Thoughts On Business Leadership By Brian Cookson

Small Business Canada

Brian Cookson is president and managing director of RDP Associates (established 1987). RDP works with businesses across a wide array of sectors and enables them to obtain various forms of government grants. It helps both start-ups and established businesses with gaining access to financial assistance for their innovation and business expansion projects.


1. What is your definition of Leadership?

Most people will say its about inspiring staff; setting a vision to achieve a company’s goals; to take fast and decisive action when needed and outperform the competition. All of this is true but realistically most people that run a business do not possess all this skill set. Practically speaking you are unlikely to achieve superior results without competent senior-level staff that communicates and works effectively as a team. A strong senior-level management team can make up for lacking leadership traits of any one particular leader.


2. What are the most important values and ethics you demonstrate as a leader?

I still think valuing the customer and having a customer-focused business is key. Fully understanding your customer’s needs and creating value will earn customer retention. However, businesses are only as good as the employees they have. Nurturing the needs of your employee’s growth and skill set ensures employee retention and commitment to great service.


3. How do you encourage the development of your employees?

I don’t like to micro-manage. I like to see each employee think of themselves as an expert in their area. I think most people take pride in their work, and allowing them to provide input on how to improve the systems and tasks they work on, and actually implement those ideas, goes a long way to achieve employee engagement. Further to provide them with a career path. This does not always mean moving to say managerial position but to create a career path within their area of expertise.


4. What is your advice to Canadian business owners during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

I think most businesses are addressing the seriousness of the situation. If you find yourself getting too emotional about this situation, it would be good to seek out calm, objective and rational advice from a trusted business advisor. Also, as many staff is working from home, trying to implement effective communication and tools to be productive is important. Most staff have been taken out their routine and may feel isolated working from home, so setting up a system to interact with other staff working from home can help. Finally, cash flow will be an important issue for many issues in the coming months, so maximizing and filing SR&ED claims as soon as possible along with identifying what grants can leverage cash flow should not be overlooked.

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