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Business Ideas – How to Narrow Your Market, Innovate, and Be Efficient like Dov Charney

Business Ideas – How to Narrow Your Market, Innovate, and Be Efficient like Dov Charney by Evan Carmichael


dov charney


Today, we’re going to look at how a Canadian entrepreneur went from getting arrested for bootlegging t-shirts to being the largest t-shirt manufacturing in the United States. This is the story of American Apparel founder Dov Charney and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“I knew I could do it differently, and I knew I could turn it around. And I knew there was a solution and there was no way, that kind of passion or can-do spirit; I said there’s no way I’m stopping now.” – Dov Charney
Dov Charney (born January 31, 1969) was born in Montreal, Canada to Jewish parents, but was sent to Wallingford, Connecticut to attend a prestigious prep school to control his behavior. Charney was a self-described hyperactive child and was frustrating his parents with his behavior. He would focus on just about everything else, but the school he was attending. While ignoring school work, he would find a money-making opportunity by purchasing t-shirts at a K-Mart and taking them across the border to Canada, where he would sell them for a profit.


Charney would then close a large order for t-shirts, but the order went south and he would eventually lose more than $100,000. This business disaster would make Charney quit the t-shirt business for a while and go to college. He found that the t-shirt business was calling him again so he dropped out of Tufts University in his senior year to follow his passion. After moving to South Carolina, and getting a $10,000 loan from his father, Charney would start a new t-shirt business in 1989, American Apparel.


Today, American Apparel has over $500 million in revenue and over 11,000 employees. It’s the largest clothing manufacturer in the United States and has almost 300 locations worldwide. In 2004, Charney was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year and he’s made quite a return for himself on that initial $10,000 startup loan!



Action Item #1: Narrow the Market


Action Item #2: Innovate, Don’t Exploit


Action Item #3: Efficiency is the Key



True Story 


Dov Charney was such a hyperactive child that his Canadian parents sent him to a prep school in Connecticut. There he would see many of his classmates selling t-shirts on school grounds. This gave Charney an idea of buying t-shirts from the local K-Mart and taking them across the border into Canada to sell for a profit which happened to be against the law.


During one of his bootlegging excursions he was arrested. “They took me down to Station 10, which doesn’t exist anymore, and after a couple of hours of me yelling, ‘Monsieur, monsieur!’ they let me out and gave me back my cash and my shirts,” recalls Charney. “So what did I do? Headed straight for the Cock ‘n Bull to try and unload the rest of them.” Even getting arrested did not deter Charney from selling his t-shirts.




“America doesn’t need another faceless, institutional apparel company. They need an apparel company that gets it and does it right.”


“Look, I’m not that ethical, but you don’t have to be the most ethical person to know that slavery was wrong.”


“What I’m talking about is the exploitation of human potential instead of the exploitation of humanity.”


Business Ideas – How to Put Differentiation Into Action Like Ron Joyce (Tim Hortons)

Business Ideas – How to Put Differentiation Into Action Like Ron Joyce (Tim Hortons) by Evan Carmichael


ron joyce



Evan Carmichael discusses how you can match your talents with your passion like the franchise king Ron Joyce (Tim Hortons).


“When you find the niche you love, that becomes your passion. For me it was Tim Hortons. It was my world.” — Ron Joyce



Action Item #1: Match Your Talents with Your Passion


You can be really good at something but not love it. You can also love doing something else but not be really good at it. To be successful as an entrepreneur you need find the opportunity to combine what you love doing with what you’re really good at.


According to Ron Joyce: ” I think people who excel in anything are often totally dedicated to it, but are only really good at one thing. I look at the great athletes of all time, like Michael Jordan, who went from basketball to baseball and it didn’t work. Or Wayne Gretzky, who probably wouldn’t have been great at anything but hockey.”


Are you like Michael Jordan trying to play baseball by doing something you love but aren’t really that good at? If you’re struggling to get your company to the next level try doing some soul searching to see if you’ve matched up your talents with what you love doing in the best way possible.


Action Item #2: Treat Your Franchisees as Partners


Franchising can be a great way to build a business because you don’t need to fund it yourself and you can create an army of hard working managers who have a self-interest in seeing you succeed. However, franchising is not a bulletproof concept and may fail when the franchisors don’t provide the right support to their franchisees.


Here’s Ron Joyce’s advice: “It was my philosophy to treat the franchise owners as partners.” He followed through by creating a ‘Donut University’, a central training facility where new franchise owners could go to learn the ropes of running the business and operating in the fast-paced environment. He also established regular meetings, a toll-free phone line, and field evaluations to provide support to his franchisees. He was willing to do whatever it took to get his partners off the ground and running.


