Monday, March 31, 2008


Check your credit rating was the first piece advice from our financial experts. You can do that through a couple of websites:

It costs around $25 and what you want to look at is your score – anything over 165 is good. It was also recommended that if you work in partnership with someone – they should be checked too.

Here are some other pointers that they shared at our panel discussion on March 26:

Shop around for a bank. Sometimes the local bank doesn’t have a commercial section, so you are better off going a bit further afield to ensure that component is in place.

Build a relationship with your banker. Help them understand your business before you ever go in to ask for a loan.

Do your homework. Have a business plan with a financial breakdown so that the banker can see what your potential is and how likely you are able to pay off a loan should you get one.

Consider other options such as factoring. What is factoring and how it is different from the traditional bank loan? When you factor you don’t borrow money so there is no monthly re-payments. What does happen is First Vancouver Finance, for example, purchases your approved commercial accounts receivable once the order has been shipped or completed. They handle the invoice mailing, processing and postage. This option helps with cash flow and funding of $10,000 to $2,000,000 per month is available. To learn more, go to

We also learned that while BDC offers loans, it also has an extensive consulting practice. To check them out – go to – if you have to prepare a business plan, they have a template on their website as well as other useful information.

Loans are also available through the Canada Small Business Finance Program, headed by Industry Canada but implemented by financial institutions across Canada. Ask at your local bank about the SB program or check their website - for more information.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Think positive

Are you someone who jumps to conclusions – right or wrong? Do you automatically think the worst? Do you act first and think later? Well here is a cautionary tale.

You never know what your day will bring, and last night we discovered that our basement was flooded – and I mean flooded, we were up to six inches in water. Everywhere.

After talking to the insurance company, they sent out an emergency crew to literally bale us out. By this time it is late in the evening, but this is an everyday occurrence for them, and I guess with the thawing snow, they may be even busier. So their truck is on our driveway as they pump the water out. They finished at four this morning however, not before we had a visit from the police.

Our neighbour had phoned them to complain about the noise. She didn’t call to find out what was wrong; she didn’t pop over to see if she could help – no, she automatically called the police. The officers were most polite, could see what the situation was, told us to continue and wished us all the best.

What a waste of their time. What a pity she couldn’t see the situation for what it was. Instead, she likely assumed one of our kids (who haven’t lived at home for the past five years) was larking around with a friend in a truck on our driveway.

What’s that old expression – when you assume, you make an “ass out of you and me”
So the moral of the story – think positive, reach out and ask if you can help instead of automatically assuming the worst and taking a negative stand when one isn’t necessary. Life is too short.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Story Telling

Last night we heard from Diana Bishop who humorously shared her stories of her career in journalism – from her early days covering articles on insects and animals, to her days in China as the first woman foreign correspondent. It was when she switched to NBC and was at the peak of her career, that she knew she needed to leave and find her calling.

For years she had been interviewing people in her role as a TV reporter, always looking for the unique story and angle. What she enjoyed the most was telling the story, and she had a talent for bringing out the best in people, helping them to shape their tale.

At each juncture in her career, she talked about the lessons she had learned after every gaff and mistake she made and every challenge she met. She had the ability and foresight to realize that she could learn from these experiences and would move on.

Today she interviews entrepreneurs and helps them to brand themselves through their success story. And as the audience listened enthralled and enjoying her talk, it was clear that she walks the talk. She can tell a success story, because she is one.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Unfinished Painting

This weekend I attended the funeral/memorial service for a friend. She was just 50 – far too young to have died – yet she had packed a lot into her life and firmly believed life was for living.

We first met years ago when she was a social worker, working mainly with women in abusive situations. Frustrated with the legal system and its disservice to women, she went back to school to become a lawyer and mediator.

When her son spoke at her service, he joked that his friends all said his mom must be loaded because she was a lawyer. Everyone there laughed, because one thing Ascenza wasn’t - was rich. She chose to support the underdog, the immigrant family who could not afford a lawyer, or the single mom fighting the system. No – she certainly wasn’t in it for the money.

As many of you may recall, we had quite the snowstorm on Saturday, but the chapel at the funeral home was packed and many of those there were people she had helped.

But it is interesting no matter how much you think you know someone, there’s always something new to learn. Sadly often at their funeral. In this instance, I never knew that Ascenza was an accomplished artist. Many of her paintings were on display, and like everything else she did, they were good.

It was somewhat poignant to see one unfinished painting – because to me it symbolized how she’d been snatched away from us before she was done.

Friday, March 07, 2008

International Women's Day

This week, together with 580 + women I celebrated International Women’s Day. The keynote speaker at this event was Deborah Ellis, author of numerous books for children, many of which describe the plight of women and children in war-torn countries.

When Deborah wrote her first book, The Breadwinner, it was doing well and she was so moved by what was happening in Afghanistan that she decided to donate the royalties from this book to support women there. Then 9/11 happened and suddenly her book is a best seller and is translated into numerous languages and sold around the world.

Adding two more books to this series, she continued to donate the royalties and to date she has raised over $500,000 as a result. Now she is no Bill Gates. As she stood before the audience in her jeans and sweater, it was clear this was an ordinary individual, showing extraordinary generosity. In addition to writing about the conditions in these countries, she has chosen to take action, to do something about it.

I applaud her generosity. She is clearly someone who has made choices on how she wants to live her life and she is doing so with purpose and intent .

Monday, March 03, 2008

How far have we come as women?

At our Toronto dinner last week we had three journalists as speakers. All had been editors of mainstream magazines, and Linda Lewis is still in that role, heading up the new magazine More which is aimed at women over 40.

The discussion was lively to say the least and as they recalled their early days in journalism, many were shocked to learn that in job interviews they were even asked whether they were using birth control – after all the employers didn’t want to invest in someone who might get pregnant. As Dianne Rinehart (former editor of Homemakers) pointed out, she was sure they didn’t ask the men if they used condoms. When you hear stories like this, you realize we have come a long way.

But not far enough to support Hilary Clinton. When the panel were asked whether Hilary was getting a fair shake by the media, the answer was a resounding no. Not only were the media not being supportive, but women were also judging her, observed Rona Maynard, former editor-in-chief at Chatelaine.

It would seem in the eyes of many if she shows emotion, it is deemed that she is cracking under the pressure and therefore not capable of this leadership role, and if she steels herself and appears strong, she is categorized as a hard-hearted individual. Either way, it would seem that she can’t win – neither the nomination nor the unilateral support of her gender, which is too bad as she is more than capable and would bring a wealth of experience to the job. The primaries on Tuesday will reveal all.