If I’m being honest, when I put the call out to my fellow entrepreneurs across Canada to see who would be interested in participating in my “My Day” Interview Series, I didn’t know if Alex would even notice the email, let alone agree to participate.
When Mary, one of Esri’s PR Specialists, responded to me with his answers, I was flumoxed. As Alex explains below, Esri Canada is a large operation! Alex (and Mary), thank-you so very much for agreeing to participate and spreading your words of wisdom to the entrepreneurs who read this blog!
Question 1: Describe yourself in 3 words only.
Question 2: Tell me more about your business(es)? What kind are they?
- I cofounded Esri Canada and I am adding a paragraph here which explains what we do.
- Founded in 1984, Esri Canada provides geographic information system (GIS) solutions that empower people in business, government and education to make informed and timely decisions by leveraging the power of mapping and spatial analytics.
- These solutions enable organizations to better manage their resources, plan their future and collaborate within and beyond their organization.
- Esri Canada’s products and services help advance successful digital transformation. The company serves over 10,000 organizations from 16 offices across Canada and is based in Toronto.
- In 2015, Esri Canada became a Gold Standard winner of Canada’s Best Managed companies and in 2016 was named one of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures.
Question 3: Where does your entrepreneurial drive come from? What are your sources of inspiration?
- I was raised on a farm, so I have always understood the importance of land in how we create our lives: Where do I live? Where do I want to work? Do I want to commute or live close to where I work? Where do I want to go on holiday?
- I started my professional life as a surveyor and travelled across Canada, but I knew that computers were going to change that business and I wanted to be part of that.
- I met Jack Dangermond and we were very like-minded on the importance of GIS. He had started a GIS business in the US and I was his first (and now his biggest) distributor.
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?
- We are a privately held company, so I am not looking at giving shareholders a benefit every quarter, I am putting money into research and development and staff that want to stay with me and that helps me build a business which will continue to evolve and keep itself financially sustainable, and it has worked very well indeed.
Question 5: No two days are often the same for an entrepreneur, but what does a typical day look like for you?
- I exercise every day. I read a lot about my field every day and I meet clients, colleagues and partners every day. Where and in what order I do those things though, changes every day.
Question 6: What do you do daily to grow as a person?
- I study subjects which are relevant to my business and do a lot of research on my own.
Question 7: What tricks have you discovered to keep you focused, productive and achieve a decent work/life balance?
- Balance is the key. I have activities beyond my business which feed me; I sing in a church choir, I spend time with my family, advising my son on his businesses, working with my brother, playing with my new grandchild.
Question 8: What popular entrepreneurial advice do you agree/disagree with?
- Going to venture capital funds for investment is very tempting and can be very dangerous for any entrepreneur. It can shift your focus to the short term and that’s not how you build a business.
- You must be prepared to grow slowly.
Question 9: What’s your favourite metaphor to describe entrepreneurship?
- Managers keep things running smoothly and they look for efficiencies.
- Entrepreneurs must anticipate problems and listening to warning signs. So, I often use the metaphor of the body. Managers are the organs, doing their job efficiently and effectively. The entrepreneur is making sure the diet is good for the body, changing the exercise routine as needed etc.
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?
- Having to split with a poor business partner. As an entrepreneur you have to look at errors in a ppositive light. Mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
Not included in question count: If someone wants more information, what is the best way to contact you?
- More information can be found at esri.ca
- Email: AMiller@esri.ca
If you would like to be featured in an upcoming “My Day” interview, please send me and email through my Contact page.
Alex, I am a friend of Gian Del Zotto. I have one quest before I die — to build the 407 Transitway. Gian tells me you are the man I should meet. I am hesitant but I have been a map nut all my life and always thought ESRI was probably the most fascinating company in the world, so maybe. Can we change the world?