The View from The Niagara Guide

General observations and musings on how we can make Niagara a better place.

Earth Day 2016

Mark Kawabe - Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day! My wish for this year is for action. Not for wishes, platitudes, or grand ideas.

As a society, we don't live in harmony with each other, much less the other organisms that we share the earth with. The natural systems we coexist with are what allow us to survive and thrive. We can do better than we've done in the past.

That's my personal goal - to do better - to improve my interactions with my environment, to work on minimizing negative impacts I make, and to educate myself and others on things we can do to protect and enhance Niagara's natural wealth.

I hope you will make it your goal as well. If enough of us do, I believe we can create more livable, sustainable communities. That's a worthwhile goal I hope everyone can move toward.

Comfort Maple

Niagara Events Calendar

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Event organizing is enough of a challenge, but getting the word out can be even tougher.

We'd like to make that a tad easier with our Niagara Events Calendar.

Visit it online at

Yes, I know. It's ANOTHER event calendar. Why should you bother, especially when you can put your event on Facebook for free?

There are a few things that set our calendar apart.

It Lets People Plan Ahead

If you let us know about your event several months before it happens, we will have it posted on our event calendar for several months. Yes, I know, you can do the same on Facebook and Twitter, but those platforms will ultimately bury news of your event. Our calendar lets you add your event early for additional exposure.

We Post Events Multiple Times to Social Media

Most of the time when you add an event to a social media stream, it gets posted once. We use our posting software to post notifications in our social media streams multiple times before the event. Usually a few weeks in advance, then two weeks, then one week, then the week of, then the day of.

It's Human Monitored

I like automation, but I also hate automated spam crap submitted to our events listings. Everything that goes online in our calendar gets looked at by a human. Sometimes we even add (and hopefully improve) upon what you've submitted to us.

You Can Add Photos Too!

Yep. Just send us the photos and we'll add them.

It's Free

Yes, it's free. You just need a free account with The Niagara Guide to add your event to our calendars. Click here to create an account.

We want to help you promote your events. Please help us help you :)

A few caveats:

This is a free service. There may be delays as we take care of our paying customers. And yes, we're human. Sometimes things can get missed. We do our best to put events online as quickly as possible. If yours hasn't shown up after a few days, feel free to remind us!

Avoiding Business Erosion

Mark Kawabe - Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Change is all around us. It's in our society, in our technology, in our work, in our home. I think humans have a gene for change wired into their DNA. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have any genes that make dealing with change any easier.

Business Erosion

Your business is operating in an environment where new competition starts up seemingly overnight and old markets dry up and fade away. How are you adapting to this change? Are you like water, just going with the flow? Or, are you an island, trying to weather all storms with stoic resolve?

Welland native Anthony Lacavera certainly knows how to create and navigate change. He founded Wind Mobile in 2008 and took on telecom giants Rogers, Bell and Telus. His company was recently sold to Shaw Communications for $1.6 billion.

Niagara Falls business fixture Sunny Halani has shepherded his UPS Store through major changes in the printing industry. The internet has posed a double challenge to the world of print. Email and PDFs have reduced or replaced (for some) the need to print brochures. The internet has also allowed the creation and rise of low-cost, DIY services like VistaPrint whose low prices are very appealing. Sunny's built a business based on stellar customer service, exceptional product quality and of course, his Sunny personality. In a world where print material is often considered a commodity, Sunny's way of doing business is helping his business thrive.

Wind Mobile's innovations allowed it to prosper. Sunny's UPS Store's success is based on superior customer service and doing the job right. What will be the right approaches for your business to take for it to stand the test of time and stand up to the winds of change?

What Can You Do Differently?

Mark Kawabe - Monday, January 04, 2016

What can you do differently today?Whether he said it or not (and he probably didn't), Einstein is said to have defined insanity as "doing something over and over again and expecting a different result".

Every day we have choices to make. What we choose to do and how we choose to do those things largely determine the outcomes of our activities.

What are you doing today that you've done before that you want to turn out better than it did before?

Here's something I tried today: black coffee.

When I have coffee, it's usually in the form of a vanilla latte (from Starbucks) or a French Vanilla (from Timmy's). Today, in an attempt to gain the benefits of coffee (caffeine) without extra calories, I tried a dark roast, black, from Timmy's. It was more palatable than I thought it would be. More importantly, I stayed awake on my late-night drive home while feeling good about the choice made.

You have choices to make today. Here's hoping they contribute to your sanity.

Please feel free to share them with others. What works for you may work for someone else :)

Getting Back to . . . NETWORKING!!!

Mark Kawabe - Sunday, January 03, 2016

Niagara business networking eventsIt's cold outside. All the more reason to get out and get back into the swing of business.

If you're not an entrepreneur or in sales, you could be forgiven for not knowing that networking is one of the best ways to generate new business.

There are plenty of opportunities for networking in Niagara. From Fort Erie to Grimsby, there are networking events that can keep you busy for most of January.

If you haven't done so, check out our Niagara business event calendar. We're always looking for new events to post, and you'll be able to find a variety of events all in one convenient place.

There are also myriad Facebook groups that discuss Niagara events. While they may not focus specifically on business networking, they're still a valuable resource to find out what's going on in the area.

Here are a few tips for attending your next networking event.

  1. Make sure you know where the event is and at what time it starts. Getting lost will stress you out and that will show when you arrive.
  2. Ensure you have enough business cards with you. I'm always amazed at the number of people who show up at networking events without them. Even if your business is only online, a card makes it easy for people to remember your website address.
  3. Dress for the occasion. You're likely to meet at least a few people for the first time. Unless you're in the habit of making poor first impressions, pay attention to your appearance.
  4. Follow up. It doesn't matter if you spoke to two people or twenty. Following up shows people you paid attention to them, that you value their connection and that you're on the ball. Of the hundreds of people I met at networking events last year, less than ten followed up with an email or phone call. BTW, following up does not mean automatically adding people to your e-blast.

I hope you have a fantastic time networking in Niagara this year!


Similarities Among the Differences

Mark Kawabe - Saturday, January 02, 2016

I am a tea person. I've also been known to drink the occasional coffee (I'm partial to lattes). I know some tea drinkers who never touch coffee and others who wouldn't be caught dead with a tea.

Coffee and tea are different, but they're on the same continuum of hot, flavourful drinks enjoyed the world over. People are different too, but they're all on the same continuum of human.

I think that gets forgotten sometimes.

I was running around on appointments before the holidays when a fellow asked me for some change for food the other day. I checked to make sure I had time, then offered to buy him lunch instead. He accepted. During our chat I found there really wasn't much separating us. We both want better lives for ourselves. We struggle on how to get to that point. We share mutual wants and needs. At the moment, he's struggling. I've struggled too. Many of us have.

Sometimes it's harder to relate to people who hold views different to ours. Those challenges require more energy from us, but not in the way energy is usually spent. We see it on social media every day where people with different viewpoints are expending great amounts of energy to beat down, belittle and otherwise vilify "the other". Whether the issue is immigration or pollution (or anything else for that matter), it sometimes seems there are two solitudes: one side is absolutely right and the other side is unequivocally wrong.

The truth is almost always somewhere between the two viewpoints. Instead of creating conflict, it is probably better if we try to understand why "the other" feels the way they do. Starting from a place of respect is the foundation should be the goal, even when "the other" is saying things we find reprehensible. Even if we don't agree, we should understand why others believe the things they do. With that understanding, we can work on ways to live together in harmony.

Expending energy to be patient and understanding, to listen respectfully and to communicate clearly is more work than yelling back at people who you don't agree with. It's more work, but this is the growth we require within ourselves and within our communities for us to create a better life for everyone.

I don't need to ban coffee for me to be comfortable as a tea drinker. I need to understand why the coffee drinker prefers their hot water passed over roasted, ground beans over my hot water infused with the essence of steamed and dried leaves. Hopefully that understanding leads to a realization that the coffee drinker is not evil and that my morning drink is but one of many acceptable ways to start my day.

Here's hoping for a future of shared understanding and growth.

Welcome to 2016 Niagara!

Mark Kawabe - Friday, January 01, 2016

Welcome to 2016 Niagara! Happy New Year!

The new year is often said to be a time of new beginnings. As so many have said, "today is the first day of the rest of your life". The possibilities are truly endless.

Every day brings dozens of opportunities for change and improvement. It is easy to look around and find things that could use some improvements. It's harder to look within ourselves for areas we can improve.

It is my perspective that through changing and improving our selves we can create positive changes in our relationships with our families, friends, workplace, community, society, environment and world. I have experienced many changes to myself and to my life in the past few years and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to more positive changes moving into 2016.

It is my hope The Niagara Guide will continue to develop into a platform for sharing Niagara's stories and a place where we can showcase the good things happening in our region. I can't do it alone, so ask that you help me by suggesting topics and people who we can shine a spotlight on as examples of positivity, growth and leadership in our community. I look forward to the possibilities.

