Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Gift to Winnipeg Business

I recently had the pleasure of using the services of - a Winnipeg business in the growing online gift basket industry. With my loving wife under copious amounts of stress in her new role from teacher to administration in Manitoba's education system, I felt a "gift for her" would be a way to erase some of her building frustration.

This Winnipeg business blew me away when I saw the quality of products they offer in their gift baskets. I have ordered these in the past, only to be disappointed by the cheap, tasteless food - and even worse - the mountain of tinsel that I received.

Warning people: just because something is shiny, doesn't mean its of value.

I'm still a little old-fashioned, so I phoned to speak with someone there about my order. I was floored by the enthusiasm that came from the person I dealt with; its obvious when someone is passionate and loves what they do. I purchased the gift basket online, and the transaction went off without a hitch. The website was easy to use, and easy to navigate.

I went with the "Gourmet Treats - Medium" basket which was worth every penny - or at least so I heard - my wife and her staff devoured the goodies in one short sitting.

So Winnipeggers, if you have a loved one or some corporate butts to kiss, I suggest you leave it to the capable, creative minds at

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winnipeg Businesses Need to Invest in their Internet Presence

I visit with many business owners across Winnipeg week in and week out. Whether it be a large national corporation or small mom and pop shop, when you mention the words "internet marketing" fear settles in immediately. This fear is understandable when you consider how integrated the internet has become to businesses across every sector, while the gap in skill sets required to manage this area widens. As a business owner, its impossible to be a guru in every area of your business. So... when you are faced with an area as dynamic as internet marketing, you need to invest in a trusted consultant to guide you through these new waters. Consumer behaviour has changed for good, which is apparent when looking at the massive growth in users on the internet in a short span of just ten years.

Recent news articles report that from 1995 to 1996 users on the internet grew from 1 million to over 10 million; and now, in 2008, that number has eclipsed 1 billion users for the first time in history, with no slow in sight.

How is any business owner expected to adapt this quickly, while juggling the challenges of their day-to-day operations? The answer is you can't. This is why Winnipeg businesses must invest in a trusted consultant to guide your business online.

I empathize with business owners as most are forced to trust this growing component of their business to a third party to manage. Many try to save money by employing family friends or their IT departments to tackle the issue of visibility on the web. The hard truth is that more often than not, your first impression to consumers is your website. Is your first impression really the area to save money? When you weigh the mass potential that exists in Canada on the web, business leaders need to begin putting their anxieties aside, and start opening their ears and wallets to this new online market.

Some recent stats from December 2008:

China led the pack with 179.7 million users, while the United States ran in a close second with 163.3 million. The top five nations were rounded out by Japan with 60 million, Germany with 37 million, and the United Kingdom with 36.7 million.
Other notable nations contributing usage to the chart included France with 34 million, India with 32.1 million, Russia with 29 million, Brazil with 27.7 million, South Korea with 27.3 million, Canada with 21.8 million and Italy with 20.8 million.

Chances are you do business in one or more of these countries. Can they find you on the net?

Ask yourself this: Is the internet going to be a larger or smaller part of my business 5 years from now? Once you've come to the unavoidable answer the next question is obvious - what am I doing now to ensure I capture my share of this growth market within my industry?

And where do most people search for goods and services?

Focusing on the global influence of specific Internet properties, search titan Google attracted some 77 percent of the worldwide audience in December, which equated to almost 776 million users.

The facts are in Winnipeggers. The internet is here to stay - and if you plan on being in business long-term - its time to invest in your "online real estate." There are a number of quality companies right here in Winnipeg that can help- one that even has a former Director of Google headquartered in the CanWest Building.

Don't leave your web presence to your brother's son's locker partner, hire professionals and reap the return on investment that comes with being a leader online.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Winnipeg Business Call Can't Dial All Day

I'm very supportive of the recent strategy by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce in "Selling Winnipeg to the World." It makes sense to call upon the business leaders in Winnipeg for input into their industries; identifying companies looking to relocate or expand their operations. The personal touch, regardless of today's flattened world still provides some of the strongest results.

In saying that, you can't be on the phone 24/7. You cannot expect that every business owner that receives a call will be open to discuss their plans and growth strategies. Nor can you call every potential company. What about overseas markets operating in different time zones or with language barriers?

My question: What is the strategy of the Winnipeg Chamber online? How or will they harness the power of the internet to strengthen their efforts or will they simply rely on old methods that leave a lot of room for missed opportunity?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Obama's chess master in Toronto

Despite widely publicized resistance, Barack Obama will have to give up his Blackberry on Inauguration Day, but will retain his e-mail address book and the 13 million addresses that formed the foundation of the campaign that won him the U.S. presidential election.

