Interview with John Duncan

The following is the transcript of an interview about Entrepreneurship. 
The interview was conducted by sixteen year old Kerry Hjertaas
in May 2000,
and was prompted by a school project. Kerry obtained a very high mark for this effort. 
Shortly after conducting the interview, Kerry became a Duncan Associate

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Table of Contents                                                          
Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

Ideas and Opportunities
Challenges and Pitfalls

Role in the Economy

Other References
A New Entrepreneurial Vision for Canada  by Catherine Smith, CEO of CFIB
Cisco E-learning Web Site
Duncans MindLeaders - High Velocity e-Learning that works!

Note: Kerry's questions are in italics,  Mr. Duncan's answers in a standard font.  

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur

What are the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, and why?  

I think, most certainly, that the individual has to have a very clear vision, mission or purpose. They have to believe in it fervently. When you meet an entrepreneur, you will immediately pick up on their positive vibrations; they will just radiate with purpose; they will believe passionately in what they are doing, and that is why they will succeed.

How would you define a successful entrepreneur, and which of these characteristics do you possess?

That is a double question. First of all, you are asking me to define success, and then you are asking me how I measure up to my own definition.

You know, generally, I think that success should be measured by how well individuals do in regards to the goals they individually set for themselves. 

It is probably unfair when we measure our success against somebody else. Different folks have different capabilities. So if I undertake a task or a mission myself, and I live up to it, rising to my own expectations, then I would call that being successful. 

In terms of how I measure up to that or rather how often I am successful, it is not nearly as often as I would like to be. 

I continually set goals for myself, and many of them I don't reach. But that doesn't stop me from re-setting my goals. 

You know, there are people who think I am a successful person. But those people don't know my failures. I think that being successful is really a question of setting many, many goals for oneself and reaching a few, or an average number. But we must always be resilient enough to come back from the failures, continuing to set goals for ourselves to meet. Every once in a while you will meet one, and then you'll feel good about it. 

There is another way for me to look at this. What about those people who think I am failure? There are those that do. But they, in almost every case, do not or choose not to know about my successes. 

In any event, I am sure that almost everyone who knows me, knows that I am not a quitter, and that I am passionate about reaching my goal in life. 

I wish to be a serious proponent and player in today's new challenge and opportunity for on-line continual e-Learning of computer and business skills, especially within our context of being upgradeable computer builders.

The computer has been defined by Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, as a "creativity machine". That is probably it's ultimate purpose.

It started as an information machine, then it became a gaming machine, and recently it's most important role is emerging as a communication machine. 

But it is really a "creativity machine" for every user. Our clients are using their machines to push our world forward.

As "creativity machine" builders we play a partnership role with all our clients, helping them to achieve their computer, business and career visions. It is also here, as a "creativity machine" builder that I seek success for myself.

Within the past five years I have devoted a very large part of my life to learning about learning. I have found myself at the edge of a revolution in learning techniques, enabled by computer technology. We opened a Learning Centre, and we have discovered many advantages to self-paced, interactive e-Learning as opposed to the traditional teacher-led, classroom based educational system each of us experienced as we grew up. 

In this context, I visualize success as becoming an effective facilitator to help others learn, using computer technology.

So, do you then consider yourself a successful entrepreneur?

No, I don't consider myself a successful entrepreneur. I consider myself an entrepreneur in the process of becoming successful.

What made you want to be an entrepreneur?

It started at an early age. It was something that I recognized within myself while I was still in High School. My father was the vice-president of a large company, and I always thought he should be president. I think that it started right there with that thinking, I'd rather be a leader than a follower, no disrespect intended for the memory of my Dad.

That was more than forty years ago. When you are in High School, you start to recognize your purpose in life, and what you'd like to do. I remember, one of my very first businesses was that I wanted to sell records to my friends. These were phonograph LPs. I was experimenting with entrepreneurship in those early days.

Did you ever work for anyone else at all?  

Yes, I did. I worked for a number of people when I was in my twenties.

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Ideas and Opportunities

Why did you start a computer business?

