Passion – A Key Ingredient to Successful Entrepreneurship

When entrepreneurs come to me and ask, “What is more important – drive or passion?” I answer and explain that the latter is more important. After all, passion is in many ways what makes an entrepreneur tick. Successful start-ups are not “driven” by a desire to make money — they are driven by a need to change the world and that, in turn, is driven by passion.

The same can be said of venture capitalists, they support and fund the companies about which they are truly passionate. Building strong business relationships doesn’t happen overnight, but a shared desire to create something important will only work to intensify the entrepreneur’s and VC’s passion toward a common goal.

When it comes to my own decision-making process with respect to potential investment opportunities, there are a number of factors that go into the process, one of those being how much passion does the particular entrepreneur or company have. When introduced to a particular company for the first time, among the things I’m looking to see is a sense of excitement about the company and the team as well as what problem it is they are aiming to solve.

That first meeting with a potential investor isn’t about convincing us to invest, rather, it’s about getting the investor excited about what you are trying to achieve. It’s demonstrating exactly how you plan to fill a void in the market and how that idea could potentially become a game-changer.

If I’m passionate enough about your idea, it is more likely that I’ll be advocating an investment in your company. This is the reason why I consider myself extremely lucky to work in this industry — because it allows me to feed off the energy and drive of extremely motivated entrepreneurs.

The dictionary defines passion as “an intense, driving or overmastering feeling of conviction” or “a strong desire for or devotion to some activity or concept”. I couldn’t agree more. Passion is one of the must-haves for any startup or entrepreneur.

Traits You See In Every Successful Entrepreneur

Starting your own business is hard work filled with long hours, personal sacrifice and a daily array of new problems and challenges. Anyone who tells you otherwise has probably never started one themselves. If you don’t have the drive to navigate these things, your business could implode faster than it began.

Understand, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. To determine if you have what it takes to make it, you need to be able to possess a number of quality traits. Leadership is at the top of that ladder. If you can’t lead, chances are you won’t be able to guide your company and its employees through growth and on to success.

If you seek a challenge filled with risk but also with financial potential, then you may be on your way to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Here are the most important traits I believe every entrepreneur should possess.

Self-motivation
No one has ever gotten ahead by sitting back and waiting for opportunities to find them. Successful people go out and create success by working tirelessly to solve problems that get in their way.

Adapt to change
Entrepreneurs must be able to adapt to changing situations without unraveling. Also, they must be able to motivate their team by helping them reach new goals and opportunities. Often times, successful entrepreneurs are driven by a more complete vision than just the task at hand.

Ethics and integrity
It goes back to the old saying, “cheaters never win.” It’s important to maintain high standards of integrity because, if you don’t, nobody will want to do business with you, especially when you are working with clients or leading a team.

Be willing to fail, then move on
Starting a business is risky and doesn’t always work out. Successful entrepreneurs must be able to accept that things don’t always go according to plan. Do not be afraid to fail, put your idea out there and give it your best shot.

Serial innovators
The mind of an entrepreneur is always spinning with new ideas. There has to be a constant drive to develop new concepts and improve on existing ones. That’s where the term “serial entrepreneur” came from.

In almost every case, entrepreneurs never succeed on their own. You are only as good as the people who support you. Surround yourself with a network of knowledgeable people who are as passionate about your project as you are. It takes a network of contacts, partners and resources to thrive.

Entering Venture Capitalism? What to Know

One of the questions I often receive as a venture capitalist is, “How do I become a venture capitalist?” New graduates and startup veterans alike want to get into the industry, and, I admit, it can be enticing.

There are many ways to break into the venture capital world, but they can generally be broken down into two categories: serial entrepreneurship and investment banking. I define a venture capitalist as someone who distributes third-party funds into new, early-stage ventures. An angel investor is someone who invests in companies with their own capital.

If you want to be a venture capitalist or enter in the industry, my advice is to start by building your experience in the greater financial industry as soon as possible. Ask an established VC if you can shadow them and ask as many questions as you can.

You’ll also need strong analytical skills with the ability to research markets and have a mix of foresight and business savvy to pick winning investments. From my experience, success in this area also directly correlates with an ability to keep up with changing industry trends.

Finding entrepreneurs or young businesses at the earliest stages in the process is another critical skill. One way to find these potential investment opportunities is to attend meetups for emerging technologies and identify attendees offering the most potential.

Once you’ve discovered and pinpointed a potential business to invest in and have completed the necessary analysis to suggest it will succeed, the next step is figuring out finances. How much money does this business require? This isn’t the final stage of the process, but shaping out a basic set of terms is fairly easy — and highly important.

Working as a venture capital can be highly stressful, yet at the same time lucrative. Be prepared to clock in a lot of very long hours with most of that time spent listening to pitches by potential companies. It’s also, in my opinion, extremely rewarding to watch a start-up you invested in succeed.

Choosing the best accountant for your business

There are a number of small businesses that attempt to do each and everything by themselves. This is not at all a recommendable approach. The team should be divided into different expertise and professionals who have a dedicated thing to do.

Accountants must be part of the team that would be responsible to address the accounting needs and preferences of the specific company. It is imperative to hire competent professionals like Accountant Melbourne to get the work done in a professional manner.

However, choosing the right service is a difficult task. Here are some things to take into account:

 

  • Professional qualifications

 

Accounting is a technical area. It is not an easy area to practice. This is why you need to hire a professional who has good qualifications in the field. There are several firms out there that will provide services that are run by accountants who have professional qualifications. They are used to work within a code of ethics which makes them more disciplined and organized.

 

  • Recommendations

 

It is always helpful to rely on word of mouth. You can ask from your colleagues and other professionals to get a detailed idea about the different accountants in the market. Read reviews on the Internet about different accounting firms. Having a detailed insight into the practical experience can help in making the right decisions. In a nutshell, you can rely on different recommendations to make a more well-informed decision.

 

  • Cost of services

 

Accountants would vary a lot in price range. Each accountant will charge depending on the expertise, experience, qualifications and the workload. Better the experience and competence, more expensive the accounting firm tends to be. However, you do not need to rely on the price solely. The first and foremost factor must be the quality of service being provided. Then take into account the costs and form your budget accordingly. Moreover, also inquire into how the fees is being charged and in what form.

 

  • Experience

 

Expertise and knowledge is not everything you must look forward to. Experience is perhaps the most important factor that will help you to make a well-informed decision. There are several experienced accountants in the market. It is recommendable to choose a team or an individual who has sufficient experience in the field. This is how he/she will be able to meet the needs of your business. Get to know which clients the accountant has worked with. This will reflect the quality of experience gained by the accountant.

 

  • Interpersonal skills

 

Accountants must be good at the core accounting skills. However, in this competitive day and age, it is not enough for them to acquire only the hard skills. Soft skills are equally important. Accountant must have good interpersonal skills such as communication and analytical abilities.

Choosing an accountant is not an easy task. However, above are some factors to make a better decision. Even though it is not an exhaustive list, here are some of the essential aspects.

How Positive Thinking Has Changed My Life

Although it has become something of a cliché, I staunchly believe in the power of positive
thinking. As a business leader who has spent more than two decades with National Bank, I have
come to realize how important recognition is and, at the same time, how invaluable
encouragement and positive reinforcement can be. Negativity does not work.

They are also excellent tools to help manage people, and in my charitable endeavors, to
support teams and individuals contributing their valuable time. In addition, a positive attitude
can create encouraging results, both in corporations and at charity events.

Brian Tracy — a widely acclaimed best-selling author who penned Believe it to Achieve It and
Change Your Thinking Change Your Life — admits that the idea that your mind can change your
world seems too good to be true. But Tracy, who calls the power of positive thinking
“remarkable,” adds that he has personally experienced and has witnessed the good that
focusing on the positive can bring.

Tracy says that healthy, happy people spend their time thinking about what they want and how
to get it.  “In this way, developing a positive attitude can truly change your entire life,” Tracy says on his
website.

For myself, success in my responsibilities at National Bank has come a mixture of hard work,
dedication and loyalty. But, I also credit what I do outside the office to creating a balanced
framework and state of mind that allows me to succeed in the office.

For example, I chaired the 2018 Right To Play Heroes Gala honouring Louis Vachon (National
Bank’s CEO), while raising a record-breaking $2.8 million for the organization. Charity work and
community participation are a huge part of our culture at National Bank.

On top of that, I’m involved with Scotiabank Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, which has raised
more than $18 million for research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto since it
was launched in 2011. This particularly cause is very important to me because I am a cancer
survivor who received treatment at the centre.

Charitable giving is about more than just raising money. It’s a way of showing gratitude to your
community. If you believe a cause is worthy of your support, do all you can to provide that
support.

Why Productivity and Great Ideas Matter

When I worked at a golf course as a little kid, I asked all of the members about their businesses: how they came up with their ideas, what made them successful. Now the tables are turned and young entrepreneurs will often ask me about a typical day and how I make it productive.

What excites me about my current role as an investment banker is that each day is completely different. I never know what’s going to happen, which clients will contact me for something, what type of investment someone will show us.

I actually started my career working at Arthur Andersen, one of the big accounting firms in Toronto. Then I worked at a big bank in equity research for five years and as a money manager for a few years. So, I’ve done all that corporate stuff and there can be repetition working for large companies. I like the variety each day brings now.

Being productive is about being available 24/7. The phone never stops ringing, the emails never stops coming in. And the reason for that is so people know that you’re available. It is one of things that make us unique and productive and successful.

When my partner and I founded Hillcrest Merchant Partners, we wanted to make sure that we emphasize that we are an idea company. Great ideas, great management, that’s what we look for. People talk about money, which is obviously important because it takes money to bring an idea come to life. But money is really a commodity and isn’t necessarily a differentiator.

Because money is available for good ideas, it’s really about bringing the right team together to help the idea come to fruition. Every idea requires a different plan, so I am always looking to meet great management teams with great ideas.

I want to see a track record of excellence – not necessarily having won at all costs, but having been positively competitive. I want to see a leader who gets the difference between leading and managing and who knows when to hand off the managing duties. It’s also important to establish a leader’s integrity. As an investor, I want to be comfortable that bad news is going to be shared and not glossed over.

We look for two key traits in companies: Being able to create solutions to difficult problems and coming up with ideas that apply to large, addressable markets. Typically, companies that we may be interested in investing in hold long-term patents and provide competitive, sustainable advantages over other companies. This is what gets us excited about new prospects.

I’ll usually tell people, there are 24 hours in a day. I sleep for three or four of them. I am fortunate in that what I do doesn’t feel like work. My job, my life, takes me to many different amazing places around the world. I’ve been to almost every continent and I’ve seen some of the most incredible cities in the world—just because of work.

Keeping My Focus on “We”

Of course I am proud of my career, but my greatest accomplishments really come outside the office.

I currently work as the Executive Vice-President, Managing Director, Co-Head of Fixed Income, Currencies and Commodities Group at National Bank.

In addition to my responsibilities at work, I try to share my time and energy with the community, in both Toronto-based and national non-profit organizations.

Perhaps my favorite quote will offer some insight into what drives me. In the documentary about Mohammed Ali called When We Were Kings, my favorite scene was when Ali was asked to share a poem with a graduating class.

Ali’s choice–albeit very short–inspires me to this day: “Me? We.” I try to live my life like that, with curiosity, and humility, and a need to keep learning.

For example, this year I co-chaired Right To Play’s The Heroes Gala honoring Louis Vachon (National Bank’s CEO). We raised a record-breaking $2.8 million for the organization this year, a success that I am very proud of.

I’ve also chaired the annual Scotiabank “Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer” event at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto and have been doing that since the event began eight years ago. This year, we raised $2.7 million to support cutting-edge cancer research for the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

As a cancer survivor myself, the Princess Margaret Hospital is near and dear to my heart, not just because of the impact the organization makes in the area of cancer treatment and research, but also because it is where I received my own treatment. The experience I had at the Hospital was nothing but positive, and if I can make someone else’s experience going through cancer treatment that much easier, then I want to be part of that.

I will admit that finding the right work-life-charity balance requires intentionality and commitment. I think a lot of people engulf themselves in work, tending to neglect life outside of the office.  But we all know the important aspects of life are family, friends and community.

Taking time to get out there, help others in the community, being involved – are all part of a full life. Success is about connection.

Examining the retail cannabis space at a macro level

There are certain developments in every generation that create opportunities for those who have an eye to seize upon them. The twentieth century was full of these technological, political or cultural shifts.

The widespread production of electric power, the splitting of the atom, the rise of computer technology — these are just a few of the discoveries that changed Western society, and paved the way for new industries and news way of life.

It’s not unrealistic to believe that the legalization of cannabis will be seen in later years as one of these shifts.

Currently, the known cannabis market is at least a $100-200 billion industry, while the illicit market is worth at least $100-150 billion. The idea that it is now possible to convert that illicit market into one that is legalized is exciting. It means that what is now an unknown frontier—Cannabis retail—will eventually become mainstream.

The societal concerns surrounding legalization are not new. There were similar concerns surrounding the legalization of alcohol in Canada following the First World War, and regulations also varied province to province for a number of years. Many people had health concerns and were worried about liquor’s widespread use. They were suspicious that uncontrolled public drunkenness would ensue once people had the ability to consume freely and openly.

