At ACCEL, there are experienced coaches available to provide a service to support community and student entrepreneurs.
Richard Healy is a coach at ACCEL who mentors entrepreneurs using the many years of experience he has. ACCEL coaches provide feedback and advice to entrepreneurs in the program, and help answer questions about starting or growing a business.
We sat down with Richard to talk about his background, his views on youth entrepreneurship, and what youth entrepreneurs can gain from the ACCEL program.
Q: Could you talk about your experience before becoming an ACCEL coach?
Healy: My background is 20 years in financial services with the Canadian financial institution. I started there with commercial banking and small business. I did that for about five years. I did some consulting with IBM, focus on small-medium sized business. For a period, myself and two other partners had a small HR consulting firm in the GTA where we did all aspects of HR administration, training, and position and job development work. And then I spent a little time working for LePage, launching a new technology project across Canada, in Toronto for a few years and then took it to Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. I launched that in about six months. Then I worked for a consulting company, enterprise level application development where we did the overnight processes, registered products/deposit products for Scotiabank, RBC, TD Bank and reinvented a whole new customer relationship management program for a professional association that had its own member contributors. Then I took on a role as a VP in a not-for-profit. I was responsible for both programs in the Human Resources sectors in a unionized environment for about three years.
I’ve been coaching entrepreneurship for about 12 years now. Working with youth 29 and under primarily in at-risk categories. I worked in a few federal and provincial programs as well as municipal. Three years ago I joined ACCEL and continued that work with small business and youth entrepreneur here at Centennial College.
Q: Why did you want to become an ACCEL coach?
Healy: I have always been interested in coaching and mentoring youth, from the time I was at University, teaching swimming at the YMCA, being on the Board of Directors at the YMCA. I have coached baseball, and I’m a certified level 2 coach. In 2006, I started working as a volunteer at Summer Company because I wanted to give back to the community. Ever since that time, that has been my occupation and dedication. Teaching some, administering some, inventing some, but all focused on the youth and at-risk category.
Q: What can entrepreneurs gain by taking the ACCEL program?
Healy: The real benefit for someone participating in the ACCEL program, is as I like to call it “let them sleep at night.” A lot of the issues and challenges that new entrepreneurs are facing is feeling the burden of “how am I going to get through this?” or “how am I going to run my business?” It is extremely comforting for them and a relief when they can talk to someone who’s been through it before. They realize this problem is not unique to them. There usually is a straight forward and simple methodology/process to resolve.
We can save them time and the trial and effort. If we can take six weeks to three months to a year, to bring them results efficiently, then we can save them time and money in the process. They just get through the business growth experience with guidance.
Q: What qualities make a great entrepreneur?
Healy: The first trait that’s absolutely necessary is a commitment and passion to the idea. There’s a dedication and “stick-to-itiveness,” and you develop a deep understanding of what you bring to mark-up and how that is going to interact and be used from a value proposition to the customer. And you have to learn that and experience that.
One of the first things that separate someone from who can and cannot be successful is writing their own business plan versus getting someone else to write their business plan. Unless you write the business plan, you won’t understand the market, you won’t understand the product, gain a level of insight into your competitors and what makes them successful. Unless you experience that on your own, it is challenging to retain that and have an understanding of what will make you successful.
Everything goes back to the customer and your willingness and ability to provide that service. Which is going to gain you new customers and keep the customers you already have.
Q: What are some challenges youth entrepreneurs face?
Healy: The number one challenge of small business at any level is capitalization. So funding, sources of financing in Canada are limited. The true understanding of those with capital that should be made available to entrepreneurs is usually only made available based on some analysis or financial forecast that shows a level of probability, and that isn’t entrepreneurship. We are very risk averse in Canada to give someone with an idea financial support.
The second biggest challenge is the stick-toitveness and commitment to persevere. A lot of youth want an immediate return, but entrepreneurship is a long term investment. Some people get impatient at the amount of work required at the beginning.
Q: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Healy: Have a very sound and fundamental understanding of the product or service that you’re bringing to the marketplace and how it fits the needs of your intended market. And that’s so obvious, but people come with such high level ideas that they don’t understand what it’s going to look like.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of being an ACCEL coach?
Healy: It is the “A-ha!” moments you get to share with your clients. I can tell them what the answers are, but they need to go through the experience of proving it themselves because when clients come to the self-realization of what they need to do and why. When I see somebody’s shoulders drop because they haven’t slept in three days, and I just rattle off an idea, it changes their life, and that’s why I do it. Knowing I’ve helped somebody is why I do this. I know it sounds trite, but that’s why I do it.
If you are interested in applying to ACCEL or would like to learn more, please click here