The Chemistry Behind Building Seven Successful Businesses

Bonnie Elgie

Chris Micetich is a serial entrepreneur whose latest venture is driving innovation in Alberta through a disruptive pre-accelerator program that he developed called Innovation Masterminds Edmonton (imYEG). He spoke with BTF to share his personal philosophy on entrepreneurship. In this article, you will learn:

  • five secrets to becoming a better businessperson
  • how to commercialize innovative ideas
  • why it’s important to converse with pilots
  • why you should think about exiting your company from the beginning

You’ve worked hard to create a bright future for your family. Our team is here to help you navigate key life decisions, showing you the options so you can make choices with confidence.

After founding seven successful companies, Chris Micetich is a bona fide serial entrepreneur. Now he’s putting his experience in pharmaceutical innovation to work as the mastermind behind an innovative new accelerator program designed in collaboration with the University of Alberta that is celebrating great early success.

Familiar with Chris’ vast experience working in the entrepreneurial business community, directing on boards and with mentoring incubators, the U of A was particularly interested in hearing his take on advancing innovation within the walls of academia. Chris very much based the unique program on personal experiences from his early years in business.

Chris’ story begins with a bit of irony in that in his first year of university he majored in chemistry. His dad was a world-renowned chemist, but Chris soon realized that was his dad’s strength, not his. He says, “I always enjoyed turning on light bulbs, and particularly helping kids to realize how their individual skills could work with other kids’ unique skills to make really exciting things happen.” Taking his own advice, he switched to education.

However, chemistry soon called him back, when just a year into his teaching career, his dad approached him to help launch a new pharmaceutical company. It was a joint venture with a major Japanese company. The father-son duo would team up in his Father’s minority owned business to grow the business, a challenging situation for even seasoned businesspeople. The experience would provide Chris with learning experiences that would shape his life.

Exit advice from Chris Micetich:

Think about exiting from the beginning! If you have partners, 100% of the time you will be tested and to protect your relationships, start with a unanimous shareholders agreement. When things are amicable, discuss all and worst-case scenarios so that if it doesn't work you know how you’ll part ways. The more successful you are, the more difficult parting will be.

Always, always look at the exit first and then work your way to it – for example, if acquisition is your target, who are the potential suitors and what they looking for? Then, start creating your idea, your target product profile (TPP), your approach so that, the most sought after downstream suitors will be interested when you’re ready. Get the validation first, and then build, you’ll always be more successful if you do that.

“I had no idea at the time that I was an entrepreneur who would someday be running my own business,” says Chris. “I firmly believe that entrepreneurs are born, not created.” There were many key incidents early in his employment with his father, that awakened the entrepreneurial spirit within and helped him learn important lessons that he attributes to his success.

One such learning experience came after the pair had built up the business to over 60 employees. They learned of an attempted takeover plot by two of the company’s directors. “I had to dig really deep and prove myself. It was at this point that I decided to become a more dominant player in the business. We fired those two employees and never looked back.”

Lessons learned:

  • All the experience, good or bad, prepares you for what's to come next, and understanding that can shift your thinking.
  • You learn more from failing than you do from succeeding. Following that philosophy means you’ll become much less afraid of taking chances.
  • Establish a strong sense of self-awareness. Be honest with yourself and recognize all the things you’re bad at doing and then surround yourself with people better at those things.
  • People are your greatest assets and treat them accordingly. My father taught me this, he was a kind and altruistic man who treated everyone well, even his enemies. It always paid dividends.
  • Quit worrying about making the best decision. Just make the decision and then make that be the right decision.

“I view myself as a builder and I like to create things virtually from scratch. It's really motivating to see an idea take on a life of its own and get rolling. For any company I've created or any pursuit I’ve followed, I haven't paid attention to the Joneses, I've always done what I thought made sense. In that, I've learned that everything I do builds on to what I did previously and added to what I'm doing today. I've just always been internally driven to build. And that's my internal motivation.”

It was Chris’ success at building successful companies that led to his invitation to create an original new program and partnership between the University of Alberta and Brass Dome Ventures called Innovation Masterminds Edmonton (imYEG). It is designed to advance innovation among academic researchers for the benefit of a more diversified economy.

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Chris believed that with plenty of money available for oil and gas operations and start-ups, and success coming easily from following the tried-and-true approach, the environment had not nurtured much collaboration or innovation. He says, “Frankly, there wasn’t much interest or need on either side, academia or in the oil and gas sector, for collaboration.”

When the oil and gas industry crashed, focus was forced to shift to diversification, and it was as a catalyst for developing as a province of innovation. Chris states, “We suddenly began seeing various sectors and R&D groups having trouble working together. Academia realized that they wanted to understand how to advance innovation, especially within their own walls.”

What resulted is a pre-accelerator program that helps post-secondary researchers advance innovation and successful commercial ventures. It’s a mentorship-based program that attracted 41 business founders and counting. “We prepare researchers for presentation to our “imYEG Counsel of Founders”, who then provide input and mentorship on taking their ideas commercial,” explains Chris. Launched just last year, the program is already proving successful.

Chris says it’s extremely rewarding to disrupt the ecosystem. “The program is created by industry, facilitated by industry, and driven by industry. It's a unique program to what all others offer targeting an unmet niche found in post secondary institutes where the greatest sources of innovation are found. What really makes us different is that we assemble the tried, tested and proven entrepreneurs and take a deep-dive at the start of the innovation process—it reveals strong insights.”

Book called One Day You'll Understand.
In his book, Chris Micetich takes readers through his journey from schoolteacher to successful serial entrepreneur. He shows you how to gain confidence and stamp out self-doubt, and to build up your own entrepreneurial spirit.

“If you want to learn to fly plane, would you ask the flight attendant or the pilot? And, if that pilot crashed two or three times and survived, you would definitely want to talk to that pilot.” The program is centred around that type of thinking -- if you want to learn how to move innovation, to learn how to create a business, and learn how to survive in the business world, your most valuable move is to go to the people who’ve been there, done it and are still doing it.

Chris Micetich will be doing just that at the Business Transitions Forum in Edmonton happening May 11th. Hear him share his advice and insights into what he’s learned as he successfully transitions from one business to the next in the panel discussion titled Exit Stories; The Good, The Bad & The Different.

Find out more and register here: