The Social Bar & Table

the_social_blogThe Social is a very small – and very cool – restaurant on Ontario Street in Port Hope. I am delighted to be one of its owners. The space had been a restaurant before we opened but had been closed for four or five months before we moved in. The only experience I have had in restaurants is eating in one but the idea of opening a 30 seat restaurant was not overwhelming. On the contrary: it was exciting!

I knew I had to hire a good manager with plenty of experience and preferably one with a local network in the industry. I hired a young man I knew; I had patronized several of the restaurants he had worked in over the years and had always been impressed by him. Jeff Bray is competent and interesting and engaging. He is professional and knowledgeable and well respected in the industry. It’s been interesting to watch his career develop over the years and I am delighted he is working with us.

We opened within two weeks of Jeff coming on board. For my part I had negotiated the financials, the licence and the permits and dealt with the administration. Jeff developed a business plan and budget.   He hired a chef, Isaac Meadows, and a competent team. He and the chef created an edgy, moderately priced menu. The restaurant has an open kitchen so it is its own entertainment. It has a small bar and a few tables – it is intimate and friendly. It has a pleasant vibe to it, it is embracing and warm.

Interior designer, Sheilagh Fletcher gave us design suggestions and colours. Tracy Kerr, Art Director for Cats Media created the  branding, signage and menus. Jeff used his strong local network to coordinate a flurry of activity which included chair cushions being reupholstered, table tops being built, walls and ceiling painted, light fixtures being installed, a TV moved and shelves rebuilt. Isaac worked off his notice with his previous employer at the same time cooking and cooking and planning and cooking for The Social after his shift was over. Collectively we pulled together a tight, fun team who understand food and service; we created a fresh and functional space and an interesting menu that is moderately priced in a very short time. We opened a restaurant we are proud of. That makes it all worthwhile.

Many thanks to Jeff, Amelia, Isaac, Caity, Andrew, Dave, Cameron, Meghan, Kiera, Sheilagh and Tracy – and to all our friends and colleagues who helped us open The Social.

Stronger Leadership: 14 Strategies for 2014

Strong Leadership, Julie Mavis1. Envision the future | Business and technology has fused into one system, one conversation, one strategy for one world. This is central to understanding the future. Strategic leadership is having the ability to think ahead, to study industry and to seek out what opportunities are available. Leaders have to search for future gains and advantages.

2. Be conscious and aware of your brand | Understanding and developing one’s own personal brand can build the same equity as a good business brand. To do so we have to set goals, develop a mission statement and then define a personal vision and value statement. The integrity of your brand must remain consistent and solid but the message it sends out must stay fresh and vibrant, otherwise it will not stay top of mind.

3. Innovate to create new opportunities within your industry and beyond | Entirely new industries will be formed by innovations yet to be brought to market. Innovations are about new business models, marketplace collaboration, and knowledge engineering. At least 20% of your time and your company’s resources should be devoted to innovative services or products.

4. Embrace disruptions in your industry | Disruptions are coming in the form of emerging markets, new technologies, and changing customer demographics. Embrace these changes and demand a cultural change within your own organization.

5. Understand that human capital is your most valuable resource | Hire only the best. Once you have hired, do not accept mediocrity. Hire for attitude, then train, mentor, nurture, and coach to develop skill. Make it a policy that everyone who works on your team is one of the best in their industry. Make sure your best people are highly visible and are in positions of influence. They should be where they can contribute the most. That way they will help to attract the culture of great talent you are striving for.

6. Refuse to maintain the status quo | Leaders must think critically. Challenge everything. Find better ways. Leaders must change current mindsets and current methods. The most important thing is that as leaders we must constantly strive to make our processes, products or services better and better.

7. Always keep learning | Never stop talking to other professionals. Constantly encourage feedback and dialogue with those around you. Keep reading and stay in touch with your industry. Knowledge is power. How you get that knowledge or where it comes from doesn’t matter; what matters is that you do. Keep trying. Keep learning. When you make the decision to lead a company you make a commitment to your staff, customers and suppliers. You make a promise that you will continue to grow and learn.

8. Take a vacation | There is nothing worse than a leader who is bored. We all periodically reach a point where we should be doing something other than work. Vacations help us put everything back into perspective, they help us refresh and relax. It doesn’t matter how much work you have to do, you’ll do it much better and be a more interesting person if you take a break.

9. Build on your strengths – don’t focus on your weaknesses | Build on your strengths instead of spending time working on your weaknesses. Whatever business you are in, focusing on weak areas takes energy and effort away from building on strengths. Your strengths will suffer; they will be in danger of becoming weaknesses. Trying to be well rounded, or all things to all people, doesn’t set you apart. Great strengths, and a little lopsidedness, does.

10. Analyse and make decisions | A good strategic leader holds steady. Don’t jump on new thoughts or waves until you’ve analysed the market, opportunities and trends. Thoughtfully review options. Make a decision before you become paralyzed by too much information and too much time to think about it. Have an opinion and take a stand.

11. Motivate your team | Good leadership involves building trust with your team and engaging key players. Even when different points of view exist, good leaders can bring the cause to the foreground and make a difference. Good leadership respects the rights and dignity of others. Good leaders are not self-serving. They are keenly aware of how their decisions affect others. Good leaders create a desire in others to be self-sufficient by empowering them. Good leaders motivate others and put the needs of the team ahead of their own. Great leaders don’t overshadow others – they elevate others.

12. Be your own mission statement | Who you are and how you behave every day is your company’s mission statement. You are your company. When clients deal with your company their focus is on you. When you dress professionally, deal with people openly and honestly, treat your colleagues with respect, pay your suppliers on time and contribute to your community, you are your company’s mission statement. If you are belligerent at parties, if your favourite word is not printable, if you engage in gossip or manipulative behaviour… that will be your company’s mission statement.

13. Build on your strategic plan | The starting point for a growing business is always a strategic plan. Once you have a strategic plan, stick with it. Strategic plans are meant to evolve, but not to be thrown away. Tossing it always results in repeating again and again the process of getting there. Leaders with vision will take the plan, implement it step by step and nurture and embrace its evolution.

14. Step outside of your comfort zone | The most dangerous place to stay is in your comfort zone. It is the least safe place for anyone to be. If something outside your zone grabs your attention run with it. If it gives you an opportunity to shine – do it. You never know what you may discover.

Social Media: Connected Today, Unplugged Tomorrow

facebook_2013People want companies to communicate in a human like manner.  They want a conversation with the organization.  That is why social media has become such a powerful tool. Social media can create a sense that a company is being authentic.  It enables people to interact with and also to have an affect on each other. It decentralizes authority and allows information to come from all directions, not just top down. Social media allows information to be shared at breakneck speed across all types of networks; older forms of communication can’t hold a candle to it. However, there is a downside: social media is fraught with risk.

Social media can leave your organization having to constantly deal with opposing views and values. Instead of concentrating on your own message, you may have to concentrate on disputing or disproving that of others. You may find yourselves dealing with fraudulence, a vulnerability to hacking, or worse: it’s very easy for someone to set up a Facebook page and claim that it’s you.

It’s time to find other methods to communicate. Young people have already started drifting from forms of media they made successful, particularly Facebook and Twitter, because their parents are listening. And those with jobs are concerned that their colleagues and bosses are listening. We can’t go backwards – any new form of communication must be Internet based –– but is must be a secure and safe environment in order for the conversation to continue in an authentic and transparent manner.

Make Marketing your Mindset

Make Marketing your MindsetLast week I listened to a webinar featuring Andy Paparozzi, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for the National Association of Print Leaders (NAPL), presenting the State of the Industry report 2013. Industry, in this context, refers to the PRINT industry.

The report consisted of at least 45 minutes of wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth doom and gloom evangelism. “The print industry will never be the same again! We will never get back to pre- Great Recession numbers!” Mr Paparozzi, talking about the industry to which both he and his listeners belong, continued in this negative fashion. “Between 2010 and 2013 sales in the industry have pretty much remained the same but that is still more than 21% below pre-Great Recession levels. As an industry we are not getting worse but there has not been enough progress. Conditions are not better. Business is a slow tough grind, it is uncertain and a roller coaster ride. Many organizations are revising sales down for the year. “

Mr. Paparozzi’s message was not exactly motivating. Some of my key employees were also listening to the webinar; they said it made them feel deflated and anxious. But at the same time they were a little bewildered because we at Cats Media are busy! There are times when we can’t hire fast enough. Why were they hearing so much negativity?

Mr Paparozzi went on to tell us that there are dramatic variations of performance from company to company and that the industry leaders are doing well, some with increases of up to 54%. In order to compete we have to change our mindsets. He then provided a laundry list of things we could do, such as ‘think creatively, meet more clients, listen better, be flexible and critique self’. Sorry Mr. Paparozzi but you are wrong. Those suggestions are in no way creative and are not going to get anybody very far.

