25th Trillium Award

On Writing, with Fred Dawkins

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Fred Dawkins

A new year is approaching — and many of us will be planning for new jobs, new writing projects, new approaches to our lives. One book that will help inspire and inform many New Year's resolutions is the just-released Everyday Entrepreneur: Making it Happen (Dundurn Press), by Fred Dawkins. Fred is co-founder of The Olde Hide House and has made many other entrepreneurial leaps in his long and successful career. His latest, of course, is as a writer. In today's On Writing interview, Fred explains how he brought 40 years of experience together into one fascinating book — one that, according to Terry Fallis, has such a great narrative that "you may not realize how much you?re learning until you?ve turned that last page.?

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Everyday Entrepreneur: Making It Happen.

Fred Dawkins:

Everyday Entrepreneur took 40 years to research and several months to write. Entrepreneurship is a pressing topic. With the onslaught of globalization and the impact of the technology revolution, the world economy has become extremely fast paced and is dominated by change. To succeed we have to be determined, resilient and adaptable; key characteristics of an entrepreneur. Job security is nonexistent. Our business schools have been working on a flawed model, geared to produce executives for big business. ?Too Big to Fail? really means ?Too Big to Succeed?. Now we are playing catch up, making entrepreneurship a new priority at all levels. We are still striving to find effective ways to teach the skills and requirements.

Everyday Entrepreneur allows the reader to identify with a wide range of business situations through an incidental learning experience based on anecdotes from my career as a serial entrepreneur. It is written as a narrative focused on three aspiring entrepreneurs struggling with the commitment to go ahead and make the leap of faith into their specific projects. Reading Everyday Entrepreneur allows you to share their 12 day journey with a seasoned entrepreneur who helps them reach their decision. The essence of the story is to better prepare people who aspire to become entrepreneurs at any level.


Why did you decide to write this book on entrepreneurship as a story?


I have always admired the impact that David Chilton?s book The Wealthy Barber had on financial planning at a time when that topic had become a mainstream concern. Textbooks can be dry and boring while ?how to? books dictate a formula to success. One of the keys to success as an entrepreneur is adaptability, so building a formula won?t work. The strength of a narrative is that every reader sees himself or someone he knows in one of the characters. The subject matter moves from clinical to personal. I was extremely pleased to receive an endorsement from Terry Fallis but even more so by his choice of words which ended with: ?You?re so wrapped up in the story that you may not realize how much you?re learning until you?ve turned that last page.?


Are the ages of the three main characters significant?


The ages are significant but not all-inclusive. In fact in a later book in the series entitled Ageless Entrepreneur: Never too Early, Never too Late, age becomes the dominant factor. In Everyday Entrepreneur the characters are at stages in their lives where entrepreneurship is a serious option. Mike is just starting out, a brash twenty-something, who thinks he is a natural and is willing to plunge ahead based on taking risk with little or no preparation. Mike is a dreamer. Grace is in her mid-thirties having been a stay-at-home mom for several years. She is considering entrepreneurship out of necessity. It?s difficult to resume your career in our fast-paced marketplace. Tim represents the entrepreneur of opportunity. Also in his thirties, he has experience and know-how but is frustrated in his current role. He is looking for more and has reached the time of his life where that is possible if he elects to take charge of his career. Tim is the narrator, so the story evolves from his perspective.


What is one of the most important lessons you learned from your own experience as an entrepreneur that you include in this book?


There are many lessons, but reducing it down to the two most fundamental elements I would choose opportunity and determination. We have to recognize our opportunities. We can?t always choose them. Every idea is not an opportunity. The second lesson is commitment and determination. Entrepreneurs rarely ask ?if? they can do something but focus immediately on ?how? they will do it. Ideas make you a dreamer, making those ideas happen converts you to an entrepreneur.


You are co-founder of the Olde Hide House, Canada's largest leather store. Are there any similarities between starting a successful business and writing a book?


To succeed as a writer you have to be an entrepreneur. Every book starts with an idea and converting that idea to a manuscript requires a terrific amount of determination. But it doesn?t stop there. The odds are against you becoming a published author. My latest entrepreneurial challenge has been to create Fred Dawkins the author. This means engaging in shameless self-promotion. It means becoming a public persona, at least to some degree. It involves engagement in social media. If you decide to self-publish, which is a gateway to attract a publisher, you have taken all the roles of a small business owner. Every aspiring author, like any other aspiring entrepreneur, should consider Everyday Entrepreneur to help you prepare for the challenges. See how shameless self-promotion can creep into your psyche?


Everyday Entrepreneur is the first in a series. What can you tell us about the other books you have planned?


I have proposed up to eight books in the series, ambitious I know. Dundurn has given me contracts for the first three. The second book, Family Entrepreneur: Easier Said Than Done is complete and has a tentative publication date of October 20th 2014. The issues in a family business are the same but the solutions and issues are complicated by family relationships. As the Baby Boom generation approaches retirement, hundreds of thousands of businesses across North America are facing succession issues complicated by the reluctance of the next generation to take over and the reality that the life expectancy of any business is diminishing in the face of rapid change. It is also written as a narrative but in this case it?s written from the perspective of a female character which I feel gives the story a critical perspective. Women seem to be starting more new businesses than men. The third book, as mentioned, is Ageless Entrepreneur. Also a narrative, this story focuses on the new realities: that young people are having so much difficulty getting a foothold in the labour force while seniors need to work longer and in different ways. I haven?t started this manuscript yet but my ideas are well on their way.

Fred Dawkins is a successful entrepreneur with experience in manufacturing, retail, land development and import/export. Co-founder of the Olde Hide House, a leather goods store, Dawkins holds a Bachelor's degree in commerce and finance, a Master's degree in economics and the W.E. Rundle Gold Medal. He lives in Guelph, Ontario.

For more information about Everyday Entrepreneur please visit the Dundurn Press website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore, online from the publisher or at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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