Subscribe: Canadian Entrepreneur
Added By: Feedage Forager Feedage Grade A rated
Language: English
business  canada  canadian  companies  company  entrepreneur  entrepreneurs  growth  new  people  startup  year     
Rate this Feed
Rating: 3.1 starRating: 3.1 starRating: 3.1 starRate this feedRate this feed
Rate this feed 1 starRate this feed 2 starRate this feed 3 starRate this feed 4 starRate this feed 5 star

Comments (0)

Feed Details and Statistics Feed Statistics
Preview: Canadian Entrepreneur

Canadian Entrepreneur

... Innovation and business ideas from Rick Spence: business writer, speaker & content marketer, and former editor/publisher of PROFIT Magazine.

Updated: 2018-03-20T09:02:45.913-06:00


Auditioning for Dragons' Den


Dragons' Den auditions continue across Canada this month. Why not step into the Den with your invention, product or business idea?I just received a request for audition advice from a startup entrepreneur I know in Western Canada. I'm excited that she has registered, and as you'll see, I think she has a good shot at getting on the show. And of getting an offer.I used to help the CBC Toronto crew with Dragons' Den auditions, years ago, when they were under-resourced. So I have some insight into what the producers (and the Dragons) are looking for. But I've been out of that loop for a few years now, so take the following for what it's worth.   Here, with a few edits to retain confidentiality, are my comments to this entrepreneur. She asked what time she should show up: "You don't need to get there early; that's usually a busy time. I suggest you go 1-2 hours before they close. By that time the producers are tired, their expectations are low, and you will blow them away."She asked whether the fact that her product's sales have been slow will be a problem. Hell, no! "The fact that you are in stores and making sales is a big plus. You are way ahead of most people auditioning, because most of them don't have a product, and most of those who do are still looking for distribution. The audition judges (and the dragons) know sales success is as much a factor of promotion dollars as of product quality, so I doubt they would hold a slow start against you."Remember: above all they are looking for a good, upbeat story. And you have it."You saw personally a gap in a growing market. You looked for solutions and couldn't find one, so you designed one yourself and then hired a factory to produce them! Plus, you didn't want to risk your savings (the Dragons hate it when people do that - it's a sign of very bad judgment). So you looked for financial help. And after being turned down by a few sources, you found some additional capital (so there's a great lesson there about persistence). "Keep your story simple. (Sometimes entrepreneurs get too immersed in their own  stories and go on too long. Practice telling your story as simply and as briefly as you can.) "One other thought. Think of a customer success story. It could be anything positive that a retailer or retail customer has said or done. Did a customer provide amazing feedback on the product, fit, convenience, etc? Did a retailer hunt you down and beg you to supply them? One or two quick, casual anecdotes like those will help position you as a winner."The annual Dragons' Den audition tour began in February and continues across Canada until April 7.  Upcoming locations include BC, Alberta, Whitehorse, Newfoundland, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg, Quebec and Ontario. Click here for dates, locations, and other useful information.Go ahead. Own the Den![...]

How would you answer these tricky questions about your business?


This week's FP Entrepreneur column came out of a recent event I attended: the Toronto round of a 15-city “Open Innovation” competition run by Japan’s NTT Data, a US$16-billion-a-year software giant looking for creative partners and technologies.The Event OrganizersPitch competitions are the new Tupperware parties, so I attend a lot of them. But it's hard to get a good story out of them, even when the companies pitching on-stage are outstanding (as they were at this tech-focused event). There's little journalistic fodder in these raw. 5-minute pitches, even though the companies may be interesting (and I will be writing about a few of them in the weeks to come).At the NTT Data event, however, the questions asked by the judges seemed newsworthy to me. Every entrepreneur, every executive, every salesperson, is always pitching their business or their products and services to everybody they meet. Sadly, most people don't do a very good job of it.The judges at this event, however, had a rare knack for spotting the soft spots in people's presentations: especially for things they said that didn't quite make sense, and for the important things the presenters didn't say. I took careful note of the questions they asked, because these are the same questions people will ask themselves when they hear YOU pitch. The PresentersBeing polite, or shy, or time-pressed, the people you meet may never ask these questions out loud - but they're definitely thinking them. To improve your daily pitches and formal presentations, you need to understand these questions so you can answer them before they're even asked. Here are a few of those key questions:* “Do you have any success stories you can share?” (The entrepreneur who was asked this forgot to tell one. Even after being asked!)* “How did your company get into 65 countries?” (Any time you make a big, impressive-sounding claim, such as your business operating in 65 countries, people will ask themselves how you managed that. Was it strategy, or just luck? Make sure you're boasting about the right things.)* “When selling to customers, what benefits do you lead with?” (That was just another way of asking the two Big Question in business: How do you create value, and what makes you different?)This is the sort of basic, useful story that people used to tear out of the newspaper and save for future reading. You can just click this link:[...]

A do-it-yourself Happy New Year


In January we're all filled with good intentions for self-improvement: ending bad habits, losing weight, spending more time with family. Laudable as these goals are, they are often hard to achieve. And they rarely make a dent on how happy your New Year will really be.So here is my simple, DIY proposal for creating what my friend Jennifer Green @jade_consulting calls "an amazing 2018!"Forget resolutions. Just write out 3 goals for 2018. And commit to spending 15 minutes every day to move those goals forward.(Including weekends, if possible. It's all about momentum.)Three simple, meaningful goals. In a business sense, they may involve refining your strategy, engaging with new technology, exploring social media, or getting better at new product development. You can also include personal goals in your agenda for change: getting better at follow-ups, for instance, or praising employees, or abolishing procrastination.Business owners are lucky. Change is hard, but they don't have to do it alone. Pick a few plucky staff members who have spare capacity or want more involvement with the business. Deputize them to work with you (or by themselves, if that's easier) on one of the three new initiatives you've just prioritized. Give them your full support, a bit of a budget, and a deadline, and ask them to come up with a plan. Delegating is good for both the delagater and the delegatee. So share the challenge, the workload, and the opportunity to make a difference. Here in the bleak midwinter, you'll kindle hope and light in your business, and optimism for the future.Get out your daytimer and schedule in 15 minutes a day for moving three priorities forward. If you miss a day, spend 30 minutes the next day. Keep things moving! A Happy New Year? It's in your hands. [...]

