Driving business with data

Keynote Speaker Janet Bannister

Every organization has data available at its fingertips, but it doesn’t mean anything if they don’t know how to use it. Addressing this issue was the goal of the Whitby Chamber of Commerce’s fourth annual Durham Region Business Summit, presented by Title Sponsor, DIT Web Solutions, and hosted during Small Business Week. On October 18, more than 160 guests spent the day at the Ajax Convention Centre making connections and discovering how data drives business.

Kicking off the day was keynote speaker, Janet Bannister. General Partner at Real Ventures, Bannister has led investments in a dozen companies and works actively with Real Ventures’ portfolio companies to help them accelerate growth and create meaningful impact. Prior to her time at Real Ventures, she launched Kijiji.ca and grew it to become one of the most visited websites in Canada. However, she began looking at the numbers far earlier in her career when at the age of 15, she was selling muffins.

“The price of the muffins were the same regardless of flavour, but I always pushed the raisin bran a little harder because I knew my return on interest was higher – the cost of raisins was lower than chocolate chips,” explained Bannister. “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

In addition to Bannister’s inspiring story, the full-day conference featured two soundbyte speakers. First up was Cam Steed, Enterprise Product Specialist at Cision, a global public relations and earned media software company and services provider. Prior to his new role at Cision, Steed launched Smashed Abacus, a digital agency specializing in customized social media research and reporting. With his extensive experience in media monitoring, Steed showed guests how globally recognized brands look past the likes and shares to reach their audiences effectively.

“If you don’t tell your story, someone else will,” said Steed. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five minutes to destroy it.”

In the afternoon, the second soundbyte speaker of the day and Founder of Predictive Success Group Inc., David Lahey took to the stage to explain how to hire and retain the right people in an organization based on personality traits and predictive analytics.

“Keeping employees inspired is more important now than ever,” said Lahey. “People don’t leave the company, they leave the leader.”

Also delivering expert advice on how to leverage data for different areas of business were two dynamic panels – one focused on internal factors such as company culture and the other on external factors such as finance and marketing. Furthermore, Teresa Shaver from the Business Advisory Centre of Durham and Daniel Van Kapen from the Whitby Economic Development announced the launch of Digital Durham, a new program available to all businesses in Durham Region who want to enhance and expand their digital presence.

Finally, an event celebrating business wouldn’t be complete without highlighting local companies. Lining the room were 20 exhibitors there to network with guests and show off their products and services.

Rounding out the jam-packed agenda was guest speaker Heather McMillan, Executive Director of Durham Workforce Authority. This self-proclaimed data geek discussed local labour market trends and tools available in the Durham Region.

“It’s not the size of your data,” reminded McMillan. “But how you use it.”