Saint John entrepreneur and visionary’s innate sense of wanting to give back in the most meaningful way is the key to his success

Plenty of people have good ideas. Some even have great ideas. But the real power comes when that idea is actually executed. And that is where many people fall short. One man, however, has not only come up with a million-dollar idea (literally), but he has also found a way to ensure that his idea has the biggest impact possible.

Dave Veale, the founder and president of Vision Coaching in Saint John, N.B. has always been a visionary — with a true entrepreneurial heart. While he describes himself as a CFA (Come From Away), there is no doubting he has immersed himself thoroughly in the community, which he says has very deep roots.

“What I found unique about New Brunswick is that people really want to see you be successful. There is a lot of support,” Veale says. “I grew up in the Yukon, played hockey in Saskatchewan, lived in Vancouver, spent the summers in Ontario, but I loved the Maritimes. … I kind of doubled down with a New Brunswick family and three beautiful kids … I just love the New Brunswick experience and I encourage people from all over to come here. It is a great place to build and grow a business and to raise a family,” he adds. And that is exactly what Veale did.

“I arrived in Saint John in 2000 to launch a business supporting organizations using behavioural assessments for hiring and retention and motivation … that sort of thing. … As I was learning more about the process, and doing a lot more work developing and supporting leadership growth in organizations, I ran across this thing called coaching,” Veale explains.

But the real shift in his career happened when a “successful business leader” asked Veale to coach him, he says. While Veale says he “didn’t have a sweet clue what ‘this coaching stuff’ was,” the entrepreneur in him said, “Sure,” and he read his first book on the subject and committed to sending the gentleman a proposal. “It was probably one of the few times I can say that I actually said, ‘I should probably learn about this before I actually try to do it.’”

Veale completed a graduate program in executive coaching at Royal Roads University in Vancouver. “I went all prepared to learn how to ‘do coaching’ and I learned how to be a coach, which was a very transformational learning experience,” he says.  And in 2005, newly married and his first child on the way, Veale decided it was the perfect time to launch Vision Coaching, which is now in its 13th year and boasts a pretty impressive list of clients that range from entrepreneurs to executives of multinational corporations across North America, Europe and Asia, including Xerox, RCI/Wyndham, Irving Oil, University of New Brunswick, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Government of New Brunswick and Atlantic Wholesalers. 

“I describe myself as an entrepreneur who happens to now be a coach,” Veale says.

While Veale has always been a ‘giver,’ donating to and working with various non-profits and causes over the years, he also understands the power of being a profitable, successful organization.

“When you can support people through a business, in some cases, I think that can be a better advocate for change than direct support,” which is the foundation for Veale’s Million Dollar Pledge (MDP) idea.

The MDP is not just about corporate giving, Veale says. The MDP allows and encourages businesses and their employees to have an active role in where their money goes. Even more importantly, it allows companies like Vision Coaching, which also strives for social and environmental accountability, to see the direct impact their donations are having on the community. Having worked with the United Way for years, Veale decided to take his idea to Wendy MacDermott, the executive director of the United Way Saint John, Kings and Charlotte.

“Last summer, he [Veale] had what he called ‘this crazy idea’ and he wondered if the United Way would be able to help. As a donor himself for a while and having done other fundraising initiatives in the community, he really wanted to find a way to leverage more and be more strategic,” MacDermott says.

Veale’s concept is to get nine other businesses to join him in committing $10,000 a year for 10 years ($1 million) to the cause of their choosing. What makes the idea so interesting, MacDermott says, is that it is not just about fundraising. It is the idea of bringing medium- and larger-sized businesses and their leaders together to help create a network of peers that have a cultural or value base that is similar.

“The idea behind the Million Dollar Pledge was to generate incremental dollars to help fight the factors contributing to generational poverty in Saint John, and really southern New Brunswick,” says Blair Hyslop, president and co-owner of Mrs. Dunster’s bakery, which was the second member to take the MDP.

“We look at it as a kind of investment club. We look at the social impact of what is going on with various organizations and we have the ability as a group of entrepreneurs to direct those funds in the way that has the best return on investment. … Organizations that are having a good impact will not only have more money, but they can get maybe multi-year funding and spend more time working on solving problems, rather than fundraising,” Hyslop adds.

The United Way, which already vigorously vets charitable organizations based on their outcomes, will act as the administrator of the pledge, Veale says. Each MDP member individually gives the United Way its contribution, which is then given to the agency or agencies the MDP members have chosen. “As a group, we meet every six months and the United Way gives us an update on the impact that our money is having on that agency,” Veale says.

When he came up with the idea for the MDP, Veale says he essentially had three goals in mind. “I wanted to go back to why I got into business in the first place — to have an impact. The second objective was that I don’t want to just talk about why it is important to give; I want to create an avenue in which a company and its employees can give,” explains Veale. “And the over-arching goal is to see more small- and medium-sized businesses give more. I read some dismal stats about which organizations are giving and why many are not is because they don’t know where their dollars are going,” he adds.

Veale says the MDP is not only a way for companies and their employees to engage in effective altruism, but it can also benefit the business itself. “You always get something back from giving,” Veale says, even if it is as simple as a pleasurable feeling. In the bigger picture, he says, we live in an age when corporate responsibility is expected and companies that work to be both profitable and accountable to people and the planet are seen as more favourable. “The MDP is a way to do this so everyone wins.”

The beauty behind the MDP is that even companies that don’t have $10,000 to pledge every year can find innovative ways to become involved, through things like employee payroll deductions or group fundraising events, such as car washes or corporate runs and/or company matching.

“I think corporate responsibility should almost be something that is automatically on the balance sheet. It should be ingrained in the culture of why you do business,” Veale says. 

And it is for this reason that Veale’s business partners, colleagues and friends sing his praises. “Dave is a great example of somebody that uses his ‘superpowers’ for good. … We are fond of saying that everybody has superpowers and you need to use them for good. And Dave’s superpowers are leadership and getting people engaged and excited about ideas and following through on that, and this is just one example of how he is using his superpowers for good to make the community a better place,” says Hyslop.

Fast Facts

  • Million Dollar Pledge Partners
  • InteliSys Aviation Systems
  • Mrs. Dunster’s
  • Spartan Systems
  • Teed Saunders Doyle
  • Porpoise
  • Hemmings House Pictures
  • Vision Coaching
  • Domino’s Pizza
  • Anonymous Donor
  • Saint John Sea Dogs

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