Scaling for Success


Canadians are running one of the world's most ambitious experiments in learning how to help promising growth companies learn how to scale."Scaling" is a fun term. Look it up in Google Image Search and you find picture after picture of dental hygienists poking at your teeth with sharp metal instruments. But in business, scaling is the new term for "managing growth." Scaling is about scraping away your bad habits to expose the shiny value proposition beneath - and then developing a dozen new organizational capabilities (strategic communications, delegation, culture development, recruitment, finance, sales management, etc.) to ensure that you know how to compete on a global scale.Essentially, scaling is the discipline all businesses must master if they hope to survive and grow. That's why I'm so interested in the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program now being workshopped by Wilfrid Laurier University’s Lazaridis Institute for the Management of Technology Enterprise. For the second year, they've selected 10 companies from across Canada to participate in a six-month crash course in scaling - as a way of learning how to teach scaling, and then how to scale it so more Canadian entrepreneurs can benefit from that education.Imagine the competitive advantage Canada could enjoy if its best and brightest companies understood the challenges and logistics of scaling. We could create all the "unicorns" we want, and finally build the 21st-century economy we've dreamed of.So here's the link to my first article about Cohort II of the Lazaridis Scale-Up Program.As you'll see, it all starts with better communication. Specifically, how can you engage stakeholders' heart, mind and gut - in 20 seconds?Excerpt:Be clear (What do you do?).Be compelling (How much better are you? How are you different?).Be credible (Can we believe you?).Those messages go straight to the head, the heart and the gut, in that order.Click here for more.[...]

How to grow your business NOW!


“All businesses start as an idea, an opportunity, or a hunch.”“But as a business grows, it has to shed the startup phase of gut instinct and guesswork. Founders need to embrace an ever-evolving framework of processes and systems – such as accounting, human resources and even internal communications – to ensure that work started by just one or two people can be understood and consistently supported by employees and associates of all different levels and backgrounds.”This was the opening of my four-part Financial Post series last month on “scaling”. That’s the process we used to call “managing growth,” before Silicon Valley found a cooler buzzword.I wrote four stories for the National Post on different aspects of managing your company’s growth, oops, I mean scaling. VCs use this term to describe how tech startups can master the path to global success, but these stories are meant for any business leader trying to get ahead of the competition.Hopefully that includes just about everybody.Here are the yarns you should check out: Scaling your family business fast and slow the baffling logistics of scaling secret of scaling: managing three businesses at the same time.-        the business as it is (current state); -        the business it will become over the next year (next-state); -        and the business you think it could become in five years (long-term). The LazaridisInstitute’s Scale-Up Program is exploring the right way to help promising companies learn to scale. Here’s what their test entrepreneurs learned in Year One.[...]

Life at the Top: The challenges facing Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies


I spent this morning at the PROFIT 500 CEO Summit, bringing together the leaders of Canada’s Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies. It’s the 29thyear of the survey, which has now outlasted not only PROFIT magazine, which debuted the survey in 1988, but Canadian Business, which took over the survey after PROFIT folded a few years ago. (CB stopped publishing in magazine form earlier this year, but it lives on online and in occasional special issues.*)Shopify COO Harley Finkelstein on stage at PROFIT 500 CEO Summit todayPROFIT/CB/Maclean’s drags me out of mothballs once a year for this event to lead one of the many roundtable discussions for the “Idea Exchange,” where growth company CEOs discuss the issues that keep them up at night. The seven CEOs I met today – from Toronto, Montreal, Calgary  and southwestern Ontario – cited some pretty interesting challenges:·       - How do my brother and I convince our father that the family business should invest more in technology?·       - How do we keep doubling sales given that it gets harder and harder as you grow?·       - What tasks as CEO do I need to give up in order to grow the company faster?·       - How can we get ahead without hiring more people?·      -  How can we increase profitability?·       - How can we motivate world-class talent to move to our city?·        - How can we systematize hiring so it takes less time, while maintaining the rigour of our current process and preserving our culture?As you might guess, these are confidential discussions, so I can’t talk about the solutions we discussed. But it’s interesting to see how growth businesses in different industries have problems that sound different, but are all essentially the same: How do I personally change fast enough to keep up with my company’s success?At one point, I mentioned the importance of taking time to put your key processes into writing. Then I asked how many of the entrepreneurs at the table maintained an employee handbook. All seven said yes. Astounding!Above all, I was impressed by the respect these leaders had for their employees. They truly treat them as partners. As one participant mentioned, “Our people are the resource that makes our business successful, and will one day let us step away from it.”At the end, I asked people to offer their best management tip, or a book that changed their life. The books: Delivering Happiness (by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh); The One-Minute Manager; Managing Up (get your employees to read it); and It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For, by Roy Spence (no relation).Some of the best advice:      “Get a mentor. Or join a peer group (such as YPO, PEO, Innovators’ Alliance, etc).”       Surround yourself with people who are better than you. There’s no better feeling when you're running a company than when people eat, breathe and sleep the organization.”       When you're trying to teach your team something, “Keep at it. Let people know why you want them to do this.” If they're balking, find out what’s holding them back: “It’s my job to show people the whole picture.”       “Do what you say you will.”       “Don't overthink it. Get a product out there and test it.”       “Even as COO, I still have my own customer accounts. I try to stay in touch with all aspects of the business.”Read more about the PROFIT 100 here:* And of course also survives online, albeit rarely updated.)[...]

Why Does Networking Matter?


