Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Product Placement

Seriously. Product placement is important.

Question of the day: So why don’t supermarkets or grocery stores put the same types of foods together. Categories. Taco stuff, Asian stuff. And I do mean everything.

The shells, the refried beans, the meat… everything! . People shop for meals, why not cater to that and make it easier for them to find everything they need. Simplicity for a customer means they will spread the word of your ingenuity.

Think about it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The 10 Human Victories

The flip-side of the 10 Human Regrets. I recommend all of you picking up the book “The leader with no Title” by Robin Sharma and putting yourself in the position of the character – it’s profound.

#1. You reach your end full of happiness and fulfillment on realizing that you are all used up-having spent the fullness of your talents, the biggest of your resources, and the best of your potential doing great work and leading a rare-air life.

#2.You reach your end knowing that you played at a standard of concentrated excellence and held yourself to the most impeccable of standards in each thing you did.

#3. You reach your end in noisy celebration for having the boldness of spirit to have regularly confronted your largest fears and realized your highest visions.

#4. You reach your end and recognize that you became the person who built people up versus one who tore people down.

#5. You reach your end with the understanding that while your journey may not always been a smooth one, whenever you get knocked down you instantly got back up-and at all times, never suffered from any lack of optimism.

#6. You reach the end and bask in the glory of your phenomenal achievements along with the rich value you have contributed to the lives of the people you were lucky to serve.

#7. You reach the end and value the strong, ethical, inspirational person you grew into.

#8. You reach the end and realize that you were a genuine innovator who blazed new trails instead of following old roads.

#9. You reach your end surrounded with teammates who call you a rockstar, and loved ones who call you a legend.

#10. You reach your end as a true Leader Without a Title, knowing that the great deeds you did will endure long after your death and your life stands as a model of possibility.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The 10 Human Regrets

I just started reading a new book I picked up over the weekend called “The leader who had no title” by Robin Sharma.

I haven’t gotten very far, but what i’ve read so far has been profound.

I’d like to share with you the 10 Human Regrets. They are very direct and can be overwhelming – don’t read further if your not prepared to be kicked in the face.

1. You reach your last day with the brilliant song that your life was meant to sing still silent within you.

2. You reach your last day without ever having experienced the natural power that inhabits you to do great work and achieve great things.

3. You reach your last day realizing that you never inspired anyone else by the example that you set.

4. You reach your last day full of pain at the realization that you never took any bold risks and so you never received any bright rewards.

5. You reach your last day understanding that you missed the opportunity to catch a glimpse of mastery because you bought into the lie that you had to be resigned to mediocrity.

6. You reach your last day and feel heart broken that you never learned the skill of transforming adversity into victory and lead into gold.

7. You reach your last day regretting that you forgot that work is about being radically helpful to others rather than being helpful only to yourself.

8.You reach your last day with the awareness that you ended up living the life that society trained you to want versus leading the life you truly wanted to have.

9. You reached your last day and awaken to the fact that you never realized your absolute best nor touched the special genius that you were built to become.

10. You reach your last day and discover you could have been a leader and left this world so much better than you found it. But you refused to accept that mission because you were just too scared. And so you failed. And wasted a life.

Check back tomorrow for part 2: The 10 Human Victories. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An Example in Buzz

Tim Horton’s is a staple to Canadian coffee drinkers. For me, the name Tim Horton’s immediately brings to mind my childhood. After a long game of soccer my parents would take me to Tim Horton’s for a comforting hot chocolate and donut. Delicious. Tim Horton’s is well known in Canada and a staple of our culture – that’s a fact.

But I’m afraid they’re relying too much on their reputation when pushing campaigns. Whether companies are big or small they need to create buzz. They need to stir emotion up in people, and frankly this is a hard thing to achieve. Tim Horton’s most recent campaign is The Litter Awareness Program, and in order to raise awareness they have taken conventional measures. They have created the typical posters most companies will create and branded it onto their coffee cups – but is that really stirring any emotion in the community?

What they should do is be unconventional. This can be achieved by taking a route that’s a little more difficult, but a route that will definitely stimulate media discussion and community involvement. In order for Tim Horton’s to position themselves as an environmentally aware and community minded company, they need to take larger steps than a poster or themed coffee cups. They should take 45 minutes to gather some garbage up at the local community park and put it in a glass container inside their stores. Show people how much garbage actually pollutes our parks and our streets. Tim Horton’s should be a measure, and lead by example. Tim’s Horton’s should be unconventional and stand out in everything they do.

It’s too easy to be mediocre because conventionality plagues the way we think. With more competitors than ever, conventional paths make it impossible to become extraordinary. Whenever faced with a challenge a company needs to create that buzz and stir up that emotion. Be different. Be Extraordinary.

Ask yourself" – “How can my company create buzz?”  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Product Placement

Seriously. Product placement is important.

Question of the day: So why don’t supermarkets or grocery stores put the same types of foods together. Categories. Taco stuff, Asian stuff. And I do mean everything.

The shells, the refried beans, the meat… everything! . People shop for meals, why not cater to that and make it easier for them to find everything they need. Simplicity for a customer means they will spread the word of your ingenuity.

Think about it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Create a Story

The new 2011 Chrysler 200 commercial is an excellent example of a company that uses story-telling to sell a car. The ad first appeared during the 2011 superbowl and caused sales to skyrocket 205% compared to the previous month. In march, sales went up an additional 191% with finally April selling 22% more cars than March.

What I really like about the commercial is that their not trying to sell a car. They’re selling a belief. They’re making people believe what they believe about the car and what driving a 200 means. In the commercial there is no trivial semantics about gas mileage, or engine details. They’re selling to the deeper part of the human brain, they’re selling to the lizard brain, the why engine.

The most powerful tool in marketing today is story telling. Never before has one story been able to reach so many consumers, and it doesn’t need to cost 9 million dollars to produce. Story telling has been a crux of China’s culture for millennium. When the Pearl River tower was erected the Architects were commissioned to create a traditional Chinese story behind it, because it was going to drastically change the landscape – they needed the people to accept it.


Having a clear sense of why allows a company to take advantage of the strongest type of advertising – story-telling. It challenges conventional advertising where companies should tell customers what they have – but by stirring an inner love and belief for anything will always be a 100x stronger than telling people you have 24gb of ram or 14 kilos/liter. A story will help you cement your position, just make sure your communicating the right one.

A good story can be created and communicated virtually for free over the internet. Once you stir interest in people, people will spread the word for you – and word never gets spread among the masses when there is to much technical detail.

Several ways I’d look at spreading a companies vision is through written word, a video, a flash game, community involvement – it all depends on your budget and the market your looking at.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Be Honest. Show your audience you care.

The simple things matter. Koodo Mobile is a company that claims to cater to students. They’re hip, they’re rad and they want the student market. 

But they’re doing one thing drastically wrong – the little things.

Students are cheap – that’s not in question. What is in question is how should  a company like Koodo should cater to them. On the outside it looks like their doing some things right – and they are. They have advertising campaigns directed at the student market, phone plans that look good to students.

What Koodo doesn’t do is follow up on that promise. They claim to know “Why” they’re in the business “to provide students phones with the bare essentials ” but that really sounds like a what it is they do.

They’re why should be “To show students we’re on their side.”

A strong why would be following up with notifications when students are approaching their allocated minutes. As it is now – they don’t. And they’re basically saying “We don’t care”.

When a company is honest to their customers and shows them that they care – by doing little but necessary things – customers will talk, and share their experiences. And ideally, that’s a position a company wants be in, instead of solely focusing on short-term profits they need to stay tethered to their Why.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Leading Teams

Take a man who’s business is currently doing well. A small shop with five – six employees is making money with a lot of potential for upward growth. When this point is reached – relinquishing power will be one of the hardest things for the founders to do. Getting it wrong can mean trouble for his business, so it’s absolutely necessary that he creates the right positions for the right people. It’s essential that thorough and proper training is given from day 1 of hiring– meaning his new “head of departments”  know what kind of job needs to be done but still allowing them the freedom to achieve their goals. That man is Doug Burgoyne who has since started franchising the popular eco-friendly moving box company.

Each head of department develops teams and begins to lead each team in a direction. At this point the head of department needs to set up short term goals inside of the longer term picture. We all know this.

What is often overlooked is the founders role hereinafter. The founder needs to set up short term plans inside of the long term goals – and whatever that goal is – it needs to be sound proof. It needs to be simple. Having simple goals and simple statements will carry through the company – even without the owners presence. Expansion means less control, but in order to keep the same organizational culture and know-how of a small-business – larger businesses need to understand their own long and short term goals and be able to communicate that to all levels of employees. 

Training begins with day 1. Proper training will carry on longer after the founders departure – as long as the right people are chosen from day 1. Doug has received over 1100 franchising requests since airing on Dragons Den and he’s only choosing 10 people that fit with his companies image this year. Doug knows the importance of choosing the right people from day one.

Spend the extra time selecting the right people from Day 1 and your business will lead itself.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Curious Business: Silver Lining Limited

Many new businesses quickly fall into a cyclical survival phase and become stuck fighting for their lives. This is the point where the business is making money, but does not have enough capital to fund further growth or fund further improvement in the business and its services. They’re stuck. There can be many reasons why a business is stuck. Luckily, there are many resources available to help these small businesses.

Once a business gets unstuck and is making money is where things get complicated. The owner needs to ask themselves what they plan on doing with the profits.  Do they re-invest in the company by improving services and their bottom line? Or do they put their profits towards growing? Businesses entering the growth stage need to be prepared for growth because taking on too many new contracts or trying to expand to quickly leads to a company that is vastly over-leveraged. In contrast to companies that are “stuck”, there are very few resources available for companies entering the growth stage.

