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Catching up with Evolving Solutions Chief Love Officer

Chris NadeauHow does “being like water” help an entrepreneur discover his profitable business model?  Chris Nadeau is the founder of Evolving Solutions, a provider of web based and social media tools for small businesses. And a company that recently went through some major changes.

Here are a couple of quotes from the last time I interviewed him, “We were banging our heads against the wall and then a light went on. Everybody needs a website”… “Our motto at the time was, if you risk nothing, you risk everything.”

Those are the challenges for an entrepreneur when building a business and it was inspiring to hear his story from those days. This time, I want to ask him about the challenges a small company has when major changes take place and how that impacts the bottom line.

[Tweet “If you risk nothing, you risk everything. – Chris Nadeau”]

Chris & I also discuss our new collaboration project.

Dave: I’m here at  Shadow Lawn with an old friend Chris Nadeau, and we’re at the  Shadow Lawn for a reason. It’s a place we come, and we’ll talk a bit about collaboration in a second, but this is this fabulous Inn, and we have a networking group that gets together here. Anyway they’re sponsoring us. So we want to do a shout-out to Shadow Lawn. We’re going to talk a little bit about collaboration, but what I want to do is, when I started interviewing, two years ago, you were my first interview.

Chris: Yeah.

Dave: One of the things I noticed already is we’re better looking now that we were a couple of years ago. Our hair lines have receded a bit, but that doesn’t matter. So what has happened, and let’s talk about business. What’s happened for you in Evolving Solutions in the last couple of years?

Chris:  Well, I am forty now, so touching that, but still looking good like you said. For the business, in two years, when we last spoke, we talked about our business model. We were trying to create this product that would create recurring revenue for us, and we’re still on that road. It’s actually worked out well for us, because we’ve had a few changes. My brother, a partner in the business, is still a silent partner in the business, but he’s decided to work outside of the business now, on a daily basis.

So that brought a lot of change to our organization. But having that recurring revenue model helped to protect us during a time of change, because we had so many customers coming and paying on a monthly basis, it helped us do the transition and not worry, where is that money going to come in and pay for the business.

Dave:  It gave you some stability.

Chris:  Exactly.

Dave:  Okay, so when you think about putting this model in place, was there any time when you questioned whether it was the right thing?

Chris:  Never. I always believed for our business, and for us, this is our lifestyle and who we are. I think that’s important when you’re building your business. It has to evolve, or revolve around your lifestyle, as an individual. We chose this path because we realized we didn’t want to be this big, huge company, but we wanted to be stable enough to have money coming in that could support a few of us working in a small company, doing the things that we do. I still believe it’s the way to go, and I still think a lot of businesses can do it, they just really need to look at what they know already as a service company, potentially, and how they can turn it into a product that generates revenue over a monthly basis.

[Tweet “Your business has to evolve, or revolve around your lifestyle. – Chris Nadeau”]

Dave: What do you think stops people from shifting from a more transactional business model, to what you’re describing as a recurring revenue model?

Chris: Fear. It’s a change. You’ve got to change your behavior. A lot of people are still caught in the traditional ways of doing business. This is the way it always was. We decided to step out of that mold a little bit and try the recurring model, along with the transactional piece as well. I’m not saying to go one or the other, but it’s good to have a bit of both. I think the biggest thing is people realizing, if I take the time and sit down and think about a way I could productize what I do already, then you don’t have to be running the roads all the time, and can spend more time with your family. That’s why we did it.

Dave: Okay. So you haven’t looked back. Part of what I really appreciate about you, Chris, is you’re a very authentic guy. You’re out there, and you’re on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, all these places, and you’re very real. You’ve got a sense of who you are. If you look at the past couple of years, would you be willing to share the biggest challenge that you have faced?

Chris: The biggest challenge? I guess I don’t look at challenges anymore like I used to, where I was, how are we going to do this. I read a line from Bruce Lee and I’ve shared it with you often, “Be like water” So when something happens to me that appears like a challenge, I try to be like water and form with it, and make it go.

[Tweet “To face challenges, be like water (Bruce Lee) – Chris Nadeau”]

Dave: I’m trying to be like water. What’s an example of where you’ve been able to apply that principle?

Chris:  Well, let’s use my brother not being involved so much in the company anymore. He was a big part. When we started, it was us two. He was the technical person and I was more the relationship person, with our customers. To have 50% of what you did before leave, I could have shut down or gone in panic mode. But taking the “be like water” mentality, we both figured out a way to make it work for both of us, to make it work for our customers and everyone else we work with, and it turned out very positive. Instead of being very negative and getting in each other’s face or whatever, we decided to really make it work on the positive side and do whatever it is. That’s where “be like water” comes into play.

Dave:  Okay. That’s a great example. I should disclose that I’m a customer, as well as that we collaborate. Certainly on the customer side, I haven’t noticed anything. Nothing had changed, as far as I can tell. Let’s shift the conversation to a topic that you and I, I think our business relationship has evolved in a very collaborative way. I’ve got a coaching tool, that you and Evolving Solutions helped build way back when. Our website is on your platform.  And we’re working together to really take this to another level. I can share my philosophy on this, but what does it take to collaborate?

Chris:  I think it takes a little letting go. We all have our own strengths, and I think it’s important that you’re not great at everything, right? So it’s important, especially where we live, in our area, I think it’s important to collaborate, because if you don’t it can be a tough, tough world trying to build a business. In our situation, you’re really good at what you’re doing, interviewing, leadership stuff, and we’re good at the technical piece, putting things together so that you can spread the word and your message. To me, that’s a perfect partnership.

There are other partnerships that we have, where people are really good at writing content and copy for people, who are our customers, who maybe aren’t so good in that area. We partner with them and put the web structure in place, and they provide the content, so there’s another partnership. I think if we hadn’t have done this, I probably would not be doing this business anymore. Because I think the partnerships have been very important in how our business has grown over the years. My mentality is making sure it looks like something that can fit, and be okay with letting go, not let “how much money am I going to make off of this” be your driving force on partnership. Take a look outside of that and figure out how you can grow the partnership and not think about money all the time.

[Tweet “I think it takes a little letting go to collaborate. – Chris Nadeau”]

Dave:  We’re kind of using partnership and collaboration in the same vein. Has this ever failed for you? Are there any examples of where you’ve tried to collaborate and it just did not work?

Chris:  Yes, it has, and it’s happened a couple of times, more when we first started our business. I think what I talked about as we were first going into it was, “we can make some money doing this”. We’re going in with the wrong kind of mentality, and not really looking at the broader picture and how this could work and how it could grow or whatever. Not on the revenue side, but just overall. That caught us, and those partnerships, or collaborations, never went anywhere.

Dave:  Right. Interesting. So would it be fair to say that, well, one of the things I focus on, and I believe we have this in common, is values, very similar values. Around how we are wanting business to grow, in terms of being profitable, those kinds of things, but also the idea that there’s a high degree of trust involved in collaboration, right? I’m learning that you have to let the relationship grow organically, it has to evolve naturally. If you try to force it, it’s just not going to work. So, what I’m hearing is you’re saying that if profit is the biggest driver, how much money you can make, that for you has not worked.

Chris:  Exactly, for our situation that hasn’t worked. But I’m with you as well, you need to work with people that are on the same wavelength value-wise. I think with any relationship, whether it’s a collaboration or a businees relationship or getting married, I think obviously you’ve got to work at it, but it also has to kind of work naturally.

[Tweet “You need to work with people that are on the same wavelength value-wise. – Chris Nadeau”]

Dave:  Okay. So part of this is, as I mentioned earlier at the start, that we’re at the Shadow Lawn, and we come here with a group of business owners, and we share ideas pretty freely. I think there’s a collaborative approach to how we all talk, and we support each other. Leadership Unleashed was really a result of one breakfast meeting, where I got pushed and heard, “well you’ve got some good content, but it’s not getting you out very far.” You were sitting across the table from me, and it was like, why aren’t we doing this together? Since then it’s amazing what’s happened, I think, from that standpoint. What do you think about the free-flowing share of ideas amongst business owners? How important is that to your business?

