Back in November, Arlene Dickinson was in Ottawa to launch her new book, Persuasion: A New Approach to Changing Minds. Although I unfortunately missed the book signing event, I did rush out to buy a copy and devoured each page.
A mother of four who values family above all else, Dickinson is better known as the CEO of Venture Communications and is the only female entrepreneur on CBC’s Dragon’s Den. It is in this role of co-host that she has won over many Canadians who now revere her as a business icon and a national treasure.
The book explores Arlene’s theory that success is a direct result of your ability to persuade an audience, whoever that may be. Despite her lack of formal education, the evidence throughout the publication is tangible and convincing because it is based on her own life, business experiences and overall success, which certainly speaks for itself. Arlene embodies motivation and perseverance. At the age of thirty-one, she was newly divorced, battling for custody of her children while living on her father’s couch. One year later she was a partner at Venture Communications, one of Canada’s most successful marketing and communications firms.
Dickinson advocates authenticity and integrity, whether you are a homemaker or a CEO, and shows how principled persuasion can help get you where you want to be in your professional and personal life. She admits that her unwillingness to stray from her core values may translate into some lost opportunities to make more money, but is proud that the success she does relish has been achieved honestly and without compromising her integrity.
The first part of the book is based in common sense theories and the advice seems somewhat self-evident to any reader who respects basic ethics. However, as you progress into the second half, this female dragon shares concrete tips and methods to: approach an employer about a raise or promotion; pique the interest of prospective business investors; seize the possibilities put before you; learn from your mistakes; and, achieve success.
My favourite parts of the book were Arlene’s personal experiences (she shares many); especially her father’s teachings recounted through the narrative, referred to as ‘commercials’. For instance, he reminds her to appreciate where she is at any given moment instead of always having her mind set on the future. A profound teaching imparted during their move from South Africa to Canada when she was only three years old. Clearly these nuggets of wisdom were well-integrated into her intellectual makeup and have contributed to her own prosperity.
Despite the book’s lack of ground-breaking revelations, what makes Arlene Dickinson’s approach to business attractive is her belief that as in business, so in life. There exists no false front when it comes to Arlene and she advocates the same authenticity for her readers. Many lessons in the book are those we could benefit to learn as individual parts of a societal whole, such as reciprocity. Meaning, you must not solely focus on what you have to gain from any given situation, but instead should present an argument in a way that proves advantageous to others. Other teachings are as simple as listening to (and truly hearing) what people have to say and using each encounter as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Overall, Persuasion is an inspiring book that will teach you that success in business is within your reach because it has so much to do with common sense. Dickinson’s writing and tone are familiar and comfortable and deliver a clear message to her readers: your dreams are within your grasp if you can master the art of principled persuasion. We are all capable of that.
Persuasion: A New Approach to Changing Minds, Dickinson, Arlene, Collins. 2011.