¢ In 1977, Moore acquires M.J. Campbell Moving and Storage, a two-location business with sales of $250,000; adds an A to the name to get a forward listing in the Yellow Pages
¢ In 1998, named Atlantic Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year in the Master Entrepreneur category
¢ Leaves AMJ in 1999, when it enjoyed annual sales of $125 million and 44 locations; starts Premiere Executive Suites the same year
¢ Receives the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 for his “outstanding and exemplary contributions” to Canada
¢ In 2006, Premiere makes its first of three appearances on the PROFIT 100 list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies, ranking 42nd
¢ From 2005 through 2007, Moore launches companies in moving, mortgage brokerage, leasing and self-storage, all under the Premiere banner Over the course of your entrepreneurial career, you’ve been involved in many different businesses: moving, storage, accommodation and now lending. What is the one thread that ties them all together?
The commonality is the quality, the character and the talent of the people I bring into the organizations. How do I spot them? It could be their presentation, their smile or their level of confidence. Another common element is the culture. The same culture of respect, openness, great attitude and great work ethic permeates all of the different businesses.
What are your criteria for determining whether you’ll invest in a business opportunity, be it a new company or a real estate property?
I always ask myself, “If I opened this type of business, would I have enough people who would use the product or the service?” For every company I’ve started—whether moving, or executive suites or the mortgage business that we’re big into right now—90% of the population is a potential customer of that company. That means there’s a lot of competition as well. But that doesn’t bother me. As far as real estate goes, I’m a bit of a scavenger. I’m looking for things that have enormous upside, that very often double in value. I don’t apologize that I’m in business to make money.
Some of your companies have had to go up against big, established competitors. What lessons have you learned about entering a market in which there are already one or two dominant players?
You have to keep your focus and do what you do well. And you have to learn to be tough! If every little thing is going to worry you because there’s a big player out there, you’re never going to go anywhere. Just worry about yourself. Do things better than everybody else; differentiate yourself from the competition. But, at the same time, you have to communicate with the competition, co-operate with the competition and learn to love your competition. I often call up my competitors and say, “I know we compete against each other, but there may be times that we can help each other out.” With Premiere Executive Suites, there have been many occasions when our suites were completely full. Because we have a relationship with the competition, we can send the client there. We’ll do the billings, but we’ll use their units.
How should an entrepreneur assess whether their business model would work as a franchise?
Before you franchise, make sure you’re successful in the business you’re in. Get all the kinks out. Learn the idiosyncrasies of the business, the highs and lows of the business, and know it intimately. And know for sure that the product will work in other parts of the country. As far as selecting franchisees, you have to make sure that they fit the culture.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a schoolteacher. I taught for two years in Ontario, grades seven and eight. I had two of the best years of my life teaching. Before I taught, I had low self-esteem and no confidence. Teaching helped me come out of myself.
At AMJ Campbell and in the earlier days of Premiere Executive Suites, you always partnered with local operators whom you required to take an equity stake in the business. Why is this important?
When you create a partner, you get a different mentality—they develop a sense of ownership, a sense of pride and a sense of being part of a club—they get to put “Partner” on their business cards. And that has worked wonders. I’m not saying it has never had its problems, because I’ve had hundreds of partners, and, yes, I’ve had the odd problem. But, almost without exception, it has been a wonderful success for me.
How do you structure your partnerships, and how do you manage breakups?
I try to keep majority ownership, especially if I have any doubts about the individual. I’m not intimidated by having minority ownership if I feel I’m in with the right partner, though. My experience has been that when you get a partner who doesn’t work out, you usually agree to disagree and they leave—or you don’t pay them enough money and they leave. If you’ve retained majority ownership, you have the final say and you can make their life miserable if you want to. It has been very rare that I’ve had to do that. Usually, if it’s not working out, one will buy out the other and we’ll move on.
You’re a warm, friendly and easygoing person, but you also demand high performance from your people. What’s your advice for entrepreneurs who have trouble initiating those “difficult conversations” with underperforming employees?
The first thing you have to do is treat everybody in your employ, whether they’re having problems or not, with dignity and respect. That being said, lay down the ground rules. Tell them what you expect of them. They have to produce and pay their way. I’m no different. I might be president of the company, but I have to produce and pay my way. And if I don’t produce and pay my way, you know what? I’m gonna be out of a job. I’ve said many times in my career that I’m no different from the people who drive our trucks or clean our suites: we’re all here to be professional, to take pride in what we’re doing. If you don’t do it, I’ll talk to you once, maybe twice. I won’t talk to you a third time. I’ve terminated more people in my career than people would ever believe. I have an easygoing style, but I have another side to me where I can get tough when I’ve got to get tough.
How would you like your epitaph to read?
“He was a man who treated everybody with dignity and respect and harboured no ill feelings against anyone.” That’s what is really important in life—honour and integrity and credibility. You have nothing else at the end of the day, so if you violate those principles, I don’t think you’ll ever be totally happy.