top of page

Changing the Rules of the Game

Updated: May 12, 2020

How business is different in Atlantic Canada

with Robert Forsythe

We are resilient.

We take care of each other.

We know when it’s time to recharge.

We know and are confident in who we are.

People are surprised when I tell them I’m a Halifax based leadership development consultant whose clients are mostly Toronto based. I have spent my career working hard to keep Atlantic Canada as my home base. It’s meant a number of trade-offs and a lot of travelling. If I’m working hard, I want to be happy. For me, the East Coast lifestyle is what grounds my happiness.

This post is with our guest, Robert Forsythe. He’s a passionate Atlantic Canadian millennial co-founder working hard to have an impact. He gives us his view on the new rules to be a leader in Atlantic Canada. Three themes Robert offers are: the power of relationships, community and knowing, and owning, your differentiation.

Networks and relationships have been powerful enablers of Pivotal Coaching’s growth. There are many people I have to thank for their help in my learning and growth as an entrepreneur. My East Coast relationships and work helped me win work in Toronto.

While Robert writes as an East Coast community member, his perspective will resonate with other regions across Canada. Canada has more potential in productivity and prosperity to be realized. Our country’s economic engine is stitched together with regions that form our collective potential. It is about the power of our communities’ diversity. Robert shares with us the opportunity that our community gives us and how we can work with it. If you’ve ever heard Don Bureaux, President NSCC, speak, this is where he’d weigh in and tell us our success is all in our mindset. Mindset, or our attitude about what we have, is the foundation to fuel our economic prosperity.

Here are Robert’s insights:

We Take Care of Each Other

I’ve heard it said before that in Atlantic Canada you’re always 2 calls away from the CEO. This can be attributed to our relatively small population – it’s easy to find a mutual connection with the CEO with whom you’re looking to speak. I believe, however, this is attributed to the fact that we deeply value relationships. Does the CEO always believe that a phone call will lead to a promising business outcome? No. But do they value getting to know someone new, learning what they have to say, and gaining a new perspective? I believe so.

We are helpful in nature. You don’t have to travel far to hear a story about an Atlantic Canadian helping someone simply because it was the right thing to do. It’s in our DNA. We can search for and debate the reasons why we’re a caring group of people, but the reasons don’t really matter. What matters is that this is who we are.

We are a generation valuing people over money and experiences over possessions.

Time to Recharge

I’ve lived in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. When you move to a new place, you naturally compare your old home to your new. How do people do things here compared to how we did them back home? One thing that has stuck out to me about each place I’ve lived is the unique ability to recharge. In New Brunswick, it may be a long weekend at the cottage. In Newfoundland, an impromptu dinner party with friends. In Nova Scotia, taking part in a local festival. In Prince Edward Island, a relaxing day at the beach. No matter where you are in Atlantic Canada, when 5 o’clock on Friday hits, we share one common goal – it’s time to recharge the battery.

This may seem simple in theory, but if you’ve traveled to other parts of the world, you will soon realize that there is an art to recharging the battery. To recharge it so fully that by Monday morning (or maybe Sunday evening) you have the passion, the energy, and the desire to do it all again.

The funny thing is that Atlantic Canadians have never had to learn how to recharge the battery. We inherently know when it’s time to slow it all down.

Image courtesy of Halifax condos

They Keep Coming Back

How many friends or family do you know that have left for a better job only to return a short time later? Or someone who got the big promotion, but got tired of working 7 days a week so decided to give it all up? We understand why people leave. For many, it’s because they’ve reached a ceiling in their career at a young age. For others, it’s because they were a big fish in a little pond and knew there were bigger and better opportunities in store for them elsewhere. These are real and valid reasons to leave, and ambition is a good thing, but how do we explain why so many of them come back home?

A more senior role, better pay, and more career exposure are only good things when they align with who we are as individuals.

Many who leave do so for all of the things listed above, but soon find out that the promotion or the raise doesn’t feel as good as they hoped it would. Life has a funny way of showing us that when we give up a part of who we are to get what we want, things don’t always end up in our favour.

I believe people come back to Atlantic Canada because it provides balance. It provides the opportunity to launch a start-up with the flexibility to take your kids to soccer. It allows you to take the promotion at the company across town without having to change your mode of transportation. It allows you to build the company you want with your former classmates and those in your network that you’ve always trusted.

This place offers balance and it’s time we started promoting it. Not only to bring people back, but to welcome newcomers to the region for the first time.

For those that believe there’s more to life than a paycheck, Atlantic Canada is the place to be.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

Let’s face it: Atlantic Canadians have a complex. We fiercely love this place and we are prepared to defend it until we’re blue in the face. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good thing, but our arguments are often misguided. We spend so much time looking at economic projections to show that we can beat Toronto in this sector or Vancouver in that one. We compare population growth to every other city and proudly say to one another, “This is our time.”

It’s actually time to realize that in doing so we’re comparing apples to oranges. Atlantic Canada will never have the economic output Toronto or Vancouver will - and that’s ok! What we do have is an incredible sense of place and sense of self. We have a deep understanding of what it means to be Atlantic Canadian and we are proud that we, as a people, understand the true meaning of life.

It’s Time to Change the Rules of the Game

We can see all around us the world is changing. Whole generations are beginning to value people over money and experiences over possessions. It’s time to stop trying to live up to the economic activity of our fellow Canadian cities and start owning who we are and what we do best.

✔️ Be resilient.

✔️ Take care of each other.

✔️ Know when it’s time to recharge.

✔️ Know and be confident in who you are.

These are the new rules of the game and Atlantic Canadians are in the lead.


About Robert Forsythe

Robert is an entrepreneur devoted to creating jobs and economic activity in Atlantic Canada. He has worked in oil and gas, marketing and communications, and start-up incubation. He believes in the power of long-term partnerships and collaboration to achieve organizational goals. Robert is also passionate about continuous education, is currently an MBA Candidate at the Sobey School of Business, and holds a B.Comm (Co-op) from Memorial University.


About Lisa W. Haydon

Lisa W. Haydon founded Pivotal Coaching three years ago. She left her prestigious corporate career to pursue her vision of the opportunity for strategic coaching as the mechanism to drive higher performance in leaders, teams and companies.

She’s successfully making her mark on the highly competitive coaching industry and is capably working with large corporate clients. Lisa’s been an early adopter of coaching trends in her development of holistic leadership development coaching programs, data enable insights and coaching platform technologies.

Pivotal Coaching specializes in strategic programs for Leadership Development and Sales Effectiveness.



Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page