Values – U.S. Army V2

What is the purpose of this article?

  • Enable investors, the board of directors, C-Suite and others to discuss the values of your company.
  • Help identify the role of values in selecting, assessing, and exiting: board directors, C-Suite, and other members of your company.

You can download a PDF of this article from: Values – US Army V2

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • Values are doing what is right – which is far more than following the law.
  • Acting and behaving on values may come with great personal pain.

 What is the purpose of the U.S. Army?

“To deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars by providing ready, prompt and sustained land dominance by Army forces across the full spectrum of conflict as part of the joint force.”1


As the Army comes out of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocuses on the pacing challenge of China and the acute threat posed by Russia, Army leaders are directing the most significant reorganization and technical innovation since the end of the Cold War — ensuring our adversaries cannot outrange or outpace us on traditional battlefields, or the new frontiers of space and cyberspace.

The world is changing, and the Army is changing with it.”1

 I observe that the U.S. Army purpose is focused on the long-term future, not the past or near-term.

What are the values of the US Army?1


Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit and other Soldiers. Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone. A loyal Soldier is one who supports the leadership and stands up for fellow Soldiers. By wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army, you are expressing your loyalty. And by doing your share, you show your loyalty to your unit.


Fulfill your obligations. Doing your duty means more than carrying out your assigned tasks. Duty means being able to accomplish tasks as part of a team. The work of the U.S. Army is a complex combination of missions, tasks and responsibilities — all in constant motion. Our work entails building one assignment onto another. You fulfill your obligations as a part of your unit every time you resist the temptation to take “shortcuts” that might undermine the integrity of the final product.


Treat people as they should be treated. In the Soldier’s Code, we pledge to “treat others with dignity and respect while expecting others to do the same.” Respect is what allows us to appreciate the best in other people. Respect is trusting that all people have done their jobs and fulfilled their duty. And self-respect is a vital ingredient with the Army value of respect, which results from knowing you have put forth your best effort. The Army is one team and each of us has something to contribute.


Put the welfare of the nation, the Army and your subordinates before your own. Selfless service is larger than just one person. In serving your country, you are doing your duty loyally without thought of recognition or gain. The basic building block of selfless service is the commitment of each team member to go a little further, endure a little longer, and look a little closer to see how he or she can add to the effort.


Live up to Army values. The nation’s highest military award is The Medal of Honor. This award goes to Soldiers who make honor a matter of daily living — Soldiers who develop the habit of being honorable, and solidify that habit with every value choice they make. Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage in everything you do.


Do what’s right, legally and morally. Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. It requires that you do and say nothing that deceives others. As your integrity grows, so does the trust others place in you. The more choices you make based on integrity, the more this highly prized value will affect your relationships with family and friends, and, finally, the fundamental acceptance of yourself.


Face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). Personal courage has long been associated with our Army. With physical courage, it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long, slow process of continuing forward on the right path, especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. You can build your personal courage by daily standing up for and acting upon the things that you know are honorable.

What are your next steps?

  • Compare your company’s purpose and values to the U.S. Army purpose and values.
  • Outline the purpose of your company.
  • Describe how your company’s values enable the achievement of your company’s purpose and your company’s long-term competitive success.
  • Describe how values are used to: select, assess, and exit – board directors, the C-Suite, and other employees, contractors, suppliers and partners.


1 U.S. Army website November 14, 2022,part%20of%20the%20joint%20force.

 What further reading should you do?

Why are values, morals, and ethics important?

Society’s trust in corporate leadership and political leadership is low.

What does the Toronto startup ecosystem look like? V6

What is the purpose of this article?

  • Help participants of the Toronto Startup Ecosystem understand the broad scope and many components.
  • This document focuses on the high-tech and software startup ecosystem, and outlines the different types of members comprising the ecosystem.

You can download a PDF of this article from: What does the Toronto startup ecosystem look like (V6)

What are the critical learnings in this article?

The Toronto Startup Ecosystem is global, with hundreds or even thousands of interreacting members.

What is a business ecosystem?

“A business ecosystem is the network of organizations—including suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors, government agencies, board of directors, C-Suite, employees, society, and so on—involved in the delivery of a specific product or service through both competition and cooperation. The idea is that each entity in the ecosystem affects and is affected by the others, creating a constantly evolving relationship in which each entity must be flexible and adaptable in order to survive as in a biological ecosystem.” 1

What is the value of taking an ecosystem perspective?

  • Members who have no direct involvement with your company may have a massive impact on your company. e.g. social license to operate.

How do you picture an  ecosystem?

  • Each ecosystem member is in a circle.
  • Each member has a line to every other member.
  • You’re right – this is a complex diagram.
  • It is reality today e.g. a local community around a proposed mine in a third world country has the potential to stop the development of the mine, thus impacting your company’s profits.

The Toronto ecosystem is global in scope

  • Startups based in Toronto may have global customers, investors, employees, etc. Toronto funds may invest globally.

The following is a list of the 26 components of the Toronto startup ecosystem,

The is not intended to be 100% complete. It’s my current understanding.

#1 Founders

May be in Toronto, or anywhere in the world.

 #2 Cash paying customers and users

May be in Toronto, or anywhere in the world.

