Ep 5: Create a Compelling All-Encompassing Vision to Guide Your Company (with Sam Witherspoon, Founder and CEO of IMRSV Data Labs)

In this episode, our guest Sam tells us about how he created a vision that helped guide his company and how important it is for you to do this too.
“Steve Jobs didn’t walk into Apple one day and go we’re gonna make a *bleeping* slick phone with a touch screen and it’s going to change the world. I’m pretty sure he was like “phones kind of suck guys, what can we do about it?” - Sam Witherspoon

In this episode

Have you ever been in a position where you didn’t feel proud of what you were doing in your career? Has your chosen field ever caused you emotional distress?

Sam Witherspoon is the founder and CEO of IMRSV Data Labs, a company dedicated to increasing the safety and security of Canada and its allies through the effective, transparent use of data.

In episode #5, Sam talks about how important it is to not chase money for the sake of making money and staying true to yourself and your vision. 

He also discusses how the key to a good team is the relationships you make with those around you and how every company working with clients is at the client’s mercy to some extent.

Lastly, Sam shares the biggest mistake he’s made and how “type two fun” is key to entrepreneurship.  

Tune in to hear all about how Sam’s leadership experiences and advice can help you improve your leadership style!

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Like this episode? Be sure to leave a  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.

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3:00 7 elements to help you reach a vision

9:50 Champagne problems don't exist11:05 Making money isn't a strong enough company purpose

12:20 Selling divorces online

14:20 Transactional company relationships

17:50 How good and bad leaders shape you

32:40 Why relationships are important

42:00 US Department of Defense contract

54:00 We're at the mercy of the client

57:53 Steve Jobs didn't just invent the iPhone overnight

1:00:33 Listen to the voice in your head

01:04:30 Explaining type 2 fun

Guest Bio

Sam Witherspoon is an engineer and lawyer by trade.

He gave up the nightmare of billable hours to build products that impact the world around us. His company, IMRSV Data Labs, of which he’s the co-founder and CEO, has an unpronounceable name. In the defence industry that’s an asset. It’s hard to hit what you can’t describe.

He created IMRSV to increase the safety and security of Canada and its allies through the effective, transparent use of data. IMRSV recently launched Anvil - an information lifecycle management and analysis platform to support those who defend liberal democracy.

Transcript

Sam: Steve Jobs didn't walk into Apple one day and go, we're gonna make a fucking slick phone with a touch screen. And like, it's gonna change the world. I'm pretty sure he was like phones kind of suck guys, what can we do about it?

Fahd: Hello and welcome to the unicorn leaders podcast. My name is Fahd Alhattab, CEO [00:00:30] and founder of Unicorn Labs. And on this podcast is where we interview leaders and founders on their journey of creating high performing teams and high performing cultures and organizations and create unicorn startups. Our goal is to bring you the insights, the tools, so that you don't have to make all the mistakes that we did. All the mistakes that they did, that we can learn from it. We can grow from it today. The guess that you just heard is Sam Witherspoon, founder and CEO of immersive data labs, talking about creating a compelling all encompassing vision [00:01:00] today's podcast is brought to you by one and only Unicorn Labs. Check us out at www.UnicornLabs.ca So today is all about creating an all-encompassing vision. And, and I think that actually shows the specific difference between management and leadership being a really good manager's about managing resources, managing the people, managing the project, what needs to get done.

Fahd: When does it need to get done, having deadlines and, and ensuring that we stay within the bounds and actually accomplish and achieve the objectives. But leadership [00:01:30] is about creating that compelling vision. It's about enticing people. It's about exciting people. Leadership requires us to influence people towards a specific direction. Leadership points, the direction and management helped put the pieces to actually get us there. It's the two in combination, and by having an all encompassing vision, having something that's exciting that is emotionally capturing something that, that really persuades people to, to be both excited and committed to getting there. That is what helps us create our high performing [00:02:00] organizations. Vision is one of the last pieces of high performing, but it's one of those pieces that shows up in every part of a high performing team. But the reason we keep it as one of the last pieces and the, the, the sixth level of the high performing teams is because it is iterative.

Fahd: It is constantly changing and we needs to constantly pivot while psychological safety and empowerment. Those don't necessarily pivot. We need them as foundational pieces, as foundational stones that build the team, people stick to the team and they stay with the team because of the relationships they develop, [00:02:30] because they feel empowered because they can communicate with each other and have productive conflict. Cuz there's a culture of leadership. That's fluid because it aligns with their sense of purpose. And finally, because there's an all encompassing vision that pulls them towards it. There are seven elements of an all-encompassing vision that I wanna share with you. And these elements that you can take with you back to your team, back to your company. So if you're a manager listening to this and you're thinking, well, what sort of vision do I have? You have a vision for your product vision, for your marketing campaigns, vision for what you are [00:03:00] creating.

Fahd: But if you're a founder and you're a CEO and you're, you're, you know how important a vision is and you know that it's constantly iterative, but sometimes all the words get mumbled and jumbled in the different descriptions. So I'm gonna give you seven elements. And in these seven elements, when we piece them all together, we can create, uh, a, a strong vision that can be both iterative and yet, um, lasts the entirety of your existence. The seven elements of all income vision begin with a core purpose. This is the non-changing part. This is the core reason for being, this is the core mission. [00:03:30] This is, this is why do we do what we do to understand our core purpose. Sometimes we wanna just ask the question of what do we do? You can start with, we do X for Y people, right? So, so we do X services for Y people kind of fill that statement in and then ask yourself, Y five times, why do you do X for Y people?

Fahd: And why do you do that? And why do you do that? Maybe by the fifth, Y you might get into the cloudy space of, we help people. And it's just a bit too broad and a bit too bullshit [00:04:00] for you, but at the fourth, why and the third, why you might get to a reason that is far more meaningful than simply what you do, but why you do what you do. And that's the core purpose that reason can last while perhaps the actual products you create and, uh, the business you have can change core purpose lasts because it's who you are. And it's, it's a reason for being what follows is the core values. These are the guiding principles that dictate what you stand for [00:04:30] in the good times and the bad times, this is how you do what you do. And core values, reason.

Fahd: The word core here, because this core values need to exist. That if, if one of these values, uh, made you lose money on a transaction and made, made bad business decision, cuz of this cuz of this core value, you would stick by it because that's how core that value is. Core values are not convenient. Values that just align with when business is going well, core values are things we stick to, no matter how [00:05:00] business is going, they're what we believe in. They're what, when we, we, we take a stand and it's what we fight for and what we will push for. So core purpose and core values is the central part of your seven pieces of an all encompassing vision. And these parts are the non-changing pieces. These are the parts that will stick for a hundred years. As long as your organization exists. As long as you exist, these are core to what you believe.

Fahd: The next piece is, are part of that strategy. And that vision that you're used to hearing for the third part is, is the vision. It's the position or the status that [00:05:30] your company aspires to achieve in a reasonable timeframe. So here's the thing. Vision is actually achievable. While purpose is ever enduring, something that we continuously go after. Vision is something we can actually achieve in five years and three years in 10 years and 15 years, vision is somewhere we can be. So what is the vision? Where are we going? And how, what is it gonna look like when we get there? The next part, our target BHAs we're borrowing the, the word BHA here from Jim Collins is the big, hairy, audacious goal. The targets are part of the vision. So perhaps [00:06:00] your vision for five years is where you wanna get to the targets are the specific metrics, your metrics you're gonna use to assess progress towards that vision, to give yourself actual targets and measures to get there.

