4 Canadian Values That Have Guided My Success

Originally published on Huffington Post

What a time to be Canadian, eh? Our rowdy neighbours to the south are not only putting on a spectacle, but they’re also giving us one more reason to be feeling proud and patriotic.

All this crazy American fanfare has truly made me more grateful than ever to be Canadian–but I’ve always tended to favour our home and native land over world domination.

Over the years, as I’ve launched multiple businesses in this market, I’m often asked why I build companies directly targeted at Canadian consumers. Most of my brands have been by Canadians for Canadians with little opportunity (or interest) in expanding over the border.

It has been more of a personal decision than a business one, based on my philosophy around building brands and cultures. I don’t need to be a “unicorn” (VC speak for a $1B plus venture). To me, success is building a sustainable business, that becomes a brand cherished by consumers and an organization where employees get as much as they give, and therefore love to work at. And I certainly don’t need 300 million potential customers to achieve that. The size of the Canadian market, coupled with the generally positive and welcoming attitude of its constituents, is just fine by me, thank you very much.

And I know I’m stating the obvious to my fellow Canucks, but there are a few tried-and-true Canadianisms that have served me well, both professionally and personally (and perhaps that Internet troll of a U.S. president-elect might consider trying them):

Being nice is always the right thing. Nice guys may sometimes finish last, but they sleep better at night. I have found over the course of my career that doing the right thing, is very often not the easy thing. And at times when clients/partners/vendors are acting in ways that I consider hostile or unfair, I consider it a personal challenge to rise above it and be kind. But when I do, not only do I feel better (because being angry just doesn’t feel good), but I save my energy for things that really matter, burn less bridges, and often open up new opportunities.

Saying sorry is a good thing. Even if you’re just saying it to keep the peace. Some people (aka me), can be very stubborn at times. We all want so badly to be right. But at what cost? Is it worth jeopardizing relationships and partnerships? I have found that showing accountability for your actions opens up the door to communication. It drops the barriers that keep us in “fight” mode and opens up the door to conversations, and ultimately, solutions.

Diversity is not only nice to have, it’s a must-have. It makes the world go round. It makes us and our children more empathic, engaging, and enlightened. It is something to be leveraged not limited. I feel so blessed to have grown up in Toronto and to have had exposure to people from a variety of religious and socio-economic backgrounds. It has enriched my life and I believe it is one of the factors that has helped me create successful Canadian brands. Because I get people. I know what they like to read and how they want to read it.

And finally, size matters, but big isn’t always better. What you do with smaller budgets can be more creative and profound than unlimited funds. Doing amazing things for the Canadian economy, local workers and minority groups can be a lot more meaningful than riding the wave in Silicon Valley and owning your own emu. (I don’t know why I said that, but really rich people tend to do really weird things.) Through my entrepreneurial journey I’ve spent much of that time as the underdog, working of miniscule (aka no) budget and small, but mighty staff resources. And yet it’s forced us to be creative and efficient, which has ultimately led to some beautiful ideas.

Those are my two cents, or should I say toonie, on living (and loving) this True North, strong and free. Now if only we could just get some of that California weather…