 #3 Employees

May be in Toronto, or anywhere in the world

#4 Accelerators and incubators

There are a broad range of incubators and accelerators and almost every one is different. As a startup evolves, it may move among several different types of incubators and accelerators.  Incubators and accelerators focus on startups where they  can have maximum impact by utilizing admittance criteria and processes. Common characteristics of incubators and startups are:

  • Links to investors.
  • Access to lawyers.
  • Access to mentors and advisors
  • Networking with other startups.
  • Financing is sometimes provided.


The goal of an incubator is to help take a start-up to the point where there is a MVP (Minimum Viable Product). The process takes 12 to 24 months.  The founders decide what incubator resources to draw upon and at what time.

The key characteristic of an incubator is co-located office space with other start-ups.


The goal of an accelerator is to quickly grow the size and value of the startup to enable future funding. The key characteristic of an accelerator is taking a start-up company (which already has a Minimum Viable Product) through a very structured 3-4 month process. Actions and outcomes are required every 1-2 weeks.

As of November 21, 2022, Toronto has more than 97 incubators and accelerators2

  • Toronto startups also join incubators and accelerators elsewhere in Ontario, and around the world.

#5 Venture studios

A venture studio comes up with an idea, assembles a team of founders, and provides capital for the Startup. A venture studio has some combination the of the following 6 characteristics:3

  • The Guild: The internal resources of a venture studio. Includes a strong core team of startup operators, financial capital, space, connections, and infrastructure.
  • The Idea: venture studio either generates ideas internally or sources them externally.
  • The Structure: venture studio either operates as a holding company or has a holding company and VC fund.
  • The Funding: venture studio provides the financial capital to source, test, and validate the idea but then have the option to continue funding in-house or seek outside investment.
  • The Volume: The number of startups to work on at any one time is a differentiating factor among venture studios.
  • The Focus: venture studios either operate as generalists or specialists within an industry, technology, or region

As of Nov 21. 2022, Toronto has more than 43 funding organizations.  Countless more from around the world invest in Toronto based startups.2

#6 Angel investors

There are individual angel investors as well as angel investor groups. Angel investor groups have government supported infrastructure (e.g. staff, office space), but the government does not provide capital to startups applying to the angel investor groups.  The capital comes from the angel investors.

 #7 Funding platforms

  • Non-equity. This may only be a donation, the investor may receive some type of tangible award, or the investor receives a future product once it is available. g. Kickstarter
  • Equity and debt. The investor does get equity or debt. The OSC (Ontario Securities Commission) has several prospectus exemptions which a crowding platform may utilize.  Depending upon the legal structure of the platform, and investor characteristics, an investor may be able to invest any amount.   g. AngelList, Gust.
  • Private placement e.g. DealSquare.

#8 Equity Investment Funds

  • There are a large number based in Toronto. There are many funds outside of Toronto and outside of Canada that also invest in Toronto startups.
  • Most have specific investment criteria e.g. where is company headquarters, type of customers or market, type of technology, whether or not the startup has a specific social purpose.

#9 Corporate Venture Capital

A large established company (not an investment fund)  takes an equity stake in a small but innovative or specialist firm, to which it may also provide management and marketing expertise; the objective is to gain a specific competitive advantage.

#10 Debt Investment Funds

  • Traditional bank loans, line of credit, etc.
  • Venture debt for startups and companies that don’t have significant assets or positive cash flows and therefore often don’t have access to traditional bank loans or material amounts of bank financing.

#11 Income revenue sharing funds

The capital is repaid from a percentage of the startups cash flow. E.g. Clearbanc.

#12 Investment dealers/underwriters

Sartups can raise equity by listing on the CSE (Canadian Securities Exchange), or on the TSX Venture Exchange.

#13 Organizations to buy or sell your company

These organizations will help you sell your startup, once it’s achieved some success.  They can also help you buy other companies.

#14 Organizations to meet your talent requirements

  • Outsourced or offshore talent providers. These provide contract resources.
  • Talent acquisition. There may acquire employees for the startup, from around the world.
  • Talent development. These aim to improve the capabilities of your existing talent.

#15 Associations

There are associations focused on specific types of ecosystem members e.g.

  • Angel investor groups e.g. AIO (Angel Investors Ontario), NACO (National Angel Capital Association – Canada), ACA (Angel Capital Association – United States)
  • Founders e.g. BFN (Black Founders Network)
  • etc.

#16 Advisors – legal, financial, functional

Every startup requires a range of advisors.  For example, financial software can collect and report on a broad range of information.  An accountant can advise on how to set the software up.  Lawyers are key to providing advice on the range of legal and regulatory requirements, and how best to meet them.

#17 Tools and services for startups

These address a range of issues including:

  • Understanding customers and users
  • Creating prototypes
  • Building and maintaining the solution
  • Marketing and sales
  • Customer onboard and ongoing
  • Billing, payment processing, payroll, financial reporting, etc.

#18 Reviews of startup companies

Some companies are focused on reviewing startup solutions.  Other companies enable reviews of startups as a sideline to their main business (e.g. job boards enable employee reviews of the CEO).

#19 Conferences

Conference organizers manage Toronto conferences focused on startups.  Many of the organizations in the Toronto ecosystem also host events.

#20 Regulators

Every startup needs to be aware of regulatory requirements as soon as they start raising capital.  Financial Services startups must be compliant with many more regulatory requirements.

