Business and Life Inspiration with Billionaire Frank Giustra

Billionaire Frank Giustra on Business and PhilanthropyI’m lucky in my line of work that I get to meet so many incredible people. Being able to live and work in the online world allows me flexibility and reach like no other industry I know of. Because of this flexibility I’ve been getting more involved in the Vancouver community, enjoying events with diverse and rich groups of successful business visionaries.

Today was no exception. BCBusiness’s Top 100 honoured the top 100 companies in BC, Canada. Frank Giustra was the special guest of todays event, and I enjoyed the pleasure of listening to his life story and how he has contributed to four different multi-billion dollar corporations.

Though Mr. Giustra is most well known for his work in the mining and film industries (Lions Gate Film), his work as a philanthropist, and his down to earth nature is what attracted me to him as a person. He was genuine in his answers, often being asked about his weaknesses, doubts and past failures, to which he always came out with positive responses of hope, focus and a well balanced life.

For someone who is able to work no more than a regular work week while being able to contribute 100 million dollars to his friend Bill Clinton’s philanthropy projects, it was wonderful to hear his insights into what makes great companies and great human beings.

Personal note: That he was a self made billionaire and came from very humble beginnings, and had to suffer with fear, doubts, seclusion, mockery and down times just like everyone else, explained his compassion to the world and his desire to just be happy, help others and enjoy a well balanced life.


Here are a few notes of highlighted comments I took from him today:

– If you truly believe in something, with 100% conviction, anything you dream of can happen.

– Avoid negative energy. Be around the things that push you forward and feel productive and positive in every way. This will produce true success.

– Once they can see they relate to you, you can inspire them.

– Never borrow money. If you have debt, you’re done. Instead, just cut back and spend less until the hurt is over.

– Ego is an important thing to leave on the side when making business decisions.

– I look at the characteristics of successful people and test those out for myself.

– I still make mistakes. Its just part of life. You just have to correct them quickly, learn from them, and move on.

– Success comes from having a balanced life, feeling happy and being at peace. If you’re not at peace, it’s not right. I balance my life with family, friends, cooking, good wine, adventure, exercise, ongoing learning and just staying healthy.

– Content is everything. If you have great content, no matter the industry or subject matter you’re in, you can reach new markets and new opportunities.


and a final fun one to take away:

Mr. Giustra was asked “What business advice would you give my six year old?” His reply? “Learn Mandarin.”

It was a pleasure to spend some time with Frank Giustra today. Sometimes it’s good to just step out of your box and listen to someone who can inspire you to be more like yourself, to take risks, to put your heart out there, and to be wholeheartedly passionate about what you do.  That’s what he did, and I do too.

How about you? What are you most passionate about that makes you happy?

Doing Business Differently to Get Results – Tips from 5 Top CEOs

Tracy Redies CEO of Coast Capital Speak on Being Different

Yesterday in Vancouver, the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Coast Capital Savings put on a round table discussion with highly successful CEOs in the Vancouver Community.

This group discussed topics around what makes them unique, successful and different from the rest.

Here are some key takeaways from the group of CEOs who know how to do it right. On the Panel:


Coast Capital’s Purpose: To Change the Way Canadians Feel About Banking Forever”. Align your business model to your purpose. For them it’s to provide simple financial help. The world of banking is complicated and confusing. They make it simple and fun. Behind every transaction, every touch point, their entire business asks the question “how we can help our client”. They want to be as far away from the image of “banking” as possible, and that differentiates them. Instead of hiring experts, they hire attitude and train on expertise.  They even re-wrote all of their legal documents so any customer could understand them completely in simple terms.

Their policies are based on the Litman’s test of trust first. That means they trust everyone until they prove otherwise. “You’re the boss” Campaign allows customers feel they are the boss and in charge of their lives, which they are. Coast Capital is simply there to help. They ask how each customer has a positive unexpected result or experience with then. They have “money chats” with their customers and prospective customers, and the purpose is to help them improve their lives. They found a fun, humorous way to present financial information.

They want their employees to believe with passion and conviction that they are positively changing for the better their customers’ lives. They made a promise to their employees to change the way employees feel about work forever. Happy, engaged employees tend to make happy, engaged customers. Eliminate the friction that cause customer frustration and get your employees to believe and live what you are doing, and you will be successful.

Question toward Provident Security: “How do you continue to provide a service that makes you feel safe but also feel cared for?”

A: We ask what can we do that addresses the biggest problem in our industry and how do we do it better then anyone else who can service this solution. We can to take it from an end to end service, and we do it better and faster than anyone else. People would joke after singing up “we hope we never have to see you again”. This sounded negative, so we wanted to change that mindset. So we created a concierge that takes care of you and your family and your pet and your needs before, after and while you’re away from your home. Our entire goal is to ask every day – what can we do for our customers that makes them want to see us everyday, rather than never wanted to see us again.

