Are we really teaching Entrepreneurship

IMG_4637There will always be a debate as to whether entrepreneurship is a teachable skill or an inherent trait. The simple answer is both. Like any other human attribute there are naturals – people to whom taking risk and asserting control is simply their norm. I strongly believe that entrepreneurship is a mindset – both a philosophy that can be taught and a series of life choices for which we can prepare. As such it has never been more important. On a macro level our economy needs entrepreneurs to ensure adaptability and resilience in a rapidly changing world. On a micro level each and every one of us must become our own brand facing the reality of precarious employment in a global economy where the rewards are shifting towards capital and away from labour. From Norman Vincent Peale to Dale Carnegie to Tony Robbins people have been promoting key ideas that are critical to entrepreneurs. Adaptability, resilience and determination applied to viable scenarios. My series The Entrepreneurial Edge focuses on bringing real life experience into workshop environments to introduce key ingredients and real life experiences all focused on preparing people for careers as entrepreneurs or at least encouraging them to think like entrepreneurs in taking control over their careers.

Every college and university is trying to teach entrepreneurship. How effective are these programs? Not as effective as they need to be. Entrepreneurship can be taught but it can’t be forced. Most of these programs are focused on incubators and accelerators. We are teaching venture capitalism not entrepreneurship. Too many of these students think that raising capital is the issue and that once they raise capital they have crossed the finished line when in reality they have just stated the race. Revenue generation is the key to success and maintaining control of your business. All things are possible if you can create sales.

The more successful programs involve mentors but once again many of them come from the venture capital world more focused on burn rate and going public than founding a sustainable business. Governments encourage entrepreneurship for job creation. Venture capital in the tech area makes millionaires on occasion and creates jobs in Asia when they do so. To teach entrepreneurship effectively we have to focus more on the mainstream economy where entrepreneurs create jobs in their backyard where they can identify opportunities that Big Business rejects or ignores.

I chose the title Everyday Entrepreneur – Making it Happen for the first book in my series because I want to reach a very broad audience who need both encouragement and guidance into self-determination through entrepreneurial thinking. The Tech community dominates the dialogue and gets all the handholding. That focus is too narrow and does not help the thousands of potential entrepreneurs who can apply tech solutions to myriad of business problems creating jobs in the process.

Fred Dawkins

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On Canada Day – Celebrating the CDL: A Critical Canadian Initiative

With Joseph Rotman at the Creative Destruction Lab
With Joseph Rotman at the Creative Destruction Lab


Joseph Rotman invested a great deal to improve the future of this country. The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto is a lasting legacy showing both his commitment and what we as Canadians are capable of achieving. An important part of  that legacy is the CDL which is really just getting started.

It is both enlightening and alarming to discover that more than 350,000 Canadians live and work in Silicon Valley. More than one percent of our population and a much higher portion of our intellectual capital have left us for the world’s most prestigious and most productive ecosystem. This is both a problem and an opportunity but not one that government can solve or even try to solve. So how do we stem the tide? There is no quick fix. We are producing world class talent and such talent is inevitably attracted to the epicentre of success, achievement but most of all opportunity. It is the opportunity that we need to focus on. The Creative Destruction Lab does that. It creates opportunity here in Canada. The leader and founder Professor Ajay Agrawal is a dynamo.

Ajay is living evidence that entrepreneurship can be taught, an academic with the drive and mindset that can match anyone in the business community. When he approached the Rotman school to start this program he was told ‘you can use the facilities but you must find the funding yourself’. He has worked relentlessly ever since  to do just that in the process bringing in a very accomplished group of proven entrepreneurs to act as mentors. The stated goal of the Lab is to generate equity – specifically to create at least $ 1 billion in equity in the first ten years. After the first two years approximately $ 130 million has been achieved.

Financial targets are how we keep score but the greater purpose is to keep the best and most brilliant we produce here in Canada, helping to build our own world class ecosystem and offering a valuable example to others. Ventures receive the very best of mentorship. It is amazing to see how they evolve in less than one year. Watch for results – they have already started but many significant ones are ahead in the years to come.

