What is your full name and title and how long have you been in this role?
I’m Michael Lende, founder and chief executive officer of Student CarShare, a company I founded one year ago.
What exactly do you do?
I am responsible for the creation and growth of this car-share operation, servicing university and college towns throughout Canada. This is the first car-sharing service available to 18-year-old Canadians, and the first available outside of large Canadian markets.
Describe what you do on any given day.
In the morning we hold a daily “kick-start team meeting.” Then I meet with the heads of each department to go over cost savings and progress.
The rest of the day is spent working on execution of our expansion plan as we work to have nationwide presence by the end of the year. This involves meeting with like-minded brands to provide services to our members, putting out fires, and occasionally lecturing postsecondary students about entrepreneurialism.
What’s your background and education?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a teenager, starting my first company at 16 and earning $40,000 per summer for four consecutive years.
After attending York University, first as a film major and then as a psychology major, I went on to found the Hockey Academy of Toronto, which became the largest hockey school in the United States with over 1,500 students in attendance. After selling the Academy, I co-founded Capitol Event Theatre in Toronto, which we turned into one of Canada’s premier event venues, hosting weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, corporate and charity events, and live concerts. I then created a consulting company in the hospitality sector – helping more than a dozen venues with their plans.
I continued in the entertainment industry by partnering in the purchase of the Kee to Bala, a well known concert venue in Bala, Ont. on Lake Muskoka. Then I grabbed the opportunity to head up Zipcar Toronto. In my five years running Zipcar, we grew the market (from year two to five) by 412 per cent and went public.
I launched Student CarShare this past fall.
How did you get to your position?
I created it. I took my years of experience in the car-sharing industry to open up markets where car sharing was not available.
I noted a need for car sharing in smaller communities: Most students away at school cannot afford to own a car, and those between the ages of 18 to 21 have – until now – not been able to rent a car.
I started up Student CarShare and got Discount Car & Truck to be my fleet partner. At the same time, I formed a supportive partnership with Kia Canada. With such strong backing, we were able to launch in 16 markets right from the beginning.
What’s the best part of your job?
This is a no brainer: Being a social entrepreneur and guest speaking for students at various universities is the best part of my week. I love meeting students and feeding off their excitement to learn more about social entrepreneurialism.
I tell them my story and usually end up in group conversations for hours. These young folks are our future entrepreneurs. With thousands of students preparing to graduate in the next few years, and with an increasingly tight job market, I’m able to open them up to the possibility of being an entrepreneur and setting their own course.
What’s the worst part of your job?
There’s not much I don’t like, but it’s always difficult when outcomes are dependent on others outside of my team. Delays and red tape caused externally are a major frustration.
Also, there’s never enough time, no matter how strong you are at time management.
What are your strengths in this role?
I have a clear vision and have created a very comprehensive plan and hired excellent team members to execute it.
I hire the best and give them leeway so they can be the best. I take pride in being a great motivator and coach, so I try not to stand in their way but rather support them in reaching our mutual goals.
What are your weaknesses?
Being bilingual was always a strength but I realize English and French are not enough. I really wish I could speak all of the languages my members speak. I love the diversity of our membership. I’m also working on being more patient. I have such a clear vision and want to see it realized right away, but I know that rushing things will only hurt us in the long run.
What has been your best career move?
One of my best careers moves was trusting my gut in deciding to stay on longer with Zipcar under the mentorship of chief executive officer Mark Norman, the former president of DaimlerChrysler Canada.
You could say I earned an honorary MBA from him. Other opportunities were beckoning and I was feeling that I had stagnated, but my gut told me I had more to learn, and it was right. I further honed my skills, and also reaped the rewards of going public.
What has been your worst career move?
There was one time, early on, where I didn’t trust my gut. It cost me my business. Fortunately, this was very early on. I started over and set historical revenue records in the rebirth of that company. Keep getting up!
What’s your next big job goal?
Successfully operating Student CarShare in all provinces in 2014.
What’s your best advice to others who might want to follow in your footsteps?
Dream big, plan well, execute strong, and never be afraid to go after what you want.
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