Originally published Feb 10, 2010.
Humility. I was raised to value it, treasure the fact that I could have my own personal accomplishments and keep them to myself – my strength quietly feeding off my actions with no need for recognition or reward. But now, as I shoot myself into the world of politics, my advisors say I must explain where my inner strength comes from, where I learned to negotiate and where I picked up my ability to lead, and how I developed the capacity to motivate people to work together towards one vision. The fact that I am not a politician is an asset, not a liability. Career politicians learn to follow the status quo, they don’t challenge it, so they don’t move forward, and they aren’t made fun of, or laughed at. They look for ways to appear busy while not actually doing anything. They form committees to address the issues and avoid taking responsibility. I am not a politician, I am a businesswoman. I haven’t changed much from that awkward kid I was at eight – making new friends; connecting them to other friends I made, and building tree forts in the woods. The tree forts have changed to businesses and my friends have grown older, but the kid inside me is still there. I’ve grown more confident than I was as a child, but that comes from living up to the person I want to be and taking full accountability for my actions. I suppose the summer I left home at 15 and couch-surfed around the country helped me understand that how I defined myself came directly from the choices I made. I learned that hitting rock bottom is about losing who you want to be to the world around you, and that nothing is ever worth that compromise. I am more open than I was as a child. This bothers some people, but I have learned that it takes strength to be open, and discussing my flaws both disarms and warms people to me. I am not conventional and this allows me to see the world differently, to find opportunities that others might overlook. My ability to negotiate probably stems from my 24 years of business experience, but it is also connected to the great respect I have for people from all walks of life. The management company I founded at the age of 18 (grossing $30 million/year) required that I put systems and structures in place for my management team and employees, and that I motivate and steer them towards a common vision. Our mandate was to go into service stations in crisis and make them profitable. My company did this successfully all over Ontario for 12 years. But it wasn’t until I became a social entrepreneur with the launch of Women’s Post Media that I learned the most vital lessons in my career. I built Women’s Post in a shrinking print industry against many much larger competitors all fighting for advertising dollars. I knew that businesswomen needed a community. And despite the odds, we grew and have become the trusted source of information and inspiration to over 300,000 businesswomen. My experience as a social entrepreneur is the most important training that a candidate for Mayor can have. It taught me to listen and understand the needs of my community. It taught me that complete transparency allows innovation to enter. It taught me to build strong foundations and relationships within the community. A business owner knows how to carry on despite hardship, how to run lean through difficult times, and how to spend responsibly for growth. I have learned how to create something from nothing but an idea, and what it takes to be successful. It is this experience as an entrepreneur that makes me the strongest candidate for Mayor of Toronto. If you want better service from the TTC, help me by making a small donation atwww.sarahthomson.ca. Together we can make Toronto a world class city again. I believe: •Subways must be built for the long term. They have a higher capital cost than Light Rail Systems (LRT), but long-term maintenance and operating cost is less. Subways have very little impact on the cultural vitality of the neighbourhoods they are built under. LRTs destroy the ebb and flow of neighbourhoods, and in the case of St. Clair West, they are much more expensive to build than initial estimates, and construction is more imposing than expected. •We must open up the city to new ideas and our entrepreneurs. By creating a system of managed competition on all government run services, businesses can bid alongside the public departments for the privilege of providing services to the people of Toronto. Opening the bidding process will allow knowledge and ideas to flow in as well as accountability. It will improve services and lower our costs. •I believe that every city department must have their books and budgets open, they must be transparent and online for all to see. The people of Toronto have a right to know where every penny of their tax dollars is being spent. City corporations (such as the TTC) must be held accountable for and must not exceed their budgets. For example, the current management at the TTC has gone over budget year after year ($388 million last year.) Authorized by the CFO of the Sarah Thomson for Mayor Campaign