L to R: Marion McDougall, John Carswell, Heather Mason-Wood and Barbara Bellissimo

On October 19, over 50 business leaders from York Region’s most prominent companies gathered to discuss the key issues and trends impacting their businesses in these challenging economic times. The York Region Business Leadership Breakfast was the first ever event of its kind and its success indicates it will not be the last. Sponsored by Canso Investment Counsel Ltd., a business with a strong sense of social responsibility, the event also showed that giving back to the community is good business practice.

“A small discussion broke out at a United Way Cabinet meeting about strategies to get through tough economic times, and John Carswell, President, Canso Investment, suggested, ‘wouldn’t it be great to broaden this discussion and share some of this wisdom with other corporate leaders in our region?’,” said Heather Mason-Wood, Vice-President, Canso Investment Counsel Ltd.

The panel included senior corporate leaders, all connected to the work of United Way York Region:

– John Carswell, President, Canso Investment Counsel Ltd.

– Barbara Bellissimo, Senior Vice President and Chief Agent, State Farm® Canada

– Marion McDougall, Director Inside Sales North Region, IBM

John Carswell talked about forecasting the financial future and preparing businesses for uncertain times. Next Barbara Bellissimo, Chair of United Way York Region’s Campaign Cabinet, shared her insights on exercising business leadership in the midst of change.

“We are challenged by many drivers in today’s business world from the economy, to the ever changing and growing needs of customers, the growth of competition, and the pace of technological change,” said Bellissimo. She outlined 5 keys to lead an organization through a period of change: vision; communication strategy; strong strategic plan with milestones; listening to employees; and having a winning attitude for today.

Marion McDougall, a member of United Way York Region’s Campaign Cabinet, spoke about how to successfully incorporate social media into businesses’ sales strategies.

In his closing remarks Daniele Zanotti, CEO, United Way York Region, underlined that in life and work we are all better when we belong and where we belong.

“In our work with over 250 workplaces across this great region, we have seen great companies shine, good companies become great and struggling businesses rise again when they engage their employees in something bigger.”

Click here to see pictures from the event.


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