Design Thinking and The Parable of the Fly Fisherman

Design Thinking and The Parable of the Fly Fisherman

Sunday night I got started reading my first book in a while (it is hard to get as much reading done when you're not riding the train for two hours a day). Luckily it is one that I've been looking forward to - Change by Design by Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO).  I have heard great things about the book before and I  heartily recommend it to anyone struggling with the 'old way' of creating in a corporate environment.  I believe that design thinking is simply a better term for us internal entrepreneurs who need to pitch a new approach in a more traditional company. It also reminds me of a great story that epitomizes the design thinking process - 'The Parable of the Fly Fisherman'. (more…)...
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Out Of The Box Opportunities

Out Of The Box Opportunities

There is a great article in this week's BusinessWeek magazine entitled 'Fertile Ground for Startups' that illustrates the opportunities that are at hand for truly innovative ideas in today's economy.  The article outlines that investment by angel investors and venture capitalists is up significantly over the first half of this year, and that as many as 50,000 new businesses will obtain some form of angel or venture investment in 2009 in the US.The article also highlights some of the ideas that are getting money, and there seems to be a pretty consistent theme - innovation gets investment.After the past 18-24 months of economic turmoil it shouldn't surprise anyone that it is innovation that is leading the way out of the mess.  Innovation has been a great buzzword for the past 10-15 years, but only a few of the really great companies have been able to really harness its power within their existing corporate frameworks, leaving much of the opportunity for the development...
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Appropriate Management Controls for Small Business

Appropriate Management Controls for Small Business

For those that read this blog regularly or who have spoken with me at one of the various networking events that I regularly participate in you know that my passion is in creating growth through value innovation, but I have had a couple of conversations in the past week with colleagues in other businesses about management controls so I thought I'd share my thoughts on specifically management controls and small business.One of my pet peeves (and one of the main reasons I haven't spent a lot of time in larger more bureaucratic organizations) is process for the sake of process, and I truly believe that management controls used poorly constitute exactly this problem.  One of the most innovation stifling innovations is the standard operating procedure, specifically if it implemented before there is a specific need for control or before an organization has grown to a size that would justify requiring that level of control.When speaking with one colleague he demonstrated for...
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Tips to be a more effective Networker

Tips to be a more effective Networker

As small business owners, one of the key sources of new business will be your network.  That means that the more effective you are at the art of networking, the more likely you are to generate quality leads and increase your business and professional footprint.  For those seeking new employment, the principles are the same but the target audience might differ.  I offer these tips not as someone who considers themselves as an expert in the art of networking, but as someone who is constantly learning and evolving - someone who is reaching for the stars and developing his networking skills to get there.First of all, I have to mention the best book that I have read on the subject and highly recommend that you go out and buy it and read it today:  Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi (click the link to go directly to Amazon.ca and buy it now).Let's get started with the tips:Yes You HAVE To Network Problem #1 for...
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Interesting Small Business Statistics

Interesting Small Business Statistics

While these statistics aren't particularly new (they come from a 2005 Industry Canada report) I came across them this week while working on a white paper and I think they bear some brief discussion here.In Canada, 94.6% of businesses by number are 'small' meaning that they have less than 50 employees.  The actual number startled me a bit when I read it so I felt I had to dig deeper.  Looking across the provinces and territories, the numbers are fairly uniform - all within one percent or so - something that really surprised me.  I would have expected to find higher percentages in the prairie provinces where there is a higher percentage of agriculture or in Ontario and Quebec, the hotbeds of economic activity.  The report really gets interesting when you look at employment and GDP however.  These same small businesses that make up almost 95% of the business environment employ only 40% of the population (26.7% in goods producing sectors and 73.3%...
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The 80/20 Rule and Your Market

The 80/20 Rule and Your Market

We all know the 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle.  We've heard it over and over and seen the power of the rule in our own businesses.  80% of our business comes from 20% of our customers.  80% of our problems are solved by 20% of our efforts.  The richest 20% of the people in our world own 80% of the resources.  It's powerful because it's true.  Unfortunately we don't take the principle into consideration enough when we are looking at our markets and deciding where to spend our time.Consider it as a balancing act except that given the rule, we should already know that things won't be balanced (nor should they).  One of the steps I take my clients through is the identification of markets - the analysis of where they are selling their products and services today and the identification of other markets where those same products and services (or a slightly modified version) may be just...
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Packaging Matters

Packaging Matters

As I noted in my last entry, platform thinking is a problem when you try to communicate the value of your product or service offering to a potential client.  The problem is that I have been struggling with the same issue for the past couple of months and only now have been able to put together the compelling story for my own business.  (Something that several in my network have been pointing out to me for a while now).Putting together the compelling story that will sell your product or services can feel like either finding a needle in a haystack (if you are unsure of who your target market is) or limiting your potential (if you are guilty of platform thinking).  I have always been sure that my target market is the Entrepreneurs who run new and small businesses in Halton and Hamilton so I didn't have the problem of the haystack, but I come from a generalist background so colour me guilty...
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Value is in the Eye of the Beholder

Value is in the Eye of the Beholder

I've had some great conversations with some really smart people in the past couple of months since I got started working with small businesses and new Entrepreneurs in this capacity.  There is one common theme that seems to be emerging though as I work particularly with young technology entrepreneurs: unclear value.Perhaps a good way to start this discussion is with a quote from the yoda of business management, Peter Drucker:"Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. This is incompetence. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality."To illustrate an example of unclear value I'm going to use an example from a recent discussion (the names have been changed to protect the innocent). ...
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Great Business Books for Small Business

Great Business Books for Small Business

I've been known for some time as a voracious reader and I'm often asked for recommendations of good books for specific situations.  I promised in an entry earlier this month that I would list some of my favourites, so that's what today is all about.This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will introduce you to some new titles or authors that you might not have otherwise picked up that may be able to help you in some aspect of your small business.  This isn't about navigating the corporate heirarchy or mastering MBA level statistics or theories, it is a list designed to address the specific needs and challenges faced by small businesss and Entrepreneurs.  The list is in no particular order (I'm not big on rankings) so the last book on the list might be just as helpful for your specific needs as book number one.  I hope you enjoy!Buy on Amazon.ca Never Eat Alone And Other Secrets to Success,...
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It’s All In The Follow Through

It’s All In The Follow Through

It's been said many times that follow up is key to success, but I would suggest that it goes deeper than just a simple follow-up if you want to dominate in your field.Just like a good golf swing, the best hitters in baseball, and a great slapshot, the key to exceeding the expectations of your clients and colleagues is the follow through.Following up is a simple one time activity that anyone can do.  Leaving a meeting with an expected 'follow-up' date or meeting is easy (provided the meeting went well), but committing to something of real value during a meeting that would require you to 'follow through' is much less common.I had a meeting at the end of last week with a new network connection in which we both spent some time going over the types of services we provide to our customers and the types of customers we are most interested in being introduced to, and I was surprised and...
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