Meet Chris, Co-founder of Turnstyle Solutions, a location based marketing platform, social Wi Fi, and audience analytics platform for retailers, brands, and agencies. We connected with Chris to get some insight on his entrepreneurial experience launching a successful startup in Toronto. Get inspired!
How would you describe what you do in a single sentence to a stranger?
We help businesses provide better consumer experiences in physical environments.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
It’s funny, I was just reflecting on this recently. I never had the traditional aspirations to be a fire-fighter or astronaut, but when I got my first Apple device (an early, G3 iBook) I knew that I had to spend some of my life working there. Their focus and dedication to trying to make things as seamless and user-friendly as possible really caught my attention. Once I got my job there, I had to set my ambitions higher!
What did you learn from your biggest failure?
I learned that it is OK (and as an entrepreneur, expected) to fail, as long as you give it 100% and you are open and honest about the project’s progress throughout its life. Surprises are lack of transparency is what can hurt you both personally and professionally.
Do you have any formal education? What was your favourite class?
I went to school and obtained an Honors in Business Administration from Ivey, and a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering. My engineering education has helped me to break down complex problems into simple tasks.
Ivey was instrumental in building up my self-confidence and provided an amazing network of A+ individuals to work with (both of my partners are from Ivey). That said, I firmly do not believe that a formal education is necessary to be a successful entrepreneur. No matter how much formal education you have, in the business world you are going to run into situations that aren’t covered in the classroom. This is what makes the job so exciting, rewarding and challenging.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow as an entrepreneur? What practices, rituals or habits contribute to your creative work?
I am a firm believer in working on positive routines so they become habit (see: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg). I am an early riser, hit the gym/pool/squash court before a healthy breakfast. The days/evenings can be unpredictable, but it is rare for my morning routine to get disturbed. Music (listening or playing) is a great creative outlet that helps me work the creative side of my brain (sometimes to the distraction of Turnstyle employees!)
What are you reading right now?
I try to alternate between fiction and non-fiction. Some of my recent reads include: The Innovators (Walter Isaacson), Creativity, Inc. (Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace), Zero to One(Peter Thiel, Blake Masters). I am currently reading ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn.
What technology, apps, websites do you use on a day to day basis?
I have recently kicked my Reddit habit, but that was a site I was on at least once a day until recently.Most used apps: Mail, Slack, Audible and Podcasts. I miss Excel.
Who would you most like to have dinner with?
Alive? Kanye. I’m a huge fan of his music, and I love his self-confidence (and I find the situations it gets him into quite funny). “They say your attitude determines your latitude.” How can you not love that? Believe you are the best at what you do, work hard like you are the best in your field, and you will become the best in your field.
What are you proudest of in your life?
The Turnstyle team. It’s cheesy, but sincere. When we started we were a very small team, many with little to no real-world experience but a firm belief that we could make it in this competitive start-up environment. We defied the commonly quoted stats of failure, grew incredibly both professionally and personally and I can’t think of a group of individuals I would rather spend my time with.
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
My Grandfather is one of my biggest influences. He taught me about the importance of working hard, caring for your family, and making sure to take the time to enjoy life.
What’s your favourite quote?
“I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.”
-Jay Z (Can you tell I’m a hip-hop fan?)
“I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have.”
– Coleman Cox
What’s your productivity secret?
Close Twitter. Close Facebook/WeChat. Close Instagram. Work.
If you had fifteen extra minutes each day, what would you do with them?
I’d work on my special art project: A spoken-word poetry battle using only the words found in Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” while Jurassic Park is projected onto the white dresses of the actors.
What advice would you give to the new entrepreneurs and future students?
Make sure you are passionate about creating. It is very unlikely that your initial idea will be the final commercial product. That’s ok, but you need to be passionate about the process. If you are unsure about becoming an entrepreneur, don’t. When your business gets larger, the stresses only increase (and Turnstyle is still peanuts compared to the likes of Hootsuite and Shopify!). You need to be in it for the long-run. However, if you are destined to be an entrepreneur, do not be afraid of failure. No stats to back me up here, but from my qualitative observations, many companies and founders with promise quit or give-up way too early. Either they weren’t flexible enough to adapt to the changing environment, competition or customer needs, or they weren’t hitting traction as quickly as they expect. Not everyone is going to hit a home-run in the first 3, 6 12 or 24 months of their business. This is OK. It’s a marathon. Love the process.