Mon, 30 June 2014
Introducing Paul Simmonds
Independent retail is a tough business. Independents are competing with big-box stores, large shopping destinations, and online retailers, which often have hard-to-beat pricing. So how does an independent retailer stand out amongst the crowd? Paul Simmonds seems to have the answer.
Paul is a 35 year veteran of the retail business and the owner of Robert Simmonds Clothing in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. This tough but kind business man started in the business as a stock boy in a shoe store at 14 years of age, and moved himself up the ladder to success by learning from a number of mentors. Robert Simmonds, named in homage to Paul’s father, opened in 1998 as an upscale men’s clothing store. Sixteen years later, Robert Simmonds offers upscale men’s and women’s, as well as urban style clothing.
What sets Robert Simmonds Clothing apart from the crowd? An over-the-top customer experience. A typical customer interaction involves a customer entering the store, being offered a choice of espresso or scotch, suggestions of proper clothing to fit their style, having a tailor size you properly before leaving the store. The whole experience is very comfortable, you leave as a customer feeling you can trust the people you were working with, and you feel good about the whole experience and your decision to shop at Robert Simmonds.
Paul says that each retail day starts at zero. A retailer can’t rest on the success of yesterday, or the hope for tomorrow. Each day is a fresh start, and giving excellent customer service today will keep customers coming back in the future. Paul sees his staff as his greatest asset and he invests in them by doing things like quarterly meetings, where they bring in speakers like our own Dave Veale. He hires according to attitude and behaviour, and believes if you have that foundation, specific skillsets can be taught.
Paul lives by two adages as it relates to success and failure. First, “the only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know.” Second, “today, if you don’t try it, you’ll never know the answer.” Paul is persistent and knows that when he tries new things with his business, sometimes you fail and other times you succeed. By being petrified to try new things, doesn’t allow for taking on new opportunities. He doesn’t let vulnerability hold him back and he knows that at worst he will be able to learn so much from a failure. He knows that he has be be brave enough to put a kill date on something that isn’t working and to have the courage to let it go.
Looking toward the future, Paul started using the internet to sell and promote Robert Simmonds. In order to keep that customer experience online, he instituted a virtual closet, which catalogues previous purchases, suggests new items to customers, and will do things like find shirts and ties for the new suit you recently bought at Robert Simmonds.
In this episode
We open to soothing on-hold music provided by Robert Simmonds Clothing. Dave tells us about his experience at Robert Simmonds and Paul gives Dave a plug for Vision Coaching. Greg plans to get re-suited at Paul’s store… and to have a scotch. Greg is inspired by Paul’s acceptance of e-commerce as an independent. He sees it as an opportunity as opposed to a challenge, and has discovered a way to bring his in-house customer experience online. Dave’s takeaway is noticing Paul’s ability to see a challenge as an opportunity and not resting on his laurels by constantly evolving his business.
Mon, 23 June 2014
Introducing Judith Mackin
Judith Mackin is a pioneer of interior design in the small, industrial city of Saint John, New Brunswick. Her message: “You don’t have to be from a big city to be sophisticated, educated, and to know what is going on in the world.”
In 1999, Judith started Punch Productions which was a marketing agency. Ten years later, the success of Punch Productions led to a sister company, Punch Inside, which was an interior design company specializing in commercial and residential interior design. Then in late 2012, Judith opened Tuck Studio, which is a decor and design studio featuring modern furnishings and decor. Keeping it personal, Judith placed Tuck Studio on the bottom level of her home which is located on a cliff, right in the middle of Saint John on 2.3 acres of land. The modern home was built to not only her satisfaction but as a serene destination for her clients. The choice to have her business and home at the same location keeps her client relationships intimate; Judith often lets her clients tour the upper levels of her home for design ideas because she lives by the motto that she lives what she sells.
What makes Judith unique is that she is creative, understands brands in new ways, and self taught in interior design. We believe that Judith is an educator for her industry, but she is much more humble. She sees herself in a conversation with her community on the topics she has a passion for. Judith spends just as many hours working for her company as she does talking and creating content about it. Forty hour work weeks don’t exist for the entrepreneur who is building their company, so she spends the extra time talking about why design is important creating a passion for design in others.
