Collaborative spirit provides formula for consultant success

October 30
By Sean Meyer
Whether it is improving capacity, changing culture, or finding collaborative partners to work with, Sheila Simpson has built a long career by knowing just what not-for-profit groups need to prosper.
When her 17-year career at the Ontario Trillium Foundation came to an end — or as she puts it, “one day my job just disappeared” — she was forced to think about what to do next. Given her time at the foundation, and at the Ministry of Community and Social Services before that, it seems Sheila’s reputation as a facilitator preceded her. 
It also led to a rather fortuitous conversation.
“I thought, what do I do now? I wasn’t ready to retire; I have a lot of energy,” she said. “A good friend of mine . . . told him my tale, and he said congratulations, you can do whatever you want. I thought, I will hang on to that. So, a couple months later, I decided that was where I was going.”
That friend worked for an organization that had never crafted a strategic plan before and so they also became one of the first clients for Sheila Simpson and Associates.
Sheila’s business, which she formed just two years ago, is focused on facilitating groups, increasing organizational capacity, aiding in community building and helping organizations with problem solving.
When she formed her business, Sheila recognized that while she could simply operate out of her home office, she needed something that offered her the connection she requires as an admittedly social person.
That self-awareness led her to Innovation Works, a space she knew a great deal about.
Sheila has been involved “peripherally” with what would become Innovation Works for the better part of a decade. She had been involved in many of the conversations around a shared space for London, but given her position with Ontario Trillium Foundation, and the possibility of grants, she had to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.
Once she left the organization, that obstacle disappeared.
Sheila began “hanging around” the space in August 2016 before becoming a co-tenant a month later when the building’s second floor opened up.
As much as the space helps nurture her desire to be social, it also provides the basis of success her business would be built upon.
“Out of sight, out of mind, and a business like mine is entirely dependent on people connecting with me,” she said. “I don’t have a website, so I have to remain visible. I can think of all kinds of discussions I have been a part of that would never have happened without being here.”
Sheila is quick to admit that some of her projects came about as a direct result of getting to know people at Innovation Works.
The space is “great for collaboration,” she explains, because of not only the people that are attracted to it, but the way the building was designed.
But she also believes the greatest advantage she has been able to tap into — and why Innovation Works is so successful — is the natural impulse of co-tenants to work with each other.
“It is a marvellous opportunity to work with some much younger folks who see things in a different way than I do,” Sheila said. “It keeps me fresh. If I am sitting at my kitchen table I’m only going to look at things the way I already did. This is an opportunity to stretch and learn and I think that’s really important.”

For more information, contact Sheila Simpson at
To spend your time around people just like Sheila and her team, consider joining us at Innovation Works!