At Accelerate Okanagan, our entrepreneurial programs are designed to build strong companies and resilient entrepreneurs. We help business owners validate their market, accelerate their growth, and scale sustainably with the support of our Executives-in-Residence team. We do this through one-on-one business coaching, peer-to-peer engagements, access to resources, and entrepreneurial training with industry experts.
What makes our Executives-in-Residence (EiRs) so qualified? They’ve been there. They’ve lived through challenges, thrived in success and most of all, learned from their experiences.
We recently caught up with one of our EiRs, Alison Ruks, to find out more about what makes her uniquely qualified and hear the lessons she’s learned along the way.
Education vs. Experience
When you graduate, you think you know it all. But the reality is that you know nothing. You know how to arrive on time and manage deadlines but, once you start as an entrepreneur, you realize that the $100,000 you spent on university couldn’t prepare you for the reality of it all. Experience trumps any kind of education you’ll receive. So, you need to continue learning after school and be open to developing new skills and improving yourself. That’s how you grow and become a great leader. Bad leaders are the people that are staying still.
Walking With Your Team
One of the best learnings I received during my time as an executive in the cannabis industry was the difference between a leader and a boss. A boss is someone who makes demands, barks orders and doesn’t respect their employee’s time. A leader values their people and sees them as humans. They walk with their team and take the time to understand everything on their plate both in and out of the office. Employees give their lives every day to work. Their mind, body and motivation are all intertwined with everything they do. The more you understand and appreciate this, the better chance your organization will succeed.
The Value of Mistakes
The biggest mistake that I made was staying too long and giving too much of myself to a toxic workplace. It gets drilled into your head that you need to stay at secure, well-paying jobs. But you need to value yourself no matter what the money looks like. When we started Murdoch and Ruks, we focused on working with big publicly traded companies because that’s where the money was. After working with businesses through the Advisor Access program, we found we loved working with like-minded people. We switched our focus to supporting people we actually liked working with: small businesses. Making mistakes along the way is how you learn and can set you up for long-term success. Will those mistakes be embarrassing at the time? You bet. But as long as you don’t repeat them, it’s okay.
Becoming a parent gave me patience and perspective, which has since shaped my approach to mentoring. Taking the time to understand the why behind a situation helps you gain perspective instead of casting judgements based on your initial perception of what’s happening. You need to be able to sit with people and look past the surface sh*t in order to truly connect with them. Once you can relate with your people, you can support their development in deeply meaningful and impactful ways.
Why We Do It
What I find most meaningful is working with entrepreneurs who are motivated and introspective. If you can’t critically look within yourself, you’re likely going to fail. You need to be able to recognize your strengths and weaknesses so that you can grow personally and professionally. There are all kinds of KPIs of sales growth targets and employee engagement measurements, but true success is defined by happiness and continuous learning. You can’t achieve those without introspection. Personal growth and happiness are the meaning of life, it’s what we’re here for.
Make Time for What’s Important
It can be so easy to get lost in entrepreneurship—pushing yourself and dedicating all your time towards your business. During my time as an executive, there were days where I was physically shaking because of the stress I was under. That eventually put me in the hospital. While I was there, someone told me that it wasn’t going to say “Best CEO” on my tombstone, it would say “Best Mom” or “Best Sister”. That is something we need to keep in mind as entrepreneurs and as professionals. There will be periods of sprints and hard work, but nobody knows what tomorrow will bring. You need to remember to make time for loved ones and enjoy your life. Your company isn’t going to have a front-row seat at your funeral.