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!

HAPPENING NOW: Book News

The summer months are a great time for writing and I’m pleased to announce that I have a new book project in development.  As I celebrate 10 years as an independent business advisor, it’s important to continue sharing knowledge with the goal of helping leaders to identify strategies to build stronger companies and is consistent with my previous books, courses, and the many articles that I have published over the years.

In my travels, I see various “leadership” resources; however, many lack practical tools that could be readily implemented to generate meaningful results, while others bring little in the way of direct business experience.  To each their own, however, I prefer to focus on fundamental actions that business leaders could take to build value in their companies, while filtering out areas that detract from doing so.  As an executive, I’ve had a direct role in launching, growing, and transitioning companies, which is a very different type of experience than the norm (if you’ve done it, you will know what I mean).  Focusing on strategies that get results and having a resource who has been in the trench is an approach that can move companies forward more effectively and this has never been more important than in today’s new economy.

I have a theory that companies find reasons to opt out of what is in their own best interest.  Take a moment and think about what that means.  Those who resist this temptation, and instead, face the challenge of building a better business head on, represent the relative few who are positioned for market leadership.  This is a powerful mindset and ability, representing the companies that are the choice of strategic partners, investors, successors, and of course, customers.  With the right strategies and assistance, this could be your company.

I hope that everyone has an enjoyable and successful summer.  Stay tuned for book publication and release details coming soon.

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.

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.

NEWS: Executive Business Builder Program Now Available!

As the lead instructor, I’m pleased to announce that the Executive Business Builder Program is now available!

This program is designed to help business leaders build a future-ready company, including building value and best practices, through courses, mentorship, and access to a powerful network of inspirational, like-minded people.  Learn practical strategies for building a company that can generate solid performance and be positioned for transfer to someone else in the future.  Value doesn’t just happen, and leaders need to take tangible steps to enhance their company.

The first course, Strategic Business Planning, is already available, and additional courses are already in development.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to move from business leader to business builder!

When Leaders Get it Wrong

As a business advisor, I’m always amazed by leaders who don’t act in the best interest of their own company.  It’s something that happens more frequently that one would expect, and examples of this non-productive behavior include:

  • Ignoring obvious problems
  • Hiring people who don’t have the skills and ability to do the job
  • Needing to be the “smartest person in the room”
  • Not being receptive to advice that could help them to be more successful

And the list goes on.  From my perspective, the most bizarre of these are the last two on the list.  Both tend to be related to ego and insecurity issues that end up taking precedence over the company at hand.  People who exhibit these behaviors miss the opportunity to build a better company, which, in turn, would reflect well on the leader.  A complete disconnect!

Consider the following alternatives, both of which lead to better outcomes:

  • Surrounding yourself with the smartest, most competent people is one of the best things that a leader can do.  Not only does this significantly raise the likelihood that a company will perform better (to the benefit of all involved), but it also provides a powerful opportunity for a transfer of knowledge.  A collaborative learning environment strengthens the senior team, as well as the leader.  In my own experience, the smartest leaders I have known have never been afraid to say “I don’t understand it”, while taking steps to do so.  Why is this important?  Because even the smartest, most accomplished people know that there is always more to learn, and they are never diminished by saying so (in fact, it makes them better leaders).
  • Experienced advisors bring a wealth of knowledge that can improve almost any situation.  Why would a leader not be receptive to such a powerful opportunity?  Not recognizing a good idea when they see it?  Ego?  Insecurity?  Thinking that the issue has already been resolved (when it hasn’t)?  Poor judgement?!  Whatever the reason, this lack of receptiveness will eventually catch up with the company, often at the worst of times.  Investors and financial partners screen for this tendency, and those who aren’t receptive to advice often don’t end up on the financing list.

I’ve long since had a theory that there are lots of business leaders who will opt out of what is in their own best interest, as well as in the best interest of their company.  Ironically, these people are the ones who tend to need the most help, not the least, and they might just have to learn this lesson the hard way.

NEWS: Strategic Business Planning Course Now Available!

I’m pleased to announce the launch of my new Strategic Business Planning Course, the first course in the new Executive Business Builder Program at The Knowledge Bureau.

It might be news to a lot of CEO’s and entrepreneurs that most business plans are not prepared very well.  Although a company’s management might find the plan useful, they tend to fall well short of what external parties, such as potential financial partners, require in order to make a financing or investment decision.  This course provides sound business planning guidelines for both internal and external use, putting leaders in a better position to pursue the necessary capital to support the next level of growth.

Getting it right involves developing a thorough and complete business model, strategy, and plan (including a financial forecast), as well as preparing to make the approach to potential financial partners.  Gain insight into a range of important areas, from the perspective of a former investor, including:

  • The key sections of a business plan and what should be included
  • What to consider when building a business model
  • How to identify and select a target market(s)
  • How to select and position products and services
  • Guidelines for developing a marketing strategy
  • Developing an organizational structure, including identifying key roles
  • Guidelines for preparing a financial forecast, including assumptions
  • The perspective of external parties, such as financial partners
  • Guidelines for approaching financial partners

Details and registration are available here.  Stay tuned for additional courses in the Executive Business Builder Program!

