The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

Smarten Up Niagara!

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Are you the tallest nail in your industry? The one that gets hit for standing out while everyone else is comfortable keeping their heads down?

This article's for you.


Would you sell your business for less that what you thought it was worth ???

Would you give all your expert knowledge to a competitor for free!?

Would you sell your best selling product at a loss ? or your most expensive product at a loss?

When you buy a product at a national chain store don't you expect to pay the same price at all the stores?

Would you tell a client – “no problem I won’t charge you for the work I’ve done or the service I’ve provided” even when there were no problems ! ?

In the past 10 years I have been watching exactly this type of “business suicide” go on all over the Niagara region!

In my capacity as a consultant for both the hospitality trade and the special event rental industry, I have contacted literally thousands of business from Fort Erie to Hamilton, I have spoken with staff and owners of all types of operations; and in that conversation, two things have stunned me!

We devalue our services & goods and we have so little customer training for ourselves and our staff that neither seems to value the goods or services their companies supply or the customers to whom they sell those goods and services.

What do I mean by these statements:

Devaluation - everything a company does has a value – those companies that take the time to research the value of the things a company has and does; from the staff to managers, to COO’s; from office décor to light bulb purchase has a value!

Where do you put that value? Into the “goods and services bank” – a supply and demand account, that should determine you should both buy and sell your supplies and products at a competitive pricing.

This account is the same whether you are in Niagara or in Oakville, Stevensville or Hamilton. If your selling “widgets” or information on how to build a “basic Widget” here or there, in most cases you pay the same for the parts – the production and the labor/wage the hydro and water the gas the repairs and maintenance for your building/ office supplies etc.

With this in mind you should be valuing your product the same as all other suppliers no mater where they are in the region - but this is not the case!

If you go past the boundary of Stoney Creek you can see it in the costs to consumers; but it is never more evident than when you are selling a specialty service.

No one in Niagara seems to value their product and services the same as those in areas to the north.

Competition is the essence of commerce, but if you give away your product in the false assumption that a lower price will get more business, when others charge fair and reasonable prices, you DEVALUE the good and service and as a result you can not maintain your growth potential and a high level of service. The money just is not there! Yes you can struggle month over month to met the obligations and try to meet customer service needs – but you just won’t do it !

Niagara and the area has struggled with this concept for decades. With the expanding market place from Toronto and beyond, and the change in the “destination” value of our region we have to be prepared to meet the demands for better products, more variety, more services, at a Toronto market price.

This is the profit margin it will take to provide the service at a level that we presently only instill in the graduates of our college and University. Our business and service providers need to see the value in this type of action if we are to stop being a “bedroom” community and a “has been” factory area. Owners of business need to step up their game and provide exceptional training to staff, not only in customer service but “up-selling” techniques. Many need to reach the level of service that patrons and businesses (outside of our area ) who are seeking opportunity to do business or to enjoy our goods and service receive in their own areas.

They expect it and they will pay for it!

It is time to become an area not know for devaluing our goods, services and supplies, but one that is up to the times and the style of every major area surrounding a provincial capital.

Why should we be a follower when we can lead? Why should Toronto style take two or more years to come to our area? if we don’t devalue, we don’t have to wait, and neither do our customers.

P.J. Hicks
P.J. Consulting, Niagara

If Everything's About Price, What Do You Do?

Mark Kawabe - Friday, February 05, 2010
What do you do if you're in an industry that focuses only on price? Your potential prospects focus on the lowest price and your competitors focus on price - even if it's to their detriment. If your prices are higher - and for good reason - what do you do?

I think this is the time to reinvent your brand around value.

As my business coach (Dennis O'Neill - The Business Growth Coach) says, there's a simple equation to define value.

VALUE = (Need + Trust)/Price

If your price is higher, then you have to built up the sense of need and the sense of trust.

I met a prospect who needed a website. He had been burned by another web developer who walked off with his deposit and did not trust web developers as a result. I worked on building trust by referring him to a collections specialist who got his deposit money back. As a result of this and other efforts I gained his trust and got the business. At the beginning the need was high but the trust was non-existent. At the end the need and trust were high and the perceived value of my services was high despite my price being close to twice what the previous developer had quoted.

