Work daily to remove the roadblocks that may be holding you back.
Emad Hanna is the Founder and CEO of CyberStockroom, a company that provides web-based Inventory Management Software (SaaS). He is a Canadian entrepreneur who earned his Master’s in computer systems engineering at Carleton University. While serving as the lead engineer for a high-tech company in Ottawa, he needed to keep careful track of clients’ expensive installations, but couldn’t find satisfactory inventory software. The glaring need for an user-friendly cloud management solution prompted him to build CyberStockroom.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I started CyberStockroom because I had a need for a similar tool myself! Ten years ago I was working as the lead engineer at a high-tech startup in Ottawa where we designed and installed computer vision systems in sports arenas and stadiums for the NHL, NBA, and NFL. We needed to keep track of equipment (cameras, cables, computers, switches, etc) and while searching for software to help us track the items, I was surprised to find a lack of simple SaaS solutions that could do the trick. After I left the company I decided to launch CyberStockroom to do exactly that.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My main task is to chip away at the roadblocks that may be holding the company back. Some days I’m heavily involved in product development, other days I’m focused on marketing or administration or finance. Each day brings its own tasks and I have to make sure to ‘clear the way’ so that progress is not impeded.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to work out the details and implications of an idea either in my head or on paper until I can draw a straight line between actions today and the final product. As soon as I feel that the dots are connected, I know that the idea is feasible and we immediately begin executing. If I can’t draw that line, I know that there’s something missing.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Over the past ten years we’ve seen a huge shift away from on-premise software implementation to cloud solutions. This is great news for SaaS companies like us but, of course, it presents a new set of challenges especially for enterprise clients.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I read a lot of books. Since my job involves a lot of problem solving, I feel that I need a steady supply of new ideas. I read everything but I prefer fiction.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Learn as many new ideas as you can. p.s. Nobody knows what they are doing.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
It takes an individual to innovate – not a group of people together. Teams are great for building and expanding and sustaining a project but the original idea is never the result of collaboration.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
At least once a week I take out an old typewriter that I bought at a thrift store and just start typing away about work and the company. I don’t care about format or spelling – I’m just rambling on paper. I don’t know what it is about the typewriter but it somehow brings different thoughts into my head. Some of the best solutions and ideas that I’ve had materialized spontaneously on paper during these sessions.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
In the enterprise SaaS world, onboarding a new customer can be difficult. Account setup and customization can be tricky and annoying. Very early on we switched our strategy so that instead of trying to sell the software we simply helped users get set up. For example if a business has a 100,000 products that they need to import into their inventory we would say ‘just send us whatever file you have now and we’ll set it up for you and customize your account’. We made it our priority to take the friction and pain away from the onboarding process. It goes without saying that this approach of helping instead of selling is much more effective and pleasant for all parties involved.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the early days of the company, each time we lost a large client I felt like a complete failure. The first few times it knocked the wind out of me and it took me days to recover. But there was always a small voice in my head that said ‘I know exactly why this client cancelled their account’. Sometimes it would be a product failure or a bug, other times it would be a lack of features. The silver lining was that these early failures gave us a very accurate roadmap so that our product and our service improved dramatically and very quickly.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I live in Canada and during the winter I would pay very good money to go to a large heated indoor beach with sand, ‘sunshine’, and saltwater. If someone can find a way to do this in an environmentally responsible way let me know so I can buy a season pass!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A new eyepiece for a small telescope. I have almost no experience with the telescope but I love pointing it at bright things in the sky.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Definitely Trello. I use it for everything: lists, workflows, tasks, deliverables… I love how flexible it is and that the team who makes it keeps adding great things to it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman. I believe that real success takes a delicate balance of seriousness and playfulness that is exemplified in the life of Richard Feynman.
What is your favorite quote?
“I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein on the meaning of life
- Work daily to remove the roadblocks that may be holding you back.
- Make sure you can draw a straight line between your actions today and the final result you’re trying to achieve. If you can’t draw that line, you’re missing something.
- Read a lot so that you can be exposed to new ideas. These ideas will help you in your day-to-day problem solving.
- Take time to brainstorm new ideas. Let your mind wander in an unstructured way every now and then.