With business sunshine, comes some rain, so prepare

Terrence Paul

Windspeaker Radio speaks with Chief Terrance Paul of Membertou First Nations in Nova Scotia. Chief Paul has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canada Council for Aboriginal Business for 2020.

Chief Paul is CEO of the Membertou Development Corporation.

When Chief Terrance Paul was a young man, just 16 years old, he built up his courage to ask a concrete contractor for a summer job.

“He gave it to me, because I had the guts to ask him.”

It paid $1.25 and hour with all kinds of overtime, but no overtime pay. Paul would be up by 5 a.m. to travel to another Indigenous community about two hours away. The concrete was ready to go, so they had to work quick.

The employer was an honest. And he worked hard himself. And these were the qualities that were instilled in the young Paul.

“So I felt he was a really good mentor."

These are, indeed, the qualities that Chief Paul likes to see in business owners.

“Work hard.” That’s the message when starting a business. Paul says to expect long hours.

And do your homework. Develop a good business plan with a financial forecast; one for the short term, and the other for the long term.

“What I mean by that is produce a first year detailed budget and forecast for the next four years.” It’s good to go by it, but be ready to adjust it.

Chief Paul said people in business who hope to thrive and survive, need to really understand their own businesses.

“Keep up with the trends.”

And perhaps most importantly, really get to know your customers.

He also advises that businesses have rainy day money set aside.

“Every business has its ups and downs. Having a good business plan helps get through those. When times are good, put money away for the times that are going to be down, because… there’s going to be a down time. Every business experiences that.”

Paul says businesses have to operate with fairness and honesty, and being true to that has got him where he is today, with a reputation much lauded across the land.

“And being able to get people smarter than me to do work for me.”

Paul said overcoming obstacles requires discipline to not let the problem overcome you. Whatever the problems is, there is always a solution. “And it’s always good to get advice from other people.”

He also had to learn to not to accept no for an answer.

To mentor a new generation of business people, youth are hired each summer, giving them experience where their interests are.

“We are very open to what we do here,” Chief Paul said. “We give our policies that we have to any community that wants it… and we hope that we have a little part in their success.”