Clearly identify and illustrate your prospects' needs. Demonstrate your trustworthiness. Do these things and price will become less of an issue as you will be seen as offering more value.

Valentines Packages from Spa In Motion

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, February 03, 2010
If you're looking for a stress-free Valentines Day present for your significant other, you'd be making a smart choice by choosing a mobile spa package from Spa In Motion - Niagara's mobile spa service.

Packages for Her, for Him and for Couples are available. Check out the website at

Open Auditions for Garrison Little Theatre

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Open auditions for Garrison Little Theatre's production of "Perfect Wedding", a romantic comedy by Robin Hawdon will be held Thursday, February 25, 2010 starting at 7:00 at the Italo-Canadian Club, 1101 DiPietro Street, Fort Erie.

For information, please call Darka at 905-991-8856.

Why "Nothing" is Important

Mark Kawabe - Monday, February 01, 2010
We just welcomed MOST Accounting to The Niagara Guide. This is important because for years I have hated numbers and bookkeeping hasn't been one of my strong points. With MOST Accounting, I am poised to make more money and pay less tax. Who wouldn't like that?

So, why am I saying "nothing" is important?

Consider this: 0

Yes. Zero. What does it represent?


Except for the fact that there is an enormous difference between the following:


The only difference here is the presence and position of a 0 in the number.

Would you rather have profits of $9 or $9,000,000?

I thought so...

Maybe it should be NIAGRA Falls...

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, January 28, 2010
Well, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that there's a love position named after Niagara's best known landmark.

No - not the Brock monument...

Thank you Cosmo, for introducing to the world Niagara Falls (link NSFW). Forever changing the way I think about bathtubs and shower attachments.

Then again, with the Niagara Romance expo coming up soon, what better timing?

It's also ironic that many, many people (usually Americans) spell Niagara as NIAGRA. Only one letter away from being the blue pill.

Have a happy Thursday!

Stressed? Have I got a Solution for You!

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, January 28, 2010
How do you feel when you're stressed? Like you just want to scream, yell and whack somebody in the head with a stick? How would you like to do that for real?

Introducing: Kendo: the art of Japanese Fencing. I can't think of another place you'll get to scream until your lungs are empty and whack people in the head with a stick.

Of course, it's rather more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

Kendo is a very good stress reliever. VERY good. After a workout you'll be quivering like jelly with all your stresses replaced, at least for a while, with a comforting sense of calm. During a workout you don't have time to think about your troubles because you'll be focusing on your posture, breathing, footwork, technique and the person who's about to be swinging a stick at your head. There's nothing like the latter to make you focus on the NOW.

For more information, visit the Hayakawa Kendo Club at

Below is an example of sparring in Kendo. Watch for the points!

Does Driving an H3 Make You a "Bad" Person?

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, January 27, 2010
While out and about I noticed a business person has chosen to drive an H3, complete with their contact information and company logo on it.

What do you think about people who choose to drive vehicles that are perceived to be environmentally unfriendly?

We live in an increasingly eco-conscious society and many people try to make "green" choices whenever possible. Going green is the hallmark of a responsible citizen is it not? So what about this businessperson? What could one possibly guess about their character, either positive or negative?

I'm curious about your opinion so I haven't put forward my own to see where the discussion goes.

Cornerstone Carpentry

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, January 27, 2010
It is my pleasure to welcome Carl Lascelles from Cornerstone Carpentry to The Niagara Guide family of advertisers.

When it comes to renovations, Carl can do it all, and if not, he knows someone who can. Drywall. Roofing. Building. Framing. General carpentry. Doors. Windows. Decks. Additions. If you need something built or repaired around the house, Carl's your guy.

Check out his website at or call him today at 905-734-4470 and start Building Your Way to a New Beginning.


Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Greetings folks,

Mark Kawabe here from The Niagara Guide. We're in the process of moving to a new content management system for our websites and as a result, our blogs are moving as well.

Ook. I hate this process because it's not always something that goes smoothly. However, it is what it is.

Just wanted to let you know. Thank you for your patience and for your reading!

Best Regards,

Mark Kawabe
Chief Guide
The Niagara Guide Inc.


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