Son of Five Rivers Blog

For the advancement of Entrepreneurship, Sustainability & the Ecology of Everyday Life

This Site has Moved to SonOfFiveRivers.com

Click Here to Vist NEW Site: www.SonOfFiveRivers.com

I’ve been blogging for several months now and I’m glad to have recieved the feedback I have.  I’ve enjoyed the experince and for that reason I’ve decided to take blogging to another level.  I’ll be self hosting my blog and that means you’ll see a lot more creativity in the design, functionality and layout of the new blog.

Check it out: www.SONofFIVErivers.com

Cheers

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January 22, 2010 Posted by | 1, A Thought, Ads, Agriculture, Art, Blogging, Books, Brochure, Business, Business Cards, Business Development, Business Model, Carbon Credits, Clean Energy, Co-op, Community Economic Development (CED), Computer Networking, Construction, Creativity, Data Recovery, Definitions, Earth, Economics, Education, Electric Cars, Email, Entrepreneurship, Family, Finance, Geothermal, Government, Grants, Great Ideas, Green Roofs, Human Resources, Information Technology (I.T.), Inspiration, Investment, LEED, Life, Marketing, Micro Credit, Not for Profit, Open Source, Packaging, PDA's, Philanthropy, Photography, Politics, Power Piont, Products, Project Management, Quotes, Sales, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Services, Social Enterprise, Social Media, Solar, Sustainability, Sustainable Community Development, Taxes, Venture Capital, Videos, War, Waste, Water, Website | Leave a comment

Selling to Governments (Reasons of Failure)

I’m subscribed to Canada Export a newsletter released by the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, in it I came across the below article and thought it could be beneficial to those businesses trying to win government contract bids.  I had previously hosted a seminar around selling to the government which included presenters who were purchasers and buyers all the way from SAP to the Provincial Government. It covered some of the in’s and out’s of the bid process and I think this  article touches briefly on some of the issues businesses face.

………………….

An OOPS! sign

Too often, entrepreneurs spend thousands of dollars trying to win U.S. government contracts with no results. According to one expert, the reasons for failure come down to three common mistakes. Avoid them, she says, and increase your chances of success.

1. Entrepreneurs set unrealistic expectations.

“There is a myth out there that to win a government contract, all you have to do is follow the instructions,” says Judy Bradt, a former trade commissioner who is now Principal and CEO of Summit Insight, a firm that has guided over 5,000 clients to over $200 million in U.S. government contracts.
“Thousands of business owners have discovered that when they follow the instructions on websites like FedBizOpps [the U.S. federal government site that publishes opportunities], diligently hunt down bid notices and pump out proposals, the process does not usually reward their hard work” says Bradt. “They get frustrated by failures, especially when the contracts always seem wired for somebody else. Success takes a lot more than just writing proposals.”

The fix:

Companies that consistently win contracts research those opportunities a long time before competitions begin. They take the time to build relationships with buyers, influencers and partners. They adapt products or services for government buyers, and collaborate with those buyers to develop the specifications that will be published. They create targeted marketing campaigns and tactics to attract these new buyers, says Bradt.

This also applies if you’re a supplier or subcontractor to a bigger company that holds the prime contract with the government. Be sure that investment of time and money fits your risk threshold as well as your plans to grow your company.

Before your next proposal, understand every part of the government business development cycle that your competitors had to master to win their contracts. Decide if you’re ready for that investment. If so, then approach government contracts as a long-haul effort with your eyes wide open and your team ready to learn what winners have already figured out.

2. Businesses pursue opportunities on a shoestring budget.

“If your business is struggling, going after government contracts can hurt more than it helps,” says Bradt. Cash-flow horizons are longer in the public sector than in the private sector, both to develop business and to get paid for your work. Typically, government buyers are risk-averse and cautious about trying new vendors and ideas.

Runaway success in the first year is rare, says Bradt. Expect to spend 18 to 24 months investing money and time to develop relationships, find opportunities and partners, and prepare proposals before you turn a consistent profit. “Many managers rightly decide that it takes too much time and risk to develop a new market. And, unlike in the private sector, most government contracts don’t pay you up front. Unless you negotiate progress payments, you need enough funds to survive until after you do the work, invoice and get paid. That big contract can put you out of business.”

The fix:

First, explore alternate forms of financing. Your current line of credit is often not enough to pursue the contract, win it and finish the project. Even healthy companies are shocked to find that their bankers do not simply extend that line to finance a signed government contract. Asset-based financing is your cheapest money, but takes time to arrange. Alternative financing (aka “last-minute money”) is always more expensive and will evaporate your profits.

Bradt recommends that entrepreneurs forge a closer relationship with their banker. “If you’ve decided to pursue government contracts, and have revised your marketing budget to support that pursuit, review your access to working capital and financing. Then visit your banker to find out about financing options before you launch your campaign.”

3. Resist the temptation to use shotgun tactics.

“Too often, entrepreneurs go to FedBizOpps and pump out proposals for anything that appears relevant,” she says. The result is that most of their efforts are just as scattered and not much reaches the target. “If you go after everything, you might win something but most of your resources will be wasted and nobody has that kind of time and money to spare.”

The fix:

Focus. “When you want to win government contracts, you have to research and focus tightly to win,” says Bradt. Otherwise, you’ll go broke trying, she says. Savvy companies scope out the competition and possible partners in order to position themselves to win the projects that really fit them long before they put serious resources into pursuing those opportunities.

Free websites offer extraordinary amounts of federal contract market intelligence. Look into USAspending.gov, Central Contractor Registration, GSA Advantage, and Schedule Sales Query. These are all good sources if you’re testing the waters and not ready for a big investment yet.

Looking ahead

U.S. federal contract spending in 2009 topped a record $550 billion. And Bradt expects 2010 to look much the same. “The U.S. government has set a goal of spending 70% of the stimulus money by fall of 2010. Twelve months out, almost 47% had been allocated for specific purposes. Of that, only 16% has been spent. That means there’s a very stimulating year ahead—if you’re developing opportunities long before the competition begins.”

For more information, visit the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in the United States.

January 16, 2010 Posted by | Business, Business Development, Great Ideas, Investment, Marketing, Sales, Services | , , , | Leave a comment

They went to Jail, I wrote a Letter!

So here’s the story, at the UN Climate Summit last month in Copenhagen.  A group of four managed to get into a dinner party where world leaders were dining with the Queen of Denmark and they held up a banner demanding they take action against global warming.  I’m a Greenpeace member, so I while these people went to jail I sent the letter below when the Executive Director Kumi Naidoo reached out and asked its members.

To:
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Barack Obama, President of the United States
Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia
José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission
Faced with the unique opportunity to stop climate change in Copenhagen, world leaders offered instead an historic failure.  In sharp contrast, we and the world’s environment, hunger, and justice groups are mobilizing the largest movement civil society has ever witnessed, to demand a fair, ambitious, legally binding climate treaty.
I stand in solidarity with those who have taken non-violent direct action or committed peaceful acts of civil disobedience to demand climate justice. That includes the four Greenpeace activists who were detained without trial in Denmark for holding up banners at a head of state dinner. I have contributed to their action by supporting Greenpeace — financially, morally, or in my day to day life.  If the response of governments to the threat of climate change is going to be preventive detention of those likely to support or commit acts of civil disobedience, count me among the 15 million people you may need to round up.
I urge you to recognise that civil disobedience to demand action against so grave a threat is an act of community service.
Yours faithfully,
*********

Update:

The four activists have been released.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Carbon Credits, Clean Energy, Community Economic Development (CED), Government, Great Ideas, Inspiration, Life, Politics, Social Media, Sustainability, War | , , | Leave a comment

An Old- Fasion Approach

An Amish Entrepreneur’s Old-Fashioned Approach

Without electricity, a car, or a cell phone, Amos Miller turned his dad’s Pennsylvania farm into a $1.8 million national food retailer

I hope you enjoy this story its by  David Gumpert of Business Week and he’s made me think on a few occasions… Anyhow here’s a little bit about David, he’s a journalist who blogs regularly about the business of health and has written a number of books about small business and entrepreneurship, including Burn Your Business Plan! His latest book is, The Raw Milk Revolution: Behind America’s Emerging Battle Over Food Rights.  Now Enjoy!

