May 15, 2011

My favourite Nova Scotia business things

Innovation is a key to increasing investment values and Innovation comes when there's R&D and new product development. In these regards Nova Scotia is unique in the facilitates innovation and business success and everyone should know this.

As proof these are a few of my favourite Nova Scotia business things that enable your success:

  1. Atlantic Time Zone - means you can do business with Europe and the West Coast in the same work day

  2. Halifax Stanfield International Airport - the only US customs preclearance in Atlantic Canada. Productive same day trips to NYC and Boston - only 2 hours or less away by plane -

  3. Life Science Research Centre - a new facility - life science and biotech business incubation and R&D all under the same roof -

  4. Halifax Marine Research Centre - launching this month - marine and oceans business incubation and R&D all under the same roof -

  5. Nova Scotia Agricultural College - a leading agricultural learning and research institute, with agribusiness incubation and R&D under one roof in the Atlantic Centre for Agricultural Innovation and Atlantic Bioventure Institute -

  6. Superior work force - 67% of working age popluation has a post secondary degree, dipoloma or certificate - the highest in Canada

  7. 100% broadband access in Nova Scotia -

  8. Amongst the lowest cost areas to operate a business -

  9. Nova Scotia Business Inc. - I work for this organization. Sole mission is to expand business activity in Nova Scotia through trade development and investment - we can make a difference for you -

  10. Innovacorp - early stage incubation, mentoring and investment -

These are amazing competitive what are you waiting for?

March 23, 2011

You're not my mommy!

For a short while this morning I was accidentally put into the Twitter stream of a few very successful Mommy Bloggers. It turns out that my wife was tweet blogging an event but with my Twitter id.

The tweets were coming so fast and furious that I lost count...I got more @Mentions in the short 15 minutes or so than I did since started Tweeting in 2007!

Honestly, it was impressive. The high velocity, real-time conversations made me truly believe that the 99 Theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto have become a reality!

Click here to read Cluetrain

March 8, 2011

+44° 39' 1.29", -63° 39' 18.85"

In response to a press release sent to national media by my food blogger wife, an editor emailed saying " are too far a field for us to cover your event". The release was about one of the longest continuously running online foodie events reaching a very cool milestone.

This editor concluded the event was a physical gathering and not a virtual one. The precise GPS location where my wife blogs (home) is: +44° 39' 1.29", -63° 39' 18.85" and I can just imagine what it would be like to actually host thousands of foodies every Friday night at our home!

But seriously, this reinforces the words of Matthew Ingram that Newspapers Need to Be Of the Web Not Just On the Web. In his article he quotes Emily Bell (the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University) who said:
"The secret to online success for newspapers doesn't depend on the choice of technology, or decisions about content, or even specific kinds of knowledge about the web. All it requires", she says, "is a firm commitment to be of the web, not just on the web."
In my opinion this doesn't just apply to newspapers and their staff but to all organizations. Being of the web means more than having website, using email and Blackberries. Being of the web means reinventing the way you do business to align with the web, to understand it and use it and realize the benefits the web offers.

I'm of the Web...are you?

March 1, 2011

Dealing with the Difficult

I admit it - I'm following media coverage of a top Hollywood comedic actor's words and actions. I'm definitely not into gossip or celebrity websites nor am I writing to make a value judgement. I am interested strictly from a business point of answer a question:

How should an organization handle a difficult but extremely valuable employee?

In this Hollywood case study, the actor is the highest paid on TV. Year over year his show is consistently amongst the highest rated. Yet his non show related persona, has been labeled as bad behavior by many.

This actor is the very definition of difficult and he's publicly criticized others in his show. However he is also a key driver for the show's franchise. Apparently, for years this behavior did not impact the production of the show. Until now - last week the show's current season was cancelled.

Personally I think it's next to impossible to have a vanilla private life. Even if you're running for political office after going through a vetting process it's difficult not to have something leak out.

If you're a leader of people you know that things happen - divorce, critical illnesses, recessions, addictions etc... These things leak into the workplace. I think it's how we respond to them as leaders that makes people want to follow you.

In my opinion the answer to the question I posed above is - do nothing so long as they are doing the job and delivering results. I think it's much easier to get rid of a difficult person, than the challenge of helping to change the behavior.

Speaking about results - what happened to tuning past what a person's looks, their views outside of work to what matters most - the skills and the quality of their work? I think this holds true whether you're in Hollywood or in a corner office.

February 15, 2011

What did you do Mom?

"What did you do Mom?" was the comment a friend's daughter had posted on her Mom's Facebook profile. Mom had accepted a questionable app that quickly added ten unwanted statuses to her news feed.

I think that parents dread the "what did you do?" line from their child when it comes to anything that's online. Its not that adults are technically inept it's that their child's generation has been immersed in a tech lifestyle from day one...probably from the womb too!

