Alumni spotlight: Sam Roston
Describe your role at Heart and Stroke Foundation?
I work on the strategy team directly for Doug Roth, the CFO. Currently, I spend most of my time working on the development of a community based health intervention focused on reducing hypertension (i.e. high blood pressure). The program brings together all of Heart and Stroke’s capabilities in research, health promotion, volunteer engagement and digital health into one initiative.
My work on the project is multi-faceted, as part of a team I am advancing all elements of the program including designing the intervention, choosing an underlying technology platform, creating our marketing and communications plans, creating detailed operational plans and finalizing all legal and financial structures associated with the bond.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing non-profits today?
Like most sectors, the non-profit sector is extremely competitive. There are a ton of organizations, each with a compelling cause, competing for donor dollars. The number of Canadians who are giving is steadily decreasing and thus you are faced with a real challenge as a charity to ensure your message gets heard.
The prevailing advice for non-profits over the last few years has been to act more like a business. I think this requires non-profits to hire skilled business people who can bring the rigor, strategic and operational skills required to make significant bets on large scale high impact initiatives.
This is difficult to do when constantly being scrutinized on the cost of fundraising. While I think respecting and investing donor dollars is critical, as a sector non-profits need to do more to change the public’s perspective to focus more on outcomes and value produced per donor dollar received.
You initially were an intern at SATOV as part of a rotational co-op program and then decided to join full-time, what was it about SATOV that made you decide to join?
The biggest thing for me was the culture. SATOV is family to me. I was fortunate to have Mark, Sam and other senior members of the firm take me under their wing and mentor me. The tangible growth and development I was able to realize as a business professional and a man while at SATOV remains incredibly meaningful to me.
The second reason I joined was that coming out of b-school I had no idea what I wanted to do. SATOV allowed me the opportunity to explore a range of opportunities across companies and industries. In fact, my interest in healthcare is the direct result of an engagement I worked on while at SATOV.
What advice do you have for others doing internships in consulting?
Take advantage of the fact that you’re an intern and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions even if you think they are dumb. Having this mentality puts you in a unique position to easily challenge the status quo. You will be shocked at the value you are able to create.
You were often involved with long client projects where you worked very closely with internal teams, what did you focus on in building productive client relationships?
One of the things I focused on was taking a genuine interest in the lives of the clients I was working with. Whether it is a client or a team member, I want to know about that person’s professional, family history, hobbies and passions. I think taking an interest and actually having the discipline to remember these details forces you to be an active listener. Being an active listener is an important step in establishing a strong relationship with a client. If you are fortunate this translates into someone asking for your help, which I really think is the greatest privilege you can be entrusted with as a consultant.
The second thing I focused on was giving the client as much credit as possible. This was always easy because at the end of the day, in most cases I believe that the client had the answer to whatever problem we were solving for. In my experience, consulting was really about helping clients find the answer by asking them the right questions and structuring the problem solving process.
You’re working at an organization that has been a client of SATOV Consultants, has that affected your experience?
Put simply, I couldn’t have gotten the job without working at SATOV. Heart and Stroke had done work with SATOV to unify its 13 provincial organizations into one national entity. My boss Doug had also previously hired a SATOV colleague. The brand enabled me to get my foot in the door.
Leafs or Canadiens?
Good question. I am a reluctant Leafs supporter. A big part of my family is from Montreal so that has always been a source of tension in the family. We avoid putting the game on if we are together on Saturday nights.