Janice McDonald ICD.D, Founder of The Beacon Agency,Co-Founder This Space Works

For this week’s edition of FinanciElle “Statements”, I had the opportunity to interview Janice McDonald ICD.D, Founder of The Beacon Agency and Co-Founder of This Space Works.

The Beacon Agency is a global advisory firm that focuses on entrepreneurship, leadership, and research. Janice has co-authored two national studies:

This space works connects people through inspired spaces.

Janice is the Ambassador for Women Entrepreneurs for Startup Canada, Board Member of the Women in Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School, Board Director of Futurpreneur, was inducted into the WXN Hall of Fame in 2016 as Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women after winning four years in a row, and was awarded Global Trade Ambassador for the Canada by WIT-LA in 2017, the first Canadian to receive it, among other things.

I feel like I say this every week, but it’s true every week, I’m extremely excited about this interview, I listen to Janice’s Thrive Podcast on the regular and think she is an incredible advocate for all things dealing with women entrepreneurship.
In interviewing Janice, the biggest piece that was highlighted was around one specific question:
Paolina: What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
Janice broke it down into two main categories – dealing with fast growth, and mentorship.
Janice:

FAST GROWTH

My first business was an immediate success that experienced fast growth. It was a wild ride with lots of fun and many challenges.

Advice that I wish we would have received was to seek out experts sooner. My partner and I were in our early twenties and there was so much happening with the business because of the fast growth. We did many things right but had we been more intentional in seeking out a wider spectrum of experts, we would have likely done things differently…and better. My partner and I didn’t always agree on strategy.  Had we had some outside experts who could weigh in with knowledge, who were neutral and who we trusted, that would have been helpful because sometimes we made the wrong decision and for the wrong reason…and that had financial implications. If we could have run scenarios, had our strategies challenged, and had the opportunity to defend our decisions with knowledgeable experts, that would have been so good for us, and for the business, and , it would have forced us to challenge assumptions we had about the business, about money, about the future, about managing growth etc…so that’s something I would have done differently.

 

MENTORSHIP

As well, I would have liked to have had a mentor earlier. That would have really helped too.

Having someone to turn to to ask questions in a safe and supportive environment and who had experienced many of the same challenges would have been beneficial. That is definitely something I wish I had had in my early days of entrepreneurship… especially around financing fast growth. There was so much I didn’t know and it would have been great to be able to ask about all the things I was unsure of from someone who didn’t have skin in the game but could tap into a wealth of experience. There wasn’t the same focus on mentorship as there is now and that was a loss for me. I have been a committed mentor in formal and informal ways because I know the value and importance of it. Futurpreneur understands how valuable this is. They match young entrepreneurs with a mentor and it’s an important part of their offering. The mentorship really can be an incredible resource for a young entrepreneur. As I said, I wish I had had one right from the start of my first business.

 

Through the Beacon Agency, I am currently offering bootcamps across Canada in partnership with BDC for women entrepreneurs. Also am the co-author of two national studies on women entrepreneurs that were released in 2016 and in 2018. Through our research and interviews, we heard many similar experiences. Women entrepreneurs were seeking mentorship to help them grow their businesses. Many were also interested in enhancing their financial literacy to match the increased sophistication of their businesses.

When I look at the entrepreneurial ecosystem that exists today, I am impressed. There are many opportunities for learning, networking and support and yet, we know access to capital remains a challenge for women entrepreneurs. Advice I wish I had received earlier was to focus on the key metrics of the business … really dive into the numbers to understand what was happening…beyond sales, margin etc…and keep asking questions if I don’t understand the explanation. Also, to build a trusted team of lawyer, banker and accountant and other experts who can help guide you as your grow your business. They are vital to your success. Also, be comfortable changing any expert if they aren’t willing to explain things to you in a way that you can understand…because you are paying for their services. Finally, to allocate time daily to ensure a deep understanding of the story that the numbers tell.

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