Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Feel the Fear

Remember that book by Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway? That’s how I feel about 2011.

I have decided in my infinite wisdom that this is going to be THE year of growth, and in order to achieve the goals I have set for us, I am going for broke in hiring the staff and experts to make that happen.

Scary stuff I can tell you. But deep down I know, that if we are going to grow and succeed, I have to take a risk and staff up so we can handle that growth. I’ve also farmed out some of the staff responsibilities to outside service providers, so that in the office we can concentrate on what has to be done and what we do best.

Well, we will either be super-successful or hunkering down at the end of 2011. Time will tell and as a gambling woman, I’ve decided it will be the former, as the other option just doesn’t figure in my plans.

But you have a part of play in this plan. Are you a member? Why not? Now is the time to become part of our dynamic community of women. So my advice - first join Company of Women – it is worth it, I promise, second make sure you participate. Like anything else, you only get out of it, what you put in. So if you don’t attend events, you can’t really expect people to use your product or services – they don’t know who you are.

As Jeffers reflects, “not only am I going to experience fear whenever I am on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.”

We’re in this together.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Just one more sleep. Are you excited? I have to confess the Christmas season brings out the kid in me. I love getting the perfect gift for everyone on my list.

I’m ready and as I look out my window at the farm, with snow deep on the ground, the festive scene is set.

My children and their respective partners will be arriving Christmas morning and then the fun begins. Like many families we have our traditions. First it is the stockings, when I like to sit back and watch everyone and their delight (I hope) at what Santa has brought them.

Then rather than have a free for all, one person opens a gift, and then someone else, and so on until all the parcels under the tree are opened and admired. My eco-conscious daughter will then gather up and carefully fold the wrapping and tissue paper so we can use it again.

Each year we receive a cookie jar, complete with cookies, from someone in my husband’s office. So we have fun speculating what the container will be and who will get to take it home. We have quite the collection let me tell you. I had no idea you could get so many different types of cookie jars!

Christmas is a time of family. It’s a time to remember Christmases past and give thanks to those who are no longer with us, because they have shaped our lives and while they be may gone, their love stays with us.

Have a good one.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Are you ready? Just nine days to go. I am quite proud of myself this year – I have stuck to my commitment not to overdo it. It’s a promise I make to myself every year but this is probably the first time that I have managed not to get carried away with the gift giving. We all have way too much stuff and I didn’t want to add to it. Instead, with some friends for example, we are donating to the charity of our choice.

We’re also hosting a couple of big parties over the holiday season, and again, I am feeling pretty laid back about it all. With one party, I didn’t even ask for people to let me know if they were coming or not. It was actually an oversight on my part, but you know what, it doesn’t matter because the people who show up are the ones who are meant to be there and I will have enough food, I am sure. And if I don’t, well it’s the people I want to see, not how much they can consume in two hours.

Now this really is a new attitude for me. In the past, I would have been double-checking with people to see if they were coming, perusing my cookbooks to plan the menus and cooking for weeks in advance. Not this year. I plan to actually enjoy the parties, rather than being stuck in the kitchen, cooking up a storm.

Why the difference? After a couple of stressful months waiting for test results to learn that it’s nothing too serious, I’ve realized – again – what’s important in life – and it’s presence, not presents.

So my gift to myself is to lighten up, enjoy the moment and treasure those I love.

Monday, December 13, 2010


One of the constant debates in rural communities is when, just when, are going to get high speed Internet?

Remember dial-up? That’s our reality in the country. What you may have forgotten is just how slow it is. Downloading material is just out of the question, and if all of us in the area are online at the same time, forget it. Plus you are tying up a phone line.

In a recent editorial in Harrowsmith Country Life, I chuckled as I read the editorial, in which the country-living editor bemoaned the fact that despite numerous promises of high speed, he no longer believed companies that said they would deliver it.

Tired of waiting, we switched to satellite, but it’s an expensive option and if the weather is stormy, you are out of luck. It’s also not high-speed, so downloading is still a challenge.

Only a month ago we were told that high speed was coming to the neighbourhood, and I came home early to meet up with the installer. He never came. And this is a fairly typical scenario.

I am often asked why I don’t work more from home, especially with modern technology. But the truth of the matter is at the farm we don’t have the benefit of that technology.

When I talked to a young phone salesman, he explained that in some rural areas, we don’t have a “cable footprint.” Well it seems to me that it is time we did.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Removing the mask

I wasn’t sure whether to post my blog last week. Should I be revealing that I sometimes get bogged down in my business, that I was running ragged and ready to pack it all in?

But my daughter encouraged me to put a face to the trials and tribulations of running your own business. And while I felt a bit vulnerable at revealing some home secrets, I have been touched by the response from people congratulating me on sharing my truth, and in some instances, their truth too.

We sometimes feel we live in a vacuum and no one else feels the same as we do, but we would be wrong. And sometimes when we drop the mask of perfection, we learn that we are not alone, and we are valued more for our honesty.

Well let’s hope so because my book is about done and it sure is honest, as I share the pitfalls I have fallen into as well as the successes we have experienced. I believe we can all learn from each other.

Right now some colleagues are reading it. If I felt vulnerable last week, that is nothing to what I feel now. I’m scared they will say I have wasted my time, and I should forget it and stick to my day job. Or that they will judge me, because I have put myself out there.

But I guess that is what leadership is all about – being prepared to stick your head out above the crowd and speak to what is important to you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Finding My Remote Control

I think there comes a time in your career as an entrepreneur, when your business has taken off and is beginning to run like a well-oiled machine and yet somehow you get lost.

Instead of focusing your energies on what turns your crank, you find yourself tied up in the day-to-day running of the business. If you are creative, and many entrepreneurs are, this can seem like a slow death by torture.

Well, the tap has been dripping on my head for a while now and I have started to feel trapped and suffocated by the very business I created with love and passion. Will someone please let me out of here, before my creative juices run totally dry!

Part of it I know is that I am exhausted. I haven’t taken much of a break over the last few years. I work 60 hour weeks and I have let myself become a martyr to my cause – and that’s not good. I almost need rescuing from this world I have created for myself.

About ready to throw in the towel, I met with my coach with the intention of working on an exit strategy. But she helped me see that I do have options. I can control what I want to do. It just means making some changes in the way we operate and in the way I see myself.

“You need to let go of being a manager, and become a leader, Anne.” she observed. How freeing is that! Leadership doesn’t scare me – I’ve been doing it all my life. Being a manager, on the other hand, now that is a totally different story.

We all start businesses with different strengths, interests and passions. It’s a combination of that commitment and determination that helps us become successful. And while I still have the passion, I haven’t been playing from my strengths for some time now. Instead I’ve got bogged down in a management role, and there are times when that seems stifling.

Before I totally burned out, I started this month taking my Fridays off – and that has made a difference. Not having to drive two hours on the 401, is an amazing gift to myself. And I plan to use the holidays to revisit what I want to do. Where do I fit in this company? What will bring me joy, bring back the excitement and that bounce to my step?

It will likely mean that we have to reconfigure the jobs in the office, so other people can take over the parts of the work that I want to shed. But that’s OK – it means growth for everyone, and provides an opportunity for us all to revisit what we want to do, so we are all motivated and working from our strengths.

Amazing how one short conversation can turn things around. Instead of closing our doors, I am actually excited at the idea of how I can shape my role to not only meet my needs, but draw on my talents and those of the rest of my team. I’ve found my remote control.

Will the real Anne Day please come back? I think she just might.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


When I look back on my career, I never really had a formal mentor. I was fortunate enough at one point to have a manager who saw skills and potential in me, long before I recognized my strengths, and she would assign me projects that were a stretch and through which I gained some confidence and expertise.