At 22 years old, a young and ambitious Carissa Reigniger started Silver Lining Limited. She had a small working capital, a vision to help small businesses and a background in marketing. The first thing she did was pick up the phone and called everyone she knew, telling everyone about her venture – a company that specializes in helping small businesses succeed through the growth stage. Her first customer…

“It was my high school teacher's husband.”

A lot of small businesses entering the growth stage make some very common mistakes:

1. Learn to let go. In my interview with Carissa she talks of her own business, and that one of the things holding her company back from expanding – was herself. Most small businesses are dependent on one or a small group of people, and in order to achieve higher growth rates we need to let go. It happens to be one of the hardest things we need to do, but it is an absolute necessity if we’re going to succeed. 

2. Have a vision, but make sure you create small incremental goals. A vision can sometimes be too abstract, by creating small bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals it will help us reach that vision.

3. If your business is making money and you plan on growing, don’t buy new things based on projections. Don’t lease a new Mercedes or rent a bigger office space, wait until those projections become actualized. 

My interview with Carissa can be found below.

When did you discover your passion was in helping small businesses?

CR: I had moved to Toronto and was working a corporate job in advertising.  I started going to small business networking events to meet people because I was new to Toronto and not meeting a lot of people my age at work.  As I met all of the small business owners I was so impressed by how passionate they were and how hard they worked.  But it seemed wrong that so few of them made any real money and so many people I worked with (myself included) made great money but had no passion in their careers.  I got really passionate about helping small business owners make money doing what they love.

How did you come up with the name silver lining limited?

CR: I wanted the company to be similar to silver. To me, silver is an amazing element that is used for very practical, tangible, helpful, effective uses- currency, cutlery, machinery etc.  It is also used for funky edgy things like jewelry and art.  I wanted the company I created to be both of those things- practical, helpful, tangible and fun, funky and cutting edge.

How did you establish yourself and your business – what were some of the first steps taken?

CR: I called everyone I knew to tell them what I was doing and ask if they had any ideas, connections or work for me.  You have to hustle! :)

Who was your first customer, how did you get them, how did you help them?

It was my high school teacher's husband.  Very very quickly I learnt that it is not about what you know- it is about who you know.  I also learnt that you can never guess where a relationship will take you.  It paid off in a big way to have relationships with people who I kept in touch with - even when there was no real "reason" to.

What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome in Silver Lining Ltd?

   CR: Myself!  It is tough to realize but I had to come to the very real conclusion that all of my own issues, insecurities and "stuff" were the things always holding Silver Lining back.  For the first couple of years I was trying too hard to prove to everyone that I was good at what I did and I would make the company work that I never asked for help.

What are some common mistakes among businesses entering the growth stage, how can they be overcome?

CR: We don't live in reality.  We are working so hard to get to our big goal that looking at the truth of where we are never feels very good.  I am a huge believer that small businesses absolutely must have a huge vision that they are fighting for- but we also have to be looking at the realities of financial goals, capacity and how much time and money we have to invest in our growth.  Many small business owners have visions that are far bigger than the amount of time and money they are able to invest.  I strongly believe anyone can do anything- but we have to be doing it within the reality of our resources and plan accordingly.

What are some companies that inspire you? How? Why?

CR: I am inspired by every small business that I meet.  Every single one of those small businesses rarely get any credit or attention- but at the head of them is someone who took a big risk to start something that they believe in.  I find that hugely inspiring.  When I see someone fighting to live a life they are passionate about and make money doing it- I love it!

What role does curiosity play in your work?

CR: It is everything.  When I meet new people my biggest thing I am looking for is what I can learn from them.  If you walk around wondering what you can learn from every single person you meet- you will realize that you can never stop learning and that you actually have no idea that you don't know what you don't know.

Favourite Book?

Integrity: The Courage To Meet The Demands of Reality by Dr. Henry Cloud.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

On the corner.

Depending on your business, store location can be detrimental to the future success of it. We are all familiar with demographics, so I want to talk about something  a little more specific. Location on the street. 

For this example I will use Coffee Shops. Opening a coffee shop on the corner vs opening a coffee shop in the middle of the street is better for a number of reasons.

People sit in coffee shops to drink coffee, surf the net and chat with friends.

1. For surfing the net, we need big windows allowing for natural sunlight.

2. Corner locations have the most traffic, giving your customers that opportunity to people watch through big windows or patio seats. (Essential for good coffee shops)

3. There’s often more room for chairs, allowing for more natural space. If we’re sitting chatting with friends we want it to be in a relaxed open environment and not a cramped space.

4. The corner is more memorable. We’re more likely to remember location if it’s on cross-streets.

5. Coffee is often an impulse purchase. Having a coffee shop on the corner attracts impulse customers, who are waiting for the light to turn red.

Coffee shops is an example of why some stores are better suited to corner shops than others. It’s not the case for all stores, but it does greatly effect the success of some. When opening your business don’t just pay attention to demographics but pay attention to street location, and in some cases you might be better off paying the higher fees for that corner location.