This is my new blog!

Check back often to see new posts.

Fusion Charlottetown – Young Perspectives Driving Change

Almost a year ago, I was asked to be on the board of an upcoming group called “Fusion Charlottetown”. Fusion Charlottetown is a volunteer based non-profit organization challenging young professionals, aged 20-40, to be active in shaping our City’s future.

We held a launch event in June that was attended by approximately 300 people. The results from our launch event is where we identified 5 main categories of initiatives that volunteers wanted to work on:

  • Sustainability
  • Health & Wellness
  • Urban Design
  • Arts & Culture
  • Entrepreneurship & Employment

fusion event

Vanessa Smith and I are the co-Chairs of the Entrepreneurship & Employment Action Team. We met with some people on our action team last month and identified 3 main areas to focus on:

  1. Developing a Mentorship / Peer Mentorship Culture
  2. Developing a Business Navigator / Information Website
  3. Buy Local Campaign

fusion board

We are working on our first item on the agenda now:

Fusion Charlottetown’s Entrepreneurship & Employment action team expressed an interest in fostering a culture of mentorship in the community.  Not only do we want to see young people being mentored by older people, but would like to complement that with peer mentorship where likeminded people can learn from one another’s experiences.  What is peer mentorship? How does peer mentorship take place? What are some best practices if you would like to engage in a peer mentoring relationship?  These are questions that we will discuss in an event we are partnering with this Wednesday, October 7th at the Atlantic Technology Center at 2-5pm.

This event will be moderated by The Mentra. There will be a panel answering questions on peer mentorship.  Then we will engage in group discussions on what peer mentorship means to you and how we can help develop more peer mentoring in Charlottetown.  This event will be followed by a networking opportunity.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-mentra-peer-mentoring-connect-share-tickets-18820025202

We would like to extend a special thanks to the following partners and sponsor:

The Mentra

Fusion Charlottetown

21inc.

Island Advance Initiative of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce

– Venue Sponsor: LaunchPad PEI

The offensive F word in business

Failure – Part 2

Here comes the F bomb:  Failure.  I was recently talking about the subject of failure with somebody.  They stated that it is a strong word, and questioned whether it should be said.  “Can we not find another term?”  Fair enough, I thought.  I never liked hearing it when it was about me or my ventures. But, why is it such a harsh word?  I think it may be that stating something to be either pass or fail is black and white, whereas business situations are often in the grey area.  “Failure” suggests that it is a waste, rather than a stepping stone to success.  I have never heard a success story where everything was easy.  Rather, it seems as though things have a way of coming full circle.

f bomb

I usually call my failed business venture “an expensive MBA”, for a couple reasons: 1) I was either going to obtain an MBA or start a business, I chose the latter, and 2) I learned a lot more practical business lessons in the 3 years of bootstrapping companies than I ever would have in school (I’ll go into detail in a future post).  Sure, the expenses exceeded the revenues, but it wasn’t a failure for me as it helped me progress in many ways.

I invite successful entrepreneurs and professionals to share their stories at Biz Under 40 events called Bigwig Lunch Times (BLTs).  We have had great speakers with many inspirational journeys.  Pretty much every speaker had one thing in common:  they failed.  Another common trait was how they dealt with failure.  They didn’t dwell on it or continuously feel sorry for themselves. Instead, they learned from it and moved forward.

Stamp of Failure

Failure is not an F word stamped on your forehead.  It is a fluid stage in a project where a desired result wasn’t achieved.  There is a quote about success from Winston Churchill that I’ve always liked:  “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts”.

What term could be used to replace “Failure”?  I suggest calling these situations a “wrap-up”. The end of the life cycle for an unsuccessful venture (i.e. opposite of a start-up).  You simply found that it was time to “wrap-up” and move onto something else.  No use dwelling on it, but grow from the learning lessons and work on another opportunity.

What are your thoughts on the F word: Failure?  Do you have another term you’d like to suggest? Please share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.

Moving on from Failure

Failure – Part 1

I decided to write a 2 part post on the subject of failure.  This week’s post is the story of the abysmal failure of my first business venture, whereas next week I’ll outline some of my thoughts on success and failure in general terms.  Here goes nothing…

If you look at my LinkedIn profile, you will see that I have been operating WhatIsOnPEI.com for over 5 years.  However, this would be a false representation of how it has actually performed.  This could be viewed as a flop, a failure, a loser… but, this was my first IT venture, and I have learned a lot from the experience:

This business is no more! It has ceased to be.

This business is no more! It has ceased to be.

WhatIsOnPEI.com had a promising start.  For my entrepreneurship project at UPEI School of Business, we had 4 hours to start a mini-venture and raise as much money as possible.  It began as a simple idea: an Online Business Directory for PEI.  My group went around Charlottetown for 4 hours with a 1 pager asking companies for $100 to receive a webpage listing on our website for one year.  Within the morning, we made $1,500 which was UPEI’s record at the time.  My professor (being a serial entrepreneur himself) was very excited about the project and helped me launch the project into an actual company.  I was in my final year looking for a marketing position, so I figured I may as well launch my own business as I would employ myself, work in marketing, and grow my business network.

I was accepted into the Self-Employment Program offered by Service Canada (now Skills PEI), PEI Business Development (now Innovation PEI), and Career Development Services.  This was key as it allowed me to collect a paycheque for a full year as I worked on my business.  I’d recommend this program to anyone interested in starting a business as it helps to keep the lights on while you reinvest company revenue into your business.

I had some great mentors as I was getting going, but for the most part I was flying by the seat of my pants.  Every aspect of the business I learned as I went along (sales, IT, human resources, bookkeeping, etc).  Sure, I had a Bachelor of Business Administration, but a university curriculum doesn’t necessarily cover the knowledge needed for a bootstrapping entrepreneur.

Where did it go wrong?  Well, I made some good decisions, but I also made some bad decisions.  I’ve learned from my bad decisions to ensure the next endeavour runs more smoothly.  The problem that killed me was IT, however now I know a lot more about software development than I did when I started out.

Other major learning lessons (these are all cliché but it’s valuable):
Finances:  ensure accounting is up-to-date and review often. Gut decisions can lead you astray, check the numbers when making key financial decisions.
Human Resources:  hire slow/fire fast. Outsourcing to freelancers/companies can end up being cheaper, easier, and produce a better result.
Sales: under-promise and over-deliver.  It’s ok if someone says “no”, just keep going.
Product Development:  everything always takes longer than you anticipate

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” – Johnny Cash

Starting my own business had many challenges, and I had to give up a lot of my personal life in order to get pertinent work done, attend networking events to promote my company, and had lots of stress to stay above water with cash flow (the ol’ payroll sweats).  However, I believe that the experience helped me in many ways.  I grew a great network of business contacts, I learned many areas of business that I didn’t pay attention to in school, I challenged myself in ways I wouldn’t have imagined and when looking back I am proud of many things that I’ve accomplished.

WhatIsOnPEI.com

With WhatIsOnPEI.com, I had a really hard time letting go because I sunk so much time and money into it that I wanted to see it succeed.  I overcame the IT challenges that the website initially had, and I had a good social media following, but I knew that I didn’t have the time to give it the proper attention day-to-day, so I had tried to find others to partner with that would take over the daily management. I tried this for a couple of years but it didn’t end up working.  I decided to be at peace with letting go of this business that has been dying a slow death waiting on the shelf.  Everyone else has moved on, but it is finally time for me to do the same.  By letting go of this baggage, I will be free of that negative energy and will transform that into positive energy towards building something even greater.

 

Amateur of the Board

What I learned from being on the board of my local Chamber of Commerce

I write this post on the last day of my 4 year term on the board of directors of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce.  I joined this board when I was 23 years old. At the time, I owned several businesses and was very active in networking and attending various chamber events, and my mentor suggested that I join the board as he once did.  This was the first board that I joined, so it was a huge eye opener in many respects.  First off, the roster of the board members was intimidating as they all were very well established while I was a noobie.  Secondly, I learned quite quickly that much of what they were talking about was way over my head (partly because they had a much larger network, and have a greater sense of the history of business in Charlottetown whereas I was a learning as I went).

So for the first couple of years, I mainly spent the board meetings listening rather than speaking.  And if I had an idea, I would be more likely to bring it up with someone one-on-one rather than share my idea in front of the whole group (going back to the intimidation factor). But as time went on, I found my place in the chamber by becoming the co-chair of the Biz Under 40 group and being involved in some of the Island Advance initiatives with my experience of being an entrepreneur.  Once I found where I can add the most value to the board, I became less intimidated and began to contribute more.

Photo from Biz Under 40 - Bigwig Lunch Time with guest Kevin Murphy

Photo from Biz Under 40 – Bigwig Lunch Time with guest Kevin Murphy

It takes much less time than you think it will to get up to speed, but the learning lessons have been extremely valuable.  I have learned a lot about governance and the role of a board for an organization.  I have learned how to be a good contributor to the board, and this helped me progress as now I sit on a couple of other boards.  I learned a lot about leadership, by seeing how other proven leaders react and think about various challenges that the board overcame.  I also met a lot of great people and went to various events I otherwise wouldn’t have gone to because I was on the board, and this led to several great opportunities.

I am thankful to Kathy Hambly and the rest of the team at the chamber, and also to the fellow board members at the chamber for having me involved in such a great organization that provides leadership in helping businesses thrive in the community and the province.  I will take my experiences with me to serve on other boards and to help me in my own career and businesses.

bruce

 

I encourage those that are looking for board volunteers to consider enlisting someone under the age of 25.  They may not have a huge network or lots of money yet, but they will bring a different perspective that may add significant value to your organization.  Keep in mind that they may be a little shy about speaking in front of the group, but with time they will likely find their knack.

By having younger people learning by partaking in these experiences, we are developing young leaders.  I think this is a win/win situation.  All those in favour, say “Aye”.

Welcome and Stay Tuned

Hi there,

Thanks for stumbling upon my blog. What you may expect from this blog:

-thoughts on business (with a focus on Atlantic Canada)
-interviews with start-up companies
-news of things I’m up to that I’d like to share with you

Please subscribe to my blog to stay tuned.

Cheers,

Matt