Saturday, 3 August 2013

In Defense of Gordon Ramsey (never thought I would say that)

Gordon Ramsey represents all that I feel is wrong with entertainment today. Here is a man who is very skilled in his trade (cooking awesome stuff and running great restaurants) but has become famous because of a different skill (being able to quickly come up with degrading, insulting and foul comments that cause embarrassment and pain to others). Oh yeah! Entertainment at it’s best! Let’s watch a rude person verbally abuse people who are trying to learn from him! Yeah!!!
Ok, my rant is over … I do want to come to his defense on one issue; the success of the restaurants that he has attempted to help through his show “Kitchen Nightmares”.  An article from Mail Online spells out the success rates of the restaurants that have been on the show and it is not a pretty picture.  In the first 2 seasons, only 2 of the 21 establishments he helped went on to survive. Over the next few season that statistic improved but the is still not very impressive.
Does that mean that Gordon Ramsey is not capable of turning a restaurant around?
Not at all (I say through gritted teeth)
The restaurant owners become a part of his show when they are in dire straights. They are desperate to succeed and are at the point of losing everything. Like many entrepreneurs in that situation, they start searching for “the Magic Bullet” that will launch them to success. In this case, “the Magic Bullet” is Ramsey’s knowledge. They turn to him for the skills and techniques they need to get their business back on track and he gives it to them (oh man he gives it to them).
The strategies and advice he gives are good and practical. The restaurant owners are happy to take his advice even though it comes with verbal abuse.  The restaurant shows immediate signs of success. Ramsey takes the credit and leaves.
But here is the catch … once he leaves, the owners are still the same people.
 The technical end of the business was addressed and improved but the character of the owners was not addressed. That means that all their old bad habits remain.
Their business may have been in trouble because they were lazy. After Ramsey leaves, they are still lazy. How long do you think they will keep up the hard work he had them doing?
Their business may have been in trouble because they were cheap and wanted to cut corners on creating a great experience for guests. How long before they return to that mentality and start cutting corners again, thus driving business away?
Their business may have been in trouble because they were disorganized. How long before they allow the systems Ramsey provided degrade into chaos?
In this particular episode of his show Ramsey touches on this. (It happens 26:25 into the video) According to this article in Yahoo Voices, the restaurant in that episode eventually closed.
For a business to truly recover, addressing the character of the entrepreneur is just as important at addressing the systems.
A lazy, disorganized and cheap person can have access to the best systems in the world and still drive their business into the ground. I see it with business owners all the time. They see that their business is struggling so they buy more tools looking for that “Magic Bullet”. It is like a person who has never swung a hammer before buying a more expensive hammer thinking it will make him into a carpenter. In the end, success is not in the tools, it is in the entrepreneur.
Tools amplify the efforts of the entrepreneur, be them good or bad.
For example …
… if you write great blog articles and then pay for advertising to get more traffic to your blog, then you will get a better return from your blog.
… if you write terrible blog articles then all that same advertising will do is spread your crappy blog around and make you look worse.
Entrepreneurs, fix yourself first.
Gordon Ramsey addresses a part of the problem of a struggling restaurant. He addresses the systems and the quality of the product. He is not expected to address the character of the owners. So in the end, he may not be to blame for all the failures. In many cases he has given them great tools but they have not developed the character to use them properly.
So, to the struggling entrepreneurs out there, if you are tempted to go and buy the latest and greatest tools and software in hopes of finding the “Magic Bullet”, stop for a minute. Take a look at yourself, the person who will be using the tool. You may find a much better return on investment in addressing the human you are behind the business before adding more tools to the business itself.

Mobile Minds – Break Out Year is a program that aids entrepreneurs in exploring the human being behind the business

Monday, 15 July 2013

10 Important Quotes for Entrepreneurs

These are some of the quotes that inspire me on the adventure of entrepreneurship. Take a peek and feel free to share others that inspire you in the comments below.

Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” - Unknown

Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  - Mark Twain

You must fall in love with what you do, because being an entrepreneur is a lot of hard work, and overcoming a lot of adversity. From that love will come the dedication that will get you out of bed at 4 a.m. because of a great idea you just had and get you to work till 11 p.m. and not feel tired.”  - Ken Field

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”  - Albert Schweitzer

“There is only one success- to be able to spend your life in your own way.” - Christopher Morley

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” - Steve Jobs

“My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long University education that I never had — everyday I’m learning something new.” - Richard Branson

“Every time you state what you want or believe, you’re the first to hear it. It’s a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don’t put a ceiling on yourself.” - Oprah Winfrey

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” - Bill Cosby

"The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer." – Nolan Bushnell

What quotes inspire you the most? Share them in the comments below ...

Friday, 12 July 2013

Follow Your Passion To Success - Share your Story!

Do you have a passion that you are following or want to follow as an entrepreneur? Share your story to encourage others and gain exposure. Check out this video to see how it works.

$5k or a Penny For a Day?

Something to think about for entrepreneurs who are following their passion but are experiencing some lean month sin the beginning. 

Visit for more on discovering your passion and turning it into a life of success.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Creating True Referral Business

This is footage for a presentation I did at the Business Link in Edmonton, AB.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Success, Money and Eddie Vedder (an excerpt from my upcoming book)

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book "Life Support - Preserving Your Life in the Midst of Business" To be released this summer.

“Show me the money!” Jerry Mcguire (Tom Cruise) screamed in a public restroom as his client urged him on.

“A, B, C! A - Always! B - Be! C - Closing! Always Be Closing!” yelled Blake (Alec Baldwin) at the sales team in Glengarry Glen Ross.

“You can be successful and have enemies or you can be unsuccessful and have friends.” States Dominic (Armand Assante) in American Gangster.

These are the kind of things we hear when success is talked about on film. And boy do we put a lot of stock in the philosophies we see come out of Hollywood. The funny thing is, most of these ideas of success are shown to be wrong in the films they are presented in. Usually the nice guy comes out on top and the hardcore theories are put out to pasture. But then guess what. Those hardcore theories are what translate into the real world! We ignore the lesson learned in the film and go with the bad guy’s definition of success.

We yell, “Show me the money!”
We try to “Always be closing.”
We accept that to have success we will make enemies.


Society seems to have this accepted definition of success that is based on accumulating as much money as possible to buy things and gain influence. If someone gets in your way, you move them or step on them or whatever you have to. This is what we are told is necessary to make it in the world of business.

Even when we look at parts of our society that are somewhat more laid back, we can still see that happening. Look at family life in the suburbs. Everyone is calm and peaceful. Sure Dave will give up a full Saturday to help his neighbor Garry build a deck. But when Garry asks for $100 to sponsor his kid’s softball team ... Whoa! Hold on now! That’s one of those requests that steps over the line buddy. Why? Because it involves that thing that we have decided defines success in our society. The almighty dollar! I’ll give you my time, I’ll give you my sweat, heck I’ll give you my family’s time and sweat, but don’t ask for my $$$$$$!

Do you get the feeling that I have a bit of a hate on for how much influence money has in our society? Well I suppose I do.

Money is a great tool. An important tool. It is a wonderful way to convert our effort and time into things we need. It is a lot easier to work at one thing and earn some money to go grocery shopping at one store, than to have to work an hour for your milk at the dairy farmer’s, then another hour at the potato farm for some potatoes and so on. It is a great tool for converting our time and effort into whatever we want. The problem is, we have turned it into something much bigger than that, something it isn’t.

We have taken this tool and turned it into the determining factor of a human being’s worth! We put a dollar amount on success. Most of us have probably heard some magic number from our parents when we were young. “A good job will pay at least $xxxxxx per year.” Look at that judgment! If the job pays less than $xxxxxx it is not a good job! It’s a bad job! That means you are not doing “good” until you can show a tax statement that says $xxxxxx on it!

So we get the job that pays $xxxxxx. But we can’t walk around showing everyone our pay stubs or talking about how much we make. But we have to show our “success” somehow. So we buy stuff that could only be afforded by someone who makes $xxxxxx. We buy the 3000 square foot home, the 2 cars, the 100 inch t.v. and the boat. But then we notice, “Hmmmm, everybody seems to have that, I don’t look successful if I have the same as everyone else. I need to be above average.” So then we buy the giant motor home, and then so does Jessica down the street, then Carl from the cul-de-sac buys one that blocks out the sun. You see the snowball building? It is a horrible big nasty snowball that rolls all over our cities and towns getting bigger and bigger, consuming everything in its path!

The question I ask is, “How many people who have all of these “indicators of success” are actually happy with their lives?”

There is nothing wrong with 3000 square foot homes, or having 2 cars, or a 100 inch t.v., or a boat, or a motor home. These things can be absolute blessings...

...IF they are the things YOU actually want.

So many boats sit unused. So many motor homes only roll out of the driveway twice per year. So many homeowners complain about how much “stuff” they have cluttering their garage where they would park their 2 cars if there was space. The solution? Get a bigger place, because we can’t get rid of all this stuff that shows how successful we are. (Insert exasperated sigh backed up by Eddie Vedder mumbling “Society, you’re a crazy breed…” here).

If we really look at what we actually want for our own life and stopped caring about what society says we should want, we could avoid this kind of situation.

Do not allow the world to judge you by your bank account!

Don’t worry about showing the world that you can meet society’s definition of success. In the end, you need to care about making you and those you love happy. Not impressing the neighbors (they will probably move away to bigger houses to store all their stuff anyway. Either that or to a smaller house so they can try to pay off all the debt they incurred trying to impress the neighborhood).

They only way to take control of this and avoid being run over by that giant snowball is to acknowledge your own definition of success.

Notice I said “acknowledge” your own definition of success. You probably already know what it looks like. It is just a matter of digging it out, holding it up and saying, “Here it is world. This is what I want from my life. This is my success.”