Many would believe that a blue-collar town wouldn’t have much time for things like beauty and design, but Judith trusted in herself and her community. She knew that if she had an interest in interior design, others in her community must as well. It turns out she is right; creative and thoughtful people are everywhere. Judith doesn’t see creativity as an artistic endeavour, but as an expression of courage and the willingness to do something uniquely. Judith is the embodiment of someone who wasn’t scared off by adding a new industry to a city that didn’t exist before. She knows it is a blank slate, or a void in need of filling.
In this episode
Judith explains her path to success. She tells us that she knows she is not the greatest at everything she gets wrapped up in, but she surrounds herself with a sub group of people that can help her. Many entrepreneurs would scoff and say they can’t afford help, but Judith is quick to point out that there is always a way. If you can’t afford a service, then barter. She tells us that communicating to your community, giving every customer the same attention, and a general attitude toward customer service. It’s also about knowing your customer, developing a niche, and treating that customer really well.
Greg sees a running theme in Boiling Point that in this flat world we can make international ripple effects from small cities. Dave is inspired by Judith’s brilliant way of expressing things concisely and intelligently. Dave also notes that he is motivated by Judith’s passion for telling not only her stories, but the stories of her clients and others in her community.
Greg points out that Judith, Dave, and himself are fortunate to be able to be risky in a smaller market. He mentions that in a large community there isn’t the same safety net of friends and community to back you up. Dave mentions, however, that some people may be scared to “fall on their face” in front of their friends and that being an entrepreneur is about the willingness to be vulnerable. For people like Judith, going for it is not an option.
Mon, 16 June 2014
Introducing Gino Dion
It is amazing who you might meet if you open yourself up to new experiences. Even more amazing when you find a mover and shaker you didn’t know about in your own backyard.
That is exactly what happened to Greg when he decided to attend a conference for the National Association of Broadcasters in Las Vegas. NAB is conference for broadcasters and their equipment manufacturers. Greg decided to attend to see what connections he could make through networking, but it wasn’t necessarily a conference for filmmakers to pitch their ideas. He left with a quorum of industry people from New Brunswick, Canada and this is where he met Gino Dion and the two became fast-friends.
Gino works for a company called IneoQuest, which is a multi-national company offering products and services for the monitoring of video quality. Broadcasters use products from IneoQuest to guarantee their transmissions. We all can imagine how important such a service is by considering, what would you think would happen if the transmission of the World Cup final went down? Disaster!
Gino comes from a small town in New Brunswick, where there is sometimes a belief that, “when you come from a small place, you can only do small things.” Gino couldn’t disagree more. He has taken time out of his schedule to speak to students at his local high school to tell them that not only can they do big things, but their small town roots can actually act as an advantage. He cites his experience of growing up poor in a small town and having to fight for every scrap he got as one of the major reasons he eventually became IneoQuest’s vice-president of engineering. He saw detractors of his dreams as challengers, and used his determination as fuel to get to his goal.
Gino takes pride in exporting his New Brunswick cultural values and says that simple things like holding a door for someone or saying hello to a stranger has been able to set him apart in the business world. Another example of small town service is whenever Gino sells a system to one of his clients, he writes his home phone number on his business card. He tells his client that they can call him at any time, day or night, if they need him for something. Gino told Greg when they went into a dueling piano bar in Vegas that they would own the bar by the end of the night because they were New Brunswickers. That’s exactly what they did and a wild time was had by all.
In this episode
Greg remembers the great times spent with Gino in Las Vegas. He notes that friendships made at trade shows can turn into great business relationships and that putting yourself “out there” almost always pays dividends. Dave is struck by Gino’s suggestions of how to make your customer service more personal. We all agree that great things are available to you if you open your eyes to opportunities and it doesn’t matter where you came from.
Mon, 9 June 2014
Introducing Dino Dogan
His website hails him as a “Global Force for Badassery” and we agree. Dino is a public speaker, author, blogger, mixed martial artist and recovering network engineer and singer/songwriter. He is also the founder of Triberr, the social network for bloggers. Greg met Dino in Las Vegas at the New Media Expo, which is a convention for bloggers, podcasters, and web video. Greg broke his own rule at conventions when he went to the bar and ordered a drink… by HIMSELF. Dino quickly came over, introduced himself, and invited Greg to sit with him and his group. A new connection and friendship was born and soon after Greg was a guest on Dino’s “Road to TED” podcast speaking about his then upcoming speech for TEDx New Brunswick.
