Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneur’

Roll With One Idea

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Our guest again this week, Startup Expert, Roger Pierce, produces articles, videos and blogs to help companies engage business owners. He’s worked with Scotiabank, Visa, Staples, Bell, HP, FedEx, Cisco and Microsoft. Roger is the co-author of the book, Thriving Solo: How to Grow a Successful Business, and writes startup columns for The Toronto Sun, 24Hrs and Profit Magazine.

It’s the folly of startup entrepreneurs: We pursue too many business ideas at once.

Unwilling to commit to any one single enterprise, I’ve watched entrepreneurs waste their time, money and sanity by trying to launch too large or too much.

Pick one

Entrepreneurship is highly addictive, which partially explains why we get easily excited and distracted by shiny new initiatives. It’s more fun to start a business than to grow one.

If you have several ideas buzzing in your head, pick the one that best combines your passion with marketplace opportunity. The best business idea will have people pay you to do what you love. Next step, write a business plan.

List the rest

What about the rest of those fabulous business ideas? Because it may be too painful for you to say “no” to them forever, instead say “not yet.” Write down those ideas in your journal or create a file marked “future opportunities” on your computer.

A successful startup requires focus. Do one thing, and get better at doing it really, really well.

You can contact Roger at 416-302-5251 or


Your Excuses Are Your Own

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Startup Expert, Roger Pierce, produces articles, videos and blogs to help companies engage business owners. He’s worked with Scotiabank, Visa, Staples, Bell, HP, FedEx, Cisco and Microsoft. Roger is the co-author of the book, Thriving Solo: How to Grow a Successful Business, and writes startup columns for The Toronto Sun, 24Hrs and Profit Magazine.


It’s a harsh statement, I know.

It’s easier to blame. We blame other people. We blame the economy. We blame customers. We blame time. We blame our situation. We blame money. We blame the boss. We blame the system. We blame the weather. We may even blame a higher power.

Being accountable for your own success will make you successful. It’s as simple as that.

I read a lot of business books written by very intelligent and very accomplished businesspeople. Regardless of the author or the subject, one common theme emerges: Your excuses are your own.

Greatness in any form doesn’t come easily. It requires sacrifice, discipline, passion, commitment and perseverance against overwhelming odds. History is rich with examples of achievers who reached their goals despite possible excuses.

Over the years I’ve heard different excuses from struggling entrepreneurs:

“I don’t have the money to build my business.” Go find it.
“I’m too sick to work.” Hire others to work for you.
“I don’t have the time.” Make better use of the time you do have.
“I’m not sure what to do.” Work with people smarter than you.

Once we take full responsibility for whatever we aim to achieve – it could be starting a business, launching a new career, finishing school, finding our soul mate, raising a child – the excuses magically disappear. In fact, our former excuses may become a source of motivation.

Your excuses are your own. So don’t make any. Just get going.

You can contact Roger at 416-302-5251 or

Hurray For Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

This week’s guest, Startup Expert, Roger Pierce, produces articles, videos and blogs to help companies engage business owners. He’s worked with Scotiabank, Visa, Staples, Bell, HP, FedEx, Cisco and Microsoft. Roger is the co-author of the book, Thriving Solo: How to Grow a Successful Business, and writes startup columns for The Toronto Sun, 24Hrs and Profit Magazine.

Any year is a great year to be a business owner, but last year the Government of Canada and most of the provinces officially declared 2011 as “The Year of the Entrepreneur.” In fact, throughout October, entrepreneurs were celebrated across the country as part of Small Business Month.

If you’re running a small business, or plan to start one, you deserve the applause: Here’s why:

Employ the most people 

According to Industry Canada, 48.3 percent of Canada’s workers are employed by small businesses. That’s over 5 Million people. We collectively employ more Canadians than any one company or government. 

Take big risks 

It’s not easy being an entrepreneur. We work long hours. We don’t get a steady paycheque. It takes several years for a new business to stabilize. Our personal relationships suffer, because our attention (and our money!) is held by the business. We risk our finances, our reputations and our energies without any guarantee of success; in fact, half of all Canadian startups fail within five years.

