The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode · 2 years ago

28. Entrepreneurship, Leading teams, and lessons learned with Ron Close

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

There is no shortage of descriptors for Ron Close, HBA ’81: a seasoned entrepreneur, leader, educator, coach with a small ‘c’, board member, investor etc.

A graduate from one of Ivey's most 'entrepreneurial classes (1981),' Ron was the co-founder and CEO of Netcom Canada, one of Canada's earliest and most successful Internet companies. After selling Netcom, Ron spent a number of years in executive roles across the telecommunications, and technology industries.

A deep thinker who is eminently quotable, Ron shares some of his most important learnings, from starting up, leading teams, and coaching some of Canada’s top young entrepreneurs and executives, on the latest episode of the Ivey Entrepreneur Podcast.

You're listening to the Ivy Entrepreneurship podcast from the Pierrel Morrisset Institute for Entrepreneurship at the Abbey Business Call. My name is Eric Morris and I will be your host for this episode. Delighted to be here with Ron Close. Ron and I have actually done this before, this this kind of format, and he's just fantastic at it. I mean, one of the reasons Ron's just such a great speaker is that his experience is vast, I guess, in one way, in the sense of He's a serial entrepreneur, you know, it's not just one entrepreneural venture, it's a number of them, and so he brings a real different mix of experience because of that. But he's also work, you know, and for large companies he's a board member and advisor, a consultant. So Ron has played a lot of different roles over his career and I think what you're going to find about ron is that he doesn't just go through these experiences, he's thoughtful about them and that's why he's such a great resource, I think, to so many entrepreneurs out there. The one thing that I forgot to mention is Ron's also a teacher, Ron spent a lot of time with us at I the actually teaching the new venture courses. So I've got to know Ron really well over the years and and I know you're going to delight in his experience and the lessons that he's learned over the years. And really the first I want to do is I want to turn it to run and just say run, would you mind sharing, you know, maybe a little bit more about you and your kind of entrepreneurial journey over the years? Well, Eric, thank you and ash thank you for thanking of me for this, for this format. It's a complete honor to be able to spend a little bit of time with people who are going to change the world in the future. And Eric, it's a double honor to actually be on this camera right now with you, and we do go back a long way and I think it might even be a couple of decades, and it's all been great memories and high impact stuff and at least at least on your side, and it's an honor for me to here with you. You know, I graduated from IV back in one thousand nine hundred and eighty one and I went originally to consulting it was Anderson Consulting and I did my usual, you know, two years stinted consulting before I realized it wasn't really what I thought it was and went went on to a number of other small companies in almost what I would describe as an embarrassingly scrappy, self serving, promotions surfing career, you know. And you know, instead of me walking through my CV, which in a nutshell is, you know, big and small companies, leading to sort of in my early s, some entrepreneurial, some serious entrepreneurial startup stuff and then, you know, selling my my Internet service provider called Netcom. I was a CO founder of that, selling it to atnt and then staying on board with ATNT for a couple of years as president of Internet and need business services, and then kind of getting involved in software companies and going later in my career and my fort mid s to Bell Canada and serving on the senior leadership team at Bell Canada and being part of that that issue. It's been a wild ride of big company and small company experiences and all of them very educational. Since those days, you know, my last full time role was as a CEO of Pelm Rex, which is the parent company of the weather network, which was another honor and pleasure. A great people there and very, very fond memories and thoughts about that organization. I send me retired and got involved with some people investing in Fintech, serious investments in Fintech, and and I've now sort of worked my way into a role as an advisor or leadership advisor for people that that are working in Fintech, small companies and larger companies, I would say, some of them on the private equity side, some of them on on the on the fintech startup...

