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Forty Under 40 Award winner Q&A: Duncan Wlodarczak

This year’s cohort of recipients will be celebrated at an event Feb. 7, 2024

BIV is recognizing Duncan Wlodarczak, chief of staff at Onni Group, and 39 other exceptional business leaders as part of the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards cohort.

Longer Q&As with each recipient are included in BIV's annual Forty Under 40 Magazine (out in print Dec. 11). Award winners will be celebrated at an awards gala Feb. 7, 2024.

This profile may have been edited for length and clarity.

What career highlight are you most proud of?

While not a specific highlight, I am most proud of finding alignment across the work I do in business and community initiatives across all the markets I work in. I strongly believe in and find ways that advance business interests while partnering and supporting community priorities.

What was your toughest business or professional decision?

Early in my career I accepted a PhD placement, but I made the difficult decision to shift from academia and pursue opportunities in politics and business. I had spent years preparing for this path, and at the last minute decided I would take a risk and pursue a different path. While scary and a tough decision at the time, I am certain now it was right as it allowed me to pursue the community passions that made me interested in a PhD and academia in the first place.

How do you lead?

For me, leadership is about two things: Building trust with the people you work with and providing them support to excel, either individually or as a team. When it comes to teams, success comes from all members having trust in you to support them, advocate for them and pull their best ideas together to advance towards the collective goal. Like a conductor, you need to know enough about each of their passions and talents to support them in the best way possible for all to succeed.

What is the biggest lesson you've learned in business?

Success in business is about many things, but in my experience, nothing has been more important than relationships. The ability to build meaningful, lasting relationships, requires trust with the people you work with and for. This is ever-present, working across multiple jurisdictions and markets. When people trust you to deliver on what you promise, you maintain those relationships regardless of how much time goes in between.

Best piece of advice ever received?

My friend and mentor David Martin once said to me, “Always be ready to support and help people when they come to you, whatever it is and whether it benefits you or not. It is always better to be known as someone who is able and willing to help.” I have operated like this ever since, and it has allowed me to build trust with individuals and groups throughout North America, creating lasting relationships that have and continue to be vital to my success and the success of any work I do, in business or in life.

What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

It is never too early to start building your network, especially if you can learn from them and from how they operate.

What's left to accomplish?

Life and business are dynamic and there is always new information to learn and goals to accomplish. We live in rapidly changing times, and with that change comes new challenges but importantly new opportunities. I am not sure I will ever feel I have accomplished everything.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or acknowledge?

I would like to thank Raymond Louie for his mentorship and guidance over many years, Virginia Bird for giving me my first opportunity in business and continuing to be a great partner in business and community, and Rossano De Cotiis for taking a chance and giving me an opportunity I wouldn't have thought to pursue and a platform to make meaningful changes in many communities.

Read Q&As with all 40 award recipients here. Tickets to the 2023 Forty Under 40 Awards gala on Feb. 7 are now available.