David Janeson – Owner of Gull Harbour Marina

Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll be surprised where it takes you.

David Janeson is the owner of Gull Harbour Marina, a seasonal resort, marina, and restaurant on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, in Manitoba. He and his wife Lori own a vacation home not far from the resort, and David spends the bulk of his time managing and upgrading Gull Harbour. David and his team recently completed a major renovation at the property, and they’re planning additional upgrades in the seasons to come.

David Janeson purchased Gull Harbour Marina in 2016 and immediately began planning upgrades and renovations on the property. Guests who visit in the coming seasons can take advantage of a 120-seat restaurant and lounge, complete with an outdoor patio sporting views of Lake Winnipeg; a modern marina with a spacious boat dock, a machine shop available for repairs on an on-call basis, and overwinter storage for year-round and seasonal area residents; a guest cabin with lake views; and about a dozen additional guest rooms in various configurations.

Janeson envisions Gull Harbour Marina as a seasonal destination for all sorts of visitors to Manitoba’s Interlake region. Its position on the tip of Hecla Island, in Hecla-Grindstone Provincial Park, is ideal for “silent sports” such as hiking, biking, and kayaking; golf, thanks to an 18-hole course nearby; and historical tourism, with a restored early-20th century Icelandic village nearby and growing awareness of the New Iceland region’s importance to tens of thousands of Canadians of Icelandic descent.

A committed advocate for environmental initiatives to improve the health of Lake Winnipeg and its surrounding forests, Janeson supports like-minded charities wherever possible.

One such organization is the Maskwa Project, a nonprofit founded in 1976 to “promote education and demonstration of energy conservation, environmental stewardship and appropriate technology.” Its 53-acre rural campus, east of Lake Winnipeg, is in the midst of a three-year renovation drive that will significantly increase its capacity while reducing its carbon footprint.

In his spare time, Janeson is a Scouts Canada leader. It’s not surprising, then, that he supports Maskwa Scouting, a noted retreat for youth scout groups near Maskwa Project’s campus. The facility is a convenient base camp for scouts planning canoe trips, backcountry hikes, and cross-country skiing excursions in the surrounding wilderness.

David and Lori Janeson split their time between Winnipeg and their vacation home, about 100 kilometers to the north. When David isn’t working at Gull Harbour, he’s likely to be found exploring the trails along Lake Winnipeg’s shoreline on foot or skis, kayaking with Lori out on the lake, or fishing from his boat or trusty ice hut.

Where did the idea for Gull Harbour Marina come from?

To be honest, I just sort of fell into it. My wife Lori and I have been visiting Hecla Island for years, and we have a cabin on the island. One day, I came to Gull Harbour Marina to enjoy a leisurely meal with an old friend on the lakeside patio and saw that the property was for sale. I thought, “This is a cool place — I’d like to see what I can do with it.” I can’t stress enough how much Hecla Island and the whole Interlake region means to me — I saw this as an opportunity to draw new visitors to the region and promote it for the benefit of all who live and work there.

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

When you’re running a multifaceted hospitality business with a full-service restaurant and active marina, “typical” days are rare. I do have a general routine that I follow on most days, however. In the morning, I take my dogs for an walk, using the opportunity to speak with early-rising boat owners who rent slips at the marina, and with fishermen taking advantage of the calm waters to get a head start on the day’s catch. I note any issues that our boaters bring to my attention and add them to my to-do list, which I’ll get to later in the day. I then visit the restaurant and speak with the manager to make sure the team has everything they need for a successful day and there aren’t any operational issues that need to be addressed right away. I repeat this process with hospitality staff at the hotel — our guests’ comfort and enjoyment is paramount. Once I’ve completed my rounds, I hole up in my office and take some time to answer email and plan the rest of my day. I rely heavily on to-do lists to remain on task and efficient overall — I’ll explain more about those below.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’ve always believed that if an idea is truly worth doing, it’s worth doing now. With that as my guiding principle, I resolve always to keep moving on ideas that I want to turn into reality. Call it persistence, doggedness or whatever you prefer. I wake up in the morning with one focus: Doing something that gets me one step closer to realizing that vision. To avoid tunnel vision, a major problem for most entrepreneurs, I break complex tasks and long-term projects into much simpler component parts. I then arrange those parts chronologically and prioritize them. If they can’t be handled in a single sitting, they’re still too large. Once they’re small enough to tackle, I patiently get to work on them or delegate to the right employee. It feels great to cross small tasks off my list and even better when the entire project is complete.

