Take care of your employees and they will take care of you. I want to make sure my employees feel respected and valued. When the pandemic first began, I was immensely proud of the way my team rallied together and organized to help shift gears even though it wasn’t going to be business as usual. I don’t think I could have pulled this off without the support of my great team.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daud Grewal.
Daud Grewal is the Founder and CEO of See Sight Tours, a small-group tour operator based in Niagara Falls, Ontario with over a dozen locations across Canada and the USA. Grewal grew up in Ontario and started the company as a teenager with the help of his beloved mother. When not working, he enjoys spending quality time with his wife and children.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I have always been especially close with my mom. When working as a parking lot attendant one summer while I was in high school, I would notice all of these crowded tour buses filling up the area. I thought to myself that I could give a better experience than tourists here were used to getting. I know the area well since I was born and raised here. I can give a more personal experience using my mother’s minivan for tours. That’s how the idea got started.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There’s a Richard Branson quote where he says, “My normal approach to life is to say screw it, let’s do it.” I think every entrepreneur has to have it in them to take a leap of faith and take some chances outside the norm. Doing so has served me well so far. I take calculated risks and not every risk I’ve taken has panned out, but many have.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I would have to say Principles by Ray Dalio. I think it resonates so much because when you’re an entrepreneur, especially a new one, you need to be open to feedback and change. There’s no way one person can possibly know everything, and the tools taught in this book teach you to use feedback for continual improvement.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
I started my tour company, See Sight Tours, in 2006. I would give private tours of Niagara Falls. By 2019 I was offering tours in 8 locations and had also acquired a jet boat company in Saint John, New Brunswick which we named See Sight Jetboats. We have been fortunate to make a big name for ourselves after being recognized as one of the Top 10 Experiences in the World by TripAdvisor in 2018 and also as the #1 Experience in Canada that same year. During the peak summer days, it would not be unusual for us to serve over 200 tour guests per day. For 2020, we had planned to expand to 7 additional locations. We had already begun the process of hiring managers for the new areas, designing tours and pre-selling them.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
Back in late March during the initial lockdown, we decided to take on Amazon package deliveries. We started with one city and have expanded to 5 cities across Canada (predominantly in the East Coast).
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
When lockdown happened, we were no longer permitted to operate as a tour operator. Even before that though, the cancellations were pouring in and there was a lot of uncertainty so we knew we had to pivot. We had been discussing for weeks what our backup plan was going to be. Basically, it came down to looking at what resources did we currently have that could be utilized and what can we re-train our staff to do fairly easily. We considered many outside-the-box ideas including food delivery, laundry services, even lawn maintenance before landing on Amazon package delivery.
How are things going with this new initiative?
As mentioned above, we are now operating in 5 different Canadian cities (predominantly in the East Coast). We had some initial challenges with being able to hire enough staff, vehicle maintenance and some other minor challenges but we’ve managed to get things to a point where they are running pretty smoothly now.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m definitely grateful towards my mom for helping me get to where I am today. She lent me her minivan and let me use her garage as office space when I was just getting started with my tour company and provided me with a small loan to get things off the ground. She’s been supportive since day 1.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
It’s hard to say which is the “most interesting” but there has certainly been some funny stories that have happened along the way. While trying to balance both operations, one of our managers was out delivering packages while we had a manager’s meeting so they pulled over while doing deliveries and called into the meeting. I guess the person’s house that they were pulled over in front of must’ve been excited about the package they were expecting because part way through our meeting they came up to the car to ask if they had it. He did actually have a package for that house and handed it over. The customer was grateful and then we continued on with our meeting. Just another fun day with multi-tasking!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t walk before you can crawl and don’t run before you can walk. If you have no experience running a small business, use the capital you have and don’t spend large amounts of cash even if it is available to you.
- You are going to make a lot of mistakes, you will burn cash and cash burns fast. Twenty dollars burns as fast as a hundred thousand dollars when you don’t know what you are doing. Better to limit the harm until you have gained some experience and understand the pitfalls of running a small business.
- Once you start to grow, take risks but in a controlled manner. When we first started expanding to other cities, we tried to grow too quickly without taking the time to figure out how to make sure our culture and processes would work in a new area. We’ve since learned from that and have a much more controlled methodology for expansion.
- I’d say it’s important to make sure you’re ready to adapt and make changes as necessary in business. Changes in the industry happen a lot. I’ve seen a lot of change happen in the tourism industry over the past few years and thankfully I had the foresight to get ahead of the curve most of the time. Even as recently as 2019, a large percentage of tour operators in the world were selling tickets in person only or predominantly in-person which can make pre-sales and predicting revenue very difficult. Thankfully, we were ahead of that problem but as we know, this year brought its own set of challenges.
- Take care of your employees and they will take care of you. I want to make sure my employees feel respected and valued. When the pandemic first began, I was immensely proud of the way my team rallied together and organized to help shift gears even though it wasn’t going to be business as usual. I don’t think I could have pulled this off without the support of my great team.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
In general, people would describe me as someone with a positive attitude. I try to make sure I’m prepared for a worst-case scenario and if things go better than that, then that’s great! I also make sure to create a schedule that works for me and the way I work best. I start my days early so I can finish early and spend my afternoon focusing on the important things, like spending time with my family.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
In general, I like to support humanitarian causes that help the most vulnerable people in society. I support a few organizations that are involved with this type of work such as women’s shelters and food banks. These are the types of movements and organizations that I think bring a lot of good to a lot of people.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
All my loved ones that I haven’t been able to see during this pandemic.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!