The Entrepreneur Podcast
The Entrepreneur Podcast

Episode 54 · 2 weeks ago

Recognizing Opportunity with Erik Mikkelsen

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This week, The Entrepreneur Podcast is featuring one of our fellow podcasts from the larger Western ecosystem, Ivey Academy Presents: Leadership in Practice, which discusses critical issues in business, unpacks new research, and talks to industry leaders about the latest trends.

In this episode of Leadership in Practice, I spoke to Ivey HBA ’06 alumni Erik Mikkelsen, who is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Auxo Management LP - one of Canada’s first successful search funds, and the President and Chief Revenue Officer of Stealth Monitoring Inc., a leading North American video monitoring and security company with over 1600 employees.

Mikkelsen shares his journey through entrepreneurship, including the detours within his career where he found new avenues for opportunity.For more information on the Leadership in Practice Podcast, visit: IveyAcademy.com/blog

You're listening to the Entrepreneur Podcast from the Western Morrisson Institute for Entrepreneurship powered by IVY. My name is Eric Morrison. I'll be the host for this episode. This week, the Entrepreneur Podcast is featuring one of our fellow podcasts from the larger Western ecosystem, IVY Academy presents Leadership in Practice, which discusses critical issues in business, unpacks new research, and talk to industry leaders about the latest trends. In this episode of Leadership in Practice, I spoke to IVY h b a OH six alumni Eric Mickelson, who is the co founder and managing partner of Oxo Management LP, one of Canada's first successful search funds, and the president and chief revenue officer of Stealth Monitoring, Inc. A leading North American video monitoring and security company with over six employees. Michelson shares his journey through entrepreneurship, including the detours within his career where he found new avenues for opportunity. You know, back in the early two thousand's, when you were graduating, you probably would have held the title as most likely to be an entrepreneur. Um. I'd like to know a couple of things. Why did you gra gravitate towards entrepreneurship, What was it in your past and what was your venture while you were doing your degree here at Western. Yeah, thanks a lot, Eric, Yeah, I always liked the idea of entrepreneurship. A couple of my first jobs included being a bus boyer, being a cherry sorter at a local orchard, and my first experience having a boss. I thought, you know what, I'd like to be my own boss one day, and so that was part of it. Um. My first venture was with a few other IVY classmates. We started in second year before we went to business school, and it was a social media company. The best room from high school was at Harvard at the time, where they had access to Facebook, and so we created, you know, a private community within the Western network. But we went monetize it right away. So we signed up over fifty advertising clients and we sold advertising good coupons and really drove revenue to those local businesses. At the time, we were competing mainly against the school newspaper. Very cool. Hey, So if you think about the early days, maybe what were some of the lessons you know, getting going in university or or shortly thereafter that you learned. Yeah, listen, when you have your own name on something, Uh, it's a little different than the jobs that I've had in the past, whereas a lot more pressure and a lot more emotional. So you hear about entrepreneurship being a roller coaster um and so you know, the highs are high and lows are low. And when you're convincing a small business at the time to give you, you know, harder and money advertising, you really had felt the pressure to create or return on investment for that business and create value. So a couple of the things that I learned were the value of partnerships. You know, I had a couple other partners you know that I'm still very close with today twenty years later, and we kind of divided and conquered, and then we got other people involved in the business as well. And so just the ability to network and get things done through other people and build teams with something that that I learned really early on and certainly made some mistakes while we're doing it. Yeah, you know, I think that the value of having a partner is so important and a lot of people miss it. It's like you're having a down day, they're an up day and they're coaching you through it, and the next time they're down and you're coaching them through and keeping each other going and accountable. I think it it's such a great thing. You know, what what were some of your motivations to to continue down your entrepreneurial journey, you know, from those early days, what were some of the things that really, I guess lit a fire under you. Yeah. Um, you know, I really liked the ability to control my own destiny, um and take ownership of something as opposed to you know, being you know, just a part of it or an advisor. Coming out of business school, I kind of look at at things three buckets. There's a few more, but it's you know, being an investor, being an advisor, being an operatorum, and being an entrepreneur. You know, is a little bit of all three of those things, but probably more in the operations uh side, and so um that was very appealing to me. And then the ability to really kind of...

