YPDaily: Robert Marsh

We all have the exact same amount of time in any given day, however most choose to use it differently than others. Robert Marsh is an example of someone that has managed to work a full time job for an aggressive company while simultaneously growing his own side-project in to a successful stand-alone Non Profit Organization. Get to know young professional Robert Marsh today on Notable.

Notable: What is your Name and age?
Robert: Robert Marsh, 25

Notable: What is the name of your business and what industry is it in?
I work as a Senior Underwriter in the Department of Financial Institutions for Chubb Insurance Company of Canada (Chubb) by day and I’m the President and Founder of S-drive, a young professional development organization, by night. Website: www.sdrive.ca; Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/marsh.robert; Twitter: @shared_drive; Email: rob@sdrive.ca

Notable: Elevator Pitch (we just met on an elevator, we have 30 seconds together in the elevator, please describe your business):
Robert: S-drive is a registered NPO which is committed to the personal and professional development of young professionals through networking, philanthropy and community engagement. Simply put: we connect driven people. We connect members with other dynamic young professionals through innovative events and volunteer opportunities. So far, we’ve facilitated everything from career placements, volunteer opportunities, panel debates, wellness events, charity event galas, and peer-to-peer mentorship.

Notable: Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
I graduated with a BCom from Queen’s University and was working full-time in Toronto for more than a year before the inspiration came to me. Work was challenging, engaging and enriching – I spent most waking hours developing myself and honing my skills with my new employer. I was enjoying every minute, but I still wanted the right opportunities to balance work and play. I was extremely busy with the first step of my career, but I didn’t feel that was an excuse for a lack of participation in meaningful activities outside of work. I was involved in many extra curricular, volunteer initiatives and a few start-ups in the past, and I felt there was a void in Toronto for an NPO focused on the young professional demographic. It was ironic because it’s this demographic that can give back in some of the most notable ways and I was driven to do something about it. I was born and raised on the East Coast where community is extremely important, and that certainly gave me some of the inspiration needed to help build S-drive.

Notable: What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
The opportunity to hone my finance, marketing and sales skills while driving results for a leading financial institution (Chubb) is what keeps me challenged – I combine that with building an NPO to fulfill my entrepreneurial spirit. It’s all about the people – both the supportive and thought provoking co-workers at Chubb who push me to achieve my best, and at S-drive it’s the ambitious and energetic 24 person volunteer team that I learn from day in and day out. I’m learning as much as I can each and every day, and that’s the goal at this stage in my life.

Notable: What is the most challenging part of your business?
Working with a volunteer-based team can be the most rewarding but it’s also the most challenging part of the business – especially when they’re as busy as the S-drive team is. They’re A-type, driven, always on the go and they have other priorities to attend to (despite S-drive being an important one of course). We’re often competing with similar for-profit ventures that have a lot more time to build marketing, strategy, and event offerings. It challenges us to be efficient, structured, and to communicate with each other often. Supporting the team is my most important goal – the sky is the limit for S-drive, but the team has to be with you every step of the way. 

Notable: Where do you see your business going in 5 years?
I see S-drive as the go to event-based community for young professionals in Canada. Whether it’s Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Halifax or beyond, young professionals will think of S-drive as the one-stop shop for volunteering, professional development and networking. It may take a year or two of work experience before their need for the community is evident, but young professionals between the ages of 21 to 35 will be familiar with the brand and they’ll know that S-drive is waiting with open arms when they’re looking for meaningful life outside of work.

Notable: Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Robert: Initiate. Communicate often. Above that – “Be fearful of mediocrity” (Jason Ellery). There’s too much to experience in life to let that fear become a reality.

Notable: What is your greatest asset as it relates to business?
I’m a consensus builder who connects talented people in order to build a campaign or achieve a goal. I like to talk (some may say too much), but it’s always based on the passion for what I’m doing. If I’m not excited, I’m probably not going to excite anyone else to get behind an idea.

Notable: What does success look like to you?
My vision of true success is invisible to everyone else. It’s the internal motivation and gratification that doesn’t come from a third party – it’s the moments when there’s no need for me to share an accomplishment or moment of success with anyone…because I know that I’m doing my best work and I’m passionate about it every step of the way. It’s a great feeling.

Notable: What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
The most interesting milestone was achieving the runner-up title in the national competition and television show – Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister. Young Canadians aged 18-25 were invited to apply for the show and campaign to be “Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister”. I wasn’t a political die-hard nor did I hold the public policy or polictical science degree that many contestants had. I possesed an incredibly generous network and community across the country that helped me build consensus around a platform in order to achieve the title of number-one vote-getter in the preliminary round, and I was awarded one of the 10 semi-finalist spots. I made it to the final four and appeared on CBC Television, where we engaged in a heated debate on the issues facing Canada today. Alex Trebek was the host, and four former Prime Ministers were involved in issuing the questions and challenges. I learned a lot about myself throughout the four-month journey, and I wouldn’t trade the dynamic conversations and dramatic experiences throughout the competition for anything…well, nothing other than coming first, of course…

Notable: Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Robert: Bloorview Kids Rehab, Sickkids, IWK Children’s Hospital – children’s charities are important to me. Children should be presented with as many opportunities as possible, whether they are limited by income, disease, or disability. S-drive has helped a number of these charities and more such as KidSport Canada and Habitat for Humanity.

Notable: What is Notable to you?
Robert: Gen-Y, Millennia Generation, the Young Professional Movement – whatever you want to call it, our potential is limitless. We have a wealth of information, the talent and drive to succeed, and we are able to leverage mass information sharing. However, we have to be careful to keep our sense of entitlement in check. It’s important to be humble and value every opportunity, big or small. With such power, also comes great responsibility, as they say.

Notable: Anything Else? 

Robert: People are quick to have a good laugh at the expense of my former profession as mascot for the Halifax Mooseheads (Quebec Major Juniors Hockey League) and the Canadian World Junior Hockey Team (2003). The mascot, Hal, required a networking talent of his own with a younger demographic – he traded off the spoken word for some solid hugs and stellar dance moves. One last note I would like to make about networking is that you should approach every potential contact with a ‘what can I do for you’ mentality. You’ll only get back what you’re willing to put in. The same goes for friends. My close group of friends can depend on me, which means I can call on them at anytime. The sense of security that comes with strong relationships is certainly invaluable.