Business Development

I have always had a passion for business. At the age of 17, I worked with a group of close friends to turn a school club into a non-profit organization. While building that, I got my first job in the start-up world at PhilanthroKidz, a virtual world start-up targeted at tweens. I began intentionally learning about management and leadership with guidance from Dean Julia Christensen Hughes of the College of Management and Economics at the University of Guelph. She assessed my management of a project called Reach Lesotho that involved nearly fourty people and $125,000 over the course of eighteen months. She questioned my decision making and management strategies, and had me simultaneously study management strategies through an academic lens. 

I have continued to practice business development and management for the past ten years. Whether it was in putting together a production team with Turn and Punch Productions, deciding how financial resources should be spent with Raindrop Hearing, or supporting investor relationships with PhilanthroKidz, I have been consistently challenged and inspired by the responsibilities of business development and management. Below are some important aspects of my approach.


Tools

Having been part of many programs targeted at young entrepreneurs, including MaRS' Studio [Y] and Ashoka's Award for Emerging Innovators Summit, I have built a base of tools that I find extremely valuable. Knowing when and how to effective utilize business development tools has allowed me to bring value to several companies. My favourites include business canvases, which I apply to projects and businesses alike, as well as customized satisfaction wheels.


Timing

Many years ago, I attended a conference where Brian Scudamore, the CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, presented his response to the frequently described rollercoaster of entrepreneurship. He explained how he checks in with where on the coaster he is, and then strategically chooses what tasks to focus on. I have found this tremendously valuable; build processes when things are slow, pitch and market when you have momentum on your side. I think one of my strongest skills in knowing when to do what.


Trajectory

The first business I worked for was PhilanthroKidz/ When I read the acquisition strategy, I was surprised. Then, in meeting with the Kielburger brothers and hearing them discuss a desire for Free The Children to not exist, I understood. Having a vision is essential in guiding a business. It allows for decisions to be made in a broader context and it is essential for me, whether in business or film, to feel motivated everyday. I love working with businesses that are still shaping that vision.


Capacity Building

The most important asset at any business is people. The ability to attract passionate and talented individuals, strategically build teams, and create a supportive culture all contribute to the capacity of the company. I am a strong advocate for investing in the development of each individual, as well as the team. Capacity building is a vital component of being a successful manager and it is an area of management that I find to be especially rewarding.


Sustainability

Projects and companies fail when knowledge is not captured and accessible. Transfer of knowledge cannot begin only when a staffing change is imminent, but it should be built into the everyday function of a team. I believe that an effective knowledge base is essential for the sustainability of a business. It allows for greater collaboration, it is a tangible product that ensures individuals are valued, and that their value is absorbed.


Internal Efficiency

There are countless technologies and countless tools available to improve a business' internal operations. Often though, the users of these systems are uninvolved in choosing how they are applied. I believe that the most efficient way to introduce technologies like Slack, Trello and Basecamp is to engage the users early on, to strategically implement them and to do so out of need and not preparation.  


Case: Raindrop


Vision

I joined Raindrop Hearing when it was still called Yasmin Alidina Hearing Clinic. As a solo hearing practitioner, Yasmin was opening multiple clinics out of demand, but not with a plan. Within three years, we have rebranded the company, converted into a corporation and hired multiple staff. We are aiming to sell the business by 2020, and have already opened discussions with two possible buyers.


Recognize Strengths

Raindrop Hearing had been successful due to a competitive advantage, yet it was never truly built upon. By acknowledging that multi-lingual services were a core function of the business, we began building around the theme of diversity. Whether it is in the branding, the print material, or in the hiring of staff, diversity and language is now at the core of the business and an essential component of recent growth.


Critical Path

Developing a critical path has allowed me to learn that Raindrop will not solely be judged on profits. Prospective buyers are interested in growth potential of each clinic, sustainability, third-party product mix and other trends as well. By developing a critical path to our vision, we have been able to make strides towards a valuation that we are proud of and satisfies all the stakeholders. 

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