Together, they strive to “inspire success.” Peter Gustavson and Paul Lennox say this company mantra drives employees to achieve their…
Together, they strive to “inspire success.”
Peter Gustavson and Paul Lennox say this company mantra drives employees to achieve their goals at one of Canada’s newest forex companies.
At the start of this month, the two officially launched EncoreFX, a Victoria, B.C.-based forex company, and simultaneously opened regional branches in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Ottawa.
As opposed to other large corporate forex companies, one of the unique aspects of EncoreFX is that branch managers and employees are encouraged to build their own book of clients. “They’re creating their own business within our business,” Mr. Gustavson said.
“It makes them feel like they are a part of something big here,” Mr. Lennox said. “That really inspires people.”
Mr. Gustavson financed the venture with capital mostly obtained from the US$370-million sale of Custom House Ltd. to Western Union Financial Services Inc. in 2009. Custom House was the Victoria, B.C.-based, multinational forex company he founded and owned for 17 years.
With Custom House, Mr. Gustavson built not only one of the world’s largest non-bank forex companies, but a culture that fostered and encouraged an entrepreneurial spirit among its employees. As CEO, Mr. Gustavson oversaw Custom House’s growth from a small company of three employees to one with locations in seven countries, customers in 115 countries, more than $35 billion in transactions and upward of 40,000 corporate clients worldwide.
Recreating this kind of culture was a major factor in convincing Mr. Gustavson and Mr. Lennox to start up a new forex company after their non-compete agreements ended last year. And the pair should have no problem expanding and growing EncoreFX.
“Former employees would reminisce with us about the good old days, where branch managers were given the opportunity to be entrepreneurial,” Mr. Gustavson said. “They told us that forex companies had become ‘very corporate’ and they were frustrated with that.”
Mr. Lennox, also a former executive at Custom House, contends the best way to empower company branch managers is to work with them rather than dictating targets and objectives from the head office.
“I’m asking them what their goals are and what support they need from myself and head office to achieve those goals,” Mr. Lennox said. “They are coming to us and my job is to make sure the resources are in place to enable their success.”
Mr. Lennox said this approach works effectively when branch managers possess strong decision making skills and like to take ownership of what they do.
Creating competition can also give them an extra push. “We get the branch managers together to look at how they’re doing on a competitive basis,” Mr. Lennox said. “It’s very subtle but that’s all it takes to inspire people who are competitive by nature. No one wants to be at the bottom of the list.”
The men contend the company culture will likely translate to growth. EncoreFX projects it will handle $1.5 billion in foreign exchange transactions this year alone and another $4 billion for next year. Plans are underway to open offices in, as yet, undisclosed locations this year and next.
Mr. Gustavson said establishing a physical presence in the five cities they operate in provides an important advantage over running everything out of a centralized head office. “We need to be talking to the customers face-to-face to develop the right forex strategy for their business,” he said. “You can’t do that without meeting with the customer one-on-one.”
Mr. Gustavson and Mr. Lennox have mostly built the EncoreFX team by recruiting familiar faces from their days at Custom House.
But they have also found a very talented pool of young people who are just as motivated, possess a wide range of skills and have the same entrepreneurial spirit.
“They know so much and there’s so much they can do these days, it’s just incredible,” Mr. Lennox said. “We have an incredible offering in terms of what we’re putting in front of people and the challenge for us is deciding from among young people with incredible backgrounds.”
For other young professionals and entrepreneurs, Mr. Gustavson advises to take on some more risk.
“If you fail on a venture you can always get up and start over again,” Mr. Gustavson said. “You won’t have this kind of opportunity at any other time in your life to take this risk and make a serious gain in your net worth.”
For more experienced entrepreneurs Mr. Lennox said it’s important to learn from past mistakes.
“I had probably 10 entrepreneurial failures before we hit the homerun with Custom House,” Mr. Lennox said. “Learn from the experience and incorporate that into your plans going forward.”
Originally posted on April 1 2015 1:04 PM ET at http://business.financialpost.com/entrepreneur/how-encorefx-is-using-its-employees-entrepreneurial-spirit-to-inspire-success
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