Leading a Small Business With Resilience and Ultimate Will

Leading a Small Business With Resilience and Ultimate Will

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone is the President and CEO of Profound Impact Corporation as well as a well-known serial entrepreneur, mathematician, innovator, philanthropist, and mentor. In this section, Shannon discusses the future of work including the ever-growing stress on automation, digitization, and remote working. Additionally, Shannon also has some resourceful insights for small businesses who wish to take the pandemic in stride and move forward with a refreshing approach.

As a well-known serial entrepreneur, mathematician, innovator, philanthropist, and mentor, Sherry Shannon-Vanstone has made a significant contribution to the spectrum of digital industries from electronic commerce to security for the smartphone to driverless/connected vehicles, while also making a major contribution to the advancement of all women.

Throughout Sherry’s career, she has been a trailblazer in the fields of STEM, business, and philanthropy. She holds several active roles as the Founder and CEO of Profound Impact Corporation, a co-founder and co-chair of the Waterloo Region chapter of Women in Communications and Technology (WCT-WR), and as the co-chair of Perimeter Institute’s Emmy Noether Council.

Sherry founded Profound Impact in 2018 — a next-generation social engagement and interaction platform for use by organizations and their stakeholders to engage, discover and measure the impact that the institution and its community have on the world. It also aims to build a sense of community for global groups such as women in STEM and entrepreneurs.

Her range of accomplishments includes the prestigious Leadership Excellence Award in Entrepreneurship for 2020 from Women in Communications and Technology (WCT), an Honorary Doctorate of Laws (LLD) from Western University in June 2019, and the World Waterloo Region’s Female Innovator of the Year in 2015.

Sherry holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Tennessee and was a cryptologic mathematician with the US Government.

Sherry has resided in Canada for 27 years and holds citizenships In both Canada and the US.

Sherry is an extraordinary leader and visionary who has made a material difference to the roles women play and their influence in the digital economy.


What do you think is the future of work?

The future of work — rooted in employee/employer relationships — will largely be centered around a more humanistic/employee-centric approach to the labor market and workforce. Technology, combined with the advent of the pandemic, has created a massive shift in the workplace, making remote work and flexible schedules a viable and desirable option for many occupations.No longers is an approach to career and workplace experiences one-size-fits-all mentality. Rather, the next generation of employees and employers will expect career personalization and flexibility as key components in the future of work. By some estimates, 30% of the skills that employees use today were unknown to them a year ago and this trend is expected to continue.

Business needs and strategies are changing, and it’s important for organizations to understand how they can effectively develop and leverage the unique skill sets of employees and approach professional relationships differently.


Do you think it is a drastic change or one that’s subsequent and takes its time?

The pandemic has significantly accelerated pre-existing trends in remote work, e-commerce, automation, and digitization, forcing the global population to rethink many of the structures and assumptions about how we work and learn and the socio-economic systems that dictated much of these notions. All of these factors have played some sort of role in how employees are rethinking their career choices, and how employers are adapting their talent acquisition, working, and retention strategies to better support this shift. I believe that the future of work and the changes that will dictate it will take place over periods of time—influenced by the acceleration of pre-existing trends in our labor market, those that have been disrupted, in addition to those that have been created due to the pandemic.


What do you think was the one defining factor behind this change that became apparent during the pandemic?

The pandemic gave us a chance to re-evaluate all aspects of our lives — including the relationship we have with our work and careers. Factors related to our socioeconomic systems and our assumptions about how we work and learn seemed to significantly influence our attitudes, behaviors, and motivations when it comes to work — and I think left a lot of individuals questioning, “how do I want to spend my time?” These factors have highlighted the importance of talent resilience and a future-ready talent framework to help better equip the workforce of the future.


Can you elaborate on some of the biggest challenges that entrepreneurs faced during the pandemic and what can we learn from them?

Some of the biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs during the pandemic included creating and maintaining cohesive teams in remote work situations, finding and hiring employees with suitable skill sets, and the difficulty of reaching anyone on the telephone! With these new technologies, the need for upskilling in our workplaces has never been more important. We have learned that adaptation for the future of work requires responsibility from all levels impacting the workforce — we need government recognition and support, we need organizations to invest in their people, and we need individuals and employees to acknowledge the importance of continuous skills and opportunity assessment.

Further, the shift to remote and hybrid work has undoubtedly been a challenge for entrepreneurs as they have been forced into adopting their operations, adopting new technologies, rethinking employee engagement, and more. If we have learned anything, it is that the key components of running a successful business are developing and strengthening relationships, communication, collaboration, and intercultural effectiveness.

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What suggestions do you have for small-scale businesses that are finding it hard to pull through during these challenging times?

Digital communities and establishing a culture of feedback are two of the most important tools we can leverage during these times to help our businesses continue to innovate, scale and strengthen as we come out of this pandemic. In a world that is rapidly changing, creating a tighter-knit communications loop among people who are aligned in what you are trying to accomplish will help us through these transitions.

The workforce ecosystem is evolving — and rather than fight it, businesses can view the future of work as a unique opportunity to embrace the change and use it as a tool to drive them to success.

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