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businesses (SMBs) profitably leverage Olympic momentum - we have no
Regional Business News
regarding the 2010 Olympics
in British Columbia, Canada
OlyBLOG is for businesses across Canada,
especially in Vancouver / Whistler and throughout B.C. We also
hope companies in Alberta and United States (i.e. Washington, Oregon,
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IN THIS ISSUE
RBC - THE LOST & FOUND OLYMPICS - 10
MORTGAGE RATES & COST OF LIVING "UP"
B.C. WAGES NOT SO "UP"
RBC - The LOST
& FOUND OLYMPICS
I attended a luncheon hosted by the Vancouver Board of Trade on October
19, 2005. The speaker was Craig White, Vice President and Chief Economist
of the RBC Financial Group. Wow, can this guy run through numbers. My
eyes glazed over listening to him rattle his abacas. He truly is an impressive
speaker, and even though I didn't understand everything he said, I know
enough that what he did say wasn't new or earth shattering. He's an economist
and as such ultra conservative so I wasn't surprised. No one wants a financial
guy that takes risks. Key in the numbers, add them up and give me the
total. I'll do the rest thank you.
I'm being a little sarcastic, but only because Mr. White wasted my time,
and money. The luncheon was advertised as "ROAD TO 2010: B.C.'s economic
outlook in the lead up to the Winter Olympics."
It was a very impressive luncheon "title" and consequently everyone
at my table expected to hear information relative to the Games, especially
considering that the Board of Trade used two Olympic references in the
title alone. Plus, and this is a big plus, RBC is an official Olympic
sponsor. How could you go wrong? Considering all these hooks, it seemed
that at least a smidgen of important Olympic information would be presented
during the luncheon.
As usual the event was well hosted by the Board of Trade, plus I met a
few interesting people, and was interviewed after the presentation by
Stewart for Business Edge, but again, there should have been more
substantial information traded regarding the specifics of ramping up for
2010, especially when it was literally advertised as "Craig White
will discuss what businesses should consider to ensure they are well-positioned
to capitalize on the 2010 Winter Games," and also, "renewed
growth brings exciting challenges for business and policy makers to ensure
the booming economy doesn't overheat in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter
Olympics." Mr. Wright so poorly addressed the last part of his sales
hook that the question was posed to him word for word from a member of
the audience in the question period. This should tell you something.
Thankfully though, when I expressed my displeasure to the Board of Trade
they promptly extended two free tickets to a luncheon of my choice. Classy
folk and I thank them.
Now for the really good news!
Less than two days later I found RBC's "missing Olympic information"
at the SOHO Fair -- this time in the form of Debbie Intas, Senior Manager,
Olympic Business Development for RBC.
Her effervescent personality had the big room buzzing with the excitement
of striking it rich in the Olympic goldmine. Entrepreneurs were salivating
and wondering how they could partake of the riches. Interestingly though,
at the end of her presentation, which quite literally had the audience
whipped into a frenzy, when she asked for questions, not one hand went
up. I'm sure "speaker coaches" will have an answer for this
perplexing outcome, but I'm going to venture a guess that she had everyone
a bit disappointed after her explanation of how the Games operate.
On one hand she boldly spoke of the riches that past small and midsize
businesses had attained by supplying products and services to the Games,
and then in a carefully worded disclaimer she warned everyone that most
don't actually profit directly from 2010.
What Debbie should have expressed more clearly is that if you follow Olympic
protocol, odds are you won't profit, but if you think outside the rings
it is more than possible to not only profit, but also raise the visibility
and enlarge the footprint of your business. Unfortunately, but as one
would expect considering RBC is an official Olympic sponsor, Debbie never
addressed this side of the coin in any detail. She hinted at it, but never
explained the process.
More than a few people looked sideways during her presentation wondering
what she meant. Many SMBs think you can make a profit by supplying a product
or service to VANOC. They assume that if VANOC needs 50,000 chairs for
sporting events, or 10,000 meters of security fencing, that they can make
a profit supplying the products. They don't equate that dealing with Olympic
organizations is dealing with the government, and they often don't make
the connection until it's too late.
Debbie stated, and I concur, the greatest value in becoming an Olympic
"supplier" isn't in actually making a profit working Olympic
projects, the money often comes much later by leveraging the momentum
you can create by telling prospects in the years to come that you were
an Olympic supplier.
I also contend that because most companies have nothing to offer directly
the best and only option is to figure out how to bask in the spotlight
being shone on the region. There are opportunities for everyone.
Debbie warned the audience that they shouldn't show up in her office looking
for a business loan to work the Games if they don't have; a) vast experience,
b) a good business plan (which she failed to mention can cost between
$3-10,000), c) a marketing plan, and d) equipment if required.
