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Success comes from a leader’s willingness to fail

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Published Thursday, March 10th, 2011  Photo: Noel Chenier/Telegraph-Journal

Dave Veale interviews Wayne Chamberlain, VP Marketing & Founder, of Anyware Group as part of the Leadership Unleashed series of interviews with leaders.

Wayne Chamberlain does not mince his words as he speaks candidly about business success depending on a leader’s ‘willingness to fail’. He is speaking from experience – he has been there.

I learned long ago that he is a courageous guy who, like many true entrepreneurs, has experienced both the ups and the downs that accompany building a business.

In 1999, Chamberlain was one of the five original founders of AnyWare Group which, over the years, has emerged as a leading supplier of portal solutions for the health-care sector. The Saint John-based information technology company has an interesting history that started with employees working all over the world, consulting to cellular companies. When this line of business started disappearing, AnyWare Group had to reinvent itself and in the process found an interesting niche in the health-care IT sector.

I started our interview by asking Wayne how, and why, AnyWare Group transitioned from a successful consulting firm into a company providing health care with IT products.

A: We started as a consulting company serving international cellular companies in North and South America as well as the Caribbean. When the tech bubble burst we had a choice – we could shut down or reinvest our profits in an attempt to reinvent the company.
We chose to reinvent the company with a focus on building a product/service that was not consulting based.

We tried a number of managed service offerings and software products before landing on ROAM. ROAM, our flagship product, is a portal-based remote access solution that gives employees secure access to their organizations’ resources. With the launch of our second product last year, AnyWare Group is now in the business of providing portal solutions to health-care organizations. This second product is a portal designed for patients wanting to manage their health, access parts of their medical information (such as test results) and interact with the health-care providers online.

Q: How did you get into the health-care IT space?

A: When we developed ROAM, we actually started by selling it across all industry verticals. We had some initial success in a few verticals, but found it hard to grow within these. Our first customer in the health-care space was the former Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation and we used this customer as a reference point for calling on health-care organizations around North America.

It turned out that it was actually a super sales guy from Saint John, Marc Coffin, who helped us focus on health care. Marc secured two large influential health-care customers in Ontario and from there on in AnyWare focused on the health-care space.

Q: What are the most important lessons you’ve learned as a founding member of AnyWare Group’s leadership team?

A: There are three points I try not to forget: One is to beware of people who use the word “I” too often when talking about past accomplishments. The second thing is to surround myself with a team smarter than me. Equally important is surrounding myself with a team that has the same level of motivation as I do. The final point is more time, more money and more people is not a solution … it is a default setting.

[Tweet “…more time, more money and more people is not a solution… – Wayne Chamberlain”]

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A: A good friend describes my style as the servant leader with high expectations of myself and the team. To me, a servant leader does not ask someone to do something they are not ready to do themselves. When given two tasks, the servant leader takes the least pleasant and assigns the other. I see my role as creating the environment where the team can excel. My communication style tends to be very direct.

[Tweet “When given 2 tasks, the servant leader takes the least pleasant and assigns the other. – Wayne Chamberlain”]

Q: From your perspective, what are the leadership qualities required for a New Brunswick company to thrive in the IT sector?

A: I’m not sure there is anything unique about the IT sector versus other sectors. In the end, to be successful a company needs to be able to execute. Execution in any industry requires a vision, a well-communicated plan and the steadfastness to see the plan through its darkest hour.

There also needs to be a willingness to fail. I love the Edison quote “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Entrepreneurs and leaders learn from ideas that did not work and are better prepared the next time. We need more people trying and failing in New Brunswick … that will lead to more success. We tend to try to de-risk everything and thereby limit the opportunity.

Q: As you look over the last 12 years, what company accomplishments are you most proud of?

A: Firstly, that we built a product here in New Brunswick and have sold it across North America. Secondly, I am proud of my continued relationship with co-founders Yves and Steve Parent. To have relationships that have survived over a decade of difficult business decisions is something special to me.

Q: From a leadership perspective, what do you find are the toughest decisions you have to make?

A: The toughest decisions have been around adding and removing team members. Adding the wrong person can be a major setback. On the other side, any time you remove a team member, you know that impacts them and their family.

[Tweet “The toughest decisions have been around adding and removing team members. – Wayne Chamberlain”]

Q: Who inspires you?

A: Inspiration comes from having perspective. My wife inspires me to be better every day, my daughter to appreciate every day and the team at AnyWare to match their effort.

Q: What’s the best business advice you have been given?

A: Two things I have been told and have found to be true … When dealing with people, do not listen to a person’s words, watch their actions. When running a business, cash is king … hold on to it.

[Tweet “When running a business, cash is king … hold on to it. – Wayne Chamberlain”]

Q: Please finish this sentence, ‘a leader’s job is to … ‘

A: Pave the road for the team, make decisions and take responsibility.

Dave Veale is a business and leadership coach and founder of Vision Coaching Inc. in Saint John. Email Dave at Dave@VisionCoachingInc.com or follow him on twitter @dave_veale. Don’t miss any of Dave’s interviews with leaders…get blog updates in your inbox by signing up over here, at the top of the right column ==>

 

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