From Bank Teller to Vice President- Kunle Tauhid’s Lessons for Immigrants

Business Development Bank of Canada, the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs has committed over $36.5 billion exclusively to business owners and supports over 62,000 entrepreneurs across Canada.

Kunle Tauhid, an immigrant originally from Nigeria is the Vice President of this bank. Kunle is the VP, Financing and Consulting and is responsible for overseeing BDC’s lending and advisory services in Eastern and Northern Ontario corridor. Kunle joined BDC as a Business Centre Manager in 2011 before taking on additional responsibilities within the organization. He has notably taken a leadership on the adoption of new technology, and providing mentorship for new hires.

He is also on the leadership council of the Bank for Diversity and Inclusion. With years of experience in Canada and Internationally, Kunle has acquired the skills and experience necessary for structuring financing and advisory solutions as well as leading high performing teams that meet the needs of entrepreneurs across every industry.

It hasn’t been all smooth sail for Kunle, and he has faced many challenges along the way in becoming a successful immigrant to Canada. He recalled: “When I came to Canada from Nigeria in 2002 with my wife and two young children, we were searching for peace, security and opportunity. We found those things but getting started in our Canada new home wasn’t easy.

“In Nigeria, I had been a branch manager at a large bank, a position that came with a chauffeur-driven car, executive assistants and numerous perks. In Toronto, despite my vast experience and two university degrees, I was told time and again, I needed Canadian experience to get a senior position. I got countless rejects and slammed doors.

“Nevertheless, I was determined to be a successful immigrant. I told myself if I could put up with an icy Toronto winter, I could put up with anything. Finally, I landed a job with the Royal Bank as a teller, a low entry position. At 35, I was truly starting over from scratch.

“It was humbling, but banking is an industry where your performance is quantifiable. You either surpass your targets or you don’t. I worked hard, moved up quickly and soon became a manager. Eventually, I was recruited to join BDC as Business Centre Manager in the Scarborough branch.

“I am now a Vice President and proud of the fact that BDC is committed to doing more to support black and immigrant entrepreneurs in overcoming barriers to their success. We have sought input from our partners, employees and entrepreneurs on how to best to move forward on this issue.”

Kunle insists that mentorship and networking are key to success as an immigrant entrepreneur. In his words, “I have benefited from mentoring during my career, and I have mentored many entrepreneurs. I believe guidance from someone who has successfully navigated the challenges of running a business can be invaluable in the development of an entrepreneur. If you are 18-39, a great place to find both financing and a mentor is our partner organization, Futurpreneur Canada.

“It is also important to network in an organized way by joining business organizations and getting business training, especially in financial management.”

Success nuggets
Kunle’s top five tips for small business owners and immigrant enterpreneurs are:
  • Seek out mentorship and networking opportunities as soon as possible
  • Build great personal credit and stick to financial discipline
  • Know how to get financing, grants and support for your business to grow.
  • Don’t be afraid to fire bad customers!
  • Don’t be too afraid to take risks.
  • Learn to do sensitivity and scenario analysis for your business
Common mistakes when borrowing money 
  • Not borrowing- the rich have learnt to use borrowed money well
  • Borrowing too late
  • Borrowing too little
  • Paying your loan back too fast.
Top 3 favorite business books:
  1. Golden Rules: 10 Steps to world class excellence. By Bob Bowman
  2. Question Behind the Question (QBQ)- John G. Miller
  3. Reinvent: A Leader’s playbook for serial success – Fred Hassan

Kunle’s best business quote by Ted Nicholas, should also ring a loud bell for enterpreneurs and immigrants to Canada: “the secret to success, in life and in business, is to work hard at the margin – relentlessly. Those little marginal extra efforts will inevitably grow into something big.”

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