Few people realize the wealth of entrepreneurs and famous people Wadena has exported over the decades. From actress Jeanette Loff of whom the famous Hollywood producer Cecil B. DeMille once called, “a girl with the camera proof profile,” to politicians, journalists and broadcasters including Senator Pamela Wallin, Bob Washington and Borys Kozak of Kozy and Washy on the radio, and Charles Russnel.
Then there are the new-generation of entrepreneurs like Ryan Townend, a former pupil of Wadena Composite School and now CEO of his own marketing company, William Joseph Communications.
How times have changed for Townend, from his childhood days in rural Saskatchewan living on a farm near Wadena. Townend now resides in the ‘big city’ but says he “wouldn’t trade in growing up on the farm for anything.”
“Those are my most fond memories that I will forever cherish,” Townend told the News. “The closeness of family and community is what makes rural living so appealing.”
After leaving school, Townend attended St. Peter’s College and the University of Saskatchewan. After completing his time there he headed out west due the scarcity of jobs in Saskatchewan at that time. It was here that Townend says he “gained some great experiences and launched William Joseph.”
It seems an easy step, school, college, university, career, and then jump straight into running a business. Success in life nearly always starts at school. Much of what we learn and absorb in school influences our future lives. Teachers, classes and events, all make up a memory that subconsciously follows us in to adult life.
Townend has vivid memories of school in Wadena.
“Every teacher leaves an imprint on you. Mrs. Moroz helped make the first few days of kindergarten a little less scary,” said Townend. While Mrs. McDonald “always encouraged me to be myself whether through art or leadership. This belief in me at such an early age set me on a path of leadership.” Then Ms. Levring’s English class “taught me the importance of grammar.” An important attribute in communication and business. As for Mrs. Sobchyshyn, she helped him for hours to learn French, through correspondence, in the hope that one day he would become bilingual. Mr. and Mrs. Argent, he said, had “great personalities, which taught me just because you are in a role of authority doesn’t mean you can’t have an awesome sense of humour!”
It seems some people from an early age just embrace life and take on its challenges in their stride. While others, for some reason, just don’t have the drive and ambition and remain in the averages of society, never really knowing their capability.
Townend found himself, prior to owning his business, working for a large corporation until downsizing made his position redundant. Instead of looking for another ‘marketing job’ he took the chance he always dreamed of.
“When this happened, rather than focusing on the negative of losing a job, I put all the energy into the new venture. Literally, I left my old job on a Thursday afternoon and by Monday morning, I was incorporated as William Joseph!”
Granted there are people out there who are successful without an education but they are few and far between. They will all admit an education is the key to success.
“You need to have a solid education to be good in business,” Townend said. The time he spent at St. Peter’s College and the U of S was “critical to the way I run my company.”
The interesting thing about education is everything one learns will eventually come back to you as a positive.
“I did take a variety of classes when in university that were not business related. Classes like philosophy and anthropology helped me,” said Townend.
It’s this reaching out to understand what is in the world that makes some people stand head and shoulders above the rest. Townend said his life started out with a vision of becoming a doctor, and all through high school he focused on the sciences and spent his first year in university gearing up for medical school. Being out of school, we often get exposed to life experiences we were never aware of and it was while at university Townend said he was first exposed to the concept of marketing.
“I was exposed to something called marketing, which seemed like a natural fit for me,” said Townend. So instead of just jumping in, he learned a little more, changed his degree, and as he said, “the rest is history.” With this experience Townend has advice to any one who chooses to leave school.
“Explore. I didn’t even know what marketing was in high school so there was no way I would have ever picked it coming out of high school,” he said. “I think there are so many cool careers out there, so take the time to explore and see what the world offers. Ask to job shadow to see what a day in the life of the various careers would be like.”
And, if one had no idea as to what to do, his advice: “If you don’t have a clue, spend the year to explore your options. There is nothing worse than meeting someone who has a degree in something they now hate because they didn’t know what else to do. You must live your passion to have a great life. If you have no clue what you want to be, take a year of arts and science. More likely than not, it will give you exposure to a variety of classes and people.”
In part, Townend admits that the support of his family and friends have been an important part of his life and career.
“I rely on the support of my family and friends every day,” said Townend. “I talk to my mom every day and tell her what’s going on with the company. It’s her support that keeps me going on days when I feel like giving up. My close friends see the ups and downs.”
So as an entrepreneur, one might be a little different than average joe but here’s the thing, no matter whether you’re an entrepreneur or just looking for a job, one must have something to offer. Townend employs 15 people in Saskatoon and Calgary and when asked what he looks for in a prospective employee he says, passion and education are the keys.
“In our industry, you must have the proper education to act as a consultant to our clients. Passion is critical. You must love the industry, love our agency and love working with a variety of clients.”
Townend now runs William Joseph Communications, a full-service agency with areas of expertise in branding, marketing and communications to help clients of all sizes tell their story. Staying at the top of their game entails hard work and commitment. Monday morning, they meet as an entire company and he lets the staff know what he did the previous week and what he has coming up. They share stories of the successes and challenges.
“I encourage my staff to come up with their own solutions, own the situations but always have my door open if they want to bounce an idea off me,” says Townend of his hands-on approach.
Recently his company launched a magazine, a somewhat unusual venture in this digital age. Even though he is an avid user of technology, he said, digital has its place. “Digital is amazing. I can open my phone, read a blog post and share it all within a few minutes. Our digital presence at William Joseph is very strong.”
However, he also saw the opportunity to showcase their brand in an innovative style that brought together all of the great posts, stories and case studies.
“The magazine gives our agency a sense of authority, both by educating the reader about branding, marketing and communications, as well as showcasing our own accomplishments.” said Townend. “Coolest thing is getting pictures sent to me of people that have our magazine on their coffee table at home, on their desk at work, or a selfie of them reading it on a plane.”
In spite of his rising popularity, it seems family is important to Townend, both with his work family and family at home. He still holds dear the memories of putting up the Christmas tree at home on the last day of school and waiting for all the family to come home.
“We always had a huge family gathering on the 24th at Grandma and Grandpa’s Zarowny’s and the 25th was always at Grandma Townend’s,” he said.
With Christmas, just around the corner when families get together, it’s important to know the strength of family support and an education is the difference in believing Santa is real and knowing he is real!
By Andy Labdon