...might catch and I know as a student of mine at Ivy and I coach him now. He's the founder of well simple, and you know I coach the founders, and I use the word coach sort of with a little bit of wiggle room, and grant me a little bit of space on that, because I'm not a train coach. I'm a bit of a Hack, a small sea coach, if you will. I'm really a fellow practitioner for these leaders and I sit sort of between the board and the CEO or the senior leadership team with probably ten or twenty of these companies right now, just trying to help them figure out how to grow, how to scale, how to avoid walking into the blades of a fan, if you will, as a leader, as a manager, and also coaching boards and new directors on boards rather their venture capital people who are wildly smart at modeling but don't have a lot of experience being on board of directors. And so how do we intervene with management without compromising their ability to proprietary feeling about their baby and they're pulity to make things happen and yet be able to add value and eliminate hurdles for them? All of these things are sort of born just from battle scars. Most of it me doing things wrong and learning, trying to learn from those things, but generally being a student of leadership and teamwork since I since I was at Ivy, and I be taught me that, and one of my IV profts, Dick Hodgson, in organizational behavior, is one of the people I think about most, in addition to Eric and the things I've learned from Eric as well. But you know just about. How do you bring people along? What's the difference in a team of people warming chairs around table and people who are turned on sort of at a visceral level and really understand the dream and understand how they reach across the divides, the functional divides, the technical divides, the market bides, to just make sure we don't drop balls and have better than average performance as a team. I've been a student of that and I've been lucky to work with some great people that have given me some some good tips, and I'll turn it back to you, Eric. Well, thanks, run I think there's there's a ton to unpack already and I want to leave most of this with you. But just one thing that I heard you say around you know your peer as much as you are an advisor, I guess, and I think that's so important. Right. You've been through this and I encouraged everybody that's listening that has that entrepreneurial desire to find that group of other entrepreneurs that they can bounce ideas off of, and it's just so helpful to know you're not alone and that there's others in this and when you can find season, you know, men or women, people like Ron to help you through that, I think it's enormously effective. So I second that, Eric. There's this lonely spot for sure, as a founder, CEO. Yeah, and there are some things that you can openly communicate with your investors and your board, if you have a board as a and there's some things that you can openly communicate, many things with your team and your direct reports. But there's some things that you just can't put down your dukes and sort of divulge your fears, and for that it's nice to have sort of a confidential comrade who can just say yeah, I know, I know how you're feeling and yeah, some thoughts and maybe noodle a little bit together on a white board somebody that you respect and somebody that respects you absolutely really, really important. You know, one of the questions I'm sure you get a lot and it's always a hard one to answer, in my opinion, because it's usually not a bolt of lightning. But when you were evaluating, you know, is this in an initiative that I want to jump into and start this business, how did you know that was the right opportunity for you and then go through your decision making to take that leap? You know, the irony of it was, I think in my life I had I had either in my early career I had a heavy entrepreneurial, inkling inclinations. And yet I was doing well in larger companies. I was a I...

...was a running new product introduction at the Telco and then running marketing and then running sales and marketing and making presentations at the board. And I had just, you know, at thirty two years old, decided I don't think I actually need to take the risks of entrepne of entrepreneurship. I had a home in a mortgage, I had a wife and two children and bills to pay and, you know, was scrambling and it was was starting to make some bill yeah, and you know, the the decision for me to start a company was one that I had to do risk completely along with my Amigos. There were three of us that you know. We actually started Netcom Canada in those days and it was one of the earliest and largest Internet service providers back in those days. We started in, you know, in our in early S, and it was it was a process of writing a business plan. Now I mean a detailed, eighty five page business plan with a model that's nested with driver driver sub charts that feed revenue and feed head count and labor and the ability to do what if analysis to see where the risks are and because I needed to mortgage my house and cash in my RSP's and put everything on the line for that first startup, I had to be risk it, and so that was the process I went through. What I encountered and what I've encountered since is sort of like there are a couple of small number of really important things that define a really compelling business plan or a business idea, and one of them is just the most important perhaps, is an effective and differentiated solution to a big problem or opportunity, and there's a lot packed in there. It's an effective solution, it really does work, it's differentiated, it's a little bit better than the bad guys and the problem or the opportunity is actually material. You know, I've introduced it over the years, including my teaching days at I, because concept of of a bleeding network. You know, I would rather sell gauze to somebody bleeding from the juggular because they desperately need it and it's an easy sale if you're standing there at the right time with a solution that you're going to die with then a vitamin that you know you can be even better. I know you're well now, but you could be even better. That's a tougher sale. So and the size of the opportunity is important just because we're going to work our our butts off no matter what and we might as well work at large, fruitful spaces. So one. There are a couple of other things I want to mention in terms of that at the top of the iceberg. What we look for in really compelling business plans. One of them is that a differentiated solution that works in a large and attractive market. The second one perhaps not in any orders, just attractive economics. And you know, you'd got to be able to acquire customers at a rate that you can get a sufficient payback so you can pay the bills and change the world and have an impact on people and your employees and your customers and your shareholders. So there's no avoiding attractive economics. And the third thing is a credible team with a credible plan, and that's you know that I spent five years at I be trying to teach how to your write credible plan, you know, and the varying degrees of success, and I spent I've spent ten years since then really just working with a lot of startups working through that, but there's nothing magical about it. It just don't leave a Wagal room for me to furrow my brow and say, yeah, but do you? Did you consider this? And what about the competition and regulation? Or The economics sound attractive, or you've never done anything like this before or no one's ever done anything, or this is so new and unproven in terms of the market pull and demand. There's some no brainer stuff that you yourself. If you sit back, all you entrepreneurs, with an honest assessment of your idea and your thoughts, you would say, look, it is this compelling? What makes it compelling and what makes everybody, I talk to, my mom and my dad and my friends and whoever it is a little bit skeptical that are you sure this is the one? So Nice,...

