Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Hump Day: “Buy local” only works when the lights are on and someone’s home

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Every once in awhile on Facebook, I see a status update urging everyone to shop locally and support small homegrown businesses.

Sadly, these notes are also interwoven with posts about people spending all their Christmas shopping money in Bangor. Trips are organized. Vacation days are taken from work. Credit cards are spit-shined and buffed to make sure they’re pretty for their trip to the U.S. and getting swiped through all those foreign cash registers.

I’ve never been a fan of cross-border shopping. I can’t imagine the deals are that good to make the time invested driving there even remotely worth it, but apparently from those who are fans of the practice, it’s indeed a worthwhile trek. I much prefer to stick around here and help the local economy. Of course, if I find myself in another city, fine, but I would never travel just to shop.

I like investing in local businesses and artisans as much as I can. I think we have many brilliant entrepreneurs around here who work hard to put out good products for their customers. You may pay a bit more, but the quality and service are usually a mile ahead of anything you’d see in a large chain store.

However, I have a bone to pick to with some local businesses because of something that’s happened to me a grand total of five times in the past year – each time at a different business offering goods and services completely unrelated to the other. The only thing they had in common was that they were a small locally owned retail or service business with one location. As well, their hours of operation were posted to their door.

Come in, we're open!Now, keep in mind that I was trying to give them my money. I run my own consulting business, so I completely understand the pressures of being there for your clients at all hours. Also, I don’t work in a retail environment so my hours are a lot more flexible. I still have to put in the time, mind you, but which 12 hours of the day I work are up to me. They can be in a long stretch or broken up into segments. I get it. The retail environment is tough.

Unfortunately, when you’re a small locally owned retailer, you’re a slave to the hours posted to your front door – at the very least. On top of that, there’s all the paperwork, stocking, cleanup, etc. You have to love it.

My beef is that some locally owned businesses aren’t honouring the hours they have posted. I can’t tell you how insane I get when I speed across town to try and give my money to a locally owned business only find the doors locked up tight and the lights off – and this despite the posted hours on their door. Am I late? No. They aren’t supposed to close for another 30 minutes. Is there a note in the window saying there was a death in the family or an emergency?

Nope, none of that. They just decided to close early, likely because it wasn’t busy. Well, I hate to tell you, my dear local entrepreneurs, but I showed up at your door during your posted business hours with my money in hand and very willing to give it to you. What I was met with was a locked door even though you said you would be open.

Now, I understand things happen, but that’s why you should at least put a note in the window. “Had to close early today for family reasons. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Or whatever reason, really. My point is to at least acknowledge the people like me who are showing up at your door with money to give you when you haven’t held up your part of the bargain, i.e. being open when you’re supposed to.

And if it’s near closing time, you can bet I probably had to speed across town through traffic to make it to your store before you closed. That’s what happened to me last Friday when I zig-zagged through rush hour traffic to get to an establishment before it closed. I got there 15 minutes early with money in hand, but the owner had already left.

So you know what I did, dear local entrepreneurs? I went to a national chain and spent my money there instead. In this particular case, the chain was more expensive, but I knew that there was no way they’d close early. They respect their hours – period!

This has happened to me at a few other places, too. I made a 14-kilometre round trip once to a specialty food store only to find the doors locked up tight – two hours before (what I thought was) closing time. I’d even checked online. Unfortunately, though, the new business hours hadn’t been updated. When I advised the owner, he apologized profusely and offered me a discount coupon – which was obviously the right thing to do. But, to be honest, I’ve never been back, so the discount likely won’t be used.

Another time, I showed up at a small food retailer 20 minutes before closing only to find the doors locked. Yet again, it wasn’t busy so they decided to close early. I know this because the owner saw me trying to open the door, so she re-opened the store and told me why she closed early. I think that was another 15-kilometre round trip. I handed her my money after getting what I needed and she closed up shortly after that, I imagine. I’ve been there since many times. They’ve always been open, thankfully.

If you’re a local retailer, let me be clear: I want to give you my business but please respect your business hours. If you don’t, the big chains will, without fail. And if I’m in a particularly ornery mood, I just might not give you another chance.

Hump Day: Running your own business is not for everyone

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I helped a friend come out of the closet the other day. It was a proud moment when I saw the light bulb go off over her head when she realized that it was OK to be who she really was deep down inside.

No, we weren’t talking about her sexuality. We were talking about her not being an entrepreneur. After months of struggling at building a business, she finally had the courage to admit that she just wasn’t cut out for it. And by “not cut out” — I don’t mean she wasn’t capable of doing it — I mean she didn’t want to do it.

Unfortunately, many people had suggested to her previously after a job ended that being in business for herself was the only way to go. The roads would be paved with gold. Rainbows would follow her everywhere. She could just bark out orders and have a staff of 50 people jump. She’d be starting fires using $100 bills as kindling. You know — like it is for every entrepreneur. (I think I’m doing something wrong!) The fact is, it wasn’t in her. She hated it. She wanted to manage projects. She didn’t want to invoice clients. She didn’t want to negotiate prices. (She practically got hives just thinking about it). And she certainly didn’t want to work 60 to 80 hours per week with no guarantee of money-paying con­tracts at the end of it.

She wanted to be an employee. She wanted to go home at the end of the day and have an office somewhere other than her home. She wanted to have paid vacation. She didn’t want to chase contracts and constantly worry about where her next $100, $1,000 or even $10,000 was coming from. She wanted to go to an office supplies cabinet and have it filled with stuff she needed without having to make a special trip into town just to buy more staples.

Years ago, someone had told her they saw an “entrepreneur” in her. Since then, she felt obligated to pursue that path. Isn’t it everyone’s dream to have their own business? Well, to be honest, it isn’t – but for a long time she felt like she was a lesser person for wanting to be “just” an employee.

I’d seen her struggle with being an entrepreneur. A small contract here. A small contract there. The lack of a really ingrained local network didn’t help, but she was out there meeting people. She was trying. Yes, she certainly was – but it was kind of like someone trying to convince themselves that they were a tightrope walker when they were actually quite terrified of heights. And you know what? Their life could still be quite happy and fulfilled — emotionally, career-wise and financially — without having to do something they hated.

I’ve seen many people throughout my years thinking that they should be an entrepreneur because someone else told them they should. How can you ever be free without owning your own business? How could you ever be financially successful without owning your own business? Well, the fact is that many are doing just fine, thank you, by working for others. There’s something to be said for a pension plan, health benefits and paid vacation.

I sat across from my friend in the coffee shop. I finally figured out that she needed to come out. “You’re not an entrepreneur,” I told her. She thought about it for a minute and replied, “I’m not.” Then I did the sign of the cross to her like the pope does to the crowds at the Vatican when he’s blessing them. “I hereby declare you to be an employee and also decree that it’s perfectly OK.”

The weight of the world lifted from her shoulders. I think I was the first person to ever tell her it’s OK not to want to run your own business. There’s so much glamour and myth around running your own business that many think there must be something wrong with them for “just” wanting a job. In fact, those who “just” want a job are looked down upon by many entrepreneurs.

It’s not because you’re any less of a person. It’s probably because we just want you to share the problems and challenges of running your own business. There are great rewards, of course, but there are also challenges. And one of those challenges — especially when you’re heart isn’t in it — is likely going to mean not having much money. It’s hard to turn a lack of passion into cash. The world just doesn’t work that way. If you just don’t care and don’t enjoy something, the chances are slim that you’ll succeed.

There are lots and lots (and lots!) of people who are “just” employees who have big houses, nice cars and go on trips. The myth (mostly spread by entrepreneurs) that you can’t be happy working for some­one else is a bunch of hogwash. You can be happy, fulfilled and successful and have a nice bank account, too.

But if you’re miserable being an employee, you won’t likely have any of it. The key here is to love what you do. If you’re an entrepreneur and passionate about it – great! No one can guarantee that you’ll be a millionaire, but at least you’ll have fun trying.

And for all the entrepreneurs out there trying to spread the gospel that owning your own business is the only way to live, it’s time to stop. No, it’s not for everyone. It doesn’t mean you’re good or you’re bad if you want to be an employee. It means you’re you. Employees wouldn’t exist without entrepreneurs and vice versa. It’s time to give each other a break and embrace each other’s strengths. Entrepreneurs need to stop being so judgmental about those who don’t share their desires. We all play a valuable role.

Hump Day: There are perks and pitfalls in marching to your own drum

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Every week, I put together a free newsletter for friends, clients and readers. My Sunday evenings are mostly spent putting it together to send out on Monday. Come rain or shine since December, I’ve made a point of ensuring the newsletter gets sent!

One of the sections in the newsletter contains articles of lists, for example: “10 best perks for employees,” “4 ways to tell you’re about to be fired,” “25 best websites for business,” etc. Lists like these are very popular online and generate a ton of hits for the authors. They’re usually always quick reads, too, which is good if you’re in a hurry — which most people seem to be.

In my never-ending search for entrepreneurship work-life balance (which many of these articles promise me is achievable), I’ve come across so much conflicting advice that it just boggles the mind. I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re in business for yourself, you just pretty much have to do what works for you and your sanity. And when you feel something start to snap, it’s time to make a change.

One article will tell you to book a month’s worth of vacation every year. Another one will tell you that six weeks is what you deserve, not a month. And yet another one will tell you that if you even take five minutes to go to the bathroom, well then you deserve nothing short of immediate bankruptcy and a public flogging for daring to look away from your computer screen for five minutes like the uncommitted jerk you are!

I have to admit, I’m a bit confused. I’m terrible at taking vacations, so when I read an article about how healthy and necessary it is to take time off (I agree, by the way), I read another one shortly afterwards that berates any entrepreneur who’s so pathetic that they feel the need to actually rest.

Isn’t that what three hours of sleep per night are for? You can rest then. Oh, and there’s Christmas Day. Maybe. And that’s only if you didn’t sleep for six months in order to ensure the universe doesn’t fall apart while you’re chowing down on your turkey dinner while trying not to collapse from fatigue face down onto your plate.

Perhaps I need to find a happy medium — like taking a week off and crying the entire time. Eventually, I’d probably faint from dehydration from shedding so many tears and would end up in the hospital, hopefully heavily sedated. That would be a good way to rest, no? OK, maybe not. Maybe then I could write one of those list articles and post it to my blog. “10 ways to stop listening to others’ dumb advice.”

In fairness, there’s always something in these articles that provides some level of wisdom. Not everything, but something. I just wish it wasn’t all so contradictory at times. One article tells you to work 24/7 or you’re not worthy of calling yourself an entrepreneur, while another tells you that if you’re not home by 5 p.m. every day, your business owns you and you don’t own your business and shame on you, loser!

So many clichés, so little time. Everything has a nugget of truth in it, I just wish there was a rule book out there that would give a clear set of failure-proof guidelines. I do sincerely think that taking six weeks off per year and going home at 5 p.m. every night is a ridiculously unrealistic dream if you own your own business. There are exceptions, of course, but I haven’t met anyone yet.

It’s hard work, but I love it. It’s challenging and rewarding. Sure, I get tired. Who doesn’t? But you have to give yourself a break sometimes. I know I have to give myself a swift kick when I get tired and berate myself. An entrepreneur I was talking to the other day was complaining that he got tired and had to rest. He blamed it on age. When I asked him what time it was, he said it was 9 p.m. when he got tired. Yeah, it was 9 p.m., but he was probably awake at 5 a.m. and working diligently since then. Tired at 9 p.m.? You should get a medal, not feel bad about it. We’re only human.

