Wrap up notes from Gearing Up for Growth 2011


I had a wonderful day at the Techalliance Gearing up for Growth conference; it is the second year they've put on this conference in London, Ontario and once again Techalliance did a great job lining up some dynamic keynote speakers.

We heard from Sarah Prevette of Sprouter.com, Robert Herjavec of Dragon's Den, and Bill Johnson former CEO of McDonalds Mexico and Canada. It was a very dynamic mix.

If I could summarize the topics across all 5 topics it would be this:

  1. Find joy in what you do - be the best at it - and be the joy in others lives (customers, employees, etc) - this shows leadership.
  2. Find what you are good at and do that to the exclusion of others - put your focus on your strengths, discard weaknesses
  3. If you're a leader, talk to people. Find out what they want to do. Empower them.
  4. Tackle challenges head on
  5. Treat your customers as your best asset
  6. Listen to your customers
  7. Create an excellent brand and live up to it

Here, in no particular order, are some jot notes from the day on how to be a more effective leader, mentor, business owner, or team leader:

From Sarah Prevette:

  1. Pass off the credit for success to others, take all the blame - no one will care about your business as much as you (I actually disagree with this a little bit, but I would agree that no one else will spend as much time worrying about it as you!)
  2. Perseverance - running a business is a constant struggle for success; don't believe the hype of perceived success
  3. Eat your frogs in the morning - putting off unpleasant decisions weigh you down, get over it early and move on with your day
  4. Perseverance - running a business is a constant struggle for success; don't believe the hype of perceived success.
  5. Put your business description into 3 words - make it memorable, repeatable - if people can't explain your business they can't recommend you
  6. Execute - sitting around planning doesn't make you successful - push things out the door as quickly as possible
  7. Best way to get a customer is to ask them for feedback on your product. Become an evangelist for your customer
  8.  Customer feedback should be a key part of your business strategy. Start with one client, treat them like a god
  9. Trying to keep entrepreneurs with ADD focused is a challenge - find a team to hold you accountable
  10. Keys to success: Resourcefulness - #1 trait - they think creatively, the people that can always find solution, surround with great people to mitigate this ADD :)
  11. Doing a start up is the same reason that people climb everest - it's a thrill
  12. In order to be a start up founder / entrepreneur - you have to be crazy - 85% of start ups fail in 1st year, 95% by 5 years 

From Bill Johnston:


  1. Good entrepreneurs know the difference between financial success and values-driven success
  2. Your organization cannot read your mind; leaders need to communicate with their teams.
  3. Bringing women on to the board at McDonalds was critical culture change - 2 officers left because of women being brought on board
  4. When creating corporate culture, you'll need to match the local culture
  5. Another keynote saying that everyday they looked forward to going to work - find something they really enjoy and go do it
  6. When McDonalds introduced salads it took 2 years for people to actually buy them - McDonalds sells what people want to buy
  7. At McDonalds, they have the 3-leg stool; Franchisees, Suppliers, Corporation
  8. Simple questions can empower your staff to make a difference. Like McDonalds' "What have you done for a customer today?"
  9. When McDonalds opened in Russia, people thought of it not as "Big Mac" but as "The place that does not run out of food."
  10. Someone who makes the decision is empowered to make it happen - let staff decide course of action and back them
  11. When Pizza was launched at McDonalds, Pizza Pizza revenue went up 20% - why? Exposure to pizza in the marketplace
  12. Bill Johnson, CEO of McDonalds, would call back every customer that sent a letter of complaint
  13. Every Friday the CEO of McDonalds blasts out a message to all 80,000 staff. Recommend that we do that starting today
  14. Your job as a leader and communicator is not to say 'no comment'.
  15. Electronic devices are great, however, it is important to sit down without them at least twice a year to LISTEN to direct reports
  16. Don't be shy about letting employees provide feedback about what they want to do

From Robert Herjavec

  1. Are you the source of joy in your company? It's much better to be the source of joy than the source of pain
  2. Your corporate culture isn't something that you need to write down, it's defined by how you live everyday
  3. The great equalizer in business is 24hrs. We all have the same time, it's how we use it that makes the difference
  4. A great thing about technology is nobody cares where you came from - they care about the value you provide
  5. Stop chasing the money and be great at something - pick your niche and focus
  6. If you want to be world class at something then you need to find your strength and be great at it
  7. Change is difficult - it causes people stress - managing change is critical to a business
  8. Customers never leave good enough for potentially better - you need a strong go to market strategy
  9. The biggest lies we tell in business are the lies we tell ourselves 
  10. Success in business comes down to not necessarily have the great inventions, it's execution that makes the businesses successful (Apple is a case study in this!)
  11. Most successful businesses do the same thing as everyone else, they just do it better.
  12. A good brand is what people think of you before you walk in the door. A great brand is is when you live up to that vision. 
  13. Most small technologies don't focus on branding enough - a great brand matches what you do
  14. Driving a business is like driving a car -  in driving a car, where you look is where you go; in business where you put the your focus is where you go 
  15. It's OK to put an idea down but never OK to put the person down
  16. Good entrepreneurs know the difference between financial success and values-driven success


There was a break out session from Scotia Bank on Forecasting; it's not my area of focus but I found a few interesting tidbits therein:

  1. We need community colleges and Universities to work collaboratively to provide skilled workers- allow credit transfers, etc
  2. London companies should look at low weight, high value items. If energy prices spike it's still economical to ship product 
  3. When looking at US you have to separate government from business - US businesses are still driving global economy
  4. Opportunity is in our challenges - emerging markets, aging population, currency
  5. 20 billion of revenue is taken from Ontario - average income in Ontario is lowest of all provinces. We need to rexamine transfers 
  6. Canadian currency is likely to stay between .95 and 1.05 over next 5 years - plan for currency risk
  7. Plan for higher interest rates, if you think you are going to have interest rates this low forever you're delusional
  8. Predicting 1-2% Bank of Canada rate increase over the next 2 years. (approximately 1% per year)
  9. 75% of global economic growth is from emerging markets. North American car market will be not reach post recession values soon
  10. Before recession, 80% of Canadian exports went to the US. Now reduced to 75%
  11. The road to recovery is not going to take us back to where we were post recession. If you're using old economic models, you fail

We also heard from Dr. Alex Sevigny on some social media aspects specifically some notes on Social Media:

  1. People are perceiving Facebook as a physical destination like a town - people are grouping themselves according to affinity
  2. You are what you do - on social media speech is an act and is a permanent, material object
  3. "If you lose dollars for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless." - W Buffet; protecting your brand online is a key aspect of a social media strategy
  4. Canadians used to have 3 close friends 10 years ago; now we have 1.5 - Is Social Media the cause of this or a symptom of the results?
  5. In 2011 Facebook gets the biggest share of media minutes, including other web, SMS, TV, etc
  6. 90% of Canadians trust opinions of those in their social graph (friends, followers, etc) over that of the experts


Posted via email from David Billson's Posterous