Thursday November 27, 2014

CBC Dragon speaks at dinner

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Bruce Croxon, left, from CBC's Dragon's Den spoke in Yorkton last week.

Bruce Croxon, a successful Canadian businessman, and now television personality on CBC’s Dragons’ Den sees a lot of business positives in Yorkton, which is not exactly the norm right now in this country.

“There’s a lot of pain being felt all over,” he said as he spoke at the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce Business Dinner last Wednesday.

Croxon said Yorkton seems to be bucking that trend.

“What’s happening in this community … is just unbelievable,” he said. “… You feel it here. Everyone’s walking around with a smile on their face … You can feel the energy here.” He would later tell local press there was a feeling of “opportunity around every corner” in Yorkton.

But Croxon said many people are still looking to start a business.

“I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs,” he said, adding “… It’s sexy again to be an entrepreneur.”

Croxon would tell media later “I think entrepreneurship is alive and well in Canada.”

That said Croxon said owning one’s own business is not for everyone.

“It seems so easy when you read the headlines, but it’s a life’s work,” he said, adding that while there are big news success stories it’s also “the hardest time to be an entrepreneur.”

Croxon said the Internet has created an environment where a business having a distinct edge is difficult, and that means business owners must work hard to hold any advantage they may have. He said owners “have to be thinking about your business seven days a week, 24-hours a day,” because somebody else is doing just that.

“Building a business. It’s not an overnight thing,” he said.

Croxon said entrepreneurs of course feel the ups and down of what they are doing, “because it’s yours, you acutely feel every victory and the downs … There is a flip side to the coin.”

Of course it takes money to grow business too. In that regard Croxon challenged Canadian banks to get back to helping small business. He said too-often today a business needs $3 million in sales before banks are interested.

“It’s very tough to get senior bank lending,” he said, adding banks need to “get back to believing in (business) start-ups … and make it easier to get money.

“It’s got to be easier to get money than in the last 10-years.”

Croxon said banks must get back to “supporting business at the point they need it most.”

Croxon co-founded Lavalife, the internationally recognized online dating service. He wore many different hats at the company, including Partner, Chairman and CEO and guided Lavalife to the position of category leader, achieving revenues of close to $100 million prior to its sale in 2004.

“I learned a lot about business with that venture,” he said.

Croxon said there was a time when LavaLife was the second most recognizable brand name in Canada behind only Tim Horton’s.

But that did not come without overcoming challenges, in particular “the stigma” of arranging dates through an Internet dating service. It was a case of taking the idea of being cool.

So what made Lavalife so successful as a business?

Croxon said it was a variety of things which combined to make it the success it was.

“The tech(nology) was great. We hit at the right time,” he said, adding “luck” played a role too.

But it all came together for Lavalife which would reach $100 million in revenues, and 600 employees.

“It was a Canadian success story,” admitted Croxon. He would add later Canadians can “hold our own with anyone in the world … I truly believe that.”

Croxon said success comes by having a vision and working to achieve it.

“Where do you want to take the business the next one to three years?” he asked.

Once you have a plan the next step is having a team to achieve them. Croxon said teamwork might be a buzzword but it also important.

Croxon asked “how do you bring a value like teamwork to life?” He answered his own question by suggesting it was a case of “like-minded people working together.”

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