#21 Federal government programs

Startups can benefit from tax credits, financing, and advisory support. When going global, Canadian trade commissioners are based in 160 global cities.  The startup Visa program enables a foreign employee with a job offer to quickly obtain a visa to work in Canada.

#22 Ontario government programs

The Ontario government has numerous programs.

#23 Municipal programs

Toronto has the Startup Here program and other programs.

#24 Ecosystem researchers

  • Some individuals and organizations analyze and publish research regarding the ecosystem e.g. Charles Plant
  • A variety of databases have collected different types of information regarding the ecosystem e.g. Crunchbase, HockeyStick, etc.

#25 Startup charities

The Upside Foundation focuses on startup companies donating stock options.

#26 Coworking space companies

Once the startup leaves the founders’ homes (or accelerator) they may move to a coworking space. Coworking spaces also enable a startup to quickly establish a global physical presence.


1 Adapted from Investopedia 2021 Jan 20

2 Startup HereToronto


 What further reading should you do?

What does the startup journey look like?

Is your startup planning to fail?

What is a competitively differentiated board of directors?

What is the purpose of this article?

  • Enable investors, founders, the board of directors, and C-Suite discuss the value of a competitively differentiated board as well as the process for creating and maintaining this differentiation.
  • This article only considers those companies where all decisions are made by the board as a whole. This excludes companies with: controlling shareholders, shareholders agreements, golden shares, one director dominating and controlling board behaviour, etc.

You can download a PDF of this article from: What is a competitively differentiated board of directors

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • A long-term competitively differentiated company required a competitively differentiated board of directors, decision making processes, and supporting technology.
  • There are several components to the director selection process, concluding with an evaluation of their value contribution during a one-year period as a board observer.

 Why do you need a competitively differentiated board  of directors?

I assume that a competitively differentiated board results in a competitively differentiated company.

  • Directors are ultimately responsible for the long-term success of the corporation.1
  • It is difficult for your company to competitively succeed if your board makes poor decisions regarding: CEO appointment and termination, strategies, budgets, crisis management, etc.
  • Sometimes luck plays a role, but you must not depend upon luck to be successful.

How do you measure your company’s competitive differentiation?

Competitive differentiation is perceived differently, by different members of your company’s ecosystem.  Every perception is a combination of facts, analysis, and emotions.

  • Investors may consider total shareholder return over a number of years, or at exit time if a private company.
  • Bond holders may consider their returns and no default.
  • Your company’s economic performance is in the top quartile or even decile. You company may not be the #1 economic performer relative to your competition. Why? You company is balancing the sharing of economic wealth among ecosystem members such as: employees, local communities, overall society, etc.  For example, I know companies with a fantastic economic result but: employees are not paid a living wage, there is zero concern about the impact on local communities, etc.
  • Employees may consider: alignment of company purpose, values, morals, and ethics with their own views, and compensation. Your employee’s rating of your leaders and recommendation of your company to people they know is higher than the competition. Other companies poach your employees because you’ve been able to develop and grow them. This isn’t a problem for your company, because it’s easy to hire new people. People want to work for your company rather than your competition.
  • Customers: Market share increases because your company better understands customers and provides solutions from which the customer gets more value from, relative to your competition
  • Local communities and society think highly of, and trust, your company’s board of directors and C-Suite.
  • etc.

What are the characteristics of a competitively differentiated board?

There are three parts: talent, processes, and technology.  Poor talent, combined with poor processes, and poor technology results in a poor board. A company with a poor board is counting on luck in order to beat the competition.

  • The board as a whole is competitively differentiated team.
  • Each board member has 1 or more characteristics where they are competitively differentiated.
  • The board has differentiated decision making processes.
  • The board may also have differentiated technology support.
  • Every single board member must have the required values, morals, and ethics.

What are your next steps?

  • Review the purpose of your company.
  • Identify the key members of your company’s ecosystem.
  • Determine how the key members of your company’s ecosystem currently measure your company’s differentiation.
  • Decide what differentiation will look like to each key ecosystem member. You will have to do trade-offs – your company can’t be the everything for every member of your ecosystem.
  • Determine what collective board decisions, actions, and behaviours will result in the desired perception of differentiation. Director actions and behaviours will be visible in many ways, including: at the Annual General Meeting, management meetings, social media, and countless interactions with a variety of people and organizations.
  • Outline the board’s decision making processes, for both the board as a whole and each board committee. The intent is to have a better process than competitors.
  • Based on the above, define what relevant past experience, skills, and expertise are required for the board as a whole, for each board committee, and for each individual director. Assess each individual director for: cognitive skills2, fluid intelligence3, and perseverance. Behavioural interviewing and psychological testing are key.  Director candidates should also undergo a simulation. This results in competitively differentiated directors.
  • Value, morals, ethics, and integrity are mandatory. Warren Buffett supposedly said “..looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”
  • Each potential director nominee should spend one year as a board observer, with their value contribution being assessed prior to being nominated and elected.
  • Establish an ongoing process to understand how ecosystem members perceive your company’s competitive differentiation. This must be done yearly as well as when any major external changes or crisis occur.
  • Regular assess: the board as a whole, each director, the board decision making processes, and supporting technology. Every year, you need to make the decisions on whether or not your have the best directors OR if should exit some directors.  This is the same concept as zero based budgeting.
  • Your crisis management process must include the board of directors. g. every year, run a simulation with the board using a potential crisis.  I assume that you have a crisis management process, a leader (or team) supporting the process, and a crisis war room.


1 Professor Didier and Estelle Metayer, “Does your board really add value to strategy?”, IMD, Global Board Center,

2 What are cognitive skills?

3 Fluid vs crystallized intelligence

Why should a Venture Capitalist invest in you? V2

What is the purpose of this article?

  • Enable founders and investors to discuss and understand some of the VC (Venture Capitalist) investor process in early stage companies.
  • This understanding will help founders create and manage their VC relationship building and two-way communications’ processes.

You can download a PDF of this article from: Why should a Venture Capitalist invest in you V2

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • A VC is focused on making a large amount of money from an investment, because most investments generate little or no return
  • The VC decision making process has many steps, with variety of criteria at each step.
  • When it’s time to make the final investment decision, the team is the most important factor for the VC.

 What is driving the actions of a VC?

The primary focus of a VC is to make money for the investors in the fund. A secondary focus may be to have a positive impact on society.  The VC likely has a fund. The fund exists for a finite period of time and is expected to produce significant returns to the fund investors (e.g. significantly better than a liquid S&P500 ETF.

  • Often 10 year fund lifetime.
  • First 2-3 years investing in new companies.
  • Most of the capital invested within 5 years
  • Retuning capital to investors in the last 5 years and winding up the fund at the 10 year point.

What is the state of your startup?

  • You already have revenue from your solution. Few VCs invest in pre-revenue companies.  There are exceptions such as new drugs and new technologies (e.g. fusion power).

Why is the VC looking for companies which can return 10 to 100 time the investment? 1

Andreessen Horowitz, a U.S. VC fund with over $10 billion of asset under administration, has public shared their experience.  They receive 3,000 startup applications per year. 200 startups are looked at seriously. 20 startups are funded.  They commented that in the VC industry overall, 8% of investments generate the bulk of the economic return.  The other 92% of investments are a loss or generate little return.

What are the VC questions and decisions leading up to the decision to give you cash?

VCs get many requests for funds (sometimes dozens a day).  VC’s also seek out desirable startups, often using software to create large databases of startup companies.

The foundation for many of the questions is based on:

  • What’s the market size? How did you determine the number of potential cash paying customers who have urgent problems and needs they are willing and able to address?
  • What’s unique about the team? What does the team know that no-one else knows?
  • What’s unique about the solution? How easy is it to copy?

What are the three different routes to get VC funding?

  • Ask them for funding, either via cold call or introduction.
  • The VC reaches out, as a result of you staying in touch if the VC turns your down initially.
  • The VC proactively contacts you. This may occur because: the VC’s software scanning and analysis of the internet has identified your startup, they’ve seen you pitch somewhere, they’ve met you and talked with your for 2-3 minutes,

When you ask VCs for funding, their questions include:

  • Why should they open (rather than immediately delete) your cold call email or introductory email from someone the VC knows?
  • Why should they read any attachments?
  • Why should they have a brief call with you?
  • Why should they have a meeting with you?
  • Why should they start a due diligence process with you?
  • Why should they start to negotiate terms and conditions with you?
  • Why should they decide to give you cash?

Each one of the above questions will have a number of detailed supporting questions and analysis

What are the key VC questions when they decide to not-invest but still ask your startup to stay in touch with them?

These include:

  • Did you email them (or update their database) on the schedule they asked for? (Most commonly monthly.)
  • Did you accomplish in the past month what you said you would, in an earlier update?
  • How much have customer interactions grown, month by month. E.g. number of cash paying customers, number of customers who signed LOI (Letters of intent), how many asked to be emailed once your product is ready, number and type of interactions on your website, number of signups to your newsletter, etc.

The VC will have different decision making criteria at each stage. VC don’t all ask the same questions or have the same process.

What has the VC determined prior to their final investment decision?

  • Prior to the final investment decision, many VC questions will have been answered, especially in the due diligence stage, as noted above.
  • Few startups make it to the point where the VC makes the final decision on whether or not to invest.

 What is the most important factor early stage VCs consider when it is time to decide on whether or not to write the check.

  • 53% of VCs believe the team is the most important factor in making the decision. Fit with the fund was 13% and the solution was 12%.2
  • 64%% of VCs believe the team was the most important factor in their startups’ success3
  • 60%% of VCs believe the team was the most important factor in their startups’ failure4

Why the focus on the team when it comes to the final investment decision?

  • The team needs to be constantly learning and unlearning about customers, their ecosystem, technology, etc.
  • Often the team must change direction as they learn more about their customers and the customers’ problems. E.g. YouTube started out as a dating site and Slack started as a multi-player online game.
  • Incredible grit and perseverance are required.
  • If the team’s initial assumptions about a large target market for their proposed solution prove invalid, a brilliant team will find out what the unmet customer problems are and create an appropriate solution.
  • A poor team will continue to create and sell a solution for which there is little demand.

What are your next steps?

As a founder:

  • Understand the different decision making stage each of your target VCs go through, including the final decision to fund you.
  • Design your VC relationship building and two communications processes to support the variety of target VCs.
  • You’ll need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management System), and two up-to-date data rooms. The external data room will be visible to potential investors.  The internal data room is used by the startup team, and not visible to potential investors.  Some content will be in both data rooms.



