John Prentice Head Shot

Meet the Entrepreneur Who’s Tying Canada’s Cannabis Industry Together

John Prentice Head Shot
People become entrepreneurs for lots of reasons. Some entrepreneurs are made: they respond to opportunities in the market, they have a higher risk tolerance, they do cost/benefit analyses and then they proceed. Others are born… John Prentice, founder of Ample Organics, was born this way.

John didn’t become an entrepreneur because he chose to, but because he needed to; it’s his biological imperative. For John, success isn’t a stable job and lazy Sundays, it’s the freedom he can only build for himself. Work/life balance is a very different concept when you’re born into entrepreneurship; there are no breaks, because his work is his life and his life is his work.

This mentality has always been a part of John. Not having grown up in a wealthy family, he never had the opportunity to take a break. “I knew what it was like to walk up the road to the neighbors and borrow some furnace oil to get through the weekend,” he tells me. He knew that if he wanted something more, it was up to him to make it happen.

This is one of the reasons John started his first business in elementary school. He quickly came to dominate the market for playground lizard retail… yes, John’s first business was selling live lizards to his classmates. This first attempt at entrepreneurship had all the makings of a real, albeit small, business: he found a supplier, identified a market, and developed customers.

Entrepreneurship spawned from this. “It was something I could do on my own.”

 

John earned some more cash in his teens by building and selling gaming computers, but his first real business success was Elan Games, a chain of PC gaming centres that grossed over $1.5 million annually and won him an ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award in 2009. He was 23.

The market changed overnight, though, and John had to move on to the next thing. It’s at this point that John speaks sparingly of the only desk job he has mentioned so far – a position he held briefly at a medical supply company of some description. It doesn’t seem to interest him.

“I worked at a medical supply company. Hated it,” he states bluntly, completely skimming over the part where he was the CIO. “It was a means to starting my next thing. I worked along for a couple years, and then after Elan came Ample.”

Ample Organics is the unseen core of Canada’s burgeoning cannabis industry. Weed might be legal now, but that doesn’t mean everyone and their pet can start growing and selling. Ample provides intelligent software solutions for cannabis production needs, integrating growth tracking, lab processing, ecommerce modules, and compliance reporting functionality for their clients. With 70% of Canada’s licenced producers working with Ample software already, they’re becoming the standard in this new(ly legal) industry.

If you’re beginning to suspect that John’s entrepreneurship and technological prowess go hand-in-hand, you’re only partly right. Obviously, there’s no denying that John knows his way around a computer. But if all he wanted was to work with computers and build cool software, there are easier ways than building entire companies.

Each one of his businesses, from lizards to gaming centres to software solutions, has been a means for John to own his freedom.

And freedom isn’t just about money or opportunity – freedom is knowing what you want and pursuing it with everything that’s in you.
 

Freedom is self-direction; freedom is extreme ownership, and in this case that meant building something from the ground up, and going ‘all in’ with capital, with personal time, with mental cycles… Everything goes into it, because your work is your life’s passion, and your passion is your work. There is great meaning in the struggle, and the life of an entrepreneur like John simply means fighting under your own flag.

Some people are perfectly happy to live in a world built for them, but other people need to create the world anew. And while employees can be either active or passive within their track in an organization, the entrepreneurs they work for can’t ever be passive. An employee has the luxury of deciding how much ownership they want of the world the entrepreneur has constructed. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with.

“I think people get really hung up in their comfort zone,” he tells me, “and they don’t want to make changes. They get satisfied and complacent with who their friends are, and who their network is, and they’re perfectly comfortable with their existences. I think people limit themselves by getting complacent. I’ve never been satisfied with stagnation – I’m always looking for more change.”

Solving problems and putting out fires seems to be John’s comfort zone, as long as he’s moving forward. It’s this drive and confidence that draws similarly talented and resolute people to him, including his wife. Although her fiscal conservatism contrasts starkly with the calculated, but capital-intensive, risks John takes in the name of creating something of value for consumers, she has confidence in his ability to solve the present crisis and move onto the next one.

“The idea of me quitting [as CIO] and starting a company was inevitable for her, and she was good about it,” John says. His wife Amy, now the director of PR and communications for Ample, was largely responsible for supporting the two of them financially during the most stressful parts of Ample’s origin.

Having someone who understands and supports the entrepreneurial madness is essential to having a work/life balance when work and life are one and the same.

 

Ditto for his team. In the early days of Ample, no future was certain. John relied heavily on his staff to commit to the cause and take ownership of their collective future, no matter how unclear that future was at any moment. His team brought into the strength of his vision and passion, and gave him anything he and the company needed to build momentum.

John’s carefully selected team got him through the rough patches, and continues to move the company forward as they tie the cannabis industry together. But Ample is increasingly stable and self-sustaining, and the challenges of the startup environment are slowly dissipating and giving way to the challenges of scale.

If you think this is a good thing, you’re not John. There’s a reason some people build worlds, and it’s not just so they can stamp their face into Mount Rushmore. John was born into a grey area where there were no clear rules - no right answers. This kind of ambiguity leaves most people searching for structure in frantic confusion, but John likes it this way.

When everything is grey and there are no answers, he’s the one who gets to dictate what’s black and what’s white. And when people follow him into the grey area, they’ll find that he’s left clearly defined rules and answers for them before leaping into another, even broader patch of grey. As soon as grey turns into black and white, an entrepreneur looks for more grey to work with. That’s what an entrepreneur does.

There’s always more to a story than can fit on a page. Get in touch today to learn more about my story, or to find out how I can help change yours for the better.

 

Shane Gagnon is the Director of Clarity Recruitment Vancouver, with six years of experience in the industry. This is his personal blog, where you can expect to find not only insights from his endeavor to disrupt the recruitment industry, but also a glimpse into his pursuit of a satisfying career for himself and the finance/accounting professionals of Vancouver. Join Shane for each new post, as he reveals the journey that brought him here, and where he plans to go next.


Ryan Courson Headshot

Relentlessly Curious: Pursuing Success, the Right Way

Ryan Courson Headshot
Relentlessly curious. That’s the title of this piece, and it’s the only two words that come close to summarizing 29-year-old Ryan Courson’s outlook on business, and on life. …That, or maybe thoughtfully driven. Of course, that’s not all there is to know about the CFO at Seaspan. His story is widely known as are his successes working at Berkshire Hathaway, or any of the other places where Ryan’s stewardship and input drove him steadily and rapidly upward towards his goals.

So what makes someone so successful, so fast? Where does this momentum come from? Ryan says that, aside from good fortune and strong mentors, it’s primarily a function of determination. Okay, but where does that come from? It’s easy to debate the origins of this trait, and Ryan admits that question is difficult to answer definitively.

“Is one responsible for their level of grit or determination… I’ve always struggled to answer this question.”

But he says it doesn’t matter. Determination is likely some combination of inherited predisposition and environmental influence, but it’s beyond our control either way. Dedication becomes routine, and that routine becomes habit. It begins with a level of “forced perseverance,” deciding every day to do the little things that need to be done.

The more you push, the more momentum you generate, but dedication never becomes easy. It is an attribute that must be earned each day.

There’s no magic solution or epiphany where you suddenly ‘earn’ the mantle of determination. The key outcome of perseverance for Ryan is the determination to never stop learning, to never stop improving. Self-improvement and learning are pillars of Ryan’s success; these aren’t tasks that have a completion date.

Self-improvement seems to be everywhere; they have a section for it at your local bookstore, and there’s probably someone posting about it on your Facebook feed right now. But for Ryan, self-improvement isn’t having a Tony Robbins biography collecting dust on your nightstand, it’s about learning at a deep level — it’s about understanding the fundamentals of a craft and then investing as much time and energy as it takes to become a master of that craft.

“Very few people will reach the highest levels of competition without a strong innate desire to learn. Curiosity, I think, is one of the most important attributes as it relates to one’s long-term success,” Ryan tells me. He thinks about it for a moment first, though; Ryan is reluctant to generalize, and he seems averse to making sweeping pronouncements. He knows an awful lot about numbers and statistics, so it makes sense that he always wants to account for the outliers.

Nonetheless, he’s resolute about the importance of learning, just as he is about teaching. “Some of my best mentees have been the ones who have been relentlessly curious,” he points out.

Ryan sees learning as much more than just the ability to pick up information as you go. It’s part of the human condition to want more for less, to find the easy way to achieve the extraordinary. But this devotion to the easy way out leads us astray more often than it provides us with life-changing answers. Ryan doesn’t want to be led astray, and he’s taking no chances on his ongoing self-education. “Learning and absorbing information are different functions,” he says. “It takes dedication to learn. Casually absorbing information like audiobooks or podcasts is entertaining but doesn’t adequately get the job done. …Real learning requires dedication to whatever craft you want to advance.”

Ryan is always learning, and on a deep level. People love to throw around the idiom “fake it ‘till you make it,” and in many cases that advice can be shockingly effective. But you don’t get to where Ryan is by smiling and nodding – pretending you belong. Ryan is Ryan because he capitalized on every opportunity along the way, envisioning the most thoughtful way forward, and then putting in the effort to make that vision a reality.

Everything Ryan does seems to come back to this dedication. I get the sense that nothing he does is half-hearted or passive; he’s fully engaged in everything he does. It’s clear that he’s a high-performer, but as I’ve come to expect, he doesn’t want to generalize on what that means to him.

“High performance – from an individual standpoint – manifests itself in a number of different ways. I think that there are different types of high performers that I mesh well with…so that’s what I spend a lot of time looking for when hiring. But I’d hate to be too prescriptive about what one’s characteristics would have to be to qualify as a high performer,” he tells me. He considers the matter for another moment; it’s clear that accuracy here is important to him. “People get into this checkbox fallacy…it’s like ‘if I check these boxes, I’ll be successful.”

Success isn’t like that, Ryan says. Becoming your best possible self is a matter of perseverance, rigorous learning, continuous self-improvement, and wanting to succeed above all else. Ryan tells me an anecdote he heard about the nature of success in business. It’s about an incipient mentor-mentee relationship wherein a young man asks a wise elder what it takes to be successful.

The older man leads his younger counterpart to the seashore and into the water, wading deeper into the ocean until the young man, shorter by a head, sinks below the surface. The old man holds the young man under until the verge of unconsciousness, at which point the elder releases his young counterpart. He tells his mentee, “You have to want to succeed as badly as you wanted that next breath.”

If this seems hyperbolic, I encourage you to reread everything I’ve written up until this point. It’s not hyperbole for Ryan. “It’s something I live every day, and have lived since I was very young,” he states plainly.

And it’s not about motivation. Motivation is fleeting; motivation is there for you when things are easy.

Long-term, continued success is about taking that will to succeed above all else, and building habits and routines around it. The longer you work at it, the more momentum you generate, the more wins you will generate.

 

But it will always take dedication and grit to keep going, especially when things don’t look as rosy as you envisioned when you started.

This is something Ryan also looks for as he cultivates new teams. His vision is for Seaspan to be a place where people with a genuine desire to succeed and learn can form Canada’s top finance team under his leadership and guidance. 

For Ryan, this is a matter of coaching, but also of fostering a high-octane environment where the team can build and create success together.

“It’s a real performance indicator for me to what level my team is developing from a personal standpoint,” Ryan tells me. “It’s not only professional performance, but from a personal satisfaction standpoint… One of the first things constantly on my mind is ‘How can I help each member on my team grow to become their best self?’ “

This, Ryan says, is reciprocal. His team needs to mirror his pace, but if they’re ready to learn and willing to put in the effort, he’s eager to invest in them. Performance isn’t just about raising yourself, Ryan tells me; it’s about raising everyone around you as well.

“From a cultural standpoint… within three to five years’ time, if my team isn’t able to move on to whatever their next level is, I will have let them down.” This is the investment Ryan makes in the people around him, and the influence his high-performance attitude can have on a like-minded team. But only if they want success as wholeheartedly as he does.

“When you learn how to really want something – learning how to want something as badly as you want to breathe – that’s when you’ll be positioned to achieve the limits of what you are able to accomplish,” Ryan summarizes, and when you’ve found your limits, elite performance manifests by attempting, every single day, to expand those borders inch by inch.

That’s his perseverance, and that’s why he is where he is. What will it take to get where you want to be?

Are you relentlessly curious?

What was the last lesson you learned?

Have you applied it yet?

Ready? Set?

Go.

There’s always more to a story than can fit on a page. Get in touch today to learn more about my story, or to find out how I can help change yours for the better.

 

Shane Gagnon is the Director of Clarity Recruitment Vancouver, with six years of experience in the industry. This is his personal blog, where you can expect to find not only insights from his endeavour to disrupt the recruitment industry, but also a glimpse into his pursuit of a satisfying career for himself and the finance/accounting professionals of Vancouver. Join Shane for each new post, as he reveals the journey that brought him here, and where he plans to go next.


Writing Story on Typewriter

Why Storytelling is a Crucial Skill for Finance and Accounting Professionals

Writing Story on Typewriter
The finance and accounting field is structured around numbers, statistics, facts, and hard data, all of which holds valuable information that can help leaders and employees make important business decisions. While numbers and data can be relied on for holding certain truths, such as how financially successful a project or company is, this information can fall flat without context.

Storytelling, often considered more of a creative skill, is crucial when it comes to giving context and meaning to the numbers and facts that finance and accounting professionals work with every day. Stories help people understand what impact numerical information has on business aspects like deciding whether to hire someone, considering whether to cut certain expenses, or moving on to the next stage of a multi-phase project, for example.

All finance and accounting professionals should be able to tell a powerful story based on the data they’ve collected and analyzed. Here are some reasons and ways to become a better storyteller.

Storytelling for Candidates

You don’t quite have your foot in the door yet, but you’re interested in joining a company. You’ve got plenty of stats as far as your previous projects and responsibilities go, but are you able to weave that information into a compelling narrative? Listing figures only goes so far—it’s much more interesting to those who are interviewing you when you can explain why those figures are important. Does this information show how you saved the company money? Did the data you researched and analyzed steer the company clear of an impending financial disaster?

Stand out from other candidates by crafting powerful stories around the achievements and successes you had in previous positions. This is important not only for candidates seeking a new position in a new company, but also for those who are seeking a promotion within their current company. Being able to skillfully explain the meaning behind the work you’ve done shows that you can analyze data and communicate that information properly to others.

Read: “Data Storytelling: The Essential Data Science Skill Everyone Needs” to find out more about why data storytellers are in high demand.

Storytelling for Managers and Leaders

You may already have a great position in a company, but do you have what it takes to use the data you and/or your employees process to make sound business decisions? Storytelling is just as much of a desirable skill in managers and leaders as it is in those who work under them. Leaders who rely too much on data without painting a full picture of how the data fits into the company’s story aren’t doing everything they can to drive the company forward and engage employees.

Data Storytelling Graphic from Brent Dykes, Forbes Contributor

Read: “Data Storytelling: The Essential Data Science Skill Everyone Needs” to find out more about why data storytellers are in high demand.

Being able to analyze data that you’ve been provided or have collected and turning that data into something that employees can relate to, see their role in, and be motivated by is a crucial leadership skill. Studies have found that storytelling elements can greatly impact the way that information is received, making it more memorable, persuasive, and engaging, which means it can be a highly successful method of getting employees and stakeholders on board for a variety of business decisions, as well as a way to boost customer sales.

One study, conducted by a Stanford professor, found that stories were remembered by 63% of those surveyed, while only 5% could remember a single statistic. In another study, which involved two variations of a Save the Children charity brochure, it was found that the story-based brochure option resulted in higher per participant donations than the infographic/statistical brochure option. Researchers in yet another study discovered that people are often in a trance-like state when listening to or reading a story, which results in them being more receptive to information instead of focusing too much on details and losing the meaning.

Read: “Finance and the Art of Storytelling” to learn how a CFO takes on storytelling in the real world.

Be a Better Storyteller

Storytelling is a skill that one must practice, just like any other skill. Learning how to craft stories that are the right length, have the right tone, and express the right meaning is something that all finance and accounting professionals should work towards. If you feel that your storytelling skills and techniques need a refresher, taking creative writing classes can help you develop a stronger sense of how to weave together a beginning, middle, and end that is interesting and motivating.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that storytelling for the purposes of entertainment doesn’t always meet the requirements of storytelling for finance and accounting purposes. Rather than delving into a fictional world, finance and accounting stories must be grounded in facts and data, and will require a more formal style and tone than a story created solely to entertain.

Like any story, a finance and accounting one shouldn’t just focus on the positive aspects.

Good stories include hardships and struggle that are eventually overcome or change the main character in some way.

If you think of your company as the main character, sharing some of the less positive aspects of the company and its history helps set the stage for a story of triumph or transformation.

For example, perhaps a company was facing significant losses, but through the tenacity of its employees, who re-evaluated and re-positioned it using the data available to them, the company ended up making record profits and establishing itself as a major player in the market. Without the struggle at the beginning, would the data showing the company’s profits be as interesting or remarkable? The context set by the struggle helps show that the company wasn’t always as successful.

To create a great story, it’s also important to explain how some of the smaller pieces fit into the entire picture as a whole. If a department has successfully cut costs in order to reach a goal, how does the work that department is doing affect the rest of the company and its overall goals?

It’s also crucial that there be enough story to tell, so if data is missing or inaccurate, the story will not be as meaningful or engaging, since there won’t be much of a typical story structure (beginning, middle, and end). Keep in mind that the ending doesn’t have to be a tidy wrap-up, but could simply be a projection or forecast for the future.

By knowing what story to tell, why you are telling it, and how it will affect your audience, you can become a better finance and accounting candidate or leader who is able to shift from a purely data-driven perspective to a more creative, narrative one. This can inspire, motivate, and drive others to see data and statistics in a completely new light.

Read: “Accountants: You Need to be Able to Write it Right” for more insight on why writing is an essential skill for finance and accounting professionals to have.

Key Takeaways

  • Storytelling is an important skill, both for leaders and candidates.
  • Storytelling helps create context and meaning for numbers and data.
  • Important business decisions can be made based on fact-based stories.
  • Candidates can use storytelling to highlight their past achievements.
  • Communicating information supported by data is a desirable skill.
  • Leaders can engage and motivate employees using storytelling techniques.
  • Storytelling can help create a full picture from multiple smaller parts.
  • Storytelling increases memorability, persuasion, and engagement.
  • Storytelling is a skill that must be learned and practiced.
  • Stories must contain both positive and negative aspects to be interesting.
  • Treat your company as the main character of the story and describe its journey.
  • Ensure there is enough data available to create a compelling story.

Your Next Step

No one should walk the job search or hiring road alone. At Clarity Recruitment we help others realize their success through a process that marries proprietary technology with unwavering commitment. Contact us today to take control of your career, or to partner with us to hire well.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Ali Pourdad Headshot

The Accountant’s Perspective on Entrepreneurship

Ali Pourdad Headshot
Some entrepreneurs can be spotted a mile away. The forceful passion and undiluted energy they convey with every word gives these daring self-starter away even before they explain their entrepreneurial inclinations.

