Well here we are, middle of summer, heat and more heat, not only in Grey-Bruce but here in England too. I write this newsletter from just outside Newcastle on location working at a Rayovac hearing aid battery factory. They are currently experiencing the warmest and driest summer since the 1960’s. It’s one of the many manufacturing plants that I have had the opportunity to work at in my career. I find it amazing that on one line, 60,000 batteries an hour, 1,440,000 a day are produced, and that is only 1 line.
What I also find amazing is the number of businesses local serial entrepreneur Bill Van Wyck has been involved with. Bill was our feature speaker at the June 19th meeting. What a great presentation Bill gave us. From dog grooming products, boats, packaging manufacturing to an online research repository Bill has seen and been involved in a wide variety of companies. Each one successful due to some basic guiding principles. Know your own limits, trust and empower your employees, and embrace technology. Those in attendance had some great questions for Bill in regards to these principles and came away with valuable insight into his recipe for success. We also spent quite a while discussing the technology and approach to growth in his current venture Global Research Library Inc. https://edu.global . Bill was clear that Global Research Library Inc. would have been here in Owen Sound if there was access to high speed internet. Likely one of the reasons Bill lent his skills to the board of SWIFT, one of many boards Bill contributes his time to. Although the turn out to the meeting was smaller than usual it was great to see 3 new faces at this meeting. Thanks to all those who came out.
I had planned to publish the summer newsletter earlier than this but soon after our meeting I received an invite to participate in a round table working session on the development of the Grey County Business Generator which would be located in Grey County Innovation Centre (the former Sydenham School). The meeting was coordinated by Grey County and involve a wide variety of participants such as Tony Solecki (CEO of Caframo), Ashley Chapman (VP of Chapmans Ice Cream), Matt Moss (local organic farmer), Courtney Denard (Field Reporter with Ontario Farmer Publications and owner of Valleykirk Dairy farm), Stan Didzbalis (Bluewater Angels), Jeremy McCoubrey (Troy Fire and Safety), Michael Warren (CEO of the Warren Group) and more. In total there were about 20 people at the table representing a wide variety of industries. The task at hand was to review and provide feedback on the concept developed by the Business Generator working group. The Business Generator will be a private sector initiative with a board and an executive director.
What follows is 2 excerpts from the background document provided to those at the meeting explaining the unique approach and keys to success of The Generator. I thought these 2 excerpts would give our network membership a good insight into what and how The Generator is going to operate within the Innovation Centre.
The unique approach of The Generator: The Generator will reach out to proactively attract businesses within food and agriculture economy, tourism (with emphasis on eco-‐tourism and educational tourism) and light manufacturing. At the same time The Generator will take in and nurture entrepreneurs from all industry sectors with great ideas and what is deemed to be solid growth potential. The Generator is taking a unique approach to incubate businesses by applying a market-pull approach. To minimize start-up risks and go‐to-market challenges, the Generator will first investigate gaps in the existing local business community, industries, products, services for which there is a demand, and look for talent to fill those gaps. This strategy will allow startups to develop business models with guaranteed sales markets and boost existing local businesses. The Generator will closely collaborate with colleges and universities and make presentations to students graduating from faculties in fields of interest to the Generator such as agriculture, tourism and entrepreneurship. By educating the younger demographic cohort on opportunities within Grey County, the Generator hopes to attract a flow of skilled newcomers and retain them long term.
The Keys to Success of The Generator:
- Strong value proposition – the Generator must develop a unique and attractive offering to secure desired “residents”. This offer must include valuable resources at affordable cost over the long term and on a self-‐sustained basis.
- Management support services – these services include assistance in fundamental skills and services, such as marketing, hiring, outsourcing, bookkeeping, networking and legal assistance, as well as training in business planning and organization. Effective management and administration is the key to success.
- Partnerships to attract talent – having ties to educational institutions is beneficial as it allows the Generator to have access to potential new “residents”. Other talent networks can include groups of entrepreneurs, investors, professionals, consultants, service providers, vendors, interns and others. Networking, in the form of seminars and workshops, is another tool to attract new talent and potential “residents”.
- Ongoing flow of expertise, funding and resources to support and motivate “residents” – These affect both the Generator’s ability to win the right talent and its ability to easily and adequately support it throughout the growing stages.
- Success stories – The most certain way to attract more talent and investment is by proving the Generator’s capability to grow new business.
Sometimes I wonder how many people go to the website, read the newsletters, but yesterday I received a note from a member that the website was not working. A member had tried to access the website to get some information from a previous newsletter about one of our tech presentations. The security certificate failed to renew automatically, I fixed it quickly. I am glad I got the note so I could fix the website, but what the note really did was again reaffirm that the network in small ways is working and that makes me happy.
Look for a social night at Owen Sound’s newest Restaurant-Brewery, Mudtown Station, sometime in August and a return to more formal meetings in the fall. Until then enjoy the summer heat while it lasts.