You may want to tell everyone what to do to meet your vision, but you never should. You should influence your team in the direction you want and ideally the ideas come from them.
Marc Morin is a serial technology entrepreneur who is currently the co-founder and CEO of Auvik Networks Inc., a provider of cloud software that allows IT managed service providers (MSPs) to manage and monitor their clients’ IT networks more simply and efficiently. Auvik is the fourth tech company Marc has founded in the Waterloo region, which is about a two-hour drive west of Toronto, Canada.
After receiving his degree in electrical engineering, Marc pursued his love of coding as a software developer at HP. He then founded his first company, PixStream, in 1996, which sold to Cisco for over USD$369 million in 2000. He then co-founded his next company, Sandvine, which went public. After a few years at his third startup, Emforium, he co-founded Auvik after discovering a market need for software that simplifies IT networking.
Together with ex-Blackberry CTO David Yach and Alex Hoff, a colleague from his Sandvine days, Marc spent two years trudging through the muck, architecting and coding a SaaS product that gives MSPs visibility into clients’ networks. Software existed to remotely monitor and manage devices like computers, printers, and servers, but there was a gap in software to control the devices that form the network—like routers, switches, and firewalls. MSPs, who are outsourced IT providers, would traditionally spend days or weeks performing manual network tasks for their clients, like wire tracing to hand-draw a network map, doing manual configuration backups, and manual troubleshooting.
Auvik has automated those time-consuming, inefficient network tasks to boost MSPs’ productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Networks are more complicated and important than ever as companies continue to shift to the cloud, and Marc has firmly positioned Auvik in a thriving niche.
Where did the idea for Auvik Networks come from?
Short, snappy, easy-to-pronounce domain names take some work to come up with. Since our company is Canadian, we looked into the Inuit language. The word auviq (aw-vick) means a building block for an igloo. We thought this was representative of the building blocks of an IT network, as well as the need for teamwork to build a durable structure. It was also helpful that Auvik starts with the letter A.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have a really good team—so good, in fact, that I don’t have to do very much work. So most of my day is informal reporting, walking around and chatting with people to get a sense of where the gaps are in the company.
How do you bring ideas to life?
As a CEO, it’s important we cast and are responsible for the long arc of the business. That arc should be fairly stable and act as a guiding beacon for the company. You may want to tell everyone what to do to meet your vision, but you never should. You should influence your team in the direction you want and ideally the ideas come from them. The easy answer is to tell everyone what to do, but that’s the worst way to go about it. It’s internal selling.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The cloud. It’s a major trend that’s affecting lots of things now. The cloud is changing all of IT and all software for businesses—it’s all being re-evaluated. Tech is more human friendly than it used to be, and that’s beneficial for everyone. Business systems are being redone to be more human-friendly. Crappy business systems won’t work anymore.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I like to understand the big trends, the big waves that are happening across society in general to think about where they’re going and what they’re doing in order to provide some glimmer of insight into where business opportunities could be in relation to those trends.
What advice would you give your younger self?
As entrepreneurs, it’s important we find and discover real problems that need to be solved in the world. When you’re young, you just don’t have that perspective. So my advice would be to get a job, and more than one job, for 5 to 10 years, to sample the world. Entrepreneurs are too quick to want to start their own companies. That desire is great but you need to have a good problem to solve.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m saddened by the state of the startup culture, where it’s now cool to be an entrepreneur and a startup regardless of what you’re making. It’s turning the system into something about money, and it’s not about money. It’s about changing the world, fixing real problems, having real purpose. It’s about doing something meaningful. Money is a yardstick, it’s not the purpose.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always challenge my assumptions. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, because you will be wrong. It’s important to assimilate new facts into your perspective and trajectory quicker than everyone else. Don’t be Don Quixote tilting at windmills everyone knows is wrong just because you said you were going to do that. As you gather facts, don’t be afraid to change your perspective. It’s worse to be wrong and know it and still persist.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I’m an engineer. I like to system design everything, so I view the business the same way I would view software. You’ve got to lay out all the pieces that are interconnected. Nothing’s random. It’s how we do our business planning: Everything is data driven, it needs to be logical and interconnected. Everything has to be in balance.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My previous company, Emforium, was a failure. We closed the business down. There were some real lessons there about team. The fundamentals of the idea were great, but the team, the tech, and the timing were a little off. Luck is crucial to any success, so you have to stack the deck by how you organize the scenarios and your understanding of where the market is so that your assumptions come true.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The cashflow requirements for SaaS companies vary dramatically depending on whether customers prepay for a year or not. This is well known. In some B2B markets the customer is unwilling or unable to prepay yearly, so there’s a huge opportunity for a modified SaaS factoring financing product that converts a monthly payment schedule into a prepaid subscription.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a fan that sits on my fireplace at my cottage that doesn’t need batteries. It uses the heat from the fireplace to drive the fan.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I use LinkedIn as a way of managing extended business relationships. I no longer maintain contact lists, email addresses, phone numbers—there’s no need for it. I can always find somebody who knows somebody I want to get at. I don’t keep business cards or give them out anymore.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I’m big on Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand. I read all that stuff when I was in high school. I love the individualism and self-reliance. The fundamentals of it are good.
What is your favorite quote?
“Marketing is too important to leave to marketing.” It’s David Packard from Hewlett Packard.
- You need the right team to make an innovation successful and bring it to life. It takes more than a CEO to make a business idea work.
- Your purpose in creating a product or service needs to be meaningful—your goal can’t just be to make money.
- If you encourage your team to be self-starters, they’ll be far more motivated than if you tell them exactly what to do. Lead by example.
- Everything in a business is interconnected. Your goals can’t be random. Use a mathematical model to set your expectations so they’re achievable and logical.
- Continuously validate assumptions.
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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.