George Scorsis, who spends his time working between Toronto and the Florida area, has spent 15+ years leading companies in highly regulated industries to rapid growth. We sat down with the executive to discuss his unique insights into business building and leadership.
Q: You helped lead Red Bull for a number of years and have also led several initiatives around introducing, creating and maintaining demand for consumer products. What is your process for assessing customer needs and developing strategies to meet them?
George Scorsis: Most organizations start with a product offering at the core of their decisions rather than the consumer. In order to be successful, you need to start with the consumer to understand their evolving behaviors. What do consumers want to buy and when, where, and why they want to buy it — to capture adjacent white spaces so you are not in the business of creating a value proposition that is already available in the space.
Then you will need to design your internal organization to build on the necessary core strengths whether it’s manufacturing, sales and marketing, or research—and outsource the rest. This ultimately needs to be layered with strong leadership. Stay disciplined in your approach and relentless in delivering against what the consumer wants and ensure that it rips through the principles of the organization.
Q: In your experience as a business leader, how have you gone about building the right teams for specific initiatives?
George Scorsis: Your core team is the most critical aspect to the success of the organization. When I was younger I always looked at the traditional attributes of a potential employee to make a decision on whether they would be a good member of the team, such as their education and experience. But, I realized quickly that many of them were struggling within a start up environment because they simply didn’t fit the culture.
Cultural fit means matching people together and matching people to the situation and organization itself. Some people have the right mindset to work in a start-up environment, others require the increased structure and struggle in a nimble organization. I look for individuals who can act as force multipliers and take on tasks and roles beyond their titles. I also like to build a value system within the organization of three principles being trust, empowerment, and accountability. This ultimately allows the organization to act more dynamically.
Q: For those who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs, what are the three most important things they should consider before launching a company?
George Scorsis: Be Prepared to Lose It All: Often times, I ask individuals if they are ready to lose it all, every dollar that they have invested, their work life balance and even their ability to have other sources of income. You need to be 100% committed to the project and everything else will be a distraction until it gets to the next phase of the business. Also, there is a harsh reality that the majority of startups don’t succeed, so if you do not have that pain tolerance, this isn’t for you.
Have a Strong Ecosystem: Many entrepreneurs who I have seen be successful generally have a strong network. Those who they can call for advice, networking, or even a favor. You need to be nimble and be able to call on others for help because being an entrepreneur is often a lonely place.
You are the Company’s Best Consultant: May entrepreneurs often call on consultants that have certain subject matter expertise to assist. If you build a business around consultants you will quickly lose control of your business and also not have the capital to execute. You ultimately need to know the business better than anyone else and be your own consultant. Learn about the segment you are targeting and follow your instinct.
Q: Many entrepreneurs and business leaders have to rely on venture capital when it comes to some business financing. What do you believe is the key to developing a strong, effective value proposition to potential investors in a business?
George Scorsis: If you are going into the process of finding investors without a plan that has a clear value proposition than you will struggle to find investors. Investors are looking for you to be the subject matter expert and define what the white space is that you will target. Investors are inundated with opportunities to fund businesses and if you can’t define why yours is differentiated with you at the helm, they will quickly lose interest. On the flip side you also need to find investors who have a common interest in the purpose of the proposition so you are always aligned on the short, medium, and long term goals of the organization. Investors can either be your greatest partner or inhibit the organization from growth.
Q: You travel regularly between Canada and Florida for business. How important is geography as a factor when starting a business?
George Scorsis: You need to be close to the business. You need to be involved in it day to day and being part of the inner workings to be able to quickly identify opportunities or breaking points. Even in an age of technology that allows you to manage remotely, you will quickly lose sight of the essence of the business. Starting a business needs your 100% commitment to being part of the operations, people, and consumer daily and I believe being there physically demonstrates good leadership and it is impossible to do it without. Remember, you are the DNA of the company, and without you, the organization loses sight of what is important.
Q: What have you learned from your mentors over the years and how has it helped you to achieve success in your endeavors?
George Scorsis: I have been fortunate enough to have strong mentors throughout my career. All of them have helped shape me in my beliefs today and have refined me as I have developed.
I would say that all of them have contributed to who I am today and their different styles and mentorship have equipped me with the right tools to understand how to be successful in various situations. Even today, I still look for mentorship because I believe you can always learn more, learn about new things, and understand new segments. Although with all of differing leaders that have mentored me they have all had 3 common attributes. They have all been passionate about the business. All of them have been great communicators and were able to help everyone understand what was important for the business to be successful. Lastly, an understated leadership quality is humility. I have always followed those that are humble and are not scared to show that they have weaknesses.