Tag Archives: entrepreneur

Finding a mentor or a coach

One of the first questions I get asked by entrepreneurs, CEOs, and executives interested in mentoring and coaching is, “what’s the difference between them?”

Coaching is a process in which a coach asks a series of cascading questions (sometimes referred to as Socratic Method), to help the person being coached use their own experience, intuition, and intelligence (emotional and intellectual) to come up with the answers they are looking for. Coaching is not advice driven in that the coach asked questions but does not proffer feedback or attempt to move the person being coached in a particular direction.

Mentoring is similar in it’s approach to coaching in that strong mentors are also good coaches. What mentors bring to the table that coaches don’t is the ability to add in their personal sage experience in the areas the person being coached is struggling with. Mentoring is both question and advice/guidance based.

Now that we know the difference, here are the rest of the questions I get asked:

  • Do you (Mike) have a mentor or a coach: I have two Mentors who are also very strong coaches, Walt Sutton and Guff Muench. I am grateful for the time, energy, and wisdom they’ve shared with me. They are great men who I have a deep admiration for.
  • How did your meet your mentors? Walt and I were introduce by a mutual acquaintance. Guff and I were introduced through the Entrepreneurs’ Organization Mentorship Program (a program I founded in Vancouver with the help of the late Steve Cowan).
  • Where can I find a mentor ? I’ll get the self-serving part out of the way first – at ViRTUS we offer both Mentoring and Coaching. One of my mentors, Walt Sutton, has space to work with another entrepreneur or CEO right now as well. The other way is to consider successful people in your life who have accomplished something similar to what you’d like to accomplish (family friends, executives in your company, other entrepreneurs you know, members of associations you belong too, etc.). Approach them to see if they are interested in having lunch or coffee from time to time so you can learn from their experience.
  • If I want to hire someone to mentor or a coach me, what does it cost? The range for coaching and mentoring in Vancouver is between $1500 – $5000+ per month depending on the mentor/coaches experience and the time and energy they put into working with you.
  • How often would we meet? Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly for anywhere from 1-4 hours is the time commitment you can expect for face-to-face or on the phone mentoring. As well you should expect to have unlimited access to your mentor or coach between sessions by email or phone in case something time sensitive comes up that you really need some support on.
  • What will we talk about? Mentoring and coaching conversations span the complete spectrum from business, career, personal, and family. The primary focus is on your success as a business leader and as a human being – however you want to define that for yourself.
  • Why would I get a mentor or a coach? Because the very top performers in their field, regardless of what field that is (business, sports, medicine, law, etc.) all have mentors and coaches who help them stay ahead of the pack and ensure they put their energy, attention, and focus on the behaviours and actions that will lead to the success they are looking for.

New book on Canadian entrepreneurial success stories

I’m pleased to announce that long time ViRTUS Exchange Member Stacey Cerniuk has been featured in a new book on Canadian entrepreneurs entitled, “Dynamic Entrepreneurs of the 21st Century.” Stacey owns Annex Consulting, a local IT outsourcing and technology recruitment firm that he founded in 1998.

The book is focused on twenty Canadian entrepreneurial success stories that you might not of heard of. Many entrepreneurs fly under the media radar until they receive significant press and all of a sudden they are an “overnight success.” The reality of their lives is that 10-15 years of nights have gone into creating that overnight success.

If you’re interested in reading about entrepreneurs who built businesses on their own dime and have the scars to prove it, then it’s worth a read.

BIV Boardroom Strategy: A selection of the best books on strategic planning


[Total read time: 4 mins]

There is no “right” strategic planning methodology that works for every company or organization. In fact, using a blended approach to create a customized methodology will likely yield the best planning framework for you and your company. The question becomes, “Where do I start?”

There have been five key books on strategy written in the past 10 years that provide perspectives on how to approach strategic planning. Here is a brief synopsis of each book, and why it’s worth reading.

Good to Great (Jim Collins): Collins refers to this book as the book he should have written first. Good to Great describes in detail the steps that good companies have taken to become great. From leadership to confronting the brutal facts, simplifying strategy, adding in discipline, understanding the role of technology and discovering what builds momentum with your business, Good to Great covers the complete strategy canvas at a high level, simplified in a way that will allow you to share your company’s strategic priorities with everyone in the business.

Built to Last (Jim Collins and Jerry Porras): Before Good to Great, Jim Collins collaborated with Jerry Porras to write Built to Last. This book is a study of 18 visionary companies and how they differ from their key competitors. The core philosophies are:
•stop reinventing the wheel and instead develop and document the core procedures that can withstand changes in personnel;
•stay focused on your core values while trying new things; and
•focus on the long-term goal – the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) – a 10- to 30-year goal of the organization that is so large and so far in the future that it bears that moniker.

Blue Ocean Strategy (W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne): Written by two professors from INSEAD, Blue Ocean Strategy seeks to understand how companies like Cirque du Soleil, Apple and Blockbuster have changed the foundations of their business models and how they approach the market to move from the Red Ocean, bloody from the fight for market share, to the Blue Ocean, where the companies stand alone to compete for clients who don’t fit the traditional mould of their “old industry.” Their strategy canvas approach is designed to narrow down the key factors that you and your competitors use as the defining points of service in your industry. Then, by eliminating, creating or changing these key factors, a new industry is formed that appeals to a customer segment not being served by the existing industry. The short version of this would be to say that this is the story of the game-changers in their industries and how they did it.

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (Verne Harnish): Harnish’s first book is based on the one-page strategic plan that John D. Rockefeller had each of his key executives complete at United Steel. The book details how to create a plan that summarizes your 30-year, three- to five-year, one-year and quarterly goals, along with supporting SWOT analysis, financial information (budget and actual) and accountabilities. The real magic is that all of this can fit onto one 8 1/2 x 11 page.

Execution (Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan): Execution speaks to one of the core reasons that most strategic plans fail – a lack of accountability and execution.
Many people think execution is the tactical side of business, best left to those people below the senior team in the organizational hierarchy. Bossidy and Charan argue that execution should be part of an organization’s cultural fabric, starting in the CEO’s office. The book describes a series of behaviours and techniques common within businesses that demonstrate a high level of execution of their plans.

Each of these books has a summary online that does a great job of breaking down the key points and practical applications. What the summaries won’t provide are the examples of real companies whose products and services you recognize and can relate to. Reading some or all of these books will help you relate the decisions made by other successful companies to the strategic challenges your organization is facing today.

PDF of Column BIV Boardroom Strategy – Nov 3-9, 2009

Webinar: Leadership Lives in Turbulent Times

Link to the recorded presentation:webinar

Books I mentioned:
Good to Great by Jim Collins
Eighth Habit by Stephen Covey
Winning by Jack & Suzie Welch

Link to our website:

Entrepreneurial Strategic Planning Framework

The most effective framework for strategic planning for a small to medium sized entrepreneurial company that I’ve come across is laid out in the book, The Rockefeller Habits, by Verne Harnish.

If you’ve been looking to find a straightforward way to engage your team in a planning process that is designed with the entrepreneur in mind then this is the format for you.

The One Page Strategic Plan outlined in the Rockefeller Habits blends SWOT Analysis, with Core Values, Core Purpose, BHAG, 3-5 year plan, 1 year plan, quarterly actions, historical financials with budget, brand promise, and your elevator pitch, and yes, all of that fits on one page!

If you’re interested in learning more about how the plan works buy the book or write a comment on this post or click Next Steps at the top of this page – I’d be happy to help you.  We use a customized version of this framework with our growth-focused entrepreneurial clients.

Empowerment framework for decision making like a CEO

CEO’s and Entrepreneurs who are interested in delegating decisions to their team need to setup a framework for that empowerment so that they feel comfortable with the way decisions are made.

Here are the six questions that CEOs and Entrepreneurs ask themselves when they are making decisions:

  1. Is it good for our customers?
  2. Is it good for our company?
  3. Is it financially responsible?
  4. Is it consistent with our core values and ethical?
  5. Are we okay with the precedent that this decision sets?
  6. Are the key people who are affected by this decision in the loop?