“Success” is a very subjective word. Once we step away from society’s definition, each person is going to have a unique manifestation of it. Your unique definition may change over time as you experience and learn new things, and that is good! Roll with it wherever it goes as long as it remains true to what you really want.

You are not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations,
nor should you feel the world must live up to yours – F Perl.

To learn more or to have Cliff speak to your group please visit

Sunday, 24 March 2013

3 Amazing Ted Talks (that's only 2/3's true)

Larry Smith - Why You Will Fail To Have a Great Career
This video covers the fear of finding and following your passion. Mr. Smith, using sarcastic and dry humor, point out to us why it is so unlikely that we will ever have a great career in which we follow our passion ... unless ...

Shane Koyczan - To This Day
This Canadian poet touches on how our society unwittingly programs us for a life of sorrow and failure. "They ask me want I want to be, then tell me what not to be.  ...  What makes my dreams so easy to dismiss?"

Gary Vaynerchuck - Building Personal Brand in Within the Social Media Landscape
Ok, this one is not actually a Ted talk, but it is just as amazing as the 2 above.
Don't let the title fool you. In the first 2 minutes you will hear lines like "Most of you are doing something you hate ... STOP DOING THAT!" and "Listen to your user base ... absolutely. But giving a sh*t about them is way better" In the last minute you will hear, "How do you get the money to do what you love? You don't! You stop watching f*#king Lost!"

Want to know more about finding and living your passion? Download the free workbook and audio file at in the Insiders' Circle section.

Monday, 11 March 2013

6 People You Will Meet at a Networking Event

The room is full, lots of sharp suits and expensive skirts. Little groups of people chatting. A few individuals wandering around looking for food. The smell of freshly printed business cards in the air. Your typical networking event. Love them or hate them, they are a necessary part of the life of an entrepreneur.

Personally, I love them. The idea that you can walk into a room and meet all sorts of different people is very exciting to me. How you approach it can make the difference between coming out with nothing or coming out with all sorts of opportunities. (Explore more about that here "Network Like a Human".)

Knowing what type of people you are bound to run into and having a plan to deal with them can be a huge factor in finding success at a networking event. Let me introduce you to a few ...

Jim Grabyerhand - (AKA Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati) This guy is always going to be there (click here for a video that describes him in detail). He has one goal in mind ... to sell you something ... at the event ... right NOW! He will give you a death grip handshake and not let go until he is done his pitch and you have bought whatever he is selling (or finally get blunt and tell him to go pester someone else). He is usually the loudest in the room and can be seen stomping out at the end cursing networking events and how useless they are, only to be seen again next month using the same tactics. The best way to deal with Jim ... stay at least 5 feet away at all times, never let him make physical contact. As soon as he grabs you, the pitch will start.

Wally Wallflower - This is the guy hovering around the snack table attempting to look busy out of fear of approaching someone. Inside, he is terrified to initiate a conversation but knows the value of meeting new people when it comes to business. Turmoil rules his heart at a networking event. The best way to deal with Wally is to be his hero. Go up and say something to him ... say anything ... it doesn't matter because he will be completely relieved that he has someone to talk to and he can stop feeling weird about hovering over the snack table. You never know, he may have something very valuable to offer you. He could be a dream client. The only way to know is to talk to him. If you do, you are guaranteed that he will remember you in a positive light, which is half the battle at a networking event. WARNING: Wally Wallflower can very quickly turn into Cathy Clinger if you aren't careful.

Cathy Clinger - Once you talk to her, she won't let go. She may have valuable information and opportunities for you but ... she is scared of having to start up a new conversation and wants nothing more than to keep talking to you so that she can stay in her comfort zone. Fear is her main motivator so in order to move on to your next conversation without offending her you must alleviate that fear. The best tactic to deal with Cathy is to listen to her for a bit, make sure she is comfortable with you and then introduce her to someone else. That way, she doesn't need to fear initiating the next conversation, she remembers you in a positive light (which means future opportunities) and you get to move on to your next conversation and build more relationships.

Bessie Businesscard - Bessie is a human business card dispensing machine. She puts them everywhere! You will find her card on chairs, on tables, on the bathroom counter and of course forcefully thrust into your hand as she hurriedly introduces herself while her eyes chase the next target for a business card drive by. The best tactic to deal with her, take the card and move on. Hand the card to the next Jim Grabyerhand you come across, suggest he talk to her and then sit back and giggle.

Harry Helper - Harry is one of the guys you definitely want to meet. He understands that success comes from helping other people and he is there to do just that. He is genuinely interested in what you do and will want to explore ways that you can be of mutual benefit to each other. He will look you in the eye and be straight forward with you as you talk. He will tell you what he does but will not try to sell you anything on the spot. the best way to deal with Harry is show that you appreciate his style by asking him questions and having a genuine conversation with him. Exchange contact info with him and be sure to stay in touch. Harry Helpers usually end up being worth their weight in gold somewhere down the line.

