Driven to succeed
What makes being an entrepreneur so great? Just ask Robert Herjavec.
Robert Herjavec seems way too busy to be having fun. Not content to settle down with the tens of millions of dollars he made on the sale of his two previous computer-security companies, in 2003 the Toronto-based entrepreneur launched The Herjavec Group Inc., which ranks among Canada's Fastest-Growing Companies and did sales of $64 million last year. When Herjavec is not playing CEO of a high-pressure business with big-name clients, he's jousting with such business luminaries as Kevin O'Leary and Mark Cuban for the weeks-long tapings of two TV shows: CBC's "Dragons' Den" and ABC's "Shark Tank." Or writing a followup to his bestselling business book, Driven. Or racing his new Ferrari 458 Challenge car in the Montreal Grand Prix and other high-profile auto-racing events around North America, requiring the same lightning-quick reflexes, intense focus and — ahem — balls as the pros.
But for Herjavec, such exhausting work seems to be its own reward — and it produces many others. PROFIT editor Ian Portsmouth interviewed Herjavec in mid-July, a few days after the pair zipped around the Honda Indy Toronto track at speeds of more than 230 km/h.
How did you get into auto racing?
I started in the mid-1990s, just two or three years before selling BRAK [his first company]. I owned a Ferrari street car. And you realize very quickly there's a difference between driving fast on the road and really learning to take a machine to its limits. I just wanted to see how it worked.
So, I took my car to the track. The first day I was there, one of the drivers, a guy like me, went around a corner and wrecked his Ferrari. At the time, they were selling for $1 million. Whoa!
A friend of mine told me that you should never race in anything you can't afford to walk away from. I couldn't afford to walk away from a Ferrari, so I got into a series called Formula Ford for three years. But from one perspective, racing is three days of standing around for about an hour's worth of sheer exhilaration. I just didn't have the time anymore, my kids were little and I had a pretty serious accident.
What made you return this year?
A friend of mine told me Lamborghini was bringing its racing series to North America. I thought of what a fabulous and unique experience I could give my customers. It didn't work out, but I'd been bitten by the racing bug. I looked into the Ferrari 458 series, and I took the plunge.
You're on top of the business world, but you're Joe Average among Ferrari 458 drivers. Are you racing because you need something new to master?
When I started, my goal was simply not to finish last. I finished in the middle of the pack, and then sixth out of 34 drivers in Toronto. My wife knows me so well. She predicted that I'd take it much more seriously if I had even a glimmer of a hope of becoming one of the top guys. Now, I think I have the ability to close in quickly and get there.
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You're penning another book. What do you hope to achieve with it?
The first book was about getting on the road to business success, with any amount of money. People always say to me that the first million is the hardest. Absolutely. The first million is very hard. But the next few million are even harder in some ways. Because once you've achieved that level of comfort, you lose the hunger and raw drive that got you there. The new book is going to explore some of those themes.
So, how do you stay hungry?
People who know me well know that I've never really been money-driven. I've always been success-driven. It's about constantly setting new goals and never settling for where you are in life.
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