Why all Entrepreneurs Should Believe in Santa …..

What do Your Kids Believe?

At this time of year there is much discussion among parents about the man in red.  There are several of our friends who are against the Santa Myth, preferring as they say, to “be real” with their kids. They are shocked that my kids, and in particular my daughter, a very intelligent, gifted child, quote “still believes”.

My spouse and I have always encouraged our kids to believe in Santa Claus, magic, and fairy tales. It is important to us for several reasons that they hold onto these beliefs for as long as they can.

Many who know me, are shocked to learn that I openly encourage the construct of “make believe” with my kids. They feel that children should “see the world as it is” rather than engage in escapist activities.

While I also do not believe in shielding children from reality, the power to make believe has a special place in my heart. I lost my innocence as a child too soon.  When I was almost four, my brother died before my eyes when he was hit by a car. The ability to “make believe” was how I survived as a young kid. The power to craft stories, develop entire universes and spin sagas in my head was  gave me the ability to imagine a different life.  In  my make believe world my parents didn’t fight,  life wasn’t so lonely and as immigrant kids, we did not live on the poor East side of town, but rather, in a fancy beautiful home, wanting for nothing.

This ability, to imagine a different reality from the present, is also the one that led me to being an Entrepreneur. It is the ability to see one thing and believe that another solution, another way of  “doing” can exist. It is the one that allows me to imagine answers that others do not see and build “new realities”. The ability to build a model that solves a problem, creates something new, or improves something that exists. It really is the ability to hold onto two models simultaneously, evaluating, envisioning and constructing.

Imagination is a Gift

The power to use our imaginations is a gift. While believing in Santa may seem like the stuff of childhood and a mark of innocence,  these beliefs can actually help to shape children into better problem solvers, dreamers and visionaries. We need to encourage more of this, but to also give our kids the tools to reconstruct these realities as they grow. So when my daughter is ready to move beyond the “Santa Myth”, we will be there to answer any questions she may have, and allow her the space to build her own story.

In the meanwhile, she and my son, will continue to speak in “Coco Malenza” (the language they have spoken only to each other since they were toddlers), draw pictures of monsters and creatures they invent, imagine themselves with super powers and get excited by the magical exploits of their Elf.

I know these days will not last forever. One day soon, these magical moments will be replaced by crushes, the angst of teen years and the responsibilities of growing up.  I hope, for their sake and mine, they can hold onto that ability to dream, to imagine a reality different than their present, because I believe, this is the same power that builds great work of art, sends human into space, and finds cures for our worst diseases. Humans need a little more magic because the challenges we continue to face in our world, only will continue to increase and become more complex.

So let your kids believe in the man in the red suit for a little while longer, it likely won’t do much harm, and could in fact, lay the groundwork for making the next medical or technological breakthrough. Worst case scenario, they could become an entrepreneur.








Why Did We Develop SME Gurus?

Why We Started SMEGurus….

“Sometimes you have to look beneath the surface, and sometimes things are as obvious as the nose on your face”.

In life, somethings are as “plain as the nose on your face”, others, are a little more hidden beneath the surface. Here is our story of how we got to where we are.

For the last decade, Rodolfo and I worked with entrepreneurs, developing business, marketing and feasibility plans. We, like many of you, tirelessly coached, advised and helped clients develop their business concept, get funding and launch their business ideas. Some entrepreneurs were easy to work with. They followed every recommendation and were a joy to coach. Others, literally made my life a living hell, if you pardon the expression, challenged me at every point, and disregarded every piece of advice I gave them.

The Need for Accountability

One thing that was common to working with entrepreneurs, was the accountability factor. It is difficult as an entrepreneur to be accountable. There are so many things they do in the course of a day, that keeping on top of everything is difficult.

There were also no good tools for Business Advisers. Sure there was coaching software, business planning tools, marketing tools, business model canvasses, and CRM’s, but no centralized means that I could use to manage my clients, check their progress and give them access to the best world class tools. I found I was sending them all over the Internet, just to get them from idea to business plan.

