By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Bestselling author and Dragons’ Den personality David Chilton was the keynote speaker at the 3rd Annual Regional Business Symposium June 20. Approximately 250 business owners, municipal and organization representatives attended the daylong event at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre.
Chilton, the newest member of CBC TV’s popular entrepreneurial show Dragons’ Den and author of the Wealthy Barber and the Wealthy Barber Returns, regaled the mostly business audience with several amusing anecdotes about the popular CBC show and his co-panelists, including Jim Treliving’s strength and his own defeat of a woman’s arm wrestling champ on the show.
Using a comedian’s timing, Chilton provided attendees with information on succeeding in business and in life by way of a number of stories about entrepreneurs. One story spoke of the persistence of cookbook authors Janet and Greta Podleski and their determination to publish Looneyspoons, a book he was persuaded to publish by his own mother’s endorsement of the two sisters’ recipes. Although that company has grown to large national success, it has done so with just four employees; the owners still answer emails personally.
Chilton attributes the success of the Podleski sisters with their personalities. “You have to be nice,” Chilton said of business people, adding customers ultimately buy the business and its owners before their product of service. “They deal with people they like and people they trust.”
The TV personality and author turned to his expertise on finances and the economy, cautioning attendees about debt, which he said is largely for consumer goods.Chilton equated Canada being in a good economic position to being the valedictorian at summer school. “Too many Canadians have too much debt,” he said, noting the average Canadian carries 165 per cent of their disposable income in debt. “We are spending so much of our cash flow servicing debt, we do not have enough to set aside for the future. We need to be saving more not saving less.”
He was critical of the societal trend to equate success purely on the basis of how much money they make or how many consumable products they have. “All of this stuff does not correlate to happiness,” Chilton said. “We are now in a society where people who do not have granite countertops think they are losers.”
Home renovations account for much of consumer debt, according to Chilton. He said the four most expensive words in the English language are “while we are at it,” words he quipped are driven by the letters HGTV and result in large lines of credit.
He’d like to see more people setting aside for the future. “People mistakenly think that you have to give up happiness today to have happiness in the future,” he said, adding he believes the opposite is true because those who bank for the future are happier today due to having less financial stress.
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Chilton’s keynote address was but one part of a full day of networking, sessions, and panels, the product of four municipalities (Morinville, Bon Accord, Gibbons and Sturgeon County) coming together to provide approximately 400 event attendees the tools they need to thrive, regardless of the size of their business.
Joining Chilton was a group of local and regional business experts whose presentations spoke to the three key concepts of the Symposium – Motivate, Educate and Collaborate. Morinville Servus Credit Union Branch Manager Kym Moore’s seminar spoke about how investing in the community makes sense for businesses. Dar Schwanbeck of St. Albert’s Northern Alberta Business Incubator (NABI) provided attendees with business advice he learned from the street vendors of Peru. Brent Bushell, Executive Director of The Business Link spoke on the Future of Entrepreneurship in Canada. The event concluded with a panel discussion.
In his introduction Mayor Paul Krauskopf said he was pleased with the business environment in Morinville and the region and being able to host the event in the community. “Today we are a centre of ideas and entrepreneurship,” the mayor said. “There is a lot of energy, dedication and energy in this room.”