"And when I say reinvention, I really mean to take the original invention of the legacy business. It can be medium-sized or large, sometimes small and just be created with leadership,to be the next best version of it in the least amount of time. It's the way I’ve learned how to do it. It's not like throwing everything out again. It’s taking what you actually are and making it more powerful and relevant for today's circumstances."
Joe Jackman on Value creation.
For this episode, Jeffery (JP) talks to the man behind the Reinventionist Mindset, the Founder and CEO of Jackman Reinvents, Joe Jackman.
Joe walks us through his takeaways from his degree in industrial design, to his learning process throughout his career with Perrenial Inc, Loblaw’s, Don Watt & Associates, and many more. He shares how he earned what he called the “trifecta experience” that would be instrumental in the birth of the philosophy he would be known for — “Reinventionist Mindset.” He also shared the inspiring story behind the creation of the world’s first reinvention consultancy.
- Joe’s Educational Background in Industrial Design
- Joe’s Trifecta Experience
- Joe in Loblaw’s
- Joe in Don Watt & Associates
- Cultural Chiropractic
- The World of Reinvention
- Cultural Value and Human Value
- The World’s First Reinvention Consultancy
- Joe, the reinventionist in the VC World “The Reinventionist Mindset”
Joe Jackman is the Founder & CEO of Jackman Reinvents, the world’s first and foremost reinvention company. An advisor to consumer brands, retailers, B2B companies, and private equity partners for more thirty years, Jackman has proven invaluable to leaders intent on sharpening strategy and orchestrating insight-led reinventions of their businesses. Throughout his career as strategist, creative director, marketer, and Reinventionist, he has helped companies create the most powerful and relevant versions of their brands and businesses in record time; he is widely considered to be the leading expert on rapid reinvention.
He is the author of, The Reinventionist Mindset: Learning to love change and the human how of doing it brilliantly, launching in January, 2020.
Prior to founding Jackman Reinvents, Joe spent over 25 years consulting to and working within consumer sector businesses, acting in transformative leadership roles at iconic brands such as Duane Reade, Loblaws, Old Navy and Walgreens.
Joe lives in Toronto, Canada; works across North America; and speaks regularly to major brands and organizations around the globe.
The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk
Joe: Jeffery, thanks for having me on. It’s a treat. I’m excited to have this conversation with you.
Potvin: likewise. I think over the transition of say the last 20 years. because I think I met you in your Perennial Inc days. I didn’t think I did meet you in your Perennial Inc days because we were working with you guys around the e-commerce reinvention, if you will at the time. And we started to work with Perennial Inc and Allison was our key point person back in the day. And from that, there was the integration and then you moved into Loblaw’s. So, without me stealing your thunder, the way we like to start is we want to learn a bit more about you. So, maybe you can share a little bit more about your background from the Perennial Inc days, school, all those great things up into what you’re doing today including the book because the book is phenomenal, I must say. And then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Joe: Okay, Great. Well, maybe I’ll try my best to string those things together. So, I was trained in industrial design and I finished design school. I moved back to Toronto. And when I was a kid, I used to play music hack around on guitars. a very musical family. But all my older sisters and brother were generally a lot better than me. And I could do okay on the guitar. But so I set up an office in my sister’s law office. this was me and a couple partners when we finished school. And I’ve been playing with my sister and she was actually a professional singer at the time. And one day, I’m walking down Queen Street West in Toronto if you’re familiar with it, and there’s a Horseshoe Tavern which is just a legendary place. some of the best bands I’ve ever seen live I saw there. And there’s this poster in the window and it says musical review. a bunch of names including my sisters, Margie Jackman, and then below it says accompanied by Joe Jackman. And that was the first I had heard of it. So, I phoned my sister and said like, wait, I’m performing with you at the at the Horseshoe Tavern, and she says oh, sorry, I meant to call you. the guitar player that I had lined up can’t make it so I just put you in. okay, well thanks for letting me know that. So, very few people know that story. But anyway, that gives you the trail. From design school, I went to the Fanshawe College in London, Ontario. I took Industrial Design, started a practice with a couple of college mates and then just never looked back. i ended up building a couple of different consultancies and then eventually doing some work with Loblaw Companies and then joining Loblaw Companies as executive vice president for marketing for about two and a half years and leading the charge there which was a great experience. But that’s sort of the trail here. I can tell you more but maybe back to you.
