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: 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.

MEDIA FEATURE: Consultants Who Love Consulting

I’m pleased to be featured in the April issue of Consult, a publication of CMC-Canada in the Consultants Who Love Consulting section.

First things first, what is a CMC?  The Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation is the profession’s only international certification mark, recognized in over 40 countries internationally.  It represents a commitment to the highest standards of consulting and adherence to the ethical standards of the profession.  I have held my CMC designation since 1997 and have found that it separates professional consultants from those who represent themselves as consultants or advisors, perhaps by way of having knowledge in a particular area, but without formal education in terms of the consulting process (yes, there is a consulting process, and utilizing this knowledge makes a significant difference to client engagements).  You can learn more about the CMC designation here.

So, now, here’s a bit more about my personal interest in consulting.

Early in my career, I knew that a “narrow” path of focus wasn’t for me, as I had (and continue to have) an innate curiosity about the holistic workings of a business, in terms of how all of its parts are interconnected.  Like a sports team on their field of play, success isn’t likely without the coordinated effort of all members, working in the same direction.  Too often, organizations seek “quick fixes” in a particular area, such as marketing, and wonder why their efforts are not successful and fail to achieve the desired results.  Simply put, marketing isn’t just about what goes on in the Marketing Department.

I also found myself much more interested in tangible outcomes; action that could be taken to make a company successful, as opposed to just wandering along an undefined path.  The ability to do this is tremendously powerful and separates an advisor such as myself from those who spend their time in more theoretical or long term oriented areas.  There is nothing wrong with these perspectives; they serve a different purpose.

Not surprisingly, I spent almost 10 years as an executive in the fast-paced venture capital industry, where getting things done and generating results were daily priorities.  I believe that bringing this type of experience to client companies can create a competitive edge in the marketplace, BUT, business leaders have to actually want to make it happen.  Doing so isn’t for the faint of heart, as real progress isn’t always easy and the commitment to persevere often takes much more than anticipated.   These leaders, however, know that there isn’t another option, as they are not the type to continue on their existing, less than ideal path, ignoring the obvious signs that charting a new course is needed.

Bottom line, I believe that being in business is all about opportunities, and it’s up to business leaders to make the most of them.  Those who are driven to do so wouldn’t take these steps without sound advice, from those who have “been there”, “done that”, and truly understand the tremendous opportunities and challenges that are at stake.

As a CMC, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Anything less is, well, less.

Brands that Aim to “Super-Please”

It’s not too often these days that a brand steps up and takes action to “super-please” its customers, but one of my favourite brands, Babor skincare, did just that for me recently by sending me the most wonderful package of their products.  I’ve loved great skincare products for most of my life and they are especially important these days, given the TV work that I do (in an HD world, no less!).  Regardless, who doesn’t love skin that looks and feels great every day?

 

I’ve been using Babor for a while now and here’s a look at the products I will be trying and commenting on (via my Instagram page) over the next while:

  • Cleansing HY-OLa cleansing oil for all skin types.  With oil-based cleansers being all the rage these days, Babor has combined the natural cleansing powers of water and oil and developed a unique bi-phase, deep action cleanser that promotes skin vitality.
  • Phytoactive Sensitivethe treatment phase for cleansing with HY-OL, containing herbal essences tailored to sensitive skin types, designed to refresh and lend radiance.  Since I love scent, I can’t wait to try this relaxing product.
  • Rejuvenating Face Oil, a newly launched product designed to give skin an extra boost.  Inspired by Dr. Babor’s research on lipids and by the black rose, this luxurious face oil lends new radiance to the skin.  Looking forward to trying this product, as face oils provide such great moisturizing benefits.
  • Hydra Plus Active Fluid, from Babor’s luxurious ampoule collection, Hydra Plus provides a moisture boost to dry and dehydrated skin.
  • Algae Active Fluid, another powerful ampoule, bringing the benefits of the sea to dry, dull skin.
  • Ampoule Advent Calendar, and finally, Babor’s festive Advent Calendar featuring 24 ampoules from its collection, resulting in healthy, hydrated, and glowing skin, just in time for the Holidays.  Who says we can’t celebrate all year long?

I definitely have my Babor favourites, but I’m looking forward to adding some new products to the list.  Brands that go out of their way to let customers know that they truly matter are more than worthy of a mention, and I’m pleased to do that here.  Thank you so much!

Lifting Off to a Whole New Level of Teamwork

In honour of today’s historic Falcon Heavy launch, here’s a new spin on lessons learned from Canada’s Astronaut.  I was fortunate to meet him not that long ago and his perspective was inspiring and highly relevant to the business world.


I recently attended the Canadian Venture Capital Association’s annual conference, of which I have been a longstanding member.  Although there was a lot of great information to utilize and reflect upon, I found the comments of Colonel Chris Hadfield, “Canada’s Astronaut”, to be particularly insightful.

Although paraphrased and representing just a portion of his powerfully illustrated keynote address, here are some concepts that especially resonated with me:

  • How are you going to finish and what are you going to do next?  When considering any achievement, it’s important to think about the task at hand, recognize where you need to “get to”, and what it will take to finish strong.  The power of the words “finish” and “strong” is not lost on those who excel, but is often not well achieved (or fully understood) by others.
  • What does success look like and are you prepared to achieve it?  Visualizing successful outcomes and practicing the skills that are required in order to get there can greatly reduce the risk of failure.  Be clear on what it will take to cross the finish line, visualize it, and practice every step.
  • What does failure look like and how can it be avoided?  Visualizing failure requires a thorough understanding of it and getting to this point often isn’t easy.  Ask yourself if you have enough knowledge in order to resolve it, should failure loom.  Having said that, “the beauty of failure is that it is deep in learning”; such a powerful concept.
  • Teams need special attention. Words and communication alone are not enough.  Having a shared vision of what success looks like, watching for changes in actual behavior (not just talk!), and celebrating success often can help to bring a team together to achieve great things.

These areas are fundamental for individuals who strive for success and are essential, in the case of teams.  How true this is when considering the pioneers of space, who often only have each other to rely upon, including identifying and resolving problems.  Although astronauts train extensively to address challenges, it doesn’t mean that trouble arrives with advance notice.

Considering life and death, mission critical situations should make everyday teamwork seem much more attainable; but why is it often so difficult?  Perhaps the answer is found by reflecting on one final thought: Impossible things happen; do something unprecedented.

I’m ready to board, are you?

MEDIA: The Diversity Files

I was recently interviewed by CBC News Network Radio regarding a story about an organization devoted to the advancement of women in the workplace having selected a man as the Chair of their advisory board. Although I’ve never been one to point to my gender as impacting my career progress, it served as a reminder of what an important issue this is.  I’m taking the opportunity to discuss this topic in a new blog segment, The Diversity Files.

Having women in leadership positions provides a tremendous role model opportunity, in terms of what can be achieved in the business world.  I was fortunate to grow up in an environment where I believed that anything was possible, in terms of the career that I could have.  It was not until I was much older that I appreciated the fact that not all girls (and boys, for that matter) have this experience.  There are also many points in a person’s career where discouragement could set in; being passed over for an advancement opportunity or pay raise, encountering difficult co-workers, or the boss who doesn’t support your efforts (or, perhaps, has the audacity to take credit for your work!).  These moments can call into question if it’s worth the effort, if that lifelong goal is really achievable.

It’s no secret that, even in 2017, women are still underrepresented in a number of senior level roles, including that of business owner, the executive ranks, and on governance Boards.  In too many cases, women are so badly underrepresented, it is difficult, if not impossible, to explain.

Studies have found that companies who employ more women in the C-Suite are more profitable, and those who have women on their Boards generate better performance at the governance level.  Since strong financial results and better corporate performance are integral to building shareholder wealth, it begs the question: why are there not more women in the senior ranks of so many companies?  Why?  Based on these findings alone, it doesn’t add up, not to mention what it means on a human level; the very thought that one being is somehow lesser than another.

This reality points to the business world itself.  Could there be something systemic that makes it less likely for women to progress to senior levels?  Unlocking the code to resolve this problem isn’t a casual matter; rather, it is integral to driving better results and fostering inclusion.  It is also simply the right thing to do.

It is not as if there is a lack of qualified women, educated in business and in the corporate world, to fill these roles.  Solutions lie in more women pursuing senior level positions, being supported when they do, as well as given their fair amount of the opportunity; they have earned it!  Women, without question, have the ability to perform well in senior roles, and doing so just doesn’t drive results; it represents a powerful opportunity to set an example for the next generation.  Heaven knows, they are watching.

Bearing Witness to History: Eight Years Ago Today

Eight years ago today, I was fortunate to be in Washington DC for the first inauguration of Barack Obama.  How and why this came to pass is something that is known and understood by those who are closest me, but it suffices to say that a decision to be an active participant in history was a big part of it.  It is an experience that will always be with me, and is, perhaps, one of the most important things I have ever done.  Words seem insufficient to describe the magnitude of what it means to be a witness to history; it is truly humbling.

It is equally difficult to begin to describe what that sunny day in Washington was like; one that seemed less about political parties and more about people, community, and the new days ahead.  Although not everyone had voted for the incoming President, the sense of excitement and pride was clear.  I’ve never seen so many exuberant people in one place; teary eyed, with open hearts, raising their voices to be heard.

From my vantage point on the parade route, I listened to the ceremony as it echoed over the speaker system, alongside tens of thousands of others.  I remember thinking that the solemn silence of the crowd at that moment seemed almost eerie, as if in some other world, time, and place.  Maybe, they too where thinking about being in the presence of history that children would learn about hundreds of years from now.

How much our world has experienced since then.  I recently listened to the archive of a radio interview that I did on that day and was struck my comments: so much happiness was in the air; pride, togetherness, inspiration.  The call to action and responsibility for making the world a better place were met with careful contemplation.  “What’s it like to be there?”, I was asked.  “It’s great”, I said “people are so excited.  What more can I say?”, I wondered aloud.

I remember observing people of all ages connecting with one another in a way that I hadn’t seen before and haven’t seen since.  The crowd wasn’t one of strangers; it was humanity, and they were there to be humbled, to bear witness, to celebrate.  The roar on Pennsylvania Avenue was so loud as the motorcade approached, I could barely hear the reporter’s questions, but yet, I can remember it all now like it was yesterday (my time at the National Press Club moments later left me feeling equally awestruck, but that’s another story).

As an advisor, I’ve found that groups have a much better opportunity for success when they can find common ground; areas where they recognize that they are more similar than they are different.  In adversarial times, it can be difficult to find this state of mind, and I’ve been met with more than one blank stare or dead silence over the years when suggesting “why not collaborate?”, “why not talk to them?”, “why not listen?”  What’s inspiring, though, are times when those around the table see this opportunity, understand it, and are motivated to take action.  This mindset, even in some small way, reminds me of what I saw between strangers in the crowd on that special day, all those years ago.