## The Numbers Game: You, too, can have your pi and eat two!

By Rob Driscoll

When at age 14 I placed third in the Southern Alberta region in a national math competition, I started to realize that I was pretty good with numbers.

Around the same time, I learned that using numbers to my advantage would allow me to have my pi and eat it, too. For example, when sizing up value in ordering pizza, I could quickly use good ol’ pi-r-squared to figure out the surface area of my favoured ham-and-pineapple pie.

As a cheapskate with an enormous appetite, maximizing value in such matters was critical.

For example, if a 10″ pizza costs \$10, rounding pi down to 3 and multiplying by the squared 5″ radius (25), I could determine that there are roughly 75 square inches of deliciousness – about 13 cents per square inch.

If the 12″ pizza — 3(6 x 6) = 108 square inches — costs \$15, my forensic CSI (cost/square inch) investigation, would reveal that the bigger slice of pie, at closer to 14 cents per square inch, was no killer of a deal.

As my university career drew to an end, my penchant for playing the numbers parlayed into paternal parlance. The one thing I wanted above all became apparent: to become a parent.

I wanted to have four or five children (my math went haywire at some point and I ended up with seven kids with ex-wife Karen), so I needed to approach a LOT of women to find one willing to help this amateur become a pro at creation.

I reasoned that if I approached 2,000 beautiful women over my time at university and struck out 90% of the time, I would have dated 200 gorgeous women. Those are “figures” that just about everyone other than the late Wilt Chamberlain and my Christian parents (for entirely different reasons) would appreciate. Surely, one out of 200 would be able to handle my delivery plan.

Shortly before graduating, I got reacquainted with Karen, with whom I competed on the Bishop Carroll High School high-jump team seven years earlier. Coincidentally, she did not mind setting the bar high when it came to jumping into parenthood.

Meanwhile, aiming for a career in sports journalism, I sent my resume to every daily newspaper in Western Canada. The numbers game worked again, this time producing the dream job of sports editor (and writer and photographer and wire editor) of the Whitehorse Star in the Yukon.

My two-year journey into the wild was fruitful in many ways as we promptly went forth and multiplied our family size by two. We brought Nicholas and little sister Angela back to Calgary in late 1993 with no jobs, mounting bills and not realizing that jobs were not easy to come by in a struggling economy.

I picked up a job with Sun Media Corp. and did a little freelancing on the side, but the income was not enough to keep up with steadily growing family expenses.

I decided to focus more on the corporate consulting world, where the average pay per hour was about triple what I made working for newspapers.

I founded Versatile Corporate Communications and went to work on a list of the 200 largest companies in Alberta that I picked up from Calgary Economic Development.

Utilizing my carbon-copy dating methodology, if I approached 200 companies and experienced rejection 90% of the time, I would wind up with 20 customers and more than enough work to pay the bills.

However, I did not get past #23 on the list because I had too much work on my plate from the top companies.

My point is that playing the numbers game can indeed be a potent marketing tool, be it for the benefit of your business or your personal life. How else would I have found a lovely young woman named Amie willing to spend the past seven years living with a quirky entrepreneur with seven children?

I continue to work the numbers as the publisher of Business Edge News Magazine, having sold close to \$20 million in advertising, growing circulation from 20,000 to 158,000 and enduring two ownership changes over 12 years . . . and, as president of Versatile, helping other companies generate business through strong communication strategies and exceptional marketing material.

Drop a line to Ads@BusinessEdge.ca or Info@WeAreVersatile.ca if you wish to discuss further the power of numbers and how it can help grow your business.

## Versatility gives clients the Edge!

By Rob Driscoll

For 12 full years I had convinced myself that running a business publication required 100% of my professional attention, and that it made sense to shut down my profitable corporate communications firm in the year 2000 so I could focus completely on running Business Edge News Magazine.

Well, it turns out that I was wrong. Really wrong. Like WHAT-THE-HECK-WAS-I-THINKING?! wrong.

Having received numerous requests to get back in the game, I decided about eight months ago that I would resurrect Versatile Corporate Communications (www.WeAreVersatile.ca) and see if the two companies could work side by side.

Well, the list of Versatile clients is growing steadily, but not at the expense of Business Edge. In fact, advertising sales at the Edge are up sharply, and a key reason for that growth is Versatile clients becoming Business Edge advertisers.

It makes a lot of sense, really.

My all-star team at Versatile helps Canadian businesses improve dramatically their brands and marketing material. That team includes:

•  Architect/designer extraordinaire Dave Goulden, who was named 2002 Canadian New Media Designer of the Year and consistently delivers work that is not only beautiful to behold but brilliant in breeding business.

•  Best-selling author Tom Keyser, who is not only the best storyteller I have ever met, he is the most efficient and reliable writer in the business.

•  Futurist/tech whiz Dr. Tom Keenan, who is a gifted wordsmith and despite his off-the-charts IQ is able to put complex technology issues into words that even Luddites like me can understand. To avoid confusion when referring to my similarly named star writers, refer to them as Tom K.  :-)

•  Photographers Laura Parry and Kirstey Ball, both of whom have the technical skill, equipment and all-important disarming charm to make their every subject look like a GQ model.

•  Marketing manager Diandra Good, who surpasses her surname with every assignment, be it amassing a comprehensive list of media contacts, disseminating key messages through social media or copy writing.

•  Award-winning journalist/entrepreneur Rob Driscoll. OK, that’s me. And I must admit that my \$2,000 award came from a photo I took of a small child being hit square in the nose with a soccer ball. So maybe that makes me more of a heartless opportunist than anything, but I do have a knack for recruiting exceptionally talented people, I can write my way out of a paper bag (as long as I am not double-bagged), and clients seem to appreciate my carefully considered marketing strategy.

The result of this two-pronged attack is, well, results. As in clear, tangible results from marketing programs.

Here is a comment I received three days ago from client Lyle Guidolin of Source Financial, who took me up on my advice to have a feature on his firm written by Mr. Keyser and run in Business Edge News Magazine:

“After my firm ran just one full-page advertorial, I was inundated with requests for our services. Wow. I received over \$55 million in funding requests and we were able to close over \$30 million of these!! Response went on for over three months. Keep up the great work!”

If your corporate communications and/or marketing strategy could use a results-focused boost, contact me at 403 769 9359, Info@WeAreVersatile.ca or Ads@BusinessEdge.ca.

## Meet the Business Edge Team and our unique recruiting model!

By Rob Driscoll

They say with every crisis comes opportunity . . . particularly when you are an optimist like me.

So when Business Edge went through a rough period coinciding with the economic slowdown in the second half of 2008 and stretching over the next three years, I was forced to go back to the drawing board in many areas of the business.

One critical area to address was staffing. Following two ownership changes, I had to start from scratch and build a new team.

Under my new business plan, I needed to keep payroll costs very low while assembling a group that could consistently produce a top-notch publication.

As is the case with most publications, advertising sales are the lifeblood of Business Edge. In order to thrive, we needed to provide great advertising value. That means having strong distribution and fantastic editorial.

So we added some key markets to our distribution and then I went to the obvious place to find a great editor: the beach volleyball court. That is where I met Megan Butler, who thankfully was between jobs.

Megan

Now I am pretty sure she is the most organized editor in the business. She is a seasoned pro with the English language yet doesn’t seem to know the meaning of procrastination.

She handles a hefty editing and production workload gracefully while maintaining strong ties with our incredibly talented network of freelancers that includes best-selling authors Tom Keyser, Norman Leach and Bill Capodagli, renowned futurist Dr. Tom Keenan, Mark Wardell and humorist extraordinaire Cassius King (say it slowly and then guess if it is a pseudonym).

Tony

Proofreading whiz Tony Wells was also recruited through beach volleyball, the sport in which he is a two-time national champion.

Writer/copy editor/social media manager Diandra Good is another key member of our team. I recruited Diandra at another bastion of media talent: Earls Restaurants. While serving lunch to my good friend/advertiser Eric Watson and me, she displayed the highest level of customer service and a great sense of humour, and therefore a great fit to work at Business Edge. She even had editorial experience in the fashion industry.

Diandra

Well-run restaurants do a terrific job training people for their serving jobs as well as for those of us in other industries who appreciate an emphasis on customer service and teamwork.

My hard-working and loyal part-time assistant and circulation co-ordinator McKinnley Prince unwittingly applied for work at Business Edge by consistently delivering great service (and cold beer) to my senior men’s basketball team after our Monday night games. In her two years at Business Edge, McKinnley has never caused me an instant of concern as she carries out myriad critical duties.

McKinnley

Breanna

The newest member of the Edge team, director of sales Breanna Sudfeld, was “discovered” at 1410 World Bier Haus (I swear I am not an alcoholic!) while I met with a good friend and business associate. With five years of management experience in the food and beverage industry, Breanna understands how to sell while ensuring that the customer is happy with the experience.

Anybody with an advertising budget will have great difficulty saying no to her infectious smile.

Jenn

Contractors Jennifer Derouin (bookkeeping) and Carrie Poyser (ad design) came to Business Edge via more traditional routes – referral from a friend and connecting through a customer, respectively – but boast the crucial traits shared by every member of our tight-knit team: reliable, talented, dedicated and fun-loving.

Carrie

If anyone is interested in applying for work at Business Edge, please . . . don’t bother.  :-)

## Any room in the Lin-sane asylum?

By Rob Driscoll

Watching basketball phenomenon Jeremy Lin work his magic for the NBA’s New York Knicks this weekend was so inspiring, I am considering returning to the University of Calgary to use up my fifth year of eligibility with the Dinos.

Just as Jeremy felt until this month, I feel I have been under-utilized and under-appreciated in my basketball career.

My coach at the U of C never seemed to notice that with more playing time and more freedom in the offence, my production soared. If given the green light, just like Jeremy, I think I could have easily improved on my average of 27 points … per season.

Maybe I could get a volume discount if I register at the same time as my 17-year-old daughter, who also has her sights set on a post-secondary basketball career.

Surely if I can handle my seven kids and run a business publication, I could squeeze in a few hours a day for basketball practice. And three or four hours per day for classes. Oh yeah, and a couple of hours per evening for studying. Hmmm.

Well, maybe Dinos coach Dan Vanhooren would let me skip the odd practice so I could see my kids on occasion. Surely, he has been paying attention to Lin-sanity (the most popular term describing the craze surrounding Harvard grad Jeremy’s meteoric rise from the brink of retirement to superstar status), and would see that it’s worth taking a chance and giving me a little leeway on the practice schedule.

After all, Jeremy and I have much more in common. We are both 6’3″. We both weigh 200 pounds. We both love to play basketball. It’s kind of eery, really – like looking in the mirror.

Our differences — he is much faster, jumps a lot higher, has way better ball-handling skills, looks quite a bit more Asian than me, and shoots the ball right into the basket instead of clanking it off the rim — could surely be overlooked.

## Top 7 Great Things About the Calgary Stampede

7. OFFICE SCHMOFFICE — For at least six weekdays during Stampede, there is a general understanding in the corporate community that business is best done in a giant tent with a beer in hand. As a fervent believer in the power of networking, I say YEE-HAW!

6. FREE MUSIC — Concerts held at the Coca-Cola stage often feature popular Canadian artists several times a day! And it’s free! All you have to pay for is entrance into the grounds, \$8 beers, \$5 corn dogs … but it’s totally worth it!

5. RODEO  BULL-EVARD — If you haven’t experienced a rodeo up close, I highly recommend it. You might think all that horsing around in the infield is a load of bull, but it is indeed a barrel of fun – and I would never steer you wrong.

4. ‘TIS THE SEASON — It’s like Christmas in July, minus the presents. Everyone gets in the spirit of Stampede and there’s just an overall happier vibe in the city.

3. HAT TRICK — Let’s face it, most people look sexier wearing cowboy hats. Some would have you believe it’s all about nostalgic fashion sense, but I know it’s all about covering up a lot of bad hair or lack thereof.

2. DONUT MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE DANCING? — One word: mini-donuts.

1. FREE FOOD — As long as your digestive system can handle a steady diet of pancakes, syrup and burgers, you have no reason to buy food for the 10 days of Stampede. Thankfully, most meals include free juice and with tomatoes in the ketchup and cucumbers in relish, you are well on your way to the recommended 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day, or so we would like to believe.

## Kids and business can be a good mix

By Rob Driscoll

A lot of folks in the business world go to great lengths to avoid having their children along for a business trip, fearing it would be at best distracting and at worst chaos.

I was part of that crowd until nine years ago.

I had planned to take my eldest child Nicholas, then nine, camping in the Rockies for the weekend. However, on the Friday that we had planned to head for the hills, Garry Grein of Canmore-based Windtower Mountain Lodge called to say he was going ahead with an advertising feature in the next edition of Business Edge.

This was tremendous news as Business Edge was only about a year old and still struggling to gain a toehold in the market.

In those days, I wrote virtually all of the advertising copy, and we were going to press on Monday, so I needed to drive out to Canmore immediately to conduct the interview.

As I worked out the details of a Friday evening interview, it suddenly hit me that Nicholas would be devastated if I cancelled our trip to the mountains.

I told Garry that one angle for the ad feature was to have me bring my son to stay at the lodge and write a first-person piece on the experience. Garry thought it was a great idea and invited Nick and me to have dinner with him and his colleague Peter.

On the one-hour drive to Canmore, I counselled Nick on the importance of being polite and respectful while we ate dinner and while I did the interview.

He came through in spades as he was as polite as anyone could be while devouring two dozen hot chicken wings and participated in the conversation without interrupting. When Garry insisted on paying for the meal, Nick didn’t hold back in expressing his appreciation for the great food and sodas.

Garry was pleased with the Windtower feature that I emailed to him 48 hours later and even more happy about the response to the story.

Windtower became one of my best clients in the years to follow, and I think our initial meeting with Nick along for the ride was a big factor in creating a great client relationship.

A couple of months later, in similar circumstances, I brought seven-year-old Angela along as I conducted an interview with and wrote an advertising feature for Robyn Shipley of Marble Canyon Condos in Fairmont Hot Springs.

Angela behaved like an angel and clearly helped me win over a new client that would also go on to be a regular advertiser.

Then it was Theresa’s turn. At age six, she joined me for a trip to Edmonton for a meeting with a local business group. Theresa was polite and sweet, and the group immediately started a substantial advertising campaign.

Two years later, fourth-oldest Julianna got her first business trip under her belt as I met with an Edmonton restaurant owner. Despite somehow managing to slide through the back of her chair at one point, Julianna impressed the restaurateur, who ended up signing a large, long-term advertising deal.

The string of successful business meetings when I bring a child or two (I don’t press my luck by bringing seven to a meeting) has yet to stop, so I will continue to bring them along when I get the chance.

Of course, a sales person should always run the idea past the prospect first, but it seems to me that bringing a well-behaved child along on a business trip is actually better for business than not bringing one.

It’s also a great way, particularly in a large family, to give your child some much-needed alone time with a parent.

## Top 7 Reasons

By Rob Driscoll

This week’s blog is directed at business owners and marketing professionals who may be looking for a cost-effective vehicle to help grow their businesses.

7.  REACH — You like the idea of reaching decision makers at up to 280,000 businesses, including about 98% of business addresses in up to 50 key markets throughout Western and Central Canada.

6.  CHOICE — You can choose to advertise in any or all of our regional editions (BC, Alberta, Manitoba/Saskatchewan and Ontario).

5.  EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE — Our edgy, all-star team of journalists gives business readers every reason to pick up Business Edge and read it cover to cover.

4.  FLATTERY — Our sales reps are trained extensively in the art of complimenting, so as a Business Edge advertiser you will receive a steady diet of such lines as “Wow – you look particularly fantastic today!”, “You are indeed a rare combination of remarkable intelligence, razor-sharp wit and stunning beauty!” and “Haha, that was really funny!” and … wait for it … “You are BY FAR my favourite customer ever!”

3.  GENEROSITY —  For every full-page ad (or larger) that you run in Business Edge, you will be eligible for a hot beverage of your choice (offer excludes lattés and special coffees).

2.  CREATIVITY —  If you need help with your marketing message, we are here to help, and will not even charge you extra for our advice. For example, if you are a company that specializes in helping newlyweds get pregnant, I just thought of a great slogan: Just Do It! (Don’t even think about stealing that one from me as I am already on my way to the trademark office.)

1.  PROVEN RESULTS — We have a long list of testimonials from people extolling the value of advertising in The Edge . . . and only a few of them are from my mother!

## Wow – what a wild weekend it was in Waterton!

Visiting Waterton Lakes National Park, a three-hour drive south of Calgary, for my brother-in-law Sean’s annual May long weekend golf event, we experienced surprisingly calm, sunny weather and a spectacular array of wildlife.

In Saturday morning’s second round of the weekend at the Waterton Golf Course, we watched several Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and many deer scampering down the fairways in the same direction.

We figured they were likely running away from a bear, and soon our suspicion was validated. On the 13th hole, we observed a beautiful black bear hanging out about 50 yards behind the green.

As we approached the green, one of our group suggested we just pick up our balls and head to the next tee. Great idea, I thought, particularly since my tee shot on the Par 3 had fallen short of the green and a par was unlikely.

However, Sean had a great tee shot and apparently would rather risk his life than pass up a makable birdie putt. He started walking toward the pin, which was in line with the bear, who reacted by getting up on its hind legs.

Having quickly determined that it was improbable that my sister would ever find a better replacement, I decided to pull a club out of my bag and follow Sean. I know it’s important to look big when confronted by a bear, and thankfully I had bacon, eggs, a bagel and three beer in my belly. Whether it was my imposing stomach, the bear’s respect for Sean’s lovely tee shot or the fact there were several golfers around, the bear decided to turn and retreat.

The following day, we found the remains of a deer beside the same green. Thankfully he had chosen Bambi over Beer-Belly.

## Six Highly Intelligent Tools

By Rob Driscoll

In this week’s blog, I reveal my trademarked, patented and copyrighted (not really) Six Highly Intelligent Tools For Ultimate Closing Knack (for obvious reasons, I do not promote the acronym):

1.  Don’t let opportunities pass by. Whether you are single and a highly attractive person of the opposite sex is walking by, or you are at an event with one or more potential clients in the room, why on Earth (or any other planet) would you not at least make the effort to make contact. I have a lovely partner in life, amazing staff and a long list of great clients for the simple reason that I am not afraid to ask someone to do business with me. So get over your self-consciousness and make it happen!

2.  Be tactful. Be it asking that gorgeous stranger out on a date or introducing yourself to a prized prospect, it always pays to put some thought into the approach. Often you will only get one chance, so rather than stumbling over your words as you try to make a pitch on the fly, come up with something clever or at the very least non-dorky to break the ice.

3. Don’t be afraid to swing for the fences. Taking a page from the book of Major League Baseball player José Bautista, currently the hottest hitter in the league, if you have great confidence and take a great swing whenever you get the chance, you will knock it out of the park with surprising regularity. If you don’t have enough confidence, try some self-affirmation. It may feel corny at first, but that’s how comedian/actor Jim Carey became successful; he spent countless hours practising and telling himself that he was funny.

4. Don’t forget the little things. This might not be quite the same in the bedroom, but in the sales game, little things can be extremely powerful in getting the close. Penning a follow-up thank-you note is a simple, effective example.

5. Don’t provide opportunities for your target customer or date to say no. Just as asking someone to marry you on the first date can be a decisive deal-breaker, you don’t want to rush the close. Steadily accelerating a relationship while making it easy to say yes (eg. “I have tickets to the U2 concert on Friday and JLo is busy that day. I’d rather go with you anyway; are you available?”)

6. Work the numbers. I once explained to my youngest brother on his 18th birthday, “If you approach (tactfully) 20,000 gorgeous women during your college years and strike out 99% of the time, you will have gone out with 200 beautiful women.” That’s a pretty good sample from which to choose a nice wife. I don’t think he got anywhere near 20,000, but he did end up with a wonderful wife.

## A Weekend to Remember … for all the Wrong Reasons

By Rob Driscoll

Following a weekend that took a page from Murphy’s Law, I am compelled to present the Top 10 Reasons Why Your Weekend Was Better Than Mine:

10.  You didn’t have to spend your entire weekend moving your furniture and about a billion boxes to a new home in rain and hail, and you didn’t move into a house that was not completed on time and had mud pits instead of front and backyards.

9.  You didn’t slip on some netting at the start of the day and fall awkwardly to the floor, injuring your wrist.

8.  You didn’t find out the hard way that the stacked washer/dryer weighing hundreds of pounds cannot be separated into two units.

7.  You don’t have a friend named John who failed to notice that you were not holding said washer/dryer unit while pushing it on a dolly, and pulled the front end off the dolly, sending it crashing onto you. (I forgave him once I realized my back and spinal cord were still intact … since we were acting like a couple of big boobs, I guess you could call my gesture of forgiveness a Dolly Pardon.)

6.  You didn’t ask your girlfriend to push the washer/dryer up the stairs from the bottom with your friend while you pulled from the safety of the top of the stairs.

5.  Your girlfriend did not slip on water that had leaked from the washer and tumble to the bottom of the stairs, sustaining several large bruises and a cut that left a long streak of blood along the side of the washer. (Thankfully, John was able to prevent the unit from crushing both of them against the cement wall at the bottom of the stairs.)

4.  You didn’t try to carry a queen-size boxspring down to your basement only to find out that there is no way it would fit around the tight corner and through the door at the bottom of the stairs … and you didn’t gouge the newly painted walls in several places trying to get it through.

3.  You weren’t stupid enough to do the same thing with the headboard just before that.

2.  You didn’t roll your ankle and fall into the front mud pit carrying the boxspring back to the moving truck on the last load of the day!

1.  You weren’t in my shoes!