The Needs of Business Advisers
No one out there, was focused on the needs of business advisers. No one was giving us the tools we needed to become better advisers, to keep our clients accountable, and build a community for them. At a government level, we keep talking about wanting more entrepreneurs, but we don’t have accessible, affordable tools, that help us to develop more. Our existing programs stop at business launch. We don’t offer support during the most crucial periods, then we wonder why businesses fail.We don’t give the people who work with entrepreneurs the tools to do their job better. There is software for teachers. Software for doctors. There is even coaching software. But being a good business advisory is more than being a coach. It is about being part technician, part cheerleader, and part teacher. Some us also have to be artists. We are mentors, coaches and collaborators, but no where did the tools exist to reflect this.The need for us, with regard to developing software, was as obvious as the nose on your face, as they say. We needed a way to manage entrepreneurs, other advisers within our network, and to provide our clients with the best and latest in tools, to take them from idea all the way to business succession when they finish their entrepreneurship career. Our software needed to follow the life course of an Entrepreneur.For the last 4 years, we have gone from business plan writer, to goal tracker to our final version of SMEGurus, due out in the next few weeks.
Losing Chad
We almost didn’t make it this time. During our journey, we tragically lost one of our key team members to a long-term fight with mental illness and addiction issues. In May of 2016, Chad past away. Rodolfo and I were out of the country at the time, and were shaken to the core. We decided to shut everything down. We had conversations with our other team members. Everyone was tired, emotionally drained. Chad had been such an integral part of the team that had functioned so well together. We were ready to give up.At that moment, some of our advisers, encouraged us to keep going. It was in our hardship that we realized the immense need an entrepreneur has for support. So often, you fight it out alone, with no one around. We knew we had to provide our entrepreneurs with a better system and give tools to our advisers that would let them identify when and where an entrepreneur was having trouble. Both in Chad’s memory, and in our desire to finish the product to help other Entrepreneurs, this version of SMEGurus was born. It took longer than expected, but it will be here soon. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you are not the first to the finish line, what matters is that you tried and did what you could.
Where We Are Now
So what you will see in January of 2017, is the result of our journey that began four years ago with our first product. The product has changed over time, as have we. This platform now, does more than our first tool could ever imagine. We want to thank you for joining us on our journey and we hope that with your feedback and interaction over the coming weeks and months, you will come to love this product as much as we do.
Thank you again for believing in us, and joining us on this journey.
Carmen Reis, Co-Founder, SMEGurus
Rodolfo Martinez, Co-Founder, SMEGurus
Bart Mika, Co-Founder, SMEGurus
In Memory of Chad Smith

Who is your customer in 2015?

Who is your customer in 2015? Times are changing, is your business changing to meet new customer demands? Customers today are always connected, are not afraid to express their feelings on social media and want authenticity. They also do their research.



Do You Have what it takes to be an Entrepreneur?

So do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?
Are you a workaholic? An optimist? Perpetually broke?
That is what a study by The Constant Contact Small Biz Council of 785 people in March of 2015 who were running a small business, found that being an Entrepreneur is Tough! No surprise there. But the rewards are also great. What do you think, do you have what it takes?

smallbiz-constantcontact-140515 (1)


Small Business Survival Rates

As more people became unemployed during the recession of the late 2000’s, more people turned to entrepreneurship than ever before.

The challenge is keeping those businesses open. How can we better support entrepreneurs?

small business disappearace

More businesses exited both the goods and services markets in 2009 than survived. 1 in 2 businesses surviving is NOT good enough.

As advisors, our job is to both educate and mentor new entrepreneurs. We educate job seekers, but do little for new entrepreneurs. It’s time to open up and start talking about the challenges entrepreneurs face. If we can save even a few, our economy becomes all the more diverse for it.  Let’s focus on changing the numbers, empowering entrepreneurs, and becoming better business advisers.


Is It Time To Kill “Start-Up” Culture?

Is It Time to Kill “Start-Up” Culture?


Over the last decade,  start-up initiatives rule the landscape. From high tech incubators to national initiatives and small business boot camps, the chorus reigns loud and clear: we need to encourage more startups. Small business, the saviour of economic woe, freer of the labour oppressed and solution to every problem of our modern time is the new demi-god and those of us so lucky to serve at its altar, must bear witness to the life-changing effects it has on our lives.


Start-up culture is a global movement,focused on encouraging small business development. Its homogeneity is ubiquitous, and its reach all encompassing. It has infiltrated national policy & creates soundbytes for politicians interested in furthering their careers. It exists in nearly every sector, from the not for profit, to banking, but its alter exists in the world of high tech.


Leaner, faster, stronger. This is the new mantra of business, and its gods are the high tech millionaires and billionaires, generally under 30, mainly male and very intelligent.  Priests serving this deity abound. Cloaked under the auspices of “consultants”, these priests and priestesses of modern technology advise, write, speak and work to develop a culture that is  focused on birthing small businesses and getting more people on a path to salvation.


I used to be one of its priests. I worked with clients to start-new businesses, get funding and grow as quickly as possible. And I was good at it. I secured millions for clients. I watched young entrepreneurs change their lives over night, build empires and become leaders. It was addictive in many ways, the energy of start-up, the passion, the drive and excitement. I saw the absolute joy that people experienced when they got their funding, when they could see their dreams begin to develop shape and fruition. There was satisfaction that I was helping good people start companies and get funding.


There is however, a fallacy in all of this.  We have a culture so focused on start-up and we do little or nothing to help people once they have a business. Anyone who has ever run a business can tell you, the hardest thing is not starting a business, the hardest day you will ever have, is when you finally open the doors. This is when the real work begins.


Start-up culture is driven and focused on youth. The language it uses, the time frames it operates in, and the adjectives: leaner, faster, stronger, are adjectives of the young, or those that want to be young. The focus is on building a multi-million dollar business as quickly as possible. We focus on maximizing market penetration, and increasing shareholder returns. Our definitions of value are not long-term temporal, they are immediate.


The trouble with all of this is we only focus on the successes. We only see the tech millionaire and not the million others that never gain notoriety, fame or fortune. We have not created a start-up culture or system that is sustaining and  business strengthening. We have not encouraged the growth of business but rather the proliferation of start-ups. The facts are staggering. Over 90% of tech start-ups fail; 75% fail to pay back investors and many successful tech entrepreneurs have failed once (or many times) before being successful. High failure rates with small business is nothing new. Consider that over 75% of restaurants fail within 5 years, nearly 90% within 8 years.  Why do they Fail? They do not pay attention to their customers, the quality of their product decreases, and they run into financial/cashflow trouble. This is the same for all small businesses.

It is time to stop the start-up culture, and move towards a culture of long-term sustainability, growth and shareholder value that is NOT quarter to quarter, but year to year, and decade over decade. This is real entrepreneurship and community building.

Next week, we will look at how start-ups can be successful.


How To Be an Entrepreneur: Seek out Opportunity

I want to confess: I have a secret.  One of the things I do in my spare time is peruse Craigs List for enjoyment. You can see humanity at its most vulnerable. It really is a entertaining to read.  Craigslist is also a great place to start your entrepreneurial journey. You can pick up odd tasks, jobs,  but just watch out for scams!

Once in a while (like once a week) you get some really interesting “opportunities”. Today was that day this week, and I just thought this one was too good not to share.It provides a perfect opportunity for someone seeking to earn some extra cash, albeit in kind of a weird way…..


This post was found in Victoria’s Craiglist:

65 $ CDN cash immediately after the job

I need to be baptized in a body of water
I will provide your pool pass if needed
ME: FULLY CLOTHED AND IMMERSED IN WATER, BRIEFLY ( not including all my hair, which is clean and nice )
If you know of a dock or even something more adventurous where you would like to do the immersion I’m allll ears.
The reason I’m offering so much money is that I can’t find any messianic people to help me out here.
Again, all you have to do is dunk my noggin and briefly read something that I wrote on the back of a zig zag papers pack. I am 100% serious.


Entrepreneurship is about seeing opportunity. For some, they might see an individual, who is a little on the weird side, as an entrepreneur I see an easy way to earn $65.  Go out and seek those opportunities today.





Small Business Accounting Software Reviews

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

Small Business Accounting Software Reviews
AHHHH! The thought that strikes many new entrepreneurs when they think about their accounting. Accounting and book keeping is something that most entrepreneurs have little patience for, yet it is an essential component to small business cash management. Years ago, you were stuck using QuickBooks or other similar software. Today, a plethora of products exist on the market that small business owner can tap and use. Different software bring different features and compatibility issues, but peruse our list below and see which offers a solution that works best for you.

QuickBooks by Intuit (
For the diehards, QuickBooks was and still is the number one small business software. It is not cheap, but has a lot of the standard features one comes to expect in small business accounting/tax software. Today QuickBooks is also available in cloud based, monthly subscription models, ranging from 12.95 to 39.95US, with free trial to help you evaluate before you buy. The online version does not offer the full suite of functionality that the store bought versions have, but I suspect this is something that will continue to evolve with each iteration, and simply, to remain competitive, features will continue to be added.

Wave Accounting
Imagine a free online accounting software program that integrates payroll for a minimal charge per user? Then you have wave accounting. Created in 2010, this platform has undergone a series of integrations over the years to become the awesome product it is today. Integrating receipting, payroll, accounting and more under one platform, Wave offers small businesses affordable solutions to their accounting and financial management problems.

A cool product that is focused around a top downloaded IOS app, this software, while not as easy to use as Wave, is straightforward and has all the basic functionality of an accounting platform. Prices start at $20 per month and increase depending upon number of users and transactions. A cool feature is the ability to integrate photos of receipts.

This company has become one of the top small business accounting platforms. Aimed at the small business or their accountant, this product will help you get started and invoice, track expenses and receipts and you can have multiple users. Slightly more expensive than Wave, this product allows you to start for free to manage one client, and prices start at $19.95 per month for multiple clients.

There are many more options on the market, but this gives you a start. With these helpful solutions on the market you have no excuse to not be in charge of your finances and help build a strong foundation for your business.

business startup entrepreneurs entrepreneurship small business SMEs start a business

Why Did You Become an Entrepreneur?

What Made You Decide to start your own Small Business?

Why did you become an entrepreneur?

I often get asked why I became an entrepreneur? Why did I start my own company? I could answer that I grew up in an entrepreneurial home, with a father who ran his own business for years.  I could answer, that the change agent  in me did not like working for large corporations and instead wanted to build my own business and make things happen. However, neither of these reflect reality. My answer, much to the surprise of most, is  that I became an entrepreneur out of necessity.

Throughout my professional career, I found entrepreneurship to be the one constant that I could keep coming back to.

I first started working for myself during graduate school as a way to make ends meet. I had worked for nearly 3 years in industry doing market research, proposal writing, financial analysis and marketing and sales. I brought these varied skills to entrepreneurs and started working with green energy companies at the time helping them re-write and re-design marketing materials.  After that, I kept doing the occasional business or marketing plan

“Throughout my life, I always found entrepreneurship to be the one constant I could keep coming back to”

I was home on maternity leave with my daughter and throughout this, worked on several projects to keep me busy. When my daughter was 6 months old I found out I was pregnant again. This barred any return to work.  Within another month, my husband found out that he was losing his job.  After the initial shock wore off, we began to think how we were going to manage.

Being the industrious type, I immediately began to seek out projects to work on to keep myself busy.  I tried different types of outsourcing and contracting, but time was limited with two kids under 18 months. I found quite a bit of success in writing business plans. Part, education, part experience, and part intuition I could relate to the entrepreneurs I met. I could understand their pain, as I had seen it before in my father and his colleagues understood, what I like to call “the entrepreneur crazy”, fever and passion all in one that these entrepreneurs had for their businesses. I was inspired by their energy and dedication and genuinely loved working with them.

At the time, I decided to return to school to improve my financial analysis skills. I pursued a designation in  accounting, a designation that focuses on strategy. I returned to work for 18 months as a requirement of the designation, but hated every position I was in.  After having worked for myself, I had a difficult time working for anyone else. Perhaps it was a distaste of authority, or as I like to call it of the “inefficiency” of large organizations, but I was not a happy camper during these times.

At home, my children were suffering too. They had wonderful caregivers, but they were not mom. I was seeing changes in their behaviour that I did not like. These combined with my own unhappiness, made for a very miserable home life for my poor husband. Night after night of miserable conversations, my husband just said, why don’t you quit.  While I was working for others I had continued working on several large consulting projects. It was in these projects that I found my passion again.  I took his advice to heart and took the leap.

That was four years ago.  Since then I have worked with hundreds of entrepreneurs, helping them to define their businesses and their dreams.  There is no going back for me now.  This is what I love to do, and want to do for the rest of my life.

What is your reason? What is your drive and motivation for working on your own? Why do you want to leave it all to begin a consulting career?  What will your motivation or dream be?  Perhaps like most of us, the decision is not a grand vision or altruistic social purpose but out of necessity, out of life change and a need to learn to fend for oursel


Business in a Slump? You Need a Business Growth Plan.

Develop A Business Growth Plan

It seems like all we do is plan.  We write business plans, strategic plans, marketing plans, and disaster recovery plans. We plan our businesses to death.  In the early days of your business, your need to plan less. Personally, I am a planner by nature. Planning is how I organize my thoughts, how I mitigate my risks and develop my to- do lists. When our businesses are first being developed, we need to focus on the DO, and less on the planning. Yes, you heard me correctly. You need to plan less and DO MORE.

