Home Contact Us Subscription

Quick Search:
Advanced Search

Words Of Wisdom

The Golden Horseshoe’s most successful entrepreneurs share the best advice they ever received

By Steve McNeill

Did you ever receive a piece of advice that stuck with you—perhaps even helped to define you or guide you through life or business? We receive advice all the time. Some unwanted, perhaps, but it is the sound advice that helps solve our problems that is most valued...and remembered.

Most resolve an immediate concern; fleeting words of wisdom that provide a roadmap for a specific issue. Then there is the one profound gem that shapes who we are, how we act, how we manage people and how we treat our customers. Biz Magazine asked a number of local community and business leaders what piece of advice had the biggest impact on them. 

“When developing a new product, you have two choices. You can invest in a patent and then be prepared to defend it in court, where the only winners are the lawyers. Or rather than spend money on legals defending your patent, invest in sales, marketing and branding to grab market share.”
Ron Foxcroft,  Founder and CEO, Fox 40 International

“Be clear about your organization’s mission and then stay true to course. It’s easy to lose sight by getting caught up in day-to-day work.” Sonny Jelinek, Chair,
Oakville Chamber of Commerce; Director, Jelinek Cork Group

“The best advice I ever got about becoming a novelist came from one of my professors at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore: ‘If you want to write, you’d better GYAIC.’ And so I asked, ‘What is GYAIC?’ And he replied: “Get your ass in (the) chair.”
Lawrence Hill, Burlington writer and author of The Book of Negroes

“‘Keep pumping the well and the water will flow’—meaning ‘Never give up—keep moving forward, block out the noise and continue to give all you’ve got.’ Even when you have been dealt challenges, as we all have, you must continue to move forward. And then the water will flow.”
Ann Hanley Adams, Hanley Shoes, Ancaster

“One key lesson that my experience in business operations has taught me is that ‘good enough’ is never good enough. That message has been a guiding principle throughout my career. If you believe things are good enough, then you’ve got a problem!”
Ron Joyce, co-founder, Tim Hortons

“The best advice I ever received came from my father, Larry. He taught me to treat every person you deal with in business like you would want to be treated yourself. That goes for your customers, employees and suppliers. I took that to heart because throughout his life he has been universally respected and has the reputation of treating people fairly—something I hope I can emulate in my own business life.”
Jeff Paikin, president, Horizon Homes

“I’ve been the fortunate recipient of a lot of great advice. From the classics such as ‘The early bird gets the worm,’ to the Golden Rule: ‘Treat others as you would have them treat you.’ I can’t pick just one of the bits of life-changing advice I’ve benefited from. But I can tell you the most recent piece of valuable advice came last year via Bob O’Billovich, G.M. of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Bob is one of the most successful general managers ever in the Canadian Football League, which is saying something in a league that features greats such as Ralph Sazio and Hugh Campbell. Bob’s advice goes simply: ‘Better is better.’ While it seems trite, it is very profound, as it reminds us of an essential element of success; namely, that success depends on continual improvement. No matter how good you are today, you need to strive to be better.”
Bob Young, owner Hamilton Tiger-Cats

“Attitude is everything. Even in challenging economic times, if you have the right attitude, you can face almost anything. It helps create the necessary tools to go forward, such as coping skills, the ability to find a balance in life, trust in your support team and the confidence to be open to new ideas. As the saying goes: ‘We cannot direct the winds, but we can adjust our sails.’ But it takes the right attitude to do that.”
Donna Warring, Greensville Gourmet

“I’ve found that most of the good advice hinges on one common overriding principle: Integrity. In everything you do, you must keep integrity in mind. You cannot be a good manager, a good person, a good parent or a good spouse without it. You’re likely to be forgiven for a lot of things in your life, but you are unlikely to be forgiven by your customers, family or friends for a lack of integrity.”
Harry Mitchell Jr., Armagh Cash Register, Hamilton

“The advice of my late husband, John, still rings in my ears 17 years later. ‘People only order a pizza when they’re hungry….and then it had better be ready in 30 minutes or it’s free.’ He helped me to understand my customers. Because of that, I’ve gone on to develop a great team at Green Thumb Landscaping and to open The Bronze Frog Gallery seven years ago. Understanding your customers is the number one key to giving the best possible service.”
Kathy Thomas, The Bronze Frog Gallery, Oakville

“This is a time of opportunity—to rethink and reinvent how we do things, to look for innovation, to develop new partnerships and strengthen existing ones and, most important, to get things done.”
Richard Koroscil, Hamilton International Airport

“My parents always told me to follow my dreams, but to also have a back-up plan, especially in show business. But the best advice was probably from myself as I pursued my show business career—to never give up, and if I wanted it bad enough, I’d get it.”
Ben Guyatt, comedian

“Shortly after I was called to the bar in 1992, I attended an orientation session sponsored by the Hamilton Law Association. Jim Turnbull (now Justice Turnbull) told us the most important thing to remember is that the practice of law is a long road. What goes around comes around. Treat other lawyers with dignity and civility, regardless of the fight going on. He was absolutely right. Clients sometimes think that if their lawyer is belligerent with everyone they have a good lawyer. What they have is someone nobody wants to talk to and settlement only happens after more legal costs have been incurred than were necessary. ”
Ed Canning, employment lawyer and columnist

“A family friend, whom I’d asked to write a letter of recommendation in support of an apprentice application, offered this advice: ‘Richard, in a few years you will become a professional chartered accountant. Choose a promising young community leader to assist, and as you develop so will he, and you will share in the experiences and opportunities of political power and the satisfaction of community service. I suggest you seek out John Munro, a local lawyer who is running for re-election as an Alderman.’

I took the advice and volunteered to deliver pamphlets, knock on doors and help with fundraising. This led to 48 years of relationship. I enjoyed John’s drive and dedication. Once John had you in his supporter book, you just couldn’t not participate. He would walk up to me, put his arm around my shoulder and say, ‘Rich, I need you to do this for me.’ He was irresistible.

Over these 48 years it was my pleasure to accept the several roles that were offered. On occasion, when he was minister of Indian and Northern affairs, as an assistant I would tour the North with him. I had the opportunity to advise him on small business matters, to spend time in the Minister’s office auditing private accounts, to attend Liberal conventions and to meet several Cabinet ministers, the Prime Minister and many other world dignitaries. I often gave thanks to that family friend for giving me this great piece of advice.”
Richard Sniderman, Director of Finance, Reflex Advanced Marine Company

“The first piece of advice was something I overheard from my father’s business partner 35 years ago—that one path to a successful business entrepreneur was to surround yourself with very good people and make it so they never want to leave. The second came from my late brother-in-law, who was a successful retailer and was responding to the question: ‘How do you know when to expand or change your business?’ He said, ‘If you are a good entrepreneur, you will stand in the middle of your business, look around you and your gut feeling will tell you it is time.’” Bob Daniels, Earls Court Galleries, Hamilton

“Listen to your client. If they insist they want anchovies on their pizza, accept the fact that it’s their pizza. No matter how attached and invested in the project or sale, the customer’s requirements come first.”
 Vince Hoffman, Freewheel Cycle, Dundas

“Shit happens. Deal with it.”
 Margaret Houghton, president, Players’ Guild of Hamilton

“There are two pieces of advice that have guided me. The first was a line from Lee Iacocca: ‘In business you either lead, you follow or you get out of the way.’ The other, I learned at a very early age: ‘The quality of your products will be remembered long after the price has been forgotten.’”
Lou Albanese, CEO, The Meat Factory

“If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it. That advice was given to me by my dad. It taught me to—despite all the hurdles and hard work associated with bringing a project forward—always focus on the goal and to always have the confidence to proceed in what you specialize in and know best.”
Vince Molinaro, president, Molinaro Group

“Success is not something that comes easy, no matter how you define it. Whether it’s success in business, relationships, philanthropy or athletics, the bottom line is that there are no short cuts. You have to make sacrifices. No one wants to hear you complaining about it along the way. Do the best you can as often as you can. Never forget why you got into it in the first place. Was it to contribute to the community by employing people? Was it to see how far you could take the business? Was it to leave a legacy for your family name? Whatever ‘it’ was, don’t lose focus of it. One day you’ll wake up and realize that you actually accomplished what you set out to do. Be passionate about what you believe in, make the business part of who you are but don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Work hard. Give back and never forget where you came from after you succeed. The best advice I ever received was to play the cards I held, not the ones I wished I had. Be honest with yourself about what’s in your hand and you won’t go wrong.”
Teresa Cascioli, CEO, Teresa Cascioli Charitable Foundation