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Category Archives: Management

Rescuing Salespeople from a Slump

Quote start to be great by ZiglarOne of the things that makes the sales profession tough is that you are only as good as your current performance, which is very measurable!  It becomes very obvious when a salesperson is not being successful and in addition to the obvious lack of numbers there is a tendency to spiral downwards.

The formerly motivated, energetic and productive salesperson descends into a funk!  They lose that energy, they seem “adrift”, unmotivated and not sure what to do next.

Where they had previously been very focused on their role, they are easily distracted focusing on activities that are “busy” tasks, rather than delivering business!

Their productivity is easily measured, but it will be not just the bottom line that suffers.  There will be less phone calls, less meetings and less orders coming in.

Essentially they will give up, and either start a job search or  just wait for the axe to fall when their employer loses patience.

These times can happen for many reasons … it might be a general turn down in the economy, an impact on that salesperson’s specific territory or they just become too comfortable and neglect the fundamentals!

In sales we reap what we sow, and if we sow a little less this week we will feel the negative effects next week … that is the start of a really slow spiral downwards!

Luckily … a good sales manager will recognize the pattern and understand that action is needed!  They need to find a way to get their salesperson back into the rhythm, to move from Ineffective to Effective!

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”  Vince Lombardi

The first step is for the salesperson to admit to themselves that they are in trouble, but also they need to be willing to do the work that will get them back on track.  The “lucky” salespeople will inevitably be those who put the work in!

“The harder I work, the more luck I have.” Thomas Jefferson

The salesperson needs to have a plan that has clear activities, timelines and goals.  The way to get to these actions is to ask a lot of questions.

  1. How many key contacts does the salesperson have?
  2. Have they all been contacted lately?
  3. Is there a method to bring those contacts value over and above the service they pay for?
  4. Where are the opportunities?
  5. What are the key messages that will resonate in today’s climate?
  6. How many meetings can the salesperson generate?
  7. Who else could get in front of clients to generate interest?
  8. What networking does the salesperson do? Is it enough and in the right places?
  9. How many ways does the salesperson keep in contact with their prospects? Email, phone, in person, hand written cards, social media?
  10. What can the salesperson do differently that will spark a different and motivating approach?  This could be a change in hours, work location, even a change in look (a new wardrobe can help with confidence).
  11. Is there training/coaching available that will keep the salesperson motivated?

A good manager asking these questions can help the salesperson to identify many ways in which they can get re-motivated.

Get some new crisp shirts and start wearing a tie … just to feel good about yourself.   A female rep might buy some new clothes, shoes, accessories … whatever makes them feel good!

“Today is always the most productive day of your week.” Mark Hunter

Change up your hours, come in a little earlier/stay a little later to get the momentum going!

Call clients at specific times and see which times work best for which clients.  Some people like to start early and others like to stay late.

Start a campaign of hand written cards with simple messages.  These should be hand written (no excuses about poor writing … slow down and write nicely!) and have a personal note.

“Stop selling.  Start helping.”  Zig Ziglar

Share valuable information with these people … industry articles and white papers, statistics and facts, book summaries and market data are just some ideas.

Establish a rhythm for meeting with people and track it in the company CRM.  Some clients should be contacted more often than others.  Some like mostly email, others prefer voice.  Establish a regular face to face routine.

Re-establish links with old contacts.  Former clients of the salesperson or the company.  Alumni from school or previous jobs, or even ex-employees of this company.

Find new contacts.  Get referrals, network more, cold call (yes I suggested the “cold call” … but in the 21st century that may be through outbound/inbound marketing techniques).

Establish a routine that ensures the work happens without interruption.  Do not take unrelated phone calls, or address unrelated emails … be very focused on this activity.

Set goals for numbers of calls, meetings and expected outcomes … new orders, and closed business!

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Abraham Lincoln

This level of activity should develop a tangible momentum, resulting in some successes.  This in turn will give a confidence boost, which will be seen in a return to the successful salesperson you knew they could be!

“Confidence and enthusiasm are the greatest sales producers in any economy.”  O B Smith

The trick once the momentum is going, is not to slack off!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?

It Is More Important to HAVE Goals Than to Reach Them!

Aim for the moon!That seems like a contradictory thing to say, why would it be OK to miss our goals?  What is the point of having goals if we are not going to meet them?

