Think to Speak

My colleagues have all created names for their blogs (Balaji’s Food for Thought, Dave Baker’s Shift in Thinking and Dave Lazarenko’s Working Wisdom). I am sure they came up with them very quickly. I, on the other hand, like to think on things for a while. During my morning run, I think through a problem or opportunity, or come up with an idea. On one such run, I came up with my title: Think to Speak. Why?
There are different types of people; none is better than another.
• People who speak to think like working through their thoughts out loud.
• People who think to speak need time to process their thoughts internally before speaking.
• There are front of the room leaders who have a high intensity of presence when they walk into a room.
• Back of the room leaders often don’t say much, but when they do speak, people listen — as it is usually well thought out.
I am a think to speak back of the room leader. That is who I am and I am OK with it. But not everyone is.
I enjoy being a back of the room leader; I accept not needing to command an environment when I enter it. I am also OK to think before I need to speak. Some people speak to think; I am not comfortable with that approach.

“Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise: and he that shuts his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” – Proverb

Why does this matter?
Understanding who you are helps you offset the shadow weaknesses of these types.
What are some of the shadow weakness I have?
• People who think to speak are looking for immediate engagement in the discussion. If I don’t respond immediately, they feel ignored or dismissed. What do I do? I need to acknowledge their thoughts, possibly give a quick initial reaction and ask for time to think about it.
• I can spend too much time thinking and not making a decision or stating what I stand for. In business today, I need to be prepared to be fast even though there is a chance I could be wrong.
• Sometimes I stay at the back of the room. I need to be aware when I need to step forward to the front of the room. Being a back of the room leader is no excuse for not stepping up and leading.
• My quietness can be misinterpreted as disapproval. I often tell people that I am a think to speak person; this helps avoid awkwardness in a conversation when I stare blankly at them, thinking.
Understanding who you are makes you intentional about your leadership.
Being intentional helps drive change in the people you lead, the organizations you run and in your personal life too. I like to think before I speak.

How to Get Organized for Fall

September is synonymous with back-to-school for many of us and while we many not be shopping for new pencils and backpacks for ourselves, we can capitalize on the renewed energy fall brings and improve our productivity both at work and at home. Work projects tend to ramp up in the fall and as our schedules get busier an organization strategy is key to making the most of this season.

Schedule and Prioritize

Take some time each evening to plan out what you have to do the following day – and write it down. Putting thought into this before you hit the ground running in the morning will help the day run more smoothly and you won’t be wasting time thinking about what you have to do next. In addition to your daily list, make a weekly task list that includes everything on your plate. This way you will be able to see everything at once and allot your time according to your priorities for the week.

Learn Something New

This is the perfect time to learn a new skill. If you’ve always wanted to improve your networking skills, get better at public speaking or learn new office software, do it in the fall. The season’s energy will give you the motivation you need and mastering a new skill will help you approach your work with renewed vigor. Even learning something new that doesn’t directly apply to your job – like ballroom dancing – can help boost your confidence and improve your work.

Close the Digital Door

Having an open-door policy at work can distract you from getting your job done if coworkers are continually dropping in to your office. The same holds true for digital distractions. If you are always checking your texts and emails you’re diverting your focus away from your work. Schedule times to check in and stick to them. You will find you’re more productive if you’re not glancing at your phone every two minutes.

Declutter Your Home

As you prepare for fall’s frenzied schedules, remove as much clutter from your home as possible. Get rid of anything that is broken or no longer useful. Streamline your closet and your entryway to make it easy to grab what you need quickly. Put what you need to bring with your for the day near the entry and organize your Tupperware so you’re not digging through an overflowing drawer looking for a matching lid for your lunch when you should be heading out the door.

Group Similar Tasks Together

Schedule similar tasks back-to-back so you can accomplish them while you’re in the right frame of mind. If you have a stack of bills to pay, tackle them all in one sitting. If you have an appointment with the IT department, handle all of your technical problems at once instead of just the most urgent one. This will save you considerable time and energy in the long run.

by Ada Slivinski

Storytelling for the modern age

While many of us might like to see the young children in our lives on a regular basis, the truth is that that is just not a reality for all people. Circumstances vary across the board, with divorce, military deployment and geographical distance putting barriers between adults and the young faces they wish to see.

Kindoma is looking to change all of that.

Kindoma is a brand of apps that allow face-to-face interaction between adults and young children. While it has the video elements of programs like Skype, the added interaction of apps like StoryTime and DrawTime hold the attention of children much longer, making for a longer and more meaningful call.