Chris:  I think it’s really important. Over the years we haven’t done it on as consistent a basis as we have with our group here at the Shadow Lawn Inn. But I think going into those sorts of things, for us, it’s not about that you come and bring so many referrals, or who’s going to give me business. It’s just talking, having conversation like we’re having here right now, about what our business is doing lately and the struggles we’re having, or the good things we’re having, or how can we do this better, and just being very open and not looking for anything in return.

We’re there to listen and help each other. I’m not going to help you thinking, oh yeah, I helped Dave so maybe we’ll get another website from him or whatever. That’s not what I’m going into it for. I’m going in to really help people and listen, and hopefully get some help in return.

Dave:  Everyone seems to be very candid. So it goes back to trust, which I think supports collaboration. You turned 40 just recently, I’m 39 so you’re older than me. You’ve got another really cool lesson. One was “be like water”.  What’s the other one?

Chris: The other was, “be in the moment”. I read a book a while ago, Eckhart Tolle’s “A New Earth”. And that book actually changed my life. I still struggle with it, I’m not saying I’m in the moment all the time, but when I get antsy or feel like I’m getting outside of the moment, I think of that and it takes me back. Especially when you’re with your young kids, you’ve got to take a step back and say, hey, enjoy this moment no matter what. Or if it’s a painful moment, it’ll go away. Time will pass. That was one of the other ones. And “be like water”.

Dave:  You’ve got a lot of wisdom. How long have you had your business for?

Chris:  Eleven years.

Dave:  Eleven years. What I think it cool, is I find you are always trying to grow and develop yourself in how you approach business, and yet there’s this consistent approach to how you’ve developed and built your business. You’ve been able to be like water and navigate through all the pitfalls. So thanks for talking to me again, two years later.

Chris:  Let’s do it again.

Dave:  We’re going to do it again in another two years, see what else we’ve learned.


About Chris Nadeau
Chris “spreads the love” throughout Evolving Solutions & the Saint John, New Brunswick business community with his true affection for everything to do with the web. A former pro hockey player, Chris is a true “non-techie” that proves that anyone can make their business rock on the web.

Read my first interview with Chris Nadeau…The best way to evolve is to keep it simple.

Sponsor I Mentioned
Shadow Lawn Inn – Nestled in the heart of Rothesay, New Brunswick, nearly a century and a half of charm and hospitality awaits you. Full service convenience and amenities, award winning cuisine, restful accommodations, peaceful seclusion and friendly staff will make your stay truly memorable at this beautiful Atlantic Canadian Inn.  And great coffee too!!!

How do you manage collaboration and change?  Please share in the comments.

18 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for the interview Dave and very excited to be working together with you on Leadership Unleashed.The third lesson I have learned from the last 10 years and forgot in the video 🙂 is "To be kind". Our family likes to practice what the Dalai Lama calls the "Religion of Kindness." :-)Thanks again and also if anyone has any questions for me, please share them in the comments and I will answer them.

  2. Katie Bowden

    Terrific interview! Collaboration is certainly something that is near and dear to us at Duke. We are a creative collective – a group of solo entrepreneurs sharing an office space in uptown Saint John. We are Beth Richardson (event planner), Lindsay Vautour (designer), Christianne Vachon Horgan (translator) and myself – Katie Bowden (writer and marketer). Lise Hansen (designer and currently senior Art Director at Radian6) was also one of our founding members. We work independently, in pairs and as a group, depending on the needs of the project at hand. It’s all about collaboration.It’s a persuasive business model for our clients because it gives them access to senior level strategy and creativity without having to deal with layers of administration, and without having to pay big agency fees.It’s a persuasive business model for us because it makes us more than the sum of our parts. We support each other personally and professionally, in an easygoing way. Sometimes I’m the boss and I bring the client to the table – sometimes I’m not. I can nurture my own business, and I can help move our collective toward our group goals. It’s the best of both worlds. The amazing thing about it is that we’ve become each other’s best business development tool. My favourite thing is when we have a prospective client into the office, and we do the roundtable introduction – everyone says who they are and what they do, and then the others jump in and say the wonderful things we would never say about ourselves. It’s so great. We extend our collaboration outside of our office by staying in regular contact with our favourite suppliers and friends in the business. Our boardroom is always available for friends needing a meeting space, and we encourage drop-in visits to wrestle with business problems, brainstorm ideas and just generally hang out. We like to say it’s a day at work and a dinner party all rolled into one.Collaboration for us is about giving. It’s about genuinely wanting to help a peer and see them succeed without thinking – what’s in it for me? It’s also very much about "being like water". We have our own acronym for that: WFIO…wiffeeo, or "we’ll figure it out". It’s about approaching opportunities and challenges calmly and as a group. I personally think this approach is a perfect fit for a place like Saint John. The close-knit business community here is all about the power of networks. Some people think going into business means you must go to war and compete with everyone. But in SJ you’re better off being like water. Anyhow, congratulations on the interview and on the group! We love Shadow Lawn – give Jamie a big hello for us next time you’re there!

  3. Anonymous

    @katie_bowden Katie, I have seen the Duke group in action. It is amazing and I love what you guys have done and are doing. Very inspiring!We can all learn from you. Thank you for sharing your experience and insights. Awesome!!

  4. LyndaCollrin

    Thanks for sharing your experience and the lessons you have learnt with us – for us collaboration is key to our success. And yes I am finally on Twitter because of your influence of what social media can do for us.

  5. Anonymous

    Lynda, thanks for watching and it was my pleasure sharing. Good luck with Twitter and let me know if you have any questions.

  6. Anonymous

    Nice to read the comments here and on FaceBook. Really appreciate Katie sharing how Duke is collaborating – very cool!I can also relate to Lynda being tweeting because of Chris’ influence! Thanks again, Chris.

  7. Anonymous

    <p>This is Duke is really leading by example.</p> <p>Dave, thanks for giving us a venue to share our stories and experiences.</p>

  8. Shanna Mann

    Hey Chris, you’ve made me think too. I love a good challenge, but how would my response change if I were more like water? Something to ponder…

  9. Shanna Mann

    Bruce Lee was badass! I had heard it, but more in the context of struggle and surviving adversity…whereas I find challenges mostly pleasurable and suddenly I found myself wondering if I was just throwing myself at challenges like a green army recruit throwing himself at the wall, and suddenly I realized I had a lot to think about!

  10. HectorAvellaned

    Love what you had to say about the mindset of building partnerships in business. I am actually readin a book that relates to this topic. One of the mistakes people make is that they network and build business relationships with the expectation to ‘make money’ – recipe for failure!

  11. Anonymous

    Thanks for checking out the interview Hector. What book are you reading? Would love to check it out. Thanks!

  12. Anonymous

    This is very timely for me as I’ll be looking for a collaborator in the next phase of my business. While money and profitability is a key driver in a business relationship, we must not overlook the importance of shared value and vision. I was listening to an interview on Mixergy recently where the co-founder of WPEngine told the story of how he and his co-founder eventually parted ways. It was due to a fundamental difference in how they approach customer service that led to the amicable breakup. He was quick to point out that it was not a matter of who’s right or wrong. It was just a matter of a difference in business philosophy…one that they could not overcome.I believe a discussion about value and vision is an important conversation that everyone should have at the beginning of any collaborative effort. Don’t just talk about the product or service you’ll be providing. Talk about the business model alongside the vision you have for the company. If you and a collaborator cannot see eye to eye at this early stage, it’s a big red flag that you need to re-evaluate the partnership before going any further.

  13. Anonymous

    <div class="gmail_extra">Thanks for sharing the WPEngine story. ??It is so true…it's not about right or wrong. ??It just &quot;is what it is&quot; and this is where letting go is very powerful and helpful. ??Thanks Jeanne!<br> <br><br></div>

  14. Anonymous

    Also, Jeanne, good luck in your quest for a collaborator. You know where to find us if you ever have any questions.

  15. Ryan Hanley

    Very good interview! I too like your ideas on business partnerships… The connections and relationships we build are so important to our success.In my opinion a strong network of business relationships is the important asset a business can have!Thanks,Ryan H.

  16. Jay Remer

    This interview formed the basis for one of my columns, The Etiquette of Collaboration. These two gentlemen are so generous in sharing their expertise and experience that their inspiration is infectious. To read my thoughts on the subject, may I direct you to the following link?

  17. Anonymous

    Great stuff Jay! ??As I mentioned on your blog in the comments, I loved your take on this. ??Awesome!

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