Event summary produced by the Globe and Mail Events team. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved
In celebration of Report on Business magazine’s first-ever ranking of the Top 400 Fastest-Growing Companies in Canada, The Globe hosted over 200 of the individuals leading the companies represented on the list.
The Report on Business Growth Camp provided an opportunity for these entrepreneurs, business owners and executives to share their insights into the struggles and triumphs of the entrepreneurial path, gaining valuable advice about leadership, risk, sustainable growth and more from peers and experts. Gathered below is some of the best knowledge shared during this full-day conference.
1. Have faith in your customer base
The day kicked off with a panel of impressive entrepreneurs from the Top 400 list, including Carinne Chambers-Saini, founder of Diva International (the makers of the DivaCup menstrual product), Quebec Dragons’ Den star and Chocolats Favoris owner Dominique Brown, and John Levy, CEO of sports media company theScore. All three admitted to feeling intimidated at various points in their business journey, but Levy pointed out that a source of confidence for theScore has always been the base-level interest generated by sports fans.
“The market already exists. People are going to use the DivaCup, eat chocolate, watch sports,” said Levy, in a nod to his fellow panelists. “But you need to deliver it properly.”
It’s not to say there isn’t a great amount of effort involved in launching, marketing and sustaining a business. But if you see a market, it helps to trust your gut and follow a consumer base you already know is out there, and then deliver what people want in the best way possible.
2. Don’t get in the way of your own growth
When asked about reflecting on past mistakes, Carinne Chambers-Saini shared her story of learning to let go of the need to take charge of every detail at Diva International. In the beginning, Chambers-Saini, along with her mother (her co-founder) handled everything from the company’s finances to its graphic design needs (despite not having a background in design). Bringing in more people with specific areas of expertise to take on certain tasks was ultimately one of the best decisions Chambers-Saini made for the health of the business.
“I didn’t realize that I was actually holding our company back from growth by trying to do everything and anything,” she said.
“Someone once told me, if you want to go faster, you need to slow down,” added Dominique Brown, CEO of Chocolats Favoris. “You think you’re just going to continue on the same trajectory, but it’s not how it works. Every now and then you have to stop and rethink and rearrange your business.”
3. Putting yourself first is also a way of helping others
Growth Camp provided an opportunity to dig into recent survey data collected by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) on the state of mental wellness among Canadian entrepreneurs.
Jordan Friesen, national director of workplace mental health at CMHA, noted that for companies in the $2-million to $5-million value range, the burnout rate among CEOs and business owners is about one in four. And yet, 80 per cent of entrepreneurs reported satisfaction with their mental health, with only 6 per cent seeking out professional mental health support services.
Entrepreneurship is a "highly stressful emotional rollercoaster,” said Annie Marsolais, chief marketing officer for BDC. "They have themselves, their families, customers and suppliers to keep happy.”
Feeling as though everyone is relying on your performance can be overwhelming and isolating, and there’s still a stigma around asking for help, lest it look like a sign of weakness or a lack of control. But it’s important to recognize that admitting vulnerability is not weak, said Marsolais. In fact, it’s the first step towards building mental resilience, which will ultimately protect you and your business should anything go awry. Being unable to respond to an issue because you’re suffering mentally is not the way to protect what you’ve worked for - instead, putting your own health and mental wellness first is one of the best ways to make sure those around you can truly rely on you.
4. Place a premium on building an entrepreneurial support network
According to the CMHA, in Canada, generally speaking, every year there are about 1.6 million Canadians with an unmet mental health need. “My guess is that that’s higher among entrepreneurs,” said Friesen, as those working for larger companies often have health benefits programs to rely on.
Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t have many supports specifically tailored for entrepreneurial health needs. Which is why Friesen recommends that entrepreneurs make an effort to connect with each other, as they can often understand one another’s struggles better than most.
“There’s an assumption that resilience is a DIY endeavor that you have to build on your own,” said Friesen. But current academic literature on resilience actually suggests that this quality is stronger when built within a community.
“My suggestion would be to find that group of entrepreneurs who you can walk alongside on this journey, especially when you’re feeling the challenges,” said Friesen.
5. Sometimes losing is the greatest gift of all
Growth Camp attendees closed the day by hearing from a titan of Canadian sport - four-time Olympic hockey gold medalist and assistant director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Hayley Wickenheiser.
Wickenheiser told the story of getting ready for her Olympic debut on the Canadian national women’s hockey team at age 19, a time she spent operating under the assumption that she was off to win the gold medal as part of her first Winter Games. After a defeat at the hands of the American team during the final game, she recalled the feeling of bitterly accepting the silver medal while watching her competitors celebrating their victory. It was the worst feeling in the world, Wickenheiser said. Even still, a devastating loss at her first Olympics served as an important lesson, as she quickly realized that rivals were never going to just hand her team a gold medal. The feeling of loss fueled her training and led to four gold medals over the course of her career.
Even the worst possible outcome doesn’t have to signal the end - instead, it can inspire you to seek out a future victory.
Event summary produced by the Globe and Mail Events team. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.