Ali Pourdad isn’t like that - at least, not outwardly. When I sat down with Ali to chat about his innovative lending agency, Progressa, his attitude was calm and measured. Still, there’s a quiet intensity about Ali that hints at the entrepreneurial genius within. You get the sense that Ali spends a lot more time listening and thinking than talking, but when he does speak, it’s worth paying attention. He might seem quiet and restrained, but his ideas are bold and limitless.

Ali started with what many viewed as an untenable business concept – certainly, the major banks seem to. Progressa responds to a growing debt problem in Canada. We’re in a recursive cycle: debt grows, banks tighten lending requirements, more people have more debt, and so on. Progressa fills the gap, bringing debt solutions to people who would otherwise have no way of recapturing their financial freedom.

So how does a cautious, calculating accounting professional solve a problem that is seemingly so risky that the banks aren’t interested? Did he implement some clever new way to leverage mobile tech and machine learning, or some other buzzworthy technological marvel?

No. Well, not at first. Progressa leverages clever tech to connect them with the right clients, but Ali didn’t bring in the data scientists or technologists until Progressa had been picking up steam for two years. Instead, Progressa began with a core competency. Building a solid team, erecting an infrastructure to support them, and developing their skills and capabilities to create a competitive edge; it’s much less expensive than investing in proprietary tech, especially at the inception stage when cash flow is the tightest.

“The idea was to figure out our core competency first, and then pivot it into something scalable,” Ali tells me. “That’s how this business of lunacy can get off the ground. Some people think it’s nuts that we lend to subprime and near-prime consumers, but we get our money back.”

Ali continues, “It’s a lot less to do with smarts than most people think. It’s probably a lot more to do with building the right team at the right time, and learning how to motivate that team and manage that team.”

Ali is systematic, focused and organized. Big ideas are broken down into small, sensible steps, and risks shrink from there. This started with his network. Throughout his years on the 15-to-18-hour-a-day treadmill of accounting, he gained friends and mentors who could provide exactly the sort of insight needed to lend stability to his vision. Ali still considers his time as a chartered accountant one of the most important assets in his entrepreneurial journey. “I still consider myself a CA today,” he assures me.

There’s a reassuringly metered calmness to the way Ali explains the inception and growth of Progressa, but so much of his serenely rational approach hinges on his work ethic.

“I don’t think you can teach work ethic; I think you can observe it from outside,” he tells me. Ali believes that a solid work ethic comes from surrounding yourself with irrepressible professionals whose actions and attitudes can be emulated and internalized through immersion. And once you get going, there’s no stopping.

“You don’t have a choice as an entrepreneur,” Ali states casually. “It’s the difference between failure and success. Treat every day like tomorrow the doors will be closed.”

All this hard work is staggeringly effective. Most entrepreneurs, business owners – even middle-management professionals in stable corporate environments – have the same sort of reaction when you ask them if they’d do anything differently, given the opportunity to start over. Not Ali.

“I wouldn’t do anything differently.”

It’s a bold statement expressed with calm conviction. Ali’s research, networking, and systematic approach have created an excellent roadmap.

The work ethic and the results are familiar, but everything else about Ali’s calm, calculated approach deviates from the go-get-‘em paradigm we’ve come to expect of entrepreneurs. All the pieces are the same – the networking, the time management, the team-building, and the iron will – but they’re executed so differently they appear foreign when Ali outlines his journey.

There’s no one way to succeed as an entrepreneur, and Ali is an invigorating reminder that no single type of person owns the rights to entrepreneurship – and that hard work, strong ideas, and systematic problem solving can have the same impact as big ideas and big money.

There’s another side to this particular coin, though, as Ali reminds me. Ideas and hard work are nothing without the sort of meticulous planning a CA can bring to the table.

“If you look around British Columbia, I’m sure there’s gold under these mountains – but that doesn’t mean it’s viable to go and mine it.” Planning is the difference between a targeted mining operation, and a group of men roaming the province with dynamite and high hopes.

“[Since] the age of 16 or 17, I probably have over 100 business plans. You create them, you go and test them, and you take them to your mentors,” Ali explains. “In the case of Progressa… It was clear that there was a major market opportunity, and we needed to tackle it properly and in a systematic way.”

What of the other 99 business plans? Most exist only as documents somewhere on Ali’s computer. That doesn’t matter now: he’s realizing his vision and potential in Progressa.

Even so, Ali hesitates for the first time in our conversation when I inquire about that vision, and where it leads.

“Five years is going to be a very different landscape in Canada. If debt continues in the direction it’s going, I suspect we’ll have a lot more competition.”