Networking – or building better business relationships – is one of those essential skills that no one ever learns in school. Some folks are natural networkers – they meet people easily, gain trust quickly, and forge fast friendships. But most of us have to work at it.Why bother? Because business is always about people. You will only succeed in business if you know how to meet people, how to connect with them, and how to gain their ongoing friendship and support. This applies not just to customers, but to co-workers, suppliers, consultants and associates, and hundreds of potential prospects, mentors, advisors, partners and friends.We all know people who have sworn off networking, because they say it doesn't work. But that's usually because they don't know how to do it!Networking isn’t just about schmoozing people so they will buy from you. Business relationships pay off in many ways, many of them unknown and invisible to us now. When you neglect to turn an acquaintance into a trusted contact, who knows what future opportunities you are tossing away?Yesterday I had a coffee meeting with someone I just met the day before. We hit it off and now plan to do a very cool project together. Other people aren't strangers; they're allies you haven't met yet.And I would never have met him had I not made friends 10 years ago with yet another new acquaintance, who’s the one who invited me to yesterday’s event. Developing and building new relationships in business may not change your life right away, but will pay off continually over time.Think back to your recent business successes, large or small. Chances are they were initiated or abetted by people who recently passed the “acquaintance” level and became trusted colleagues. Business is all about adding value – and building your network is the best way to add value for your clients, employer, employees and other partners.Why do I say that most people aren't very good at “networking”? Because it’s so much more than sizing up strangers based on their potential to become customers.  You need to see the bigger picture – and then you need a plan.The best way to succeed in any aspect of business is to develop a strategy and follow it. But when it comes to networking, almost no one bothers to plan. Expecting people to come to you with great ideas or open wallets isn’t networking. It’s standing in a corner waiting for someone to talk to you.Today’s business leaders need a better vision of relationship-building. One rooted in the fact that business is a team sport. Each of us needs the most supportive team we can find. So networking is the process of putting together that team.And remember – you're just one player on the team. It’s not all about you. It’s about how you and your team-mates can help each other. Many people don't understand this. Even defines networking as “cultivating people who can be helpful to one professionally.” That definition seems to assume that networking is selfish and narrow. It may sound appealing at first. But most adults have already learned that relationships based on grabbing sole advantage never last. No one wants to hang out with a bloodsucking vampire.And you may have noticed that the selfish quarterback gets sacked by the other team much more often than the quarterbacks who respect their teammates and share the credit. You want your teammates to have your back.So here’s the definition of networking that we use at Connectinc: Interacting and sharing with other people to develop lasting personal and business relationships of mutual benefit.True networking means thinking not just about how people can help you, but how you can help them. Everyone needs information, resources, feedback, contacts and encouragement. Each of us can help each other by sharing our own experiences, our solutions, our network. And we can create lasting va[...]

Writing with Power, for Impact


The other day a business acquaintance, Jeff, sent along the beginning of a blogpost, and asked me what I thought. I thought he was off to a good start, so I wrote him back some notes on how to turn it into an article with credibility and reader utility – and, hopefully, some promotional value for the writer.But it has to happen in that order.A blogpost that promotes the writer over the needs of its audience is doomed to be ignored and forgotten. An article that brings real value to a reader is much more likely to be remembered, to be shared, and to encourage readers to follow up.Here, only slightly edited to preserve his confidentiality, is the advice I gave Jeff.I think your article is off to a great start. I like your passion and your professionalism. And you offer some very vivid examples.But before you start writing, you should always ask yourself:·  *   What am I trying to say?·  *   Who is my audience?·  *   What do I want them to take away from this article that’s new and impactful?You have to decide if this is going to be a promo piece for you, a think piece, a tool packed with useful tips, or a manifesto that will open people’s eyes to new thinking in their fields. (There are many other possibilities, of course; these are just a few samples to show the range that’s possible.)Usually, the right answer is a blend of the above. The best promo pieces don't brag; they offer real value to the target reader. Confident professionals are happy to give knowledge away, because they know that’s the best way to earn respect, goodwill, and potential follow-ups and referrals.So I suggest you now prepare an outline that includes what you have here, explores why so many people have the wrong idea of [redacted], and then follow up with some really insightful observations that will make your business market sit up and take notice. They might point to the essential changes your market needs, or examples of organizations that failed because they lacked the ability to change. Or you might get more prescriptive, and offer three to give tips on how companies can rethink their processes, make them simpler, more powerful or more effective, and reap the benefits of consistent improvement.There’s so much free information available today. To make an impact, you have to share powerful ideas, stated simply, clearly and accessibly.Good luck![...]

When you spoil your kids you're stealing their future


Yesterday I did a radio interview with Aaron Rand of Montreal news/talk station CJAD 800. We discussed my most recent column, which ran in the Montreal Gazette and other major Postmedia papers as well as the Financial Post.

My column was an analysis of EntitleMania, a new book by California attorney Richard Watts, who's a financial advisor to many affluent business leaders and their families. The book is a warning to successful partners not to give to much to their kids - lest you steal away their ambition and self-reliance, or "cage" them in a lifestyle that they don't want and can't afford.

It's a fascinating book, and Aaron picked up on all of the cool points in my story: how Mr. Watts learned from nearly spoiling his third son;  how entrepreneurs are some of the worst offenders  in terms of spoiling their children; and how your kids' whole futures may be at risk.

Click here to watch the six-minute video on YouTube. (Ignore Mr. Rand's identity confusion at the start. It was embarrassing enough for the both of us.).

Or you can read my column here. It's more fun than spoiling your children!


The paradoxes of entrepreneurship - a classic from the archives


Here's a story I wrote three years ago. Some of the details may be outdated, but the message is more timely than ever now.They tell you to focus on the big picture. Then they tell you “retail is detail.” They call entrepreneurs risk-takers. Then they tell you to be risk-averse. In many respects, your success in business will hinge on your ability to resolve the essential paradoxes of entrepreneurship. Life presents us with many paradoxical situations: “Hurry up and wait.” “I saved a lot of money shopping.” Paradoxes galore were on display last week in a panel discussion I moderated with four entrepreneurs in Ottawa. The first speaker was Rivers Corbett, founder of two Fredericton-based businesses, caterer Chef Group and restaurateur Relish Gourmet Burgers. He told the audience his No. 1 secret of success: “I zag when everybody else zigs.” So often, Corbett says, life requires you to fit in. Paradoxically, business requires you not to fit in. “In the marketplace, you have to be different,” he says. “It’s not like high school. You have to be stand out, you need to be unique.”Another paradox: Corbett says it’s important to be Think Big. But you also have to think small. Look after the little things. “At Relish, when we think gourmet burgers, we think total domination,” he says. But he knows domination comes from the little things, such as making sure all customers entering his restaurants in Atlantic Canada are greeted warmly by the entire team. If Corbett sees a passerby in the street carrying a Relish takeout bag, he’ll make a huge fuss about thanking them for their business. “We instill a culture of thinking small,” he says. “Little experiences that add up to big, big impact.” Another paradox plunged Marissa McTasney into her own business. After taking a construction course geared to attracting more women into the skilled trades, she found that the required safety gear – such as steel-toed work boots – came only in men’s styles and sizes. She formed Whitby, Ont.-based Moxie Trades to sell women’s work boots and safety equipment. (You may remember her from her 2008 appearance on Dragons’ Den, where she scored a $600,000 investment from W. Brett Wilson – then the biggest-ever deal in the Den.) Then McTasney ran into the “We have to protect our customers from themselves” paradox. Determined to get pink workboots into Home Depot Canada, she found it almost impossible to meet with then-president Annette Verschuren. McTasney says Verschuren’s team physically blocked her when they saw her approaching. Finally, McTasney took a gift bucket containing workboots, flowers and cupcakes to Home Depot HQ. When the executive who used to roll his eyes at her finally spied the boots, he said “This could be exactly what we need.” She got her meeting with Verschuren, and now sells boots, safety glasses and hard hats through more than 400 stores in the U.S. and Canada.The third speaker, Vinod Rajasekaran, is an aerospace engineer turned lead strategist at HUB Ottawa, a company-working space dedicated to innovation and collaboration. We all know that entrepreneurs need to think positive and focus on their strengths. But Rajasekaran urged them to pay more attention to mistakes: “It’s really important to capture your failures.” It’s the best way to improve, he says: “We celebrate our failures, and we share them.” The final speaker, Michael Daignault, is CEO of Ottawa-based Magnus Training & Protection Inc. The paradox he explored concerns the surprisingly empathetic nature of business today. Daignault is a Canadian Forces veteran who spent nine years with the elite Special Forces before being injured in a non-combat-related accident. “Suddenly that door – everything I’d strived for – slammed shut,[...]

The Best Advice I Ever Got


I was interviewed recently by You Inc., Arlene Dickinson's young-entrepreneur site. It's part of the publicity push for an event Wednesday in Toronto that I am co-hosting for ScotiaBank.One question asked me to recall the best advice I was given when I started out as an entrepreneur. However, as regular readers will know, I didn’t start out as an entrepreneur; I started as a writer.First I wrote for a general newsweekly in Edmonton; later I became a business writer with the Financial Times of Canada. That job in particular introduced me to cool young entrepreneurs in technology and retail (whom my editors NEVER wanted me to write about). So that in turn led me to PROFIT, The Magazine for Canadian Entrepreneurs – the publication that turned me into a modest intra/entrepreneur and a national champion of entrepreneurs.I don't often get the chance to reflect on how my career developed – or to credit the people who guided me along the way. So I welcomed the question from You Inc., and enjoyed answering it in a way that weaves my journalistic and entrepreneurial threads together. Here’s my response to: What was the best piece of advice you were given when starting out as an entrepreneur?Classic Ted ByfieldRick Spence: "I started out as a business journalist, and gravitated slowly to entrepreneurship, as I began to learn that just writing was not enough – you have to market the heck out of your work and build networks and alliances to keep your platform strong. My first editor, Ted Byfield at Alberta Report, told me to verify everything I thought I knew – which is excellent advice for entrepreneurs. And my next editor, David Tafler at the Financial Times of Canada, taught us all to answer the question: “Why is this here?” Which is to say, when you write a story (or do anything new and creative), you must very clearly indicate what the work is about, what purpose it serves, and why it really matters to its intended audience. New products and services have to over-communicate."You can read the rest of the interview here:[...]

The following stories are all about you


I continue to find incredible value in exploring new startups. I hope you do, too.The startup stories I write in the Financial Post aren't really about the entrepreneurs whose stories I am profiling. What I try to do is draw key moments out of those entrepreneurs’ stories that relate to game-changing decisions that every entrepreneur faces. And how building a global business, while always hard, is getting easier over time.So while one of my stories may seem to be about a 29-year-old entrepreneur with a breakthrough product idea, they're really about how you or I or anyone can build a better business: from identifying opportunities to building a product, hiring staff or communicating with customers. Or simply developing resilience in the face of setback after setback.If I did my job right, in these stories below you will find lots of great ideas for building your business, refining your product, and re-connecting with prospects and customers.You’ll find inspiration, too. I hope these stories will fill you with pride in our new generation of entrepreneurs, and the spirit to pursue your own goals with greater passion and confidence.From March 20: JamStack creator finally hits the right chords with his smartphone guitar ampHow a teacher- musician and tinkerer is trying to change how – and where - electric guitars are played. A story of vision, partnerships and reaching out.And also: the benefits of raising capital. “The more clout you have, the more you can put your foot down (with a manufacturer) and say, ‘No, that’s not the component I want.’”Is phytoplankton the healthy juice of the future? This entrepreneur hopes soA story of incredible persistence – and how entrepreneurs and big businesses can work better together.“My job is to strategically find a way to let Canadians know this amazing plant has the potential to change everyone’s lives,” says David Hunter. “If we do it right, this could be a global brand.”Nicole Verkindt proves that with the right leader, a great idea is unstoppableNot just a story of a woman entrepreneur succeeding in a traditional male industry (defence). Also a story of partnering with customers and learning to listen to mentors.Early collaboration with key stakeholders ensured OMX’s success, says Verkindt: “They felt that it was their platform, not ours.”Ex-NHLer Mike Weaver is back on the ice, this time with his coaching appHow a pro hockey player became a penny-pinching tech entrepreneur. “I knew the odds of getting to the NHL were slim. To succeed, I had to look past the bumps and stay focused on my goal.”Zone TV’s plan to save the cable-television industryA Toronto tech company has pivoted to curating channels full of Internet video that may save US cable companies from extinction. A classic example of finding a big problem to solve for deep-pocketed prospects.Meta Inc. rode a wild rollercoaster of a startup, and then Chan Zuckerberg came alongMeet the Toronto startup that’s fuelling Mark Zuckerberg’s dream of eliminating all human diseases. An unusual story of angel investors who didn't cut and run when times got tough.  [...]