On one thing, however, he is right: we do need to change our mindset but not the way he suggested. In my opinion the print industry is a dinosaur. In fact I don’t even believe that there is a print industry left. It’s gone! Print is no longer an industry it is simply a service. It is one component of a total package. It is definitely profitable in the right context and still sought after by the right clients for all the right reasons. But it is just a small part of the big picture and the big picture is MARKETING. We have to be marketing service providers, not printers. That is how we must change our mindset.

If you have yet to change the culture in your organization then you should put a sign saying ‘We are not Printers!’ at the front of your building for every employee and client to see. Eventually the message will get through. And if you are worried that this sign may make you lose sales then your mindset definitely needs work!

Personal Branding; It’s Who You Are.

Personal BrandingPersonal branding is a very effective form of marketing. Each one of us has our own brand; it’s the way we market ourselves to others, consciously or not. Understanding and developing one’s own personal brand can build the same equity as a good business brand. To do so we have to set goals, develop a mission statement and then define a personal vision and value statement. Personal branding allows us to share our passions and talk about our dreams.

Personal brands must not be allowed to stagnate. A strong brand must always be active in order to be relevant to today’s issues. As a business professional it’s important to always be aware of how your activities affect the health and growth of your brand. Are you active in your community? Do you adhere to the rules of the road? Are you shopping downtown and supporting local merchants? Do you greet your neighbours when you see them on the street? Do you nurture your staff? Are you supportive of clients by constantly seeking ways to make their lives easier?

The integrity of your brand must be consistent and solid but the message it sends out must stay fresh and vibrant, otherwise it will not stay top of mind. Your brand becomes meaningful when it is embraced by people who can relate to your values. So being relevant means understanding what is important to your clients or community. It also means always staying in touch so you are constantly aware of shifting priorities. This will allow you to offer messaging with a perspective that continues to reflect the values that initially drew people to your brand. Values should remain the same, consistent and solid. No brand should change with each passing trend if it means that the brand does not stay true to its owner.

Remember that it is people who will follow your brand. People are your clients. Corporations or associations may endorse you but those endorsements start with one interested person paying attention. It’s important not to be seduced by other audiences; personal brands need to stay relevant to people. Give your audience a fresh way of viewing the values that give meaning to your brand. Give them a new and creative angle that will grab their attention. At the same time, your voice must remain consistent.

One way to strengthen your brand is to get your clients or community involved with it. Give them opportunities to interact with you. Organize seminars or other learning experiences, or simply create an opportunity to connect online or meet for coffee. Ideally it has to be something your clients or community want to share with others. It is also imperative to reach your clients the way they want to be reached. Be present where they want to be, whether that’s on social media or traditional print. Create a personal marketing kit that tells the world who you are and what makes you unique. Your kit can include your business card, your blog or website, LinkedIn profile or Facebook page. For those of you searching for new employment it can also include your resume. Your personal brand describes what you do, how you look and what makes you smile.

Regeneration, Rejuvenation, Revitalization

In the July/August 2013 issue of Monocle magazine I read a superb piece titled ‘Urban Regeneration’. “Neighbourhoods Need Stewards.” The article begins, “The places that we love are curated, cared for and cultivated over many years, so when they suffer it takes thought to regenerate them.” The author then takes us on a journey through Covent Garden, London, but the key points are relevant to many communities around the globe, large or small. Port Hope, Ontario, like other small Ontario communities, needs regeneration and, as a result, is going through a Downtown Revitalization project.

Let’s use Monocle’s thought process as we walk through downtown Port Hope’s Heritage Business District. Port Hope has a stunning downtown, rich in heritage both natural and architectural. The Ganaraska River, which meanders its way through town, offers some of the best trout and salmon fishing in the province. Tree lined streets boast well-preserved 19th Century buildings adorned with flags. Trains, connecting Montreal and Toronto, roll over viaducts that span the river. Rattling as they go, the trains have a strangely comforting rhythm to them.

Port Hope has demonstrated a knack for giving relevance to its past by mixing historic character with fresh ideas. For example the Port Hope Public Library is a beautifully renovated and expanded modern facility that respects the architectural legacy of the original 1912 Carnegie Library. It offers services ranging from the traditional loan of books to high tech Internet workstations to lending out fishing equipment to kids. It is a pleasant mix of old and new.

The Heritage Business District is defined and confined. It is walkable and accessible; a short stroll will take you almost everywhere. The downtown is minutes away from Lake Ontario, connected by a series of streets, walkways and riverside trails. The outdoor experience is not only interesting and refreshing but also makes things human. Strolling slows things down and allows you to take in more of the beauty of the architecture and the businesses that make this community unique.

The retail mix on Walton, John and Ontario Streets is interesting and quite strong. It has always been somewhat of a destination but today it needs some national brands to make it more attractive to Port Hopers. If we do a better job of inviting our own community downtown, we will have the formula to attract visitors from just about anywhere. Downtown also needs more hustle and bustle in the summer time with relaxed bylaws to allow street side patios. We need the streets to come alive. We have a park and a band shell and a playground but no town square or piazza where seniors and young mothers alike can sit in the shade. The fountain hasn’t worked in living memory. Lents Lane could be lovely but falls flat. We are not sharing our little hidden courtyards and walkways between neighbourhoods, primarily because no one ever asked us to. We need to give ourselves more of an outside chance at being more liveable.

The second floors in our downtown buildings are undergoing a much needed renaissance, with building owners renovating to upgrade their properties and expand office and living space. Investment in our downtown is key; small details can lift a neighbourhood. Upgrading infrastructure is a good value decision but not an immediate money maker.
We need to come alive in the evenings and on Sundays. We are quick to roll up the street at 5pm; many merchants are not open more than a few hours on Sunday and some not at all. A downtown that thrives when people are off work adds enormously to its quality of life. An example of thriving would be the events on Saturday of this weekend, thanks to the efforts of local community groups; downtown Port Hope was an exciting place. Thanks to Herb Jung and his coordination of an art exhibit and a walking theatre, Critical Mass for Before I Die installation and the Farmers Market’s 10th Annual Arts Festival our streets really did come alive – it was fabulous.

While Downtown Revitalization will address physical improvements it is designed to go far beyond a simple facelift. ‘It embraces a plan for long-term sustainability that also includes leadership and management, economic development, and ongoing marketing/promotion of the downtown core’. We have a wonderful community; let’s make it a great one: exciting and dynamic, with the emphasis on people.


One of our largest clients recently asked us to take on the print work they had been outsourcing to another supplier. Very tempting. We already had a good relationship with the client and the opportunity to do more with them was very appealing. After due consideration we accepted the proposal. One of the conditions of the agreement was that we were to compensate the other supplier for inventory and intellectual property. We did so. The printer sold off his equipment, ended his lease and closed the doors. We took over his email address and his phone and fax numbers. We took it on because it sounded like a great opportunity and indeed we are confident that it will prove to be so. However the transition has been exceptionally difficult.
The supplier we replaced was a very traditional printer. He communicated primarily through phone calls and faxes. His print process was one or two colour on small presses; he had a cumbersome assortment of products based on his print process ability. Our challenge was to not only streamline the assortment but also to change the mindset of our client’s members. Instead of scrolling through reams and reams of products we reduced the assortment to a fraction of the ammount. We are building a web portal to enable each member to keep files and a history of purchases. We have introduced online ordering and instead of faxing we email digital proofs. Almost all our work is custom and print on demand.
We knew that the benefit to Cats Media would be the additional business and new relationships formed but we had to satisfy ourselves that the following questions would have positive answers: Does this opportunity align well with our strategic plan and mission statement? Is there real benefit from this opportunity? Will we learn or experience something awesome? And finally, will we make money or be in a better financial position because of this opportunity?
This experience is proving to be very exciting! We are helping our client take the leap that fundamentally changes their industry, their processes and the way they do business. Technology will take our services to the client, not the client to our services. It takes strong leadership to take those leaps and strong leaders who are committed to making a difference. Insisting that change happens is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.


A PARADIGM SHIFTOur traditional sales approach needs an overhaul. Our industry is changing quickly and the challenge is to keep our sales team 100% aware of what’s current and update their knowledge accordingly. I am a firm believer that good account managers are worth their weight in gold. They represent our brand in a professional manner, develop relationships with clients and, most important, project a personality that clients can relate to. But now we must change our sales focus because we are no longer simply selling a commodity: print. We are now selling a service: marketing. Print is now only one element of the project and, quite frankly, not only is it not the biggest part it is not even the starting point of most projects.

Traditional account managers who only sell print are no longer part of the solution. Our clients want to use us as a communications company to assist them in their multi media campaigns. Integrated campaigns and projects are in high demand and are essential for today’s companies to remain competitive in the eyes of their clients. A good marketing strategy reaches clients through a minimum of three touch points and maybe, only maybe, is print going to be one of them.