Ali trails off for a moment before continuing. “...But I don’t think that far ahead. I don’t think five years ahead anymore, I’ve made that mistake before. Because in a startup environment… everything that [you] forecast, nothing is even remotely close. Five years… too much changes on an annual basis. I can tell you where we’ll be next year, but I can’t tell you where we’ll be in five years. I don’t want to guess.”

This isn’t a concern for Ali. His passion for his customers and his team, as well as his guiding principles and ethics are already paving the way for future success, and for the financial success of those whom he offers a second chance.

“Companies all over Canada are starting to realize ‘No, Progressa’s different,’ ” Ali tells me. He knows that he has something here: a way to help strengthen Canada through its most financially vulnerable.

Thanks to Ali Pourdad for taking the time to sit down with me and have a conversation about Progressa, entrepreneurship, and his journey.

There’s always more to a story than can fit on a page. Get in touch today to learn more about my story, or to find out how I can help change yours for the better.

 

Shane Gagnon is the Director of Clarity Recruitment Vancouver, with six years of experience in the industry. This is his personal blog, where you can expect to find not only insights from his endeavour to disrupt the recruitment industry, but also a glimpse into his pursuit of a satisfying career for himself and the finance/accounting professionals of Vancouver. Join Shane for each new post, as he reveals the journey that brought him here, and where he plans to go next.


Mentor with student

5 Important Benefits of Being a Mentor

Mentor with student
Do you remember when you were first starting out in your industry? You were likely a little overwhelmed, trying to learn everything you could as quickly as possible to feel like a valuable contributor to the team. You probably asked many questions and felt like you would never catch up to those who had more experience than you did. You might also have approached someone you looked up to and asked them to provide you with insight and feedback in the form of a mentoring relationship.

Mentoring is a valuable tool for those who are looking to learn from others to help them progress in their careers. But what about the mentors themselves? What does providing insight and feedback offer to those in a mentor role?

An Ego Boost

Let’s be honest, having someone look up to you and respect you enough to want to learn from and spend time with you can be very flattering. A mentee will likely have many positive things to say about you and your career and hearing such praises can certainly heighten your self-esteem.

Another aspect of this is how mentees can provide some perspective on just how much you’ve accomplished in your career. Day-to-day work and shorter-term projects can sometimes prevent you from seeing the big picture in terms of how far you’ve come in your career since you first started out. Mentoring someone else can help you realize how much you’ve learned and achieved, as well as how much you have to teach others.

Read: “Mentors and Coaches, Pt. I” and “Mentors and Coaches, Pt. II” for more information on why mentors are important, and how they differ from coaches.

A Chance to Pass on Knowledge

Sharing your knowledge is one of the major reasons you should consider becoming a mentor. You gain a tremendous amount of experience and skills throughout your working life, and what good is it all, really, if you keep it to yourself and take it with you once you retire? Allowing others to benefit from your knowledge and passing the torch, so to speak, provides you with the opportunity to give back to your industry in a big way.

Mentoring is also an important strategy when it comes to retaining great employees, particularly millennials. Most employees want to receive feedback about how they’re performing and what they could do better. Providing such feedback can show that you value your team and can keep them invested and interested in the company.

Read: “How to be a Mentor that Makes a Difference” to learn more about how to be an effective mentor.

A Learning Opportunity

You might not have considered this, but did you know it’s possible to learn just as much as a mentor as it is to learn as a mentee? Having two-sided conversations with your mentee can actually help you see things from a new angle, and possibly teach you new things about your industry from someone who has recently learned the most up-to-date standards, strategies, and trends.

Mentoring also helps a mentor to strengthen or develop a variety of their own skills, including leadership, teaching, recruitment, and management. By providing feedback, helping to solve problems, and guiding a mentee on their career path, mentors learn more about themselves and their industry.

Read: “Mentoring Myths that are Hurting Your Finance Team” to learn what mentoring really offers and how to avoid falling for mentoring myths.

A Relationship-Building Experience

Relationships are just as important in the working world as they are in your personal life. Mentoring someone can offer a meaningful experience through building a relationship of trust and understanding. Helping someone to grow and succeed can be an extremely gratifying way to spend your time and knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life can leave you with a real sense of accomplishment.

You might also find that building a relationship with your mentee opens doors to new connections in your industry, and perhaps even in other industries. Chances are that your mentee can grow your network, just as you can grow theirs. This is another added bonus to doing meaningful mentor work.

Read: “Why Being A Mentor Is Worth The Effort” for insight into the effects of mentorship on a mentor’s career.

A Path to Further Success

Although mentoring is a volunteer-based activity that normally doesn’t provide monetary or career gains directly, there are often indirect effects that can benefit both mentors and mentees.

