Landon French. Executive Director, Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities; Vice President, Community Relations, Canadian Tire Corporation

Experts in CSR series. If you’re anything like Landon French you believe in the power of relationships. Landon grew up in a small town where community meant a lot, people helped each other not only when there were problems, but because it was the right thing to do. Landon brings this, his passion for sport and appreciation of Canadian culture with him to his job everyday. And it’s making a difference, one community at a time.

What does your job entail including what a typical day might be like? 

It’s a lot of fun! It’s very rewarding because I get to apply business thinking to great social challenges. My job is really like any business leader. A typical day is a combination of things, I can go from a finance conversation to a retail brand conversation, or I can be up in front of students talking about what’s going on at Canadian Tire. I try and get out of the office as many days as I can to talk to the people on the ground including our community partners and parents. It helps me understand how to help Jumpstart do more in communities across the country and gives me the fuel to go back to the office and say let’s tackle this problem or let’s speed up our strategy.

What’s the best part about your job and what’s the biggest challenge?

The best part of my job is helping the kids, hearing their stories and getting the thank you letters.

I think the biggest challenge is communication, we have so many people who want to help, so much goodwill and opportunity to take advantage of. However, figuring out how to channel that energy is really the big hill that we need to climb.

What advice would you give to a job seeker looking for meaningful work?

Follow your passion, be an expert at something and be ready and willing to expand your horizons into other areas of the company. If you want to have a long career in a particular field, show that you can do a variety of different things at a high level, get it done and deliver. People don’t get to a senior management position or CEO, without being fantastic at something in particular then expanding their competencies from there.

Also, there are lots of ways to do your day job and do good at the same time. You just need to look around and see what’s available to you.  Opportunities are everywhere.

Follow your passion, be an expert at something and be ready and willing to expand your horizons into other areas of the company.

What can you identify as the biggest opportunity in your sector right now?

I think it’s collaboration. Seeing how organizations can work together to benefit each other and not be too territorial is critical. We’ve undertaken some great,  collaborative projects lately with the foundations of the Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. Even though we are both trying to raise funds to support our charity, when we work together and not worry too much about the dollars, we build a better, stronger story and end up helping more kids along the way.

What advice do you have for other CSR professionals to help them do their jobs better? 

Today I think CSR professionals need to and work within the system as a strategic partner. For example at Canadian Tire, instead of asking how can the HR department help community relations – we’re working with the HR department and asking them how we can help them achieve their business objectives for the year –  we do that with all business leaders. In doing so, we put our capabilities and objectives in a different light, and position ourselves as a strategic partners rather than someone just asking for donations or support. If we’re more integrated into their business and help them achieve their objectives, then I can have a deeper and more strategic conversation, raise more money and help more kids in the end.

What’s your favourite interview question?

I always like, “Is there anything else you’d like to add? I like this question because it’s usually a free pass for me to talk about all the things I wanted to talk about but haven’t had a chance to discuss in earlier questions while reinforcing my main messages.

Landon is speaking at the Companies and Causes Canada Conference on October 28th in Toronto.  If you are interested in attending, use promo code ‘bmeaningful’ for an additional $100 off your ticket.


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