Reflections: A Leap of Faith
Twenty years ago, on November 1, 1997, I resigned my position as Vice President Sales for Toshiba Canada to pursue my dream of starting my own business.
It was not an easy decision. Toshiba owned the #1 position in the market for laptop computers, the hottest selling digital device at that time. My Canadian sales team had just completed our fiscal year with 75% year-over-year growth and I was enjoying a very healthy six-figure income. So why leave then? Why leave at all? Why take the risk of losing everything I had worked so hard to achieve in my career?
Although I enjoyed a very successful career in management at Hewlett-Packard (11 years), Apple (4 years) and finally Toshiba (15 months), there was a restlessness inside of me, something unfulfilled. Was this the deep-rooted entrepreneurial spirit people speak of that was driving me in this direction?
I had worked my whole career for large multinational companies. It’s what I knew. It’s where I grew up. It’s where I learned my craft. It’s where I had enjoyed tremendous success. So why give it all up and start again? Was I crazy? Actually some people thought so at the time.
For me it went much deeper than that. Something was driving me to do this. It was like a calling. A passion and inner voice from within that just wouldn’t go away. I just had to give it a try. I think deep down inside many, if not most people, dream of starting their own business one day, don’t they?
Although at the time I had significant experience meeting and exceeding multi-million dollar sales quotas, what did I know about starting and then running a small business of my own? Especially a software business when my whole career to that point had been spent flogging hardware.
The answer is, honestly … I knew nothing about running a business at that time! I knew nothing about software, the internet, web sites, web services, web applications, e-Commerce or systems integration.
I knew that P&L was part of a financial statement and a measure of how well a company was performing, but had very little first-hand experience running a P&L. In the companies I had worked for, prices for the equipment I sold and expense budgets were largely set by the powers that be higher up. Sales guys like me need only worry about meeting sales quotas, essentially the top line of a P&L statement. I understood the theoretical concept of “cash flow” but had never had to live those sleepless nights, staring at the ceiling worrying about it.
Lucky for me I had just enough of an ego to allow me to overcome all the negative thoughts of failure that screamed out to me from all around, including the many naysayers (glass half empty people) who recited all of the statistics for small business failure – “only about 50% of small businesses survive the first five years and only about a third of them survive for more than 10 years”.
Leaving the job security (a false security by the way) and all the benefits of the big multinational behind to start your own business is frightening! But it’s also exciting! Motivating! Inspirational! Challenging! Fun! Interesting! All consuming! Stimulating! A first-hand learning experience. And most importantly extremely rewarding!
Leaving your established comfortable career to start your own business requires a huge leap of faith, total focus, total commitment to success, courage, unwavering belief in yourself and your vision and perhaps most important of all, hiring the very best people you can surround yourself with.
Twenty years ago today I took that leap of faith and Whitecap was born. I am amazed at how fast the time has flown by. What an incredibly rewarding journey this has been and continues to be. Happy Birthday Whitecap!
President & CEO, Whitecap Canada