Sixteen years ago, both my wife Helene and I were in the Real Estate business. We were selling homes here in Regina, for Century 21.  We were working long hours, and we were working seven days a week. Our incomes were directly and specifically based on our day-to-day success in selling homes. We really had to start our business over again every day. 

Often we might take a young couple out, and show them thirty houses, and they might decide to buy, or not to buy. And if they decided to buy, then it took a month or two for the deal to close, and then it took another month or so to get the transaction through Land Titles. Finally, the lawyers would pay our broker and our broker would pay us.

So we felt that when we were in our fifties and sixties, it wouldn't be a good thing to be taxi-driving people around the city, and to have an income that was so directly based on our everyday performance, as it was in the real estate business. 

We looked for another career. 

At that time, and this is going back seventeen years ago, we had already managed to computerize our real estate business. Helene suggested to me that we might look at the computer business as a career alternative. That is how we got started. 

What's the difference between Duncans and other computer stores?

We do not perceive ourselves as being a computer store. We think upon ourselves as being custom computer builders and learning facilitators. 

A store buys a pre-built box from a supplier, perhaps in Vancouver or Toronto, brings it in through the back door, and sends it out through the front door putting in a small margin on it. With "tongue in cheek" we call these stores "box shifters", since that is really all they are doing. They are shifting boxes. 

We are doing something quite different. We are making computers from scratch. It's like baking a cake from the original components. However, before we build it, we design the computer from scratch. We are the ones who decide, after consulting with our clients, what components go into the computer, where they come from, and how the computer is to be configured. We do this on a client-by-client, computer-by-computer basis.

The advantage that we have in doing this is that because we create the computer we can change it easily for our clients as their computer needs emerge in the future.

We call our people clients, rather than customers. 

A customer is someone who might do business with you one day and may never show up again. A client is someone where there is a mutual expectation that there will be a return visit. 

The advantage we are able to offer our clients by assembling the computer ourselves is the ability to change it easily. 

We believe that the computer business is the fastest changing business in the world, and that when you go looking for a computer, the number one thing you should look for is its ability to be changed. So, by building the computers ourselves we are able to offer our clients "upgradeable" computers, computers that we can change easily. 

Then, we are able to do one more thing which is perhaps even more important: we really do upgrade our customers computers. So that means that they come back, eight months, or a year later, and ask us to change their motherboards or microprocessors. We take back those components we sold them initially as trade-ins towards their new componentry.

That permits our clients to change a lot easier and a lot more affordably, and that makes them likely to change more often as well.

Did you take advantage of any Canadian trends when you established Duncans? Something like that right now the population is gradually getting older, or computerization of the workforce?

No. I have always felt that we Canadians have been slow to embrace computer technology. We are pretty sleepy about it. 

We should be playing an enormous role on the global stage as technology leaders, showing, by example, how technology can enhance our lives. My brother, Dr. Gaylen Duncan, as President and CEO of ITAC, the Information Technology Association of Canada,  participates in setting world vision for Canada's IT sector. He regularly shares with me his global perspectives of the opportunities we have as a Nation to effect positive change in our lives and the lives of others around the world through computer expertise.

I do not think that Canadians are entrepreneurs. I think that the whole Canadian approach and thinking towards business is entirely too modest. I think that Canadians, especially here in Regina, Saskatchewan, lack vision, and that we lack purpose and goals. Furthermore I think that we live each day with a mind set where we don't put large demands and challenges on ourselves or on our young people. 

I think that as an entrepreneur that I'm quite un-Canadian in this arena. This bothers me. 

Generally our young people are under challenged. I spend most of my daily work time with young people. Duncans is heavily involved in computer education. We offer more than 500 very affordable computer and business skills courses that an individual can take with us either in our Learning Center or over the Internet . For example we offer an annual subscription to 40 courses for only $69. 

If I was a very young person, I'd be crawling all over those courses. As a person almost 60 years old, I spend at least 25% of my day learning new things, from our MindLeaders courses as well as from the Internet at large. 

We do have many young people who come to us on a regular basis, and do partake in our courses. But there should be a lot more of them. And they should have parental support and involvement as well. I think that the City of Regina, when it comes to computer expertise, is about three or four years behind the leading computer communities in the world. 