Today our account managers have to be confident selling and managing every element of a marketing strategy, and that may include creating the strategy itself. They need a solid understanding of branding, creative design, web design, copy writing, and ad layouts, along with the more traditional elements of print, mailing and fulfillment. It’s a tall order for any one person. Perhaps a little too tall.

Our sales strategy now is to form sales teams. Our teams consist of a knowledgeable print professional with strong sales skills who already has a relationship with the client and a project manager who understands the creative process. The end goal is twofold: each member will complement the skills of the other and our relationship with the client will deepen. Our sales executives want to do better and be better. We have to give them the opportunity to develop their skills but it won’t happen overnight because there is so much to learn. The savvy print professionals will embrace and master our new services and processes and be successful. The not so savvy will not. The sales team must follow the company strategy and share the same vision. If not, the company will not move forward.

Traditional print professionals need to develop their knowledge about our new services. Some can’t make the transition; some don’t want to. Without question, bringing new people on board with the new required skills (IT, web programming, and database management) must be part of the sales approach. Then they need to be taught how to sell.

Five Goals Necessary for Success

The Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce recently underwent a Strategic Planning process. It occurred to me that the strategies that we researched, reviewed, and ultimately planned applied as much to our, or your, business as it does to the Chamber. Commitment, advocacy, empowerment, technology and governance are what build the strengths of a company and make it successful, whether it is a Chamber of Commerce or a private business. So I thought you might be interested.

The Port Hope and District Chamber of Commerce Strategic Planning process included research of current business association publications and a review of the strategic plans of other Chambers, local as well as regional. The thoughts and vision of the board of directors were collected through a combination of efforts, including a questionnaire to all directors and a strategic planning session, to which the executive, board and staff were invited. Several drafts were distributed for comment.

The strategic plan outlines the five important goals necessary for the Chamber to achieve its vision: to be Port Hope’s leading business association.

Goal 1 – Membership Programs and Services
Be responsive to the needs of our members and commit to excellence in the services we provide.

Goal 2 – Policy and Advocacy work
Engage in effective advocacy to bring issues that matter to our members to the forefront of the public agenda.

Goal 3 – Organization and Administration
Empower staff and enhance staff expertise.

Goal 4 – Technology Planning
Build a robust technology framework that will guide us into the future.

Goal 5 – Governance
Build a dynamic, sustainable, independent, representative, and effective business association.

The Strategic Plan represents a renewed commitment to Chamber members through excellence in services provided, advocacy and education. The plan contains a fresh perspective and gives clear guidance on specific issues.

For example, our economy has changed dramatically in the last few years and, as a result, the Chamber has recognized that the needs of their members have also changed. Understanding those needs and how to satisfy them requires a thorough analysis of the marketplace. It also requires an objective evaluation of current programs and services, which must be relevant, fresh and offer valuable resources.

Maintaining its relevance, the Chamber identified a need to be proactive and persuasive in policy advocacy. Keeping issues that matter to its members in the forefront of the public agenda will keep the Chamber in the forefront of the minds of its members and local municipal government. Staff training and staff empowerment were also considered to be key issues to developing a strong Chamber. Investing in staff members and their expertise will allow the Chamber to build on its successes and ultimately build its financial resources.

The Chamber also identified the need for technology planning, with emphasis to be placed on strengthening an online presence and building a technology framework that will create fundamental changes to the way the Chamber delivers valuable services to its membership. Increasing the resources designated for technology will guide it into the future.

The Chamber committed to continuously overhaul its governance model to stay fresh and relevant and responsive to members’ needs. The Chamber also identified the need to seek out skill-based board members rather than the current practice of having industry sector representation. And finally, three key business issues pertinent to the local economy were determined as focus areas for special programs and attention.
The strategic plan shakes up the traditional approach that similar associations have taken in the past. It concentrates on getting the right people focused on the right things and in places where they can have an effect. Maintaining the status quo isn’t enough to entice new membership, or keep current members engaged, and even less likely to pry a fee from the members’ pockets.

Challenging the Status Quo

The old system is no longer adequate. Something happens, usually unexpectedly, that forces us to realize this. Not challenging the status quo because we don’t want to ‘rock the proverbial boat’ can cause a serious situation to become one of crisis. When something happens to threaten our organizations we go into ‘crisis mode’, which at least means that the status quo will finally get turned on its head. The key of course is not to wait for a crisis situation. Possible threats should have already been assessed, understood and identified. The plans should have been in place, the training done and the policies written and communicated long before. Intellectually we all know this, but the reality is it is easier to accept the status quo than to demand change.


October 2014
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