Carry Connecter - Carry loves to introduce people. She has a service or product to offer and knows that the more she connects others, the more she will be connected. It works for her and can work for you to. She will listen to you explain what you do and immediately start thinking of people that you could help or that could be a help to you. She will then go on to tell you about them and most likely make a virtual introduction by e-mail later. The best way to deal with her is to let her do her thing. Follow up with the people she connects you with and keep in close contact with her. Send her business if you can. Opportunities are in the people around you and she can quickly multiply the people around you.

So there you have it. At a networking event most of the room will be made up of people that fit one of these descriptions (or possibly be a combination of a few). Identify them quickly and know how you are going to deal with them. Make the right connections, nurture the right relationships and experience how much you can benefit from a networking event.

What other characters have you met at networking events? Do you have any anecdotes about experiences with the characters above? Share them in the comments!

For more, visit

Monday, 4 March 2013

Spinning Wheels and Good Partners


My fellow Canadians already know what that sound is, tires spinning on ice. It is what I could hear as I drank my first cup of coffee this morning  Still in my pajamas I look outside and there is my neighbor, desperately trying to get his car out of the spot he parked in last night.


So I start throwing on my coat and boots thinking, "Oh man, I hope this guy actually knows how to do this right. I don't want to be out there in my pajama bottoms too long."

You see, (for those who aren't fellow Canadians  there is an art to getting a car going with a push on ice and snow. It's all about rhythm. You creep it back, then you roll forward. Right when you stop your forward momentum you throw it in reverse and creep it back, then forward, then back; switching direction at the apex of each move. If you get that rhythm going between driver and pusher, there isn't much you can't eventually get out of.

So I walk towards his car, he is already rocking according to the art mentioned above. I smile (happy to see this man is a true artist) and start pushing on the back of his car, joining in his rhythm. Push, let him roll back, push, let him roll back. Six pushes later he is rolling down the street yelling out his window, "You tha' Dude!"

Knowing he can't stop, for fear of getting stuck again, I just wave.

As an entrepreneur, you know that there are some things that you just can't do on your own. You need some help. But getting the right help is the trick. You need to find someone who knows what you are doing and can fit your rhythm.

The fact that my neighbor and I both knew how to get a car unstuck meant that with almost no communication we could do together what neither of us could do alone. When you need some help with whatever it is you do, be sure you pick someone who knows your rhythm.

You may be selecting a partner, a coach, an employee or a consultant. In any case, be sure that they suit your style of doing things. Just because your goals are similar, don't assume they will fit your style, your rhythm.

For example, if people want to learn how to cold call and hound contacts until they buy something then I am not the coach for them. That's not my rhythm. That would be like me pushing on the car when the driver was trying to roll backwards. If people want to learn to build solid, long term relationships in business, then I'm their guy, that is the rhythm I'm moving too.

No matter what type of relationship you are building. Be sure to find that person that rocks to the same rhythm as you.

How do you spot it? In the same way I could tell getting that car out was going to be easy as soon as I stepped outside. Look at their rhythm. Before you propose any kind of business relationship, know their values and how they operate. If it is not a rhythm that meshes with yours, then keep looking. Details can be worked out later but values and style is not something easily changed.

Avoid the Wwwwrrrreeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwww! Two people of the same style that both know what they are doing can conquer things that neither could hope to alone.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

New Entrepreneur? Know Who is Around You (part 1)

If you are a new entrepreneur, you will hear all sorts of opinions from all sorts of people. Knowing who is around you and what they are thinking can be helpful.

One type of person you will encounter is the "Caring Detractor"

Cliff Turner / Mobile Minds

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

T-Rex, Sales and the Crying Game

Picture it, Mexico, 65 million years ago. T-rex looks up and says, "Crap." Then the 10 km wide asteroid smashes into the earth killing T-rex and all his pals instantly, creating the Yucatan Peninsula (thank you) and sending so much debris into the air it blocks out the Sun for years eventually bringing an end to the dinosaurs.

Is that an accurate account of the dinosaur extinction? I have no idea, but according to some random websites it is, and it works for the topic of this blog, so I'm going with it.

In the world of business and sales, the asteroid has already hit. Pressure sales is done, relationship marketing is king and the world is becoming a better place because of it. I'm doing my part in spreading the good news at so get out there with me!

The problem is, some of the dinosaurs are still out there trying to hunt down their last meals. Even though it has become cliche and the brunt of many jokes, you still hear lines like these "Cheesy Sales Lines Hall of Fame" worthy gems:

  • "What do I have to do to earn your business today?"
  • "Is price the only thing holding you back?"
  • "You don't actually have to consult with your husband do you?"
  • "Don't take too long. Someone else was in here thinking about buying it just before you arrived."
  • "A smart person like yourself can see the value here."

The dinosaurs believe things like:
  • If you create the pain within the customer, you can sell them anything.
  • If you get them to say "yes" to you 9 times (Did you watch the hockey game last night? Yes ...  That's 1!!!! Yessssss!), they will say "yes" when you ask for the sale. 
  • You can overcome "objections" by constantly pointing out the benefits.
Uuugh ... I can't do this anymore. I was going to give you more examples but I can't. I have to go sit in the shower while listening to The Crying Game. I'll be right back ...

