All-In at Acara: How Nigel Hapuarachchi Leveraged Years as a Retail Sales Leader to Become a Staffing and Recruiting Expert

The name Nigel Hapuarachchi has been synonymous with Acara’s success in not just the Mississauga region, but throughout Canada. Although Nigel has proven to be an exceptional leader since joining our organization—as validated by his recent promotion to Regional Director of Business Development—his career wasn’t always destined for the staffing and recruiting industry.

In the latest edition of our “All-In at Acara” series, learn how Nigel’s early career at a popular Canadian retailer helped him lay the groundwork for his career in sales and refine his management style to prepare for the professional world.

Move to Mississauga

When I was in eighth grade, my family and I moved from Sri Lanka to Canada. Although this was a long, nearly 9,000-mile journey, I wouldn’t trade growing up in Mississauga for anything. After high school, I attended both Sheridan College, where I studied business finance, and Ryerson University, where I studied project management. This is also when I began working at Aldo, a popular Canadian footwear company.

From stock coordinator to sales leader

I started my tenure at Aldo as a part-time stock clerk to help pay the bills in college. But after getting my feet wet with the company, I knew I wanted to do more. After watching me interact with some customers, my manager told me that I needed to be in sales. I ended up managing that same team a year later, which provided me with my first smack-in-the-face experience of being a leader. One day I was drinking beers with my coworkers at the local pub. The next, I was giving them direction and holding them accountable!

Refining his management approach

After being promoted to manager of my first retail store, my team and I experienced a lot of success. This experience was pivotal for the rest of my professional career. From my days at Aldo, I learned how to hire the right people, build a sales culture, cater our products to the right demographic, and effectively partner with outside organizations. This is where I learned a lot about my style of management and how to be supportive of workers while also holding them accountable for their responsibilities.

A switch to staffing

After working at Aldo for almost six years, I was approached by a global player in the staffing and recruitment world about joining their team. At the time, I had no idea that the recruitment business even existed—nor did I understand the magnitude of the industry. Joining an industry that I knew nothing about was a bit scary, but deep down, I knew that the role was right for me. I dove right into my new position and worked to develop a more comprehensive knowledge of recruiting. Starting as a Staffing Consultant, I was promoted to Assistant Branch Manager and then to Regional Business Development Manager. My first promotion was the fastest in company history, which gave me a lot of confidence about the work I was doing and the progress I was making.

Advancing to Acara 

I soon learned the challenges of working for a large, publicly traded company. When I was recruited by Acara Solutions to join their growing Canadian operation, I jumped at the chance to join an organization that was exceptionally agile and flexible. I’ve been given a tremendous degree of autonomy to pursue new business and establish our brand in Canada. Plus, building such a tight-knit team has been a joy for me. Our group prides itself on building collaborative partnerships with our clients to help them solve their most difficult talent challenges. We all work seamlessly together, which makes our workdays all the more exciting.

A family-like atmosphere

I’ve often told people that Acara brings a family-like atmosphere to the workplace. Our organization is people-centric—one that values our employees and provides countless opportunities for growth and development. Not only is Acara’s executive leadership team easily accessible, but they want to see their people succeed. It’s reassuring to me to know that Scott Stenclik, our CEO, and Brian Christel, our President, are only one phone call away—and they’ll answer my calls every time. Maintaining strong relationships with these leaders has helped expand upon my knowledge of the business and enhance my personal and professional growth.

Commitment to community give-back

Another thing that I love about working for Acara is the sense of philanthropy that our leaders foster. It has inspired me to do whatever I can to support people in need. In recent years, I’ve taken weeklong trips to countries like Costa Rica and Mexico to help build schools and education centers. Whenever I travel abroad, I always bring baseball hats, jerseys, and school supplies to distribute to local children—they love these simple gifts! Back home in Canada, I’ve been involved as a mentor in Stepstones for Youth—a program that helps foster care children over the age of 18 to establish themselves outside the foster care system. Last year, I helped to support two young adults who graduated from foster care—a 21-year-old girl and her 18-year-old brother. Being able to support this family and keep them united was quite an incredible feeling.

Out-of-office passions

I’ve got a few hobbies that I love to take up when I’m not in the office. I recently adopted an American bully puppy named Prince. While he has taken up much of my free time, he’s also added some much-needed structure to my life. Going for a walk is so much more fun when you have a dog! I’ve always been a huge fan of fishing and swimming and have done both for over 20 years. I’ve found that the water is my happy place—it’s the biggest stress release for me. If I can spend the day at the beach with some fishing and swimming, it’s a day well spent.

To learn more about Nigel Hapuarachchi, connect with him on LinkedIn.

Interested in finding out more about Nigel and the rest of our Acara team? Check out other editions of our “All-In at Acara” series here.

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