2 Paul Compers, Harvard Business School, Will Gornall, University of British Columbia Saunder School of Business, Steven N. Kaplan, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Ilya A. Strebulaev, Graduate School of Business Stanford, “How do venture capitalists make decisions”, April 2017, Page 42  This survey of VC firms included: 63% of all VC US assets under management, 9 f the top 10 VC firms and 38 of the top 50 VC firms.

3  “How do venture capitalists make decisions”, Page 53

4 “How do venture capitalists make decisions”, Page 54

Further reading

Touko Kontro & Ari Seppänen, “How to get your startup funded?”, NewCo  Helsinki, City of Helsinki,

Is your early stage startup planning to fail?

What does the startup journey look like?

What is a value proposition? V2

What is the purpose of this article?

  1. Enable founders, investors, C-Suite, boards of directors, shareholders, etc. to understand what a value proposition is and to discuss their company’s value proposition.

You can download a PDF of this article from:  What is a value proposition V2

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  1. A value proposition is someone else’s perception of the value your provide, not your opinion.
  2. All members of your company’s ecosystem have a perception of your company’s value proposition.
  3. Your company’s growth and survival depends upon your understanding of the key members of your ecosystem and their perception of your competitively differentiated value proposition.

A value proposition is some else’s perception of the value you provide, not your opinion

  1. This perception can be influenced by: facts, emotions, family & friends, social media, etc.
  2. Perceptions are both based on fact and emotions.  E.g. many people in the US believe that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election, although there are no facts supporting this.

How does someone perceive their value proposition?

Value proposition = (All their perceived achieved benefits) / (All their perceived incurred costs)

  1. Perceived achieved benefits can include both financial and non-financial (e.g. time savings, convenience, status, alignment with personal purpose, values, morals, and ethics, etc.)
  2. Perceived incurred costs can include financial (purchase costs, costs to switch to your company, other adoption costs, and ongoing costs) and non-financial (time, inconvenience, loss of status, mis-alignment with personal purpose, values, morals, and ethics etc.)

People may include in the value proposition impacts on other members of your company’s ecosystem as well as their personal impact.  E.g. cash paying customers considering buying from companies that pay employees a living wage or from companies that raise animals in a human manner.

All member of your company’s ecosystem have a perception of your company’s value proposition. E.g.

  1. Employees may consider: compensation, working hours, working location, alignment of your company’s purpose with their personal purpose, development programs which increase the value of the employee, etc.
  2. Shareholders may consider: long-term shareholder price, company purpose aligned with shareholder purpose (reducing the company’s impact on climate change, increasing diversity (gender, race, sexual identity, sexual orientation, etc.) at all levels of the company.
  3. Society may consider: your company’s impact on the environment, the % income tax your company pay’s vs the average taxpayer, whether you pay your employees a living wage, etc.

You need to understand both the customer and the competition.

  1. What is the reason the customer wants or needs something?
  2. How can you help the customer with what they need or want?
  3. Do your customers believe your value proposition is more attractive than the customers’ current situation?
  4. How do your customers perceive your value propositions’ competitive differentiators? And weaknesses?
  5. How do your customers perceive your competitors’  value propositions differentiators and advantages? And weaknesses?

How is your company going to grow and survive in the marketplace?

Your company will fail if you are not competitively differentiated.

  1. Your company’s growth and survival depends upon your understanding of the key members of your ecosystem and their perception of your competitively differentiated value proposition.
  2. How other members of your ecosystem perceive your value proposition for them may enable or destroy your company’s success.
  3. You may need to provide other members of your company’s ecosystem with a competitively differentiated value proposition. E.g. your current and future employees.

You need to provide your cash paying customers with a competitively differentiated value proposition.

  1. You must take market share and business away from competitors.
  2. Your customers need to decide to stop dealing with current suppliers and start dealing with you.
  3. Your customers need to stay with you.
  4. Your customers need to recommend your company
  5. You may be creating a  new market (e.g. Apple with the iPad)

What are your next steps?

Understand how the critical members of your company’s ecosystem think and feel about your company?

  1. Survey the individual members of your board of directors, C-Suite, and key shareholder to identify who they believe are the critical members of your company’s ecosystem.
  2. Also ask them what they believe those members view as your company’s competitively differentiated value proposition.
  3. Then individually survey those critical ecosystem members to determine how they perceive your company’s competitively differentiated value proposition.
  4. Collect the facts for those critical ecosystem members e.g. customer/market share growth, customer churn, employee retention, etc.
  5. Identify the implications of the above information.
  6. Determine what above needs to change to enable your company’s future growth and survival

What further reading should you do?

Do you understand your customers?

An example of a business ecosystem: What does the Toronto Startup Ecosystem look like?

Thomas Ripsam and Louis Bouquet, “10 Principles of Customer Strategy”, PWC Strategy& website,

Massive social and economic turmoil is approaching

I fear that massive social turmoil, accompanied by economic upheaval, is coming in the next decade.  This fear is due to what I heard at the Toronto Global Forum earlier this week.

Panelists described the need for massive government investments in health care, climate change, sustainability, incentives, etc.  But no discussion about where the money will come from and the need to increase taxes. Individuals will also have to make major changes and spend money.

I will summarize what I heard from the leaders about their approach to getting the public to make major changes……tell people it’s important and tell them they must change.  They leaders had no concept that they need to listen to the public, understand their concerns, help the individuals understand the urgent need for personal change. This approach of dictating change will lead to even more social upheaval than COVID.  Our leaders have no idea how to change the behaviour of large groups of people.

There is a science to large scale change of human behaviour.  I’m saddened that our leaders are unable to learn and plan to take the simple approach of dictating change. This will result in massive resistance by the public.

When I got home that evening, I read two articles in the newspaper.  One was about the need to increase defense spending in Canada given the war in Europe and tensions elsewhere.  No mention of increasing taxes.  The other article was about the deterioration of physical infrastructure of Toronto, the  city I live in.  Deterioration is occurring because billions of dollars of maintenance is being deferred into the future.

The public complains and wants more spending but doesn’t want to pay more taxes to correct the problems.

Some of my unique learnings over the past few months

The purpose this update is to share my learnings and unlearnings, with the expectation that some will be of value to you.

Personal Update:

  • My mentoring program with 1st year Rotman Business School MBA students, for the 2022-2023 school year is underway. Many students in consulting hope to work for McKinsey, Bain, or BCG with a starting salary of over $200,000/yr.
  • Devoting significant effort learning about and be part of the Toronto startup ecosystem, which is global in scope. It is critical to understand how early stage companies are disrupting and destroying traditional established companies.
  • Mentored a startup this past summer at the University of Toronto Department of Engineering – Hatchery.
  • Being an advisor at the Holt Xchange, a global fintech fund and accelerator.
  • Being a member of the Angel One Investor Network, which is a member of Equation Angels.
  • Being a Patient Family Advisor at the Odette Cancer Centre – Sunnybrook Hospital.
  • Continuing my long-term fundraising for the Geoff Carr Fellowship at Lupus Ontario. Over the past 16 years family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues have contributed over $251,000. There is a contribution link at the end of this email. So far his year $7,300 has been contributed.
  • Continuing as: Member of the Angel One Investor Network, Advisory Board member at the Shaughnessy Group, and Board Director at Computer Aid Canada.
  • Continuing to share with you, and on my website, some of what I’ve learned with the intent that some of you will find value. The learnings are applicable to any size company, ranging from an early stage startup to large global enterprises.

My biggest learnings in the past three months

  • I don’t know the explanation for the following: the vast major of leaders of businesses that are struggling do not want to understand their potential customers. I keep advising them to talk to their potential customers to understand why customers are not buying and why customers are leaving.  Most leaders refuse to do so. I can’t figure.
  • There has been a fundamental change in the PE (Private Equity) world. In Wave 1, profits were made by cost cutting and financial engineering.  Wave 2 was M&A and operational improvement.  Wave 3 has been underway for the past 5+ years. PE portfolio companies are now threatened by the rapid growth of small firms and startups. The rapid growth is financed by the massive amount of capital available these days.  These growing companies know more about customer problems and needs than the existing companies.  In Wave 3, PE portfolio companies will have to also improve their understanding of customers.
  • Traditional approaches to business transformation, risk management, and governance often exclude the talent required at the board of directors and C-Suite. This is reflected  in the fact that most major changes destroy company value and most companies have poor or moderate performance and disappear within 10 years.
  • The core reason for company failure is talent. Success requires competitively differentiated talent.  It is very hard for most board directors and C-Suite members to recognize and admit that they are the reason for their company failing.
  • I learned the phrase “life style company”. It refers to founders who want to create (or have created) and early stage company that provides an income they are content with – and the founders have no interest in either growing the company or selling the company. As a result, investors avoid these companies, because the investors will never get their money out.  However, I’ve noticed that the boards of directors and C-Suites of many long-established established companies are “life style” leaders.  Often, these companies become prime targets for activist investors or end up disappearing.

 Sharing my learnings

My website ( contains my points-of-view regarding key issues and questions regarding value creation and growth in for-profit businesses. Each point-of-view is a brief article designed to enable discussion among founders, owners, shareholders, investors, CEOs, boards of directors, and advisory boards. I do not address not-for-profits, government, or other non-profit oriented organizations.

 Below are links to my website containing: new and revised points-of-view since my last update in July.

Links to my points-of-view artiles:

Traditional business transformation dooms your company to failure

Traditional risk management dooms your company to failure

Traditional corporate governance dooms companies to failure

Why will your company fail?

Society’s trust in corporate leadership and political leadership is low V2

 To support the Geoff Carr Fellowship at  Lupus Ontario

Link to my Geoff Carr Fellowship fundraising page

My annual fundraising campaign for Lupus Ontario is underway

My annual fundraising campaign for Lupus Ontario is underway.  Over the past 16 years, family, friends, neighbours and colleagues have contributed over $251,000.

 Why am I fundraising?

My daughter was diagnosed with lupus in 1996, and I have personally experienced the challenges of this complicated disease.

 How does your donation help improve the lives of people living with lupus?

100% of the funds we raise are being directed towards the $65,000 Lupus Ontario Geoff Carr Fellowship. This Fellowship is offered annually to a qualified doctor to work under supervision at an accredited Lupus Clinic in Ontario.

The Fellowship also provides the recipient opportunities to conduct research in either adult or paediatric lupus, to gain additional in-depth knowledge of diagnosis and treatment options for the disease, and to provide patient care and education.

 For more information and to make a secure financial on-line donation, visit my fundraising page:

Stay safe.  Stay well.


Traditional business transformation dooms your company to failure.

What is the purpose of this article?

Help shareholders, investors, founders, the board of directors and C-Suite discuss and improve business transformation.

You may download a PDF of this article from: Traditional business transformation dooms your company to failure

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • Most transformation efforts fail and destroy company value.
  • The failure is due to leadership flaws with the company leadership: the board of directors, CEO, and C-Suite.
  • The leadership has limited understanding of employees and how to gain employee commitment to transformation.

What are some definitions of business transformation?

#1 “Transformation is about improving performance, not just cutting costs. Companies boost the odds of achieving breakthrough results when they simultaneously improve their operating discipline and make portfolio moves that collectively redefine their business.”1

#2 “Transformation spans your entire organization, to address all the changes needed to reach your full ambition.“2

#3 “…rapid, visible, and sustainable step-change improvement in business performance; strengthen their organizations to win in the future; and turn their companies’ upside potential into radical performance gains.” 3

#4 “Business Transformation is the process of fundamentally changing the systems, processes, people and technology across a whole business or business unit, to achieve measurable improvements in efficiency, effectiveness and stakeholder satisfaction. As such, a business transformation project is likely to include any number of change management projects, each focused on an individual process, system, technology, team or department”4

 What is the Oxford Dictionary definition of transformation: “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.

“its landscape has undergone a radical transformation”

Transformation usually fails.

  • Major changes almost always fail. 12% achieve their target; 20% are total failures; 68% diluted the value of the company.5
  • Efforts to recover a poor business (i.e. transformation) typically fail. Fortune 500 (1998-2013). 33% of the companies grew; 35% went bankrupt or were acquired; 32% stalled.  Only 10% of the stalled companies recovered.  Of the recovered companies, 75% returned to the core business and 25% redefined their business model.6
  • Roughly 70% of transformations fail.7
  • More than half of M&A deals destroy value for investors.8

What is one consulting firm’s perspective on why most transformations fail?9

I have paraphrased the comments from the article.  Any misinterpretation is my fault.

  • CEO doesn’t set a sufficiently high aspiration.
  • CEO unable to persuade the C-Suite regarding the need for transformation.
  • CEO and the leadership team doesn’t address skills needed to drive transformation.
  • The organization doesn’t buy in.
  • The organization won’t make the effort to make the change happen.
  • Lack regular performance management discussions.
  • Lack leadership oversight meetings.

Why do I think transformation efforts fail and doom your company to failure?

  • The consulting firm above points out the leadership flaws, especially with the CEO and C-Suite.
  • But where was the board of directors? Did they appoint and retain the right CEO? Did they approve the transformation plan?  Did they monitor the ongoing execution.  Did the have the appropriate skills to make decisions regarding: CEO appointment & retention, transformation plan approval, and monitoring of the transformation plan?
  • The board of directors and C-Suite are excluded from the transformation. The culture, skills, processes, values morals, and ethics of the board of directors and C-Suite do not change.
  • Major change results in major resistance to change.
  • The CEO and C-Suite have not built the urgent need for transformation and ensured that every employee understands and will support major change. g. Telling employees that they need to make major changes in order to increate company profit and C-Suite compensation ensures failure.
  • The board of directors and C-Suite don’t understand the employees and therefore don’t have the understanding necessary to craft a successful transformation plan and communication’s plan. McKinsey research shows that companies who disregard analysis of employee mind-sets never have an extremely successful transformation.10
  • The C-Suite does not have good two-way communications with the company.
  • The transformation does not make the talent and processes changes to ensure that future transformation will not be required. The transformation does not create a company which is continually changing and improving, driven by deep understand of the customers, employees, competition and how the company’s ecosystem is evolving.
  • A continuously successfully evolving company does not need two sets of organizations structure i.e. does not need a Chief Transformation Officer, Transformation Office, and transformation managers/teams throughout the company.
  • The word “Transformation” is usually misused and thus causes confusion. Many large projects are called “Transformation” when all they actually are is a large project.
  • The Transformation is not driven by the future scenarios for customers and the company ecosystem, but is rather focused internally. One major consulting firm (I won’t share the name) states that their approach to transformation is “Start with the balance sheet and then profit and loss statement.”

 What are your next steps?

#1 State the facts as to what is driving your need for transformation:

  • Declining customer and employee satisfaction, declining market share, declining profits, declined return-on-equity, ecosystem pressures, etc.?
  • Passion to increase customer and employee satisfaction, increase market share, increase profits, increase return-equity, position company to succeed in more of the future scenarios, etc.

If all you have is assumptions and opinions, get facts.

#2 Review the purpose of the company.  Survey all employees to assess the alignment of company purpose with personal purpose and to determine their urgent needs and problems.  Also do some employee focus groups and individual interviews.  This process should include the board of directors and C-Suite.

#3 Estimate the impact and degree of change required to your: customer relationships, ecosystem relationships, talent (at all levels), technology, and processes.

#4 Based on the above facts and analysis, assess the degree of resistance to the transformation e.g. if the transformation will result in the termination of employees, why would the current employees support the change?

  • Resistance to change can occur at all levels e.g. will board directors and C-Suite support the company being bought if this results in the directors and C-Suite losing their jobs?

