The GMC PCMA Spring Educational Program, sponsored by Business Events Canada, featured an informative presentation on entrepreneurship and innovation by Michele Romanow, Director of Marketing at Groupon and the newest member of Canadian Broadcastings “Dragon’s Den” (similar to Shark Tank in the United States).
Romanow shared her entrepreneurial experiences and insights with the audience. Her first venture was a sustainable café at the age of 19 while going to university. After this, she achieved early success with award winning business plans to begin a caviar farming business in northeastern Canada. While the plan was working well and she was beginning to see good distribution, outside forces made it difficult to obtain export licenses which were critical to gaining access to more profitable United States market. She learned quickly that she would need to come up with another idea for a business. This was an important lesson to her that you can only plan so far, but until you are doing the work itself, you will not fully learn how to make it happen. As you see what is working or not, you make critical adjustments along the way.
She then worked on several other business ideas before achieving success with a coupon business that was eventually sold to Groupon where she now works. Many ask her what her “eureka” moment was for her various ideas. She shared that she has never had one of those moments. Her view is that innovation is iteration meaning that big ideas come from the evolution of a lot of smaller ideas building and adjusting along the way. Along the way, these iterations become execution of a successful business. It is not always obvious that what you are doing is ground breaking while you are living the day-to-day of the development.
Romanow also offered some advice on breaking down barriers to innovation which can apply to all business environments, not just start-up companies. These included:
- Legal. Make sure that you check the box “yes” on ‘is it legal?’, then move on to execution.
- Try things. Iteration will make obvious the 90% that may go wrong so you can focus on the 10% that went right and adjust from there. Try lots of “tests” so they don’t seem too big to fail.
- Avoid analysis paralysis and get to the execution. Let go of asking for a lot of back up data.
- Empower action. Align incentives, compensation and empowerment of your team so they feel rewarded by the work. Beware of putting people in boxes and help to create projects that people feel are their own. Provide instant feedback where possible and don’t waste a lot of time with updates and check-ins unless needed.
Thank you to the education and events committees for producing a very informative and well-run Spring Educational Program. And, of course, thank you to Business Events Canada
for their continued support of the chapter educational events.