The Arc of a Border

The Arc of a Border

A Canadian Expatriate’s Relationship to the U.S.-Canada Border

We think of borders as being fixed by geography. Something that we can point to on a map. Something we experience when we cross it. Most Canadians live in proximity to the U.S. border and part of Canada’s identity is defined by this border. But for an expatriate living away from one’s home country, a border can be more elastic than fixed. Over time, the proximity to the border is measured less by physical distance and more by personal attention, relevance and interest. And so while a physical border in times of peace is rarely redrawn, for an expat, the border can actually stretch near and far over the years. For me, it has been in the shape of an arc – sometimes feeling very close and sometimes existing far away - regardless of the actual distance.

I now look at the longest undefended border in the world that Canada and the United States share having lived equal years on either side of it. It makes for an interesting perspective on what a border, this border, represents. Growing up in Southwestern Ontario, the border was multi-faceted. Despite being easy to cross, it meant protection for a smaller culture that could be easily overwhelmed by its much larger neighbour. But equally it could feel like an unwanted impediment to importing more of what makes the bigger culture exciting.

Professionally speaking, early on in my marketing career, the border spelled opportunity. As the first non-executive to be promoted from the Canadian subsidiary to the world headquarters in my company, crossing the border to live in the United States meant expanding my horizons, adding zeros to budgets, testing my abilities, and playing in the big leagues. I will never forget looking out of my office window high above Minneapolis one afternoon and seeing an American flag waving in the breeze and at that precise moment, feeling like I had really made a significant change in my life. I was actually living and working in the United States. And it was exhilarating!

Early on the border was a kind of life preserver – a safe harbour that I could return to and cross should the new home not be what my wife and I desired. In time; however, the border gradually became a mental wall, as we assimilated into the U.S., secured our green cards and started our family. Watching hockey was increasingly being replaced by enjoying basketball, and college basketball at that, and trips home were less pressing. Over time, celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving in October was less the main Thanksgiving we celebrated as the culturally more significant American celebration took root. Living outside the United States in Hong Kong and Singapore made this particular border all the more distant even though my family’s passports still proudly said “Canada”.

When the border became physically closer again upon returning to the United States from living in Asia, the mental distance did not. Successive regional moves within the U.S. brought new experiences along my career arc and Canada gradually became more distant and a smaller share of my identity.

But when we moved to Dallas, our little growing family began to seek out some of our Canadian roots. We joined a Canadian family network and began to socialize with others who shared our identity. And with a life goal of living in Southern California, that day finally game when I seized the opportunity to join a start-up based in SoCal. The physical distance between ‘home’ and ‘home and native land’ grew even further. So too did the mental distance. The elasticity of my border relationship had stretched wide.

But it was after nearly a decade of living the dream in Southern California that my Canadian roots came back to me all on their own. Not that they had ever left, but for many years, they were not how I primarily identified myself. A chance meeting with a Canadian networker in Orange County brought me in contact with fellow Canadian expatriate executives who were about to create an organization to connect Canadians together socially and for business value. What took root first was what comes easiest of course…hockey games, Canadian Thanksgiving and Canada Day celebrations.

At the same time, our daughters were growing old enough to be able to appreciate more of our Canadian roots. Fulfilling the stereotype, their parents brought them to their first NHL game.  I like to think the instant attraction for a 12 year old and a 9 year old came somewhere from within their Canadian DNA, as the appeal was instant and those early games sparked a newfound enjoyment of Canada’s game.

As a marketer, I am trained to think about positioning, differentiation, and unique voices for brands, be they for consumers or businesses. Now well into my second decade of living in the U.S., I experienced an organic renaissance of my Canadian identity. It was no longer something to overlook instead it increasingly came back to me as a vibrant part of my identity. And it did not mean that I had to be any less part of the U.S. especially after my wife and I became U.S. citizens joining our daughters who were both born in the U.S. It was a complement to our newly minted citizenship in our adopted country that has given us so much to appreciate and be thankful for.

So now, Canada was no longer exclusively in the rear view mirror but an important facet of my current persona and a growing part of my future. An opportunity to co-found a business network with a friend and fellow expat expressly to build a business bridge between Southern California and Canada bilaterally became a defining moment for me. Now the border was a focus. Helping businesses of all sizes and in all sectors to cross that border in both directions for business benefit. Foreign direct investment. Trade. Entrepreneurship. Innovation. Collaboration.

And so now in the third year of growing a sticky and meaningful cross-border organization with a mission to connect Southern California and Canada, the border has become a destination. Something to celebrate. A focal point.

In 2017, I began to live more of my life in the United States than in Canada. I feel truly blessed to benefit from two amazing, dynamic, and complementary cultures. Neighbours. Partners. Allies. Friends. Both with some blemishes but also full of shining stars and brilliant maple leaves.

My border relationship continues to be elastic and my border arc is still moving. I anticipate to some extent it will continue to do so.  From once defining an imagined horizon of new opportunities, representing a safe harbour, defining where I’ve been, a relevant differentiator, and now a defining opportunity. My border relationship has been unpredictable, uniquely mine, and something very special to treasure.

It's Time to Look North of the Border

It’s Time We Look North Of the Border (Letter to Wine Spectator Magazine)

An excerpted version of this letter was published in the April 30, 2018 issue.

As a big fan and long-term reader of Wine Spectator, I find the lack of coverage of Canada’s wines a bit of an international blindspot. Across its over 670 wineries and 31,000 acres devoted to grape growing, Canada has transformed its wine industry in the past 30 years with high quality vitis vinifera wines and exciting new wineries in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula. Both offer visitors spectacular scenery, beautiful wine routes, and passionate winemakers eager to share their craft.  I’ve recently enjoyed exceptional wines from Castoro de Oro in B.C. and Stratus Wines in Niagara – the latter also being the first winery in Canada to earn LEED Canada certification. And noteworthy vineyards are by no means limited to these regions either with exciting momentum in Prince Edward County in Ontario, Québec, and Nova Scotia. 

Canada’s wine districts are within a day’s drive for millions of Americans with the U.S. buyer enjoying a meaningful currency exchange advantage. Wine-related tourism in Canada welcomes over 3.7 million tourists a year and yet there is rarely a mention in the industry’s leading wine publication.  With a population a tenth of the U.S., Canada is the largest single nation buyer of California wines importing over $460 million (USD) in 2015. Let’s recognize there are more than consumers north of the border, but some terrific tastes to discover too.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit


Celebrating Two Years of MAPLE Business Council®

MAPLE Business Council® wishes to thank our members, board, sponsors, partners and followers on the occasion of the second anniversary since launching our cross-border organization. A special thank you to our ambassadors and volunteers who have sacrificed their valuable time to help grow our organization. We appreciate everyone's participation and contributions to our mission of connecting Southern California and Canada more closely together. To mark the milestone, we have developed a new infographic to profile the MAPLE community "By the Numbers".


Since launching MAPLE in May 2015, community has been at the heart of our organization. We set out to develop a network that spans business sectors and size of businesses to create a diversity of experience and expertise that will be most beneficial to members interested in exploring opportunities across borders. To date, MAPLE membership includes 19 different business sectors with members across Canada (from St. John's Newfoundland to Vancouver, BC) and throughout Southern California.  Major Canadian brands such as Air Canada, Brookfield, Purolator International, and RBC are among the membership which also includes government organizations including Opportunities New Brunswick, the County of Riverside and the City of Murrieta, California.

Community means coming together on a regular basis to meet in person, make connections, learn from one another and build relationships. In the first two years, MAPLE has hosted 30 events including 20 quarterly networking events in San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles. In addition, special events have created some noteworthy networking including hosting the mayors of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge, Ontario from Canada's "Silicon Valley", Waterloo Region, to promoting the Province of New Brunswick at the Official Residence of Canada in Los Angeles.

The three primary work streams of MAPLE, investment, trade and entrepreneurship, could not be more topical these days and keeping abreast of the discussions on both sides of the border is therefore critically important. On a daily basis, MAPLE shares key news of interest to our cross-border community through our social media channels. A special thank you to Ms. Michelle Thompson for her excellent work in sharing key news of the day. We also use these channels to amplify member organizations' own messaging by sharing news and announcements from members' own channels.

And as a cross-border community with thousands of miles between our members, simply keeping connected to one another requires timely communications. MAPLE produces two monthly e-newsletters focused on events and member welcomes including a new communication, MOMENTUM, launched in 2017 that spotlight the missions and work of two member organizations each month in their own words. Together, these newsletters reach thousands of followers across Canada and the U.S. each month.

Earlier this year, we led our first business delegation to Canada as part of our third Canadian mission. Six companies joined MAPLE for "48 hours in Vancouver, Canada". We scheduled the trip during the week of BC Tech Summit, an annual celebration of innovation in the province, enabling members to attend this conference too. Our delegation met with leading business and government agencies over two days. In addition, MAPLE hosted a sold-out networking reception in Vancouver bringing together area executives, investors, and entrepreneurs for an opportunity to learn more about doing business with Southern California. Based on the success of our initial delegation, we are planning future delegations to Toronto and Montréal in the coming year.

Most recently, MAPLE has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with World Trade Center Los Angeles to collaborate on opportunities to promote more investment and trade between LA and Canada. The organizations have already been sharing information on the depth of Canada's investment in LA and Southern California (did you know Canada is the 5th largest investing nation here?) and are inviting members to attend the upcoming Select LA conference on June 14-16.

Thank you to all who have supported our journey in our first two years. Canada and Southern California are two incredible places that share a long history of friendship and economic partnership. It is an honour to work to bring more opportunities to two places we call home. The best is yet to come.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Could You Be Undermining Your Customers?

Could you be undermining your customers? No one deliberately sets out to do it but it happens all too often. And the opportunity cost can be significant.

Imagine a company with a successful product or service that markets to businesses. The company has a great website, they work hard to nurture a great brand, and they are diligent about following up on new business leads. The team is smart and motivated and the company’s product or service is effective at fulfilling its promise. The company is growing.
What could be missing?
Too often it is the customer who is missing from the marketing mix. The company may attract, convert and even retain their customers very effectively but they may be neglecting to “mine” the inherent marketing value that resides within their customers to help them grow smarter. This lack of focus on a customer base as a marketing asset can result in missing sales that can be closed faster and at less expense. 
So how do you avoid “undermining” your customers?
Start by asking yourself how well do you understand them. You may have already segmented your customer base by product/service, market geography and buyer persona. But beyond macro-level segmentation, how well do you understand the challenges and opportunities that your customers are facing and what led them to purchase from you to solve these? And how well do your customers understand the value that they have generated from your solution?

There is a wellspring of content waiting.
Once you can articulate what types of customer successes exist, you realize that each customer represents far more than the sum of their orders. They can be your next case study, press release, white paper, conference lecture, blog or podcast. They may also be your next testimonial, referral or endorsement. In today’s marketing world where content rules, there is a wellspring of content and insights ready to be accessed and shared by first connecting back with your customers to mine their experiences.
Achieve a win/win outcome.

And the end result does not serve just your brand. By celebrating the successes of your customers, you are burnishing their brand too.  And through the discovery process of exploring the impact of your solution on their business, together you can identify benefits that may have been previously overlooked by you both.
Engaging your customers in the process gives your company a more motivated and informed customer base to pursue endorsements, referral opportunities, and repeat orders. Truly this customer reconnect is an integral part of their buyer journey and your marketing strategy. It's time to start mining!  Customer marketing is one of many areas that The 360 Marketer provides strategic and tactical support for emerging and established brands.

The 360 Marketer is a marketing consultancy based on over 30 years of growing leading B2C and B2B brands in multiple verticals in Canada, the United States, and México. To learn more, please visit or contact Stephen Armstrong at 714.878.5427 or

Bridging Pacific Coast Neighbors

As Pacific coast neighbors, California and British Columbia embrace both an outlook for new ideas and an appetite for innovation. To their respective countrymen in the rest of their nations, these innovative regions are viewed with a sense of pride and curiosity as wellsprings of new trends, ideas and tastes. They also have the best waves for surfing.

Both regions are national gateways to lands across the Pacific and stand as their countries’ first port of welcome to immigrants across Asia. Each is richly endowed with natural beauty and natural resources – one even laying claim to a ‘Super, Natural’ standard of beauty in a longstanding advertising campaign. And both have been key destinations in the growth of their nations, one famously by rail where the last spike was laid, and the other by a passionate quest to discover the West. Today each is a global destination where the world gathers to explore, innovate and connect.

While in some ways they share parallel journeys, Southern California and BC are also fans of each other. In fact, Southern California represents the largest source of overnight visitors to BC from the U.S. The affection goes both ways of course, as Canadians are a major source of tourism for Los Angeles and all of Southern California. There are as many as 230 flights a week between Vancouver and Southern California making Southern California the largest air travel market between Vancouver and the US. It is easy to forget sometimes how close we really are. Our flight on Air Canada from LAX to Vancouver was less than 3 hours. That is closer than traveling from LA to Austin.

We compete with each other too. Southern California, the world’s capital of entertainment, has a northern neighbor who is in its own right a major place for television and movies. In fact, Vancouver is the third-largest film development center.

Technology is one of the newest points of interaction. Just as California is synonymous with “tech”, BC continues to transform its resource-rich economy to promote new sources of growth including a significant tech sector that the province is celebrating this week with the annual BC Tech Summit. MAPLE will be there.

There is, of course, a longstanding trade relationship between BC and California too. The trade data indicates that California's top buys are electrical energy, fresh fish, particleboard, lumber and unwrought zinc. In fact, California ranks second among all states for BC exports. And California is a major exporter to Canada of produce, grape wines, nuts and petroleum oils. In 2016, merchandise trade between BC and all of California was US $4.4 billion.

MAPLE is making our first mission to British Columbia in our second year since founding our Canada-Southern California business council. We are visiting leading organizations in the province to learn more about the state and trends in overall trade, attracting international head offices to Vancouver, film and the creative arts, wireless and IOT, the tech sector at large, how emerging companies can access the capital markets and graduate-level education innovation. While our week in Vancouver is our third mission since founding MAPLE 22 months ago, this is our first delegation mission. We are delighted to be joined by several MAPLE member organizations representing logistics, corporate, securities and immigration law who share our interest in taking the pulse of Vancouver.

 Our trip will be capped by our sold-out cross-border reception sponsored by Air Canada and Snell & Wilmer LLP where the MAPLE delegates and area executives, entrepreneurs, investors and educators will get to know each other better.

At MAPLE, we are bridge builders at our core. Connecting people and ideas together to promote opportunities in cross-border investment, trade and entrepreneurship. This week perhaps we should call it “Lions Gating” in honor of one of Vancouver’s iconic bridges. That would surely be Super, Natural.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

“Exchange – Explore – Engage” The Role of Events in Growing a Cross-Border Community

At MAPLE Business Council, events are a key component of our cross-border outreach between Southern California and Canada. With a mission to connect individuals, ideas and organizations together across sectors, growth stages and regional and national borders, events are a pivotal foundation for building relationships. And once you have made a connection with someone then opportunities can be explored and resources engaged.

In our first 20 months since launching MAPLE, we’ve hosted nearly 25 events. Its not our only form of programming but they play an important role. These have included intimate networking events, a fireside chat, international panel discussions to a dinner reception at the Canadian Official Residence. The exact formula of each event of course differs depending on the objectives, target audience, location, even the time of day. (and never forget Los Angeles traffic!)

So what does it take to for an event to be effective?

It starts of course with clearly identifying your meeting objectives. Will this be a general orientation to a topic, an exchange or debate of ideas, an in-depth exploration of an issue? How many people are involved in communicating the messages? Each suggests a different approach to how the communications will be managed. 

And then consideration should be given to your target audience. What is their incoming knowledge of what is being presented? What are their motivations for attending? What constraints need to be considered in terms of meeting time, access and even sometimes protocols? What will represent a meaningful ROI for their time?

Identifying this information upfront is important and helps to lay the groundwork for the event design. At MAPLE, we look at events, no matter the format, as having a core DNA. We consider it as the three E’s – “Exchange – Explore – Engage”.

It starts with “Exchange”. Having a dedicated time period for networking brings immediate value in making key connections. You want to know who is in the room first. It’s about creating connections between guests and between speakers and guests. It can be a primer for the content that will be formally shared later on. A sense of camaraderie can be fostered especially if the event is celebratory or becomes a shared experience of something new.

The meat of the event is typically the “Explore” stage. Here the core content is presented. This can be by lecture, individual presentations, moderated panel discussion or debate, a fireside chat. Video content can amplify the key messages and set the tone of the event.

At this point, it is easy to end an event with people departing without a clear idea of how to “Engage” further. This is a common mistake. A good event will leave the audience with a call-to-action. This can be facilitated by concluding remarks, distribution of materials, identification of online content, access to speakers and thought-leaders informally after the event, and through an additional networking period. Key messages can be reinforced after the event too through post-event communications.

The event does not end when the lights go out. Post event marketing can reinforce key takeaways, strengthen a sense of community by memorializing and celebrating what was shared together, provide access to additional content and resources that can expand the reach of the event content further.  And of the course the networking dividend of the event has the potential to continue on indefinitely.

With the “Exchange-Explore-Engage” model tailored to the best format for content sharing and the needs of the target audience, the value of an event can be optimized for all involved. What is hard to measure, but becomes the ultimate ROI of the event, are the outcomes from the connections made and the information shared.

In a networking environment that lives between the meeting participants, much of which will not be visible to the meeting hosts who orchestrated the event. For the clients on whose behalf the event was produced, contacts, leads, and future engagements will be among the key metrics to measure. And there are the intangibles of increased awareness for their brand and the regard with which it is held. These are difficult to measure in isolation but are certainly potential benefits.

Lastly, the event should not be an island unto itself but a tactic that is part of a broader outreach to a target audience. Events can act as a prelude to deeper and more targeted discussions with groups or one-on-one. They can mark key milestones and of course be annualized touch points. Ideally they are part of an ongoing narrative. At MAPLE, our quarterly networking events play an important continuity role for key communications with our community such as networking reconnects, council updates and member presentations, that are then accented throughout the year with meetings that focus on particular opportunities or topics within our overall cross-border mission.

Events are the lifeblood of a growing community providing valuable exchanges, explorations and engagements. For those interested in cross-border opportunities between Southern California and Canada, we invite you to exchange, explore and engage with us at a future MAPLE event.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Canada Super Session Soundbites at Get Global 2016

MAPLE, the Canadian-U.S. Business Council of Southern California, had the pleasure this week of hosting a panel discussion on doing business with Canada at the inaugural Get Global Growth Conference in Los Angeles.

Our panelists included Mr. Timothy Liu, Senior Director of Commercial Strategy at Air Canada, Ms. Tina Shih, Consul & Trade Commissioner at the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles and Mr. Robert Laplante, CEO of media representation firm, Media-Corps. Our moderator was Ms. Rachel Horning, Policy Manager at the LA County Business Federation. Here are some sound bites from a wide-ranging discussion on the advantages and opportunities to do business in and with Canada.

"In a population of 35 million people, you will find every type of talent you will need."

"Why Canada? Simply put, it makes business sense."

"Companies can save up to 40% when they operate in Canada."

"The quality of the universities in Canada is very high."

"You need to keep in mind that Canadians are value conscious."

"Canadians get Americans really well."

"Think bigger than just Canada's population of 35 million. Canada's trade agreements provide access to 480 million more people too."

"The luxury category of retail is doing very well in Canada."

"Canada as a brand cannot be underestimated."

"As a Canadian company we ask ourselves what it means to be truly Canadian."

"Progressive, friendly, open-minded and eco-conscious are some of the Canadian brand attributes we want to express when dealing with our guests."

Thank you to all our panelists and our moderator for an engaging and insightful discussion and to the Get Global conference team for an exceptional conference.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

The Southern California Innovation Corridor - Excellence Spans Our Coast

Excellence spans our coast. Silicon Beach, Pasadena, Irvine, San Diego, Downtown LA and Santa Barbara – the names are all familiar. Many of us have visited for business or pleasure. But how much do we know of these communities as centers of innovation? Moreover, how are they different from each other in their sector focus and supporting ecosystems? And if I am seeking to launch my innovation in SoCal or expand my business, which is the best location for my goals?

Now consider an investor from outside the state or the country. What is known across borders about the diversity and depth of the innovation centers that are strung along Southern California? Individually, each community has their own personality, sector strengths, champions and sphere of influence and new innovation centers are emerging. For example, the City of Murrieta is nurturing an innovation community within its attractive corner of Riverside County.

What is missing is a macro view of the entire region and the changes that continue to shape its contours. This collective view can serve as a calling card for the region benefiting all within it.

There are existing examples of innovation corridors that have established an international reputation for the collective strength of their communities who share a focus on tech startups. Most notable is the 20 mile-long Silicon Valley known worldwide as a preeminent center for tech and innovation.

One perhaps less known here in Southern California is the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor in Ontario, Canada. Anchored by Canada’s financial capital of Toronto and Waterloo Region with its three primary cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, the 70-mile corridor boasts 16 universities & colleges, access to 6 million people with 15,000 tech companies and 200,000 tech workers. It also offers a compelling collocation of auto and tech corridors for autonomous vehicle innovations.

As an innovation center north of the 49th parallel, it naturally takes a little more effort to establish recognition in the U.S despite the world-class University of Waterloo, heavy sustained recruitment from Silicon Valley and the second-highest density of startups per capita in North America. What is truly impressive is the active collaboration of the cities within the Waterloo Region both with each other and with Toronto. The region has recognized that despite the depth of innovation and sector strengths in each community within the corridor, the collective region, the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, is stronger by marketing the strengths and shared resources of the overall region. MAPLE saw this first hand when we hosted the mayors of Waterloo Region and the CEO of the region’s economic development corporation, for a panel discussion on nurturing an innovation economy in downtown Los Angeles earlier this year.

Southern California can learn from the regional marketing model such as the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor. Without taking away focus on each individual SoCal tech community, developing a complementary tier of marketing around a Southern California innovation identity will help attract foreign investment by giving more clarity to what exists and where within the region. FDI is essentially matchmaking and helping to match the investor with the best home for their business goals is a big win/win. It will also help Southern California compete with Silicon Valley more effectively when foreign investors seek a California footprint.

The investment dollars, world-class universities, start-up incubators and co-working partners are already here and growing. The World Trade Center Los Angeles recently made a significant step forward in marketing the region with its research on foreign direct investment not just for LA County but for the six counties in the region.

These infographics on Southern California begin to tell a story of what makes a Southern California Innovation Corridor profile interesting.

