Short Stories

A page of short stories by Grant Lee, Chartered Professional Marketer (CIMMO)

Girls and boys seeking more than a job should consider land surveying in Ontario for a career

By Grant Lee, Chartered Professional Marketer (CIMMO)
AGL Marketing Limited
Associate Member, Association of Ontario Land Surveyors

One of Canada’s oldest professions is also one of Canada’s most exciting careers awaiting graduates of applied science and technical programs of universities and colleges. Girls and boys in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) learning paths may find that land surveying is the purpose in life that they are seeking.

Surveying combines knowledge of math, geography, history, computers, science, planning and law. And when girls and boys achieve competency in these fields of interest, opportunities open that are incredible. On one day, a land surveyor could be working in an office environment discussing land-related issues with engineers and other professionals. The next day, the surveyor could be on site in work boots and a hard hat supervising a crew on a major project in the same community where the office is located or hours away by air travel.

Surveyors are engaged in building the infrastructure of the future that includes superhighways, underwater tunnels, massive skyscrapers, residential subdivisions, and just about every other project involving the measurement of land. In addition, surveyors assist researchers, police services and many more professions in mapping and preparing reports. Equipment and software used for data collection and mapping is used to generate a wide range of professional opinions from traditional plans of survey to 3-D and virtual experiences. Surveyors explore and map uncharted places, like the ocean floor or moon’s surface.

The services of land surveyors are in demand in all countries, and they work in a variety of environments and cultures, in Canada and abroad. They are often stationed in places where few others get to travel.

What can a land surveyor expect?  Surveyors settle boundary disputes between neighbours by finding evidence to prove who owns the land. GPS, aerial photos, maps, old deeds, and plans are used to determine the boundary. Lawyers and landowners settle their disputes based on the professional opinion of the professional land surveyor. The professional opinions of land surveyors are used in court as expert testimony to make decisions that impact businesses and land owners.

Another work example may be construction of a major 120km gas line to transport fuel to new markets. Using satellites and computer software, surveyors make sure that the gas line is built exactly on the planned alignment.

A land surveyor may be engaged in a project where a prominent developer is building a new shopping mall in an empty field. The surveyor determines exactly where the foundations will go and ensures that structures are positioned correctly during construction.

The Canadian Government may need a record of the polar ice caps to make ocean travel safe. Land surveyors may work from a plane or boat to measure the changes and chart the ice movements to assist shipping of all sorts.

And what can a newly-minted land surveyor expect to earn? Since licenced land surveyors have a rare and highly respected skill, $60,000 to $140,000 or more per year can be expected, and if a young entrepreneur who is a licensed surveyor starts a business with a land surveying as the core service, earning potential is unlimited.

Shopping for cabbages and peddling golf balls

An engineer once told me that he didn’t like marketing because the word reminded him of going shopping for cabbages. I guess he didn’t like cabbages.

The same engineer was respected in his community for the work his office did. Like many other post-war small business entrepreneurs, he had to compete for new work as he completed the work he had. He knew that his next project depended on how well his office performed on existing assignments. The scope of work and fees for service were negotiated when it was his turn to get an assignment. Sounds like an ideal situation for an entrepreneur. This was the way clients once approached professional businesses for services.

The “new economy” of 1998 promised exciting times for many small businesses. Inadequate funding of projects, low bidding between professionals to get work, and keeping skilled staff and offices functioning with fast changing technologies were not easy challenges to meet. Founding principals, with large share holdings in firms with declining revenues and profits, took the decision to retire while their firms faced these challenges. This sometimes resulted in strained cash resources for normal operations, after large share purchases by the firms. And don’t forget the baby boomers, moving into the professions, opening new businesses and competing for fewer dollars and fewer clients with shovel-ready projects. Throughout all of this, a major recession struck hard at Canadians.

So, what’s this got to do cabbages and professional services? And where do golf balls enter into the picture? Survival, that’s what. Just as the noble cabbage has nourished humankind throughout four millennia, carefully planned marketing will carry professional service businesses through this time of transition to a new knowledge-driven economy.

As with business, the cabbage has short – and long-term aspirations. It forms cabbage heads one year, and flowers the next. Left unharvested, the cabbage will bolt into and extended flowering stalk the second year. Some can be harvested for immediate nutrition, but some must be left to provide seed for future plantings. Like small businesses, the cabbage should be grown in fertile ground and tended with care.









Golf became a booming industry, supported by merchandising and high profile promotion, new golf course development, and the boomers and their offspring (Gen X) who raised the sport to one of high social esteem. Golf holds lessons to be learned by young entrepreneurs. Looking back over forty years at the success of a little boy selling golf balls in a growth market in the book Cabbages and Golf Balls, helps illustrate the techniques to successfully market a small professional business.

Marketing now is considered by many businesses to be as important as the very technology, or service that defines the operation. The shopping trip to the marketplace might seem to be a regular visit to sell quality cabbages.

If we think cabbages and golf balls, marketing can be fun, and definitely rewarding. Marketing generates new business, and reminds clients of past performance. Marketing is as enjoyable as the sweetest cabbage recipe. Cabbages and Golf Balls, is a philosophy of effective marketing techniques for small professional business when the Internet was in its infancy, there were no smart phones, and  social media was in the minds of very few. The book makes no attempt to define “small,” because the term is relative to the economy and region within which businesses are operating. 

The book makes the reader think about cabbages and golf balls when someone mentions marketing. By the way, in the late eighties, both the old engineer and his office passed painfully into history. To the very end, the engineer disliked cabbage. But, he did leave lessons to be learned.