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Unlocking Growth: Intro to Pathway's Podcast

I am a CPA who has spent the last 40 years advising ambitious business owners. Every one of those owners has a story, one which contains valuable insights into strategies, insights, and potholes to avoid; all vital for the success of any business of any size. And, as with any journey, there is also no shortage of interesting, even bizarre, side stories.

Learning by experiencing can be expensive. I can vouch for this firsthand. Been there, done that. The owners I've worked with are proud to share the things that worked for them and those that didn't; and why. Their stories are entertaining, and the lessons learned are invaluable. Working with them, I can add insight into these stories too.

In the past 5 months, I've been working with a Podcast production house, Lower Street, to create a show (called A CFO's Diary - Pathways to Growth) that can bring these experiences forward.

Having now created and published 6 episodes, I've realized that, not only does revisiting these individual journeys provide unique and useful information about business strategy and execution, but there's an added bonus. While the stories were not connected with each other when they were happening, gathering them together in one place connects them.

I'm already seeing hidden themes that exist only because we've done this show, and will be adding a show every 4 months or so that looks back on prior episodes and will speak about those. I will also be adding episodes from time to time where I'm the guest so that I can share my experiences and what's to be learned from them. One thing I can say about doing what I've done for 40 years, I've experienced a lot. 

Here are some highlights of the first 6 episodes of A CFO's Diary - Pathways to Growth:

Episode 1 - Premise LED

We chose Nick Wagner, and his Premise LED (now Eiko Canada) story to be our inaugural episode because it highlights the foundational value of a human-centered approach to business. Their dedication to fostering relationships led to rapid growth, gaining a competitive edge, and eventually, a lucrative buyout. The connections he cultivated, whether with his partner, team members, customers, or vendors compounded their growth, profitability, and ultimately a premium sale price.

For him, success wasn't just about making money, although he certainly did. It was also about collaborating with others, understanding their perspectives, and embracing valuable lessons from each encounter. Balancing employee and customer satisfaction while staying true to your principles isn't always easy, but Nick was determined to do so. Premise had a high Net Promoter Score.

Episode 2 - Caravel Law

My second episode is about a business I've worked with for a little over 10 years, Caravel Law. It intrigues me not just because of its growth, but why it grew so much. The underlying answer comes from challenging the status quo, another way of saying they applied a "disruptive" strategy. My question was, how do you do this in the very mature and seemingly stable business model of the provision of legal services?

Rubsun Ho and his co-founder Joe Milstone found themselves at a crossroads in their careers as lawyers, and, being neighbours, connected to figure out what's next. Yes, there's a technology component to this in that their concept required what became a standard, cloud-based connectivity. The real disruption was a capitalization on the pervasive level of dissatisfaction of lawyers working within the "system". 

Rubsun and Joe discovered a niche nexus between companies looking for lower-cost solutions to in-house lawyers, and lawyers who desired more flexibility and control around their work. Listening to the needs of both sides, they built a remote company long before most of the business world had even heard of the term “remote work”. 

As with many entrepreneurial ventures Caravel was sold and has been rolled into a larger strategy, one which understands the value of what they've built. I predict this will be a model for the practice of law that the industry will move to because of the enhanced KPIs it delivers, and more importantly to stay competitive with those that follow Caravel's lead. 

Episode 3 - Telax Voice Solutions

I had the pleasure of being the CFO of Telax Voice Solutions until their sale to Intermedia, a cloud communications business looking for a solution for their product offering that Telax was providing. While the outcome of the Telax story is much the same as other successful entrepreneurial ventures, a sale, its road to getting there, and reasons for its financial success, provide insight into other foundational principles that I believe apply to all businesses.

Organizational structure and empowerment is one such principle. My guest in this episode is Koray Parmaks, who was hired by Telax's founder Mario Perez (whom I also interviewed in Episode 6). Koray, using his academic training topped up by Harvard Business School, felt success comes from empowerment and a flat organization. This, combined with "Tribal Authority", led to both growth and operating margin. I know from experience that this is not easily executed, but Koray showed it can be done, and when it is, the results are extraordinary.

Episode 4 - Joe Wilson

This episode is all about Joe Wilson, the entrepreneur, who, after gaining some experience, and also proving to himself that his intuitions could be relied on by working within "the system", transitioned from employment to self-employment. He chose a business that he understood well, trained himself in how to sell it, and then opened up his exclusive territory in Western Canada. Sonitrol operates a franchised system and is a recognized premium brand throughout North America. To this day he is a leader in the Sonitrol Commercial Security world.

This episode is all about path creation, getting trained, knowing and using your skills, then hiring those that have those which you lack, that are necessary to your success. This is a path that we should first embrace for ourselves, and then for those we work with. It reduces risk materially and also generates next-level growth.

Joe's takeaways should be heard and followed. You can take them to the bank.

Episode 5 - Clearly Lasik

Pathways to growth are never paved and easy-peasy, nor do they always end well. This story is such an example. I promised I'd provide some bizarre examples, and, while nothing's ever certain, I suspect the end of this story will be my most bizarre experience. Here's a link that you're welcome to click, but it is a spoiler alert, and for entertainment value only that may cause you to miss the important execution issues that could have avoided this.

Clearly Lasik was a business that provided custom Lasik vision correction. In 2005, building on the success of a lifestyle medical practice founded by 2 ophthalmologists,  it embarked on a growth strategy, devised by a hired CEO, who, drawing from the best-selling business bible by Jim Collins - "Good to Great",  felt that branding the business, expanding its locations, providing a consistent experience, then investing heavily in marketing and advertising, the business could grow both in volume and profitability.

An example of poor execution throughout its remaining years in business, much can be learned on what to do to avoid what the team at Clearly Lasik experienced, and the ultimate failure of the business entirely.

I interviewed one of the staff members, Daniel Kultin, who was the IT Director there throughout the failed journey. He provides his insights from a team member's perspective which sheds a bright light on where mistakes were made. We are all well advised to listen to this story to be certain we don't step in any of those potholes.

Even though there's a bizarre twist to this story, which is interesting in itself, most importantly, the message from an execution perspective is clear and worthy of hearing.

Episode 6 - Telax Voice Solutions

Episode 6 is in post-production, and my guest will be Mario Perez. He's the founder of Telax Voice Solutions. Koray Parmaks, CEO of the company, was hired by Mario, and he already appeared in Episode 3. That move, Mario will tell you, was a great one.

Mario, a refugee to Canada from Cuba, is a humble person. That's the beginning of this success story. Whether running Telax during its bootstrap phase or delegating management responsibilities so he could continue his ground-breaking research into product development, his presence was known. He set Trust and Accountability as the foundational principles for Telax, and, with his trust in 3 key hires, Vlad Pereira as Head of Product Development, Allister Quinteros as Head of Sales, and Koray Parmaks as CEO, he ensured that these two principles would be embedded into the Telax culture. He also set the processes in place that ensured the business self-funded its growth, which Koray carried through with drawing on the Tribal Authority concept mentioned in Episode 3. He made all the right moves and now is enjoying his love of sailing, developed during his days in Cuba with his father. He's currently spending one year traveling in his sailboat around the Caribbean.

His episode goes live on June 18th - it's definitely worth a listen.

Future Episodes

Our schedule has new episodes being published every 3 weeks. If you like what you've heard so far, and more importantly have takeaways that help you succeed in your business endeavours, please subscribe to A CFO's Diary Pathways to Growth

More to come.