Wenatchee, Wash., April 21st, 2011 – John McQuaig recently earned his MBA from the Ken Blanchard Executive MBA program at Grand Canyon University. The intensive 13 month long program, based in Phoenix Arizona, specializes in servant leadership. The Executive MBA program was founded by Ken Blanchard and he is a teacher in the residency portion of the program. He is the distinguished author of “The One Minute Manager” among fifty other business titles.
John McQuaig was honored as the co-valedictorian of his class. He noted:
“The Executive MBA program has broadened my experience such that I can take a wider view when helping my clients set their plans for the future. I now have a much broader base of knowledge to work from.”
About John McQuaig
John founded McQuaig and Welk in 1978. He has been extensively involved in serving the North Central Washington business community since then. Prior to establishing McQuaig & Welk he was with Ernst and Ernst (now Ernst and Young) as an auditor. He serves as CEO of McQuaig and Welk, PLLC and directs the consulting practice as a Certified Management Consultant (CMC).
He is also the founder and chairman of the board of North Cascades National Bank; a $325 million community bank headquartered in Chelan, Washington. He is also an owner of Key Methods, LLC, an IT support and software company in Wenatchee, WA..
As I have travelled the world the last year I have been struck more than once by the fact that many other countries seem to exhibit a much hungrier, edgier entrepreneurship than we now see in the United States. Maybe we have gotten complacent and comfortable with our style of entrepreneurship. It strikes me that it is a much more centralized, corporate led brand of entrepreneurship than I have seen elsewhere. I wrote previously of the retail environment in Egypt where it seemed everyone wanted to serve the tourist industry. I experienced the same in Turkey where everyone was a salesperson selling whatever was available.
I have spent the last month in Buenos Aires and I am seeing the same type of capitalism exhibited in Argentina. In the retail sector, for example there are no large department stores. The retail is highly decentralized and spread throughout the city at street level. There certainly are a few stores of corporate type ownership with multiple locations but largely the retail seems to be Mom and Pop type stores that occupy their 4-6 meters of street frontage and sell clothing, shoes and all manner of retail goods.
Buenos Aries, a city of 13 million people has many of the type shops that design and produce their own goods. An excellent example is 2S doble sentido, a women’s shoe and accessory store that produces one of a kind shoes and jewelry for women. They sell them out of their single location on Paraguay Street. They occupy a 5-meter storefront and the production is done in the basement. I have attached pictures of the shop and some of the stock. The shoes are very artsy and colorful and really unlike any I had seen elsewhere. I talked to the owner and he told me they had been in business for eight years. The first four were spent making shoes in there home and selling them at arts and craft fairs throughout the city. For the last four years, they have occupied the Paraguay St location.
Many other stores do the same type thing only different type products. They produce clothing, shoes on a totally custom basis.
In my mind, that is a very edgy, risky form of entrepreneurship. The business owner needs to be able to do all things, assess customer demand and needs, manage and maybe do production, sales and marketing.
The type of entrepreneurship we now exercise in the USA seems quite a bit more controlled and less risky. Corporations following a formula that has been proven elsewhere undertake a lot of growth. Consider GAP, Old Navy, Applebee’s, Nordstrom… they have all developed common products and systems and duplicated them throughout the country.
Have we gotten lazy and risk averse in the good old capitalistic USA? Is this just a natural maturation process? Will countries like Argentina and Turkey find that their business interests will consolidate and centralize as their economies mature? That is a definite possibility for a developing country like Turkey but it is harder to consider Argentina an underdeveloped country. It has a much more mature economy than Turkey and capitalism has been practiced there for a long time.
Another example of this trend in Argentina is the restaurant industry. Other than the ever-present McDonalds and Burger Kings, there is very few chain or corporate restaurants. Yet on every block, there are cafes, pizza joints, parillas (Argentinean beef restaurants) and all other manner of eating establishments. There does not seem to be a need for formulaic, franchised restaurants like those that we see in the states. Again, this seems to be a much riskier type of capitalism.
