|Enterprising Shad Builds Multi-Million-Dollar Venture
Building and managing multi-million-dollar companies is Ben Voss’ job every day. He is President & CEO of MLTC Resource Development, an investment firm that secures funding and directs projects for nine first nations communities in Saskatchewan. Currently, Ben is overseeing the $150 million development of a “green” power generation plant that burns wood waste from forestry mills to generate green electricity. The plant is bringing numerous jobs to northern Saskatchewan and will supply energy to more than 30,000 households starting in 2014.
An engineer by education, Ben uses this background to understand the complex enterprises he manages. His business acumen has been shaped through years of working as an entrepreneur and running companies. He believes that business skills can be acquired through hands-on experience, applying lessons learned from trial and error.
“I enjoy the freedom intrinsic in being an entrepreneur. You learn at a fast pace and are encouraged to use your creativity, new ideas and problem solving abilities,” says Ben. “You live by your own decisions and drive your own success and destiny.”
Influences on Ben’s career started when he was a child. He grew up on a farm where intuitive management skills were needed for the farm to thrive. When he was in high school, Ben attended Shad Valley, and it became a fundamental component of his future philosophies. He was exposed to how science and technology can be integrated with business, and work together to advance innovation.
“Shad Valley was an important formative experience for me when I was a teenager,” Ben says. “The program taught me that I didn’t have to be constrained by my environment. That I should reach for heights I never thought were attainable. While, at the same time, it was okay to make mistakes. You learned from them and could reach farther with the next opportunity. That experience still feeds my approach today.”
Entrepreneurship can be a tough road because, if you are starting a company, you often don’t earn a salary at first and have to make personal and financial sacrifices to move forward. You have to be personally driven to overcome these entry barriers. These alone can be a disincentive for many capable people to follow this path. For that reason, Ben believes that it’s important to support entrepreneurship and incentivize people who pursue it. If entrepreneurship isn’t an attractive option for youth today, the Canadian economy will see hardship later.
“Support for entrepreneurship can take many forms, such as grants, tax breaks and a simplified environment to start ventures. Most importantly, access to these services needs to be quick and streamlined, with little red tape,” Ben remarks. “For example, Canada can learn from other countries that have seen growth in entrepreneurship, such as Germany. We can learn from them and find out what works for us and adapt it to our economy.”