LWOL Recap: Jim Ward on Feb 20, 2019

February 27, 2019 13:46 By Aaron

You have to want to solve the problem!

"Please get out there and start screwing up!" These were the final words form Jim as he shared his personal entrepreneurial journey. Jim's personal journey certainly includes a number of 'screw ups', but each was a learning opportunity for Jim, his family, and his company. 

Jim considers himself to be an accidental entrepreneur. He talked about the power of embracing counterintuitive truths.  Learned about the Power of Why and that entrepreneurship is a vocation and the importance of focusing on a problem and desiring to solve that problem (rather than focusing on the solution).

Jim was born and raised in Edmonton, and although he likes to get away in the winter, he plans to die here. Jim believes Edmonton is one of the world's hidden gems, and that we should be more outspoken about telling the world! Jim has started two companies in the Edmonton area - nForm User Experience, and iomer Internet Solutions.


Counter-intuitive truths:

Reflecting on 20 years of his experience as an entrepreneur, Jim believes that problems are the solution. A good problem can fix everything because the problem is an opportunity for an entrepreneur to create value, and therefore to improve our customer's lives. 20 years ago the internet was a new thing, and Jim was hooking up databases to the web, then building apps, then e-commerce sites, then hiring people because he couldn’t keep up. Jim wouldn’t have had the opportunities without the problems and he wants emerging entrepreneurs to not be afraid of the problems; embrace them, make them your friend, break them down into smaller problems, and solve them one at a time.

Becoming an entrepreneur:
  • Opportunities don't always show up at convenient times, but you need to mee them head-on. This might be the hardest test of your life.
  • Having the support of family is one of the most beneficial aspects to being an entrepreneur, and perhaps the most challenging. In fact, some of the best advice Jim ever got came from Don Carlson of Carlson Construction - that the best business decision he ever made was marrying his wife! This dumbfounded Jim but ended up being true about his own entrepreneurial journey. 
  • Every day from this point forward will only get more difficult to start a business - Jim realized that entrepreneurship was his vocation by trying it.
  • He was worried that by taking the risk of entrepreneurship he would lose the ability to provide for his family, however in retrospect, not taking the opportunity was actually riskier because Jim knew he was not in control of his own destiny.

One of the hard lessons that he wanted to remember was bidding on his first RFP. It was a large government job and after days of putting the whole thing together, Jim  hand delivered the proposal only to receive a letter a few days later that his bid was ineligible because they had forgotten to sign the cover page. To remember this, and learn from it, Jim framed that cover page and it is still on display in his office. 

Jim also talked about the value of organizations like Entrepreneur's Organization (EO), specifically the importance of being part of a community, sharing war stories with others who are in a similar position and can understand your experience. These so-called "lessons from the edge" 

Another of Jim's great lessons was not "inspecting what he was expecting". As the company grew, and Jim stepped away from the front line, he realized that the culture grew in an unexpected way and that he wasn't really happy with the change. By getting more hands-on and directly involved in the day-to-day, he was able to adjust course and bring the culture back to where he wants it to be. They are currently entering new markets, undergoing a re-organization, and on a great path forward. 

"The highs are high, but the lows and be really low". The amplitude of this variance is the test that Jim uses to judge his success. He wants his great experiences to be truly great, and the bad experiences to be memorable so that he would learn from them. He believes, if he fails, so what? In the end, when Jim is lying on his death bed, what will he look back and regret more - trying something and failing, or not trying and never knowing?

Like EO, Rainforest is a community that supports entrepreneurs. We are focused on building a community of trust that will support Alberta's transition to an innovation-based economy. We want Albertan's to know that they do not need to move away to bring new ideas to market!