Young Upstarts

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[Interview] George Scorsis, Toronto Executive, Lends Guidance To Entrepreneurs Working In Regulated Industries

George Scorsis

George Scorsis is a Toronto-based entrepreneur who has over 15 years of experience leading companies in highly regulated industries to rapid growth. His expertise in these industries includes experience and understanding about policies that must meet health department standards.

During the course of his career, George has held a range of professional titles and positions which include: Executive Chairman of Starseed, Chairman of Tassili Life Sciences, and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Scythian Biosciences Corp., a research and development company committed to advancing treatment efforts for traumatic brain injury.  He also sat on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Beverage Association from 2012 to 2015.

As the former President of Red Bull Canada, George was instrumental in restructuring the organization from a geographical and operational perspective, growing the business to $150MM in revenue.

George graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Administrative Studies from York University and earned his MBA at Queen’s University. Outside of work, George is a motorcycle enthusiast as well as an animal lover, especially fond of his own dog, Zeus.

We sat down with George Scorsis to talk about his experiences, learn more about his leadership style, and get his advice for entrepreneurs.

You’ve led several highly regulated companies to success. How do government regulations influence your business decisions and what advice would you give to entrepreneurs about keeping apprised of changing regulations? 

George Scorsis: Working within a regulated environment often times feels complicated and the barriers to entry are extremely restrictive. This ultimately is the  opportunity  and the white space that will allow you to develop a business model that many others will not enter. You need to view the regulator as your partner, and you assist by being the subject matter expert to help aid in the development of sensible policy. The development of common sense policy that protects the patient and consumer while allowing commerce is when both parties win.

Whether it is cannabis, alcohol, or energy drinks, this model has proven to be successful… always treat them as your partner.

How do you take a constructive role in rallying your team to excel, learn and contribute, setting high standards and forging a stimulating work environment?

George Scorsis: Because most of these industries are in their infancy, I look to find individuals who have an entrepreneurial spirit and can work within multiple roles as force multipliers. But from a leadership role its also important to create an environment of trust, in that individuals can make decisions with autonomy and allow them to have ownership over decisions. With that, it’s also important to layer in a sense of empowerment and provide each individual with the tools to be successful.

Lastly, it is always important to everyone to know that the company needs to be results driven and holding individuals accountable for results should be the result of trust and empowerment.

What do you consider as your biggest accomplishment in life so far, personally or professionally?

George Scorsis: Ultimately seeing how many individuals and colleagues I have worked with that have continued at other organizations and have started their own businesses that have been successful.  This is truly a feeling of accomplishment knowing that I may have contributed to someone’s success.

You have served as a donor to The Agincourt Food Bank in Scarborough for many years. How has your charity work, volunteer services and financial support of various initiatives been a guiding principle throughout your personal and professional life?   

George Scorsis: As busy as your day to day is, its always important to remove yourself from it and change your environment. Volunteering and supporting charity work gives you a perspective on life that you often forget in the board room. Improving someone’s life in even a small way is what should motivate us all in the office as a leader or in any other environment. Pushing yourself to help is not how we are programmed and in many cases stripping yourself of a title or desk and being with a community is unnatural, but the feeling you get when you actually work with groups like the ACSA is more empowering as a human than anything else I have felt.

Giving back to a community that you were raised in is the greatest feeling of satisfaction you can feel.

For any entrepreneur who may be thinking of starting a business in a regulated industry, what is your most important piece of guidance to them, based on your experience?

George Scorsis: Always stay up to day with the regulations because it is there that you will identify upcoming changes that allow you to create a model that a addresses a need to the consumer. Regulations are always evolving and changing and that is the opportunity. Think of regulators as your partner and not the gatekeeper, because it is at that point that you will look for solutions to policy that may be obstructive to commerce.

Lastly, become a subject matter expert. Be relentless in your learnings with the policy and your offerings so that the regulators can call on you for advice. When you have reached that point it will be a more fluid relationship and your business will be able to successfully reach a point that your commerce will not be  interrupted with any changes in regulations.

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