Imagine trying to build a national food retailing business based on mail order, far-flung distributors, and trade shows—without using the Internet. No e-mail newsletters or Web site for taking orders and handling complaints, no Facebook fans, or Google (GOOG) ads, or Twitter following.

That’s not all. Imagine doing it without using cell phones or computers. No BlackBerry for expediting orders. No CRM software for segmenting customer lists. Absolutely no texting.

Let your imagination go a little further and picture doing it without driving a car or without using electricity. No quick trips to the post office to ship orders, and no fax machine, scanner, or copier.

Remarkable Anomaly

This is the world of Miller Farm, a Pennsylvania food producer that has grown to $1.8 million in annual sales from less than half that four years ago. The farm is so busy it’s turning away orders from food cooperatives around the country.

But data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest what an anomaly Miller Farm is.

While farming is undergoing a renaissance of sorts, with more than 300,000 new farms started from 2002 to 2007, accounting for nearly 2 million small farms, making a good living is becoming tougher. The USDA in its 2007 census said the number of small farms with $100,000 to $250,000 annual sales (its highest revenue range for small farms) declined 7%.

Horse-and-Buggy Ways

The driving force behind this anomaly is 32-year-old Amos Miller. He’s not growing his business bereft of so many modern conveniences out of some sense of purity or to prove a point, but rather because he is Amish. As part of their religious beliefs, the Amish turn their backs on modern-day conveniences and are highly visible in the areas of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where most live, notable for their dark clothing and their horses and buggies, which compete with cars and trucks on local roads. They avoid even having their photos taken, which is why we can’t include a photo of Miller and his family.

Located in Bird-in-Hand, Pa., Miller Farm was started by Amos’ father, Jacob. Amos says he and his dad concluded in 2000, based on conversations they had with customers and representatives of organizations that promote nutrient-dense foods, that interest was about to grow significantly. The two of them focused on expanding the farm’s product line, so they now offer 31 products, from grassfed beef (including not only various steak cuts, but marrow bones, ox tail, and tallow) to milk-fed pork, pastured chicken (including chickens not fed any soy), and 16 varieties of cultured veggies (including fermented ketchup, cabbage juice, and tomato salsa).

The interest in such foods has helped drive the rapid growth of farmer’s markets, private buyers clubs, cooperatives, and community supported agriculture (known as CSAs, whereby consumers commit to buying a particular producer’s foods for a season or ongoing). Once popular mainly for vegetables, CSAs now exist for meat and even for fish.

Quest for Nutrient Density

“It used to be that organic was all the rage,” says Dan Kittredge, executive director of the Real Food Campaign, which is part of advocacy group Re-Mineralize the Earth. “Now everyone has organic.” Nutrient-dense food is the new rage and gives “the advantage back” to small farmers who leverage the notion that certain foods, such as fermented vegetables, grass-fed beef, and pastured chickens, are more nutritious than conventionally produced products and may help consumers strengthen their immune systems. “There is money to be made here,” he says.

And making money is what Miller Farm is doing. “I can’t meet all the demand,” says Amos Miller. He relies on additional supplies of product from his brother, John, who “grows the produce that we ferment and process here,” and from three other neighboring Amish and Mennonite farmers.

What distinguishes Miller Farm from others, such as celebrity farmer Joel Salatin’s farm in Virginia, which has helped popularize nutrient-dense foods, is that Miller has gone national—and done it without modern conveniences. His main concessions to modern life are a generator for refrigeration to cool certain foods and a landline telephone (717-556-0672) to take orders from distributors and mail-order customers. He also relies on FedEx (FDX) for shipping orders to customers.

Courting the Foodies

To market his wares and network, Miller regularly attends events popular with foodie types. At the annual conference of the Weston A.Price Foundation, held in November at a hotel outside Chicago, he and several other Amish manned a large table in the exhibitor area, selling large jars of fermented veggies, maple syrup, and homemade spelt noodles.In December, at a conference in St.Paul, Minn., of sustainable farmers and their customers put on by Acres USA, Miller’s offerings were a little different: at breakfast time, slices of dense grain bread slathered in butter and honey; and at lunch, plates of bread with homemade liverwurst and salami.

How did he get all that food to the conferences if he doesn’t drive? He rented a refrigerated truck and hired a non-Amish neighbor to drive it. He stored the food in dozens of coolers with refrigerant chemical blocks.

“He’s a hustler,” says Pete Kennedy, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, who mans a booth near Miller’s at the Weston A. Price Foundation conference.

The Blessings of Dirt

The conferences bring in not only direct revenues but also customers from around the country. For instance, many of the attendees at the Weston A. Price Foundation conference are involved with food cooperatives back home that are seeking the kinds of foods Miller’s farm produces. The orders pour in from individual consumers the old-fashioned way—via snail mail, as well as via the farm’s conventional telephone line. The farm receives regular orders from food cooperatives as far away as Florida and California.

While he says he’s proud of the fact that “we’re making a lot of money,” Miller notes that elders in his church worry about the growth. “They discourage us getting too big,” he notes, in part because they don’t want Amish farmers to be tempted by the marvels of modern technology. “As long as we don’t rely on computers and electronics, they’re okay.”

Miller says he doesn’t get frustrated by not having modern conveniences. In fact, when he’s at trade shows, he usually can’t wait to get back home. “The city is a pretty sterile environment,” he says. “But if I did it once a month, I’d get lost, I’d forget what it’s like to get dirty.”

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Business, Creativity, Great Ideas | , , | 1 Comment

A Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books

So I cam across this book about 4-5 years ago and it just captivated me.   Sikhs and Jews have a lot in common and this story tells a tall tale.   Click on the Video Link to know what I mean.

The Book: Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books

Product Details

Author: Aaron Lansky

The Website: http://yiddishbookcenter.org/

Video: http://yiddishbookcenter.org/vid/ABridgeofBooks.html

So why I am I curious about Yeddish Books?

My Dad and I have been talking about these particular issues for about 5 years and finally I took a baby step and spent part of my new years eve volunteering with an amazing and inspiring group of people from my book club.   We spent time showing youth and the sikh community at large a new website that was launched to perserve Sikh litrature and history.  The project is called the Panjab Digital Library (http://www.panjabdigilib.org).

This particular demo was held at a sikh temple (Gurdwara) in Surrey,  I decided to bow out of my volunteer obligations a little early as I wanted to spend the new year  with my family who were at Gurdwara closer to home.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Blogging, Creativity, Great Ideas, Sustainable Community Development | , , , | Leave a comment

The problem with Centralized Purchasing

Definition of Centralized Purchasing: The control by a central department of all the purchasing undertaken within a large organization. Centralized purchasing is often located in the headquarters and centralization has the advantages of reducing duplication of effort, pooling volume purchases for discounts, enabling more effective inventory control, increasing skills development in purchasing personnel and sometime by consolidating transport loads to achieve lower costs (unless everything has to repackage and shipped to other branches).

The Financial & Administrative Impacts

Organizations are focusing too much on centralized purchasing because of the typical administrative and financial benefits associated.  Economies of scale kicks in when buying bulk and it many cases it is easier to manage.  But here’s the idea; what if executives responsible form Sales, Marketing, Finance, HR & Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) sat together and rethought a strategy that would fulfill not just the bottom line ($) but the triple bottom line (Finance, Social, Environment) while meeting all departmental objectives.

Helping develop the local economy benefits any business operating in that community, the case same would go for the branch location of any multinational.   The decision to decentralize purchasing and purchase from small businesses owned locally would do wonders for multinational CSR and branding.  Logistically it would have less of a carbon footprint because less transportation.

The success stories and highlighting local businesses would be a new approach of viral marketing for the Marketing department.  Financially it would make sense as head office already knows the price targets each branch needs to meet.

The case can be made that centralized purchasing you have fewer suppliers and thats more control.  This is translated into “stronger or better relationships.” If we look at the turnover and promotions within large multinationals do you really think its stronger relationships or is it entirely bottom line driven.

