What’s in it for me?

A business case for civic engagement


What’s in it for me?

A few people have asked me why I decided to get involved in the political process this municipal election. What is in it for me? My business?

These were questions I had to reflect on, and my answer goes back to my roots both as a person and as a business owner.

I have reached the point in my career and my company’s existence that I feel I can stand up and have a voice, and that I am able to weather the storms that seems to come from having a strongly stated opinion.

I am getting involved because I want the next generation of start-ups and companies in our city to enjoy the same sort of support and advantages that we have had, because of those people who have laid the groundwork for us.. In reflection, these actions would not have happened without people who have laid the groundwork for us.

In my life, there have been many influential people who have done this but let me talk about three: my father, Jeff Floyd and Joe Dales.

Joe Dales was very active in the London tech community during the dot-com boom that saw the rise of, and significant investment into, Farms.com. He helped to bring together the groups that eventually became TechAlliance and also set up a “First Tuesday” concept in London to bring tech firms and investors into London.

In the early days of rtraction, we co-located in the offices of Farms.com. While we were with them we enjoyed the support from their team: we shared IT resources and office space costs, and traded off small amounts of work. Equally important, their leadership team wanted us to succeed and were there to support us with shared entrepreneurial values, a cheering squad when things went well and a shoulder to cry on when they did not.

Farms.com, and in particular Joe Dales, helped to set the landscape for London to have a tech scene that was connected and worked together to connect new ideas and capital in the city.

Jeff Floyd recognized the struggles that young entrepreneurs face, and started a local chapter of the Young Entrepreneurs Association. During that time, the association enabled us to meet and share stories with other young business owners, and create a community of support and a knowledge exchange. Many of the members of that group are still in touch today and I have watched several go on to start remarkable businesses in our community.

Jeff saw the need for the community, and stepped up and made it happen. Without the support of the people who were in the YEA, I do not think we would have been as successful as we were in the early 2000s.

Finally, my father. He was a teacher at Conestoga College, and would periodically be affected by labour disputes. I was attuned enough to know that a labour dispute was hard on my family because of the loss. I recall asking him at one point why he was on strike, and he explained that the college was attempting to take action that affected new teachers and gave them a different compensation package than the current teachers had.

So, why, I asked him, was he is striking if the changes wouldn’t affect us or our family? He told me that that teachers that had preceded him fought for his rights and he was honouring them by continuing to support the next generation of teachers.

I guess the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. I am attempting honour the efforts of those who laid the groundwork for me by trying to improve the landscape for the next generation of start-ups in London. I want new companies like Inner Geek, ATMOS Marketing, Warpaint Media, and Eyelook Media to have the kind of runway we enjoyed when we started.

I do think that the London Plan will have a positive effect on our business in the ability to recruit talent and to have a better technical infrastructure for our company. However, I also recognize that those who will benefit from it are companies that probably haven’t started yet.

You could argue whether or not having a plan and a vision in place will at least help retain and attract some talent — people who can see there is a vision or plan in place are more likely to stick around if they have some hope that things will change for the better.

So, the simple answer is that I didn’t get involved in the political process only for me or for my business. We need to make our city more attractive to the creative class to attract and retain talent, and that is not going to happen overnight nor is it going to help me fill my immediate hiring needs.

While plans and city leaders can’t really create jobs, they can make this city a more attractive place for businesses and their people, and a great place for new businesses to start and grow. London is at a crossroads right now, and what we do, especially in the next four years, and who we elect to do it, will set our course. We need good people to guide and lead the change; I got involved to make sure that the men and women I believe are the best equipped to lead London had every opportunity to get elected.

What my father, Jeff Floyd, Joe Dales and others did allowed me to build rtraction. I owe it to the next generation to do what I can for them.

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