Teresa Cascioli knows a few things about being an entrepreneur.
Things like the long hours, the way getting a new business off the ground can take over your life, the worry and the feeling of loneliness, of wondering if each decision is the right one.
She learned all of those lessons during the years she built Hamilton’s Lakeport brewery from a bankrupt operation into an industry success story. It was so successful that when it finally sold to Labatt, she walked away with millions.
Now, after a couple of years of semi-retirement where she was constantly being pulled aside by would-be entrepreneurs wanting to pick her brain, she’s going to get paid for offering that advice.
“Everybody and his brother I meet now wants to pick my brain,” she said. “Now I have to make sure I’m giving them the best advice I can.”
Cascioli has joined the consulting firm of KPMG as a strategic adviser, helping new business operators navigate the tricky shoals of financing, operation, initial public offerings, mergers, audits, taxes, succession planning and getting along with government.
“Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur,” she said. “I’m not ready to retire and I’m still energized by helping entrepreneurs grow and realize on their hard work.”
Reaching that goal, she said, requires mastering a whole range of skills that can only really be learned through hard experience.
“When you’re in a new business you can get really focused on the day-to-day operations, on getting that case out the door,” she said. “I know I got my feet wet a few times because of that.”
Mario Paron, managing partner of KPMG’s Hamilton office, said having someone of Cascioli’s experience to advise clients will be a real boost for the company.
“Entrepreneurs can be very focused on managing their business,” he said. “Someone like Teresa brings a real marriage of pragmatic advice and deep experience.”
The new career grew out of Cascioli’s long association with KPMG — the company provided audit services during the year she was bringing Lakeport back to life. After the brewery went public, KPMG became her personal auditor.
A Hamilton native, Cascioli moved from a job at City Hall to a position in investor relations with Philip Services Corp. in the days when it was seen as the area’s shining success story. When it collapsed into bankruptcy after a financial scandal, she was asked to take over management of the bankrupt Lakeport brewery. In exchange for “sweat equity” she was given a share of the business.
Over several years, she turned the shattered firm into a success by pioneering the “buck a beer” segment — selling quality beer at the lowest legal price in Ontario. While the beer business remained dominated by Molson and Labatt, Lakeport became big enough to be an irritant to the big players.
Originally privately held, the company became an income trust and was later sold to Labatt, which promptly closed the Hamilton plant.
Teresa Cascioli’s Top 5 hints for entrepreneurs
- Be ready — Entrepreneurs work very hard to grow their businesses, to be successful and to add value to their communities. They should always be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that arises. Don’t assume that opportunities only happen “someday” or to someone else. If the right opportunity presents itself, your business could be merged, acquired, refinanced and go public before you have even contemplated the possibility. Have your ducks all in a row — just in case.
- Pay for good advice — Advisers should become part of the team. They should know your business, what you do and how you do it. They will be far more useful if you keep them informed and use them when you don’t think you have the expertise or contacts to do whatever is necessary to advance your business. There may be times that paying for advice seems unnecessary, but in the long run, the payback can be significant.
- Work hard and don’t complain about it — Admit to the fact that you love being an entrepreneur. Yes, we know that it entails long hours, sacrifices and risk, but we all know that you chose to work hard and deep down you love the feeling of building your business.
- Surround yourself with good employees — Good employees will take your lead. If they don’t, make the tough decisions and move forward. Don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole because you don’t think you could do better — you can and you will.
- Trust your instincts — If a decision doesn’t feel right, then wait, research further and then make the final call. If your instincts tell you something doesn’t feel right, don’t rush the decision.
Teresa Cascioli has joined Mario Paron, managing partner, at the Hamilton office of KPMG. Cascioli is a new strategic adviser with KPMG.