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Ready for anything — the business advantage of military experience: Don Pittis

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Maybe Jay McArthur would never have had a chance to start his Brighton, Ont., home inspection business had he not stopped on the way to the shower in 2007 to use the phone at his military base in Afghanistan.

As it turns out his call home went unanswered, and McArthur, who would later retire with the rank of master corporal, left a voicemail message. But that short delay was just enough.

When the enemy rocket hit the shower stalls, killing one person and injuring another, McArthur was a first responder instead of being on the casualty list.

Military business advantage

While still suffering from the delayed effects of his time in the service, McArthur is convinced that his ready-for-anything military experience has given him a business advantage.

“Absolutely,” says McArthur, on the phone between appointments. “One of the biggest things with the military is attention to detail.”

One of the biggest things with the military is attention to detail.– Jay McArthur, veteran and owner of Rest Easy Home Inspections 

That is paying off in the business he started called Rest Easy Home Inspections.

McArthur’s venture is just one of hundreds listed as part of a service of the Prince’s Trust, called Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE), a scheme to assist and publicize the efforts of veterans who are trying to start their own businesses.

Each veteran I contacted through the POE directory of business services, searchable by location and by industry sector, credited the military with a big part of their own business success. A lot go into security, but if anything, the surprising thing is the variety.

Canadian Forces door gunner Sgt. Chad Zopf in Afghanistan’s Kandahar district in 2011. Entrepreneurs credit their military experience with giving them an advantage in business. (Matthew McGregor/Department of National Defence via Reuters)

New Brunswick archeologist Jason Jeandron credits his military experience with preparing him for working outdoors in cold, mucky or buggy conditions. Business coach Peter Lepinsky credits the military with teaching him leadership skills, which he says are sorely lacking in modern business.  

“For most of us when we come out, it comes down to, well, we’re taught a lot of leadership and taking initiative,” says Chantale Lefebvre, who served for 16 years, leaving as an avionics technician with a rank of master corporal.

Working from her Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., home so that she could look after her family, Lefebvre set up business as an online sales contractor to make a few hundred bucks a month, “and it just ended up exploding from there.”

The tough conditions in military operations mean service personnel often retire relatively young, but Lefebvre says having a pension — even a relatively small one — is a big advantage for an aspiring entrepreneur, something she thinks contributes to the success of veteran-owned new businesses.

“It definitely helps because it takes away that financial strain, so you can actually put the focus you need on it without having to worry so much about the financial side,” she says.

Founder, janitor, bookkeeper, receptionist

Having a pension has certainly helped Kevin Moore, founder, and, according to his website, “janitor, bookkeeper, repairman, receptionist , etc.,” at Two Sergeants Brewing, an already successful Alberta craft brewer just about to open — “within the week” — a new bar and restaurant in Edmonton’s entertainment district under the same name.

Two Sergeants Brewing founder Kevin Moore samples the product at the business’s new Edmonton restaurant and brewpub expected to open this month. (Two Sergeants Brewing)

“Myself and my business partner are both retired so we have pensions and medical pensions, so we don’t have to take a salary from the business,” says Moore, one of the two sergeants in the company’s name.

Moore says his favourite military quote is from the 19th century Prussian general Helmuth von Moltke that, “No battle plan ever survives first contact with the enemy.” And that has been repeatedly proven to be true in his business career.

The military ethic of resourcefulness and drive drilled into the two partners during their service careers has really made the difference in overcoming business obstacles, but sometimes, he says, it has put them into conflict with civilian business “that goes at its own pace.”

Jay McArthur, a grad of the Prince’s Trust entrepreneurial bootcamp runs his own home inspection agency and credits the program with improving his health and his business. (Prince’s Trust)

Moore and his partner have learned from trial and error. With good management and good luck, the two sergeants have been selling their award-winning brews around the province, each container telling a tale from Canadian military history.

But veterans just starting out often struggle with the business basics.

Business bootcamp

That’s why as well as setting up a business directory, the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur also runs training programs, including a one-day kick-the-tires sessions at military bases across the country and a seven-day business bootcamp run at one of four universities.

The programs, free to veterans, are intended to help them brush up their entrepreneurial skills says Janet McCausland, head of programs at Prince’s Trust Canada. And she says they have been proven to work.

“Sixty per cent of the people who go to the bootcamp start their own business,” says McCausland and, according to their followup program, between eight and nine per cent of those businesses don’t succeed. That beats the national average where the majority of businesses fail after two years.

Two Sergeants Brewing, Edmonton (Two Sergeants Brewing, Edmonton)

McCausland says people suffering from PTSD and other post-military symptoms of stress are better off working for themselves where they can control their hours and environment.

“Almost 70 per cent of the people who come to our bootcamp are medically released. They have physical and mental-health issues,” she says. “And so entrepreneurship can be an especially good fit because it can accommodate any issues they have.”

Almost 70 per cent of the people who come to our bootcamp are medically released. They have physical and mental-health issues. And so entrepreneurship can be an especially good fit because it can accommodate any issues they have.– Janet McCausland, head of programs at Prince’s Trust Canada

McArthur, who has suffered from PTSD since his harrowing experience in what he thought was the safety of his base camp, is a graduate of the bootcamp program in 2016. He said it made a huge difference, for his health and for his business.

“It was phenomenal, like drinking through a fire hose,” says McArthur, of the weeklong course. 

And he says the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur training worked for him.

“My business since POE? I’ve had a 30-per-cent increase every year.”

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis 

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Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Real Estate

Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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