By Roger Pierce
If entrepreneurship means taking risks, David Gagne is a true daredevil.
Spending his days dangling from ropes 30 stories above bustling Toronto streets, Gagne owns a high-rise window washing company called Brilliance Window Cleaning Inc. "I like the heights," he explains. "I like working outside, by myself. If you know what you're doing, it's not so dangerous."
David Gagne has learned he must balance more than a squeegee and bucket to build his successful small business, Brilliance Window Cleaning Inc.
Gagne has learned he must balance more than a squeegee and a bucket to build a successful small business. "My biggest challenge now is finding enough time to do all the work," he says. "You must expect long hours and multi-tasking during your first few years."
His first juggling act was financing. Equipped with a solid business plan, Gagne shopped for start-up funds. "I needed to buy equipment and insurance to get the business rolling, so obtaining capital was critical," he says.
His breakthrough happened with an approval for an $8,500 loan through the My Company Program, an initiative to assist young entrepreneurs created by the Government of Ontario and financed by the Royal Bank.
Money from friends, family and his own pocket was also invested in the new business, allowing him to form a corporation in the spring of 2004.
Successfully negotiating his first major client contract with the Mental Institute of Toronto earlier this year, Brilliance Window Cleaning Inc. has grown quickly and today employs three people.
"Your business changes dramatically when you start to hire," Gagne says. "Suddenly, you're a manager who is responsible for paycheques, workers' compensation, scheduling and so much more."
Learned the ropes
Originally from Quebec City, Gagne, 27, learned the ropes of his trade by working for another window washing company for several years before deciding to be his own boss. That experience taught him how to balance doing the work with managing the work. "During the day, I'm up 20 or 30 stories cleaning windows and at night I'm doing the bookkeeping, paying bills or completing paperwork."
Delegate non-essential functions like book-keeping.
Develop systems in your small biz.
Learn to use personal organizing software such as Microsoft Outlook or ACT! For Windows.
Group common activities together, like phone calls.
Plan your week before Monday.
It's also important to devote ongoing time to securing new clients, otherwise an entrepreneur will work themselves right out of business.
To keep clients happy and to generate referrals, Gagne has learned to create a competitive advantage through quality customer service.
"Our customers like us because we do more than just clean the windows. For instance, if we find minor building or window repairs are needed such as caulking, brickwork or some painting, we'll take care of it while we're up there," he says.
Gagne admits managing these multiple responsibilities and roles can be stressful, but he wouldn't want it any other way. "It's the freedom that attracted me to entrepreneurship," he says. "One shouldn't get discouraged by challenges in a small business -- it's quite natural to have a lot to do. Stay calm, be organized, learn from your mistakes and just keep going!"
-- Entrepreneurship expert Roger Pierce trains people on how to start a small business in the Up & Running Biz Launch Program.
Big brother is watching you
Jumping on the 'brand' wagon
UP & RUNNING- Build a better business than your boss
HEALTH CONNECTION- U of T hosts ALS chair
YOUTH FORCE- No Grade 12 diploma not an obstacle
Think work is boring?
THE NATIONAL JOB FAIR- A world of opportunities
THE NATIONAL JOB FAIR- A world of knowledge awaits job seekers
THE NATIONAL JOB FAIR- Put your best foot forward
THE NATIONAL JOB FAIR- Maximize your prospects