For me, the proverb "It takes a village ..." applies as much to entrepreneurship as it does to the other pursuits, and there is no better time to find your village than now - in the time of COVID-19. When my partners and I were building our business from a small team to a multinational organization, we managed to make every single mistake possible, from not exactly sure how to register a company, to selling B2B, negotiating a contract, hiring, managing cash flow, tracking team morale and performance, and the list goes on. There were many reasons for this: perhaps it was our collective lack of subject matter expertise, or maybe it was our arrogance, thinking that we were smarter and better than anyone else. With the benefit of hindsight, I could clearly see that we managed to survive and thrive despite our shortcomings because we had received a lot of help from others, whether or not we explicitly asked for it. For example, some of our early customers looked beyond our inexperience. Instead of taking advantage of us, they helped forge an equitable and sustainable business relationship. On other occasions, our colleagues were able to execute despite the fact that we were not providing the best support possible as their leaders.
Wouldn't it be great if someone could help me learn more and learn faster in real-time, at the speed of business?
While I do not have a formal system for seeking mentorship or coaching, I do try to seek "transactional mentorship" from every person I interact with. If I am talking to an accountant, I will try to learn a bookkeeping trick from him; I will ask my lawyer what tool she uses for collecting electronic signatures; etc.
During the COVID lockdown, the streets were no doubt emptier, but in a strange way, the physical environment became more intimate, as there were 3 of us instead of 20 waiting in line at Tim Horton's. As a result, I managed to talk to more people from different walks of life. I learned from one person how one bakery was better than the other, and I learned from another a new book that I should read and why. In short, my bench of mentors has expanded dramatically during COVID.
As the country re-opens, I can't wait to resume in-person interactions and continue to help the startups at ventureLAB. I will also make an effort to be a better "mentor" at my local convenience store.
What is your plan for finding your village and lifting up your fellow villagers?
Garry Chan is on ventureLAB's team of expert advisors. ventureLAB's advisors come from all backgrounds and industries to guide and support companies like yours to become globally competitive tech titans. Garry is a tech entrepreneur, investor and mentor, focused on advising and building early-stage companies. He is a a Fintech & SaaS Advisor at ventureLAB and member of the Maple Leaf Angels . Previously, he was VP, Products at VersaPay, a Toronto-based Fintech company providing payment processing and cloud-based accounts receivable software solutions. He graduated from the University of Calgary (BSc), Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto (MBA), and Carnegie Mellon University (MSc).
ventureLAB is a leading global founder community for hardware technology and enterprise software companies in Canada. Located at the heart of Ontario’s innovation corridor in York Region, ventureLAB is part of one of the biggest and most diverse tech communities in Canada. Our initiatives focused on raising capital, talent retention, commercializing technology and IP, and customer acquisition have enabled thousands of companies to create over 4,000 jobs and raise more than $200 million in investment capital. At ventureLAB, we grow globally competitive tech titans that build-to-scale in Canada, for global markets