At Accelerate Okanagan, our entrepreneurial programs are designed to build strong companies and resilient entrepreneurs. We help business owners validate their market, accelerate their growth, and scale sustainably with the guidance of our Executives-in-Residence team. We do this through one-on-one business coaching, peer-to-peer engagements, access to resources, and entrepreneurial training with industry experts.
What makes our Executives-in-Residence (EiRs) so qualified? They’ve been there. They’ve lived through challenges, thrived in success and most of all, learned from their wins and losses.
We recently caught up with one of our EiRs, Josh Cairns, to find out more about what makes him uniquely qualified and hear the lessons he’s learned along the way.
Power of Constraint
As an avid consumer, I’ve always had a knack for branding. I worked just to pay for my consumption of clothing and goods. When I graduated, I was fortunate to land a job at an agency in Toronto named Mosaic. Right out of the gate, I was working with brands like Microsoft, Rogers, Petro Canada and Ford doing some really cool campaigns—things you need a lot of money to pull off. It was exciting and I learned a lot, but it wasn’t until I moved to Kelowna to launch Crew Food & Beverage Marketing Partners new office and started working with entrepreneurs that I learned the power of marketing. They show you a budget and you need to figure out how the campaign would work within it. Those are the moments where you realize you’re not just working with “fun” money and need to do the best you can with less. That constraint gave me a much deeper understanding of how marketing can function.
It’s not just smoke and mirrors, marketing means selling a message.
Marketing is the growth engine for your business and the tool you use to find and build relationships. Most people don’t know they have bad marketing until someone tells them. It’s not just smoke and mirrors, marketing means selling a message. That doesn’t mean that it’s only about appealing to your customers. No, you’re also marketing to vendors to help build or sell your product, to team members that you’ll hire, and investors that will financially support your business. Nobody will ever be the winner of business, yet we always talk about “crushing our competitors” or “being the best”. You can’t ever achieve that. If you think about the long-term approach, it’s about building strong relationships with the people around you.
A Learned Perspective
The majority of clients we see are entrepreneurs and we spend a lot of time dissecting their business, their industry, their region, and the founders themselves. With that exposure, you end up with a really unique insight into the entrepreneurial journey and recognize the best practices for them to follow. Through my own journey, I learned a lot about establishing and growing a business when I opened Crew’s Kelowna office. We opened our doors and very quickly had to figure out the unique relationships we needed to succeed locally. I was also able to build on my understanding of startups through my work at Crew.
No Margin, No Mission
I use Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Matrix to help entrepreneurs manage their time. Entrepreneurs have a natural tendency to solve problems and execute against them. It’s great when they have a social impact and want to make a big impact, but they can often overreach and try to shape their business to help too many audiences. As an EiR, I need to help them figure out where to spend their time and energy so that the business doesn’t exceed its runway and burn out. Entrepreneurs need to add value to their core consumer audience and create a sustainable business model before supporting the other audiences they want on their radar—after all, no margin, no mission.
Success by Failure
Helping someone determine whether or not they’re creating a viable business is the best guidance an EiR can provide. I was mentoring an entrepreneur who had started building a complex product. We developed a strong relationship but my responsibility was to help him see the aspects of his business that he wasn’t. We talked through the limitations and he recognized that his concept wasn’t viable. We always think about a win as growing or scaling the business, but that entrepreneur is still in our ecosystem working to develop other ideas. I see that as a win.
Helping someone determine whether or not they’re creating a viable business is the best guidance an EiR can provide.
The World Within Us
I’m motivated by helping people grow but that also needs to apply to myself. I’m always trying to learn how to be a better mentor and leader. I’ve learned that in order to change the people and world around us, we need to change the world within us. If someone in the workplace says something that bothers me, is my first reaction to get defensive and fire back? Or is it to reflect and evaluate? It’s like doing customer discovery on yourself and I’ve found a lot of value in that practice.