Venturing Out with Arlene Dickinson and guest Dino Trevisani
Episode 2: Arlene discusses persistence, grit and determination with the president of IBM Canada
CBC Calgary presents Venturing Out with Arlene Dickinson. It's a seven-part series of candid conversations between Arlene and some of Canada's top entrepreneurs. They cover the highs the lows and everything in-between when it comes to starting and running a business in Canada.
Arlene chats with Dino Trevisani, President of IBM Canada, about how entrepreneurialism shapes his approach to business and how entrepreneurs should approach building a business. Arlene and Dino also share some real life anecdotes guaranteed to make you smile.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: You have some really great insights on what it's like to be an entrepreneur. Do you want to tell us a little bit about how you have that insight and what you've done that's kind of taken you down your own journey of understanding entrepreneurs?
A: I'm passionate about entrepreneurs. That stems from both my experience at IBM, working with small businesses — helping them be more competitive, helping business partners and software companies, help them commercialize and realize opportunities with different clients around the world — but also my own personal experience, when I did my MBA at Queen's-Cornell Executive MBA program… [I had] to take an entrepreneurial segment, which I resented at the time.
Q. Why do I have to do that, I know everything about business … who cares?
A: Exactly. I'm a corporate guy, why would I have to know anything about it? I didn't understand it at all.
Thankfully, my professor kept pushing me, saying, 'You gotta get engaged in this program, you're here for your corporate career but you have to understand the entrepreneurial segment.' So from that experience, I was enlightened and really understood both the excitement of being an entrepreneur and the complexity and difficulty of being an entrepreneur, too.
Q: What was the biggest surprise for you? You took an MBA course, they make you basically start a business, right? What was the biggest surprise?
A: When you think that you are going to create a business, you start off by saying I've got a great idea and you think that that idea is all you need. But it's all that other stuff that really makes the difference of being successful or not. And I think that that other stuff isn't inherent for a lot of young entrepreneurs, like experience about creating an operation, picking people. You know, I think that I was naïve. Within IBM, we have a lot of very talented people. I just expected people would be just as committed and hardworking and so on. That they would all be attracted to come and work with me on that venture, but that's not the case. You have to…
Q: You have to pay them, without money, those little things...
A: There's other motivations, that people want to work with you, you know? And you have to be connected to those things.
Q: It's interesting, because when you're the President of IBM and you say that's who you are, people are immediately attracted to the fact that that's a big brand. They get that opportunity and they know what goes along with that.… With your title comes that ability to represent a big organization. But when you're an entrepreneur and you say, 'Hey, I've got this business' and no one's heard the name before, to try and get people to work with you is really hard.
A: Absolutely, if you knock on a door and you say you're IBM…. After the number of years I've worked there, the door is going to open and they are going to talk to you at least. That was a big shock. I'm a smart guy, I've got a great idea, why don't you want to talk to me?
Q: And they said … because you're one more smart guy with a great idea....
A: Exactly. And you know the other thing is, everybody has a different opinion about what you need to do. And you really have to trust yourself and be committed and focused, and not get distracted by everybody else's idea. I mean, you take that information in that knowledge and you absorb it, but don't let it guide you from one recommendation or piece of advice to another.
New episodes of Venturing Out with Arlene Dickinson will be available every Tuesday. Next week she will be speaking to Matthew Corrin, founder of Freshii, an international restaurant chain based in Canada.
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