Encouraging an Entrepreneur-Based Economy With Paul Woolford


Becoming an entrepreneur used to be a “they” thing: other people did it, but unless you had one in the family, it was a career shrouded in mystery. How do you get started? Do you have to be an inventor? What does it actually take to work for yourself?

That seems to be changing. New programs, some concurrent with post secondary education, are attempting to bridge the gap between budding entrepreneurs and their future success building businesses.

I recently spoke with Paul Woolford, Tax Partner At KPMG Enterprise about one such program he’s involved with: The Quantumshift Program.

Karen: There is a lot of focus now on “raising entrepreneurs” that often offers the advice that they eschew business school altogether. Do you think there is a way to make those two things coexist?

Paul: Yes, I would say there are benefits to eschewing business school, going to business school or doing both. You’re talking about learning the theory versus learning the practical, and I think there are success stories on both sides. It really depends on the person, their circumstances and the timing.

Twenty years ago I may have said you need to go and do some kind of post-graduate work to hone your entrepreneurial skills. That’s not necessarily the advice that I would give today.

I’m finding it more and more common now for entrepreneurs to achieve a level of success without going to business school than 20 years ago and that’s because of the Internet and the lower barriers to entry for entrepreneurs to start a business and get crowd-sourced funding for tech-related companies.

Karen: Are entrepreneurs born or made?

Paul: I think that they are made. I think that you can learn to do and be anything. I would say there are special skills and qualities that one needs to possess in order to be a successful entrepreneur. But I would also say that those are not things that you’re born with. They are things that you can see, replicate, learn and choose to adopt, to a certain degree. That said, an entrepreneurial genetic connection can definitely contribute to an individuals success.

Karen: Do you think the success of Canada’s economy depends on entrepreneurs? Why?

Paul: The success of our economy definitely depends on entrepreneurs. They are the heart and soul of the business world in Canada and, therefore, of our economy. Technology, media and entertainment, real estate, manufacturing — all those sectors are teeming with entrepreneurs.

Because Canada’s economy is resource-based, some people take the opposite stance, saying that we can depend on our oil-and-gas and mining resources instead of our entrepreneurs. However, even within the resource sector, there’s a healthy and thriving entrepreneurial base of junior mining companies, small oil-and-gas exploration and service organizations.

Karen: We’ve heard about youth unemployment, and we’ve seen some remarkable youths build great business, but there’s still a gap. What do you think accounts for that?

Paul: When I think of successful young entrepreneurs, I generally think about high-tech and Internet entrepreneurs who have built great businesses in the software and Internet industry over the past number of years.

But that leaves a huge number of people who really don’t have the expertise, the wherewithal or the network of contacts, mentors and peers to understand how to launch a successful business.

There have been efforts made recently to focus on youth entrepreneurship, funding for young entrepreneurs and their businesses and start-ups. But I still think we have a long way to go, partly due to the amount of credibility an entrepreneur needs before they can really get serious funding. That comes with experience, connections and a great deal of business savvy.

Karen: Why is it important for the Ivey Business School and KPMG Enterprise to find the next great Canadian entrepreneurs?

Paul: We are both huge champions of entrepreneurs and we want to see Canada’s entrepreneurial sector thrive and grow, and do what we can to help those entrepreneurs.

We also understand entrepreneurs and we can help them take their leadership skills to the next level. And because Canada’s economy depends so heavily on entrepreneurship, we’re all in this together. When entrepreneurs win, the economy wins, it creates jobs and there are lots of other positive spin-offs.

Karen: What traits are common to entrepreneurs?

Paul: You definitely need a drive and a passion for the product, service or idea that’s at the core of your business.

You need creativity to be able to step away from a situation and think about it a different way. When you think about something in a different way, it leads to different options, opportunities and solutions.

And you need perseverance and patience. As an entrepreneur, you’ll always have people say no to you, shut the door on you, tell you ‘that’ll never work’, and put up barriers and obstacles.

Karen: What is the FutureShifters contest and who can qualify?

Paul: The FutureShifters contest is open to any 18-35 year old Canadian who is the majority owner of a Canadian private company based in Canada (excluding Quebec), with gross revenues of at least $500,000.

The winner will receive exclusive access to the QuantumShift program from May 4-9, 2014 (including overnight accommodations at the Spencer Leadership Centre in London, Ontario), valued at approximately $10,000 CAD. The winner will also gain access to a powerful national peer network of over 400 QuantumShift Fellows across the country and across a wide range of industry segments.

Contestants enter by submitting a video introducing himself or herself, their company and explaining how QuantumShift would help them take their business to the next level.

Karen: What is QuantumShift?

Paul: QuantumShift is Canada’s premier leadership development program and network for the entrepreneurs and executives who drive the growth of Canada’s most successful private companies. To be eligible for this annual week-long program, candidates must be Canadian-based C-level executives at thriving privately owned companies and have revenues of at least $10 million. Developed and delivered by the prestigious Ivey Business School, hundreds of candidates from across the country compete for only 40 spots in this exclusive program.

The case study-based curriculum is led by award-winning professors and leading speakers and serves as a catalyst for participants to think about their businesses differently and ultimately helps them achieve the next level of success. Program alumni form a powerful peer network of Fellows across the country who remain active in the program through annual events and conferences. For more information, please visit www.quantumshift.ca.

Karen: What are you hoping to find with your FutureShifters contest search?

Paul: We are hoping to find someone who doesn’t yet make the cut for our QuantumShift program, and whose company is beyond start up and on the verge of taking off. They have incredible potential but need some connections, advice, and executive education to enhance their skills and grow their company. For more information on the program or to submit a video, entrepreneurs can visit here.
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