For example, I know of a four and two year old that are extremely tech savvy. The four year old can operate a Windows PC, video game controllers and an iPhone. He has his own digital camera and takes better pictures than some adults. The two year old can already operate a PVR and select his favourite movies and new episodes of Dora and Diego from a vast list of recordings. He can also easily fast forward through TV commercials and assemble 48 piece puzzles (I couldn't resist that puzzle bit!)

In comparison, at seven years of age all I was able to do was play with a simple radio. The first time I truly interacted with tech devices (not counting experience with a Commodore VIC-20) I was 25 years old and that's because I had a full time job selling early IBM PC's.

Can you imagine what our kids are going to be like when they're in their 20's and 30's given what they can accomplish now?

Actually come to think of it I can imagine it - they will start revolutions that change the world!!! Click here for an example.

February 9, 2011

New CEO tells it like it is

According to, Stephen Elop, the new CEO of Nokia (and ex-Microsoftie) recently issued a "burning platform" email to his employees. The "burning platform" he referred to is his companies smartphone strategy.

In the email Elop states: "The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don't have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable."

He goes on to say: "How did we get to this point? Why did we fall behind when the world around us evolved? This is what I have been trying to understand. I believe at least some of it has been due to our attitude inside Nokia. We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven't been delivering innovation fast enough. We're not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning."

This is gutsy stuff (provided the email is legitimate) The last tech CEO that took steps to shatter the status quo and reinvent their company was Bill Gates. I'm referring of course to his Internet Tidal Wave memo of 1995. That memo had a huge impact....I can't wait to see what Nokia will turnaround and deliver!

Click here to read Elop's email on

Update - Nokia announces a partnership with Microsoft where Nokia will use Windows Phone 7 as its new smartphone platform. Click here for details

February 7, 2011

Are Virtual Teams Effective?

Have you ever been part of a team where everyone is located in a different city?

I have. We used video and voice conferencing, instant messenger...whatever tool we could get our hands on to stay connected and manage the work. We delivered on time and achieved our goals.

But this only tells the half of it. On voice conference calls we talked over each other, none of our virtual meetings started/ended on time and I could hear my colleagues "multi-tasking" while in sessions. It was tough at times.

There were other benefits in that we eliminated travel costs and minimized our carbon footprint with fewer car and plane trips...but are virtual teams truly effective?

To get the answer to this question I asked the following on Quora - Must all founders be in the same city for a startup to increase the odds of success?

Click here to read what the experts say and draw your own conclusion on virtual teams.

January 22, 2011

The power of Quora

What's the most effective way to upgrade business leadership knowledge? Go back to school, check out the web, or read some new books?

I thought that reading the leading business books would do it. So I bought the top 10 business best sellers thinking I could harvest the latest knowledge from "top" thinkers. I was shocked that this approach didn't work.

Most of what I read was a rehashing of the author's first breakthrough book. Others advocated concepts that define "common sense" and "conventional wisdom".

One book however impressed me - it was the story of a startup. It was motivational to read about the near death to success trajectory of a business and its founder. In the end the true voice of a real Entrepreneur transferred real knowledge.

But enough about old world approaches to knowledge....the new world has a much better way to quickly download knowledge and it's called

Quora "is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question."

What kind of questions are answered? Here's a sampling:

Users rate answers. In fact the last question I included above about the 90's Internet bubble was answered by Steve Case the former CEO of AOL. It's all quality content that will save you a lot of time and money!

Click here to go to Quora.

November 6, 2010

Inside the Back Room

Unless you're a participant of political back room strategy sessions you won't truly know who did what to who and why. Sometimes this gets disclosed in the politician's biography (official or not). But we voters live in blissful ignorance. Until now!

Toronto had a mayoral election recently and the Public Affairs Association of Canada put on a breakfast yesterday where principal campaign managers revealed what they did and why during the ten month campaign.

Reading about what was said at the breakfast here, here and here, made me think of how much political campaigns are like startup companies...but I think startups are more civilized.

January 23, 2010

It's Not Enough

This winter I had all my flu shots. Somehow that didn't make a difference because I caught a bug that knocked me out for 3 days and had me operating at half speed for close to 4 weeks.

On the worst day of this affliction (a work day) I went to a local walk in clinic. I expected to have to wait but instead was in and out in less than 5 minutes with a prescription in hand. The piece of paper led me to believe that whatever I had would get knocked down. The drugs helped for a time but it was clear there was no change to my symptom after taking the last pill.

I should have hedged by enacting the age old remedy for colds and flus - drinking lots of liquids and getting rest. The truth is that I didn't rest. The prescription and flu vaccines gave me a feeling of invincibility so I doubled down on the workload.

I learned a valuable lesson from this experience. You must always do more. I'm not just talking about colds or flus. This applies to business or personal issues. You can't rely on a thing like a piece of paper as the only solution to a problem.