One entrepreneurs journey from IRL to online

I asked one my customers, Lonnie Tkach, to write me a letter describing his journey from a bricks and mortar business (the IRL in the title of this post means In Real Life) to an online business in the same industry.  I’ve watched him go through the process and it’s a story worth sharing:

My Fitness Business Evolution Turned Revolution

12 years ago I became one of those success stories that you read about – a nearly bankrupt college graduate who became a successful entrepreneur.  Together with my wife we founded our first fitness club, which eventually grew to a chain of fitness clubs in the Greater Vancouver area.

It was 10 years ago when we teamed up with my best friend, Derryl, and his wife to form an organization called Great West Fitness.  We quickly became known as a #1 fitness club in our market areas.

Our journey was based on a passion for providing a more friendly and welcoming approach to providing fitness to our members.  This grew into a slogan – Great Atmosphere, Great Results … Great West Fitness.

The fitness industry is very competitive, and as much as we liked to think that we were differentiating from our competition, it still seemed like the lines were blurred sometimes.  We found ourselves questioning how we could do business differently to clearly make a greater impact in our industry.

About two years ago I bought out my friend Derryl, as we both knew that we needed a change – something new.  At the time there was a lot of uncertainty about a new direction for our future in business, and even our long term friendship seemed to be challenged.

During our time apart, I had a lot of opportunity to reflect on my life, on business, and on the industry that I was a part of.  I realized that if I wanted to really make an impact, I had to think of a completely different way of looking at my industry.  It happened!  I can’t completely explain how all of the realizations came to me and in what order, but it was revolutionary!

It was something that a business colleague said to me that triggered a whole series of realizations.  He said that the future is in service.  At first I almost gagged, because I was feeling swamped with the responsibility of thousands and thousands of fitness club members and well over 100 employees to take care of.  I really didn’t want to hear that.  I took time to digest what he had said because I have always made it a point to learn from other successful people.

This is the transition from traditional bricks and mortar to an online revolutionary business idea for the fitness industry …

About a month later, a light bulb went off inside of me and it became very clear.  Something that was not working for me, and most other fitness club operators who are willing to admit it, is that personal trainers don’t really like working for a wage, and they are frustrated about the revenue split between them and the club.  Most certified personal trainers are not able to build a full time professional career out of doing what they love, and many have to transition to a different career.  If they could just focus on what they love, helping clients to get results, and make enough money doing that, they would be in their glory.  Most personal trainers, who would like to work for themselves, do not gravitate towards some of the necessary business responsibilities, like marketing, sales, and business administration.  Conversely, there are a lot of people out there who really don’t have time (or desire) to make it out to a fitness club, but would like to have the personal training or coaching if it was delivered to them at a convenient time and place.

So, what I realized, after doing some research, is that there are no real agencies out there that are set up to attract fitness clients, and match them up with the right personal trainer.  It all came together quite quickly.  This concept delivers an end product to clients for the same price, but with a far greater advantage and value to both the personal trainer and the fitness client.  The personal trainers don’t have to do the stuff that they are not good at and don’t like doing, which is really inefficient and costly to them.  The public now has a way of finding a personal trainer that is in their area, who is qualified, and who is the best match for their needs.  They also have the peace of mind that they are getting a professional who is qualified and screened, not to mention properly insured.

Remember my friend Derryl … as I was developing the idea and sharing my concept with Derryl, he couldn’t stop thinking about it … I needed a lot of help to make it happen … neither of us could resist the idea of working together to create another successful business, so that’s what we are now doing!

[bloggers note: this is where his pitch begins – I love entrepreneurs!] Fit2Go Trainers is now available throughout the Greater Vancouver area.  It is a flexible and convenient service.  A personal trainer will meet you at your home, your workplace, outdoors, or pretty much anywhere.  You will be set up with the right personal trainer for you, according to your schedule, your goals, and where you want to meet.

Lonnie Tkach
Founder & President
Fit2Go Trainers