Next up in the “My Day” Interview Series, we have one of the Co-Founders of Iconic Brewing Co., Cam McDonald. In 2017, Cam and his co-founders Daniel & Bobby were among the nominees for the EY Canada Entrepreneur of the Year- Ontario Region in the Young Entrepreneur category. After our telephone interview, I must say that it is very well deserved!
A little bit about Cam from Iconic’s website: Cam is a graduate of the Rowe Business School at Dalhousie University. Cam aspired to be an entrepreneur since the age of 16 when he realized you couldn’t make a career out of being a sports fan. When he’s not around the office you can find him convincing naysayers that this is the year for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Question 1: Describe yourself in 3 words only.

  • Persistent;
  • Hard-working
  • Fun

Question 2: Tell me more about your business(es)? What kind are they?

  • Iconic Brewing strives to bring innovative products to the Canadian beverage alcohol consumer. We were the first to bring hard soda to the Canadian beverage alcohol consumer (Dusty Boots Hard Root Beer) and our 2018 endeavor is to be a leader in the canned Vodka Soda space (think Perrier but more fun because it is mixed with premium Vodka!) with our new brand, Cottage Springs. We are also in the midst of finalizing a land purchase in Gravenhurst, Ontario which will be the home of Cottage Springs and allow consumers to get an authentic feeling for the Cottage Springs experience.

Question 3: Where does your entrepreneurial drive come from? What are your sources of inspiration?

  • I don’t know where the entrepreneurial drive initially came from, I’ve just always known that this was the path for me. I definitely fall under nature in the nature vs. nurture debate.
  • I get my inspiration from a lot of different places. I learn from other successful people (not just entrepreneurs) and seek out mentorship opportunities from others in our industry and business in general.
  • I wake up every day excited to go to work and build the culture that enables Iconic to take on bigger or more established beverage alcohol companies/conglomerates. I love being a part of a team that is bonded by a common goal, works together, beats the odds, and works hard to build the company together with ambition.
  • I always remember how lucky I am, just to be born in Canada. The ‘challenges’ or ‘problems’ that I face everyday pale in comparison to those of many people the in the world who grow up less fortunate. I will never lose sight of that.

Question 4: Considering how fierce competition is among your industry, what are your business(es) competitive advantages? What makes you stand out in the crowd?

  • Iconic Brewing was started by my two partners and me as University students. None of us had any experience in the alcoholic beverage industry prior to launch, therefore we built Iconic with no preconceived notions of what should/should not be done or what is or isn’t possible.
  • How we set ourselves apart is our company culture of collaboration, hard work & fun and our enduring viewpoint that the “the Consumer is our compass”. We always look at an idea with a consumer-first approach.

Question 5: No two days are often the same for an entrepreneur, but what does a typical day look like for you?

  • Every day, I try to start off with a workout, even if its only 30 minutes, it helps start my day off right. If I’m not traveling, I try to get to the office by 7:30, where I spend the first hour focused on emails and reviewing to-do lists & my calendar. Depending on the day, I could focus on any or all of the following: launch plans for new sales areas, business strategy, planning new product launches, communication with my business partner to overseas all manufacturing and finances to ensure our production schedules match, training new people, ensuring we are helping our sales team to achieve their goals and getting the assistance they need, and working with retailers to ensure our goals are being hit.

Question 6: What do you do daily to grow as a person?

  • I am a very competitive person who is definitely the harshest on myself. I keep an internal scorecard going, and if I haven’t been able to give it 100% in a given day, I strive to work harder the next day to make up the difference.
  • I understand work to ensure my weaknesses don’t get in the way of my strengths
  • I am always trying to learn, as there is still a lot of growth and things I want to achieve and I have only achieved a very small fraction of them.

Question 7: What tricks have you discovered to keep you focused, productive and achieve a decent work/life balance?

  • I stay away from social media during the workday. When I really need to focus on tackling the items on my to-do list, I turn notifications off on my phone to reduce distractions.
  • Speaking of to-do lists, I am constantly updating daily to-do list with status of tasks, and I always make sure that my components of tasks are completed. I am not a procrastinator and believe that tomorrow is the enemy of today

Question 8: What popular entrepreneurial advice do you agree/disagree with?

  • Agree with:
    • I believe that most of the common entrepreneurial clichés are true; Hard work really does pay off.
    • I also agree with the importance of managing expectations. When Iconic started, I was guilty of making promises that couldn’t always be kept (i.e. overpromising & under delivering on things such as shorter deadlines than were realistic). Not that this was intentional, I just naive an operating on a best-case scenario.
    • You need to listen a lot more than you talk, especially in a sales meeting. If you understand the buyer and their needs, you have a higher chance of making your product fit their needs and build a better relationship.
    • Learn every day.
    • Workplace culture is much more important than you think and no matter how great, it can always be improved. Look after your teammates. Set the same expectations for all employees. Being a team is important, as we have a young team. A lot of companies seem to get this wrong. We still can improve in this area, for sure.
  • Disagree with:
    • The notion that failure is good. You learn a lot more from success than failure, as success is a bunch of failures that don’t bankrupt you. If you go into a business with the notion that failure is acceptable, you will fail, 100 %. I agree failure is better than not trying at all, but not more than that.

Question 9: What’s your favourite metaphor to describe entrepreneurship?

  • My favorite is that it is like “jumping out of an airplane and trying to assemble a parachute with no instructions.”
  • Understand that mistakes and learning are a part of the journey and how you grow.
  • People will make mistakes, it will happen. Just make sure they aren’t repeated. Share your own experiences with making mistakes. Install a culture of owning up to honest mistakes and making sure that they don’t happen again.
  • Encourage risk taking. This is especially important for Iconic, as we have a young staff of average age of 24 years old.

Question 10: What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?

  • I believe that there is no problem that there isn’t a solution too. Don’t spend too much time thinking about problems (other than to ensure the same problem isn’t repeated). Spend your energy on a solution.
  • My perspective is that there is no tough moment as a Canadian entrepreneur that is tough enough relative to what less-fortunate people are going through in the world (war, famine, extreme poverty etc).
  • If you want to succeed, you need to understand that “when it rains it pours” can be associated with the wins and the losses in entrepreneurship. Don’t too low when things are tough and don’t get too high when things are going well because challenges are likely ahead, keep positive when its good.

Lastly, if someone wants more information, what is the best way to contact you?

If you would like to be featured in an upcoming “My Day” series post, please send me an email either through the Contact page or directly