Good Question: I feel like my boss is against me. What should I do? Linda Descano has the answer.


When I first started working for her (she didn’t hire me), she took me aside to tell me she didn’t think I would make it at the company and that I didn’t have what it took to be successful in the industry. I took that as a challenge and set out to prove myself and I did — to other people in the company anyway. Last month I applied for an award that recognizes women in my industry. The application requires endorsement from the company and has room for your boss’s input, so I asked her if she would be interested in supporting the award. She refused, telling me there’s no way I could win. I was dumbfounded but found support from another executive in the company.

I just found out that I won. I’m proud, but it’s created tension at work — co-workers congratulate me in front of my boss and it’s awkward. Also, she is my boss and she seems even frostier now than before. I need to manage this situation in order to manage my career (I don’t want to leave the company; there’s lots of potential here). I feel bullied. How do I handle this boss who clearly isn’t on my side?




Linda Descano
Executive Vice President, Red Havas US

In many organizations, it’s the youngsters who school the older workers on all things digital and social. But in Red Havas North America PR’s case, Linda Descano performs as the agency’s head online experimenter—carrying clients and twentysomething team members into the future. Recruited as Red Havas PR’s EVP in October 2015 to lead digital/social strategies for clients like WEX Inc., MilliporeSigma, Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Descano provides cutting-edge counsel and tactical implementation, infusing PR, media relations, thought leadership, advertising, social media, content partnerships and influencer marketing into her campaigns. And as a CFA charter holder, she brings a financial savvy to the table that helps deliver more results for less. Prior to Descano’s pivot into PR, she spent 20-plus years in financial services, designing and delivering industry-leading integrated campaigns underpinned by social media and content marketing.



If you are serious about staying with the company, then you must commit to being part of the solution and not exacerbating the tension. That begins with having a clear understanding of what your boss expects from you.

First, schedule a face-to-face to discuss her vision of the key attributes for success at the company, and why she doesn’t think you have what it takes to be successful. Listen more than you talk, and ask for concrete examples. Strike a constructive, rather than accusatory, tone.

The objective would be to align on the top three things that are expected of you, as well as a schedule for regular check-ins.

One idea to explore with your manager is a 360° review, so both of you have more data points to inform your action plan. Document these discussions in an email so you have appropriate records in the event that you aren’t able to reconcile and escalation to HR is necessary.

With respect to the award, always check with your organization’s policy to determine whether any approvals are required before submitting an award application. Even if none were required, I would be transparent and notify my manager in advance of submitting the application. If her endorsement was required and she declined, I would not ask another executive for an endorsement without telling my boss first—and, on the flip side, I would let the other executive know that my manager had declined. Going behind your boss’s back to get what you need may hurt you in the long run, since your behaviour will generate mistrust and does not demonstrate respect for her position.

Regardless of the specifics of your individual situation, it’s important to pinpoint the source of your conflict, whether it’s with your boss, a colleague or a direct report. If your issues stem from mismatched ethics, value, or integrity — rather than your abilities — then seek advice and guidance from your ethics office or a reliable internal HR resource to help you navigate the best way to proceed.

Good Question: How do I know when is the right time to leave my job?


A new position has come up in another area that I would love to pursue — but it doesn’t feel like the right time to leave my department. Should I pursue it anyway?

Knowing how much pressure we are under to deliver, I am concerned that my boss will be angry if I leave. I like my boss and my team, and I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate all they have done for me. And I hate the idea of leaving them with all of this work to do — it will put a lot of extra pressure on everyone.”






Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.



In my role, I get the opportunity to interact with hundreds of professional women at varying levels within their organizations, from CEOs to administrative assistants. So many women I coach feel there is “never a right time” to leave a position. I’m going to share a few pieces of wisdom I’ve gathered from working with very successful women.


It’s not a marriage.
So many talented women treat their commitment to their jobs in the same way they approach their marriages or families — acting as if they are committed indefinitely. Every employer will tell you that having employees that are extremely loyal is a great asset to their business. The challenge with this thinking is that it can limit healthy personal and professional growth.

Years ago, when I was struggling to leave a relationship, my coach said to me: “You don’t have to make him wrong in order for it to be the right decision to leave.” This was eye-opening. I was looking for where the other party was wrong to help me justify my decision to make a change. I see many professionals who will say they like their boss, team, company, or role — so they don’t know why they feel like they want a change. You don’t have to hate your job to justify leaving it.


It’s not a fling.
While it’s important to recognize that being too loyal can be a detriment, I also like to challenge talented women to think of how they build a personal brand of commitment. Changing positions quickly can leave people wondering if you’ve got the grit to work through challenges and stay the course when things get tough. 

I not only ask clients if they’ve been in their existing role for a minimum of 18 months, but also whether they’ve seen some work through to completion — in which they can say with confidence that they’ve gained new critical skills through that working experience. There will always be unique circumstances that merit a quick departure, but repeated short stays can leave future employers questioning your credentials if this becomes your regular rotation. 


“You don’t have to hate your job to justify leaving it.”


It’s more like a home. 
I like to use the analogy of a home when it comes to how we approach loyalty in our careers. If you think about it, many of us have lived in different homes throughout our lives. Some homes we live in for numerous years, others are only for a short time. Sometimes we move to get away from our loud and rowdy neighbours, other times we move because we’ve simply outgrown the place and it’s healthy to evolve in a new environment that is a better fit for who we are today.


Don’t wait for permission.
I’ve worked with many women who feel they need to wait for permission to leave. We want others to say: “It’s okay to take that new role!” The truth is, we have to give ourselves permission to pursue what feels right to us, even at the expense of disappointing others. A boss that values your work is rarely going to encourage you to take on a different opportunity, and that’s a good thing — they see your greatness! This is even more reason why you should take that leap that excites you the most.

Be thoughtful about how you leave your role, and always thank those around you for what they’ve taught you. You’ll find that over time you’ll create a network full of professionals that continue to support you for years to come.


To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at


Good Question: What is the most effective approach to resolving conflict between two employees on a team


“In my department, I have a manager and her direct report who are really at odds with each other on a project. People have dropped by my office to tell me that their frustration with each other is really causing challenges during larger project review meetings. What is the best way to approach and resolve this issue?



Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.



There are many ways that leaders address this issue—unfortunately, they often don’t lead to the best result. Here are a few common approaches that leaders take, and their pitfalls:

Speak to the manager and delegate getting the issue resolved. The challenge with this approach is that it does not address what leadership issues the manager may have. Sometimes, the manager may lack the skills to effectively engage the employee. Delegating the issue to a manager without the ability to properly address the issue can lead to high turnover and the loss of some great talent before the gap in the manager’s skills surfaces as the cause.

Decide that the manager needs training. Many times, when a conflict arises, leaders quickly resort to communications or leadership training. Training creates many great benefits, but it often uses generalizations, which may not help that manager become more effective at resolving a very specific type of employee issue.

Speak with numerous team members to gather information about the current issues, and then create a plan to resolve them. This approach can require hours of a leader’s time, taking them away from numerous other important and more strategic activities. It also creates a culture in which a disagreement gets put under a microscopic lens and can be overanalyzed if not careful.

Defer the issue to human resources. Bringing in your counterparts in human resources can definitely help to resolve employee issues. The caveat: if leaders regularly delegate issue resolution to another department without feeling fully engaged or accountable to improve the situation, the efforts made may only result in a short-term improvement.

What’s an effective approach that generates a positive outcome?

Teaching leaders to facilitate a single yet powerful conversation between two individuals in conflict. It is a priceless skill, and when leaders are involved in the conversation they grow further insight into the people, management, and business issues that exist within their team. In addition, this approach saves hours of time in individual conversations and encourages a culture in which people address and resolve challenges head-on.


Follow these four simple steps to lead a conversation that resolves conflict between two individuals:


STEP 1: State the reason for the conversation.

It’s important to highlight that the end goal of the meeting is to create a more harmonious working relationship between the two individuals. Many times, individuals feel the purpose of the meeting is to find out who is at fault for the conflict. Finding fault is far less productive and brings out the more defensive feelings in each individual.


STEP 2: Ask each individual to take ten minutes and explain their thoughts around the conflict.

It’s very important that there are no interruptions, and that the other party listens with curiosity and not reaction. This step is critical!


STEP 3: Ask each party how they feel they could work together more harmoniously in the future.

Instead of having them focus on past conversations that were tense and unproductive, encourage both parties to talk through how future situations could be more effective. Encourage discussion around how things could be different than they are today as opposed to focusing on finding faults.


STEP 4: Create agreements.

Ask each party to agree to a future behaviour change. Many times, once two people have talked through a conflict, they assume that the other person will change in the future. This simply sets the stage for more conflict. If each party can highlight and take ownership of what they can contribute to improving the situation, many times both individuals will feel more collaborative in their future work together.


As leaders, how we resolve conflict between individuals is one of the most important things we do to influence the culture of our teams.



To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented women professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at


How Maryann Turcke went from civil engineer to a top job in the NFL

Maryann Turcke knows that her collection of career job titles seems out of the ordinary. But in the details, her path becomes clear. During her career, Maryann has moved up, down, sideways and even made a right turn, with an MBA from Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, to get to her current job as chief operating officer of the NFL. Here, she shares how she did it, and her best advice for those wanting to follow in her footsteps.


By Hailey Eisen



In what may seem like an unusual career trajectory, Maryann Turcke began as a civil engineer in Kingston, Ontario — working in bridge design and construction — and ended up, three decades later, the highest-ranking woman in the National Football League.

Her path has taken her up, sideways, and even down as she’s moved into different roles and industries, both creating her own opportunities and fearlessly taking on those presented to her. It’s a strategy she recommends to the women she mentors, as well as to her own two daughters.

“My advice to women is always the same,” she says. “In order to distinguish yourself from others, it’s important to be brave enough to try things outside of where you’re traditionally comfortable.”

Maryann’s first move out of her comfort zone came in 1996, the first year Smith offered a 12-month MBA program for those working in science and technology. She had already earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in engineering and had been working in the field for five years. She’d also had her first daughter and was looking to make a career change. Maryann decided that earning her MBA was the perfect way to get started.

Looking back, it was exactly the opportunity she needed to make a right-angle turn out of engineering and into business. After earning her MBA, she worked in management consulting, then in technology, and eventually as a freelance consultant — which gave her more time at home with her two daughters. It’s a time that she remembers fondly.

“Some of the best advice I was ever given was to make sure, during your career, that you take time to enjoy life outside of work — to fight for it if you have to.”

Returning to the corporate world, Maryann was hired by Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE), and after three years was given a major promotion. “This was another pivotal time in my career as the CEO moved me from a VP to an EVP — skipping the SVP step — which was never done. He put a lot of faith in me — giving me a massive team of 12,000 guys and trucks.”

Her next move, however, was unconventional. Maryann was approached by Bell’s CEO with another offer, this time to join Bell Media.


“Some of the best advice I was ever given was to make sure, during your career, that you take time to enjoy life outside of work — to fight for it if you have to.”


“I ended up working for a peer of mine, which was a big risk for me career-wise. It was a sideways, downward kind of move, and I struggled with that decision,” she explains. But Maryann emphasizes that taking such a risk and learning something new can’t hurt your career, “I knew it would be fun and I’d learn a lot.” She eventually became the president of Bell Media, putting her on the radar in the sports and entertainment industry.

She sat on the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (owner of hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs and basketball’s Toronto Raptors) and dealt with the NFL (Bell was the football league’s broadcasting partner in Canada). That eventually helped her land a job with the NFL as president, NFL Network, Digital Media, IT and Films, based in Los Angeles.

It was another new industry, and the job came with certain challenges. “I had an accelerated learning curve when it came to understanding the cultural importance of the brand and football itself here in the United States,” she says.

What she didn’t find, however, was a male-dominated workplace. The NFL is committed to diversity and equality, she says. “I’ve actually never worked with more women in my career as I do now at the NFL.”

Now in her third year with the NFL, she is the chief operating officer, working out of the league’s head office in New York City. Maryann holds a great deal of power within the organization — a privilege she doesn’t take lightly. She’s committed to elevating and enhancing the portfolios of emerging executives as the NFL works toward a commissioner succession plan.

She also recently took on the role of chair of the advisory board of Smith School of Business at Queen’s University. Maryann says Queen’s runs through her blood: Her father was the university’s head of civil engineering; it’s where she earned her undergraduate degree and MBA, and both her daughters studied at Smith.

“Watching the school evolve over time has been really satisfying,” she says. “Especially when it comes to data and innovation — this is a really important time and I’m pleased to be part of it.”

Today, Maryann is able to reflect on her career with pride and gratitude. “It may seem like an odd path,” she says, “but looking back on how it all unfolded, it totally makes sense now.”


Smith School of Business has helped countless business leaders make their own right-angle career turns. Learn more about Smith’s suite of MBA programs here.


Good Question: My mentor told me that I need to put more effort on critical mandates. Was it a criticism of my work? What am I missing?


“My mentor told me that if I want to move up, I need to start putting more effort on critical mandates. I feel like everything I do is stuff that has to get done — so I’m not sure what to do with this advice. Was it a criticism of my work? What am I missing?



Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.



I often coach my clients on how to productively handle negative feedback — but I actually don’t think this is what your mentor is offering. Focusing on critical mandates is key for advancement, and the first step is understanding what this means. It’s not about getting through your task list — everything might have to be done, but not everything is critical — it’s about putting more energy towards what will have a big impact. Here are three easy steps to do it: 


  1. Figure out what are your critical mandates. 

    Can you quickly list the three most important things your company needs you to deliver on? Just because a task is urgent (someone in shipping needs a signature for a package) doesn’t make it important (delivering a presentation to align peers on a critical business objective).

  2. Colour code your calendar. 

    If you have three critical mandates, begin to colour code what mandate you are working on at each point in the day. A lot of people feel this sounds too tactical, but ironically, the moment you see where your daytime hours are being spent, it gets very easy to see what is keeping you away from your most important work. I challenge you to try this out for four weeks and then review your history to see what stands out to you. 

  3. Ask for support. 

    As you start to re-prioritize your time to focus on the most important mandates, some other things are going to naturally get less attention. As this is a growth opportunity for you, you may need to reach out to your boss to explain how you’re prioritizing critical mandates, and ask for support. She might need to delegate time intensive, low priority work to someone else, or even advise that certain tasks be set to the back burner until more critical initiatives are complete.


To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at


Good Question: My boss shared with me some difficult feedback, and it has really thrown me off my game. How can I deal with this?


“Recently, my boss shared with me some difficult feedback, and it has really thrown me off my game. I feel like I work really hard and am overall doing a pretty good job, and she’s not acknowledging that. How can I deal with this?



Christine Laperriere
Executive Director, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.



It can be hard to hear that your performance has been less than stellar, but with the right mindset, this can be an opportunity rather than a roadblock. There are a few key steps I suggest to help navigate through negative feedback, and come out the other side with a positive outcome.

  1. Recognize it’s normal to feel defensive. Difficult feedback is especially hard to take when you feel like you are working really hard. The natural first response is to think your efforts aren’t being valued. That said, just because this is the normal human response doesn’t mean it’s the most effective one.
  2. Before you process the feedback, take time to process your feelings. I often encourage clients who are disappointed or frustrated by difficult feedback to give 24 hours before trying to process this information. And be sure to do something fun in those 24 hours — whether it is treating yourself to a good workout, a favourite dinner, or even just curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. The important thing is to consciously decide to take your mind off of the feedback for a bit and get yourself back into a higher state of mind. Once you’ve had time to focus on something else, it is easier to get genuinely curious about the feedback.
  3. Play a game of “They are right!” As you decide it’s time to reflect on the feedback, do a “they are right” exercise and see if you can validate their point of view by noticing three to five things you do that endorse the feedback. You don’t need to beat up on yourself — you are just looking to process where this feedback might be helping you see a blind spot.
  4. Consider the upside of difficult feedback. Getting candid feedback and using it to grow can be an absolute game changer. Each person you work with will have varying points of view around where you need to improve. You don’t need to please everyone all of the time, but if you can gain awareness and try new approaches as a result of feedback, it will likely help you grow as a professional.
  5. Book a 90-Day Check in. Nothing is more impressive to a leader than a team member who takes difficult feedback and grows from it. Leaders want people who are coachable and they will naturally support people they see excelling. So, if you want to demonstrate your ability to be coachable, set a reminder to book a follow-up call with your boss after you’ve had 90 days to take in your feedback and practice new approaches. Ask to check in with her to share what actions you’ve taken, see if she’s noticed the improvements you’ve made — and ask for more feedback. 


To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at

How to Get Hired in an Age of Disruption

An executive search professional with over 25 years of experience in the industry, Lisa Knight, Managing Partner at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge, has made a career of knowing what organizations are looking for in a candidate. Today, your ability to excel in a changing environment will be what sets you apart.


By Lisa Knight



Today’s job seekers are entering a market characterized by relentless and active flux. In both the private and public sectors, and in organizations of all sizes, change has become the only constant. New technologies are altering the ways in which organizations work and creating higher customer expectations than ever before. Digital disruption is introducing new market entrants into virtually every industry, spurring unprecedented levels of competition. These trends are putting organizations under exceptional pressure to evolve, innovate, and rapidly transform themselves.

Not surprisingly, they are also having a knock-on effect on job candidates. Gone are the days when the right experience was enough to secure you a job. Now, it’s just table stakes. Instead, organizations are coming to understand that business breakthroughs require leaders and team members who can drive results in an evolving culture. To truly capture the attention of today’s hiring managers, then, you need to demonstrate your ability to take part in—and potentially lead—the transformation.


The sought-after skills

Differentiating yourself in today’s crowded and changing market calls for a new approach to job seeking. Rather than focusing only on your job-related skills and experience, you must also showcase a growing array of social skills, interpersonal attributes, and emotional intelligence quotients (EQ). Ultimately, hiring managers are looking for people with the ability to:

  • Innovate. To deliver on spiralling customer and stakeholder expectations, organizations need people capable of taking measured risks, proposing new ideas, and advancing creative solutions to both existing and emerging challenges.
  • Demonstrate a high EQ. Experience shows that people with a strong EQ are highly-effective problem solvers. For job candidates, this means demonstrating qualities such as self-awareness, self-control, strong personal motivation, empathy for others, and the ability to collaborate and manage change.
  • Prioritize. Organizations are assailed by a huge range of competing projects and goals—which means their people need the ability to prioritize initiatives that align with the organization’s objectives, values, and culture.
  • Be resilient. Transformation is disruptive, which means sought-after employees are typically those capable of overcoming or quickly recovering from difficult conditions, and reacting calmly under pressure.
  • Exhibit agility. To remain agile, organizations must be able to respond rapidly to shifting trends or expectations. That explains why they favour employees with agility—those capable of confidently navigating changing environments, reassessing the effectiveness of their approaches, and adapting in response.
  • Provide measurable impact. Given the pressure to perform, organizations need people capable of making a tangible—and quantifiable—difference to their bottom line, productivity, or efficiency. Wherever possible, share metrics that describe how your actions made a measurable impact.


Finding a cultural fit

All that said, it’s worth remembering that there is a delicate balance between driving positive change and inciting negative disruption. That balance will be dictated by a prospective employer’s values, which is why candidates must understand the extent to which their personal values mesh with organizational values if they hope to fit into the corporate culture.

While a values match must take place on a case-by-case basis, certain behaviours can help you demonstrate your skill as an innovator rather than a troublemaker. For instance, consider providing examples where you helped introduce forward-thinking initiatives while still respecting the past. Show how you have engaged in cross-functional collaboration that moved the needle on a major initiative without negatively affecting the business. And explain how you helped change the mindset of existing teams or team members while still valuing alternative approaches and diversity of thought.

Hiring managers must assess literally hundreds of candidates for almost every job. If you hope to stand out, you need to share your ability to transform at the pace of business.


Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge helps companies simplify the complexity associated with transforming their leadership and workforce so they can accelerate results, with less risk. As leaders in Executive, Interim and Mid-Level Search, Talent & Leadership Development and Career Solutions, we assist organizations in finding new talent, and helping their employees navigate change, become better leaders, develop better careers and transition into new jobs.

Visit us at



Eight entrepreneurs reveal the tech challenges they are tackling now — and how it will make their business better

Technology can have an impact on an organization’s success — and these eight entrepreneurs know it. As participants in the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle, they’ve been paired with engineering interns with the goal of using technology to better their businesses. They’re sharing the challenges they’re solving with technology this year — could it help your company, too?




While looking for childcare for their first daughter, Irini Mikhael, an engineer for a global organization, and her husband Halim simply were not satisfied with the options available. So they opened Lullaboo — with the goal of providing top notch education and development to Canadian children, including their own.

Tech Challenge: Managing operations after growth
Since launching in Richmond Hill in 2008, Lullaboo has expanded to nine locations. They’re currently using a FileMaker solution to manage operations — but it’s time to develop their own custom app. Irini is in charge of IT software development (along with process strategy, new buildings, and other operation decisions), and is looking for a solution that can support further expansion.




Rebecca and Mandy Wolfe are the sister-duo behind Mandy’s. With seven branches across Montreal, the salad restaurant is known for their quality food and guest experience — as well as their charitable giving. They’ve found success not only through what they offer, but also by keeping operating costs low, and building out their backend technology and processes to maintain rapid but healthy growth.

Tech Challenge: Consolidating multiple systems
Mandy’s currently employs multiple small systems, and Rebecca and Mandy want to consolidate to better manage and optimize operations. They also recognize that they need support from a fresh, outside point of view to bring more efficiency to their backend.






Located in Newfoundland and Labrador, the Port of Stephenville is a fully operational seaport which works in tandem with Vinking, which includes an industrial estate with over 300 acres of land and 960 acres of sea-bottom currently in the process of development. Owned and managed by Theresa Keeping, she’s focusing the next five years on creating an aggregate mining facility, both shellfish and fin-fish aquaculture facilities, a cutting-edge compost facility, and alternative energy opportunities.

Tech Challenge: Integrating new lines of business
Given the future expansions planned and current port activities — which are anticipated to increase significantly in coming years — Theresa sees the need for an integrated management software platform which can automate, plan, and support on-going operations. Ensuring that all services and business threads are integrated is, and will be, a challenge for the Port.




