Leadership and Mentorship of a 25-Year Legacy
Over the last 25 years, Canada ICI has built a thriving corporate culture based on collaboration and mutual respect. As with many aspects of ICI’s success, this culture started with President and CEO Dale Klein, who empowers his employees to bring their own leadership styles to the table, while still channeling his vision throughout the company. As Brandon Kot ― Managing Partner ― explains it, everything starts with Dale, and “the rest of the culture around leadership reverberates from there.”
As ICI expanded across the country, establishing offices in Calgary, Winnipeg, and Toronto, and with plans to further expand into future markets, it became especially important to develop a consistent culture. “Dale is an individual who leads by example,” Brandon says. “He’s not one to ever ask anybody within the organization to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. That’s permeated its way throughout all of our offices. There’s nothing beneath any of our leaders that are within the organization.”
That willingness and ability to lead by example and tackle any necessary tasks, fosters a feeling of trust between leaders and their team members. “If we’re faced with deadlines and there’s competing priorities within the organization, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and actually do it ourselves,” Brandon explains. “Dale’s still writing commitment letters, because if we’re backlogged or processing payments on the asset management side, we need somebody to fill in for that role. There’s that aspect of your leaders being able to do everybody’s work.”
Brandon thinks one of the most important aspects of Canada ICI’s leadership structure is the way Dale enables each of his leaders to develop their own style and gives them enough space to learn ― even if it means there’s some trial and error along the way. “Dale has never once told me ‘do not do this,’” Brandon recalls. “It’s a difficult thing to not say. Especially when it’s your company, it’s tough to watch people walk down a path that you personally wouldn’t go down on your watch. He’s very good at giving us room to grow and develop as leaders, and he’s been very good at not dwelling on our mistakes.”
When it comes to the development of the next generation of leadership, Canada ICI’s mentorship program helps develop the skills they’ll need when the time comes for them to step up. “We’ve been very cognizant of putting a culture of mentorship into policy, and into our training and development programs,” Brandon says.
“All of our analysts and associates are paired up with a mentor outside of their market. It’s more cultural mentorship than anything. As leaders, we eat last. This is how we take care of our people.”
The reason it’s so important to provide mentorship to team members in other markets comes down to maintaining consistent skills and values across all branches of Canada ICI. “When we as a company get together on the origination side, it’s not lost upon us that we need to indoctrinate the culture even more every time we’re together, so that people take that back home with them,” Brandon says. “The last thing we want is for any one office to be a watered-down version of what we want the culture to be.”
As he looks further into the future, Brandon thinks the next step to ensuring a prosperous future for Canada ICI is to instill the company’s core values into every employee. “What’s important for us at this next stage is that we lock down our principles. They need to be consistent, whether you’re in good times or bad,” he explains.
“What keeps me up at night is that as the company grows, it becomes more and more difficult to communicate and reinforce our values, but if we lock down those values and everyone within our organization understands who we are as a collective organization, the rest will take care of itself.”