Canadian company relaunch in fall 2021, building on its platform as a trusted media brand and social network for the country’s fastest growing companies and their innovative leaders, changing Canada for the better .
Canadian company gives these leaders, and those who want to learn from them, the resources, networking opportunities and inspiration to innovate, connect and continue to challenge the status quo. One of the ways we do this is by launching the Canadian Business Leadership Circle, CBThe Leader-in-Residence program where each month we hire a different C-level executive who makes an impact in their field. As part of the program, readers will have the opportunity to connect with these progressive-minded business leaders for mentorship and professional development through exclusive content, virtual fireside chats, and more.
Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venturepark, Canada’s largest business growth ecosystem, and star of CBC’s Dragon’s Den, will join us as Leader in Residence in July. Here, Dickinson talks with writer Alex Derry about the changing face of entrepreneurship and the role of leadership in a post-pandemic world.
How did you get started with Venture?
In my early thirties, I was asked to join Venture Communications as an associate. It was a very early start-up, which basically meant I was working for free. Prior to that I had worked in media sales so I had a bit of marketing experience and found out that I really love marketing. I ran the business with a few partners for several years, then bought them out and went from there. I started to understand how I wanted to build the business and did a bit of angel investing as the business grew and things were going well. One of my employees was looking to start a business and asked me for an investment. This made it possible to understand how the investment worked. I have also worked with many companies in my marketing career and have had a lot of opportunities presented to me. Then, as I invested and developed the business, and obtained greater visibility, I joined Dragon’s lair.
How have these experiences shaped your approach to entrepreneurship?
They helped me understand what differentiates people who have an idea and think they want to be entrepreneurs versus people who are led be an entrepreneur. I began to recognize that entrepreneurship is its own identity. These experiences have also shaped my own entrepreneurial journey. By helping entrepreneurs, I was also building myself as an entrepreneur. At the time, I thought of myself as running a marketing company, but I was actually an entrepreneur in training. I started to understand and think about risk and how I might start a business differently, and what the opportunities are. And it helped me understand what it means to support someone – it’s not just about money.
How has the idea of ââleadership evolved for you?
It is important to find your passion as a leader. Goal-oriented entrepreneurship and leadership are important – leaders need to know what they are trying to achieve and why they are trying to achieve it. It must make sense. It must have a social impact. You have to have the opportunity. It must of course be economically viable.
What common values ââemerge in the business world following the end of the pandemic?
When you think about it years ago, business leaders were like, âlet’s take the hill, follow me! Leadership today is telling your team, “I don’t have all the answers. All of this is uncharted territory. Here is what I would like to build. Here’s why I think it’s important. And then, make sure your team feels included in the process. Today it’s about more flexibility and less rigidity, more empathy over the hardcore approach of “I’m in charge, do what I say.” “
What megatrends do you think businesses will have to navigate with the reopening of Canada?
We’re going to have to navigate an evolving workforce. Just think about the number of people who decide that the job is not for them, at least the traditional type of job. We are seeing record numbers of people quitting their jobs and continuing to do different things. It is an opportunity for young people. This means leaders will need to understand how they can keep their core teams together while being aware that the workforce is changing.
We have experienced a level of uncertainty in all of our lives that has never existed before, and now we need to think about what we want to accomplish as a company, how businesses can meet those needs, and then what to do. our global competitiveness.
What are you working on these days that turns you on?
The pandemic has truly been a wake-up call for me, as it has been for many of us. We stopped and thought about what matters, what we want to leave as a legacy and what we want our company to be. I’ve had a lot of time to think about how to navigate this time and what I want as we come out of it.
I reinvented Venturepark, which is a business growth ecosystem focused on supporting and marketing consumer goods companies in the food, health and personal care industries. It all existed before the pandemic, but the idea of ââbringing it all together into one ecosystem and leveraging each other’s diverse skill sets, all driven by the same goal, was something we did during Covid. We have a venture capital fund, an accelerator, a commercial kitchen, two marketing companies and a media platform. I am about to raise my second fund, which excites me. We’ve invested in companies across Canada, and it’s incredibly rewarding to see how this ecosystem has developed.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are inspired by your career?
In Canada, we are taught to be low risk, as a country and as individuals. But this low risk doesn’t come with a high reward. We must strive to harness the intelligence, skills and innovation that we have and raise courageous leaders. We must use our values ââto deliberately help change the world. Dream big and don’t let anyone else tell you. We really have what it takes to compete, but we have to push ourselves harder and harder to make this country all that it can be.