This will take longer than you expect, usually three or four years, and often the big problem becomes the founder's salary: There is not enough money to pay adequate compensation and after a long period of little remuneration he or she throws in the towel.
In better situations, a growth inflection point is hit, the curve of the stick, the critical time just before the business takes off, and you can shoot up the handle with the final stage: surging growth.
- You don’t need a good idea: There is far too much emphasis on concocting a brilliant idea but he says good entrepreneurs often have many ideas that could work. The key is whether you have the skill and determination to help one find the right market.
- He notes that billionaire Wayne Huizenga had three arguably bad ideas: Go up against governments with his waste-management business, move into fast-growing video rentals with Blockbuster, and try a chain of used-car dealerships when the market seemed saturated. But he attained surging growth for each.
- Starting with a business plan is self-deception: The bank may require a formal business plan, forcing you to write one. But don’t believe it yourself. The key is finding your market, which will always be unexpected – not what you had originally thought.
- The plan for his first business, he says in an interview, “wasn’t close to accurate. You should research. But don’t put time and money into making it pretty or supposedly accurate.”
- It’s not what you know that matters; it’s what you learn: In his study the average age of the entrepreneurs was 29. Those under age 30 tended to be more successful as they were more open-minded than the older entrepreneurs, who knew too much and weren’t as willing to learn, he believes.
- Accurate predictions of costs and revenue are not possible; plan to spend more than you think you’ll need and to earn little to nothing: You need to cut your personal and family expenses for about four years with a startup. Don’t expect money to come quicker than that. Too often people can’t hold out for a sufficient length of time.
- Don’t invest any money you aren’t prepared to lose: Entrepreneurs get deep into their effort, are sure success is around the corner, and start investing their retirement funds in the business. Fine, if you can afford to lose it. Otherwise, don’t.
- Raise the minimum amount you need to get to launch: The myth is that you should raise as much as you can up front. But he says “the most successful entrepreneurs in the blade years are scrappy entrepreneurs that keep a low cost structure. Instead of spending rainy day money, they are trying to figure out the business model.” They don’t need massive production runs and big investments in facilities; they need to test the market – find the market, as he puts it.
- Equity is worth incalculably more than its current value: Bill Gates and Paul Allen knew this when they founded Microsoft, not giving up equity at the start for investment, but saving it for themselves.
- You can’t build it and expect a market to come; you have to build your market as you build your product: Identifying a market that will be enthusiastic about your business offering is far harder than identifying a product. “To do that you need to sell face-to-face, talk to people, and learn what they think and if it’s the right product,” he says.
Then I went to France for postgraduate studies in geostatistics. My first real job was on Vancouver Island for Westmin Resources, then Echo Bay Mines that had great technical people. In Edmonton, I had this epiphany, "this is it – when I'm grown up and a seasoned professional I want to be a vice-president of technical services."
We eventually moved to South Africa. After our second daughter was born, he finished his work there, two years. I was back in Toronto with our daughters. I told my VP I needed a change, having a mid-life crisis working in Siberia. He asked what I wanted to do; I said, "go to South America." We all moved to Santiago, a great adventure. Late 2009, I was headhunted for Goldcorp to build their technical-services group – full circle from my 1988 dream.
I like a football-field analogy, three storeys high filled with Raisin Bran cereal – single scoop – find the raisins. Our costs here are reasonable because we don't have a camp, everybody goes home that day; 98 per cent are originally from Nova Scotia. Many never had opportunities in the province.
My chief engineer, she flew into Northern Ontario for seven years. My chief metallurgist, from Waverly, worked five years in the Dominican Republic and a Surinam jungle. Everybody has a story like that; it was a pleasure to offer people great opportunities here. So far, we've invested approximately $170-million; next year, we hope to file Environmental Impact Statements on two projects. Combining our four projects, it's potentially $400-million in total investment, with 400 to 450 positions.
I'm fluent in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. The trick is to never stop learning. Take on new challenges. Advice I share is about professional behaviour: The standard is, be willing to stand up in front of a panel of peers and defend your work.