However, when you run your own business, you don’t have that insightful manager to point you in the right direction. That’s why the mentoring program offered through the Canadian Youth Business Foundation is such a good idea.

The organization not only hands out grants to young would-be entrepreneurs, but they match them up with a more seasoned business owner, so they are not alone and have someone to bounce around ideas and learn effective strategies to run their businesses.

I know I would have loved to have had someone like that when I launched my business, because at the beginning, you don’t know what you don’t know.

When I first started mentoring women entrepreneurs I was a bit nervous – after all what did I know about the IT industry, for example, but what I have found is that you don’t have to have all the answers, but can connect your protégé to someone who does. Plus, no matter what the business is, the issues are often the same. Much of it is common sense, and as someone who is older (not necessarily wiser), I have a lot of experiences from which to draw on.

Right now I am mentoring three young women and I find it’s a positive experience and I learn as much as hopefully they do.

On Wednesday, we are hosting a Mentoring for Growth panel and we will hear from one such mentoring pair on what has worked in their relationship and the impact on the young entrepreneur’s business.

One concern I hear from people is that they just don’t have the time, but you know what it doesn’t have to take hours – I allocate a certain amount of time each month to each young woman, book the time in advance and for that time period, they have my undivided attention, whether it be over the phone, by email or face-to-face. Yes, there is follow up and sometimes I link them with someone, but that’s it.

Bottom line, you can ask your questions, give advice but the end decision rests with the protégé as it should. Taking over is not helpful and does not instill confidence in the young business owner.

If you are interested in getting involved, check out the Foundation’s website at There is a quote I’ve always liked – “all that you give to the lives of others, comes back into your own.”

Friday, November 12, 2010


Did you know that the two big events that honour Canadian women are being held on the same night, at the same time and in the same city – Toronto?

It would appear that both WXN’s 100 Most Powerful Women (which was held over lunch in the past) and the Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year awards are scheduled for November 29.

But it was when I read the title of the WXN keynote presentation - the Power of Collaboration and Connectivity – that the irony of the situation struck me. Clearly these groups have not connected and if they have, there was no sense of collaboration, or they would have changed their plans.

As women there are so few celebrations when we can recognize and pay tribute to our peers, our role models. So it is too bad that these two leading organizations could not have got their acts together and chosen different dates.

Maybe it’s time to walk the talk.

Saturday, November 06, 2010


At the final ATHENA award presentation, my good friend, Diana Saulez, was honoured for all her hard work, commitment and leadership with ATHENA Oakville, and was presented with an ATHENA sculpture in recognition of her contribution. It was personally the highlight of the evening for me.

Now this was a complete surprise to Diana. She hadn’t even noticed that all her staff from Soleil Salon and Spa were in the audience as well as her son. They had been dodging in and out so she wouldn’t see them and give away the surprise. But you know what, I think even if Diana had seen them, she would never have imagined that they were there to celebrate her getting an award. She is so unassuming and modest, which is what makes her so special.

And this was evident in her acceptance speech. It truly was a surprise for her, so she gave an off-the-cuff, thank you speech. She was herself – real and humble. After a few tears, she started off emotionally saying she was truly grateful for waterproof mascara!

She then talked about how she got involved, her personal growth in leading ATHENA Oakville and how blessed she was to have surrounded herself with people who believed in her, gave her the courage to take risks, step out of her comfort zone and had the skills to help her achieve amazing success for ATHENA Oakville.

Now that is true leadership – humble, recognizing the contributions of others and sharing the spotlight.

Congratulations Diana.! You deserve all the kudos coming your way.

Friday, October 29, 2010


“Forget China, India and the Internet, economic growth is driven by women” The Economist.

I love this quote. It was one shared by a speaker from Portugal at the recent TIAW Global Summit. I learned so much at this two-day event, including the following inspiring story.

It is hard enough here to get a loan for your business, but imagine what it is like in other countries, where women have no rights, no property and no access to money.

That’s how it used to be in India, but thanks to the efforts of Selima Ahmad
and women like her, that situation is changing. A successful business owner herself, she could see that women were not able to get ahead without the support and finances to build a business.

So she lobbied to have a Women’s Chamber of Commerce in Bangladesh. At first she was turned down, but she would not give up and found a loop-hole clause that meant that the government had to do something. They agreed to her request, provided she made it to the government buildings by a certain time to sign the documents. She lived 45 minutes from that location, and there was no way she could make their deadline.

Being a creative and determined woman, she decided to find alternative, fast transportation to get her there on time. So she called for an ambulance! You can just imagine the officials’ faces when she stepped out, pen in hand all ready to sign the necessary paperwork.

But she didn’t stop there, using the same lobby tactics and persistence, in 2006 she persuaded the banks to set aside $13 million to provide loans to women-owned businesses.

Oh that I wish she could do that here!

Saturday, October 23, 2010


I knew early on this fall that this past week would be a marathon. And I wasn’t wrong.

Last week started with the early Small Business Breakfast on the Monday. Tuesday saw another early start with the Small Business Trade Show in Toronto where we had a busy booth, which was followed that evening with our Oakville dinner.

That alone would be enough excitement for the week, but no, we had the launch in Pickering on the Wednesday night and Thursday was spent interviewing for our social media intern. The week came to a welcome close with the launch of our breakfast meetings in Kitchener.

But what I hadn’t calculated or allowed for – was this stubborn cold that is infiltrating offices and homes across Canada, and all three of us in the office are at varying stages of battling the bug.

When you have school-age children, it goes with the territory that you catch some of the germs they generously bring home. So Vesna was the first to fall foul of the cold.

Travelling on a plane, left me a sitting target and it didn’t help that a man actually sneezed all over me. Clearly he’d never watched the commercials of sneezing and coughing into his arm. So fresh and relaxed from my holiday, I brought home some extra unwanted baggage – a doozy of a cold which seems to have a life of its own. It has been two weeks now and it’s showing no signs of going away.

And inevitably, Megan succumbed and she’s been off all week.

So it was a struggle this week to pull off all the events, be professional and welcoming, while all the time we just wanted to be at home, cozy in our PJs, sipping hot lemon.

But that’s what we do as women, mothers and wives, isn’t it. We carry on.

Monday, October 18, 2010


No phone. No emails. No interruptions. Sounds like heaven doesn’t it. Where was I? On my annual trek to the Isle of Man, which is a tiny island between England, Scotland and Ireland.

It’s my little piece of heaven and a step back in time. We even had good weather – with the sun shining, the water glistening and lashing to the shores, and the sheep grazing on the hills, the scenery is breathtaking and pretty hard to beat.

Unfortunately it is quite a distance to go, but well worth it once you get there. We walked, read books and just enjoyed the peace and quiet. We were even there to celebrate a friend’s 80th birthday.

As business owners we need to give ourselves permission to take a break, to refuel and recharge our energy for the months ahead. How many hours a week do you work? By my calculations, I can easily put in 60 hours/week.

After just a week away, I realize that is crazy and so I have resolved to take myself in hand and take more time for myself – just to read, write or reflect on life.

So next time you see me and I look all harried – remind me – to stop and take a breath.

PS – Back two days, and I get THE cold that is going around – that’s one of the negatives of being on a plane – you literally are a sitting target for those germs 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I recently attended the President’s Dinner – a homecoming alumni event at Sheridan College. It was a lovely evening and a great idea. I got to meet some interesting people and as a result felt a renewed investment in and connection to Sheridan.

Have you ever brought your customers together? Had them in the same room to meet, network and get to know one another? You know it might work well, and create a strong community of people who believe in what you do. It is also a way to thank them and show your appreciation for their business.