What’s one trend that excites you?

We’re beginning to re-establish the long-lost connections to nature that are difficult to establish and nurture in our fast-paced society. I’ve long been fascinated by the dichotomy between the city and country — especially “up north” in the Interlake region, where the cabin is. The difference between here and Winnipeg is night and day. And what’s most exciting about this trend is that youth are leading the charge. At Maskwa Camp, an ecologically sustainable wilderness retreat that I support here in the Interlake region, the heaviest and most enthusiastic users are Scouts and other youth groups, most of whom hail from Winnipeg and cities even farther afield. They’re learning that they can do so many amazing things that don’t involve having an iPhone attached to you: clearing a campsite, fishing from shore, canoeing down a river or out into the lake, hiking through the woods. Perhaps even more importantly, they’re learning that they’ll need to be stewards of Lake Winnipeg’s health going forward. They’re getting involved with sustainable building and recreational practices, as well as active measures like wetland restoration.

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

I studiously avoid drama and expect my employees do the same. I learned early on that anything of substance is too big for a single person to achieve. Getting big things done requires cooperation and teamwork. With that in mind, I ensure that the teams I lead operate in harmony. I take it upon myself to squeeze office politics and tension out of teamwork. That starts with hiring the right people — those you know will operate at peak capacity, free of drama.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll be surprised where it takes you. Be the change you want to see in the world.

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

People fail to reach their potential or achieve what they want to achieve because they don’t truly believe in themselves. To put it in a slightly nicer way, most people don’t understand or appreciate what they’re capable of. I’ve seen this in my own experience: While I’ve been relatively successful in a few ventures, it’s never been because I invented something that somebody hadn’t already thought of. In fact, it’s always been through some unsolicited advice from someone who wouldn’t have the gumption to do it theselves. The only difference between us was that I had the determination to do it and they didn’t. My advice: Don’t waste your time talking about ideas you’re never going to implement when you could be doing something to make a difference.

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

Keep lists. Any task, even the most difficult imaginable, can be broken down into small, manageable tasks or issues to be resolved. As I mentioned, I’m a big proponent of working off a master to-do list with which you can measure your progress in real time.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Never be satisfied and set your own bar for your organization. Measure yourself against your aspirations, not your competitors. After all, if you thought they were doing a good job, you wouldn’t be trying to outwork them. Define success on your own terms and create your own metrics to measure it. Implement your own systems of accountability and hold yourself first — then everyone who works for you — to them.

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

I have lost money investing in businesses that I didn’t understand completely and let virtual strangers manage on my behalf. The lessons I learned were stick to what I know, and always stay in control.

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

Figure out something you love to do and build a business where you can do that all the time for free because you’re sharing your own enjoyment with others. For instance, if you love outdoor recreation, as I do, start a business that lets you be outdoors all the time: an outfitter, a wilderness guide service, a resort property.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

I bought a hot dog stick holding stickman welded with rebar from my nephew. It holds all the hot dog sticks and campfire tools we need.

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

Google Sheets. It sounds boring, and it probably is, but I’m not sure I’d be successful without Google Sheets — or some similar spreadsheet program. I use spreadsheets to organize pretty much everything important I do at Gull Harbour Marina, including the all-important task lists I described above.

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

“A Song of Ice Fire and Ice” by George RR Martin. People underestimate the emotional value of disappearing into a great book.

What is your favorite quote?

“You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.” Life will throw a lot of challenges but only you can determine how you respond and where you end up.

Key learnings:

  • To avoid tunnel vision, a major problem for most entrepreneurs, break complex tasks and long-term projects into much simpler component parts. Then arrange those parts chronologically and prioritize them.
  • Measure yourself against your aspirations, not your competitors.
  • Define success on your own terms and create your own metrics to measure it. Implement your own systems of accountability and hold yourself first — then everyone who works for you — to them.


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