EVENTS: Speaking Tour (Distinguished Advisor Workshops)

Coming to a city near you!  Join us for the Distinguished Advisor Workshops in Vancouver (May 29th), Edmonton (May 30th), Calgary (May 31st), Winnipeg (June 1st), Toronto (June 5th), and Ottawa (June 6th).

Looking forward to sharing thoughts in the following important areas:

NEXT GENERATION CONTINUITY PLANNING

In this session, you will learn how to prepare your clients who are transitioning their businesses to the next generation of leaders and/or preparing their business for sale. Tax and financial advisors can be of significant help by guiding clients in the direction of formal business continuity planning

Learn how to address key issues your clients should be considering, including:

The transaction “knowledge gap”;

The opportunity to apply innovation to business continuity planning;

How to approach strategic business planning, and the succession transaction itself; and

How to address financial partner considerations.

Things to consider in finalizing the transaction.

The continuity of these companies could depend on your help: and, it’s your opportunity to differentiate your services from others.

BUILDING BUSINESS CONTINUITY PLANS

Every business needs a formal plan throughout its lifecycle, for focused decision making, as well as in preparation for its exit and/or transition.  This session will discuss the sound guidelines that business owners should use to develop such a plan and other value building considerations, including:

Guidelines for developing a well written business continuity plan;

Identifying and articulating your market opportunity;

The relationship between the business model, strategy, and plan;

Key planning components, including products/services, marketing strategy, and operations, and Management;

Guidelines for preparing a financial forecast for three to five years; and

An introduction to the Executive Business Builder Designation Program

Details and registration are located here.

As the lead instructor and author of four certificate courses in the Knowledge Bureau’s Master Financial Advisor (MFA) Designation Program in succession and business planning, and certificate courses in the new Executive Business Builder Designation Program, I look forward to delivering these sessions.  See you on the road!

Getting Started: Preparing for the world of entrepreneurial adventure (Finale)

Published by CPA Canada in CareerVision

Over the course of this series, we’ve considered a number of skill areas that are helpful to companies in the startup stage of development.  Whether they realize it or not (and many will not), startup companies need much more than technical skills and enthusiasm to build a business that will grow and prosper over the long term.  Some of the skill areas that we’ve identified include opportunity-based thinking, risk management, and the ability to handle and overcome rejection.

For those who are keen to find a young venture and start contributing, it often takes much more than skills and enthusiasm (sound familiar?) in order to find the right fit.  Startup companies can flash and burn like a shooting star in the night sky, and it can be difficult to identify which way a situation is trending until you’re on the way down.  Perspective is critical, and in order to ensure that you’re investing your valuable skills into the right situation, it’s important to understand some of the cold realities about start up companies.

  • Most will fail: Bottom line, the vast majority of startup companies won’t survive, ranging from quick failure to becoming stagnant and fading away over time.  Don’t be fooled by those who achieve quick notoriety or attention, as many a startup who graced the pages of magazines or TV screens went on to subsequently fail.
  • They consume without apology: Like a young child that relies on adults to feed, clothe, and keep them out of harm’s way, startup companies are all about consumption.  They can require (or ineffectively use) an abundance of resources, including human, financial, and time.  If you’re not careful, a startup company can consume your time and energy around the clock.
  • They often don’t know what they need: Many entrepreneurs are new to both their venture and running a business and are typically not in a good position to understand what they need in order to move forward. This is why so many advisors are able to earn a living (for those who seek help) and also why so many startup companies fail (for those who don’t).  The category that the startup  you join falls into can impact your future in a big way.
  • The work isn’t glamorous: Building anything is a “hands on”, trial and error, messy business.  Whatever the roles in a particular startup company might be, far more is required in order to keep moving forward.  Recognize that joining a young company means performing lots of less than glamorous tasks, and if you’re not willing to get your hands dirty (literally), you will likely be happier doing something else.
  • Things can change really, really quickly: Young, emerging companies require agility, in order to chase opportunities, stay ahead of market trends, and make modifications in order to get closer to customers.  What the focus is one week can quickly change, requiring the team to quickly adjust, adapt, and move forward.  Surviving in this type of environment requires comfort with constant change, as well as the ability to work within it.
  • It happens in real time: For all the planning that needs to be done in order to develop and move a venture forward, managing the business is live, not a dress rehearsal.  Teams are often small and they rely on individuals to have the ability to determine what is required and take action; there are no layers of checks and balances here.  Although this might sound exhilarating to some, the reality is that startup companies face and endure risk every single day.

If this doesn’t sound like an environment for the faint of heart, that’s because it isn’t.   Having said that, the rewards are many for those who are up for the task.  Like the childhood fairy tale, you will likely have to kiss a lot of frogs until you find a prince (or princess!); that right startup opportunity.  If you recognize that this is what’s required in order to get started, the focus can be on the journey to find “the one”, as opposed to being on the setbacks that emerge along the way.