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Fireside chat with Daneal Charney, Executive in Residence (EIR) for Multiple Companies

Daneal Charney is an an entrepreneurial Human Resources leader with a reputation for understanding the business, supporting business transformations (M&A, entering global markets, shifting business models, restructuring), providing creative solutions to key people issues and coaching founders and executive teams.

Over the past 15 years, she’s had the opportunity to hone her expertise in: talent acquisition, employee experience, university/campus programs, employment branding, onboarding, leadership development, management coaching, performance management, workforce planning, change management, workplace culture and ultimately creating a great place to work.

Tell us more about your role in MaRS Discovery District?

I am an Executive in Residence (EIR) for Momentum portfolio companies on track to reach $100M+ in revenue by 2024.  These include Canada’s most promising scaling companies including Top Hat, Security Compass, Flexiti, Think Research, Prodigy Games, Wattpad to name a few.  I see my role as providing a second opinion to the CEO & their executive team as they go through the pains of scaling. I draw on

Insights and trends from other similar-stage companies and my own in-house experience.

What is the most difficult part of your job? But the most rewarding one?

The toughest part of my job is getting up to speed quickly on a companies’ business model and finding ways to show value early on in the client relationship. We work with entrepreneurs across the Enterprise, Fintech, Health and Cleantech sectors so it’s challenging to understand the unique challenges these companies face when you don’t have direct exposure to that particular industry or vertical.

Additionally CEO and founders are big personalities with a high sense of urgency. When they show up to a meeting they are giving you their most valuable commodity – their attention.  Listening hard and doing prep work is key to finding ways to provide value early on in the relationship and building credibility.  

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is creating new services that solve for client’s biggest pain points. Last quarter I launched a HR Benchmarking service that allowed entrepreneurs to see how well they stack up against similar stage businesses in metrics like revenue per employee and diversity. It was great to see one of my clients realize that their lack of diversity at the leadership level was caused by their overreliance on their network when hiring and take concrete actions to course correct.

Is there anything that you would change about your professional path?

If I could hit the rewind button on my career I would done an MBA with a minor in Organizational Development and started my career in the start-up or venture capital world. I spent too long in the corporate world where my skills weren’t fully capitalized. I would have preferred to pursue disciplines like business development or marketing, as they are more dynamic and creative. I fell into HR and happen to be really good at it but there are other things that I would enjoy more. 

What is your advice for entrepreneurs that going through the pains of scaling?

Think of people as your greatest driver and input to business growth whether you are developing your product vision, building out your technology, going-to-market, or keeping your customer’s happy.  You need to invest in developing sophisticated HR processes, tools, technology and capabilities that get employees to productivity efficiently post-hire and then to their highest contribution point after that.

Taking this one step further, consider the value that every employee generates to your business and extend this value for as long as you can with great leadership, culture and growth opportunities. This concept is known as the Employee Lifetime Value (ELTV) and is inspired by the concept of customer LTV.  

What do you think about the next period of time, keeping in mind the pandemic and the new business climate? How will your industry be affected?

We are going into 2020 with the heaviness of Covid and not knowing how long this will impact businesses AND with a sense of freedom that we can throw off the shackles of the old ways of doing things. Many of our companies have accelerated their business plans and are making even bigger bets in their future. I believe this will payoff in the next few years and we’ll hit the goal of having a few more Canadian HQ $100 million in revenue companies.  We are noticing increased M&A activity so its worrying that we are losing Canadian companies but simultaneously Canadian companies are growing through acquisition as well.  Our advisory & programming has supported this quite a bit.  

What books do you have on your nightstand?

I always have too many books on my nightstand and am famous for only reading a few chapters of a book cause I am an impatient reader.  It’s a bad and expensive habit!

Right now I have quite the mixed bag of books on my nightstand. Some that make me laugh (“Why Not Me” by Mindy Kaling) and others that make me cry (“Seven Fallen Feathers” by Tanya Talaga). The latter is a book my daughter is reading for school that I highly recommend by a renowned Anishinaabe Canadian journalist. It makes you think deeply about who we need to become as a Canadian nation to give everyone an equal chance.

Our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss about their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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