Business success lessons from two Canadian CEOs

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A Toronto panel with two prominent CEOs, one who works in the B2B space, looked at the best practises to achieving business success.

Paul Crowe, CEO of analytics firm Bnotions Inc., and John Levy, CEO of sports news company theScore spoke at the Toronto Stock Exchange plaza in part of a series dubbed “Sunrise with the CEOs – An Interactive Discussion with Canada’s Top Entrepreneurs”. The discussion, moderated by Katherine Scarrow, of the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, was called “What does it take to get to the top?”

Crowe from Bnotions – a mobile, data and analytics innovation firm – began the discussion by reinforcing the importance of client relationships. “Trust. Clients rely on us, and trust is what we give you. That’s not just Bnotion’s promise; it’s Paul’s promise.”

In terms of advice, he said CEOs and staff alike benefit from being able to receive critique. In one example lately, a job interviewee challenged him during the interview, and “it turned into a debate.” She got the job, he said, partly because she criticized the company.

In short, Crowe said, “look at your blind spots, and try to find out where you made mistakes.”

Instincts and honesty also play an integral role in decision-making, especially in B2B when your clients need quick answers to questions vital to their own operations. He noted: “Utmost important are transparency and communication. Pay attention to the constant gut check, for the latest, greatest tech to try.”

In that realm, he has given his staff the latest gadgets to keep morale boosted, and to hatch new ideas. One staffer asked for an Apple watch, and Crowe bought it for to him to try. “It’s the little things,” Crowe added.

Another morale booster occurred when the company bought a Tesla car for staffers to use. It didn’t take too long before employees then built an Android app for some of the car controls.

The video of this innovation received 400,000 views on YouTube, according to Crowe, and had them featured in TechCrunch magazine.

Meanwhile, morale has extended to “dress up day” – halfway to Halloween, on May 31. A savvy business will invigorate staff with new fun ideas. “We want a culture of curiosity, and an open source classroom,” he said.

Finally, Crowe advocated networking as a means to grow not just in the industry but outside the inner circle, to broaden one’s influence and potential knowledge base. “Get out of your zone and network in places that have nothing to do with your industry,” he advised. “Meet different people.”

Scoring business touchdowns

John Levy of theScore, a digital media company that owns and operates mobile sports platforms, said that the key to his company’s success was “serving up sports and information in a different way.” Their app is one of the most popular sports apps in North America, being used by 10 million users as of Q2 2015.

With the “democratization of the Internet,” he added “more people are engaging in the community in new ways each day.”

To new entrepreneurs, he stressed motivation and determination as key elements. “If you’re not pressing hard enough, or pushing hard enough, you need to ask why you’re working there.”

Levy also said that harsh competition and sabotage could come at any time, but not to allow that factor to interfere with work. “If you try to focus on those who want to take you down, that will only take you down. Threats can come from anywhere. Trust yourself, trust your judgment, trust your gut and trust others. Don’t get sidetracked by other, little things, and don’t take life too seriously.”

And like Crowe, he encouraged businesspeople to lend an ear to those who may differ. “Welcome opinions. Listen to the people around you, and trust that sometimes things’ll be a bit scary.”

In fact, the scary choices may be costly; what’s vital is to be able to roll with the punches.

Levy said: “Almost-catastrophes can be some of the greatest learning experiences. Your biggest mistake is not acknowledging your biggest mistakes.”

Photo of John Levy, Katherine Scarrow and Paul Crowe via Dave Gordon

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