The manager of the campaign, David Plouffe, has been lauded as a political chess master partly for his engineering of a 21st-century grassroots initiative anchored in the e-universe.

At an event arranged by the Economic Club of Canada yesterday, Mr. Plouffe spoke to business leaders and several swooning policy makers at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre about, among other things, the political power of the Internet.

Mr. Plouffe, who hasn't taken a position in the new administration, but will maintain his ties to the Obama camp through efforts to further harness the potential of the Internet-based network developed during the campaign.

If this true, then no doubt we may well see him visiting Winnipeg to join up again with the online marketing consulting company that helped with their online efforts.

Frank McKenna, deputy chairman of TD Bank Financial Group and a former Liberal cabinet minister who secured a front-row seat to the event, acknowledged that the Obama campaign engaged voters in an enviable way.

“I think we have a lot to learn,” he said.

Toronto Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy, who also attended the luncheon, agreed.

What's certain is that Ottawa will be watching.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winnipeg Jets - Are we still talking about this business?

I cannot believe this is still going on people?! It's over! They're not coming back. And if they did...for anyone who hooked back up with an old girlfriend or boyfriend, we know how this ends.

Sure, its all hot and heavy to start. Love is back in the air. You change your schedule to make sure you see them all the time. They're on your mind constantly. You wear their sweater. You spend hours wondering how you ever survived without them. Then - once a week has passed - you question why you ever got yourself back in the mess?

I loved the Jets when they were here. I watched and went to a lot of games. Cheered madly when they were in the playoffs, wearing white everywhere I went. But its the past we're in love with. The business of the NHL has changed dramatically since the time of the Jets. We could see this coming well before that when our beloved Canadian son Wayne Gretzky moved from Edmonton to L.A. That was the beginning of the end.

Yes, we have a brand new facility to house the team that would look great on all the American T.V. stations. Yes, we have more corporations headquartered in Winnipeg that could provide sponsorship, but this isn't enough. The salaries have sky-rocketed since January 19, 1996, and so have ticket prices. Last time I checked, Winnipeg's wallets were strapped to their thighs tight as the pair of jeans I wore to the school dance back when the Jets were still here. Skin tight jeans are out of style - and so are the Jets! Hell... we can't even fill the Canad Inns Stadium when our Winnipeg Blue Bombers are in the playoffs! "Why would I go out in the cold when I can watch it from home?"

I realize that the Phoenix Coyotes are close to folding, so its natural to reminisce of the past, and fantasize about how good it can still be. "I know if I respect her more this time, and show how much I love her, we can make it work..." Not gonna happen.

So, instead of living in fantasy, why not go and cheer on our Manitoba Moose. Be thankful we have quality hockey that is affordable for the whole family. For the little ones, its just as exciting. It's only you old Jets' fans that suffer at the games. Psst...that's why they serve beer.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Winnipeg Business Loan to Loewen Windows a slippery slope

Regarding the recent $10million loan to Loewens Windows...

Kudos to Loewen for wanting to provide employment.

Shame on the powers that be for supplying our taxpayer money to finance this. My reasons are as follows...

Sure it's a repayable loan, but isn't that what banks are for? If the province steps in as a lender, are they going to follow the US banking model of just shovelling out the cash because it is for the overall good? and if in need of more money, just raise taxes? If the business has strong merits, bank financing should not be a problem. The Industrial Opportunities Program's guideline is $300K to $5 Million, but could be higher as per their website. Repayment terms are 60 months. So... they gave out $10 million? Hmm... has the payback been stretched out as well?

Loewen laid off 170 people last year .... why? because of the poor US economy and the housing slump. Now they want to double production and streamline operations. Where is their market and who are they going to sell to? Has anyone read the news about the Canadian housing market barely hanging on? Sure this deal is great for Loewen, but what about all the other window and door manufacturers who employ THOUSANDS of people in the province? Duraco, Paramount, Accurate are just a few of the big names that could be adversely affected. Will they be able to go to the public trough for help because precedent has been set? Certainly a good case for approval is set up for their benefit.

An apparent advantage for Loewen to meet lending criteria is they have to provide employment. Easy enough... just hire back the people they laid off - but does it really help the average person, or does it mostly benefit the owners?

You only have to look south of our border to see what happens with loosey goosey money management. The Automakers all seek bailout to the tune of billions of dollars. Reality is, and it has been mentioned by top financial analysts, the North American Auto sector does not have a sustainable business model. So, yet again, hail the taxpayer to come to their rescue.

We hear about our Canadian manufacturing sector being hit hard over the last year because of the rising Canadian dollar, relative to US exports. Has anyone even asked the question or researched the internal problem? My opinion is - if your only margin of profit and sustainability is the currency exchange, then do you really have a sustainable business model?

I recall the Palliser/Defehr equity swap with loans/buyouts supplied with our taxpayer money. Not sure of all the details - or who REALLY benefited out of this deal - but was this a good deal overall? Again I bring up the point that the currency exchange has had a devastating effect on the furniture export business across Canada - so do they really have a sustainable business model?

Pity the factory workers that have been laid off at these local furniture manufacturers over the last year or so. Maybe the solution is to go to the public trough, access taxpayer money to expand, and hire back all those laid off employees so they are compliant with loan provisions. Their new streamlined business will increase production, be more competitive in the marketplace and increase their sales. (Pity the other manufacturers)

Novel idea isn't it?? First application in gets the most, last one in gets denied and goes bankrupt!

Am I the only one concerned about this?

Selling Winnipeg Business to the World

I recently read over the 3-year strategic rollout from the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce called "Selling Winnipeg To The World." A must read for anyone interested and concerned with the direction of Winnipeg commerce as we begin 2009.

The WCC, one of North America's most respected chambers, are taking full accountability for the success of this program, providing measurable steps as they look to place Winnipeg as an international target to global companies looking to relocate or add to their empires.

Phase 1 of the plan is one which I highly respect as the right approach. They will be calling upon the key players in Winnipeg's business community to provide input on the sectors they represent for the following information:

- identify "leads" of businesses outside of Manitoba looking to open, expand or re-locate
- identify local resident businesses that may be vulnerable in their ability to make a long term commitment to Winnipeg
- help to repatriate any of their operations outside of Winnipeg and/or to attract some of their key suppliers or customers to relocate here
- provide advice regarding which sectors/segments best fit Winnipeg's economic conditions and climate

Once these leads are identified, the WCC will recruit a sales force of Winnipeg's best to go and close the deal.

I'm also encouraged in seeing that the WCC are calling upon not only private-sector business leaders, but also key associations and Destination Winnipeg to aid in their efforts.

How do you feel about the approach? Who is spear-heading these efforts within the WCC? What are the next phases? If these are questions you find yourself asking, I encourage you to link through to the rollout and read more.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Winnipeg - Trees are Good

I recently read about the vandalism or "mischief" involving a gang of youth in Osborne spray painting residential trees. I'm not about to go on about the injustice to the homeowner who now has a gang logo or drawing of various body parts on his front lawn foliage. It's an awful crime - no questions asked - it's also the result of young kids with nothing better to do, and who have yet to develop the level of respect for nature you gain with age.

My house, for example, is actually built around a giant oak tree, which both my wife and I together can barely get our arms around. The tree owns the land as far as I'm concerned, and we're simply sharing the space. I'm a responsible adult, who takes great care in my yard, enjoying the countless hours on my patio enjoying drinks or playing guitar while watching the many creatures that inhabit the great oak. I am thankful for all the trees and cedars that surround my home, and I respect that the 5 years I've been in my home is a only a fraction of the time it took for the great oak to grow to what it is today.

Now... going back to my point earlier that the vandals are mere kids is important. Why? Because they really don't understand the consequence of their actions, or those that did were victims of teen peer pressure. What I can't understand, and who I think the true criminals are, are homeowners such as my new neighbour.

She moved in only a year ago, and did a number of beautiful renovations to the exterior of the house and yard. Then one day I see a crew of tree removers working in her yard to remove a giant fir that truly brought out the character in her plot of land. I proceeded to go next door to ask the reason for removing the tree, assuming it was diseased and a threat to her house. Nope... she just felt the yard would look better without the tree.

How can anyone feel that entitled to just cut down a tree that has been a part of the community for so many years, just for looks? Does she plan on living there for the next 60 years? - likely the life of the tree. To me, this is the true crime. I am never more proud of Winnipeg then when I fly over for business or pleasure and see the vast urban forest that makes up our city. There are countless benefits to having so many trees, and then idiots like my neighbour just cut them down because it MIGHT make their yard look better.

Trees are good Winnipeg. I hope that anyone reading this blog will take an extra moment to really consider the impact they'll have on their yard and community if considering removing a healthy tree from their yard. I'm not a tree hugger, I'm a tree lover. Oh, and if by some small chance my neighbour is reading this, or you think you're my neighbour because the story matches your actions, let me close by saying "killer!"