Colette Cooper is co-owner and VP of Business and Operation of Renteknik, an energy efficiency engineering and consulting firm based in Burlington, Ontario.  The company is at the forefront of the energy industry, providing focused solutions that are cost effective, sustainable, and support North America’s mandate to reduce carbon emissions and promote energy and operational efficiency practices. The company’s current project: developing a real-time energy and operational efficiency monitoring software portal for HVAC, Make Up Air Units and Air Handling Units.

Tech Challenge: Developing a new tech product
The project involves the integration of different analytical platforms into a ‘watch dog’ type system that will allow for the identification of operational and energy issues within the various monitored building systems. By creating a new technology solution, their goal is to give visibility into business operations to achieve greater efficiency and cost savings for their clients.




Donna Enright opened her application development company to make a difference in the world. Based in Haliburton, Ontario, TechnicalitiesPlus has worked with many not-for-profits and innovative businesses to create web-based applications that help them support their clients and customers more efficiently. This year they are launching Assisted Cooking, an easy to use application delivering virtual support in meal preparation to people with cognitive challenges.

Tech Challenge: Making an online solution more accessible
Assisted Cooking is currently set up as a mobile responsive website, which can be problematic for universal functionality. Building a mobile app will provide more control over and consistency in the way the software functions on tablets, making it more accessible to the people who will benefit most from it.





Telelink was launched in 1965 as a traditional answering service in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Present Co-CEO’s Cindy Roma and Sydney Ryan have transformed it into a global leader in safety and emergency response monitoring with over 340 global customers. As their clients become more sophisticated, they are requesting social media monitoring services, a more omni-channel, connected experience, and monitoring of safety devices and platforms — which their current systems can’t handle.

Tech Challenge: Transitioning to a cloud-based client offering
With customers wanting more than just taking a message or relaying information, Cindy and Sydney know they need to evaluate new options in telephony and monitoring platforms. There are cloud-based systems available that offer a host of new services that they can provide to their customers, but it will take research to select the right platform, and transition systems.




Julie Mitchell says she likes to have a lot going on, which explains why she’s both a partner at Parcel Design, an integrated creative firm, and the owner of Torq Ride, an indoor cycling studio that hosts approximately 600 riders per week. While Torq and Parcel are both quite dependant on technology and have access to a lot of related data, they do not currently use it to their best advantage.

Tech Challenge: Making information accessible internally
Their main tech project for the summer is creating an intranet to make processes, policies, templates, and brand standards accessible to the team. As both Parcel and Torq expand, Julie thinks that this platform will have a huge impact on productivity and communications.






Since 2007, Yoga Tree Studios has grown from its first studio in Thornhill to five studios across the GTA, with a sixth opening soon. Yoga Tree offers over 2,000 yoga classes a month and an array of workshops and yoga teacher trainings. Debbie recognizes that the fitness industry is ever evolving and Yoga Tree is responding with innovative solutions — including integrating technology to optimize their digital and mobile presence to increase retention, communication with its clients, and increase brand awareness.  

Tech Challenge: Improving customer experience
Debbie’s focus is on the development and launch of a customized Chatbot, the design of a platform for online streamed classes, and a redesign of their website to be more responsive and intuitive to determine their customers’ fitness goals and align it with their suitable class options. Her goal: to elevate the digital experience of Yoga Tree students to a level that is ahead of industry practice.



The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle — a program led by Cisco in partnership with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) — addresses some of the obstacles women-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy and fill in your knowledge gaps, or try the BDC digital maturity assessment tool to find out in less than 5 minutes where your business stands compared to your peers, and how you can improve.



Four lessons for success and contentment

Currently Head, Business Deposits and Pricing at RBC, Rajini McRae’s varied experience ranges across multiple industries and she has expertise in financial transformation, M&A, and business strategy. She’s also a valued member of the Women of Influence Advisory Board.




By Rajini McRae



As I sit here listening to my sons laugh, talk, and play Fortnite downstairs, I realize maybe this video game thing is not that bad, and maybe it is just a different way of playing and connecting. As most of you with siblings, children or friends have experienced, we too have had plenty of debates in our house about what is the right amount of time to play video games. We have had this discussion with friends, family and of course our children. This consistent approach to the art of questioning and understanding the root cause has made me realize how this has become a fundamental skill that my family and friends have in common that has helped us in life.

Lesson 1: Ask Why

Having curiosity to understand why drives you to critically think, learn different approaches and gain a deeper understanding. There is a Japanese approach that was practiced by Toyota called The 5 Whys that helps one understand the root cause of a problem. The theory is that when you ask why 5 times to a problem, you generally will come close to identifying the root cause. This would be the first lesson I would share with you. Be curious and try to understand the root cause as much as possible, as this enhances your learning and understanding at a deeper level, guiding your decisions and interactions more successfully. This is especially needed when information is so readily available in many mediums and, unfortunately, more often than not, without much depth.

Lesson 2: Think in ‘And’

Through the journey of balancing many priorities of work, three children, volunteer/advisory board involvements, aging parent, etc., I have learned the importance of thinking in ‘and’ solutions. Many who I have admired and learned from have this innate ability to combine solutions when they are proposed conflicting choices. In business, the best leaders I know are exemplary at delivering on conflicting requirements such as driving revenue growth while reducing cost or increasing capacity while maintaining the same resources. Mastering this skill to find an ‘and’ solution when faced with conflicting choices, not only leads to innovative solutions but also a truly full life.


“Generosity and gratitude are so infectious. It is a key attribute that I have learned and noticed in truly contented people.” 


Lesson 3: Practice Generosity and Gratitude

As I continue to hear my kids play and then my mom and husband prepare dinner, I am reminded of all I have to be thankful for. Having lost my father at a young age, my mother at 36 had to learn new skills, come to a new country and raise my two sisters and me. Without the generosity of many and the gratitude we always felt and hopefully showed, we would not be where we are today. At work and life, practice generosity and gratitude with all the people that support and surround you — your mentors, colleagues, sponsors, friends and family. This includes genuine small gestures that some have shown to me, such as sharing an useful article that is meaningful, connecting a colleague that can assist, or getting lunch to simply say thank you. Generosity and gratitude are so infectious. It is a key attribute that I have learned and noticed in truly contented people. 

Lesson 4: Celebrate the Successes of Others

Lastly, as I finally get a quiet moment as all have gone to their own corners in our home, I share with you one of the most meaningful lessons I learned in my thirties. This is the lesson to genuinely celebrate the success of others. My husband is the ultimate example in life that teaches me this often. He is consistently finding reasons to celebrate others. I recognize when we celebrate others and ask others to share their successes and journey, we create an environment of learning and positivity. Especially in these times where fear and negativity seem to be more pervasive, it is much needed to celebrate all the many positive achievements of those around us.


With these key lessons, I hope that you achieve greater success and contentment in your career and life. Thank you to all the thoughtful and intelligent mentors, sponsors, colleagues, friends and family that have helped me along the way!  

The Role of Men

Over the last few decades, we’ve made progress towards gender equality in the workplace, and shifted our focus from ‘why’ we should be doing it to ‘how’ it can be done. The path that will most likely lead to success? One that includes men — as leaders, champions, and allies. Here’s why and how we’ll do it.


By Stephania Varalli



In 1977, John T. Malloy published a bestselling guide called The Woman’s Dress For Success Book.

His advice amounted to a feminized version of male office attire — hair above the shoulder, a “man-tailored” blouse, a scarf, a skirt-suit — creating a uniform for women that downplayed their gender in a non-threatening way. We’re like you, but we’re not trying to be you, it said.   

The book opened with a disclaimer that it was not at all sexist, just reflective of the reality of the time. “If women control a substantial hunk of the power structure in ten or fifteen years,” Malloy stated, “I will write a book advising men how to dress in a female-dominated environment.”

At least he was optimistic about the speed at which women would be advancing. In reality, it took longer than 10 or 15 years to just shift our focus away from “fixing women” to creating workplaces that work for everyone. But today, we are on that path.

In the past few years, we’ve stopped arguing about whether there’s a business case for diversity, and have started talking about gender equality as a business imperative — delivering better problem solving, increased collaboration, greater innovation, better governance and compliance, and overall higher financial performance. Corporations, SMEs, government, investors, and individuals are stepping up to the challenge of reaching economic gender parity. And there are more organizations that are calling for and supporting change, from broad efforts to focused initiatives.

“The question is not about ‘if’ or ‘why’ gender balance is important; it’s so much more about how we make it real,” says Louisa Greco, a senior advisor at McKinsey & Company. Passionate about gender balance and sponsorship, she’s also on the Advisory Committee for the 30% Club Canada, a campaign with the aspirational goal of 30% of board seats and C-Suite positions to be held by women by 2022.

The 30% Club wants to avoid the need for quotas. Instead, they are building a strong foundation of business leaders who are committed to meaningful, sustainable gender balance. If you scroll through their directory of members, some might be surprised to find more men than women. But in this case, it’s a good sign — and necessary for success.

“Men lead 95% of the world’s organizations and therefore have the power to make change,” explains Tanya van Biesen, Executive Director of Catalyst Canada. “Not change for change’s sake, but meaningful change that will expand their talent pools, their levels of productivity and innovation, and their contribution to just and fair societies.”

And, Tanya says, if you look at gender inequality not as a women’s issue, but as society’s issue, “all of society must take part in making progress.” So the question becomes: How do we encourage more men to get involved?


“Men lead 95% of the world’s organizations and therefore have the power to make change.”


“It does help to frame the issue in a way that promotes the understanding that equality and inclusion are not just ‘women’s issues,’ they are ‘people issues’ and ‘business issues,’” suggests Rahul Bhardwaj, CEO and President of the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD). “If we start from there, the quality of engagement will be much better.”

The ICD mandate is to actively promote the idea that strong boards make strong organizations, and ultimately a better country. Supporting the 30% Club Canada is a logical partnership for the organization, says Rahul, because of the impact diversity can have on board performance, and specifically, innovation.

“Canada’s prosperity depends in large part on innovation, and innovation requires new ways of thinking — diverse thinking.” says Rahul. “If your directors aren’t focused on innovation and helping you to think in new ways, your company will be left behind.”

Diversity as an enabler of innovation makes a strong business case, but it’s not the only thing that drives Rahul’s support of gender equality. “On a personal level, a strong woman raised me. My mother played a significant role in the community and did so with a lot of grace and courage despite some of the challenges of that time,” explains Rahul. “I’m also a husband and a father of a daughter and I’d like to know that all opportunities for professional growth are available to them, regardless of gender.”

These aren’t uncommon outcomes. According to research, having a working mom that acts as a strong female role model changes a man’s perception of gender roles, and having a daughter tends to push men towards more progressive views on gender.

For Spencer Lanthier, it is a matter a fairness. He’s the Former Chairman and CEO of KPMG, as well as the Founding Chair of the 30% Club Canada — although his views might peg that percentage goal even higher. “Women make up half the population,” he says, “so it’s only right that they would make up half the C-Suite roles and board seats.”

He came on board in 2015 after being approached by the team of Brenda Trenowden, the organization’s Global Chair. Spencer saw the 30% Club campaign “as a way to heighten awareness of the issue as well as to bring about change in a measurable manner, allowing organizations to do the right thing and experience the benefits that come with gender balanced leadership.”


“It’s a simple matter of math to make gender diversity a core value and drive meaningful, lasting change, men need to be part of the solution.”


Whatever their motivations, leaders and organizations are starting to do the right thing. Looking at TSX-listed companies in Canada, Osler’s 2018 Diversity Disclosure Practices report found that women held 16.4 per cent of board seats in 2018, up from 14.5 per cent the year prior. The stats are even more encouraging for S&P/TSX 60 companies: women held 28.4 per cent of board seats in 2018, as compared to 26 per cent the year prior. These numbers represent progress — but they also show that we still have work to do. Board directors tend to blame a lack of qualified female candidates, but this is an excuse that’s easily proven wrong.

“Women have earned upwards of 60% of university degrees in Canada for the last 30 years,” says Tanya. “These women are well educated, ambitious and engaged, yet they continue to be underutilized and undervalued in the workplace, to the detriment of our economy and society. Women have all of the capabilities and smarts to be successful, alongside men, but our workplaces and our societal expectations are lagging their ambitions.”

In 2017, leading not-for-profit organizations focused on research, advocacy and education in the areas of governance and gender diversity joined together to form the Canadian Gender and Good Governance Alliance. The aim of the Alliance was to coordinate and amplify their impact in their efforts to achieve gender parity on boards, in executive positions, and throughout Canadian organizations. They have launched curated best practice tools for boards in the Directors’ Playbook and for organizations in the CEO Blueprint. These serve as guides for today’s leaders to become champions of change — leaders who are mostly men.

Yes, some of these men have far to go before they’ll be convinced to tackle gender equality. But many men are already stepping up as allies and champions, and even as husbands, partners, and fathers, redefining the role of men and creating a more equal playing field for women.

“For sustainable progress, to make gender diversity a core value and drive meaningful, lasting change, men need to be part of the solution,” says Louisa. “And I firmly believe that, together, we’ll all benefit. If we ensure women are successful, men will be more successful, too, and broader business performance will reflect the positive benefits of this.”



This article is just the beginning. Over the next year, the 30% Club Canada and Women of Influence are partnering to explore the role of men, amplifying our efforts by joining together. We’ll be sharing the stories of allies — men who are pushing for gender equality in the workplace, or making it happen in their own business. These Champions of Change can act as visible role models, inspiring and guiding other men to follow in their footsteps. If we’re going to level the playing field, we need men to be engaged.




Five key steps for startup success


We often hear how entrepreneurs made it big — but how did they first get that little idea off the ground? We asked the five recipients of the Ones to Watch Award presented by, a category added this year to the RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards. These stellar new business owners have all demonstrated incredible potential through their innovative ideas and solid plans for future profitable growth. And even though their ventures are very unique, we discovered a few similarities in their key steps so far.


Start with a problem that needs a better solution.

“I wanted to solve a problem that I couldn’t solve any other way,” says Jessica Ching, co-founder and CEO of Eve Medical. Her company’s product is The Eve Kit, a home-based screening system that remotely connects users, doctors and labs for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) testing. Launched in 2017 as Canada’s first at-home HPV screening system (and now offering Chlamydia & Gonorrhea testing as well), the Eve Kit is simple to use and private, improving access to screening in a patient-centred way.

Many people assume Jessica’s background is in healthcare, but she actually studied design — which may be why she was able to spot the problem and come up with a unique solution. And she’s not done yet. “There are so many opportunities to make things better,” says Jessica, and that’s what excites her about the future.



Have a detailed plan.

“The best exercise before leaping in is to complete a full-sized business plan,” says Kate Latos, CEO, EcoFence and Decking Ltd. Her business is giving new life to previously discarded waste, using 100% post-recycled plastic to create decking materials that are resistant to moisture, mold, mildew, bugs, and weather — and divert on average over 6,500 plastic jugs from the  landfill. And it all started with a business plan she created for the University of Alberta’s Business Alumni Innovation contest, which she ultimately won. “After endless research and late nights I realized I had a really good idea with great potential. The practice of the detailed business plan helped me lay out each of steps that I needed to take to make our business successful over the next five years. I also shared my business plan with trusted advisors to get their feedback and suggestions based on their expertise.”



Ask for help. 

“Don’t be afraid to ask other business owners for help,” says Sonja Mills, co-owner of the Port Rexton Brewing Company (PRBCo.), a microbrewery and taproom located in the small coastal town of Port Rexton, Newfoundland. Neither Sonja nor her partner, Alicia MacDonald, have a professional background in brewing — Sonja has a law degree and MBA, and was working as a Nurse Practitioner — but they’ve turned their passion into a very successful business. In less than two years, they have tripled in production capacity, brewed and released over 33 different beer styles, begun canning their product, and opened a retail shop in St. John’s. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without the mentorship and advice from many other businesses,” says Sonja, “both from the local tourism sector as well as other microbreweries across the country.”



Use your strengths.

“I have no professional experience or education in baking or cooking,” Thao Nguyen, the founder of Montreal-based Bonbon Collections, confesses. “But, I had a solid 15 years experience in marketing and product development.” Thao has put this experience to work and created a brand that serves exactly what her community — one that includes her own family, who have dietary restrictions — needs. The bakery, which offers an extensive range of breads, desserts, and takeaway meals for the health conscious and those with diet restrictions, has grown to three locations and a production facility in under 18 months, proving the power of focusing on your strengths, rather than your weaknesses. Another strength in her arsenal? An entrepreneurial spirit that was cultivated at a young age. I was 3 years old and as new immigrants, I was dipping rice sheets in warm water in order to make spring rolls that my mum would sell to moms and pops stores.”



Don’t fear failure.

“I always like to quote Winston Churchill’s ‘Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm,’” says Humera Malik, the CEO and Founder of Canvass Analytics. It’s a fitting mantra: Humera had originally put all her money in her first business, which was building and running a chicken farm. She found success on a very different path with Canvass Analytics, which is using AI to to take a radically different approach to data-driven decision making. Not only has she secured Google as an investor, she’s also part of the Pan-Canadian AI strategy, a key innovation initiative of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Still, she’s been through countless “twists and turns” with her new business, but she credits the genuine people she keeps around her with helping her through the challenges. “These are the people that are there to celebrate the wins, give me the confidence when I get knocked down, and challenge me to aim for more, even when I just want to sleep!”




The Tallest Poppy: High-performing women pay a steep price for success

For women, getting ahead can sometimes come with negative consequences. A recent survey points to successful employees being attacked, criticized, and ostracized too often at work. Here’s what organizations can do when their tallest poppies are being cut down.


By Rumeet Billan and Todd Humber



Successful women are being undermined at your workplace, and it’s taking a massive toll on productivity, self-esteem, turnover, succession planning and, yes, the bottom line.

That’s the clear conclusion from an exclusive survey of more than 1,500 professionals across Canada which delved into the experiences — primarily of women — who have been attacked, resented, disliked or criticized because of their success.

The Tallest Poppy, a partnership between Thomson Reuters, Canadian HR Reporter, Viewpoint Leadership and Women of Influence, revealed the true scope of the issue of women being cut down at work.

When this research was in the planning stage, we had an inkling it was a significant problem. We didn’t have to look far to find plenty of anecdotal evidence. But what shocked us were the numbers showing the pervasiveness of the problem — nearly nine in 10 respondents (87.3 per cent) feel their achievements have been undermined by others in the workplace.


Tall Poppy Syndrome: What is it?

Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS), a term that was popularized in Australia, occurs when a person (the poppy) is cut down due to their success or recent achievement.

The poppy may be cut down by their boss, peers, colleagues, direct reports or by their family and friends. Ostracization can occur directly or indirectly and the consequences, as we have learned, have a deep impact on the individual as well as the organization.  


Women versus women?

One assumption going into the study was quickly debunked by the data — the myth that women are their own worst enemies. In fact, respondents told us the person primarily responsible for cutting them down was almost as likely to be male (27.6 per cent) as female (31 per cent). About four in 10 (41.2 per cent) said the offenders were both male and female.

Where there was a difference was the role the “cutter” had within the organization. For example, men who held the title of CEO were primary offenders, and an overwhelming majority of women identified as peers and colleagues were doing the cutting.

These co-workers often engage in silent and passive ways of penalizing successful women, such as ignoring them and leaving them out of group gatherings and lunches. But the penalties could often be more severe, as women reported being either overworked or demoted and, in some cases, terminated.

Respondents were not shy in sharing how these penalties, both direct and indirect, impacted them. Almost two-thirds (64.7 per cent) indicated their self-esteem and self-confidence had been affected while 60.3 per cent found themselves downplaying or not sharing their achievements at all.

Not surprisingly, being cut down takes a serious toll on mental health. Depression, anxiety and stress were common terms that came up in the comments from respondents. As one participant noted, they felt “forced to choose between mental health and continuing to be a high achiever.”


High cost for employers

TPS not only has an impact on individuals, it also carries a high price tag for organizations. Nearly 70 per cent of respondents said it impacts their productivity.

In addition, 59.2 per cent said it leaves them disengaged from their work; and 56.6 per cent feel disengaged from their organization.  

About four in 10, though, dug in their heels and said being cut down made them want to achieve more. While some may view that as a silver lining, there is a dark side: The experience of being ostracized or cut down encouraged tall poppies to look for employment elsewhere — nearly 60 per cent said experiencing TPS made them actively look for a new job.

It’s no benefit to an organization if a woman, inspired to do more, takes that inspiration and talent to a competitor out of frustration.

Perhaps most troubling for an employer is the high cost of turnover – often pegged as two times a person’s compensation. And let’s not forget we’re talking about losing people who are likely considered to be high performers, stars who are even more difficult and costly to replace.


Culture of distrust

A strong majority (72.1 per cent) of respondents also said TPS is happening not just to them, but to people all around them, and is a systemic problem within their organizations.

That manifests itself in a culture of distrust, something 78.7 per cent of respondents identified as an issue at their workplace. In that type of environment, teamwork becomes difficult and psychological safety suffers. As a result, employers are “not getting the best out of their talent” and “the culture becomes one of mediocrity and complacency,” said one respondent.

It left one woman searching for a “work culture where this doesn’t happen to rebuild myself again.”

Even women who aren’t leaving may still “turtle,” in a sense, as 48.9 per cent say it impacts their desire to apply for a promotion. One said there was “no hope for even asking for (a promotion)” while another opined it was “too exhausting to have a voice.”

Even those who received a promotion didn’t necessarily see it as a panacea, as they often found themselves attacked or resented by peers and colleagues who were not supportive of their achievements.

The data, anecdotes and examples paint a clear picture: TPS is a real issue with significant consequences both for women in the workplace and their organizations.

Interestingly, respondents told us TPS isn’t just a problem in the workplace — it also follows them home. Many reported being cut down for their success by friends and within their social networks — the company they kept outside of work too often reinforced what they were experiencing on the clock.


What’s the solution?

Participants spoke loud and clear about solutions and ways in which TPS can be managed within an organization. The top three ways to address the problem were: training and development, leading by example, and speaking up.


Training and development:

Respondents identified several areas that could be tackled, including training in sensitivity, leadership, cultural safety, gender bias, diversity, emotional intelligence and an overall general awareness of what TPS is and its impact.

There was a call for more diversity among the executive teams, better-crafted policies, transparency in paths for promotions, building safe and supportive environments and an overall cultural shift within organizations.