Sun Microsystems, an American computer company that compared the career progress of approximately 1,000 employees over a five-year period, found that mentoring had some significant effects on the careers of both mentors and mentees. Specifically:

  • “Both mentors and mentees were approximately 20% more likely to get a raise than people who did not participate in the mentoring program.
  • 25% of mentees and 28% of mentors received a raise – versus only 5% of managers who were not mentors.
  • Employees who received mentoring were promoted five times more often than people who didn’t have mentors.
  • Mentors were six times more likely to have been promoted.”

Read: “How Becoming A Mentor Can Boost Your Career” for more ways you can benefit from being a mentor.

Key Takeaways

Being a mentor can:

  • Be a nice ego boost.
  • Provide you with perspective on your own accomplishments and skills.
  • Assist mentees and the company in general.
  • Help retain employees, especially millennials.
  • Make you feel good.
  • Help you develop or strengthen your own skills.
  • Teach you about yourself.
  • Be a meaningful experience.
  • Introduce you to new contacts in the industry or other industries.
  • Sometimes lead to pay raises or promotions for mentors.

 

Your Next Step

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn and Facebook for more great tips and advice.

Clarity Recruitment, connecting exceptional people with remarkable companies.


Dan Sutton

Disrupting Cannabis Cultivation: An Interview with Dan Sutton of Tantalus Labs

Dan Sutton
I sat down recently with Dan Sutton of Tantalus Labs, a Vancouverite and entrepreneur who’s committed to disrupting the cannabis industry. Like most people driven by an intense passion for positive change, Dan is the gregarious, outspoken sort. He never sounds like he’s holding anything back, because he wants you to understand his industry and his passions the way he understands them.

But what are his passions? What is it about cannabis production that makes this 32-year-old so dead-set on revolution? Is it just about making British Columbia feel a little more relaxed?

Maybe in part. Dan sure is committed to growing the sort of B.C. bud that will become the international standard for quality. But there’s a more classically British Columbian explanation for his passions: cannabis production is dominated by an “outlaw culture,” as Dan sees it. Grow-ops in warehouses consume egregious amounts of power and resources, and it isn’t sustainable. Traditional growing methods come with an ecological price tag that’s not in keeping with what British Columbia is all about. Greenhouses are the future – they’re more sustainable, and they lend themselves to a better product. As Tantalus’s website sensibly states, “It's simple. Would you grow tomatoes in a closet?” Changing the cannabis industry is Dan’s mission, but it hasn’t been an easy one.

Dan is a B.C. boy at heart. Vancouver born and raised, he studied economics at the University of Victoria just in time to graduate into the 2008 recession. Even so, he started out as a financial analyst – though he quickly realized there was something bigger out there, waiting for him. But when he started networking, reaching out to friends, parents, friends of parents and so on, he heard the recession reverberating back in his ears everywhere he went.

Dan didn’t care. The first step in entrepreneurship is learning to take a beating without bowing your head. “If you get to the end of the conversation and they say ‘I can’t help you,’ you say ‘Give me the names of three people who can,’ ” Dan says of the irrepressible pursuit of his early goals.

You can’t be fazed by these things, Dan tells me; no one in his network of insightful and intelligent up-and-comers let the threat of competition give them pause. “You’re going to have to go through discomfort you’ve never experienced before to achieve results you didn’t think you were capable of.”

Dan is careful not to speak in sweeping generalizations; he talks instead of his observations – though of course, these observations come from six years of experience building Tantalus Labs, and a history of determined pursuit of entrepreneurial objectives. Waking up early, for instance, is a characteristic he notes in most successful entrepreneurs. It’s not necessarily a requirement for success, but Dan doesn’t seem to know of any entrepreneurs who sleep in – not that Dan has a typical definition of ‘sleeping in.’ His predetermined sleep-in days afford him the grand luxury of a 7:30 a.m. wakeup call.

If this is starting to sound like the typical story of a motivated entrepreneur with an iron work-ethic, that’s no coincidence. A lot of the traits of successful entrepreneurs are battle-tested and well known. But the world is shifting, and entrepreneurship acutely sensitive to the waves of technological and social developments that seem to approach tsunami-level impact.

Phones and laptops are an incredible resource, for instance. For a lot of us, they can be a persistent distraction, but you won’t catch Dan playing Angry Birds while he waits for the bus. It’s not that he denies an electronic addiction, but he’s addicted to information. Dan’s phone is a portal to unyielding productivity. I don’t blame him. Structure and organization are critical to someone juggling as many priorities as Dan, and having a way to manage his tasks and keep the organized mess from turning to abject chaos is a privilege he doesn’t take for granted. The fact that the tool that allows for this level of organization fits in his pocket is a bonus.

All of this is useless, though, without principles. “Visions change,” Dan tells me, “strategies change. Principles don’t.”

Dan is a big proponent of a ‘first principles’ approach to entrepreneurship. He’s a philosophy fan, particularly well-versed in the classic Greek thinkers who devised systems of logic and reasoning that would shape the way humanity thought for thousands of years. Philosophical discussions can sound abstract and aloof, but the core of this kind of thinking is the notion of sound ideas.

