Debrief of Domain Expert (Interview)


Students are asked to: find something they want to know more about; locate and expert; then report what they learned. The assignment was worth ten points toward their final mark. The student was enrolled in a third year new venture creation class.

The Interview

I interviewed Joe Kowalski, owner and founder of Wilderness Tours (WT). WT is a white water rafting company on the Ottawa River, about an hour and a half North-West of Ottawa. Mr. Kowalski founded WT in 1975 and the company is still successful and expanding. During the interview, I learned many lessons. Some expected and others unexpected.

What I learned:
I learned that to be an entrepreneur, it's best to be multi-functional. If you have skills in different areas instead of only one concentration, you'll be better off. This will allow you to understand all aspects of your
business, from accounting to legal documents. Experts don't always have the best answers and you need to be able to take the information they give you and add a bit of your own.

As your company grows, restructuring is important. One person can't do everything, and there are not enough hours in a day. Having managers and people to share the tasks with is essential. This also allows for a wider opinion on dealing with situations.

Apply your interest and hobbies to your job. It makes work enjoyable and allows for vacations. In Joe Kowalski's case, he runs a white water resort. Due to this fact, he gets to travel while he works. He explores other rivers around the world all while making his business a greater success.

Expected Lessons:
Mr. Kowalski said, "if you wish to be successful you need to invest all your time at the beginning". An average working day for Joe would be from 8am to midnight. There is a lot of work to be done while starting up a business and this is the only way you're going to make ends meet. While starting off a business, you are usually working on your own for the first little while. Which means that you need to do everything and that takes time.

Learn from your mistakes, takes risks and give people more than they expect are all things Mr. Kowalski mentioned during the interview. Learning from your mistakes is the best way to learn because you never forget the consequences. Giving customers more than they expect is a guaranty that they will return. Show the costumer that they get more for there money.

Unexpected Lessons:
Management on you feet (MOYF), this means that you need to have managers that do more than just sit behind a desk. Management needs to be active. They need to be out there with the employees and the costumers. Mr. Kowalski still guides white water trips during the summer. It's important not to distance yourself from what is actually going on.

In a company that has many branches, it's important to have many partners. It is important to have at least one owner at each company, especially if they are spread apart. Having an owner at each company allows things to run smoothly and allows for quick changes when things are needed.

Once you get through one door of opportunity, there is always a next. If you love your job, you never want to retire because there are constantly new challenges. Your company is like a big toy set, you create a vision and you build it.

How I will Apply what I've Learned:
I learned many things during my interview with Joe Kowalski as well as widen my knowledge on how to start and run a business. I know what works and what doesn't and I've added all this information to my personal script. I will apply what I learned in making decision in class and even when I open my own business.