Welcome to 7 Questions, a new department in which entrepreneurial innovators offer a window into what makes them tick.

Hamed Shahbazi

In this installation, we talk to Hamed Shahbazi. Shahbazi is the CEO of TIO Networks, a PROFIT 500-winning Vancouver-based firm that provides technology to facilitate payments for telecom and utilities companies, among others. TIO has had a big year. In January, the company completed the acquisition of Globex Financial Services, which dramatically increased its profile in the U.S. In October, BNN’s Business Day AM named TIO one of the most promising small companies traded on the TSX. And recent preliminary financial results show triple-digit growth in both revenue and user transactions. Not bad for a business Shahbazi started fresh out of university in 1997.

We asked Shahbazi to shed some insight into what makes his entrepreneurial life so rewarding:

Question 1: When did you know you wanted to become an entrepreneur?

Hamed Shahbazi: I knew when I was finishing off my engineering degree at the University of British Columbia. I was about 21 or 22 years old. And I started my business shortly after.

Question 2: Who is your entrepreneurial role model, and why?

HS: Richard Branson. Unlike Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, Richard wasn’t a genius who anticipated the next wave of technology and cornered the market on it. But he has time and time again demonstrated the power of brand, user experience and a motivated workforce. He has built his billions on the back of a self-made cultural revolution, which is pretty ingenious in my opinion. For this reason, he is a role model of mine.

Read: Meet the People Who Inspired the PROFIT 500

Question 3: What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started your business?

HS: I wish I’d failed faster and aimed higher. When I started my business at age 22, I was fiercely competitive and I didn’t want to fail. I did everything in my power, including working 18 hours a day, to ensure that I didn’t fail with the first iteration of the TIO business model, which involved self-service kiosk payments.

This worked in that I was able to keep the business from failing, but it was probably the wrong thing to do. While I eventually was able to pivot the company from a small niche to a big market like consumer bill payments, it took much longer and cost much more than it should have. I wished I had failed fast, then started up again with a more compelling business model that aimed at a larger market opportunity, like multi-channel consumer bill payments.

I now define “failure” in a completely different way. I only define it as the “absence of trying.” Now I believe the only time one really “fails” is when one fails to try.

Question 4: What is the hardest thing you’ve had to do as a business leader?

HS: Let go of a loyal, committed and experienced employee.

Read: When Firing Someone Might Be the Hardest—But Smartest—Thing You Do

Question 5: How do you prioritize your time?

HS: I split my time between my HLAs, or “high leverage activities,” which are culture, people, M&As and capital (read: investors).

Question 6: How do you define success?

HS: I generally define success as building a business I can be proud of: a business that has positive impact in the marketplace and on its intended addressable audience.

Question 7: What excites you most about your company’s future?

HS: What excites me is TIO’s culture. Our culture is one that punches well above its weight, is aspirational and knows no boundaries. At the same time, we are humble and disciplined. I believe it’s what makes us a force to be reckoned with in our industry.

Have you recently reached a big milestone in your entrepreneurial career? Would you like to answer our 7 Questions? Email us your pitch.

Loading comments, please wait.