Caroline Power has always been an effective leader. Beginning her career in the financial services sector, she earned success quickly and was given early opportunities for advancement as well as high-profile leadership training. But despite a fierce work ethic and excellent track record of success, after several years in the corporate world, Caroline hit what she describes as a cement ceiling. “It was more than a glass ceiling because, with glass, you can see what’s going on above you,” she says, indicating that she had no clarity into if or how she could move to the next level.
Finding herself without access to advancement opportunities, Caroline decided to take on a new challenge. “I decided to concurrently start teaching for the post-secondary sector,” she says. “It was part-time, a hobby really. The pay was so low it barely covered the parking – but that wasn’t the point. I remember thinking that this role was opening a door to something that was bigger for me — I just didn’t know how it was all going to fit.”
While still in industry in a senior executive role, Caroline taught, on an adjunct basis, for the next three years. Her student evaluations were very strong, and she thrived in her role as an educator. She launched a side business in 2010 — Canadian HR Solutions, Inc. (CHRS). At the same time, she earned a second master’s degree, this time in Adult Education, and decided to transition out of the corporate world.
“I looked at the whole situation and what I was experiencing,” she says. “It became clear to me that I needed to make a change and the world of workplace learning and higher education felt like the right fit.” She took a role as Associate Program Director at Ryerson University and moved on to take an academic chairship position at another institution, which gave her an opportunity to take the reins in academic administration roles in multiple public post-secondary institutions. “This is where I learned how educational businesses are built and run,” she says. “Educational services are one thing and educational institutions are another. They go together but they are not the same thing.”
“No one was going to take the kind of bet on me that I needed to take on myself.”
At this point, Caroline evaluated her options. She could take on the position of a CEO of a college or university, pursue full-time professorship, go back into corporate … or do something completely different. “As I wondered what to do, it became clear to me that no one was going to take the kind of bet on me that I needed to take on myself. Hand in hand with that, I realized that no one was going to pay me my worth.” And with that realization, and five years of her side hustle behind her, Caroline decided to take the full leap to entrepreneurship.
Caroline had been teaching off and on for nine years, all while working in the corporate sector. She had a long list of teachables under her belt, at all levels — from certificate and diploma levels to post-graduate and MBA instruction. She had been called upon to be a Subject Matter Expert in curriculum development and program development and was also called upon to be a consultant with provincial governments to help develop and execute on their Talent Acquisition strategies. As she assessed her business prospects, however, it occurred to Caroline that she needed to change her audience to the professional market given the revenue opportunities.
“I remember taking a two-day training course on entrepreneurship,” she says. “I walked into the room and started counting the number of people in the audience. Knowing how much the instructor was charging, I did the math and realized how much they would make over the two days. When I launched our first programming under the Canadian HR Solutions, Inc. (CHRS) umbrella, it was in a similar logistical format.”
That year, Caroline started with one offering and soon found ways to add other courses and package them in order to add greater value to participants.
Expanding her business with offerings and locations
A few years into running her business, Caroline determined that there was an opening for sensitivity training in Canada based on her many years in the workplace. “Based on legislative, Human Rights, societal, and workplace changes, I could just tell there was going to be a need,” she recalls. “Our goal is to create workplaces that are psychologically safe, and from my own experience in professional settings over the years, there have been a few experiences where I didn’t always feel safe.” Sensitivity Training Canada became a new business under the Canadian HR Solutions, Inc. (CHRS) parent brand.
A tech-forward approach pays off
From the start, Caroline had introduced a technology channel and delivered live web workshops to her clients. This approach enabled her to push her footprint across the country, as clients had the choice of doing a live web course or having a local facilitator work with them if they preferred in-person learning.
When COVID hit in 2020, Caroline found that her early investment in technology gave her the option to seize the opportunity ahead of her. “It occurred to me that the world was now online like never before. I created Worldwide Workplace Learning, a new business under Canadian HR Solutions, Inc. (CHRS).” Worldwide Workplace learning is a repository of online, self-directed courses, carried in three languages – English, French and Spanish. With audiences around the world, Worldwide Workplace Learning enables anyone from anywhere in the to choose a program, course or workshop, purchase it, and complete it online.
Creating a community
Caroline’s third business under the Canadian HR Solutions, Inc. banner is the Canadian HR Academy, which offers professional development courses and programs to professionals who work in the HR space, enabling them to accelerate their careers. Its flagship program — the Certified Talent Management Practitioner Program (CTMP) — is the first of its kind in Canada and has been extraordinarily popular. “It occurred to me in 2020 that we had so many people go through this flagship program there was an opportunity to mobilize that community,” says Caroline. “When COVID hit a lot of people were thinking about retooling. So I launched The CTMP Society of Canada and built an exclusive platform for us. We now have a membership base of people who have taken this particular credential with us.”
Through The CTMP Society of Canada, there is professional development programming available, as well as boot camps and a National Talent Management Summit, which is held biennially.
Making workplaces better in Canada
When asked what sets Canadian HR Solutions, Inc. (CHRS) — and the brands beneath it — stand out in the market, Caroline answers that their selling proposition is simple: We help make workplaces in Canada better. They do this in two ways. First, by working with leaders, training them how to support their culture so that people can feel safe and do their best work. Second, they work with employees to help advance their careers.
“We make workplaces in Canada better. That’s our reason for existence. It’s why I started my business,” Caroline says.
Caroline Power’s success has been built on a foundation of hard work, the foresight to seize opportunities and the courage to follow her instincts. She also has tremendous energy and passion for her work. “I love what I do,” she says. “Even when it’s a 15-hour day — which is most days — I’m pumped. I am pumped because I get to do this. I’m pumped because I’m doing it for me and because I am helping other people find their way.”
More from the Canadian Women Entrepreneurs Series:
Technovation Montréal CEO Stéphanie Jecrois shares how building tech skills builds confidence
How Theory+Practice and its founder Rogayeh Tabrizi connect businesses with their customers through data
Shauna Curry is Addressing One of the World’s Most Pressing Issues — and Women Around the World are Taking Action
One37 Founder Fadwa Mohanna is Leading the Charge on Digital Trust, Data Privacy and Gender Equity in Tech
Bee Video Productions: Turning a home-based business into a global digital creative team #OpportunityKnocks
STEM-Ready Kids Around the World: How Anu Bidani Grew STEM MINDS From a Community Business to a Global Company
Community-based, Community-built. The Local Power Behind Laila’s Cheesecake Co. #OpportunityKnocks
RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards (CWEA): A Virtual Celebration of Impact and Achievement
#SmallBusinessRedefined: Muttluks Founder Marianne Bertrand on Running a Seasonal Canadian Business
Catherine Metrycki on disrupting the flower industry with tech-based Callia Flowers #IMadeThis
The 27th Annual RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards: Celebrating Business Owners Making a Difference
Jayne’s Cottages: Building a Luxury Cottage Rental Business Through Trust and Service #IMadeThis
Heather Modlin on the Rewards of Creating a Non-profit Business- Key Assets Newfoundland and Labrador #IMadeThis
Founders of Routine Share How They Turned Their Clean, Natural Products into a Thriving Global Business #IMadeThis
Saccade Analytics: Turning 30 Years of Research into Insight, a Testing Device for More than 200 Neurological Disorders #IMadeThis
SheEO CAN Summit 2019: Celebrating the Women Who Are Influencing Change, Making a Difference, and Leading the Way to a Better World
This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.