Sell to the world

It’s not big companies that open international markets, but small ones. Industry Canada says 86 percent of Canadian exporters were small businesses in 2009, accounting for $68 Billion in exports. In that same year, 28 percent of Canada’s GDP was generated by businesses with less than 50 employees.

Change the world

It’s entrepreneurs who make our lives better. From Gutenburg’s printing press to Steve Jobs’s revolutionary electronic devices, entrepreneurs challenge the status quo and dare to be different. We all win when an entrepreneur succeeds.

If you’re one of Canada’s 2.7 Million entrepreneurs, please know you hold the respect of a nation. Stop for a moment, take your bow…and then get back to work.

You can contact Roger at 416-302-5251 or

Why Entrepreneurs Need a Parallel Plan

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

This week’s guest blog post is provided by Rona Birenbaum CFP, a Professional, fee-based Financial Planner and President of Caring for Clients, a full-service financial planning firm, Rona has worked in financial services for over 20 years within the Credit Union, full-service brokerage and independent Financial Planning industries.

Entrepreneurs are eternal optimists.  And that is a blessing because optimism is a necessary ingredient when starting, and building, a business.

When naysayers tell them the risks are too high, the optimistic entrepreneur focuses on the opportunities as well as the risks.

When new competitors emerge, the optimistic entrepreneur evaluates the new threat and makes the necessary adjustments to stay on top.

When an economic downturn threatens profits, the optimistic entrepreneur seeks creative ways to survive until the recovery.

So, why do entrepreneurs need a parallel plan?

A parallel plan is the safety net for the trapeze walker, the lifejacket for the sailor, the secondary rip cord for the skydiver.

No, it’s not insurance.  It’s better than that.

In brief, here are the five components of a parallel plan.

1.  The personal savings program – The savings program builds creditor proof, non-business assets that can support the entrepreneur, and their family, in the event the business underperforms in the short or long term.

2.  The personal and corporate insurance program – Disability insurance will replace lost income if the entrepreneur is ill or injured and cannot work and key person insurance will fund buy-sell provisions of shareholder agreements.

3.  The business succession plan – Make sure that the entrepreneurs have (or are working towards) monetization of their business efforts.

4.  The estate plan – Personal and corporate wills and powers of attorney empower specific parties to manage and disburse personal and corporate assets with minimum taxation and conflict.

5.  The family communication strategy/plan – Regular meetings between the entrepreneur, their spouse and other appropriate family members.  These reviews keep everyone “in the loop” on progress, and outline steps that each individual can take to keep things moving in the right direction.

Only a small percentage of businesses succeed in the long term.  Entrepreneurs know the stats. Their optimism is the voice that says, “My business will be the one that wins”.

A parallel plan will support them, and their family, win or lose.

Follow Your Dreams, But Chase The Money

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

Our first guest blogger is.………………Jeremy Miller, the President of Sticky Branding — a brand consultancy specialized in building brands that sell themselves online.

The best way to grow profits is to cut your own path. 

You never hear about companies who achieved immense success by doing what everyone else did.  No.  Successful companies challenge the status quo, and create new categories and sub-categories.

Companies that break the mold and create new categories create immense competitive advantage.  You can see these breakout businesses in almost every industry.  Wal-Mart rewrote the business model for discount retailers, and set the standard for big box retailers.  The Chrysler minivan went 16 years without a viable competitor.  And Apple epitomizes the creation of new categories with the iPod, iPhone and iPad – each product causing structural shifts in consumer electronics.

Every business owner has an opportunity to break the mold and find their own path.  It takes vision, commitment and quick reflexes.

New categories aren’t made in a vacuum

Innovative new categories are not created in isolation.  Thousands of brilliant business ideas have died on the vine, because there just wasn’t enough demand for them.  The entrepreneur saw a need that no one else cared about.