Fahd: Then number five are the strategic and operational priorities. This is the actions that you do. Most importantly, the actions you don't do in pursuit of your vision. This is what you say no to. And what you say yes to, as you're trying to pursue your vision, your strategic priorities should be revisited almost every six months. Your target B AGS could be reuse every year, your [00:06:30] vision, every year, likely gonna withstand longer, but your purpose and your values, they sustain themselves for longer. Number six and number seven are promises that you make. Number six is a print brand promise. What promises are you making for your stakeholders as you operationalize your strategies and your vision, what are these promises that you're gonna make? And this is all stakeholders, your, your employees, your board members, your customers, everyone that, that, that really touches your brand. And lastly, your leaders' behaviors, how [00:07:00] leaders act on a daily basis. This is the expectation we have our leaders. When we put these seven together, we call this the all encompassing vision. And in today's podcast with, with, uh, Sam, we're gonna unpack a bit of the core purpose. We're gonna unpack a bit of the vision and a bit of start to strategic priorities. And he's gonna bounce around to chair with us, how he went through a consistent iterative process to actually achieving their company vision. Let's hear another little clip from Sam.

Sam: The people who have succeeded with us over time have been the ones who are [00:07:30] like totally cool with, like, we call it type two fun, but, but the stuff that's like, it's not fun when you're doing it, but it's fun after to think about that. You did it. Um, and like my life has been about pursuing type two fun.

Fahd: Sam is gonna share with us, uh, perhaps choosing an early career in a field that caused him a bit of emotional distress until he found something that was more meaningful and more aligned with his core values and purpose. Uh, the, as a founder of CEO and immersive data labs, it's [00:08:00] a company dedicated to increasing the safety and security of Canada and its allies through the effective, transparent use of data. And in this episode, he's gonna talk about how important it is not to chase money for the sake of making money, but staying true to yourself and your vision. So it's also gonna discuss how key, how the key to a good team is the relationships you make with those around you and how every company working with clients is at a client's mercy. At some extent in what we can do about that. He's gonna also share some entrepreneurial, uh, uh, challenges. [00:08:30] He's gonna share more about what this type two fund is all about. Some big mistakes he's has made maybe a little bit about a Turkey farm, uh, that he owns as a vegetarian. Uh, we're gonna tune in to hear and learn more about Sam's leadership experiences and how we can develop an all encompassing vision.

Fahd: All right. Hello,

Fahd: Sam. And, uh, and welcome, uh, man, I gotta say, I'm excited to have you, uh, [00:09:00] on this show. Uh, this is new for us. You know, we're developing this podcast, we're having some amazing people. And immediately when I thought about this, I was like, I've gotta, I've gotta have you on. So first and foremost, thank you. Thanks for taking the time. Thanks for being here with us. Um, Sam, I like to get into the meat of things right away. And you, you, you, you shared with me a really interesting concept called a champagne problem. Um, and, and I wanna get right into that. We're gonna get to who you are, all that stuff. Our, our, our guests will learn that, [00:09:30] but I wanna get into one core insight that you had right away, a champagne problem. Can, can you tell me a little bit about this Sam? And I mean, along the way, you can also tell me a little bit of what you do <laugh>, and, and that we'll get into that, but let's, let's dive into it.

Sam: Yeah. Uh, so champagne problems, um, it's sort of a, a running joke in our company we've been around for about eight years and the problems of like tomorrow, like when you've got more revenue, when you've got more people, when you've got like all of your other problems [00:10:00] solved, it becomes a champagne problem because like there's no more worries. You're cracking champagne. You're, you're, you know, you're sipping champagne and, and you know, all your worries are gone. And, uh, what we've learned over eight years is there's no such thing as a champagne problem, there's just new problems to deal with.

Fahd: That's interesting. Um, and, and, and, and that kind of provokes the, you know, ages and stages for companies, right. Kind of the problem of growing from one to 10 employees is different [00:10:30] than the problem growing from 10 to 50 and, and so on and so forth. And you're at an interesting stage. I think the, the theme of this episode that we're unpacking is the importance of vision, the importance of purpose. Um, tell me a little bit about why you believe having a mission purpose, a vision is important for the team.

Sam: Yeah. We went a long time without any real, like purpose or vision. And, um, it caused a lot of [00:11:00] harm and stress, I guess. Uh, probably the two words that come to mind the most, um, for a while our purpose was making money. And, uh, what you, what you pretty quickly learn, or I guess what we pretty quickly learned was like, you know, money doesn't solve all your problems. Um, it doesn't make you happy. It doesn't, it doesn't, you know, resonate. Um, and, and I think, you know, that that's reflected in one of the core values we've established as an organization. Like [00:11:30] don't be mercenary. Um, and, and I think like what, what we really mean is like, don't chase money for the sake of making money. There's, there's bigger problems in the world than, you know, lining your checkbook. Um, yeah,

Fahd: But I think like, let me, it's been a struggle. You, you, you, you said it caused harm and stress. Tell me, tell me about, like, those are strong words, like harm is, uh, you know, picking up on that. Give me an example, like how did, how did the decision making and the fact of chasing money and you know, what, [00:12:00] by all means, like, I love that you've admitted this because I think a great deal of entrepreneurs we get into the space, we're trying to make money. Like, I think that is a, a big motivator and it's, it is not to say that it's not still a motivator, but it is, it's not complete pictures is what I'm hearing from you. So tell me about kind of the harm and stress piece there.

Sam: Yeah. Uh, so we started off in the legal industry, um, and we actually started off, uh, functionally face like a consumer facing app, um, [00:12:30] trying to sell divorces online. And, and we did a really good job of selling divorces online. Um, had had a lot of, uh, had a lot of customers, um, lot of users and, uh, the law society investigated us, me particularly for a couple years. Wow. Um, and what happened though? All the way through there was like, none of us cared about the problem. We, we literally picked it cuz we were like, there's a huge gap in the market. There's [00:13:00] mm-hmm, <affirmative>, there's there's, you know, I mean,

Fahd: Divorces that

Sam: Makes money a lot money to be made

Fahd: <laugh> yeah. Um,

Sam: And like, I was embarrassed to tell my family what I did at one point. Like I wasn't running fucking porn hub. Like I'm not, I'm not in like, I'm not in this like ugly industry. Right. Um, I was selling divorces, but, but like the, this sort of realization that we eventually came to was like, none of us cared. None of us wanted to do that. It was just, we were, we were pursuing an opportunity [00:13:30] for the sake of its pursuit money and, and like it caused emotional distress. I wasn't proud of what I was doing. Um, I think the same, you know, I, I don't wanna speak on anyone else's behalf, but like the same is true for my co-founder Bennett. He was not proud of what we were doing at all. We were there because like, we, we felt there was an opportunity and we walked away from it as a result.

Fahd: Yeah. Yeah. Use the word emotional distress there, Sam, and, and, [00:14:00] and as a leader, right? Like you like the fact that the vision didn't connect to your own values caused you as the CEO and leader to have emotional distress. I can only imagine the emotional distress on your team. Yeah. Where was that? Yeah. Can, can you, can you share some of that?

