3 Success Tips from Brett Wilson

Welcome to a special video post brought to you by American Express Canada. They have recently launched their Amex for Business Canada Facebook Page where you can access the latest news, information and resources for Canadian entrepreneurs.

I believe that the fastest and most effective way to build a business is to model the strategies of people who have already done what you’re trying to do. I call it Modeling the Masters.

Today we’re going to look at how an engineer discovered how his field was not for him and that business was more of his passion so he went back to school to get his MBA and focus on the business world. This man would go on to become one of the richest businessmen in Canada and is also well-known for his generosity. This is the story of Canadian entrepreneur Brett Wilson and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.

Must Watch Video

Innovative thinkers are constantly asking the question: How can we make things better? No matter what stage you’re at in your career or what industry you work in, everyone around you can benefit from new ideas. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box – just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be better.” – Brett Wilson

Brett Wilson (born July 1, 1957), a Canadian engineer, businessman and television personality is best known for his appearances on CBC’s Dragon’s Den. After growing up in a middle class family, his father a car salesman and mother a social worker, Wilson went off to college to study engineering. He would get his bachelor’s degree in engineering and go to work for one of the oil companies in Western Canada. However, after a few years of working as an engineer, he discovered that he wanted to do something else – business.

After going back to school to get his MBA, Wilson would join nine other friends to start an investment club. They each put in $200 and invested in the stock market. They would soon each get back $221, but more importantly, understand how the stock market worked, how commissions worked, how to buy and sell stocks, as well as learn to research and watch market trends. It wasn’t much money, but this small investment club got Wilson moving and drove him to wanting to do more in the business world. He would go on to work for an investment bank, but his entrepreneurial spirit was still not satisfied. He would bide his time, network, make contacts and learn everything he could, so one day he could start his own business.

Finally, he would create his own investment advisory firm and later team up with three partners to create a brokerage firm, FirstEnergy Capital, that would offer investment services to the oil and gas industry. Today, FirstEnergy Capital has handled more than $150 billion worth of mergers, acquisitions and asset sales. Wilson has been named one of the top 20 deal makers in Canada and one of the top 10 mergers and acquisitions specialists in Canada.

Action Item #1:  Stay the Course

Most people have ideas to start businesses but they don’t take action. It’s scary, it takes a lot of courage, you might fail, and it’s outside the normal corporate world that most people are used to. It takes a lot of guts to start a business and in many cases your friends and family won’t understand why you’re doing it. They may tell you you’re crazy and you should get a comfortable job so you don’t have to worry. If you’re really passionate about being an entrepreneur, don’t let the naysayers get you down. Focus on why you’re running your business and keep jumping over the hurdles put in your way until you reach the success you’re after.

Wilson believes that real entrepreneurs have to stay the course, even when your friends and family don’t think what you’re doing is a good idea. Wilson started out his career as an engineer and had a good job in the oil fields, but was missing the passion. When he wanted to change careers and focus on business, his family and friends tried to convince him that he had a good job and he should stick it out. He then took a management test at his engineering job and failed it. They told him that he was not management material.  Wilson had to prove everyone wrong and so he left his job and started following his passion.

According to Wilson: “It was hard not to enjoy the success we were having, doing a deal a day. It was enthralling to be at the office. I got as caught up in my career as any investment banker could be… I worked for about three years as an engineer at one of the big oil companies. I discovered that I wasn’t passionate about engineering. I was passionate about business… Despite being told by one of my first employers that I wasn’t management material, I enrolled in the MBA program at the University of Calgary. I was the first graduate to major in entrepreneurship… After I started my business – a company named Wilson Mackie – my dad asked me if I was still looking for a job… Entrepreneurs have to be willing to stay the course even when those closest to you question what you’re doing.”

Action Item #2: Watch and Learn

When I started my first “real” company (a biotech software business), I was 19 years old and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was in over my head and didn’t want to fail. My ‘aha’ moment came when I realized that I wasn’t the first guy to try to sell software. I researched companies like Microsoft, McAfee, and Intuit to see how they got started. By looking at how Bill Gates grew his company, he became my mentor even though I had never met him. You can learn a lot about how to market your business and build your company by following the success clues that those before you have left behind.

Wilson had completed his education in both engineering and business, but the course he found most valuable was “Consumer and Buyer Behaviour.” Today, he believes this course taught him the proper way to market and how to brand businesses. His most valuable skill is watching and learning – watching what other businesses do to create brand awareness and how each successfully competed for capital. He desperately wants others to understand these behaviours and spends a lot of time trying to pass this information along to other aspiring entrepreneurs.

According to Wilson: “It does not matter if you are a doctor, scientist, engineer or lawyer – the tools of marketing are invaluable…. I sometimes think people over worry this ‘take me under your wing’ notion. People can be mentored by simply observing carefully. For example, I’ve been mentored by Richard Branson in the marketing world, and a variety of business people in terms of their business acumen. I watch and learn. And I’m still watching and learning.”

Action Item #3: Grow During Hard Times

When times get tough entrepreneurs often scale back, question if they are cut out to be a business owner, and often go looking for a job. When the economy is doing poorly, the successful entrepreneurs look at it as an opportunity for growth. They realize that their competition is likely not investing in marketing or new innovations and that there is a lot of talented people available who are looking for work. To grow through tough times you need to get closer to your customer and develop new products and services that can help them solve important pains that they are facing.

Wilson grew his business through the hard times by being innovative. He believes that entrepreneurs should focus on building a culture of innovation. Always look for ways to be better, improved, more efficient, and do things more intelligently. If you can’t find a solution, create one. If you’re constantly innovating you’ll have some failures but your successes will help you not just get through hard times but grow through them.

According to Wilson: “Innovative thinkers are constantly asking the question: How can we make things better? No matter what stage you’re at in your career or what industry you work in, everyone around you can benefit from new ideas. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box – just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be better… Don’t expect not to be afraid. Real courage is being scared to death and going ahead anyway… Hard times are an opportunity for growth. Struggle doesn’t so much build character as reveal it.”

 

True Story

When Wilson was young, his father set him up a job cutting the neighbour’s lawn all summer long. Wilson said he knew a friend that was making $3 for each cut and thought it would be a good way to make some extra money for the summer. He mowed the lawn twice a week for a total of 30 cuts. At the end of the summer, he went to collect his summer wages and she handed him a $10 bill.

Wilson was flabbergasted. He had expected $90 instead of the $10 she had given him. He would later be quoted as saying, as he looked back on his life, “I didn’t negotiate a price up front… I learned a lot about communicating and being up-front and establishing mutual expectations… In hindsight, a great learning experience and for a great cause – the widowed neighbor!”

Quotes

“I discovered that I was pretty average, and if I didn’t get my ass in gear, I was going to be pretty much below average.”

“I worked for about three years as an engineer at one of the big oil companies. I discovered that I wasn’t passionate about engineering. I was passionate about business.”

“Misunderstanding your target market both as the product you’re delivering and the desirability in that market, but that all ties to the bottom line of understanding your market.”

What Do You Think?

Do you stay the course? Do you listen, watch and learn from others? Do you learn from your mistakes? What did you learn most from Brett Wilson’s message? I think it is important to learn, watch and listen from others also, so tell me what you think by leaving a message below.

Evan Carmichael

To learn more check out my list of Brett Wilson Articles. Also don’t forget to check out the Amex for Business Canada Page!

 

About the Author

I #Believe in entrepreneurs.

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  16. Ogu Iraneus says:

    its never too late to make the positive change or go the right path

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  24. EMMANUEL WANSIBHO RAPHAEL says:

    Thanks so much Evan. I am making up my mind, seriously!!

    1. Awesome Emmanuel – go go go!

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  27. Peter says:

    Evan, thank you very much. I appreciate your newsletter and you have probably saved me from giving up and going to look for a job. I need training in Business Process Reengineering as this is what really excites me.

    1. Happy to help Peter!! :)

  28. Jade says:

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  29. Amos Nandy says:

    I have just started a business and am grateful to these great tips. I will be definitely taking more time studying what others have done rather than re-invent the wheel.

    1. Great to hear Amos – good luck!

  30. Lisa Gerber says:

    3 Success Tips from Brett Wilson http://t.co/AYG5gNsL by@evancarmichael

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  33. Karnraphee Pattharakiathwisand says:

    Dear Sir,
    as usual, may i have the link to download this video.
    rdgs/ KP

  34. Farasat Ullah Khan says:

    Thanks a lot, Evan. It’s valuable insight even for those who do not want to start a business. Yet, dare to bring change in their routine job…some times, truly out of box.

    1. Glad to hear it Farasat! You’re a corporate entrepreneur :)

  35. Abolfazl says:

    HI & Respect
    MR Evan Carmichael

    I congratulate you.
    How to change & direction of change & change rate are very important.
    I’m willing to be interacting with you.
    Do you agree?
    Thanks

  36. i have no capital resources.
    i’m not rich.
    i had beem an enterpreur.i have an idea.
    it’s to standardize the meat and food industries in my country.
    i have gone banks,isurance firms and other places all to no avail at the moment.presently i am flat broke. i have been tyring to earn money online without result as you read this message,yet,i beleive there is a way out. the question is how?

    1. Nintampio – it’s not about how many resources your have, it’s about how resourceful you are that will determine your success.

  37. surender says:

    Evan i am impressed. great article.. family and society keep on demotivating me by saying no 2 business.. but passion triggers me 2 do business.. onceideas are clear if i got the required skills i will start business

    1. Great to hear surender – good luck!

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  39. DAVID CALITZ says:

    Thanks for the motivational news .I am working on some ideas to start my own busness. I think just the lack to motivate myself in this direction was still not there . I am getting there

    1. Every day do one thing to grow your business and the momentum will take over David – good luck!

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  41. Emmanuel says:

    In fact, the story about Wilson is an opener to some of us who want to leave teaching and create our own business. The fear father has always been there but I have lot a few things from Wilson about following one’s passion. It is food for thought and I will constantly refer to it as I prepare to do something a new.

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  45. Never do anything you are not passionate about.This video is quite instructive.

  46. David Marks says:

    You know when you read a book, lets say an inspirational book but the words do not get into your brain until one day the penny drops and you understand. Well the day has arrived for me in relation to your emails. I’ve been receiving your emails for the past twelve months and have been deleting them as it just didn’t click at that time.
    I’ve met a new friend which I would love to help and get her new business off the ground and I think you can help both her and myself.
    She has the right product (in my opinion) and definitely the right personality but in my opinion she has not the right strategy and needs some clear guidelines to follow. I know nothing about businesses or marketing as I’ve come from a Community Services background.
    Would you be able to assist in a direction or refer me to papers that we can both read and set some guidelines to move forward in a positive and confident manner.
    Many thanks
    David

    1. Hi David – great to hear from you. Sure, if you post a question I’ll create a video reply for you.

  47. Jay says:

    Yes stay the course
    Jay

  48. shaun says:

    Hi Evan,

    Thanks for the tips i am preparing to sign my first Club management contract this month look forward for more tips from you.

    People cant move without a dream

    1. Great to hear Shaun – good luck!

  49. opoka francis says:

    Hello Evans,
    I am happy that you always bring us success stories of successful enterprenues around the world and its very interesting to read.It has given me the courage to persue my dream of becoming a enterprenuer,have always thought about it but keep thinging of start up capital and making the business a success.I work for a non for profit organisation and earns 312.5 US Dollars per month but responsibilities has not allowed me to save for a start up but now am thinking of starting up a small shoe stall for both second hand.A pair of shoe in my country cost you $7.4.

    How can i go about this considering that i need a trading licence form municipal authority.
    Francis

    1. Hi Francis – I’ll create a video reply for you!

      1. Hi Francis

        I hope you’re doing well! I wanted to let you know that my video response to your question will be going up on my YouTube channel on the 18th

        http://www.youtube.com/user/ModelingTheMasters

        Good luck!

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  61. Dave Rogers says:

    Hi Evan, I just read your mail thanks for keeping in touch. What I really would like a direction in which to go to make the book a reality. Who to contact, to talk to, anything. What ever help or direction you can give would be greatly appreciated.
    THANKS, Dave Rogers – I know that this book on golf instruction will help many,many new golfers that just started the sport- Thanks again

    1. Hi Dave – are you looking to self-publish or use a publisher?

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