July 31, 2012


OlympicsThe Olympic games show that victory comes from years of expensive training and a miniscule margin. That’s hardly worth emulating in business.

In real life, training is important --- the "10,000 hour rule" --- but competing at the same time at the same event under the same rules? That creates one winner (unless you think silver and bronze count) and lots of losers (if you include those who weren’t quite good enough to qualify).

In a sense, there is no competition because the creativity has been eliminated and the contestants perform so similarly.

Other Ways

In business, you don't need to be the fastest or strongest. You need to be different and be seen as different.
Big Fish
A better approach is to dominate an untapped niche. Big fish, small pond.

For example, if Motorola tried to out-iPhone the iPhone, they'd lose. Instead, they created the Droid, a clear alternative (see Wired). Because of the keyboard and business focus, the Droid also attracted former Blackberry users like me (see the perfect smartphone).
Different Model
Dell Voice launched in Canada recently. You get a phone number and unlimited countrywide calling using your data plan. Google Voice is similar but still not available here. Both are free. Skype is similar but more expensive since there's a charge for getting a phone number (still not available in Canada) and calling phones.

Phone providers need to make money from their subscribers. Dell and Google don't.

Then What?

Olympic competitions end. Then what? Another four years of practice or time for retirement? Winners may get sponsorships.

Maybe you set a record. How long will it stand? The world will remember thanks to web searches. That doesn't mean the world will care. We have many distractions but no more attention to pay.

In business, past accomplishments are of limited historical interest. What have you done recently? That's what matters. Where's the proof? Who pays attention? Who cares? Say you invented the first fax machine. That won't get you a free coffee today.


The Olympic games have perennial drug scandals. This year, a $30 million lab near Olympic Park is doing the testing. As a result, if athletes “… are cheating they are likely to be caught” (CNN). How comforting.

Is the winner the best or the best at not getting caught? The honest ones face skepticism, which diminishes the value of winning.

In business, you risk of getting tainted too but have techniques to build trust. 

Better Than Faster

Olympic records can and are broken. Fastest is temporary. First is forever. We remember firsts like
  • the four minute mile (Roger Banister)
  • the ascent of Mount Everest (Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay)
  • the telephone (Alexander Graham Bell)
Even firsts can lose significance. These days, who cares who invented modern "essentials" like the tablet computer (not Apple), the smartphone (not Apple) or the search engine (not Google)? We care more about our current preference.


Our bodies have physical limits. Athletes can improve but by decreasing amounts. Yet vast resources continue getting invested for those marginal returns.

In contrast, our ability to innovate is unlimited. We are allowed to use tools and get help. There are no drug tests either.

Another Way

Instead of getting diverted by bigger, faster or shinier, you can work on continual incremental improvements that show in your digital tapestry. Slow and steady lacks sizzle but life is a marathon.


PS Do Olympic sponsors win?

July 24, 2012


Business Excellence AwardIt's time for the 2012 Business Excellence Awards from the Toronto Board of Trade. I was nominated in 2011. Now I'm on the organizing committee. I'll share insights from both perspectives.

There's value in being a nominee. You benefit even if you don't win.

We’ll explore reasons to accept a nomination in one of the 10 categories ranging from Startup to Entrepreneur Of The Year.

Be Proactive

Who knows your business better than you do? You can be proactive and nominate yourself. After I got nominated, I also self-nominated to ensure that I told my story as well as I could.

Beyond Borders

Business extends beyond city borders. That’s why nominees can come from the Greater Toronto Region. The area seems to extend east to Oakville, west to Pickering and north to Stouffville. This large zone increases the competition and the recognition from participating.

There’s no requirement for nominators or nominees to belong the Toronto Board of Trade.


Paperwork is a pain but the nomination form is simple --- just one page long. Even so, the perceived hassle will limit participation. That’s to your advantage if you’re a nominee.

Other hurdles can get in the way. As a nominee, you need to believe your business is worthy of winning. If you think public recognition does not matter, maybe the #2 basic fear that Napoleon Hill identified is the reason.


Nominees get valuable free attention. Your nomination gets reviewed carefully and you have the opportunity to clarify in a phone interview. The process is geared to helping you position yourself well.

If you get interviewed in person, you get the list of questions in advance. That gives you time to prepare. Explaining what you do is a valuable experience since your clients may have the similar questions. If you feel uncomfortable expressing yourself, maybe now’s the time to join Toastmasters to improve your skills.


