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Transcript: Yuri Fulmer talks to Karl Moore

KARL MOORE: This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, talking management for The Globe and Mail. Today, I'm in Vancouver speaking to Yuri Fulmer, who is the CEO of Mr. Mikes. For those who are outside of Western Canada, it's one of Western Canada's big steakhouse chains.

Yuri, delighted to see you in this beautiful B.C. weather.

YURI FULMER: Spectacular. It's a pleasure, thank you.

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KM: Yuri, a lot of big corporations would love to have the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that you have. What advice do you have for big organizations that want to have the same entrepreneurial spirit that you've shown for the last 18-19 years?

YF: You know, I'd say two things maybe a little contrary. The first is, you can't have a company full of entrepreneurs. They will absolutely kill each other. If really what you've found is a bunch of senior executives who are really entrepreneurial, either they're going to leave to put on their own show, because they're really entrepreneurial and that's what they want to do, or they're going to slaughter each other in the group. Because, they all have such passion for their ideas that they're going to want to carry them forward.

I think you have to accept that real entrepreneurs do go and become entrepreneurs. What you've got is people who are aspiring entrepreneurs or people with an entrepreneurial bent rather than real solid, hard-core entrepreneurs. And I think you've got to create an incentive plan and a role and responsibility for them that allows them to replicate what they would in an entrepreneurial environment.

And I know a lot of companies say they do this and they tell you about this great bonus program they've got that allows people to earn quite a large amount of money if they hit the top end of it. But then, that program comes with a policy manual that's about yay thick that qualifies everything that we're doing and monitors it and ties it to corporate performance and that other guy's performance and team performance over here and has a calculation six miles long.

Well, entrepreneurs don't deal with that. Entrepreneurs deal with, "How much revenue do we have minus how many expenses did we have? The rest is in my pocket." That's about as simple a calculation as you can get. So, I remember a bonus program I had when I worked for a U.S. multinational, and, I'm not kidding, the program was about 45 pages long. And I couldn't - and I don't think I'm a stupid guy - I couldn't calculate my own bonus using this plan. Some of the inputs I, frankly, couldn't even get until they actually handed me the cheque.

So, yes, it was a generous sum of money, so it sounded entrepreneurial, but the practice of it wasn't, in fact, entrepreneurial. And whilst the role seemed entrepreneurial - they gave you a title that sounded like you were in charge of your own ship and they gave you a little bit of balance-sheet control that replicated an entrepreneurial bent - at the end of the day you're sending someone else a report telling them what you did, you're waiting for the feedback on that and, at the end of the day, sometimes the person you report to doesn't have that entrepreneurial flair and it scares them to see it in others.

And I think, in a lot of big companies, the talk is, "We want people to be entrepreneurs," when what they mean is, "We want people who are going to make us a lot of money." And they think that that's an entrepreneurial bent whereas, really, I think it's more of a, "How do we properly incent people to give us the performance we want?" And they use the word entrepreneur because they think the incentive makes it sound like you're in control. But unless you're really prepared to relinquish the control with an entrepreneur … and compensate them on the back end in a simple and straightforward way that relates really solely to their own contribution to the business and their direct team's contribution that they can control, I think it might be a little bit of wishful thinking, and there might be a different approach that works more effectively.

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