As mentioned above, Dino is the founder of Triberr. Bloggers join Triberr and are placed into “tribes” according to the type of content they generally write about. Then bloggers share each other’s content on their own blogs. This allows for more content than they could create alone and helps to build their audience. This strategy has made for millions of extra hits each month to Triberr blogger sites. Within days of creating Triberr, Dino was getting requests from brands to promote their products. That is exactly what he did through the use of influence marketing.
We all know of professional athletes and celebrities who make endorsements for companies, like Michael Jordan for Nike. Number 23 gets paid big bucks to promote the brand and his sneakers on a mass scale. Now imagine, a bunch of mini-Air-Mikes, each with a small, but loyal and trusting niche audience. This is what Triberr sets up between bloggers and brands. Unlike Air Jordan’s mass appeal with a disengaged audience, influence marketing through bloggers deals in smaller audiences but with much deeper impact of persuasion.
In this episode
Dino gives his tips for becoming a fascinating, polarizing, badass blogger (with metaphorical balls). He tells us about the “low-hanging fruit” for established companies to build their online footprint through blogging. Greg remembers the importance of talking and connecting with people and building tribes. Dave learns a lot about the current media landscape. As Dino says, “it takes a tribe to build a blog”, and we learn all about how do this with Triberr.
Mon, 2 June 2014
Introducing Mickey MacDonald
Mickey MacDonald is a true fighter; he fights in business, in his charitable work, and has also fought in the ring as a boxer. Still down-to-earth and approachable, Mickey came from humble beginnings, but as an entrepreneur he became one of Atlantic Canada’s preeminent businesspeople.
Mickey credits his drive to his mother. Mickey’s father had a heart attack, leaving Mickey’s mom as the primary caregiver and breadwinner for her seven children. As head nurse at the Halifax Infirmary, she would take care of sick babies full-time and then come home to take care of her family. This dedication to her career and family proved to be an inspiration to the entire MacDonald clan.
At the age of 16, Mickey left home and moved to Toronto. While in the city, he briefly lived on the streets and took up boxing. Mickey was willing to take any odd job and learn as he worked to support himself. His attitude and willingness to work hard had him working in mines, driving trucks and heavy equipment. Mickey believed that the things you can learn on the streets are often more valuable then what you learn from a book or in school.
Upon returning to Halifax, Mickey took a job with the Halifax Fire Department and helped his brother, Colin and his business partner, Robert Risley start their seafood business, Clearwater Seafood. While working with the fire department, he also started an auto-body shop and car lot. Today, Clearwater Seafood is the largest shellfish exporter in the world and he personally owns 20% of the company.
Mickey always had his finger on the pulse of business opportunities. During a snowstorm in 1988, he was driving a plow truck when a story came on the radio about cellular phones. Being involved in numerous businesses, he thought to himself, “What a tool.” He could be working at one place, and manage his affairs elsewhere. He tried to get a cell phone, but what he found was between $3,500 and $4,000.
He called a friend, who had been working with Motorola to see if he could get a deal. His friend told him the only people getting deals were dealers. So, of course, Mickey became a dealer. Mickey says, “When you don’t know anything, then you aren’t scared to try it.”
One thing lead to another and soon Mickey was the owner of DownEast Communications. DownEast grew to be one of Canada’s largest cell phone distributors, with almost 50 stores in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick. DownEast was sold to Aliant in 2004, netting Mickey about $50 million. A sister company, AMP, grew to a value of more than $100 million as well.
Mickey know the importance of giving back to his community. A quote from Mohammad Ali on his Micco company website says, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” Mickey has done just that by giving millions to charity including hospitals, Halifax’s Pier 21, and the Bella Rose Centre. His Palooka charity also supports at-risk children in Halifax, across Canada, and around the world. If you are a self-starting entrepreneur, you need to hear this inspiring story!
In this episode
Dave and Greg aren’t boiling anymore, as we now record at our audio engineer, Tim’s studio (thanks Tim!). Dave is struck by how Mickey sees an opportunity and just goes for it while remaining honest and humble. Dave also loves Mickey’s message that success is not all about money. Greg is inspired by Mickey’s past risk taking behaviours and by how much he gives back to the community.
Links & References
Harvest Wine & Spirits
Palooka's Executive Fitness