Living in between both Toronto and Montreal, Jean Claude Awwad first began his business at the age of 23 in the sales and installation of commercial van and truck equipment.
Jean Claude Awwad was able to grow his first business to employ over 25 people. This business was a great experience in terms of understanding the importance of sales and marketing, establishing a competitive advantage, and implementing proper operation systems and controls. This experience led Jean Claude Awwad to cofound a second company that generated an 8-figure yearly revenue within 6 years.
Why did you decide to create your own business?
I have always liked the idea of being independent in how I would earn a living since an early age. Many people in my family and surroundings had businesses and I looked up to a few of them. I guess this influenced me to jump right into it.
I have a lot of entrepreneurs in my family and surrounding me from a young age, and I was encouraged at a young age to start small businesses, like when I was 14-15, but they were not much at all. I began my first serious business at the age of 23 and it grew to have over 25 employees and six figure revenues. I was able to achieve this business success by making use of competitive strategies. We were always able to position ourselves properly in the market and make use of the right competitive advantages. Knowing how to properly market and sell your product is a major advantage as well.
What keeps you motivated?
I like to create, and in business you get plenty of opportunities to do so. A big motivation for me is starting something and seeing it mature and become fruitful. Of course, I also have personal goals that I want to accomplish in my lifetime. Setting these goals and striving to reach them is always a motivation for me.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Inspiration is everywhere, whether in nature, people that you meet, or books that you read. I think you just have to have an open mind and you can be inspired from the smallest encounters.
How do you maintain a solid work life balance?
This has been a struggle for me, especially when I was trying to grow my businesses. I consider that I have lost a lot in terms of my personal life during the last 18 years as I focused on starting and developing my businesses. I believe I am a bit better at having that needed balance now, and I try to spend more time with the people I care for and doing the things that I love. However, it is still difficult to achieve complete balance when you are running a business.
What has been the hardest obstacle you’ve overcome?
Having to close down a business was a really tough thing to go through. Your business can easily become your life, and if you have to close down a business after putting so many years into it and seeing it grow and succeed for many years, it can leave scars. But it is not necessarily a bad thing as it teaches you a lot about life and business. What’s important is to pick yourself back up and move on to the next thing.
Some of the most valuable lessons learned from the closure of this business was the importance of diversification. After years of growth and success, the company had to close down mainly due to a change in government policy regarding the industry. We had all our eggs in one basket, and we paid the price.
What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?
Never give up. We all face challenges and sometimes it is due to our own faults and sometimes its due to external forces. Either way you have to keep on moving ahead, focus on your goals, and never give up.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to others?
My advice to business owners and entrepreneurs is that you have to learn how to perfect the art of selling and marketing yourself and your company. You will be surprised how many businesses with great products and ideas lack the ability to sell properly. Knowing how to sell opened so many doors for me and my businesses.
What is the biggest life lesson you have learned?
Life is full of ups and downs, but what’s important is not to let either define who you are. These are only stages in life, and you have to stay true to who you are and what’s important in your life. It’s all a matter of perception.
Outside of work, what defines you as a person?
I like to spend time with people I care for, and definitely appreciate time alone. I think that spending time alone allows you to unwind, put things into perspective regarding your personal life. Some of the things that I enjoy are sailing, camping, traveling and the outdoors in general. I also enjoy making hot sauces which has recently become a passion of mine.