Sébastien Dupéré is the founder and president of Dupray, a leading provider of advanced cleaning systems; being vapor steam cleaners, floor scrubbers and carpet cleaners. In North America, Dupray is known for providing world renowned Tecnovap® commercial steam cleaners, Multiplo floor scubbers and carpet cleaners.
Tell me about your early career.
My early career was eventful to say the least. I had a ton of ideas and often got distracted by the million and one things that kept popping into my head. I’ve always been on a quest to order the chaos of thoughts and ideas that I have. Everything finally clicked when I was able to order them into manageable and palatable bites that I can chew off.
How did the concept for Dupray come about?
Dupray came about primarily because I was unsatisfied with the tools that we were using in one of our side businesses. We had gotten into the business partly because we were realizing that cleaning chemicals were toxic, and there was no real alternative for many verticals such as retail, QSR and hospitality. Even worse, we felt as if the North American market was lagging behind Europe for alternative cleaning methods.
How was the first year in business?
Our first year in business was the most frantic time of my life. If I’m being completely truthful to myself, I don’t remember much. I’m sorry if it sounds cliché. However, the reality is that we were working, grinding hard and creating so many new things. There were really long nights, with some long hours of work – with some really great people. I think our first year was bearable partly because the people I worked with maintained excellent states of mind.
I think one of the really underreported elements of being a successful entrepreneur in the early phase of business is your ability to deal with your surroundings. In my time as an entrepreneur thus far, I have seen people and companies with amazing ideas and outstanding products that end up nowhere simply because they weren’t able to maintain the perseverance and focus that it takes to weed out the negative thoughts and sense of being overwhelmed.
What was your marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy was, and to a great extent still is, based on simplicity. Simplicity makes sense when you’re starting a new business. Why? Because your business will evidently evolve in the early years, which means you shouldn’t pour resources into it. You need to maintain the flexibility that comes with simplicity until you refine your brand.
We wanted to convey a simple message to the people that bought our products. Our products would be functional and reliable, but maintain a top threshold of elegance. Our entire strategy revolved around these three quintessential characteristics. I think our current website and branding are a reflection of an evolved version of this simplicity.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
It grew fast enough that we had some online placements and ended up in the city paper without us having to make any effort. We actually had difficulties filling the orders that we received at one point. It grew fast enough that somebody approached us to purchase the company. We declined.
How do you define success?
I think success has an internal definition. It’s variable based on your outlook on life. Some of the most successful people I know are making minimum wage and have a big smile on their face all day long, for eight hours a day. The reality is that you are successful when you finally feel like you need to stop working like an animal. For some people – and I’d like to include myself in this segment – it takes significantly longer to feel that.
What is the key to success?
The keys to success are very much aligned to what the majority of society believes. Hard work and long hours are to name a few of those tenants. That being said, the reality is that the keys to success are actually perseverance and persistence. Yes, it’s great to be focused for twelve hours on a Monday – but what about Tuesday? Even more important, what about twelve hours for the seventh Monday in a row? How many people can say that they execute a mentality of success for a persistent and sustained amount of time?
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Being humble and sincere go a long way in today’s world. Consumers can see right through marketing lingo and desperate ploys to get their attention. If you are sincere in your messaging and humble in the hawking of your product, you will likely reap your rewards. Also, another great lesson – try to laugh once in a while. It’s healthy.
What are some of your favorite books?
Great question. I think all good entrepreneurs read as much as possible to increase their ability to field different perspectives. My favorite book is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Most people have heard of it in passing, but even though the book is over 80 years old at this point, it still gives great basic tips on how to deal with people and tough situations. The only thing to keep in mind is the relevance of modern technology!
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I think one of the toughest days I had as an entrepreneur was the first time I had to hold firm with one of our costumers. We are proud of the products that we put into the market and we stand by them. That being said, one of our customers very clearly broke several of the terms in our warranty and wanted a complete refund despite their actions. It took everything I had to respect the business process that we had implemented. I knew that we would lose this customer. You would be shocked to know how hard it was, and still is, to respect the boundaries of our business. When you are customer-centric, it really hurt me deep down to know that I had to take a firm stance. I knew it was the right decision, but no entrepreneur sets out to disappoint anyone.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
This is a very simple answer – I don’t want to have all the great work I’ve put in go to waste. I’ve spent years building this business. One hiccup doesn’t tarnish the work that I have done or the accomplishments that I have had. If anything, it just makes me want to fight more to preserve AND enhance what I have done.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Persistence is key. Remember those twelve hours on the seventh Monday.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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