Claude Turcotte has a long and rich history in the US, Canadian and Mexican professional video industries. He has considerable experience in sales and marketing with several well-known market leaders such as Grass Valley Group, Textronix and Leitch Technology.
Claude has a technical background including a degree in electrical engineering from Quebec University. He has designed and produced highly innovative technical installations for broadcasters throughout North America. Further he has gained considerable business insight and acumen while attaining an MBA degree from Concordia University in Montreal in 2004.
In 1999, Claude incorporated MaestroVision, a software development company specialized in broadcast technology providing high-end quality video servers and media asset management to broadcasters.
In 2013, Claude decided to diversify and offer this smart technology to other markets working closely with key collaborators in different sectors, such as law enforcement, justice, education, government, etc. MaestroVision has been adapted this technology, offering solutions applied to different situations.
Where did the idea for MaestroVision come from?
When I started MaestroVision, I was in the broadcast industry. Maestro means Master in Spanish and the word vision comes from television. In a television station, there’s a room called the Master Control room.
22 years ago, all of the media in TV stations were on cassette and video tapes. Computers were just beginning to play video at high quality. However, at the time, it wasn’t possible to transfer a video file from one computer to another; the video, audio, timecode and metadata were all in separate files and couldn’t be sent together. In the television domain, normally we have one central station with a satellite station around. If you look at ABC for example, they’re located in New York but they have divisions in all the states. In order to save money, TV stations wanted to centralize their operations.
In a control room, you have one person sitting in front of a playlist watching the program going on air. That same person could easily watch 20 stations, but he cannot be at all of them at once. We wanted to centralize all of the TV stations in one location and broadcast all of the content to the regions. The problem was that the commercials are created in different regions. In order for the TV station to be able to broadcast a commercial from another region, they’d have to put it on tape, send the tape to the central station and digitize the it to play it; it made no sense. They had a problem.
I saw that problem and I said, “the only way we can resolve this issue is by creating a video server capable of transferring files”. This is where MaestroVision started developing an application of a powerful computer capable of coding, decoding and transferring files. We sold many of those systems to TV stations and eventually, that technology was used in the police domain because they needed to be able to record interviews in high quality. So, we developed the same application for classrooms, courtrooms, council meetings and so on.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is about making sure that everybody works well together in the company. I fact, talk with the managers (marketing, engineering, sales) in the company to make sure everything is running smoothly. My goal is to ensure that the team is working well together.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by speaking with customers. Every idea you develop should respond to a pain. If your customer has a problem and there’s no solution, that’s an opportunity. Very often, business people make the mistake of only acting on their own ideas. The only person who’s capable of telling you if your idea works or not, is an actual customer ready to pay for resolving their problem. Most products at MaestroVision have been developed after a customer requested something and was willing to give us a purchase order to get what they were looking for.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Communication. In the 70s, we imagined that cars would fly in the future. What developed the most was communication – the web. Everyone communicates in a much different way than they used to. Today, we have Zoom and the internet where we can talk with other people worldwide and have meetings. All of the information on YouTube allows you to learn anything. My son is a musician and he learned how to play from YouTube. I learned how to install some construction on my house on YouTube and found a video that explained what to do.
When we discuss interview recording, it’s not only about recording an interview but how to annotate it, share information – communication, in other words. MaestroVision makes it easy for anyone to explain something by having a multi-view application where you can see the person explain something and on the other screen, you can see a video, document, camera, etc. that displays the content that the person is discussing for context. However, communication is not only about the PowerPoint, it’s also about your body language. In order to improve communication, you have to see the person and what they’re talking about.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Two things; first, it’s about being organized. There’s a high level of organization that is required to run your business and that’s the business plan: It gives you a general idea of where you’re going, who your competitors are, your product scope, how will you be structured, the goal of the business and your objectives. That’s the high level overview of a business plan. If you have a business without a plan, it’s like trying to build a house without a blueprint.