Goals are a way to focus our efforts, in a direction that makes sense to us … today.

Along the way “stuff happens” some of which we plan for, some of which we do not.  Some of that stuff will be negative and some of it will be positive.

THAT “stuff” will determine where we go next!

I believe that if you asked ANY super successful person today whether their goals looked exactly like where they ended up they would have to admit that the result looks very different than what they expected.

I also believe that for many of them, they far exceeded their expectations.

When I left school I wanted to be a car mechanic, and that quickly morphed into an aircraft mechanic when I joined the Royal Navy.  My plans at that time saw me moving up the ranks, but did not even contemplate a move into the officer ranks.

When I became a computer programmer my goals would have seen me move into the management ranks, but not even an executive level.

My move into a sales role saw my ambitions grow, as I saw that as a chance to reach an executive level.

Never in any of these transitions did I see myself as a business owner.

Stuff happens along the route of life that we can take and use.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”  Charles R. Swindoll

We use goals to have somewhere to aim, that is hopefully a better place than where we are today.  Some people will naturally aim higher than others.

“If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll

So, as you go through life you should set yourself some goals.

  1. The more specific the better.
  2. Put a time frame on them.
  3. Be ambitious with your goals.
  4. Expect change.
  5. Review your goals regularly to see if you are going in the right direction and adjust your tactics.

Setting a goal gives you something to aim for … even if you hit something else, it is likely to take you in the right direction!!!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?————————————————————————————————————————————

Momentum Helps ALL Aspects of Your Life

Momentum quote from Anthony RobbinsAs a young salesperson I would be told that I needed to create and maintain a momentum for each sales situation.  What that actually meant  was a bit of a mystery to me for a while, but over time I began to understand the power of that advice.

Very often you will hear an old salesperson say that they “feel” something wrong.  What they are actually feeling is the loss of momentum in a sale.  The client response is no longer urgent; their interest does not seem as strong; decisions are not happening; and it is difficult to get answers.

The best salespeople understand that it is their responsibility to keep the interest high, but also to quickly recognise when the sale is slipping away.  The earlier you understand that the sale is not going to happen, the less time will be wasted by everybody concerned.  That is all about understanding the momentum of a sale.

“Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now. “  Denis Waitely

That same philosophy applies to many situations in our lives.

Certainly starting and running a business requires there to be a momentum … and that momentum needs to be nurtured and grown.  A loss of momentum is a sign that things are not right, hopefully an early enough warning that there needs to be change.  The best business owners try to create and maintain momentum without ever reaching that point!

Relationships need momentum .  When we start to take relationships for granted they start to wither, and if we are not careful we find ourselves losing friends and even getting divorced.

Our careers need momentum.  We need to be growing and learning, getting better at what we do.  The world is changing around us, new technology, new competitors, new people entering the workforce with new ideas … and we need to keep working at our skills to stay competitive, and even to remain relevant.

Creating and maintaining momentum requires effort.

We need a plan.

We need a series of action items that will get us to our target and by executing on those action items we create and maintain a momentum.

It may seem a little weird to approach relationships that way, but it works!  We have many ways to invest in our important relationships.  It can be as simple as spending time with people, or doing some small thing to show you appreciate them.  It could a regular date night or a special gift.  We don’t think of these as tasks, or as creating momentum … but it is a way to make sure we are investing in those important relationships.  By thinking of it that way we can stay alert to the momentum in our relationships!

Salespeople build momentum in many ways.  They need to find ways to bring value to their clients, build on their relationships, keep building credibility and truly solving their client’s needs.  Things go off the rails when salespeople are not well entrenched in the client’s decision process, don’t understand who the influencers are, don’t know their competition, make assumptions about client needs etc.  There are always a million things a salesperson can be doing to create and build momentum.  A salesperson wondering what they should be doing next is a salesperson in need of some training!  They should be running from task to task, keeping as much momentum in as many sales situations as possible!

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan.  And guess what they have planned for you?  Not much.”  Jim Rohn

The whole concept of momentum can be applied to every aspect of our lives, every day … and if we can keep all of the important parts of our life moving in the right direction we feel more in control and the result will be good.

Are you keeping the momentum in the important parts of your life?

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?

Develop Your Curiosity

Curiosity quote by EinsteinWikipedia describes curiosity as: (from Latin curiosus “careful, diligent, curious,” akin to cura “care”) is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in human and animal species. Curiosity is heavily associated with all aspects of human development, in which derives the process of learning and desire to acquire knowledge and skill.

I would suggest that curiosity is an under-rated trait that is present in almost any successful person that I know!

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”  Voltaire

This is one “skill” that can be developed … and can be hugely useful in both your career and your personal life.

For example, it is a strongly held belief that great leaders do not accept the “status quo”.  They are continually looking for ways to get better, to improve the process, to reduce the costs and to be more efficient.  A great way to do that is to be curious, and to truly understand why things are the way they are, because when you understand it well you have a decent chance of improving it!

“It is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Max De Pree

Let’s talk about relationships, both business and personal.  The number one way to start a relationship is to be curious about the other person!  By asking questions we get to know people better, and conversation flows easier leading to an easier relationship which might develop into friendship.  So, whether you are networking for business or meeting socially … being curious is a great way to “get ahead”!

“You can make more friends in two months by being interested in other people than in two years of trying to get people interested in you.”  Dale Carnegie

Work at it!

Consciously start to ask more questions.

Work at developing better questions.

Set yourself a goal to learn something new every day … by asking questions.

If you are hiring people, look for those who are curious … they will WANT to learn!

Are you good at getting people to open up, by asking good questions?

Do you agree that curiosity is a valuable skill?

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?

Eleven Thoughts About Keeping It Simple

Peter Drucker quote about useless efficiencyYou would think it fairly obvious that the more complex a solution is to a problem, the bigger the chance of failure.  Yet we often over complicate our lives, our businesses and the problems, both small and large, that we are trying to solve.

We see the risks all the time with BIG projects … they take longer, cost more and generally don’t do what they set out to do.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do big projects … big “things” still need to get done.  Maybe it means going about it differently,  OR maybe it just means setting different expectations.

What I am talking about is our (Human beings) penchant for over complicating things.

In business that could be as simple as striving to solve a perceived issue with a technology solution … when perhaps all that was needed was a common sense change in process.  It is like when the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer, it is amazing how often a hammer is the answer to your problems.  Sometimes we have business issues that don’t need the IT department to solve them, when all it might take would be a sign in sheet at reception to track the 5 visitors a day or a manual log to track the 2 cash transactions a week!

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”  Albert Einstein

Some random thoughts about “keeping it simple”:

  1. Ask yourself if a proposed solution really NEEDS to be technology based, or is there a more simple way?
  2. Do you really NEED a room full of people in a meeting to discuss a solution?
  3. Are you trying to solve a systemic issue, or are you reacting to a “one off”?
  4. If you are looking at a computer solution that needs to be built from scratch, have you considered the possibility that buying an off the shelf solution that solves 80% of your needs and requires some in house change to your processes might actually be a better way to go.  (Shooting myself in the foot with this one … we LOVE big development projects that need contractors!)
  5. Even if you need to have great time management skills, you do NOT need complex tools … keep it simple.  Calendar; TO DO List; and Goals.  Paper or electronic … whatever works for you!
  6. If you are doing strategic planning, account planning or any kind of business planning it is easy to let things get complex.  Simple plans get executed, complex plans … not so much!  Break it down into manageable “bite sized” pieces that are easily executed!
  7. Decide what is important for you in your life, and focus on those things.  Don’t be distracted by all of the million other things that you COULD do, or COULD have!
  8. Sometimes the most direct approach is the easiest … it is easy to over think situations.
  9. Communicate using words everyone can understand.
  10. There is an old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words“.
  11. Bonus … and perhaps the easiest answer.  Ask yourself if someone elsewhere already solved your problem.

“Complexity is your enemy.  Any fool can make something complicated.  It is hard to make something simple.”  Richard Branson

It’s About the Client NOT About You! (More Sales 101)

sales attitude quote by  w clement stoneIn my ongoing series devoted to the sales profession I am focusing today on subject that I know resonates with clients.  It is also a subject that I remember struggling with as a young salesperson.

Sales calls need to be about the client, not about you, your company,  your product or service.

“Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”  Seth Godin

We get taught this early … but then we get inundated with training about our product or service; our differentiators; our  key messages; our pricing discounts; our elevator pitch and any other number of things that we are supposed to talk to clients about.

There is not a lot of time spent on the client side of things.  Perhaps the assumption is that we will identify a potential client and they will be so happy to see another salesperson that they will just sit and listen to our wonderful pitches and obviously write a cheque?  (Excuse my cynicism here).

“Make the customer’s problem your problem.“  Shep Hyken

So what is it that we should be doing?

“A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.”  Wilson Mizner

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but here are some thoughts to be going on with:

  1. We all know what assumptions do … so NEVER assume that the person you are talking with has the same exact problem as the last person you talked with.
  2. You need to get a prospective client talking about their business issues, that relate to your product or service.  One way to achieve this is with an agenda (as previously discussed) that outlines the kind of issues that might be relevant.
  3. The great salesperson will get their client talking, and will listen carefully (without interrupting).
  4. A salesperson needs to establish some credibility with a client.  This can be achieved in many ways, and might have been partially achieved because the client granted the meeting.  Credibility might be proven by bringing appropriate knowledge to the meeting, or perhaps experiences of similar clients.  It might be because of the company credibility, or through a referral.   If you leave the meeting having never established some credibility your chances of ever coming back are diminished.
  5. A salesperson should try to establish some rapport with the client.  Again this can come in many different “flavors” and can be a personal type of rapport or a professional type of rapport … depending upon your own style.
  6. Salespeople need to know when they are talking too much.  We tend to get excited and then we talk, and talk … and talk!  Watch for the glazed over eyes, but better yet have a watch in front of you that tells you how long you have been talking.
  7. If you did your sales training well, then you will have goals for the meeting … but don’t meet your goals at the expense of the client.  Understand what goals the client might have, and help them to meet their goals.
  8. You need to be able to have a peer to peer conversation with the client about the subject of the meeting.  You must be confident or you will lose that hard earned credibility.  Always remember that this is your area of expertise, and most likely just one of many areas your client needs to address.  If you feel out of your depth then take a manager!
  9. If you have something of interest to the client then establish next steps before leaving the meeting.  Once you lose their attention they will be focused on the 101 other priorities on their desk.
  10. Always follow up.  Thank the client for the meeting.  Meet any obligations made in the meeting.  If possible send something of value such as relevant market data, relevant articles or subject matter knowledge that will help the client.

“If you are not taking care of your customer, your competitor will.”  Bob Hooey

By delivering value to our clients we will eventually become winners!

“All things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like, and trust.”  Bob Burg

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?

Goals Without Plans are Pipe Dreams

Dream becomes goal quote by Bo BennettI am a big fan of goals.

  • They give you something to aim for.
  • They provide focus.
  • They are the foundation of any great time management system.
  • They are necessary for any company that wants success, and highly recommended for anyone who wants to achieve success in almost anything, personal or career oriented.

A goal without a plan, that is actionable, has timelines and is realistic, is just a dream.  Martin Luther King Jr famously said, “I have a dream!”  The thing is that his dream also had a plan … he was working to make his dream a reality!

If you have ever looked at business plans from early stage companies there is a trend among some percentage of them to have a growth goal that looks like a hockey stick (very slow growth now followed by exponential growth in the future) .  Invariably the “business plan” will cite statistics for the size of the world-wide market and a comment that suggests if the company just takes 3% of the worldwide market they will achieve their targets.  THAT is not a plan … THAT is a dream (or a wish).

One of my personal favorite pipe dreams is the “If we just grow by 10% per year for the next 7 years we will double in size.”  That is a goal, not a plan.  The plan is needed to show the path to get that 10% growth each year, and will likely include multiple means to achieve the growth.

So … if you have a goal (or dream) then you have a good starting point.

The very next step is to lay out a plan that will get you to that goal.

  • It needs to be measurable.
  • It needs to be actionable.
  • It needs to be doable … even if it is a stretch.
  • It needs be tracked.
  • It needs to be reviewed periodically.
  • It needs to be flexible so that as situations change, then the plan can change.
  • I would suggest getting help developing the plan, and also help holding you accountable to the plan.
  • I would suggest having milestone goals along the way, that will demonstrate your progress.
  • I would suggest celebrating wins as you go, to stay motivated.
  • You might also want to stretch your goal as you get closer … because success breed more success!

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Silence is Not Always Golden!

communication quote  by John PowellCommunication is more a science than an art.  There are guidelines and even rules that can govern communication which we can use to train people, yet it remains one of the most frustrating aspects of people’s modus operandi!

