Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venturepark — Canada’s most extensive business growth ecosystem — and star of CBC’s Dragons’ Den, has joined Canadian Business as their leader-in-residence this month. She’s sharing her expertise in entrepreneurship and leadership, and how each must evolve to meet the demands of a post-pandemic world.
A serial entrepreneur, Arlene has lent her expertise as a Dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den for more than 12 seasons. Her success and leadership have been recognized with multiple honours and awards, including Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100 Hall of Fame and the Pinnacle Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
At the start of Arlene’s tenure as Canadian Business’ leader-in-residence, she answered a few questions on her career and what trends she sees emerging in Canadian business post-pandemic.
What common values are emerging in the business world as we come out of the pandemic?
When we think back years ago, business leaders were all about, “let’s take the hill, follow me!” Today, leadership is about saying to your team, “I don’t have all the answers. This is all uncharted territory. Here’s what I’d like to build. Here’s why I think it’s important.” And then making sure your team is feeling included in the process. Today it’s about more flexibility and less rigidity, more empathy versus the hardcore approach of “I’m in charge, do what I say.”
What mega-trends do you anticipate businesses will have to navigate as Canada reopens?
We’re going to have to navigate a changing workforce. Just think about how many people are deciding that work isn’t for them, at least the traditional type of work. We’re seeing record numbers of people quitting their jobs and going on to do different things. That’s an opportunity for young people. That means leaders are going to have to understand how they can keep their core teams together while still being aware that the workforce is changing.
We’ve had a level of uncertainty in all of our lives that never existed before, and we now have to think about what it is we want to accomplish as a society, how businesses can serve those needs, and then how we compete globally.
What are you working on these days that’s getting you excited?
The pandemic really was an awakening for me, as it was for many of us. We stopped and thought about what mattered, what we want to leave as a legacy, and what we want our society to be. I had a lot of time to think about how to navigate this period, and what I want as we come out of it.
I reinvented Venturepark, which is a business growth ecosystem focused on supporting and marketing consumer goods companies in the food, health and personal-care space. All of it existed before the pandemic, but the notion of bringing it all together in one ecosystem and leveraging each other’s diverse skill sets all driven by the same goal was something that we did during Covid. We’ve got a venture capital fund, an accelerator, a commercial kitchen, two marketing companies and a media platform. I’m about to raise my second fund, which I’m excited about. We’ve been investing in companies across Canada, and it’s been incredibly rewarding to see how this ecosystem has grown.
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Whether explaining how to leverage marketing in even the toughest of economic times, sharing backstage stories from “The Den,” or giving audiences a look into her personal story of success, Arlene Dickinson’s experience and expertise always shines through.
Interested in learning more about Arlene and what she can bring to your next event? Email us at [email protected].