Ten things I learned from the businessman Richard Carleton

Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Text written by Bianca Jeanveaux 


Last November 18, I had the great pleasure to hear a talk by Richard Carleton. The Faculty of Arts was honoured to welcome Carleton, a uOttawa history alumnus, as part of a day of networking titled Arts | innovation.  A successful businessperson and CEO of the Canadian Securities Exchange, Carleton was able to convince us of the value of an arts degree and make us laugh with his wittiness. He managed to fully bring out the meaning of the title of his talk, “Thinking Entrepreneurially.” Here are Carleton’s expert opinions on 10 essential elements for anyone to succeed professionally and personally.


Richard Carleton

[Richard Carleton]


1. Yes, you can have an arts degree and become an entrepreneur

Not only will your arts degree make you explore many fields, but it will also help you find your own passion.  With the skills and the knowledge you gain, you will be ready to embrace opportunity and stand out. Carleton has had a 30-year (and counting) career on Bay Street and his first degree was in history.  We should all take that as an example of success as an arts graduate.


2. Make your way into a business by knowing the context

When you apply for a job, highlight your skills, your accomplishments and your knowledge of the business context. “I interviewed for a position at the Toronto Stock Exchange and told the general counsel about my understanding of what they do from writing a paper in second year history. And guess what? They gave me the job because I stood out from all of the other people.”


3. Oral presentation skills are extremely important

Carleton stresses this: “I encourage all of you to make sure that you spend a lot of time working on your presentation skills. It is absolutely key in any career, in any business, to be able to clearly communicate and present your ideas in written and verbal form.”


4. Use the rule of three when making a presentation

The rule of three is very important whenever you build a presentation, whether it’s about you or about a subject. Tell people what you’re going to say. Say it. Tell them what you just told them. Easy as 1,2,3.


5. Better understanding FANG will help you reimagine the economy

Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google (FANG) are revolutionary companies. They are part of the new economy and examples of the companies that “will be the major source of growth and employment. They are the ones who are making the wealth, creating the jobs and the employment, and pushing the economy forward. That is where the job opportunities, the opportunity for entrepreneurs is going to come.” Once, these companies were just an idea on somebody’s screen.


6. You don’t need to have a lot of capital to develop a startup  

The average capital that goes up into a startup right now is $5,000. There are many funds to help new entrepreneur to get to a certain point. Just think of Enactus Ottawa, uOttawa e-Hub, Startup Ottawa, Venture for Canada and the Founder Institute.


7. Don’t like your current job? Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty

The average tenure in a job now is two and a half years. Over the course of your career, you will have at least 10 different jobs. The job opportunities being generated in the new economy are growing. 


8. See continuous education as a way of life

Exploring different fields and educating yourself is essential to be able to know what you like and dislike. Be humble in your personal and professional life and continue to learn, which is the key to success.


9. Having an arts degree is definitely an asset in the new economy

Curiosity and critical thinking are necessary in this economy. Things are changing so fast, and will accelerate. You have to understand the big picture and how it applies — and be prepared for somebody changing the rules! So adjust accordingly, and take a leadership role whenever the opportunity is offered.


10. Your arts degree can bring you a lot more than you think… even love!

“The other thing that my history degree got me was a wife!”

The history that Carleton studied at the University of Ottawa helped him out with his future father in law, a history professor at Victoria College. Carleton and his wife have now been married for 30 years. Having broad general knowledge will help you make connections in society.


Finally, remember to embrace the skills you have developed with your arts degree. They will give you many opportunities and enable you to achieve your goals in life. Building an entrepreneurial mindset can start by being an “intrapreneur.” Your skills within an existing company, like communication, building a team and negotiating, can take you a long way!


See the full Richard Carleton talk.  


Back to top