I know all there is to know about the crying game,
I've had my share of the crying game.

Ok, I'm back.

Sales is no longer about trapping people, out maneuvering them and playing psychological games to get to the "yes". People don't want to be "sold" on things anymore. They want to make wise and informed  decisions.

People will buy from who they trust and trust is established through relationships. Generating sales and creating profit in a way that leads to long lasting business is done by giving people a reason to believe in you and your product as a genuine benefit to their life. This is done by building meaningful relationships with them. Here is how it works:

Instead of trapping people like a T-Rex looking for his last taste of meat, build relationships that make you into partners rather than hunter and prey. In the diagram above you can see two of the main things that must be overcome when you sell anything. People will be comparing your price to others and they will be looking at what your competition is doing. Simply put, the stronger your relationship, the less those two things will matter. 

If you are using lines like those I was typing before my shower (please don;t make me do it again) you will never establish a relationship with your clients. Those kinds of lines and strategies kill trust. Trust is the center of all healthy relationships so it just won't happen. You will always be under the scrutiny of your clients who will be constantly looking for the cheaper deal or the little extra offer from your competitor. "Well, T-Rex down the street is giving away chickens before he eats me, so I think I'll go with that."

If you get to the point where the customer feels a relationship with you beyond just being a transaction, they will pay less attention to what else is out there. They will appreciate that you treat them with respect. They will trust that you actually care about their well being and satisfaction and they will like that feeling. The more you bond with them as a human, the further you drive that wedge. Ultimately  they will end up dealing with you because of who you are and how they feel around you instead of how cheap you offer your service. 

So, dinosaurs ... accept your fate. The asteroid has hit. The sky is dark in your realm. Take your tricks and traps and go home. The sun is shinning on a new era. A peaceful time of mutually beneficial business transactions. 

Well, that is that. I'm off to listen to some Tragically Hip so I can get the Crying Game out of my head and you should visit for more of this kind of thing ... assuming you agree with this article. If you didn't, then I know some good dinosaur websites too. 

What are some of the worst sales lines you have ever heard? Feel free to vent in the comments below.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Leadership for Drones, Mercenaries or Partners

A leader leads by example, not by force. 
Sun Tzu

"Leadership is not something you take, it is given to you by those that willingly follow you."
Me   :-)

If you need people to support and follow you (ie. employees or volunteers), there are basically 3 choices in how you can motivate them. Depending on what you chose, you will create either drones, mercenaries or partners

1. To create drones - Use force. 
Sit in your office and hand out orders that come with just a hint of threat. Make people know that if they do not produce the desired result they could be fired, docked pay or "talked to" in front of their peers. Force people to do your will by attaching whatever threat you can come up with that will cause discomfort or grief. 

Will they do what you want? Maybe. 
Will they do a quality job? Only as much as they need to in order to avoid punishment. 
Will they be loyal to you if other opportunities rise? No.

You will have created an army (staff or volunteer force) of drones who go through the motions each day so they can get their reward and then spend the evening wishing they could get away from you.

2. To create mercenaries - Use money.
Dangle the carrot from on high. Let them know how much you have and how you will reward them with a portion of it IF they please you. People love that feeling of reward, so give it to them when you get what you want from them. 

Will they do what you want? Most likely.
Will they do a quality job? As long as the reward is good.
Will they be loyal to you if other opportunities arise? Only if your rewards are better.

You will have created a mercenary force. Loyal to the dollars or rewards that you have but ready to become loyal to other rewards elsewhere at the drop of a hat. Keep them working for you as long as they like what you are handing out.

3. To create partners - Use example.
Get dirty, do the job you want done and let people see you doing it with all your heart. Watch for those who want to join in with you. Tell them why you do it and let them join in for their belief in that vision. Treat them well and give them respect.

Will they do what you want? Yes
Will they do a quality job? Yes
Will they be loyal to you if other opportunities arise? Yes

You will have created a team of partners. They will be standing beside you with a vision of a common goal. They will follow you because they believe in you and what you show through your example. Value them and show them that you value them.

If you are a leader or entrepreneur, you have the choice to run your company any way you wish. Pick any of the above as your leadership style. "Profitable" companies exist in all 3 ways. "Successful" companies are built only under #3.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Don't Be Herb Tarlek

Remember Herb Tarlek from WKRP? 

Yeah ... if you go to a networking event ... don't be like him. 
Try this instead...

Find out more at

Referrals, Unicorns and Uglycorns

What do referrals have to do with unicorns?  And what the heck is an uglycorn?

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Tracing it Back … Or Big Pink Diaper Truck Moments

Isn't it interesting how things develop in ways we never could have imagined? 

Your career, your relationship with your significant other, your business; they all seem to take on a life of their own. You do your best to guide how things go but in the end, things happen that cause changes you never saw coming. Some good, some not so good.

When you get the chance, it can be very revealing to think backwards through time and see how you got to where you are. Notice the events and people that had a hand in helping you create the world you have around you.