Lets work together to build an identity for Southern California as an innovation region to attract more of the world’s leading businesses and brightest entrepreneurs to one of the most beautiful and dynamic parts of the world.  As the expression goes, “a rising Southern California tide lifts all boats”

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Rediscovering Waterloo Region

One of the rewards of growing a cross-border organization promoting trade, investment and entrepreneurship between regions are the discoveries you make. People, places and innovations. One of these discoveries is Waterloo Region in Ontario, Canada.

Growing up in Ontario, I have some childhood memories of Waterloo Region whose major communities are Cambridge, Kitchener and the City of Waterloo. My earliest memory of this now nearly 600,000 strong metro area located 70 miles southwest of Toronto was when I could join my father on a business trip to the region’s dairies. We would always stop for a large plate of wiener schnitzel with extra lemon wedges at one of the many German restaurants in the area – a hallmark of the region’s German heritage. In fact, until September 1st 1916, nearly 100 years ago, the city of Kitchener was named Berlin.

Today’s Waterloo Region is a dynamic and multicultural innovation engine on the North American landscape. Home to the 2nd highest density of start-ups per capita after Silicon Valley, there is a tremendous energy of ideas and innovation fuelled by the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College, 150 research institutes and over 1000 technology firms. Incubators and accelerators nurture and mentor innovation and there is a feeling of collaboration across investor, government, academic and business stakeholders. The community works and plays together.

Waterloo has a lot to offer businesses looking for a new location to expand in North America. An attractive cost of living, a high quality of life, retention rates of engineers that are 2.5-3x that of Silicon Valley, an incredible pool of engineering talent and opportunities for significant R&D savings.  And why not locate where Silicon Valley recruits and within proximity of 200 million people

At MAPLE, we are about building bridges between Southern California and Canada by connecting people & expertise and curating ideas & insights that can help reduce the friction in cross-border growth. We are honored to be working with Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation to increase the awareness of Waterloo Region within Southern California. And there could not be a better time to get acquainted. In September, the Waterloo Innovation Summit and the AutoTech Symposium are kicking off a season of thought-leadership gatherings.

We’ve put together these infographics to help tell just some of the Waterloo Region story. If you are interested in learning how Waterloo could be the home for your next office, R&D facility, call center – let us know at MAPLE. We’d like to build a bridge for your business. There’s more info at Access Waterloo Excellence.

And I guarantee you’ll love the schnitzel.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Entrepreneurs Sans Frontières

Ideas can travel around the world in 140 characters. But an entrepreneur is more often to be rooted in place tethered to a nurturing ecosystem as they develop their business. How can we help the entrepreneur explore new markets across borders that can provide new stimuli for their vision and in so doing fortify their model and accelerate their growth?

A new market in a different country represents new ideas, fresh talent, additional investors and more clients. This represents a significant opportunity for startups who grow up in Canada beside a southern neighbor with a market size of 10x or more for their inspiration. The opportunity is not to displace or transplant the Canadian-based innovation but to strengthen the overall business by successfully tapping into what a new region offers.

But how does an entrepreneur explore the opportunity for his/her idea to take root in a market outside of their country?

There are excellent investment-centric networking programs connecting Canadian startups to Silicon Valley but what if the end game is not finding an investor but navigating a new market for product or market validation, funding yes too but also sales and partner opportunities and the potential to open a satellite office staffed with in-market talent? It requires finding the right match based on the sector, business goals, business and even lifestyle. Is this a place where my business can grow? Can a presence in this region strengthen my overall business based in Canada? Is there a lifestyle match for our team? So in this hyper-connected world of ideas, knowledge sharing and daily conversation, how do we physically connect the entrepreneur to a new market with expert navigation that saves the startup time and money and leads to more informed growth decisions?

Enter Entrepreneur Tourism™.  A model of expert market navigation tailored to a startup’s business needs that enables an entrepreneur to assess the fit of a market or region as a place to penetrate the American market.  Now imagine a turnkey model that integrates air travel, ground transportation, work space and accommodations with the business networking and on-the-ground market intelligence as part of a turnkey model for a week or month. What is the value to a brand sponsor in any of these sectors by supporting such a program that facilitates future investment and business in the local region, connects them with innovative businesses and engenders brand loyalty?   

The ingredients for such a program can be found in a business network operating in a region on behalf of the entrepreneur’s home country. Within these networks are domain experts, brands, expatriate executives, subsidiaries of international parents and long-term in-market residents sensitive to the questions a traveling entrepreneur will have about the new region, and in many cases, experienced in making the transition themselves. In other words, they represent market navigators.

Today’s start-up entrepreneur need not break away from the ecosystem that nurtures them in Canada or elsewhere but instead embrace the opportunity to be an “entrepreneur sans frontières” with the help of a connected community across a border engaged in a structured model of market navigation.

Its time for Entrepreneur Tourism™.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting investment, trade and entrepreneurship between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Let's Build a Bridge Together

Many of the world’s great cities are known by their bridges. San Francisco has the Golden Gate, New York has The Brooklyn, Sydney – The Harbour, Vancouver - The Lions Gate, and Paris – Pont Neuf. There are many more that have captivated visitors and made an indelible mark on a city’s identity.

What is it about a bridge that stays with us?

The architectural prowess and feats of engineering that were required to build it? The beauty of the design? Or could it be something deeper and more intrinsic to what a bridge represents?

The idea of spanning a chasm, connecting two places together means freedom, opportunity and unity. A bridge elevates us physically and mentally and can take us somewhere new and in so doing become a destination unto itself.

At MAPLE Business Council, at its core, our mission is in fact about bridge building. We are creating a community in Canada and Southern California that is linked together by a common purpose to foster more opportunities for businesses to collaborate between our geographies through trade and investment. Facilitating Southern California client opportunities for a Canadian company, new markets for a Southern California business. Scaling a startup’s innovation, growth for an established enterprise. Our MAPLE “bridge” supports businesses at all growth stages and sectors. We are linking a nation and a region fortified by the participation and expertise of all our members.

It is perhaps not surprising that a bridge plays a big role between Canadian-American trade. The Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario with Detroit, Michigan is the busiest border crossing in North America as measured by trade volume accounting for 25% of all merchandise trade. The border crossing supports 150,000 jobs in the region and US$13 billion in annual production.

Our bridge is still under construction and may never be truly finished. So we invite you to travel on the MAPLE bridge with us as a guest or member in 2016. For sponsors, MAPLE is a special and unique opportunity to support your regional business goals and corporate citizenship commitments. If Canada or Southern California is part of your brand's DNA, sponsoring our bridge is truly on point (or should that be on "pont"?) But however we engage together, we want to thank you for buttressing a great partnership and friendship that exists between Canada and Southern California.

And for helping us to build a new bridge together.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting trade and investment between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Mexico City Moments - A Marketer in North America's Largest City

Has a place ever captivated your imagination?

Growing up in Canada, I did not think too much about México.  The United States was too omnipresent – television, music, cars, and vacations. Growing up meant speaking English and learning French. Méxican culture and Spanish were just one step beyond in a horizon that was framed more by the United Kingdom, Europe and the U.S.

After living in the United States for nearly 25 years, México kept its distance – a foreign land of great food, beautiful beaches and warm and friendly people but ironically too close to ever have a sense of urgency to visit. After all, we can always go to México some other time when more distant lands called.  And so it went, with trips to Europe and Asia but México eluded me.

One of the joys of life are the serendipities that can happen. For me, it was an email from a person I did not know who one day took the time to write a letter expressing his interest in a cloud-based technology platform that the company where I worked was marketing in the United States. The email had been sent to a colleague and in the course of other priorities remained an opportunity in a note in an inbox.

“an opportunity in a note, in an inbox”

I discovered the letter and it excited and moved me. Here was a successful businessman/entrepreneur who reached across the border to share a vision and an excitement for our technology. The letter must be answered. As some months had transpired since the email was first sent, it took more than one response to the sender to make contact. Contact led quickly to a connection and a shared vision to explore the potential for this technology in México starting in México City.

“the letter must be answered”

For some unexplained reason, México City has always had an allure for me in my relationship with México. Without ever learning much about Distrito Federal, I knew it to be a mega-city, full of life, traffic and culture. More than the beaches of Cancun or Acapulco, when my thoughts did turn to traveling to my neighbor to the south, I was intrigued to explore this urban center. Having lived in Toronto, Hong Kong, Singapore, near Los Angeles and having worked in New York City, large cities mean excitement, energy and possibility. And so it was for me with México City.

My first trip to México City was in November 2012 and my wife and I stayed at the gracious Four Seasons hotel on the Paseo de la Reforma. There is nothing more exciting than parachuting into a culture for the first time and immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and smells. Your senses are amplified incredibly and suddenly you see, hear and smell with superhuman ability.

For the next year, I travelled to México City nearly twice a month – commuting from Los Angeles.  I would arrive on the evening flight where my taxi would navigate the labyrinth of streets to my various hotels.

Over the course of my travels, I found a beautiful historic apartment in La Condesa where an outdoor market would grace the nearby street every Tuesday filling my senses once again with a cacophony of colors, tastes and smells. This became my place in México City… my home away from home.

“this became my place in México City…my home away from home”

When my workdays ended or early in the mornings, I would walk the streets of México City sometimes for hours at a time. There is no better to learn a city than by walking. And it was on these many walks that I discovered so many México City treasures. Not the famous museums or the celebrated shops. Not the monuments or the statues. I visited most of these and duly love them all. But for me, what really stole my heart were the moments…the México City Moments….that I stumbled on, sometimes literally, as I walked Roma, La Condesa, Polanco, and other neighborhoods in the center of town.

“what really stole my heart were the moments”

Here are some that have stayed with me.

1.     Walking past a bakery in the early morning somewhere in Roma and stopping to see two bakers facing each other kneading dough together framed by the arch of their front door.

2.     A bicyclist playing an electric guitar as he peddled sharing his music with an amplifier on his back.

3.     Girls in beautiful gowns in a rainbow of colours celebrating their quinceaneras by holding hands around the Angel of Independence

4.     A little girl dressed as a clown performing in the street with her father in front of a busy intersection

5.     A doorman whom I grew to know at the Hilton who insisted on taking down the name of the taxi driver and the license plate before I took a red taxi one evening

6.     The first time seeing the otherworldly beauty of the top floor of the Soumayo museum with its breathtaking collection of sculptures

7.     Perusing books en plein air in a library in Bosque Chapultepec that has a tree growing in the middle of it

8.     Sitting in a café in Polanco late at night being serenaded by some boisterous diners singing a Pitbull song at the top of their lungs

9. The courtesy of saying “buen día” to people when you leave an elevator

10. Walking the entire Avenida Amsterdam

11. Watching a master chocolatier prepare his treasures through the window along the Avenida Amsterdam

12. Meeting Chef Eduardo Osuna who was gracious to stop for a chat in a hotel lobby after being introduced by a friend

13. Having a new staff member at The Four Seasons Hotel be introduced to me on their first day of work

14. Sitting on a rooftop bar in Polanco as dusk settles in and watching a movie projected on the side of a neighboring building

15. Trying Oaxacan stone soup for the first, second and third times….

16. Tasting pozole at Casa de Antonio and being instructed by my friends on how best to order and eat it

17. Watching the dogs hang out in Parque Espana

18. The upside down fountain at the Camino Real hotel

19. Seeing an old bus turned into a performing art space in La Condesa

20. A young man dressed all in black with his head hung low sitting on a sidewalk with one long-stemmed yellow rose in his hands

21. Being invited to dinner at a family home and being treated like I was part of the family. Afterwards having the entire family stand outside in the rain late at nigh to wave good bye

22. Sitting for endless hours in taxis and witnessing random acts of bravery or craziness navigating through and around traffic

23. Strolling the ponds in Parque Lincoln

24. An unexpected splash of rosa mexicano or other bright color on a wall

25. The beauty and grace of a proffered cheek to kiss hello when being introduced to a lady

26. Seeing a brightly painted bicycle decorated with flowers on a street corner

27. Savoring the beautiful juxtaposition of stylish modern and gracious old architecture side-by-side on so many streets

28. Discovering the history of México as told by Octavio Paz in The Labyrinth of Solitude

29. Throwing a dinner party for my friends in my Condesa apartment

30. Seeing families enjoy the Paseo de la Reforma on bicycle, foot and rollerblade on a Sunday morning and calling my wife excitedly to say “we have to move here!”

I realize these moments are from but a small corner of a very large and diverse city but I have wanted to share my piece of the city ever since my last trip in late 2013. But once again, it was always a case of having something else to do. What has kept these memories alive for me is having written my observations down in a journal during my trips. I am so happy that I did this. And by sharing my love for México City with friends and family when the conversation turns to travel.  I hope to return to México City some day, and share a fuerte abrazo with my queridos amigos who call it home, and to share this beautiful, magical place with my family.

Where we will create some new México City moments.

Con fuerte abrazo!

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting trade and investment between Canada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Reflections on Launching a Business Network

Life is about the relationships we make. Our lives are full of important ones. As children, we are defined by our relationships with our parents, siblings and our extended family. As we grow up, school and our peers become our focal points and many of us later identify closely with our university. Through our adult lives, family, friends and our work relationships are central. Some are transitory; many are part of us forever. With each relationship, there is an opportunity to share part of us and to learn and grow from each other. The sharing that occurs through these relationships shapes who we are and who we will become.

We have a relationship with our country too. And it becomes a little more complicated when you leave your home country to make a home in a new one. You are attracted to the opportunities of a new destination to make your home but you don’t want to forget your roots. As an expatriate, you bring with you the experiences of another culture that is a gift that you share with friends in your new country and something you celebrate together with fellow expatriates. But your focus can change over time. When we first moved to Minneapolis from Toronto in 1989, our focus was building my marketing career and creating our family. Canada was in the rear view mirror increasingly the longer we lived in the U.S. Opportunities in Southeast Asia and Mexico at different times put more miles between home and Canada.

I am now quickly reaching the point in my life when I will have lived longer in the United States than in Canada. I’ve already become a United States citizen, our children were born and raised in the U.S. and our home has been in California for the past 15 years. We love it here. And yet in the past year I have never felt more connected to Canada and my Canadian roots too. And the exciting dimension of it is that having roots elsewhere is accretive to being an American citizen.  As an immigrant, what I bring to relationships professionally and personally is a product of my life, experiences and perspectives in two great nations. That these nations are also neighbours, friends, allies and trading partners makes the opportunity to bridge my relationship with each country so much better.

So when my co-founder, Robert Kelle, shared with me that he wanted to create a business networking group that would fulfill our original vision when founding Canadians in Orange County in 2010 to promote business connections between Southern California and Canada, the vision struck a chord with me. Here is an opportunity to create a new relationship with both my home and native land and my home in Southern California by bridging themtogether. Now with the support of our board, our member organizations and our friends, we have created a vibrant new organization…MAPLE Business Council. 

It has been seven months since we launched MAPLE. With an exciting new brand, five networking meetings in three cities, 13 organizations represented in our membership, 15 presentations, and hundreds of new friends, MAPLE is establishing itself in the Southern California communities we serve with our own unique voice. Thank you to everyone who shares our excitement and commitment to bridging the Canadian and Southern California business communities to create and accelerate new opportunities on both sides of the border. We invite you to join MAPLE and look forward to serving you in 2016 and beyond.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting trade and investment betweenCanada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Planting a Southern California MAPLE in Ontario, Canada

Going international is not typically an initiative that start-ups undertake within the first six months of forming but when your mission is cross-border trade and investment, it figures more prominently on the launch calendar.

When my co-founder Robert Kelle and I launched MAPLE Business Council with our board of directors in May of this year, it was with a mission to connect businesses between Canada and Southern California bilaterally.  All are welcome in our sector- agnostic, stage-agnostic community of executives, entrepreneurs, investors and service providers.

With 12 organizations with Canadian ties now part of MAPLE, we embarked on a weeklong “trade mission” to Toronto, Canada in November. It has been nothing short of a remarkable experience. We have connected with established businesses as diverse as architecture, construction management, global logistics, banking, wealth management, entertainment, fashion, digital media and manufacturing. Businesses with missions, divisions and clients on both sides of the border.

Our visits to the vibrant and growing start-up communities in Toronto and Waterloo were a window on a remarkable innovation ecosystem of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, government and start-up coaches eager to create the environment and supply the ingredients to help new ideas flourish - be they in life sciences, fintech, high-tech, big data… the list goes on.  From seed to scale, there is no shortage of passion to nurture, challenge and stimulate. To grow.

If there is a secret sauce in these communities it is collaboration across academia, government, investors and entrepreneurs. For example, the University of Waterloo and its coop program begins a path for student entrepreneurs that is continued through a rainforest of hubs, incubators and accelerators. And in Toronto, organizations such as MaRS and OneEleven have crafted impressive innovation communities.

And collaboration is at the heart of MAPLE too. While not a tree found in any rainforest, we are a growing organization with deep roots in Canada and Southern California. It has been a privilege to share the story of Southern California with Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs this past week as it will be to bring back to Southern California all the exciting work in Ontario.

It may be winter, but MAPLE is about to bloom.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting trade and investment betweenCanada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

Canadians in California: Through the Lens of Facebook

Canada is our neighbour to the north. The one who spells neighbour with a "u".

Generally it is a country we don't spend much time thinking about even though (or perhaps because) we share the longest undefended border in the world and have forged the world's largest trade and security partnership. Over $734 billion a year in two-way goods and services trade in fact. That's $1.4 million per minute. Canada is our #1 customer nationally buying more from the U.S. than does any other nation and that includes all 28 nations in the European Union - combined. Recently our neighbor has been in the news as one of the Trans- Pacific Partnership nations and this week, for a national election which brings a new Prime Minister to office.

At MAPLE Business Council, we are a non-profit organization focused on bringing attention to the robust trade and the deep partnership which exists between Southern California and Canada as we connect executives and entrepreneurs for bilateral business opportunities. As the second largest trading partner with the state of California, Canada participates in approximately $46 billion a year in goods and services trade. We have historic ties that date back to fur trading days and today over 1.2 million California jobs are tied to trade and investment with Canada. Definitely a relationship not just worth thinking about but a partnership worth celebrating!

On a household level California has long been a popular destination for Canadians to vacation and escape winters that last too long. And many Canadians have made the Golden State their home after coming here to study, vacation or for work. As Canadians we are not easily identifiable as an expatriate community which can obscure the contributions we are making as fellow Californians. In fact, we often hear from both Americans and Canadians living in California how they belatedly "discovered" that a neighbor, co-worker or friend hails from Canada originally.

One admittedly non-scientific way to glean a few insights on our neighbors - the "Canadians Among Us" - is to look at the profile of Facebook users who self-identify as Canadian expats with an interest in Canada. This group actually numbers 35-40,000 active users per month - certainly not close to representing all Canadians in California but a sizable cohort nonetheless.

Demographically, these California-based Canadian expat users of Facebook tend to be be a little older than all California Facebook users with 64% of women 35 years of age or older (compared to 53%) and 59% of men (compared to 48%). Interestingly, Canadian expats are much more likely to be married (62% vs 44%) and have attended graduate school (21% vs 9%).  Canadian Facebook users in California have a higher representation in fields such as arts/entertainment/media/sports (28% vs 21%); computers/maths (16% vs 7%); IT/technical (20% vs 10%); and life/physical/social sciences (12% vs 7%).  A greater percentage of the Canadian expat community active on Facebook lives in San Francisco (13% vs 6%) with the greatest absolute number living in Los Angeles (25% vs 22%). Home ownership is comparable to all California Facebook users (53% vs 55%) but with a higher percentage of 1-person households (39% vs 31%). And household income skews higher at $100k per household annually and above.

So these stats begin to paint a picture of our Canadian neighbors within California as a group that is contributing to California's economy in a number of key fields, through their disposable income, home ownership and educational attainment. But regardless of the magnitude of the statistics, the heart of our cross-border success and the benefits to the California economy rest in the longstanding friendship and commitment to growth and partnership between our nations and between us as neighbors.

Stephen Armstrong is co-founder of MAPLE Business Council, a non-profit senior executive council focused on promoting trade and investment betweenCanada and Southern California. Stephen is principal of The 360 Marketer, a marketing consultancy. For more information on MAPLE, please visit

360 Degrees on Lions Health with Gustavo Pratt

Welcome to 360 Degrees – where thoughts on brands, marketing communications and entrepreneurship are shared from different perspectives. I have the pleasure of introducing an international creative force in pharma brand communications who also happens to be a friend, Mr. Gustavo Pratt.

Gustavo’s career began in Mexico where he developed campaigns at BBDO, Ammirati Puris Lintas, DDB, Saatchi & Saatchi and Young & Rubicam. A relationship with GSW on their Lily account in Mexico led Gustavo to work for GSW in the US as Vice President International Creative Director, responsible for global creative exercises and also acting as the international link to keep the creative teams together. Later Gustavo returned to Mexico to head GSW growing their business from four accounts to 30 brands in the first year. After being managing director at Sudler & Hennessey, he now leads his own agency, *Asterisco Healthcare Communications supporting a growing roster of international and national clients from his base in Mexico City.

Earlier this summer Gustavo traveled to Cannes where he was a judge at the second annual Lions Health Awards that is the opening event of the seven day International Festival of Creativity. Lions Health brings together leaders from around the globe to celebrate, share and discuss brand communications in health care, pharma and wellness. Creative excellence is recognized with the prestigious Lions trophies. Over the course of the entire week over 11,000 delegates from 90 countries attended with over 34,000 entries being showcased or judged.

SA: Thank you for sharing your Lions Health conference experience Gus. How did you first get connected with this event?

GP: Thank you Stephen for such a great welcome. I was invited, I think from my trajectory, my career and the experience I have developed over the years of working in the pharma advertising industry. It was truly an honor to be the only Mexican in the pharma jury and to bring the LATAM point of view to the table.

SA: Apart from being a conference connecting leaders in health care communications from around the globe and situated in the south of France, what makes this event special for you personally?

GP: It is the Oscars of Advertising, the best of the best…of the best in the advertising world is there. All the great work and great ideas are going to be judged there and to get your work recognized at the Lions Health is truly an honor. Personally it means a lot, not only for the recognition, but also for the networking, being able to connect with friends again and also making new friends, the best talent in the world.

SA: As a judge evaluating the creative entries, how do you go about deciding what is a winning entry?

GP: It is purely based on the idea…the best ideas really move the people, move the patients, move the doctors and in this case move the jury. The most creative ideas were the ones that really got an award or the shortlist recognition. I saw great and powerful ideas that really touch the mind, the heart or the soul. I can tell you that what we saw was the best of the best in pharma, healthcare and wellness in the world.

SA: Is there typically a lot of debate among the judges or is there generally consensus on what is “award-winning creative ? How do you reconcile differing opinions in order to reach consensus?