The interviewers are not the judges. They collect information for the judging.


Films tout their Academy Award nominations. Once you're informed that you’re an official nominee, you can start your marketing.
You needn't buy ads. You can say you're nominated on your website, in your email signature, on your LinkedIn profile, via Twitter, in your infomercials, etc. That's all free.

Consolation Prizes

Even if you lose, you win. You've changed the perceptions in the marketplace, among your competitors and among your staff. You've also changed perceptions in your own head.
You'll be remembered by your interviewers if you stay in touch. Thank them. Offer to connect on LinkedIn after the awards ceremony.

You may find that other nominees in your category have very different businesses. That means they aren't really competitors. You can also connect to nominees in different categories. You can’t lose by getting to know fellow award-worthy people.

There are two other ways to meet the noteworthy: register for the SMB Exchange (blog post) and the Business Excellence Awards dinner.


PS You’re free to nominate others. After you do, tell them why you feel they’re worthy.

July 17, 2012


Exchange: ideas, advice, learningHow would you improve the conferences and networking events that you attend?

What’s Missing?

There are usually more insights in the audience than on the stage. Yet we politely watch as the official speakers go through slide decks they've used again and again. We clap when when they finish and our lives go on much as before.

The wisdom of the group goes unused except during the short question period. What a waste.

If the speakers simply put their presentations on YouTube, we could all save time and skip the boring bits.
You can watch a pre-recorded speaker or attend a live webinar but you'll lose the opportunity to network.

At in-person events, the networking is almost always random. It’s too easy to get stuck chatting with the wrong people. What a waste.
What happens after an event? Not much.

There's often no way to stay in touch with attendees unless you exchanged business cards with them. The organizers horde those details, which prevents a community from forming. The exception is Meetup, where we can continue discussions and contact each other. Not many business events use Meetup. What a waste.

A Modest Wish

I've been looking for events where the audiences participate. At one extreme are volunteer-run "unconferences". My first experience was Bookcamp 2009. Anyone could volunteer to speak. Attendees were expected to participate. If something could be improved, we were expected to act. If bored, we were to follow "the law of two feet" and leave for a better session. Similar events where I've spoken include Freelancecamp, Podcamp and Word11.

I haven't found anything similar for business people. The Globe And Mail started a Small Business Summit in Nov 2011. The speakers were generally good but
  • the overall format was presenters/audience
  • the networking was random

SMB Exchange

the most valuable day of the year for your businessRavi Nayak (LinkedIn) at the Toronto Board of Trade has talked about ways to harness the wisdom of members.

The SMB Exchange looks like a way to fix the problems with conferences and networking. Here’s my understanding of how the SMB Exchange works.
The speakers don't (gasp!) use PowerPoint. The sessions will be primarily facilitated group discussions. That unleashes the wisdom of the attendees. I’m envisioning something like a TED Talk with interaction. The outcomes are unpredictable and could be magical. You can’t get the benefits unless you’re there in person.
The Toronto Board of Trade hosts many facilitated networking sessions. Each round table of 6-8 has a facilitator who gives each attendee two minutes for an infomercial. There's often time to go to another table. This type of networking is civilized and reasonably effective. However, you may still meet too many of the wrong people.

At the SMB Exchange, attendees provide their elevator pitches in writing in advance. The organizers plan to assign seating during a networking segment and lunch. Imagine sitting with the right people.That’s very valuable.
Attendees can chat online before and after the event. A community could develop. That would be wonderful since there’s an opportunity to connect with people you might not meet in person on the day.

The SMB Exchange looks like an excellent initiative with lasting benefits. I’m looking forward to attending and participating.


PS I've registered. How about you?

July 9, 2012


lighthouseHere are three proactive ways to look more credible:
  1. Write
  2. Speak
  3. Get media attention
Let's assume you are already credible but the world doesn't know this.


Creating original content helps set you apart because so few bother to do the work. You need something worth saying and the ability to say it. You can get better at both.

Blogging is an easy way to start. You've got complete freedom in content, length and style. The challenge is sticking with it. As you do, you'll get better and stand out more. You've then got content to share with Followers via Twitter and other social networks. You also have a head start for writing a book.

If you'd rather talk, then podcast. If you have a knack for showing, YouTube awaits you. Creating content is less painful --- perhaps even enjoyable --- when you pick the right medium.


If you're on the stage rather than seated in the audience, you will look more credible. You've been endorsed by the organizers. You might even get paid.

Writing helps you create and polish content for your talks.

Are you a good enough speaker? You can practice and improve at Toastmasters. That’s why I finally joined. My club, Goodyear Toastmasters in West Toronto, has a blog for writing practice.

Get Media Attention

If you're interviewed for newspaper, magazine, radio or TV, you have a nice outside endorsement. Don't expect immediate business. Do make reference to the interviews in your subsequent marketing. For instance, add links to the sources or provide additional resources (example).

Are you a good interviewee? If you've been writing and speaking, you probably have opinions you're willing to share in public. You probably know how to express yourself in engaging and concise ways.
TIP: To find out who journalists want to interview right away, join Help A Reporter Out (HARO) and Reporter Connection. Both are free.
Reporters have tight deadlines and may want to talk to someone like you. That’s what happened when I got interviewed by the Toronto Star about marketing and The Globe and Mail about income replacement.

Follow potential interviewers on Twitter. Retweet some of their tweets. Perhaps they'll Follow you. You can now exchange Direct Messages with them, where appropriate. If they're inviting you to connect on Facebook, you've got another opportunity to stay in touch.


All three ways to credibility are free and interrelated. You get paid with attention which brings more attention. You build skills in one area which builds skills in another. There's nothing stopping you from starting.


PS How do you boost your credibility?

July 3, 2012


no entryThe biggest annoyance with LinkedIn is gone: Tweets will no longer show up as updates.

There have been similar splits as collaborators become competitors

Drifting Apart

LinkedIn and Twitter have been moving apart. On Jan 31, 2012, LinkedIn removed the Tweets widget (TechCrunch) which showed tweets in a sidebar. That feature was a tad redundant since the tweets already showed up as updates.

LinkedIn later removed the option to Comment on tweets and share them within LinkedIn. These changes made tweets foreign. You couldn't do much with them. If a connection shared your tweet within LinkedIn, you would not get credited --- another disincentive.

Now tweets don't show up on LinkedIn at all.

Old Way

In the "old" days, your tweets could show up as part of your LinkedIn updates when both were linked. This facility got misused.

Twitter tends to have more activity. Those updates may not be relevant to business connections on LinkedIn. You could decide each time if updates were also posted on LinkedIn by adding the hashtag #in or #li. It was easier to to have every tweet show up on LinkedIn.

That's too much noise.

New Way

If you use Twitter selectively, you can create the update in LinkedIn and have it sent out on Twitter too. You decide at the time.

You'll have difficulty telling if your update will fit within the 140 characters that Twitter allows. However, your update will look nice on LinkedIn.

If you use Twitter actively, you’ll need to change your approach.

Revised Strategy

You can now have different strategies for different social networks. For example:
  • LinkedIn for professional networking and well-considered updates
  • Twitter for constant updates
  • Facebook for friends
You then give people reasons to connect with you more than once or to select the form of connection they prefer.

Centralized Posting

Grabinbox or Buffer AppWhy don't you centralize the process of posting updates? I've been doing that for months. You can use a browser-based app like Buffer App or GrabInbox.

Buffer App keeps changing their plans which cost as much as $30/month. They finally have a more reasonable offering: the Awesome Plan for $10/month.

In contrast, GrabInbox is more flexible and (currently) free. This is what I’ve been using. I’m satisfied with the experience. A new version is weeks away.
When you're surfing and come across something you'd like to share, you click on an icon in your web browser. You select where the update goes (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or a combination). You decide whether the update goes live instantly or gets queued for later distribution.

You decide which time of day you want updates posted and how many are allowed. The apps take care of the rest. For example, you might want business updates to only go out on weekdays before 9 AM, at lunchtime and after 4 PM. Or you may decide the updates only go out from 9 AM to noon and 1 PM to 5 PM.


Relying on one network makes you vulnerable. What once worked may get shutdown. Anticipating change is much better than reacting (or wondering how to react).

You can't tell when changes will occur but you can immunize yourself. Perhaps we'll reach a point where we can't post to multiple networks at once. That's a reason to build audiences on each network.


PS There’s risk in relying on outside services. This weekend, Amazon Web Services failed, which shutdown Netflix, Instagram and Pinterest temporarily.