On the odd occasion I’ll post something of a more casual or personal nature – this is one of those posts.

My wife and I just returned from a week long vacation which included a stop in Astoria, Oregon.  We were on the Holland America Line cruise ship MS Zaandam and had the great opportunity to observe Columbia River Bar Pilots embark and disembark our ship on the bar and while underway.

April 24, 2010, Columbia River Bar

These Bar Pilots are the unsung heroes of the waterfront.  They help pilot more than 4,000 ships across the Columbia River Bar each year.

This small stretch of water, also known as Cape Disappointment or the Graveyard of the Pacific, has destroyed more than 2000 boats and taken more than 700 lives.   It’s treacherous because this is where the massive outflow of the Columbia River meets waves that have travelled across the Pacific Ocean.  This confluence can make for very steep, very tight and very confused seas.  In fact, because of how rough it can become, this  is where all US Coast Guard personnel go to cut their teeth on inclement weather training.

The picture I have appended above shows one of the Bar Pilots’ two boats.  Pilots either jump off of or onto the bow of the pilot boat after having travelled a ladder hung over the side of the ship.  This has to take place regardless of weather or time of day and can, understandably, be very dangerous.

If you find yourself in the Portland area or vacationing on the Oregon Coast I highly recommend a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  It has a great tribute to the pilots and their colleagues who pilot the river itself.  We’ve been twice and will likely go again.

Visit http://www.columbiariverbarpilots.com to learn more about the Bar Pilots.

By their very nature entrepreneurs are independent thinkers and personalities.  They have confidence in their own abilities and often drive blindingly toward their goals.  Sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much.

One of things all entrepreneurs could benefit from understanding is that they can’t do it all by themselves.  Successful businesses may be built on the vision of a leader (Ford, Microsoft and, closer to home, 1-800-Got-Junk, Jim Pattison Group and Rocky Mountaineer come to mind).  But they only succeed if that leader can assemble a team of complementary skill sets.

Bill Gates has Steve Ballmer, Sergei and Larry have Eric, Walt Disney had Roy, Clive Beddoe had Mark Hill.  I can’t emphasize enough the value of a good team – I have the war wounds to prove it.

PCWorks was my second business.  It struggled and I struggled in it for eighteen months.  I hired incorrectly, I took office space and other overhead on too quickly, I advertised to aggressively and I didn’t focus relentlessly enough on getting sales (ie cash from customers) in the door.

Even in light of all the challenges in that business, I always understood that I needed a team to work with me.  I understood my strengths.  More importantly, I understood my weaknesses.  Given my weaknesses I knew the business needed a cracker jack computer tech (I’m not a techie) and it needed a guerrilla salesperson.

Bringing a team together is easier said than done.  Even though I was looking for my “A-Team” from day one, it still took me eighteen months to find them.  And I didn’t meet them through an expensive head hunter, I found them through personal relationships.  My director of business development came through a longtime personal friend and my director of services came through professional acquaintance.

The lesson here for me is not to underestimate the challenge in finding the right team members at the right time in their professional lives and in the life of one’s business.

Entrepreneurs should never be afraid to ask for help.

For regular readers of this blog, you know that I take a great interest in politics – particularly in Canada and the US.  I also really enjoy English humour especially in the form of the Yes, Minister / Yes, Prime Minister and Fawlty Towers.

I think that those of you with similar interests will enjoy this vignette.  I’m afraid it might be closer to the truth than any of us would like!

Venture investors look for investment opportunities that show “hockey stick” patterns of growth.  In other words, a period of relatively flat growth succeeded by a very rapid and substantial growth in revenue/market share/profit etc.

According to this entertaining presentation of statistics on average incomes, population and life expectancies India and China are well along the path of their own socio-economic hockey stick.

If you have an interest in the economies of Asia and the western world then this Ted talk is worth fifteen minutes of your time.

My cousin Paul Giesbrecht is a great example of young entrepreneurship at its very best.

He was a first year Bachelor of Fine Arts student at UBC s when  he was thrust into the role of the accidental entrepreneur.  His mom founded LeslieJane, a women’s fashion store, in the seventies and, sadly, was taken prematurely by cancer.  Paul took over his mom’s store and learn entrepreneurship and business through the school of hard knocks.

He had to learn buying, negotiating with landlords, marketing, training, sales, hiring and firing, strategic and business planning, accounting and finance amongst other things.  All this while he studied fine arts at UBC.

He’s done a great job.  Now, ten years hence, Paul has celebrated the store’s thirtieth year with its best performance ever.  All this in a very difficult economic environment.

So, congratulations to Paul – the accidental entrepreneur who is doing great things for his business.

Check out this feature on him from the November 2008 edition of Business In Vancouver: