Canadian entrepreneur Aaron Wolfe has created a unique market niche in the North American business world. He’s not a traditional investor or consultant, but rather a highly skilled professional who aligns with companies, empowering them to reach new levels of achievement and profitability. He advises owners of small and mid-cap private companies without requiring a management role or board seat.
As co-founder of Toronto-based SagePoint Capital Partners, he backs talented entrepreneurs who seek to unlock the potential of their companies, stimulate innovation and dramatically improve returns. He has an extensive track record of applying proven solutions that are based on strategies, tactics and frameworks that promote effective growth initiatives and precise business plan execution.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
Every day is a new adventure. There tends to be some similarity around how the day is broken up, but there really is not a typical day.
My days kick off with family time. I have two young kids that see nothing but opportunity in the world and that are filled with energy. They provide me with the inspiration and drive to be productive and to succeed. From there, my productivity and inspiration comes from the entrepreneurs and business leaders we work with. When you’re engaged in helping someone unlock their dream, the energy is endless.
A typical day involves a significant amount of time spent on the phone, Teams and Zoom interactions with our key business leaders, our internal team, and other capital markets professionals. The goal is always to ensure that we fully understand the challenges and opportunities each business has before them, and what makes each business unique. We help craft the analysis and messaging of these unique opportunities and then aim to match the opportunities with like minded industry contacts or solution providers.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Listen intently and ask a lot of questions. My role, whether as an investor, or as an advisor, is to empower the entrepreneur or leader to realize their dreams. It is to enhance and unlock their ideas; some that already exist, and some that haven’t been considered before. We achieve this collectively by really listening and understanding the situation before us and asking a lot of questions – the “whys?” and just as equally the “why nots?”
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m not sure it is a trend at this point, if anything there has been a movement away from it, but I am very focused on ESG and how businesses can drive value and stakeholder support by being leaders in their respective industries when it comes to the environment, sustainability, and governance. These themes are not going to go away, but what will change and evolve is how we report on them, and how stakeholders choose to support, or disengage with those businesses that aren’t doing enough.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
Note taking. For me, making notes is the most valuable contributor to productivity, and it is for all the reasons you would imagine: they provide me with an accessible record of key information I’ve seen or heard; writing something down helps me remember it later; and notes help ensure I’m listening effectively and understanding what I’m hearing.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t fear failure but instead try to embrace and learn from it. No one is immune to failures and setbacks; everyone experiences them at different times and in different ways. While a perfect outcome would be great, it is rarely achievable and certainly not sustainable. Striving for perfection and fearing anything but, will negatively impact your productivity and is likely to derail you when you inevitably meet your failure or setback.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
Stay up to date on the news, politics, and developments locally, nationally, and internationally. You’re starting from well behind if you don’t know what is going on and what is influencing actions or motivating opposition.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
When I’m feeling overwhelmed or unfocused, I try to go for a walk or hike, preferably outside but if not on the treadmill. I find that a brisk walk or hike is the perfect hack for my brain. It essentially tricks my brain into thinking we’re focused on getting some activity, but gives me time alone to either completely disconnect, or more often, to work through my thoughts related to what is overwhelming or distracting me.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
I’’ve always tried to embrace the idea of “never stop learning.” And to that end, I make sure that I’m routinely reading on a variety of non-fiction topics, and that I’m taking courses and webinars on industry-related topics and areas of interest. I can’t say that any one course, book or webinar is responsible for a particular move or outcome in my career, but I credit the continual practice for keeping me prepared and aware throughout my journey.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
One failure that I repeated multiple times in my career was defining success and happiness based on others, and thus ultimately modeling myself off others rather than being me and blazing my own path. This wasn’t an obvious failure for any onlookers, but it was a failure for me. In my pursuit to keep learning and growing, I found a high-performance coach and worked with the coach to better understand myself, my strengths, areas for improvement, but most importantly I learned what really excited me and came to the realization that I could be a lot happier by being me. Striving to be the best me is far more fun than trying to be someone else and being me produces even stronger results.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I am in the business of helping others unlock their business ideas and realize their dreams because I’ve always struggled to find a business idea I could start myself.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Apart from the suite of office-related software and news applications that most use, I would highlight the Tasks app on my phone. I find this to be an extremely valuable tool because I can keep priority lists, notes, and action items by company, contact and for the family.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast you’ve gotten a ton of value from and why?
I am a big fan of non-fiction, of learning from someone else’s accomplishments, experiences, or life’s work. I generally find something in everything I read to take with me. For your young finance industry readers, I’d recommend What It Takes, by Stephen Schwartzman, the Chairman and Co-Founder of Blackstone. But, the book I have recommended the most in the past 18-24 months is Hayley Wickenheiser’s book Over the Boards. Hayley is a hockey legend, a Hockey Hall of Famer, World Champion, Olympian, and mother, and she achieved everything without the financial stability male professional athletes have. Oh, and when she hung up the skates, she went back to medical school to become a physician, while coaching with the Toronto Maple Leafs (now an Assistant General Manager). Her story is inspiring, but the real nuggets are how she broke through, how she dealt with setbacks, and how she encourages readers to “not follow in her footsteps, but to carve their own ice.”
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
I am still enjoying the series Billions, and I enjoyed Succession, both because they are well written and I can draw parallels between their fictional characters and the live capital markets characters I interact with. But maybe the most engaging series I watched recently was The Newsroom. At its core, The Newsroom is about dealing with teams and making tough decisions, which is a significant part of my day-to-day interactions.
- We spend most of our days talking and interacting, but it is the listening and outside reading and reflection that unlocks the true value.
- Do not fear failure and setbacks; they make you stronger, wiser and better.
- It doesn’t matter how someone else did it, be you and do it your way.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.