Doing Business Differently

Forum for Women Entrepreneurs event | BCBusiness
Moderator Judy Brooks with the Doing Business Differently panel: (from left) Tracy Redies, Mike Jagger, Brian Scudamore and Victoria Sopik.

Advice and anecdotes from four B.C. leaders who take pride in employing unexpected business methods

Under the event title “Doing Business Differently to Get Results,” the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs hosted four B.C. leaders who get the job done by doing the unexpected. Moderated by FWE board member Judy Brooks, the roundtable included Mike Jagger, founder and president at Provident Security; Tracy Redies, president and CEO at Coast Capital Savings; Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO at 1-800-GOT-JUNK?; and Victoria Sopik, CEO at Kids and Company.

Coast Capital’s Tracy Redies set the tone as the keynote speaker by describing her credit union as an “unbank,” a sentiment that was reflected in each panellist’s comments on his or her own business. Redies says she’s interested in “flipping the orthodoxy of banking,” giving the notable example of Coast Capital’s mortgage documents. The credit union challenged its legal team to write the complex documents in plain language to help change members’ laboured relationship with banking.

Where most businesses look to emulate successful companies in their own industry, Redies says she often looks outside the financial realm, singling out WestJet as an example of a noteworthy and unconventional operation. Much like the air carrier famous for its good humour, Redies says, “We take business seriously; ourselves, not so much.” Coast’s irreverent TV advertising plays a large part in this motto, making an unlikely juxtaposition: humour with banking.

The further you stray from your industry for inspiration, the more likely you are to find new ideas that will help your business subvert accepted industry structures. “If you continue to go down the ‘best practices’ route, you’re just like another also-brand coming into the horse race,” says Redies. “To me, it’s the kiss of death for a company that wants to be successful—just trying to be like everybody else.”

A surprising yet refreshing idea lies at the core of Victoria Sopik’s childcare business model: “Our hope is that you feel we’re lucky to have you,” she says. Parents often feel fortunate for managing to get their children into daycare, whereas Sopik wants to flip that concept on its head.

Sopik also commented on looking outside her industry for inspiration, adding that a local Starbucks influenced a crucial aspect of her business. The coffee shop gives customers a free-coffee coupon if they weren’t satisfied, an idea that Sopik employs, albeit with a bigger price tag. “When we mess up, we have to give free childcare,” she says. When you make a mistake, it’s all about how you handle it.

In a poignant remark, Provident’s Mike Jagger shared that he continually asks himself, “What can we do today to make our customers say, ‘You won’t believe what Provident Security did for me’?” He shared stories of employees shovelling snow from walkways and stocking homeowners’ fridges with beer—certainly two tasks outside the generally accepted role of a home-security provider.

All of the panellists agreed that good employees are the key to standing out. “We hire attitude and train expertise,” says Redies. In addition to hiring good people, businesses need to focus on retaining the talent they’ve developed, especially in customer-facing businesses. Excessive turnover can be as taxing on customers as it is on the business itself; regularly dealing with someone new means that customers need to repeatedly explain their story and their needs.

“I do things differently: I dropped out of high school, dropped out of university, made my parents proud, all of that kind of stuff,” jokes Brian Scudamore. In his business, following through with little details makes a world of difference, even if that just means showing up on time and employees cleaning up behind themselves. “It’s the little things, consistently done,” he says. “Hire the right people, recruit the right franchise partners, and everything else just kind of works.”