Assent Compliance CEO Andrew Waitman usually spends his Wednesday nights at an Ottawa boxing gym. He made an exception this week, however, so that he could instead dish out his best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators on how to become heavyweights in the business world.
The 28th annual ‘Toast to Success’ dinner was held at the Fairmont Château Laurier and was hosted by TECDE, The Entrepreneurs' Club of the Telfer School of Management program at the University of Ottawa. It was attended by the business school’s dean, François Julien, as well as students, alumni, staff, sponsors and established entrepreneurs, including Kevin Mansfield, who last year sold his Ottawa company, NeuroGym Technologies, to a multibillion-dollar U.S. manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies.
Waitman, who was that evening's keynote speaker, has been successfully helping Assent Compliance grow from a small Ottawa-based supply chain data management company of about 20 people to one that’s now approaching 500 employees and moving toward $100 million in annual recurring revenue.
“I love taking small ideas and making them big,” said Waitman, who, back when he was 17 years old, designed a computer from scratch.
One of the main messages that Waitman delivered to his audience that night was: Commit to a goal. “Measure that goal and hold yourself accountable to that goal,” he added.
The dinner was presented by Freedom 55, which offers financial security planning and advice. You may remember its long-running ad campaign, which painted an idyllic world of retiring mid-50s to a sandy beach surrounded by palm trees.
“I have a confession: I'm 55 years old,” Waitman told the room before adding that he's not even thinking of slowing down, not while leading a rapidly growing company and raising two children — ages two and four — with his wife, Heidi Hauver, vice-president of human resources at Invest Ottawa. “I am not retiring. I don’t even know what that word means.”
The room heard how Waitman has been boxing Wednesday nights for the past seven years at Final Round Boxing gym with Assent Compliance co-founder and boxing aficionado Matt Whitteker, who attended the dinner. “I wouldn’t be here tonight if it wasn’t for Matt," said Waitman. "Matt is the definition of entrepreneur."
Whitteker is known, as well, for co-founding Fight for the Cure, the charity white-collar boxing event that saw Justin Trudeau beat Patrick Brazeau in the ring in 2012, before his rise to prime ministerial power.
Also in the room was Keira Torkko, vice-president of human resources for Assent. She hired 221 people last year.
Choosing your business partners is more important than choosing your life partner, Waitman also told his audience. “It matters. You are with them for more hours than you are with your spouse.
“Starting a business, running a business, driving a business is not easy; never underestimate it. Who is in the boat with you? Are they rowing as hard as you are? Because if they’re not, you’re either going in circles or you’re running out of energy.
“Integrity matters. What do people do when no one is watching? It is the most important thing to get right with your business partners.”
Waitman encouraged his audience to read more non-fiction. His top book picks were 21 Lessons for the 21st Century and The Laws of Human Nature.
He also suggested developing good time-management habits. “Plan your day, work your plan, set your goals,” said Waitman, who creates a daily list for himself of what he hopes to achieve. “I am a very big fan of checklists.”
Among the young entrepreneurs in the crowd was Telfer School of Management alumnus Kailin Noivo, co-founder of Ottawa startup Noibu Technologies. "There's been a massive disconnect with the way people shop online and with the way they shop in store," said Noivo. "That means you're shopping for dish soap the exact same way you're shopping for a Louis Vuitton bag."
Noibu Technologies has been targeting the traditional retail space by giving online shoppers the same feel, spirit and emotion they would experience as if they were to walk into a flagship store.