Cycling and building a new business at 66

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today's ontario construction news
Today's Ontario Construction News issue (june 24, 2019)

There’s something exhilarating about cycling hard while engaging in a business start-up, especially when you are 66 years old. I felt some joy thinking about the process yesterday as I barreled along on my new carbon-based endurance bicycle, at least until I blasted head-on into another cyclist who somehow couldn’t see she was in my bike lane.

A tumble, a few cuts, apologies from the other cyclist, and I carried on home blasting along with the wind behind me, and a properly fitted light-weight bicycle with “clipless” bicycle shoes (which actually clip into the pedals, go figure).

Could I really be engaged in this adrenaline pumping exercise as our extremely small team pushes forward with the production and marketing of a new daily construction newspaper? We’ve been engaged in the project for almost two months, and thankfully the moments of desperation and frustration have been offset by the other times when orders arrive and we can say: “Hey, this is working.”

It seems absurd that I could be starting a daily newspaper in 2019, but I need to be thankful of my intense knowledge of Ontario’s construction industry and the new Ontario Construction Act for making everything possible. I had known for years about a competitor’s monopoly status in publishing legal notices required by contractors in this province to protect their holdback/lien rights — but it took sighting of a couple of words “or digital” in the regulations associated with the legislation to realize the business concept.

It seems under current Ontario law, you don’t actually need to print the daily “construction trade newspaper” on newsprint, and deliver it by mail — but everything else needs to have newspaper-type characteristics; like it should be printed on tabloid-pages, and contain plenty of news, construction tenders ads, and bidding and lead opportunities.

Now we can accept those Certificate of Substantial Performance (CSP) notice ads — and price them at about 50 per cent lower than the competition — and the business can be quite profitable at 10 per cent market share.

Of course, in the real world, businesses usually launch with great optimism only to fail on the shoals of overly optimistic market projections and crushing costs and debt. I rejigged the business plan to reduce the risks –a good thing, since indeed early sales have been trickling rather than flooding in. Then, just when I start getting anxious, the pings start happening on my email, and the orders arrive.

There are metaphors between my current cycling and business experiences. In general bicycling is very good for health, and it’s a lot of fun. But things can happen. While I try to stay away from semi-trailers — I cannot predict that a distracted cyclist will not suddenly be right in my path where she shouldn’t be.

Same for the business. There are ups and downs, there is care in planning, and thoughtful strategies to maximize the business potential while minimizing the risks, but we still can’t see everything ahead.

But I’m still thankful and optimistic, and joyful to be stretching my limits and reaching new levels. Hey, I’m supposed to be a “retired” senior citizen now. Instead I’m just getting started.

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