Employ the best individuals you can in every area. They will not only make the organization better in terms of operations, but also contribute towards its growth, revenue generation, cost controls and innovation.

 

Azim Lakhoo is the Founder of Costal Resources in Calgary, Alberta.

Azim moved to Calgary in the 1970s and almost instantly became interested in working in oil. He joined a Junior Oil and Gas company as an accountant and began to educate himself in the field. Using the knowledge he gained in these early years, Azim Lakhoo decided to create his own company. With the help of friends and family, Azim founded Coastal Resources. As it turned out, the timing couldn’t have been better! Coastal Resources came about just as Major Oil and Gas Companies were selling off their non-core properties, making it far easier for new companies to get into the industry.

Azim Lakhoo attributes much of his success to the smart individuals he has surrounded himself with. Each day at Coastal Resources is filled with innovation and discussion and Azim always lets his staff speak their minds. Often, these are where the best ideas come from. Azim Lakhoo is currently looking forward to the future and seeing where Coastal Resources takes him.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Having lived in Calgary since I arrived in the mid-seventies, I always wanted to work in the oil patch, however with no experience in the industry, it was a challenge. I finally got a chance to work in a private Junior Oil & Gas Company as an accountant. The Company raised funds from investors to buy producing properties and managed them for a fee as well as percentage ownership once the investors had recovered all their invested capital. With that model in mind, I approached a few friends and family members to raise funds and that was the start of Coastal. Fortunately, the timing for starting small, Junior Oil & Gas Companies was ideal as Major Oil & Gas Companies were selling off their non-core properties making entry into the industry relatively easy.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

The Company has diversified into multiple industries that include commercial and residential real estate, hospitality, land development and others. While my main responsibilities are financial, I oversee some projects and so my day begins by looking at the relevant daily operational reports, updates from the various projects, catching up on e-mails and calls, meeting staff and outside parties. The volume of work has increased exponentially as we continue to grow and so discipline as to what to focus on is key to ensuring that we are paying due attention to issues that need to be looked at immediately and those that may have future implications to our growth. Delegation of responsibilities, ensuring there are checks and balances along the way to ensure nothing falls through the cracks all help in productivity and the growth of the company.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Regular employee meetings occur where discussions on how we can be more efficient, use of technology to capture more information and use that information to make informed decisions. I like to allow staff to pilot their own suggestions as this creates excitement and ownership of such initiatives and generally leads to successful implementation of ideas. If not, it at least encourages innovative thinking.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Change and disruption is the new norm. From the way we shop to the way we invest, everything has changed in the last few of years. With artificial intelligence (AI) being at relative infancy, the future is going to be an exciting period with unlimited potential of total disruption in existing industries and emergence of new ones – driverless cars and robotics will change the way we do things and the world we know now.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Recognizing the power of technology and being open to change. Traditional methods of doing business and recording transactions still have their place, but the speed and the analytics available to enhance decision making is constantly changing with technological advancements. One must take advantage of such an ever-changing environment to stay ahead.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Recognize the changing environment, keep pace with it, pay attention to global trends (from globalization to Nationalization) and working habits and priorities of the workforce. e.g. millennials have a very different perspective of work and life balance than the previous generation.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

It was an interesting conversation with our Engineers where we were discussing the cost of abandoning oil wells when evaluating the value of oil & Gas properties. As an accountant I did not agree with putting in a value that reflects current cost (an arguable estimate!) and deducting that from the present value of the revenue streams to come up with the value of the properties. I suggested we include estimated additional costs for ever increasing environmental regulatory requirements and present value it, but there was pushback as it would decrease the value of the properties and in some cases to a point where it would not be profitable to buy them. Although things seem to be changing now, where costs of abandonment liabilities are a big part of decisions to buy properties due to the changing environmental regulations.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Employ the best individuals you can in every area. They will not only make the organization better in terms of operations, but also contribute towards its growth, revenue generation, cost controls and innovation.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

In our case, diversification not only in industry but also geography has helped in growth and has also softened the blow in revenues when one industry or region is down. So, for example, currently operations in Ontario and the U.S.A. are doing well compared to our operations in Alberta due to the price decline in Oil & Gas.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In our diversification strategy, one area where we wanted to invest was manufacturing. We partnered in a couple of ventures but it did not work out and we gave up as not only did it require constant investment of funds but it was reliant on clients that would move based on pricing. We eventually sold our share to our partners.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There are so many businesses one can think of that are ready for disruption. One area based on personal experience when selling some of my residential real estate was that the agent spent time on arranging with different vendors to get the photography for marketing, arranging for the sale signs to be installed, arranging for appraisals, etc. One area that would reduce costs and save time for the agent is a one stop shop that would be able to do all the marketing, get all the information including pictures of the property, appraisals, install signs, etc. – all with a touch of a button by developing an app. From what I am told, there is no such one stop shop that would handle it all. Seems like something that needs to be looked into as not only would it reduce the cost to agents, it would also free up their time allowing them to concentrate on getting more listings and hopefully offer lower fees to customers.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

There is not much one can do with $100.00 professionally. However, if used at the right place and time, it can have an awesome effect. One that comes to mind is how a hotel front desk attendant was handling an irate customer. Not only did he manage to diffuse the embarrassing situation in front of other customers, but he also managed to calm down the customer to a point where the customer was laughing and appreciating his patience and apologizing for his behavior. I happened to watch the whole episode and after the attendant had served all customers, I went over and gave him a $100.00 gift certificate and told him how appreciative and proud I was with the way he handled the situation. I gave him the rest of the day off. He was so appreciative of the recognition that since that day he has excelled in his position and is always positive setting himself as an example to other staff.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

We use several software in our operations from accounting to engineering to analytics. They not only help us be more efficient but being accessible remotely allows for working form outside the office.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It reminds you of the notion of the present moment; “living in the now” and acting accordingly from accepting a situation you are in, changing it, or removing yourself from it.

What is your favorite quote?

One of my favorites from the book mentioned above, “Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform our whole life”. Sometimes we get bogged up with worrying about what may happen (and it never does happen) both in business and personal lives – we dwell on insignificant things. The quote reminds us to look at things from the perspective of “now”.

Key Learnings:

• Diversify!
• Employee the best people you can and let them act upon their ideas.
• Focus on the “now” and live in the present.

Connect:

https://twitter.com/AzimLakhoo
https://www.linkedin.com/in/azim-lakhoo-195978176/