As I write this, I am on a 17-hour bus to Port Iguazu. Iguazu Falls is the largest falls in South America and is a major tourist attraction. This leads to my final example of Argentinean entrepreneurship- the bus lines… There are 162 bus companies in Argentina! Retiro bus station in Buenos Aries is four city blocks long and has over 150 bus parking places. Buses leave there for all parts of South America. Competition has done an interesting thing. The bus companies offer all manner of services and service levels. You can choose from a cama, semi-cama and full cama service. Full cama is a first class service with hot meals, drinks and a seat that reclines fully into a bed. I was even given a bottle of trademark Malbec Argentinean wine to go with my dinner. I got great nights sleep while I traversed the country.
It seems the good old USA would be ripe for this kind of service. Yet, I think we still have two bus companies that offer the same thing- slightly reclining seats with no meal service. Where are the entrepreneurs on that one?
So, are we losing our entrepreneurial edge? Are we getting lazy and losing the creative entrepreneurship that built our country? If we are, what does it mean in the long run? I do not have the answers to these questions, I am just posing them but they are worth pondering. One hundred sixty two bus companies, that’s right, one hundred sixty two…competing in the same station…all manner of decorated buses, wild colors, whitewall tires, fully reclining seats… think about it…that’s competition, that’s entrepreneurship!.
Despite the benefits of online contact any time, from anywhere, personal interaction is as good for business now as it was 20 years ago.
In the world away from your desktop, your competitors are shaking hands with your potential customers over lunch or a laugh right now. What are you waiting for? Get out of the office and network.
Making personal business connections may take longer, but they are potentially as important as driving Web traffic and planning your advertising campaigns. For relatively little expense, seeking industry events and other face-to-face business opportunities should form an equal part of your marketing strategy.
When business is slow, mass marketing or e-mail marketing your existing clients seems the obvious low-cost option to generate sales, but forging personal networks with face-to-face contact brings a unique set of advantages. In addition, there is no ‘delete’ key.
Networking builds trust
The important thing missing from electronic contact is the real connection that creates genuine trust.
The advantage good networkers enjoy is access to more private or useful knowledge only available through personal contact. Filing unmanageable amounts of downloaded documents or exchanging e-mails is no replacement for conversations that spill over into further mutual contacts and unexpected opportunities.
Meeting with people also brings different skill sets to a business relationship. Online, you tend to stick to one topic or problem. Where a gathering incorporates socializing, common interests outside business tend to crop up, too, leading to wider networks and experiences.
In person, you are also more likely to discover how someone’s organization works. The more ‘flat’ management structure of businesses today means that the ’say’ in decision-making is spread widely among managers and employees. You could be chatting with one of the company’s key influencers, regardless of their title. The way information flows through a company is an example of the important detail you may learn from a real conversation that is unlikely to come up otherwise.
For potential clients, time spent seeking quotes and meeting new suppliers might be happily avoided by using a personal contact met through networking. If you made a good impression in a semi-social setting, you might simply get the order or at least a chance to quote along with a current supplier.
Consider taking staff along to networking functions or sending them to represent you if you cannot attend. This will boost employee engagement, particularly in uncertain times when spending cutbacks are threatening morale and motivation.
Types of networking
Depending on your industry and your business’ stage of development, there are events of all sizes and costs where you can meet peers, suppliers, potential customers or neighboring companies.
Chambers of commerce, local governments, community and industry groups are in the business of connecting small business operators. They welcome new members and participants for speaking, presenting workshops or sponsorship. There are niche events for women only, for small business and for new businesses. Trade shows often have after-hours events attached designed for networking.
In the Wenatchee area the chamber, the North Central Home Builders Association and GWATA sponsor networking sessions that are designed to foster relationships.
Tips for successful networking
Once you have identified the best networking opportunities for your available time, make the most of them:
◦Be organized; arrive on time and take lots of business cards. Keep a positive attitude about the event and an open mind about the people you meet.