Now imagine an organization that goes away from playing the global market and but instead now develops the local economy.  Now each branch of the multinational would purchase its supplies from local small business community, which in return could generate more business for that branch.  This helps the local economy and all the employees of the multinational.  How does it do that?  Take your wife/husband, kids, neighbours and/ or siblings, then think about where they work and how the development of local business community can effect their lives and your community.  The stronger we make each community the more robust in can grow leading to a great satisfaction of everyday life.   Plus look at the simple economics of the multiplier effect where everyone is buying from small businesses and that same dollar is being spent several times over in the community where before it would have left without anyone even seeing it.  All this can make a HR (Human Resources) department more efficient when you start looking at statistics that community driven and sustainable organization have higher retention rates and higher levels of productivity.

The branch would play a vital part in the local economy and help keep dollars in the pockets of their customers and the employees families, who live work and play in that community.

 

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Business Model, Community Economic Development (CED), Great Ideas | , | Leave a comment

Top 20 Consumer Trends for 2010

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Business, Business Model, Creativity, Great Ideas | | Leave a comment

Get Published & Write an Article

So you started a business, perhaps you become a decorator for example.  Write some interesting article and reviews and submit them to the following sites.  Its a great way to get noticed and bring traffic to your site and establish credibility.

 

November 6, 2009 Posted by | Business, Business Model, Great Ideas | , | 1 Comment

How to writing a Mission Statement that Works

Mission statements to me are like greeting cards from my lawyer who just signs his name underneath the generic message.  It seems like an unneeded formality where no real thought or meaning was put behind it.  Mission Statements just come across more as great vision statements rather than actually being mission driven. This crazy language is stamped all over the place, from business plans to brochures and websites.  If it’s any consolation to people in the private sector, I’ve spent the last three years working for a non-profit organization (NGO) doing economic revitalization and I’ve noticed that NGO’s might just be the biggest culprits of bad Mission Statements.  Most seem cheesy and sometimes just plain difficult to really comprehend.

It’s always difficult for me to think of bright intelligent people come up with such dry material.  Have a look and compare the following 4 examples directly below and then compare it to the other examples further down to get gist of what I’m getting at.

Two are from real organizations and two are made up from the comic site Dilbert.com

  1. “It is our job to continually foster world-class infrastructures as well as to quickly create principle-centered sources to meet our customer’s needs.”
  2. “Our challenge is to assertively network economically sound methods of empowerment so that we may continually negotiate performance-based infrastructures.”
  3. “To improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities.”
  4. “Respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.”

Numbers 1 & 2 are from the Dilbert website. Numbers 3 is the mission statement of the NGO the United Way, and number 4 believe it or not used to belong to the beloved Enron.

Now have a look at the phrase “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” (BHAG) which is a very interesting theory form the book Built to Last.

BHAG: “Clear and compelling it serves as a unifying focal point of effort, often creating immense team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved the goal …. A BHAG should not be a sure bet… but the organization must believe ‘we can do it anyway.”

Now check these so out:

Microsoft:  “A computer on every desk and in every home, all running Microsoft software.” The guys don’t want to just sell computer software, they wants their software on every computer, in every home.  (I run Ubuntu an open source operating system based on a Linux platform so it’ll never really happen…  we all know someone with a Mac computer as well.  But its a nice goal for Microsoft to set as it easily and simply defines the standards and objectives for everyone in the organization)


BHAG’s can be used for products as well, like Amazons Kindle: “Every book ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.” Amazon not only wants you help you buy any book, it wants to help you do it in less than a minute.

Google’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information” That’s as big as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal can get!

Google’s unofficial one is to “do no evil.” That’s just cool!

Even if you’re a grass routes organization starting out of someones living room, its important to have “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” (BHAG).  It helps everyone know your groups direction and purpose.  As the strategic planners and thinkers you have the important duty of laying a solid foundation for the future of the organization and guiding principles for any new faces joining the team.

Son of Five Rivers.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Business, Business Development, Entrepreneurship, Great Ideas | , | Leave a comment

The Bee Buzz at the Convention Centre in Vancouver

Dana Gee speaks to Allen Garr, who keeps the bees buzzing on top of the new Vancouver Convention Centre. Video by By Dana Gee and Jon Murray, The Province Newspaper.

September 12, 2009 Posted by | Business, Business Model, Great Ideas, Sustainable Community Development | | 1 Comment