...make an impact on other people and on the world, you know, I think was very motivating for me. Yeah. Cool. You know, it's funny a lot of our students today have a social enterprise kind of background, and but they want to do the same thing you just you just talked about, is that you know, make a difference on on people and and in the world. And you know, one of my recent alum said, you know, I want to be an entrepreneur because I do want to make a difference in the world and it and it seems like that's the best way to do it. I told everybody a little bit about your career path, Eric, which is, you know, kind of all over the place, right we went from marketing to finance, to real estate to investment to tech. You've definitely had a pretty unique career path. You know, what advice would you give to others about, you know, thinking through their career, about finding opportunities and how have you kind of approached that idea of making some of the big changes even Yeah, absolutely so a few things. I would say. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do other than I wanted to be an entrepreneur. And the media company that I started in undergrad I really felt was successful because it was for students and run by students, and I don't want to be graduated kind of running the student lead business. I probably didn't understand social media would blow up. Uh, And I probably could have continued with it. But when I was looking at what things to do, you know a lot of my friends told me that I sold my soul when I went into investment banking New York. They couldn't believe it. Uh and process there was really you know, why don't I try something different that's going to give me a skill set that I don't otherwise have, uh and some credibility and open doors rather than close them and so um. If you don't know what to do, I think the advice is try to take something where you're gonna learn a lot, you're gonna add a skill set, and it's going to open new worlds for you, right And that way you'll be able to uncover different opportunities, which is what I was inevitably able to do ideally, you know, maybe make some networks connections, save some money against some credibility and those are all things that really helped me later on when I took the plunge into being an entrepreneur. Very cool. Can you maybe talk about or two of the kind of those transition moments, Eric, maybe you know, getting into real estate? What what what did you see that it took you that direction and it we'll get to stealth in a minute, because that's a that's another current and huge thing that you've done. Yeah, the real estate one was was kind of obvious a little bit because I was told basically to do it. I was in New York from two thousand and six two thousand and eight doing leverage finance investment banking, and if anyone's ever seen, you know, the movie Margin call, just kind of this moment where people at the investment banks kind of new within a few days that the entire market was going to collapse. And so I was literally in the bank, you know, working midnight on a Saturday or something like that, and someone came over and said, I think this is all gonna go up in flames. And so I saw into some much more tenured, seasoned people in the office, like, well, what does that mean for a young guy like me? And they said, you know, there's gonna be opportunities that come out of this and doing distressed real estate, are doing distressed in general distress that investing would would be one of them. And so I took that advice very seriously, started talking to people and recruiting for jobs that that would give me that opportunity, and so I made the switch to a company in Los Angeles. It was focused on just that. So it was a nice way to kind of learn, you know, through the upswing in the leverage finance market, you know, in the mid two thousands, and then learn through the down cycle you know, on the other side of it. And so I think listening to people that have a lot more experience than you and looking at kind of the macro trends in the environment, it's always better to be in an industry where the windows at your back, and that was top of mind for me. And as as I think paid off, Yeah, no, absolutely, And I think it's one of the things that you know, when I look from Afar, I would say has always defined your journey is that you know, you're always open to opportunity, and you're you're kind of always looking maybe not actively, but certainly passively and having those conversations that that would lead you to opportunities. I think you've done that amazingly well. Tell us about stealth monitoring, uh, you know, what attracted your attention to this particular opportunity, and maybe tell us a little bit about the growth I mean from fifty five employees to employe is is amazing growth. Uh, you know,...

...you've really built this business into a world competitor. And so tell us a little bit about that story. Yeah, thanks, Eric so Um. I partnered up with a fellow IVY grad. He was two years ahead of me hb a oh for Rob Charon. He was at Stanford Business School at the time and had this concept of what's called a search fund veris capital for from a number of high net worth individuals, maybe a few funds, and you go and find a business to acquire and actually actively managed, and then you take a percentage of the upside. And so our idea at the time that had been basically done done in Canada. Let's take that concept into Canada where we look for a business to buy, right And the idea with Canada compared to the US, was that you know, even scaled by GDP or population, was about ten times more capital chasing deals in the US and so kind of the under ten million dollars, you know, deals you get for great prices and then you can expand them. And so that was the academic thesis and that's exactly what we did. We came to Toronto, um set up shop, and we're looking for a company to buy, ideally from someone who is probably in you know, their retirement phase with no transition plan. Instead, we found a fairly young entrepreneur in his mid thirties who have built the business from scratch. Really cool guy with a remote video monitoring company. It was called you see It at the time, and what it is is using a combination of technology cameras, sensors, and software to replace your supplement security guards. Uh. And so the ideas you put up cameras and let's say construction site and then we watched them after hours for a lower price than the guard would cost with the added benefits of recording all the side activities. So did that for a few years. Kind of was pretty nerve wracking coming in having no experience doing that, and I was used to the corporate world and you know, with just different different challenges. And at the time I was twenty five, so I was one of the younger people to have done at the time and really didn't know what I was doing, and so I had to really rely on different people within the business, different investors that we had asked for advice, and just tumble myself and really learned the business from the ground up, and so I started actually doing sales there, expanded the business to Western Canada, personally bought another company in Dallas for years later called self Monitoring and rebranded into that name. And so we went to a D eighty and then through acquisition three know about four hundred and then we've kind of expanded new verticals and geographies since then. And so, as you said, about eighteen HUD employees now and we're in four countries with some back office in Asia, and so yeah, it's been it's been one heck of an adventure, yeah for sure. And I'm gonna come back to lessons learned a little bit along the way here in just a second. But your growth has been organic, and it's also been through acquisitions as you've gone through this search funds maybe something that are relatively new to a lot of folks in Canada. I know you've been pushing us to be more involved in the search fund space for a number of years and rightly so. And it's really only been the last couple of years where we've really introduced that to to our MBA's and some of our hbs in terms of an option and it's becoming more of an option for people in in Canada. Can you just tell us a little bit more more detail on what a search fund is and how that works. Yeah. Absolutely, So I look at it as entrepreneurship through acquisition, where you're building something, so you're raising money from investors. They're giving you some capital to pay yourself a small salary, and then they have a call option when they invest in. You are really a first right of refusal to invest in a deal that you bring them. And so in our case, we bought you know, we brought them a deal within a few months, and the majority of our investors said out, this looks pretty good. We're going to fund our pro rata portion into that investment. And then a few of them will stay on your board. Uh and and kind of help advise you on behalf of the entire investor group. And so what's in it for the searcher, which would have been myself and my business partner, is we take a percentage of the upside, so some of the private equity where you can get, you know, you kind of pay back the principle in in a search fund, you typically take of the profits depending on how you do right. So fantastic. So you know, you're probably improving a chance of success. You're grabbing something with sales already in the market. You can kind of assess where you think strength weaknesses are and what you can bring to the table. And I'm...

...sure that's one of the things that you're looking for. So you know, it may limit the upside a little bit, but certainly it's less risk and when you grow like you have, I think the upside is going to take care of yourself. Yeah, fantastic. So again I'm want to go back to that growth because there's there really aren't that many entrepreneurs that have been on that kind of a ride. Eric, And you know, so, what are some of the lessons that you've learned going through you know, some of the rapid growth at still monitor absolutely so a few of them would be, UM, the importance of picking the right people, um to help you. You know, it's very fortunate to have partnered with an entrepreneur who was very humble and very smart. I kind of knew his limits, but really was a good partner. He's still at the business. When we bought the company originally, UM, you know, you said, you know, he was going to be there for a few years and then retire or do something else, you know, because he's still pretty young and he's still there, and so having good partnerships is really important. UM. I also found people either that I brought into the business or just as mentors and advisors that have done it before. So some of them came through the IVY network where I kind of reached out and said, hey, who's built a sales team before? You know? What mistakes did you make earlier in your career? What things do you wish that you knew? You know now? So the network, I think and and importance of learning from others is huge. I think also at different stages of a business, when you're really small, you know, we're called it five million revenue and we started an hour over you know, over a hundred, you've got to sell whatever you can basically in your small business, and anyone listening who's a small business owner, I think will relate to that. When you get larger, you have to think about how do I grow more intelligently and so what are the areas that I want to focus on and what are the areas that I want to say no to? Right that are less profitable or more complex, and so having focus is a real key. And as an entrepreneur with the A d D like myself, focus didn't easy fair enough. And you know, it really is two different kind of mindsets, right, because you're trying to find what's going to stick on the wall and that early experimental stage and as you say, trying and selling anything is it is a really different mindset than oh, this is working, how do I scale it? Because now I need process and systems and you know, execute a million times right. So I love your answer, though, Eric, because I think humility is such an important part of that, and the willingness to reach out for help where you know, hey, you know somebody has been here before and they can probably help me through this. Uh. Such great advice. I appreciate that a lot. I'm gonna go back a little bit to the funding things because I know, you know, just in personal conversations that over the years you've been fund frustrated with some of the funding opportunities in Canada. You know, you've had quite a bit of time in the States, and so you've always kind of compared those two and so we have been we have been behind. I hope we're catching up, and I'd like your opinion on that. But what are some of the things that other countries do perhaps better than us, and where can we do better as a country in helping you know, entrepreneurs grow. Yeah, Eric, I I appreciate that question. You know, when we had this thesis of investing in Canadian businesses coming back, we wanted to be Canadian investors and advisors and to Rikhan and we got a lot of feedback that we were just too young. I didn't have the experience of the gray hair so to speak to uh to one and back um. And meanwhile we unraised how to Palo Alto in a few weeks and so we ended up being well over US. UM found that it was just a much slower mentality, you know, much less aggressive and willing to take risks, whereas you know, partically in California, but also some of investors from the East coast in the US, they had invested in young entrepreneurs, people that only had two three years of experience, that had you know, the will uh in kind of the grind and the willingness to kind of prove themselves. UM. And so one of my investors said, you know, The pitch to him was your kind of trading experience for horsepower and that wasn't seen in the Canadian market like that. It's a lot better, I will say, we have a long way to go, but just at IVY alone, you know started as you know, Eric work together on the Ivy Angel Day, which is now already raised millions of dollars...

...you know into startups coming from Western Uh, and that's just that's just the start. We just started that. And so we have these types of things that have been put in place that have been successful in other geographies like the US that will we'll kind of started to replicate and the mentality has really started to shift. And you've seen some fairly large exits, you know, coming from Canadian entrepreneurs as well. I saw one the other day. I think NIS was sold for over three and a million. I think it was the largest exit by a female entrepreneur in Canada's to date, which is also really great to female entrepreneurship and more diversity coming to the Canadian market which also been lacking. Now, thanks and Uh, you know you've been a big part of pushing us here for sure, and I think we've only been doing our our kind of demo day for a couple of years, and we're you know, upwards of seven million dollars to to really early stage ventures, which is which is great. So thanks thanks for your leadership there, Eric. I'm gonna go back a little bit too. You know. Again, I hope Stealth continues on for many, many years, but I'm also pretty sure it won't be your last venture, you know, down the road. And so you always keep your you know, kind of eyesight on the horizon and and follow trends and look outside of kind of them mediate business. And I think it's been something you've done so well over the years. You know, where do you see emerging trends? Where are some of the things that maybe you are Hey, I know you're hunc focused on Stealth, but where are some of those things you're you're seeing opportunities starting to pop up? Yeah? Absolutely, I think it's my earlier comments about looking at where the wind is at your back is important. I find it to be you know, easier to be successful in industries or markets that have that just kind of make a lot of sense um or disruptive technologies, you know, I always think of of uber as something where it's like, hey, this is a problem. It was hard to hail a cab or get from A to B, and they just came up with a better solution. You know, it sounds easy. The concept makes sense obviously for those that know the story was extremely difficult and continues to be extremely difficult without tou to execute on. And so I think, you know, large addressable markets that are solving problems that make it easier for people to live UM and have more enjoyable lives, or for businesses to operate and service those people. We have a tendency over time, you know, UM to innovate and then kind of refine what we're doing, so it doesn't kind of go in this this curve that just goes up like this. We tend to kind of come up with something new, you know, if that was the engine, or electricity or the internet and more recently cell phones, and then spend a lot of time refining that. We have a lot of new, really exciting things that we've been working on for some time that are really starting to show promise. Uh and the ones that come to mind would be artificial intelligence, machine learning. We're doing a lot of that Blockchaine, I'll call it blockchain instead of crypto, and then you know, virtual augmented reality and some really cool things going on within those sectors. And so there's biotech and a whole bunch of other really cool stuff coming out. And so I think we're gonna see that next, the next kind of wave of innovative industries, and I think that's gonna be really exciting for for people, you know, kind of across the world, but particularly those that are interested in pursuing entrepreneurship. Eric, you know, uh, this is something you've been close to and we've talked about the fine the financing side of it. What else do you think business schools could be doing to encourage more entrepreneurship a question from one of our viewers. Yeah. Absolutely. I think a lot of people, at least that I've met, they have a perception that entrepreneurship is having to have a brand new, unique idea and going that zero to one where I think a lot of people perceive entrepreneurship to only be technology focused, whereas I view entrepreneurship really more as a state of mind. You can be an entrepreneur while still working in a large company. You could be an entrepreneurial investor who's helping, you know, even advised not even invest in something else that's entrepreneurship, entrepreneur league based or at a large company. You can start something you know, a club or something social that's being an entrepreneur UM, and so I think that's part of it. I think there's different stages UM in life that you can be an entrepreneur. Don't think there's very few...

I think that are are successful like Zuckerberg right out of college. I think a lot of people that I've met have gone a new industry, gotten years of experience and really fallen into it and so always being open to it at whatever stage in life. And there's all types of industries. You know, I happen to be focused on tech, but I've invested in all types of things from healthcare to real estate, UM otherwise and to tequila and so UM. I think understanding what entrepreneurship means to you UM is something that business schools I think can do a better job. I think of a really kind of teaching and understanding and creating networking groups UM, you know after graduation, and there's some some other business schools that that do different things. They're successfully if it's groups are not working, putting different faculty together these types of things. Yeah, for sure, no great answer. I think you know, there's a there's a lot of different paths to entrepreneurship, and uh, the entrepreneurial mindset in particular is great for everybody coming out of university now. And so that's that's certainly something that we're we're trying to focus more and more on. I love the shout out to Eric Brass by the way. That was nice. Um. One of the stats I saw just recently, Eric, and it speaks to your point. Uh, there's no right one right time to start. Harvard put something out and it was last week. Over of their alumni ten years on have started a business. So uh, you know, it's not right away. Very often that startup comes ten, even twenty thirty years after graduation. Uh. And I don't know the IVY number on that. I guess it's not quite fifty. But but I think we're doing all right and hopefully we can we can help move it in that direction. So thanks for that answer. I've got another great question here. As a successful entrepreneur and leader, you know you've leaned on your network over the years. How are you giving back and obviously you know through the work with the school, but how are you helping the next generation of entrepreneurs and leaders and and what's the best way somebody else might be able to get engaged. I had a lot of help, you know. I. I wasn't afraid to reach out to people for help along the way. Even with my application for IVY. I I had someone come to my high school and talk about IVY. It was it was a cousin and one of my teachers said, Hey, this IVY Business School is a great place. Did like a little a little spiel and IVY and I said hey. I reached out to him and said, hey, can you help me out with my application? He ended up helping me out with my resume when I applied to investment banking as well. And because I got a lot of help, the dean at the time, Mark ben Bosch of Or he was the program doctor of HbA, remember, called me into my into his office. I thought I was in trouble. I was like, oh, you want to get that call. And meanwhile he had heard about the business that I had started in why I was there, and had some potential clients for me like me to meet and I'm like, WHOA, Not only am I not in trouble, this guy's helping me make money? Awesome, right, that's great, and so UM to pay it forward has always been really important for me. UM. A couple of years out of school, I probably did my first thing where the markets crashed and I got together about money. Fairly recent alum, two to five years out of college, and we did a presentation to the current business school kids UH and HbA and NBA to say, hey, here's the reality of the market, here's what you should be thinking about when not everyone's going to get a job and investment banking or consulting. UM, and we'll just do Q and A and and have that support network. You know. Since then, I think it's been important to take interns and mentor students and kind of pay it forward. We have groups, either informally or formally, you know, are there to help advise. And I think because of all the help that I got from people a lot more experienced and successful than me, and I still continue to do that. UM. You know, I think it's important now, UM to do that with the younger generation however I can. And then UH, so that's more on the entrepreneurship side. I think being involved in in community and social responsibility of whatever it is important to you, you know, So nonprofit work I think as a business leader and just a community leader is something that's important and that you know, those that have the time and or money um to be able to put into There's lots of ways to...

...contribute there, and I think that's important. I love this question. So what would you say to someone who's interested in entrepreneurship but they might be worried about the high risk perception? How do you bounce back from you know, mistakes or failures, and how do you think about risk? Yeah, calculating and managing risk is a real key kind of anything, but especially to entrepreneurship. It's a fantastic question, you know. I try to measure the upside and downside as much as I can, Like I put as many things in the decision trees as I possibly can. From those old management science classes, one of my really good friends and classmates, Nico's management professors management science professor. Now, so he's he's drilled it into me. But your ability to think about what the risks were, you know, I'll talk about when I left um. People thought I was crazy. I was living Los Angeles getting overpaid for a young twenties person, you know, a convertible in l A. And I was like, I'm going to move to Canada, you know, back to Toronto where it's cold but amazing by cold, and take pay cut um to go and do something. The timing for me was really important because I had a few years of experience, but I didn't I wasn't making millions of dollars. I wasn't in the corner office. I didn't have a mortgage with two kids and those commitments. And so the way that I thought about my downside was if I work really hard, I raised the money and I can't put it to work, or I buy something and I really try hard. Um. When I talked to investors, you know, they said, you know, you're gonna make a lot, You're gonna learn a ton, and you're gonna make a lot of great um contacts. Ideally we want to make money out of this. But you know, I talked to a few recruiters and they said, worst case, you know, you kind of go back to private equity. Right, you have a good background and you have a bit of parachute where you try it again, right, um, maybe partners one of these investors. So the downside and the upside was everything that I've been able to kind of see and and and accomplish, and so I felt that it was really waited in my favor at that time. So when I talk about taking risks with people, I have friends who I say, I want to be an entrepreneur, but you know, I have this great job. I'm much more seniortive firm. You know, I don't have really a good support network. You know. I think my husband or my wife would you know, uh not be supportive. I'm like, hey, that's fine, right, Maybe maybe maybe it's not for you, or maybe you can do something entrepreneurial kind of on the side and your spare time evenings and weekends, right and try to get something going a little bit and build up a little bit of that safety net and then if it really starts taking off, you know, then you can jump into it then. So it's a very personal question, I find, which is different from from for everyone. And I think, um, some people are more or less risk adverse than others. And I think knowing where you lie on that um and how to minimize your downside in different situations. I think is kind of the way to go. Eric, I couldn't agree with you more. I think, you know, the one one other piece of advice that I've heard and going through the process you did, is when you have investors, just just make sure you have open communication all the time with them, because if you're doing your best and hustling as hard as you can and it doesn't work like they they're professional investors, they understand that's going to happen, and they're much more likely to help you on that next next deal if you know you were open and all the way through it. So get on you. I've got a really another great question here. You know, who's the best partner you've you've had Maybe you don't have to name them, but but more like, what were the characteristics of that person that made them such a great partner for you? Yeah? Absolutely, I've had some great partners. Um, you know, like I'll skip to the best one is my uh just yeah, I've been with him for twelve years. He's my current business partner and kind of brought me into this. But even my first partner, I'm really close with the guy named Chris Chris Cruz, he's a he's a head guy a fun called Searchlight in New York and exceptionally well as an investor. But we talked...

...a lot about partnership and what you bring to the table early on, and that was the student company that we had UM and we both went to become investment bankers, and he taught me a lot. It really set me up for Rob Charon Uh who's my current business partner, and brought me into the search fund world. UM, so it was his idea. He kind of brought me into it. And we're at the Stanford Business School Library, which was the old library was like really it was the last year before they renovated it, so it's super old and eight is looking and we spent a couple of days really white boarding who what was important to each person, what our values were, where we saw ourselves in five years, what we want to focus on. Really tried to get everything out on the table in terms of what a partnership could look like. And you know, to have each other's backs, UM and support each other, but also appreciate the differences. I think is really important. I'll just tell a quick story. We were looking at a deal. We're in the Mars Building in Toronto at the time with a few other ivy alum um and looking at a deal and we got to some argument I can't remember about what. We had a disagreement on the deal and I got I left in a hissy fan. I was like, you don't know what you're talking about. Whatever it was, and he sent me a text message and he said it was a quote. I think it's from more in Buffett, but he said if two business partners always agree, one of them isn't needed. And so I came back and gave him a big hug and uh we went, you know, onto the rest of the day. Another thing, a quick one um that I'll mention on partnership, and I've said this a few times before, is it's you know next, uh, potentially a marriage. There's a lot of similarities with the marriage, but people tend to not think about it maybe in the enough or think about all the nuances. And I say, you know, if your friend called you up and said, hey, I met this great guy or this great girl and they're awesome and I'm gonna get married to them and I've known them for three weeks, you'd probably say, hey, that sounds great, super excited for you three weeks. Like as a good friend, you'd probably tell them like, whoa right, like if you really thought this through. Meanwhile, I do see people jump into partnerships um in business ventures, you know, and very short amounts of time without really thinking through you know, these things. And a lot of our investors when when we're fundraising from them the very get go, they didn't care about my banking experience or you've done this many deals, or they didn't ask any questions about that. Most of it was about the dynamics of us as partners, how long we've known each other, how we worked together, those types of things, and and looking back, you know, twelve years, I understand why. And I've been very fortunate to have a very um complimentary business partner. Were very hard on each other from the outside. Some people may say, hey, you guys surely really like each other. Great, great answer, Um, somebody like to know a little bit more about kind of that search when you found your CEE, I T you know, were there are other companies you looked at ahead of time? You guys, you know found something pretty quickly. You know, what was that process like absolutely. Uh. I had this great plan of finding these proprietary deals. So I I used to say, I like the three D death, divorce, and disease, all great reasons want to sell your otherwise great company, Right, so I kind of look at what are you selling? You know, why are you selling this great company? And so I was gonna go and you know, network with all these divorce lawyers and try to get this inside deal scoop and and that just never happened because we ended up having uh, some you know, really well known private equity funds. We had guys at Torque West and Birch Hill and others on cap and aunyx UM that said, hey, we met with them. We knew people there from the IVY network and classmates and say, we don't do deals that that big we um you know we we see them though all the time, and you guys seem like good guys. You know, we can we can give them to you to look at like talle us the criteria're looking at that great, Yeah, we're looking at business services recurring monthly revenue. And so we ended up getting some deal flow but also a lot of advisor interest from that. It gave us credibility within the Canadian market in particular, and so we had the big accounting firms, all these guys kind of reach out and give us a flower, and that's how we ultimately founded uh found.

You see it another instrument, tough one. You know, what would you recommend from your experience, uh, for an entrepreneur that has an idea, but maybe it's out of their area of expertise, how would you begin to kind of go down that and work on that business idea? Yeah? Probably, just off the top of my head, there's probably two ways that you could go, and it's probably a combination. To be honest, it's you know, I think you need to be somewhat of an expert, either yourself or through your network. And so if you really like an industry, and let's just say it's something and health sciences or something that's engineering based, um, you got to think about, well, I could bring in a partner, right, or I could hire someone and just pay them cash um to kind of take care of that portion of it for me. But then you've got to think about, back to that partnership discussion, what value am I addict? Right? So if it's let's say life sciences, they have some type of new, you know, product that they've developed. Are you able to you know, take that product, brand it, sell it, market it, you know, UM put it through a distribution anneal, What are you kind of adding to the table? Um? So that's part one is kind of doing it through others that you're bringing in. And then number two is if it's something that's easy enough or you know, you can just work hard at it and become enough of an expert yourself to be dangerous. And it's probably like a combination of that where I that I've personally done well, let's say artificial intelligence, where you know, I'm by no means uh, you know, a developer that's writing AI code. UM, But I've talked to enough experts, um read enough and and to taking some courses on it that I know enough to be dangerous in that field as an entrepreneur. Yeah, Eric, I think that's so important. I mean, I think partnerships where you completely separate off and have your own things or you know they're dangerous, right, you want to educate yourself to know enough about it that you can make informed decisions. You don't have to be the expert, but you should certainly know the you know, the ground rules and some of the some of the basics down there. Thinking about your younger self, what advice would you give to your younger self or maybe current IVY students as they, you know, think about an entrepreneurial career. Yeah, I think there's a couple of things I think as a lot of uh, young people. It was gonna say young men, but maybe young people as probably you know, overly confident, probably naive. You know. I thought I had probably more answers um than I did, and I think it's okay to not have all the answers and be more humble. And so I think that that was that's absolutely a lesson. You know, one of my favorite quotes is Soccrates. All I know is I know nothing is learning, always developing, and so, you know, I kind of wish that I thought about that more, you know, when I was when I was starting out, I'll go back to I'll go all the way back to IVY for the second part. I really was focused on entrepreneur entrepreneurship class, finance, um, these classes, and I didn't pay much attention to organizational behavior. So management behavior class and loan behold what's the most important class by far, it would be organizational behavior, right, Understanding people, structuring teams, understanding what motivates people, empathizing with people, all these types of things that some of which you can learn in a class like that, and a lot of which you have to learn just by being, you know, out in the world and through experience and through others. Is just absolutely so important, you know, to get things done through other people, uh, and develop those networks and relationships. Unless you're a stock trader who you know can just sit at a computer and get everything done yourself. For a very talented, you know, programmer, most most people have to get things done through others um and so it's that network. And then the last thing would be and I think I've been pretty good at this, but I would say connect people and give without wanting something in return. So I've consistently heard and being genuinely interested in what people are up to and what what motivates them. And They'll think, oh, I wonder if I know anyone maybe I can help them, or maybe I know someone that...

