Saturday, November 9, 2013

Treliving's straight-talking memoir contains lessons for life and business

Decisions, Making the Right Ones, Righting the Wrong Ones, 
by Jim Treliving 
Published by Collins, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. (2013)

Jim Treliving is one of the participants on the CBC's top-rated TV show, Dragons' Den. He has been a regular on the show since it first aired in 2006.

I've been a fan of Dragons' Den since the beginning. I enjoy the spontaneous interactions between self-made millionaires and entrepreneurs who are looking for investment dollars - especially the lightning-fast vetting and evaluations that occur after a presentation had been made. It's reality TV at its best.

In 2012, Treliving published his memoir, entitled Decisions, Making the Right Ones, Righting the Wrong Ones, which documents a life spent mostly as an entrepreneur, following an eight-year stint with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This a straight-talking, no-nonsense book filled with valuable life lessons, entertaining anecdotes and business advice from someone who has built one of the most recognizable restaurant franchises in Canada (Boston Pizza). There is a certain cavalier tone to the book in keeping with Treliving's real-life, on-air personality, but it is also painfully honest and transparent when it needs to be. It's a lively memoir filled with energizing tales and homespun philosophy that held my attention from start to finish.

Treliving started working for the RCMP in 1960. In 1968, feeling unfulfilled in his career in law enforcement, Treliving left the RCMP and purchased a Boston Pizza franchise in Penticton, British Columbia. Prior to the career change, he had spent time hanging around the original Boston Pizza restaurant in Edmonton and he liked the people, the atmosphere and the social aspect of operating a busy restaurant. As Treliving explains it,
If I had left the decision to my head, it would have told me I was crazy to leave steady, pensioned pay for something so irregular and unsteady. But money wasn't the draw. The work, the culture, the possibilities were. For me, the restaurant had all the qualities I loved about police work: camaraderie, spontaneity and even shift work and odd hours. In my heart, I knew I was leaving one calling for another.
In Decisions, Treliving is quite open about his failures, struggles and successes in trying to grow the fledgling Boston Pizza franchise. There were missteps, including ill-timed forays into the Chinese and Ontario markets, both of which served as valuable learning experiences. Watching Treliving play the role of a venture capitalist on TV, it's hard to imagine that early on in his business career, he faced serious financial challenges and made mistakes that could have cost him everything. But Treliving was a fast learner: he surrounded himself with good people and seized opportunities when they came along (Treliving's decision to sign Boston Pizza as a vendor at the 1986 Vancouver Expo was a marketing coup that gave the franchise world-wide recognition). Of course, being a visionary with a strong work ethic and sizable ambitions didn't hurt, either.

As Treliving explains, many good decisions that he has made in business were based on old-fashioned instincts, which have always guided him. As he admits early in Decisions, "I make decisions about work with my heart, about money with my head, and about people with my gut." That advice has served him well over the past four and half decades in the business world.

For anyone starting out as an entrepreneur or looking for inspiration from someone who knows what it takes to build a dynamic and successful company from the ground up, Decisions is an entertaining and substantial read, and I would recommend it.

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