From Sesame Street to Kindoma

Kindoma co-founders Tico Ballagas and Carly Shuler met over five years ago, while Tico was working for Nokia and Carly was working at the Sesame Workshop, the organization behind Sesame Street. The two companies had partnered on mocking up protoptypes using Skype and an artefact to improve video calls with children. The idea was good, but it wasn’t feasible at the time.

Carly had previously worked at the toy company Spin Master, and decided to pursue a masters degree in technology and education. That ultimately led her to Sesame.

“I realized there was a big gap between the people making toys, and all of the TV shows and all the stuff the kids play with and people who have a background in how children learn and child development,” said Carly.

A couple of years after Tico and Carly first worked together, the iPad came out and changed the game. Tico saw the possibility to start up what eventually became Kindoma, left Nokia and recruited Carly to join him, even though Tico lives in California and Carly lives in Winnipeg. Despite the distance barrier, Kindoma grew.

The first app

 The first Kindoma app to hit the digital shelves was StoryTime, which combined elements of a video chat and an e-reader.

“The reason we started with books is because that’s what the Sesame Street prototypes had been based on,” said Carly. “We have such a deep belief in reading and the importance of reading as well as the foundations with the project at Sesame Street. So we started with reading. We had the concept from the Sesame Project, but we began development right away and within about six months of forming the company we had a product live on the app store.”

As more and more publishers were brought on board for downloadable content, the popularity of the app began to rise. With that popularity came investors, and the ability to improve and expand. A new app is in the works, this one combining video chat with drawing.

“We closed our first round of pre-seed funding about 8 months ago at this point, and are able to use that to create our new products,” said Carly.  “DrawTime, which is coming up next, is now in Beta. You can sign up for our Beta online and we’ll be releasing it in the fall.”

Personal connection

 Like most adults, Carly and Tico each have personal connections to young children, as they have a pair of children each.

“In addition to my professional interest and just realizing there was a strong need, and around the same time as the iPad came out, I had my first child,” Carly said. “Because I travelled for work and still do travel for work, and also because I have family members who live elsewhere, I really personally understood the challenges of video chat with young children and everything we found at Sesame became much more personal to me.”

As a mom, Carly can see first-hand the struggles of keeping the attention of a child.

“When you’re with a young child in person you probably are doing something together, you’re not just sitting there having a chat over a coffee. When you add a child to a video chat, you can see why they’re very short and very frustrating calls, so when you add some sort of activity it makes them a lot more fun.”

Carly says that one of the most rewarding things about the job is the feedback she gets from people that might not have been able to see the child in their lives otherwise.

“When you get someone who says ‘this has allowed me to have a relationship with my grandchild or child’ that’s the best part.”

 

 

He’s Got A Ticket To Ride!

Social media can often be the source of endless distraction from the daily grind of work. But for Alex Drysdale of Crik Nutrition, amongst all the posts about cats and ‘Which Frozen song are you?’ was the inspiration for his company.
“I was sitting on Facebook one morning and (writer/entrepreneur) Tim Ferriss posted something about Exo protein bars, and a cricket protein bar they had,” said Alex. “I wanted to try making something with lots of crickets in it, so I figured protein powder, because the crickets come powdered and I use protein powder every day.”

Starting Over

Alex had been an employee of CN Rail for 10 years, and was also working in real estate, but made the decision to walk away from CN and sell his properties (and most of his possessions) and start life as an entrepreneur.
“There were tons of other companies making cricket products, but there was nobody making protein powder” said Alex.
Repeated Internet searches found that there wasn’t any competition in the cricket protein powder market, so Alex began looking into the research and development aspect of starting up the company.
He found a company in Vancouver willing to allow him to test the product first before committing, and Alex spent months working on the formula.
“It probably could have went a little quicker, but I had a strong idea in my head of what I wanted to be as opposed to making something just to get it out there,” said Alex. “I needed it to taste really good, and I wanted cricket to be around 90% of the ingredients, but that’s just not viable with the price of crickets right now so it’s currently around 30%, and it tastes really good, you can’t tell the difference between it and anything else.”

Growing the brand

Alex gets his crickets from Next Millennium Farms in Ontario, and while he has no immediate plans to set up a cricket farm of his own, he notes it is a possibility down the road once Crik Nutrition gains more traction.
“We’ll be doing organic lines; there are different products we can expand into,” said Alex.” “There are different flavours of protein, different types of nutrition like the protein bars or trail mixes. There are vitamins and minerals that we can extract from the crickets and nobody’s doing that. There’s lots of room to grow, and it’s an exciting time.”
Alex plans to get into research and development and manufacturing at some point, but first the Crik Nutrition brand must grow.
“Right now I need to focus on brand. You can’t protect ‘cricket protein powder’. Anybody can make that, it’s too broad of a range to patent. What we need to do is focus on building on brand and making sure that we’re the Coca-Cola of crickets. Get that out there and make sure we have a high quality product so we do stay in the lead.”

