Nellie Mayshak

My goal is to empower my team, especially my senior managers and senior directors, to make their own decisions and manage their responsibilities.”


Where did the idea for Canaf Consulting Associates come from?

Canaf came from my experience in the public sector in Canada and experience growing up in Africa where the public services did not measure up. The public service in Canada is one of the best in the world. It is responsible for the high standard of living that we enjoy in this country. I conceived of Canaf Consulting as a vehicle to bridge the gap; to share Canadian best practice public management tools and processes with African countries; to promote collaboration and sharing in knowledge transfer.

The name really reflects work I have done around sharing knowledge systems and processes of doing things, to improve public administration in less developed countries.

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

I’m not a big breakfast person, so I take a small breakfast. I’m usually at the office very early. I like to prioritize, so I start my day with a list of things I need to do. Team meetings take up a portion of the day, as well as going over reports on the status of projects. At my level, it is important that I delegate. I spend a good deal of the day reviewing and editing reports and monitoring the progress of various activities.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I project manage everything. I do a lot of research on new ideas or projects to make sure I understand all the elements and variables. I assemble a team and spend a good deal of time developing implementation plans. Good consultation and feedback from pertinent stakeholders are also critical to success.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I think it is inclusiveness. I’ve been in Canada for 35 years, and in that time, I’ve seen both private and public sectors becoming more inclusive in terms of the participation of women in decision making and senior management positions. It’s very exciting to see women speaking up and occupying senior positions that they hadn’t 35 years ago. In Canada, for example, the retiring Supreme Court justice was a woman and we have a lot of women in prominent positions. Globally, this is a good trend, but there is still a long way to go.

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

My eye for detail. I’m very detail-oriented and I have an eye for catching things that other people don’t see very quickly and that has helped me a lot. I am also very thorough with my analysis and thinking about aspects of our projects and what is needed. I’ve found that very useful in my line of work.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’m a perfectionist. If I could go back, I would tell myself to be less hard on myself.

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

I think this question relates to change and change management in third world countries. The structures and processes for doing things, we often take these for granted here. In third world countries, people often see these structures and processes as impossible to attain. But, it is possible and change is possible in third world countries and nations suffering civil strife. That’s a large part of what we do – explaining that positive, constructive change is really possible.

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

I recommend that people use a team approach. I’m very big on teamwork. I can’t do anything without a good team. My goal is to empower my team, especially my senior managers and senior directors, to make their own decisions and manage their responsibilities.

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

I read a lot and have a strong curiosity. So knowing trends and having that curiosity helps a lot. It helps me know the next opportunities and where they are coming from. I’m always looking beyond what I’m currently doing and thinking about other possibilities.

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

I think this ties back to my earlier answer with respect to change. In my line of work, the projects we lead and manage center around creating positive change in communities and institutions. But, you oftentimes encounter resistance. You can even encounter people trying to sabotage some of these efforts to change their environment for the better. In these circumstances, it truly helps to understand both the history and circumstances of the people. You communicate with them and show them, so they understand what is possible. You take your time and prove to them and show any little results, to encourage them to buy into the change.

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

I’ll answer that by saying that there are plenty of business opportunities in third world countries. For instance, there is great potential in tourism development in Liberia and IT call center opportunities in Ghana.

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

That has to be my renewal of The Economist.

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

Microsoft Office is the main tool we use. More specifically, we rely on Project Management software to manage our projects. It allows me and team members to read reports and share reports. It’s a platform that enables our cross-collaboration.

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

I recommend The Economist, just because of its depth and range of coverage.

What is your favorite quote?

That would have to be “It’s not rocket science”. I tell this to my team all the time. Everything is achievable and doable.


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