The result? Today, only five percent of the company’s stores are corporate, while the rest are locally and operated owned franchises. With average profit margins ranging from 15 to 20 percent, owning a Tim Hortons franchise is a promising venture. In fact, more than half of all franchisees own more than one unit. Treat your franchisees fairly and give them the support they need to flourish and they’ll build your business for you.


Action Item #3: Create a Unique Point of Differentiation


If you want to stand out and win business from your competitors then you need to do things differently from them. If there’s nothing different about you, why should customers choose you when there are probably more established companies they could go with?


When Joyce took over Tim Hortons he wanted to stand out from all the other coffee chains. To do that, Joyce implemented a new set of business practices that focused on keeping things “Always Fresh.” He began to insist that all Tim Hortons coffee pots be cleaned three times a day and that no coffee be older than twenty minutes from the time the brewer stops dripping. All grounds were also to be thrown out immediately afterwards. But it didn’t just stop at coffee. The temperatures of all cheese products and sandwiches were to be checked every other hour, as with soups. Donuts were to have a shelf life of no more than eight hours and could also be made to order. Bagels and other breads were also to be sold for no more than eight hours after they were made, while cookies, danishes, and croissants could go up for twelve hours. Only enough cakes for a given day were to be baked in any one store.


Customers began to come to Tim Hortons because they had the freshest products available and sales soared. What is your unique point of differentiation? Is it really something customers care about and are you very different from your competitors? If not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and create a value proposition worth betting the company on.


Business Ideas – 3 Lessons From Brett Wilson

Business Ideas – 3 Lessons From Brett Wilson by Evan Carmichael


brett wilson


Today we’re going to look at how an engineer discovered how his field was not for him and that business was more of his passion so he went back to school to get his MBA and focus on the business world. This man would go on to become one of the richest businessmen in Canada and is also well-known for his generosity. This is the story of Canadian entrepreneur Brett Wilson and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“Innovative thinkers are constantly asking the question: How can we make things better? No matter what stage you’re at in your career or what industry you work in, everyone around you can benefit from new ideas. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box – just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be better.” – Brett Wilson


Brett Wilson (born July 1, 1957), a Canadian engineer, businessman and television personality is best known for his appearances on CBC’s Dragon’s Den. After growing up in a middle class family, his father a car salesman and mother a social worker, Wilson went off to college to study engineering. He would get his bachelor’s degree in engineering and go to work for one of the oil companies in Western Canada. However, after a few years of working as an engineer, he discovered that he wanted to do something else – business.


After going back to school to get his MBA, Wilson would join nine other friends to start an investment club. They each put in $200 and invested in the stock market. They would soon each get back $221, but more importantly, understand how the stock market worked, how commissions worked, how to buy and sell stocks, as well as learn to research and watch market trends. It wasn’t much money, but this small investment club got Wilson moving and drove him to wanting to do more in the business world. He would go on to work for an investment bank, but his entrepreneurial spirit was still not satisfied. He would bide his time, network, make contacts and learn everything he could, so one day he could start his own business.


Finally, he would create his own investment advisory firm and later team up with three partners to create a brokerage firm, FirstEnergy Capital, that would offer investment services to the oil and gas industry. Today, FirstEnergy Capital has handled more than $150 billion worth of mergers, acquisitions and asset sales. Wilson has been named one of the top 20 deal makers in Canada and one of the top 10 mergers and acquisitions specialists in Canada.


Business Ideas – 3 Business Lessons From Gerry Schwartz

Business Ideas – 3 Business Lessons From Gerry Schwartz by Evan Carmichael


gerry schwartz


Today we’re going to look at how a young man who thought a $10,000 a year salary was a “big deal” learned about business from his father and became a billionaire in the process. This is the story of Canadian entrepreneur Gerry Schwartz and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“There is no such thing as high returns without risk.”- Gerry Schwartz


Gerry Schwartz (born in 1940) is a Canadian businessman. In 1977 he co-founded CanWest Global Communications Inc, followed by Onex Corporation in 1983. The Report on Business ranks Schwartz as one of the 30 wealthiest Canadians with a net worth that exceeds $1.5 Billion (Canadian) Dollars.


Today his private equity investment firm, Onex, has over 235,000 employees and Schwartz continues to look for opportunities to buy struggling companies, turn them around, and sell them for a handsome profit. He was named Ernst & Young’s 2005 Entrepreneur of the Year and was also made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2006.


Action Item #1: Keep Your Team Together


People love working for Gerry Schwartz because he gives them opportunities and respects their opinions. Every Monday morning, Schwartz gathers his top executives and decision makers in the Onex boardroom to discuss the merits of transactions and strategies, both new and old. If one of his key team players is unable to be at the meeting in person, Schwartz makes sure they are brought in by telephone. One by one, Schwartz goes around the table and lets each and every one of his staff have their say about the future direction of their company. And, they do not have to go along with whatever Schwartz proposes. If one person raises a doubt about a proposal on the table, the team may still proceed, but with greater caution. If two executives raise their dissenting voices, then the deal is dropped right then and there.


According to Schwartz: “Collectively, we make Onex a dynamic and collegial place to work… One of the hallmarks of Onex is that since I started the company in 1983, every professional who has joined the company at our Toronto head office is still here. We’ve had no turnover.”


Action Item #2: Take Risks


There is no such thing as high returns without risk and among investment bankers, Schwartz has gained a reputation for being willing to stick his neck out and take that risk. He continues going for the long shots, for companies that others haven’t thought about acquiring. And, if a deal does not work out, Schwartz says he takes it personally, but he dusts himself off and comes back again for another try.


According to Schwartz: “I’m still a long distance from smart. But I’m also a long distance from dumb… The hardest lesson I’ve learned has been to not repeat the dumb mistakes I’ve made over the years, which are too numerous to list.”


Action Item #3: Look For New Opportunities


Over his long career, Schwartz has come to recognize that there will always be another deal. Success, however, only comes from investing in the ones that he’s really researched and dug down deep to make sure that it’s a good deal. Because of his reputation, Onex is now informed whenever any major company comes up for sale anywhere in North America. Schwartz and his team then inspect the books of each company and their respective markets to see if it’s worth buying. Schwartz is also keen on finding his own potential acquisitions, ones that have yet to be advertised and that are hiding within a larger parent company.


According to Schwartz: “Every decision Onex makes is made on the basis of creating long-term value. Our philosophy is to operate like a forever owner of an asset… We take an excruciating length of time to buy an asset. We did nothing in the late 1980s because of all the pressure to do deals. That’s not our game… Investments are like trains, and if you miss one, don’t worry because another one will come down the line.”


Business Ideas – 3 Billionaire Success Lessons from Terry Matthews

Business Ideas – 3 Billionaire Success Lessons from Terry Matthews by Evan Carmichael

terry matthews



Today we’re going to take a look at how a farm boy from Wales moved to Canada and turned a $4,000 in startup loan into almost $2 billion. This is the story of serial entrepreneur Terry Matthews and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.


“That’s the secret. Timing, hard work, smarts and partners. Using that formula, I’ve either founded or funded over 80 companies, and none have gone bankrupt. Most have done very well.” – Terry Matthews


Terry Matthews was born on June 6, 1943 in Gwent, Wales, where he spent a lot of his childhood. As a boy, Matthews would enjoy taking cars apart and building small electric motors with the pieces. He was curious to see how much he could put together on his own. When he found a four-leaf clover in the field behind a local Wesleyan chapel, Matthews says he knew he was going to be lucky in life.


Alongside business partner and fellow British expatriate Michael Cowpland, Matthews borrowed $4,000 and founded Advanced Networking Devices. He had no business plan to speak of, but was convinced he had an idea worth putting on the market. The pair also wanted to raise seed money for future enterprises they were planning. Six months later, he changed the company’s name to Mitel. While some believe Mitel stands for “Mike and Terry’s Electric Lawnmowers” – after their first, failed product – Cowpland insists it stands for “Mike and Terry Electronics.”


Acknowledging that importing lawnmowers was not going to be his ticket to success, Matthews shifted Mitel’s focus. With the introduction of the touch tone receiver, as well as the PBX call routing system, Mitel revolutionized the telecommunications industry. Now, as a British Knight as well as a billionaire, Matthews continues to serve as founder and chairman of Wesley Clover, an investment firm with investments in telecommunications, real estate and leisure, as well as being directly involved in a handful of other companies – all focused on next generation technologies that Matthews believes will give him his next success.


Action Item #1: Be Persistent 


Action Item #2: Build Relationships 


Action Item #3: Make the Product Beneficial 





“I don’t have time to play.”


“Make a mark; don’t be part of the living dead.”


“Lots of companies are cutting back because the so-called bubble burst, allowing me to hire some of the best talent on the planet. While they were cutting back I bought Mitel and increased R&D spending by 50 per cent.”


Lugen Family Office 2013 Speaker of the Year Award Winner – Tom Deans


Tom Deans Understands Family Business Relationships

Lugen Family Office is proud to select Tom Deans as the LFO 2013 Speaker of the Year Award Winner! Congrats Tom and keep up the great work.