Let me explain.  This does not mean the abolition of “Planning” but rather it needs to evolve to Growth Planning. As a small business you always need to be in growth mode. This does not mean chasing the aggressive growth of early business days, but it does need to evolve to be focused on implementation and the “how” rather than the “what”.

A growth plan, in its purest sense, is a cross between a business plan and a strategic plan. A business that is growth oriented has to evolve with its customers, in needs to be in touch with the market, it has to be aware of trends and the social and environmental impact of its products or services.  Most importantly, a business that is not growing is stagnant and not healthy. It is reaching the peak of its life-cycle and beginning its decline.

Should businesses be in perpetual growth? Some people may say no. Some experts will tell you that a business where the owner seeks to exit, may begin to think about succession and naturally, as we age we begin a process of seeking to “slow down”.  However, think about it from viewpoint of a prospective buyer for your business. Would you rather buy a business that is healthy and growing? Or one that has shown decline over the years leading up to the sale? The answer from this perspective is simple. Focus on the growth, and the rest takes care of itself. The following are what I define to be the 10 Key Components of a Business Growth Plan.

The 10 Key Components of a Growth Plan

 1. Where Are You Now?

Examine the following for your organization:

  • Mission- this is the “DO” of your organization. What you do, and how you do it.
  • Key Success Factors – What do you do well or better than your competitors?
  • Key Constraints-What are you limited by? Who are you limited by? What is the financing available?
  • Stakeholder analysis-What do your customers think? How about your suppliers? Your employees? Your partners and family? Get everyone’s input, it matters

2. Where Do You Want To Be

  • Vision Statement-Define where you want to be in 5 years and build a vision for your company around it.
  • The Magic Number- What do you want your company to be worth in 3-5 years?  How much do you want to make? This is your magic number that you will be working towards.

3. What is Going on In Your Environment and Industry?

It is vital to understand what is going on in your industry and how your company fits into it. The following analyses should be conducted to understand how all the pieces fit together.

  • SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). Look inward and outward to your company and industry and judge how you fit.
  • Porter’s 5 Forces-This business school classic has staying power for a reason. The five “forces” of Porter identify how you work within the broader industry. It examines your customers, suppliers, competitive rivalry within the industry, the threat of new entrants and the threat of substitutes in the industry for your product or service. It creates a picture of how dependent or independent you can be of industry trends in general.
  • PESTLE Analysis (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental). This examines the broader trends in your industry, from each of the above contexts and how they can potentially impact what you do.

4. What have others in your field doing?

Competitor Innovation Analysis. In the history of your industry, how have your competitors innovated? Can this type of innovation still be useful to you? What products or services do competitors offer that are successful? Can you mimic them? What is not working? Is this something you are currently doing?

5. What are people doing in in other industries that can be applied to your Industry?

External Innovation Analysis- what are others doing that is innovative in another industry that can be applied to your industry? Can you change the business model of your industry to become more innovative?

6.      Prioritize Your Current Opportunities

Prioritize opportunities based on a model that identifies needed inputs, available resources and constraints. Identify your resource requirements based on:

  • HR
  • Technology
  • Financial
  • Network and contacts needed to help you grow

 7.      Do you Need Extra Capital or Resources to Make Growth Happen?

How will you raise it? What can you cut, divert or change from your current operations or business model to make this happen?

8.  New Initiatives

What new initiatives will you develop? Identify your identify your CIPD Strategy- How will you Concentrate, Innovate, Penetrate (Market) or Diversify your company’s products or services?  This is the foundation of growth. Your CIPD Strategy can happen in any of the following areas:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Technology
  • Partnerships
  • Alliances
  • Products

Find the ones that work best for your industry and company.

 9.  Develop Your Implementation Plan.

Your implementation plan should be detailed and should include quarterly goals (financial and growth) and should identify key resources and steps needed to accomplish your vision and get you to your “Magic Number” of growth. Identify the riskiest steps, and develop action items to specific how you will address each item.

10 – Just “DO” It!

At some point, you have to start growing your business. The faster you get this point, the faster your business will grow. For most entrepreneurs, this is the scariest, but most exciting part.  There are ways to make this manageable. Develop a daily checklist. Do 3 things every day that will grow your business in a solid way and contribute to growing your business based on your Growth Plan. A growing business requires daily infusions and care to push it forward, but not at the detriment of the owner.

Business growth needs to be sustainable, responsible but ever pushing forward and upward.  Implement these strategies, and watch your business and profits soar.