From Steve Jobs, on his 62nd birthday


Apple's onetime boy wonder,  Steve Jobs, would have been 62 today. To celebrate the life and spirit of one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, here’s a selection of his most inspiring business quotes. Adopt one and make it your own.On Innovation“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”“We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn't build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren't going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.”“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it.”“It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.”“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”“I have a great respect for incremental improvement, and I've done that sort of thing in my life, but I've always been attracted to the more revolutionary changes. I don't know why. Because they're harder. They're much more stressful emotionally. And you usually go through a period where everybody tells you that you've completely failed.”“Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we've been thinking about a problem.”On Strategy“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.”“I've always wanted to own and control the primary technology in everything we do.”  (2004)“[Success] comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much.”  (2004)“A lot of companies have chosen to downsize, and maybe that was the right thing for them. We chose a different path. Our belief was that if we kept putting great products in front of customers, they would continue to open their wallets.”“The reason that Apple is able to create products like the iPad is because we've always tried to be at the intersection of technology and the liberal arts.”“Apple's market share is bigger than BMW's or Mercedes' or Porsche's in the automotive market. What's wrong with being BMW or Mercedes?” On Apple:“Each year has been so robust with problems and successes and learning experiences and human experiences that a year is a lifetime at Apple. So this has been 10 lifetimes.” “It is hard to think that a $2 billion company with 4,300-plus people couldn't compete with six people in blue jeans.” (On lawsuit from Apple following his resignation to form NeXT, 1985)“The products suck! There's no sex in them anymore!” (On Gil Amelio's tenure, 1997)“The cure for Apple is not cost-cutting. The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.”“It wasn't that Microsoft was so brilliant or clever in copying the Mac, it's that the Mac was a sitting duck for 10 years. That's Apple's problem: Their differentiation evaporated.”“iMac is next year's computer for $1,299, not last year's computer for $999.”“What is Apple, after all? Apple is about people who think 'outside the box,' people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get a job done.”On Design“In most people's vocabularies, design means veneer. It's interior[...]

Now is the time to export to the USA


This post brought to you by HSBC Bank Canada. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Canadian Entrepreneur.As economic growth lags in Canada, businesses are increasingly being urged to export their goods and services. Simply put, Canadians have special access to major markets such as the U.S. and Europe. Companies that don't take advantage of these special trade relationships are leaving money on the table – and possibly even risking their futures by clinging to a slow-growth economy.But trading across borders isn’t easy. You need new capabilities and contacts to make the most out of these opportunities. The good news is that once you master these tools and relationships, you’ll be miles ahead of your stay-at-home competition – and ready to take on the world.At a seminar in Toronto in November, HSBC assembled its top trade experts to meet with entrepreneurs and business executives to explore the opportunities and challenges of selling to the U.S.Why head stateside? HSBC’s chief U.S. economist, Kevin Logan, foresees strong growth for the U.S. economy, stemming from low unemployment, a robust energy sector (which, unlike Canada’s, can make good returns on prices of US$60 per barrel), and the prospects of higher infrastructure spending promised.To take advantage of U.S. growth, exporters will have to be innovative, responsive, and aggressive, according to HSBC’s chief Canadian economist, David Watt. He noted that being just two days’ drive from most markets means Canadians can serve U.S. clients faster and more efficiently than competitors in Europe or Asia. “Speed to market” can be a Canadian brand.To help you hone that advantage, here are a few export tips from HSBC’s trade experts:Make sure you develop the right business relationships. Successful exporter need talented advisors to help them understand local market conditions and master the required banking, legal, and tax issues.The U.S. is a huge market, with significant regional and local variation, so you also need to have the right distributors and sales agents on the ground. Cate Luzio, HSBC’s New York-based executive vice-president, said many foreign companies come to the U.S. expecting they can tackle the whole country at once.Start with your own relationships and work out from there. Ask your banker, lawyers and accountant about best practices and required resources in the markets you're eyeing. And leverage your contacts in other industries, too – they may have ideas that will give you an advantage in your niche.Financing your U.S. activities can get very complicated, so leverage your domestic resources as much as possible. As one HSBC banker noted, you can borrow against your Canadian assets to fund expansion in the U.S. That should get you a bigger loan and better rate than going to a U.S. bank, which will likely treat you as a stranger with no track record.Be patient. As one business owner in the audience advised: “Establishing a U.S. presence is going to take longer than you think.”All the same, be ready in case you're an overnight success. “Often customers trip up because they take on too much business early on,” one banker warned. “It’s a big market. So watch what you wish for.”Planning to do business in the US? Watch this free Webinar replay here for additional tips and insights.[...]