Potvin: oh, it’s brilliant. I love it. And that’s a great story. I guess that’s a good way to fall into your music career or at least setting the stage for one. So, going back to your Perennial Inc days, maybe you can share a little bit about what got you started in this. because what I love about your background is that right now, you’re sitting in a cult of trifecta experience. You were an entrepreneur, worked for a big business and now you’re investing in startups. the perfect trifecta at least in my world.
Joe: I agree with you. I think it’s a great intersection because you have the benefit of a number of different perspectives.
Potvin: exactly. And then I think when you’re given back, that makes a big difference. But just to get started on the Perennial Inc side, what kind of brought you into that? obviously you’re a creative person. So, that kind of lured you into that side. But you went in with partners and you started to build this company. was there something that kind of tripped you into this or got you excited and you’re like we can fix this problem?
Joe: Well, it was interesting. I was freelancing. I built a small practice with some schoolmates as I mentioned. We were doing pretty well but it was pretty scrappy. I mean it was right out of college, very challenging to get enough revenue to support the three of us at the time. So, anyway, we all agreed. Let’s go get some work experience somewhere else. And then we’ll regroup at some other point. So, I did that. I went to work for Don Watt and Associates. And I learned so much from Don and his wife, and partner Patty so many of the people at the law firm. And what I saw was a picture of how you professionalize creative consultancy. how do you connect what I learned how to do in design school and then subsequently practicing but to connect it to business and business outcomes? And that’s why I think Don really was a pioneer, not only in Canada but around the world. So, I worked for Don for about two and a half years and then I went and worked for another company called Boulevard which was all ex Watt Group people. And at some point, I thought I really want to do this myself so I started back with my tiles and we reconstituted the company and we ended up bringing in some other partners. And for about 16 years, we consulted with retailers, CPG companies right across North America, built what was then one of the largest brand consultancies in the country. And I absolutely loved it until one of my biggest relationships, Loblaw Companies. My company had replaced the Watt Group when that relationship changed. So, we became the go-to brand store design pack design, etc. partner to Loblaw Companies. And eventually the president at the time John Letter reached out. He said what would you think about doing what you do and maybe some other things but do it from inside the company not as an external partner. So, that was the beginning of two and a half years of retail exec boot camp as I call it, working for a giant publicly traded company running marketing. And I knew half of what I was setting out to do but the other half was like a steep learning curve. But it was amazing. it’s a great experience. I remember it like it was yesterday because I remember when this whole merger acquisition piece happened because we were working with you guys through our branding for all the online e-commerce platforms. And then there was a big change where you moved into Loblaw’s. And I would say that you say there’s a big steep learning curve. But how much of being able to jump in at that position in time as an entrepreneur? I think when most companies get their businesses purchased, they end up working for a company, the big company that bought them. And they work maybe one or two years and they’re always disgruntled. they’re like this terrible. I hate working for a big business and they all want out and they leave early and all this stuff. it usually never turns out to be the successful merger of small and big business.
Potvin: But you came in and I think you really changed the way people looked at marketing or at least from my perspective and the teams that we had because you did bring such a different vast creative level. that box store didn’t see or didn’t utilize at the time and having you kind of jump into this position, it didn’t seem like you were like, I’m out of here. This is terrible. it seemed like it was a great learning but a great drive for the business. there was so much innovation that came out of you moving into how much you loved it or you didn’t love it. But what does that mix and why do you feel like doing all that?
Joe: I appreciate the comment. Look, there’s no way that being trained as an industrial designer and then becoming a creative director and eventually a brand strategist in my own company and getting the opportunity to work with all these amazing brands and amazing companies like global but not being a professional marketer. And while I was schooled in marketing in my practice and learned so much from so many amazing marketers here, I was effectively the first chief marketing officer of LA companies with a role at the highest level of the management team. But I couldn’t help but be a disrupter just simply because I came at it from such a different angle. So, the status quo was not familiar to me. like it was in some ways. But I was really hardwired to look at what’s possible. And what has to happen now for us to maintain the incredible lead that leaders before me and my colleagues have built, I think about it now from a founder investor point of view that the advantage to the disrupter is. it’ll sound funny, naivety to some degree. you don’t know what you don’t know. Therefore, you’re not beholden to it and you’re certainly not beholden to the past. So, that was my whole mindset going in. And look, I wouldn’t have been able to do it were it not for the fact that I knew the company consulting to it and all its brands and all its store formats etc. And I knew the people that brought me in so they gave me a lot of support and cover and were patient with me to figure out the stuff I didn’t know. But the whole mindset was, it was a change agenda. We need to get back to disrupting. We need to do bigger bolder things on my watch with all my colleagues, John Letter and the whole leadership team. We stood up, Joe Fresh with Joe Mimran, and launched that. We retooled the president’s choice, repositioned it. That’s when Gail and Weston, the younger Gallon, went on television with the campaign that I think still lives today. We did some pretty crazy stuff. It was fun. What I didn’t love though to answer the second part of your question is that I wasn’t used to being on the inside and dealing with publicly traded things like analyst presentations and board presentations. what I realized was about two-thirds of my time was spent on stuff that I didn’t think I added that much value to and yet we’re really part of the remit. But I loved it. I could not have had a better experience. And it really changed my mind. It gave me an operator’s perspective on everything. all the way right through to investing today. And that is incredible because I remember sitting in rooms with yourself and Jim and a few of the other senior level execs. And I’m a sponge. So, to me, it was a great learning process that was going throughout this.
Potvin: I remember when you guys were doing the reinvention of the whole business. And I remember thinking to myself, I want to be in that room. How do I get in that room? Now, I think that was very young of me to think. But at the same time, I think that that was quite the movie that had to change an entire company from the top all the way down. And I think that that was an incredible move that Loblaw’s at the time had done. And I think bringing in the people that did, and I’m going to assume that a lot of it was relationship based. as you mentioned with John, giving that perspective of, hey, come in here and help us change this. And that opened up oddly enough all the way down budgets for us to be more innovative and be able to be more on that side of e-commerce, something you were involved in. it was just coming and you were thrown right in the middle of that and did such a brilliant job. And I remember you were working with Calvin McDonald and there was a lot of excitement around that. But so much learning and the disruption that e-commerce and pretty much everything digital became in the years to come was just enormous. So, great learning. And here’s the thing, if you’re only a consultant, I think there’s nothing wrong with that.
Joe: Of course. But you never get the true sense of what it actually takes to make it happen and that is the big takeaway for me in two and a half years with Loblaw’s. I was truly blessed to have that opportunity. But the learning was around how do you get people at all levels of an organization to not only be comfortable with change, but to embrace it and to lean into it and make it happen regardless of what it was standing up, a new exciting clothing brand or it was doing things differently as it related to a long-standing brand like President’s Choice or an e-com or what have you. And that alignment equals power, when you get people aligned and they’re clear and they know what to do. So, that’s the strategy part. the business planning part. But then, it’s really around, call it “cultural chiropractic” which is just getting everybody to a good place where they say, okay, it is scary. It is ambitious, but we can do this. And let’s go do it. And that lesson I really carried over into now, my investing life. I think that that lesson has carried through a lot of people’s lives because I think the people that were enthralled in what was going on had this fear, big fear of change. people have been in the company for 40 years and now they are being forced to digital this new thing. Who are these people? What are they doing? And there was a lot of change happening at the time. And I remember there was a management meeting and someone was on stage with a Swiffer and they were, we had to build this persona of who the shopper was. And what I loved about it, there was one line that was said and it was that people were asking why are we selling clothes at a grocery store. And the line was that when that shopper comes in, they want convenience. We’re tailoring it to them. We want to make sure that they can get what they need to make their lives simpler, easier and faster and we’re going to sell clothes because they’re looking for a great brand of clothes at an affordable price and that shopper, that mother is going to want to buy our product. And everybody was like, well I don’t know. half an apartment five years later, it was a billion dollar brand. I think in less than five years. So, I think there was a lot of smarts going on in that place and that reinvention made a huge pivotal change for Loblaw’s. But I think it also changed the way people started looking at innovation. they started to look at their workspace and that anything can change at any given moment. And I think when you’re in a lot of the stuff that I’ve been listening to and reading on yourself, that this kind of the percolating moment for how you came up with this whole next step of your career which was going in and reinventing brands from going into Duane Reade, I’m going to say it was gap. But I think it was the Gap Ownership Group.
