Focus on the key issue, clarify the value proposition and hit it hard.
Issa Nakhleh grew up in Vancouver, where he attended UBC prior to obtaining his professional accounting designation. He started his finance career at MDA. Although his time there was only two years, it was highly influential to his career. He was inspired working with MDA’s CFO who presence and skills gave him the confirmation of his chosen career. MDA was and is the “mother” company to the BC high technology sector. Thus the career path was clear, become a CFO in the high tech industry. After MDA, Issa moved to TIR Systems where he was a key member of the team that completed their IPO. With the close of the IPO, he achieved his first senior financial position of a publically listed company at the age of 26.
After completing 8 years of his finance career, Issa was motivated to achieve more as a member of a senior management team. In 1994, he enrolled in a full-time MBA program at Warwick Business School in England. One of the world’s top 25-business schools. After completing his MBA, he completed a couple of assignments for London based banks before relocating back to North America.Upon returning he landed in San Diego, where he served as the CFO of typical “dot.com” startup. He was part of a team that completed a full NASDAQ listing and oversaw a growth from 10 employees to nearly 150. After a couple of years in San Diego and the imminent dot.com bubble burst, he returned to Vancouver and returned to TIR to take the CFO position at the start of their hyper growth as a pioneer of the LED Lighting Industry. During his time as CFO at TIR, the company grew from $2M to $30M in annual revenues and from 20 employees to nearly 200. He left TIR in 2006 spending the next 5 years working in the medical device industry with various products including, ultrasound, cardiac monitor and electronic health records. In 2012, he joined UrtheCast as CFO and becoming a valued member of UrtheCast’s senior leadership team that grew UrtheCast from 15 employees to over 200 employees with offices in Vancouver, San Francisco, St. Louis and 3 locations in Spain with headquarters in Madrid. He worked extensively with the Board of Directors and external advisors to take the Company from a small private company to a senior TSX listed firm in his first 9 months and raising $50 Million during that process. He now joins Tuangru, eager to add his expertise in managing the expected hyper-growth from their innovative products and business model for the data center management industry.
Issa has been an active member of Financial Executives International (FEI) since 2004 and Director of the Vancouver Chapter from 2006 to 2015. During that time, he held the positions of Secretary, President and Past President of that organization. Business in Vancouver awarded him with the CFO of the Year award in 2015.
Where does the idea for Tuangru come from?
Tuangru is a next-generation data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software provider that allows data center operators to procure, deploy, monitor and measure all of their IT assets through the Tuangru platform.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am usually in the gym at 6am for an hour and then get to the office around 8am. I make my day productive by focusing on the big items that need attention. I find that getting the big things accomplished successfully gives you the energy to be more productive.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Listen and react, usually with the first instinct that you have when an idea hits.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I am a true global citizen, with a passion for travel and experiencing different places and cultures. The explosion of technology is allowing information and opinions to be shared globally, opening different cultures to many instead of a few.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Although as a corporate officer, risk management is important, being entrepreneurial is much more rewarding for stakeholders. As such, my main habit is to allow everyone in the company to embrace their entrepreneurial instincts while making sure unnecessary exposures are eliminated.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Working for a private equity firm, where they assigned me as a ‘special assistant to the CEO’. This was simply code for the PE firm’s dissatisfaction with the performance of their investee company. The CEO, with good reason, was mistrustful of my assignment and the results were not great. I learned that if you do not have trust in a working relationship, get out.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Learn when to sell. Many times, the best thing for a technology and ideas is to allow them to be shared. When the concept is accepted as worthy of investment by recognized players, it is time to move on. Identifying the right time to use those sale proceeds and start working on the next idea is a skill.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Go with your gut. Start working on ideas that make sense right away, but be quick to kill these initiatives if they fail to materialize into a competitive business opportunity.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Focus on the key issue, clarify the value proposition and hit it hard. In a high growth scenario, the little things don’t matter. Then, build an enterprise that delivers on the value proposition consistently.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Betting too much after one large customer adopted a new product that we brought to market. I assumed that this one success would be easily replicated, but that did not happen. As such, the investment made in anticipation of follow-on orders from new customers had to be recouped from working twice as hard.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
How about a travel app that connects you to locals while visiting other cities. For me, the best part of travel is to get to know local people and having them show you their favorite restaurants and sites. In essence, you get a local guide. The app can be monetized two ways, from the people wanting to be connected and those willing to be connected while travelling. I see this as a great way to build friendships in the long run as well.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Signing up fiber Internet with speeds of 150MB per second for less than $100 per month. This alone speaks to the progress of technology and how it is changing all of our lives.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Over the last 12 months, I have finally gotten into the wearable trend. I love the combination of my Fitbit and myFitnessPal working together to help me achieve my overall health goals.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Founder’s Mentality by Chris Zook and James Allen. For any entrepreneur to be successful, they need to manage growth. This book illustrates the importance of maintaining this entrepreneurial mindset throughout the different stages of growth. It teaches the lesson well that the mentality of the founder at the outset is critical to be maintained, to truly show breakthrough growth.
- Focus on the key issue, clarify the value proposition and hit it hard.
- Go with your gut. Start working on ideas that make sense right away, but be quick to kill these initiatives if they fail to materialize into a competitive business opportunity.
- Allow everyone in the company to embrace their entrepreneurial instincts while making sure unnecessary exposures are eliminated
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.