TORONTO — Richard Wajs, RIGHT, truly believes in the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
“I am amazed when I meet people, how many don’t market themselves
properly,” the executive search consultant told UJA Federation of
Greater Toronto’s recent second annual Taking Care of Business conference.
Wajs said people don’t use networking to their advantage. “Have you worked to develop a relationship with someone in [your] industry? People aren’t proactive enough. Go to meetings and work the room!”
The day-long program took place May 4 at the Sheraton Hotel downtown, with about 300 people in attendance. Panels focused on the real estate business, entrepreneurial insights, and Israeli investing, among other topics.
Wajs moderated a panel titled “Hiring Trends: Positioning Yourself for the Future” that included Rick Chad, president of the recruitment firm Chad Management Group; Steven Pezim, managing director of Bedford Group/Transearch, a search firm, and Daniel Weinzweig, managing partner of Searchlight, a media and entertainment firm.
Pezim noted that “Green issues” are becoming much more important for generations X (tail-end baby boomers born in the 1960s) and Y (the children of baby boomers), in terms of what the companies they work for are doing, or not doing, for the environment.
“But not baby boomers, who are happy to get jobs and happy to keep them,” Pezim said.
As much as employees want to be comfortable with their company’s actions, Chad said it’s also important for employers to recognize the good works of those who work for them.
“I would say it’s good to pat people on the back now and then and let them know how much you appreciate them.”
Mark Breslin, left, and Aubrey Dan. [Dave Gordon photos]
A panel titled “Now That’s Entertainment” included Jordan Banks of JumpTV; Mark Breslin, owner of Yuk Yuk’s comedy clubs; Aubrey Dan, president of theatre company Dancap Productions; and Michael Moskowitz, president and CEO of XM Canada, the satellite radio network.
Banks described how he rose in the corporate ranks after growing up with a single mother in Scarborough who struggled to make ends meet. A few key essentials helped him make it to the top. “There is no substitute for hard work. Today, that has rung true for me,” Banks said.
Other elements of success include maintaining an ethical character.
“You only have one reputation, so you better make it good, because it will last a whole lot longer than you. It speaks to your integrity, honesty and the way you treat people,” Banks said. “And be careful whose butt you kick on the way up, because it might be the same butt you’ll be kissing on the way down.”
Though hard work might breed achievement, he was quick to say that work isn’t everything.
“Success in life is not all about money. It’s about family and community success.”
Breslin spoke of his own success, coming from humble beginnings. He boasted that Yuk Yuk’s is the world’s largest chain of comedy clubs, the first of which he opened 32 years ago in Toronto.
“The difference between me and my esteemed colleagues is that Yuk Yuk’s did not start out as a business. Accident has played a major role in my life, and a certain desire of the power of negative thinking. I grew up thinking I knew what I did not want to do. I did not want to work. I wanted to play.”
After graduating with an English literature degree, he said he entered the “real world” without knowing what career path he would take. His inspiration came when he realized he knew a fair number of comedians who happened to be Jewish.
“I was very aware of wanting to give a Jewish voice and culture to this city. It was a kind of Presbyterian culture in this city, a place that needed an enema, and Yuk Yuk’s could be the nozzle.”
On the heels of what he describes was the “age of counterculture,” his club pushed limits.
“It was sex, drugs and rock and roll. We kept the sex in and the anger in.”
Despite about one-third of patrons walking out mid-show when the club first opened, Breslin said Yuk Yuk’s eventually built up a following.
Dan also touched on the theme of risk-taking, noting that, this summer, his company will be bringing the musical Jersey Boys – based on the career of the singing group the Four Seasons – to Toronto.
The venture to reinvigorate the city with more large-scale, Broadway-type shows is a much-needed gamble, he said, adding that the dearth of theatrical shows has a direct effect not only on tourism, but on a city’s overall economic health.