Sam: Yeah, I think, um, you know, I think a lot of people would've characterized their relationship with the company as transactional at the time. Mm. Um, and, and, [00:14:30] you know, I don't really fault any of them for it. Uh, my relationship with the industry was transactional. So like how can I expect any different of the people around me? Um, and I think that on its own was probably a, a strong indicator that we weren't in, in the right, in the right spot.

Fahd: Um, and so, so Sam, uh, you know, there's been a huge transformation in you and your business, and today you've got a solid, clear vision [00:15:00] and a purpose. And, and I think, you know, that that moment of, of, of realization doesn't come till, till later on and slowly, uh, iterates. And I think that's one of the key lessons here is I think their vision is seen almost like, oh, we got a vision as if it's like an aha moment that comes from the sky, but really it's perhaps an iterative, uh, vision. And, and I wanna get to that. I'm gonna open up that question, but I wanna get to it cuz, cuz you took me back a little bit to one of your first ventures, which is this selling divorces online, but let's take people [00:15:30] back just a little further. Uh, tell me, who is Sam, Sam, where, where are you from? Where, where, where are you in this world? And uh, you know, maybe where'd you go to school? Give me a little bit of the, the background to Sam.

Sam: Yeah. Um, so I, I grew up in Ottawa for most of my life. Um, I spent, uh, a few years at the start of my life till I was like 10 years old, um, outside of Toronto in a tiny town actually right near Guelph. [00:16:00] Um, and then, uh, when I finished high school, I went back to Guelph to study engineering, um, worked in consulting for a couple years and then went to law school. Um,

Fahd: So you, you finished an engineering degree. Yeah. That was, that was in which, uh, specific, uh,

Sam: Enviro that was in environmental engineer,

Fahd: Environmental engineering. You went into consulting, you spent a few years there, [00:16:30] then you went back to law school. Yeah. <laugh> yeah. Awesome. And then after law school,

Sam: Um, so I went to university of Calgary for law school. Uh, I skied a ton and, and the sort of joke when people ask me, like, why did you go to university of Calgary is cuz like, they're the only ones who let me in, um, it's, it's the truth. Like it's the only place I could get into with engineering grades. Um, and so, uh, I did really [00:17:00] well in law school though, got a clerkship, um, clerked at the federal court, um, worked for one of the most phenomenal people I've ever worked with in my life. Uh, Roger Hughes and um, just a brilliant mind, really challenged me as a person when, when I probably needed it most. And uh, then after that worked at a law firm downtown Toronto for four months, September to January and then quit, um, and started this,

Fahd: [00:17:30] Let me, let me, let me hold on to that for a second. You, you just mentioned the impact of Roger Hughes impact of a leader on your life, a mentor. Um, you have also in past shared with me, Sam, the impact of a not so good leader in that same field and you know, a moment to juxtapose the difference between, well, how a phenomenal leader can shape us versus how a, an emotionally distressed unintelligent leader can shape us. Also, perhaps give me a little bit more about Roger Hughes. What, yeah. How, what [00:18:00] did he shape to you today? If you look back like what was, what were some of the pieces from him that are showing up in you today?

Sam: Yeah, he was the first, uh, sort of leader or mentor I had who gave me trust and space to sort of sort it out on my own, um, while still sort of like holding me accountable, you know, slightly from a distance. And, and, and what I mean by that is like, he didn't tell me how to do my work. He tell, he told me what he wanted the output to [00:18:30] be. And didn't tell me how to get from a to B and let me sort it out. And like, there, there were so many sort of hilarious moments. He was, he was pretty old school still is pretty old school <laugh>. Um, and like had, I had to wear a suit and tie to work every day. And there's one day I, I ran up to his office to ask him a question and I forgot my blazer down in the, down in the like cubicles that I was working in.

Sam: And he didn't even look up from his desk. He was writing with his fountain pen and he just pointed at the door and he just said, come back when you're [00:19:00] dressed. And <laugh>, and it wasn't mean it wasn't condescending. It was just like, come back when you're dressed. And, uh, there was so many, so many good moments. He, he like, I, I've never, I've never seen someone who just like understood how to interact with, with society at large and in, in a complex way. Like I have so many good stories of those times. So feel free to ask me to unload. I, I got lost. Yeah.

Fahd: I love that. Perhaps, perhaps, because this is a leadership podcast. [00:19:30] What was a leadership insight that, that maybe he didn't verbalize, but that you took on as a sponge watching him, you know, you mentioned he was phenomenal at how he worked with people, but where, where is that? You're laughing. So I guess you have story here

Sam: Away. I a great one. Yeah. So he, um, we had this case, it was this, uh, this old pensioner. He is like 90 years old. Okay. He is on Kenya pension plan, which is like punitively deficient. If, if you're retired and reliant entirely on it, he got [00:20:00] divorced. Okay. And he got divorced at like 90, again, I'm not passing judgment on this guy's decisions, but like it's pretty late in the game to <laugh> to look for an upgrade or whatever his plan was. But anyway, um, pension is divided evenly between him and his spouse. So now he's living on half the amount, a year later, his ex-wife dies and he goes, I want my pension back. And the Canadian government says, you don't get your pension back. That's a rule. Hmm. Okay. [00:20:30] Hard, hard, and fast rule. It's it's it's the law. And so, um, justice Hughes wanted to do the right thing, which was get this guy's pension back. He's like, well, below the poverty line already. So how do we get this man? His pension back? And so there's no way we just, we can't do it. I was like, the only argument we have is we are the last court of equity in, in Canada. And, and so being a court of equity means you can make a decision that violates the written law [00:21:00] provided you feel it is like the equitable or right, right. Decision. I'm paraphrasing a bit. And I'm a bad lawyer. So like, if a lawyer's listening, this

Fahd: Is not legal advice. This is don't don't,

Sam: Don't try to raise this argument. But anyway, he was like, he was like, no, no, no, we're, we're not gonna do that. We're not gonna do that. And I was like, I throw out my hands and I was like, listen, I, I don't know if there's, if there's anything I can do. So the day of the hearing comes and he tells me, go sit at the back. Normally he made his clerk sit right at the front, [00:21:30] right underneath him. So we were with an arms reach. Okay. But today he's like, sit at the back, watch the parties and tell me what happens after I leave. And so he storms into the room door, goes like banging against the wall. Everyone stands up. Cuz he stand up when the judge comes into the room and he slams his hand on the desk and he looks straight down the middle of the room.

Sam: And he says, if I have to come back here in 10 minutes and make a decision, you're not gonna like the decision I make. And he storms back out, slams [00:22:00] the door and I sit there and I'm watching. And like you can see department of justice. Lawyer is like, oh fuck, oh fuck. I'm gonna lose the Canada pension plan. Like clawback. I am gonna be dead meat. This is my career. So they like scurry over the guy's self-represented he has no money. They scurry over and they're talking. So I like sneak out the back door and he is like, are they talking? And

Sam: I was like, oh, they're talking <laugh> and like, I see what's going on now. I'm like, oh shit, [00:22:30] Like you're you're onto something. So I go back in, he comes back in another couple minutes later, they stand up. He goes, have we settled? The matter? And DOJ goes, yeah, we've settled the matter. And he's like, great walks out. Never has to make a decision. And he just played like the perfect, the perfect line. There was, there was no other play left to get this man's money back and, and justice Hughes nailed it. And it [00:23:00] was just like, it was, it was like brilliant. And it was leadership. It was not making a decision to make a decision. It, it was exactly what he needed to do. It was flawless.

