Navigating Transformational Change Across Industries. A Q&A with Brett Belchetz

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Maple Co-founder and CEO Brett Belchetz shares invaluable advice for Canadian business leaders on the intricate balance between innovation, stakeholder engagement, and achieving success.

Russell Evans: What advice would you have for Canadian business leaders looking to disrupt and innovate in their industry?

Brett Belchetz:

1. Expect and accept resistance

If you really want to do something transformational and so I'm not talking about incremental change, I'm talking about transformational change. And I've seen a lot of businesses that have innovation labs or invest in innovation in some other form where most of what comes out of those labs is typically incremental changes that are small adaptations of the business model, not fundamental changes. But if you really want to do something transformational in any industry, you have to expect a ton of resistance. It doesn't matter what industry you are in, the powers that be, the forces that exist within that industry are going to think that your radically different idea of doing things is either dead wrong, it's ineffective, it's unsafe, or it's dangerous. There's going to be a chorus of voices that are aligned against you, and you just have to expect that. If you're pretty convinced it's a great idea, don't let that stop you.

2. Assess where the feedback is coming from

Two, when you're getting feedback on the things that you're trying to do, it's really important to look at who the feedback is coming from. For any industry and for any company, there is a customer set that you care about and there is a potential group of people that are not the customers you care about. You're going to hear a lot of objections as to why it's not the right idea or the right path to take. You always have to look at where that's coming from. Is this coming from the people who really matter for your business? If the stakeholders that really matter, the customers you really care about and the ones who have actually tried this new innovation – if they're the ones saying this is a really bad idea, don't do this, then probably don't do it. But a lot of the time when you dig in on objections to innovation, what you'll find is the people that are objecting have either never tried your innovation or they're not your core customer group, or they're people that would never have even worked with your business altogether but they love doing anything to impede the success of your business.

3. Focus on innovating for your audience

Double down on making the people that matter happy. And don't ever waste your energies on trying to persuade those people that it doesn't matter to, they will not support you. In our business, we've seen that 60 percent of the Canadian population really likes this idea of innovation and private companies such as ourselves being involved in health care. And the other 40 percent really don't like what we do. And how do we focus our energies on how to persuade that 40 percent of the population to like us? I don't think we ever would have succeeded. And instead we kind of said, yeah, we get it. You don't like us. We're not going to listen to you. We're not going to talk to you. We're going to talk to the other 60 percent that are persuadable. And all of our energies went into how do we get that other 60 percent speaking to us and using our product? And that was a very effective recipe for success versus a lot of wasted energy and resources.

To hear the rest of Brett’s advice, listen here:

Brett’s transcript has been slightly altered in this Q&A for clarity and brevity.