The Entrepreneurship Society Speaker Series Presents: Damien Steele

Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Written by Kat Nyman

On Friday November 13th, the Entrepreneurship Society of the University of Guelph, welcomed students, faculty and members of the community to hear Damien Steele, current managing director of OMERS Ventures, speak about what it takes to thrive in the entrepreneurial community.
OMERS Ventures is the venture capital branch of The Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System, one of the largest institutional investment and pension funds in Canada. In tandem with his role of Managing Director at OMERS, Damien sits on the board of 5 organizations in North America, which, during his speech explained jokingly is “one too many.”
While working at KPMG, Damien felt that there was a lack of “entrepreneurialism” in his role. Constantly reviewing financial statements and working through various mergers and acquisitions, Mr. Steele felt that there was something missing. In order to kick start his creativity, Damien did what many recent post secondary graduates do following graduation, he travelled. Travelling alone at 24 years old, Damien spent 6 months all over the globe, including South East Asia and Europe. Upon his return, Damien returned to the corporate environment, being offered a position in the venture capital branch of EdgeStone Capital Partners.
Damien began his entrepreneurial journey while working at EdgeStone Capital Partners, when he founded a company, NOVO Dental Studios with his then brother in-law, a licensed and practicing dentist. Damien and his brother in law joined forces and ventured to fill a gap in the dental industry by offering dental practices the ability to outsource the manufacturing of dental crowns, in a more cost effective manner than what was provided by large scale manufacturers at the time. Working over 80 hours a week, with the majority of his weekends and evenings spent on NOVO Dental Studios, Damien and his brother in law managed to grow the business and sell it to one of the largest dental labs in North America.
During his speech, Mr. Steele aimed to open the eyes of students and community members to what is involved in being a successful entrepreneur. Presenting seven, “Entrepreneurial Traits,” Damien explained the characteristics every successful business owner he has met hves demonstrated, in one way or another. Below are the seven qualities outlined by Mr. Steele.
1. Aspiring entrepreneurs must have an unwavering passion for whatever it is they do or whatever problem they are solving
2. Business owners must be strong leaders. He explained that it is often very challenging for entrepreneurs to demonstrate this trait, as they must strike a healthy balance between fairness and tenacity. He then emphasized the importance of treating employees fairly in order to create an equitable work environment where employees remain engaged and excited about the work they are doing.
3. Entrepreneurs must keep an open mind and be “coachable.” Emphasizing that entrepreneurs must “know they do not know everything,”. Being stubborn or set in ones way, is often the biggest barrier to success in any entrepreneurial venture.
4. Damien explained that when meeting any entrepreneur, he looks at whether they have integrity. Explaining that some business decisions may hurt in the short run, Damien stated, “in the long run, you will be more successful.” The audience was extremely responsive to Damien when explaining the importance of integrity as you could see the true emotion behind his firm belief of the importance of integrity. Furthermore, Damien revealed that maintaining a high level of integrity, has provided the foundation for many of his closest professional relationships.
5. Repeating his desire for entrepreneurs to remain open minded, Mr. Steele explained how important it is that aspiring entrepreneurs “know what they don’t know.” Ignorance and stubbornness often disallow entrepreneurs from “thinking big,” a trait Damien says is necessary for any entrepreneur.
6. Entrepreneurs must possess the ability to think laterally and think “outside the box.” Mr. Steele explained that any entrepreneur will inevitably face barriers and road blocks and therefore if an individual wishes to success as an entrepreneur, he/she must have the capability to innovate and adapt to changes in the business and in the market.
7. The final trait Damien explained that entrepreneurs must possess is having the willingness to fail. Everyone is aware of the risks of starting a business (9/10 of businesses will fail) but many are unwilling to accept these risks. “If you don’t fail, you’re not trying hard enough,” Damien relayed the importance of being prepared to fail and more importantly, being able to learn from failures to continue to adapt and move forward.
Damien Steele is an incredibly influential individual in the entrepreneurial environment in Canada, especially in the TMT (Technology, Mobile, Telecommunications) industry and listening to him speak was an amazing experience. Shortly before his speech concluded, Mr. Steele left the audience with some words of wisdom, “Be open minded, be optimistic. Do good work and trust that good things will come and if in doubt ... just do it.”
The Entrepreneurship Society at the University of Guelph aims to inspire students to pursue creative ventures and to develop entrepreneurial skill sets to drive innovation and create change. For more information about the Entrepreneurship Society, please visit their website.
- Jamie
Jamie Westover is a member of the inaugural CBaSE Peer Helper Team. A 4th year business student here at the University of Guelph majoring in economics and finance, Jamie’s interests primarily surround the financial side of economics including wealth management and investment analysis. He hopes to one day be a business leader in the banking sector. Jamie has worked for Sun Life Financial as a Business Continuity Analyst and at the Ontario Power Authority as a Business Intern. When he is not studying or reading articles on the Financial Post and the Wall Street Journal, Jamie enjoys fitness, snowboarding, and cooking.

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