Tag Archives: Business

Value #5 Business and Digital Disruption: Perspective

Value #5 Business and Digital Disruption:  Perspective

Being a single parent when my daughters Cara and Shannon were toddlers meant keeping them on a schedule and providing for them.  Being too busy to enjoy some of the miracles of seeing through a young one’s eyes wasn’t all that unusual.  And being blinded by the stresses, trials and tribulations of everyday life meant that even when I wanted to, I couldn’t.

This past Friday I took the day off work and got to slow down a bit accompanying my oldest grandson, Alessio, on his adventures.  Going to see the dinosaurs at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) was as much about the journey there and back and giving him freedom to wander around the galleries that caught his interest.

I couldn’t help but notice that as much as we say that ‘childhood is wasted on children’ it was the parents who were rushing around ticking off the requisite destinations and once arriving rushing to and fro making sure to hit all the high points and exhibits.  Childhood is more often wasted on them.

As a grandparental I not only have the luxury of time if I wish to take it, but the great advantage of living close to many enriching opportunities, and can seek the opportunities to see the world through a two-year old’s eyes.

The fact that the ant crawling along the cracks of the sidewalk in Queen’s Park was more exciting than the prospect of seeing the dinosaurs at that one point shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was fascinated by Alessio’s focus on the insect struggling to climb up and around mountainous boulders in its path that to us were smaller than pebbles.  Only when he had satisfied himself by removing the “boulder” was he prepared to move on to his next adventure.

We all move about with blinders on.  I’m not sure we could cope with the constant bombardment of stimuli if we didn’t.  But if having perspective means having a broad vision, doing so from the tunnel of our own needs, experiences and expectations limits us to the often-heard refrain, “I should have seen that” or “I knew that!”

If there is one value that the advice-giving channel has as a competitive advantage, it is our ability to create and maintain perspective for our clients.  It doesn’t serve as a governor or limiter on actions or client behavior (in other words a conscience).   Instead we can provide a balance from which to make more informed decisions.  What a client does with their money is not my concern, but telling them the consequences of their decisions is.

Blowing past the blinders in social media can be difficult.  How far do I push provocation?  How blunt do I need to be?  What should my image be?  If I can’t get past people’s elaborate paradigms, particularly as wholesale change threatens the very foundation of those elaborate mental structures, how can I ask them to see my perspective as valid even though I resorted to some sort of shock approach?

Surfing through my morning social media take, I continue to be surprised by the depth and breadth of “sex, drugs and rock and roll” in messaging.  The seven deadly sins, or as a friend, mentor and supervisor from earlier in my career summed it up, “fear, greed and envy” are equally prominent.

My thirst for perspective, whether dealing with the sloppy commodity markets or with the specter of looming interest rate increases, is a combination of experience and an academic thirst for knowledge.  Communicating it and blowing past investor’s preconceptions is both a function of making bold statements and using bold imagery.

In fact, of the five values that forms our professional value proposition, it is this one that I work hardest at and yet the images we choose to use have the biggest impact.

But what I cannot do is rely on sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.

Value #3 Business and Digital Disruption: Simple Answers

If I can’t leave you with that “smack yourself in the head, why didn’t I think of that” feeling, then I’ve failed.

All too often in the past I took what was self-evident to me and dressed it up in ‘tails and top hat’.

If I look at my success as a university lecturer, it was that I could build a simple paradigm for my students and bolt on or take off the complexity as it was necessary.  Instead I have been altogether too prone to dress up my ideas in finery, but a pig in a gown is still a pig.  Too bad you’re now focused on the pig.

This past weekend I spent a lot of time surfing through videos and making notes on what moved me, what inspired me and what amused me.  In every case, the proposition being communicated to me was short, simple and direct.  Leaving aside classic videos of fails for which I have an infinite patience and morbid fascination, I found myself flipping to the next one if the video failed to stay within the tight boundaries.

Even the ‘crystal kid’ stuff I used to tease Linda mercilessly about was interesting.  In every case, and I twice typed the video scripts out to be sure, they averaged three minutes in length, had less than 250 words of dialogue and regardless of their production value stuck to three points.

Let me use early retirement as an example.

Our ability to retire is dependent on three things – how much will I need, how much I can save and how much I already have.

I can take any of those three things and break them down into three more, and those three, three more.

What doesn’t help is that all that extraneous data muddies the fact that the three most important variables must be answered before any active consideration of the rest.  And if in the interests of proving how smart I am if I write a thesis and try to introduce all those extraneous points all I’ve done is disquieted you, frustrated you or bored you.

If I’m reaching out to you in a digital world, I am altogether too conscious of how easy it is for you to click your mouse without ever having to say, “next”.

So, what are my three principals of simple answers:

  1. If you can’t provide simple communications you don’t know the issue;
  2. If you can’t frame simple communications you don’t know your audience;
  3. If you won’t speak simply you’re too busy trying to impress yourself.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund  (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.

Value #2- Business and Digital Disruption: Communication, Much Like Investing, Should Be Direct

I had a peer in the early part of the last decade whose idea of selling life insurance was to hold a Bic lighter up, sparking it, and then looking at the flame say, “this is your life.”  Promptly extinguishing it he would add “and then you die.”  As blunt as that little ‘show and tell’ was, I was never sure what point he was trying to make.