Debbie's catch phrase, "You Get the Gold When You Cross the Finish
Line" was mentioned a number of times throughout her presentation.
Here are other valuable TIPS Debbie shared . . .
Olympic spectators are 24-54 years old and wealthy with a 50/50 male female
split, most are professionals - that's good to know. In addition I'd like
to add that 18-34 year olds spend a bulk of their time on the internet
and rarely read the newspaper. They also spend more time online than they
do watching TV.
In Sydney, spectators' average family income was $150K
In Salt Lake City it was $65K
Through our research at OlyBLOG.com we know that spectators are internet
savvy - more so than other demographics. It doesn't take a genius to figure
out that you can reach these people online before they arrive.
The majority of spectators in Salt Lake City were Americans. This should
tell you something. We live next door to Washington, Oregon, Wyoming,
Idaho and Montana. It would be in our best interest to remain friends.
SMBs should not get too worked up over the soft wood lumber dispute. It
benefits big forestry businesses to create controversy over un-refunded
tariffs, but it won't do SMBs a lot of good if Americans are so peeved
that they decide to pan the Games in 2010.
In Sydney, international tourism more than doubled - think internet again
and how to reach spectators in England, China or Australia.
Locals order more take out food. Do you know why? Debbie didn't tell us,
but it's because the region becomes so congested that locals do not want
to go anywhere. They cocoon. We also learned through research at OlyBLOG.com
that spectators rarely eat anywhere other than at Olympic facilities.
It's partly because Olympic organizations do such a good job of herding
and marketing to spectators, and also because spectators also don't want
to fight the crowds. If you want to attract these crowds you're going
to have to reach out and entice them. Again - think internet.
Be prepared to sell products and services during the ramp up to the Games
when Olympic organizations test facilities. Athletes from other countries
also come into the region to train. They are consumers too.
Cultural events will start as early as 2006. Are you ready? This is a
huge opportunity to market to local residents. (Read my book to learn
more because this will prove to be a very important group for SMBs.)
After the Games are over each of the "athlete's living units"
in Olympic Villages will have one room converted to a kitchen. I'm not
sure what Debbie was getting at here because you can bet that the contractors
building the Villages will have these deals sewn up, but it certainly
got a rise out of the crowd. (If Rona supplies the sinks and taps at break-even
or free how can you compete with that?)
When managed properly, tourism goes up dramatically two years before and
after the Games, and maybe longer. 'Nuff said.
On a side note, Debbie got the room buzzing when she told us that in our
midst sat the owner of a local catering company that had won a contract
for Torino. When I spoke to the woman later she said she doesn't have
a contract, at least not yet and she said maybe never. She merely has
kitchen space at the Games in Turin and was paying her own way. However,
she was excited to have a spot in front of such a large international
crowd and recognized the opportunity as a way to promote her presence
and raise her comany's visibility.
Debbie repeatedly mentioned that small companies can do exceptionally
well, but she used all the tired old examples we've heard for years, i.e.
the knitting company and the porto-pottie suppliers, and offered little
new information. BTW, have any of you seen the hundreds and hundreds maybe
thousands of porto-potties stored in the field beside Interstate 5 between
Vancouver and Seattle? This is a U.S. company that someone in Canada should
align with. Tell them I sent you!
Debbie also mentioned one B.C. company that supplied underwater lights
during the Games in Athens. By the end of her story we learned that they
didn't exactly do well financially at the Games, but they did land a contract
with the Greek Navy later, which in itself is quite a coup, plus she left
us with a teaser that they are also now negotiating to light the Suez
The presentation hit a road bump when Debbie mentioned that at past Games,
as a licensing fee, 10% of the wholesale revenue generated went to organizations
like VANOC, and that suppliers were expected to pay 25% up front based
on a projected sum. This can easily translate to $250,000 -- a bit risky
for most SOHO entrepreneurs, but if you qualify Debbie will consider you
for a loan.
She also mentioned that many swank restaurants close down to host corporate
events. I say ... it's good for Olympic corporate VIPs, not good for locals,
unless of course you own the restaurant. Then again, you'll probably be
cocooning, so it won't matter.
Debbie did make many good points, and if you want to know even more look
soon for my upcoming book about leveraging Olympic momentum. You can also
find highly detailed information in my manuscript series, which is currently
available online. See the Business Strategies link at the end of this
MORTGAGE RATES & COST of LIVING "UP"
B.C. WAGES NOT SO "UP"
On November 5, 2005, the Vancouver Sun ran full-page features about Vancouver
residents who are already or about to be drowning in monster mortgages.
