The View from The Niagara Guide

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

A Truly Green Tea

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, May 13, 2010
I was in at LM Teas yesterday and picked up a tea to go. I didn't think about the cup it was served in until today when the cup finally made the trip from my car's beverage holder to the house. What a nice surprise.

The cup from LM Teas had a plastic lid and cardboard sleeve, both of which are recyclable. Most disposable cups aren't widely recyclable or compostable. This one was, and it made me go WOW!

LM Teas uses ecotainer cups™ which are coated using Polylactic Acid (PLA) from plants to make them waterproof. When composted, the PLA is broken down by microbes so the entire cup is quickly biodegradable. I do realize that EVERYTHING is biodegradable EVENTUALLY, but it's nice to see a local company making the greenest choice possible.

Hats off to Carmen and Jill at LM Teas for their great teas and green cups!


Welcoming Frizzell Dental!

Mark Kawabe - Thursday, April 29, 2010
Frizzell Dental is our newest dental clinic in The Niagara Guide.

Dr. James Frizzell and his team have been providing the finest dental care for over 20 years. He provides exceptional general and family dentistry and is an expert in cosmetic dentistry as well. Dr. James is also well regarded among his patients for providing gentle dental treatment and a near pain-free visit.

If you're living in or near Niagara Falls and you have teeth, you'll want to pay Dr. James and his team at Frizzell Dental a visit. http://www.niagarahealthguide.com/frizzell-dental/index.asp for more details.

Welcome aboard!

Welcoming Northern Renovations

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Finding reliable tradespeople is one of the challenges anyone considering a renovation project has to deal with. Eliminate that challenge and call Northern Renovations.

Mario has been building custom cabinetry since he was a youth and has been working in the renovations trade for over 35 years. He's well known as a creative builder. His idea of a challenge is a renovation project that will be enduringly strong, built with quality and produced at an affordable price. Daisy is a custom cabinetry finisher and general "get that job done" person. Together they make a great team.

Check out their work online at http://www.niagarahomeguide.com/niagara-renovations/index.asp.

Welcome to The Niagara Guide Mario & Daisy!

What if . . . ?

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, April 21, 2010
  • Everyone was healthy: We might need 50% less doctors and nurses. Convenience stores might close because of lowered cigarette sales. There could be two or three times as many stores selling nutritional supplements, bicycles, running gear and sports equipment and less selling televisions and Lazy-Boys. Personal trainers would be able to make a very comfortable salary. Fast food restaurants would switch away from serving fat-bombs to healthier fare - or close completely. Our communities would have cleaner air and water. We'd probably know our neighbours as we'd see them while out for our evening walks. 
Getting rid of one problem could cause lots of problems - depending on which side of the fence you sit. This is why many people are happy with the status quo - problems and all. They're in businesses that exist because there are problems in society.

We "all" recognize that we should eliminate problems in our society. "Everybody" thinks its a good idea. Since you're part of that whole, what have you done today to make our society a better place?

Coming soon: "Feel Good Niagara" - helping people learn about how they can make their lives better.

Kids for Change: Tanzania

Mark Kawabe - Monday, April 12, 2010

Kids for Change: Tanzania, one of the most important events of the year for young & mature professionals, will be taking place on Thursday, April 15th, 2010 at White Oaks Resort & Spa in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

In its debut year, Kids for Change, sponsored by Leverage U, is an evening where guests will mix, mingle and be entertained in an effort to raise funds for taking Conflict Resolution and Communication Skills to orphaned children in the needy countries of East Africa.

At Kids for Change 2010 guests will indulge their senses with a taste of Africa in a night of live music, hors d’oeuvres, yummy cocktails, fantastic auctions items, raffles, gift bags and much more! This is an opportunity to leverage your organization as a globally responsible leader aligned with an important cause.

It is our goal to raise $20,000 which will fund this year’s project and secure funds to expand the program.You are invited to participate in Kids for Change by supporting the event with an in-kind donation of goods and/or services to our extraordinary auction items, raffle and/or gift bags.

Filled with unique and exclusive items, our spectacular silent auction, LIVE dessert auction, raffle and gift bags are essential highlights of the evening. As a contributor, you will receive the following:

  • Your donation will be displayed at the auction/raffle table your marketing piece placed in each of the gift bags

  • Your company logo will be displayed onscreen at the event

  • Your company will receive acknowledgement on the Leverage U websites (www.angersolution.com) and blog site (www.angersolution.blogspot.com) with direct links to your website

  • Your company will receive acknowledgment on the Kids for Change: Tanzania Website, Facebook event page and in the Leverage U newsletter.

  • Acknowledgement of your support and involvement on the Blog Talk Radio program “The Anger Solutions Radio Show” with a worldwide listening audience.

Don’t miss out on being part of such a fantastic event!!! Your generous support will help us give hope and bring conflict resolutions and communications skills training to thousands of children in schools and orphanages in the region of East Africa, beginning with Tanzani.

For further information about “The Africa Project” or Kids for Change, please contact Marlina Kinnersley, Development Coordinators directly at or (647) 882-9497.

Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased from www.kidsforchange.web.officelive.com.Thank you in advance for your consideration and support and we look forward to your positive response. Together we can help!

Sincerely,

Julie Christiansen, Program Sponsor, 905-329-6169 Marlina Kinnersley, Event Coordinator, 647-882-9497

Kids for Change: Tanzania 2010



IT's Really Important

Mark Kawabe - Monday, March 29, 2010

This weekend I've spent more time working with and on computers than I have in a long time.

That's not to say I enjoy it. Not at all. Computers and the software that run them are the bane of my existence. From time to time anyway.

One thing I realize though is that while I might hate them, I love them. I mean, where else can you do a half a million things - all at a quarter to three? Computers allow you to do so much. They also enable you to learn an incredible amount of information. Think of all the encylopedia salesmen out of work, courtesy of Wikipedia, and marvel at how, in such a short period of time, we've come to put our collective human wisdom and knowledge online for the world to share.

In virtually the same breath, you can also appreciate how incredibly quickly things can unravel if we DON'T have access to our electronic network. Our virtual brains. Look at the panic that ensues when the Blackberry network goes down, or when e-mail communications are disrupted. What would happen in your business if your computer just up and died? How much of your knowledge is stored on that device? I shudder when I think about that.

Despite this knowledge that we rely incredibly heavily on our electronic servants, we have to rely on people who know how to heal our computers when they're not well. Sometimes they can get viruses. Sometimes they can get attacked by people who do bad things to them like install malware. Sometimes we have to protect ourselves from our own stupidity - like when we delete our own files by accident.

So, I'd like to pay tribute to a few people I know in the industry.

Glen Bowes of Bowes IT Solutions - Glen has been indispensable many a time with both emergency and routine server maintenance. I can't thank you enough.

Tom McIntyre of TAG Computer Services - Tom has consistently provided great service and advice on keeping my office network running smoothly.

Allen Fricke of Performance Computers - Allen's the "new kid" on the block, but I just got a new computer from him this weekend and it's everything I'd hoped it would be. Definitely worth the time spent to make sure it was "just right".

IT stands for Information Technology. A proper understanding of how your business is affected by IT is vital to your business success. I highly recommend talking to the above professionals to make sure your business is well-positioned technically for growth and vitality.



So you've got tools - now what?

Mark Kawabe - Monday, March 15, 2010

Entrepreneurs are always looking for new ways to promote themselves. I like new. Facebook and the social media tools that have sprung up in the last decade are "new". YouTube was new. There will always be something new for us to use to promote ourselves and our businesses. That's exciting.

What's not so exciting is the eventual realization that you actually have to DO something with these new tools for them to have any effect. A client of mine was pondering starting a blog until he noted that he would have to "feed the monster" new content regularly over a long period of time for the blog to have an effect. Yep. That's how it works - with any promotional tool we have in our toolboxes.

It doesn't matter whether you're talking about social media, networking or good ol' word-of-mouth marketing. YOU have to do something for those methods to work. Any program that says it will do it all for you with no input whatsoever from you is lying. If you're not participating, your results will be pathetic.

Unfortunately, in our "take-no-responsibility-for-anything" society, many business people do just that when it comes to something "not working" for them. This is true whether they're spending money on a newspaper, radio or TV ad campaign, joining a networking group like the Chamber of Commerce, BNI or other groups (locally KNOW it ALL Niagara and the Small Business Club Niagara come to mind) or things they control like their flyers, coupons or websites. If these methods don't "work" for the business, the tool is often the thing blamed.

I think there are two underlying causes of failure for any marketing endeavour.

1) Understanding HOW the "tool" works.

2) Committing to use the "tool".

These points illustrated:

Business owner A buys a single ad in a newspaper.

Business owner B buys a series of ads in the same newspaper.

Business owner A gets no response from his single ad.

Business owner B gets increased brand awareness and eventually some customers he can track came from the newspaper from his coupons and asking how people learned about him.

Business owner A didn't understand how newspaper advertising works. His experience suggests newspaper advertising doesn't work and as a result he blames the newspaper for taking his money.

Shared responsibilityYou can see this happening over and over again with any marketing tool. If you don't understand HOW to use a method to promote your business, learn all about it first. Then make the committment to using that method properly for a set period of time and set measurable and reasonable short and longer-term performance targets. Consistently test your approach and try different things to see if the method can work better for you. Only then can you accurately determine whether any given method was effective.

