“You can have me but cannot hold me;
Gain me and quickly lose me.
If treated with care I can be great,
And if betrayed I will break.
What am I?”*
When you’re searching for a new product or service, it can be tough to decide whom to give your money to. You want to buy from an expert who can grant your wish immediately, and at a reasonable price. But how do you know whom to trust?
The only way to get trust is by giving it, thus there is always risk involved when trusting a stranger. To minimize that risk you ask the people in your circle to recommend someone who has already proven their honesty and expertise. You trust your friends to place you in good hands.
Toronto Entrepreneur, Suresh Kumar appreciates the value of trustworthy business relationships. Before starting Kashden Consulting, he worked at CBC, Queen’s Park, Enbridge Consumers Gas and Scarborough Hospital, giving him quite an extensive network of government representatives, community leaders and entrepreneurs. With this diverse circle, he has been introducing individuals for the last two decades. In 2017, Suresh started Connecting GTA, a business association that brings together members of the community across various industries. Connecting GTA is a platformfor members to meet, discuss ideas, share goals, and discuss how they can help one another grow.
Already acting as a liaison between clients and friends, Suresh’s decision to start a networking organization was a natural next step. His goal was to ensure members would create mutually beneficial relationships. Over the years Suresh has been generous with his time, advice, and contacts, however in some cases, he found his acts of kindness were not reciprocated. Thus the club is exclusive in order to ensure all its members are community focused, and not joining simply for their own gains. With a simple application and reasonable membership fee, people are approved based on their ability and willingness to help the business community grow. Connecting GTA prevents members from getting taken advantage of, as everyone has the same purpose: to support one another.
“I don’t burn bridges, I always look at the long-term, so if I don’t make money right away, I don’t care about that. …I simply want to make things work for you, so that way you can grow,”
Suresh has met some great people over the years. One example is former minister, David Tsubouchi whom he worked with in the Harris days. David helps others in any way he can, no matter how busy he is. “He has sat with me about three or four times, simply to advise me, help me and guide me through,” Suresh shares. Suresh has been able to build such a large network by maintaining these symbiotic relationships.
At first Suresh invited twenty of his clients to be members. Since they already had a relationship with him, the club was an easy sell. “A lot of the people trust me on a personal level, so if I ask them to do something they will do it for me, without question,” says Suresh. And when he is asked, he returns the favour. Today the club has expanded to 87 members, including small business owners, builders,mortgage brokers, bankers and real estate agents. To facilitate introductions, the club hosts workshops, seminars and meetings to discuss various topics of interest and local issues. Once in a while Suresh also organizes sports outings and social events for members to get to know one another in a more casual setting and build friendships.
Beyond the benefit of networking and meeting potential clients, Connecting GTA creates a space for dialogue between the public and private sectors. Legislative barriers can block business expansion, and entrepreneurs get frustrated when they can’t reach anyone with the power to break down the red tape. Thanks to his experience at Queen’s Park, Suresh is well connected with government representatives around the GTA, so he can provide unique opportunities to spark change. Suresh organizes lunch meetings and roundtable discussions where Connecting GTA members can meet government officials. Since he has maintained these relationships that started years ago, when he approaches his contacts to speak at an event, they are certainly willing to come out. Recent meetings hosted Minister David Tsubouchi, Hon. Rod Phillips, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Shaun Collier, Mayor of Ajax, Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, President of Treasury Board, Dave Ryan, Mayor of Pickering and Patrick Brown, Mayor of Brampton. These gatherings are optimal moments for entrepreneurs to voice their concerns, but for Suresh it has been achallenge to make members aware of how rare and valuable these meetings are. It is disappointing when people sign up for the discussions but not all of them show up. A great benefit of joining Connecting GTA is having access to those in power. One conversation about local business growth can result in changes that benefit many.
Suresh advises anyone starting or growing a business to be patient. Businesses often fail because they expect to make money right away, and when they don’t they give up. Instead, Suresh says, “Set a goal: what do I want to do next year? Where do I want to be in the next two years? And then five years…” Rather than setting expectations, set goals and move towards them.
Suresh’s long-term goal for Connecting GTA is to have 500 members by the end of this year, and expand all over Ontario. Due to the wide-range of his network, companies and individuals from abroad have started to contact Suresh as well. It is hard for international companies or recent immigrants looking to do business in Canada to tap in to a completely new market, so Suresh’s help is invaluable. He can also help Canadian businesses that would like to expand abroad. Suresh is collecting helpful contacts from around the world that he will be able to connect.
“It’s like planting a tree, you can’t expect something right away, but when you water that and…grow it, then eventually you get the fruits out of it.”
Suresh owes his success to investing in long-lasting relationships. Disrespecting people to get what you want could work in the short-term, but if you burn all the bridges, pretty soon you’ll be stranded. Suresh doesn’t throw any connections away; “I don’t burn bridges, I always look at the long-term, so if I don’t make money right away, I don’t care about that. …I simply want to make things work for you, so that way you can grow,” he says. Suresh extends a helping hand first, and trusts that if an opportunity to return the favour arises he won’t be forgotten. “It’s like planting a tree,” he compares, “you can’t expect something right away, but when you water that and…grow it, then eventually you get the fruits out of it.”
As the riddle says, trust is “neither bought, nor sold, but more valuable than gold.” It is the foundation of relationships. Once trust is in place, any business interaction becomes easier. While its value cannot be calculated, its presence over time can greatly multiply your wealth.
Published April 10, 2019