I’m sure you’ve had experiences of what I have always called ‘smoke and mirrors’, where frustratingly you’ve been brought through a process, all the while waiting for the sales pitch and a presumptive close.  I’m not talking about sitting through a couple of hours trapped in a time share seminar, desperate to leave only to be confronted by the toughs guarding the door.  As often as not, those ‘toughs’ are our own value system and respect for the time and effort of the person pitching us.

I don’t know how many times I’ve walked into the tiny offices of the back of a bank branch, to sit down with the manager, only to have him or her ‘hmm’ing and um’ing” staring at their computer screens, clicking the keys, repeating the same sub-verbal noises.  Don’t you just want to reach over and rip the screens around so you can see what personal financial pornographic images he or she are staring at?

Instead, I sit there growing increasingly irritated to the point where their behavior has so masked communication I don’t hear much.

I suppose that given my years of experience in my industry coupled with snow white beard and head of hair in a ponytail I have a little more leeway than younger professionals.   You can ask my peers, who seemingly wait during and after a corporate presentation for me to say something blunt or outrageous.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m always prepared and pursue a genuine line of questioning because I’m interested.  At the same time, if I remain silent it sends a stronger message to those that know me.

If you look at what appeared to be a frothy real estate market in Toronto earlier this year, or the trials and tribulations of Home Capital Group (HCG), Warren Buffet’s rescue of HCG, or the recent run up in block chain currencies, I am blunt if I’m asked.  But I don’t elaborate my response because I am a fundamental investor and every one of those is at best highly speculative.  I’ve worked through the Asian Currency Crisis of ’98, the dot com bubble burst of ’00, corporate malfeasance of ’03 and the biggest of all, the financial crisis of ’08, and been burned on the more speculative aspects of the market.  That is not the market I choose to be in.

Blunt talk means nothing.  Direct communication on the other hand is formulated around issues of audience interest and suitability.  I don’t like communication that panders to the seven deadly sins.  And I don’t like communication where a seller is trying to hide their motive behind ritual and stealth.

The digital marketplace is fascinating in that rather than dealing with people in close geographic proximity the whole of the market is open.  And as focused as I want to be, I can let my message narrowcast into a market that is sufficiently large, albeit specialized, that I can make a good living in it.

And I can be direct and honest in my writing.

If ideas are my currency, plain and direct communication is my mode.

Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) is a member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF) and the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC). iA Securities is a trademark and business name under which Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. operates.

This information has been prepared by David Chellew, Portfolio Manager for Industrial Alliance Securities Inc. (IAS) and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of IAS. The opinions expressed are based on an analysis and interpretation dating from the type of publication and are subject to change. Furthermore, they do not constitute an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any the securities mentioned. For more information about IAS, please consult the official website at www.iasecurities.ca. David Chellew can open accounts only in the provinces where he is registered.

 

Building a Business Village One Engagement at a Time

old-toronto

I’ve often thought about business framed around the idea of the village – a grouping of individuals bound by a commonality. I suppose if you go back far enough in time you’ll find those bonds were one of obligation to one’s master but when I think of village I think of the parish church, local pub, general store and the family doctor.

As parochial and quaint, as pastoral and seemingly unchanging those societies are, in my opinion they continue to exist in part because of an intransigence to the new. Try to be an outsider or agent of change. They are fundamentally designed to keep norms, and norms are safe. And those norms are master to all.

I recently watched a community coalesce around conflict. The condo I live in was dealing with a potential threat to our way of life. A developer on an adjacent lot wanted to convert part of our drive into a lane way to allow deliveries and garbage service – I should add that our drive is private property. Both the management company and the boards of the various constituent condos supported the developer. A number of individuals stepped up and had the measure defeated soundly.

In the threat to the community at large, support in opposition coalesced around a few key leaders. Sans conflict, we revert into intransigence, enjoying the benefits of having most of our needs taken care of by the invisible hand of the condo. As the threat recedes, our complacent norms reassert themselves.

That brings me full circle to the idea of community in business.

If I think back over the years of management education and organizational experience I’m struck by the emphasis on the elemental impersonality of it all. Think of it this way – most businesses see themselves like an advertisement. They choose to be perceived by the way they present themselves in the hope that they offer sufficient appeal to the buying public to meet their needs – to sell a product or service. The public aren’t part of their community.

In the process of self-discovery over the past year and a substantial effort at rebranding our emphasis a key part was on boiling down the essence of what we stood for, who we are presented in an honest and forthright manner.

What my business partner and I, and our marketing guy, seem to be struggling with right now is how to build the business out going forward encouraging engagement. Linda is successful in attracting people who want to be part of her circle, to be part of something larger. I am affable and intense at the same time and rely on my intellect to guide through what can be a pretty confusing landscape. Rob is just finding his feet as a social marketer applying skills he’s acquired going through the process of building a startup.

Where we have failed is not acknowledging that we three form a community that’s part of a larger one. I can talk about target market and business proposition until I’m blue in the face but it doesn’t change the fact that to be successful going forward I, we, have to be conscious of how business has to be operate going forward.

It is easy to galvanize a group and provide leadership in the face of crisis. I can fall back on the very elements that has in the past built successful business practices – fear, greed and envy, as a peer and mentor once hammered at me, but a community can’t be grow unless the process is built on something more sustainable. Living and working in a state of perpetual crisis, or conflict, is inherently unhealthy; creating both dependencies and fear are mere manifestations of that.

So what is it then to try to build a successful business around the sense of a larger community? I don’t know but I’m willing to find out. And I’ll be finding out one engagement at a time.