...it's it's not rockets science. Well, now you know. But I love how deliberate you are about it. Run and some people one we still use the bleeding neck analogy, neck win analogy. I love that, versus the vitamin that it's still something we use around Ivy. The other thing is make sure it's big enough. Again, is this really going to deliver on kind of the lifestyle and the interests that you have right now. You're going to spend a lot of time with this. Are you going to enjoy it? Like everything there Eric there's so there's tension and you know I work with a lot of companies now that are wrestling with is it a Canada only play? Is it a global play? Can we afford not to go to the US? What about the UK? Germany has all kinds of opportunity and stuff going on and there's there's a tension between sort of the the simplicity of a single market with single regulatory rules and you can know who the competitors are and understand a little bit more of demographics and consumer behaviors and the wildcome complexification, if that's a word, that happens when you move into a new space, perhaps with new investors, definitely with new consumer behaviors and up and regulators and so but is the Canadian market big enough for some of these fintech startups? And you know, it's a it's a tease and I think over the battle scars of my life I've really developed an appreciation for I think it was Jeffrey Moore and bridging the chasm or something that wanted to hit the headpin first. And you know, if you can win in Canada and dominate in Canada first and perfect your model, if you're Canadian, if you're American, I mean in your space, the space you know best, perfect your model, debug your assumptions in terms of cost of acquisition and cost of service and turn rates or whatever the economics are, the lifetime value, whatever your economics are, debug them, understand the sensitivities, figure it out and then propagate like hell. Yeah, yeah, and it gets back to your thinking about and talking about d risk. You know, for those of you that may be at I've or I be grat so the nine step process we teach is is came from rock. You know. I think he built on stuff that we had done in the past, but but it's a it's a process and a lot of that process is about d risking. And you know, I think there's this kind of misconception about entrepreneurs that they're these huge risk takers and there is some risk in anything that we do. But the idea that I think the successful and Perner's take is there's a body of risk. Now how do I bring it down? How do I d risk skid and into something that I'm I'm I can manage and I'm willing to go forward with, and that de risking pieces I think so important. One of those things are corollary to that and I couldn't agree more. And I spend quite a bit of time. If you're going to lose sleep as a founder, what could go wrong? You know what significantly could go wrong. I don't necessarily just mean a black swan event, that's an unexpected Gotcha, but just all the little things that can go wrong that could hurt you. What meetings do you have tomorrow? And we as founders and leaders, we spend all of our days and nights thinking about what could be, what could go wrong and what am I going to do and how can I ensure myself against it? But one of the things I wanted to add as a corollary there is the encouragement to think as a leader about what could go right, what could go wildly right. You know, you're a year into a start up, you've gone from six people to twenty three people, with forty one people and your team is busy with the block and tackle, building channels and building products and hiring people and getting your board decks together and your dashboards together, but somebody's got to think about what could go wildly right here. Yeah, I often encourage these founders. You know, tomorrow morning the phone rings and it's a blow your hair back good news proposal from somebody right out of left field, and it changed changes the whole trajectory of your startup. Phone what was the offer? Why is it...

