Today’s guest post comes from Beth Dea, CYBF’s director of programs. Beth is directly involved in the creation, development and implementation of CYBF’s core programs.

I recently attended a fascinating lunch and panel discussion at the Empire Club in Toronto, hosted by Arlene Dickinson,  CEO of Venture Communications in Calgary and one of the Dragons on CBC’s Dragons’ Den.  The theme of the panel discussion was “What it takes to be a successful chief executive officer in today’s economy” and although many of the people in the room were likely CEOs of medium to large organizations, it occurred to me, as I listened, that most of their messages apply to anybody running a business, and to our CYBF entrepreneurs in particular!

So here are the basics, in a nutshell:

What does it take to run a business successfully?

  • Courage, vision, resiliency (we know that our CYBF entrepreneurs have all of these traits!)
  • Optimism and the ability to see opportunity in challenging times
  • Knowing your strengths.  Being all things to all people rarely works.

The term “vision” or “visionary” is one that you hear fairly often in terms of business and entrepreneurship.  But what exactly does that mean, being a ‘visionary’? Turns out it means more that slapping your ‘vision’ up on a wall.  As one of the panelists said: “Customers don’t buy what you say; they buy what you do.”

What I took from that was that a real leader doesn’t just articulate a vision, she embodies it and lives it every day.  That same panelist said, and it seems so simple, but often gets forgotten as small businesses chase the almighty revenue stream: “Know what you do well”.  Wise words.

What really resonated for me was a message that came at the end of the day. A panelist was asked for tips on how an overworked entrepreneur, who is just trying to keep things going each day, can become a leader.  The answer was one word:  NETWORK.  “Don’t try to do it alone”, he said, “start learning from others, find a mentor, reach out and don’t be afraid to share information.  You are not alone.”

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