MEDIA: Dragons’ Den Blog Interview

Thanks to the Dragons’ Den Blog for being in touch to discuss The Worst Ways to Raise Cash as an Entrepreneur; it’s always great to share some tips and traps when it comes to building a company.

Although it’s no secret that there are various approaches than an entrepreneur could take to finance a young venture, this should be considered in a broader context. Startup companies typically receive their initial financing through “founders, family, and friends”, with perhaps some support through grant and similar programs. What tends to get lost in the process is whether or not doing so is actually a good investment.  Considering this includes determining the likelihood of: (i) the capital being repaid, at some point in time; and (ii) the return that could be generated, if any. Doing so can really only be achieved by way of developing a thorough and complete business plan, including a financial forecast for at least a three year period.

Entrepreneurs and business planning don’t always have a good partnership, however.  Business planning tends to get downplayed as “not that important” or “impossible to do for a startup”; both of which are false. When an entrepreneur prepares a business plan, they tend to insufficiently address areas that are of significance to investors, such as industry and market issues and the right business model, and instead, focus on an abundance of product and technical content.  The impact?  Little to no chance of raising investment capital.

Entrepreneurs should, instead, consider whether or not a startup is worth spending their time and money on, as it will surely take plenty of both. It is important to take the time to do so before investing one’s own capital, regardless of the source, and before asking others to do the same. As a business advisor and former venture capitalist, I have seen too many young companies that likely would not have been launched, had these questions been asked and answered in advance. Further to this point, rarely have I met an entrepreneur who actually took the time to do their business planning homework first, although I have met many who wished that they had better understood the financing implications and realistic potential of their company sooner.

Not sure how to address these important areas?  Advisors can help. Not only can they assist with putting the right business planning efforts in place, they can also help to identify opportunities to generate cash sooner, which is another area that entrepreneurs tend to miss.  Contact us to learn more.

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (November, 2018)

Always enjoy my time on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, including this past Saturday, alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott.  Here’s the topics we discussed, from the week that was in business:

  • Bombardier’s layoffs and selloffs:  The company has struggled in recent years and found itself in the news again this week; announcing 5,000 layoffs and a couple of selloffs as part of ongoing transition efforts.  With Canadian taxpayers having funded the company to the tune of over $1 billion, can any positive developments be expected?
  • Bowring and Bombay File for Creditor Protection:  Disruption in the retail space continues, this time, revisiting two longstanding Canadian brands.  Do they have a future?
  • Amazon’s Toy Catalogue:  Reminiscent of years past, Amazon has its own printed toy catalogue for the Holiday season; what’s behind this move?

Here’s a few thoughts:

Transition is never easy (or quick), but Canadian taxpayers have probably heard more than their share of less than stellar news about Bombardier.  The reality is that this large and diverse company didn’t find itself off the rails (pun intended) overnight, and unwinding a bad situation can take far more time, angst, and money than most would expect.  As is the case with any company, it’s critical to understand the core business, one where success can be generated on a competitive and financially favourable basis.  As manufacturing technology evolves, companies are challenged to be increasingly efficient and that often involves shedding or re-positioning jobs.  If Bombardier is to find success, it must have a well-designed plan that focuses in the right product and service areas in an efficient and competitive manner; time will tell if this can be achieved, or if the outcome will be of a more somber nature.

In an intensely competitive retail marketplace that has evolved significantly, many companies have found themselves left behind; Bowring and Bombay are the latest, having faced similar circumstances only a few years ago.  Retailers must understand their target market well and take the necessary steps to connect and engage with them in an effective manner.  These companies have not kept up with the rapid pace of evolution, which might spell the end for these Canadian brands.  Retrenching to fewer stores or trying to play online “catch up” with a customer that might not be receptive could be the age old story of finding and implementing a new strategy too late.

And, finally, Amazon’s printed toy catalogue is all about the memories and nostalgia of many childhoods, as well as reaching out to those who shop online less frequently.  Using an approach that makes online engagement easy just might be the most timely “pull” strategy we’ve seen in a while; kids just need to put down their tablets and iPhones long enough to flip through the pages!

Thanks for watching and see you again soon, CBC!

EVENTS: Coming to a City Near You!

Just about to hit the road on my speaking tour, as part of the Knowledge Bureau CE Summits! This series focuses on year end planning for investors and small businesses, designed for advisors who work with these important clients. I’m looking forward to speaking about challenges that family businesses face in two sessions: The Family Business Time Bomb: Transition, Improve, or Wind up? and a case study discussion, Embracing Disruption and Risk in Succession Planning (yes, you can!).

While it’s typical for a family business to be inundated with challenges and change, seldom have so many potential threats been evident: demographic factors, disruption of key industries, dramatic change in the global economy, and uncertain financial times.  It’s no longer sufficient for leaders to focus their efforts primarily on addressing typical “family business” problems.  Doing so puts the very future of the company and the family’s finances at risk and makes successful transition less likely.

Business owners need to take action now, in order to defuse the ticking time bomb that puts the family’s opportunity for future wealth creation at risk.  Advisors can play a key role in this regard, but only if they bring the value and expertise that business leaders are seeking. Key areas of assistance include the ability to:

  • Work with clients to build value;
  • Develop goals and implement strategies, in terms of business modeling, track record, competitive advantage, and other growth related factors; and
  • Initiate transition planning in a manner that addresses the “time bomb” factors that business owners are facing.

In order to get there, professional service providers need to understand the advisory skillset that business leaders are seeking.  Doing so provides the foundation for differentiation in the marketplace, as well as building a robust advisory firm over the long term.  It’s up to you to ensure that your firm doesn’t get left behind.

Join us for this valuable session by registering here.  See you on the road!

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (October, 2018)

Interesting Business Panel on CBC News Network this past weekend, alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott, talking cannabis and the workplace, as well as the week in markets.  Here’s some insight:

As Canada is set to legally permit recreational use of cannabis on October 17th, many employers are facing challenges as to how to address the issue.  With some organizations banning use entirely for “safety sensitive” jobs, others are taking a less restrictive approach, requiring employees to ensure that they are “ready to work” and leaving it at that.  Many of Canada’s small enterprises (representing 98% of employer businesses) lack the resources and expertise to address this complex issue, while some large organizations have indicated that their cannabis related policies are still being developed.  This represents a significant problem.

In general terms, employers must adequately manage risk in order to ensure the safety and viability of their company, the welfare of staff members, and that customers receive the products, services, and care that should be associated with their purchase.  This includes establishing standards for how work is done, of which the human resource aspect is a critical component.

It is recognized that substances that cause impairment could impact a person’s ability to perform a job; this is the first part of the challenge, with the second being related to measurement.  Although monitoring compliance with some standards is relatively easy, such as in the case of an employee being required to wear safety equipment, measuring impairment is much more difficult.  Those with expertise in this area have indicated that obtaining reliable and relevant results when measuring cannabis consumption and impairment is problematic, with the appropriate technology not currently available.

For business leaders who have not yet addressed this area, given the level of urgency of putting appropriate policies in place, an efficient path to answers is to contact a qualified human resources advisor or your legal counsel.  Since policies should typically be researched, drafted, vetted, approved, and communicated in advance of when they are needed, it is critical to take action now.  Failing to do so could result in uncertainty, poor decision making, and what could be costly mistakes.

In terms of the markets, some of last week’s volatility relates to global trade uncertainty and conflict, such as in the case of the US and China.  Economies, however, have many components, including the potential impact of tariff, purchasing, investment, and employment levels, among others (current factor of interest at the White House: interest rates).  With some considering this sell off as one that has been in the works for a while, it’s important to keep these fluctuations in perspective and recognize that performance is still positive over the past year.  Lots to think about and monitor over the coming months.

Thanks, CBC, and see you again soon!

EVENTS: Speaking at CIX (Canadian Innovation Exchange)

Pleased to be on the Speakers list for CIX, the Canadian Innovation Exchange, “where connections are made and deals get done”.  CIX is a must attend technology innovation destination, where investors, innovative companies, entrepreneurs, and facilitators converge to drive economic growth and accelerate the development and implementation of new ideas.  This two-day, internationally recognized technology investment conference includes a range of sessions and powerful networking opportunities, including the showcasing of CIX’s Top 20 Companies for 2018, a group that I had a hand in selecting again this year, as a member of the Selection Committee.  This year, the Top 20 includes companies from Ontario, Quebec, BC, PEI, and Saskatchewan.