As a partner of the Lab and member of the advisory board I am proud to point out that this program is not just another accelerator to help brilliant tech students bring their ideas to market. For me the Lab represents far more and has the opportunity to change and influence this country. We are traditionally small ‘c’ conservatives who let our brash cousins to the south take the outrageous risks and create the startling successes. We don’t lack for success stories but too often those successes happen outside our borders. Now when we are in an era where entrepreneurship is viewed as what I like to call the economic wonder drug of the 21st century, it is absolutely critical that Canadians embrace the mindset of an entrepreneur and become agents of change in a world where ironically change is the one constant. In that sense the Lab can be a leader and help change the narrative for Canada.

For me the Lab has three main purposes. The first as already outlined is to produce successful, scalable ventures flourishing as sustainable businesses right here. The second very unique goal and  achievement  of the Lab stems from the way in which students of the Rotman MBA program are engaged with the ventures and the  mentors. We need these talented business minds creating new businesses and making them succeed in Canada. The Lab immerses them in the startup culture and introduces the potential for success outside the world of investment banking. In this new era of entrepreneurship when every university and college around the world is trying to teach entrepreneurship this may be the most effective way any of these institutions has found to date.

The third and potentially greatest influence of the CDL program is as an example of what can be accomplished in Canada. We are building a pyramid of success. The ventures that go through the full program will be shining examples at the top of that pyramid. But there are many other levels of success below these which can be achieved and make an important contribution to our economy and our society. Not every success story relies on innovation. The potential multiplier of the Lab comes from encouraging all Canadians, at every level to adopt the mindset  that we can make things happen here and to apply innovation to a whole myriad of business solutions and applications. These potential ventures will be the foundation of the pyramid we hope to build and can have rippling effects across our economy for generations to come.

This is exactly what Joseph Rotman hoped to accomplish and thanks to him, it is a real possibility when we sorely need it.

With Joseph Rotman at the Creative Destruction Lab

With Joseph Rotman at the Creative Destruction Lab

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10+ Reasons Why We are on the Doorstep of “Brave New World

In one of my favourite and most thought provoking novels, Aldous Huxley used the future (2540 AD) as the setting and  developed characters in his science fiction novel to express the fear of losing individual identity in the fast-paced world of that future. Unlike Orwell who offered a pushback to communism, Huxley focused more on technology and the ultimate impact of continuing the fast pace evolving out of the Industrial Revolution. So is that future almost upon us? Here are some of the key elements of Huxley’s Brave New World:

Abolition of natural reproduction – Children are educated via appropriate subconscious messages to mold the child’s self-image appropriate to their caste.- Discouragement of critical thinking – Discouragement of individual action and initiative – An abundance of material goods – (presumably because of advanced technology) conditions of work are not onerous – Citizens are conditioned to promote consumption. People enjoy perfect health and youthfulness until death at age 60. The World State is a benevolent dictatorship headed by ten World Controllers which has established a stable global society where the population is permanently limited. The basis of that stability is the conditioning of citizens to accept their station in life.

As a serial entrepreneur who values individualism driven by hope and accomplishment as essential to the human condition the weight of logic tells me that we are all too close to Huxley’s world and long before 2540. Here are more than enough reasons to be concerned. All of them relate to two dominant trends – rapid change and  globalization.

1. The Era of Big Data is here – too much to know and digest

2. Wealth Disparity – economic rewards are accruing to capital – real wages are stagnant or in decline

3. Declining upward mobility – the middle class is in decline trending towards historical norms more limited chances for improvement – Huxley’s caste system?

4. Precarious employment – job stability is simply disappearing — those that don’t take control over their careers will flounder

5. Machine Learning- we are about to handle even more control of our research and knowledge creation to machines. Artificial Intelligence is the next big thing.

6. Cloning – the science exists – the implications are many

7. Stem cell development – we can already grow new organs  – test tube babies are there for the taking. The key to perfect health may well lie in stem cell research.

8. World population is out of control –  in Huxley’s world, a problem solved by limiting life

9. Control of knowledge – with Big Data and Machine Learning will we only know what we are told and will God simply become the internet? Look it up – it must be so?