GP: The great ideas, the best ideas, simply pop up. I can tell you that the idea that won the Grand Prix simply struck us from the beginning, getting the most points going into the shortlist and then getting a gold and then the Grand Prix. A powerful bold and great idea for a pharma company like AstraZeneca to have two fishes talking about triglycerides…simply great. But also, there were some pieces that needed more talk and discussions. I have to applaud Rob Rogers, our Jury President, he established a respectful, creative and open environment for discussion, so everybody who had a point was heard and everybody respected that. The discussions were amazing and very valuable, moreover being open to different points of view really enriched the process and made it great.

SA: Lions Health is of course not just about awards but is a forum for connecting creative minds. What is it like being there and did you get a sense of a connected global creative community?

GP: Absolutely!!!! Cannes is not just only the awards or the show. The connections and networking that you do there is one of the best in world; you connect with senior executives and creatives from the big network agencies and the small creative boutiques that actually won big awards…and also with people that you can´t be around, like the UNICEF directors, the ADOBE team, etc. It really gets you connected, again, with the best of the global creative community within my field, pharma advertising.

SA: At the risk of generalizing, did you perceive any major differences between the creative this year as compared to last year? And if so, in what ways?

GP: This year was better!!! I think last year, which was the first, everybody was doing their entries their way; this year it was perfected and also the work was more brilliant than last year. I can tell you this, this year we had a Grand Prix, last year it was deserted. The ideas in 2015 were better, more accurate…

SA: How does participating in such an event, especially as one of the judges, change your outlook on pharma brand communications?

GP: It just pushes myself and my agency to do better work for my clients in Mexico and also to bring my clients the “Cannes experience” and show them what is going on in the world regarding pharma advertising in every category…It is definitely a must for agencies, marketing managers and people doing communications for pharma. The standard has gone very high and that simply benefits everyone.

SA: What did you take away from the conference that will shape the creative development at *Asterisco Healthcare Communications or for you personally?

GP: Innovation is the DNA of Asterisco and if I would tell you one thing regarding what I found in Cannes is that…innovation. Looking for ways to do things differently and apply technology to the service of the doctor and the patient. And the mind shift that the entire industry around the world is suffering…in a good way!!! Technology is making health care more accessible to all. And as an agency we have to push ourselves even further to be more innovative.

SA:  We are all health care consumers responsible more than ever for our health and wellness. How do we, the consumers, benefit from events like Lions Health?

GP: As consumers/patients we get a great benefit from ideas that really can transform the world for example there was an idea using the Hindu “bindy” to help women get the iodine that they need daily… a community in one country like Mexico benefited from a book “in the own dialect” to help them talk to their gynecologists, a small village in Thailand was helped by an iron fish…etc. By the way you can see all this ideas here:

Also, innovations are changing our approach to healthcare. For instance, the brand new company, Theranos, is changing the way blood tests are done in the US, forming an alliance with Walgreens to offer, not only a price accessible test, but the big change here is who the owner of the result is…the patient!!!! He/she owns the information, owns his/her blood and the result...then he/she will be able to share it with their doctor…The patient decides, because it is his/her information. That small change will have a greater impact in the years to come. Here patients, like you and me, will have the center stage, so now patients will get better treatment, a more human and caring treatment.

So in time the ideas that were shown there I think will make their way to more communities, more countries, even the entire world. Some of the ideas were based on technology, implementation of those ideas will be faster…so we can expect maybe changes regarding apps, devices, education and information faster!!!

SA: Thank you very much Gustavo for sharing your insights and perspectives on this year’s Lions Health conference. For those of us who did not have the opportunity to share in this year’s event your comments painted a vivid picture and give us much to think about.

GP: Thank you Stephen, it was my pleasure.

Stephen Armstrong is principal of The 360 Marketer, a consulting firm offering strategic and tactical marketing support for emerging and established brands. For more information, please visit and follow @the360marketer.

Orange County Register Profiles MAPLE Business Council

MAPLE Business Council is a non-profit senior executive business council that I co-founded in 2015 together with fellow Canadian expatriates in Southern California. The focus is to support businesses, entrepreneurs and institutions interested in cross-border trade and investment between Southern California and Canada. More information is available at

On July 11, 2015 the Orange County Register profile MAPLE in print and online.

Maple leaf connection: Tustin nonprofit sees $$ in Canadian network

By Brooke Edwards Staggs

2015-07-10 19:47:44

TUSTIN – If you haven’t heard of poutine, Stephen Armstrong and Robert Kelle bet you will soon.

Poutine, which originated in Quebec, is french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. And the indulgent dish is increasingly making its way from Armstrong’s and Kelle’s native Canada to California – along with some $45 billion in goods traded annually between the two places.

“We’re riding a good momentum,” Armstrong said. “But there just hasn’t been a group devoted to this.”

That’s why the Tustin residents recently founded Maple (an acronym for market, access, promote, lead, enable) - The Canadian-U.S. Business Council of Southern California. The nonprofit aims to promote trade and investment between Canada and Southern California.

Armstrong and Kelle want to reach companies in all industries, whether they’ve done business in Canada, have personal ties to the country or none of the above. They plan to do that for paid members through newsletters and networking, market research and quarterly meetings with experts on everything from tax credits to cross-border shipping.

“Canada is this well-kept secret,” said Armstrong, who owns a marketing firm. “We want people to know, if you’re going to grow, your neighbor to the north speaks English, they have a good banking system and there is a lot of potential to explore.”

Armstrong grew up in Toronto, while Kelle grew up on a tobacco farm in the nearby town of Tillsonburg. But the pair didn’t meet until five years ago, at an event with the group Canadians in Orange County.

Kelle, who runs a management consulting firm, helped launch that group, thinking it would create a business network. But it took on a social life of its own, he said, growing to some 600 members who meet several times a year to celebrate events such as Canada Day.

With encouragement from the Consulate General of Canada in Los Angeles, Armstrong, Kelle and five other board members in February launched Maple.

They see potential for local businesses to attract investment from and expand to Canada – in particular with medical devices coming out of Orange County, biotech products from San Diego and entertainment and startups out of Los Angeles. And while it’s early to tout success stories, they said initial response has been encouraging.

“Right now, connections are being made between members,” Kelle said.

One of those recent connections is with Mike Walker, who’s helped secure seven patents as vice president of research and development at Omni-Lite Industries in Cerritos.

Today, the company makes aircraft fasteners, automobile fasteners and sports components that are shipped worldwide, including a shoe line used by Olympians since Michael Johnson in 1996.

Omni-Lite recruits workers out of the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, the same mechanical engineering program from which Walker graduated. And the public company trades on a Canadian stock exchange.

Walker said his native country seems to remain “under the radar” for many Southern California businesses, making him excited to see what Maple might do.

“I think there’s definitely opportunity for them to provide that connection to people,” Walker said.

Contact the writer: 714-796-7963 or


The Patient Engagement Pyramid

Accepted wisdom for transforming the quality and costs of health care includes as a central pillar the concept of “patient engagement,” the need to involve patients more fully in their health and wellness. It’s part of effectively caring for an aging baby boomer generation, better chronic disease management and the evolution to preventive care. What should the provider be asking of the ubiquitous electronic health record in enabling meaningful patient engagement?

The answer may lie in reinterpreting a familiar model Abraham Maslow commonly referred to as The Hierarchy of Needs. This model, depicted as a pyramid, demonstrates that individuals seek to fulfill a set of needs that begin with the most basic such as food and shelter and eventually lead to an ideal state of self-actualization. Each level must be first satisfied before people begin addressing the next higher level.

Patients who are truly engaged make positive choices for their health and wellness every day, enabling the system to move to a culture of prevention as opposed to treatment. The capabilities of electronic health records can help patients follow an engagement path that leads to a wellness equivalent of self-actualization. Lets consider what a Patient Engagement Pyramid could look like and the implications for an EHR at each stage.


The pyramid starts with recognizing patients as consumers of healthcare services. Without this there can be no interaction and therefore no opportunity for future engagement. This is perhaps the most fundamental challenge for the majority of EHRs today. The EHR is a technology conduit for care – a fundamental part of the overall delivery of the healthcare services that the patient is consuming. The EHR therefore cannot be just provider and practice-facing. An integrated patient-facing component is required.

With this in place, the engagement process can begin by providing patients access in new and more convenient ways. This is the Connected Patient and in its patient-facing components, the EHR needs to provide ways to connect patients to the practice so that test results, appointment scheduling and information can flow more easily.

With greater connectivity defined by what is convenient to the patient consumer, not just the practice, the Contributing Patient can emerge. At this level of the pyramid, patients are not just connecting to information and administrative tasks but are also contributing to the documentation of their health. An EHR needs to offer a patient health record where patients add and maintain important information on allergies, immunizations, and medications with access for the doctor to integrate into his or her charts.

Patient’s profiling and sharing of their health information can lead to something stronger - The Conferring Patient. This patient is someone who actively seeks out her care team with questions, information seeking education and insight. The EHR must facilitate relationships through multiple touch-points that complement and extend the traditional office visit. These touch-points need to reflect how patients interact with others in their daily lives. On the web. Via email and instant messaging. By video. Convenient, fluent and relevant communication channels. At this level of patient engagement the tools are being used for medical guidance and clinical consults. The EHR needs to have the robustness to manage these in a HIPAA-compliant, secure manner with the ability to seamlessly integrate these communications into a comprehensive and even multi-media electronic medical record.

At the peak of the pyramid is the Challenge-Setting Patient. The confidence and desire to manage one’s health and set wellness goals spring from access to the right medical information, and the medical and moral support from the care team at the right time and through the right channel. The challenges can include diet, exercise, weight and more. At this level the EHR should have the capability to integrate data from health devices that a patient may be using to monitor key biometrics. The EHR must be able to take this information and present to both patient and, if desired, the care team in the form of wellness dashboards that can help monitor and visualize progress and motivate healthy behaviors. The EHR’s patient portal can even facilitate the sharing of a patient’s challenges at her discretion with friends and family through embedded social media links. At this point, the patient is fully engaged or self-actualized in her health and wellness in a meaningful way, with the EHR as one of the daily tools supporting them.

Wellness should be something more than the absence of illness or disease. It is about a state of mind, demonstrated by sustained commitment to prevention and healthy behaviors. The key is starting the wellness journey. Practices should consider their EHR as a tool that can assist patients to become more engaged in their health and ask themselves how capable their selected technology is in helping their patients progress through the Patient Engagement Pyramid.

Patient Engagement Pyramid

Rolling Back....Medicine

The recent opening of several primary care clinics by Wal-Mart is among the latest examples of how our health care delivery landscape continues to evolve. And when the nation’s largest retailer decides to offer medical services, it is certainly a move worth noting. While the overall number of primary care clinics that Wal-Mart currently operates is just a handful in a couple of states, the potential to scale is enormous.

If the king of rolling back prices, rolls back medical care too should the independent primary care physician be concerned? Will Main Street Medicine be the latest casualty to the popularity of mega-retailers?

To answer this requires looking at the motivation for patients to seek out medical care at a clinic in a Wal-Mart store. First of all, think of them more as health care consumers rather than patients. They are shopping for convenient hours, the flexibility of not requiring an appointment, the comfort of dealing with minor health care questions and to do all of this affordably.

When faced with these reasons to use a retail health clinic, today’s independent primary care practice needs to consider how they have evolved. Patients’ lives have been transformed by technology over the past 25 years. We consume information and connect with friends and family through a myriad of media that did not exist a quarter century ago. Now compare to today’s medical practice. It just does not look very much different than it did 20 or 30 years ago. Patients call for an appointment, visit the practice, hundreds if not thousands of paper charts are still in view. Lab orders and results are faxed each day. Follow-up questions and responses are being handled by phone calls.

And yet there are many facets of health care that most of us would not want to change:

  • The knowledge of our family by a trusted and experienced physician.

  • The familiarity and comfort of a practice team that we’ve seen for years.

  • The personal attention and privacy our health care deserves.

These are qualities that reflect years if not decades of caregiving that cannot be replaced. Prices can be “rolled back” but this kind of care cannot be instantly manufactured.

But we’ve changed as a society and in as much as the heritage of health care lies in the trust we have with our primary care physician; we are looking for a relationship that meets today’s lifestyle. The good news is that technology offers the traditional primary care practice the modern tools to meet this need.

Online appointment scheduling by patients, secure video consultations, a web-based patient portal for both physician and patient to exchange information and to ask and answer questions big and small. The convenience of paying for balances, co-pays and deductibles by credit card. Returning home to have a visit note summary from your doctor waiting for you in your secure portal. Asking for a prescription refill without being placed on hold. Having your lab result with your doctor’s comments available to you. These tools are available now for a practice to provide greater convenience, easier access and an online experience to their patients that complements their in-practice care. They extend a practice beyond the four walls of the clinic while leveraging the equity a physician has built up over years with his/her patients.

A retail clinic may be able to open in weeks but a physician’s relationship with their patients takes years to match. By embracing the capabilities to be more accessible to patients through a secure cloud-based technology platform, a practice can channel this patient equity to offer greater convenience and remain competitive. The answer to another’s rolling back of medicine is to fast-forward with technology.


Connecting with Your Patient Panel

On a recent trip to visit a customer, I flew on a major carrier that I had not been on for quite some time. As I sat waiting for my flight to board, the gate agent proceeded to identify a seemingly never-ending list of passenger categories for boarding prioritization. On this airline it was not just families with small children, people needing extra time to board, and active service military. To these well-deserved priority groups, this airline added holders of more than one affiliated credit card and a mine of precious metal-themed frequent flyer categories.

 Then came the boarding process itself. Complicating the organization challenge, passengers were directed to two different queues for boarding. After all the “priority” levels were through, it seemed like more than half the plane had already boarded. I had to wonder how much energy and cost was put into training thousands of passenger-facing airline personnel to learn the messaging and the protocols and how much time was added to the overall boarding process. While no doubt the “priority” levels are well intentioned, the entire process was subverted by its own earnestness considering the added time, complexity and, ultimately, the dilution of the original concept of prioritization.

So what does all this have to do with connecting with your patient panel?

 Your patient panel is waiting to board their next engagement with your practice. Some should be preparing for a visit but are not aware of the importance. Some perhaps you see more than necessary. Today the “journey” can be by virtual visit through a technology platform like the Hello Health® system or via a traditional in-person office visit scheduled through your electronic health record (EHR). Regardless of the type of visit, who “boards” next?

Appointment schedules routinely get populated passively as patients contact a practice to schedule their visit. In this way, boarding is “passenger directed”. But an EHR platform with an advanced search function helps physicians to identify those appointments that need to be made above and beyond the regular inflow. Practices can search by gender, age, medical condition, allergies, procedures, and combinations of these criteria to quickly capture patient cohorts. Suddenly a practice can reach into its patient panel to organize outreach that can guide when they want to hear from the patient, receive an update on their activities, or see them for an appointment. The power of an EHR that transforms the view of a patient panel from a crowded file room and this week’s appointment schedule to a minable patient database ready for proactive management by a practice is significant.  Who should board next? Who are our priorities? The information is just a few mouse clicks away.

 It's a new level of connectivity that is like giving your patients a service upgrade to first class.