Sound ideas are the basis for everything Dan does. As long as he knows his principles, he can always take a step back and ask himself if the latest idea, product, or strategy is in keeping with the reasons he started down this road in the first place. Part of that, he says, means mastering your emotions.

“Any successful entrepreneur – any successful human – must be a master of his or her emotions.” Dan says. “Don’t pretend that your triggers and weaknesses don’t exist – that’s not stoicism, even if people think it is. You don’t need to be emotionless, you’re a human being. You’re going to be affected by pain, confusion, fear… and mastery of how to respond to that stimulus is the essence of stoicism.”

Dan’s impetus as an entrepreneur seems to come from a mastery of fear. As a kid, he saw his intelligent and ambitious father struggle with a business project that was dragged sideways by partners; Dan decided that he’d never let someone destroy something he’d built, and he already knew he wanted to build something of value. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, but even as a teenager, Dan was already resolute.

As an entrepreneur, Dan tells me, you’re going to hit stumbling blocks, and you won’t know how to overcome them at the time. Dan surrounds himself with emotionally intelligent people: mentors, confidants, friends, family, and his team. Maybe it’s a function of Vancouver, he posits: we’re descendants of free-spirited hippies. Regardless, Dan knows that emotional intelligence is a far more important leadership quality than raw IQ. As an entrepreneur, you’re often leaping blindly into new space. “Things can be tricky when you have no template for your vision,” Dan tells me. Emotional intelligence will keep you level, and allow you to grow into the new roles that await you.

Now, we’re approaching my territory. Dan isn’t a recruiter, but he has built teams from scratch, and he knows the value of good people. Dan started with a carefully tailored group of specialists, surrounding himself with people whom he trusted not only to build his vision, but to build him as a person. From there, the strength of his team drew in the first new person, who drew in the second, and soon Dan had a brand so singularly principled and constructed that quality candidates gravitated towards him.

It all comes down to the early-game, Dan assures me. “Your first 20 employees are the difference between success and failure.” Good talent attracts good talent, and momentum is built. Fortunately, Dan had a talented core team, and now he’s reaping the benefits. “We are outdoorsy people, we’re Vancouverites,” Dan says, citing the strength his team gains from sharing not only a passion and talent for their work, but a fascination for nature. Cooperation and shared vision seem to come easier in this nature-shrouded town.

It’s something Dan loves about Vancouver, and something I’ve grown to love too. “We’re incredibly community-oriented,” Dan says. In his experience, everyone wants to contribute to what everyone else is doing, creating a cooperative network that raises everyone up. No one is alone in a silo, working only for their own goals, and this is something we both find incredibly encouraging. I’ve said before that our strength comes from our ability to work together, each doing what we do best to build world-leading businesses; through the strength of our cooperation and the strength of our enterprise, we can build Vancouver into a city that rivals the world. Dan is the sort of person who will make that vision a reality.

“Vancouver celebrates the apex of liberalism. It empowers people like no other place,” says Dan. “…We’re not beholden to any trend here.” Dan sees Vancouver’s startup ecosystem as a teenager: “It’s still figuring itself out.” That means we have the opportunity to sculpt a future we want to see.

Dan smiles when he opens up about the future. “Five years from now, we’re having this interview in a gorgeous – but sensibly priced – office in Vancouver. We’re… celebrating the domination of the entire cannabis industry, not just by Tantalus Labs, but by better cannabis from greenhouses [in general]. We’re in a place, in a time where Tantalus Labs is recognized globally as an amazing resource for quality B.C. bud, and we carry the torch for what that means.” Dan continues with the passion I’ve come to expect from him, “We have something to contribute here… If I can look around at me and my team and know we’ve done that, I’ll be a happy camper no matter how financially successful we are.”

Huge thanks to Dan for talking to me at length about his journey and his ambitions. He’s an outgoing guy who’s always looking for the value in meeting new people (does that sound familiar?) so reach out to him @dsutton1986 on Instagram or Twitter. While you’re at it, be sure to check out the cool things going on at tantaluslabs.com (it’s interesting now, but Dan tells me it’s going to get even more exciting in the near future), and watch Dan’s TEDx talk on how he’s changing the cannabis industry.

There’s always more to a story than can fit on a page. Get in touch today to learn more about my story, or to find out how I can help change yours for the better.

 

Shane Gagnon is the Director of Clarity Recruitment Vancouver, with six years of experience in the industry. This is his personal blog, where you can expect to find not only insights from his endeavour to disrupt the recruitment industry, but also a glimpse into his pursuit of a satisfying career for himself and the finance/accounting professionals of Vancouver. Join Shane for each new post, as he reveals the journey that brought him here, and where he plans to go next.


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