Fahd: Yeah. Brilliant, brilliant. That is flawless. Wow. You know, those kind of, uh, those type of people, those characters, they have their own sort of life visions. Right. We're talking about company visions, but it seems that they have their, this life vision, this life philosophy that guides their leadership practice. Uh, did you ever kind of grasp, [00:23:30] but what, maybe some of his life philosophies and visions are? I don't know. That's a, that's a deep one. I don't know how well you knew the guy, but,

Sam: Um, I, I mean, like if you spent any time around him, I'm not gonna pretend to know, you know, the deepest, darkest motivation of, of, of justice Hughes. But, um, you know, he spent years, he, he was like one of the best litigators in Canada. If not north America years perfecting his craft, he took acting classes. Like he focused [00:24:00] on being the absolute best in, in like his area of expertise. And, you know, he, he also found a way to have fun and, and, you know, do what he cared about outside of work. But like, it, it was like a relentless focus on perfecting the things that he knew would make him better at, at, at, at what he did. And you know, that, that always left me as like this guy, you know, he was an example. He led, [00:24:30] he led in that respect by example, but, um, yeah, yeah,

Fahd: Yeah, no, I love that you, you're kind of perfecting and learning and, and I think Sam, you embody that, you know, as an individual, I, I know you're a huge reader, like you're on a new book every week. You have suggesting new books to me all, every time we talk it's, it's, it's phenomenal. You, you're gonna really embody that. And if, and if I may, I'm gonna take a, a meta moment here and, and, and kind of just think about to our audience, just like how impactful a leader was [00:25:00] in your life. The fact that you can retell these stories, the fact that you can feel his values. And I mean, I see it here, the emotions that you have in regards to this person who, who helped shape your life. And I think that's a part that we sometimes forget as leaders, you know, we're building companies, we're building product, we're, we're trying to, trying to, you know, create value.

Fahd: But at the end of the day at the dinner table, uh, your staff are talking about you to their spouses. They're talking about how you impact them, how you shape them, how you've emotionally engaged or [00:25:30] disengaged them. And I think that that was just such a beautiful example there, Tim. Okay. So I've taken us off tour, but I'm gonna take us back tour her. So you spend some time in law, then you decided to make the leap to go off on your own and create this divorce software app. So what was let's, let's hear the, the, the decision there to, I'm gonna go off of my own. I'm gonna do it. Where was that?

Sam: Um, it was, it was a bit of a, a complicated road. Um, the law firm that I had been working at, uh, [00:26:00] at the time, so this is like 20, 20, 20 13. Um, their biggest client was research in motion or Blackberry, um, represented like 60, 70% of their revenue base. Um, and I was there when research in motion was like, we're not filing any more patents for the foreseeable future. Um, and I avoided the layoffs. Um, but [00:26:30] it's cuz I was like the cheapest lawyer on staff by a wide margin. <laugh> um, it's not cuz I was good. Like I don't, I don't want to give anyone the impression that I was a good lawyer. I was, um, I, I was just the cheapest lawyer available. Um, so there was more margin on my, my, my work. Um, but like there was no work to be done.

Sam: Uh, you know, I, I remember like I was low man on the totem pole, so I was in the office over the Christmas holidays and like, [00:27:00] there was nothing for me to do. So I watched a lot of Netflix and when like the, it staff came back, they like came rushing into my office and they're like, we think there's a virus on your computer, Sam. And I was like, wait, what do you mean of virus? And he's like, you're 70% of the firm's bandwidth, Sam what's going on. And I was like, oh, I was just watching HD Netflix, all holidays here. <laugh> cuz there was nothing for me to do. And <laugh>, [00:27:30] and, and I, I remember thinking to myself like the writing's on the wall, isn't it Sam like, like you're not meant to be here. I didn't know what I was gonna do when I left. I just knew that it wasn't gonna be, you know, at that firm for forever.

Fahd: Yeah. Yeah. And, and that, and that takes us to, you know, the founding of this, this kind of divorce software going through the challenges of that and, you know, brings us back to our story and, and maybe a, a climactic part of that story, the realization that this is [00:28:00] not aligning and you know, we went in maybe for the money for the market and you didn't shut down that business. You just simply Reed it. Is that, is that correct? Like, or, yeah. So talk me through that because cuz talk me through the decision making around that, but then the impact on the team and this is where I really wanna focus. The rest of our episode is we make big decisions in regards to purpose and vision as leaders, as CEOs. And we know the impact on us. What's the impact on the team in that regard?

Sam: [00:28:30] Yeah. So we were probably six people when we made that decision and um, Bennett and I spent a lot of time asking ourselves, like what do we actually care about in here? Like what's what is this for

Fahd: The audience? Ben, is your CFO correct?

Sam: Yeah. Correct. Yeah. Yep. <laugh> um, what do we, what do we care about? What are the parts that like keep us coming to the office every day? And one of the parts was like just [00:29:00] getting to work on technology. So we'd spent a lot of time, um, working in natural language processing. So like extracting information out of written information, um, or written data and, and I think that part, it was clear. We were sort of passionate about and we, we enjoyed, um, the, the hard part I guess, was like, where do we want to apply? Like we have [00:29:30] some budget, we have some money left in the bank, where do we want to apply this? And it took us some time to figure that out and we had to survive in the interim to like sort to sort our shit. And so we decided to work as consultants for a while.

Sam: So just anything that we could bring through the door, um, we wanted to, we wanted to go after, but like we couldn't consult on our own. We needed [00:30:00] to have our employees sort of stick around and be engaged and involved in that decision. And so, um, we didn't do this like deliberately to manipulate people. Um, we built consensus, so we had lots of conversations about what everyone wants to do, what industries they wanna work in on how they wanna work on it. Um, and you know, it became clear that like no one had a like defining product [00:30:30] idea to start with. And the premise that we sort of set off in this new direction on was we will use consulting to expose us to the world's problem sets. And when the time is right to pivot to product, we will make that pivot. And it gave Bennett like in terms of vision, that's a really shitty vision, but like I'm gonna call it a vision for a second because like it gave Bennett a very clear mandate about what he needed to do financially to [00:31:00] enable us and equip us. So that the day that we found that product, we had, you know, the dry powder to be able to take some time and not have to say no to new customers to, to, to go in a different direction. Um, and so that's what we did. And you know, we spent a, a fair few years sort of chugging along as professional service personnel.

Fahd: Yeah. There's uh, there's, there's a, I think a, a few, two really [00:31:30] beautiful pieces that I I'd like to kind of pull out there. One of the pieces is just how businesses, you know, I teach at the university of Ottawa. So we, we teach a lot of business model canvases to the young entrepreneurs of ideal customer and value proposition. But I think what often gets missed is just the organic side of this is what you think you want, but then this is what's available or this is what kind of comes your way. And so you guys really leaned on that organic side of, well what's available, what's around us. [00:32:00] What, what can we do as we figure out and you spend a lot of time exploring. I think that that is a, a, a kind of a thing that's not taught enough in that regard is that you gotta just, you gotta stay alive long enough to figure out what you want.