Successful companies challenge the status quo.  Steve Jobs said in a Fortune Magazine interview, “When we created the iTunes Music Store, we did that because we thought it would be great to be able to buy music electronically, not because we had plans to redefine the music industry.  I mean, it just seemed like writing on the wall.”

When forming a new category it’s always in comparison to the current alternatives.  Your customers already have solutions for their business challenges; they just might not be the most optimal.  Challenge those solutions head-on, and provide them a better option.

Constantly Tinker

Businesses rarely get it right the first time.  Wal-Mart’s dominance didn’t happen overnight.  It was Sam Walton’s life’s work, and came out of his constant tinkering and risk taking.

Walton was always on the hunt for fresh ideas he could implement in his own stores.  He said, “I probably have traveled and walked into more variety stores than anybody in America.  I am just trying to get ideas, any kind of ideas that will help our company.  Most of us don’t invent ideas.  We take the best ideas from someone else.”

Creating a new category is a work in progress.  It takes a significant commitment of time, resources and energy to give your customers a new alternative.

Nothing relieves pressure like sales

It always boils down to money.  If your customers don’t get it, they won’t pay for it.  Customer feedback is the best feedback.  It will tell you if you’re on the right track or not.

Chances are your first time to market may not be a whopping success.  So persist, tinker, reinvest and continue to push the bar forward.  It’s your vision and dreams that will help you find a new category, but it’s your customers that will form it and make it a reality.  When it does come together you will be on the path to immense profit growth.

For more information on Jeremy Miller and Sticky Branding visit

Strategy and Planning – How Business Owners Think

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

1. A Great Question.

The other day I was talking to a friend who is Chair of a TEC group. He told me about the owner of a successful business he’d met recently. The guy insisted that there was no value to be had in paying anyone to help with strategy or business planning.

Knowing what we do, my friend asked me how we dealt with this attitude. A couple of days later I saw a great article in the current edition of Inc. magazine called “How Great Entrepreneurs Think”.  Had I seen it before talking to him it would have helped me do a better job of answering his question than I was able to do.

2. How Successful Business Owners Think.

The article is about a very credible piece of research carried out with a group of entrepreneurs who had:
• At least 15 years’ experience.
• Started multiple companies.
• Successful businesses and failures.
• Taken at least one company public.

It was the brain child of Saras Sarasvathy and was supervised by Herbert Simon who won a Nobel Prize for his research on decision making. Participants were asked to imagine that they were the founders of a start-up that had developed a computer game.

When experienced entrepreneurs start a company they use effectual reasoning. This means that instead of setting out with concrete goals, they use their personal strengths and the resources at hand to develop goals as they go along.

Brilliant improvisers, entrepreneurs are impatient with extensive planning. They just want to get started. Instead of traditional market research they believe they’ll learn what the obstacles are, which questions have to be answered and which prices are acceptable by going out and trying to make some sales.

And it’s not only market research they reject. At start-up, these entrepreneurs don’t believe in prediction of any kind because they don’t believe the future is predictable – and if it is they don’t want to be in that space.

3. How Successful Executives Think.

Sarasvathy wanted something to compare the entrepreneurs’ approach to. So the same experiment was repeated with a group of highly successful corporate executives.

Executives use causal thinking which is typified by setting a goal and then diligently looking for the best ways to achieve it. This means, for example, that they will want to carry out structured research before launching.

4. The Important Point.

But the important point is that the study determined that successful entrepreneurs did adopt more formal planning practices as time went on. In fact, their ability to do so – to become causal as well as effectual thinkers – helped them grow with their companies.

And that’s the answer to my friend’s question. Some business owners adapt as their companies grow, others don’t. Hopefully the ones who do never substitute one way of thinking for the other but rather use them to complement each other.

Those who adapt also know what they don’t know. And, provided there’s clearly perceived value and a proven solution, those entrepreneurs will hire people with the knowledge, skills and experience that they don’t have.

