Recent Posts by Learning Entrepreneurship

I recently gave a course at Concordia University on Entrepreneurship and a dozen enthusiastic young entrepreneurs passed with excellent marks. Will they all succeed as entrepreneurs?

Sorry, but taking a course is not enough. In the very first class we agreed that anyone can be an entrepreneur if they are passionate determined, persistent and patient. So why not? It sounds like the same cliches we hear from successful celebrities – “believe in your dream, never give up”. But we neglect to be honest and admit that there is always one more requirement for success – talent!

It’s like the rookie golfer who just couldn’t improve and after every bad shot the pro kept explaining that his problem was LOFT. So the the rookie tried another club and still couldn’t hit it straight. The pro then explained “I didn’t say your problem was loft, I said it was L-O-F-T: Lack Of F***ing Talent!”

Sometimes its best to discourage budding entrepreneurs who have a dream but need to recognize they are only dreaming. First find something they can be good at.

So the course is over and a dozen enthusiastic young entrepreneurs passed with excellent marks. Will they all succeed as entrepreneurs? Sorry, but taking a course is not enough.

In the very first class we agreed that anyone can be an entrepreneur if they are passionate determined, persistent and patient. So why not? It sounds like the same cliches we hear from successful celebrities – “believe in your dream, never give up”. But we neglect to be honest and admit that there is always one more requirement for success – talent!

It’s like the rookie golfer who just couldn’t improve and after every bad shot the pro kept explaining that his problem was LOFT. So the the rookie tried another club and still couldn’t hit it straight. The pro then explained “I didn’t say your problem was loft, I said it was L-O-F-T: Lack Of F***ing Talent!”

Sometimes its best to discourage budding entrepreneurs who have a dream but need to recognize they are only dreaming. First find something they can be good at.

Business may be like golf but the golfer is more entrepreneur than executive or CEO. No one to manage but himself or herself. No one else takes the credit or the blame. The results are up to you. Sounds like both: golfer and entrepreneur.

What about the characteristics of successful golfers and entrepreneurs? Both need to start with some natural talent or ability and then be determined, patient and persistent while building on it. Use experts, coaches, and mentors. Assess risks and rewards and make good strategic and tactical decisions. Hard-working and competitive, but also respecting the rules of the game and recognizing that luck has a lot to do with it. Best efforts don’t always lead to the best results. There is no justice in day-to-day business or golf, but in the long run the best ones succeed.

At a recent McGill alumni breakfast, the guest was Darren Entwhistle, President and CEO of Telus, Canada’s newest national telecommunications provider.

A very articulate and focused leader, Entwhistle clearly communicates where he wants to go and his process for getting there. Still “frustrated and bitter” about the federal government’s inability to get out of the way for his bid to acquire Bell Canada, he thinks we are handicapping Canadian telecom’s from growing into world class competitors. A familiar refrain also from the banking sector and other industries frustrated by regional and provincial barriers.

Entwhistle also described the challenges of ignoring the financial critics and market watchers to stay focused on the internally sound corporate strategy. Short term share prices and industry fads will sway those outside opinions, but a well developed sound strategy will succeed over the long term.

An impressive CEO, Entwhistle obviously inspires confidence in his leadership for the management team, employees and shareholders of Telus. (And he’s another McGill MBA – Class of ’88.)

Another victory for Mike Weir last weekend. Four days of golf in the 60′s at a tough Arizona desert course. After 3-1/2 years without a win the former Masters champion could have lost his game and faded away. But in a tribute to persistence and dedication to getting better he showed his championship talent and heart at the President’s Cup and again on Sunday.

In golf and in business, persistence and dedication to continuous improvement and sticking to the plan will eventually lead to triumph. For a business example see the comments of Darren Entwhistle of Telus.

A great demonstration of focus and commitment against all odds, Mike Weir defeated Tiger Woods in a face to face battle yesterday at Royal Montreal on the final day of the President’s Cup.

All the pressure of high expectations for Canada’s No.1 golfer against the toughest competitor in the world who’s been having a great year while Mike has been struggling to win anywhere. After leading 3-up then bouncing one into the water after two birdies by Tiger he was 1-down with three holes to play. He won two of them for the match.

Guts and skill. All you need to win in business and in golf.

Way to go, Mike!

Again I learned something new at the McGill MiniBiz Seminar this week. The topic was managing diversity, especially the generational gap between those born before WWII, the Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y.

For both managers of those diverse groups and for members of each generation the recommendation was to remember the Platinum Rule.

OK, we all know the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Apparently a pretty universal concept that has worked for many generations. Essentially, treat other people the way you would like to be treated. Seems good to me.

But consider the more effective Platinum Rule, especially when there are large cultural or generational differences to consider: “Treat other people the way they would like to be treated.” Powerful concept.

In one respect business is not like golf, and that is the element of teamwork. Golf is normally a very solitary endeavor, just one golfer against the course and all other competitors. Very much alone, 100% responsible for the results, no one else to share the credit or take the blame.

But occasionally golf is also a team sport. Typically in college golf, but more notably in the famous Ryder Cup and the President’s Cup, which is currently taking place in Montreal. Yesterday was a match of two-on-two with the alternate ball format. That means I drive it off the tee into the rough, you hit it back on the fairway, I hit it back in the rough, you hit it on the green and I miss the putt. And so on.

That was pretty much the way it went yesterday for Tiger Woods and his partner Charles Howell III. Charles had hit one wide of the green into deep rough behind a large sand trap with very little green in front of the hole. Tiger slashed it out with typical finesse, flying high over the trap, landed softly on the fringe and rolled gently to within two feet. Charles stepped up and missed the putt! That’s hard on team spirit.

Nevertheless, they persevered and won their match. As Tiger said, “What matters is that we got the job done.”

Meanwhile Mike Weir and VJ Singh had a different team experience. Both had been playing well and were holding a slim lead. But Mike hit his approach shot to the green slightly left and it landed in the sand trap. No problem, VJ hit a perfect shot out of the sand, onto the green and into the hole!

Ah the joys of successful teamwork.



I had the pleasure yesterday of hearing a presentation by Henry Mintzberg, McGill professor and management guru. One attendee described him as the “Tiger Woods of management science”.

I know him as the Strategy professor during my McGill MBA program from 35 years ago. (Yikes, neither of us seem to have aged that much! OK, maybe less hair.)

He is a widely respected academic and the acclaimed author of “The Nature of Managerial Work “, “The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning”, “Managers not MBAs” and many other books and articles that argue against the conventional wisdom and provoke thoughtful reflection on management and business. He is also the co-founder of the International Masters Program in Practicing Management (IMPM), a unique approach to learning that is designed to flow from the experience of the participants.

His presentation yesterday was originally advertised to be on the dilemma of corporate compensation, but that turned out be only part of his critique of the modern CEO focus on shareholder value that is leading to the great depression of 2008.

Some of his points to consider:
  • Productivity is a euphemism for cutting costs, mostly by firing employees, while maintaining short-term revenues.
  • The theoretical corporate objective of maximizing long-term shareholder value has been hijacked to mean pushing short-term earnings to inflate current market share prices.
  • How can employees be motivated to work for shareholders they have never met? Many of whom have no interest in the company except for the short-term ability to make a profit on their investment – they are day traders or hedge funds.
  • Shareholder value is not a worthy objective of the corporate institution as it specifically ignores (or exploits) other stakeholders, especially employees.
  • Mercenary corporate leadership is stealing from shareholders with absurd compensation and severance packages that are not tied to performance. The “robber barons are back!”
  • The old corporate silos have been replaced by horizontal slabs of concrete separating executives from their employees and the real operating issues.
  • “Human resources” is a term that dehumanizes human beings. It makes it easier to treat people like other “resources” to buy, sell, use and dispose of them. It’s like describing airline passengers as “self-loading cargo”!
  • Corporations need to remember that customers are people too. They are not just another asset to be exploited.

Professor Mintzberg also suggested some remedies to avoid the great depression of 2008:

  • Stop being misled by the apparent productivity gains and profitability of large American corporations.
  • Get the mercenaries out of the executive suite and add employee voices in the boardroom.
  • Stop running businesses to satisfy financial analysts or investors with no interest in anything except short-term results.
  • Install real corporate leadership that is concerned, engaged, and modest. (Interestingly close to Jim Collins description of Level 5 Leadership from “Good to Great”.)
  • Ignore the obsession with measurable factors and reconsider the immeasurable – values, benefits and impacts of economic activity.
  • In the larger context, get back to a better balance of the three sectors in society – public, private and social.

His full commentary is available at How Productivity Killed American Enterprise.

Lots to think about and to influence if we can.

I noticed on a recent visit to the bookstore that books on golf and business are remarkably similar.

Catchy titles: “The six rules for success”, “The only book you’ll ever need to need to read” , “Learn from the pros”, etc. …. And the selections are similar; mastering techniques, applying psychology, or success stories from the past.

But in business and in golf, studying the subject and knowing the principles for success are not enough. You have to practice and get better by doing it.

Learning from experience and not just experiencing the experience will make all the difference.

Recent Comments by Learning Entrepreneurship