#5 Determine if this transformation is in reality a change which can be planned, executed, and benefits achieved by the existing board of directors, C-Suite, organization talent, and processes.  If not, what needs to change to ensure an ongoing organization can succeed.

#6 Determine if you need an interim Transformation Officer to enable the creation of a future organization which will be constantly evolving i.e. no future need for a Transformation Officer.


1 McKinsey, “The truth about transformation”,

2 Bain, “Business Transformation”

3 Boston Consulting Group, “Business Transformation”

4 Change Associates, “What is business transformation?”

5 Patrick Litré, David Michels, Sebastian Walter, Melissa Burke, “Soul searching: true transformations start within” Bain

6 David Jacquemont, Dana Maor, Angelika Reich “How to beat the Transformation Odds”, McKinsey

 7  Harry Robinson ,“Why do most transformations fail?” McKinsey

8 John Kotter, “Leading Change: Why transformation efforts fail”, John Kotter, Harvard Business Review, January 2007

9 “Why do most transformations fail? A conversation with Harry Robinson”

10 Scott Keller, Bill Schaninger, “Getting personal about change”, McKinsey Quarterly

Traditional risk management dooms your company to failure.

What is the purpose of this article?

Help shareholders, investors, founders, the board of directors and C-Suite discuss and improve risk management governance.

You many download a PDF of this article from: Traditional risk management dooms your company to failure

What are the critical learnings in this article?

  • Traditional risk management in many companies does not address some of the fatal risks:
  • The talent in the board of directors and C-Suite.
  • Understanding of the cash paying customer problems and needs.
  • Understanding the company’s ecosystem.1
  • Enabling company growth and value creation.

What are some definitions of risk management?

#1 “Risk management is the process of identifying, assessing and controlling financial, legal, strategic and security risks to an organization’s capital and earnings. These threats, or risks, could stem from a wide variety of sources, including financial uncertainty, legal liabilities, strategic management errors, accidents and natural disasters.” 2

#2 “Dynamic risk management has three core component activities: detecting potential new risks and weaknesses in controls, determining the appetite for risk taking, and deciding on the appropriate risk-management approach” 3

#3 “ERM (Enterprise Risk Management) is a forward-looking management discipline designed to provide board and senior leaders a top-down, strategic perspective of the portfolio of risks they need to proactively manage to achieve business strategy, financial objectives and, as of 2019, corporate purpose.”4

 What are the fatal risks not addressed in many approaches to risk management?

Driving growth and profitability are not highly important risk management goals in companies. McKinsey did a survey of what goals companies had for enterprise risk management.5Two industries were examined. The companies scored goals from1:low to 4:high.

Energy company scores:

  • Drive profitability and growth 1.8
  • Ensure regulatory compliance 2.2
  • Protect value: 3.4

Advanced company scores (high tech and assembly)

  • Drive profitability and growth 1.0
  • Ensure regulatory compliance 4.0
  • Protect value: 2.5

The greatest risk to a company is not having competitively differentiated talent.  It is talent that understands the company’s ecosystem, provides value to key ecosystem members (e.g. cash paying customers and users), creates competitively differentiated solutions, acquires the necessary technology, make decisions, executes decisions, etc.

Many company leaders (board directors and C-Suite) believe that the only talent issues lie deeper in the organization and not with themselves.  Few have asked “Am I the right person”.  I recall a wonderful meeting with a board director who had great self-awareness.  He resigned from a large company board.  He told me why he felt his value to the board had dropped.

The second greatest risk is not understanding the cash paying customers problems and needs, as well as the perceived value of meeting those needs.

The third greatest risk is not understanding the company’s ecosystem5 or even realizing that the company has an ecosystem.

What do I observe about traditional risk management?

  • Traditional risk management is focused on secondary risks, many of which are addressed by management and staff below the C-Suite.
  • The above fatal risks, especially the talent and capabilities with the board of directors and C-Suite, are often not addressed.
  • Companies controlled by hedge funds, private equity, venture capital, and sophistical family office often do address the above fatal risks, especially the talent.

What are your next steps?

  • Determine who is accountable for ensuring the appropriate talent is on the board of directors, along with the necessary processes for: assessment, recruitment, development, and exiting.
  • Determine who is accountable for ensuring there is a shared understanding of customer problems and needs among the board of directors, C-Suite, and the rest of the organization.
  • Determine who is accountable for ensuring there is a shared understanding of customer problems and needs among the board of directors, C-Suite, and the rest of the organization.
  • Determine who is accountable for ensuring that there is a shared understanding of the company’s ecosystem.
  • Assess how the above items drive your company’s short and long-term actions.
  • Identify who is accountable for the improvements and the results of the improvements.


1 “A business ecosystem is the network of organizations—including suppliers, distributors, customers, competitors, government agencies, board of directors, C-Suite, employees, and so on—involved in the delivery of a specific product or service through both competition and cooperation. The idea is that each entity in the ecosystem affects and is affected by the others, creating a constantly evolving relationship in which each entity must be flexible and adaptable in order to survive as in a biological ecosystem.” Adapted from Investopedia 2021 Jan 20

 2 IBM Risk Management article – 2022 August 22

3 McKinsey 2022 August 22

4 Ernst & Young

5 Enterprise Risk Management Practices: Where’s the evidence? February 2014