Last Wednesday, Edward “Ted” Riley, CEO of Technology Innovation Group Canada, shared his experience and wisdom—as well as some of the essential truths of entrepreneurship—with our Entrepreneurship 101 attendees. The MaRS advisor explained to the audience his belief that “luck is the residue of desire” and how his life has reflected that belief, particularly through his former role as president of Alliance Atlantis Communications (AAC). Here is some of his advice.
1. Have a partnership that consists of friends and trusted kindred spirits. Entrepreneurship is a very emotional business, so it’s important to work with people who share your goals and values, and who can help you get through those hard days when you may just want to give up. Strong partnerships also enable you to be more professionally effective than you can be on your own.
2. Know your strengths and weaknesses. During Ted’s time at AAC, he and his partners each understood their individual roles. Rather than all “chasing the puck,” they each focused on doing their specific jobs. Ted was good at making friends and he used that skill to make connections for the business. He couldn’t close a sale as effectively as his partners could, but he could get the door open.
3. Make decisions that will create stability for your company. When AAC was growing too fast, the founding partners sat down together to decide which direction they truly wanted their company to go. They recognized that there were tradeoffs both to growing too large and to downsizing. However, they knew instinctively what their vision was for the company, so they set their goals and made decisions that supported those goals.
4. Be in it up to your eyeballs. You have to want to be in the business you’re in. “If you’re serious about it, it’s your life’s work,” explained Ted, “and if you’re not passionately engaged in something that is your life’s work, then go find something else. Because it’s just too short of a life to waste it on something that you aren’t absolutely 100% passionate about.”
5. Don’t turn down too many opportunities—activity begets opportunity. The doors that open to you may seem mysterious and dissociated from your work, but they will keep you engaged and can lead to greater things.
6. Be clear, effective and direct in your communication. Ted and his partners weren’t business students—they were liberal arts majors. Ted, himself, had a degree in journalism. What was key for them in their business was their communication skills.
7. Pay it forward. Be good to people and help others whenever you can… just because.
8. Don’t get in the way of the sale. “A good idea will find its market if it is properly communicated to the end user,” said Ted. “Don’t try to layer on too much stuff.”
9. Believe in small victories. Don’t get hung up on windfall successes. You will be defined by the body of your work, not by any one deal.
Many of us have heard similar recommendations before, but the wisdom behind Ted’s advice is timeless. Stay passionate and keep these truths of entrepreneurship in mind as you pursue your ideas and, eventually, luck will find you.
It’s hardly possible to capture all of Ted’s wisdom in one blog post. For more entrepreneurial wisdom and inspiration, check out his lecture video from last week’s Entrepreneurship 101 session.
Produced by MaRS.
Next lecture: Meet the Entrepreneurs – Life Sciences and Healthcare on Wednesday, February 26, 2014.
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