Most of the time there are two parties responsible for your marketing success or failure. The first is YOU. The second is the representatives of the marketing vehicle you've chosen to use. This could be your sales rep at the newspaper, phone directory or radio station, or the customer service representative of your networking group, Chamber of Commerce or the marketing company you've hired. You BOTH have a responsibility to ensure YOU know how to use the system effectively so you can make informed decisions about your marketing activities.

Of course, if you're talking about some self-directed activity like social media marketing, then it's just you who's to blame. At least the pain of failure on Facebook doesn't cost you anything. When you're paying for something, you expect it to work. Just make sure you know what you're getting into or take the time to learn. Good marketing organizations will take the time to educate you on what you should be doing to use their tools effectively. Others will assume you know what you're doing.

To paraphrase Tom Lehrer: "Marketing is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends what you put into it."

Choose well.



Take Your Head Out of Your Ass

Mark Kawabe - Friday, March 05, 2010
You are so the same as everyone else that nobody cares.

"But wait - I'M DIFFERENT!!!"

So, how exactly are you different enough that people SHOULD care?

I'm waiting...

...still waiting...

...and waiting.

The truth is most of us are lousy at communicating our differences which is a shame, because it's the only thing that's really important. We let potential customers assume we fit the "standards" of our industry and since we've co-operated by colouring inside the lines like everyone else, there's nothing special about us to make people go WOW!!! Yep. Guilty as charged. Me too. Been there, done that. Perhaps I'm still doing it.

But today I'm taking a friend's advice and taking my head OUT of my ass, giving it a shake and looking at myself and my business with a more critical eye. Change is happening all around me anyway, whether I want it to or not. If things are going to be different and better, change had better begin with me.

Or in your case, you. I hope you're enjoying the view and the fresh air. Now get to work on making things better.

And, for those of you who are seeing this on a Friday afternoon and thinking change can wait until Monday, the good news is you're right. It CAN wait. The better time to start is now.

Make it a great weekend!

Subversive but True - So What Will YOU Do?

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, February 28, 2010
If you've ever wondered why we learned what we did in school and what its purpose was, here's an interesting take on it from Seth Godin.

Brainwashed

Personally, this rings so very, very true.

I printed this off to for my son to read. He's in grade 7 right now and starting to make decisions about what high school to attend, think about career options etc.

I wonder if this is too subversive for him to read - whether it will make him question the value of his education so much he fails to succeed as a student. Then again, I look at my own life and wonder if the lessons I learned during my time being "educated" could be learned in different ways.

Do you think you've been brainwashed? If so, what are you going to do about it?



Objectivity Consultants

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I know lots of "consultants". I'm sure you do too. What does that actually mean?

From Wikipedia:

"A consultant (from the Latin consultare means "to discuss" from which we also derive words such as consul and counsel) is a professional who provides advice in a particular area of expertise such as management, accountancy, the environment, entertainment, technology, law (tax law, in particular), human resources, marketing, food production, medicine, finance, life management, economics, public affairs, communication, engineering, sound system design, graphic design, or waste management."

Some people call me to ask me for advice about their online marketing efforts or their website development. Since I provide both services (and more), can I really be called a consultant? I suppose I can be, because I take it upon myself to provide an objective view of the client's needs. If a client may be better served by another company, I'll tell them so.

The line between consulting and sales has been blurred in the past couple of decades as providers of solutions are now "consultants". Are those consultants giving their clients objective advice about what is available in the marketplace when they provide a possible solution to their client's needs? One hopes so, but that's a tough call, and it may not even be important in some ways. If you call IBM Business Consulting, are you really expecting your consultant to tell you that Dell has the best products and services to meet your needs? I think you're calling IBM to have them consult you on what the best IBM solution is to your problems.

Independent consultants are getting harder and harder to find, in my opinion. These are people who don't have a vested interest in products or services they may suggest as solutions to your problem. Dennis O'Neill comes to mind when I think of an independent consultant. He will help you work on a marketing or sales program and tell you new flyers are necessary. He doesn't tell you which printer to get them from - he makes no money off the solution, but he consults on what the solution should be.

So if consulting in the modern sense is really sales, then why don't people just say they sell? Probably because the sales industry realized long ago that people don't like to be "sold" something - they prefer a more consultative approach. Now sales people are often given titles similar to "Sales Consultant" to take the edge off "sales", as if it's a dirty word.

My suggestion: if your "consultant" also provides the source of products for the solutions they present, they're salespeople. Yes, they're consulting you - on which of the products and services they offer as part of their solution are the best fit for you. It's no different than walking into an office furniture store and buying a desk. The "Sales Consultant" will work with you to see if the products they have fit your requirements. If you really wanted a consultant, you would have hired an interior designer or "space consultant" to find out what kind of desk would be best for you before going shopping.

I think the next decade will see "consulting" become as dirty a word as "sales". Just my $0.02 for you.

As always, your thoughts are welcome.




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