|One course on Engineering Entrepreneurship during his final
year of study in the Mechanical Engineering Program at the University of
Waterloo was enough to convince Mike Gribbons that he wanted to own a
business. Today, Mike is the proud owner of Synergy Controls Corporation,
a company that is based out of Sudbury with locations in Sault Ste. Marie,
Timmins, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg. Synergy Controls provides process
control equipment for mining, pulp and paper, steel, water & waste,
chemical, agrifood, pharma, and beverage.
Mike was the special guest March 17, 2008 on “Inside Education”, a local talk show
on CKLU 96.7 FM that is broadcast live every Monday evening at 6 p.m. from
the studios at Laurentian University. Robert Kirwan, an Independent Education &
Career Development Specialist who operates a private practice called The
Greater Sudbury Learning Clinic, is the producer and host of the program
which consists of an engaging conversation with a person from a different
career field each week. The purpose of the show is to provide listeners
with some valuable down-to-earth insight and information which may prove
helpful for those who are looking for tips and strategies that will help
them become more successful in their current or future careers.
Mike was born and raised in New Sudbury. He went to St. Raphael School
up to Grade 8 and then moved on to Lasalle Secondary School where he
graduated in 1978. He credits some excellent teachers, guidance
counsellors and administrators for showing him that science and math could
be fun and that it was important to "do what you love and be
passionate about your work."
After graduating from Lasalle, Mike decided to enroll in the Mechanical
Engineering Co-op Program at the University of Waterloo. His uncle was an
engineer at Falconbridge at the time, and Mike thought he would like that
kind of career. He eventually worked for three terms at INCO and was
actually being groomed for a position upon graduation when the company was
forced to downsize and restructure. That removed the chances of Mike
finding employment with the mining giant, so he did his next work term at
Dofasco. Mike then found employment with a company called Arriscraft in a
Design Engineering role. This was a company that made artificial stone,
but he didn't like the idea of being at a drawing board all day long, so
he and his wife decided to come back to Sudbury.
STARTED HOME-BASED BUSINESS WITH FATHER-IN-LAW
Mike's Father-in-Law worked for INCO in the electrical department. He
had always had an idea about starting up a business making electrical
wound coils for industrial plants, so Mike teamed up with him to start up
a basement manufacturing business. Thus was born Canny Coils, where Mike
would spend the next three years. Mike's father-in-law continued to work
at INCO, so the two of them would meet in the evenings and on weekends to
discuss strategies for the business. Mike would manufacture the products
and go out making cold calls to sell the coils to potential
Mike credits his father-in-law with being his most influential mentor.
"He taught me how to sell, to organize myself and that work ethic and
honesty were two of the most important characteristics of anyone who
wanted to be successful in business."
BRANCH MANAGER OF ROMATEC
Mike was soon recruited by Romatec, a company that sold pumps, valves
and other instrumentation equipment. He was responsible for developing
their business in Northern Ontario, so Mike found himself in charge of
operations in Sudbury and Thunder Bay. He claims that he learned a great
deal about running a business from 1986 to 1992 while with Romatec.
However, one of the things that has always driven Mike Gribbons is his
desire to "push himself to new challenges."
Therefore, it wasn't long before Mike decided that it was time for him
and his wife to give up a combined income of over $150,000 a year and risk
everything to start up their own business. "It was hard at first
because so many people around us wondered why we would give up everything
we had. We were living a comfortable life and seemed to have a perfect
life, but it just wasn't enough. I wanted more of a challenge"
SYNERGY CONTROLS CORPORATION WAS BORN IN 1992
Mike hasn't looked back since establishing his corporation in 1992. In
fact, he has built up his business to just under $10 million per year in
total sales and has a staff of 14 working for the company. With his recent
expansion into Manitoba he is poised to take Synergy Controls Corporation
"Self-motivation is the key to success," Mike explained.
"Once you find something you are passionate about and you are good
at, it is up to you to conquer your fears and continuously expand outside
of your comfort zone. I have found over my lifetime that fear of failure
traps so many people. They just have to realize that if you are not
failing you are not trying hard enough."
A SALES CAREER HAS A LOT TO OFFER
Mike encourages young people to consider a career in sales. "We
are all primarily sales persons. We are always selling something,
especially ourselves. If you have a positive attitude, a lot of curiousity,
and you like to work with people, you can be successful in sales. For
myself, I also like pushing the envelope. I like to win and I enjoy being
part of a team."
Mike identified several things that make sales a good career choice:
- You create long-term relationships and develop lasting friendships
with many different people.
- Helping people make good decisions is very satisfying.
- It is a career that is varied and exciting, with new opportunities
coming your way every week.
- You are continuously learning to keep current in your field.
- You are remunerated based on results and not on the hours worked.
This means that your earning capacity is never tapped out. You can
always earn more as you develop better sales skills.
- You will never be out of work if you can master the art of selling.
ADVICE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Mike Gribbons has learned a lot in life and business over the years and
wants to pass on some of this knowledge to young people who will soon be
starting out on their own.
- Make sure you find good mentors. They don't have to be people you
are in contact with, but you really should have role models to look up
to and to learn from. If you can find a "career coach" to
talk to and to guide you as you are entering your career it will serve
you well. A good mentor will transfer his knowledge to you so that you
have a better chance of achieving success.
- Get into the habit of doing more than you promise you are going to
do, but don't promise more than you can deliver. Young people
sometimes like to promise too much and then they can't deliver. It is
better for you to know your limitations and then give more than
- Be honest. If you are honest you will be trusted and in sales there
is nothing more important to success than being trusted.
- Treat people fairly. Canadians value fairness as one of the most
important traits of a person. If people think you are not treating
them fairly it will have disastrous results.
- Treat your employees the way you would like to be treated. If you
are fair with them they will be fair with you. Today one of the most
expensive parts of being in business is training and retaining
employees. If you are not fair, they will leave you to work elsewhere.
- Continue learning. It has been said that your "real
learning" starts after your formal education ends. Once you are
in business you understand what that means.
- Always be willing to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Do
things that you feel hesitant about. Don't be afraid of new
challenges. You will be surprised at how much you are capable of if
you just push yourself to try new things.
- Be proactive. No one is going to wait for you to show up. You have
to set the ball rolling in sales so do what needs to be done and be
persistent. In sales, when a customer says "no", he does not
necessarily mean "no". He may just mean that he does not
have enough information or reason to agree with you at this stage.
Continue giving him information and more reason to agree.
- Do what you love and love what you do! You spend more time in a work
environment than anywhere else in your life. If you don't love
- Set goals and review them often. If you don't have goals you don't
know where you are going.
GET READY FOR THE FUTURE
Mike feels that it is important for Canadians to prepare for a future
that is going to be very challenging. "We have different goals and
aspirations in Canada than in many other parts of the world. With the
global economy we are finding that some of the fastest growing economies
in the world are Brazil, Russia, India and China. People from those
countries have a tremendous work ethic and many of them want to come to
Canada and the United States to go to school and to work. In Canada we are
going to have to improve the way we are training our employees and our
youth for the future. We are going to have to find ways of transferring
the "intellectual property" of our retiring employees so that
our young people can benefit from their experience and knowledge. Our
future depends on it and if we are not prepared, others will come in and
take away jobs and careers that are there for us to grab."
If you want to speak to Mike Gribbons about anything in this article,
or if you would like to find out more about Synergy Controls Corporation,
visit the web site at: