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Why knowing the Rules is not enough

By Jarrod Ladouceur

I, like many bright eyed MBA candidates at Ryerson, was not sure where an MBA would take me but shortly after starting classes I was confident the unique program that Ryerson offered would certainly take me where I wanted to go. The combination of pure academics tempered by real world interaction created an environment where I was encouraged to explore the meaning of the lessons as well as classroom discussions and measure them up against real world problems. I found this combination left me with one of the most valuable skills I have ever learned, an ability to tackle problems that don’t follow the rules we learn. Why is this important? Simple. This ability is what separates the successful pioneers and leaders from everyone else.

All of our lives we are trained to follow specific rules. Some good “look both ways before crossing the street”. Some not so good “eat your vegetables” (sorry mom).  As we grow these rules become frame works, methodologies and processes we all follow making our life at work more efficient.  We even learn methods to create process. What I am trying to say is that these “rules” although important for sustaining a venture sometimes are not robust enough to grow one. This creates a disconnect between what we learn about business and what we do in business.

The disconnect between education and experience is found in the execution. For example, think about the first time you learned how to play a sport. Were you an expert the first time you stepped on the field? Why not? I am sure you knew the rules. Like sport business is a dynamic game that although has rules is always changing in unpredictable ways. In short there is a big difference in knowing a game and understanding a game. What Ryerson was able to do through their experiential learning process was to allow me to start understanding the world of business. Through classes where I worked with start-ups to integrative week, where we worked on a live case with executives, to the MRP and our internship we were always putting the rules we learned to practice. I recently hired a Ryerson MBA intern to help me grow my organization.

This need to understand the business of an industry is possibly the most important skill anyone looking to lead a business can have. If you are looking to start you own business it is a skill you must have!

Through the internship program at Ryerson I worked with the National Angel Capital Association  (NACO) the national trade organization for Angel investors in Canada. Through this internship I was offered a full time role as the Executive Director of a group of private investors in the Toronto region. As you can imagine I was very excited to work with some of the most successful business leaders in the city and to be at the centre of the Toronto entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In this role I speak to entrepreneurs almost every day about their ventures and the challenges they face.  What I have come to learn is that understanding how to manage the changing world of business will allow you to get ahead in a large company, but for a start-up it is the difference between life and death.  Compounding this are the lack of rules supporting other more mature industries. This is changing and as the Ontario entrepreneurial community matures it is establishing routines (albeit a loose set of rules) on how to succeed as an entrepreneur.

The lack of structure in the entrepreneurial ecosystem can been seen by the various, all addressing specific need of start-ups including Universities, seed funds, government funding and grants, incubators, accelerators, services providers, regional innovation Centers, Angel investors and traditional VCs to highlight a few.  These stakeholders are only now starting to work in a coordinated manner that is quickly establishing Ontario and specifically the GTA as one of the entrepreneurial hot spots in the world and being talked about in the same discussion as Boston, New York and even Silicon Valley.  

It is a very exciting time in the Ontario entrepreneurial ecosystem as we mature more great Canadian built companies are choosing to stay close to home instead of moving to the US. This is creating a strong diversified economy of highly skilled jobs that will take our economy in to the future. A cornerstone of this will be to continue to educate our students on how to navigate this changing world. In my opinion Ryerson is doing this very well. This may be one of the reasons I seem to run into so many Ryerson graduates building the next generation of leading Canadian companies.

The rules of the game are changing for MBAs and entrepreneurs and for those few that are able to understand how these rules are changing and execute their plan the future is bright.

Jarrod Ladouceur is a graduate of the Ryerson MBA. He is the Executive Director of the Maple Leaf Angels, Toronto’s longest operating group of Angel investors, and specializes in evaluating and supporting early stage companies in the Toronto entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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