CEO Jean Paul Gladu shares his journey to success with CBC

Ahead of the World Indigenous Business Forum, speaker Jean Paul Gladu answered CBC's questions about her personal journey to success.
Jean Paul Gladu is speaking at the WIBF in Saskatoon. (Submitted to CBC)

Jean Paul Gladu is the president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, based in Toronto.

Gladu is Anishinaabe from Thunder Bay, Ont., and is a member of Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek located on the eastern shores of Lake Nipigon, Ont. He completed a forestry technician diploma in 1993, obtained an undergraduate degree in forestry from Northern Arizona University in 2000 and holds an executive MBA from Queen's University.

Gladu is speaking at the World Indigenous Business Forum on Wednesday in Saskatoon. He shared his journey to success and advice with CBC ahead of the event.

CBC: When did you decide to pursue your dreams?

Jean Paul Gladu: Interestingly, I wanted to be a conservation officer. I am a big outdoors person. I love fishing, hunting, I love being on the land and that's why I studied forestry.

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My first job out of college was working for the First Nations Forestry program, and I got to work with about 40 First Nations across Ontario, doing community work, forestry work, and that's when I fell in love with community. That's when I knew my career was going to take a different path.

Empowering our communities, it just came out of me and I have been doing that ever since. It's basically hard work, which I learned through hockey to get me where I wanted to go to, to reach my dreams and I am really in my dream job right now.

Things are not going to be handed to you on a silver platter.- Jean Paul Gladu 

CBC: Where did you turn for support?

JPG: A lot of my support came from my family, and friends. You know, I was the first one to go beyond high school in my family history. Some of it was just innate in me, to work hard and be brave and leave home — from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie — to get my diploma. And, then I had some good friends and mentors along the way who helped me achieve my goals.

CBC: What has been your biggest challenge?

JPG: I think sometimes the biggest challenge for a lot of us leaders is the fact that we're not going to resonate with our community. We're always going to have portions of our community who aren't going to agree with us, and push back and challenge us. But, that's also our biggest reward; to listen to those different opinions. To listen to thought circles, because it really does empower and build our own acumen, whether that's a business acumen or community acumen, and pushing those boundaries has really allowed me to flourish and become a stronger, national leader.

I am really grateful for those challenges.

CBC: What has been your biggest success?

JPG: My team! Here at the CCAB, four years ago when I started, I had seven staff, now I have close to 20. Being able to build a culture within the organization that is aligned, succinctly, to the mandate of the organization to advance the business empowerment of our communities, with the help of my team, has been incredibly rewarding ... I am very proud of my team and what we've been able to do as an organization. 

CBC: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about pursuing their own business dream?

JPG: You've got to live it every day. You've got to wake up energized. You've got to put in the time. You've got to find a mentor, don't feel like you have to do it all on your own. Work hard. You've just got to work hard.

There are going to be down days and you've got to get up regardless, even when you're kicked down, if you believe in something and you've got that support, you get right back up. You keep pushing, keep pushing until you achieve your goals. Things are not going to be handed to you on a silver platter.

There's never a silver bullet to all this, either. It is going to take hours of work, meaningful relationships, be respectful, and work hard. That's about it!