Transitioning into business: Lessons from BRITT Land & Engagement
By Dina O’Meara 11 December 2019 5 min read
Talking about money can be difficult. Whether it's business or personal finances, it isn't something that comes easily to many. But as a business owner, knowing when and how to engage your financial partner in a difficult conversation can make all the difference in driving an entrepreneurial vision and securing a strong financial future. A true financial partner will encourage open conversation, transparency, and work with you to find the right solutions for your business.
At ATB, we know that some of the most valuable insights come directly from the businesses we partner with on a daily basis. We connected with the power trio who lead BRITT Land & Engagement, one of Alberta’s leading land and engagement consulting firms, to have an in-depth conversation around achieving financial clarity in order to drive a stronger bottom line.
An unexpected transition
Sitting in a room with the executive team of BRITT Land & Engagement is a lesson in collaborative engagement. Often laughing, always respectful and with the hard-earned ease of continual practice, the three women are as tight as a veteran jazz trio, secure in their own and each other’s ability to improvise, to jointly transform an existing score.
Which is what they ultimately did with BRITT Land & Engagement over 10 years—which didn’t always come easy. When founder Ray Ramsay was diagnosed with an aggressive form of Parkinson’s in his late-40s, his daughter Brittney was launched into leadership. At just 26, she became President and Chief Executive Officer, working with Chief Operating Officer Dayna Morgan, who had worked closely with Ray, overseeing operations and working with clients for several years. Soon afterwards, sister Breanne Ramsay joined, as Chief Financial Officer, making BRITT Land & Engagement an oddity in the industry—a land firm run by women, all under 30 at the time.
The team shares that the transition was not smooth. “I honestly don’t know how we did it,” says Brittney. “First we tried not to rock the boat and do like Ray would do. We really didn’t know how to run a company effectively, what numbers to look at and what levers to pull.”
But following directly in Ray’s footsteps wasn’t an effective strategy. Ray brought his own experience, sensibility and vision. The three women knew that if they were going to make something of this opportunity, they needed to find a way to make it their own. “We got to a point where we didn’t love what we were doing. We were stressed all the time, finances were not good, our team didn’t feel engaged, we didn’t feel like good leaders,” shares Dayna. “We were struggling to keep and get clients because we weren’t ourselves. We were still trying to be Ray. So, we hit a point where it was either we’re out, we’re done, or we pivot.”
Learning to pivot
As a team, they decided they needed to figure out who they were as leaders, get on the fast track to learn how to run a business and get real with who they were. Having compassionate and understanding business coaches and advisors proved invaluable to the group as they sought guidance and mentorship.
Being able to tap into a community of advisors who supported and believed in their capability and vision as entrepreneurs energized the team and helped build their self-confidence. At the same time, they were courageous in their transparency with their clients and lenders, being straight about their circumstances and working together to find solutions. “To get there, we did a lot of internal work, went to a lot of seminars,” says Breanne. “That’s where we really learned about strategy and leadership, which was pivotal to us being vulnerable and asking questions.”
An evolved BRITT Land & Engagement
The transformation took several years and still continues, reflecting their on-going drive to stay curious, learn, innovate and participate. The land consulting firm changed its name about five years ago to reflect the new direction, adding “engagement,” says Brittney. The company looks at all projects with a lens of engagement, an approach which doesn’t suit every client.
BRITT Land & Engagement is fine with that. “We don’t approach our work as a transaction. That’s the way it used to be done, and it doesn’t work anymore. We’re in a human-to-human business and it needs to be more than a transaction,” says Dayna.
Another big learning, was that it’s okay not to know everything. The ability to recognize your own strength and add to it with the expertise of others makes for a stronger, more agile organization.
“As leaders we don’t have to have all the answers,” says Dayna. “We know we’re going to get there—we might not have all the answers but we know what we can do and that is way more freeing. And the result of that is success—success for the business, success personally.”
A big part of the company’s transformation has seen BRITT Land & Engagement diversify their services. Currently they work in all facets of the energy sector, as well as outside of the energy sector, like power and utilities, municipalities, transportation. On the engagement side, they are involved in diverse stakeholder engagements, including Indigenous Nations, as well as provide training in cultural Indigenous awareness. It is part of the collaborative, empathetic perspective these women bring to the table, elevating the traditional land brokerage into a new standard for the industry.
“For me, it’s more about being humble and a bit of the underdog and knowing that we can do anything we put our mind to. But we don’t have to shout it from the rooftops,” says Breanne.
“The only reason the transformation worked is because we had each other, and surrounded ourselves with great partners—we were all in this together. And we all have the drive, this determination and this renewed inspiration,” says Dayna. “We are business partners and we are family. And we are very powerful together.”
To read more on women in business visit Good Advice for women in business.