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10 Tips For Aspiring Entrepreneurs And Recommended Reading

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Last year I was commissioned by a Canadian investment bank to write a research report based on interviews with 35 entrepreneurs from diverse companies across Canada. These founders generously shared their top tips and recommended reading with me.

10 Tips

1. Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated.

“My dad taught me the age-old principle that if you want to get a customer and keep a customer, ‘say what you do and do what you say.’ If you do that people will respect you. It’s all about respect, trust and delivering on promises. These values and rules aren’t new, but they work.” Ed Alfke, CEO & Chairman, Radicle, Calgary, Alberta.

2. Invest time in yourself.

“I’m a big believer in daily exercise and feel strongly that it builds self-confidence and high energy levels… important ingredients for entrepreneurs.” Chris Dobbin, Founding President & CEO, Nova Leap Health Corp., Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“I’m a big believer in self-development and removing fears—I am a fan of both Tony Robbins and Grant Cardone. I like setting very ambitious goals for myself and my team.” Nitesh Prakash, President & CEO, Blue Pearl Mortgage Group Inc., Surrey, BC

3. Start networking early.

“It is never too early to start networking especially if you are looking for investment. Just like it isn’t a good idea to get married on the first date—go out early and often and take a collaborative approach with your partners, Barbara Stewart regulators, and competitors.” Philip Barrar, Founder & CEO, Moka Financial Technologies (recently acquired by Mogo Inc.), Montreal, Quebec.

4. Question the status quo.

“I constantly question the status quo and ask myself ‘Why does something have to be that way?’ I don’t take no for an answer and my mantra is ‘Rules are made to be broken.’ ” Brad Malcolm, President, CEO & CoFounder, EyeQ, Calgary, Canada.

5. Pay attention to red flags.

“When the market crashed in 2009, that gruelling experience taught me a couple of big things. I had turned a blind eye to some very significant red flags regarding how my business partner put his energy into the business. In retrospect I realized that although he worked hard for 12 hours a day…he didn’t work smart. The second thing was that we didn’t ever have a proper partnership agreement.” Laura Ambrozic, President, Mimic Print & Media Services, Toronto, Ontario.

6. Understand why you exist in the world.

“My number one learning out of my first business was that you must clearly understand ‘why you need to exist in the world.’ I am always refining why any business I am involved in needs to exist in the world.” Jesse Douglas, CEO, Green Impact Partners (GIP), Edmonton, Alberta.

7. Be able to answer:

“So what?”. “The ‘So what?’ is the most important question to be able to answer for any business and I have this question printed on the back of our business cards. Make it clear, make it compelling, and make it memorable.” Randy Pilon, Founder & CEO, Virox Technologies Inc., Toronto, Ontario.

8. Believe in your idea.

“If you believe in what you are doing you will get through the tough times. If you know there is demand… persevere! I feel that I’m a testament to the fact that you don’t need a ton of education to be successful. The world is an open-sourced marketplace today.” Wayne Burgess, Co-Founder, Contrax, Toronto, Ontario.

“Know that the only difference between being a success and being a failure is giving up. Don’t have a big ego, be open to feedback and listen to the market. Anyone can do it.” Philip Barrar, Founder & CEO Moka Financial Technologies (recently acquired by Mogo Inc.), Montreal, Quebec.

9. Grit is the skill that matters most.

“I’ll say that grit Is the skill that entrepreneurs need the most.” Liran Belenzon, CEO, BenchSci, Toronto, Ontario.

10. Just go and do it!

“I always noticed there was one key difference between entrepreneurs and employees. Entrepreneurs were not any smarter…they had just done something that the average person had not done! I would tell any aspiring entrepreneurs not to hold back. There is no question that you can do it, it’s just a matter of doing it!” Chris Dobbin, Founding President & CEO, Nova Leap Health Corp., Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“Canada is an amazing breeding ground for entrepreneurs. My best advice to any aspiring entrepreneur is to just go and do it.” Daren Trousdell, Chairman/CEO, NowVertical Group Inc., Toronto, Ontario


Recommended Reading


The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz

Liran Belenzon, CEO, BenchSci, Toronto, Ontario: “This book inspired me to act on certain things that I didn’t want to have to do including the parting of ways with one of our co-founders in the early days. We wouldn’t be here today if we hadn’t done that: everyone in the company has to be 100% all in because the odds are not in your favour.”

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Transition by Iain M. Banks

Robert Kaul, Founder, Cloud DX, Kitchener, Ontario: “This is deep stuff about what is causality between cultures… what moves personalities.”

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The Immortality Key by Brian C. Muraresku

Essam Hamza, CEO, CloudMD, Vancouver, BC: “This is my current favourite book—it is fascinating!”

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Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don’t by Jim C. Collins

Steven Pelton, President & CEO, Aegis Brands Inc., Toronto, Ontario: “CEOs aren’t necessarily as overconfident as they appear to be: they are just as insecure as anyone else. Like many others I never thought I was good enough, but this always drove me to be better and better.”

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The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to Go from $0 to $100 Million by Mark Roberge

David MacMillan, President, CEO & Co-Founder, Deveron, Toronto, Ontario: “I find it relaxing to think about how we can make our business better—I love to read business books like this one!”

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How To Avoid A Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

Jesse Douglas, CEO, Green Impact Partners (GIP), Edmonton, Alberta: “I love to read about both older and more modern successful entrepreneurs. There is so much difference between Rockefeller and Gates, for example. I think Bill Gates is our modern-day greatest thinker.”

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Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

Setti Coscarella, CEO, TAAT Lifestyle & Wellness, Toronto, Ontario: “The main point of the book is that sometimes the logic isn’t apparent. You can stumble upon a creative solution and only when you work it backwards do you see the logic in it. Creativity and a general sense of wonder is important if you want to create things that have the potential to change the world.”

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Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert Heinlein

Robert Kaul, Founder, Cloud DX, Kitchener, Ontario: “A space-mad teenager wins a free space suit in a soap contest. He uses his engineering skills to make it ‘space ready’ just as a fun project…until a spaceship practically lands on him, he gets kidnapped by aliens, and taken to space! Growing up, this book opened my eyes to issues around family, young love and problem solving.”

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*Please note that the author selected the recommended book list. We have included links to the blog for convenience. Canadian Money Saver may earn a commission if you buy something through our links.

About Barbara Stewart

Barbara Stewart, CFA is one of the world’s leading researchers on women and finance, focusing on real life financial behaviours and providing global insights into how smart women think and communicate. Barbara is an advocate for women, for diversity, and for financial education. In addition to her Rich Thinking® research, Barbara uses her proprietary research skills to work as an Executive Interviewer on a project basis for global financial institutions seeking to gain a deeper understanding of their key stakeholders, both women and men. Barbara is a frequent interview guest on TV, radio and print, both financial and general interest. She is a contributor to the CFA Institute’s Enterprising Investor website. For more information about Barbara’s research, please see www.barbarastewart.ca

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