Don't Be the Next Dinosaur

Article by:

Martin McNicoll
EO Montréal
Martin McNicoll - EO Montréal

If you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. This statement has never been truer than it is today. In our mobile society, business models evolve at rocket speed. Digital cameras replaced film, and now I bet you take most photos with your phone, right? Change happens. My passion is helping organizations scale activities to better position for growth. I’ve learned that growth hinges on processes, which hinge on values. I identified my core values long ago. Raised in a foster home, hard work and tenacity were my ticket to a better life. I excelled in school, the Canadian military, and in companies like Accenture and CGI.

When I opened my business in 2005 and asked others to join me, I met a wall of skepticism. How could I be certain that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) wasn’t a passing trend? Risk didn’t scare me. I launched my basement startup, and it took off. If I had been complacent or feared change, I would have missed out. Complacency doesn’t help when adversity strikes—and adversity always strikes. In 2014, my business partner left, sued me and started a competing company. What’s more, our largest client’s cash-flow issues led to a million-dollar shortfall, and 60% of my staff left. By all accounts, it was time to close shop. The odds were against me, but failure wasn’t an option. I reorganized, rehired and grew the company’s annual revenue by year’s end.

I recently spoke about entrepreneurship at McGill University, explaining the ingredients of business success in my path to scaling up. Here are three of them:

1. Ego. Ego can get you into trouble, but the confidence it generates is a magnet. Drawn to your success, others help you along. As an entrepreneur, you must be convinced that you’ll succeed where others have failed, just like prospectors were sure they’d find Yukon gold, even after so many people left emptyhanded. I grew my company from a tiny operation into a mid-sized company, and now into a premier cloud integrator. None of it would’ve happened without ego, but ego necessitates regular reality checks. It’s a conundrum: You’re never as good as you think, even though you need to think that way to get ahead.

2. Ignorance. As they say, it’s bliss. I’m a fairly easygoing guy, but if I had known the risks or how hard entrepreneurship would be, I wouldn’t have chosen this path. Know the feeling? Let ignorance work in your favor. Do you really need to know how many predecessors failed before you? Probably not. Assume success. Keep stocking the champagne.

3. Luck. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity: choosing the right technology, meeting the right people, or finding the means to execute your vision. Never underestimate what’s beyond your control— and keep in mind, that’s most things.

Ego, ignorance and luck are powerful on their own, but together they form the perfect storm. My success proved this recipe worked. However, after my presentation at the university, I realized it was missing something. Even though my formula worked, I knew there was a hidden ingredient:

4. Fear. Does that contradict everything I said about having confidence and going boldly forward? Hardly. We all have fears; often they work to our benefit. For example, a healthy fear of the status quo propels you forward. The status quo was an option for businesses in the past, but not anymore. Airbnb turned the hospitality industry on its ear. Uber forced a global rethink of transportation regulations. Amazon is opening physical stores. They, too, will be challenged by newcomers.

So, what’s your plan to adapt and thrive? To become a change instigator rather than the next dinosaur to go extinct? The only guarantee for the future is that the status quo will become outdated. That’s why scaling for growth is the only strategy that makes sense.

Martin McNicoll is an EO Montréal member, author and a leader in the cloud technology space. He is the CEO and founder of Gurus, a business consulting firm that integrates cloud solutions for the healthcare and life sciences industries. Contact Martin at martin.mcnicoll@gurussolutions.com.

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