Entrepreneurial Excellence – 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

Sharon Horan

Founder & President of Atlantic Orthotics Ltd. and FIT For Work

Sharon Horan (pictured left) is founder and president of Atlantic Orthotics Ltd. and FIT For Work.

Entrepreneurship found Sharon, rather than the other way around. As a child, she was the one who raised her hand to read in church; she emceed the Christmas concert and volunteered for the high school student council. When a volunteer was needed to get something done, she was eager to help out.

Sharon’s biological father was a successful businessman who died young. When Sharon was almost four, she met a ship’s captain and asked him if he’d come home and marry her mother. He did. “So,” she says, “maybe I inherited my entrepreneurial spirit from my biological father. And from my second father I learned leadership skills, and that you just have to ask and great things can happen.”

Owning her own business suits Sharon’s personality. She enjoys the diversity in her working life: every day is different; there are always new challenges and new things to organize. She likes to get a lot done, so multi-tasking in a busy workplace is a comfortable role for her. She enjoys the role of team captain: “I’m the one who hears the client feedback; I’m able to see what a great job my employees are doing and how hard they work, and I’m really proud of them.”

“You have to be nice to people; you have to listen; you have to let others speak; you have to share your crayons.”

 

Sharon identifies four critical factors that contribute to her success. The first, she says, is her talented team, who have been with her for a long time. The second is diversification. In growing from a one-woman operation to a business with 40 employees spread over four locations, FIT For Work had to find new customers and develop new services. Initially focusing on rehabilitation, the company now offers a full suite of services, including wellness programs, flu clinics, fitness programs, and drug and alcohol testing. This variety has helped the company to weather economic downturns. Third, cross-training the staff helps balance the workload, rather than leaving one practitioner overworked and others underworked. Finally, Sharon came to realize over time what her company’s core values are. “The staff need to share those values,” she says, “and every business decision needs to lead back to them.”

Winning the award left Sharon feeling humbled and grateful. We don’t celebrate our successes enough, she points out, especially in tough times. But going from scratch to a multimillion-dollar business is cause for celebration.

Sharon feels inspired by other business leaders in this province who are innovative and creative, who give back to community. “Whenever I have a challenge,” she explains, “I look at these people and what they’ve created and I realize they have had their hard times too. So I pick myself up, dust myself off, and move forward to start another day.”

Sharon’s advice is to realize that business ownership is like an ultra Ironman: “You’re not going to be good at every element; there’s going to be great parts during the run”. . . and then there are the other parts. She recommends surrounding yourself with people who complement your skills and can help fill in gaps, being creative, and working with people in the community who can offer advice and mentorship in difficult times. “Being optimistic and opportunistic goes a long way: the energy that you create has an impact on the energy you bring towards you. Be positive, be strong, and it may be a long hard run but you’ll get there in the end.”

The next step is one Sharon is excited about: “We’re really looking forward to launching a brand new mental health initiative that’s going to help people who are off work with various types of mental illnesses.” FIT For Work has been soft-launching the program over the last year with great results, and the goal is greater service delivery to more people around the province.

The Entrepreneurial Excellence Award recognizes an entrepreneur who has owned and been in operating control of a business(es) for at least 10 years, who has made significant impact on the economy and whose success is an inspiration for other women in business.

The 2016 Entrepreneurial Excellence Award was sponsored by RBC — Royal Bank of Canada.

For more about Sharon Horan, check out her 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner video.

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