Business Can Also Be About Caring

Recently, some shocking news was trending on Twitter and other media outlets. One article on the subject, from Maclean’s read: “If they were to live on the average worker’s pay, Canada’s CEOs could stop working at around 11 a.m. on January 2 and take the rest of the year off. That’s because by 10:57 a.m. on the second day of the year, their earnings will have already hit $49,738, the equivalent of the country’s average wage, according to research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPPA).”

To me, this is outrageous. I am a CEO too, and I know how much time, effort and energy growing my business consumes. I deserve to get paid well for my leadership and decision-making. However, while winning is an integral part of any definition of success, I cannot imagine how I could ever justify creating such a gigantic disparity between what I earn and what I pay my team. To me, the team is integral to my business’s success. If I win, then my team wins. If my team wins, then my clients win. When my clients win, then the entire business ecosystem wins.

I strive to create a supportive environment with my team, and I have found that we win more often when I place an emphasis on personal happiness.

Happy teams can achieve productivity increases of up to 20%, according to Daniel Sgroi of the Social Market Foundation, who authored a 2015 study which looked at the relationship between happiness and productivity. The researchers chose workers at random and provided materials that would make them feel happy, including comedy videos, drinks and snacks.

Many people assume that businesses are focused on profit at all costs, including the cost of workers’ well-being. But I’d like to suggest that you can build a business, make it successful and also care about your team’s happiness.

When we all win, we become happier. That happiness leads to a nurturing environment that encourages productivity. It’s the opposite of a vicious cycle: it’s a positive cycle!

Nourishing Your Team in a Business Environment

“The more you nourish employees, the more a business flourishes,” says Lord Mark Price, former Trade Minister in the UK Conservative government.

Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of the yogurt company Chobani, believes that nurturing employees is the best way to create a positive work environment. Ulukaya, the Yogurt King, grew up in the mountains of Turkey, but sought a different life. He moved to New York and eventually used his experience to create the Greek-style yogurt brand Chobani. Founded in 2005, Chobani currently holds a 20% share of the U.S. yogurt market.

Every year, each employee receives a turkey and a bucket of feta cheese during the holiday season. In 2016, Ulukaya gave 10% of his company to his employees in the form of shares. For some long-term workers, that was a million-dollar gift.

“Now they’ll be working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time,” he said in 2016 in an interview with the New York Times.

For those who believe business is only profit-oriented, the idea of gifting that much of a self-built company might sound like a recipe for disaster. Ulukaya believes the opposite is true. He has built his highly successful brand by encouraging employee ownership. It is a process every business owner can follow.

Why Employee Ownership Creates a Winning Scenario

When employees feel engaged in the success of the organization they work for, their sense of ownership creates a collaborative environment which offers robust levels of productivity. It is evidence that business isn’t an individual game, but a team sport. We all win.

Many organizations use an ESOP, or an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, to create a team environment. For startups or SMBs, introducing an ESOP may not be the best solution. It might not even be possible. But there are still effective ways to encourage employees to take pride in their company.

  • Provide regular feedback that encourages worker skill growth.
  • Be willing to listen when workers are struggling with a personal or professional issue.
  • Offer public rewards for excellent work, even if it is only a “thank you.”
  • Look for ways to expand the role of top producers within the organization, since a promotion or a raise can be an excellent motivational tool.

I may not be able to offer a million-dollar ESOP to my team, but I can nurture them by encouraging an environment where we can all be proud of our work. When that pride is present, a winning attitude often follows.

That is how business can—and, I would argue, should—also be about caring. By nourishing others, we feed ourselves.

Karima-Catherine Goundiam is the founder and managing director of Red Dot Digital, which she launched in 2014 with the aim of bringing greater efficiency and diversity to the world of digital and social media. She brings 16 years of international integrated marketing, campaign and project management experience to the firm. Before Red Dot, she managed digital and social media for Deloitte Canada and directed social media for Ford.

Karima-Catherine has mentored executives at every level on digital transformation, from digital strategy to social media. With over 49,000 followers on Twitter and many more across social media platforms, she writes articles on LinkedIn Pulse and the Women’s Executive Network, an international organization and community advancing the conditions of professional and executive women.

Red Dot Digital helps its clients boost their sales and achieve their business objectives in today’s digital world with solid digital and social media strategies. Globally-minded and cost-efficient, RDD works across multiple time zones, setting themselves apart byproviding real, measurable results.

@KarimaCatherine on Twitter

How to Thrive Under a Critical Leader

We have all been there. We report to a person who is a workplace bully. No matter how hard you try, at the end of the day, you feel like a failure. Meetings are depressing, work is overwhelming and, despite your best effort, you just can’t seem to please that one person who decides about your paycheque or career. How can you thrive in such a situation despite all that is going on around you?

1. Surround yourself with positive people

Every workplace has good people and bad apples. You need multiple positive people to balance off one bad apple. Find those who will become your cheerleaders will help fuel your fire and keep you excited. You might as well survive that one negative Nelly (or Neil).

2. Keep in mind that some people come into your life as a blessing and some as a lesson

What can you learn from your current situation? Do you need to toughen up? Do you need more patience? Do you need to stand up for yourself? Or do you need to make faster decisions? How can this person help you move forward and upward with your life? What should be your next step?

3. Propose a better plan

There is always a way. You can sit down with your leader or someone else to discuss what’s going on, try to resolve the issue and dissolve the conflict. Come up with a plan of action that changes the status quo. Don’t let things get off the rails, take action and change the circumstances.

4. Be the change

How can you set a different example? Can you be a light in the darkness? Can you bring smile and positivity into your current environment? Can you set an example of how things can be done differently? Your behaviour might inspire others to act differently.

5. Walk away

There are places and situations when you need to have enough courage and self-respect to just walk away. If you have done your best, acted differently, talked, proposed a better plan, and nothing changed, it might be time to move on. None of us can change the other person. If they choose to remain the same and the company is fine with it, your best bet might be to say “enough” to an emotional manipulator and bring your skills where they will be appreciated. It’s a mission impossible to thrive in a toxic environment. Your value is far too great to be wasted.

If you suffered under a critical leader, learn from it and never do this to others under your lead. I encourage you to be a leader who inspires, grows and supports others, helping them to reach their full potential. Choose to blossom into a beautiful rose in spite of those painful thorns.



Blogger: Silvia Pencak, founder & CEO of Powerful Life Consulting, a boutique consulting company located in Ontario, Canada.

Silvia is a consultant, speaker and an award-winning blogger. Her specialty is in change leadership and strategic team development. With hands-on experience on over 500 mission critical initiatives across four continents, Silvia helps business leaders establish proven, actionable strategies to keep essential projects on time, on budget, and on the mark with client expectations. Connect with Silvia at or on Twitter (@SilviaPencak).

How to Succeed at Digital Transformation

WXN Digital Brand Ambassador Karima-Catherine Goundiam shares important steps businesses and organizations must take to succeed at digital transformation. 

In a previous article shared on LinkedIn, I addressed how digital companies are seen from a customer’s perspective. Today’s post addresses the complexities of transformations that occur within an organization. To make a successful digital transformation, McKinsey Quarterly addresses several key points.

1. What direction is best?

The choice of where a business will go needs to be based on the future instead of on the present. Digital innovations are constantly evolving to transform how customers interact with brands and businesses. Being stuck in the present will limit the imagination and creativity an organization can tap into, which will, in turn, limit its future growth.

Fifteen years ago, many of today’s internet stocks didn’t even exist. The same will be true fifteen years from now. By looking to the future, you’ll have an easier time choosing the best possible direction.

 2. Who will lead?

Transformation is not a project to delegate. The CEO and the supporting executive team need to take it up directly. CEOs are responsible for their organization’s vision and direction. The executive team is responsible for implementing that vision and direction. Sometimes team members may resist this leadership. That is why putting the right team of people in place to drive the change beforehand is critical to a successful transformation.

Teams don’t need to be large to drive great success. For instance, Starbucks has adopted numerous digital initiatives since 2005 with a team of three executives leading the way.

3. How will you sell the vision to stakeholders?

Communication is critical to success, but it’s not the only element you need to address. Deciding who receives the communication and who offers it will also affect how your stakeholders accept the information.

You need crisp, clear messages in all relevant channels and formats. The goal of communication is often to inform, but what you should really be accomplishing with your communication is creating allies. By bringing your stakeholders on board with the transformation, you’ll begin to form a culture of change.

4. Where will you position the organization?

It’s easy to say something like, “I want to be the best social media integration company in the world.” Unfortunately, having the desire is often seen as the equivalent to having already accomplished the goal, and that encourages digital to fail. You need to be completely honest about the skills, capabilities and technologies that are available to your organization and how these fit within the industry.

Honest information will help you reach realistic decisions. Being overconfident will lead to poorly structured decisions.

Remember that being aggressive is not the same as being overconfident. If you consider your brand’s and business’s full scope of strengths and weaknesses in terms of resources for every decision, you can transform quickly and successfully.

5. Who makes decisions?

 Somebody needs to take responsibility for a final decision. Businesses are not generally democracies. When push comes to shove, the CEO, president, or designated decision-maker must be willing to make the tough calls.

To ensure that the choices being made are positive and encourage transformation, you must collect information through analytics and create meaningful metrics. The executive team should be filtering this need down to their direct reports. Then, you can summarize the information, put it into a meaningful format, and communicate it to the CEO or designated decision-maker.

 6. How are you going to allocate funds?

Business leaders already allocate funds to make sure resources get to where they’re needed every day. In a digital transformation, however, these allocations need to happen faster.

Instead of operating as a standard business, it may be useful to operate more like a venture capitalist. This helps you stop immediately if they don’t promote the mission or vision that you’re creating through the transformation process.