A: 1-800-GOT-JUNK: You have to start by thinking differently – this is the road to being different. It’s the little things you do for your customers that are far beyond what is expected that makes them go “wow, these guys are great” – and you do it consistently. You need to decide what things you do really well and get rid of the rest. It’s the call ahead. It’s sweeping up after you’re done. It’s watering their flowers if they look like they are dying on your way out. It’s the little things that show you care.

A: Kids and Company: We all need to have innovation and integrity, but being different and standing out because the way you think about business and do business needs to be different from others. We’re different because everyone of the 10,000 children we have, and all 2000 teachers and child care givers we have are grateful and thankful to have each of those kids. And I make myself available personally to each of my kid’s parents – they all have my cell phone number and my personal email address and they can contact me anytime and I will take care of them personally – it’s my pleasure to do it (Victoria Sopik has 8 kids herself).

A: Coast Capital – we are successful because we are addressing and servicing unmet needs. Employee retention is really important from a customer satisfaction standpoint because customers don’t want to tell their story over and over again. They want to build relationships and have people know and care for them. We don’t always get it right, but we always do our best and try to genuinely care for each of our clients personally, and it makes all the difference.

Comment – Too many businesses think being “different” is in their marketing, where as true differentiation is much deeper, it’s company wide and it’s in who you are and why you’re doing it to the core over what you say on an ad.

A: @WOW1DayPainting – yes, we can get a house painted in a day, instead of 7-10 days. It’s the same cost, same high quality and care, we just do it differently to deliver it differently.

A: Kids and Company: The customers we care most about so much about are the ones who leave. We want to know in depth why they are leaving and what we need to change. We never want people to leave or be unhappy, so we will offer them free service until they are happy again. There is no reason to not fix, whenever possible, someone’s experience or opinion of you and your business if you genuinely care.

A: Coast Capital: we rarely look at what others are doing within our own industry. If you’re continuing to follow “best practices” route, then you’re just doing things the same as everyone else: WestJet, Apple, Google and industry leaders who do things differently outside of your own industry is where you should be looking to get inspiration and differentiate yourself.

A: Provident Security: Our single best inspiration was from Mrs Fields Cookies. We looked at how they ran their 900 stores and their tracking and their systems to consistently provide exception in an easy way for those within it that create exceptional products consistently. I have almost zero interest in the security industry at all, we look at businesses outside of what we do for inspiration. They didn’t want stressed out staff, they wanted happy staff, so they made systems and jobs as simple and easy as possible. They were always clear what to do and everything was tracked and consistently tweaked for improvement, so the front line was happy and effective in doing what they were hired for – to take care of the customers in a wonderful way.

A: 1-800-GOT-JUNK: Sometimes the businesses that win are the ones that figure out how to find the people who will take that extra step, such as picking up the phone to call, instead of an email. Find staff who want to have fun and take care of what they are responsible for and have them believe with full conviction in what they are doing and you will be different from everyone else.

A: Kids and Company: The fact that we don’t charge late fees, that we stay open an hour later, that the teachers will stick around to talk to parents are all ways that we are different because others are not willing to do that. When asked why, it’s simply because they have always done that, so why change? That doesn’t make sense. When we mess up, we have to give free child care. And even if they leave and they don’t come back, at least they can tell the story that you tried, not that they left and you did nothing to help them. When you go to a restaurant and have a bad experience, the ones who take charges off your bill, or the Starbucks that give you free coffees or free vouchers when you’re not entirely satisfied are the ones who win, because of the exceptional service and the genuine care to make it right. People will come back for that.

A: Coast Capital: Deal with the customer’s concerns as soon as possible. When issues come to me, it’s because we failed and somehow it ended up the ladder. So we created a program called “make it right” that allows our front line staff to feel empowered and make decisions to fix mistakes quickly to ensure customer satisfaction all the time.

A: 1-800-GOT-JUNK: You’re going to make a mistake, but it’s how you handle it which makes the difference. If you go far above and beyond even after you’ve lost hope with that person, the chances of them referring you on to several other people will go beyond any small short term cost you might incur in making it good again.  Finding the right people to share your cause and being clear on what your cause is. Show them how to make something ordinary exceptional.  You have really great people, you have really great systems, you have a purpose that’s different than others, you have a winning combination. Stop focusing on your “great” marketing campaigns  and start focusing more on telling your great story. That’s what people want and that’s what they will follow.


How Will Layar’s Interactive Print Influence the Future of Internet Marketing?

The days of seeing a product in a magazine and then finding it in a store or online later to purchase it are over. Today’s consumers want what they want and they want it now. Waiting is not an option. With the new augmented reality and interactive print technologies from Layar, the wait is over.



