of revenues and spending they derive from the green economy. In the most recent three-year period, the companies in the SEI’s top 20% outperformed the most prominent index of global companies, the MSCI All-World Index, by a factor of three to one.

Canadian pension funds are starting to embrace the green transition

A new report finds that pension funds’ support for the green transition is growing, but still nowhere near the pace required to meet Canada’s global net-zero- targets. The second annual Canadian Pensions Dashboard for Responsible Investing identifies the latest progress inside the sector, whose investment clout must fuel this transition

Insurance industry failing to warn clients of climate risks

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) says that due to the increase in extreme weather events driven by climate change, Canada is increasingly becoming “a riskier place to live, work and insure.” Translation: Prepare to pay more for property insurance. But I wrote that insurers aren’t doing much to warn Canadians about these impending risks. “We have to do a much better job of elevating this issue,” says IBC VP Craig Stewart.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

“7 reasons why AI will never write as well as you do”

Yep, here's another lazy blogpost generated by the ChatGPT artificial intelligence tool. So many organizations and businesses are using AI to write create content now that I was curious how the system would assess its own potential. 

So I asked it: "Write an essay with 7 reasons why artificial intelligence will never write prose as well as a human being."

As you will see, its answers are lifeless and repetitive. If I had asked for 15 reasons, I suspect it would not have covered any new ground.

Still, if the rise of AI results in a new respect for human creativity, imagination, insight and humour, I think it's a worthwhile exercise. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made remarkable advancements in recent years, but it still falls short when it comes to writing prose that matches the quality and creativity of a human being. Here are seven reasons why AI will never write prose as well as a human being

1.  Lack of Emotions: Prose writing is an emotional and creative process, and AI lacks the ability to understand and convey emotions in writing. A human writer has the ability to tap into their own emotions and experiences and use them to add depth and meaning to their writing.

2.   Inability to think abstractly: Human beings have the ability to think abstractly, to consider philosophical and ethical questions, and to imagine new worlds and characters. AI, on the other hand, lacks the ability to think beyond what it has been programmed to do and can only produce writing that is limited by its data set.

3.   No Cultural Understanding: Human beings bring their own cultural experiences and perspectives to their writing, which adds depth and meaning to their prose. AI, on the other hand, does not have the ability to understand culture, and its writing is limited to the data it has been trained on.

4.   No Originality: AI can generate writing that is based on patterns and data it has been trained on, but it lacks the ability to create something truly original. Human beings, on the other hand, have the ability to be creative and imaginative, producing writing that is unique and original.

5.   Lack of Ambiguity: Prose writing often contains elements of ambiguity, and human writers are able to use this to add depth and complexity to their writing. AI, on the other hand, is limited by its programming and can only produce writing that is straightforward and lacks the subtleties of human writing.

6.   Inability to Evoke Empathy: A key aspect of prose writing is the ability to evoke empathy in the reader. Human writers are able to do this by tapping into their own emotions and experiences and using them to create characters and situations that the reader can relate to. AI lacks the ability to understand and convey empathy in its writing.

7.  No Personal Connection: Human writers often bring a personal connection to their writing, whether it be their own experiences, beliefs, or values. This personal connection makes their writing unique and adds depth and meaning to their prose. AI, on the other hand, does not have the ability to form a personal connection to its writing, and its prose will always be limited by its programming and data set.

 In conclusion, while AI has made remarkable advancements in recent years, it will never be able to write prose as well as a human being. The emotional, creative, and cultural elements that make human writing unique are simply beyond the reach of AI.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Five Top Reasons for Business Failure

So I asked ChatGPT today, "What are the five most common reasons for the failure of small businesses?"

Here they are.

The AI platform strikes me as being much like a lot of consulting firms I know: It knows what all the problems are, but has no idea how to fix them.

Also, it spelled "differentiation" wrong.

Five Top Reasons for Business Failure

1. Lack of capital: Many small businesses fail because they do not have enough money to cover their expenses, especially during the early stages of the business. This can be due to a lack of investors, loans, or savings.

2. Poor management: Small business owners often lack the experience or knowledge needed to effectively manage their operations, which can lead to poor decision-making, lack of organization, and financial mismanagement.

3. Insufficient market research: Starting a business without conducting proper market research can lead to a lack of understanding of the target audience and competition, resulting in poor sales and ultimately, failure.

4. Poor cash flow management: Small businesses often struggle to keep track of their cash flow, resulting in unexpected expenses, such as unpaid bills, that can lead to financial collapse.

5. Lack of differentiation: Many small businesses fail because they are not able to differentiate themselves from their competitors, resulting in a lack of customers and revenue. This could be due to a lack of unique products or services, or poor branding and marketing.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

7 communication habits every business leader should be working on

1.    Active listening: This means giving your full attention to the person speaking, asking clarifying questions, and providing feedback to ensure that you fully understand their message. Active listening helps to build trust and respect, as it shows that you value the other person's perspective.

2. Clarity and conciseness: Being able to articulate your ideas and thoughts clearly and concisely. This means being able to express yourself in a way that is easy for others to understand, and being able to convey your message in a way that is appropriate for the audience.

3. Adaptability: Being able to adapt your communication style to different situations and audiences. This is important as it ensures that your message is received effectively.

4. Nonverbal communication: Being aware of the nonverbal cues that you are sending, including body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Nonverbal cues can have a significant impact on how your message is received, so it is important to be aware of them and to use them effectively.

5. Conflict management: Being able to manage conflicts and disagreements in a constructive way. This means being able to identify and understand the underlying issues, and to find a solution that is acceptable to all parties involved.

6. Empathy: Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are communicating with. This helps you to understand their perspective and to tailor your message accordingly.

7. Leadership: Being able to lead a team effectively. This requires the ability to clearly communicate goals and expectations, and to provide feedback and support to team members. Good leaders also need to be able to create a positive work environment, where team members feel valued and respected.

(Note: I did not write this blogpost. I asked ChatGPT the question, "What 7 habits should business leaders develop in order to communicate more effectively?" The AI algorithm did the rest.)

(I find this article written, in a dull, simplistic Grade 4 style. Some people will tell you that's the best way to communicate. but I disagree. Yes, clarity is important, but sharing information effectively and memorably requires more than simple declarative sentences: e.g., vary your sentence structure and rhythm; use more vivid, direct language; and share examples of the issues you are talking about.)

The AI platform fails my first rule of communication: "Never Write a Dull Sentence." 

Still, I'd give the program a grade of B- for this article. What would you give it?