InsideTrack.Show: Stephen Becka  “Push boundaries, be more caring, challenge the status quo”

InsideTrack.Show: Stephen Becka “Push boundaries, be more caring, challenge the status quo”

A local entrepreneur, innovator and culinary star, Stephen Beckta spent four years in New York City before returning to Ottawa to open Beckta restaurant in 2003. He draws on this experience in one of the world’s leading culinary centres, plus three-day return visits to NYC to “eat and drink for a few days to stimulate new ideas” to fuel inspiration for new restaurants.

Although that might not sound like the toughest job in the world, Beckta has been repeatedly successful in a notoriously difficult industry. An increasing number of entrepreneurs are launching their own restaurants in Ottawa, which Beckta says brings more competition and innovation that benefits the city’s broader culinary scene.

“What (more choice) does is it challenges the status quo. Everyone is forced to push the boundaries – to be more caring, to be more innovative, to be more exciting!”

 

With the celebrations surrounding Canada’s 150th anniversary making Ottawa “the place to visit in the world this year,” according to Beckta, now is the time to do something that pushes boundaries and gets people excited about the local food scene. Beckta’s recently announced “Canada’s Table” event is doing just that, bringing 1,000 dinner guests to a single long table overlooking Parliament Hill this August – an event that sold out in under one second.

Canada’s Table is a partnership between Beckta and Sheila Whyte of Thyme & Again. They aim to create a huge dinner party to celebrate the nation, bringing 20 chefs from across the country to showcase Canada’s culinary culture.

In case you missed out on tickets to the main event, there will be other opportunities to experience some of the action. Several visiting chefs will be cooking meals at local host restaurants, as well as supporting various food insecurity causes including the Ottawa Food Bank and the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa to teach people with limited means how to prepare healthy and delicious foods from local products.

Beckta attributes the successes of his three Ottawa-based restaurants, Beckta, Play and Gezellig, to promoting a culture of caring. This extends all the way through from the kitchen, to the customer experience and into the community through mindful relationships with suppliers and stakeholders. This commitment to caring extends into the larger community where Beckta was recently named as incoming chair to the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa.

Beckta’s restaurants:

  • Beckta: The first and now flagship restaurant moved just under three years from Nepean Street to its landmark location on Elgin Street

  • Play: Opened in 2009, a small plates restaurant located on corner of York Street and Sussex Drive

  • Gezellig: Slightly more than four years old, this restaurant is located in Westboro at the corner of Churchill Avenue and Richmond Road.

InsideTrack.Show : Cheryl Jensen  “A focus on innovation”

InsideTrack.Show : Cheryl Jensen “A focus on innovation”

A lot has changed at Algonquin College since Cheryl Jensen arrived.

The head of the post-secondary school made her mark even before she moved into her office after becoming the first female president in Algonquin College’s history.

But it was after she officially started work that things really began to change.

Within her first two-and-half years as president, she’s advanced the college’s reputation as an innovator by making entrepreneurship a key part of her mandate and worked to ensure Indigenous students have the same educational opportunities as other Canadians.  

One of her main achievements on both of these initiatives was securing funding for the $45-million Algonquin College Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Learning Centre and the Algonquin College Institute for Indigenous Entrepreneurship.

But that’s not all that’s new.

During an interview with OBJ publisher Michael Curran on The Inside Track, Ms. Jensen discussed the changing perceptions of the colleges system in Ontario, the shifting demographics of Algonquin students as well as the technological advancements that have changed how education is delivered.

 

“Less than one half of our students now come (to college) right out of high school,” Ms. Jensen said. Increasingly, university graduates are enrolling in graduate certificate programs and, while most students still fall within the 18-25 years old, about a half are considered “mature” students.

These changes demographics are marked by a transition in Ontarians’ perception of our colleges.  Ms. Jensen described the early college system in Ontario as being built as “an alternative to university, for those who didn’t have the grades and maybe not the money to go to university.”

Now, through Algonquin’s 22 articulation agreements and collaborative degrees with Carleton University and a collaborative nursing degree with the University of Ottawa, students have a range of options through the college, including the option to earn their degree.

There’s been a resurgence in the demand for skilled trades workers as well as graduates with advanced technology qualifications. This means colleges are poised to become even more attractive to both students and the employers who hire them, especially since graduates from schools such as Algonquin are prepared to “hit the ground running.”

So how does Ms. Jensen plan to keep up with so much change?  With more innovation, of course.  

“We’ve changed the length of our programs and the model of our delivery so that we meet the needs of (all of our) students,” Mr. Jensen said, calling Algonquin a “digital collage.”

Changing the way educational programs are delivered, with a focus on helping students navigate informational resources instead of simply dictating information, also help to keep up with digitally savvy students.

