The Expecting Exec

Think you’re a good multitasker? Think again. Namita Nijjar of Simcoe Place Health Clinic survived the birth of her twins—while launching a second business.

“Proactivity and perseverance are key. Working for someone else—for at least some time—is important because it teaches you how to be a good boss and a good leader.” —Namita Nijjar, President
“Proactivity and perseverance are key. Working for someone else—for at least some time—is important because it teaches you how to be a good boss and a good leader.” —Namita Nijjar, President

It was the fall of 2012, and construction was nearly complete at Simcoe Place Health Clinic. Contractors, subcontractors, and vendors rushed in and out of the underground concourse at Front and Simcoe Streets, and those needing owner Namita Nijjar’s signature knew where to find her: in the corner, propped up in a chair—32 weeks pregnant with twin boys.

Nijjar has an energy and a confidence about her; when you meet her, you know that she is a person who gets things done. So it isn’t surprising that, while expecting, she was overseeing the finishing touches on the construction of an integrated alternative health clinic. What made the feat truly astounding was that the clinic was actually a side project; Nijjar was already president of Blue Ocean Talent Consulting, Inc., a boutique recruitment firm specializing in staffing and management. Opening a second business and managing it as an investment is challenging enough for any young businesswoman, but examining how Nijjar handled it alongside a complicated pregnancy and the prospect of motherhood provides some valuable lessons in multitasking and management.

Simcoe spans 2,200 square feet of prime downtown Toronto office space, offering medical, chiropractic, massage, cosmetic, and other health services. “There were a lot of moving parts to the launch, and I was already leading six employees at Blue Ocean,” Nijjar recalls of the venture’s beginnings. For a businesswoman with aspirations of being a serial entrepreneur, it was a “can’t-fail” project.

The idea for Simcoe came after Nijjar’s initial success at Blue Ocean. Ready to try something different, she hired a market research firm to help her discover the right path forward. Among their suggestions was something in the health care world. “Traditional health care often comes with bad customer service coupled with an outsourced model,” Nijjar says. “Simcoe brings a team of experts under one roof to meet several needs at one time in a caring and convenient way.”

Nijjar learned she was pregnant the day she signed the Simcoe lease after lengthy negotiations, and she was in and out of the hospital over the course of construction, once staying for five days. The clinic eventually opened on November 9, and her boys—premature twins—came two weeks later.

Nijjar was hospitalized at 32 and a half weeks, her water first breaking at 4 a.m. She packed her own hospital bag, and doctors tried to keep the babies from coming for as long as possible while Nijjar continued to make deals by phone, even as she received her epidural.

One boy came naturally, and the other required a C-section, but four days later, the new mother was back at work. She spent the next five weeks splitting her time between Blue Ocean, Simcoe, and two hospitals 40 kilometres apart (with one of the twins in specialized care). “Definitely some of the joy was taken from the experience,” Nijjar says, “but making sure these businesses succeed is something I’m ultimately doing for my family.”

Through the Years

2008
Weds Amar Nijjar, an executive in the institutional debt-financing industry

2010
Leaves her role as associate vice president of national recruitment for Sears to start her own business, Blue Ocean Talent Consulting

2010
Blue Ocean opens in July, targeting clients in retail, real estate, technology, and other fields

2012
Nijjar’s second business, Simcoe Place Health Clinic, and her twin boys are born just two weeks apart

2013
Blue Ocean doubles its revenues from the previous year, and Simcoe surpasses forecast expectations and starts to make a profit after just four months

Effective management of so many spinning plates might sound like a rare ability, but Nijjar sees it as a simple matter of delegation and organization. “Contrary to popular belief, I’m not Superwoman; that’s something my caring husband reminds me of,” she jokes. “So we got good help.”

Nijjar hired a day nanny and a night nanny after interviewing more than 25 candidates. Then she looked to maximize every minute of every day by scheduling phone calls during her commute. She often brings the kids to work if her commitments have prevented playtime. “I knew I could either fail at everything or spend the time and the money to get the help I needed to succeed at everything,” Nijjar says.

Nijjar also found ways to connect her business dealings to her personal ones in order to have a better grasp of each. For instance, many of Simcoe’s reflexology, acupuncture, and massage practitioners are professionals whose services Nijjar actually discovered during her pregnancy. She credits their work with helping her get back to the office just days after a trying delivery.

As Nijjar’s boys and her new business now approach their first birthdays, they do so healthily. “Sometimes a successful entrepreneur really does have to be in four places at the same time,” she says. “Some relationships wouldn’t have survived the stress, but my husband is my biggest supporter as well as my biggest critic, pushing me to be the best at everything I do.”

In addition to her boys, it’s Nijjar’s culture that drives her. The 33-year-old entrepreneur came to Canada from India more than 16 years ago. “I’ve lived in two countries for the same amount of time,” she says. “I appreciate the experiences gained in both countries, and leverage everything that Canada has offered me to the fullest.” Coming from humble beginnings and raised by a widowed mother, Nijjar hopes to continue inspiring her friends and family while grabbing all the opportunities found in her new country.