When you run a business, there are many different departments working at once: finance, sales, marketing, engineering, production – all of these have to be managed on a consistent basis. As an entrepreneur, you never have enough time. Therefore, it’s critical that you’re organized and prioritize your tasks. You can’t do everything, so what do you focus on each day? Very often, we have a tendency of doing things that are easier to do but they’re not a priority. Oftentimes, I have to make organization a priority when there are a lot of competing tasks. I’ll take the time to arrange my desktop and desk space in a way that is conducive to my work.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My advice would be to avoid listening to pessimistic people. An entrepreneur is a dreamer. When you have a dream, you start discussing it with everybody. People may say “that’ll never work, find a different job”, etc. Your passion gets eroded by negative people around you that don’t believe in taking risks. An entrepreneur is somebody who is ready to risk everything to make their dreams materialize. Most people aren’t willing to do this.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
The customer is not always right. That’s not true; they are customers I don’t want. Sometimes a customer starts complaining about something, pulls you down and drains your energy. You’re wasting valuable time that you can spend with others by focusing too much on them. If the customer doesn’t fit, tell them to look elsewhere for their products and/or services.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
The most important thing in your business by far is the people working there. So if there’s something I try to do everyday, it’s make people feel good: make them feel they have value, they are important, they are evolving – going somewhere. As an entrepreneur, when something goes wrong, sometimes you have to put your boss hat on. However, before giving constructive feedback, I always give the employee a compliment on their work first. It’s very important to me that my employees are happy. The most important thing is to have fun. If your employees are happy and enjoying their job, you get better results. I want to enjoy the work I do and I want it to be fun.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
There’s only one thing that will help you grow your business: you have to listen to your customers. In a B2C domain, consumers are making emotive decisions. For example, they’ll buy a car because they like the way it looks and feels. When we talk about B2B or B2G, the only way you will be able to provide them with a product or service is by resolving a problem or making them more efficient. Many entrepreneurs are making the mistake of guessing what their customers need. If you are open minded, listen to your customers and talk with them to understand what they do. I try to consider; how can we tailor our technology to respond to our target market’s pain points?
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Before MaestroVision, I was a very successful salesperson for an international company. When I had the idea of starting my business and developing my own product, I was certain that I could develop a successful product that would sell everywhere. The first product I developed was a system for TV stations to broadcast and share their content between stations. It was a catastrophe, no one was purchasing it despite my efforts of making numerous presentations at TV stations. I didn’t understand why because I thought of myself as a good salesperson. The company almost went bankrupt after the first two years.
At the time, my neighbor had just finished an MBA program at Concord University and I asked him for advice. He said “Claude, if you want to help me with your business, I’ll buy shares of your company.” I said “I just want to meet for coffee.” When I saw that I wasn’t capable of getting the answers I needed in order to put the company on track, I decided to go do the MBA myself. It was during the second semester that I participated in a marketing course. In the course, we had an assignment on how to introduce a new product into the market with a team of six people. I realized during that course, just how important marketing is. That is when I changed my way of working. I began to consult my customers, to ask them how they liked my product ideas, what was missing, etc. The mistake I made was believing that marketing was not important.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The principle is simple: everything around you was sold, your computer, table, chairs, windows, shelves, TV, the carpet, painting, everything. Business is everywhere. So, how does a business make money? The value of a product is different from one person to another. Something can have a value for you of $500, and $1,000 for another person. Many people make the mistake of attempting to start in a business they don’t know nothing about. The most common example is restaurants. Everyone knows restaurants from the customer standpoint, but what about the business management standpoint? When you find an opportunity, consider the value you’re offering to your target market and the role it will play in solving their pain points before moving forward with it.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I spent was taking my wife out to eat. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re working all of the time. In order to be able to do that, you need support. It is important, if you want that support, that whoever around you is rewarded to support you.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The best software we use is ACT – a CRM system. This is crucial; the most important aspect of a company is their customers and revenues. You need to follow up on your customers and you cannot keep all of this information in your head. It has to be organized in software that will help you manage all of this. The second one is Zoom, being able to speak with customers face to face no matter the distance is almost the same as person to person.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. It’s about introducing a new product, how it works, and how people think – early adopters, innovators, pragmatic people… You have to be able to cross over the chasm to be successful in the market. This book has helped me most with my marketing strategy.
What is your favorite quote?
I have two:
1. “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dream.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
2. “The road to success and the road to failure are almost exactly the same.” – Colin R. Davis
• There is nothing more important than enjoying your day and having fun at what you do. You should apply this to your life and promote it to everyone working with you.
• You gain accomplishment and success by listening to others, especially your clients and your employees.
• A manager’s role is the same as a bandmaster. He/she must make sure everybody is on the same page. Your most important duty is to maintain harmony within your team.
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.