Home is where the help is

Alex has seen a lot of support from organizations such as Innovate Manitoba, YES! Winnipeg and Futurpreneur.
“There’s a really good growing community here, and meeting other start-ups that are going on right now in Manitoba, you can see this place is really booming,” said Alex. “It’s kind of cool to see, I didn’t know this was really here. There’s just tons and tons of support. Lots of people giving us advice and pointing us in the right directions when they don’t have to, and it’s been a big, big help that’s going to help us grow a lot faster.”

Tray this on for size

Sometimes in life, you find yourself staring into the void, looking for answers to tough questions, like how to get your ad in front of a mass audience.
For the guys behind Portray Advertising, the answer was staring right back at them.
Co-founders Kyle Boult and Greg Lipschitz formed the food tray advertising company and launched the pilot run during the 2013 holiday season. The inspiration for the idea actually came from a brain storming session that Kyle had at a mall while working for American Express in Toronto.
“My boss and I were at lunch, bashing our heads on what to use as a creative campaign and thinking of ways to get in front of mass audiences and it hit me,” said Kyle. “I was literally staring at it while we were having this conversation. I pitched the idea to Greg and here we are.”

If at first you don’t succeed…tray, tray again

Before they were able to do their initial launch at St. Vital Centre, there was a lot of pounding the pavement and cold calling to line up advertisers.
“We set up meetings with 170 retail stores,” said Greg. “We explained the program and the benefits to their store, and if they weren’t the decision maker they passed it along to their district manager or their marketing department.”
The initial campaigns for ads were very successful, and featured large brands such as Scotiabank and Rogers. However, the first batch of trays wasn’t up to standard.
“Initially the trays were a little bit too heavy, and we couldn’t change the ads quick enough,” said Greg. “So that’s what led Kyle and I to work in the food court for three months, scrubbing trays, washing dishes. You name it we did it.”
Kyle and Greg made the changes to the trays in time for the 2014 season, and continued to maintain their relationship with mall staff at St. Vital Centre.
The hard work and long hours did not go unnoticed, as St. Vital Centre management brought their efforts to the attention of 20 VIC Management Inc., the company that manages St. Vital Centre.
“They’ve become a champion of the program,” said Kyle. “They worked with us to bring the program to their superiors, so they’ve been advocates for us, and we’ve been able to work with them and their superiors to roll this out nationally. 20 VIC owns a portfolio of 18 malls, so we’re rolling out with all of their mall locations in November.”

Sticking to their roots

Kyle and Greg have been working together since they met at St. Paul’s High School, and upon graduation they both attended the Richard Ivey Schools of Business at the University of Western Ontario. After graduation, Kyle started work at American Express in Toronto while Greg worked with Richardson Capital back home in Winnipeg. When the two decided to go into business, the logical choice was to make the effort together and to set up shop in Winnipeg.
“Greg and I were both looking to make the plunge at the same time,” said Kyle. “We compliment each other extremely well from a skill set. I come from a sales and marketing background, whereas Greg is more operations and finance.”
“We’re very appreciative of our network here,” said Greg. “That’s why we launched in Winnipeg, because this is where our network is and it’s allowed us to use all of our resources.”

Giving back

Apart from business and entrepreneurship, Kyle and Greg also share an interest in philanthropy, starting with volunteering while at St. Paul’s. They have contributed to various efforts, and have found one that ties in nicely with Portray Advertising.
“We partnered with Breakfast Clubs of Canada, which was an awesome fit with the platform, plus Greg and I wanted to be able to give every kid the sort of opportunity to educate themselves and learn,” said Kyle. “You never know who that future Wayne Gretzky or who the next Einstein is going to be.”

Going forward

With the national campaign set to roll out in November, Kyle and Greg hope to one day expand to venues other than malls, such as amusement parks, cruise ships and universities. They also aspire to move into international markets.
The work remains difficult, but being friends for so long helps make the difficult times much more bearable.
“It never stops, but I guess the most rewarding part is I’m doing it with my best friend,” said Greg. “It doesn’t end, it’s a constant journey. So I think the fact that we can do it together and have so much fun with it, to me at least, is the most rewarding.”

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