The articles explained that people who bought homes and condos over the
last couple of years during the peak Olympic frenzy are slowly being wedged
into a precarious economic position now that interest rates are starting
to rise and are trending upwards. It's very responsible of the Sun to
share this information now, but where were they a year ago? It's no wonder
(according to a report in Vancouver Magazine) that the Sun lost 21,000+
readers between 2003-2004. Unfortunately for Vancouver residents, it seems
the Sun was too busy selling advertising space to real estate companies
For the last year or so if you have been reading OlyBLOG.com you know
we've been warning SMBs that the "house-poor" scenario was imminent
and that if interest rates rise even moderately it could burst the bubble
that mainstream media insists doesn't and can't exist because economists
are smarter and would never let it happen -- again. Newspapers like the
Sun glorified rising house prices and in effect enticed people to line
up and bid against each other on artificially inflated properties. Now
many are wondering how they are going to afford a $300,000+ mortgage at
what looks like 6% or more by next year. Some even say it could go as
high as 9% in an effort to control inflation. Let's hope not.
We are happy that mainstream media is finally starting to heed our warnings
and report both sides of the Olympic saga, but we suspect that some of
them are only reacting to our criticism because they want to be perceived
as responsible. Unfortunately, the damage is done.
We don't have a crystal ball at OlyBLOG.com. We predicated this would
happen because we do research. It happens in every Olympic region. We've
also been one of the few voices warning SMBs about many other Olympic
related challenges that you are about to face, and for those of you have
been paying attention over the last couple of years and supporting us
we thank you. Stay tuned though because we have much more to come. If
you want to make it through the 2010 Olympic spectacle unscathed and in
good economic shape stay informed. The more you know the better your chances
of growing your business and profiting.
On a side note, but a related media issue, on CityTV on November 4, 2005
news anchor Roger Peterson made a snide comment that Toronto was envious
about New York City "regaining" the title as the centre of the
universe. It was in relation to a story about lap dogs in NYC, and it
is exactly comments like this that perpetuate the myth and animosity between
the west and central Canada. I lived in the Toronto area for many years
and cannot recall having ever heard a Torontonian utter a disparaging
remark about westerners; in fact to the contrary, Torontonians love Vancouverites.
However, since living here I have heard many western politicians and media
denigrate central Canadians. If you don't like politicians from central
Canada say you don't like politicians from central Canada, but don't lump
the entire populace under one heading.
It is a serious mistake for B.C. to think they can host the Games without
the operational and financial support of all of Canada. If we keep leveling
insults at central Canadians we will look silly and hypocritical in 2009
when imploring Ottawa to help us stem Olympic overruns. Regionalism is
second cousin to racism. Vancouverites boast to be multicultural, but
we don't even show respect for multi-generational residents in central
Canada. We are hypocritical if we think we can keep criticizing residents
in other parts of Canada, whether it is Winnipeg, Toronto or Newfoundland.
It is old thinking and there is absolutely no place for it in modern society.
Don't let media and politicians suck you into their negative regionalist
black hole. Western politicians often use regionalism as a crutch because
they don't know how to negotiate on a national level. We need better politicians
in the west. You get what you negotiate, not what you deserve. Please
vote with your brain in the upcoming election and when you hear someone
using a regional slur, tell him or her it isn't acceptable.
One last point, I've noticed recently that some Vancouverites, especially
in the construction industry are leaning in a little closer to Calgarians.
In the very recent past Calgarians were also regarded acrimoniously by
the "coast," but now that Olympic overruns are welling up Vancouverites
are looking to wealthy fossil fuel barons in Alberta to help them own
the podium. Apparently, to some Vancouverites Calgarians don't look as
redneck as they used to. Isn't it nice that we can finally get along?
For the last couple of years we've been cautioning SMBs in B.C. that we
cannot possibly do the Olympics alone. This is a Canada wide affair and
there is definitely space at the table for the Territories, Alberta, Saskatchewan,
Manitoba and provinces all the way east to Newfoundland, plus the U.S.
All for one and one for all eh.
* We invested two years and a six-figure budget researching Olympic
organization relationships with sponsors, contractors, suppliers, partners,
etc. The results surprised us too -- mouseover below
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Olympic organizations are
BIG BUSINESS MACHINES that attract corporations like CocaCola,
McDonald's, Wal*Mart, etc. Consequently, VANOC (Vancouver Organizing
Committee) will be stretched thin trying to also develop ways to assist
small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum. Surprisingly,
many people don't realize the event can also be lucrative for smaller
businesses including agriculture, manufacturers, entertainment, technology,
retail & obviously tourism, even when they don't have products
or services that appeal to Olympic fans or serve a direct Olympic need.
The information we share here is invaluable in helping
small and midsize businesses leverage Olympic momentum.
Interested in booking a speaking engagement? Advertise on OlyBLOG?