Meet the 2016 National Startup Canada Awards Winners


“Congratulations to the 2016 Startup Canada Awards winners, each of whom have been recognized by their peers as strong role models for Canadians of all ages and entrepreneurs across all sectors for championing a culture of entrepreneurship. Each recipient is driving impact in Canada and globally, and represent the greatness and diversity of Canada’s entrepreneur community.”- Brenda Halloran, Chair of the Startup Canada Board of DirectorsClick here to read the full press release. Watch the 2016 Startup Canada Awards VideoOutstanding Impact and Enduring Legacy in Canadian EntrepreneurshipADAM CHOWANIEC LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD | Randy Yatscoff,Edmonton, ABRandy Yatscoff is an entrepreneur, community builder and mentor who has been instrumental in building Edmonton into a thriving entrepreneurial city. Randy is committed to mentoring and supporting the growth of early-stage companies, and has mentored 500 companies since 2009. Over the years, he has helped technology-based companies raise more than $250 million. In 2010, Randy formally joined TEC Edmonton, where he is now the Executive Vice-President of Business Development."This award is a recognition of the support of my family and all the colleagues who I have associated with over the years. Without their support this award could never have happened." - Randy Yatscoff, winner of the 2016 Adam Chowaniec Lifetime Achievement AwardWatch the Video Advancing The Environment and Culture for Entrepreneurship in Canada"I believe it's up to me, and to seasoned entrepreneurs like me, to give back. This award shows me I'm not alone in this belief, that our national startup community recognizes championing others to success as a valuable form of leadership." - Meredith J. Powell, winner of the 2016 Startup Canada Entrepreneur Promotion Award.ENTREPRENEUR PROMOTION AWARD |  Meredith J. Powell, Vancouver, BCMeredith Powell is the co-founder of Vancouver-based non-profit The Next Big Thing, which empowers youth with the tools they need to succeed as entrepreneurs. Launched in 2013, the incubator has had more than 50 entrepreneurs go through the program - raising nearly five million dollars in seed financing and creating more than 80 new jobs. Powell is also the founder and CEO of Powell and Co., a company that specializes in bespoke startup strategy and rapidly scaling early stage organizations.Watch the VideoENTREPRENEUR SUPPORT AWARD |  North Forge Technology Exchange, Winnipeg, MBNorth Forge Technology Exchange is a collaborative innovation network in the heart of Winnipeg. North Forge is home to Canada’s largest non-profit fabrication lab and provides entrepreneurs with world class mentors, subject matter experts and a multi-stage startup program. Watch the VideoPOLICY PRIZE | Brad Woodside, Fredericton, NBBrad Woodside is the former Mayor of Fredericton, and the city's longest-serving mayor. A long-time advocate for innovation who led the city through two major development strategies - Vision 2000 and Vision 2020, Brad Woodside Championed Fredericton as a Smart-City with a bold vision of becoming the Startup Capital of Canada.Watch the VideoSTARTUP COMMUNITY OF THE YEAR | Startup Fredericton, Fredericton, NBStartup Fredericton is an essential leader in creating a collaborative culture locally and across the Atlantic Region. Startup Fredericton, in partnership with Ignite Fredericton, and more than 20 entrepreneur support organizations created Taskforce Fredericton Startup Network with a ma[...]

Show off your sales savvy and win a seat at The Art of Sales


Let’s crowd-source some wisdom here.
Here are two of my favourite sales tips. Now you share yours.

(image) If you share two of your best sales tips/lessons/rules of thumb by midnight Sunday Dec. 4, you could win a free ticket to the Art of Sales event in Toronto on Dec. 7.

Submit your best sales wisdom to me be email ( or by leaving a comment below. All those who have responded by midnight Sunday will be entered into a draw for a free ticket valued at more than $400!

So send me your favourite sales tips now.

Here’s mine:

Selling isn’t about convincing customers, but giving them the information to make the best possible purchase.

In selling, trust is more important than price.

See how easy it is? Send me your best tips by Sunday night, and we’ll all learn together.

One of the coolest startups I've ever encountered


(image) Little Box of Rocks is a Winnipeg company that sells bouquets of rocks. It’s one of the most creative and original businesses I have ever seen.

Founder Kiera Fogg is a stay-at-home mother of three who was looking for a business she could run from home – and hit pay-dirt with her beautiful giftboxes of polished stones and crystals. Featured in gift guides from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz, Little Box of Rocks now has robust sales to throughout Canada, the US, and Australia, and is
looking at selling through retailers by mid-2017.

Most importantly, Fogg figured out that building a brand is all about telling compelling stories. 

(image) Each of her “bouquets” carries a message – of hope, health, courage, love – that’s pretty much guaranteed to please both sender and recipient. Fogg created every bouquet and wrote every story herself,  reminding all of us that business is an art form, and creativity is an endlessly renewable resource.

Fogg will be appearing on the CBC’s Dragons’ Den on Dec. 7. She is sworn to secrecy about what happened in her appearance, which was taped six months ago. But I’m pretty sure she rocked it.


How to start your startup right


I received a request this week from a financial professional for some advice on how to advise an Internet company being started by a friend. He asked: "Can you suggest some books/blogs etc to help guide me? Any guidance would be greatly appreciated."So here is my response:Hi, xxxx. Great to hear from you.There are so many resources out there.First, looking at books, The E-Myth Revisited is a classic book on the true role of the entrepreneur: ie, adopting systems so that you are working ON your business, not IN it. The Lean Startup (Eric Reis) and The Startup Handbook (Steve Blank) are the contemporary bibles for tech startups.  Both authors have also published many additional articles that are very useful and informative, and are available for free around the Internet or on their own websites. The important point of their models is that startup entrepreneurs must spend much more time testing their ideas with customers and prospects, rather than fiddling with their products or trying to "perfect" them without continuous feedback. (Here's my intro to their work.)There are many organizations that can help your friend get off on the right foot. If they live in or near Toronto, they should check out MaRS, Startup Grind AND Startup Toronto. They all offer regular meetings with experts sharing important information, as well as opportunities to network with and learn from other startup entrepreneurs. Your partner might also look to rent a co-working space in their community, so they can work side-by-side with other entrepreneurs trying to master similar problems. Entrepreneurs tend to be very open and sharing about the startup process, so you can save a lot of time (and possibly cash) by finding people who are going through the same things you are - or, best of all, went through it only a year ago (so they know what works and doesn't, but their information is still relatively fresh).Every startup entrepreneur needs a mentor or accountability coach to keep them on track. If your friend is under 40, they might find useful resources at Futurpreneur. They offer funding for startups, and, more importantly, they find each startup a personal mentor to work closely with over the next two years or so. I've known many entrepreneurs who didn't need the money, but took it anyway as it allowed them to access Futurpreneur's mentor pool.I hope that helps. I might also suggest your colleague go to the Financial Post site and re-read my recent profiles of startups. As you may know, my stories focus heavily on the how-they angle: how these entrepreneurs overcame the typical hurdles and challenges faced by most startups. I think he or she will get lots of road-tested advice to shorten their learning curve.Click here to link to many of my more recent stories. Hope this helps. Do keep me updated on his or her progress!Rick[...]

