Entreprenuer of the year: Ven Coté

Entrepreneur of the year: Prairies winner

Ven Coté as interviewed by Dana Lacey

Financial Post Magazine December 02, 2008

Business Philosophy: I’m not a philosopher, I’m a businessman. But I guess my philosophy is to work hard to differentiate myself. I want my company to stand out in the market and be truly different, not just a copycat. We do this by constantly striving to develop better products, better knowledge and better solutions to our customer’s needs. That’s how we’ve gotten to where we are.

Biggest Lesson: As an entrepreneur, the biggest thing I’ve learned is to trust your instincts. The sky may be dark at times, but stick to your guns and stay true to yourself. Honesty and integrity pay in the long run. Remember, it takes a lifetime to build a reputation, but only minutes to destroy it.

Darkest Hour: I nearly went bankrupt after working with someone who turned out to be a white-collar criminal. That cost me dearly: I nearly lost my company, my job and my family. There were a few dark days when I thought the company was finished. I didn’t know where the next payroll would come from. Despite all the buyout offers, I stuck to my guns. I would rather walk down the street broke, knowing I’d done the right thing. In the end, it worked out for the best. I ridded myself of the bad people and started to rebuild. The lesson I learned I will never forget: You can never do enough due diligence; don’t assume anything about anyone.

Avoiding traps: We’ve focused on building strong relationships with all our stakeholders and suppliers. We were never afraid to think outside the box. We were willing to listen to clients, to give them what they were looking for by developing new technologies. In the end this is what made a difference, this is what got us through the tough times. Today, we’re a much stronger company. In our industry, we’re the largest in North America, potentially the world. Our customers have been the ones that have dragged us to develop new products and to bring them to other parts of the world. Because of them, we may indeed become a global leader.

Proudest moment: That was back in 1994 when I bought my first employer, CAE Fibreglass. I worked with that division of CAE for 18 years prior to starting my own company. After that, I’d been competing with them for a number of years. Acquiring that company was a very, very memorable day for me.

Leadership: Good leaders have the ability to articulate their vision and get people to buy into it. As a leader, I’ve always had my own dream, my own vision, but I’ve always believed in my team as well. It sounds like a cliché, but I’m happy I’ve been able to convince these people to believe in me. We are all prepared to do what it takes to make this a better business.

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