If we compare the money, time, effort and parental support that is evident in the support of hockey for our young people to the effort  and investment we put into computer expertise for the young, it is obvious we have a long way to go to balance our priorities in this area.

It is not very difficult for us to predict the future in Regina in regards to computers, because all we have to do is look at what is happening in some other areas today. Examples of leading cities and countries are Singapore, Hong Kong, Simi and Silicon Valley and some of the Scandinavian countries. 

And then we could say: "Well, that's about to come to Regina."

I dare to dream that we can change this, by working together, lending support to each other's efforts, and making our City a world leader in the computer industry. We can change from being followers to being leaders. 

In terms of other qualities that Canadians have, I think that Canadians are known for their honesty, and I think that is something we always should work on and improve. So here I will discuss the other side of this coin. 

I would much rather be a Canadian than any other nationality, and I'm very happy living in Regina. I don't want to give you the impression that I'm not. However, if you are asking me as an entrepreneur, do I think that I'm surrounded by entrepreneurs, the answer is no. 

I think the more discussion that we have about entrepreneurship, and how important it is, the better it is for all of us concerned.

Do you make extensive use of advertising in your business, and do you think you would do better with more advertising?

It's a good question. You always do better if you advertise more, but you don't always do better on the bottom line. In our business, it's very easy to change four quarters for a dollar, and that's not what being in business is all about. 

If you advertise, you're going to increase your business, but you're also going to increase your cost, and you may also increase the mistakes that you make. Increasing sales doesn't necessarily mean that you're  increasing your profits. 

In fact, you might be setting yourself up for a very large loss that is uncontrollable if you try to rapidly increase your business. When you promote a business by advertising, many entrepreneurs fail to take into account the cost of growth. The fact is, that in order to support increased sales, you must have increased inventory. That can be a huge investment. 

Just to look and find the investment required to go through a high growth period can be very hard on a small company. 

We believe that the best advertising is word of mouth. Most of our business today comes to us from people we've served over the years, and from the friends, relatives and neighbors they continually refer to us.  

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Challenges and Pitfalls

What kind of problems have you had over the years setting up your business?

Money. There is never enough money. I don't think for a second that I'm unique in that. 

The number one problem is finding enough money.

What mistakes did you make when you first started up your business?

Well, the biggest mistake that we made in the fifteen-year period that we've been in the computer industry is underestimating the numbers and power of people who are far more effective and more competitive in their work then we are. I will clarify that.

Canadians are a very distinct minority in the computer business.

This is an industry made up primarily of Chinese people, people from the Philippines, East Indians, Japanese, and people from Taiwan. These people are prepared to work harder than we are. They have a better work ethic than we do. They are prepared to work longer hours for less money, and they are prepared to work together far more than what we are. Their families work together. They help each other succeed. As everyday average Canadians we really don't know what it is to work. We don't have as strong a work ethic as these other people.

When I first started in the computer business, I used to buy components for a dollar and then sell them for $1.35. I was making about a 32% gross profit on whatever I was selling. At that time, I was looked upon as the troublemaker in the marketplace, because everyone around me was buying for a dollar and selling for two dollars. They were working on a 50% gross profit.

I thought: "Well, this business has lots of future, and I can establish myself in the market, capturing lots of sales, if I lower my expectation for prices, maintaining a modest gross profit. I could still make a very tidy net profit working with a 32% gross mark-up. In those days I was looked upon as a troublemaker because all my competitors had to meet my prices. I was the pricing aggressor. It worked well, for about five years.

One day, I woke up to find that I had new competition that was working at 12%, not 32%. I was out by 20%. Suddenly I looked bad. I had lost my leadership position.

These new players did to me what I had done to my original competitors. However, I bear no grudge to them. They were simply more productive, more effective. 

If it wasn't for those specific individuals that came into the city at that time, and gave me this fierce competition, someone else would have done it anyways. The computer hardware business is not a 32% gross profit industry. This is an 8%, or 12% gross profit industry. 

So, in retrospect, I see that I had only built a business that was really a house made with a deck of cards, and the first good, strong wind that came along blew me away.

It comes back to what I was talking about earlier, about learning to be competitive, learning to be productive, and acquiring a good work ethic.

We were faced with a decision to make.

The decision really came down to: "Are we prepared to stay in an industry where margins are so razor-like thin that, if you make a mistake, if you buy improperly, your business fails?" 

If you're sitting with $50,000 worth of inventory, and prices suddenly go down 10%, that's a $5,000 write-down cost. Where is the money going to come from to pay for that? You haven't done anything yet. You haven't paid for any rent, you haven't paid for any electricity, you haven't paid for any help. But you've lost $5000 simply by holding the stock. You might not have even paid your suppliers for it yet. So the question is: "How do you stay in the business?" 

Well, today we've learned to keep our inventory very, very low. We turn our inventory over completely more than 20 times a year. We  stock just the barest minimum. We buy according to what we sell, and it is shipped out within two or three days of arrival. That is one of the ways that we can beat this razor thin margin situation. But we have learned to be more competitive in other ways as well.

Today, we can produce more computers with fewer people than ever before. That is a sign of productivity. 

In addition. we have entered areas other than hardware sales where there is higher profitability, such as the field of education. 

And that's really the type of thing an entrepreneur has to be able to do. They have to be flexible and innovative.

It really doesn't take a genius to buy computer parts and re-sell them to friends, relatives and neighbors. But it does take some type of skill, some type of practical know-how to facilitate the education of others in computer expertise.

Why did you choose your current location, and do you think you'd do better in a more visible location?

Yes, location! When you are thinking of the word retailing, then location is everything. Being an old realtor for many, many years, I am very familiar with that. 

The reason we chose our present location is because the rent was very inexpensive, and it has remained that way. This has given us a chance to be competitive, by not having a large overhead. 

We have been thinking of moving to a more visible location, having something on a main level, rather than in a lower level. But I don't think a move would necessarily change our clientele substantially. 

Obviously, we may do more business, but that's not necessarily going to transfer itself into business that's going to be profitable. 

Going to a more expensive, more visible location, from a retailing standpoint is the same as spending more on advertising. 

And again, I should remind you that we don't think of ourselves as retailers, we think of ourselves as computer builders. So we develop a relationship with a client. 

I'll tell you a quick story:

When I was twelve and thirteen years of age, I was invited to play as a guest player with the Montreal Symphony. I was studying the violin at the time. My father took me out and he bought me a violin. He took me to Anton Wilfer, who was the violin maker of choice in the Montreal area at that time. Mr. Wilfer did all the violin work for the Montreal Symphony. He was very well respected by Montreal's violinists. It was with pride that I was able to say I owned a Wilfer violin. Any time I needed it to be repaired, I took it to Mr. Wilfer. He would recognize the violin as his and he gave it special attention. Mr. Wilfer treated me particularly well as an owner of one of his hand built violins.

One day, a few years ago, when Helene and I were crossing the border from the American side, a Canadian Customs officer asked me  if I had anything of value in the car. When I mentioned my violin the Customs agent asked me to give him the serial number. 

I replied that you don't put serial numbers on violins, you sign them. And if you looked inside the violin itself, you would see that Anton Wilfer actually signed the violin that he made for me.

We put serial numbers on computers, but what we've done here for seventeen years is put our name to every computer we have ever built. This is our signature. And the kind of relationship we build up with our clients is very similar in my mind to the kind of relationship I had with Mr. Wilfer. I was working hard to be a good violinist, and he was my violin maker. 

We have lots of clients who are working seriously and diligently with their computers and who are working hard to learn about computer expertise. Most of them look upon us as their computer makers.  

So while location is very important, the client relationship is more important and is not location specific.

Do you often find yourself competing with places like Future Shop and Office Depot?

Yes, every day. We compete with them every day, every hour. But we are able to compete with them easily. Our prices are generally as good, if not better, and our service is superior, by a long shot. In fact, they do not know how to deliver the kind of service that we can and do deliver. 

