Jonathon Karelse

Avoid anything that gets between you and doing what you say.


Jonathon Karelse is a co-founding partner of NorthFind Partners, a global management consultancy that focuses on providing expertise in areas that include sales and operations planning, inventory strategy and mergers and acquisitions. Before leading NorthFind, Jonathon served as Business Unit Director at Yokohama Tire Canada from 2005 to 2011, where he was responsible for sales, marketing, operations and strategic planning. Following his work at Yokohama, Jonathon transitioned into the role of Vice President for Strategic Planning and Corporate Development at Wholesale Tire Distributors, where he created and directed the company’s sales, marketing, and operations departments.

Outside of his work at NorthFind Partners, Jonathon Karelse serves as the Chief Strategy Officer for Factors Group of Companies, a health and nutrition manufacturer of nutritional supplements. He is also a partner at Mariner Brewing Company in Coquitlam, Canada and the Chair of the Governance Committee for the Eagle Ridge Hospital Foundation. Most recently, he became a stakeholder at a Vancouver-based organic, cold-pressed juicery.

Where did the idea for NorthFind Partners come from?

Before NorthFind Partners, I spoke at a lot of conferences, and there was a lot of follow-up after those conferences with practitioners who were interested in coaching around how to improve their demand planning process. I had reached a point in my career where two things happened: one, I was ready to branch out on my own. And second, I recognized that both myself and my eventual partner at NorthFind had a powerful platform to start taking sales and operations planning and demand planning to a much broader audience.

Ten or fifteen years ago, demand planning as part of sales and operations planning was still in its infancy. As a management consultancy, with companies engaging us to do due diligence for acquisitions, post-merger integrations, operational efficiency analysis, our platform provided a great way to start introducing the real upside of effective demand planning.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

One of the things that appeals to me about consulting is that there is no typical day. We have clients in nearly every continent, and on a daily and certainly weekly basis, I can find myself traveling to a new location.

However, my work days do share some regular responsibilities, for example, making sure all our client work is where it needs to be and ensuring that all our deliverables are on track.

How do you bring ideas to life?

That’s a great question and I think that’s what separates effective management consultants from everybody else. I think the minimum hurdle to become a management consultant is being able to put an idea into a PowerPoint deck. That’s why so many people associate PowerPoint with consulting.

It’s one thing to tell a great story. It’s another thing to actually know how to turn that story into execution and connect that strategic idea to the tactical requirements. I think that’s what makes us so good at what we do: we’re practitioners first and foremost. We recognize the gap between the theoretical and execution. In short, what brings ideas to life is the ability to work backward through the details, put together a game plan and have the discipline to execute it.

What’s one trend that excites you?

One trend that comes to mind is both a blessing and a curse. Ten to fifteen years ago, demand planning was something that few people talked about. To be clear, demand planning in business has been around informally since the Industrial Revolution and forecasting as a mathematical discipline has been around since the 1950s.

But, people have only really begun connecting demand planning in a more institutional way to their supply chain and material requirements planning (MRP) and enterprise planning in the last ten years. That excites me because there’s a lot of waste that can be reduced as a result.

The downside to it is, as with every trend, the methods become diluted. The reality is that manufacturing requirements planning, sales and operations planning, ERP, all of these things from the very beginning were meant to be led by demand. So, the trends that people are talking about now are great because it’s putting focus on this really important part of the overall enterprise planning process. But, on the other hand, demand is becoming a buzz word and it’s already turning some people off because the methods are getting diluted.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I do what I say.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Avoid anything that gets between you and doing what you say.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I don’t believe in randomness. The idea of randomness or stochasticity where people say sometimes things just happen — it’s a surrogate for our lack of commitment to a deeper understanding of systems and processes. The things that people chalk up to randomness and stochasticity are things that right now are too granular or don’t fit within the model that we built, so we call it irrationality or randomness.

But if we had the capacity to measure, capture and process these things, we would understand that absolutely everything is the result of input drivers. It’s like in ancient times, when people worshipped the sun because they didn’t know what it was and people looked to magic to explain why phenomenon happened in nature. All of these things were ultimately explained when we had the capability to measure them and, once we had the capability to measure them, we could understand them. Everything that we call random right now is something, it’s just we’re not measuring it.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Take the time to map out the plan and have the discipline to hold yourself accountable to execute against it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

I am pretty proud of the NorthFind Partners has seen without advertising or marketing. Our business comes as a result of referrals or word of mouth or people seeing us as speakers in conferences. I think the reason we have seen this success is that we do what we say. For all of our clients, we’re very clear about what the expectations are and what we can realistically deliver and we invariably execute to that.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

My first entrepreneurial venture after corporate life was in a distribution business. I had a couple of partners who wanted to be really big right out of the gate. I treated that business like all the big businesses that I had managed up to that point in my corporate career. But, there’s a big difference between small and large businesses as far as how you initially run them. Ultimately, the business didn’t grow as quickly as the partners wanted to, so they decided to pull the plug.

I wouldn’t say I overcame the problem because that was the end of that venture. But, I did learn a lot about managing smaller-scale businesses.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The idea for the cold pressed juice business I’m now involved in really came about as a result of my use and enjoyment of something in everyday life and the fact that I could probably improve upon the current model and, as a result, monetize my experience.

For me, locally-sourced cold-pressed juice is exciting because it’s something that a lot of people consume on a daily basis. But the spin that we put on it is, we don’t have one size fits all. In a lot of juiceries they have a one-size fits all cleanse program or juice program for people, while ignoring the fact that you have a million different body mass indexes and a million different activity levels.

We have a registered dietician who tailors the juice cleanses to the physiology and activity level of the people who are buying the juices, so people are getting the correct caloric and protein intake. It’s nice to have the opportunity to go on a cleanse and rid the body of toxins and feel better, but it’s much better when you actually look specifically at who the consumer is and give them a product that is tailored to their needs.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

It was a glass of wine. One of my favorite restaurants has a Coravin program, and they offer some of their better wines on a buy-a-glass program. Château d’Yquem, one of the world’s oldest and most renowned white wine producers, has a non-dessert wine called Ygrec. It was the best single glass of white wine I’ve ever had.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

The web-based service called Harvest is an online billing service for consultants and other business people. It allows you and your associates to log your time against various clients in real-time and also lets you log your expenses by taking pictures and billing it against the client. Cheap program, really easy to use and we started using at NorthFind four or five years ago. It literally gave us back hours of our day.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I like the book Good Profit: How Creating Value for Others Built One of the World’s Most Successful Companies by Charles Koch. There’s a bit of mythology surrounding the Koch brothers. People think because of some of their political leanings that these are big, bad business people. Charles Koch is a really disciplined business person who takes a very systematic approach to business. Good Profit is all about having the discipline to focus on not only ensuring and maximizing your value-added activity and minimizing the non-value-added activity, but quantifying the effect of all of your actions.

What is your favorite quote?

“If it exists, it can be quantified.”

Key Learnings:

-Always remember the importance of doing what you say you will do. This is essential both within and outside of consulting work.

-Develop a plan and hold yourself accountable to execute it. This is a core ability in any successful venture and has been a key element in our success as a consultancy.

-Remember the clear distinction between leading small and large businesses.


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