This thought came to mind in the form of a conversation I had yesterday. I was meeting for the first time with Teresa Kiyawasew, owner of Kiy HR Services (Check out her blog)   My intention was to research trends in the HR world for a presentation I am doing in the near future. The conversation was quite professional to start. Then this sentence came out of Teresa’s mouth, “…so really, as Human Resource professionals we feel …..Bwaaaahahahaha! A big pink diaper truck!!!!” She pointed out the window and I turned to see exactly that. A big pink truck with a giant yellow happy face and a description of how they were providing diapers for our world’s future. It really was a great truck!

From that point on though, our conversation was very different. We talked diapers, we talked kids, we talked dogs, we talked race cars and eventually we did get back to talking business. The business we talked was very different now though. Instead of just research for me, it turned into discussions of how we could collaborate. We had discovered, through all of that random conversation, that we had very similar values and styles and thought we may somehow be of benefit to clients if we combined our efforts. What was the event that caused all of that? A big pink diaper truck driving by!

I’m sure you have been in conversations that have taken an unexpected turn and traced it back to find the moment it happened. Try doing the same with the bigger parts of your life as well. What caused you to know you loved your spouse? How did you end up making the decision to study (insert whatever you studied here).

Do the same for your business if you are an entrepreneur.
  • What are some of the events that really shaped what your business has become?
  • Were they planned?
  • Did seemingly random things happen that gave you an idea?
  • What events forced you down a path you didn't expect to be on?
  • What people played a part in shaping your business?
  • Did you expect them to do that?

It is fun and very valuable to trace these events back. You can then give credit to those who deserve it and maybe haven’t received it.

Look for your “Big Pink Diaper Truck” moments and feel free to share them in the comments below. I would love to hear your story!

Monday, 21 January 2013

The World's Greatest Lie

A book was given to me a few years ago by someone who has been a very special influence on my life. She gave me The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I have read through this book 6 times now and every time it speaks to me in a different way. I have given copies of it to many people around me that I care about. Do I feel it is an important book? Yes. 

The Alchemist

One particular statement from the book has really stood out to me lately ...

“At a certain point in our lives, 
we lose control of what's happening to us, 
and our lives become controlled by fate. 
That's the world's greatest lie.” 

In my work I interact with entrepreneurs, in my volunteer activities I interact with children. It is so interesting to look at those groups through the lens of the worlds greatest lie. 

Children don't believe it, it is as simple as that. Especially small ones. They know that the world is wide open to them. That is why they are so eager to explore, to see and feel and taste things.  But as they get older, they hear the lie being transmitted round their world. They are told that opportunities are scarce and that they should pick a safe path through life. Although it may not be passed on with words, the adults around them give the sense that choice is something that few have when it comes to how their lives play out. So it is better to stick to the rules and live the life that our society shows to be "normal". 

Most entrepreneurs seem to have stepped around that lie. They know that they can forge their own future. It may be hard and they may be subject to criticism. Some who believe the lie may even see entrepreneurs as naive. But true entrepreneurs push on through all of that, knowing that it is all a lie and knowing that in the end, they make choices that determine how their life plays out.

Sometimes, though, the road gets so tough that the entrepreneur wants to give in to the lie. They know it isn't true but they are tired of the fight to build what their dream.  Living by the lie could be a relief. I am fortunate enough to get to interact with this step in an entrepreneur's life sometimes and I find the best way to remind them that they cannot fall into the lie, is to show them children. When they see a child's optimism and fire, it is a quick reminder of that explorer spirit that dwells within almost every true entrepreneur.

Watching people fall into the world's lie is sad, watching people overcome it is a delight. So I recommend 2 things: 
   1. Read The Alchemist
   2. Learn from children

Friday, 11 January 2013

Powerful Listening

The secret of many a man's success in the world resides in his insight into the moods of men and his tact in dealing with them.
J.G. Holland

No matter what your business is I can guarantee you one thing; 100% of your target market is human. As a matter of fact, I can also guarantee that 100% of your suppliers, partners, family, friends and contacts is human. Alright, maybe not 100% of your friends, I have a couple of friends who aren't human although they think they are (I'll let you take that however you want to). 

The point is, when it comes to your business (and much of your life) you will be interacting with other people constantly. Your skill in dealing with people can be one of the biggest factors in your success. Spend some time around a sales team to see proof of this. Often it is not the salesperson who knows the product the best that has the greatest results, it is the salesperson who understand how to communicate with people and make them feel comfortable. 

The funny thing is that when you look at most of the training material out there about how to communicate, it is focused on how to send information out. To have people feel comfortable with you though, it is just as important (if not more so) to know how to receive what others are sending to you. In short, listening. Truly listening to people will help you understand what they need and desire, but more importantly, it will show them that you are interested in what they have to say. If they feel that, they will want to do business with you. 