We have stopped selling printers, and we have stopped selling scanners. We don't sell software, and we don't sell joysticks. We don't sell expensive 3D video cards, TV capture cameras or digital cameras. There are a lot of things that the big box stores do that we don't do. And they do them well, because they can buy in large quantities, and they stock large quantities. They have the money to support the large inventories they maintain. 

Instead, we concentrate on what goes on inside the box. Neither one of those super stores that you mentioned, Office Depot or Future Shop,  can build or work inside a box like we can. It's the other way around. They can't compete with us.

They cannot offer the ability to upgrade to their customers. 

They can not add the educational and support component that we add to every computer sale.

So the fact is, that we live with these big stores daily, but they haven't been able to enter our fields at all, the fields of computer building and computer learning facilitation.

So what do you consider to be the benefits of being self employed?

Well, you do have more freedom to choose, and if you see something is wrong, and that you can correct it, you can do something about it faster. I guess there's more room to express yourself. You have more flexibility. You don't have to get everything approved by a committee or a superior. Those are some of the advantages of being in business for yourself.

What does it cost you to run Duncans? Do you work longer hours, or other things like that?

Yes, absolutely. There is an expression that most entrepreneurs go into business for themselves, and end up working for a fool. That probably describes exactly where I am at. And I know it! 

We call that the entrepreneurial myth. I would like to believe that I am an entrepreneur, but all I am is a glorified technician. I am a slave to the business. If something were to happen to me, or I wanted to stop completely, this business would most certainly die without me. 

So I have not accomplished anything of any real value. There is no lasting value here, yet.

The definition of a business, in my opinion, is when you bring average people together to accomplish extraordinary things, profitably. And when these people go home at night, the business does not go home with them. So that means that the strength of the business lies as much in it's procedures as in it's people. Maybe even more so. 

You earlier asked me if, as an entrepreneur,  I considered myself to be successful. If I were to measure success as the ability to turn our present opportunity into a business that would be successful without me, I believe I have that ability. But I have not achieved that. It is my passionate vision to do so.

So I am in the process of becoming successful. This will be my measure of success. If I am able to make a business that will add value, that will help its clientele, that will be profitable, and will run without me, then I will be successful.

And by running without me I don't mean to just turn this over to some other guy that is going to work as hard, or as many hours as I do. Because that's not being successful either. In order to be a successful entrepreneur, we have to create a business that works with everyday people coming together to create extraordinary goods and/or services within the proper framework of a forty-hour week. If you say, "Well, that guy's successful", and he's putting in a seven day week and fifteen hour days, he hasn't yet achieved a business success.  

The thing that amazes me though, is how we have attracted exceptional people so far in our process of creating a duplicatable and manageable business model. Truly, our greatest strength is our people, our Associates.

Do you then have a lot of stress?

Yes. But I think that's true of life. If you don't have stress in life, you're not doing anything. You might as well crawl into a cave and disappear. I don't think that it's possible to grow without stress. Stress is like a fuel that you learn to live with. You can flood your engine, or you can run it too lean. When you get it right, your engine will make you fly!

You've hired some staff. Do you think that you and your staff make a good team?

Well, we've actually stopped hiring staff. We don't have any staff here. The way we have structured our company for the last ten years is a little different. We have associates. 

An associate would be someone just like yourself. We consider our associates to be in business for themselves. We work together.

One difference is that an employee is someone who is working for you, while an associate is someone who is working with you. 

This is a unique way of approaching things. And I believe that it is a great opportunity, especially when we're talking about young people. It's easy to go get a job, let's say at McDonald's, and you get, let's say, $7 an hour. Or you can get a job in another store, as such, and you're only an employee.

Around here, what we're trying to do is get young people to recognize how to be in business for themselves, how to think like an entrepreneur from day one. 

It also has do with the way we educate. 

Here there is no starting time to learning. There is no finishing time. So, essentially, the kind of people who are attracted here and who stay with us are the kind of people who are able to decide what they're going to learn, when they're going to start learning, when they're going to stop, when they're going to take a break, and how fast they're going to go. 

They must be self starters with a clear vision in their minds as to where they want to go and what they want to achieve in order to sustain themselves in this type of learning environment. This is the stuff of entrepreneurship.