And that’s how people like strategy consultants make a living.

4 Reasons Why Every Business Should Be Sold…..Eventually

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

We’ve had a couple of interesting conversations result from the last post. It warned against letting fear caused by the short term economic outlook drive you into making decisions which will damage the value of your business in the long term. The reason for building long term value is so that the owner can get a good price for the business when he/she is ready to do something else.

One conversation started when a colleague suggested that not all business owners expect or intend to sell their companies. (When I say “sell,” I’m including the transfer of ownership from one generation to the next.) I’ve always believed that, on a day-to-day basis, most owners are more concerned with making the year’s profits goals than the value of the business as an asset. But it had never really occurred to me that anyone would not consider selling either for the right offer or when they’re ready to retire.

I can think of at least 2 things that would affect your expectation of being able to sell. One is thinking that your company couldn’t be worth much and the other is believing that it wouldn’t be interesting or attractive to anyone else. I have met owners who believed one or both of those things. It happens if they have never talked to anyone about how a business is valued, or they are too close to (and overwhelmed by) the day-to-day challenges of their situation. But, provided there is enough time, it should be possible to position any business for sale.

But to have no intention of selling your business! That jolted every Scottish cell in my body – and then some! My friend argued that some people start businesses simply to keep themselves – and possibly family members – busy and to provide them an income. I couldn’t argue with that, particularly if it was a small business in a very specialized field, although I couldn’t think of anyone I knew who thought that way.

It just all seemed so illogical to me. Whether they own a small business or a larger one, all entrepreneurs take the same risks. It’s only the extent of the risk that varies. But surely the perception of risk varies with the person taking it. What may seem to be very little risk to one person can still keep another awake at night. In that case the same 4 reasons for selling apply to everyone.

The first 2 reasons are all about rewards – one for taking risks and the other for investing time.  Why would anyone take the financial risks – personal guarantees to Banks, liability for statutory deductions and civil lawsuits, working without healthcare and pension benefits and the missed opportunity of a steady income working for someone else (and that’s only a partial list) – for only a salary and bonuses? In the early years the salary (if there is one) will be lower than an employer would have paid, so the bonuses (when they come) may only be a way to catch up.

Best case is that the salary and annual bonuses pay for the dream car, boat or cottage, provide a nice home for the owners’ families and give their children access to healthy hobbies and a great education. But what about the money to take great vacations with their spouse or partner when the owner’s ready to move on, the kids have gone or when the owner’s ready to retire? That’s the sort of thing that the funds from the sale of the company are required for.

The second reward is for the long, long hours – the evenings, the weekends, the missed vacations – which business owners pour into their companies. The annual compensation may seem good in absolute terms – but try calculating an owner’s hourly rate. And the countless frustrations they deal with during those hours – demanding customers, unreliable suppliers, unsympathetic financial backers, difficult employees, to name but a few.

Reason #3 – No one lives forever – but a company can easily outlast a person. Think about Wal-Mart, The Body Shop and any company that continues to thrive after the founder has moved on. A business owner spends a significant portion of their life building something which generates profits and cash – and jobs – on an ongoing basis and which gives them enormous satisfaction. So, why would they not want to see it continue (as a legacy if nothing else)? Perhaps it’s a characteristic of entrepreneurs that they believe they’re indestructible, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of aging.

The final reason (at least for now) is that we want our kids to have more than we did. Ideally the business owners’ children would want to spend their lives doing the same thing they have done, running the business. If that is the case, fine. But if it isn’t, the child could grow into the Doctor who discovers the cure for cancer, or a successful businesswoman in a completely different field. Either selling to them, or selling for them to do something else, is a great way to give them a start.

This is why we remind every business owner who will listen that there are 2 reasons for growing a company. It’s why I remind people that every recession I’ve lived through has come to an end. And when that happens some companies take off more quickly than others. They’re the ones whose owners refused to be panicked into doing things they would later regret. They kept long term value and the selling price in mind – when making short term decisions.

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