Entrepreneur Rising

11226_Entrepreneur Rising_finalcover_1500px (002).jpgRecently, AceTech Ontario sponsor KPMG in Canada partnered with the C100 Association to compile a research report that dives into the minds of several Canadian technology company founders to gain their insights on the Canadian ecosystem and the biggest challenges they are facing with their companies.  This report, Entrepreneur Rising, surveyed a select group of 52 Canadian entrepreneurs to discuss their experience, their tips and what keeps them up at night. In this blog, we will provide an overview of some of the items discussed in this research report.

Many of us have heard Toronto referred to as “Silicon Valley North”.  While we may not yet have the opportunities that Silicon Valley does, several Canadian entrepreneurs believe that Canada’s technology ecosystem has a lot to offer business owners.  In fact, 86% of founders surveyed agree that the Canadian growth company/innovation ecosystem has improved significantly over the last 5 years.

Not only have we seen a shift in Canada’s ecosystem, but we have also seen a shift in the Canadian entrepreneur.  “What we are seeing is the emergence of a new class of serial entrepreneurs; they know how to bring a great idea to market and they are using those skills and resources to build more companies,” notes Terry Doyle, Co-Chair of the C100.  There has also been a belief in the past that Canadian entrepreneurs are willing to sell their companies prematurely.  However, Entrepreneur Rising reports that almost all entrepreneurs plan to grow their company with a long-term view to be the best in the world. David Wilson, an independent board advisor, notes that in cases where founders are looking for an exit plan, it is due to having too much of their own capital wrapped up in the company.  What is the reason behind this new class of entrepreneur? 48% said that they saw a need in the market that was not being solved.  Vince Mifsud, CEO of ScribbleLive and AceTech Ontario CEO member notes: “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very successful entrepreneurs and business leaders and what I’ve found is that they all have a tremendous attention to detail.  I think sometimes people think that when they delegate a job they don’t need to think about it anymore – …but the really successful Canadian entrepreneurs are the ones that are on top of their business in every way”.

What are the challenges that these entrepreneurs are facing?  Almost a third of respondents have said that one the biggest challenges their company is going to be tackling over the next two years is the shortage of talent.  At AceTech events, we have often heard that many of our CEO members struggle to hire the right sales professionals.  While this rings true for many founders surveyed, 52% have found that the most difficult talent to recruit for is within their key management team (C-level executives).  “The priority has to be on recruiting, retaining and inspiring great people because you can always scale up a finance system or procurement model but it’s much harder to scale up culture, to keep your ‘A’ players and motivate them and align them to the vision of the company”, says Razor Suleman, founder of Achievers and Partner at Alignvest.  Many others agreed that a cultural fit is more important than having someone on the team who checks all the “job requirement boxes”.  In fact, 87% of respondents agreed that cultural fit is the most important consideration when hiring the right talent.

Another challenge that many of these entrepreneurs face is fundraising.  62% of respondents experience struggles when attempting to access the right sources of capital, while 50% feel they do not have access to enough capital.  However, Chris Chapman, National Leader, Growth Companies (TMT) at KPMG in Canada, believes that there is enough capital if you have the right metrics and are at the right stage, “the problem for Canadian start-ups is knowing what those metrics are and trying to ensure they are continuously aligning their business plan and objectives against those metrics”.  Many others share Chris’ sentiment and believe that if you are having trouble raising capital, that may be a sign that you need to make some changes to your business plan or operating model in order to attract investors.

Lastly, many people have heard the stereotype that if you are going to be a successful technology company, do you need to be in Silicon Valley; however, only 6% of respondents agree with this.  So as a Canadian founder, what should your presence in SV be, if any?  51% of respondents said that their ideal strategy is to be based in Canada while maintaining a SV presence through a local office or locally-based personnel.  When asked this question, Entrepreneur Rising states “85% of our respondents say that spending time in Silicon Valley has helped them change the way they think about their company”.  How do Canadian entrepreneurs tap into Silicon Valley? 71% of respondents note that their involvement through a C100 program has given them access to resources and provided them avenues to formulate relationships that they could not acquire otherwise.

One founder states: “you don’t know what you don’t know. It is important for Canadian founders and CEOs to get out of the office and see how the rest of the entrepreneurial world operates.  The face and perspective is just different”.  This is why several founders and CEOs of technology companies have found companies like KPMG in Canada, C100 and AceTech Ontario vital to the growth of their company.

For more insight on this research, please click here for the full report.

Advertisements

Hire Slow, Fire Fast

we-are-hiring.png“Interviewing is like dating”, says Colin Dickinson, CEO of Altus Dynamics and AceTech Ontario CEO member, “anyone can fake their way through the first date, but the real test is if you can make it to the third date, and let’s face it, the really good stuff happens on the third date”.

Altus Dynamics was recently pleased and honoured to be awarded the number five Best Small Workplace in Canada (up to 50 employees).  We had a chance to sit down with Colin and talk about Altus Dynamics’ “secret sauce”.  Ultimately, there’s a handful of factors that makes his company stand out from the crowd, however, he attributes a considerable amount of their success to their ability to find the right people.

“We are in a war for talent.  I’m certain that everyone in my position who’s a part of AceTech Ontario understands this”, says Colin, “If you can get better people, that is the number one way that you can be better than everyone else. In fact, probably the only sustainable advantage today is to have good people”.  As a result of this, Colin has spent the last 13 years perfecting their hiring process and having a corporate culture that fits their business.  Colin ensures that his employees are not simply punching a clock in and out, but are bringing their full selves to work every single day.

A number of years ago, Colin read an article on knowledge work in Harvard Business Review that stated that a high performing knowledge worker is seven (!) times more productive than his or her intermediate co worker.  This statistic has motivated Colin and his executive team to find those high performing knowledge workers who fit with Altus Dynamics’ corporate culture.  Throughout the years, they have been able to greatly improve their hiring process and ensure that they take their time with each hire that they make.  Colin has learned to avoid getting “happy eyes”.

What are “happy eyes”?  In sales, there’s a term called “happy ears” where a prospect might tell a salesperson that they are seriously considering their product or service.  Some salespeople will take that at face value without realizing that they are getting brushed aside.  When hiring, “happy eyes” happens when a company will look at a CV, see what they want to see, become enamored and not look beyond that.  This is why Altus Dynamics has a very involved hiring process.  “Google has a great approach where they involve a lot of people in their hiring process, which we do as well”, explains Colin, “Everyone has a vote, up or down and if one person has a down vote, we are no longer interested in that candidate. Google’s perspective is on this is that they would rather forgo good talent then hire bad talent”.

Lastly, Colin stresses that finding the right fit is a two-way street.  When interviewing, Altus encourages candidates to ask them difficult questions.  This is because ultimately at the end of the day, despite having a strong candidate in mind, if your company does not have the culture they are looking for or the job is not the direction they are looking to take their career, this will also result in them not being the right fit for your company, and neither of you will be happy or engaged.

As a number of mentors have shared these words with Colin – and as these words have been famously spoken throughout AceTech Ontario – “I’ve made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to”.

 

 

How Your Company’s Core Values Can Improve Your Hiring Process

 

12804152_10204947911571271_1287835091_n.jpgEver find that when it comes time to start the hiring process for a new employee, you are bogged down with a huge pile of resumes trying to find the right fit?

Rob Carmichael, CEO of CampBrain and AceTech Ontario member, has some tricks that can simplify finding the right fit.

About 5 years ago Rob and his business partner, Shane Miskin, sat down with a marketing expert and one of the first questions they were asked was “what are your company’s values?”  Since this is something which Rob and Shane had never documented, they were set on a path to compose their values and mission.  They established five key words that their company lives around – simpleintuitivetrustpassion & beautiful.  These words are now their way of speaking and are what they refer to when making any decision.

So how can this help you?

Before CampBrain went through this process, they hired based on a certain skill set and knowledge.  Well, when you read their five key words, there is not a lot about skills and knowledge in there; they are more about attitude, empathy and caring.  CampBrain went through a number of hires that were not meeting the company’s promise.  So they analyzed their methodology around this and created a specific strategy to guide who they hire, how they hire and where they look to hire.

Since Rob & Shane have implemented this strategy, their employee turnover rate has gone down significantly. “We’ve hired people more in line with what our values are and so when we bring them in, it feels like a place they want to work,” says Rob, “if they are doing something they love to do in an environment they love to do it in, then the result is that they are going to serve our clients in the way we want them to be served.”

There is a huge fight for talent in the technology world, but since CampBrain is so defined, they are going to attract prospects who are attracted to that definition.  Any programmer or developer has choices about where they want to work.  They could work at a large bank, they could work at IBM, etc. “We do not get a lot of people who apply to us who also applied to work at a bank.  That’s great because if they are going to work at a bank, our environment is completely different and would not be appropriate for them”.

If you are not clearly defined or focused, you are going to attract prospects who are not clearly defined or focused.  So by spending some time on your company’s core values, mission and promise, you will attract employees whose values are in line with your company’s and in turn, will become more successful.