Putting you first:
Empowering women entrepreneurs
Executive Vice President
RBC Financial Group
Women in transition Seminar
South Calgary Community Association
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Judy, thanks very much for the warm introduction. In all
the years I've been with RBC, this is the first time I've
been introduced by a member of my extended family at an event.
I'm pleased it was you Judy and I'm not just saying that because
your mother - my sister Patsy - is in the audience!
You know, "always earning the right to be our clients'
first choice" is more than RBC Financial Group's vision
- it's the way smart organizations and people succeed in business
- it's the way Judy succeeds in business. Over the last twelve
years, Judy has endeavoured to make a difference in her career
as a real estate professional and founder/co-owner of an inner
city home building company. A commitment to excellence is
her trademark with every client and with every deal. And she
also makes a point of donating a portion of each sale to the
Alberta Children's Hospital via the Children's Miracle Network.
In the words of Christina MacWilliam (who's here today): "Judy
helped my elderly parents sell their last home and move into
an assisted living manor. She took the time to listen to their
concerns and fears about moving, she helped them get the best
value for the home they were selling and she left a lasting
positive impression upon them." Needless to say, Judy
leaves a lasting impression on many people, especially her
two marvelous daughters, Lydia and Hannah - and certainly
I so enjoy visiting Calgary and getting a sense of the "extraordinary
quality of life" here. As your Mayor Dave Bronconnier
said in last year's annual report: "Calgary's reputation
as a leading North American city is growing." And I couldn't
agree more. This is a great city for women - for mothers,
executives, educators, professionals, administrators, community
leaders, financial services providers, real estate agents
and entrepreneurs - not to mention, for women in transition.
Although my remarks will focus on women entrepreneurs and
RBC's support of this growth market, I want to assure you
this seminar's theme, women in transition, hasn't been
lost on me. I started asking myself some questions about our
women entrepreneur clients: do we (at RBC) know if they've
recently lost a mother/father or a spouse/partner? Do we know
if they're caring for both children and elderly parents? Do
we know if they're considering care-giving or retirement home
facilities for loved ones? Do we know if they're going through
separations or divorces? Chances are we don't always know.
What we do know is this: there are psychological, legal and
financial considerations for women in transition, women
who may very well be entrepreneurs. Perhaps women in transition
need to consult with a counselor, lawyer or investment adviser
along the way
and this begs the question: are most women
prepared for transitions? In our case, what role can a financial
services provider (like RBC) play, to help support smooth
transitions for clients?
Let's step back a bit, to address both questions. Starting/growing/selling
a business, applying for a job, taking a new class, re-locating,
getting married, raising children or as US-based entrepreneur
Kelly Smith says, "playing on a field previously zoned,
men only" are all examples of stepping outside of the
comfort zone - more examples of transitions. And to reinforce
part of Geli's message from this morning: "
strength of your emotional reactions to any given situation
is directly related to the strength of the charge that your
emotional memory carries. By reconnecting with your feelings
can reduce the strength of these emotional memories. This
allows you to move towards a place where you experience choice
rather than an automatic reaction. Lightening the load of
your emotional baggage is re-energizing, allowing you to move
forward in new ways that you never thought possible."
And moving forward is a good thing. Effectively managing
transitions involves certain mind-sets and skill-sets - tools
that aren't acquired or learned overnight. There's no manual
on how to handle transitions - it's often a one day at a time
scenario with peaks and valleys along the journey. So for
RBC, it appears an appreciation of a client's overall circumstances
and psyche is key. Ensuring clients have the right information
at the right time helps pave the way to better financial choices
and outcomes, and helps avoid spur of the moment decisions
that can adversely affect short and long term goals. It's
all part of putting you first
Just this week (February 15), "international entrepreneur,
author (and CEO) Laurel Delaney announced the release of Global
Guru: Shaking Things Up, Making Things Happen, a manifesto
which enables entrepreneurs and small businesses to expand
internationally. The timing has never been better for business
owners to get out of their own backyards and transition from
local, regional or national firms into global players."
The use of the word transition caught my immediate
attention. Delaney's book goes on to describe, "12 key
qualities of the spirit and intellect essential to pushing
boundaries." They include:
- "Learning about the culture in which you are about
to do business;
- Being adaptable
- Valuing a relationship more than the deal;
- Taking action when needed and implementing relentlessly."
I got to thinking that these qualities also make sense in
client/banker relationships. As bankers, we can always learn
more about our client's business, we can always be more flexible
and innovative in our thinking, we can always focus on building
stronger connections and we can always be more proactive in
our approaches. We can also be more upfront about perceptions
and myths. In other words, the skills we use to best serve
our clients can also be honed to support women entrepreneurs
in transition. Again, it's all part of putting you first
When RBC targeted the women entrepreneurs market some eleven
years ago, our initial strategy was community/grassroots-based
created advisory councils. Women told us to put dollars into
learning - provide education and support, break down barriers
and help build networks. Knowing we had to change the culture
and mind-set of our staff, we embarked on training our workforce
- small business account managers - men and women across the
country. The program taught gender communication but it also
served to raise market awareness within our sales force.
We needed a way to sustain and spread the learning, so we
created local champions - the cornerstone for delivery of
our programs. The national network comprises approximately
100 women entrepreneur market champions. And we also have
relationship account managers such as the outstanding team
in Calgary, several of whom have joined us today: colleagues
like Aileen Rycroft, Christine Miller, Pam Korniat, Marshal
Cohen, Wendy Sunderland, Helene Carron and Al Block, who share
a passion for "always earning the right to be our clients'
first choice." I know members of our team will introduce
themselves to you throughout the day if they haven't already.
RBC also wanted to make it easier for women entrepreneurs
to find useful information faster, as that's what good relationship
building is all about. This was on our minds when we launched
the web site for women entrepreneurs (http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/sme/women/)
and our Champions newsletter.
These resources provide information, association listings
and news, as well as tips about access to markets, networking,
financing, growing your business and much more. Copies of
our newest edition of Champions are available here,
so please pick one up at your convenience. It's all part of
putting you first
It's no surprise there's several myths about obtaining financing
for women entrepreneurs. The reality is that, when it comes
to financing their businesses, women and men are both approved
at the about the same rate. The size of the company, length
of time in business and the type of industry are just some
of the factors that influence decisions made about financing
- and these are non-gender specific.
For example, a common perception is that women entrepreneurs
are approved for credit less often then men. In fact, women
are more conservative when they approach their financing requirements
- and they borrow less. When we surveyed our customers, 68%
of women-owned businesses reported they have business borrowings
versus 75% of male owned businesses. This includes borrowings
from RBC or any other lender whether they are company loans,
lines of credit, leases, or commercial mortgages.
Women-led businesses also tend to have a more conservative
capital structure with less debt. As a result, women get approved
at the same or better rates than their male counterparts.
In a survey, Statistics Canada found that 85% of female owned
businesses were approved for credit vs. 80% for men. And a
Thompson Lightstone survey found the approval rate for women
to be 91% vs. 82% for men.
We realize that access to financing/expertise is essential
for any business, so we created partnerships both in and outside
the country to help support the development of small business.
RBC also initiated and participated in trade missions and
alliances with the federal government. These types of initiatives
open exporting doors for many women entrepreneurs.
Prime Minister Paul Martin foresees "a Canada where
the increasing number of women entrepreneurs has every opportunity
to succeed and contribute a vital new dimension to our economy
- a Canada where there's no glass ceiling for women entrepreneurs."
Since close to 821,000 women entrepreneurs contribute $18
billion to the Canadian economy each year, women need to continue
raising the bar and raising their voice.
RBC also sponsors many events, like this one, because this
is where relationships are started and alliances are formed!
It's also one of the reasons we established a virtual network
on our web site. This is an online community that entrepreneurs
can join to receive helpful resources and free publications.
Community associations and organizations are also doing wonderful
work in helping women to access information and facilitate
Needless to say, RBC is proud to be the #1 bank for women
entrepreneurs in Canada, with 22 per cent market share. We
know the women entrepreneurs' market is the market of the
future and the future is now: we also know that consumer spending
accounts for two thirds of the economy and that women make
85% of all consumer purchasing decisions. Women entrepreneurs
also account for 70% of new business start-ups.
Clearly, women are important to Canada's economy and to RBC's
business. And although business interest and opportunity led
RBC to pursue the women entrepreneurs' market, I saw other
agendas at play - the big one being the critically and strategically
important contributions that women make in advancing a civil
society. This has been a common thread all along.
The countless women I've met over the years have given me
insight into the intrinsic connection between the economic
and social agendas of our country. And RBC's work in this
market has made it crystal clear to us (call it self-enlightenment
if you will), that Canada's prosperity is contingent on the
key link between these two diverse agendas. The impact and
influence of women on the prosperity of Canada is also undeniable
RBC still has a way to go in meeting the needs of women entrepreneurs
(and women in transition), yet we're proud of our accomplishments
to-date. Through our activities, initiatives and feedback
from clients, we're generating more awareness about the economic
power of businesswomen and women consumers. We believe very
passionately in serving and supporting women entrepreneurs.