Here are some signs that you are truly listening:

1. While being spoken to your thoughts are on what the person is actually saying, not on what you are going to say next.

2. You wait for the speaker to completely finish what they are saying before you begin to speak. 

3. You can remember how the conversation flowed from point to point and see the other person's contributions to it as clearly as your own. 

4. Many of the times you speak will be open ended questions that encourage the other person to speak. These will never be "loaded" questions.

5. At the end of each exchange you could easily sum up what the person just said if you needed to (assuming the speaker said something that made sense.)

When you truly listen to what a speaker is saying you will be giving them that feeling that they are important to you. That what they have to say is of value to you and that you respect them. You will learn about who they are, what they can do and what they need. With these two pieces in place, you have a solid foundation for a valuable business relationship. 

The best business people are most often the best communicators. The best communicators are most often the best listeners. 

Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of 
listening when you would have preferred to talk. 
Doug Larson

One of the most sincere forms of respect is 
actually listening to what another has to say. 
Bryant H. McGill

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Up Side Down Goal Setting

Jim is a typical small business owner. Here is how he approaches goal setting:

“Ok, it is January 1. I better set some targets for this year. Let’s see, I did $800,000 in sales last year and had a net profit of $120,000. That’s not too bad considering how new my business is! So let’s see, that was 20% more than the previous year. So really I should be able to grow by another 20% this year if things continue at this pace. Yup, that sounds like a good number. So that means, (insert sound of calculator clicking or brain churning here) $960,000 in sales and $144,000 net profit. Nice, mark it down, that is this years goal!”

On the surface that’s not a bad goal at all. It is specific (it has exact numbers and a time frame to reach them). It is attainable yet challenging (the goal is within the business owners reach but will require growth). That gives Jim a very defined target that he knows he will have to work hard and be effective to attain. Great!

What is the reward in this goal though? Sure, he may feel some satisfaction in knowing he grew his business and that is a great feeling. Where is the reward that will really get him fired up to do the work and meet the challenge of this goal though? He may be able to pay himself some more money through that year. Again, that is nice, but it is just money. What is the real reward that will inspire Jim to put in all the effort that will be necessary to feel like he attained his goal?

Here is what Jim’s goal setting process (and that of many entrepreneurs) looks like.

In this funnel a business owner focuses all of their attention on how big they want their business to be. They set a number as far as how much production they want in a certain time period. Then they determine by what method they will reach that number. For example, they may need to introduce new products or attract more customers. After that, they determine what the business needs (More staff? new resources?) to make that happen. Only once all of that is determined will they make a plan to reach the goal.

The worst part of this though, is that personal goals are left until the very end. If there is time and money, the business owner will give themselves a reward for reaching their business goals. When a dog performs a trick, it gets a treat from its master. It is similar here, when the entrepreneur gets the business to its goal, it will receive a treat from its master.

That is the road Jim is going down. He knows the growth he wants to see in his business and he will find ways to make it happen. But there is no specific reward for him if it happens. At the end of the year he may be able to cut himself a nice bonus check basically letting his business pat his head and say, “Who’s a good boy? Whoooooo’s a good boy? You are! Yes you are!” and toss a jerky treat his way.

Do not create a business to be your master!
You must be the master of your business!

When you started doing whatever it is you do, it probably wasn’t with the intention of becoming a slave to what you have built. You most likely did not envision yourself as a mere pawn of the business you have created who hopes for a reward at the end of each year.

You started your business or career with the intention of creating a good life for yourself. You created it seeing your business as a means to freedom, wealth or whatever it is you desire.

By setting goals that put the business first, you will eventually become just another employee with a fancy title. YOU DON’T WANT THAT! (Right? … You better not want that).

Set goals that put you as a human being first!

Flip that funnel over!

In order to feel truly fulfilled by your business, you must realize that you are a human being first and an entrepreneur second. If you want to feel fulfilled, you must make sure that all of your business plans stem from knowing what you want in your personal life. By identifying that first, you can then determine what your business needs to look like in order to provide that fulfillment.

Do you want a hyper active life full of Ferrari's, mansions and parties? Build your business in a way that can get that for you. 

Do you want a relaxed life doing what you love in a cabin near the mountains? Build your business that allows you to have that.  

  • Set your personal goals first. Then make a plan for how your business can provide that for you. Will it need to give you money? Time? Freedom? Whatever the case, plan your business around that goal. 
  • Next, determine what your business needs in order to execute that plan (More staff? Less hands on involvement by you?). 
  • After that, determine the method you will use to meet those needs. (Work with only select customers? Find a new niche market?) 
  • Only after all of this is decided should you set a business goal. It will be the sales your business needs to do in order to execute the plan that will provide your personal goals.

Remember, your business is nothing but a tool to provide what you want as a person. Make your personal goals the first step insetting your business goals. Then watch your business provide what you want for your life.

Here are some questions to help you define those goals

Saturday, 1 December 2012

11 Year Old Entrepreneurs

One of the greatest learning experiences I get to have is through my involvement with Junior Achievement. It is an organization that seeks to inspire and educate children all over the world to be strong leaders in their community.  My role is as an instructor for grade 6 students in a program called "A Business of Our Own". But I often find I do more learning than teaching.

