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Introducing, The Faces of #OKGNtech. A showcase of Okanagan tech entrepreneurs, partners, supporters, and cheerleaders designed to fuel more connection, more growth, and more excitement. Follow along (on the blog and on Instagram @OKGNtech) to learn more about our growing community and what makes them awesome.
Meet Larry. Larry Smith is an Executive-in-Residence at Accelerate Okanagan and President at Next Stage Consulting. When Larry isn’t helping entrepreneurs brave their biggest business issue you'll most likely find him swimming, cycling, kayaking, or hiking!
We recently caught up with Larry to learn more about what inspired him to be a mentor and what he enjoys about working in the tech sector.
What do you enjoy most about your role as a mentor at Accelerate Okanagan?
“I think there are two pieces here; one is that - well personally I enjoy the challenge, I like taking on situations that might not be easy to solve and helping companies get to a place where they are much more. The second thing is the relationships that you create when you move somebody from “Oh this is not good...” to “This is great!”. That relationship is quite cool. It’s super rewarding to take someone on a journey that is really quite tough for them at first and then see them develop over time.”
What inspired you to become a mentor?
“My journey to becoming a mentor has been multifaceted. First of all, I have experienced a lot of different things with my background of working with a variety of different companies, so it was important to me that I pass that knowledge on. I am also super passionate about learning and evolving myself and companies. I spend a lot of my time learning, developing, reading, understanding, and attending leadership development conferences. I have also spent a lot of time coaching competitive sports, and with that, I’ve never coached a game without thinking about the parallels to business. It’s all of those things that come back to me saying I have enough of a consulting skill set from all these things that I can reliably help people on their journey. And not to mention - I’ve personally had some of the best years of my development when I had a really good mentor, so I knew I wanted to be that for other people.”
Can you speak to the power of mentorship?
“Mentorship is an amazing thing. I have personally developed my skills significantly when I have had a really strong mentor, and that’s why I believe in it. There are just so many more resources for founders and young companies than ever before, and these resources can make the entrepreneurial journey so much more predictable if people utilize them!”
Why drives you to focus on tech specifically?
“My interest in technology started a long time ago when I realized that I was kind of good at computer science. Once I realized this was something I was alright at I got much closer to the space. At first, I really wanted to pursue a management track or a senior leadership track around technology. So initially I focused on information technology and then I saw that we were going to be going through a big revolution in terms of what the technology industry would do to our economy and I just knew that I wanted to be right in the middle of that.”
Can you tell us more about your life outside of work?
“I like to spend my days thinking about business and trying to understand what would make people and companies perform at the next level. I also spend a lot of my personal time just doing simple things that recharge me and keep me fit. Some of my favourite ways to recharge are swimming, cycling, kayaking, hiking...all of those outdoorsy things! If I go hiking, I will put on my headphones in and play an audible book. So when I am out there one part of my brain is like “this is great, this is nature,” and the other part will be listening to John Doerr Measure What Matters or a similar audible book, that’s the perfect example of the two parts of my brain right there!”
[Editor’s note: If Larry had to recommend one book to an entrepreneur, he says that you should read (or listen to) Measure What Matters by John Doerr.)
Can you tell us about the importance of Objective Key Results (OKRs) in business?
“I am a strong proponent of OKR’s and what they can do for your business. I think OKRs break down some deceptions of business and about what really matters. So an example of a fallacy is that if we just work really hard and don’t give up it will all work out and that’s often not the case! Setting OKRs is all about choosing objectives wisely, which is a nontrivial skillset and then picking measurable results that will drive you towards those objectives. Developing that high order thought process improves the business acumen of all business people if they can master that skill set.”
[Editor’s Note: OKR’s are Objective Key Results. They are a very useful tool that can be used within organizations to track and measure objectives and team outcomes. If you’ve got questions about OKRs Larry is your guy! Or if you’d like to in the meantime, read Measure what Matters by John Doerr.]
We know you have a couple of kids at home. Is there a parallel between raising teenagers and mentoring entrepreneurs?
“Yeah, for sure! So business is about a lot of strategy and all those big words, but it is fundamentally a lot about people and peoples growth. It’s about seeing where people are at and when to intercept them in the right way for them and to advance them in kind of actionable steps that will work for them, and that’s pretty true I think in developing people, whether those people are entrepreneurs or teenagers right? It’s all about the people and the interactions and how you develop a relationship, and that can be a lifelong journey at getting better and better at those things.”
What do you think are characteristics that make a strong leader?
“Well, I think that it would be easy to say a good leader is someone who is able to set the right direction and bring out the best in people, but that’s kind of like the easy answer, you know, something a textbook would say. What I think really makes somebody a good leader is the ability to grow and take feedback, learn, and really reposition themselves. You’re constantly improving your swing as a leader, and I think that’s very important. A good leader does not let ego or greed or any other factors get in their way!”