• varun madhok

What your roofer can teach you about running a startup


In Quebec an entrepreneur is a tradesperson in the building trades. Not quite the glamorous take you see in the hi-tech media but this tradesperson is a better businessperson than the wantrapreneur. The real expertise that a so called small-medium businessperson (SMB) has far exceeds anything one can get out of a book.


The best business advice I have received is from a Garbageman. I say "Garbageman" because this gent now has real estate holdings in two continents worth a healthy eight figures. But he says he learned about real estate hanging off the back of the garbage truck as it went through all neighborhoods, and a garbageman is what he calls himself. He still scouts for real estate on foot as much as his health permits as he believes that the factors that influence pricing are not apparent in the broker's listing. The Garbageman's formal education ended before his teens and he has an intuitive grasp of numbers. This man taught me how to make money and how to scout for value.


The next best business advice I received was from a Butcher. Again, it's "Butcher" because the gent has run a few businesses and is a polymath. The Butcher taught me how to do cold calls. I learned the importance of silence, how to create urgency and how to communicate confidence - all in a phone call.


We dabble in high tech. The data economy, connected cities and unicorns are catchphrases that we sprinkle in our conversations. But the core of business does not change. The principles that guided the spice trade and the silk road are just as relevant today and apparent in the trades that are all around.


Technology is a lever, an unfair advantage over the competition. But the processes that propel a business remain the same.


Listen to the customer. Deliver real value. Turn a profit.


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Toronto ON M6P

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