So therefore, if we treat them as associates from day one, we say "Okay, we want to be in business together. We don't want to be your parents, and we don't want to be your teachers, we don't want to be your principal and we don't want to be your boss. We want to be your associate." This puts a better basis on our relationship with them as far as I'm concerned.

Usually what happens, is that they start to flourish. They start to  blossom. It doesn't always work, but it usually does. Most of the young people who have come here are still here. They are excited about their computer careers. While they are learning, they get the opportunity to see how it feels to work on actual computers, and in an actual computer shop. They learn to upgrade, service, and repair computers. 

We pay them for that as well. But we pay them only when they are productive. We don't pay them by the hour. We pay based on performance. We pay 30% of what they are able to charge a customer for service. Often they can make more than $7 an hour when they work on a productivity basis.

Team building is a critical concept to our Associate's environment. We send our young people out together to set up networks on our customers' sites. They learn that each Associate member of our Company brings in their own individual special expertise in one aspect or another of the world of computers. When they join our Team of Associates, we point out to them that they are joining the "single richest golden vein of computer expertise in our area". We say that this is the most important thing we provide to them. The opportunity to Associate with other talented, dedicated and capable young people with similar yet diverse interests. Their individual strength is greatly heightened by having working within our Team, and our Team is strengthened by their joining it.  

I have found that this concept of bringing young people together in an Association of equals is effective and dynamic. It far outweighs the old boss/employee relationship system. This system prepares young people for a lifetime of change, continual learning and entrepreneurship with a view to helping other people manage the ever increasing rapid change of the computer industry. We are producing agents of change.

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Role in the Economy

What role do you think that businesses like yours have in the economy?

Well, I think in the long term that the way we have been up until now, in regards to custom computer building, will gradually be diminished. I don't think there will be an increase of custom computer builders in the future. More and more computers will be built by robots, in mass production facilities. Computers are going to be accepted as disposable items, especially as prices continue to decline.

I think that the real role that we are carving out for ourselves in the future is in the field of education, specifically e-Learning or Internet self-paced interactive learning. And there I think that we have a massive opportunity, that most people don't understand or perceive as yet. We are so ingrained with classroom based, instructor led education, that we have difficulty conceiving of anything else.
When I talk with a young person, I'll say: 
"When are you going to finish High School?"
And he'll say: "Three years from now."
I'll ask: "What are you going to do then?"
And usually they will say: "I'm going to go to university."
"And why are you going to do that?"
"Because my parents want me to."
"So, how long will you be in university?"
"four, or five years, depending on what I study"

Then I'll ask: "How old will you be when you finish university?" 
They tell me, that they will be twenty, or twenty one. 
"What happens then?", I ask.
"I go into the work force." is the usual response.
"So your formal education will be complete?"
"Yes, it will be."
Finally I ask.......
"And when will you stop learning about computers?"  
They always answer the same Never.

Never. See, what a stark contrast there is? The education system that young people are in today has a starting point and an ending point. And the speed at which you're taking that education is always determined by the teacher. The content is determined by the institution which they attend. You have some flexibility, you can choose this course or that. But the skill set required for a lifetime of continual learning isn't there. It isn't even being discussed.

When I ask a young person: "When was the last time you spent any time learning about learning?".......,
they always answer "Never!"
What are our teachers doing?
They are certainly not preparing our young people for a lifetime of continual learning. That is our perception and it is not meant to offend.

There is a far more effective way to transfer knowledge than to stand in front of a class and lecture. We call the more effective method facilitating. 

Here is our perception.

A teacher is someone who stands in front of a classroom of students. 

A facilitator kneels beside the learner. The learner is at a computer e-Learning on the Internet.

This is especially true for computer education where there should be no classrooms. There should only be learning centers.

There are no students in a successful learning center. There are only learners. The learner is the one in charge of the learning process. 

A facilitator, being there to help the learning process, especially the "learning how to learn" process, should not attempt to dominate it. 
Instead, the facilitator should concentrate on ensuring awareness for the need for a skill set required for a lifetime of continual learning.

