A warning right out of the gate that I am going to use the word “awesome” too many times in this article. If awesome is offensive to you, you might want to avert your eyes.
Awesome is what happens when you have a Niagara event that gathers 130 of the best and brightest of the Niagara business community in a room with a full schedule dedicated to sharing knowledge and conversation that encourages innovation.
INNOVATING YOUR BUSINESS FOR THE NEW ECONOMY was held at Club Roma in St. Catharines on Wednesday and was put on as a joint effort between Innovate Niagara and the St. Catharines Enterprise Centre (SCEC). And, guess what, it was awesome!
The focus of the event was not on a specific sector of business (such as technology), but to address the various facets of innovation and showcase how changing the way we think about business and process can impact a company’s bottom line.
In speaking with organizers, N’ora Kalb (nGen) and Kelly Provost (SCEC), they emphasized that it was very important that this event was designed around engagement.
Each of the (awesome) keynote speakers had presentations that provoked and challenged preconceptions about business and the relationships we build . A variety of (awesome) breakout sessions allowed the attendants to join discussion roundtables with (awesome) local experts.
BROCK DICKINSON – Principal with Millier Dickinson Blais
Niagara resident, Brock Dickinson got the morning off to an energetic start by sharing some of his experience in global economic development.
Dickinson’s conversation discussed a brief history of economic development, reminding us that the days of courting big manufacturing companies are over for everyone. Today the future lies in knowledge-based innovation. This the kind of innovation born most often in a garage because the big companies aren’t nimble enough to invent the next big thing.
He quoted R. Buckminster Fuller (architect/engineer): “We are entering the world of the invisible,” referencing the fact that today’s innovations such as those in bio-technology and nano-technology are changes most people can never physically see.
Dickinson was also quick to remind us that Niagara has close access to the most highly-educated population in North America which is invaluable. Cheap land, cheap taxes or cheap labour don’t drive economics, today’s innovators are driven by access to a knowledgeable workforce.
He presented the analogy that today’s businesses fall into one of two categories, the EGYPTIAN PLOVER and the LONE EAGLE.
The EGYPTIAN PLOVER (Or the “crocodile bird”) is that little bird that survives by picking the food out of the teeth of crocodiles and lives off of scraps. In business terms, the EGYPTIAN PLOVER represents the small “traditional” business that offers services in the local area and competes based on cost, differentiation or segmentation.
The LONE EAGLE makes 75% of their revenue from outside their local area, they compete based off of specialization, disruptive technology and being a thought leader in their field.
Dickinson pointed out that 100% of the net growth in North American jobs came from LONE EAGLES.
Ideas are of no value if you hide them.
Today’s innovative company identities are global in nature and their relationships are based on communication and relationships. They are being built by recognizing that knowledge is only valuable if it is shared as Dickinson states, “Ideas are of no value if you hide them.”
The attendees joined one of 12 roundtable discussions moderated by an expert focused on different subjects:
- Adam White – eBusiness
- Brock Dickinson – growth & development
- Cara Boese – human resources
- Dave Shaw – sales strategies
- Evan DiValentino – sustainability
- Frank Rupcic – investment support
- Hilary Caters – mobile applications
- Neil Thornton – networking
- Nick DiPietro – angel investment
- Rob DePetris – tax credits
- Rhonda Maver – finance in this economy
- Tracy Hopkins – attracting financing
- Tracy Hrick – accounting setup
- Trevor Twining – remote working & collaboration
- Tobias Wiegand – digital media
Forbes chose Scott Stratten as one of the Top 5 Social Media Influencers in the world for a reason and it’s because he knows his stuff. This ‘stuff’ was on display in Niagara on Wednesday (I am talking about social media stuff, people. Maybe I should have re-phrased that).
Scott Stratten also claims to be the most popular Canadian on Twitter not named Bieber.
He recently released his second book (A flip-book titled “The Book of Business Awesome/The Book of Business UnAwesome”). He goes by the Twitter handle @unmarketing and you should be following him if you want to know anything about building an awesome relationship with your customers and colleagues using social media.
Stratten (more than a little under the weather, with E. Coli or Ebola or something equally devastating) mesmerized the crowd with stories of businesses and individuals using social media to build real relationships and address real problems.
He reminded us that brands are not a logo, brands are stories in the minds of your customers.
Social media provides anyone with a tool to immediately share their most awesome (and un-awesome) customer experiences with the world and they all have the potential to go viral. With this in mind, a business needs to recognize that to improve their bottom line they need to improve the front line that interacts with the customer.
To improve your bottom line you need to improve your front line
When looking for the right front line employee, a business should remember this formula: Passion + Knowledge = Profit.
Scott Stratten shared a number of stories that illustrated his points and provided some advice for using social media:
- Treat social media the same as a networking event, have conversations, don’t pitch
- Social media SUCCESS does not exist
- Social media is merely a vehicle to communicate and build relationships
- You don’t have to be everywhere (Facebook, Twitter, Google+), but be good where you are
- More than 75% of your social interaction should be replies — it is a conversation not a dictation
Innovating Your Business For the New Economy was a tremendous event that provided inspiration, information and networking to the leaders among Niagara’s businesses, students and freelancers. I am certain that this will lead to even more innovative and constructive conversation for weeks and months to follow and we were delighted to be in attendance.
Oh, yeah, and in case I forgot to mention it: IT WAS AWESOME!
Innovate Niagara is a one-stop shop for leaders of developing businesses in innovative clusters, providing critical services to entrepreneurs within the Niagara Region. Formerly, it was necessary for a business leader to potentially consult several different organizations before receiving the assistance required to ensure their business would thrive in the critical start-up or development phases of its growth. With the establishment of Innovate Niagara, a single organization is now responsible for the coordination of services, ensuring a streamlined and efficient approach. You can learn more about Innovate Niagara here.
The St. Catharines Enterprise Centre (SCEC) provides the information, resources and tools that entrepreneurs need to launch and grow their businesses. We are a member Ontario’s Business Support Network and proud community partner for the Canada Youth Business Foundation (CYBF) and Ontario Summer Company (SC) programs. For more information on the SCEC click here.
Scott Stratten was named one of the top five social media influencers in the world on Forbes.com: he is the President of UnMarketing.com
His latest book is actually two books in one and it’s called “The Book of Business Awesome/The Book of Business UnAwesome.”
He has guided companies such as Pepsi, Adobe, Red Cross, and Saks Fifth Avenue through the viral/social media and relationship marketing landscape.