Spring cleaning

Regular visitors will have noticed a few alterations to my blog during recent days. The title, BlackBerry by Rod McQueen, has become the less specific Musings by Rod McQueen. My book about BlackBerry was published two years ago; it was time for a change. There’s also a new author photo and a new section called Next Book, another reason to change the blog heading.

Driven to Succeed, co-authored with Susan M. Papp, almost didn’t happen. In August 2010, I received an email from Dan Bjarnason, a CBC-TV reporter I met in Ottawa in the 1970s. He said he had a friend who was interested in advice about a business book. My first reaction was, “What a waste of time. I’ll just have my brain picked.” But after further thought, I decided to find out more.

Dan’s friend turned out to be Susan Papp, an award-winning journalist. She and Dan had worked together at CBC in the 1980s. Susan established her own production company in 1993. Among other creative work she produced and directed a documentary, The Young Rebels, featuring half a dozen individuals who’d fled Hungary after the 1956 Revolution, come to Canada, and risen to prominence in a variety of fields. Among them was Frank Hasenfratz who launched a one-man shop making oil pumps for Ford in the basement of his Guelph, Ont., home. Today, Linamar Corp. has almost 16,000 employees in eight countries.

When Hasenfratz decided he wanted a book about Linamar, he turned to Susan, who is also of Hungarian descent. Susan told him she felt comfortable writing about him growing up in Hungary and his participation in the Revolution but admitted she knew very little about business. That’s when she asked Dan to recommend a co-writer. When Susan and I first talked by phone I thought the idea was excellent but told her I’d had trouble with collaborators in the past. I then gave a lengthy list of things that could go wrong.

After I hung up, I thought, “Why are you so negative? This is a great entrepreneurial story.” I phoned Susan back and apologized. She just laughed and forgave my wet blanket ways. The result, Driven to Succeed, will be published in October by Dundurn.

Think about it. The Auto Pact has been in existence since 1965 but only two Canadians have taken advantage of that special access to the U.S. auto parts market and gone on to create a global firm. The other is the better known Magna and Frank Stronach. Driven to Succeed gives Frank Hasenfratz the prominence he deserves.

For me, the lesson is this: always to be open to new ideas. You just never know what might come about. Even a wet blanket can catch fire.

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