With the holiday season fast approaching, this could be the time to execute this strategy. If you do, let me know what happens. My guess, is it will strengthen your relationship with your customer base.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


I have a toothache. It’s been niggling away at me for weeks, actually months. I know I need to do something about it, but I’ve been trying to ignore it, in the hope it will just go away. I also know that it is going to be expensive to fix, so I hang in there, delaying what in the end is the inevitable.

Why do we do that? It’s the same in business. So often we don’t listen to our intuition and keep trying to fix something that is broken – be it an employee that is not working out, a client who isn’t a good fit, a process that doesn’t really generate the results we need or on the personal front, hanging in with a marriage that is beyond repair.

Always the optimist, I try to see the best in everyone and every opportunity, but sometimes I likely need to remove my rose-coloured glasses and face reality. Not everyone comes to the table with the same perspective. Not everyone is motivated to make a deal a win-win situation for all involved and more to the point, we don’t have to “get into bed” with everyone, just because they make what sounds like an attractive offer.

Listen to your gut. Let it guide you and don’t be afraid to take that tough decision. Deal with it. Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen. Sometimes, it is not as bad as you think. And you end up feeling more confident because you’ve done what you knew deep down had to be done.

And I know… I will call the dentist this week. I promise.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Recently I received a call from someone who wanted to take her program on the road. She wanted my advice on how to proceed and how to take her business to the next level.

After asking a few questions, it was clear that while she’d had a lot of interest in her program from other cities, she needed to spend some time documenting what she did; thinking about the guidelines and parameters under which the program would work in other cities and build in some processes to ensure that the people or organizations she recruited would be true to the essence of her program.

I cautioned her about leaping in and trying to expand too quickly, especially if she didn’t have the staffing or programs in place to manage the growth. My suggestion was that she tried a pilot program, perhaps close to her base, so she could monitor what was happening and learn from that experience before embarking on a full-blown expansion.

As a community developer, I’ve often found that what works in one community, may not work in another and it is important to tailor your offerings to suit the local group. So I suggested that she might also want to think about what was a must-have, and what could be left to the discretion of the community.

So often we feel flattered and pressured when other groups express interest in having your program or service in their community. It is easy to get seduced into growing before you are ready.

Like any business expansion, there needs to be homework done to ensure that all the pieces are in place, not just one enthusiastic fan who could disappear just as fast she appeared, leaving you holding the baby.

Monday, September 20, 2010


What a week. Especially on Monday. It seemed like Friday the 13th not Monday the 13th. Now I knew going into the week that it would be hectic, we had a lot on, but did not allow for how so many things could go wrong, and as a result delay everything.

First our Wednesday speaker emailed to say she was stuck in Tel Aviv and might not make it back in time. Decision time. Do we cancel now or run the risk of a no-show speaker? We cancelled which meant phone calls to all registered, refunds, etc…

One of the computers is out of commission but a quick call to our tech guy, and we are back in business. The next issue of the magazine arrives – great – it is one day early and now we can ship it out. No. The website at the courier service we use is down – all day.

You get the picture I am sure. I went to check my horoscope thinking it might give me a clue – I mean - perhaps in astrology-speak mercury was in retrograde or something, but it’s not that relevant. The next day, I decide early on to read my horoscope, hoping it would shed some light on the day ahead. Guess what – same wording.

That’s strange I thought and then I see it – at the bottom of the page. The Globe and Mail was apologizing because they’d printed Tuesday’s horoscopes on Monday. Good to know. Guess we weren’t the only ones having a bad day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Do you have any irrational fears? This week I tackled a couple of mine head-on. I have never been a comfortable driver, although I will say with the move to the farm and my daily treks on the 401, I am getting better, but driving long distances is still not in my comfort zone, especially if I don’t know where I am going.

Then there’s public speaking, which many put pretty close to death on the fear scale. It has certainly been one of mine for years. Even in high school I would go to ridiculous lengths to avoid having to speak in front of a group of people, especially my peers.

I’ll admit Company of Women has helped me gain more confidence in this arena but I would never put myself out there as a public speaker, yet after this week – maybe I can.

I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the launch of the Peterborough Women’s Business Network 50 year celebration. I agreed – but as I was driving there on Wednesday I realized I was tackling two fears for the price of one. Driving and public speaking – all in one day – what was I thinking!

Well I got there and back in one piece without any incident – not sure what I would do without my GPS and as for the speech – I blew myself away – I didn’t even look at my notes and just talked for 45 minutes. As one person commented, this may have been the launch of my speaking career – but who knew. And the other neat part – I actually enjoyed it.

So never say never, because you could prove yourself wrong.

Monday, September 06, 2010


I learned an important lesson this week. No matter how competent and professional people are, they still need to be told they are doing a good job.

As my way to say thank you to the writers for our magazine, Company, I hosted a luncheon in my home. This is actually an annual event in the summer, and my way of acknowledging their contribution to the success of the magazine.

However, as our discussion evolved, it became clear that writing makes us feel vulnerable because when your work is published, you really are putting yourself out there and leaving yourself open to criticism or negative comment.

And so the women were anxious to know if they were doing OK. I was surprised – because to my mind, if they weren’t doing OK – they’d be hearing from me or wouldn’t be writing for us anymore. What I’d forgotten is everyone needs to be validated; to know that they are on the right track and their efforts are appreciated.

So note to self – be more generous with the praise and positive feedback, because no matter who you are – hearing you are doing well, matters.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Years ago, and I mean years ago, I used to have a parenting column in the local newspaper. Once a month I would tackle some issue related to raising children, often using my own experiences as fodder for the articles.

One such column addressed the challenges and competitiveness of Halloween. As someone who didn’t sew, I was complaining about how far we had come from the original concept of the kids just dressing up in what ever was around the house.

No, instead parents were creating costumes that were worthy of the local dramatic group, or spending a small fortune to buy one that represented the latest hot character – be it Superman or a creature from Star Wars.

Well, as a result of that column, a neighbour, an older woman whose kids were long gone from home, came over with several costumes. She’d read my article, and taking pity on my lack of sewing skills, gave me the costumes, so that my girls could look the part and hold their heads high that Halloween.

While I hadn’t expected my neighbour’s generosity, this story does show the power of putting it out there – of stating what you need – even back then the universe provided. What do you need? Have you asked for help?

In a recent LinkedIn discussion in the Company of Women group, one member asked about recommendations for email marketing. There has since been a flurry of emails, with other members being all-supportive, suggesting different resources. A modern-day example of how when you ask for help, people will rally round. Why not try it, you might be surprised.

Now after the success of the Halloween column, my husband, always quick on the uptake, suggested that in my next column I write that I couldn’t cook, hoping that the reaction would be similar and people would drop off meals!

And no, I didn’t. You also need to learn when to stop while you are ahead.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


For years now emotional intelligence (EI) has been touted as an important skill set to have, and one that women in particular, have mastered.

It was Daniel Goleman who popularized this concept. He found that the most effective leaders were alike in one crucial way – they had emotional intelligence. They had empathy for other people.

However, recently German researchers have found that being nice doesn’t pay and in fact women who are agreeable, earned $80,000 less in their lifetime that those who were more ruthless and demonstrated more male behaviours.

It is now believed that to survive and succeed in business, you need toughness. So often, observes Suzy Welch, former editor of the Harvard Business Review, women take on the good mother role. She believes that “empathy paralyzes you when you need to make tough people decisions or give tough feedback.”

And certainly when you talk to successful entrepreneurs, they admit that they’ve kept someone on the payroll longer than they should and that in hindsight, they would have done better to fire the employee early on when the signs were there that it wasn’t going to work.