One of the most frustrating communication traits is when there is silence, when there should be some form of communication.  You know what I mean … that contractor who was going to build your back yard deck was supposed to start last Monday, but he didn’t show and he won’t return your calls.

You were expecting to hear from that relative visiting from abroad, and you don’t know if they are going to show up.

You were expecting an update on a project that is late, but have received nothing.

You applied for a job and you don’t even know if your resume was received, because the recruiter hasn’t even acknowledged your application.

There are many, many such situations.

Invariably, when (if) communication does happen it will begin with, “I had nothing to tell…” or “I was waiting for news to give you…” or “I assumed…”

“Silence is a text easy to misread.”  A. A. Attanasio

We all know that “silence” can be deafening when we are expecting news, but somehow we don’t always translate that into what other people are feeling!

Here are a few thoughts on the subject …

  1. Most times more communication is better than less communication.  (That does not include talking instead of listening.)
  2. It is OK to communicate the fact that there is nothing to report.
  3. Try to put yourself in the shoes of people who might expect to hear from you.
  4. Poor communication erodes relationships as much as anything.
  5. When you don’t communicate at all, the person at the other end will make assumptions that you might not want them to make!

Great communicators are thoughtful, not only in the messages they deliver, but also in when they deliver them.

“Communication is a skill that you can learn.  It’s like riding a bicycle or typing.  If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”  Brian Tracy
Having said all of the above, there are absolutely many times when silence is preferable to words … just not when people are waiting anxiously for an update!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?

What IS The Comfort Zone … 10 Thoughts?

Einstein quote about mistakes and trying new thingsYou will see all kinds of articles, quotes and advice about “getting outside your comfort zone” and I have certainly written my fair share.  Certainly I see that a lot of people “get it” but there are also many who either don’t see the value, or don’t think they should bother.

So … I thought I would try to demystify these references to the comfort zone.

1.  The comfort zone is a comfortable place.  We are in familiar territory, we do the same kinds of things day in day out.  We deal with the same people, using basically the same processes and don’t try to do anything differently.

There are good reasons to be here.  It is lower stress.  It requires less “thinking”, and creates less errors … because we learn to do the same things over and over again so we get them right!

2.  Getting out of the comfort zone is not for everybody.  Some people would be very stressed out.  They would probably be paralysed by fear or uncertainty if they were forced to change the way they do things.

3.  Our world changes around us all the time.  The mobile phone was not around when I started my career … so the world forces change on us.  It is always better if we can be the ones driving change rather than having it happen to us!  That is what happened to dinosaurs and “buggy whip” manufacturers!

picture showing a circle representing "the comfort zone" with the larger area being "where all the good stuff happens"4.  For the right people change is exhilarating, or at least stimulating, which helps life to be more interesting.

5.  People that want to have successful careers need to be people willing to make changes … rather than have change happen to them.

6.  Change happens as much in our personal lives as it does at work, so a willingness to get outside the comfort zone can be very beneficial in all areas of our lives.  Getting out doing new things can result in new skills, meeting new people and open up new opportunities.

7.  Change, or a venture outside the comfort zone, does not have to be big.  It can start small.  As we get comfortable with small changes, then we can try a little more.  It is similar to learning to swim … start with short distances in the shallow end of the pool.  Ultimately you might swim across the lake, or at a minimum have fun jumping off the dock with your friends!

8.  We grow our muscles by working them hard.  We increase our knowledge by learning.  We grow our life skills by trying new things.

9.  A comfortable place is often a great place to be … but sometimes it is just boring.  Change brings some hassles, but the rewards can be many!

10.  I would sooner get to the end of my life and regret the things I did, rather than the things I never tried.

“Twenty years from now you will more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did do.  So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.”  Mark Twain

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
Want to know where Canada’s hot jobs are?   Visit the Eagle Job Board!
Have you tried Eagle’s (very cost effective) Virtual Recruiter service?

The Value in Attending Good Conferences

FEI Canada logoLast week I spent a couple of days at the annual FEI (Financial Executives International) conference in Winnipeg.  While I do not have a financial background myself, Eagle does provide our clients with finance and accounting talent, so the participants were potential clients for Eagle.

Heading to the conference I had a number of goals,

1.  Learn.  In particular what was interesting to my potential client base, understand what challenges they were facing and soak up some of the content.  (I was not disappointed)

2.  Network.  That does not mean bending people’s ears about Eagle, but rather building relationships, bringing value where I could and investing time in new people.  People were friendly and fun so this was just great.

3.  Fun.  There were some fun events, a gala evening at the Museum of Human Rights which was a spectacular venue with the added bonus of Gail Asper providing insight into the journey to get the museum built!  Good food, good wine, good company and and excellent venue … mission accomplished!

I did not have a goal to come away with new clients, or new orders.  I know that when I am attending an event and I get targeted by salespeople it makes me uncomfortable, which is not a great way to start any relationship.  I don’t think it does any supplier much good to use conferences as a “target rich hunting ground”!

I feel pretty good that I met some interesting people, exchanged cards and swapped stories with many of them.  I had fun at the gala event, enjoyed the company of some new friends and found the conference content to be excellent.

Cenovus logoThe first keynote speaker was Brian Ferguson, CEO of Cenovus Energy and a very engaging speaker.  His background is Finance so I was interested to see a former CFO make the CEO role, which I think appears to be a growing trend.  He talked about the kinds of challenges he faces, including the recent drop in oil prices that caused a 50% reduction in revenues!  Brian talked about leveraging his financial background, about having a great team and about having a passion for what you do.  He also talked about the importance of giving back … something near and dear to me too.  It was an interesting insight into the work day of  guy running a multi billion dollar corporation … and he still has his feet on the ground.  I like that!

Suncor logoThere was an interesting panel of CFOs with Don Selman (Richardsons), Janice Fukakusa (Royal Bank) and Alistair Cowan (Suncor) moderated by Bruce Waterman (a retired CFO who sits on several high profile boards).  This panel talked  lot about the role of the CFO today.  There was discussion about the differences between private companies and publicly traded companies (Richardson being a private company).  While there are some obvious differences (whose money is being spent) the structure and governance is remarkably similar.  There was talks about accessing capital, risk appetite and the impact of technology.  There was also a discussion around communication, so I was a little disappointed to find out none of the panel are active on social media!  (Room for improvement?)

I attended an interesting presentation about multi generational workplaces, with an emphasis on the millennials.  I have seen much of the content previously, but it was still an interesting session and the speaker from Morneau Shepell was very good.

There was an interesting session on social media and it was interesting to see IBM’s CFO on the panel, (good job Xerxes Cooper) when the other panelists were more technical.  The bottom line was social media is a great communication tool, internally and externally … it can be used to manage your brand (or your brand will be managed for you) and is one way to get employee engagement.

Canadian council aboriginal businessThe surprise session of the conference for me was “Doing Business with the Aboriginal Community”.  I really did not know what to expect, but the session was both interesting and thought provoking.  Aboriginal businesses will make up a large part of Canada’s GDP in the coming years!  There is an under utilised workforce waiting to be engaged and an influx of education and some investment could produce a great return … especially when you consider all of the work that gets outsourced abroad today.  I will personally be following up with Joe Dion (CEO Frog Lake Energy Resources) and JP Gladu (CEO Council of Aboriginal Businesses) both very articulate, successful representatives of a great opportunity!

I attended the obligatory Economic Outlook with economists Dawn Desjardins (Royal Bank, despite having the same name as another bank) and Todd Hirsch (Alberta Treasury Branch).  They took out their crystal balls and talked about (a) energy prices, with a focus on Alberta, (b) house prices with a focus across the country, (c) politics with a focus on Alberta and (d) inflation.  They talked about growth sectors and sectors of concern all in relation to Canada’s economic outlook.  Generally they were cautiously optimistic … that’s the shortened version!

We wrapped up the conference with a high energy motivational speaker and author of the book Nine Minutes on Monday, James Robbins.  As a big Time Management guy I’m always up for new productivity ideas and was intrigued by Jim’s ideas and thoughts … so I left with a copy of the book!

This is a long review of the conference … but my intention is to demonstrate that the right conference can bring a lot of value for a reasonable cost.  I think I ticked all the boxes and received a ton of value from this conference.  I also made some new friends … which is always valuable, whether business flows or not!

I would certainly encourage any financial executive in Canada to sign up for the Montreal conference next year.  Hope to see you there!

Kevin Dee is CEO of Eagle (a Professional Staffing Company)
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