For more on Cheryl Jensen’s leadership, advice to young Canadians and thoughts on how technology is influencing the way we deliver education, watch the live panel discussion.

InsideTrack.Show : David Ross  “Taking the long route”

InsideTrack.Show : David Ross “Taking the long route”

David Ross is no stranger to success.  The 2016 CEO of the Year recipient has been heading Ross Video since 2006, taking over from his father and the company’s founder, John Ross.  During his tenure as CEO, the privately held video equipment and service provider has won an Emmy, acquired 11 existing companies and expanded its operations into more than 100 countries.

But all this growth didn’t happen overnight.  During an interview with The Inside Track, Ross extolled the virtues of taking the long route and driving long-term growth through sales, rather than equity investment.

 

“Too many Canadian companies focus on their exit first,” was a sentiment that Ross expressed in response to a question about what makes Ross Video a strong competitor in its market.  

“Why not try to be a company that buys companies, instead of one that gets sold?  It’s not that hard.” - David Ross, CEO of Ross Video

His model focuses instead on developing products that customers want to buy. Ross Video then adds to those products over time though internally funded R&D and complementary acquisitions that allows it to develop packaged solutions capable of solving increasingly complicated problems.

Mr. Ross expressed concern over financing models in which Canadian companies seek early funding by selling equity shares in order to fund development of a specific product.  He thinks that this type of business growth traps companies into having to push sales of a pre-defined product or service in order to satisfy investors, without giving them the flexibility to react to customer needs and improve.

 

When asked about what drives sales for Ross Video, a company that has managed to establish sales momentum in over 100 countries, Ross responded that “selling is not rocket science.”  Ross credits a strong commitment to building trust, starting small and investing in people who consistently represent your product within a local market to his global sales success.

How does Ross Video find and keep good human capital?  A clearly defined code of ethics.  According to Ross, his experience with the company has been a “25 year-long HR exercise”.  Expansion led to growing pains as delegation became the norm, causing Ross to write out a code of ethics for the company.  

What’s next for Ross Video?

“We want to build a great Canadian company.”

And they plan to be there 10 years from now.  How does Ross explain his company’s staying power in the competitive video production market?  Ross Video doesn’t box itself into making and selling any specific thing.  Instead, they are a company that helps other companies make great video.  This perspective gives the company a timeless sense of purpose and the capacity to advance their products and services at the pace of technology landscape in which they operate.  

For more on Ross Video’s road to success watch the LIVE panel discussion.



 

InsideTrack with Guy Laflamme:  “From Ottawa the Old, to Ottawa the Bold”

InsideTrack with Guy Laflamme: “From Ottawa the Old, to Ottawa the Bold”

In anticipation of the upcoming Ottawa 2017 celebrations, InsideTrack approached Guy Laflamme, Executive Director of the Ottawa 2017 Bureau to join us on the show.  

Mr. Laflamme did not disappoint. During a live panel discussion and subsequent recorded interview,  we got a quick preview of what to expect over the next year, a behind-the-scenes look at how it all came to be, and a discussion about the expected legacy of Ottawa’s big year.

Ottawa 2017 wanted to use the celebrations to showcase Ottawa as a “technology city” and to develop a program that’s big, immersive and rich in emotion.  The hope is that this program will generate massive national, and even international visibility for Canada’s capital city.  

Beyond the next year, Mr. Laflamme hopes that the celebrations will have a lasting legacy both through increasing business and personal tourism to Ottawa, but also by inspiring younger generations to contribute to the future of the city.

With over 170 planned events spanning 365 days in 2017, one of the most pressing questions on everyone’s minds was ‘what should we look forward to the most’.  After a bit of prodding, Mr. Laflamme gave us his top three:

 

1. Red Bull Crashed Ice: This action-packed event features the Ice Cross Downhill World championship.  The championship will be held at the Rideau Canal locks, and due to its proximity to the parliament buildings, the Chateau Laurier and the stunning vistas across the Ottawa River, Mr. Laflamme predicts that it will be the “most scenic ever edition of the Red Bull Crashed Ice”.

 

2. Underground Multi-media Kontinuum: Touted as a “mind-blowing” science-fiction themed underground journey through time and space, Kontinuum will feature a light and sound show projected in one of Ottawa’s future LRT stations.  The story will be premised on a fictionalized finding during excavations for the LRT, which allows participants to travel through time by accessing an invisible electromagnetic field.

 

3. La Machiene: Like something straight out of a Michael Bay movie, La Machiene will bring larger-than-life mechanized monsters to the streets of Ottawa.  Specifically, a giant spider and a flame-breathing dragon will “take control of the downtown core” from the Caudiere Islands all the way to the Byward Market between July 26-30.  

 

For more on Mr. Laflamme’s vision for the celebrations and the expected cultural and economic legacy for Ottawa, watch the full LIVE panel discussion below

 

Thank you to this week’s guests for joining us on the InsideTrack.show:

The InsideTrack.Show with Shirley Westeinde: “Just be yourself”

The InsideTrack.Show with Shirley Westeinde: “Just be yourself”

At first glance, Shirley Westeinde appears to be an eloquent, fashionable and unassuming. After a little digging, it becomes apparent that not only is she all of those things – but she’s also a passionate philanthropist, savvy entrepreneur, an industry trailblazer, and a Best Ottawa Business Awards (BOBs) Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.’

Ms. Westeinde’s impressive career started as a homecare nurse before she co-founded Westeinde Construction with her husband in 1978. She went on to become the first and only female chair of the Building Owners’ and Managers’ Association’s (BOMA) Ottawa chapter. Her achievements don’t end there – she was also the first woman president of the Canadian Construction Association, the first female chair of the Ottawa Economic Development Corp. (a pre-cursor to Invest Ottawa) and is still an active philanthropist with, among others, the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Care Group.

Her career would have been impressive (to say the least!) for any person, and especially noteworthy because Ms. Westeinde, now 75 years old, was making her name for herself as an entrepreneur and association head at a time when female leadership in business was rare in many industries, let alone the construction industry.

We sat down with Ms. Westeinde to discuss her achievements and learn from her insights on dealing with gender in the workplace. Here’s a summary of what we learned:

  • She got her start as a homecare nurse, working alone to operate a clinic in St. Thomas, Ontario. There, Ms. Westeinde developed the entrepreneurial skills necessary to keep a small organization running and a commitment to volunteerism before she ever entered the construction industry.
  • She can roll with the punches. After her husband came home one day having quit his job working for a large construction company, she dug in and managed the administration of their fledgling company, Westeinde Construction.
  • She’s a problem solver. When she joined BOMA, her objective wasn’t to shatter the glass ceiling or to make a stand for women in the industry – she just saw some issues, and set out to solve them. This attitude gained her support amongst the people involved in the organization.
  • Her advice to young women in business? Be yourself. Ms. Westeinde urged women not to think of themselves in gendered terms in the workplace, but instead focus on an objective, stick with it and approach problems with hard work and enthusiasm.

 

Thank you to this week’s guests for joining us on the InsideTrack.show:

  • Angella Goran, Team Captain SokJok Inc. @SokJok

  • Debbie Bellinger, Partner Nelligan O'Brien Payne LLP @Nelligan

  • Natalie Cody, Co-Founder at The Better Software Company @BetterSoftware

  • Sharon Lloyd, Recruiter at Stevenson & White @Stevenson&White

The InsideTrack with Jeff Hunt:  Creating a successful sports entertainment culture in Ottawa

The InsideTrack with Jeff Hunt: Creating a successful sports entertainment culture in Ottawa

The first episode of InsideTrack features Ottawa’s own Jeff Hunt.  Hunt’s CV is long and impressive.  In addition to  owning the Ottawa Redblacks, Ottawa Fury FC, and the Ottawa 67s, Hunt was also a major force behind the redevelopment of Landsdowne Park.

In our discussion with Jeff Hunt, we wanted to learn more about his passion for sports entertainment, and his relationship with Ottawa - a city that the Newfoundland native migrated to at the age of 20.

During Hunt’s interview with Carlo Lombard, OBJ’s Multimedia Specialist, we learned a few things about sports, business and Ottawa’s multi-million dollar Landsdowne redevelopment project.  

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • As a child in Labrador City, Hunt saw Gerry Organ (punter for the Ottawa Rough Riders) speak at his school.  He became an immediate Ottawa Rough Riders fan and associated Ottawa with football from then on.

  • The biggest challenges facing the launch of the Ottawa Redblacks was overcoming the defeatist attitude toward football in Ottawa.  You know - the people who insisted that Ottawa already had two football teams that had failed, why should a third be any different?

  • The Landsdowne redevelopment wasn’t just about football.  In fact, in order to justify the $500 million redevelopment plan, Hunt had to bring in multiple revenue streams.  This eventually led to the diversification of sports entertainment in the city to include the Ottawa Fury FC (soccer) hosting the 2016 Brier Cup (curling) and creating an attractive destination at Landsdowne with something of interest for everyone - not just sports fans.

The secret to his success?  Paying attention to detail.  In developing a multi-purpose entertainment park such as Landsdowne, you have to take every detail into account - ease of access, parking, food services.  People aren’t going to want to come to a football game where they can’t park and food and drink lineups are out the door for a warm beer and hot dogs. 

Thank you to this week’s guests for joining us on the InsideTrack.show: