This is a realization that I have always feared in certain things I’m up to or commit myself to. Most everyone feels this every now and again, that feeling that “I’m not good enough” or “I’m just not the right person to do this well or effectively”. I grew up playing hockey and baseball, and have always been very competitive and set high standards for myself. In hockey, I was the team’s goaltender, and in baseball, I pitched and played shortstop, where I was once named “the General” for how I conducted my game from the shortstop position.
I have always been a leader on my sports teams, and set a high bar for myself in terms of my contribution to the team’s successes or failures. Nothing changed when I set out to run TRAK and bring this amazing product to the world. I recently recognized that I had a simple fear of failure, and even worse, the fear that I’m the reason for the failure.
Just imagine how I felt when I found out that this was TRUE! (…sigh)
As I completed my 2013 year and prepared myself (and TRAK) for 2014, I found myself in a difficult place emotionally. I wasn’t sleeping as well, and I found this constantly on my mind. With my team, I completed an updated business plan for TRAK as we enter 2014. When I finished the update, I couldn’t help but be extremely impressed with its contents. From a pure business perspective, the company has every opportunity to be a top brand in the outdoor industry, with its ‘game-changing’ innovation, with so many unique ways of approaching the market and with a global market footprint. Also, I constantly experience the same reaction from people that come into contact with TRAK and this venture. That common reaction is, “Wow, what a cool company and what a great product.” So why had it not been flourishing to the level that I believe is possible? Could it be me? Oh, I hope not!
Like many entrepreneurs, I got the company started and do what I do because of the passion I have for what these products and what this (ad)venture can offer the world, one passionate paddler at a time. I also believe in the vast potential of the pursuit of kayaking, knowing that TRAK kayaks have the unique characteristics that could help open up the market and give people interested in paddling the reason to do it and be transformed by the experience!
I have always been the kind of person that gets a lot of personal “juice” from the stories of people out there living a life, journeying and paddling in a way that elevates their existence and gives them an indescribable joy. I got an email from a TRAK owner last week who said that he was able to go paddling last week (due to a combination of unusually mild weather and the portability advantage of the TRAK Seeker) and was gifted with a visit from two sea eagles off the coast of Estonia. He described this magical feeling of being intimately connected with nature due to this “lining up of circumstances” and what the TRAK kayak made available to him… I got goose bumps! This type of thing happens regularly.
I believe that each positive experience like this reverberates and spreads, and that when you commit to every owner experience, that over time, the venture succeeds and the experiences spread like wild fire. That has generally been the case with TRAK.
What I have discovered though (several times over now!) is that running and growing a small business is challenging, and it requires many elements to be navigated simultaneously and sometimes just having things happen in a way that seems like the universe aligned itself. This is especially the case when navigating “rough water”!
When the company first brought our kayaks to market in 2006-07, we tried to do too much, too quickly, and got ahead of ourselves, and ahead of the market (acceptance and volume). Enter Failure #1. It was the end of 2008 and 2009 when we came to this realization. It was a very tough time for me and many others. I was determined to do it differently this time. I set out to ‘reset’ TRAK in 2010-11, and wanted to do this in a smart, frugal fashion, and believe in a “crawl, walk and then run” approach. So after putting a solid foundation in place from late 2010 until 2012 and 2013, we were ready for growth. Well, it came, but not near as quickly as I had hoped for and not in a way that would make the venture ‘sustainable’ financially in the short term. So, I asked: “Why is this?”
One night a couple weeks ago, I talked to my wife Holly about it. I rely on her in so many ways. She is an amazing wife and a phenomenal mother. We got married in 2008, and have had 2 children since. Logan is now 4 years old and our little girl Eliah is almost 2. Being a great father and husband is a VERY high priority to me. For me, being an extraordinary family man is about providing for your family, and also showing your children to follow their passions through your actions and choices. So my choice to be an entrepreneur and create a life that I love is important to me… first for me to feel lit up about my life, and secondly to show our children what is possible if you follow your dreams and do something very cool and do it successfully. It has to “provide” though. There is always a fine line that an entrepreneur has to walk in terms of the economics of a situation, the timing and the commitment to your family. I am a Chartered Accountant by training, so my profession would offer me a healthier immediate living than the choice of running an early-stage venture. For this I thank my wife. Holly is extremely understanding of this, and has supported me “more than” fully over the past 6 years.
So this is why I rely on our partnership, and why I check in with Holly about these things from time to time. When I told her how I was feeling, her immediate response was, “Well, it can’t be you…you are doing so much and you are so good at what you do. But what is it? You need to look at what is missing in the business plan and what might be behind this fear. You should talk to Nicholas about this!”.
I called Nicholas. We got together the next day! Nicholas has been a long-time friend, business partner and owner in TRAK. He and I work together very effectively, and I always come away with a greater sense of self and empowered when we work together. He has an uncanny ability to “see things” and to help people see what’s working and what’s not working, and see how you can take responsibility personally for what has happened or not happened. In that way, it is sometimes a bit scary to meet with him! But I was ready to produce a breakthrough here. Something had to shift.
After I shared “the world” of what was going on with me and how I was feeling fear that I might be the cause for some pending TRAK failure that I had created in my mind, we took a short break and asked for some answers to surface and break through. We reviewed and discussed some of the elements of the business plan and the sales and marketing programs and strategies, balancing that off with reviewing actual results and getting grounded in what has really been happening (working and not working).
Then Nicholas said: “You’re right. You’re not gonna make it.”
Nicholas: “Well, what’s missing from the TRAK business plan is PEOPLE. Specifically a sales team. You have set yourself up in a game that can not be won… by yourself. You need to recruit a sales team.”
What a revelation! You need people to scale a company, increase sales, and to give the venture the best chance of success. But how do you do that on a limited budget? Isn’t this a “what comes first, the chicken or the egg” conundrum? Well, it’s the conundrum that practically every entrepreneur needs to solve at some point along the venture’s path. Some people say it’s the point that the ‘solopreneur’ evolves into an entrepreneur that successfully grows and scales a company… or faces the possibility that the venture fails.
Well, I can’t do it myself. Then how do I do it? I need to build a team of people. From where do I start? How about starting with the people that know the product best, and have been given the experiences that the TRAK kayak provides: our owners!
So, 2014 is the year to MOBILIZE… if you are a TRAK owner and wish to share your experience with others as an ambassador, then we have a program for you. Also, TRAK is now building a Global Mobile Sales Team! We are looking for passionate TRAK paddlers that want to build a sideline business as a TRAK sales agent in their area with their unique flavour, set of circumstances and approach. We know how important it is to have people out there that are living it (paddling their TRAK and exploring), then sharing it (through their circles and with other interested paddlers), and then selling it (for returned reciprocity).
This program will support and help us grow our Dealer network around the world. Our product is uniquely positioned to do this, as it’s a higher price point item (good-sized “commission”) that is literally portable. The Seeker is a full sea kayak that packs down into a travel golf bag in 10 minutes! Perfect! This combination of “features” allows TRAK paddlers to build their influence in their local paddling communities, and help build a Mobile Paddling Community within their circles. These folks will guide, navigate and offer their expertise and experience to potential TRAK paddlers and will be offered great benefits to do so! It’s a program I’ve always dreamed of, and now is the time to have it come into fruition.
Sometimes facing your fear of failure is just an opportunity to plant a seed of something that creates a thing far bigger or better.
Napolean Hill once said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”
I’m so glad “I’m not gonna make it”… on my own!
Nolin Veillard, Owner & President TRAK Outdoors Ltd.