Shifting Entrepreneurial Gears

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This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Ivey Business School’s QuantumShift Program , which has helped more than 600 of Canada’s best and brightest entrepreneurs drive their businesses to even greater success.

Fifteen years in any life can seem like a long time. But when it comes to helping people better manage business environments, trends, and threats, it feels like epochs have passed since 2004, when I founded QuantumShift in partnership with KPMG Enterprise. Ever since, program partners have annually helped Ivey’s Morrissette Institute for Entrepreneurship identity an elite group of 40 entrepreneurs to participate in a rigorous five-day developmental experience.

Back in the first year of the program, of course, the European Union was focused on managing expansion, not exits. In the United States, the second-term administration of George W. Bush actively supported free trade via bilateral and multilateral efforts, while Donald Trump (who still loved Saturday Night Live in 2004) was just starting to become a household name as host of a new reality TV show called The Apprentice.

Meanwhile, in Canada, Ottawa’s fiscal books were the envy of the developed world. But despite his deficit slaying as a finance minister, newly elected Prime Minister Paul Martin was forced to establish our first minority government since 1979 thanks to fallout from a sponsorship scandal that dogged his predecessor. At the time, Justin Trudeau was a graduate student studying environmental geography, not to mention a budding actor.

Fifteen years ago, when convergence was an emerging buzzword, it was oil companies and automakers joining Walmart in the top 10 of the Fortune 500, which didn’t include any tech companies. For fiscal year 2004, Apple posted a net profit of just US$276 million, up from US$69 million in 2003, on US$8 billion in net sales, mostly from its Macintosh line (Power Macs, PowerBooks, iMacs, eMacs, and iBooks). The iPod brought in another US$1.3 billion, but the iPhone and iPad were still years away.

On the social media front, Facebook was just being launched in 2004, when “blog” was crowned Merriam-Webster’s word of the year.

So, times—as they say—clearly change.

“As adroit as previous generations of business founders have been when it comes to dealing with change, the changing pace of change is now a gamechanger.”

For entrepreneurs, change has always been part of the equation. In fact, foisting change on the rest of the market has repeatedly been key to entrepreneurial success. Nevertheless, as adroit as previous generations of business founders have been when it comes to dealing with (and taking advantage of) change, the changing pace of change is now a gamechanger.

Thanks to technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and block chain, even the business world’s best minds are grappling to understand how best to navigate the shifting competitive environment. Meanwhile, social, environmental, and political change also appears to be coming faster than ever before.

As a result, PESTLE analysis has never been more important. The abbreviation stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental factors. Dating back to Scanning the Business Environment, a 1967 book by Francis Aguilar that discussed understanding the environmental elements affecting an enterprise, PESTLE analysis has long been used to help formulate business plans and strategies. But in the past, depending on scale and sector, some entrepreneurs were able to ignore market factor analysis and successfully fly by the seat of their pants. Those days are done.

What hasn’t changed in the past decade and a half is the importance of talent. During every year of QuantumShift, entrepreneurs in the program have rated acquisition and retention of talent as their number-one priority. This will remain true in the digital age. After all, when facing constant environmental uncertainty and disruption, people who are flexible, capable, hardworking, and learning-oriented are even more valuable.

Since 2004, I have had the pleasure of working with a long line of impressive QuantumShift graduates—ranging from Paul Antony, to Connie Clerici, to Peter Gustavson, to Joyce Usher-Mesiano and Dario Zulich—who have all taught me that Canada clearly has what it takes to compete on the global stage.

To stay ahead of a rapidly changing world, they have all committed to continuous learning. You should follow their lead.

One response on “Shifting Entrepreneurial Gears

  1. Robert Lane

    A concise summary. The only issues re Canada is that many of our business leaders do not see the issues around developing talent and forget that we are well into an age of the Global Economy We need to help our entrepreneurs learn to scale -hold on to them before they sell out. Both Federally and Provincially, through policies and action we have not embraced the value of being an entrepreneur and the role that they play for the future
    Good to see you recently

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