Using augmented reality, Layar turns any print or flat page into an interactive storefront. After a customer has downloaded the free app onto their smart phone or tablet, they simply point their device at an ad in a magazine and click, and they are taken to the company’s online store or a video or a social media outlet.

Currently, this technology is being used extensively by Dutch companies, but is it now finding its way into North America. Over six million consumers in the US have downloaded the app and over twenty-seven million have worldwide.

What does this mean for the future of internet marketing and consumer buying? This technology blurs the line between print and online marketing. Marketing campaigns will be designed with an eye towards creating visually stimulating and eye popping ads that shake up the entire buying experience and encourage readers to move from the page to online immediately.

When one thinks of online marketing, social media comes to mind and the interaction between a company and its customers. Video certainly plays a part as well and connecting the social media to a website or store and moving your customers from one to the other has always been the goal. With Layar’s augmented reality, print ads can now be shared on social media and be completely interactive.

Consumers have always been susceptible to impulsive purchases. As advertisers push the limits of amplified reality, consumers will be able to buy anything they see at anytime from anywhere. As the Layar technology moves into books, not only will someone be able to purchase a book they see at their friend’s house, they would be able to buy items listed inside. For example, imagine the hero wears a certain brand of shirt. The brand name can be made interactive and before the reader gets to the next page or the hero saves the day, he or she can have purchased it.

The uses will be endless. Now when you read a review of a new restaurant and you will be able to click on it and immediately see video of the food, the restaurant itself, and even customer’s enjoying their meal and giving feedback.

The one area of concern companies will need to deal with is over saturation. When static pages become active with video, social media, and purchase options, keeping the consumer’s attention will be a challenge. Sensory overload and attention span will need to be considered when developing a marketing plan that includes interactive print.

Immediate purchases, augmented reality, and a closer connection with customers is the future. Performance Marketers will devour these new opportunities on a global scale. In time, there will be nowhere that a product cannot be bought or a video watched. It will be an exciting time, so don’t be left behind.

What instances have you seen interactive print being used in the last few months?

How to Succeed at Internet Retailer Conference (IRCE)

Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition Attendee ChartLast week was the world famous Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago where thousands of retailers, vendors and eager students gathered to devour the online retail industry’s latest innovations, strategies and presentations by great leaders in the space.

With over 200 speakers, 600 vendors and an array of opportunities that come about by being anywhere within the 250,000 square foot stoping ground, IRCE is not a show to miss if you’re serious about retail.

However in order to make your time worth while without getting overwhelmed or missing the boat on your greatest opportunities, here are some tips for survival and making the most out of this exceptional show:


Five Tips to Success at IRCE:

1. Chose where to spend your time

Plan which areas have your greatest interest and spend time there. There are four main categories of the exhibition hall:

  • marketing/merchandising/social media
  • fulfilment/shipping/delivery
  • e-c0mmerce platforms
  • customer support/order processing/payments

Chose one, maybe two of these to spend your time in, and speak with as many people as possible. If you don’t you’ll find yourself wandering in an abyss of foreverness, not really finding any value in anything because you were spread too thin. Focus. Rinse and repeat.

2. Plan your meetings in advance

Before I left I had breakfast, lunch and dinner planned every day with people I wanted to spend special time with. I left a little flex room one afternoon as well, which resulted in a one hour meeting turning into a highly productive 6.5 hour meeting, which could mean millions of dollars to our brand. It’s a good idea to leave a little flex room so you can catch the shows, meet with the people and make the decisions that are right for you and your business.

3. Three heads (and bodies) are better than one

This show is so massive, so high value, it’s better to have more people covering different areas than sending only one person who misses 95% of the opportunities. There’s only so much ground one person can cover. This goes for both the sessions and the exhibition hall. Or, worse case scenario, have one person attend the sessions and the other work the floor. Whatever you do, if you send more than one person make sure you split up. The point of having more people is to leverage different opportunities rather than follow each other around getting the exact same experience. Collaboration is more effective if you split up and meet throughout the day.

4. Attend the networking events

Magento threw a phenomenal party the first night of IRCE. Probably 1000 people came, and they covered food and open bar for everyone. High profile clients and vendors attended, and it was an amazing opportunity to meet new people, all of which could benefit from knowing each other. My #1 tip on events – know all your options for each night and sign up in advance to make sure you get in. They fill up fast.

5. Follow up

We all get caught in a flood of emails and follow ups from trips like these and its understandable that you’re busy upon return. However you must resist the temptation to push those business cards aside for a later day. Timeliness is everything, and a later day could turn into a later month which could turn into never. This means you’ve just wasted your trip from a relationships standpoint. Stay in touch. Reach back out. Schedule another call to remind each other what you do and build those relationships. Its those relationships that lead to new business or learning opportunities that could mean the difference of your ongoing success or not.

How many of you went to IRCE this year and what were your major highlights?



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