Indigo Non-Fiction Blob (INFB): Mountie, wrestler, restaurateur – what made you decide to add author to an already impressive career? Any thoughts on what you’ll be doing in the next ten years?
Jim Treliving (JT): You forgot oil rig roughneck, bartender, bouncer, board member...and about a dozen other jobs that I've had along the way! But that's part of the reason for writing the book: it's an opportunity to look back at the wild ride that I have been on and to share the stories and lessons that have been a part of my career and my life.
As for the next ten years, I'd be very fortunate to have more of the same! I'm not the type of person to retire and go lay on a beach somewhere. I want to keep finding new investment opportunities and building businesses. I also enjoy the TV stuff, like Dragons' Den and Big Decision, because it raises the profile of entrepreneurship and small businesses in Canada. Nothing makes me happier than having a young person come up and tell me that they love our TV shows and they want to start their own business someday. Maybe that will be the real "Dragon Effect" in ten or twenty years when these kids start the next generation of successful Canadian companies. I certainly hope so!
INFB: The book is called Decisions and explains how you’ve learned to make decisions with heart, head, and gut. What’s the most exciting or frightening part of making a decision?
JT: For me, decisions are rarely frightening and almost always exciting. That's actually a key part of being a successful entrepreneur: you have to ENJOY making decisions. The hard part comes afterwards when you have to make that decision the right one by making it work. In some ways, that is the most exciting part.
INFB: Both inside and outside of Dragons’ Den, what skills or qualities besides good decision making processes do successful entrepreneurs have? Any advice on what they should absolutely avoid?
JT: Most entrepreneurs that I encounter have great passion for their business, product, or idea. And it is important to feel strongly about what you are doing because that enthusiasm can give you great energy – particularly when times get tough. However, passion alone does not get the whole job done. Successful entrepreneurs need to have analytical skills to break down the business, product, or idea and build it back up into a realistic, detailed, and executable business plan. Then you need communication skills to explain that business plan to potential partners or investors so that they can begin to share your passion. Finally, successful entrepreneurs need people skills to select, manage, and motivate the best team possible. I think that this last skill is often the most critical yet also the most overlooked. For me, success in business almost always comes down to the people that I am working with.
INFB: You write that this book is about making better decisions instead of making more money, and I liked that you refuse to equate success with cash. What’s your definition of success?
JT: Success is achieving your dreams, it's as simple as that. Maybe some people dream about swimming in piles of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck, but I think most entrepreneurs that I have met have goals other than just financial success. For many, seeing their business vision become a reality is success. They want to see their product on store shelves or their company logo on the side of a truck or a building. Don't get me wrong, I like cash as much as the next guy – unless the next guy is Kevin O'Leary! But success to me is in your achievements rather than in your bank account.
INFB: As you got deeper into the business world, did you find any favourite business books along the way?
JT: I have a long list of business books that have influenced me over the years, including those by my fellow Dragons [here, here, and here] and a book I did with my business partner, George Melville, 10 years ago to tell the Boston Pizza story. I always enjoy reading the stories of successful people, in business or in sports or in other areas. I like to see what they went through to get where they are and how they see those experiences now.
INFB: Dragons’ Den starts up again soon and I often watch you quietly let the others fight it out before stepping in with a great offer. Is this a strategy or just a dynamic that developed?
JT: It is a bit of both I guess. In the real world, I do tend to jump into discussions earlier on but the dynamic in the Den is different because we don't have any prior information for the pitches before they walk down the stairs. So I want to give them a chance to explain their business before I make my decision or start asking my questions. Some of the other Dragons are a bit less patient...you know who I am talking about.
INFB: Will all the authors on Dragons’ Den gang up on Bruce Croxon to write a book?
JT: Absolutely! Bruce has a very interesting career history and someday I look forward to reading it!