Jean Claude Awwad has spent most of his life between Montreal and Toronto. When he was in school, he was fascinated with biology and chemistry and thought he wanted to become a biochemist when he graduated from high school. He went on to earn his degree from John Abbott College in Montreal in Pure and Applied Sciences. He then finished 2 years of industrial engineering at Concordia University but at that point he decided it was not the best fit for him because he was drawn more to the business world. He ended up completing a master’s program in International Business from the University of Liverpool.
Jean Claude started his first business at the age of 23 with sales and installation of commercial van and truck equipment. This business grew to 25 employees and reached an annual sales revenue in the seven-figures within six years.
Jean Claude then had the opportunity to cofound a renewable energy company and it was able to reach eight figure annual sales revenue within six years. Both businesses were dominant in their fields and market share.
With his years of business success and business challenges, Jean Claude Awwad now finds it extremely rewarding to help other companies to implement competitive strategies that will help them to achieve more growth.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I’ve been through the ups and downs and struggles that businesses and entrepreneurs go through and know the importance of having sustainable competitive strategies. I’m currently pursuing a path that is focused on helping businesses achieve sales growth by improving their competitive strategies.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I usually wake up early at 5:30 am. Before doing anything else, I start my day with my spiritual routine. I then listen to podcasts or read material related to business or other interests of mine for about 30 minutes while enjoying a cup of coffee. I also work out before starting my workday. The rest of the day is spent on phone calls, reports, strategy, sales and marketing and other business areas.
How do you bring ideas to life?
When I have a certain idea that I think has great potential, the first thing I do is critique it from different angles. I establish a competitive strategy looking at costs, value, market demand, long term sustainability, asymmetry and so on. Then I would put a plan of action together and start with the first small step. The rest follows.
It is very important that you don’t get caught up in what is called “analysis paralysis” because that can overwhelm you and potentially kill the idea. It is also very important that you are able to sell your idea to different stakeholders in order for it to actually come to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The new seismic shift in virtual selling is something that I find very interesting. I think that the world of selling has changed a lot during the last few years and especially during the last year. Companies have been pretty much forced to take their selling capabilities online and into the virtual realm. I think that businesses will need to adapt effectively to this new reality or else they might risk being left behind. I also believe that Virtual Selling will remain dominant even post- pandemic.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I enjoy modeling different scenarios when it comes to market positioning, strategy, and try to predict the reaction of competition in the marketplace. This has always helped us gain market share and stay ahead in the game.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Take more time to do the things you want to do. From the age of 23, my main focus was on my businesses. I would advise my younger self to pursue other interests as well that I was passionate about like writing, sailing, and travel, while keeping business a top priority.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Many people don’t agree that sales and marketing are the most important facets of the business. They think, for example, that investors, or operations are more important, but I believe that a sustainable competitive strategy, strong sales and marketing capabilities are of the utmost importance. When you have strong sales revenue, doors open to improve all areas of your business.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
You need to constantly work on developing yourself. That includes reading, spirituality/religion, and your health. I think staying true to routines in these areas is something that is very rewarding for most people.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Focus on sales and marketing. I think that there are a lot of great companies with great innovations out there, but many of them lack proper sales and marketing capabilities. The companies we founded started with little to no capital. One thing that allowed us to reach eight figures in sales revenue was our strong ability to sell in the market and the highly effective sales strategies and teams we had in place.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I had to close down a company after seven years of impressive growth and reaching eight figures in yearly sales revenue. This happened mainly due to a change in government policies regarding the industry. I think that the first step to overcome something like that was to look back at all the mistakes that were made and analyze what could have been done differently to try to avoid that fate. The next step was to learn from these mistakes, accept the fact, let go and look to the future. You need to focus on your core competence and strengths and get back to basics. If you did it once, you could do it again; however, it can be a very painful process.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am not sure to what extent this exists, but I think that AI should be used to help small and medium businesses with their complete business strategies including competitive strategies. This technology should be able to measure and react to different internal and external variables as the strategy is being implemented within a certain marketplace.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
This may sound a bit odd, but I recently spent close to $100 on books that teach you how to grow hot peppers and make your own hot sauces. I am a hot sauce addict and have a nice collection of hot sauces from around the world. It has become a fascination of mine, and I am currently in the experimental phase of making some of the best hot sauces in the world!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
CRMs are crucial to businesses, and software like SalesForce have helped us keep track of our customers and enhance the customer journey.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. I think it is a great book on strategy that will help business owners establish strong competitive strategies.
What is your favorite quote?
“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.” – G. Khalil Gibran
• Always look ahead but learn from your past.
• It is important to achieve some type of a work life balance.
• Be passionate about what you do and never give up.
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.