Another component of emotional intelligence is self-knowledge and this too, researchers believe, turns out to be a dangerous weapon for women at work. Research suggests that men tend to over-estimate their abilities, while women tend to underestimate theirs. Women doubt themselves and self-doubt is not an asset in business.

However, in a recent study, How Remarkable Women Lead, the two female consultants argue that a woman’s emotional depth helps her be not just a better person, but a better leader who can deliver results.

Personally I like the way women lead and their collaborative approach to business. Being sensitive to people’s needs can take you a long way. But success lies in knowing when to use your emotional intelligence, and when to make the tough decisions that have to be made if your business is to survive and grow.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A cautionary tale

I recently attended a free workshop, which while mildly informative, seemed aimed at promoting a bigger, better and expensive event down the road. Throughout the workshop there were hints of what was to come if we signed up, almost a tease if you will, and the last fifteen minutes were totally spent up-selling us on this other program. I know... nothing in life is free, and what did I expect.

Well I left at that point, thinking thanks, but no thanks. However, later I received a phone call to see if I was interested, and I advised no. Then I received around six emails in that many days, encouraging me to sign up and not miss out on this special offer, which frankly at over $1,200+ did not seem that special an offer to me. Ultimately, weary of all the solicitation, I unsubscribed.

End of story, or so I thought. So you can imagine my annoyance when I received an email from someone who had taken the training, was raving about it and introducing me to the presenter, who gave a further pitch for the next program to be offered.

I‘m not normally someone who reacts strongly or so immediately, but in this instance I zapped off an email saying I didn’t appreciate this overture and that it seemed like someone trying to sneak in the back door, when I had already locked it.

Now I personally like and respect the people involved, but they are misguided. They need to know that this form of aggressive selling, truly doesn’t work with people like me. In fact, it does the opposite, it is a total turn-off.

So if you are someone who believes that aggressive sales tactics are perfectly fine and part of doing business, fine, but just don’t bother me, because I am not home, I am not interested and I am not buying. Period.

Friday, August 06, 2010


We’re always told to be careful about the small print. I remember hearing a story of how one company got people to sign up, and by just clicking on their site that you agreed to the terms and conditions, you’d actually agreed to sell your soul.

Clearly this company was making a point. We’re often all too quick to check that little box, without really reading it through.

Last week, I almost… almost, made a grave error. I’d agreed dates with the venue we’ve used for the past year for our breakfast meetings and they’d sent me the contracts to sign. I’d actually signed one when I suddenly looked at the figures. They didn’t make sense and when I got out my calculator and did the math, I found that they’d doubled the price!

They didn’t point this out. Maybe they thought I would just sign – and I nearly did or that I would be fine paying more than I am charging. Right. And there was also no negotiation once I confronted them on it, so guess what … we’re dining elsewhere.

But the moral of this story, is check the bottom line. Don’t always assume that people will alert you to changes. Read the small print, because we’d hate you to lose your soul.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


This spring we had a panel of successful athletes share how to develop a winning attitude. Much of their conversation focused on our inner talk, and how when we focus, visualize ourselves winning, it can happen.

So I was interested to read the latest research in a recent issue of Psychologies about whether women really have the winning instinct. Traditionally we assume that women are less competitive than men, and lack the killer instinct that will enable them to win at all costs. However, the latest research shows that women can and do compete, they just experience the stress of competing differently to men.

“We found that men and women were just as good as each other at coping with stress, but worry about different things.” Observes sports psychologist .Dr. Mariana Kaiseler. “Men are more stressed by outcomes and whether they will win or lose. Getting the reward is their main motivation.” Women on the other hand are more concerned about performance. Men rely on planning prior to a game, while women prefer to talk about their anxieties.

Significantly researchers have found that while women admit to more anxiety, it doesn’t appear to make them less successful. If anything admitting to anxieties and fears can be positive. Women tend to be more co-operative and have greater levels of self-disclosure and as a result, they are more likely to get help for a problem. Whereas men are more closed and don’t like to admit to weaknesses.

Another female trait is that women tend to downplay their abilities on and off the sports pitch, but men come across as more confident and tend to rate themselves higher, whether worthy of that rating or not.

Sports psychologists describe mental toughness as key to success and there are the four C’s – commitment to winning, confidence, ability to control your emotions and view a stressful situation as a challenge. Certainly as entrepreneurs we often see challenges as opportunities.

Here are four tips that the sports psychologists provide on cultivating a winning instinct:

1. Overcome negative thoughts – Walk away or distract yourself if you fall into negative predictions of what could happen.

2. Don’t let one mistake colour the rest of your performance. See it as a one-off and look at ways to learn from that situation.

3. Reflect on why really want to win and do well. Is it to please other people or does the desire come from within you to prove yourself?

4. Accept that you are not perfect. After making an error, the best players refocus very quickly on what’s in front of them. Learn to deal with setbacks and move on.

Monday, July 26, 2010


Have you ever noticed how some words take on a whole meaning of their own? How we can get the wrong end of the stick by making quick assumptions?

For example, much is written these days about social media and if you just latch on to the word social you could assume, wrongly in my view, that it was just about making friends and being social, rather than being about business and involve work.

When I worked in government I reported to someone who didn’t like the word play with regards to children – it sounded too frivolous to him – so we had to change all the wording in documents to read knowledge-based activities. Given that children learn through play this wasn’t far off the mark, but why make it so complicated and what was wrong with saying it as it is?

More recently, I’ve come across the book The One Page Business Plan which my Me Inc participants asked me to include in the program. Now this is a useful book and it does walk you through the process, but the words one-page do imply a quick fix, an easy task. That you can boil down your plans to one page, actually requires a lot of work. You still have to go through the research, do your homework and think through what you actually want to achieve. The fact that you can capture it on one page is the bonus, but without doing the work required to get there, it’s a waste of paper.

We live in a world that wants instant fixes, that makes quick assumptions and judgments, and sometimes, we just have to slow down, and do it the old-fashioned way –one step at a time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


We just got cows on our farm, which I suppose given the acronym of Company of Women may seem appropriate. But I was not enthusiastic, and in fact told my husband that living on a farm was one thing, but I hadn’t signed up for cows.

Of course, regardless of my concerns, he went ahead. There are eight of them – mainly black and white and one brown fellow that kind of gets left out by the others. It’s as if they know she’s different.

My fears focused on the noise – like they would wake us up early at weekends – and the smell, and I have to confess neither has happened. In fact I think I have only heard them “moo” once. They are in such a large field, which admittedly is near the farmhouse, but we hardly ever see them. In fact I started to get concerned one day when I hadn’t seen them for a while. I had this picture in my mind of them lying legs in the air in the middle of the field, and we’d never know.

You may be thinking this is all very nice and domestic Anne but what does it have to do with business? Well, my point to this story is that sometimes the worst doesn’t happen and when we are open to new experiences, we can be pleasantly surprised. I actually like having them around – but ssh that’s our secret – heaven knows what Andy would get next if he knew he’d converted me.

And no, we haven’t named them. Although my son-in-law came up with a few names like sirloin steak and ground beef.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Is there part of your work that always seems to be a thorn in your side – sort of a necessary evil? That is how I feel about our print directory. I never forget the first one we did – it was like Murphy’s Law – what could go wrong, did. From losing the database to computer crashes to people getting sick, the 2004 directory finally appeared six months late and in 2005!

And here we are again. We’re about to publish the directory – this time using a new format – and already we’ve hit a snag. A pretty big one. Despite all the emails, the reminders and prompts, over 120 members have not got their information up on the website, which is where we take the data for the print directory.

So like the teacher chastising the tardy students, last night I emailed each and every one of them to give an extended deadline, with the warning that if they don’t get it in by then, they’re out of luck and we proceed without them.