And speaking of women entrepreneurs and women in transition
you know that the China Association of Women Entrepreneurs
(CAWE) projects women entrepreneurs to make up 30% of all
entrepreneurs in China within three to five years? It also
urges women to study strategies for managing a business as
well as study skills to achieve domestic happiness. "A
recent survey by the association showed that 85% of women
executives look after their kids' education and 60% look after
their parents." We cannot underestimate these findings
(including the impact of child care), which have wider spread
As we head to the final stretch of my more formal remarks
and into my favourite part - hearing from you, I want to focus
on a few success stories of women entrepreneurs, including
some RBC clients; you'll see elements of transition in each
- "Manishi Sagar, a post-graduate from Punjab University
(in Pakistan), is the brain behind the Kinderville group
that runs 12 childcare centres and two private primary schools
in Quebec. She's been honoured as one of Canada's 100 Most
Powerful Women by the women's executive network and the
University of Western Ontario's Richard Ivy School of Business.
In her words: The inspiration for Kinderville came by
accident. (My husband and I) were looking for a centre for
our own children, but found none. The worst thing that could
have happened was that the government did not recognize
our degrees. But that inspired us to create opportunities
for us. Once we decided to go into business for ourselves,
the opportunities were endless. She's also the Founding
Principal of Kinderville Real Estate Inc, a company that
owns, develops and manages real estate investments, primarily
commercial buildings and shopping plazas, plus the Founding
member of the Kinderville Foundation, set up to assist disadvantaged
Talk about an empowered woman entrepreneur taking a transition
to a whole new level!
- "Alberta Fancy Sausage is a third generation family-owned
business that's now owned and operated by Mary Bendzik (and
Bert Klein), with the top selling beef jerky in Alberta
and third biggest seller in Canada. According to Bendzik,
"We were just starting to move into the U.S. market
and we were getting some nice results when the BSE crisis
hit." Since the border closure, Alberta Fancy Sausage
has had to refocus on the domestic market and decided to
build up its market share in Alberta, already its biggest
market", with plans for eastern Canada expansion. (Apparently)
Albertans consume more beef jerky than in any other province.
(from the Jennifer Cockrall-King article in Alberta Venture
magazine, November 2004) Talk about an empowered woman entrepreneur
taking a transition to a whole new level!
- "When the company they were working for announced
they were closing North American operations, Michelle Stroo
and Sara Hamilton noticed a need for their experience and
expertise in the safety sector of the geophysical industry
so they decided to start their own business. Five months
later their company, Aegis Group Inc., was not only established
in a male-dominated industry, it was successful enough for
them to pay themselves a salary. Aegis Group has (already)
won an award for the best Emerging Business from Alberta
Women Entrepreneurs - AWE." (from AWE web site) Talk
about empowered woman entrepreneurs taking a transition
to a whole new level!
Obviously Calgary (and Alberta) has more than enough women
entrepreneur success stories to boast about. Here's one more
that's about to enjoy increased public attention. The 10th
annual Rotman Women in Management Breakfast is being held
on Tuesday March 1 at the Rotman School of Management, University
of Toronto. Not only is RBC Capital Markets the proud presenting
sponsor, we're thrilled that one of the keynote speakers is
Manjit Minhas, President, Mountain Crest Liquors Inc. "Her
company produces, develops and markets 90 brands of spirits,
wines, beers and cordials in Alberta. These products are manufactured
for the company in Kentucky, New Jersey and Wisconsin, as
well as Holland and Germany. Manjit was recently named to
Profit's Top Women Entrepreneurs list and Alberta Venture's
Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies and was nominated for the
"Top 40 under 40"in Canada." All I can say
In closing, I want to share a little "blue and pink"
food for thought. It may shed some communications light on
building business relationships, making the deal, gender issues
and managing transitions. You may have read Wallace Immen's
article in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday (February 16).
It focused on author Ronna Lichtenberg's premise that the
key to career success is, "understanding the contrasting
styles and needs of blue and pink -- the two colours
stereotypically identify how men and women approach interactions
with other people
People with blue styles, according
to Ms. Lichtenberg, define their identities by their credentials,
achievements and where they stand in the hierarchy. Conversely,
people with pink styles want to connect on a personal level
before they get to the agenda
once they connect, they
continue to build a long-term relationship." Here's some
advice (in excerpted form) from Ronna Lichtenberg (Pitch
Like a Girl: How a Woman Can Be Herself and Still Succeed),
for best reaching people of both colours:
"Pitching to a blue: cover one topic at a time;
get to the point quickly and agree on an action before moving
on; back up statements with numbers; when listening, don't
react with facial expressions or verbal affirmations; stress
the advantage of your proposal in performance terms; use visual
illustrations, such as charts and graphs."
"Pitching to a pink: use examples to make abstract
concepts more real; tie the benefit of your proposal to people;
show you are listening by using facial expressions or verbal
affirmation; make points with stories; appeal to senses using
colour, sound or images."
In that note, special thanks to Wendy Sunderland for inviting
me to speak at this wonderful event and coordinating my involvement
- and of course to Judy for orchestrating this seminar.
And special thanks to everyone in this room - by putting
your "blue and/or pink" self first and being here
today, you made an investment in yourself and in your future!
At RBC, we promise to put you first too!
Thanks very much
and now let's hear from you!