Michele Romanow, a serial entrepreneur who started five companies before her 33rd birthday, shares her expertise on growing a business, overcoming hardships, and mastering employee engagement and retention at work.
What tips do you have for business owners looking to grow their businesses post-pandemic?
Once things open back up, we’re going to be in the roaring 20s all over again, so you want to meet your customers where they are. If you’ve built an e-commerce Direct to Customer brand, start thinking about how you can also market in the physical world. What kind of pop-ups or brand activations can you do? This is the time to get creative.
Throughout your career, what hardships have you had to face when growing your own businesses and how did you overcome them?
I’ve probably had thousands of no’s over the years from people who don’t understand the problem we’re solving. It used to really throw me off. Now I use those no’s to challenge myself. These little “elastic stings” used to affect me a lot early in my career. Over the years, I shifted my mindset to say, “I was expecting that. This is the motivation I need to prove them wrong.” In some ways, I almost crave being underestimated.
Why is it so important to empower small and medium-sized business owners?
Small businesses make up 40 per cent of Canada’s GDP. They’re the backbone for our economy and local communities.
How can business owners increase employee engagement and retention during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Transparency and trust. When you trust people and give them access to the information they need, they can make really good decisions. At Clearbanc, we really believe in radical candor which lets you challenge someone directly by having uncomfortable conversations. That ultimately benefits the employee and the company. It mitigates gossip and helps you move quickly as an organization.
Why is business resilience so critical right now?
It’s really, really hard to build a business. Even when times are good! My first business failed during the 2008 recession, and the lessons I learned then made me a better entrepreneur. Looking back now, I’m so grateful to have that perspective.
What key resources should Canadian businesses take advantage of in order to grow this year?
Small businesses haven’t had access to a ton of data before, and we’re really trying to change that at Clearbanc. We just launched ClearAngel, the first-ever data dashboard that gives founders funding and real-time insights to make more informed decisions that help scale their business. Two times more companies were started in 2020 than in the past 8 years, but most new founders don’t know what they don’t know. If more entrepreneurs have more data at their fingertips, more businesses will succeed and that’s great for Canada.