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Advice I got from Darcy Hulston

Last month at the Wilson Centre’s Pitch Party 2016, ten businesses had an opportunity to pitch Brett Wilson live in front of 800 people. I had always wanted to meet Brett Wilson and say ‘thank-you’ for encouraging me to pursue entrepreneurship. A number of years ago, I had seen him present at a conference and his story encouraged me to quit my job and start my own company. This opportunity has proved to be equally disruptive to my path but it came in the form of a curve ball panelist.

In preparation for the event, the Wilson Centre instructed that this year Brett would be the only one on stage. As we were waiting to present, Brett announced he would be joined by two of his colleagues and as the pitches progressed Darcy Hulston, CEO of Canoe Financial, asked some great questions and gave some incredible advice.

In business as in life, no matter how much we prepare for an event we cannot anticipate all variables. After returning to my table I Googled Canoe. I recognized the company and remembered the logo. But until looking it up, I didn’t realize Canoe manages one of Canada’s largest diversified closed-end and publicly traded investment funds.  I wanted more feedback from Darcy and knowing I would be in Calgary later that week, I invited him to meet for coffee. I was thrilled he accepted and want to share some of the insights I received from him.

1. How do you think being from Saskatchewan has helped you in your career?

Work Ethic.  Growing up on a mixed farm,  I needed to do chores before and after going to school.  Not sure how I could ever be the time manager I am without this experience.

Frugality.  We grew what we ate.  We were cautious about what we discarded.  We used our junk piles for parts and materials.  We were environmentalists and animal lovers before it became a part of our daily conversation.

2. In your experience being on BNN and CBC or making thousands of presentations, what advice can you give future participates in the Wilson Centre pitch party?

Say what you want.  Want what you say.  Keep the message easy.  In the pitches I saw with Brett at the last pitch party,  I think there was only one or two of the presentations that I truly understood what they do and what they want.  In that particular setting,  you have to deliver your pitch in 30 seconds (about the time it takes in an elevator ride).  For example In my current business,  Canoe Financial:  “We are an employee-owned money manager that strives to deliver excellent investment returns.”  Keep it simple.  Your pitch should create some more questions:  How much does it cost,  tell me more etc..   Jumping to details in an elevator pitch is a recipe to get no.

3. What is the key factor in healthy Organizational Behaviour? Any advice that you can give a young CEO?

Trust, honesty, open communication. You won’t always be perfect but you can easily keep to these foundational tenants. Hidden agendas and self-promotion does not have a place in small business.

Going into the Pitch Party, I had nine goals in mind to shape the structure of SuccessionMatching and my own future. After meeting with Darcy, I have deleted three and am working on improving my own communication skills. This includes reviewing our marketing material to ensure our message is simple and direct.

Trust, honesty and work ethic are important foundation components. In business, you need to be selective of the people you surround yourself with. Darcy walks the walk and doesn’t just talk the talk. He is one of the most interesting and intelligent people I have met in 2016 yet he is very humble. I struggle with setting a line for self-promotion in business and in the age of social media marketing, it is often difficult to sell products or services without telling a story. 


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