Fahd: Right. I think part of the game is staying in the game just long enough as you figure it out. The other piece that I find interesting Sam here is your team stuck along despite having a mediocre vision. And I know, you know this from some of [00:32:30] the stuff that we, that we teach, but you know, that's really an interesting model that sometimes flipped on its head. Most people think well to have a good team, you have to have the vision first, but you guys had something else that kept you together. You had really strong relationships. You had this foundation. And I think I see it from how you work with your team, but you had solid six people where there was, you know, significant trust where you used the same kind of empowerment methods of giving people a problem to work with and kind of run with. I think those are some [00:33:00] of the pieces. Maybe, maybe gimme some insight as to that. Like why do you think the team stuck in with you despite the fact that the vision was mediocre, as you kind of said, you know, it gave Bennett a mandate kinda gave you a direction, but it, it was kind of mediocre. We're, we're a little bit, you know, guns for hire a little bit within certain area. We're gonna consult here. Do this. What do you think the team stuck around?

Sam: That's a good question. I, I ask myself that a lot. Um, I'm not entirely sure. Uh, I think part of [00:33:30] it is we like each other, like we, like, we like just like hanging out and being around each other. Um, and I, I think that's a, that's a major piece. Like we spend our free time often together in some capacity. Um, so I think that's one piece. I think the other piece is, you know, we, we work well together in spite of, you know, we, we sort of scrap [00:34:00] like siblings at times, but like <laugh> who cares. Um, we, we work well together and, and I think that, uh, yeah, that that's played a major role in it for sure is, is our ability to just sort of like, just deal with shit. We're we like solving problems. I think that's it, that's the nugget. We like solving problems and we solve them better together than when we're apart. It's kinda like, I'm not [00:34:30] gonna say we're like the Beatles that's so cheesy. <laugh> like, but like we're

Fahd: But you just said it by saying, I'm not gonna say it. You said it. I know break. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Sam: It's uh, yeah. Um, no, but I think like we're more effective together than when we're apart. And I think we all sort of like deep down know that. And so there's, there's a, yeah, there's a benefit to sticking around

Fahd: And I think that's the not so secret sauce. That is the secret sauce, right. [00:35:00] They, we like each other <laugh> we like to hang out, we socialize and we work well together. It's enjoyable to work with the other person. I think that's the secret sauce of teamwork. Do you actually enjoy working well together? I think it's such a, such a simple thing, but yet in many ways, so difficult to cultivate, right? Like it's, it's, it's something that, that, uh, we need to all work on. Now I'm gonna go off on a side store here, cuz I think this is an interesting one. You mentioned Bennett, you and Bennett have another [00:35:30] interesting little project that you work on too. Um, I hear and the rumors have it, that you are a vegetarian Turkey farmer

Sam: <laugh> that's correct.

Fahd: That's correct. Tell me, tell me about this. We're going off the side here, but tell me a little bit about your vegetarian Turkey farming. Um, uh, adventures

Sam: Mm-hmm <affirmative> so maybe four or five years ago now. Um, so Bennett's my cousin that that's where I'll start this story. Bennett's my cousin. [00:36:00] Um, and uh, his mom is my aunt. That's how cousins work and <laugh> and his dad, my uncle, uh, he, um, was originally dairy farmer, um, and had since moved into poultry. So he grows chickens and turkeys and uh, he was gonna sell off, um, his entire Turkey [00:36:30] operation. And there was something about watching sort of the family farm disappear that, uh, Bennett and I didn't entirely love mm-hmm <affirmative>, uh, we didn't really know what it meant to be a Turkey farmer <laugh> but we also, uh, came at it with sort of a, a, a naive attitude, which, which really helped. And, um, we decided we were gonna take it over. [00:37:00] So, um, we secured the loan from FCC, which is like the farm, the farm bank, um, yeah, with our houses and, uh, went for it. And, um, yeah, we grow about 18,000 turkeys every 80ish days. Um, wow. And for a long time, uh, one of the biggest battles we had [00:37:30] was, um, this is pre pandemic to, um, was, was getting people to actually come on the farm and, and help catch turkeys when it's time to, to load them off for processing. Um, and so like, cause

Fahd: This is a thing, this is a phenomena like to catch a Turkey, right. I oh yeah, yeah. <laugh>

Sam: Go ahead.

Fahd: Explain you go. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I want, so I wanna hear that

Sam: First off it happens when it's dark out. Cause if it's light out, the turkeys are more agitated and they're, they're a little, [00:38:00] they're a little too uppity. Um, so when it gets dark out, you turn all the lights off in the barn, you lift up the feeders, you lift up the water lines and then it's pitch black and you go in and you just grab legs and, and start carrying them. And these aren't, these aren't small birds, uh, when we're growing them. So, you know, we were, at one point we were growing in the Tom category, which is what you call basically just like a really big Turkey. It usually means a male Turkey, but even females, once they get above a certain size, [00:38:30] get called Toms, there's something going on there that we don't need to get into, but the Tom category, uh, so they're 18 kilos.

Sam: So that's like, wow, you know, 30 pounds give or take. Um, and so they're big birds and their wings are strong and uh, they have, you know, the chickens have large talents or the turkeys have large talents, um, and it's pitch black. And so you're like ducking down, [00:39:00] grabbing legs, carrying them out like this. And then they're getting loaded into the trucks and you know, there'd be like 10, 12 of us and we'd be moving. Like, let's say each of us would be moving about 2000 ish, pounds of Turkey. Um, wow. So like you're, you're lifting several tons of Turkey every night, yourself. That's like flapping and, and angry that it's hanging upside down at your side. And so, um, yeah, [00:39:30] we did that for probably two years. And so it happens, it starts, let's say 7:00 PM and you finish at like 3:00 AM. So,

Fahd: So you're working during the day and then doing, doing this

Sam: At night, driving out at night and then

Fahd: Grab turkeys at night <laugh>

Sam: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Fahd: Oh my that's.

Sam: It was, uh, it was pure misery. Um, and like, it doesn't smell nice probably the understatement of the year. Um <laugh>

Fahd: Yeah. So is that what made you a vegetarian [00:40:00] or were you a vegetarian beforehand?

Sam: Um, so I've been a vegetarian since I was maybe like 12 or 13. Okay. And, and actually what made me a vegetarian was I started to be able to like taste the way a barn smells. So I can even like eggs. Sometimes if you overcook eggs, I get the same sort of revolting reaction. And like, when I say the way a barn smells, what I really mean is like, I can taste pig shit. I can taste chicken, shit. I can taste Turkey shit. And like, believe [00:40:30] me, I've had most of it in my mouth from catching them and like, oh, it's it's there. And so I, I like, I just can't do it. I can't eat it. I don't give a shit if people want to eat meat, that is entirely fine ethically and morally, I, I have no issue. I've euthanized many turkeys while a firm vegetarian. I just like, can't do it myself.

Fahd: Can <laugh> okay. That was fun. That was good. That was a nice, [00:41:00] nice little side story to, to really introduce Bennett. Who's been a big, a big role of this and, and, and in it, cuz I think it's, you know, kind of introduce some of the, the characters, the people part of this team that, that you've really built this with. So, you know, we, we went from, from engineering school to law school to skiing in Alberta to, to divorce software, um, to, uh, to where you were at this moment where things really, you know, developed consensus around [00:41:30] being professional services, around solving really difficult problems using technology. Um, and this kind of got you down the path where I know recently you and your team have come to a real clarity on the vision and, and a real pronounced and you can feel the direction in the team. You can feel the momentum that it picks up. So tell me about kind of the coming to that moment. And then I wanna talk about how you feel has changed the team in since those days. So this [00:42:00] kind of a couple question, couple D direction I'd like to take us.