◦If you’re nervous, focus on an outcome to suit your comfort level. Simply aim to “approach three strangers for a conversation,” or “meet the keynote speaker” or have a similar goal that makes attendance worthwhile.
◦Smile, look people in the eye and give a firm handshake. Give your complete attention, use people’s names and note special information on their business card for future reference
◦Listen. Switch off your phone and be ‘present.’ Ask questions. You never know where a conversation will lead or whom other people may know.
◦Have a sentence or two ready, describing your business, tailored with the listener in mind — ideally framed as a problem of theirs that you can solve. Do not just list off your services or latest achievements. This is known as your “elevator speech” and it should be memorized and at the ready at any time.
◦Make a note of how people prefer to be contacted. Some welcome phone calls over email; for others, only social networking like Twitter will get their attention.
◦Don’t ‘oversell’. Pressing business cards on people before moving on to new ‘targets’ is a turn-off. Save the sales pitch for a follow-up meeting.
◦If you promise to forward information or put a new acquaintance in contact with someone, do it right away. You’ll be remembered for being reliable — priceless.
In today’s fast paced world that is dominated by electronic communication mediums there is still no substitute for good old-fashioned networking when it comes to creating lasting profitable relationships. Turn off Face Book for an evening, get out, and meet some people!.
If you follow my blog, (OK, with the economic crisis some of you haven’t got all that much to do so why not follow John’s blog!) you will recall that last year as part of my sabbatical my family and I lived in Klaipeda, Lithuania while I taught at LCC International University www.lcc.lt as a visiting Professor.
The University offered to double my wages if I came back again and taught a class this fall. (Two times zero is still zero:), pay your own expenses, heck of a deal, it’s a mission right!)
I returned September 1st for 3 weeks to teach the Glo-Bus online business simulation class I taught last year. Sixty-seven students from the school are participating in the online business competition as part of 16 teams. Check it out at www.glo-bus.com.
The class will continue online with me coaching the teams online via Skype and Go to Meeting until the second week of December. Last year we had two teams in the top 50 in the world out of about 2500 teams competing. It is an exciting and dynamic program.
I did find some time for travel while I was in Klaipeda. I spent a long weekend in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It is a port city about 60 kilometers South of Helsinki, Finland. I hooked up with an Aussie tour guide, Andrew. (estadventures.ee) He offered what he called Soviet Experience tours. I took three of his tours.
The first was a walking tour of Tallinn that highlighted soviet architecture and sights. One of the most interesting was a vacant field in the back of the Estonian National Museum. We ignored the entrance to the museum and went around the back to find a boneyard of Soviet statues, Lenin, workers, etc.
It was quite the scene. Apparently, the Estonians do not quite know what to do with this stuff. Twenty-five percent of the population is Russian and is offended if relics like this are destroyed… There is talk of plans for some kind of sculpture park but nobody is in a rush to do anything.
Speaking of rush…not Limbaugh, the next Soviet experience tour took me to Paldiski, the former Red navy base. When the Soviets decided to build the navy base at Paldiski and house nuclear submarines there, they were in a rush to hide that fact from the western world. Someone in the Kremlin came up with the brilliant idea of removing Paldiski from the maps. This would render this town of 16,000 that sits right on the Baltic Sea south of Helsinki with nuclear subs cruising in and out of it all day non-existent, right?
Sounds like the propaganda machine www.spacecadets.com was smoking something weird that day! I am sure the CIA www.redbusters.com was trying to figure out what was wrong with their spy satellite that kept showing this port city in photos when it was no longer on the maps.
So why is an Aussie history buff the one offering Soviet tours in Estonia? He says the Estonians don’t think the Soviet history is at all interesting. They cannot imagine why a tourist would pay to see this stuff. To me, a child of the Cold War era it is fascinating to see what was going on behind the iron curtain. To each his own, I guess…
I’m back in the USSR
You don’t know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSR
To be continued….