Dr. Thomas William Deans is the author of the all-time best-selling family business book, Every Family’s Business: 12 Common Sense Questions to Protect Your Wealth.


He now speaks on the international lecture circuit full time. Having delivered more than 500 speeches, he has built a reputation as a thought leader on the subject of intergenerational wealth transfer.


His lectures and books argue that family has emerged as the greatest economic driver of all time. But the question remains: How can wealth be transferred successfully without destroying the recipient and the wealth itself?


It is a question for the times, as the greatest generation of wealth creators move toward death in record numbers. Deans explores the idea that communication is crucial to the success of that transfer, and indeed to the success of individuals, families and communities.


The idea to write Willing Wisdom came from Tom watching his mother’s parents die. One death – his grandfather’s – was comparatively quick. His grandmother’s was a long and slow ten-year decline. Despite the significant wealth his grandparents left for family and charity, it is the conversations they shared that Tom thought about the most many years later.

In the end, when it came down to their last breaths, only the care provided by Tom’s parents, not money or even the promise of money, could purchase the dignified death each experienced.


Tom is not sure when he first became curious about why our culture has lost its inquisitiveness about death and dying, but he does know, having delivered his keynote speech on transitioning family wealth to tens of thousands of people around the world, that this trend is worsening.


We live in a culture that is in awe of wealth and all that it can provide. We also live in a culture that finds it difficult to talk about and contemplate death. The two are inextricably connected.


Tom starts conversations, but rarely does he finish them, leaving that to readers and their families, friends and trusted advisors.


Willing Wisdom represents a return to the subject of his doctoral research, conducted in the US, Canada and the UK and first published in Charities and Government by Manchester University Press.


Tom lives in a forest in the beautiful Hockley Valley in Ontario, Canada, with his wife, two children and five dogs.


To Book Tom Deans as Your Keynote Speaker, Click here.

How Lord Conrad Black Grew His Newspaper Empire by Peter Ireland

Robber Baron: Lord Black of Crossharbour by George Tombs


Learn more about the amazing Tycoon Playbook, click here. 

If you are a fan of tycoon biographies, this book should be of interest to you. I found it particularly enjoyable to read for two personal reasons.


First, the best biographies, in my humble opinion, are the ones which take you inside the subject’s head and reveal what drives them to excel or at least clutch at the brass ring. The author here, George Tombs, is superb in this particular area. This is partly due to the fact he has known his subject personally for a number of years while working on an authorized biography. This book is the unauthorized version which came out after Black was found guilty in mid-2007 of stealing $6.5 million from his own public company, Hollinger International, an owner of newspapers around the globe. It’s safe to assume that the two men had a last moment falling out around the time of the trial.


Second, I have been following Conrad Black’s business career on and off since about 1980 when I began my study of business tycoons and their strategies at a precocious age.


There’s actually a third reason why I found this biography such an engrossing read.  I have this morbid fascination with greedy people. I’m talking about people who have an inflated sense of self-entitlement, people who believe themselves to be above the law, people who will snatch the $100 from your hand that you had intended to use to refill your child’s insulin script in order to buy themselves a Cuban cigar. I’m talking Gordon Gekko, Leona Helmsley greedy. This, unfortunately, is how Conrad Black comes across as well.


The book is so good that I read 225 pages in the first sitting. That’s probably a record for me as I hardly ever exceed 100 pages per evening.


Conrad Black is currently serving a 6 year sentence in the USA for getting caught with his fingers in a public company’s cookie jar. Despite this sad ending, he is worth studying for students of business strategy. His tycoon career began in 1969 at age 25, when he and two equally inexperienced friends purchased a small town newspaper in Quebec. Long story short, Black developed a cookie-cutter system for acquisitions and ended up acquiring over 500 newspapers in Canada, the USA, Britain, and Israel over the next 30 plus years. He was a master at unleashing the game changing “Golden Feedback Loop” as I have come to call it within an industry. Once unleashed there was no option of holding onto the status quo. It was shattered. You then had to play by his rules or go out of business.


Controversy followed Black throughout his entire career starting at an early age. At Upper Canada College, an exclusive boy’s school, (think Andover and Exeter), he was expelled for selling copies of an exam to fellow students.  However, his two biggest mistakes, according to Tombs, were:


1. A decision to list his Canadian public company on a USA stock exchange where his “proprietary style of management” was much more likely to draw undesirable attention and sanctions.


2. His decision to give up his Canadian citizenship in 2001 in order to accept a British peerage offered by Tony Blair and become “Lord Black of Crossharbour”. (Canadians have not been allowed to hold such titles since 1919.)


