Monday, May 25, 2009

Just ask

This week we had two exciting panels of women sharing their business success stories. As they all shared the ups and downs of their business ventures, it struck me that men probably wouldn’t do this.

I mean if they can’t ask for directions, what makes us think they would bare their business souls to an audience of peers. Not likely. Yet there is something to be gained when you share your truths. For one, the audience appreciate and value more what you have to say when you are being honest and upfront. You seem more real and people are more likely to remember you and want to support you in the future.

But it is a fine line. We need to be selective on who we share the facts about our business. After all, if things are not going well, telling the world isn’t likely to make it any better, in fact it may speed up the demise of your business.

These are scary times for many businesses. Everyone is working hard to keep the financial wolves from the door. As women, we are good at asking for help and seeking advice from experts is a good idea. Reaching out and getting their input can help you turnaround a worrisome situation. Often an outsider looking in, can offer an objective perspective and solution.

One success strategy shared by all our panel members was that when they needed help, they went out and got it. As business owners we can’t expect to be good at everything, know your strengths and recruit others to cover off those other areas that test your patience. You may even be able to trade and barter services so it doesn’t cost you to obtain the help you need to build and grow a successful business.

If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making the Pitch

“First you have to sell yourself, then your product,” advised Diane Buckner at the recent Coliseum competition at the Rotman School of Management. Buckner, who is host of Dragon’s Den and Fortune Hunters, knows a thing or two about making successful pitches and was the moderator for the event.

There were five finalists and each had five minutes to make their case. Like Dragon’s Den, there were three judges – successful entrepreneurs who knew all about making a business succeed.

It was interesting to watch each presentation, and even more interesting to see the outcome. The winner had a unique product, which if it is well-marketed and positioned right, could do really well. Although it didn’t appear that he’d done much math in working out the costs of this venture. But his concept captured the judges’ attention and everyone likes to be part of something new.

The runner up excelled at showing her passion and it was her ability to sell herself, that sold the panel on her business concept but again the important number-crunching wasn’t evident.

Yet, the person who got “honorable mention” was the one, in my opinion, who truly did the best presentation, she knew her figures, had clearly a solid business plan, but somehow didn’t sway the panel with her idea.

As for the other two finalists – all I can say, is don’t give up your day job!

In looking at the results, it becomes clear to me that none of us really knew or understood what the criteria was for selecting the winner. The audience got one vote, so it would have been helpful to know what the judges were looking for as then we could have all been on the same page.

One lesson to take away from this is just as Buckner said, if you can demonstrate your passion for your product, it will take you a long way. “

Monday, May 11, 2009


This week I was in Ottawa meeting with women from the Atlantic Provinces who run women’s business organizations in their cities. It was exciting to connect with them, explore how we can work together and to realize that really it doesn’t matter where you are in Canada, the issues are often the same.

What I really liked about the discussions was that we were all being honest, sharing in a genuine way and wanting to support each other. There wasn’t any sense of competition, just an attitude of abundance and mutual respect. What more can you ask for?

And in the months ahead we plan to continue the dialogue and share best practices, so that we can all offer the best possible service to women entrepreneurs in our province.

How often do you meet up with others in your sector? You might be surprised at what you can learn from each other when you drop the competition and are open to some real conversations.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Do you want to compete with the big guys?

On Monday I attended the Toronto launch of WEConnect Canada, a new organization to Canada, but WEConnect is well-established in the US, UK and India.

What is WEConnect? It is a non profit organization that provides the mechanism to certify women business owners so that they are eligible to compete for tenders issued by the large Fortune 500 companies. Many of the large corporations in the US, have diversity policies whereby they have to give a quota of contracts to women-owned businesses.

In Canada, WEConnect is working to establish a similar program and is actively recruiting companies such as IBM, BMO Financial Group, Accenture, Cisco and more. What does this mean to you?

Becoming certified opens doors for you and gives you the opportunity to compete with the big guys. One of the advantages of being a small business, is we're nimble, we're not bogged down in bureaucracy and rules which can be appealing to the large corporation that wants instant results.

One of the women whose company became certified through WEConnect just this month, has already received overtures from a large American corporation. This is exciting stuff and I encourage you to look closely at how you can get involved.

Check the website at