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Mark Gasparotto served as a military engineer officer for the Canadian Armed Forces for almost 21 years before he entered the world of business. Mark spent most of his time in the Combat Engineer Regiments, commanding a variety of teams, including multinational United Nations forces. He was also deployed to Bosnia, Kabul, Kandahar and Haiti.

Following your passion

In November of 2017, Mark retired at the rank of Colonel. After his release, he decided to further explore his interest in leadership development.

“I find that most successful people, regardless of what they do, don't follow the money but rather their passion. For me, that passion is leadership,” says Mark. “I’ve been very fortunate through my military career to have been given ample opportunity to lead. And not only was I given the opportunity, but also the training and the education to do so. I felt like I could provide corporations and not-for-profit teams a tremendous value, based on my experience, education, and a desire to facilitate their learning.”

Making an impact

Through his passion, an idea was born. Working to blend the art of science and leadership, he created The Gasparotto Group, which helps organizations improve their performance and build stronger teams. Mark and his team provide leadership solutions in the form of consulting, coaching, facilitation, keynotes, development programs and military-inspired experiential learning adventures.

“The most rewarding part of this work, and I would say that when I was in the military, is when you see the differences you can make in peoples’ lives,” says Mark. “When you see individual and team growth, and people being able to really reach their own potential, that's what gets me out of bed in the morning. That's why I love what I do.”

Transferable skills

Mark says there are many qualities he learned in the military that are transferable to business life, including:

  1. Discipline: the ability to stick to a plan and hold yourself accountable.
  2. Planning: working backwards from an identified goal. Having a clear vision allows you to communicate with stakeholders.
  3. Resilience: learning to get up after you fall down. It's only a failure if you fail to learn.
  4. Teamwork: success takes a team. In fact, it often takes a team of teams. No other organization builds stronger, more resilient teams than the military.
  5. Trust: trust in yourself. Know your limits and yet learn to push past them. Trust that you can do most anything you set your mind to. Trust in the people you work and live with. In the military, trust is learned by putting your life in your teammates’ hands.

Becoming an entrepreneur

Mark has a few key points to share with transitioning members of the Canadian Armed Forces who may be looking to try their hand at entrepreneurship.

First, he advises you take a break at the beginning of retirement or transition to get grounded in your new life. Second, he recommends you do your homework and take advantage of all resources available through various community programs, like Treble Victor or the Princes Operation Entrepreneur. Next, he says you have to be willing to take a hands-on approach, doing jobs you wouldn’t typically have to do. Finally, Mark says you need to know why you’re starting your business.

“You need to know two things about the why: your client and yourself,” says Mark. “Why would a customer buy what you’re selling? What is the problem that you solve in the marketplace? But you also need to know why you are personally in business.”

During his transition, Mark was able to take advantage of Veterans Affairs Canada’s Education and Training Benefit. The program allowed him to gain certifications that relate to his entrepreneurial venture. He also receives disability benefits based on injuries sustained throughout his career.

Date published: 2020-01-10

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