Turning Disaster into an Opportunity


I am a proud Canadian. But as the son of a mother from Brooklyn, living one hour from the U.S. border, I share the shame and anxiety so many Americans feel today. The unthinkable has happened: a childish, narcissistic clown has harnessed the worst parts of American patriotism and despair, and ridden it into the White House.How did this happen? The Democrats got lazy. They thought Hillary was destined to win; they believed the inexperienced, friendless Trump was a dream opponent. For her part, Hillary thought she didn’t have to answer for her Clinton-esque faults: the chasing of money, the association with elites, the questionable dealings around the Clinton Foundation and her missing emails. Her refusal to do press conferences revealed an arrogance that wasn’t far off the far right’s view of her as high-hatted and entitled.As the Trump train gained momentum, Hillary and her handlers responded haughtily, if at all, to these legitimate concerns. At the Democratic convention in July I thought that both Bill and Hillary excelled in changing the narrative, painting a new picture of Hillary as a lifelong crusader for prosperity, equality and inclusion. But after the convention, the Dems went quiet again, refusing to tell their story while Trump gathered coverage day by day with one outrageous lie after another. Before long, everyone knew Donald’s story. Hillary didn’t have one. Voters had nothing to identify with. Meanwhile, the media elites missed the anger simmering in the ’burbs and the countryside, over disappearing jobs, falling wages, lower home prices (ie, less money for retirement), social change, gun control and immigration. Where these concerns were acknowledged, they were rarely  addressed, but dismissed through the use of selective economic statistics or the pressure of political correctness.So the passion for Hillary faded, and Trump emerged as an unlikely national champion. His shallow world view, his inbred, ego-feeding business career, his inexperience, his racism and his twisted view of women, are all frightening traits in a chief executive, especially a nation’s moral leader. Today, many Americans live in fear of what will happen next, given the outdated values and opinions that Trump and his team will bring to the Oval Office. In California last month I met entrepreneurs of Mexican descent, children of illegal immigrants, who have no legal status in America. They couldn't believe the rhetoric coming from the Trump camp, and will now be fearing for their futures. These are professionals who employ dozens of people. All they ask is a path to citizenship in the only country they’ve ever known. Trump’s victory will leave them shaking – as it does so many women, blacks, Jews, gays, and others who don't fit the #MAGA mold.But this is not a time for despair.Of all the many Republican candidates for president, Donald Trump was the least ideological, the least rigid, the least devoted to sucking up to the Tea Party. He’s a New Yorker, confident and unafraid, allegiant to no partisan principles. He’s self-centered, vulgar and uninformed, but a pragmatist, beholden to no one. I compared him earlier to Toronto’s disastrous mayor, Rob Ford, but Trump is his own movement, not the standard-bearer of a conservative counter-reformation.He is, in a word, malleable.So let’s not demonize Donald Trump. Let’s not write him off. Let’s build bridges. Let’s appeal to his better nature and help guide him to wise decisions. There is already tension in Republican ranks over his casual takeover of a party on a serio[...]

Learning from Silicon Valley


My recent trip to Silicon Valley resulted in two fun columns for the National Post. The first looks at success tips from the QuickBooks Connect conference in San Jose, from both hard-working entrepreneurs and some rather susprising celebrities. By contrast, the second column focuses on failure – as discussed at a “Day of the Dead” event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.From Oct. 31: QuickBooks Connect brought together entrepreneurs, accountants and celebrity achievers for three days in San Jose to discuss growth, collaboration, technology and creativity. Here are 10 tips to help you succeed in the new business era.Click here for the column. Three quick takeaways:Actress America Ferrara on finding your niche: As the star of "Ugly Betty" struggled to find a new role as a producer, she realized she' would do best by "telling stories only I could tell." She concluded: “You don’t have to stray from your passions to have impact.”Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps on competition: Commenting on his intensity before  a crucial race this summer in Rio, the winner of five 2016 Olympic gold medals revealed: “When someone makes a negative comment, I make it a motivator. I use it as fuel.”Dave Alwan, a winning pitcher on Shark Tank: “If you don’t dream big, you can’t think big.”Moderator Marguerite Gong Hancock with Bill Reichert and iconic sock puppetFrom Nov. 7: Read insiders’ insights into why even good businesses fail –and sometimes bad businesses succeed. Find out why a tablet failed in 1991, and how the founder of messed up his first startup.The conclusion: “Canadians need to share more collective wisdom about about failure. And why it’s a beginning, not an end.”Attendees were encouraged to memorialize their favourite failures.Click here for the column. [...]

Export Success: Here's why it's a choice


This post brought to you by HSBC Bank Canada. The content and opinions expressed below are that of Canadian Entrepreneur.From beaver pelts to auto parts and yoga pants, Canada has always been a trading nation. But do we have what it takes to compete in the global marketplace?In recent years, Canadian exports have been hard hit by declining commodity prices and the shrinking manufacturing base left behind as commodity production shifts to lower-cost countries. Without robust exports, Canadians will be hard-pressed to sustain the economic growth that has made this country one of the world's most prosperous - and most envied - nations.But here's the good news. Canada's biggest trading partner, the United States, is enjoying robust economic growth. And a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada identifies key opportunities for growth of exports to the U.S. that Canadian companies aren't sufficiently pursuing. Significantly, many of these opportunities don't involve products, but services, meaning that Canadian businesses can flourish in the fastest-growing parts of the economy - the service sector, where brainpower and creativity matter more than labour costs.The study, entitled "Taking Advantage of the U.S. Economic Rebound," identifies 11 Canadian industries that are well prepared for expansion and competitiveness in the U.S. Of those, the study finds five broad sectors that are best positioned to take advantage of growing U.S. demand:• Transportation and government services;• Other commercial services (e.g., wholesale trade and administration);• Computer and information services;• Food manufacturing;• Finance and insurance services.To learn what it takes to crack U.S. markets, the study, takes a close-up look at three current Canadian success stories: Spin Master, a Toronto -based toy and media company whose top brands include Air Hogs and Paw Patrol; Vancouver-based Global Relay, which provides message-management services for major corporation, including  22 of the 25 top global banks; and McRae Imaging, an innovative digital-graphics printing company based in Mississauga, Ont.The report notes four key characteristics of winning exporters:• they have skilled executives with strong vision and a growth mindset;• they create competitive advantage through a proven capability to innovate;• they identify export opportunities through their practical knowledge of foreign market;• and they access support through international contact networks.So interesting to see that export success isn't based on size, clout, or legacy brands. Market-driven innovation and attention to details makes all the difference. Through doable tactics such as implementing new internal processes and leveraging external partnerships, companies can make the decision to grow.This encouraging news is especially important today because the Canadian export narrative in recent years has been so negative: shuttered factories, lost jobs, chatter that we're no longer competitive. Combine that with recent protectionist trends such as Brexit and shrill calls to build "walls" between nations, and it's no wonder many Canadians - including business leaders - question our ability to compete.Studies such as this, which was commissioned by HSBC, prove that export success can be a choice, not a fluke, for Canadian companies that are serious about growth.Canada has a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem, but only one firm in 10 exports its goods or services abroad. This new study reminds us that other markets are h[...]

