Starting a Successful New Business – What’s the Headache?

Starting a Successful New Business – What’s the Headache?

When you are thinking about starting a successful new business, one of the first questions you need to be able to answer is: "What is the headache that I'm solving for, and how bad is the headache?". You need to solve a problem for someone (your target customer) that they recognize (it is a headache) and that they care about (it is a BAD headache). For a really incredible business, you need to have a meaningful solution to their headache. Don't just find something that dulls the pain, find something that makes it go away. Finally, you need to be able to articulate how you will make the pain go away for good. Consider the following scenario (based on one of my favourite quotes from Theodore Levitt): People don't want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole. Theodore Levitt (more…)...
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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

I was thinking about my experience during my current search for my  next challenge and it dawned on my that this journey has some interesting parallels to Dorothy's experience in The Wizard of Oz. We both were surprised by a tornado that took us into an unfamiliar place, had to get our bearings and find a path that would hopefully lead us to success, met some interesting characters along the way who were helpful on the journey, and faced some unique challenges while travelling the road. Let's start from the beginning... Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. (more…)...
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The Millennial Challenge

The Millennial Challenge

Last week I was at the Niagara Economic Summit where they tackled some issues related to employment in the Niagara Region including a power talk on the topic of millennials. The millennial discussion was led by a panel of millennial speakers including Chris Sinclair, Julie Rorison, Allie Hughes, Alyssa Lai, Stephanie Harper, and Stephen Murdoch. In the discussion, the panellists spoke about the way Millennials differ from previous generations. I call this the Millennial Challenge. Gen Y differs in their work styles and their experiences and perceptions of employees and employers. The panellists also shared some strategies for other millennials to get themselves started in the work force. I have recently been doing some work supporting the start-up of a non-profit focused on helping millennials make the leap from student to productive professional. I found the discussion at the Summit fascinating given some research I've been doing in that work. It is one thing to read professional research and perspectives on...
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What Have You Done For Me Lately?

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

I was speaking with someone recently who had recently been downsized from a company that they had been with for over 15 years. Over that 15 years they had moved up the corporate ladder and were regarded as a rising star in the organization early in their career. Over the past couple of years however their political "stock" had started to fall as the organization had shifted their focus and direction slightly and there had been some turnover in the senior management team. Ultimately this individual had been part of a broad set of job reductions that the company had taken to improve productivity. They were lamenting the fact that they had given 15 years of their life and hard work to an organization that didn't appreciate that legacy and they were feeling very "hard done by" by the whole situation. Having recently gone through a similar experience myself it gave me a great opportunity to reflect on what was different...
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Diversity: The Art of Thinking Independently Together

Diversity: The Art of Thinking Independently Together

The word "diversity" is thrown around in corporate circles on a regular basis, but like many such common corporate words (like "innovation", "synergy", "culture", or "strategy") the word itself doesn't carry a common meaning and so it loses a great deal of its power. Sometimes people mean diversity in terms of race, heritage, or origin. Sometimes it means diversity in terms of gender. Rarely does it meet the standard of diversity that I think it needs to. The most important fact about American liberty is that it has never been a single idea, but a set of different and even contrary traditions in creative tension with one another. This diversity of libertarian ideas has created a culture of freedom which is more open and expansive than any unitary tradition alone could possibly be. David Hackett Fischer While the quote above is focused on an American concept the foundation of the quote is universal. Diversity is a broad concept that requires leaders to...
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Leading to Outcomes

Leading to Outcomes

One of the more successful strategies I have seen managers take in their organizations has been shifting their focus from managing the process to leading to outcomes. In the age of employee empowerment, one of the best ways to allow your team to feel like they have a say in the work is to allow them some flexibility in the process and approach. As long as they deliver the desired outcome, they should be able to define the path. The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it. Theodore Roosevelt I would suggest that the act of simply managing for outcomes isn't enough in the current corporate environment. Setting goals and offering flexibility in the approach by Leading to Outcomes is a far more effective approach. If you retain the concept of managing in the approach, you won't achieve the full...
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Don’t Be Afraid Ask

Don’t Be Afraid Ask

Over the past couple of months as I have been looking for my next career challenge I have been lucky enough to enjoy a lot of amazing conversations, meet a lot of really interesting people, and learn a lot from both the people I am meeting as well as my own experiences going through this. One of the most important lessons I am drawing on though I learned through my last big career search: Don't Be Afraid To Ask I love meeting new people and I love great conversation, but ultimately neither of those things on their own are going to find me the right next opportunity. If I don't actually use those introductions and conversations to let people know what I'm looking for and how they can help then it is a wasted opportunity in the end. (more…)...
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Last Refrain – Humanity’s Poet

Last Refrain – Humanity’s Poet

Saturday night Canada shared a moment that will be burned into our collective history for years to come. We came together as a country to celebrate the life, talent, and most of all humanity of Gord Downie as the poet of our generation. September seventeen For a girl I know it's Mother's Day Her son has gone alee And that's where he will stay Wind on the weathervane Tearing blue eyes sailor-mean As Falstaff sings a sorrowful refrain For a boy in Fiddler's Green The lyrics from Fiddler's Green mourning the loss of a child feel fitting after a night where Canada was able to celebrate and mourn with someone who has done so much in his life to help paint our own identity as a nation. The Canadian humanity with which Gord Downie shared his lyrics instantly connected him to the whole nation, and simultaneously brought us all together in a way that no politician, no athlete, and no artist had done before. (more…)...
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Emotion Leads to Action

Emotion Leads to Action

I joined a group of Niagara professionals at IdeaShare yesterday for breakfast and met some very inspiring entrepreneurs who had some great stories to share. The IdeaShare concept is essentially a Mastermind group (think Napoleon Hill - Think and Grow Rich) where a group of business leaders and entrepreneurs get together to discuss issues that are relevant to their business and the rest of the members provide advice and/or thoughts that might help them work through their challenge. At the end of the meeting, Dennis O'Neill shared something he was told by a mentor previously in his life which was resonating with him - and it definitely resonated with me: Logic leads to conclusion; emotion leads to action. (more…)...
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