Thoughts On Business Leadership By Paul Parisi

Small Business Canada

Paul ParisiPresident, PayPal Canada

Paul is a results-oriented Canadian leader with a strong track record of more than 20 years in the payments industry. He is focused on driving the next phase of growth for the company and its 7.1 million active customers in Canada.

Paul plays a pivotal role in identifying strategic partnerships and bringing payment innovations to the Canadian market. He leads his team to help more than 250,000 Canadian small businesses and large retailers grow their sales locally and internationally. An engaging speaker with a passion for innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership, Paul brings a unique perspective on how financial services companies can collaborate to make money more accessible to people and businesses.

Prior to PayPal, Paul was vice president and general manager of global commercial payments at American Express Canada. During his tenure at American Express, he developed and drove business strategy for corporate payments and small business services and held several key leadership positions across sales, account management, e-procurement and travel. A global sales leader, Paul has lived and worked in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.

Paul has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Guelph.


What is your definition of Leadership?

It’s two-fold. The question that many leaders face is: how do we lead in ways that position a business for the future while meeting current demands? This is where it’s important for a leader to not only set the vision but also provide strategic direction for the team and help them understand how to get there. Strategic leadership doesn’t come easily in most organizations. Statistics show that fewer than 10 per cent of leaders exhibit strategic skills, a woefully inadequate number considering the demands on organizations today. Strategic skills aren’t just needed in times of growth. During tough times—when resources are tight—it is even more important to ensure those resources are focused in the right areas.

The other side is “empathy”- understanding what motivates people. I have a degree in psychology, and it’s come in handy when I engage and interact with my teams, coworkers and our customers.


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

Honesty and integrity. I read a quote by Dwight. D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, where he said, “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on the football field, in an army, or in an office.” Honesty and integrity are two important values that make a good leader.

If I had to pick another, it would be to “inspire others”. One of the most difficult jobs of a leader is to inspire their teams to deliver their best work. You have to walk the talk and set a good example. When the going gets tough, your team looks up to you to see how you react to the situation. If you handle it well, they will follow you. As a leader, think positively and stay positive and this approach should be clearly visible through your actions. Stay calm under pressure and keep the motivation level up.


How do you encourage the development of your employees?

One of the things I’ve learned in my career is that not everyone wants to develop. Some people are perfectly happy doing the same thing day in and day out. First, understand who wants to develop. What do they want to develop into and then provide them the guidance, tools and confidence to get there.


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

The most important thing is communication. Communicate transparently with your employees and customers. Everyone is facing this crisis together, so be transparent about what your business is going through to your employees and your customers. Keep your employees and your customers safe by being as proactive as possible about cleanliness. It’s important to exhibit genuine empathy at this time towards your employees, partners, and customers. Customers can empathize with brands facing a crisis, as long as you communicate with them properly.

Access to government funds and resources. In the last couple of weeks, the federal and provincial government has announced a number of initiatives to help small business owners survive this crisis. Examine them to see which ones apply to you and helps you tide over.

Think differently. Look at your business model and experiment with new ideas. If you are a brick-and-mortar business, look at how you can get online. That’s the need of the hour right now and one way for your business to survive given everything we are facing today.

Ask for help. We’re all in this together. I’ve seen everyone on my team, in my network expressing their desire to help small businesses. If you need service – ask people in your community if anyone wishes to volunteer at this time to help you. You may be pleasantly surprised by your community’s generosity.

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