I know we are all busy with far too much to do, myself included. Although I have to say, I work well to deadlines. My concern is that you can bet some of these people will be the first to complain that they didn’t get any business through us, when they haven’t done their bit to make it happen.

There, lecture over. The one good thing from the personal emails, is that members seem grateful that we’ve taken the time to contact them. Personally I call it customer service.

Friday, July 09, 2010


When my kids were growing up, they would often ask where something was before even looking for it, and invariably it was right in front of them. And at times, well occasionally, they thought Mom had extra-special vision as even from a distance I would instinctively know where something was located.

Unfortunately some of us carry this practice into adulthood, and rather than persevere and try to learn for ourselves, we automatically assume we can’t and ask someone else for the answers or to do it for us. I know I have been guilty of this one, especially around anything technical or mathematical.

But really we sell ourselves short. And think of the sense of accomplishment, if we worked it all out and did it for ourselves. So next time you are faced with something you are not sure how to do, take a deep breath, tell yourself you can, and give it the “good college try” because when we revert back to the practices of childhood, we don’t move forward, in fact we go back.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


To celebrate Canada Day, one of our farm neighbours held a barn dance last weekend where we all learned to square dance.

Definitely a new experience and I have to confess, my husband was a reluctant participant. He’s hard to get on the dance floor at the best of times, let alone to learn something new.

It was interesting to see how the instructor taught us. First he would walk us through the steps – starting with basics, then we did it to music. We’d have a break and then he’d up the ante a bit, and teach us something a bit more complicated. This went on all evening, until the finale which was by far the most difficult routine.

Not sure what he does for his day job, but he sure understood how adults learn. He built it up gradually, rather than shoving us in at the deep end. He let us walk through the steps without music first so that by the time we did the dance, we had a sense of what to do. By the end of the evening, we had more confidence and could tackle that last dance, but if he’d started there, he would have lost us. Giving us breaks worked well too – and actually we needed them because it is quite a work out.

Starting a business is just the same. We need to start in the shallow end. Do our homework, learn the basic steps and building on that, move forward. So often people are impatient, anxious to get going, without realizing that you have to lay the foundation if you want to build a solid business.

Just as Gary Vaynerchuk says in his book, Why Now is Time to Crush It! Cash in on Your Passion, you have to prepare yourself for a marathon. Few of us make it in a sprint.

And as for the square dancing – you know what - it was fun.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Read Why Now is the Time to Crush It! Cash in On Your Passion this weekend. As recommended by author, have signed up for Ping

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Like many women, I like to keep people happy. Although I have learned through my seven years of running Company of Women that this is impossible. You can’t please everyone – I just look at the diverse range of evaluations we receive after an event, to wonder if the respondents were actually at the same event! And as for those who complain about too much balsamic vinegar in the dressing – they need to get a life.

So I really thought I had got over this need to please. Wrong. On Tuesday, our new team at Company of Women, eight of us in total, went off for a retreat. We wanted to spend the day together, getting to know one another and forming a shared vision for the future.

It was exciting for me to see others so enthusiastic about Company of Women and what we can do to help women grow, both professionally and personally. As one person observed, as a group we were pretty diverse in our backgrounds and experiences, but then so is our membership, and there was mutual respect for what we could accomplish together.

In our recent survey, women had raised several ideas of how Company of Women could support them. We were using those results to brainstorm ways in which we could address those needs. As ever keen to meet those expectations, I had all sorts of ideas of what we could do, but the team was quick to remind me that we can’t be all things to all people and perhaps the women had to take responsibility for helping themselves achieve their goals.

It was a timely reminder that I need to keep my focus laser-sharp or we run the risk of diluting what we do and spreading our limited resources too thin. Left to my own devices, I likely would have just leapt in, which speaks to the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will give honest feedback and tell you when you are moving in the wrong direction.

And it is not that we are going to ignore the survey results, but more we will look at what we currently offer and make sure people are aware of the opportunities available to them and will form strategic alliances where appropriate, rather than relying and delivering all the programs and services ourselves.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I must confess I was bit like a little kid organizing a surprise party. Only a handful of people knew what we were planning at the end of our Journey to Success conference. We called the session Finding Your Beat – an interactive activity – which actually accurately described what we would be doing – but I suspect no one really imagined that it would be drumming.

We led the women into the room, table by table, as the drummers drummed them in. Without a word being said, the women picked a drum, sat down and started drumming. It was fascinating to watch as women joined in. There they were, many in their finest, with an African drum between their legs, pounding and following the rhythm in the room.

Most people, myself included, really got into it and when we finished our first “performance” there was a loud howl as we congratulated ourselves on the music we’d made.

Now ending the conference on this “note” was a risk, and to be honest not everyone participated, some people left and that is fair enough, but for those who stayed (around 150 women) it was an empowering way to end an inspiring day and my sense was that the women left feeling they could tackle anything.

And Terri – who led us through the activity, landed another contract from someone who participated. Now that is what it is all about.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Oh The Places You will Go

It’s done. I shared my pearls of wisdom with the 2010 graduating class from Sheridan College on Wednesday. It was quite the gathering with over 300 students graduating from the ECE program, plus their family and friends.

I can’t tell you how many times I wrote and re-wrote that speech. I would write it, rehearse it in my head as I went to sleep and then when I woke in the morning, decide, no, it still needed some fine-tuning.

I also asked around to find out what Convocation speeches usually cover. The main feedback was that they are boring. Definitely didn’t want to go there.

In the end I used a combination of previous versions, and added as I went along at the actual event. I narrowed it down to four pieces of advice – any more than that and I thought I would lose their attention, and being menopausal I didn’t want to stretch my memory either!

What did I say?

1. Take risks – stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. Even if it doesn’t work out, it’s a lesson learned, not a mistake.

2. Volunteer – you gain as much as you give, if not more

3. Your attitude determines your altitude. Life happens and while you can’t control everything, you can control how you react.

4. Believe in yourself. Surround yourself with positive people who will support you. Make sure to take time for yourself.

I ended by reading a few verses from Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

My thanks to those of you who sent in tips and advice to share with the students. I tried to incorporate them where I could.

And the response – I got a lot of positive feedback from teachers, parents and students, including one young man who has attended all the convocations so far this year and thought my speech was by far the best. So all in all – a worthwhile experience for everyone.

Saturday, June 05, 2010


What advice would you give to graduating students about to embark on their career?

I have been pondering this for a few weeks now since I was asked to speak at the Convocation for students graduating from the Early Childhood Education program at Sheridan College.

Suddenly clichéd phrases like “find your passion” seem overused and what does that mean anyway? In a recent blog, Seth Godin brought up the whole art of speaking simply instead of trying to impress or confuse the listener with a stream of words that frankly amount to nothing. And I agree. But then I have always been of the ilk that what you see, is what you get.

I have ten minutes to share the wisdom I have learned in over 40 years of working. Hmm. Where to start? I’ve decided to focus on taking risks and being open to new opportunities. Perhaps that’s my entrepreneurial spirit speaking out, but I would hate to see young people stuck, although with the way they seem to skip from one job to the next, this may not be a concern for them.

But it’s not so much about the job jumping, it’s about being open to changing careers. I find that young people sometimes think that once they have settled on a career, that’s it, whether they like it or not. I don’t know about you, but I have had a very eclectic career working in different sectors, although admittedly always focusing on women or children.

When I think of all the lessons I have learned, it has always been when I have stretched myself or made an error in judgement. Note I don’t say mistake, because I don’t think they are mistakes – they are lessons I had to learn, and sometimes the hard way.

Truth of the matter is, no matter what I say on Wednesday, these young people will go forward and learn their own lessons. You just want them to do so with their self-esteem in tact and surrounded by people who care for them.