10. Surveillance – Snowdon  has shown that  we are being watched – this will only get worse and soon

11. Corporatism – we don’t live under free market capitalism – large corporations control global markets and reap the profits – we can thank ourselves for embracing branding to facilitate this – Too Big to Fail puts a deadly premium on Big

12. Multi-nationals – these same corporations driven by profit maximization are pursuing interests that eliminate national interests as they build stronger global foundations for controlling markets. All the time individuals are being encouraged to consume at record rates.

I’m fairly sure I know what Huxley would think. How about you?




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Here’s a quiz that everyone needs to take.

  1. Are you concerned about funding your retirement?
  2. Does the trend to precarious employment disturb you?
  3. Do you consider globalization to be a threat to you, your children and/or grandchildren?
  4. Are you having trouble getting your career underway?
  5. Do you have to extend your career?
  6. Are you struggling to find a succession plan for your business?
  7. Are you worse off financially than you were ten years ago?
  8. Do you have fewer opportunities than you expected at this stage of your life?
  9. Would you like more control over your financial future?
  10. Are your best years behind you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions than you should read my series of three books The Entrepreneurial Edge. These books are The Wealthy Barber for anyone dealing with these issues and looking to embrace self-determination in a world conspiring against individual success

Book 1: Everyday Entrepreneur – making it happen

Book 2: Family Entrepreneur – easier said than done

Book 3: Ageless Entrepreneur – never too early – never too late

Don’t let the word entrepreneur scare you off. You don’t have to run a business to think like an entrepreneur and take charge of your life. Think entrepreneurially. Be resilient. Be adaptable. Make things happen. Embrace self-determination. Trade stability for agility!

The most important skill to learn in the 21st century is the ability to create and manage your career!

Each of us must be his or her own brand making good strategic decisions about life and career.

Fred Dawkins


Everyday Entrepreneur

Follow me on twitter @dawkinsfred

Follow My Blog The Entrepreneurial Edge


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What aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from the Alberta election

Yesterday’s Alberta election produced a dramatic change but more than anything else it resulted from change and the inability of the PC party in Alberta to manage change.  One of the reasons so many experts maintain that failure is an integral part of succeeding as an entrepreneur is because we do learn from failure. We have to learn in order to recover so we take the time to analyze what we did wrong in order to avoid repeating the same mistake. Success masks our faults. It is rare for most of us to understand our weaknesses when we are getting results. Unfortunately for the electorate for a political party getting results means maintaining power as opposed to effective performance. When things are going well as they did for Alberta under the boom of the oil industry it was easy for politicians to look good and to develop some bad management practices. When a serious problem developed with falling oil revenues there was a huge need to adjust. We will never know whether the proposed budget was appropriate or not but remember when you have to provide customers, suppliers or employees with a bitter pill for the longer run good don’t turn around and immediately give them control to vote the new policy in or not.

My mantra for the individual in today’s dynamic world is that the number one skill you can learn is the ability to create and manage your own career, with managing being the key to sustain meaningful success. We face an unprecedented rate of change. Every one of us must have the ability to recreate ourselves in the face of this one certainty: change is a constant, by definition the only thing we can count on besides death and taxes. Despite the perception of many that entrepreneurship requires risk this need not mean reckless risk but instead should refer to managed risk. The PCs had the time and needed it to prove that their budget could work in an economy under duress rather than risking a quick election on the outside chance they would get another majority giving them even more time. So among the small business lessons from yesterday’s election results are the following:

1. Nothing lasts forever including good times in the oil industry

2. Sustained success requires a relentless commitment to adapt even after a long track record of doing so.

3. Managed risk produces results while reckless risk invites failure

4. Knowing your weaknesses in good times and bad will sustain your success

5. A change in leadership does not guarantee renewal of an organization

I’ m sure there are more.

Fred Dawkins is a serial entrepreneur and the author of a series entitled The Entrepreneurial Edge. The third book in that series Ageless Entrepreneur is available from booksellers across North America on May 9th 2015





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Book Launch for Everyday Entrepreneur – Saturday December 20th



Evite pngI’m having a book launch this Saturday December 20th at The Book Shelf on Quebec Street in Guelph. Hope to see you and offer you a piece of cake in celebration.