So, taking into account that the computer industry is the fastest changing industry in the world, we need to learn about lifelong continual learning, learning what it means to be each individually in charge of our own learning process, and then learning to facilitate others to do the same.

One day, when I was surfing the Internet, I came across a site posted by a Doctor of Education in New Zealand. He had written his version of the Learners Code of Rights. It goes something like this:

It doesn't matter what is your race, color, or creed, as a learner you have the right to learn what you want, when you want, how you want, from whom you want.

I think that those are basic rights. But try stating those rights in a classroom today. Stand up in class tomorrow, and say: "I'd like to recite the Learners Code of Rights." You will viewed as a troublemaker. 

So how is it that we're going to be successful with continual learning if we haven't spent any time learning how to learn, how to self-pace ourselves, how to create and sustain visions and missions, and to effect end-result thinking within ourselves.

These are the same requirements, or qualities that it takes for entrepreneurship. 

So if you ask me what our role should be in the future, I think that it is to build learning centers. There should be as many learning centers as there are McDonald's franchises. I believe that the essentials of self-paced and life-time continual  learning should be taught in the learning centers. Well, maybe not even taught, but expressed and demonstrated within the learning centers. I am sensitive to the word "taught" as it reminds me of the legacy teacher/student system we are trying to change.

A learning center is a place to go to to learn how to e-Learn!

Duncans MindLeaders is High Velocity e-Learning that works. 

I believe that if we make our goal the establishment of those learning centers as major part of our business, then we will have a great future.

What kind of services do you plan on offering in the future?

From the Internet point of view, we are becoming a web-hosting business, with a view towards E-commerce. We are helping people transfer their entire businesses onto the Internet. 

We are building a server farm to provide our on-line learning, our web hosting and to support our fast growing Associate and Affiliate programs. 

At the moment, our server farm consists of a learning server, a mail server, a file server, two DNS servers and an exchange server.

Naturally we are gaining the experience of how to build and operate a server farm at the same time. Then we will be able to help our clients build their own server farms for their own businesses and organizations.

In terms of education, we're just looking at more and more courses to add to the already large number of courses we're offering. We would like to offer some personal improvement courses as well. Concepts of change is the most important area of personal improvement we wish to focus on.

When we talk about change, occasionally I ask a young person,

"Well, how old are you?" And they say: "Fourteen."

The exchange continues.........

"If I was to say that the single most important thing that has happened in your life so far is change, would I be right or wrong?"

They say "You're right." Kind of hesitantly, because they're not so sure where I'm going with this.

Once I've have that thought established, I ask 

"Well, if I was to say that the single most important thing that is going to happen in your life is change, would I be right or wrong?"

Then they say, more enthusiastically, "You're right!" They are becoming comfortable with my drift.

"Well, if the most important thing that has happened or that will happen in your life is change, how much formal education have you had in the subject of change?"

That's another one of those "None" answers. Absolutely zero.

Well, I know that there are people out there who have devoted their lives to studying the concepts of change. One in particular is a man by the name of Lou Tice. He can be likened to a cognitive psychologist. He has a deep understanding of the concepts of change. He has devoted his life to helping other people acquire abilities  to experience positive and lasting change, and to go through that change quickly and effortlessly, and with their feet on the ground.
So I would like to add his curriculum and courses to our bag of tricks some day.

Do you think your business is doing better than other businesses of its type?

I don't know any other business like ours, to be honest with you. 

I think we're doing a lot better than the schools are, when it comes to educating young people in computer expertise. I think we are doing substantially better than universities are when it comes to preparing tomorrow's key computer industry leaders. We may not yet have the numbers of students that the traditional school systems have, but the quality and timeliness of our high velocity e-Learning is superior.

I think that we're doing better in building computers than our competitors are. I think we build a better computer, and that we readily provide better support and service than they do. They really can't compare themselves to us these areas. I think that there are lots computer businesses out there selling a many more computers than we do. That is not a measure of success that we embrace.

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An address to:


Catherine Swift
President, CEO and Chair
Canadian Federation of Independent Business
Royal York Hotel
October 2, 2000

Other Comments by Catherine Swift

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