Leading by example:

Not surprisingly, it starts at the top.

“Accept without question that it is real, it is happening,” said one respondent. “That people are suffering. That an organization is less than it should be for allowing it to occur or ignoring its existence. That if leadership, at all levels, does not accept it as real, does not examine the roots and processes that allow it to flourish and grow, then they are the ones empowering this widespread, debilitating ‘disease’ to spread.”

Another implored leaders not to be “bystanders” and to address TPS when it happens.

“Similar to harassment, racism and exclusion, it has to be addressed, highlighted and brought up at staff meetings to demonstrate how to lead by example.”


Speaking up:

There were clear calls for zero tolerance of this kind of behaviour and a desire to eliminate bullying. Encouraging the “echo effect” was identified as an effective strategy that could be used to manage TPS.

One respondent shared exactly how this could be done: “Name and echo. Name the achiever and echo what she’s done to achieve, including the process she followed to get there.”

It was heartening to see so many solutions provided by respondents on the table — including exit interviews, celebrating achievements and mentorship opportunities.

“CEOs should personally do exit interviews and some key skip-level meetings with women in their organizations to see if this is happening,” said one respondent. “Even in large organizations, CEOs are sometimes too far removed from the culture of their companies and need to spend real time in conversation and observation. Unless, of course, they are the problem. Then perhaps boards of directors need to engage.”

These strategies, coupled with a cultural shift that promotes trust, achievement and collaboration,  can help to not only manage TPS, but to encourage women and support them in reaching their full potential without experiencing backlash for their success.

Organizations can’t afford to ignore the issue — solving it may not be easy, but meaningful efforts to address it will pay big dividends.


The next generation

There is a real opportunity to pave the way for the next generation of successful tall poppies and eliminate TPS in the workplace.

Mentorship and professional development opportunities can go a long way, but we also need to start young — when children are still in school. And participants made it clear this should not be gender-specific.

“Teach (everyone) how to support one another and how this benefits everyone,” said one respondent. “It’s not a zero-sum game.”

We were fortunate to read the hundreds of stories that were shared in the data, however, there are many stories left untold.


Unveiling the results is just the first stage of the conversation. Join Women of Influence Co-CEO Stephania Varalli at a special event exploring the findings in-depth. Attend in person in downtown Toronto on Oct. 9, or via live webinar. For more information, and to register, visit

Rumeet Billan is the lead researcher and chief learning architect at Viewpoint Leadership. Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management, published by Thomson Reuters.


Five Ways to Attract Younger Customers to Your Business


Today’s younger consumers shop differently than previous generations. Strategic in the way they purchase, they’re digitally savvy, socially conscious and increasingly affluent.


By Diane Amato




As a business owner, long-term success may depend upon your ability to attract a diverse customer base who will be around for years to come. Of particular interest to many business owners are young Canadians born between 1980-1994 (millennials) and those born 1995-2009 (Generation Z), but how can you attract younger Canadians to your business?

Learning more about what drives these groups, what inspires them, and what matters most in their lives may give you insights as to how to make your business appealing to them.

Here are five key characteristics of millennials and Generation Z, and five tips to make your business matter to them.


About Younger Canadians


You can’t paint them all with the same brush

While millennials and Generation Z have been characterized as passionate, resilient and inclusive, it’s important to remember that there is great variety within these groups.

There is a wide range in economic status, values, and ethnicity; in fact, according to research firm Environics, millennials and Generation Z make up the most ethnically diverse generations in Canadian history.


Character and community outweigh cost

According to a 2017 RBC poll, Canadians of all ages prefer to shop locally with 88 percent of the population say they will choose to support a local business when possible; however, younger shoppers say they would pay more for a product or service offered by a local business.

Additionally younger shoppers seek authenticity and a genuine connection with the businesses they are buying from. They wish to support companies that have a strong brand character, are community-minded, and care about the impact they have on their customers, suppliers and employees. In fact, 66 percent of Canadians 15-34 say they spend more on a product from a company with ethical values and a principled approach to their business operations.1


There is power in social

Younger consumers are heavy researchers and 1.5 times more likely than Baby Boomers to spend time researching purchases.3 During the exploratory stage, they draw on their social networks for reviews, recommendations and opinions. And if they support your business? Good news. They are quick to spread the word about a company they support, with 75 percent saying they would help promote a company they like on social media.2

You can also expect them to seek deeper connections with you through social media, as 60 percent of younger Canadians engage with businesses they support through social media1 — 20 percent more than any other age group.


“Part of growing up in a digital world means that younger Canadians expect businesses to provide new technologies, including emerging digital payment options like tap, chip & PIN and Apple Pay.”


Mobile matters

Millennials and Generation Z were born into a mobile world. As native digital generations, they rely on their smartphones and use them to make purchases, read reviews and connect with friends and family. In the last month, 78 percent of Canadians used their mobile devices for chat or instant messaging, 71 percent to watch videos and 37 percent to make a purchase.3


Digital payment options are important

Part of growing up in a digital world means that younger Canadians expect businesses to provide new technologies, including emerging digital payment options like tap, chip & PIN and Apple Pay.When it comes to paying for a product or service, 80 percent of millennials wish more of the businesses they shop at had tap to pay, and 60 percent wish more had mobile payment options.5


Five Ways to Attract Younger Canadians to Your Business


So how do you appeal to this diverse, enthusiastic, connected group of consumers? Here are five ways to capture their imagination, support and possibly their business.


1. Be authentic

Offer a genuine connection to your business. For instance, show them how your business is making a difference in the community — even if it’s in a small way. Are your products sourced and produced in a sustainable, socially conscious manner? Do you give back to your community or participate in local events? Telling your story about how you got started is also a great way to build interest and connection. It doesn’t have to be exciting — it just has to be real.


2. Support local businesses

Sourcing local products and supporting local suppliers may go a long way toward building rapport with these proudly-Canadian demographics. While not every aspect of your business needs to be locally supplied, making an effort to support your community, city and country — and showcasing these efforts — may appeal to both groups.


3. Offer emerging payment options

Even if your business is small, it’s important to stay current with technology to ensure it’s fast and easy for your customers to pay you. Investing in payment technology — such as contactless in-store terminals and streamlined online payment options — offer the choice and convenience younger shoppers are seeking. Stay current with technology to ensure the shopping experience is easy.


“Even if your business is small, it’s important to stay current with technology to ensure it’s fast and easy for your customers to pay you.”


4. Stay social

Social media is where you can tell your story, share reviews, promote events and post updates about what your business is doing. It’s also an invaluable forum for engaging with younger customers — acknowledge a positive review, have a conversation about a negative one, and demonstrate you’re willing to make things right if a customer had a poor experience.


5. Think mobile first

Younger Canadians use their smartphones in just about every aspect of their lives — from banking to connecting with friends, planning trips to buying stuff. Because they are so connected to their mobile devices, it’s critical that your business has a strong mobile presence including an easy-to-navigate mobile site, digestible mobile-friendly content and a simple mobile shopping experience. Use responsive web design that works across platforms, compelling images, videos and e-commerce to help your mobile site become engaging, functional and shareable.

Millennials aren’t all that different from the previous generation — but they do have some distinct characteristics, values and habits that Canadian businesses should recognize — and appeal to — if they want to win their business and their loyalty.



1. Nielsen, 2015

2. RBC poll, 2017

3. Facebook IQ

4. Apple Pay is a trademark of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries.

5. RBC poll, 2017



Three Ways Mindfulness Can Support High Performance


Your mental, emotional and physical energy is your greatest asset and key to high performance. Being able to manage that asset requires discipline, effort and focus but first and foremost it requires self-awareness. It’s why Billie Jean King said, “self-awareness is probably the most important thing towards being a champion.”

The first step towards making any change, achieving any goal, completing any project is to take stock of where you are now. But when it comes to our own internal thought patterns, emotions and behaviours we often lack that awareness. Below are three exercises to help you not only develop awareness and stay mindful but set the stage for high performance during the day.


by Liz Doyle Harmer




Labeling Thoughts and Noticing Judgment

Thoughts happen. Usually without us even being aware of them, often creating emotional reactions or physical stress in our bodies that we only catch later. We notice the after-effects – the anxiety, the stress, the overwhelm, but not the original thought that caused the storm. The first step is awareness of thought.

Try this practice: Commit to a day of noticing your thoughts. This can be overwhelming, so pick a common thought pattern like judgement (comparison and complaining might be others you’d like to try too). Set an intention to notice judgment, by reminding yourself of the power of thoughts to either build you up or tear you down. Every time you notice yourself judging something, “I like this or I don’t like that” or “This is good. That is bad,” simply label your thought “judgment.” Repeat as thoughts come up during the day. The purpose is to begin to notice thoughts without getting carried away by them.


Physical Energy/Noticing Your Body

High performers know that their bodies are tools to support their minds. How you carry yourself matters. Round your shoulders, hunch your back and set off a system of neural responses that trigger cortisol, stress and anxiety. Take an open, expansive, confident position and breed the opposite.

Try this practice: Set an alarm to go off in your phone every hour during the day (Mindfulness Bell App by Spotlight Six Software works well). When the alarm goes off, take note of your posture. Notice how you are holding your physical body and also notice what emotions you are currently experiencing. Ask yourself if you are standing in an empowered, confident, position. If not ask yourself what changes you can make in your physical posture to support you.


Noticing Emotions

It’s normal to experience emotional highs and lows. In fact, people who experience a broader range of emotions (have greater emodiversity) are generally shown to be happier. However, high performers know that their emotional state drastically affects performance and that there are often times when they need to be able to step into an emotional state that differs from the one they are currently in.

Try this Practice: Take stock of the last week. Ask yourself what emotions you experienced. How did you feel? What came up? Now ask yourself is that what you want to feel? If not, what is? Let’s say it’s inspiration. Take a moment to practice that now. Stand tall and breathe into inspiration now. Imagine yourself being inspired and breath into those feelings now. Feel the opening in your body that comes from an inspirational place of being. High performers know that they can’t wait for positive emotions like inspiration to hit them. The more they practice and cultivate inspiration, the more they rewire neural pathways in their brain, creating a positive environment for more inspiration to come.



Liz Doyle Harmer is Co-Owner of Afterglow Health & Fitness Inc, a yoga and fitness studio in the beach neighbourhood of Toronto, offering individual classes, teacher trainings, corporate mindfulness workshops and leadership coaching. For more info:




No one ever got ahead by being a wallflower


By Rebecca Heaton





Being assertive in a professional setting isn’t always easy, and you’re not alone if you feel like you’re often not being heard. This is especially true for women who may find themselves to be silent observers in other words, wallflowers. To them, I would ask: Are you using muscular language (active words and authoritative statements) or are you downplaying your authority? Are you being a discussion leader? If not, it’s time to embrace your inner boss lady, whether the world is ready for her or not.


Come to the table, and have something to say when you do

As a young woman starting out in her career, I began where many of us begin: at an internship. I was lucky enough to land an internship at Women of Influence, where I could develop my skills and personal communication goals in an environment where I was committed to the cause and loved the people. It’s a place where I felt valued and confident. It was a place where I could be loud. While I am happy more women are going to university and coming to the table, I can’t help but notice that young women don’t feel very confident verbally asserting themselves. What’s the point of being at the table if you’re going to be a silent observer? There are many ways women can advance themselves. Why not start by speaking up? Even if you get shot down, at least people know you’re in the room.  


Don’t be afraid to take up space

Once you’re at the table, it can feel like you’re not supposed to be there. Myself and other women suffer from imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent, internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite external evidence of their competence. I often find myself trying to fake it ‘til I make it. However, by being a presence in the room and reaching out to other influential women, I have accessed mentorship and opportunity, and I now have people in my corner. It has been uncomfortable and scary, but I gained much more than I lost. I made mistakes along the way and might have embarrassed myself a few times, but I have my foot in the door and that’s what matters. 


Fill the gaps and be of use

It’s important to remember that being at the table is a privilege, one we should not take for granted. So, be of use when you occupy a seat. Prepare yourself before you walk in the door. If you’re going to speak, say something smart and remind your boss why they hired you. If you see a gap in the process, offer to address it. Taking initiative and being engaged are some of the ways competence is judged, and the bar is unfortunately much higher for women. We have to constantly prove ourselves to be taken seriously. We have to show up over and over again. We have to go the extra mile. We have to work harder and work smarter because of the double burden we face. And it will do wonders for career advancement, but maybe not always for likability. But you’re not in the business of people pleasing, are you?  


Take pride in your accomplishments

Success and likability are often in opposition for women. We worry about being disliked, appearing unattractive, outshining others, or grabbing too much attention. A study done at Cornell University found that men overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. Obviously, men are not exempt from doubting themselves, but they do not let their doubts stop them as often as women do. Think of this when you’re applying for your next job. Maybe you don’t meet all the requirements, but please understand that no one knows everything. Most of us just pretend we do, and some of us are better at pretending than others. Some of us are better at sticking out our noses and asking, “why not me?” I have come to understand that you must know what you have to offer and only accept what you are deserving of. No one is going to advocate for you but you.



Leading by example: How Laura Didyk, VP at BDC, is supporting Canadian women entrepreneurs

Laura Didyk


Laura Didyk has spent more than two decades at The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). The supportive environment has allowed her to achieve success — and now she’s paying it forward, acting as National Lead for BDC’s Women Entrepreneur Strategy, helping the next generation of women leaders excel.


by Shelley White




In her 23 years at The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Laura Didyk has had a lot of mentors, both women and men, who have inspired and guided her along her career journey. One piece of advice from an early mentor stood out:

“It was, ‘Do what works for you and your family, and never apologize for the choices you make,’” she says. “There’s no one-size-fits-all. You have to decide what shape you want your career to take, and just go with it.” 

It’s advice that appears to have worked. Laura is now Vice-President, Finance and Consulting, Alberta South, at BDC, the only bank in Canada dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs.

“I had two kids, I’ve been on maternity leave twice, and BDC has been really supportive when it comes to work/life balance and helping me juggle both parts of my life,” says the Calgary-based executive on the challenges of being a woman in business.

“That’s what’s kept me really loyal to the bank — they ‘get’ the fact that employees do have lives outside the bank and they are as important, or more important, than their careers inside the bank.”

As National Lead for BDC’s Women Entrepreneur Strategy, Laura is “paying it forward,” by helping the next generation of women leaders succeed.

“BDC believes that women entrepreneurs have enormous untapped potential,” says Laura. “So we provide the financing, network and management advice they need to invest in their companies and grow.”   


“BDC believes that women entrepreneurs have enormous untapped potential”


Laura first got involved in supporting women entrepreneurs in 2015 when BDC unveiled their initiative to better support women and their businesses. They committed to lending $700-million to majority women-owned businesses by 2018, and not surprisingly, ended up exceeding that goal.

With that in mind, they’ve kicked off their Women Entrepreneur Strategy for the next three years. It’s a comprehensive approach to supporting the needs of women entrepreneurs by offering a full spectrum of financing, advisory services and capital solutions. The lending target for women-owned businesses has been doubled to $1.4-billion, including a $200-million Women in Technology venture capital fund to help boost the number of women leading tech startups.

It’s an ambitious target says Laura, to match the ambition of women entrepreneurs across the country.

“Simply put, supporting women entrepreneurs is a priority for BDC,” says Laura. “Women entrepreneurs are becoming a driving force in the Canadian economy. About 50 per cent of all businesses started today are started by women. And women make up almost half of the entire workforce, a number that keeps increasing.”

Laura says that although she believes women have come a long way over the past few years, there are some hard realities that need to change. She points out that women are under-represented and under-funded, particularly in the tech startup ecosystem.

“We need to change the fact that only 5 per cent of Canadian technology companies have a woman CEO,” she says. “We need to change the fact that women make up less than 10 per cent of skilled production workers in Canada, and that only 16 per cent of all small and medium-sized businesses are majority-owned by women.”

Also, small and medium-sized businesses owned by women earn less than half the revenue of comparable male-owned businesses. Laura notes that part of this is a function of industry vertical — many women operate specialized consulting and service-oriented businesses that can be considered “boutique” in size.


“About 50 per cent of all businesses started today are started by women.”


“But that’s not the whole story,” she says. “Women often have a higher awareness of risk which can impact their decisions to seek the capital they need to accelerate the growth of their businesses. Negative perceptions about dealing with banks and other institutions lead many to avoid looking for external sources of funding.”

Laura says organizations like BDC can help change that negative perception. And BDC is ready to support ambitious women entrepreneurs.

“We want people to understand BDC’s role in supporting women entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses and that we are here to help them succeed in today’s competitive environment,” she says. “The real challenge is getting more of them to know that we exist and that we can help.”

To ensure they are accessible for women entrepreneurs, BDC surveyed nearly 400 Canadian women business owners in late 2017. Laura says one of the things they heard was that women entrepreneurs want help in managing and growing their business, but they are often too busy to seek it.

“It can be lonely being an entrepreneur. They have to wear a lot of hats and get stuck working in their business and not on their business,” says Laura. “For women entrepreneurs, it can be even worse because there aren’t a lot of women entrepreneurs, so they may not have the network that men have. Time is very important and if you own a business and have a family at home, it’s difficult to get out to networking events and associations.”

In response, BDC is offering one-day boot camps across the country to help women entrepreneurs develop their management skills. To accommodate women who might not be able to meet in person, they’re offering free online learning on, including articles and tools women entrepreneurs can use to fine-tune their business knowledge.

In an effort to increase coaching for women entrepreneurs, BDC is also supporting hundreds of networking and learning events across Canada, specifically for women entrepreneurs in all industries and all stages of growth, says Laura. For example, to extend BDC’s reach and create a cohesive ecosystem, they’ve partnered with the Women Enterprise Organization of Canada (WEOC), which has a network of more than 90,000 female business owners across the country.

“We are all working to put the puzzle pieces together and support women,” says Laura.

Another important part of BDC’s commitment is the Cisco Women Entrepreneurs’ Circle program — a way for participants to adopt technology and keep ahead of the competition, says Laura.

“Women are able to receive in-depth advice for a whole summer at no cost, so it takes away that barrier right there,” she says. Internship students from the University of Waterloo are paired with women entrepreneurs to help build their digital strategy and scale their business. The interns get a “real-world” learning experience, and business owners get to learn from the sharpest young minds.

“We’re helping build stronger businesses and the next generation of women in tech, so it’s a win-win situation,” says Laura.

But while BDC’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy will go a long way to support women entrepreneurs, Laura points that this is not enough. A recent study — “Everyday Innovating: Women Entrepreneurs and Innovation” (sponsored by BMO, Government of Canada, Carleton University and the Beacon Agency) — found that all partners in the business ecosystem, including government and financial institutions, play a critical role in changing their practices to support women entrepreneurs.

“BDC is committed to doing just that and lead by example,” says Laura. “We will not shy away from using our size and market position to influence others to join us in our efforts to inspire more women to become founders and business owners.”

More organizations need to realize that these kinds of efforts are not just good for women, she notes.

“When women succeed, we all succeed,” she says. “At the end of the day, the Canadian economy as a whole is going to win.”


The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles female-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for the free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kick start your journey towards business success.

How to work successfully as a team of entrepreneurs


by Viviana Kohon, Namita Tandon-Walsh, and Caitie Yue



All entrepreneurs enjoy the independence and thrill of working for themselves and creating something new. Having partners or co-founders is an added bonus, giving you the option to consult with each other, and to ensure multiple areas of the business are covered through different expertise. As creative thinkers, it can be tempting to dip our hands in all aspects of the venture, but in order to promote harmony amongst a team of entrepreneurs, one must work strategically, starting with themselves. Here are a few tips:



Have defined titles and roles

Of course, with a new business, positions tend to be cross-functional and evolve as the business grows. We’ve been fairly successful in making sure our roles stay separate, but function together like cogs in a machine. As much as you want to jump in, come together only when you need to leverage separate strengths, otherwise nothing will get done.  Trust each other!


Establish effective ways to communicate internally

Having capable ways to share information with your team is vital to running a successful team. We stay on top of things by communicating closely both among our partners, and with our staff. Having a shared drive, and making yourself readily available during peak periods are good ways to drive efficiency internally.


Identify your limits

Starting a business is not a one-person show, and it will take a team to make anything successful. Working as a small but mighty team means that there is a constant revolving door of priorities, therefore, do not be afraid to ask for help!


Treat everyone equally

You’re all here because you didn’t want to chase a corporate hierarchy, so eliminate a scarcity mentality. Whether you are a decade ahead in Marketing experience, or just starting out, don’t hold out on knowledge thinking it will differentiate you as a go-to expert. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know.


Manage yourself first

Managing ourselves comes with the freedom of entrepreneurial life, and in order to work successfully as a team, you have to organize from within. Try using a checklist system — one pertinent to your responsibilities and one for shared projects — and setting goals professionally and personally by creating a one, three, and five year plan for yourself.



Opened in November 2017, The Symes currently serves as one of Toronto’s largest venue spaces with a rich and established history. A testament to the building’s industrial past, the vibrant modern energy of its home in The Junction — one of the city’s foremost creative hubs — fuels its present. Championed by the combined expertise of the three partners, Viviana Kohon, Director of Marketing, Namita Tandon-Walsh, Director of Sales, and Caitie Yue, Director of Business Strategy, the joint venture centres on event management inclusive of weddings, exhibitions, editorial shoots, corporate events, fundraisers, showcases, film productions, etc. Learn more at or follow them on Instagram.

Where are all the corporate innovators?


As the Director of the Queen’s Master of Management Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Smith School of Business, Shari Hughson interviews hundreds of entrepreneurial-minded candidates each year. About half intend to pursue careers in corporate innovation.


by Shari Hughson



CEOs seem to lack the confidence in their organizations’ ability to innovate. In a recent survey, 81 per cent of CEOs said innovation and creativity were important to the share price of their firms. At the same time, most said they were not confident they had the people or systems in place to actually pull it off.

The reality is that the need for intrapreneurs is growing exponentially. For many organizations, it is almost an existential challenge to build an internal team that can inspire and execute on innovative initiatives. Why do CEOs believe they don’t have the right people and systems in place to accelerate innovation within their firms?

We often think that independent entrepreneurs and corporate intrapreneurs are cut from the same cloth. Indeed, they both need to have great vision, be able to sell concepts, and adapt quickly to changing situations. But there are differences in the risk-reward dynamic and level of autonomy. Intrapreneurs must operate in a corporate culture not of their creation, and often have to fight for resources and attention in a system that tries to maintain status quo.


“Ideally, Intrapreneurs should have a whole-brain personality and be able to easily switch from one side of the brain to the other.”


We know that corporate innovators must be creative and able to thrive in chaos. They’re collaborative, resilient, and oriented to the future. But they are realists and driven by process because they have to deliver. They must be competitive to find that next great idea but also work well within their teams. They are independent thinkers but also empathetic people who can relate to what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes. They don’t take ‘no’ very well and will always try to find a way around the rules of the established system.

Intrapreneurs have to be a jack of all trades. They need to know a little bit of everything from accounting to finance, and a lot about marketing and selling. They must have unique skills in design thinking and prototyping, ideation analysis systems, design, production processes, logistics, project management, and the vetting of innovation and ideas. They have to know exactly what every department needs to hear from them to get approvals and be able to sell all the way to the C-Suite.

It’s no wonder that companies struggle to find the right people. These unidentified intrapreneurs are often the ones struggling at their day jobs. They get bored easily. They are regularly doing side projects and outside work. They’re the ones who challenge assumptions at a meeting. They may be outliers, described by co-workers as odd or different. But their quirkiness and diversity make them incredibly great at thinking differently and bringing a fresh perspective.

If company leaders can identify innovators and give them projects that they can develop and own, they can drive innovation within their firms. These intrapreneurs must be given room to fail and the support to operate within an environment of uncertainty. Even if an idea doesn’t pan out, the team will have learned a tremendous amount about the marketplace or some internal process that needs to be changed. Celebrating what has been learned rather than commiserating on a failure will herald a shift in corporate culture.


Smith’s 12-month Master of Management Innovation & Entrepreneurship can be completed as full immersion on campus in Kingston, ON or virtually from anywhere in Canada.


Liked this? Read more articles on preparing for senior leadership.

Eight simple steps to starting a remote e-commerce business


by Robin Behrstock



The flexibility that comes from being self-employed is undeniable. Add to that the freedom to work from wherever you choose (including your bed) and it comes as no surprise that more and more people — especially women — are foregoing the typical office environment for the comfort and adaptability of remote work. E-commerce is one of the most common industries to find remote working opportunities. Here are a few tips to help you get your own venture started.


Determine your product line

Most successful ecommerce businesses offer a full line of products. So if you have a great idea for a new product, think about how you can expand and offer a variety of options or complimentary items. Once you have your first few products in mind, research the competition. Are there many other websites with the same products? Do you have a unique selling proposition that offers a higher value? Why should people choose you over everyone else?


Set up manufacturing

Will you manufacture the products yourself? This is a good way to start, but it will limit your long term production capacity, so I encourage you to find a manufacturing solution that allows for growth. You can find a factory that makes similar products and hire them to make yours. Or import products from another country by working with a factory or trading company. You can find factories around the world at If importing, you’ll need to hire a shipping company and customs broker who will help you get the products across borders and determine the import duties you’ll be required to pay.


Warehousing and fulfillment

If you’re just getting started, your sales volume may be low, so you can warehouse the products yourself and ship each order. However, when dealing with larger quantities, you should hire a 3PL (Third Party Logistics) warehouse to handle the warehousing and fulfillment logistics. You will need to properly identify each item with a SKU and UPC code. Amazon has its own network of warehouses and can handle your warehousing and fulfillment at a low cost. If you use Amazon’s warehouses through their FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) program, your products will be eligible for “Prime” shipping and will have better sales results versus products that are fulfilled by you, the seller. Some ecommerce businesses choose to own and operate their own warehouse, but that can skyrocket your overhead costs and will prevent your business from being location-independent.


Build your sales channels

Now that you have products, warehousing and fulfillment set up, it’s time to sell! You can sell on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, Jet, etc., or launch your own ecommerce website. Nowadays, building an ecommerce website is easy with companies like Shopify. Templates are available with step-by-step instructions to build your product listings, accept credit card payments, and even integrate with shipping software.


Customer service

Since there’s no face-to-face interaction like there is at your local gift shop, customer service emails are extremely important in e-commerce. You need to answer customer service emails quickly and effectively. Set up procedures for returning products to your 3PL warehouse, or to a different location where they can be evaluated and possibly resold as an “imperfect” item on eBay.



After your products are available for sale online, you need to help people find them. Determine your target keywords for each product and incorporate those words as many times as possible on your website and in your Search Engine marketing campaigns. Set up social media accounts to publicize new products and promotions and engage with customers. Follow users who follow similar companies and they will likely be interested in your products as well. Use popular and relevant hashtags to help increase the reach of your posts. Lastly, collect email addresses and build email marketing campaigns with a program like Mailchimp or Constant Contact.


Trial and error

Building a business takes trial and error. You must take risks and try new things to grow. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. You can learn along the way or ask other experts to help. Ask your accountant to help you measure the profitability of new products and marketing campaigns so you can expand upon the successful ones and retract on the poor performers. Establish KPI (Key Performance Indicators) and monitor on a weekly or monthly basis. Set goals, remind yourself about them, and celebrate when you reach them. Continue improving and growing your business by expanding the product line, sales channels and marketing efforts. Listen to your customers and create new products based on what you hear from them.


Embrace the freedom of location independence

Building, growing and operating this type of e-commerce business can be done from anywhere! So feel free to hit the road and work from coffee shops or wherever you can find reliable wifi. Work hard, be nice, and enjoy life!



Robin Behrstock, author of ADVENTURES OF WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS: Stories That Inspire, started Alchemade, a copper mug business, just as they became a popular trend. In less than three years, she grew the business to annual sales of $3 million. Behrstock is currently a partner in Radius Partnership, a consulting firm focused on working with small businesses. For more information please visit




Six ways to improve your workplace culture today


by Sabrina Parsons



In the age of Lean In and #MeToo, office relationships and workplace culture are shifting drastically, often in ways that can affect employees quite negatively. The recent explosion of #MeToo stories and the Lean In movement have surfaced lots of hard questions about equality in the workplace, inclusive office culture, and employee satisfaction.

As someone holding a leadership position at my company, I am often asked how we create a positive culture that drives our mission . Based on frequent check-ins with our team and years of trying new approaches, I’ve come up with five actionable steps managers and leaders can take to improve their workplace culture in the age of Lean In and #MeToo. And remember — while these steps have proven to be effective for our team, each team should strive to incorporate a few tactics that speak to their specific culture as well.


Encourage a community mindset

People have a fundamental need of belonging on a biological level. This shows in family relations, friendships and ideally in a professional environment. Building a community in your workplace is the most fundamental thing you can do. Team building activities and motivational sessions can help bring employees together under one roof and one vision. If you can build community in your company, and give back to the community you live in you will get even better results from these activities with your employees.Everyone like to be part of a positive action that helps their community. Help your employees want to come to work every day to work their friends, and be part of their community.


Develop a culture deck

Building a culture deck should be an essential step in getting all employees onboard with the company culture — and it forces leadership to consider their culture in a meaningful way. Much like learning “right” from “wrong” from an early age, new employees need to be introduced to the company mindset from the very beginning of the recruiting process. This should not only help set them in the right direction, but also eliminate any candidates who do not share the values of the company. At Palo Alto Software, our Powerpoint culture deck is a living resource that we rely on when onboarding and as we actively assess and involve our employees in our workplace culture.


Emphasize both accomplishments and potential when hiring new personnel

Being true to your company culture starts even before a new employee is hired.It’s important to set the right tone even at the interview stage of the recruiting process. We find that critical to good hiring decisions is assessing an individual’s past experience AND future potential and fit into our company culture. Just looking at what someone has done in their career does not give you a sense of how they will do at YOUR company. Assess the fit of employees and evaluate your recruitees equally by asking these questions during the interview.


Evaluate performance fairly and objectively

To evaluate accomplishments fairly, set clear expectations before a certain project is even started. In the planning phase make sure to include a section on evaluation and expected outcomes along with clear metrics on how project and team member success will be evaluated in the end. This will require you to know what “success” means for your team, encourage accountability and objectivity in the end.  Everybody wants to know where the golas posts are, and how they will be measured.


Promote a healthy work-life balance

A happy employee makes a happy company, so make sure your employees are healthy, full of energy and motivation to contribute to the company. At Palo Alto Software we try to achieve this on numerous levels: fitness subscriptions, flexible schedules, maternity and paternity leave and allowing employees to bring their children to work to accommodate any scheduling conflicts they may have at home. Giving employees the right benefits, and promoting their happiness will pay off. You will have loyal and happy employees who will stay longer and be more creative and produce more.


Encourage good judgement

Our number one policy at Palo Alto Software is “Use Good Judgement.” We believe this liberates teams to do the right thing no matter the circumstances. While there are systems and policies in place, no one likes to be restricted. So if your employees are more productive working from home – let them do that, but make sure they communicate what they plan on doing. If something in their life comes up – understand and help them deal with it. We are all human and sometimes unexpected things happen in life. At the end of the day, everyone should be asking themselves one question: “is this done well?”, and if so, mission accomplished.

Different companies have different benefits and policies, from small things like unlimited snacks to the bigger ones like 6-month sabbaticals. But what makes all the difference are the human connections we form in the office and it is our job as employers to encourage this.



Sabrina Parsons is CEO of Palo Alto Software, developer of the best-selling business management software, LivePlan. Palo Alto Software develops software and tools specifically targeted for entrepreneurs and small-business owners.  Sabrina assumed the CEO role in May 2007 and is responsible for Palo Alto’s business planning, fiscal and strategic goals and all of the company’s traditional marketing. She is a staunch supporter of entrepreneurs, and supports entrepreneurial organizations. She is on the board of the Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network, and  has chaired the Willamette Angel Conference twice. She is on the Board of Directors for RAIN, the Willamette Valley Regional Accelerator Innovation Network. She is a graduate of Princeton University.





Twelve Entrepreneurs Confess: How will technology be changing their business for the better?

These 12 women entrepreneurs agree: technology has the power to change a business. As participants in the Cisco Circle of Innovation program, they’ve been paired with engineering interns to help build their organization’s digital strategy, scale, and impact in the marketplace. They’re sharing how their business will be getting better through technology this year — could it help your company, too?



Lara Autio, Experience

Lara Autio is the President (and owner) of Experience, an IT staffing solution company specializing in staff augmentation for time and material contracts and IT Project Staffing. Her company services the North American market from their IT Center of Excellence in Montreal a technology hub specializing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Her website is ready for a refresh, so she plans to focus on digital marketing design and development.




Lise Snelgrove, This Space Works

Lise Snelgrove left her role as a marketing director in the telecommunications sector to pursue her business idea full time: giving innovative brands a simple way to transform their beautiful meeting rooms into powerful marketing tools. As co-founder and CEO of This Space Works, Lise places a strong emphasis on technology and innovation. Her plan is to implement a virtual assistant who will connect business clients who need meeting space with the beautiful offices of synergistic companies, creating a unique way to discover and connect with innovative brands around the world.




Tiffany Clark, Elements Mortgage Team

Tiffany Clark has worked in the finance industry for more than 14 years, entering the mortgage broker network in 2009. She now leads the Elements Mortgage Team under the banner of The Mortgage Group (TMG), helping homeowners in Grande Prairie, Alberta with their finances based on their unique needs. To help continue to grow her business, Tiffanywants to share her brand messaging through social media and search engine optimization.





Chantal Levesque, SHAN

Chantal Levesque founded SHAN in 1985 — a company that specializes in haute couture bathing suits, leisure wear, and accessories for both men and women. As president and designer, Chantal Levesque has been instrumental in transitioning SHAN from a promising company based out of Laval, Quebec, to a renowned luxury brand available in over 30 countries. With such impressive growth, SHAN is investing in a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, integrating an online platform and digital archiving.





Heather Stewart, BBE Expediting Ltd.

BBE Expediting Ltd. has been moving cargo into remote areas of Northern Canada for four decades. Under the leadership of Heather Stewart — president since 2011 — the logistics company has been reorganized and restructured, increasing their skills and knowledge of best practices of supply change management. Providing freight services to the mining, airline, oil & gas and construction industries, Heather understands that she can get a competitive advantage by staying on the leading edge. Her goal is to integrate the GoBox technology platform into BBE’s shipping services.




Rhonda Hewko, Elkan Environmental Engineering 

Rhonda Hewko is the president and owner of Elkan Environmental Engineering, based out of Grande Prairie, Alberta. She has nearly two decades of experiences as an environmental consultant and engineer, and the consulting company she founded has been providing environmental and wastewater engineering services in Western Canada since 2010. Rhonda is looking for new solutions for her company’s network.





Nicole Smith, Flytographer

Nicole Smith’s entrepreneurial inspiration came while she was on vacation with her family. She went on to create Flytographer, the first global marketplace connecting travellers with local photographers for fun, candid vacation shoots. The venture has been successful: as founder and CEO, Nicole has built a community of hundreds of local photographers in 200 destinations around the world. She’s looking to continue the growth with website development, including enhanced features for Flytographer’s booking application.




Allison Christilaw, Reddin Global Inc.

Allison Christilaw has more than 25 years of entrepreneurial experience. After selling the
management consulting company she was a partner in to one of the Big 4 firms, Allison once again took on a leadership role as CEO of Reddin Global Inc., home of The Emerson Suite — a technology platform offering a complete suite of mobile management tools for leader-managers to accelerate the performance of their teams. Integration with Microsoft and other business platforms is the next development focus, with the aim of enabling teams to work seamlessly.




Erifili Morfidis, iRestify

Recognizing that the cleaning industry was trailing behind many other industries in technological advancement, Erifili Morfidis co-founded iRestify, an online platform that provides an easy way to book and manage a trusted and insured cleaning service. By integrating advanced workforce management and logistics tools, the company has modernized the way in which commercial and residential customers hire cleaning experts, and made the market more efficient. Erifili plans to continue web development to improve their platform and their reach.




Debra Van Dyke, Frilly Lilly

In 2005, Debra Van Dyke opened the first Frilly Lilly boutique in Alberta, specializing in waxing, manicure and pedicure services, along with the distribution of signature bath and body care products. With the support of her children, Jeremy and Lisa, Debra has grown her business to include several locations, with products in stores across Canada. Debra’s biggest focus for 2018 is to establish a competitive advantage by leveraging technology. This includes revamping their website and  implementing an SEO strategy, streamlining computer and device management for all locations, and implementing a chat system for customer service — all while ensuring there are strict security and privacy protocols for employees and customers.




Martha van Berkel, Schema App

Martha van Berkel is a co-founder and CEO at Schema App. Schema App is a software as a service that translates content at scale to be understood by search engines and voice search resulting in increases in organic traffic and higher quality leads from their website. Prior to starting the business, Martha worked at Cisco for 14 years as a senior manager responsible for Cisco’s online support strategy. She leverages her experience at Cisco to partner with digital marketers at Enterprise and Global Digital Marketing Agencies to translate their brand at scale for machines. During this co-op,  Martha is looking to introduce more automation to scale and mature her operations and marketing.  




Lisa Will, Stonz Wear

It was Lisa Will’s own experience as an outdoorsy mom that inspired her to create Stonz Wear, a Vancouver company making high quality baby and kids’ footwear and apparel giving parents more time outdoors with their kids. Launching with the Stonz Bootie, the brand now offers a broad range of functional, innovative, and stylish products for all seasons — sold in over 500 stores and in over 16 countries. Stonz is already using technology to create its products, track their progress, market, engage with customers, understand their needs, ship and track product, and better service and surprise customers once they’ve purchased. Lisa’s goal is to continue to embrace technology whenever she can — it’s helping Stonz achieve its goal more quickly of being the go-to outwear for kids and baby.





The Cisco Women Entrepreneurs Circle addresses some of the obstacles women-led businesses face in building their tech capabilities. In partnership with organizations including the Business Development Bank of Canada, Cisco is connecting women to the expertise and knowledge needed for their entrepreneurial ventures to thrive. Are you a business owner? Fill in a short survey to register for free virtual training from the Cisco Networking Academy, and kickstart your journey towards business success.



A changed outlook: Life without regrets


by Marcia MacMillan


On the first day back after the holidays, a fellow anchor asked me on air if I had made any New Year’s resolutions. Much to her surprise, I said I had not. Turns out the majority of Canadians resolve to shed a few pounds or pay off their debt. What I couldn’t tell her was that my outlook on life had changed two years ago. And it wasn’t the flipping of the calendar page that set me off in a new direction — it was the steady and rapid decline of my parents’ health.

My Dad was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, meaning his heart’s pumping power had weakened, and fluid had built up around it. In addition to this chronic and progressive condition, he also kept falling — and has since broken his hip twice. My Mom, on her own for the first time, was diagnosed with dementia. This is also a progressive condition, so I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that neither of my parents will be getting better, only worse. I’ve spent a lot of time in hospitals, nursing homes, and doctor’s offices.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see your parents lose their independence. And in my Mom’s case, her memory. I felt so angry that lives well lived could end this way. Then one day it dawned on me: it’s not about the end, it’s about the time in between.


“It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see your parents lose their independence. And in my Mom’s case, her memory. I felt so angry that lives well lived could end this way. Then one day it dawned on me: it’s not about the end, it’s about the time in between.”


So I promised myself that I would stop letting fear and excuses get in the way of living. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I’ve resolved to try and live my best life, every day. After two years with this new outlook, here are some of my reflections on how anyone can live a life without regret:


Just do it

Okay, I’ve borrowed the line, but for good reason: it packs a lot of punch. It can be the answer to all of those fears and excuses that often crop up — whether big or small. Go on the trip, buy the shoes, take the class you’ve dreamed of but were too afraid of failing at, ask for the raise, start the business. Whatever it is that you think you can’t or shouldn’t do, please, just do it.


Ask the Universe for what you want

This may sound a little airy-fairy for some, but I can say from experience there is power in voicing your desires. I had reached a point where I was feeling stuck in my own head. So, one day, I told a friend my dreams. Instead of laughing, she said she would help me. Huh? I couldn’t believe it. She set the wheels in motion. That one conversation changed everything for me.


Give Love and Hugs

Maybe you didn’t grow up in an affectionate household. Don’t use that as an excuse to withhold. I have never told my parents or my friend’s that I love them as much as I do now. Any phone call or visit might be the last. It may feel awkward at first, but it gets easier over time. In the workplace, I tell my colleagues when they’ve excelled.

This is how I see life now. Short, precious, a gift. Everyday I remind myself. Some days  are better than others but I am trying.



Marcia MacMillan anchors the morning and afternoon editions of CTV News Channel and has been part of the CTV News team since starting as a reporter for CTV Toronto News in 2005. She’s also the longtime MC of the Women of Influence Luncheon and Evening series.




What are the critical “future skills” for executives?


by Jennifer Reynolds


“Skills of the future” is a topic that is starting to dominate talent discussions today. Technology is rapidly shifting the landscape in all industries, and as a result, continuously changing the skill sets that are in high demand. The question professionals today need to ask themselves is: how do I ensure that I am developing skill sets which have longevity in the workplace? And employers need to consider: how do we attract and retain a talent pool with those skills of the future?

A recent Toronto Financial Services Alliance study done in partnership with PwC looked at how roles and skills will change in the financial services industry across key functional areas, including customer service and sales, product development, technology, operations and controls. In the context of automation, big data, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, the study sought to identify the skills people working in the
industry will require to harness the value of these technologies.

The study identified four key skills of the future:


1. Human Experience Skills

Emotional intelligence, empathy, communications, and influencing skills will be critical to allow individuals to meet increasingly high expectations of customers and employees when it comes to the value they demand in their interactions with organizations.


2. Re-imagination Skills

Curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and business acumen will help individuals reimagine the future and develop new solutions to meaningful business problems that have commercial value.


3. Pivoting Skills

The willingness to change, the capacity to learn and adopt new skills quickly, and the ability to lead people through change and build resilience will help people adapt in an environment of volatility and uncertainty.


4. Future Currency Skills

Developing and staying current on key technical skills will be a baseline requirement for people as the digital and information age continues to evolve. Holding key technical skills will be critical for employees; however, those in-demand skills will evolve and shift, so employees and employers will need to proactively build new pools of expertise.


To support this more agile, innovative and skilled workforce, talent management will need to take on a more integral role in the strategic planning process and in the performance evaluations of leaders and managers at all levels in the organization. A greater focus on anticipating the new skill sets that will be required and on developing strategies to attract and retain that talent will be key competitive drivers for organizations. Hiring for core skills which can adapt to new job descriptions and adopt new competencies will provide a stronger talent pool with lower friction costs. Retraining and regular education will need to be a principal element in any successful talent strategy.

Undoubtedly, all this will mean managers and leaders will spend considerably more time managing and developing talent. As the investment in the talent pool increases, attracting and retaining that talent will be increasingly important to organizations.


“Academia and the private sector will need to work together to ensure Canadian post-secondary institutions are equipping students with skills that are relevant and in-demand.”


To facilitate the evolution and development of the skill sets required for the future, academia and the private sector will need to work together to ensure Canadian post-secondary institutions are equipping students with skills that are relevant and in-demand. A critical role that the private sector can play will be to create more work-integrated learning experiences for students. These practical work experiences will allow students to graduate with more sophisticated and well-rounded skill sets and enable them to transition into careers more effectively. The financial services industry is increasingly recognizing the value of these programs for students and is creating a growing number of co-op and internship opportunities, both through independent programs and as part of collective initiatives like ASPIRE, a TFSA-led sector-wide work-integrated learning program. Reaching students earlier ensures organizations can help equip the future workforce with the skills our economy requires, not to mention it allows those organizations to define the value proposition its organization can provide to new graduates.

Organizations will need to prioritize bench strengths like people development and coaching skills much more highly than in the past. Rapid change and continuous re-skilling will challenge both employees and managers, but if successfully navigated, can be a defining element of success. Today, more than ever, strong talent management will be a key competitive advantage for senior executives and their organizations.



Jennifer Reynolds is the President & CEO at Toronto Financial Services Alliance. Her 20 year career in the financial services industry has included senior roles in investment banking, venture capital, and global risk management. Prior to joining TFSA, Jennifer was the President & CEO of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), Canada’s largest industry association and advocacy group for women in the financial sector.