The books are full of common sense self help information and make great gifts for anyone from teenagers to tech innovators to seniors who are reluctantly continuing their careers.

Entrepreneurial thinking is a valuable life tool not just a means to a business

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Give yourself the gift that keeps on giving

Times are changing – in fact change is the operative word and it’s the one constant we have in every element of our lives.  Western society has been entrenched in the concept of stability since we entered the Great Depression. As businesses grew larger we embraced a culture of control and systems in order to achieve stability. We valued certainty and pensions for our retirement above self improvement and upward mobility. Oh we still strived for both but within the framework of those organizations that were stable. We came to expect easy entry into the work force and a life long job ending in the golden years of a well funded retirement. A great dream that no generation has achieved. Even the baby boomers received a setback with the recession of 2008 and reduction in their savings at a time when they needed them

Now we live in an era where the largest organizations can and do fail or falter from GM to RIM we have learned the lesson that the status quo has become a fleeting allusion.

It’s time to give yourself the gift of entrepreneurial thinking.

Only you can do it. Abandon prison thinking. Ignore the reasons that prevent you from accomplishing things whether personal or professional. Approach your problems from the mindset of ‘how’ you are going to solve them not ‘if’ you’ll be  able to solve them.

Entrepreneurial thinking can be applied to every element of your life and it leads to another gift: self-determination

Frankly this is a must. In your business life the most important skill you can learn in the 21st century is the ability to create and manage your career. Is your personal life any different? If we don’t take control we will limit ourselves to a life of mediocrity with decreasing real wages. limited upward mobility, low satisfaction and increasing frustration

It’s time to trade in stability for agility!

The attributes that dictate success today are resilience and adaptability which happen to be the characteristics of entrepreneurs.

So as you reflect on this holiday season consider giving yourself the gift of an open mind – one that is open to possibilities and determined to find solutions.

All the best for the holiday season

Fred Dawkins, Author of Everyday Entrepreneur and the just released Family Entrepreneur









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Ten Things These Books Will Do For You

June-October 2014 including Family E 235Series: The Entrepreneurial Edge
Book one: Everyday Entrepreneur – making it happen
Book two: Family Entrepreneur – easier said than done
Book three: Ageless Entrepreneur – never too early, never too late

Ten Things These Books Will Do For You

1. Get you out of a mental rut and into new opportunities
2. Show you a path to self-determination
3. Increase your earning power
4. Enable you start a business, manage your career or accomplish your bucket list
5. Make you a problem solver
6. Enable you to build teamwork in your business and at home
7. Explain the dynamic of the fast paced global economy we live and work in
8. Prepare you for all of the fundamental issues you will face in a business
9. Provide common sense solutions you can accomplish
10. Inspire you to strike out, create your own brand and control your career

“Fred Dawkins has written a wonderful book about entrepreneurship unlike any other on the market. He brilliantly uses his storytelling skills to illuminate his subject in a way that makes the book a joy to read. You’re so wrapped up in the story that you may not realize how much you’re learning until you’ve turned that last page.”

“Fred has pulled together a wealth of knowledge and advice crucial to the successful entrepreneur in a highly readable fashion. It is a must-read for aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs who are facing today’s complex, volatile, and uncertain world. I especially appreciate the emphasis on thinking globally and adapting proactively. We have seen too many examples of yesterday’s winner relying on old models to their detriment. It isn’t easy … but it is exciting and gratifying to create your own business and work to see it flourish. The summary at the end of the book should be bookmarked on every entrepreneur’s computer.”
— Dr. Sherry Cooper, former executive VP and chief economist for BMO
and author of three books, including The New Retirement: How it Will Change Our Future

Utilizing his exemplary storytelling skills, Fred Dawkins has written an excellent book about entrepreneurship in a family setting environment and the many challenges that it places on the entrepreneur and the family
– Jeff Sheehan- author of HIRED! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era

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Entrepreneurship: The Catalyst that puts all other resources to work

We have been in uncharted economic territory since well before we hit the wall in 2008. While we’re treading water reasonably well we are not finding the corrections that must follow every major downturn. Maybe it would help if we moved passed the Keynes vs. Friedman debate that still dominates economic theory.