Experience has taught me that action-based implementation assistance is an area that young companies do not always fully appreciate.  Implementation tends to require far more time than anticipated and involves more challenges than one would expect, resulting in many promising companies failing to reach their potential.  What’s critical is having access to experienced resources, be it advisors, investors, or senior level executives, who possess tried and true strategies that accelerate growth.  No matter how poised for success you might think your company is, don’t make the mistake of failing to build out your team to include experienced people who have the ability to help generate success and avoid pitfalls.

If you are a leader of a high potential company attending CIX, feel free to drop by and say hello.  See you in Toronto!

NEWS: Selected for the Women in Capital Markets Board-Ready Directory

Pleased to announce that I have been selected for inclusion in the Women in Capital Markets Board-Ready Directory.  This directory serves as a valuable resource for Board chairs, senior leaders, and recruiters to identify women who are eminently qualified to sit on public, crown, private, and not-for profit Boards of Directors.

The purpose of this initiative is to provide a pool of qualified female candidates to encourage greater gender diversity on corporate boards in Canada.  The latest CSA Staff Review of Women on Boards and in executive officer positions found that only 14% of major Canadian Board members are women, despite regulations that were established more than a year ago.  This roster of women has successfully completed a qualification process, meeting or exceeding established criteria and well positioned to make an impact.

Women in Capital Markets’ (WCM) mission is to accelerate gender diversity across the financial industry and corporate boardrooms of Canada.  WCM is the largest network of professional women in the Canadian financial sector and the voice of advocacy for women in the industry, including all segments of capital markets and related services.

On a personal level, I’m thrilled to be part of this important group that is working to ensure that women have a seat and voice at the Board table.  Speaking as a former venture capital executive with a significant amount of governance experience, this diversity imbalance needs to be resolved and I am proud to be in a position to help make gender inequity history.

Feel free to contact me to discuss how I can contribute to your corporate board.

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (September, 2018)

Fun to be back in the studio for the CBC News Network Weekend Business panel, alongside Jeanhy Shim and John Northcott.  In a business week where stories ebbed and flowed, we landed on two stories that are well suited for looking forward and back:

  • The 10th Anniversary of the Global Financial Crisis.  Ten years after the stunning failure of Lehman Brothers, marking the start of the global financial crisis, what lessons have been learned?  Could another crisis be on the horizon?
  • NIKE’S New Ad Campaign.  Despite an initial backlash to NIKE’s new endorsement deal with Colin Kaepernick, online sales quickly re-bounded, tracking an increase in excess of 30%.  Is this trend here to stay?  What could this endorsement mean for other brands?

There is so much that could be said on each of these stories, but here’s my quick take:

I remember the start of the global financial crisis like it was yesterday, characterized by the stock market falling and bleak corporate stories rising for days on end.  As past crises have taught us, the business world is one where a relatively small segment of players find ways to make significant amounts of money on the fringe; residing out on the edge of acceptable conduct, finding gaps in the regulatory environment and acceptable norms.  Too often, these people make their money by putting their own position ahead of others, resulting in considerable detriment to many, such as in the case of failures in the housing and corporate markets.  This “rogue factor” makes the case for the importance of smart, focused regulation, enacted by those who have a good understanding of where the gaps are.  Well intentioned guidelines too often miss the mark, and it’s important to recognize that more is not always better.

Having said that, what could the challenges of the future look like?  As much as companies will continue to fail (a trend that isn’t going anywhere), expect the next crises to include some new factors, such as the impact of technology, demographics, trade issues, shifts in alliances, and uncertainties associated with areas such as cryptocurrency.  With technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, self-driving vehicles, and a greater level of control at the consumer level, what will the impact of inevitable job losses have on the economy?  What will be the first domino to fall and where will the chain of events that is triggered end?  Recognize that the crisis that comes next could look very different than what we have seen in the past, a mere 10 years ago, which, in reality, represents a much longer developmental timeframe.

In the case of NIKE, many of us can recall when a little known NFL quarterback made headlines when he “took a knee” in protest of racial injustice.  Whether in agreement or disagreement with Kaepernick’s actions, he clearly took a risk in expressing his point of view.  This concept of risk is consistent with what NIKE did when launching its newest campaign, an interesting parallel to what inspired it all.  Risk creates uncertainty, something that stock markets are known not to like; however, it also requires courage, faith, and knowing that much could be lost.  While Kaepernick remains an unsigned free agent, NIKE’s initial losses have been replaced with gains, at least in the short term, with the future yet to be seen.

What could be fueling this response?  Over the last couple of years, numerous people and groups have been standing up (or, perhaps, taking a knee) for causes they believe in, such as gender inequality, gun control, abuse, and yes, racial injustice.  With what seems to be no end to the distasteful rhetoric coming from a range of extremist groups and even the White House, many people seem to have found their own voice, recognizing that this type of world isn’t what they want for themselves, their children, or their community.  As it has been said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”, it seems that many have been displaying this sentiment through their actions.  Perhaps, this is what is fueling both understanding and support for those who are willing to go out on a limb for their beliefs and risk it all, in response to what is wrong, unjust, or unseemly.

Personally, I couldn’t agree more.  If we are not willing to speak up when the chips are down, what are we left with as a society?  Thanks for watching and see you next time!

EVENTS: Speaking at the Business Builder Retreat

Pleased to announce that I will be speaking at the Business Builder Retreat in Quebec City this November, with tips to rethink your strategic plan, given the unique challenges and opportunities associated with the “new economy”.  Business leaders are facing the most robust macro-level dynamics in a generation, in terms of technological advancement, industry disruption, economic change, and financial uncertainty: are you ready?

The Business Builder Retreat is designed for growth oriented business leaders.  Experience a unique educational event designed especially for business owners on an exponential growth path. Explore topics critical to your leadership development, with a network of business owners from across Canada who understand the challenges you meet daily, competing in a world awash with unprecedented change. The focus is equally on healthy living priorities and the strategic business decisions required to prepare your company, and the stakeholders around it, for opportunities in today’s new economy. Take 24 important hours to refresh and refocus and get more of the personal and business results that you seek.

Details and registration are here.  See you at the Retreat!

EVENTS: Speaking Tour Announced

Coming to a city near you this November for the Continuing Education (CE) Summits, focusing on year end planning for investors and small businesses.

I have traveled on speaking tours with The Knowledge Bureau for several years and it is always great to meet session attendees who are seeking to gain knowledge and improve their companies.  Those who do so have the opportunity to differentiate themselves within the competitive marketplace (yes, they are in the minority, which only increases the impact).

Year end planning is not only important for advisors, but also for their clients. Taking a proactive approach to stay on top of new developments raises the likelihood of being of a valuable resource to clients, so don’t miss this opportunity.

Stay tuned for future updates, but in the meantime, you can register here. Looking forward to seeing you on the road!

MEDIA: Appearance on SET for Success (680 CJOB Radio)

Pleased to have appeared on SET for Success on 680 CJOB with Richard Lannon to discuss some important areas that business leaders need to address to successfully grow and develop their companies.  Being a market leader is a goal for many, but in order to realize a company’s full potential, it’s critical to identify what that means for your business and then develop and successfully implement the plan.  This process is one that is fraught with challenges, but having the right assistance could made success much more likely, to the benefit of your company.

As a business advisor, my approach is to bring a holistic perspective, recognizing that all functional areas within a company are related and impact one another.  For a company to grow on a sustainable basis, all functional areas must be operating well, to provide the foundation for building capacity and sound operations.  Those who do this well are in a position to become market leaders, representing the choice of investors, strategic partners, high calibre employees, and customers.  Those who take a piecemeal approach tend to end up frustrated, wondering why their results are not better.

When companies are growing (or planning to do so), they must also recognize that capital is an important component; this is something that business leaders tend to discover too late.  As a former venture capitalist still active in the industry, the vast majority of business plans that I see are not investor ready; this is the case at least 95% of the time.  Investor readiness involves understanding the expectations of financial partners and investors, which differ significantly from where business leaders tend to focus their efforts.

Advisors could be helpful in a range of areas, including assisting companies with investor readiness and developing strategies for growth and implementation.  As important as planning is, the most significant failures could occur during the implementation process, which is another lesson that business leaders tend to learn too late.  If the objective is to generate sustainable growth and build value in a company so it could be transitioned to someone else in the future, market leaders would not attempt to do so without sound advice.

You can listen to our conversation hereContact us to learn more about taking the next steps in growth for your company.