In the "Business of Our Own" program, the students create and run a business over a 5 week period. They are responsible for everything from creating the business idea, drawing up a plan, finding start up capital, buying merchandise and equipment, running the business and deciding what to do with the profits. In the end they come out with a very good taste of what entrepreneurship is all about. 

The last group I had the pleasure of working with went through the process with amazing determination and created a healthy profit in the process. The main lesson I hope they learned is that business isn't just about money and profit, but that it is about how you can have an effect on your life and your community through operating a business.

As I mentioned before though, I often do more learning than the students. This class definitely gave me a lot to reflect on and even pass on to my clients. Here are 3 of the main things any entrepreneur could learn from these students.

1. Excitement is Essential
The smiles and energy that these students showed was contagious. It was obvious that they enjoyed what they were doing and that they had a true desire to succeed. It was such a powerful energy that I brought one of my clients (who was feeling a bit down about his business) to their sale just so he could feed off of their excitement. They put a huge smile on his face and his excitement for his own business returned in minutes.

If you are excited about what you do, it will flow out of you and stick to those around you. Do you want excited employees, customers and co-workers? Then be excited and let them grab onto that energy! (If you can't be excited about what you do, you need a change)

2. Eagerness Earns Opportunity
These kids were all so eager to be a part of the action that it was almost overwhelming. Many times when I was speaking  they would sense that I was about to ask a question and half the class would put their hands up before I had a chance to even ask it! They didn't even care what the question would be, they just wanted to be involved in answering it.

As an entrepreneur  you probably get that gut feeling when an opportunity is on the horizon. Don't wait to see if it all shapes up perfectly before dipping your toes in. Just raise your hand, get ready for it and be there when it arrives!

3. Communication is Key
The class was put into groups according to their responsibilities. Those groups often had to collaborate on tasks needed to run the business successfully. In the first few weeks, the communication just wasn't there and guess how much got done .. pretty much nothing. When they realized the need to work as a team and started talking productively with each other everything turned around. Ideas were shared, plans were made and everything started to rock and roll!

You have a vision and a plan for your company, if you don't communicate it clearly to those involved and to your potential customers you will have a tough time finding success. Know your message, know your methods and know how to communicate it to others. This will build the environment where things can operate smoothly because everyone's expectations and plans are on the same track.

The great thing about this program is handing the kids the tools and being there to advise but allowing them to discover the process and make decisions on their own. They experience in 5 weeks what many entrepreneurs go through in the first year of business. If you ever want to experience the excitement and dedication they bring to entrepreneurship, get involved with Junior Achievement and see how much you can learn from these future leaders.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Italian Stallion on Entreprenership

What does Rocky know about entrepreneurship? Maybe lots, maybe nothing, but there are 3 scenes that every new entrepreneur should pay attention to:

Reporter, "Do other fighters pound raw meat?" - Rocky, "No, I think I invented it."

Rocky didn't have a lot of  resources when he started up. No big training team with loads of equipment to train for every situation. Instead he and his trainer made due with what was available. He chased chickens to improve his agility and reflexes. He punched up sides of beef hanging in a freezer. Glamorous, no. Effective, oh yeah.
As a new entrepreneur you may not have the resources to do everything in the way established businesses do. Because of that you will need to learn how to take care of things in creative ways. But don't worry, in the end that will make you stronger. You will find ways to solve problems in tough situations. You will build your business agility and reflexes out of necessity. Make due with what you have, train hard and get strong. In the end, your mind will be creative and you will know your business inside out and backwards. Then there will be no challenge that you can't handle.

"Cut me Mick!"

 Bloody and swollen, Rocky would do anything to go the distance. Afraid the ref would call the fight he wanted to get the swelling down. Against the advice of those in his corner, he wanted to be cut to allow the swelling to subside so that he could keep fighting. So he yells at his trainer, "Cut me Mick!"
While you build your new business, there will likely be times where you feel like you have been bashed around like a boxer in a ring. Your friends may be telling you to throw in the towel. They believe in you but are scared for you. Don't give in to their fear. If you truly believe in yourself and what you are trying to accomplish, you need to do what is necessary to keep going. It is your life and you need to do what you believe you need to do. Never quit. Never give up. Push to the end. If you get knocked around, lick your wounds, stand up and get right back in there.


Rocky screamed her name when the fight was over. His physical pain and exhaustion needed one thing at that moment, her. She was his world and he knew she would be there.
Know who is really in your corner. Know who it is that will always be there for you. Know who it is that will cheer you on even when they are scared for you, even when everyone else is telling you to give up. Know who it is that really understands why it is you do what you do. Know who it is and don't be afraid to call out for them. They will be there for you when you need them. In the end, treat them with all of the respect and love that you can. They deserve it.

Rocky may not have been an entrepreneur, but he had heart. He put his heart to boxing. If you are starting a business, put your heart to it like he did, you can't fail. If may be a long hard fight but you will succeed if you continue to fight.