Keynes died in 1946. We are starving for new economic thought to act as the driving force for new and appropriate economic policy. What other discipline has produced such a lack of innovation in the past seventy years? The question begs asking: with the onset of econometrics in the 60s and 70s did we confine our economists to conduct statistical analysis and prepare projections? Even In those areas, economics is a behavioural science so negative projections are almost always softened so as not to become self fulfilling.

Regardless in today’s fast paced global economy we need new theory and very different action plans. We need to revamp our organizational structures to incorporate greater resilience and adaptability. There is a pressing need to redefine capitalism or at least to reel it in so that the strong trend to increase the rewards for capital while reducing the rewards to labour don’t wreak social disaster . Frankly too Big to Fail is simply Too Big! Large corporations are truly multinational and chase profits above all else. Just look at the reward systems of the largest corporations. These same corporations are hoarding cash because they cannot move fast enough to build from the bottom up. The have to grow through acquisition buying up successful startups. In that sense entrepreneurs offer a lifeline for Big Business which also gains much needed flexibility by contracting out to independents. We have abandoned fundamental microeconomic theories like the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Optimum Size of the Firm, lost in a culture of control enhanced by market dominance founded upon effective branding.

All of this points to a much greater emphasis on entrepreneurial thinking and entrepreneurs as our economic saviours. It will be entrepreneurs who invest locally who will solve many structural issues. Entrepreneurship has become the economic wonder drug of the 21st century. For individuals this is the key to their economic well being and any hope of upward mobility. In our modern world dominated by globalization, technology and inherent rapid change enhanced by Big Data, we do need to establish new sound economic principles rather than continuing to make it up as we go.

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Everyone Needs to Think Like an Entrepreneur!

The more I write and speak about entrepreneurship the more I realize how mainstream the topic has become. Whether you know it or not you and everyone else has to become more entrepreneurial in their thinking. We live in a fast paced global society that requires all of us to be resilient and adaptable. Those are the critical attributes that make us entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship applies to far more than business and business issues. We are talking about a mindset not a skillset. A mindset focused on solving problems. A mindset grounded in determination to make things happen. It’s about being proactive not reactive. Most important it is about self-determination!

In an extremely competitive global world, in the era of Big Data, we can never know enough and we will never understand much of what we know. We cannot have the answers but the answers will always be there for us to find. There is no time for prison thinking. If you think like an entrepreneur you will find the way and that’s just as true about your personal life as it is about your career. As for that part of your life, in the face of declining job stability and the entrenchment of wealth disparity, the most important skill you can learn today is the ability to create and manage your career. There is a very good reason that every college, every university and now even secondary schools are offering courses in entrepreneurship.

When I wrote my first book Everyday Entrepreneur I had the ambitious goal of doing for entrepreneurship what David Chilton did for financial planning with The Wealthy Barber – to write a book that applied to all of us in a form that everyone could read understand and enjoy. The jury is still out but the endorsements received are encouraging that I have come close. The second book in my entrepreneurial series Family Entrepreneur comes out later this month. Dealing with the dichotomy of family and business brings entrepreneurial thinking into both settings. Remember family was the first “crowd” and still offers funding and nurturing for many entrepreneurs in a startup situation.

I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to mentor and encourage would be entrepreneurs both in their business and private lives. It is really all about taking charge of your life in the midst of a roller coaster world. You have to learn to capitalize and enjoy the highs while defending against the lows. Entrepreneurial thinking is the tool to do it.

Fred Dawkins is a serial entrepreneur who is best known as one of the co-founders of the olde Hide House in Acton Ontario to which “it’s worth the drive”. He is a partner in The Creative Destruction Lab at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and is currently writing a series of books entitled The Entrepreneurial Edge published by Dundurn Press, which focuses on encouraging and preparing would be entrepreneurs for challenges in their careers and in their private lives.

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