...so attractive? Why did it blow your hair back? Figure that out and go make that phone call happen. Yeah, you know, the worst thing, and you've seen it, I've seen it, I'm sure ash you seen it as well, is when an entrepreneur doesn't make it because they couldn't deal with the success. And you know so again, that planning, that de risking, is so important. One of the things that I've always admired run about you in terms of the the ventures you've been involved with and even when you've come in as president, and is really team, how you've put team around, and I think it's probably part of this de risking to some extent. Can you kind of take us through your thoughts around team and why it's so important? I guess I you know, I always have felt like I'm the weakest link in the chain, and so you know, I really have relied heavily on very talented people. But one of the things I tried to add value to is the process of creating a true team, a team where everybody is I was mentioning earlier, everybody does understand the objective in the goal. What we're worried about going wrong, what we want to see to declare it is success. How will we know if we're winning? And you know the the I think. I think teams are vehicles for getting almost everything done. I think if you're an artist or an individual contributor at the most finite level, perhaps that's not true, but even artists have teams, even tennis player and single sports, you know, credit their team, and I think the skill set that is quite valuable is the ability to contribute to a highly functioning team. Make it a highly functioning team. It means watching body language, even as a peer around the table, watching body language of the people around the table and are they leaning in or are they leaning out? Too Cool for school? Do you have their heart? Do you have their head? Do they have a voice, that they have an opportunity to contribute, even if they're introverted instead of extroverted. What can you do to make sure that people buy in and feeling like they're an important part of this team effort? And I think communication and context is key there, and it and the courage to actually share what what you're doing and why, and what you're afraid of and why, and what you're hoping for and why, and then listening and adapting and changing the direction, maybe even changing the group the goal. But that magical ability to actually create a kick ass team is something that's valuable at all levels and in fact, I would say you know, I've been the chairman of YPO here in Toronto and my earlier life young presidents organization. You know I've worked with a lot of presidents and I think one common feeling they have had is the surprise when they sit down at the president's chair and none of the leavers that they thought they had, would have if I ever ran in this place, are connected to anything. You know, you still have to win through persuasion, you still have to be credible, you have to be respectful, you have to invest in, buy in and and look not just the what but the why of explanation and all those skills you start practicing with your first job and your first team, and if you can't carry a team along within a group of peers, you're not going to get the job as that that is the formal authority, hierarchical leader. It's even more important when you're in that role to put down your dukes leave here. You go at the door and say I might get the President CEO of this company, but teach me what's going on, tell me what you can bring, you know stuff that we desperately need. I'll provide as much context as I can, even stuff that I'm not sure you might need, but I'll trust, then, that you're an adult, a smart adult with great training, and you're going to bring all your gusts though to the challenges at hand here. Yeah, I think there's a lot of leadership lessons in that run and...

I think you know being a good leader is very much working through your team and getting them engaged, heart in mind. I love that. I love that idea. Can you speak maybe just a little bit about this idea of the right people on the bus, the right people on the team, and I think you've said a little bit about that. From an attitudinal standpoint. But but what else? There's some of the things that you think to and I know you know you had a team that you work for closely with and the first or maybe first couple of ventures that you went through, what was it, you know, that they brought to the table? Maybe that made everything kind of Gel for you guys. Well, I think it's a combination. Obviously there's there sort of complementary technical skills, and that's just that it's too big. There're too many things for one brain or one person, one woman, one man, to handle it all. You might be able to get away with it for the first year or so, but when you start scaling and you really start getting into more complicated opportunities or threats, you really get some specialization experience required there. And so I think. I think first there's technical complement and most importantly, though, I would say, is a cultural fit. And I know those are over overused words and I'm not let me try to find better words that might be more meaningful. Like I want I want to work with people who are are comfortable with me sharing ambiguity if I'm the president, like I don't want to have to pretend to be smart and pretend to have answers and pretend to always be cool and calm. I want to be offentive, I want to trust that you can handle the truth and I want to tell you the truth. Yeah, I want to be able to say that openly and have have you add value, add your magic. So I think, I think it's starts. As much as as teams are are important, it does start with a culture of the leadership of that of that team and the willingness or the propensity to be open, honest share things contextually so that you have a fighting chance of coming up with the right answers, to listen and adapt to always. You know, are the people around the team always considering themselves students? Are they always willing to learn and listen? How we talk to each other matters, how we share our diverging opinions matters. The culture of disagreeing and and improving on each other's ideas matters. The words we choose to use with each other are chosen with a little bit of care, knowing how precious these relationships really are, and if you can just get that balance right of leaning in and showing emotion but also being credible in terms of what you're adding substantively that your thoughts. I think I've always been surprised at how strong those teams can be. Yeah, I think there's a lot of leadership lessons in that that I wish we're shared more broadly. Right now, let's go into some other things, right and I think you've been sharing, you know, lessons learned already. But but I also know that that's something you've given some thought to. I think you know your roles advisor, sitting back and thinking your role as a teacher, sitting back and thinking through and you've recently published some things on lessons learned. You know you want to share a two or three of those with us, or maybe just start with one and and we'll play it from there. But sure, sure, you know, I have done a lot of thinking about this and you know, some of them are quite embarrassing lessons learned, you know, but and there's some that are more lessons learned from a business perspective. Like I would say a lot of startups have a difficult time really crafting and perfecting a compelling story. They have a difficult time knowing actually how to organize people, what titles to give, the compensation and remuneration. They have a difficult time with the cadence of management. Every Monday morning we're going to have a...

...team meeting. WHO GETS INVITED? What's on the agenda? What about the Thursday afternoon all hands sessions? What about the monthly meetings? Is there a different team for the product development approvals and processes? The cadence and the frequency of meetings, who attends them? What we talked about is always something that young entrepreneurs are trying to wing it and there they are starting from scratch, and so there's there's some dues and don'ts on that front. But what I'd really like to share more than just sort of the toast stubbing of, you know, a start up getting the CAP table wrong or giving equity away for fifteen thousand dollars to a lawyer and, you know, regretting it six months later. I think one of the things for young people starting up, whether they're entrepreneurial or at heading into a career in a company, is to pick the right river. And I think I've concluded in my in my life that it's just a lot more fun to be in a rising industry, in an industry that's exciting full of innovation and Growth, with opportunity then it is to be in an industry that sort of declining and shrinking and and investment challenged, if you will, and whether you're doing a startup or you're joining a company, I think there's just more opportunity for promotion and learning and growth if you know the challenges are positive, not negative, consolidation, contraction and you know, cost reduction, preservation. The second thought I would like to share there, if I could, is to have an attitude. This is a bit embarrassing, but shine on every rum, shine on every run of a ladder. So there is no tomorrow, there is no tomorrow. You just have today, you have the people you're talking to today. Treat every single interaction as that one chance that thank God. I did my best to be on my game. You never know, you never know what might happen. And if you if you stop aiming for three runs above you and start trying to shine today on these realms. And what do I what meetings do I have tomorrow? And how could I pleasantly surprise people? By just doing a little bit of extra, little bit more research, a little bit more on the personal front, knowing about them or their family or their kids or their sick father. Just how can my shine on everyone a little bit extra? I've written down a couple of notes here, but one I've got half a dozen of these and I don't know, I don't think we want to go through them all. But one I I want to make sure I don't I don't miss here, is to practice the art of persuasion, and I think it is related to my comments earlier about being on a team and influencing from within a jury of your peers. You don't have higher archpical authority, but you can still matter to the direction of the team and if you become a student, a lifelong student, aboute persuasion, about being crisp, about avoiding opportunities for Red Herring discussions or distractive words, that made you miss my fundamental point. It is that it is that opportunity, I think that is quite special, to just practice and perfect and continually seek feedback in the art of persuading other people. Yeah, I think that's great run and I see there's some questions starting to command. I'm going to ask maybe one more question and if you have questions in the audience, please use the QA banner and we'll get those to run in a minute. So run last one and a. This is something that I know you've thought about and spoken to, but I think, given where a lot of the businesses that are maybe listening today are very early stage, coming out of the master class with Dash, I think that idea of getting your story right is so important at that stage. Could you talk a little bit about that and some of your thoughts there? You know, I think it starts with people want to be a part of, an important part of something good and your job, if you're attracting money or talent or partners, distribution partners, your job is to make them believe that this...

...company is something good and that their participation is really important. I don't care if they're the receptionist or if they're the the key investor. So I think the whole idea about being able to convince people that they're an important part of something good has to do with that, coming to terms with those two sides and providing context. I don't know if that address that question adequately or not. Yeah, I think so. I think it actually is very related to the persuasion stuff that you were talking about before and I think it usually is based in a real firm belief in yourself in the idea that you're going forward with. Right we often talk in class of you know, if you're a shame to kind of still your friends and family on this idea, maybe it's not the right idea for you. You know, you want something that you really feel passionate about. And, as people were storytellers and we respond better to story. So that idea of the elevator pitch always ends up so generic to me that I like the idea and the way you've, you know, talked about it in the past around storytelling's. What's the story you want to tell about this adventure and why are you so excited about it and and how are you going to share that excitement and build that excitement in your team and those people that you want the board it? And just think that's credit. That's so well said. You know, it really is about eliminating the skepticism or avoiding opportunities to create skepticism. It is about very quickly getting to what matters about this venture and being able to explain it in a very simple and credible way. It's about what's the hard part of suceeding here. You know what? The hard part is actually just going to be raising the money. If we can have the money, we could operate. We've done this before. Or maybe the hard part is going to be getting distribution. But you know what, we've got a special in with Walmart, or we have this or we have that. It's it's actually draining the swamp of furrowed brows and questions and skepticism in a very compelling way that doesn't leave wiggle room for people to say, yeah, well, keep working on it and, you know, come back to me when you've debugged all of your dusty corners there. Yeah, it is tough to be complete and compelling about that and it takes, I think, a lot of deliberate practice and feedback over and over again, and I do spend quite a bit of time saying, okay, tell me what you're doing and why you're doing it. Why does it matter? What's the hard part? What could go wrong? What's the next step? How will you measure what steps of you are already taken to give me confidence that you're you've got momentum already, that you've already demonstrated demonstrated progress. And what's the next few steps through which will see progress. So there are some tricks and there's some practice, but it's wildly important to all your constituents to really be able to con communicate a compelling story. Yeah, thanks, run. Let's go ahead and answer some questions. So I have a question here from Nicole and it was back to kind of when we were talking about advisors. So, run, how do you find an advisor with experience to help you? You know, if they're so successful? You know kind of the ideas. Why do they want to help you? You know, I it's a great question and I think you generally mingle. You generally mingle. There is entrepreneurial communities in London and in Toronto and in New York and Boston and La and San Fran of course all around the world. And if those are your aspirations, mingle. Get out there and meet people and talk to people at varying stages of their careers and they will know who the influencers are. They will be quick, quick to point you to go and talk to Professor Eric Morse. If you could get time with Eric Morris, get time with Eric. His time is incredibly valuable and that that word of mouth, that sort of informal channel, if you will, come that comes from mingling and...

...being involved in the ecosystems that you hope to participate in. You know there are there, there are venture capital groups. I consult quite a bit now with portage here in Toronto and Montreal and in North America and in fact more broadly than that. And you know, there's a number of advisors that that ecosystem have attracted and they get a bit of a buzz and a bit of a momentum themselves, but it really is all about circulating and talking and meeting people. Yeah, you know, the only thing I'd add to that Nicole is that, you know, those like Ashen and Ron, I would see the entrepreneur community as a community that wants to give back. You know, there was somebody there and their career when they needed them and every successful entrepreneur I've ever known has a story about that and because of that they're willing to give back. So it's up to you to kind of get in their circle, as Ron was saying, and and make that compelling pitch with your story and if they can see how they can help, I think they very often do so. So don't be afraid to reach out and make those asks. Okay, another question here. Shoe cree run. Could you share your experience the first time you let a team where there? What were the big surprises to you? If there weren't, that takes a hundred and thirty year memory. I guess my surprises were sort of my ineffectiveness. I might be making some of this up to sort of craft a story of a lot of years. I can't remember, but I would say I'm I've been surprised at how nonintuitive team leadership really is. And you know, often as a child I was on basketball teams and football teams and things like that and they were different. When you start getting into a business team, you start getting into one where there's hard and fast objectives and consequences that aren't just losing the game or losing the trophy, but maybe using your job or helping others lose their jobs. So it gets to be pretty serious pretty quickly and just a little bit of coaching about making sure there's clarity about the objectives of the team, making sure that people have a chance to opt in or popped out of the team. It's very difficult to form a team dynamic if there's some people that just frankly don't want to be part of this project, and so so you need some process and some authority to set the team off in the right direction of the right at the start. And then I think it is about watching human behavior, body language and offline saying, Jeez Ash, I've noticed that you haven't said a word in the last three team meetings. I want to make sure you're okay. Is there anything that's not working for you? What are you seeing? What's turning you on, what's turning you off here and being able to sort of cajole people around from behind the scenes to get that passion all marshaled in one direction. Yeah, thanks, trying to is great. Let's see, we have an anonymous question here. Could you please tell your story when, this is a great question, when you were at your lowest point in your entrepreneurial career. Nothing's working, you know all those headaches. How did you come out of that? That's an easy it's an easy one for me to remember. I was I was a CEO of a publicly traded software company. It was a reverse takeover, which was a public shell that we moved an operating company that really had no business being public at all, really no revenue. Is Wireless software with a lot of intellectual property and I and my Amigos, it was, you know, our third or fourth venture together, sort of move to Windsor and during Monday to Friday and commuted from Toronto Windsor and rent of the House with five bedrooms in it and all live together and worked our buns off for a couple of years unsuccessfully in a public environment and it was it was quite a humbling experience to go through that.

At the end, what we were trying to do there is actually fine product market match. We had great technology, but there are always reasons for the customers to say I'm not quite ready to invest in this new innovative technology. It seems a bit risky for one reason or another. And where we found a dozen customers, we needed a hundred and twenty users. It was a big software for selling to British Telecom and Bell Canada and things like that, and we just we just couldn't find that kind of volume of success and in the end we ended up selling it to research in motion and they bought it really for the technical expertise. We had some great engineers. Why are a software engineers. We had some intellectual property that they wanted to get and you know, it was a it was a get out with a skinny your teeth situation here, and nobody made any money. Nobody really lost much money there. At one point I was funding payroll on Thursday nights through my own bank account to make sure that people got paid tomorrow, and it was just so damn stressful and so untruthful in the end, and so trying the the team helped and having a team of competent people that could just look after different chunks of this challenge was really helpful. In the latter stages, even the team went away because I couldn't afford to pay everyone at that stage of the game and I think, I think that still is with me. I don't think there's a happy ending. I think I got out of it and we landed the plane and we walked away with, you know, all kinds of difficult future crafting scars. To be honest with you. They hurt and it still hurts when I think about it mortally. They're not all like that. I remember that time run. I think there were also some problems with your driving between Toronto and Windsor if I remember, I got the odd speed and ticket. You're right, I knew you'd remember that. Sorry about that, you know. There's a follow up question that I think is is kind of interesting to go with that one, and it's from Sarah. Actually. She says should an entrepreneur always be thinking about an exit strategy? Well, Sarah, Sarah, firstly, it's nice to hear from you a game hi. Yes and no, yes and no. I mean, I know that's the waffling answer, but know to the extent that the thing that will make your exit most attractive is that you're a good operator and you spend all your time thinking about business success and de Lighting customers and building teams, and to the extent that you're always looking at the door, it compromises your focus on growth and success. In fact, I've competed with companies in the past that really were begun with the end in mind, but the end was really a financially driven end of a consolidation play, a cell out an, I feel, something like that, and they failed to do the operational hard work to create a sustainable company that you know, you could operate if you had to, and I've always valued the ability to operate these companies and knew that that was creating value in and of itself. The other thing, though, is what what might happen here? Like where could this an who? What if we have wild growth opportunity but we have to fund the working capital? You know, if it's a five hundred dollar cost of acquisition for stomer but it's an eighteen month payback on that, I got a fund a whole bunch of growth there while I wait out eighteen months to get the cash back. And so some successful companies really do require a lot of strategic thinking about the financing steps that we're going to have as we go forward here, and to that extent, beginning with the end in mind is always helpful. And knowing to whom might we speak? What might we talk to? A strategic partner, a private equity group, you know, an angel group that might, you know, increase their investment? Where could we go? That, too is getting back...

...to this losing sleep at night thinking what could go wrong here and making sure you're out in front of that wave of risk, to say, even if these guys lose faith in us, I have a couple in my back pocket that can sub in really nicely. And you're always working those angles to make sure that you can never be pictimized and that in your teammates therefore can never be victimized. And as the leader, that's at least you have to do and I think that's a great answer on thanks and thanks for the question, sir. This one's from ask different ash. Any learnings from starting out with either the right or the wrong partners, having to remove partners to how many experience? What you can share? I do. I do and my experience. There really is more as an adviser than my personal direct experience. Just to protect my friends, but there's there's a lot of common air was being made in very early days and at those are errors and choosing your partners. Those are errors in structuring the management team and the equity sharing early. Those are errors in that Cap table and who you allow on to the CAP table as an investor, and there's so it's so difficult a year or two later to unwind some of these things. You know, sort of a pad example here is, you know, you get a an MBA from IV and you get a waterloo developer and they know they have great complementary skills and they're both needed in a tech start up, a digital start up, for example. But quite often one or the other, and maybe the clearest would be the developers a great minimum viable product, you know, sort of wire frame designer, and getting the product originally to market. But two years later you might have twenty five engineers working for her or him, and now she has to be good at allocating work and organizing an engineering team and setting up a QUA team and attracting engineers by doing public speaking out in in the community. And yet you gave her the CTEO title and thirty and five percent of the equity. And it's hard now to actually say, you know what, we need a we need a CTO that's really got capabilities of a full cteo or a fuller CTO, and so under title in the early days. You know, save the Chief of something word for for later. Treat equity as something wildly precious. You know, I know that cash is precious, but so too is equity, and that's that's a tension, another tension you'll experience. Just think about what might I have to do to undo this commitment right now, before you get into them. It's such a such a tough, tough thing. And I think that's great, great answer. Ron It's something that people should be thinking about as they're starting up and it's a particular dilemma when people start with friends. You know the I always tell them, you know, put those agreements in place while you're still friends, because it gets a lot harder as we go down the road and different aspiration levels between partners and all of those things that are tough to unwind later. So the more if you haven't been brave enough to have those conversations while things were good. Like that, the shotgun clauses and what happens if we fall out? How will we how will we unwind without ruining our friendship here? Yeah, if you talk about that before it goes astray, your you got half the battle. One way, better position, for sure. You know one thing maybe I'd ask you again is that, and again I've read you've written on this, so I know kind of word that is a but I think it's something that hasn't come up and you talk a lot about a balance. You've got to find a balance. I think it's between yourself, investors, employees and customers. And you know, when you as an entrepreneur and you're thinking about these different stakeholders. How do you find that right balance? You know, I think balance is a big words. Certainly has been in my career and as I've been talking to a lot of teams in two different ways. One of them...

