Meet Brock Harrison – Veteran, POE Boot Camp Graduate and Owner of Pirate Adventures
April 12, 2018
Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE) provides veterans and transitioning Canadian military personnel with the education, tools and resources needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. Their signature program is an award-winning, seven-day intensive business boot camp designed to help participants rapidly advance their business knowledge and skills.
“Boot camp provided me with a good sense of the wide swath of things one must know in order to be successful… and brought up issues that one would not necessarily have thought of on their own.” – Brock Harrison
When Brock Harrison began to plan for his release from the Canadian military after 20 years of service, he suspected that owning his own business would be right for him. His varied military career (he spent time as a Bridge Officer, Aircraft Controller, Diver, Instructor, Administrator, Project Manager and in national level operations) taught him how to succeed in new jobs and situations, and boded well for his potential as a business owner.
Brock did his homework. He talked to several other entrepreneurs – to learn, get advice and “kick the tires” of the whole business-for-self idea. He liked what he heard, but knew there were risks.
A friend recommended that Brock look into purchasing an existing business rather than starting up his own from scratch, because they had a significantly higher success rate. The seed planted, Brock linked up with a business brokerage and began researching a wide range of businesses for sale that interested him. After a few false starts, he purchased Pirate Adventures, which stages theatrical pirate experiences in Ottawa from May to early October.
Involvement in a business where every day is “Talk like a Pirate Day” sounds like nothing but fun, but owning a business that only operates about 100 days per year brings both challenges and rewards. Brock is able to enjoy downtime in the low season, but he only has five months a year to earn a year’s worth of revenue, which makes for long hours during the summer and can amp up the stress levels.
“I did not fully appreciate how much of my life the business would take, especially in my first year.”
The first year at Pirate Adventures was more of a struggle for Brock because there were so many firsts: “One major challenge for me was the amount of time it takes to be successful,” says Brock. “I did not fully appreciate how much of my life the business would take, especially in my first year. From learning the details of the product, to scheduling employees, to doing payroll, there was so much to learn.”
To help prepare for taking on a new business, Brock attended Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur’s seven-day boot camp in 2013 at the University of Regina. Of the experience, he says that “it pointed out many holes in my knowledge” and thanks his instructors for recommending a wealth of books for furthering his entrepreneurial education. Boot camp provided Brock with “a good sense of the wide swath of things one must know in order to be successful… and brought up issues that one would not necessarily have thought of on their own.”
Brock’s advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to at least give serious consideration to purchasing an existing business rather than starting one up from scratch. With an already established clientele built-in, you have a higher chance of success. But do your research, ask some hard questions – and don’t do it alone. He credits his business broker for helping him successfully navigate the way through the legalities of purchasing a business.
Brock now employs about 15 people each year, with about 60% returning from the previous year. In 2018, he will be conducting the biggest round of training yet, with the hope of qualifying 4 new captains.
If you’re in Ottawa this summer, take an interactive pirate-theatre cruise with Pirate Adventures and support this veteran-owned business. For a listing of other veteran-owned businesses visit www.buyveteran.ca
Find out more about how the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur program helps veterans and transitioning military personnel get the education, tools and resources needed to succeed as an entrepreneur here.