The first decision eventually led to accusations of Black running the new US public company as a “corporate kleptocracy.” This then led to a lengthy trial where a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to 6 years in prison.


The second decision foiled his last minute attempts to regain his Canadian citizenship so that if found guilty, he could serve his sentence in a Canadian prison where he would most likely have had a substantial portion of it reduced for good behavior.


Considering his lifelong M.O. of using public company funds and assets as if they existed solely for his personal benefit, the 6 year prison sentence handed to him at age 63 can be viewed as the equivalent of a Hollywood “Life Time Achievement Award,” according to one wag.


One final point here about Black. He never made it anywhere close to billionaire status, but I include him here because he most certainly possesses the imperial air of one.


The only slow chapter in the book is one on the subject of a Black biography, Duplessi.Maurice Duplessis was the Canadian version of a Huey Long who used a corrupt political machine and religion to keep the people of Quebec docile and ignorant for the better part of three decades. It took some effort to work through it as it had too much unnecessary detail on a side character.


All in all, this is one of the best biographies in my extensive collection. Get more information on Robber Baron: Lord Black of Crossharbour.



Update July 2010: Conrad has been set free from prison on bail and is unlikely to have to finish the remainder of his sentence. This is a consequence of a Supreme Court ruling in another case. I’m actually glad to see him out. His transgressions pale in comparison to what we have seen on Wall Street over the last few years.



robber baron lord black

Based on rigorous research, hard-hitting interviews, and original documents, this biography stands out as the most complete examination of Conrad Black, builder of the world’s third-largest media empire, the Telegraph Group. Author George Tombs not only worked in Black’s empire, but maintained steady communication with him over the years as a journalist, giving him exclusive access and insight into Black’s opinions, ideas, values, and personality. Including 100 pages of annotated transcripts from Black’s most recent fraud trial in Chicago, this up-to-date biography gives an inside view of the mogul’s struggles and successes, throughout his past and into the present.



“Tombs has the advantage of being the only Black biographer who had access to his subject.”  —Alan Hustak, The Montreal Gazette

“In my view, Lord Black is the best biography . . . Lord Black is a full-fledged biography that gives us much to chew on as we speculate on why Black does what he does.”  —Don Cayo, Vancouver Sun

“A fascinating study . . . a terrific book that engages you from the get-go.”  —The Gary Doyle Show, CKGL Kitchener radio station

“Benefits immensely from the author’s ability to score interviews with Black himself.”  —Quill & Quire

“This intimate portrait reveals a man who’s spent his life courting the rich and powerful. . . . All of this enthralling material is placed in clever juxtaposition with taped interviews with the baron himself.”  —Independent on Sunday

“Tombs plumbs Black’s psychology objectively, but with a sharp insight.”  —Editor & Publisher

“At no point does the biographer demonstrate anything but impartiality toward his subject, a fact which serves Tombs well during his coverage of Black’s highly-publicized fraud trial in Chicago.”  —Scene Magazine

About the Author 

George Tombs, PhD, is an award-winning journalist and a professor at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada, and at the State University of New York. He is the author of Lord Black.


Learn more about the amazing Tycoon Playbook, click here. 


The Canada Wealth Gap Statistics 2013


In Canada the top .01% of income earners have an average income of $6 million, and collectively earn 1.5% of our total income. Sounds like a lot until you look at the US, where the top .01% earn an average of $24 million each – which adds up to a 4.5% share of the total.

(from Canadian Business, Dec 9, 2013, Editor’s Letter by Duncan Hood)


The Future of Money: Todd Hirsch

The Future of Money: Todd Hirsch



In May 2007, Todd became Senior Economist at ATB Financial. As the bank’s top economic expert, he tracks and analyzes developments in Alberta’s and North America’s economy. He holds a BA Honours in Economics from the University of Alberta and an MA in Economics from the University of Calgary. For more than 20 years he’s worked as an economist at several different companies including Canadian Pacific Railway, the Canada West Foundation, and the Bank of Canada. For almost a decade, Todd taught economics at the University of Calgary.
In February 2012, Todd released his first book titled, The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada from Economic Decline.


Critical Illness Insurance Broker | Dr. Marius Barnard, Creator of Critical Illness Insurance

Critical Illness Insurance Broker | Dr. Marius Barnard, Creator of Critical Illness Insurance


A message from D. Marius Barnard, the creator of Critical Illness Insurance, speaks about why he was compelled to create a financial plan that acts as a financial doctor to assist patient in their overall recovery. If you are interested in Critical Illness Insurance in Canada, please contact us.