Ahead by a node…

Intersections. Serendipity. Chance collisions.

All of these have played a part in our work this week. I’ve been travelling, speaking, and listening all week and all of it reminded me about the importance of making connections between all the things we do. First, I was the kickoff speaker at the Canadian Association of Movers (CAM), where I talked about managing your online reputation. We had some interesting and challenging discussions about what to do when a customer calls you out in cyberspace, including how apology strategies have, and haven’t, changed since the time when we would all telephone customer service to get a resolution to our complaints. I also talked about how a collaborative partner can help us manage things that are challenging for us. My own talk dovetailed very well with one from Miki Ho of Beazley, who talked about cybersecurity and how to protect your company from a host of online assaults. The President of CAM’s partner organization IAM, Chuck White, went into how to prepare for intergenerational workforces, as well as what to expect from growing industry consolidation (and why the need for collaboration is going to only continue to grow). 

Then, returning to town, where the panel I was part of at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub discussed networking for women entrepreneurs, morphed into a discussion of opportunities for collaboration. We were talking about hubs, which got me thinking about how nodes are actually more important. Hubs are a central place from where all the spokes radiate. Nodes, on the other hand, are a key part of any sort of network (even The Tube, like in the photo above), and they function a bit differently. Nodes are connectors that have entrances and exits. Important pathways may originate or terminate at a node, or simply pass through, but without the node, they simply don’t happen. We also talked about representation, and the idea that “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it”. And about how networking isn’t transactional nor linear – that the connections were often weak ties in one area, but powerful in another. 

From that meeting, I moved to the AGM of the CCSBE (Canadian Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship), where I was happy to be reaffirmed in my role on the Board. We had yet another discussion about the importance of collaboration – in this case between our Council and the many academic institutions and practitioner sites (where entrepreneurship is born, fostered, and evolves). We hope to really be a node that connects entrepreneurs with educators, facilitators, incubators and accelerators in a host of ways. 

The connections and serendipitous discoveries continued as I was representing PANOPTIKA at the Life Sciences Ontario breakfast. There was a tremendous nearly-all-women panel that included Awake Labs, the Ontario Brain Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (one of the discussions at the movers event was a supplier’s tremendous tribute to the importance of family), and the Community Living Association of South Simcoe. There it was again: representation. Family. Connections. Networks. Collaboration. 

All of this, in short, is a way of saying, the connections you make are not linear. They do not just join directly from one thing to another. But in nearly every case, the idea of being a node, or a connector, and finding ways to help others with their business challenges would come back as help to you – just not necessarily as you expected, nor on your timeline. So go forth, network. Be a node. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m a Partner and the CEO at PANOPTIKA. We help our B2B customers see everything they need to know to make better decisions for their businesses. You can also find us on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. And if you want to have insights about ways to make your business better, delivered directly to your inbox, you can use the button below. 


Kindness is a gift that gives back

Image by skeeze from Pixabay
A very short post today as it’s been a long week with simultaneous projects, deadlines, meetings and family.  The stress of all these converging commitments can have a negative impact on you, so it’s nice to get a little reminder of the important things.

We’ve been attending the Medventions program run by the Sunnybrook Research Institute.  It’s a multi-session program for those interested in creating MedTech start-ups, particularly medical devices.  As we support those people and companies, we like to go and learn along side and help focus the discussions on the importance of finding a real problem to solve and developing customer understanding.

The topic of the evening was Medtech Entrepreneurship & Clinical Needs Finding, and it featured two speakers sharing their experience, Chris O’Connor from Think Research and Kieran Murphy, a UHN physician and serial inventor.

There were great stories and insightful questions but it was the wrap-up that hit me.  When asked what was the most valuable lesson he has learned during his many years as an inventor and entrepreneur, Dr Murphy’s reply was: kindness.  No-one saw that coming in the cut-throat world of medical invention!

His experience in both giving and receiving kindness has made up for all the failures, long nights, lost capital and all the risks inherent in making change happen.

So just remember, it doesn’t take any additional effort to treat those around you with respect and kindness.  But it does pay dividends in how you and others will evaluate your legacy.

I’m Steve Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below.

The Platinum Pivot

When you think of startup founders, what do you think of? Do they look something like this? 


There seems to be a perception lately that “startups” are only:


1. Tech companies
2. Mostly young men
3. Looking to scale exponentially and strike it rich.

In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and if you’re over 50, an immigrant, or a woman, the next business to launch in Canada might be yours. In 2016, over 6.6 million Canadians over age 50 were in the labour force – about a third, and the number of self-employed persons of all ages was about 2.7 million. If a third of those are self-employed, that’s 900,000 over-fifty entrepreneurs. A 2012 CIBC study noted that over-50s were the fastest-growing segment of the start-up market. While women don’t make up the lion’s share of business starts, their share is consistently growing. Immigrants, too, are finding that if they are struggling to find employment for others, building a business lets them create a job for themselves, and for others. So why not you?

As for the money, there’s nothing to say you won’t strike it rich. There are some late bloomers who went on to have very successful enterprises. Entrepreneurs also identify many other reasons, such as values alignment, more purposeful work, providing necessary but “missing” services in their communities, and employing others in their communities.

There are tremendous advantages to being an entrepreneur when you’ve already logged some career and life experience. Among these, you may have assets you can leverage for start-up capital, so you don’t have to hand over part of your business to venture capitalists, but can retain control for yourself. You’ve also had lots of time to observe a wide variety of business models that work (and don’t), and you’ve built valuable skills that can form the basis of your new enterprise.

Given the high number of workers over age 50, and yet an increasing youth bias in the workplace, there are plenty of mature workers who are (in the words of one columnist we read recently) “disappearing” themselves – doing everything they can to disguise or hide their age. Wouldn’t you think that at age 50 you had finally earned the right to be yourself? So if you’ve reached the half-century mark, we’d like to encourage you to consider the “platinum pivot© ” – think now about how you’re going to take ownership of your career and rely on your own talents for your next 20, 30 or more years of your work life. Sure, there are plenty of youthful startups out there, but they’ll all get older eventually, if they survive. You’ve just got a head start.

We’re Megann and Steve Willson, and we’re the Founders and Partners at PANOPTIKA. We started our business in our 40s, and we’re still going strong, nearly 20 years later. Let us help you build a business that’s just right for you. You can find us on Twitter, on Facebook, and on LinkedIn, and we’d be glad to have you join our inner circle and subscribe for weekly insights using the orange button, below. Let’s get growing, together.