Sam: Yeah. Um, so probably about two and a half years ago, uh, we won a contract in the United States with a department of defense, um, a very potentially big contract for us. And um, we want it due to some of our expertise with natural language processing and, and uh, and [00:42:30] um, information management, um, that contract, uh, you know, this is, this is right around the, the, the tail end of Donald Trump's presidency. It, it, it sort of forced us to confront, you know, what is it about Western democracy that we either like, or don't like, and, and, you know, not a lot of us were Donald Trump fans, but overall we're [00:43:00] still fans of America. We still, you know, we still believe in liberal democracy and, and, and the, the, the promise that liberal democracy holds for society at large it's, you know, it's the worst form of government except for all the others <laugh>.

Sam: And I think that what we, what we ended up sort of realizing was, uh, a, um, there there's a, there's a, there's a like mission and purpose there that, that [00:43:30] we, you know, strongly agree with. Um, so I think that was, that was sort of the, this first sort of glimmer of, of, of where we wanted to head. Um, around that time we, uh, put together an advisory board, um, focused on defense and public safety and sort of had some conversations with people who we, you know, deeply respect, uh, in the area about, um, [00:44:00] what some of the sort of shortcomings and, and where the, the sort of opportunities may lie. And, and then, you know, we tried really hard for <laugh> for a year and a bit mm-hmm <affirmative> to, to make our way into the defense community in Canada. Um, and, uh, ironically, we got a big contract in the United States long before we ever had, uh, anything in Canada.

Sam: Um, [00:44:30] but, uh, we persisted nonetheless, and eventually we found our way into the department of national defense, Canadian Arab forces. And, um, it was sort of the first time where we, we were exposed to a mission and a purpose that was bigger than just like solving a problem for a company or for an organization. Um, it was, it was the first time where the work we were doing had real, [00:45:00] um, external impact. It, it was mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, literally saving people's lives. It was, you know, literally, um, augmenting and, and assisting, um, the calf in, in, you know, operational requirements and, uh, you know, sort of the pinnacle of that. We got an opportunity to work during an operation on the operation itself. And, um, the work was far from glamorous. It [00:45:30] was, it was, you know, not, you know, sexy typing behind a keyboard and, you know, matrix graphics and all the rest

Fahd: <laugh> cause that's how I picture it. Right. Like,

Sam: Cause that's

Fahd: Yeah. 17 screens and you know, like that's it. Yeah. Wait, so it's not, it's not like

Sam: That. Yeah. We, we weren't in an operations center. We weren't, we didn't have like a big map on this display and yeah, there was none of that. Um, but the impact we had was, [00:46:00] um, I I'm, I'll be proud of it the rest of my life. Um, mm-hmm <affirmative> and I think, you know, that that really sort of pushed us over the edge. We had some other private sector customers at the same time. And when it came time to decide like, do we triple down on, on defense or do we keep our options open? Um, it wasn't even a, it wasn't even a debate. It wasn't even a question. It was, um, [00:46:30] this matters to us, this is important to us, this like, you know, hits us in the fields. And, um, we want to, we wanna be a part of that and we wanna be, um, you know, we wanna support Canada, we wanna support the United States.

Sam: We wanna support the UK. Like we wanna support liberal democracy. Um, and I mean, like we're watching it right now in Ukraine. Like mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I wanna stand against that. Um, and I think like, that's, that, that [00:47:00] mission resonates with me that that purpose resonates with me. And I think to answer the first part of your question that, that clarified it for us almost in an instant, this is where we are going to head. This is, this is what we are going to do. Um, luckily we had two products that, that we'd been cooking based on, you know, the, the work for D O D in the states. Um, and, uh, hopefully, you know, we're, we're able to, to scale that across, [00:47:30] uh, the five I's, at least in the, in the coming years. Yeah.

Fahd: Yeah. So, so if I can jump in here for a second Sam, so, so immersive the company that kind of reforms after the divorce software takes on a bunch of contracts, kind of doing some technology consulting for government, for all sorts of things, different, different kind of artificial intelligence, machine learning kind of opportunities. And you build the team out to [00:48:00] about 1520 people.

Sam: Yeah. Uh, I, I think we would've been like sort of 12 to 15 fluctuating in and around there. Yep.

Fahd: Yeah, yeah. And so you kind of get some momentum, build some cash flow from there, and then, and then you start to really get into these defense contracts and, and that kind of becomes clear for the team around the purpose there and, and, and the team significantly girls from there. Right. That's the big part of the team building starts to, to happen there. Um, [00:48:30] and, and do you find that that clarity of vision, that clarity of purpose and who you wanna serve and what problems you wanna deal with helped with kind of recruiting with getting the right people, getting good people in the doors, building a good team. How did yeah. How do you see those help each other?

Sam: Um, it's definitely helped in some respects with recruiting because now we know exactly, um, you know, we know what to say. I think, I think as we made this shift, um, [00:49:00] we knew it wasn't going to be for everyone. Um, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, you know, Google had a, had a mutiny when project Maven was, was revealed and, and they withdrew from project Maven to preserve staff. And I think that, um, you know, the defense industry is, you know, for right or wrong, people have very, um, polarized views on, on the defense industry. Um, and, and I'm cool with that. [00:49:30] That's part of a liberal democracy ironically. Yeah. Um, you're, you're allowed to have those beliefs and, and, and, and think those things and, and I fully support people's right. To do so. Um, and I think what it gave us was the ability to own that and say like, this is us and, and take it or leave it.

Sam: And it hasn't been super easy all the time. Um, you know, good engineers have quit because they, yeah. Don't like the defense industry [00:50:00] and that's okay. Um, it took us a long time to be comfortable with that, but, but, but we're okay with that. Um, because they're doing what's right for them. I think the, on the recruiting side, um, it's much easier now to say, this is who we are. This is what we do. And like, these are the things we build and, and the effects we enable. And, and when we talk about stuff, that way it's a binary decision for people. It's am I a part of that? Or am I [00:50:30] not a part of that? And there's not really a middle ground, you don't get to like, live in the middle and be mercenary for too long when that's your, when, when that's what you're confronted with.

Fahd: Yeah. Yeah. That's powerful Sam that I, that is really powerful. I, you know, I think I've seen some of that transformation, but just that, that clarity, that being comfortable with this is who we are. This is what we're doing, and this is the, the problems we're trying to solve and not everyone's gonna be interested in them. I think that's the power of having [00:51:00] such a clear vision. And the beginning, you talked about how not having a vision can create this real emotional disengagement and distress. You use the word harm, right? Like just like it, it you're unen. You weren't even proud to talk to your family about ki kind of it, but this 180, that happens once you've started to clarify that vision. And what I, again, what I love about this is like, there was two, three years of organic. We're just gonna figure this out, you know, like until you get to this really [00:51:30] clear moment of now, I know where we wanna go, how we're headed and I can communicate that. And that, that creates a, a line in the sand. So tell me about what shift you've seen internally in your team now, obviously there's, there's been the difficult parts of when you draw the line in the sand, some people on the other side of it, that's, that's been part of it. What's been the internal reaction in the team, uh, in regards to the clarification of the vision and, and yeah. Share, share any, any of the thoughts on that?