Potvin: So, there was a lot of things that you kind of built on from that and I think that learning and what I find is that a career-wise, you start working through things and when the door opens you jumped on it and I think that’s what’s amazing about how you projected the next stages of your career. it is that every time a door opened, you analyzed and went in. And then today, you’ve spent the last 10 to 15 years reinventing companies and you probably didn’t start off when you first started going to school thinking, hey, I’m going to reinvent companies. This is what I want to do, but guiding you through this. you’ve done a very successful job. I think you’ve recreated over 40 companies. Is that correct?
Joe: It’s closer to 75 now. It’s crazy. And when I say reinvention, I really mean to take the original invention of the legacy business. It can be medium-sized or large, sometimes small and just be created with leadership,to be the next best version of it in the least amount of time. It’s the way I’ve learned how to do it. It’s not like throwing everything out again. It’s taking what you actually are and making it more powerful and relevant for today’s circumstances. And I think we did the count recently and we’re up over 70. for sure in one way or another, and I always make a point to say look, well we’ve had lots of opportunities to help leadership teams. The credit goes to the leadership teams. We’re enablers. We’re transformation partners. But it really is on them for what happens and the value that gets created. And I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the most inspiring leaders of CEOs, executive chairmen, private equity partners in transforming these companies and I’ve learned a lot. And it’s been a hell of a fun ride I have to say. no shortage of excitement in the world of reinvention. What I love about the reinvention spot and this kind of M & M & M & M&A process of going through and deciding if I should buy this company. Can I restructure it and make it profitable in two years versus payback in two years versus ten? And you’re going through and you’re doing that analysis. But the biggest stop gap that you have all the time is the people inside the business, their discomfort for reinventing, their discomfort for getting out of their fears. Is this change going to reinvent and change our company or are we going to fail?
Potvin: So, how did you kind of go through that process to get people to buy in? Because you’re not in a way coming in as a consultant, but you’re really integrating into their business. you’re becoming a part of their business. you’re the next arm in a code. you’re a branch. So, you’re really driving into this business. How do you get everybody to be comfortable with this reinvention? because startups go through this every day. they have to keep pivoting. they have to keep trying to figure out who they are and you’re going in and doing this at a large scale in a billion-dollar company and saying, hold on, I know you’re worth a thousand people here. I’m going to help you fix and change all this. how do you get them in their mindset to change at least quick enough for you guys to start to see some improvements?
Joe: So, there’s a couple of important pieces in the question. The first is, what’s the starting point or the status quo? And then what’s the mindset in a business? like are people feeling like we don’t need to change? because we’re just absolutely ripping it that was the case with Duane Reade. They had the highest sales per square foot of drugstores in America and 35 shares in the five boroughs of New York and over 60 shares in Manhattan. So, they were saying, hey you guys that are coming in to change it. What’s wrong with this picture? we don’t need to change. We’re fantastic. And yet the data told a very different story and the competitive set rolling into New York that was going to crush Duane Reade had different ideas as well. So, sometimes, it’s just simply understanding. okay where are we at and what do we believe? And my team and I are very used to writing. it’s essentially two sides of the same page. one side is the case for change. what is it that would cause us to commit to some kind of evolution? it doesn’t have to be dramatic, doesn’t have to be revolutionary. But let’s get it all down on paper. Let’s sort of understand why competitive threats may be a new digital disruption, etc. the other side of it is a case for confidence. What’s this? What’s the starting point? What assets do we have that are still viable, still powerful? And then just conversations with people about where they’re at and how they feel about change. I’ll tell you a quick story. When we had transformed or reinvented Duane Reade, we did that in record time two and a half years from the private equity part partners being underwater and the investment thesis to almost 13 times exit. And the exit was to Walgreens. And Walgreens said we thought we could roll over you in New York. And suddenly you transformed and became this formidable drugstore chain we couldn’t beat in the city. So, we said right, this was from the CEO at the time Greg Wilson rather bought that spot. So, they bought Duane Reade and they asked us how did you do it so fast. And we all answered, well, we got super clear on the outcome we wanted. We wrote a really simple strategy towards it. it got a lot of data and figured it all out and then just put ourselves in motion and did everything rapid fire to innovate and transform that business. So, I got the chance to go on and help Walgreens and Walgreens 100 plus year-old company, the largest successful drugstore in America at the time. And not one person in 220,000 wanted to change because they said we are who we are. like we’ve been successful for over a century. So, one time, this process of reinvention had begun. We were getting into it, doing our homework, talking with a lot of people and a guy buttonholes an elevator going up to the executive offices and says you’re that Canadian guy, Joe. That’s here to change things. And I said you’re right. And he said, well we don’t need any change. Thank you and we’re doing just fine. who we are, we just bought the company you came from? So, like that should tell you something and I said, well, look let me ask you a question. Are you invested in the company? He was a VP and he said of course. I’ve been here 25 years. And I said so you hold stock in the company. And I said, how’s your stock voice? And he said, well it’s at a low at the moment at the time. it was about 16 bucks and I said it might be a momentary thing. But how do you feel about the stock price? say in the next six months or the next year, next two? because that’s your retirement equity right there. And he said, well there’s some things and we’re talking. So, he said, you’re asking a hard question because I don’t see what’s going to change that. And I said that’s what I’m here to help you with because by the way I’m an investor in the business too and I got skin in this game just like you do. Maybe not as much but I’m not coming in to change anything that isn’t going to create value and that we’re not going to do together and that’s how we’re going to do it. Everything is collaborative. We figure it out together and we’re going to move forward as an army of a quarter million people and change this business. And it went from flat sales to plus five or six that unlocked the stock price. it started to climb. it went to an all-time high in the 60s and that enabled the merger with alliance boots. So, maybe that story illustrates how I think about change. you collaborate. you do it together. you do it for the reasons you all agree are important. And the last thing I’ll say to Jeffery is look change. the future is in some far-off place, like it arrives daily and you decide you’re going to change with it and embrace it and you don’t know what’s going to happen but just lean into it or it’s done to you. So, I choose the latter. I want the former. I want to be part of the change because that way I have a chance of shaping it and I’ll be happier with the outcome.
Potvin: I love that. And the piece that I’m going to pull out that really kind of stood out to me in the story that you shared is to create value. I think a lot of the times startups or businesses forget that you’re always having to create value and figure out what that value is that’s going to benefit your consumer, your customer, your vendors, even internally the employees. What is that benefit? What is the creative value that you’re going to bring back so that things will keep moving forward? And sometimes status quo, people are comfortable with. But there isn’t that value that’s going to come out. What is that next stage? And I think that what you said, there is a benefit to that one person in the elevator because everybody has their own story of what’s blocking them from success, accepting change. And I think you did a great job on being able to get them to articulate that. But in the future, it’s really about how does every business start to look at? And it’s not the word innovation. it’s just how does a business start looking at all the time? How do I reinvent myself? How do I keep generating value so my customers will keep wanting to work with me or buy from me?
