The Christmas holidays are by far my favourite celebratory season of the year. It conjures up so many wonderful memories of family, good food, holiday music, and traditions. A dusting of snow and all the festive lights really bring out the joyous, festive spirit of the season.
It’s also a time of reflection on the past year and the opportunities that lie ahead in the coming year. For better or worse, there’s a lot to reflect on in the last year.
A Year of Transition
2022 has been a year of transition and adjustment for the world and me personally.
On a global scale, we’ve all had to adjust to what seems like a world in a cycle of crises—polycrisis seems to be the buzzword. It’s hard to avoid the fear of uncertainty and sense of impending doom. Despite that, I have a great deal of optimism regarding the future, and in particular the future of Whitecap.
That brings me to my personal update. After several years of mentorship with my brother Robb (Founder & CEO of Whitecap), I am happy to share that I have been promoted to Whitecap’s President. It’s a role I feel privileged and honoured to take on, and one I’ve been working towards what feels like my entire life. It’s also a role of immense responsibility which I don’t take lightly. Responsibility not just for the financial performance of the company, but for the well-being of its people.
That said, getting to this point in my career has been an eye-opening and educational journey. And these are some of the key lessons that will guide me along the way.
The Value of People
There absolutely is no business without people. They are the most valuable asset, the heart of the organization and what propels it forward. Ensuring the happiness and well-being of your team will in turn do the same for your clients and bottom line. The tech sector and the broader economy are plagued by staff shortages, layoffs, and high turnover. I’m happy to say we have the best team of loyal employees who are dedicated to meeting our customers’ needs. How do we do it? We offer interesting and diverse work, a flexible work environment and most importantly we connect on a personal level. We are all just people after all and we support each other like a family.
Culture is King
Much has been written about maintaining corporate culture amidst the shift towards more remote and hybrid work. There are those who resist the change and fear it will result in an erosion of culture and productivity. It’s a legitimate fear. Whether your company has 10,000 employees or 50, there is no denying a healthy culture is key to its success. But simply being together in the same building does not build a healthy culture (or make people more productive). What does build a strong culture is being open, inclusive, transparent, and trusting. Creating a physical or virtual space where your team can share ideas, feedback, and concerns without fear of judgement or reprisal. Where they feel valued for their input and contributions. Getting together in person is still important, but we try to do it with purpose. For example, client meetings, discovery or brainstorm sessions, strategy sessions, company-wide town halls, etc. The hybrid method is working quite well, and I am grateful that we are a flexible company that enjoys connecting a few times a week.
Leaders are Human Too
Being vulnerable with your team is an important element of developing an open and transparent culture. Discuss things freely and honestly, and acknowledge that you, like everyone else, are human and make mistakes. As a leader, I am aware that, despite my best intentions, I may not always make the right decision. In my opinion, having the bravery to admit this and work on a solution is a true sign of leadership. Listening to your team is so important. That is why we hire tremendously skilled people to guide us with their expertise. By expressing your humanity and humility as a leader, you become more approachable, allowing your employees to express themselves more freely. This is what brings about positive change, innovation, and a feeling of belonging.
Always be Learning
The best way to keep up in these dynamic times is to regularly take the time to learn something new. I devote at least one hour of my day to reading up on the latest business, technology, and leadership news. It always fascinates me to learn about new innovations and fresh approaches to problem solving that promise to be more effective and have a greater impact. As an outgoing person I also love learning about people. Discovering cultures, perspectives, and experiences different than my own, which help me evolve as an individual and a leader. I am also a strong believer that taking time out of our endless task lists to stimulate the mind with new information helps improve mental health.
Communicate Often & Clearly
Sounds like relationship advice, but what is running a business if not managing a complex web of relationships? Communication that is clear and succinct, coupled with a good dose of open-mindedness and a growth mindset, can take you a long way. When communication is improved, there are fewer disagreements, less uncertainties, and a better overall experience for both you and the people who work for you. When you keep an open mind, you foster innovation, which is the single most important factor in driving growth.
Leading with Gratitude
This year has been very kind to me, and I am deeply appreciative and humbled to have been trusted with the responsibility of leading Whitecap into the next phase of its evolution.
I honestly believe we have the best team of people who are smart, bring diverse viewpoints to the table, support each other and are laser-focused on meeting our clients’ needs. Together, we can take on any challenge and think of novel ways to assist our clients in achieving their goals. I am immensely grateful to be a member of this Whitecap Canada family and I have no doubt that an incredible and fruitful future is in store for this organization.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday season filled with peace and love, and I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and the very best in the New Year!
President, Whitecap Canada