...is sort of the work life balance issue and one of them really is the difficult role of balancing the various and sometimes differing needs of shareholders, customers and employees, specifically that three legged stool, if you will, and the trick of running a company is being able to find a successful, sustainable position that makes the shareholders happy, to customers happy and your employees happy all at the same time and to be able to grow and continue to innovate and, you know, succeed. That way, you can at any given time sacrifice your employees for your customers and just, you know, rule out vacations and weekends, or you could sacrifice the you could hire more employees, but you might have to raise more money, you know, if the quality of life isn't good enough. So that difficult balancing act is a sensitivity that I would love to see it entrepreneurs have, because it's it's what the job of leadership is, is balancing the various interests of your investors, your customers and your employees. On the life work balance, I think I've come in my older age, to prefer different words like I really like you choosing the places you want to have impact act and being deliberate about thinking about the impact you want to have. I want to have impact on my kids, I want to be there to have impact on my kids, I want to have impact on my company, I want to have impact on my on my friends, and so you the wagon wheel of your time allocation. To me, isn't really about, you know, balance between work and play. It's really about you being deliberate about choosing where you want to have your impact and then saying am I am, I walking the talk and I actually living up to my desired way to spend enough time to have impact with my kids or to have impact with the company, and just make it happen. I think that's great running. I think you know, one of the things that is talked a lot about in business today's purpose, and you know the idea of purpose with impact. I think is is really important that we all think about. Frankly, right, absolutely, I think we'll reallocate our time differently if we if we all thought about that a little bit more carefully. We're almost near the end run. I'm going to just give you the chance to maybe say or talk to something that we haven't had a chance to speak to today or just, you know, kind of the last thing on your mind. And thank you. That's very kind of you. I you know, I really want to end with one concept and I think it's the concept of character, and that probably won't surprise any of you, and I'm sure you all live up to this every day or try to as as we all do. But it's it's something to think about in advance because in your life your character has already been tested and it's going to be tested again. And if to the extent that you can think about what you might do and what you might do differently and how you might react when you're cornered, when these things are sprung upon you and you have to think on your feet, it's helpful to sort of draw your own lines in the sand with a little bit of private time and that in that sort of the confidential circle of your own thinking. They're who are you? What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for? What kind of person do you choose to be and that character, if you've thought about it deliberately and you've given yourself a chance to actually write down some things and pick some words and pick some priorities, it will start to shine through and it'll shine through and work and it'll shine through and play with friends. And at the end of the day, when, I think, when you look back on your career or your family, it'll be one of the things that brings you sort of the most joy is the impact that you've had on people, those people who may have kindly said you are a role model. And all of that can go away in a heartbeat if your character becomes questioned or suspect. And so it's something that's takes a lifetime to build,...

...of constant attention and thought that's deliberate and it can be lost in a heartbreak, in a heartbeat and a heartbreak. And so just just think about character as sort of a fundamental and be and how you want to be and who you want to be, and you know, it improves your odds. I think about looking back when you're when you're as old as I am anyway, and feeling good about your career, Awesome Roun I'm going to wrap ups and then I'm going to throw it to you run. Thanks so much. You've just one of the best speakers on entrepreneurship that I know and I know it's because you reflect on on your experiences and how you would want to convey messages and I really appreciate it and I know you've made a huge impact on me and on the business school and the things that we still teach you know, years after you've been with us in the classroom. So it's really appreciated. Rockets my honor and pleasure and I'm a little lot of practice, and thanks for bearing with me. It's always an honor to be with you. Well, the three things that struck me, you know, deliberate impact and do that with character, and I think those are just great life lessons for all of us. So thanks very much. You've been listening to the Ivy Entrepreneur podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit IV dot Ca, a forward slash entrepreneurship. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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