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By Leo Valiquettebobs

Legacy.

It’s been top of mind for me the past couple of weeks while wearing one of my other hats – editor of the Ottawa Chamber magazine, The Voice.

The next issue of The Voice will serve as a takeaway for the Best Ottawa Business Awards gala taking place in Nov. 21. The awards, previously known as the Ottawa Business Achievement Awards, recognize local business excellence in a number of categories. I’ve been busy interviewing this year’s Lifetime Achievement recipient (Wes Nicol), the CEO of the Year, Halogen Software’s Paul Loucks, and a host of other business achievers.

From this, I thought I would share some of the gems I’ve picked up that speak to legacy, which, from a business standpoint, I define as creating something that endures and has a distinct identity and reputation in the marketplace.

I have to start with a quote from Wes Nicol. This isn’t something he said to me when we spoke recently, but was part of a convocation speech he gave at Carleton University in 2006. It says a lot about the man himself and what has led to his business success:

“Do your job promptly and efficiently and without fanfare, and continue to volunteer. Look on any task that has been shunned by others as an opportunity.”

Don’t build to sell

Paul Loucks has never been one to look for shortcuts and quick gains at the expense of long-term success. Founders who build to sell, he said, fail to give due attention to considerations such as company culture and the infrastructure that is crucial to stable, sustainable growth.

“Don’t bet on an overnight success,” he said. “Bet on a long-term success and that’s how we’re going to build a great companies.”

Don’t be a little different, but a lot different

Niche grocer Farm Boy began in Cornwall about 30 years ago with a single 300-square-foot location. It has since parlayed its strength into 14 locations across Eastern Ontario and continues to challenge the national chains with new health-conscious options and ready-to-go meals.

Can the business survive a torch pass?

Many of this year’s recipients are multi-generational family businesses. This isn’t typical for a B2B tech company, but there is a lesson to be had here, nonetheless. A truly robust company is one that can carry on just fine on the strength of its team, without the company founders(s).

Will other reputable brands risk tethering their reputation to yours?

Oakwood Renovations is a multi-generational family business that has been serving the Ottawa area for 57 years. It has earned its fair share of kudos, but perhaps the biggest feather in its construction helmet came earlier this year when home improvement contractor and television personality Mike Holmes gave his formal stamp of approval. Oakwood was the first such renovator in Canada, and still the only one in Ottawa.

What have you done for your community lately?

It goes without saying that each and every one of this year’s recipients has a culture of giving back. There is of course retail chain Giant Tiger, which has earned the nod for Philanthropic Initiative of the Year. But there are others too that are no strangers to us in this shop.

The Shopify team, led by Harley Finkelstein and Tobias Lutke, are tireless supporters of local startups and entrepreneurs, and host various networking events, hackathons and youth initiatives.

There is also the team at Soshal Group. This growing user-experience agency is busy raising funds for a digital and media technology scholarship fund, as well as planning a non-profit Digital Learning Centre, while still in the startup phase.

Are you able to learn new tricks?

And then there is the old guard.

Brothers Michel and Richard St. Jacques founded Rimikon 25 years ago to bring to market extra-low voltage electrical components. When they saw the writing on the wall for incandescent lighting, they decided to parlay their expertise into extra-low voltage LED lights. Unlike other LEDs that run on AC current, Rimikon’s lights need only the dribble of DC power that comes through a conventional speaker wire.

Wireless firm Christie and Walther Communications has a 50-year history in the Ottawa area, and had very much come to rely on its reputation to make the phone ring. But a couple of years ago, a new marketing team and a new sales strategy were brought in to revive sales of PushPlus, its two-way radio network in Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. This demand generation campaign was so successful that Christie and Walther was awarded the 2013 Motorola Canadian Partner of Excellence Award.

So as a founder, entrepreneur or senior executive, ask yourself what legacy you are building as you work to bring technology to market. Your place in the market is defined by much more than your product’s features. And your staying power will depend on your ability to pivot and migrate from one generation of products to the next as market needs evolve. The personality and reputation associated with your company’s brand matters, too, and will stick with you as you progress through your career.

 

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