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I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"My startups has six cofounders. Here's how it works"/ "Holiday season is do-or-die for small operators"

May 8, 2017 "My startup has six co-founders. Here’s how it works": Today I found this article by Jas Chahal in the Globe and Mail:

Our team may be larger than usual, but everyone on it has different backgrounds and skill-sets, which gives us a strategic advantage

JAS CHAHAL Orthopaedic sports medicine surgeon, assistant professor at the University of Toronto and co-founder of Therapia

Choosing co-founders to start a venture is one of the most important decisions an entrepreneur has to make. It’s common to see a founding team with two or three members, but at Therapia, an on-demand physiotherapy platform, we have chosen a team of six co-founders, all of whom have different backgrounds and skill-sets, which we believe gives us a strategic advantage. Here’s why:

Everyone has a different area of expertise

One of our greatest assets as a founding team is that we each have our own strengths, and more important, that the others respect those strengths. We were careful when building our team to ensure that each founder had a diverse and specialized background.

Two of our founders are physiotherapists who bring a combined 30 years of rehab industry experience. They understand the unique problems that physiotherapists, patients and business owners experience. Two of us are medical practitioners, so we’re the ones prescribing courses of physiotherapy after surgery, and dealing with the ramifications of treatment that is cut short.

We understand the value and challenges of physiotherapy from a referrers perspective so we can better tailor our platform to the medical community. We also have a technical co-founder who is the expert on the platform itself, and a finance-focused co-founder who handles financial projections and modelling.

Six founders with varied backgrounds mean that each person owns their area of the business, and decision-making becomes easier when you defer to the expert in that area. If a decision needs to be made related to physiotherapy, we know who to turn to for the final call; and the same is true of decisions related to tech, finance and medical.

Clear leadership is key

Most startups work for a long time with a flat management structure with founders being responsible for every aspect of the business. As a company matures, there comes a time for a clear leadership and organizational structure to emerge. At Therapia, in order to remain agile and responsive, we nominated a CEO early. He has been given the power to make decisions to move the company forward without delay. We think of our founders as a board of directors. They help set the big picture strategy, but leadership needs to be empowered and trusted to execute the strategy with speed and confidence.

Pods help categorize responsibilities

When it comes to execution, a team of six can be too many. At Therapia, we have created small working groups or “pods” that are responsible for delivering results in their key area.

We have pods focused on marketing/analytics, funding/business development and platform development. We have found that given clear objectives, a group of two to three can move very quickly.

There is cross-over, just like a marketing team would talk to a sales team about priorities and plans, but this approach helps us to execute quickly on our core priorities within the company, and it’s an approach that could work for any small business, not just one with multiple co-founders.

We stay connected around the clock

Since all of Therapia’s founders are busy professionals, we needed tools to help us stay connected throughout the day. Like many startup teams, we are not always in one physical space together and we work around the clock, so we utilize tools such as Slack, Dropbox, Google Docs and Asana to collaborate and work together.

Communication has been key for our founding team. We also do mandatory weekly inperson sessions so we can catch up face-to-face. Communication tools can help bridge the gaps, but nothing beats face time.

It’s clear that large founding teams may not be the best option for every startup, but it works for us.

May 12, 2017 "Holiday season is do-or-die for small operators": I found this article by Chris Atchison on Nov. 26, 2015 in the Globe and Mail:

Misti Mussatto is making her stock list, checking it twice – and hoping it has the right mix of toys for this holiday season.

The co-founder of Toy Jungle and Toybox, two Vancouver-area independent shops, hopes that her stores will be go-to stops for children compiling their wish lists for Saint Nick – not to mention weary parents trying to find the hottest gifts.

For a small to medium-sized retailer such as Ms. Mussatto – whose stores will generate much of their $2-million in annual revenue over the holidays striking the right balance between the season’s hottest sellers and traditional items can be as much art as science. Miss the mark and it can spell doom for a store’s bottom line.

“In our 18 years in business, it’s a question we’ve been working hard to come up with better answers to,” Ms. Mussatto concedes.

An even more pertinent question for independent retailers is how to make sure their often limited cash flow can deliver the inventory that customers want, while ensuring strong return on investment by the end of the year.

Those critical decisions are often made in the face of overwhelming competition from, Wal-Mart, Indigo Books & Music and other large-scale retailers – both online and off – that have the industry clout and deep pockets to acquire large quantities of the year’s must-have items.

“The biggest challenge we see in our industry is that every year some toys become hot because they’re well-advertised,” Ms. Mussatto explains. “But the big companies don’t always ship to us first. So if they’re short on something, Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us will get it all, or we won’t get it at a competitive price.”

It’s a scenario that plays out across retail categories, from toys to electronics to apparel. The larger competitors also have the capital to restock inventory or pivot and introduce new items if their preholiday product-picking gambit falls flat – all while obtaining more favourable payment terms from suppliers.

Indeed, managing cash flow is just as important as carrying the right merchandise at this time of year. This is where smaller players need to think creatively, says Ken Morris, principal at the Boston-based retail consulting firm Boston Retail Partners LLC.

“Small retailers have something their competition doesn’t: the theatre of the shopping experience,” explains Mr. Morris. “You can’t compete by selling brand-name merchandise that people can buy anywhere.”

Instead, smaller operators should stock unique products or focus on high-touch customer service as a differentiator, says Mr. Morris. They should stock merchandise so they can satisfy demand for colours, sizes and the varied preferences of a retailer’s often diverse customer profile.

In the toy business, for example, sales are often driven by the top 10 most popular items, which are usually stocked by big-box stores. To overcome that challenge, Ms. Mussatto developed a top 10 list chosen by her young customers via online voting throughout the year. One lucky child wins a prize each month for his or her submission.

In essence, Toy Jungle fuels its own product demand with the help of its pint-sized clientele, at the same time creating a more immersive online and offline experience.

Ms. Mussatto is also careful to consult with suppliers for their take on the year’s hot sellers. That’s critical, says Maureen Atkinson, a senior partner with J.C. Williams Group, a Toronto-based retail consultancy.

“The problem with asking customers what they think they’re going to want is that they don’t really know,” she says. “It’s important to look for suppliers you can really depend on for good information, not just to push their goods, but somebody who has the experience and can help you sort through whether products will really sell.”

Securing the right items still requires adequate cash flow, however.

As Ms. Atkinson notes, retailers need to build relationships with their suppliers to secure favourable payment terms – often 60 to 90 days – to help them build cash flow, while considering other tools such as inventory financing, a tactic that allows retailers to leverage purchased inventory to provide cash flow.

Some store owners rely on more traditional methods.

Paula Conning, the owner of Clerksons Home Store Ltd., in Collingwood, Ont., about two hours north of Toronto, uses a bank line of credit and a credit card to purchase inventory once she researches popular furniture and home accessory trends for the season.

“This year we’re stocking about $30,000 more in inventory over last year to prepare for extra Christmas business,” she says. “I like to buy [stock] with my Visa card upfront because that makes my vendors happy. You can sometimes get a 5-per-cent discount if you do that, or take 90 days to pay.”

Ms. Conning says maintaining strong business relationships with her suppliers – in part by paying them promptly – has helped her secure balance-sheet-boosting terms since she first purchased Clerksons with her husband in 2013.

She also offers unique merchandise and has an interior designer on staff who can help customers select furniture or decor for their homes or those of loved ones.

This personal touch helps differentiate her store from big-box competitors. It also delivers strong sales and helps move inventory in a season when wallets open and generosity can trump financial prudence.

“People forget their budgets and buy what they want to buy [at Christmas],” she says. “It’s a terrible time to run out of things that customers want.”


Nov 26, 2015

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