On Tuesday, May 8th, Toronto’s Bloor Street Harry Rosen store was fresh (and relatively cool given the amount of people) with young energy for the Harry Rosen Presents: How Did You Get in? networking event. The evening involved a healthy amount of mixing and mingling among eager and driven YPs and a panel of seasoned professionals of varying ages and career paths, who shed a thing or two on their success and how they got their foot in the door.
The panel of 5 consisted of Paul Allamby, EVP Client Communications, Havas, Keith Farlinger, CEO, BDO Canada, Cam Heaps, Co-Founder, Steam Whistle Brewing, Robert Deluce, President and CEO, Porter Airlines Inc., and Notable.ca’s very own Founder and Publisher, Julian Brass. Dave Hamilton was the moderator.
After about 45 minutes of drinks (Steamwhistle beer or wine) on the expansive store’s 4th floor, along with passed hors d’oeuvres (the prosciutto-wrapped shrimp was the winner of the evening), the panelists took the stage for the casual but informative discussion. It was Mr. Rosen himself who introduced the panel and the event, asking the age-old question of whether clothes make the man. The answer is a decided yes. As Mr. Rosen said, “when you are dressed well, people can focus on you and your ideas. His advice to up-and-coming YPs? “Never get too big for your britches.”
Each speaker discussed his background and how he got into his respective profession. Cam Heaps said his decision to follow his family’s path in the beer business was inspired “for the love of beer” and facilitated by a realization that came while he and his friends sat around a campfire. Porter Airline’s Bob Deluce spoke of his family’s hunting and fishing charter airline and remembers the choice he had to make between medical school and following the family business. Julian Brass discussed leaving a high-paying job and an incredible quality of life in California to watching his bank account go into the red as he gave up financial stability and moved home to Canada to pursue his desire to create the online publication for young Canadian professionals.
A recurring theme throughout the discussion centered on networking. Hamilton discussed the importance of networking, as well as building relationships and friendships that may or may not provide value. He advised the crowd not to become too opportunistic or always expect something back or of benefit when meeting people. Whether it results in a new client or business relationship, valuable friendships can form from networking as well. On the subject of networking, Deluce says he never really sees it as “networking” because he likes meeting people. For this reason, he will often forgo his car and take the TTC downtown to ride the bus over to Porter with both customers and employees to experience the service and the feedback first-hand.
In terms of networking, Paul Allamby stressed the importance of getting out there and “going to everything,” especially in the early days of your career. He reflected on how he developed relationships with mentors through an unlikely series of events and through an abundance of connections he formed with Toronto locals and visitors alike. He attributes his gifted people skills to being a milk man (insert confused faces from the young, fresh generation of YPs), which made him used to conversing with people at a young age. Heaps said that every social event was a networking opportunity and Farlinger said that the trick to networking for the shy or otherwise socially awkward was to simply attend the event with an outgoing person.
In terms of entrepreneurship, panelists discussed the difficulties in being taking seriously as an entrepreneur, especially in the beginning of the journey. Brass said his entrepreneurial spirit that dates back to high school when he would organize and promote parties for people in his school and surrounding North Toronto high schools. Also discussed was the accompanying pay cut that comes when opting for entrepreneurship and it was agreed that the prospect of initial poverty prevents many people from pursuing their dreams.
Heaps said that a proper, well-developed business plan is the key to preventing financial stress. He says you don’t have to quit your stable day job (and pay cheque) at the beginning; work on your business plan in your free time, outside the confines of your 9-5 job. Once your brilliant plan catches the attention of investors, then you can quit your job. Bob Deluce said that opportunities are limitless but that you must ask yourself, “How badly do I want it?” Another valuable piece of advice to entrepreneurs or people working for startups is to look for contributions from others in the form of things other than funding. This may be facilitated by getting involved on a charity board with people who are influential within similar industries and social circles within the city.
Other conversation-evoking topics included the importance of mentorship, with Brass comparing mentorship to a relationship: you go through a few bad ones but there is always someone out there who is a right fit for you. The influence of social media was also touched upon, including LinkedIn etiquette, a site that Allamby called a “reservoir for opportunity.” Parting words of wisdom were to engage in reciprocal mentorship relationships and to volunteer for everything and, as Brass said, to “make each day your best day.”
The event lasted more than an hour after the panel, with young attendees eager to converse with and pick the brains of the panelists once they got a few moments with them.
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