While similar concerns have been raised about cannabis, this sector has the advantage of showing promising scientific research and development, through which effective solutions for the treatment of chronic pain and disease are being discovered. The industry can build a mainstream reputation on this solid foundation.

So here, at the beginning of a new era, cannabis retailers have the opportunity to be first in what is sure to be a valuable space. Clear regulations will develop from province to province and governments will gradually improve those laws and make them more suitable to social expectations. Eventually, any existing stereotypes will fade.

In the meantime, the possibility that an entrepreneur could start off with a very small company and build into something exponentially larger, represents one of the most recent frontiers here in Canada, and the possibility of a larger frontier abroad.

3 Things Entrepreneurs Should Keep In Mind With Respect to Venture Capital Fundraising

For an entrepreneur, starting one’s own company is both exciting and of course challenging. Being one’s own boss? Making one’s own schedule? Check and check — all positives. With that said, you’ll also want to be aware of the challenges that lie ahead as you plan to get started.

First, when it comes to potential fundraising for your company, prepare well in advance to meet with investors. Any venture capital firm will want to see solid data showing that your overall and addressable market is substantial—and that you have a first-mover advantage. Show what is different about your product, process, price or niche.

Display that you have done extensive due diligence. It is critical to support your pitch with data-based, industry-relevant metrics, and be sure to include revenue potential. While this may seem incredibly obvious, you would be surprised at how often it is overlooked.

Not all venture capital firms are alike or have the same investment philosophy. Some specialize in one area of investment, like green technology. Others only want startups that sell into Fortune 500 companies. Study them through their websites and the business media to ensure there is a potential good match.

Second, be able to demonstrate that you are not a one-person show, that you are ready with a solid, credentialed management team whose skills complement yours. Team-building is hard work. It’s not just finding the right candidates for certain roles — it’s factoring their cost into the equation and determining how they fit with your culture and other members of your team.

You will need each person on your team to buy into the overall vision. Take every opportunity to bring it up in meetings, in conversation, and in the normal course of your business.

Last, keep your enthusiasm alive and your passion burning. Even after 15 years of advising businesses on what it takes to grow, my day job doesn’t feel like work. I’ve always had a passion for investment and a passion for developing businesses. I truly appreciate the startup culture and creative mindset of entrepreneurs.

Maintaining your enthusiasm may be one of the biggest challenges as you strive for a successful launch and navigate the capital-raising part of building your business. Dealing with the unknown can be daunting. Sales, profits, customers – it all can be volatile and that is one of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur. Keep in mind your enthusiasm will go a long, long way when meeting with venture capitalists and other investors.

Management Suggestions for Young Entrepreneurs

I used to think that success as an entrepreneur took an idea, seed money and of course, a “wing and a prayer”.

Until I came across a quote that read, “there is no finish line; there are only mile markers”. I can honestly say that leading and managing a business (your own or someone else’s), is an evolving process, and not one that has a specific manual to help young leaders pave the way to success.

In 1995, I launched MBM Investments Corp. out of Toronto to join the design aspect of construction with the understanding of commercial and residential trends throughout the industry.

When starting your own (or managing someone’s) business, it’s crucial to know your market and where you fit within the scope of your industry. That number one person? Be better than them. Find what they are doing and find a way to do it better. A way to do it cheaper. And a way to do it first. Staying “hungry,” as they say, will move – and keep you – at number one.

Something I still work on is understanding the labor market. For example, in the construction industry, unionized environments are not only something that need to be understood, but they also need to be effectively managed. Labor markets are something that aren’t taught, but learned, and they are so incredibly important – labor costs and markets being mismanaged often lead to companies spiraling out of control.

Speaking of control, cost management is vital to a thriving business. Always gather three quotes for any work that needs to be done. It keeps everyone honest and keeps you in check and responsible for what you’re doing. If young entrepreneurs can’t control costs, they can’t control other aspects of their business.

Another obstacle for any manager to overcome is micromanagement. It’s something every good leader is guilty of at some point in time, but a line that can be easily crossed when sharing your vision and goals for the business. Communication is key in effective management, and a trait that transpires through the test of time when referring to successful leadership. Provide your employees the training, resources and education they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.

Finally, find a way to incorporate your passion and interests into your business. Whether its problem solving or communicating (or both) keeping everyone on the same page eliminates friction and keeps things transparent. Which, in turn, increases productivity. Love what you do, become good and it – and you’ll never “work” a day in your life.