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Meet Road Aider’s VP of Operations, Sean Wain

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m currently the VP of operations at Road Aider. I've been in this role for about two years. I began here, doing business development as an intern. Prior to that, I was a student graduating in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science. Due to COVID I returned to my home town, Calgary. I ended up in a restaurant as a sous chef in their executive chef training program. That's where I gained a lot of experience managing people. I discovered that I didn’t see a future for myself in that industry but it still taught me a wide range of management and customer skills that I could bring to  an environment and a business more suited to my aspirations. That's how I ended up at Road Aider. 

How has the transition been?

The transition has been really different for sure, but ultimately exactly what I was looking for in terms of experience. I think that tech start-ups are a perfect place to experience a new type of industry because, in the early stages, you're really on the ground level and you're doing a lot of work that's more broad When you get into a startup, it's a very flat organization with not very much separation between the bottom and the top, and so you're  pressed into a role that can lack clarity. There are challenges involved that you have to own and take leadership over, even if no one asks you to.  

Can you give an overview of Road Aider’s ethos and some of the ideas that underpin it that drew you to it?

I think it was the founding ideas and the direction and vision that Road Aider had that drew me in. One of Road Aider’s principal ideas I'm really proud of is transparency and safety. By being transparent we bring everything to the forefront of our customer’s experience instead of hiding a lot of the features in small text. That's really what we're built on: building a person-forward and experience-based product, because ultimately when it comes to getting assistance it really is an experience. 

How important is innovation and adaptability in the operations at Road Aider?

We are very customer driven. It's very much about perceived value and what we're delivering. We are constantly having to adapt to new scenarios. One of the biggest lessons stepping into the world of startups is the preconceived notion, that all businesses that succeed must have had this perfect roadmap that they followed, and barely had to deviate from, it’s not true. You have this idea of how the customer's going to interact with the product and this idea of how you're going to deliver it. And all it takes is two seconds for that idea to get blown out of the water. We are trying to refine the experience. So adaptability right now for us is huge. When I read back reviews from customers I want to be able to take action immediately and go test. For example; “Given that this guy's giving me this type of feedback, how can I change up literally tomorrow for the next set of customers that comes in?” 

How do you maintain confidence for yourself and inspire it in your team?

I think I'm still learning a lot about leadership, about motivating people, which is a journey that started in the restaurant industry. It is challenging to ask for that kind of consent from our employees; that they are going to be in a highly fluid situation. It's a lot of hard work. Building that consent and repertoire with employees. One of the reflections I have is, the important thing when you're leading people is that you are creating expectations. You are monitoring those expectations and you're clearly communicating them, and that everyone is aligned with the expectation. People management is one of those things where there's never a point where you've actually perfected it. You have to always get better at it. 

How important is feedback 

I would just say, in general feedback is critical. When it comes to operations, it's hugely important that you're providing that to your employees, especially those who are in operations that are doing the practical day-to-day of the business. Feedback is the number one way you're going to get through to the ground level, the actual individual contributors to the company. 

What about Road Aider’s future excites you the most?

I think that one of the most exciting things is–talking about feedback again–but this time feedback from customers. A lot of feedback from customers is saying that we’re transforming the way that they experience roadside assistance because it's a little bit of a different model. That's what really excites me, knowing that Road Aider’s going to be able to bring this to hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of people in Canada over the next few years. That's the thing that really is pushing me and really making me enjoy this process. Knowing that individuals feel heard and that they're getting something that they couldn't find before, that's a really really great feeling.

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