Friday, July 18, 2014

Nova Scotia Small Business - Good Business?

by Ashwin Kutty 

The Conference Board of Canada recent forecast (click here for a summeryindicates that Nova Scotia will lead in economic growth compared to the rest of the country.

Always good news when you read about economic growth in your region, but what I find interesting is that the jobs figures will continue to remain as poor as they are now. When we look at some of the larger investments highlighted in the article, we know that all of that FDI coming in as a good sign, but what about that jobs figure.

I wonder sometimes where the economic impact of small business is and how that is quantified, measured and shown as a sign of economic growth or not. Traditional reporting looks at the headlines and uses it to substantiate economic indicators, while not really looking at the deeper business environment we currently live in.

Small business is a good business driver for job growth, regardless of which sector or industry as small businesses span the gamut. When we consider big businesses that we want to attract to our shores, sure they bring in jobs, but what they also bring in are subsidies, grants and forgivable loans that we need to give out to ensure they come and hopefully they stay. I am not against this strategy as attracting big business is good news for us - they drive small business growth in return and make us attractive for talent, investment and innovation. This is where I believe we need to pay a bit more focus on the small business and look at a few key indicators of potential success that could both drive growth as well as sustainability:
  1. Is it innovative? Are they unique and if so, what is their unique value proposition?
  2. Is it feasible? Just because they are unique does not mean they can find financing in a heartbeat. This may require a rethink on the product/service if it can be made feasibly or if there are alternative funding sources that could help its feasibility.
  3. Is it market appropriate? The definition of the market space it has been identified for needs to be in line with the market need thats out there. If it doesn't exist, investing in something to then educate the market on and convert individuals into consumers is no easy task. This is not a deal breaker, but is a cautionary note on furthering any small business.
  4. Is it executable? A good idea is only as good as the team that will execute it. This requires not just the technical (and no not IT technical) but also a business member of the team that can potentially execute it. Track record is important, but we need to take chances on passion, fortitude and chutzpah - not many have it and a small business in a big business market requires every ounce of this mix of three they can muster.
  5. Is it mentor’able? Its not a word, but it needs to be. We need to have mentors for any and all small business - godparents of business if you will to ensure that no matter how small or big the business is, it remains true to its original vision and stays on course to deliver, deliver, deliver. The second it does not, these mentors need to be able to strong enough in making tough decisions around whether proceeding further would benefit anyone. Good money after bad is never a good idea. 
We do not have a lack of creativity, nor do we lack business acumen, what we lack is the combination of the two. We need to build more sustainable businesses that do not close its doors in a blink of an eye, nor stay open with no running water or electricity.

Business is tough, small business more so, but its doable. If you need to, heed to the first piece of advice I received in business “Spend money to make money”. I would only change that to “Spend money wisely to make money”.

Small business is good business and it will drive jobs growth in our province and a multitude of others. I am not talking about building a hundred small companies to create jobs, I am talking about building 10 that will sustain careers for a long time. If we let small businesses be successful by being tough on them on the onset, imagine the impacts of the same when they grow to medium and large businesses in the future.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Going for the Crystal (Gold)? Invest in Ideas or …?

by Ashwin Kutty

Winning an award is quite a cathartic experience. If you do end up winning does that mean you have now accomplished all you can in that category and have mastered it enough to be recognized by peers and industry leaders? Or does it mean that you now need to move on to other categories and master those to see if you can do as well?
Seated: Leslie & Faten
Front Row: Mitch, Ashwin & Anthony
Back Row: Staff off ill, on vacation, and yet to be recruited and all our families
Corner: Gollum
I have never understood individual awards as well. Don’t get me wrong, I love being hailed as a fearless leader for the country, but does it happen without the support of those around me? Does it happen without the teams that help me reach these zeniths? Does it happen without the families that suffer through your hunger for more and what they have to put up with, i.e. the late nights, the conference calls (both video and audio) during vacations and god knows what else?

I was recently honoured & humbled by the Peter Brojde Foundation & CATAAlliance's Next Generation Executive Leadership Award which I was pleased to receive at the Gala in Ottawa earlier this month. The work for which I was nominated included a large team of professionals from Information Technology to Marketing & Communications to vendor partners to frontline staff to Finance & Decision Support and a whole bunch of others that helped me get the project off the ground, underway and a runaway success.

I am only as successful as the team that supports me. Even in this instance, there are those that are not pictured in the photo above, but they know who they are. Crazy ideas, fantastic innovations and creative explorations are great, but to make them a reality requires execution. An idea without a successful execution strategy has no meaning. As an Angel myself, my strategy has always hedged on a solid team that can execute over one that may have a better idea.

Putting together a team is no easy task, and with one of my recent ventures, this has never been truer. I have been painstakingly slow about recruiting my team and this has been primarily to ensure that the team I put together is a reflection of the culture, the atmosphere and the environment I want in the space. The team, like my partner and myself receive an equal vote on who comes in to the fold. They get a deciding vote as they take ownership for how the team functions.

Small and Mighty far outweighs Large and Insignificant. I believe in small teams that make up the larger whole and the power of these small teams drive the innovation in this country.

So my thought this Monday afternoon that I would share with you is, give your teams the power to decide how they would like their team built. Give them ownership for their own teams and watch the accountability and performance rise. Simultaneously you will find there to be a downward trend of personality issues and conflicts in the workplace as the team will self manage the relationships. Diversity in a team is good and this will be managed quite well - people by nature do not want competition in their own niche, they would rather partners that complement them than substitutions, driving diversity in thought and approach.

With that, have a glorious week and to our team at WeUsThem Inc. and their families, a hearty congratulations on this beautiful award.