How Linamar maintains its edge while planning for an unpredictable future


(image) Linamar Corp. of Guelph, Ont., is Canada's second-biggest autoparts maker and one of our biggest entrepreneurial success stories. Now under the leadership of Linda Hasenfratz, daughter of the company's founder, Frank Hasenfratz, the $5-billion-a-year company prides itself on retaining the spirit and agility of a small growth company.

In my latest column for the Financial Post, I explore two of the key tenets that guide Linamar in its journey. They address two strategic priorities that most businesses face:

1. How do you avoid waste and bloat as your company grows?
2. How do you plan for a future of continuous, unpredictable technology and business change?

In each case, Linamar's solutions are both aggressive and elegant in their simplicity:

1. Linamar has created a culture in which all employees are expected to come up with at least six ideas for improvement every year.
2. Linamar has instituted a 100-year planning process, which helps senior management identify the spots where its capabilities and new business opportunities best intersect.

How are these bold initiatives making a difference at Linamar? How might similar tactics change the future of your company? Click here to read my interview with Linda Hasenfratz. 

On its 50th birthday, Star Trek still matters to entrepreneurs -- and the world


So it’s the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.As the baby boomers grew up and embraced entrepreneurship, I was surprised to learn how many successful business-builders were rabid Trek fans. One entrepreneur even named his company “Star” to honour the show. He, like many others I met, was inspired by Star Trek’s hopeful vision of the future, its embrace of diversity and inclusiveness, and its core values of science, peace and discovery. Entrepreneurs embrace its lessons in leadership, diplomacy, and solving problems using your imagination at least as often as your phaser. It was easy to be negative in the 1960s and ’70s, as issues such as crime, racism, unjust wars, and the atom bomb hung like black bunting over the world. But Star Trek rejected those petty divisions, and foresaw a universe based on equality, collaboration and optimism – the same values espoused by so many of today’s ambitious tech startups.It seems to me that today’s geopolitical struggles – right vs left, democracies vs radical fundamentalists – reflect the same division now: between people who see things getting better, and those who see the world falling into decay and despair. A gulf lies between people who embrace and advance societal change, and those who fear the future.Star Trek was one of the first TV shows to regularly address important issues of race, society and politics. In its message of hope, it echoed that of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Roosevelt went on to describe fear as the “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”If a society does not advance it decays. What a good word Roosevelt chose: “Advance.” It’s pretty much synonymous with “Boldly Go.”Trek On, captains and crew, for another 50 years.-----------In a lighter vein, below is a poster reprising a column I wrote in PROFIT magazine 20 years ago: “Everything I know about business I could have learned from Star Trek .”[...]

Razor Suleman's Big Ambitions


Toronto entrepreneur Razor Suleman first got in my sights through Snap Promotions, a promotional-products company that started in his dorm room at Wilfrid Laurier University as a supplier of student t-shirts. That company evolved into Achievers, an employee-engagement platform for organizations wanting to boost motivation and corporate culture.
Razor has always been humble, curious, passionate, and driven - the best kind of entrepreneur. Last year, he successfully sold Achievers, and started a new career: as a champion and a catalyst for Canadian entrepreneurship.

My Financial Post column this week looks at how Razor is trying to strengthen Canada's entrepreneurial ecosystem, through his own efforts and through the Next 36, where he today takes up the mantle of CEO. If you've been following my work, you know the Next 36 is an ambitious program to jump-start the creation of high-impact entrepreneurs, and now its mandate is expanding in exciting new directions. 

You'll also learn why Razor didn't mean to sell his company.
You can read the story here: 

Entrepreneur incubator Next 36 hires its first CEO in tech millionaire Razor Suleman

And take 2 minutes to watch the accompanying video, which includes Razor's tips on how to improve your own team's culture and motivation!


The news you need about the companies that matter


The news you read should always be, somehow, a leading indicator of the future. Since humans started telling each other stories around the campfire, the key question has always been, “What’s going to happen next?”Coverage of entrepreneurs is scant in the daily press, trailing far behind day-to-day coverage of earnings reports and breathless alarms about commodity prices. But if you really want to know where business is going, it’s the coverage of entrepreneurial companies and their growing ambitions that will better point you the way to the future.Here are a few of the cool companies I've been chronicling in this summer’s National Post.* Flixel’s deal with Facebook cements its status as a startup to watch. Its “cinemagraphs” are mesmerizing. Do watch the video we produced to illustrate this story properly.* Calgary fashion brand TripleFlip has a unique objective – building the self-esteem of tween girls – that is supercharging its push into the U.S.* Founded in Turkey, Twentify is a serious crowd-sourcing startup being supported by visionary Canadian venture capital. Twentify wants to be the go-to solution for businesses needing instant intelligence, and it’s using Ottawa as a base to expand globally.* Bridgit is the former Next 36 company that is bridging the gap between the construction industry and new technology. Meet its two engaging founders in our exclusive video.* When I first heard about online catering aggregator Platterz, I practically yawned. Then I learned more about this Toronto company’s plans for world domination in the B-to-B supply space.* Needls is helping small businesses find customers in the social media haystack. Maybe they can help you.[...]