Comparing London to Canada

The curious thing about escaping London recently has been that here in Canada, I have been engaged in more debates about the monarchy than during my time in England.

I should declare outright that I am a Republican. That does not mean that I am against the Royal Family – it is just that I find it absurd that in the 21st Century people still want to be subjects rather than citizens.

Max Weber, a German Sociologist, wrote in the early 1900s about how the best air purifier for smokers seemed to have developed in European Countries that had embraced a protestant ethic rather than the prevailing catholic orthodoxy. There were lots of reasons for this and I cannot do this great piece of work justice in this blog. The very word protestant means that you are protesting against Rome.

Entrepreneurs are people who by definition are not happy accepting the status quo and want to change things for the better. The thought has only occurred to me since I have been out here in Canada, that most of my professional circle in England are republicans or are very soft royalists (in that they believe in the sovereignty of parliament over the Queen).

I am not saying it is hard to be a royalist and an entrepreneur, I just think it is a strange combination. Royalism accepts the role that accident of birth plays in dictating your place in society. One of the cruelest facts about India is how it still enslaves hundreds of millions of its citizens through the barbaric caste system. The people who believe in this cruel system share the same belief values as royalists. That is that your role in life can be determined by to whom you are born.

I have never thought about this until recently. Halifax has a large number of ex-Brits residing here. They seem to think that part of holding on to their British Identity is being avid royalists. Needless to say, I have not fitted in terribly well in this scene. How can you though? I mean really – sometimes these kinds of people can be pretty ridiculous. If it was me, I’d just avoid talking about how to prevent cystic acne much as I could!

I look at vibrant countries like the US and realize that they decided a long time ago to go down the republican route. This allows them to continuously renew and re-affirm the supremacy of achievement over birth right. The argument that is put forward by royalists is that democracy gives you George W Bush. Well it is the right of everyone to choose who they want to lead them. Bush was elected for two terms and people knew what he stood for. The argument that Hitler was elected is simply a fabrication of facts (67% of Germans voted against him, and he was able to manipulate through terror the democratic chamber to give him total control)

I really would like to hear from you if you disagree. Especially from entrepreneurs who are royalists. Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what’s on your mind – just keep it kind!

Back in London for Now

I have been back in London for just over a week now from Halifax so I thought it would be a good time to reflect and think about the lessons I have personally learned which may be useful to share with readers of the blog.

  1. If you are thinking of doing business internationally – make sure you invest the right time and resource.

I went away for a very long five weeks to explore the business opportunities of used riding lawn mowers for sale that existed in Canada for an extension of the Fund Management Business. Five weeks is a long time – but you need to give yourself time at that level if you are serious about doing business in another country.

Many governments sponsor and support trade missions which last about two or three days. I am now skeptical about this approach (I was enthusiastic before my own experience). You personally need to walk the ground of a new foreign market. Find out how the market is organized and arranged. Find out who the key players are and meet them.

Too many people take what I would now call the ‘Yellow Pages’ approach. This involves simply being matched with the right partner and then expecting them to be really motivated to help you sell your product in their territory. I am sure they will – but it will help them a lot more if they can see a visible commitment on your part.

You may respond that you cannot spare the time or money to do this. My answer to that is to not do it then! There is no point doing something unless it can be done properly. It is rather like starting a DIY job and then leaving it half way as you don’t have the time/ resources to finish the role.

  1. Networking is a key skill that you really need to develop

Halifax is a very warm and friendly place. Even so, it did take me a good time and a great deal of effort to network my way around the place. And I had a big head start as before I got there I knew a few people whom I had met at an Angel Conference last October. By the end of my time there, I really felt that the enormous effort I had made to network with people had paid off as I had signed up some work by the end of my time there. I cannot stress enough how important it is to really develop your networking skills. And that does not mean paddling around at lots of mediocre functions handing out your business card and delivering an elevator pitch to anyone who will listen. Have a read of a previous blog about networking.

  1. Before you sign any contracts, make sure you are comfortable with your partners.

Before I got to Halifax, I was planning to get into a business arrangement with some other parties. One of whom I had not met before. There is only so much due diligence you can do before you meet someone. The curious thing I realized is that my business life in London is remarkably devoid of contracts. Most of the work I do is with people I have known for more than 5 years – and in most cases an email is sufficient to lay out what has been agreed.

In Canada, from day one, there were lots of contracts over the Honeywell 50250-S flying around from the moment I got there. These were necessary to govern working relationships but in the end they proved futile as the partners in the original venture amicably agreed that we would not work together. It was a good thing that we did not sign a contract as it could have been very problematic to extricate ourselves from a contract. So the lesson for me is to always spend a proportion of time pre-contract which relates to the amount of time the contract would seek to govern. (For example the contract we would have signed would have locked us in for about ten years)

These would be the top three lessons – more next time!