Episode 08 : Hustle Your Way To The Top



Mike Dahan was never afraid to work hard. See how he hustled his way from Montreal’s poor neighborhood Côtes-des-Neiges up to American business school and Wall Street money. Back in Montreal, Mike was ready to pursue his own entrepreneurial journey, a path he knew he would get on since his childhood. Devoted to his principles of honor and loyalty, Mike is now the president of Sunforce Products Inc. This is his story.

Mike’s Growth Story Book Title: 

“Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Attributed to Thomas Edison, this quote is actually the same as the one in his high school yearbook. To Mike Dahan, this means that you can’t get anywhere without hard work. Tons of people have vision, but they can’t get anything done. Tons of people work their but’s off, but they have no vision. If you have both, you’ll be on the right path to success.

What you’ll learn:

  • Mike has a philosophy of giving back in philanthropy, he has been involved in many causes such as education, children’s camp, special needs children.
  • Loyalty is at the heart of Mike’s way of doing business. He learned that lesson (and applies it every day now) from a local mechanic who helped him get started with his summer business as a teen (and who is still his mechanic today for that reason).
  • At 18, Mike was working 12 hours a day 7 days a week at his family’s convenience store. He was not going to school … he would learn on the side with the textbooks and show up for the exams.
  • Mike Dahan’s recommendations for aspiring business owners: 1. Dream big. “Don’t think Montreal … don’t even think Canada, think the world!” 2. Be creative. “We always fall into the trap that everything has been invented already, and then a Facebook comes along.”

Notable quotes:

  • “Montreal doesn’t expose you to corporate environments. It exposes you to people who are hustling, people who are very entrepreneurial.” – Mike on how he had always been kind of entrepreneurial and how it motivated him to start his own business.
  • I used the same attitude as when I was a kid: I worked hard, I didn’t overstep my boundaries, I was very professional. But I was also hustling, trying to find ways to change things. I was a problem solver. – Mike’s approach during his first big corporate job in Manhattan.
  • They would throw me in these companies as the expert. Based on my background, I certainly wasn’t necessarily the expert, but I’d stay up all night trying to become the expert. And I quickly became the expert. – Mike on becoming a business consultant when he was not yet so experienced.
  • “Everybody says it, but few people have the ability to do it… We have very great ability to build relationships, and that’s been the key to our business.” – Mike on how he truly values his relationships with his clients and suppliers.

Show notes: 

1:20 – Mike Dahan is president of Sunforce Products, a manufacturer and distributor of solar products and renewable energy products.

3:30 – Sunforce sells to most major retailers: Amazon, Sam’s Club, Costco, Canadian Tire, Tractor Supply, Rona… Basically, every retailer except for Target.

4:17 – Their most popular product is their solar security light, which is a solar panel powering a very bright motion sensor light.

7:20 – Mike grew up in Côte-des-Neiges, Montreal.

9:50 – At 12, Mike moved to another Montreal neighborhood, Côte-Saint-Luc.  

10:04 – Mike’s first job at 14 was in a factory. He was assembling lamps at $4.45 per hour. He had to take 3 buses to get there.

13:20 – Mike’s first entrepreneurial endeavour was at 19 years old when he started a driveway pothole repair business.

19:20 – Mike finished his bachelor’s in mathematics, chemistry, and physics at McGill University.

19:45 – Mike knew he wanted to go to business school, he got accepted into the MBA program at McGill thanks to his entrepreneurial experiences and a high score at the admission exam GMAT.

20:35 – Mike was approached by many other schools around the world because of his remarkable score at the GMAT exam, mostly American schools, but he couldn’t even afford the application fees!

20:50 – Mike figured out he could apply without the fees to many schools so he applied, and got into NYU, Columbia, all the big schools! But he still couldn’t afford to go there…

21:00 – Mike then got a letter from Rochester University offering him a scholarship. He visited the campus and thought it was so corporate and professional, but wanted to see how his street-smart entrepreneur profile could melt in, so he went.

22:20 – Mike Dahan spent two years in Rochester’s New York doing his MBA.

22:45 – Mike took the corporate road working for big companies: Unilever in New Jersey in their chemicals division.  

23:35 – Mike decided to go into consulting at Ernst & Young in Manhattan. He joined the entrepreneurial consulting group, dealing as the expert for companies worth between 5 and 50 million.

24:15 – Mike was consulting with over 30 companies. After 3 years there, he had worked around all the components of building a business and was now pretty confident about being able to build a business from scratch.

25:10 – Around 1998-1999, Mike joined another company in Manhattan, he was employee 30 and grew this company to 1200 people in 2 years. They bought the company public: it was issued at $14 and closed at that day at $120.

27:30 – Mike decided to come back to Montreal with his wife who had joined him in New York after doing her MBA at McGill. They had been together since CEGEP and they were now ready to have a family here in Montreal.

28:00 – Mike found a job as the right-hand man of the owner in an entrepreneurial company from the solar and renewable energy business.

29:00 – After trying to change the owner’s dishonest ways of doing business, Mike turned to his future partner – a salesman in the company – and together they worked on the side building a vision for the company. They eventually left the company and started their own.

46:30 – Mike invites the listeners to visit his website at www.sunforceproducts.com