Lessons from some of Ontario’s most famous entrepreneurs

Theen … / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

The recent celebration of the 2012 Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur Of The Year” award prompted us to look into the philosophies of some of Ontario’s most famous business leaders. Entrepreneurship and success are, after all, not built by chance or luck but through determination, persistence and constant assessment of our goals, views and approaches. In a series of articles we will share with you some of the insights of famous Ontario entrepreneurs about what they have learned so far during their careers.

John A. McCluskey of Alamos Gold Inc., who recently was named Ontario Entrepreneur of the Year 2012, and also won in the Mining and metals category, is a leading Canadian gold producer. During his acceptance speech, he remarked: “being willing to start at the bottom and learn may be a more important factor to success in entrepreneurship than it gets credit for. As a CEO today, I truly hope someone in the mail room of my company ends up running their own one day.”
Colleen McMorrow, National and Ontario director of the awards, stated that what makes a leading entrepreneur is having an unparalleled drive and determination in the face of extreme adversity. In relation to Mr. McCluskey’s award, she also added: “Innovation is at the heart of every game-changing entrepreneur’s success. It’s a way of being — and one that made John’s vision of prosperity in the gold mining industry a reality.”

Victoria Sopik and Jennifer Nashmi of Kids & Company Inc. were also given an award at the event. Their award was in the category of Business-to-business products and services. Victoria Sopik, co-founder and CEO of the corporate childcare company, shared that it is very important to provide proper training and feedback for one’s employees. Based on an experience she had as a teenager, she learned that being clear when hiring people about their training, formal assessments and expectations, is vital to building a loyal and strong team. And, apparently, it pays off: “People who started working for me the year I started the business are still working for me now.”

According to a recent report devised by Ernst & Young, entitled “Innovating for growth“, innovation is not a random event but requires entrepreneurs to take advantage of changes in their environment, constantly revise their business models and have an end goal in mind. And, most importantly, innovation requires a long-term view.

Similarly, Ann Kaplan, president and CEO of iFinance Canada, says that we should learn to think big. People tend to stick to their comfort zone but if we think beyond that, we can always grow and achieve more. iFinance Canada is a $240 million business but Kaplan says that her current goal is to get to one or two billion.

Apparently, as these entrepreneurs tell us, one should not shy away from starting out small but should also always keep a larger perspective in mind and be willing to outgrow one’s current skills and perceptions. In our next article on the subject we will look at other Ontarian entrepreneurs’ views on what is important in building a successful and fulfilling enterprise.

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