Sam: I think, uh, a lot of people [00:52:00] on the team are, um, increasingly grateful for the clarity, uh, of purpose. Um, I think it helps them describe what they do and who they work for in a much cleaner way than in the past. Um, they can now talk about the purpose that they're working towards, as opposed to the people they're working, for which like, you know, that that's sort of [00:52:30] a, an ugly thing to just like list off some customers or clients that you have. Like, it, it, it doesn't have the same impact. I think. So I think that's, uh, that's one thing I I've certainly noticed with a few people. Um, I, I think the, the other piece that, um, that's been really helpful is it's allowed everyone, the space to figure out like where they fit in this puzzle [00:53:00] and where they can contribute and where they can have an impact, um, before it was like, you know, you're a person and you are billable at this rate per hour, <laugh> to this, to this group.

Sam: And like, that's kind of shitty. I'm not gonna lie. It's not my favorite way to, to treat or quantify people's impact. Now it's like, people are able to like take ownership of a piece of this and say, mm-hmm <affirmative>, this is mine. I'm, I'm proud of this. Um, you know, [00:53:30] just today I was watching some conversations happen around, like, I think we should drop this and use this piece because, and those aren't conversations, professional service firms have. Um, they, they, to some extent use the tooling that like solves the problem effectively for the end customer. Um, there's, there's no ownership and, and sort of integrity in the decisions that, that you're making. Um, not that professional service firms make bad [00:54:00] decisions. It's just like, to some extent you are at the mercy of the customer in the timeline and the budget and the commitment you've made.

Sam: And, and that that's the reality of professional services. And, and, and as we've slowly sort of migrated off of that, we started by getting rid of the, the customers sort of the clients that, um, didn't line up squarely with that purpose, handing them off to other professional service firms that, uh, you know, we, we trusted wouldn't screw them up so [00:54:30] that we still preserve the, the relationship and respect to the people we'd worked with. But I think also it helped get, you know, everyone else who was working with us, some, some real clear direction on, on, on where we're headed.

Fahd: Yeah. See, I, I like that you shared this, uh, Sam, because what it says is having a clear vision isn't enough to just state it. Uh, but you have to start cutting the fat around what doesn't fit in that vision. So we're gonna clarify our vision in our words and what we think, [00:55:00] but now what doesn't fit into this vision, we've gotta cut away even customers and, and really good paying customers that no longer fit into this model that we're trying to create. And we're trying to build now, uh, we've got a few minutes left here. Uh, Sam, um, perhaps, uh, perhaps you can take me on a bit of the, so that's the organic journey of vision finding and forming, but if we've got some listeners on the call who are like, okay, well, I've gotta figure out our vision. We're a bit on professional [00:55:30] services where that, what maybe few steps, advice, maybe break it into four steps here for us, just for the sake of the number four of like, what are certain things people can do to, uh, start uncovering that vision for their company, start communicating it, um, and, and, and bring it to life.

Sam: Yeah.

Fahd: You can also do more than four steps if it's happens but I just <laugh> I kinda just threw that at you like four, four steps. I don't know. You know, <laugh>

Sam: I'm, [00:56:00] I'm not sure there's like a, a cut and dry recipe, to be honest. I think, I think one of the things that we had to resolve internally first was that, that like purpose conversation, like mm-hmm, <affirmative> why, why the fuck do you wanna be here? Why the fuck do you wanna do this? Like those questions and like, it's important. You swear when you say them? I think because like, they are really important and like the impact that they have, um, if my mom's listening, sorry.

Fahd: <laugh>

Sam: Um, but, [00:56:30] but like

Sam: Answering, answering those questions first and foremost, um, it took us a long time to even figure out we had to answer those questions, right? Like this was not something that we like started the company. We were like purpose. That's what we need here. We were like money. That's what we need here. And <laugh>, and like, eventually we realized like money and purpose can often be at odds. And, and I think like, um, you know, there's, there's lots of money to be made [00:57:00] probably in selling, you know, weapons to the Russians. You will never catch me my entire life going anywhere near that space, but I'm sure you could make a killing mm-hmm. <affirmative> like, literally you'll get people killed. It's awful. Um, but, but like, it's, it's one of those things where like we had to resolve what, what mattered to us, what was important to us.

Sam: And I think that, um, that was sort [00:57:30] of like step one until we, until we sorted that out, pretty much everything else was, was kind of pointless. Um, once we figured it out and like, I guess the other side is like, we're still figuring it out. Who the hell am I kidding? Mm-hmm <affirmative>, it's, it's, it's, it's iterative. Like, I, I, I think like the other piece there, and, and maybe rather than steps, I'll give you the other piece that I'm convinced of, like Steve jobs, didn't walk into Apple one day and go, we're gonna make a fucking slick phone with a touch screen and like, it's gonna change the world. [00:58:00] I'm pretty sure he was like, phones kind of suck guys, what can we do about it? And like, mm-hmm, <affirmative>, I, I just, I just don't believe that he was like, I am going to make the iPhone <laugh> I, I just struggle.

Sam: I struggle to imagine a person who's capable of that. And like, maybe he did, but, but like there, there's sort of like mythology that's created around a lot of these companies. And then when you like scrape away all the shit, it's like, no, no, like it was a fucking Blackberry [00:58:30] too. And it had big buttons and then like, that was V1 and he was like, not good enough guys. And then like V 200 is the touch screen iPhone. Um, mm-hmm <affirmative> and, and I think like the mythology of like what vision is, is always the polished turn. Like we're perpetually polishing that turn. And, and like,

Fahd: I love that we don't look at the Polish polishing that turn. That's a, yeah, that's a clip right there. That's a that's that's, you know,

Sam: [00:59:00] That, that goes in the highlight reel.

Fahd: That's a,

Sam: But like, it, it is like that that's, that's, that's literally what we're doing, right. Is like it's perpetual turd polishing, and, and we eventually, like, we're never turning it into a fucking diamond man. I'm not, I'm not crazy, but like, you know, it's a little less shitty each time. And, and eventually, eventually, like we get there, we get to a point where like, you hold it up and you're like, yeah, I can go to a fancy restaurant with this and not feel too bad about myself.

Fahd: [00:59:30] <laugh> I love that. I love that. I think, I think you, you, you hit the nail in the head on, on, on two pieces that, you know, we do teach, uh, with our philosophy, but it's that one purpose is uncovered, not wordsmithed, right? Sometimes people are like, oh, I gotta, we gotta figure it out. Let's get a whiteboard, write it up. But it's, it's uncovered through discovery and conversations and putting yourself in hard places. And whoa, where is our line here? What, what, what piece do we want and use the word consensus earlier, which I really [01:00:00] liked. It's, you know, just being able to, to engage in those conversations with your entire team and then seeing it as iterative, that's it like your vision doesn't have to be, you know, it's a polished turd, right? Like, I, I really like that. I think those two pieces are, are a home run takeaway for us, you know, constantly iterate it and uncover it versus trying to wordsmith it, you know, figure out why the fuck do you do what you do as, as you said, you know, I, I emphasize [01:00:30] that piece for you. Um, last question of our podcast here, uh, Sam together, it's been really lovely. I'm gonna give this last question. Biggest mistake you've made in all the adventures that you've shared with us. So far, biggest mistake you've made. Let's, let's hear this for the, uh, for the listeners.

