Lee Buckler | Crain's Toronto

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Lee Buckler

Background:  

RepliCel is a Vancouver-based biotech firm currently focusing on three key areas: hair loss, skin rejuvenation, and tendon repair. All three therapies involve extracting patients' own cells from hair follicles, and injecting them into affected areas. 

The Mistake:

My career has been a reflection of the fact that I love the next shiny thing. I adopt new ideas very easily and immerse myself in them, and I get really juiced about the next thing I'm working on.

But not a lot of other people are like that, and I've been guilty of underestimating how well people would receive what I think is a wonderful new idea. A lot of people take more time to adopt and adapt than I do, but you still need to get those people involved. 

In one venture that never took off, I had what I thought was a terribly innovative B2B play, and I figured people would just get it and respond as soon as they saw our marketing. I spent a fair amount of time exposing people to the idea, but just couldn't close any deals, and we eventually lost the business.

It's not just about that first meeting.

The Lesson:

That was a big lesson I learned through failure that I've carried through today. What I realized then is that there's a big difference between marketing an idea and selling an idea. You have to make sure you structure your business to support both. 

You can have the best new idea, but a lot of people need a lot of convincing along the way. Simply exposing them to the idea is just the first step in getting them involved. To close it takes education, follow-up, and a lot of salesmanship.  

My struggle now is convincing investors, and it takes all types of investors to support a company. Some are traders, some are short-term, some are long-term. But just because something looks tremendously promising, that doesn't mean it's the right fit for everyone. 

I don't mind at all that people invest according to their own philosophies and priorities. Today, when I get up in the morning, I know that my one job is to create value for shareholders. Investors have a lot of different ideas on how that should be done, and people have different investment appetites.

I have to create an opportunity for short-term investors to make some money, and for long-term investors to make some money, but at the end of the day we have to build value over the long term. These stories take time to develop, because it's not like I'm building a Facebook app and we're going from an idea to building our billion-dollar exit in nine months or less. 

So now when I'm talking to investors, it's not just about that first meeting, it's not just about exposing them to an idea, or having them land on a website. It's really about that constant conversation one has to have until people decide they're going to buy or they're not going to buy. You just continue that conversation. You have to keep people along for the ride, and it just takes a lot of education and a lot of follow-up to bring someone from liking an idea to making them investors in it.

Follow Lee Buckler on Twitter at @celltherapy.

Pictured: Lee Buckler. | Photo courtesy of RepliCel.

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