Category Archives: random


Every year, PROFIT Magazine turns successful entrepreneurs into the heroes of Canadian business through its Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies program. Now, to mark its 25th year, the ranking is expanding to celebrate 500 of Canada’s best and brightest companies. Once again, ViRTUS is proud to be a sponsor.

If your business has grown by just 50% or more in the past five years, apply now at

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How does your growth stack-up against the top 200 fastest growing companies in Canada?

Once again I’m proud to announce that once again that ViRTUS is partnering with PROFIT Magazine to help find the fastest growing companies in Canada. Think you have what it takes? Read on…

Celebrating its 24th Anniversary in 2012, the PROFIT 200 is Canada’s largest annual celebration of entrepreneurial achievement. Ranking the nation’s Fastest- Growing Companies by five-year revenue growth, the PROFIT 200 profiles Canada’s most successful growth companies in the June issue of PROFIT. The PROFIT 200 CEOs are also invited to the exclusive PROFIT 200 CEO Summit, the country’s most rewarding executive development and networking event for entrepreneurs. Continue reading

2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 20,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Top six most popular blog posts

Here are the top six most popular blog posts that I’ve written in past few years:

  1. Adult Experiential Learning Cycle
  2. Five Stages of Learning
  3. Webinar: Leadership in Turbulent Times
  4. Video: What I wish I’d known when I was a teenager
  5. Andragogy versus Pedagogy
  6. Quickest way to measure corporate culure

The value of a virtual office

More and more, CEOs, Executives, and Entrepreneurs ask me about our virtual office and how it works. For the first 10 1/2 years of our business we had three different offices. For the past year and a half we’ve been virtual. It has been one of the best things we’ve done for the growth of the company. Here is what we have learned along the way:

The Fear of Virtual

It’s amazing the misconceptions people have, primarily that if they were to switch to a virtual office that they wouldn’t know what their employees are up and productivity would plummet. They wonder what their customers would think: one of our largest customers said that our experience with being virtual was a key point in choosing us as a partner – they are actively moving 70% of their workforce to virtual in the next few years: 33,000 employees spread out across Canada and three continents.

If I can’t see ’em, how do I know they’re workin’?

The reality of the knowledge economy is that even if you have everyone in the same business you can’t actually see what they are up to. Sitting at desk for eight hours is not a sign of productivity. Look out your office door right now: can you see what people are up to? Are they working, chatting on IM, updating their Facebook profile, playing online poker, beefing up their linkedin profile so they can leave because you don’t trust them? In a physical office setting it’s easy to confuse activity with results. In a virtual office, results are all we see.

What Will Really Happen

Our experience has been the complete opposite of what most CEOs and Entrepreneurs that are worried about going virtual think. It helps that we ascribe to the ROWE (results only work environment) espoused by Daniel Pink in his book Drive!. Here’s what our experience has been so far:

  • We’re collaborating better than ever before (we wouldn’t have invested in the collaboration tools above if we still had a physical office)
  • We’ve had a significant increase in productivity (no commute time means productive time)
  • We make less assumptions around what others “already know about” and this has led to improved communication
  • We’ve moved outside of the box and into the future of tools that are out there to hold meetings, communicate etc. (yammer, Webex, etc.)
  • We have ability and autonomy to work from anywhere and that is priceless: increased efficiency, work-life balance, and adaptablility
  • We realized that it’s not where we are, but what we’re doing and who we’re with that gets the job done (being in the office doesn’t actually mean I’m accomplishing anything)
  • We have increased our levels of trust and put an emphasis on results-based roles or “job descriptions,” which motivates us far more than being in the office 8am-6pm.
  • We’re able to take care of family at home when they’re in need.
  • We have increased productivity and efficiency in work and personal life – less time around the ‘water cooler’ for the wrong reasons.
  • We are able to travel and fulfill life dreams – and still work to pay for them!
  • We feel empowered by the autonomy that working alone provides.

Viva la Technologie

The key to making a virtual office work is hiring people you trust and having the right collaboration technology. Since we run on Macs we have no need for an IT support budget and everything just works “out of the box.” Here’s a list of software we use and why:

  • iDisk – virtual server (connects to our Macs, iPhones, iPads)
  • Yammer – like Twitter but just for ViRTUS (private)
  • Webex – group video conferencing, document review
  • Skype – video conferencing replacing phone calls and face-to-face meetings
  • WikiSpaces – our wiki (similar to wikipedia but just for ViRTUS)
  • TELUS IP Messaging Auto Attendant (virtual receptionist)

My Favourite Question

As you continue to grow ViRTUS will you get an office or offices around Canada? The answer: no. Going virtual was part of our growth plan. The larger we get, the more being virtual makes sense.

Two Important Behaviours

  • Meeting Rhythms – we have a weekly Operations Meeting over Webex, a Quarterly Creative Strategic Plan Update, a monthly Financial Transparency update (over Yammer), and a monthly Strategic Execution Review. This keeps everyone up-to-date on the key priorities in the business.
  • Clear Deadlines – this is important in bricks and mortar as well but in a virtual setting it’s critical to give deadlines with days and times as someone may work best in the mornings or evenings and that might not correspond well with the timeline you have to complete your project or task when it requires their support.

Closing Thought

If you’re not convinced yet: I wrote this post in Whistler, on a Friday, after a day of virtual meetings in the morning over Skype Video and then skiing in the afternoon with my wife, replying to calls and emails from my iPhone. Right now I’m staring out over the lake watching the sunset…

Are you one of the fastest growing companies in Canada?

On behalf of the team at ViRTUS, I’m proud to announce that once again we’re partnering with PROFIT Magazine to find the fastest growing companies in Canada. Think you have what it takes?  Continue reading

Winning the battle for email supremacy

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a note saying that he was feeling overwhelmed by email and wanted to know the strategies that other business people put into place to attempt to “tame the beast.” Since this seems to come up a lot in conversation lately I thought I would share what I do:

  • unsubscribe to all lists and newsletters
  • install Yammer in your company
  • batch process: check email in the morning, at lunch, and end of day and reply to everything at once
  • rules and folders for FYI stuff and delayed follow-up
  • send your worst cc’ers a note to say you don’t need to be cc’d unless it’s critical or requires an action in which case put me in the “To:” field and be very specific with your request and the timeliness of the response
  • delete anything that isn’t directly addressed to you in the first line – friends asking everyone for something realize you’re busy and will call or text you directly if they really need something
  • let go of the guilt that just because someone emailed you doesn’t mean you have to reply in a timely fashion – focus on your priorities first, not theirs
  • ask people at work to include deadlines or timelines on their requests so everything stops appearing “urgent”
  • ask people not to twitter dm, linkedin dm, or facebook msg you (too many Inboxes) then shut-off the auto emails that come from each for notifications.
  • remember this: some people get very little email because they don’t have anything interesting going on in their lives! Your life is clearly the opposite!

Great example of corporate culture

Gimme Shelter event, Sept 26th, at the Roundhouse Community Centre

On September 26, 2010, from 1-5pm, ViRTUS is sponsoring the first annual Gimme Shelter event at the Roundhouse Theatre in Yaletown. Here’s a quick video on the event (with a little humour added!):

Link to buy tickets.

And here are the details:

Everyday we make choices that affect our health, environment and the animals we raise for food, SUSTAINABILTY, COMPASSION, FACTORY FARMING, FREE RANGE, ORGANIC, are just some of the topics that will be discussed. Learn how you too can make a difference for a healthier lifestyle and make better more informed choices about what you’re eating and how you view your food.

1:00 Doors open listen to Evan Kennedy playing acoustic live. Evan categorizes his music primarily as roots/acoustic folk, though reggae and other genres can be found in the mix. Influences on Evan’s songwriting include Tom Petty, Neil Young and the vocal stylings of Ben Harper. Reflecting the positive, life-affirming tone of Evan Kennedy’s music, his lyrics are not mere platitudes—they’re about finding joy and optimism in day-to-day life. Inspired by his life experiences, love, friendships and travel, Evan’s songwriting draws from a rich family history of roots, acoustic folk, rhythm and rock music.

1:20 PM Welcome and Introduction

1:30 Eleanor Boyle, Author of  Sustainable Food, Attainable Health. Eleanor gives presentations on topics of food sustainability, personal and social change. She has facilitated discussions on these topics with student, business, and community groups. Eleanor’s presentations are inclusive, compassionate, and optimistic. She creates opportunities for people to share ideas and strategies for sustainable living and eating.

1:50 PM Q&A

2:00 PM Introduction & Video Graham Hill: Why I’m a weekday vegetarian We all know the arguments that being vegetarian is better for the environment and for the animals, but in a carnivorous culture, it can be hard to make the change. Graham Hill has a powerful, pragmatic suggestion.

2:20 PM Rex Wyler. “Rex Weyler was a director of the original Greenpeace Foundation, the editor of the organisation’s first newsletter, and a cofounder of Greenpeace International in 1979. He was a photographer and reporter on the early Greenpeace whale and seal campaigns, and has written one of the best and most comprehensive histories of the organisation.”

2:40 PM Q&A

3:00 PM Intermission~ Tea, Coffee, Juice & Vegan Baked Goods Listen to Music By Evan Kennedy Acoustic Live

3:30 PM Introduction & Video Mark Bittman on, What’s wrong with what we eat. In this fiery and funny talk, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman weighs in on what’s wrong with the way we eat now (too much meat, too few plants; too much fast food, too little home cooking), and why it’s putting the entire planet at risk.

3:50 PM Welcome Gene Baur

4:00 PM Keynote Speaker – Gene Baur Farm Sanctuary. Gene grew up in Hollywood, California and worked in commercials for McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants. He adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1985, and today, he campaigns to raise awareness about the negative consequences of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system. He lives in rural New York state and is the co founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, America’s leading farm animal protection organization, which runs the largest rescue and refuge network for farm animals in North America.

4:40 PM PM Q&A

5:00 PM Closing & Thank You, Wine & Canapes, book signing with Gene Baur, live music by Fera Group.

Live Music by The Fera Group, The identical twins Courtney and Stephanie Fera cut their musical teeth on everything from The Beatles to Patty Griffin and Bryan Adams.  Born and raised in Vancouver, B.C., the songwriting sisters – known simply as FERA – started their music career in 2000. Courtney and Stephanie’s life-long love affair with songwriting led to an opportunity at the 2008 CCMA Music Conference.

After releasing two singles to Canadian country radio in 2008, FERA had opportunities to open for Lisa Brokop, One More Girl and Prairie Oyster; and shared the stage with artists such as Jessie Farrell, Aaron Pritchett, Ian Tyson, Randy Bachman, Bill Henderson and many more.

This event is a sponsored event, thank you to our sponsors: ViRTUS, Mac Marketing Solutions, McNeill Nakamoto Recruitment Group, United Animal Way.

Tickets Sales:

We Hope To See You There! All proceed are 100% non-profit and are being donated to Liberation BC and Farm Sanctuary.

New Book: The Jalapeno Handshake

I met Lydia Johnson over six years ago while she was a banking vice president of sales and service and led a sales team of about 1000 staff. It was clear during our first coffee that she was truly what Malcolm Gladwell meant in the Tipping Point when he wrote about connectors.

I’m happy to say that Lydia has taking her 32 years of relationship building experience and written a book about the things she learned along the way. This book isn’t about theory, it’s about tried and true behaviours that led to her relationships supporting her success.

Here’s an excerpt:

Revisiting your customer approach is crucial in these tough economic times.  “Businesses need to create stronger relationships with their clients, relationships that are built on trust,” says Lydia Johnson, author of The Jalapeno Handshake, Strategies To Heat Up Your Business Relationships.

In her book, Johnson argues that through trust, businesses can generate a larger client base, increase their profits and distinguish themselves from their competitors. In today’s competitive market, business clients are skeptical and you can’t blame them, “Johnson says. “ When it comes to business-customer relationships, everyone has been burned.”

Johnson says there are numerous things a business can do to create trust with its clients:

  • Be a straight shooter. Go over the fine print with your clients and don’t hide behind misleading messages or jargon
  • Always do what is right and best for the customer. Sometimes this means letting the client go elsewhere to get what they really need. Transactions between a client and a business should always be mutually beneficial.
  • Keep your promises and your clients will want to do more business with you
  • Inspire your staff, and you’ll inspire your clients

Check out the website: