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Moving beyond “That’ll Never Work” 

By KPMG Enterprise
Thurs, March 29, 2012 @ 11:00 AM

The following article by Stewart Thornhill (Executive Director, Pierre L. Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship) was published on the Ivey website on March 27, 2012.

Like the old adage “success breeds success”, there is much to learn from the experiences of successful Canadian entrepreneurs, particularly those who never gave up and pushed beyond when they were told their ideas wouldn’t make it. Their confidence and perseverance is inspiring. That’s the premise behind the new book, That’ll Never Work: Business Lessons From Successful Entrepreneurs , compiled by KPMG Enterprise™. Published by Portfolio Penguin and released on March 6, the book profiles 19 entrepreneurs who beat the odds and built successful businesses despite the doubters around them. By sharing insights and advice, their stories are hoped to help other entrepreneurs to tap opportunities.


On March 29, I’ll be interviewing some of the entrepreneurs profiled in That’ll Never Work during a panel discussion on entrepreneurship to glean additional insights from their experiences. The event is part of the Ivey Idea Forum, a series of interactive presentations to explore new ideas, perspectives and solutions for evolving business issues with thought-provoking leaders, writers and academics, and will run from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. at Ivey’s ING DIRECT Leadership Centre.


Our guests will include:

  • Tracey Clark, the Ottawa-based founder of the fair trade coffeehouse chain Bridgehead Coffee, whose business chain was born from a mail-order coffee company and weaves into it a thread of social responsibility; 
  • Gayle Robin, a founding partner of StrategicAmpersand Inc., who was the brainchild behind the company specializing in the technology industry, which was a factor in its success;
  • Turtle Island Recycling Co-Founders Louis Anagnostakos and Ted Manziaris, who truly know the meaning of bootstrapping and started their business with Manziaris’ family station wagon and a 10-foot by 10-foot room to collect garbage throughout Toronto.


Their stories are beyond just inspiring, they’re actual proof that you can make it as an entrepreneur with the right expertise on execution, leadership, competitive strategy and innovation. Below is a sampling of their advice and I hope you’ll join us on March 29 to hear more about their stories and the factors behind their success. Full details can be found at Ivey Idea Forum: That’ll Never Work. KPMG Enterprise™ is also looking for entrepreneurs and business owners with an interesting “That’ll Never Work” story to share it at for consideration for the next edition of the book.


Advice from the entrepreneurs from That’ll Never Work


*From Chapter 1, COMMUNITY IN THE CUP, Tracey Clark, Bridgehead Coffee

The best advice I can give to people who may be starting out in business is to have perseverance. You need to feed the business before you feed yourself. Have a very strong, clear picture of what it is you want to achieve and continue to build on it. Sometimes you have to be a bit “blind” in business. In retrospect, if I knew how much work would be involved, I may not have taken on the challenge of opening Bridgehead, especially when others were telling me it wouldn’t work. I needed to put on my blinders in order to stay focused on my clear picture of where I wanted to be – determined and willing to take on the events at hand, like the closing of the Montreal store. To be successful in business, you need to stick to your decisions without regrets and be willing to ask for help when you need it.


*From Chapter 7, TECHNOLOGY LEADERSHIP AND THE ART OF TAKING CONTROL, Gayle Robin, StrategicAmpersand Inc.

... you also need to keep a lens focused on the bottom line. You need information. You must have a financial infrastructure in place. We still do a P&L on every single project, including monthly financial statements, monthly cash flow forecasts, and monthly sales forecasts. We’re never surprised. We always know what our financial position is, and I think most small businesses don’t. This is a crucial mistake, because without this information you don’t know when you should reduce or increase your staff, reduce or increase your office space, reduce your expenses, reduce your salaries, reduce management salaries,  reduce your benefits improve your cash flow, reduce or increase your pricing, reduce or increase your profit margins, or renegotiate with your bank. You won’t have the power to do any of these things.
*From Chapter 11, FROM AN IDEA TO AN EMPIRE: THE LITTLE RECYCLING COMPANY THAT COULD, Louis Anagnostakos and Ted Manziaris, Turtle Island Recycling

LOUIS: I think the key to success is to always focus on your core competencies and on your customers. When someone cancels our service it’s the biggest wake-up call because it’s like getting a divorce. If this happens a lot, you’ve got problems. You have to quickly figure out what went wrong and try to improve. Sometimes it has happened because of a bad driver and sometimes because off a better price. Either way, it probably happened because we forgot about the customer. You really need to be on edge. If you’re on edge you’ll be okay because you will react swiftly. When people tell us it’s not working and they throw us out, we regroup and hit back fast.


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