Shifting to a VC-style of operations also means speeding up the budgeting cycle. Many organizations operate on an annual cycle. With a digital transformation, it can be beneficial to shift to a monthly cycle so that funds are available when needed.

7. When should you take action?

You need to take action now. Even though up to 70% of digital transformation programs fail, many businesses will also fail if they have not sought out digital.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider the risk vs. reward calculations before going all-in. You want to be able to take advantage of what digital can provide so that you can increase revenues and reduce costs. Then the gains that you make can be reinvested into the transformation process so that the business continues to grow.

“Going digital” is often treated as a catchphrase. But digital is more than having a website or being able to accept online orders. The Digital Revolution requires brands and businesses to look at what they do in a very different way so that they can meet their customers’ needs right now.

Redefining Leadership with Disruption and Humanity

“Regardless of where you work or what you do, it’s really important to always change the way you approach things. . . .Redefining what we do and how we do it, shows the evolution of our society and its needs,” says Top 100 Winner, Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia.

In her recent insightful TedxKelowna talk, Bahr-Gedalia challenges us to redefine our traditional perception and understanding of leadership using two key qualities – disruption and humanity. The outcome, she says, can be extraordinary.

Bahr-Gedalia was joined at TedXKelowna by fellow Top 100 Winner Tasha Kheiriddin – find her heartfelt talk on how autism can make a better world here.

What You Need To Know Before You Go (Out on Your Own!)

Have you ever considered starting your own business? It seems to be the dream for many people. To own something that belongs to you. To be the boss. To have more freedom. And hopefully, the chance to strike success in a big way and make a lot of money doing what you love.

As a corporate executive turned entrepreneur myself, I must say that there is definitely something rewarding about owning a business. But, once you make that decision, there are some things I want to share with you beforehand to help make your transition as successful as possible.

Top Tips on Starting a Successful Business:

  1. Get a line of credit now!

Before you resign from your current role, apply for a line of credit. You will qualify for a lot more money while you hold down a steady job versus as a new entrepreneur. These funds will come in handy when you start your new business. Also, this money will provide you with some extra security in case you don’t make any profit in your first few months (yes, that often happens for new business owners!)

  1. Three is the magic number.

The majority of people who start businesses will tell you that the first three years of business was the most challenging and frustrating. You will likely make the least amount of money in this time too. I tell clients to consider the first three years a time to play and experiment. Know that when you make it past the first three years, chances are your business will succeed the long haul and generate more income.

  1. Set away a nest egg before you jump ship from your current role.

For me, I found saving $50,000 was what I needed to do. This provided a safety net for a few months (always your first go-to place before the backup line of credit) and then I also needed money to start my business (i.e. website, marketing materials, training courses, office, etc.).

  1. Prepare to work hard.

Despite the freedom I have available to me as a business owner, I work harder in this job than I have in any role in my entire life. The decision to work hard is of my choosing and I actually enjoy almost every minute of it. But it takes hard work to be a success. I don’t know any successful entrepreneurs who can “luck” their way into making millions.

  1. Get a coach.

When you start out on your own, this will be the time in your life when you may feel you have the least amount of money. But, hiring a coach is a must-have for any business owner. First of all, it can be an isolating change starting your own business. In the corporate world, we have teams and lots of people to bounce ideas around with. When you start your own business, it can be lonely. A coach is a trained professional who can help you get your business off the ground and running successfully in a lot less time.

  1. Be prepared for the tough days.

You will receive rejections. You will have customers that you thought were a for-sure thing fall through. That is the reality of business. Don’t take rejections personally in business. Everyone needs to do what is best for them. And often when one door closes another one (perhaps you didn’t even see this door before!) will open. It is really part of the fun of business.

  1. Consider investors.

Depending on the type of business you want to invest in, it may require extra capital. Research potential investors thoroughly and talk to other people/companies they have invested in to learn if they are a hands-off or hands-on investor. Think about what kind of investor you want. Also, consider how much equity in your company you are willing to give up. If you give up more than 50% to an outside investor, you own the minority share and you will lose some control over your company. Perhaps in this case, you may want a few investors so they can each take a smaller piece of the pie and leave you with the majority control. If your venture requires a large amount of money and you have to deal with majority investors, hire a good lawyer and negotiate a buy-back clause in your contract. This will give you the option to buy back majority equity in a certain number of years for a set price.

Blogger Carey-Ann Oestreicher, MBA, BA (Hons.), Chief Engagement Officer, Potential Unlimited

Recipient of a Top 40 Under Forty Business Achievement award, Carey-Ann Oestreicher, owner of the career development firm for women, Potential Unlimited (, holds a MBA and has worked in a variety of senior positions including vice-president level. Her focus is her family and helping women in business find true peace and happiness in their lives while achieving new heights in their careers.

Carey-Ann has been featured in a variety of media because of the success she has experienced with her holistic approach to developing women leaders and entrepreneurs. Her appearances include: CTV’s Canada AM, TSN, CBC News, Global Television, City TV News, The Globe and Mail, Canadian Business magazine, The Toronto Star and The Canadian Press.