From book to business

How an MBA graduate of the Alberta School of Business is transforming communities.

Doug Griffiths (‘16 MBA) and his team at 13 Ways Inc. are on a mission to help communities across North America build their own distinctive brands.

By assessing cities and towns for what makes them unique and engaging their citizens for honest feedback, the company offers actionable ways in which communities can build their identities, embody the authentic values of their inhabitants and share their stories.

“We do all and only for the communities who want to find their unique pathway forward,” said Griffiths. “The process of branding and marketing a community needs to be more than just picking a slogan and making a brochure.”

Through working with a diverse range of clients over the last seven years, Griffiths has learned that there is no such thing as a one-solution-fits-all approach when it comes to community development. Rather than offering clients a menu of standardized services, 13 Ways operates on flexibility, openness and provides clients with bespoke action plans.

“We don’t measure success by volume, but rather by quality and results,” he said. “We tailor each and every bit of work to what the community really needs, not what we want to sell, and not on what they want to buy — it makes our work so satisfying, and it makes our clients so much more successful.”

From book to business

Before founding 13 Ways, Griffiths served as an MLA for 13 years, and it was during this time that he was inspired.

Though 13 Ways was founded in 2015, the vision for the business came from a book Griffiths published in 2010 while serving in this position. 13 Ways to Kill Your Community — a book that illustrates ways in which communities unintentionally stop themselves from flourishing — became a bestseller in both Canada and the United States.

“Honestly, I did not ever imagine the book would be a national bestseller and that it would evolve into an entire business,” said Griffiths.

“I wrote it to let out my frustrations after writing a rural community development strategy as an MLA. I spoke with so many communities about how they could succeed only to see them doing the complete opposite at every turn. It wasn’t intentional, they were just being human.”

Upon retiring from politics, Griffiths went on to collaborate with Heather Thomson (director of Centre for Cities and Communities), Ashley Szakal and Courtney Borst, and turned the subject of his book into an enterprise. In addition to offering consulting services, Griffiths and Thomson also share their expertise and inspiration through public presentations.

“We have built an amazing team of experts who continue to learn and lead in their fields,” Griffiths said of the 13 Ways team.

Staying grounded

As an author, entrepreneur and public speaker, Griffiths leads a fast-paced life; but he remains grounded through downtime spent in his rural community of Ardrossan, Alberta, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

“Talking and decompressing with my family around the supper table is a must at the end of each day,“ he said. “We cook together, eat together, and clean up together each evening and I think it helps us all sleep a little more soundly.”

“And then on the weekends, we like to do something that brings our street together to socialize. The pandemic slowed has that down, but we are going to start doing a lot more of that again.”

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