FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Denise Baril
July 23, 2019
I’ve only recently met Denise Baril, but I’ve been aware of her for several years – I get regular mailouts from her company, Workplace Speaker Network (WSN). As a public speaker myself and having some experience with speaker’s bureaus I was more than a little curious …
When I reached out to Denise for this interview she readily agreed and the meeting was set; it was informative as well as entertaining, and I felt interviewed by her as I was interviewing her. I think we might do some business!
In the beginning; Denise was born in Winnipeg, youngest of nine children. Mom, of Ukranian descent, from Brandon; dad of French descent from St. Boniface. Her family spoke English in the home. Parents were entrepreneurial – they met while working for a furrier and went on to operate retail businesses which remain in the family.
Denise recalls growing up in a loving and competitive family – her studies were ‘average’ until university when she excelled. Sports were a big part of her life, “I was always the captain” with volleyball, field hockey and badminton capturing her greatest interest. At University of Manitoba she wanted to get into Business, but couldn’t get in – so she earned earned her B.A. with a major in French, minor in Psychology. But no job. She got involved as a volunteer in the social work field which then led her to Calgary where she enrolled at University of Calgary, coming away with a B.SW. degree. Funding was handled by student loans and the bank of mom and dad. Her career ebbed and flowed from social work to marketing – she fit in a marriage, two children, a divorce - and learned she had real passion for marketing, but a downturn in the economy produced a job loss and six months of worry …
Self-employment to start her own enterprise interwoven with teaching Extreme Networking under contract at SAIT, work at MKS Learning led her to find her sweet spot of helping companies get their message out, with a focus on spreading their word via speaking – and WSN was born and has been thriving since 2009. “I’m a connector. I like to connect, communicate and collaborate”. WSN, she explained, is a network of subject matter experts and CEOs who use speaking (she gets them gigs) to market their businesses and professional practices. She provides supports, tools and teaches her clients how to leverage their speaking to get more business and broaden their influence. AND, that has morphed into two other areas or work – perhaps aided by the challenges of the most recent economic downturn, to help her clients and her own enterprise. The first, helping her clients access programs, grants and support to leverage their businesses which gave rise to the second, using those resources to help businesses doing international trade, particularly with an agricultural focus. For someone who couldn’t get into business school, she seems to be doing OK …
Why are you successful? “Because I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I’m curious and an eager learner. It’s rooted in my family – values of faith, family and love. I started out Catholic but have evolved – now I would describe myself as more spiritual, and committed to being the best me I can be.”
What has held you back? “A habit of belief, the role my subconscious has played in holding me back. I need to, and I believe I have, overcome the belief I wasn’t strong enough. Well, turns out I was!”
How do you see your businesses – speaker network and grant solicitation – going forward over the next quarter?
… grant work is going well – clients are keen to get funding to grow their businesses. Speaking work is always slow in the summer, and it is, but lots on tap for WSN the fall.
And over the next five years?
… we are doing a lot of work right now helping clients secure grants and/or strategic support from government regarding export of Canadian products in the international trade space. Those connections are leading to a lot of import/export relationships. Clients are finding the landscape is constantly changing – so they hire me to help them and keep them current.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… It’s about the needs of the business – whether mine or my clients'. I have a large network of suppliers and collaborators with long term relationships with experts in many fields, so for me it is finding the best fit for my clients. It’s not always they same people and it’s not about price - it's about value.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Denise Baril, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… I add value because I understand my clients’ challenges. I take action quickly. I’m fair and deliver on time.
… there is no such thing. You just do what you need to do.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… insuring I can help my followers to find their path!
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… first, going through a divorce and losing my job made me question what I was passionate about – and due to the downturn I couldn’t get a job in marketing, so I started my own. Mario Rizzuti rejected my plan; made me do it over – challenged me to think bigger. And, my mom. She’s a peace maker, but also very much a connector – a lesson I learned early and well.
… I love to hike and golf – I’m not good enough to even have a handicap, but I have fun. I belong to the African Canadian Golfers Club …
What do you read?
… Og Mandino and Napoleon Hill are favourites. I alternate between business books and inspirational ones. Joe Dispenza’s books have been getting my attention lately …
… 2018 Nissan Juke, but I’m a Mercedes girl inside!
FACILITYCalgarynewsletters may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast, directly or indirectly, in any medium without prior written permission. All rights reserved. PLANDflex Corporation - http://plandflex.com