It takes me back to my early days of teaching a program called Your Child’s Self Esteem, where the two key ingredients to having high self-esteem are believing “I am lovable” and “I am worthwhile.” Seems to me the same applies to us as adults.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Istanbul is a city of contrasts. It has one foot in the western world, symbolized by the tall high rises on the city landscape, but with over 2,200 mosques across the city; the women, young and old, wearing headscarves and the chanting throughout the day, you cannot deny the strong religious and eastern overtones. And then there’s the pockets of poverty, where buildings that are crumbling and collapsing, are actually lived in and like any other major city, where street beggars, often children, approach you for money.

The International Women’s Leadership and Entrepreneurship Summit was very much like the city.

Organized by Kagider, the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Turkey, like the tall buildings, these women stood out. To be a member of the association they have to achieve a certain level of success and with their power and influence, they wanted to create awareness and dialogue about the important role of women in Turkish society.

And they are to be congratulated on bringing such a diverse group of speakers together – from senior ministers within the Turkish government, to leaders in the corporate world, to academics and a handful of “experts” from around the world.

However, like the city itself, you could not ignore the religious implications of being a woman in Turkey. Without doubt, the most heated discussions (and I mean heated) centred on religion and diversity. Listening through an interpreter made it hard to follow at times and it became so explosive that you could see that these issues are deep-rooted and not going to be resolved easily. It’s complex but at least the summit opened the doors for dialogue on topics that are not normally aired in a public forum.

While outwardly Turkey appears to be a progressive country , like the pockets of poverty, there are areas where they have a long way to go in supporting women. With only 26% of women in the labour force, the infrastructure is just not in place. For example, child care for working mothers is minimal and gender equity policies not developed or implemented.

In Canada our research has shown that the first six years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of learning. In Turkey, preschool programs for children are only for the few families who can afford it and the compulsory starting age for school is six. All of which has implications for the growth and development of children, and impacts their mothers’ potential to work outside the home.

Listening for two days through a translator, has given me a fresh perspective on what it is like to come to a country and not understand the language. It is hard to concentrate for that long and in not knowing the language, you also miss the nuances of what is being said.

All this to say, that I am still digesting all that I learned at the summit – about Turkey, the plight of women living there and my own understanding and acceptance of cultural differences. But one thing I do know, I met some fascinating and wonderful women who enriched the experience and with whom I hope to keep in touch.

And hey – I can now say I am an international speaker!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Wallin, someone I have admired and respected for a long time. She started off as a social worker in the prison system – a far cry from where she has landed as a Senator in the Canadian Parliament.

When I asked her about whether she had any idea of how her life would unfold, she told me that her rule was to say “yes” to anything that took her out of her comfort zone.

I remembered her words when I was asked to come speak at the Global Women’s Leadership Summit in Turkey, because my first reaction was to decline as public speaking is definitely not in my comfort zone! Plus no pressure, Hillary Clinton was their keynote last year. So with some fear and in trepidation, I said yes, and here I am today, getting packed up and ready to go.

The organizers have sent me the questions in advance and I am glad they did, because the role of civic society is not something I tend to think about on a daily basis. As I look at the array of speakers in place – professors, diplomats and women leaders from around the world, I am trying not to get intimidated.

I’ve done my homework. In fact, I was still researching on the weekend and then decided to stop. I have to remind myself that I need to talk about what I know, as someone “in the trenches” if you will.

So stay tuned as I go global.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Did you know that Canadians carry out on average 143 searches on Google a month? Or that the location of Tim Hortons is the most downloaded information in Canada?

These were just two of the facts shared at our Toronto breakfast when Sabrina Geremia
from Google came to share the latest from Google.. And for those of you who were not there, here are the seven tools she recommended for small business owners:

1. Ad words
2. Google Analytics
3. Google Insight and Search
5. Google Enterprise
6. Moderator
7. Webmaster

Many of these resources are free of charge.

It is predicted that by 2013, the mobile will be the most common way to access the Internet.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Doubt be gone

As I go through the surveys recently completed by women who are part of the Company of Women community, I am struck by how many have told us that they feel isolated and suffer from self-doubt, questioning their ability to make their business a success.

It’s good to know really because all of us go through those emotions, and we tend to think we are the only ones who struggle with our confidence. Wrong. Everyone, even the most successful, has had moments of self-doubt.

The key is not to let the fear paralyze you, making it impossible to move forward with your dreams.

Whenever I have felt overwhelmed and out of my depth, I have called on my friends to bolster me up – and they do – just as I do for them when they need an injection of confidence. Think about who you could call on – who’s on your team?

And if my confidence reaches a real low, I go to my Success Box, where I have kept press clippings, thank you letters and other evidence of my abilities, and I read through the contents. They remind me of the skills and strengths I bring to my business. What would you keep?

When I was first working at home, I would consciously arrange meetings so that I had something and someone to meet most days. This helped to reduce the sense of isolation I would feel. It was good to get out beyond the four walls of my home office – even if it was just to meet a friend for coffee – it worked.

One of the challenges when you first start out, is you don’t know what you don’t know. I found reading business books, talking to other more seasoned business owners and taking courses helped to build my repertoire of knowledge.

Mary Kay once said if you think you can, you can and if you think you can’t, you’re right. Believe you can, and it will happen.

PS There are some great suggestions in our Company of Women LinkedIn group

Friday, April 30, 2010

Working Together

Maybe I have been mixing with the wrong crowd in the past, but lately it has been exciting to meet up with people who actually get it. They want to work with you, but realize it has to be win-win for all involved.

So when someone starts off the conversation asking how can they help me, they’re one step closer to winning me over. Now that doesn’t mean that I am an easy target. I try to be strategic in who I partner up with, but at best, it is an indicator that the person or company recognizes the value of working together and is willing to give in order to gain.

In another life I was a community developer, and much of that role was listening and trying to bring the right players together to make change happen. Seems to me, that’s a bit like what I do now. It’s just the playing field has changed and the rules might be slightly different.

Personally I love the challenge of coming up with creative ways of doing business differently so that all involved get something out of it. Going into the meeting with a game plan is key, so that you know ahead of time what you want, what you won’t give (our database is one) and how far you will go to make the deal happen.

So next time you are meeting with someone to talk business – start the conversation by asking “How can I help you?” Likely you will be amazed at the outcome.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Each weekend as I sit to write my blog I reflect on the week gone by and what I have learned. And believe me, I am a life-long learner – there is always something. I am also fortunate to meet some pretty amazing women who have stories to share and whose tenacity I applaud.

So what was the lesson this week? I need to plan my time better. In our recent survey, time management was flagged as a big challenge for women business owners, especially solopreneurs where they have to do everything.

While I am fortunate now to have staff, managing my time is still a struggle and at times I feel like a “hot commodity” and everyone wants a piece of me. Take last week – I was barely in the office at all and this is not good. Yes, I can delegate but I am still the person steering the ship and I still have tasks that I have to do.

I always start my week with a list of what has to be done. But I find that if I don’t have a concentrated piece of time behind my desk, I start to feel scattered and that nothing is getting accomplished.

And it’s not just the business meetings that have to be scheduled, it’s the self-care appointments – like the dentist, the ophthalmologist, doctor, etc…, all part of a woman’s life and I haven’t even got into what we have to juggle on the home front or stealing time to see friends.

Feeling exhausted? Well that was my week – two rigorous sessions with my fitness trainer; a medical appointment that had me out of commission for three hours; a Company of Women dinner; four one-on-one sessions with women; a night out with girlfriends; a retirement party at my husband’s office, a dinner party this weekend and one meeting with a potential partner that was cancelled (thank goodness) And that’s just the face-to-face time I had with people, never mind the phone calls, the emails etc… You get the picture.

I think I need rescuing from myself. I am beginning to feel like the hampster on a treadmill. It’s time to come off and hit ground zero.

No – I either have to clone myself or start working smarter. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How resilient are you?

I am sure we all know of someone who despite all that has happened to her, she seems to bounce back and carry on.

In a recent book, Resilience: Bounce Back From Whatever Life Throws at You, business psychologist Jane Clarke and Dr. John Nicholson, set out to discover which personality characteristics help people triumph over difficult life circumstances.

Why do some people remained confident no matter what? These people found stress energizing rather than debilitating and seemed to relish change.

Their research isolated five key factors that set the most resilient individuals apart:

• optimism,
• freedom from stress and anxiety,
• taking personal responsibility,
• openness and adaptability, and
• a positive and active approach to problem-solving.

One surprising result was that women scored consistently lower in their Resilient Quotient (RQ) than men. The researchers found that the differences between the sexes could be accounted for by level of optimism. Optimism is key to resilience because if you don’t believe things can improve, it’s hard to carry on.

The authors believe that much of the difference has to do with how men and women view their abilities versus their actual ability to cope. In other words, men overestimate what they can do, while women put themselves down.

Another interesting finding was that the most resilient in their study, had had terrible childhoods. These individuals were often the eldest child who had taken on the job of looking after the younger siblings. Essentially they learned they could cope.

The good news, regardless of childhood experiences, we can all learn to be more resilient. “You can train yourself,” says Clarke “Women especially need to stop beating themselves up and recognize how well they do actually cope.”

And recently I have interviewed several successful women entrepreneurs who have done just that. None would change what had happened to them, as these difficult life circumstances have shaped who they’ve become.

While many of us spend too much time debating where we went wrong and beating ourselves up over mistakes, these women see mistakes as life lessons to learn and move on.

Their struggles have made them more determined to succeed and given them the impetus and drive to change their lives. Challenges are viewed as opportunities to grow, rather than difficult situations to overcome.

Their optimism and resilience has enabled them to take action, rise above the challenges and achieve success. They are our role models, giving us faith that we can do it too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Women in IT

This past week I was invited to speak at a women’s networking group that had been started internally by a multinational software company. Recognizing that working in a male-dominated industry can be challenging for their female employees, they wanted to be proactive and support them.

Like the major law and accounting firms, more organizations are starting to develop programs to support the professional and personal development of their female staff. And it makes sense to invest in such strategies if they want to retain and grow the talent they have within their organizations.

There were three of us on the panel and our topic was the power of networking. None of us had met before and we came from different backgrounds, yet our advice was very similar.

1. You have to believe in yourself first before you can ask others to have faith in your abilities. Try to limit your self-doubt and surround yourself with positive people who will support you.

2. When you network, both internally and externally, give first. As one panel member said “when you give, forget but when you receive, always remember” Good advice.

3. Consider volunteering, both within and outside of the organization. You gain new skills sets, broaden your networks and your horizons because who knows where your volunteer roles can take you.

4. Ask for opportunities within the organization. One of the reasons women are often overlooked for a promotion is they haven’t got management experience. Think about your long term goals, reflect on what skills and experiences you will need to get there, and go for it.

5. Find a mentor who will encourage and support you. Someone who sees your potential; who will always be honest with you, even if you don’t like the message and who is willing to invest the time in fostering your development.

6. Rather than trying to achieve work-life balance, determine your priorities which will change as your career and family life evolves. Always make some time for yourself.

Global research suggests that addressing the problem of shortage of women in the IT sector starts young, when girls' self concepts and aspirations are formed. CATA WIT has recently launched a new website - which focuses on educating young women about careers in advanced technology and providing access to mentors - women who have been successful in these types of careers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


A study of young Canadian girls ages eight to twelve found that 51% want to own their own company of one day, and more than 54% were optimistic that nothing could stand in the way of their dreams.

This is good news, but look at their ages. Will they still be thinking the same way once they are teenagers or later on when they hit the workplace?

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Women in Leadership conference put on by Rotman business students for Rotman business students. It was an impressively organized event and kudos to the students for running such an exciting, energizing and inspiring day.

One of the speakers was giving advice to the young women, and as I listened, I thought it had much relevance for all of us, no matter the age. Here are her ten tips for a successful life:

1. Think about yourself. Ask what am I built to do.
2. Focus on your strengths – hire your weaknesses
3. Recognize opportunity
4. Have negative friends? Find new ones
5. Think, speak and act positively
6. Create a strategy for your business and your life
7. Get out there and fail – it’s OK
8. Master the golden rule of networking – give
9. Build your brand
10. Find a mentor

Perhaps if our young eight to twelve year olds understand these rules, they have a good chance of realizing their dreams.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I have spent this past week interviewing for a new staff position in our office. It’s an entry level job, and we are not paying a lot, yet we received over 65 applications, and continue to receive them on a daily basis.

Says a lot about the economy I guess. We wanted someone part time, but I suspect that many of the people applying really wanted full time and would likely just take our job as a stop gap which is definitely not what I wanted. Gone are the days when someone stays a decent time, making it worthwhile to train and invest in them.

If any of you reading this are looking for a job – here’s some pointers that might help you land an interview:

1. Always, always send a cover letter
2. Check the job advertisement, and if a name is provided, address your letter
to that person
3. Avoid saying Dear Sir or Madam
4. Check for spelling mistakes or typos
5. Keep your resume short – 2 pages maximum
6. Tie your strengths and skills to those mentioned in the advertisement

These days many of us interviewing will use behavioral/experiential questions. Think of some examples ahead of time that will showcase your strengths, so that when you’re asked to demonstrate a point, you have the answer right there and are not stumped.

The good news is that we found someone who I think will be great and she starts next week.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


It used to be that we complained about drowning in a sea of paper, but these days we’re more likely to be griping about being buried in our in-box. I don’t know about you, but responding to emails takes up way too much of time, and I need to get smarter in how I handle the major influx of emails I receive every day.

So I was really interested to read the article Email is making you stupid in the latest issue of Entrepreneur in which writer Joe Robinson observed that constant email interruptions make you less productive and less creative.

Here’s some of the pointers he shared on how to tame the monster.

• Turn off all sound and visual alerts that announce new email
• Discipline yourself to check email less frequently – at minimum just once
every 45 minutes and at best, just two to four times a day
• Don’t hide behind email. There are occasions when the phone or face-to-face
meetings are more effective ways to communicate.
• Just because a message can be responded to immediately, doesn’t mean you have
to do that
• Restrict your use of the “reply all” button
• Be proactive – put no reply necessary in the subject line
• Don’t send emails just to say thanks
• Use the automatic out of office option when you are working to a deadline

As Robinson says, perhaps with these strategies we will be able to climb out of the inbox.

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Are you creative? An artist?

I couldn’t draw to save myself but after listening to Seth Godin last week as he talked about creativity – I reached the conclusion that maybe I can be an artist after all.

Godin, marketing guru and author of the Purple Cow and Linchpin, argues that we need to become artists, to tap into our creative side, if our businesses are to stand out in today’s sea of commerce.

The old marketing tools no longer work. We need to do something different, be different and do it first. The old factory mindset that works within rules, always doing the same old, same old just doesn’t cut it anymore. But what does?

Godin believes that “the market for something to believe in has become infinite.” Marketing has become leadership and consumers want to buy and invest in brands that stand for something. What do you stand for?

When you live in fear, and don’t want to step outside your comfort zone, then you have a lizard mind declares Godin. “Anxiety, he says, is experiencing failure in advance.” He described several trends that caught on just because they were different – like selling odd socks as a pair (would suit those of us who have sock-eaters in residence) or the Candy Store on Highway 11 where no one would expect such a broad selection of candies and where customers spend on average $60 per visit!

What can you do that makes your product or service different? Godin’s closing advice was make art, give a gift and do work that matters. Sounds good to me.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The 60-40-20 rule

Do you find it hard to fit in time to focus on the big picture of your business? Elizabeth Lengyel, our guest speaker shared some practical tips on how to do just that – the 60-40-20 rule.

How does it work? For 60 minutes you focus on work that has to be done, with no interruptions – which means no answering the phone, returning calls or checking emails during this time slot. It is during the next 40 minutes, that you tackle those tasks and the last twenty minutes is reserved for having a cup of tea, making your lunch or taking a stretch.

We tried this in our office and it was amazing what we accomplished in our first 60 minutes. We joked that we needed some system to let everyone else know which stage in the 60-40-20 rule we were at, so they didn’t interrupt us.

Whether it is the 60-40-20 rule or setting aside time each week to focus on your business rather than in the business, it makes sense. We can all get too caught up in the minutea of running a business. Give it a try – you might be pleasantly surprised at what you get done!

Got to go … it’s time for my 20 minute slot!

Monday, February 15, 2010

I am Anne. I am Canadian.

Have you got caught up in the Olympic fever? I’ve never really been much of a winter sports follower, but having the Olympics here in Canada makes a big difference. I have to confess when I watched the official opening, I found myself tearing up. I am a Canadian by choice, as I am originally from the UK, but on Friday I felt I was all Canadian., and proud to be so.

It was moving to see all the young athletes who are striving to do their best and hopefully bring home the gold, silver or bronze medals. As the camera turns to the parents of some of the athletes you can feel their sense of pride too. As a family, no doubt they have made many sacrifices to get their young athlete to this level of competition. What joy it must be to see them succeed.

Talent isn’t enough to win at sports, there’s an element of luck and the mental attitude and focus to enable you to visualize yourself winning. In April we will be having a panel of athletes to talk about that winning attitude which you need in sports and in running a business.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


I work out twice a week. I know, it really should be three times a week, but to be honest, and excuse the pun, it is a bit of stretch for me as it is. You see while I know all the benefits and love how I feel afterwards, to me exercising is a bit of a necessary evil.

It’s a bit like doing your financials. You avoid sitting down and pulling all the numbers together, yet you know that in order to get a handle on how your business is doing, it has to be done, and done regularly.

Research has shown that those of our gender tend to avoid the number-crunching and that our lack of financial literacy can hold us back. When you haven’t got an accurate picture of where you are at financially, it is hard to make sound business decisions.

When I started my business I did a budget, which as someone who has run several charities, was well within my comfort zone. What I didn’t realize then was that I really needed to develop a cash flow statement, so I could track and predict when money was coming in, and just as important, going out.

We have just started our Me Inc program for would-be entrepreneurs and one of the topics we will be covering is cash flow. So often when we start up we overestimate how much money will come in and when (it always takes longer than we think) and underestimate how much our expenses will be. All of which leads to serious cash flow issues, a constant source of concern for the business owner.

So yes, both are necessary evils, but we need to do both in order to survive – physically and professionally.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Have you ever sat down and analyzed (or tracked) which sales/marketing strategies work for you?

At Diana Bishop’s Big Idea Adventure workshop this week, a group of us did just that. It was fascinating as we brainstormed sales activities vs. those that would fall more closely under marketing. What did we learn?

That the old-fashioned, in-your-face sales approach just doesn’t cut it anymore – at least not for us. What was working well we found was when offered some information, so people felt they were getting something out of the connection, and were not being pressured into buying something they may or may not want or need.

We also learned that too often we fall into the product-story trap instead of building the relationship first.

We spent three hours with Diana – time well spent because as the workshop progressed, I could see we were all starting to think differently and consider that big idea that would make us stand out from the crowd.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Those who know me, know how much I am a stickler about finishing our meetings on time. I recognize, especially with our evening events, that we have all put in a long day, and are back into the fray the next morning, so I try to be respectful of people’s time and energy levels.

So it was really unusual to see so many people still gathered at the conference centre on Tuesday, long after the session had ended. True to form, I had ended the event on time, but no one wanted to leave. We had 90 women at that event, so you can imagine the noise level and energy in the room.

Our speaker, Donna Messer, had created such a buzz that people wanted to continue connecting with each other and if possible, grab a moment of Donna’s time too. It was 9.45 before the last person left.

What was the topic that generated this level of interest? How to network effectively. Donna, often known as the Queen of Networking, had worked the room introducing women to each other. She made a point of finding a common denominator and you could see the light bulb going on as women embraced the idea of connecting and helping each other.

Mission accomplished. That’s what Company of Women is all about.

Monday, January 18, 2010


We have a couple of friends who have just been told they only have a few months to live. Sure gives you pause for thought. What would you do if you were given such news?

Would you carry on, assuming you are physically able, business as usual, or would you spend the time with family and close friends and get your affairs in order? Would you travel? Would you say “yes” to some experimental treatment that might buy you a few months, but make you sick? Or would you cocoon yourself, and cut yourself off from everyone?

Over the years I have sadly had other friends who faced a similar prognosis and each dealt with it in her own way. It’s hard to know, and as friends standing on the outside looking in, it’s hard to know what to do to help, to lessen the load and make this last journey more bearable for all involved.

What I do know is you have to take your cues from the person dying, and respect their wishes, which can be hard if he chooses to cut himself off from everyone. So while you maybe can’t help the individual, you can support the family.

I know when I was going through chemo, one of the best things someone did for me, was cook meals. In fact, the children so enjoyed her meals, they wondered if she did breakfasts!

I remember one friend who was estranged from her son. So he did not know she was dying and had only a few weeks left. I persuaded her to let him know, because there was unfinished business between them and I felt he needed the opportunity to say his goodbyes. He never came. I don’t regret getting her to reach out but I learned that we can never predict how other people will behave and we can only take responsibility for our own actions.

So what would you do? It’s hard to know until we get there, but why wait. Life is precious. Don’t take it for granted. If you have always wanted to travel – do it. Tell those you love how you feel about them. Don’t wait until you have a terminal prognosis to live your life. Do it now because none of us really know what tomorrow will bring.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Plan for Success

Since we got our farm, my husband has longed to have a really big Christmas tree. And I mean really, really big. We have a room that could take such a tree – in fact a small tree looks totally lost and out of place.

Well this year his dream came true. We found this brute of a tree, brought it home and then the fun began. Our first challenge was how to get it into the house. We ended up opening up a never-used door, moving heavy furniture out of the way, just so we could get it in.

Next we had to get it into the tree container and with just two of us, that was no simple task. Decorating the tree came next. Andy needed a two level ladder to put the angel on her perch at the top, and to add the lights and decorations. It was nerve-wracking holding on to the ladder as he delicately placed everything on the tree. Bottom line, it took us all day to decorate it.

Now anyone who came to the house during the holidays admired the tree, always commenting on its size and it was a thing of beauty. But it’s a bit like setting lofty business goals – be careful what you wish for, because sometimes when you get it, it’s not what you think, entails a lot more work than you thought and is over in a flash.

Will we do this next year? Probably not. It’s been a one-year wonder. We did it, have the photos to prove it but I suspect next year, we will be back to a more modest tree – but who knows, memory is a funny thing – we may, by then, have forgotten the work, and just remembered the joy.

As you set your goals for the year ahead – think long and hard about what you want – and what you will do if you are successful. Often we over look that part – the planning for success and it’s just as important because you don’t want to get there and find it’s not what you wanted after all or it was not worth the effort to get there.