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[It is my pleasure to once again bring you my star guest blogger, James Allan. Enjoy this post below! -Seth Kahan]

When you see premium coffee shops on every major street corner, it’s hard to believe there was ever a time when premium coffee shops were few and far between. In 1975 however, there was no premium coffee industry in Canada, until Frank O’Dea created one with his chain of Second Cup stores.

After creating an industry that became successful internationally, (with stores in 13 countries) Frank then created an international paper shredding industry with his second successful business, Pro-Shred.

With two successful industries created, Mr. O’Dea is now looking to create another industry:  a social housing industry in Brazil.  To create a new industry, Frank believes there are two absolute necessities:

1)Better value than what current industries are offering

2)Higher margins on the value being delivered

And they must be done simultaneously.

I sat down with Frank O’Dea recently to hear his insights on relationships, creating new industries, how to be successful and what it takes to be an effective leader.  He had the following advice to be successful in the business world:

1) Start with Hope, Vision and Action

Seeing Frank’s success, I had a hard time imagining him begging for quarters.  But that’s where he was in the early 70s.  He came from a middle class family, but somehow turned to alcohol, and his life spiraled downward.  He turned his situation around, created two successful industries and continues to create new industries.   Frank says that Hope, Vision, and Action got him going on the road to success, and he believes these are three necessary ingredients for anyone to reach success.

2) Look Beyond the Boundaries

Coming from Canada, Frank has seen many roadblocks to getting investment money since Canadians are traditionally focused on reducing the amount they can lose, rather than focusing on how much they can gain.  He’s had to go outside his nation’s borders to find investors, but was quite successful doing it.  Similarly, he admits his strength is idea generation, so he goes out and hires others to fill the roles which he’s not as talented in.  Currently, he’s looking into the opportunity to work in Brazil to develop social housing in a country he’s becoming more familiar with.  Boundaries are something Frank doesn’t respect much.

3) Trust Your Gut

Mr. O’Dea admitted that he has always followed his gut.  Others told him he was crazy with the coffee business, and wouldn’t go anywhere.  Potential investors said there was no use investing in a paper shredding business since paper is being phased out.  Now, he has plenty of ideas and he’s presented with opportunities from others, but he only pursues the opportunities which turn his crank.

4) Think Community

Mr. O’Dea believes all successful organizations empower their employees with a sense of community, and motivate them by sharing a mission and vision that inspire the employees to act.  He has spent a lot of time both creating and helping not-for-profit organizations, and believes we should all focus on leaving this place a bit better than how we found it.

5) Persevere

I concluded the interview by asking Mr. O’Dea what people should do if they’re already following the Hope Vision Action mantra, but aren’t getting the results they desire. He smiled broadly and answered with one word, "Persevere."

Sources:    « James Allan interviews Frank O’Dea »

About the author:  James Allan is President of SHM Consulting, a firm devoted to improving human and organizational performance.  Clients include Cisco Systems, Costco Wholesale, TD Ameritrade and the Montreal Canadiens. Visit his website at