Offering entrepreneurs the help, advice and skills they need to succeed

Chris Proctor of ATB’s Entrepreneur Centre talks about the attributes you need to make your venture shine

Chris Proctor is director of the Entrepreneur Centre YYC with ATB Financial.

Chris Proctor

What’s the Calgary Entrepreneur Centre and what does it do?

Proctor: ATB Financial created the Calgary Entrepreneur Centre to support Alberta’s entrepreneur community. We offer a full-service banking facility with extra proficiency and expertise to help small business owners.

At the Entrepreneur Centre, you’ll find a team of advisers who do personal financial planning and banking. This team is extra special as they have taken extra steps to learn how to help the entrepreneur community. An example would be the ability to read financial statements and use business analysis to accurately report income for credit products.

We also have a business adviser team that does financial planning for businesses, helping with products and services that allow small businesses to function at the level they need to grow and succeed.

On top of that, we have specialist advisers called strategists. They help entrepreneurs (or aspiring ones) to move their vision forward. This could include helping with business planning resources, financial statements, guiding them towards grants or networking programs, just to mention a few.

In addition to our wide range of expertise our advisers offer, we also have a community room that accommodates up to 90 people for workshops, seminars and events. We host almost daily events that are often facilitated by entrepreneurs, free of charge, on various topics in the entrepreneur community. Our schedule can be found at www.atbentrepreneurcentre.com.

Finally, we offer bookable office and boardroom space for business owners if they need to do the occasional team meeting, annual general meeting or even to conduct interviews. There are Entrepreneur Centres located across Alberta in Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie.

You’re also involved with the ATB Financial Emerging Leaders Network. What’s that?

Proctor: The Emerging Leader Network is something I started with a few other colleagues just over three years ago. We’re an event-based organization that focuses on the leadership development, as well as giving a tangible benefit back to our community. Since we started, we’ve volunteered over 1,200 hours and raised over $50,000 for charity.

Our flagship event is called the WISER Games (Workforce-Innovation-Strategy-Execution-Results). The WISER Games is a business competition that goes for three months, where we partner with a local charity to solve a real-time problem they’re facing. We split participants into teams that compete against each other for two trophies; one is for the most funds raised during the three month time period, and the other is for the best solution presented at the end of the competition

When the three months is up, all teams present in front of an executive panel of judges at a gala event. We present the trophies and a cheque to the charity live in front of a big, enthusiastic crowd.

What are some of the key characteristics or qualities of a successful entrepreneur?

Proctor: This is always an interesting question and to be honest, the amount of qualities certain successful entrepreneurs carry or display can be immense. That said, there are a few things I see and believe the entrepreneur community will need moving forward to be successful.

The first is an extremely hard work ethic. I think this is one of the few things that is a non-negotiable if you want to succeed with your own business. Your internal drive to work and persist through challenge must be at a high level or your competition will simply work harder than you to get ahead.

The second is to enjoy what you’re doing. If the reason why you’re doing it is just to make money, and you don’t enjoy the area of business you went into, it becomes extremely difficult to succeed through challenges or failures. Those who do business in an area they love or thoroughly enjoy, in my experience, have a far better chance to succeed.

Third is a high adaptability quotient. Successful entrepreneurs need to be able to learn and be agile, analyze situations on the fly and adapt quickly. They need to be able to see trends or challenges before they happen and adjust in a way that allows the business to move forward. With technology changing industries faster than ever, adapting to new skill sets is a must.

What are some of the key factors that lead to failure for entrepreneurs?

Proctor: Again, it comes down to work ethic. If you’re in business for the right reasons, like what you do and work hard at it, you will be able to continuously overcome the challenges and failures needed to succeed. If you don’t have the work ethic, you aren’t going to be able to overcome what others do.

Failure in planning from taking idea to reality is also something that can easily end a business early on. When someone gets an idea in their head, there are lots things that person can do to see if it’s a viable business opportunity or not. A lot of entrepreneurs don’t do the necessary planning to really know if they can succeed and generate enough income (or any at all).

What makes a good leader?

Proctor: Leadership to me is something that also has a very broad spectrum of attributes. As needs evolve, I believe emotional intelligence and leadership are becoming more synonymous. Being able to understand and be empathetic towards mental health, and how it affects peak performance, is going to be a crucial skill. Empathy and interpersonal skill development are becoming more relevant than ever.

I also believe that with the amount of change we’re facing in many industries in the world, being able to adapt quickly and efficiently while learning new skills is going to be critical. Adaptation is going to be key to progression, whether it’s your business or you’re leading a team of people.

– Mario Toneguzzi for Calgary’s Business


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