Sam: Yeah. I think the, the biggest mistake I've made repeatedly through my life is not listening to like the voice inside or, or the, the, the, like the [01:01:00] instinct that I have sooner. So like, when I was embarrassed to say like, we're slinging, divorces online, um, or I'd say it in a, like, sort of, you know, sarcastic or jokey way, cuz I was a little ashamed I needed to reflect on why that is. It's kind of like, you know, you've got a girlfriend and you don't want to tell any of your friends, you've got a girlfriend cause you're like embarrassed about her in some way. Like mm-hmm, <affirmative> like, you need to answer why you don't want anyone to know. Um, [01:01:30] and, and I think like when I have those feelings, I've historically run away from them over and over and over. Um, interesting. And, and I think like, you know, selling divorces online, great example.

Sam: Um, there are, there are numerous times where I was put in sort of situations. I would never want any of my current employees to experience where I was put in those situations when I was working as a consultant and like [01:02:00] stuff was said, um, that I just like, I, I can't even imagine saying to another person today. Um, and, and like, I should have walked away, but like I was a bit of a coward. Like I, I, I just like, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I eventually quit. So yeah, I I've got that going for me, but it took me a long time to, to, to sort that stuff out. And I think that, you know, [01:02:30] the end result was always like I knew, I knew I wasn't gonna, you know, last in consulting, I knew that I wasn't gonna be a good lawyer. Um, but like I avoided confronting that reality for a long time. I'm not mad for a second that I went to to law school. University of Calgary was wonderful. It prepared me for much of what I'm doing today. Like make no mistake. I'm a better writer. I'm a better critical thinker than I ever would've been if I hadn't had these experiences. But like [01:03:00] I also could have just like listened to my, to my internal purpose a little sooner. Yeah. Instead of beating my head against those walls.

Fahd: Yeah. And Sam, I think that is so, um, wonderful for us to hear here. I think in a world driven by so much data and data analytics, um, leaders are trying to constantly always look at the data for all decisions, but sometimes some of them are intuitive. Sometimes we have to actually listen to the [01:03:30] intuition or use both. Here's the data and here's my intuition. And where does that come to together? And I think that's a key characteristic of leadership that is, um, uh, only honed in over time. So I, I know you look back at your younger self and, and wish you leaned into that intuition, but perhaps that intuition had to be trained, perhaps it's the years of being in these situations that you can now look back to and said, oh, I could hear it, the intuition more clearly now, and I can listen to it better now. And I think that's really powerful that [01:04:00] you mentioned from, from a CEO of a machine learning AI company saying don't just listen to the data, listen to your intuition too. And I think lean into those. I think that's a really powerful leadership lesson for us to, to, to summarize, uh, Sam, any, any last thoughts for any of our listeners here today?

Sam: I I'm gonna end with a, with a bit of a hockey metaphor, cuz I think it's really fucking cool, but go to the hard place on the ice. Like I, I, I, I find like we, we, [01:04:30] the people who have succeeded with us over time have been the ones who are like totally cool with like, we call it type two fun, but, but the stuff that's like, it's not fun when you're doing it, but it's fun after to think about that. You did it. Um, and like my life has been about pursuing type two fun. Um, you know, like I love that

Fahd: Ice fly type two fun. Yeah. Keep, yeah. Keep going. Keep going. Yeah. Yeah. Ice climbing. Yeah. You did an insane, uh, trip up a mountain. You told me one

Sam: Time, like mountaineering traverses, [01:05:00] like real, real suffering. Um, and like, you know, you're, you're not necessarily happy when you're doing it, but when you're done it, you're like, I just fucking did that. I bike long, long distances just to test my, my personal endurance at this point. Um, Ben and I, this summer are gonna ride from Ottawa to James bay. We're gonna go swim in the Arctic ocean by bike. Oh my God. Um, yeah, like it, it's [01:05:30] finding our limits. And I think like if, if, if you've got that mentality, like, fuck, entrepreneurship's a blast. Yeah. It ha it's a roller coaster. Like make no mistake, but like, man, it's, uh, it's way more fun when, when you can like look back and go like, yeah, I made a lot of fucking mistakes, but like I'm still here.

Fahd: Yeah. I love that. I, I, I think, I think type two fun actually aligns itself so well with having a vision, if [01:06:00] you have a vision you're so much more willing to go through the shift to do the type two fun, cuz you're like, I know what I'm doing it for. I know what I'm coming back for. I, I have the goal. I, I love that. We're ending with that. I'm I'm write that down. Type two fun. That's another clip for me. That's a nice little definition. How much type two fund are you having in your life? Well, folks, uh, thanks for tuning in. Thanks for, uh, giving us your ears. It's always a pleasure, Sam. Thank you for, for being here with us and sharing everything from the Turkey farm to, uh, selling divorces to [01:06:30] the amazing work that you're doing, um, across the world today to, uh, protect, uh, citizens and civilians across the world, uh, by, by improving technology. Um, appreciate you. Thank you. That's all for now. And uh, we'll talk soon.

Fahd: Thank you Sam so much for sharing all of those, uh, stories and insights with us here today. And thank to all of you for listening all the way through and joining us on our unicorn leaders podcasts. It is always a blast to have you here. And if [01:07:00] you've got any questions for Sam, you've got any questions for me. You got any topics that you'd want us to unpack with future guests. Remember to message us on LinkedIn on Instagram, on Twitter, you can find our handle @fahdalhattab or you can find me, uh, right through email fahd@unicornlabs.ca make sure to check out for any show notes or transcriptions our, our website, UnicornLabs.ca/podcast. Um, and you'd be able to rate our content, review it, subscribe and get notified when the next episode is coming. [01:07:30] Be sure to share with your friends, your fellow managers, fellow colleagues, spread the word about the show, uh, and everyone that you think needs to hear it.

Fahd: And I'm gonna leave you with one last kind of big question to unpack. Do you have a compelling, why do you have a purpose for your work, a, a vision for how you see the world, how the world should be because of the work you do, where the world will become because of your company, a vision that both enticed your people and emotionally compels them, your team, [01:08:00] and it compels you because if not, I think you are missing out. You have an opportunity to not just chase profits and not saying to just chase purpose, but to chase purpose and profits, because they actually feed into each other, allowing us to create a sustainable world that better impacts your community. And yeah, I didn't finish that one. Well, we're gonna redo [01:08:30] that. That's okay. That was good. Good. First try. Yeah. Good.

Fahd: I'm gonna leave you with one last question to really think about it's. It's a big question. It's questions within the question, but it is. Do you have a compelling, why do you have a purpose for your work? Do you have a vision for how the world will become because of your company, a vision that both entices the people that [01:09:00] work for you work with you, but that also emotionally compels them and emotionally compels you. I believe we're missing out when we don't have that purpose. If we're simply chasing profits, we're missing out on the opportunity to actually make more profits, because it is not about purpose or profits, it's actually purpose and profit. It is when we chase both in, in, in, in, in succinct pattern. When we chase purpose, we get profits because it becomes sustainable because we're creating something that actually creates value [01:09:30] that actually creates change in our communities and in our societies. And I think Sam shared with us when we chase purpose, we find profits along the way, and that is the lesson for today. Thank you so much for joining us. And I hope that you take that question and really unpack it with your team. Do we have a compelling why that we're proud of? And if not, can we create one.

Fahd Alhattab

Fahd is a consultant, coach, leadership speaker, and millennial workplace expert who teaches new managers how to lead multi-generational teams. He specializes in transformative leadership and team dynamics training for high-growth startups.

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