...could, and so I'll go out of my way expecting nothing in return, like genuinely um to help them and people remember that, uh, and it kind of comes back to you. It's it's kind of karma, but you're kind of laying a bunch of seeds um and and just creating a good network of people. And what goes around comes around. And that's ended up paying off many times and also given me the opportunity to invest um and do quite well, uh in some of these cases where that wasn't the intent on the onset, but they provided opportunity. Yeah, I think great advice all the way around, for sure. And it's you know, it's amazing. I know you've been close to the school since you graduated and so you've seen this progression. But you know, you go back to when you were here at IVY and we had a couple of courses in entrepreneurship, but it was you know, it was still way below kind of the consulting finance thing. And you know, we're almost a third leg now with nine faculty members and and lots of courses and activities beyond the classroom. And you know, thanks to you and Lumn, neither have taken this path for for helping us get there, So thanks so much. I love the idea of hey, you know, paying it forward and things do come around. So is there anything else that we haven't talked about that that that we should cover or that you'd like to leave our audience with today. Maybe a couple of things. UM. I think you should be passionate about whatever it is that you're doing. I don't think, certainly, not all of what you're gonna do you're gonna love. You have to kind of do some things that that are hard work or tedious, um. You know, if it's being an entrepreneur, just being entrepreneurial. Um. But at the end of the day, UM, when you're really trying to think about what you want to do long term, it should be something that you really believe in. And I think where I've seen the most successful people is they'll focus more on on that, uh than maybe money and kind of the money will come. It sounds like a cliche, but I've I've just found it to be true. Take real value and take real care of the network, you know, Uh, I have. You know, some of the greatest joy that I have and also some of the best business that I've done is through the IVY alumni network. I'm very close to my classmates, my roommate from Western is one of my best friends and we've done a bunch of deals together and that just brings, UM, you know, a lot of I'm very grateful for that. But it takes time. You know, life gets busy, you know as as you go kids and travel and whatever it is. But UM, I think I think that that's really important. And then just really trying to stay true to your your values and your morals. You know, having high integrity, UM is really important. But the last one is have fun. You know. I think for for COVID and whole bunch of other stuff. Stress over the last few years, UM has really taught me. You know, life is short, and you know, what's the point of all this, uh if if you're not going to enjoy it along the way. So take time to to enjoy the journey. If that's being an entrepreneur or or whatever it is in the business world. Um, you know, take time to have fun. I think it's really important to do that. Yeah, Eric, I think that's awesome. And just you know, as I tie that up, I think the working hard piece is a is a is a big part that we often overlook. It is hard work, right, I mean, you're gonna put it a lot of hours, and so having it something you're passionate about is is clearly beneficial in that sense because you want to have fun at this and and it should be a lot of fun, and you have fun through people. And I think you've really nailed that throughout our morning today. Is how important the network and the people are that you work with. And I think that's such a good, great lesson to kind of live leave people with. So thanks so much for joining us, and we look forward to seeing you next time. For more information on the Leadership and Practice podcast, visit i vy academy dot com slash blog. The Entrepreneur Podcast is sponsored by Quantum Shift two thousand and atole. I'm Connie Clarici and closing the Gap Healthcare Group. To ensure you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast player, or visit Entrepreneurship dot U w oh dot c a slash podcast.

Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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