Monday, July 28, 2014

How I got here, and where I am going.

Who do I think I am?

I began with this question three years ago when this journey began.  And then the next question I asked was, what would I do if I could not fail?

My name is Lynn Armstrong. I am the owner of Lynear Thinking Strategy and Communications Ltd. and SKY Publishers Ltd., publisher of SKY Magazine and the soon to be launched book, ‘Pink Flamingo in a Brown Duck Pond.’  Until three years ago, I was a corporate planner working in large corporations, government, the credit union system and non-profit sectors.  I have had a front row seat helping executives and boards climb the hill of vision.

The term “entrepreneur” is defined as “a person who organizes or operates a business or businesses taking on greater than normal financial risks to do so.” Synonyms are "business people, enterprisers, speculators, tycoons, magnate and mogul.”

I am an entrepreneur who works with entrepreneurs to help them get to where they are going through strategy and developing and delivering appropriate communications to reach their audience.

My clients include all types of entrepreneurs in all walks of business and life, including yoga, fitness, banking, coaching, human resources, digital media, fashion, retail, restaurants, automobiles, business and convention centres and artists.

As part of my own planning process, I like to take a step back and look at where I have been, what I have learned.

Vision and the Glass Barn 

I graduated from the U of R School of Journalism in 1996.  My inspiration was to become a business journalist like Jan Wong and so I ventured into the world of corporate strategy to learn from the best.  My first job was at  Farm Credit Canada in the communications department, and then onto policy and planning.

I was given great opportunities, like producing the Annual Report for three years, each of which won Awards of Communications Excellence (ACE) and then I went on to writing corporate plans, which won the Auditor General Award of Excellence in Annual Reporting for each year, save one.

During my time at FCC, I was fortunate to be there when the organization was at the cusp of a new direction.  As a corporate planning analyst, I was invited to help create a strategy scenario for the executive’s consideration.  I worked with the company’s best account managers and we developed a customer focused strategy based on the best of the best.

The beginning of Lynear Thinking

I was invited to present a vision at a leadership event at FCC.  I created a vision of work, where each person is the CEO of his or  her own life, where there is no “no”, just “how”, and where vision is sought from each person in the company, not just the executive. The presentation was titled 'Lynear Thinking’.  I presented it to the executive team wearing black leather pants while Bon Jovi’s “It’s my life” blasted.  They did not fire me, but then I never thought they would.  From that moment on, I had my sights set on entrepreneurship with the creation of Lynear Thinking’s vision.

I refer to FCC  as my ‘nirvana’ job because not only did I learn how to lead and facilitate corporate strategy in a supportive and encouraging environment, I learned how to have vision and express it.   The skills I learned during that time continue to carry me through. My leaders and mentors of FCC continue to be my leaders and mentors today, 18 years later.

The Power of Many, as One.

I left FCC ready to take on a management role in the Credit Union system, where I learned about navigating autonomous systems of leadership in a cooperative model.  Working with Credit Unions was extremely inspiring, because  it was the first time I had come to understand the entrepreneur.

Credit unions are entrepreneurial and cooperative at their roots.  They are founded in a common set of principles that have guided the system from small community based credit unions to large urban credit unions.

On my first day of work as the manager of planning at SaskCentral, I wrote the word “one” on my white board.  I could see how this system of many operating as one could dominate the competitive market place if people could see what I saw. During my time in the credit union system, I designed and implemented a performance management system using a balanced scorecard framework, supported by a business line strategy model.

In 2005, the organization underwent a merger with Co-operative Trust, creating Concentra Financial.  I became part of the joint venture Corporate Services, which would support the operational requirements of both SaskCentral and Concentra Financial as autonomous companies.  As the manager of planning, I designed and implemented an integrated planning system that supported the autonomy of the Boards of both organizations, while integrating the operational entities in order to achieve the economies of scale objectives of the merger.

During that time, I developed a Corporate Services Client Service Agreement model that gave our clients a clear accounting of what would be delivered, when and how much it would cost.  The Client Service Agreement also gave the employees of Corporate Services a clear direction to pursue.  It was truly one of my proudest moments to see the managers coming to life in the process.

The Essence of Risk as Strategy

I traversed the corporate mountain to the top at my next job in a provincial crown corporation as the director of business planning and risk management. I was hired to design and implement an enterprise performance management and risk management system for the company.  The model would need to integrate with the government model being employed.

During that time, I also stepped into a 16 month temporary executive position as VP of Corporate Services. My portfolio of business planning and risk management expanded to include communications, community relations, responsible gaming strategy development and various other policy initiatives.  When I returned to my original position, having completed the task for which I was hired, I ventured onward and upward.

Some people stand and look at the sky. Others reach out and touch it. 

Lynear Thinking Strategy and Communications Ltd. came to life on June 15, 2011, inspired by my original vision to create a company that would inspire and support entrepreneurship and help them to not just stand and look at the sky, but to reach out and touch it.

Words are as important as money.

My business plan evolved as plans do. In the corporate realm, strategy and communications go hand in hand because strategy must be shared with the right audience in the right way to reach employees, owners, community leaders, and customers alike.  Communicating strategy is a fine balance of understanding who the audience is and articulating the story and messages for them. No matter the size and type of business,  words are as important as the money, and so it pays to hire a professional communicator who understands both the messages and the medium to reach the audience.

And so I went in search of a magazine model that would be the strategy’s voice in the market place of my clients, and quite serendipitously, SKY Magazine found me.

SKY Magazine:  The Place to Be Seen. 

One of my clients had seen SKY for sale on Kijiji September 2012 and by October 2012, I was publishing my first magazine, the “White Issue”, featuring Nadia Williamson, owner of NWL Dress Shop in Regina, along with many other amazing businesses that I proudly support.  On May 16, 2013, SKY Publishers Ltd. was created as the publishing company for SKY Magazine, as well as other publications. My seventh issue of SKY was just launched in July 2014, dedicated to cancer survivors past, present and future, and featuring the unstoppable Dionne Warner, eight time cancer survivor.

With each issue, the colour of the SKY word mark changes just as the colour of the sky is always changing.  I want my clients to be seen.  I work to create a beautifully presented, intelligent magazine that will inspire readers to turn the page, and learn about the great people and the business featured on the pages.  I make the investment to deliver to 32,000 homes and businesses to get the maximum benefit for my client’s investment.

When I ventured into the publishing business, I wanted to create a system that would reach audiences far and wide, and so I invested in the development of a social media network, creating, an online magazine, uploading to, and creating a communication and sharing network through Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+ and blogging.

Strategic Direction:  Be Strategic. Be Seen. Be Heard. 

My entrepreneurial journey began with a vision of entrepreneurship that supports entrepreneurship. It began with a  vision where each person is the CEO of his or her own life.  That the word ‘no’ would not exist, but rather ‘how.’ That vision comes from within, not just from the promoted.

SKY and Lynear Thinking is a perfect fusion of my passions: helping people get to where they are going, and sharing their stories to inspire and engage people.

And so every day, when I look up, I see the sky, but I also see possibility, and together we will paint the sky with all the possibilities of tomorrow.