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Successful First Nation businesses a balance of wealth creation & community values
Just like any successful private company, the most successful First Nation community-owned businesses are those which create a strong vision of what the business is and should be doing. At MNP, we have worked with many First Nation communities which have created economic development groups with a strong vision focusing on wealth creation. The vision for a successful First Nation business must not only focus on wealth creation, it must also address their community’s values and its specific political environment. Through perseverance, experience, strong management, and working with knowledgeable advisors, many of these groups have excelled and are now recognized as some of the top businesses in Saskatchewan.
Athabasca Basin Development (ABD) is an investment partnership of seven northern communities including three First Nations. Last year ABD had record consolidated revenues of $176 million, and in December ABD was selected business of the year by SaskBusiness Magazine. ABD owns twelve companies, five of which are headquartered and operate from Saskatoon. Geoff Gay, CEO of ABD attributes the success of the group to “staying disciplined on the implementation of its investment strategy and policies”. Through selective investment decisions and strong business policies, ABD has been able to maintain its growth and equity position, even in years where its competitors have struggled.
A simple and direct vision is important because it ensures that all stakeholders understand it. A First Nation’s members need to be aware of and understand how the business will benefit them and their families. The Board needs to ensure policies and decisions are consistent with the vision. Employees of the business need to know what they are working towards and why it’s important.
Des Nedhe Development, a business group owned by the English River First Nation and operating five companies out of its location in the Grasswood Business Park, has the following vision and mission:
“Drawing on our traditional values and entrepreneurial spirit, we deliver opportunities that benefit the members of English River First Nation. [Our mission is] to own and operate an integrated and profitable business portfolio that builds on the qualities and strengths of our team and needs of our business partners and customers.”
A vision such as this can help drive the right business decisions. For example, the use of ‘integrated’ focuses the group on investment decisions which build on current operations through vertical or horizontal integration, and discourage investment in industries with which they may not be familiar or have the necessary expertise. Combined with ‘profitable’, an investment strategy can be created to ensure that only investments in financially strong ventures are completed, ultimately protecting the equity of the members of the First Nation.
As a company matures or expands, it is important to recognize that the vision may need to change. Times change, old goals may have been met, and what was successful five years ago, may not work today. Changing business, economic, or political environments, or new senior management may lead to opportune times for a company to review its vision, governance structure, policies, and support infrastructure (such as IT or human resources). It is also important for a regular review of strategic direction to ensure what is being done today is actually working towards the vision.
Russell Roberts is CEO of Kitsaki Developments, a business group owned by the Lac La Ronge Indian Band with five businesses operating out of Saskatoon. He believes the reason Kitsaki is still around after 30 years and as successful as it is, stems from its ability to be flexible. “Through a review of our strategic direction and the changing market conditions, we were able to recognize that it was time to leave certain industries or partnerships, as well as take advantage of new opportunities.” Through a regular review of its current strategy and vision, Kitsaki has been able to ensure a strong financial position to allow it to ride through the different business cycles.
At MNP, not only do we believe in the power of creating a strong vision with our clients, we also practice it with our own business to great success. Through the implementation of regular five year strategic plans that support our 20 year vision, we have grown to be the fifth largest accounting and business advisory firm in Canada and the largest provider of financial advisory services to Aboriginal communities and organizations.
It has been a pleasure to watch our clients grow and achieve success. If you are interested in creating or reviewing your vision, or ensuring that the policies and processes you have in place support your vision, please contact your local MNP Advisor.
Related Topics:Management; Business Performance
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