I’ve done that too many times. I’m hard on myself for feeling worn out by 5 p.m., not taking into account that I’ve been awake since 6 a.m. and worked the entire day, including a working lunch with clients and no other breaks. So, 11 hours later, I need to rest for a bit and watch television and perhaps even, horrors, take a short nap. Others in the regular working world, meanwhile, are home by 5 p.m. and had a few breaks and an entire hour for lunch. And paid vacation. And benefits.

I don’t begrudge them anything, of course, but there are benefits to being an entrepreneur, too. The harder I work, the more money I make. I set my own schedule and don’t have to answer to anyone — except for my clients, of course. If I want to make more money, I just get more clients or more projects. If I worked for someone else, especially if you work for a set salary, earning more money is extremely difficult. Raises are often so minuscule and far apart that you barely even notice them.

But at least the income of a regular salaried job is usually predictable, barring a layoff. When you’re in business for yourself, there are good months and bad months — good years and bad years. Last year for me was not great. The year before was good. This year is spectacular and I’m on track for my best year yet. For that, I’m grateful.

So I’m not sure which lists to believe. Should I risk a good year and take time off that I really can’t afford to take? Or should I continue working like a dog? I’ll take working like a dog for now, thank you very much. I’ve been poor; I’ll take being tired any day of the week over wondering how I’m going to pay the bills.

Hump Day: The perils — and perks — of sleeping with the boss

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Last week, I wrote about the challenges of being an entrepreneur and the fact that I would be sharing my experiences with some new business owners at a seminar they were attending in order to learn the tricks of the trade.

The entrepreneur gods shone down on me this week as new clients came on board, a few more are standing in the wings, and current clients are going full throttle as their successes continue. As happy and grateful as I am, I have to admit, I’m terrible at finding a balance in all of this.

And I told that to the class I met. On the balance part, my talk to them was definitely a “do as I say and not as I do” cautionary tale. Take vacation. Sleep. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Ask for help if you need it. Manage expectations.

This week, for the first time, I needed to ask for help. I actually needed to farm out some work to trusted colleagues so that I could meet deadlines. “Great!” Right? Well, of course, right! But, it’s an adjustment. When you’re a control freak in your business (and many entrepreneurs are), it’s sometimes a stretch to start asking for help.

But it has to be done. It’s the only way to increase your income, first of all. There are only so many hours in the day for me to work. And to be quite honest, it’s about time that I learned to share. Of course, I still control quality and deal with clients, but I just need some help on a few things and am happy to spread some work around to others.

You can only make money if you have others making money for you, too. And although I have to share that income by paying them, I still earn some. And let’s be honest, 25 per cent of something is more than 100 per cent of nothing. And if I’m ever going to take a vacation other than being forced to due to deaths in the family, I’m going to have to learn to share and have some resources out there who can take over when I’m not available.

Ah, the life of a control-freak entrepreneur. It’s like being three years old in the sandbox at the playground all over again and having to share my bucket and pail with the other kids. It’s one of those things that has to be done.

It’s also a bit unbelievable. I’ve found myself thinking, “Hey, this thing is actually working. Cool!” It’s a good problem to have. Now, I just have to learn to put trust in others as my clients and colleagues have put their trust in me. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. A person needs to sleep. A person needs down time. A person needs to take time off. Working 12 to 16-hour days with no vacation is not sustainable.

I have friends who are younger than I am dealing with health issues that need to be closely watched. I have another friend who lost a husband who was only in his early 50s due to lung cancer only five months after diagnosis. We just don’t know what’s coming our way, and a person has to take time to stop and smell the roses.

Speaking of roses, I saw some on sale for half-price the other day. I bought a dozen red roses for the crazy low price of only $7.50. The lady in back of me at the cash even said, “Someone’s going to be happy when you get home!” When I brought them home, my son asked, “Who gave you those?”

In reality, they were a gift from my boss for working like a dog over the past couple of weeks. Yeah, I bought them for myself. I didn’t care if it looked weird to do so. I needed to give myself something a little frivolous. Besides, they were only $7.50! I’m cheap — even when it’s for myself.

Whether it’s a day at the spa, fresh flowers, a night out at the movies or some other nicety, it’s important for entrepreneurs to treat themselves from time to time. No one else is going to do it. You don’t have a boss to give you a bonus. If you’re going through a particularly busy time, remember to pamper yourself a bit. When you turn off the computer at midnight, let the dog out to do her business and then crawl into bed wiped from a busy day, it’s just good for the mental health to spoil yourself a bit.

Now, I can tell people that my “boss” bought me roses and they share my bed at night, too. Oooh! A big scandal! They also shower with me… and I’m on the verge of suing them for sexual harassment. The pervert also insists on being there when I use the bathroom. Sicko! When you’re your own boss, it comes with the territory, eh?

But, you know, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a great learning experience. Entrepreneurship has its highs and lows. The good and the bad. When I owned my first business more than 20 years ago, only to see it go down up in flames in spectacular fashion, I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur again.

In fact, I have to admit that it held me back for a long time because the thought of owning my own business again was absolutely petrifying. I’ve had to work like a dog. I’ve networked like crazy. I’ve shown gratitude and thanked people profusely. I’ve tried to be generous and refer business to others. I’ve really tried to do all the right things.

My initial terror at starting my own business faded a long time ago. Now, I’m becoming more confident as the weeks, months and years pass. At some point, and at a certain age, you just have to come to the conclusion that you have something to offer, but don’t expect any favours. Entrepreneurs work hard for their “luck.” I know I have.

Ganong Bros. chairman David Ganong to speak in Moncton on May 29

David Ganong
David Ganong

NEWS RELEASE

May 23, 2012
For immediate release

Ganong Bros. chairman David Ganong to speak in Moncton on May 29

MONCTON, N.B. – Ganong Bros. Limited chairman David Ganong will speak in Moncton on May 29 on the evolution of succession planning within his business as well as the roles businesses and governments must play to ensure a successful business environment for future generations.

The speech is the inaugural event in the Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club’s Distinguished Speakers Breakfast Series. It takes place on Tuesday, May 29, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. at the Delta Beauséjour Hotel in Moncton. Doors open at 7 a.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance and are $40 each. Tables of 10 are available for $400. The Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club will return all profits from the event to local charities, including Food Depot Alimentaire. Tickets are available by calling Jackie or Charline at 854-7600.

“We are very pleased to welcome such an extraordinary business leader at our first Distinguished Speakers Breakfast Series event,” said Russ Mallard, president of the Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club. “We hope the Greater Moncton community will turn out in large numbers to hear what Mr. Ganong has to say and learn from his tremendous experience.”

David Ganong has made outstanding contributions to economic development in New Brunswick. A fourth-generation chocolatier, he has proven to be a creative and visionary business leader, emphasizing product innovation, employee satisfaction and solid community relations to ensure Ganong Bros. Limited’s continuing success. He is also known as a national advocate for corporate governance, serving as a model of integrity and accountability in Canadian business.

To help promote rural economic growth, his company employs hundreds of people from the St. Stephen area and works with the Town of St. Stephen to support tourism initiatives such as the annual Chocolate Festival.

Mr. Ganong is a member of the Order of Canada, a Canadian Professional Sales Association Hall of Fame inductee and a member of the University of New Brunswick’s board of governors. Ganong Bros. Limited in Canada’s oldest candy company and was founded in 1873.

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Media contacts:

Russ Mallard
President
Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club
854-7600 / rmallard@sandler.com

Samuel Saintonge
Fundraising Committee Chair
Greater Moncton Sunrise Rotary Club
854-7600 / samuels@sandler.com