The MBET Experience

The University of Waterloo – Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology Program

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“Double-Double” Entre-Nous

April 4th, 2007 · No Comments

When I was looking at this week’s schedule, all I saw was “CBET Grand Opening” on Monday afternoon, followed by “Accounting Exam” first thing on Tuesday morning. With those distractions, the Entre-Nous scheduled for this afternoon didn’t really register. Finally, after the accounting exam this morning, I got around to asking a classmate who was coming in to talk with us today. My jaw just about hit the floor when I was told it would be Paul House, the President and CEO of one of Canada’s most famous franchises, Tim Horton’s.

From the entire hour and a half discussion and Q&A, Paul’s visit was filled with pearls of wisdom. He has quite an interesting story, starting off working on the family farm, where, as he said, he learned most of what he knows about selling from his mother. His first taste of entrepreneurship came as owner of a service station in his twenties. From there, he moved on to Dairy Queen, where he worked his way up to a Vice-President at the age of 32, and ran the company from 1980-1985. In 1985, he was convinced to join Tim Horton’s, was part of the sale to Wendy’s in 1995, and in 2006, was named President and CEO when Tim Horton’s was again spun off as a separate entity. In his words, “he is bringing the company home.”

What I found most interesting was that up until a couple years ago, Paul had visited every single Tim Horton’s location. He still spends a lot of time on the road, talking to franchisees, and getting their input into how to build a better company.

Throughout the session, I found it hard not to write down everything he said. I managed to take about four pages of notes. Here’s a few of the highlights:

  • Business is still pretty friggin’ basic – it’s about taking care of the customer.
  • Knowledge without passion is a wasted resource. Many knowledgeable people never achieve anything because the don’t have the passion.
  • Recognize the tradeoff between Price and Quality. As Price goes up, Quality goes down. Tim Horton’s coffee is great because the price is right! If they tried to charge what Starbuck’s charged, the quality would go down.
  • Timing is everything. You need to know which products to rush to market (bagels in 1996), and which products you can take time with (the breakfast sandwich).
  • Do what you need to do for your business, not what the other guys do. The only reason to watch the other guys is to get a good idea.
  • The one thing that good entrepreneurs have that others don’t is perseverance.
  • Try to get to the end of your life with no regrets.

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll have to repeat myself: this was another one of the best sessions we’ve had this year. Paul was extremely candid and down to earth, and it was extremely generous of him to take the time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts with us! He has a great philosophy and it was extremely motivating to hear his story!

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