Raised in a small mining town in Northern Manitoba, Allan Kowall moved to Winnipeg, the province’s capital, to complete his education and enter the workforce. He worked a variety of corporate jobs in Winnipeg before being recruited and relocated by May & Baker, an international chemical company located in Ontario. At first, he sought to further his corporate career, but he eventually grew weary of that environment and set out on his own in 1989, founding his own firm, DK Consulting.
Allan Kowall ran DK Consulting for 27 years, only selling the practice in 2016 so that he could go into semi-retirement. He remained semi-retired for 4 years, but he heard many stories from his former clients who were dissatisfied with the new owners of DK Consulting and who wanted him to return to active practice. Finally, in mid-2020, he began practicing again under his own name in Oakville, Ontario, where he offers a variety of accounting services for individuals and small businesses.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
It was suggested by a very good friend of mine when I expressed my dissatisfaction with the level of corporate politics at my prior workplace, May & Baker. I found working in that environment to be really difficult.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Basically, I wake up in the morning, shower, work out, and get all dressed up. Then I come downstairs to the office, look at my schedule, and work accordingly.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Research, number one. Especially when I’m working with a client, I need to figure out what will motivate them to follow up on my ideas. Because you can tell somebody “Oh, you should be doing it this way or that way,” but you have to say it in such a way that they connect with it. That’s one of the many benefits of building up meaningful relationships with clients – you really get to understand what makes them tick, and use that understanding to better help them.
What’s one trend that excites you?
We’re starting to see a bit more tolerance in the world compared with previous eras, which is wonderful. We could use a lot more, but every step in the right direction is a good thing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My ability to make a schedule, and to follow it. A schedule isn’t worth all that much if you’re inclined to simply ignore it when the time comes. You’ve got to set timetables, set goals, and you’ve got to have the discipline to meet them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Go for it. Don’t hesitate. Don’t let other people put down your ideas. Way too often in life, it seems like we have to follow this path that society puts us all on. But you don’t. You don’t have to follow that path. If you see a different path that looks more promising to you, follow it!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I would say that, right now, in terms of governments and government oversight, well, we need less of it. We need less government and fewer taxes. Governments have become far too intrusive in how we run our businesses and in our daily lives.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Track your time and manage your time effectively. These are vitally important skills to adopt and to cultivate. Also, remember not to sweat the little stuff. Every challenge can be overcome. Let the little things go and keep moving forward.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Building relationships. Being open to hearing what people say—just listening to people. Not making judgements. All of those are good strategies, but the most important one is relationship building. When I first went out on my own, I was a member of BNI—Business Networking International. I joined BNI, and it really helped me to grow my business. A big part of it was building relationships with other people in the group so that I could provide them with referrals, and in turn, to get referrals back. While I was in BNI, I won numerous awards for being a Notable Networker, a Networker of the Year, all that sort of stuff. Networking is a vitally important skill and strategy, no matter where you are in your career.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I bought a flower shop at one point many years ago, and it was a disaster. I got rid of it. Sometimes, and this is especially true of entrepreneurs, we’ll persevere with a struggling project to the point where we’re just destroying everything. At some point, you’ve got to realize when something isn’t working, so you can move on to something else that does have some hope of working.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would say, right now, food trucks. Food trucks are going to take over a bigger portion of the restaurant industry in the coming years, and it’s already starting. People want to get outside and do stuff, and rather than go sit in a restaurant, they want the option to go sit in the park and eat. And generally the food on food trucks is pretty innovative, which helps.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My best professional purchase recently was a new keyboard, which is much nicer to use than my old one. On the personal side, I’m quite happy with the new flavourizer bars I’ve bought for my barbecue.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Microsoft Outlook. I use it for all of my emails, my scheduling, and all of that kind of stuff. That Cortana assistant comes on the screen and reminds me of everything that I need to do each day. It’s very convenient, and it’s a wonderful tool.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
There’s a bestseller on the market called Willful Blindness by the Canadian author Sam Cooper, which is a pretty fascinating book. He’s a reporter that delves into the influence that China is exerting over the rest of the world.
What is your favorite quote?
“Try to create new learning.”
- Never underestimate the importance of customer relationships.
- It’s okay to follow your vision.
- It’s important to stick to your schedules and manage your time effectively.
- Don’t be afraid to end a losing venture so you can start fresh on something more promising.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.