I wish you all a healthy, safe, happy and prosperous 2016!

Best Regards,
Mark Kawabe
Chief Guide @ The Niagara Guide

Mark Kawabe 2016

Customer Service Success Story

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This is the face of customer service

I'm talking about the guy to the left :)

The fellow in the center of this pic is Steven Turner, the Sales Manager at Tbooth wireless in the Pen Centre.The other happy guy to the right is me (but you knew that, right?).

If you've had your fill of feel-good testimonials about awesome customer service, you can stop reading here.

I had been a Rogers wireless customer for 9 years and 11 months. It seemed like time for a change. Any parallels to any particular governing party being in power for a decade and Canadians feeling it's time for a change is a complete coincidence.

The only reason I went to Tbooth initially was because they represent Rogers, Bell, Virgin, Fido and a couple of other providers. I thought it would save time compared to going to every wireless kiosk in the Pen Centre.

There's a reason Steven's the sales manager. It's because he's awesome with people, product knowledge and has incredible patience. He also understands customer service.

He walked me through various plans from Rogers, Virgin and Fido. We switched four phones from Rogers to Fido because of Steven's comprehensive information and ability to find the best value for us among the myriad plans available.

Most impressive to me though was that I had done most of the shopping for the phone on Wednesday but didn't have time to make the switchover that night. I went back Thursday but also didn't have the time. Steven heard I was coming in on Friday and despite the fact it was his day off, he came in to make sure he could take care of our switchovers. More than that, when I mentioned my son would be in Toronto without service if we did the switchover right then, Steven said he would wait for us to text him later and he would take care of the activation once we gave him the okay to do so.

I have never experienced such good customer service in any telecom-related transaction so wanted to share what I felt was an awesome experience and give Steven some recognition for his actions. If you're in the market for a new phone plan, phone or accessory, I highly recommend visiting Steven and his team at Tbooth in the St. Catharines Pen Centre.

BTW, the photo above is the first photo ever taken on my new LG G3 smartphone. Thank you Steven!!!

I hope you have much to be grateful for

Mark Kawabe - Monday, October 12, 2015

An attitude of gratitude seems to be something we have to cultivate in ourselves and our children.

As Canadians, we are fortunate to have so much. As individuals, we have opportunities and resources available to us that others can only dream of. It's important to me to recognize those things in my daily life. Even when things aren't particularly going my way, having an attitude of gratitude seems to put things into perspective.

A few reflections on this from the weekend.

We were headed to Toronto on Friday afternoon to pick up my son and his university friend before heading up to my in-laws near Lindsay. Nearing Toronto we got stuck in traffic jams. Twice. We were already running late due to some technical issues with a switchover from one cellular phone carrier to another. It would have been easy to get stressed out. But, stepping back and looking at things through a lens of gratitude, a different perspective opened up.

  • Stuck in Traffic Jam - fortunate to have a car and to live in a society with such a developed highway infrastructure
  • Had to grab a bite to eat on the run - grateful to have the resources available to do so 
  • Delayed due to technical issues - yes, but we now have new cell phones and are paying less, and hey, when I was a kid we didn't even have cell phones
  • Crappy traffic while picking up son & university friend - yes, but then again, we're fortunate to have the resources to be able to send him to university
  • Had to travel three hours+ to get to in-laws - glad to have parents and relatives who are still living

It is easy to take everything around us for granted and then complain when things "go wrong". Sometimes it seems the ability to appreciate what we have is under-utilized, as demonstrated by our individual and collective behaviours. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to focus our attention on gratitude and to celebrate the bounty of the harvest and the relative riches we have as individuals and as a society.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and carry an attitude of gratitude with you throughout the year.

Plenty of DRAMA to Share

Mark Kawabe - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Seriously. Please. Save it for someone else.

This request goes out to all:

  • Politicians
  • Media outlets
  • Marketers
  • Teenagers and adults who haven't figured out how to act like an adult
  • Business naysayers and other dream killers
  • People with too much time on their hands

Life has its challenges. It's more challenging for some than for others. It's more challenging for many others who aren't fortunate enough to live in Canada.

We're lucky to live where we are and to have what we have. Regardless of the government or corporations or the Illuminati or people-who-we've-chosen-to-be-afraid of or whoever else the bogeyman is today.

We are fortunate. We have the power to help ourselves, our neighbours and our community. With power comes responsibility.

Oh yeah - go vote.


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