SWO Angel Group

London Chamber of Commerce Summit Recap

April 24, 2018

Author: Dennis Ensing

This morning, the London Chamber of Commerce hosted SUMMIT 2018 – “Scaling Up to New Heights in Business” at The Grand Theatre. I was thrilled to attend as a guest of SWO Angels’ member Peter Mastorakos and 18 Asset Management, thanks Peter! Also, in attendance were SWO Angels members Bernie Batt, Lynn Davis, Laurie Lashbrook and others.

Keynoting the event was The Honourable Perrin Beatty, President & CEO of the 200,000 member strong Canadian Chamber of Commerce and author of the original ‘Scaling Up’ business challenge. An interesting fact that he highlighted: SMEs account for 99.7% of Canadian businesses, but less than 20% of goods and services and 1/3 of GDP. With that, he spoke passionately about the need for our small businesses to have the tools in place to help them succeed more broadly and abroad. In particular, in taxation, we need policies that reward entrepreneurship, not penalize growth from taking risk. In the area of regulatory compliance, SMEs need a single point of contact for review and to ensure compliance.

A humorous illustration of the over-extension of regulation that plagues SMEs was his retelling of the 2016 story of when 2 kids’ lemonade stand was shut down by the Ottawa’s National Capital Commission (NCC) for not having a permit. In response to the public outcry, one year later the NCC instituted new rules that in the end only remind us that we should “never underestimate the government’s ability to suck the fun out of, well, everything.” Following Mr. Beatty, three successful scale-growth entrepreneurs shared their inspiring stories and then formed a panel for a concluding fireside chat with guest moderator, Joe Ruscitti.

David Taylor, President & CEO of VersaBank, kicked things off and spoke of the key things he learned as a child that became key contributors to his business success: self-reliance, curiosity, hard work and human decency. Mr. Taylor’s critical scale requirements? – highly motivated people, impeccable systems (with a current dashboard of key business metrics) and having a “fail safe”/plan B.

Kyle Macdonald, founder of Phoenix Interactive which was sold to Diebold Nixdorf three years ago, emphasized the key traits to being a successful entrepreneur: driving innovation and disrupting the apple cart of the establishment, being opportunistic and not afraid of the risks, while possessing “lots of fight”.

Holden Rhodes, founder of CarProof, was the last panelist to speak on his experiences. He highlighted the risks of (1) money and the necessary financial backing to scale, (2) time, which you can’t recover, like money, and (3) sacrifices. For him, the key attribute necessary to overcome these was a deep commitment to hard work including grit, determination, perseverance and managing sleep-deprivation!

All the panelists shared several things in common – strong spousal and family support for the lack of work-life balance, the importance of trust and integrity in building your reputation and handling a lot of adversity. Coming full circle from Mr. Beatty’s comments, Ms. Macdonald shared an apt quote from an early mentor, “Adversity is the diamond dust that the universe sprinkles on its brightest stars”.