Joe: Yes, absolutely. And you used the term trifecta before. The way I think about value creation today is also a trifecta. It’s financial value that of course needs to be created for stakeholders, for the founders themselves, for the investment partners that are coming in. But with that, I would say cultural value as well as human value and the financial value is straightforward. Well, you’re a long-time investor and very successful cultural value means creating something that has resonance with what’s going on in the world today. And that’s where the brand enters the picture. Brand is such an important part of not only accelerating value creation, financial value creation but also amplifying what it is that makes any particular business different and special. It’s really important. And that’s always in the context of what’s going on. culture and the third human value. I would have probably not said that a decade ago but I say it today because we live in an ESG world. We live in diversity. it counts. And equity and creating human value today is really centered on that notion of social outcomes. So, when you think about accelerating the value of any company, my advice would be, yes of course. You need to think about how I accelerate financial value creation. But think about two other layers of value creation that are actually enablers for greater financial value creation and that’s simply cultural value and human value and that’s a bit of the guide to how we look for investment. But maybe I can connect the dots between where we were a minute ago. So, I had a consultancy. I did a crazy thing. I went to work at one of my clients, Loblaw Companies. Then I left Loblaw Companies, and I said, the world doesn’t need another agency, another design firm, or a branding firm. So, I created what I sort of proudly said was the world’s first reinvention consultancy. What I wanted to be was a great partner for companies that needed to change and most often in a hurry. And I would be the go-to with a group of colleagues that would span all of the essential disciplines from management consulting and research and insights, all the way through to design and activation support and communications. And so that was the company I built about 16 years ago. And what I realized was after working on, as we’ve been talking about some of the bigger companies like Walgreens that was probably the biggest one, Fortune 75 company, but many others Hertz and household names companies you’d know, even Canadian Tire in Canada, and I thought this all great and it’s going really well. The only trouble is that I’m building a reputation as the legacy company that ran out of gas turnaround guys and I’m missing disruption. So, I wasn’t working for small companies for founder-led businesses in the early stages simply because they couldn’t afford me and my team. And when we would do deals on the large business side, we would charge reasonable fees for the scale of what we were doing and the cost of the teams and such. But far out of reach of any founder. But our model was, we’ll take a little bit of equity in the deals we do on the big company side and then we’ll charge you fees for the rest. But it was always an equity model. So, when we decided five or six years ago to work for earlier stage companies and apply what we learned on the big company side, we just flipped the model and we said we’ll do it for mostly equity and a little bit of cash. And then as we learned, we started to co-invest, like put our own cash in alongside our services investment and eventually last year launched Catapult Capital Partners. And now we have a small portfolio of assets that we invest into and it’s cash and cash in kind and it’s exciting and we’re working on exciting brands like Flow and Simply Protein brands that you may know. And it’s just been fantastic learning.
Potvin: I bet. No, that’s incredible. So, taking the kind of the change and going into this early stage and really trying to invigorate, obviously I’m assuming that working with founders again on the innovation side is really getting you moving forward again in a different direction within the business. How do you find the startups are taking this really early-stage super experience branding coming into them and helping them pivot? Are they taking this as a wait, let’s do this in stages or here’s my brand to make it work and you’re kind of the one that has to look at this and say yes there’s something here the founder? Yes, they have a good mix. I think we should jump into this brand. or are you looking for those companies and saying hey you’ve got some really good strong MRR, you’ve got a strong team, we can really help you take this to the next level, so let’s help you scale? Where do you kind of see and fit in with these early companies?
Joe: Well, maybe it’s worth just saying the reason that we created Catapults, in a way, was to reinvent the venture capital world. We were reinventionists as a team and we couldn’t help ourselves. But we looked at VC and we said look, it’s such an important industry and the world didn’t need another VC. the world’s awash and NBC and money these days, so we thought let’s find a way to add value that’s unique. So, it really was leveraging what we learned at Jackman as you’re suggesting and finding partners that had a couple of characteristics that would work for us and that that we would demonstrate we could work for them. The first was all the obvious stuff, like of any VC we’re looking at, what is the risk reward profile? What’s the upside here? conventional diligence in the sense of where is opportunity and where is risk and how would that be mitigated? so all of that is part of what we do? The second part is the concept itself, that expression I think came out of the tech industry, product market fit. And one of the tailwinds that are enabling this business and how well connected to those is it at the moment. And then what’s the upside and how would the upside come. then lastly, the founder or the founding team and a couple of notes on assessing founders obviously. particularly when they’re first-time entrepreneurs, where they came from, how they think, what their skills are, all of that foundational stuff. But what are they like as people and how would they welcome or not the kinds of inputs that we could provide? like we don’t want to go and work with anyone who really doesn’t want us to change anything or to be there and get into the weeds and mess things up and we’re not deeply in the weeds. What we do is get very clear on which customers you are focused on and why do those customers really care about who you are to them. What’s the value prop in the customer experience that is going to create not only growth but relevance and deep engagement and what’s the overall plan for growth and how do we enable that to come and because we’re built the way we’re built on the Jackman consultancy side. We can bring in experts across all of that in a super-efficient, I would say efficient and light engagement kind of way. whereas with big companies, we end up camping out forever and doing a lot of that lifting ourselves in founder-led companies. our whole view is what is the plan that everyone’s excited about that we’re confident in as investors and that founders say right on. I know exactly what to do now and next. That’s really the work in the partnerships and obviously the conditions for success would be able to tick all those boxes across that spectrum of evaluation.
Potvin: I love it. And you’re coming in with that creative flair as well. So, you’re going to be able to drive them not just through numbers and metrics but also from what the customer is really looking for. So, you really are diving into persona and value and making sure that there is a way to take your investment because you are investing as well into that next stage and helping that company overcome or at least dominate the market that they may not have been dominating in and most times, like early stage businesses are a work in progress by definition right. And I love that you’ve used the word “pivot” a couple of times.
Joe: We’ve seen so much of that in pandemic times, but really that is the nature of figuring out the model. We like to invest when there’s demonstrated sales, when there is at least some degree of proof of concept we’re looking for at least a decent or modest trajectory that we can get behind and then we work together with founders and their teams to figure out the component parts to growth, and what are you doing today, what’s been working and now let’s put it back together in a super-efficient way so that you can get this business going. And because we’re used to being partners in any kind of change and pivot, we’re very flexible, we’re very adaptive to how we keep moving, taking the learning and calibrating as we go. But we’re also invested in these companies and therefore we look at it through the lens of an investor as opposed to only a partner and that’s I think that’s the beautiful combination that is Catapult Capital Partners is, we are there to help and enable and accelerate and we’re also there to make sure that the outcome we’re all signed up for actually happens and ideally happens sooner than later. like I’m an action junkie. You might recall, I like to get clear on where I want to get to as a team and then I like to go like my hair is on fire in a very judicious and thoughtful way. But making it happen is what I’m obsessed with once you’re clear on where you want to go.
Potvin: I love it. make it happen. That’s a great line. And I totally agree with that. That’s what everybody needs to hear every day. make it happen. do it. get in there because that’s the way the business is going to move forward. I love it. Well, it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t have one quick line just about one of your podcasts. It’s brilliant. I love it. I’ve probably listened to 90 of them. There’s a couple left that I’ve got to listen to but overall, all of your guests have been awesome. I really enjoy it. your book, fantastic. I love the idea of taking all the insights that you have taken over the years and pushing that into a five-step process on how to reinvent and you can use this process to reinvent yourself, your business, your life, your family, whatever you need to do at the time. maybe just quickly touch base on just that concept of all the learnings that you’ve taken running this reinvention business and just share a couple of points because I think from a founder’s standpoint, it gives them a perspective of what to think about when they’re building their company because these things help you build as well at the same time happy too.
Joe: So, the story of the book was I had been working on some of the ones mentioned various company transformations and not all were going well. And I was doing my best to take notes on what is happening when things are going well and what I mean by that is that leaders are rallying around strategic intentions, people are getting on the bus and excited about moving it forward versus fighting change. all of that ended up being a mindset and I started with about eight. what I thought might be key points and I noticed that when things were not going well they were the opposite of those points. people weren’t aligned. they weren’t clear on what the outcome they were going for. they weren’t widening the aperture and how to think about their business. They were staying very narrow. So, the eight went to five and they went from a short paragraph on each to two or three words for each. And with the help of my team, we just sort of galvanized those and said, let’s start to teach ourselves what we call the Reinventionist Mindset so that we act in this way with leadership teams and ultimately entire organizations to up the odds of transformative success. And it was interesting, we started to actually share those with our new engagement partners, our clients, we said we just want you to know as you meet us and we start to work with you. We actually guide ourselves on the basis of five principles of a mindset and bear with us might sound a little abstract, but these are very material and very helpful. And we’d love it if we sort of understood those and maybe started to practice those too. So, we sort of baked it right into our process and then eventually one of my clients at the time said you should write a book and you should tell not only the stories of the transformations that worked and went well and illustrate these mindsets and these principles in action. you should tell a few of the ones that didn’t work well. So, I set out to do it. Prior to that, I was not an author, but I worked with a great publishing partner called Page Two and I wrote a book in fact. I’m in Los Angeles, California talking to you now and it was three years ago that I was madly trying to finish the book for the publishing deadline here in Los Angeles. So, it brings back so many memories. But essentially, it’s five principles. there are things, just to give you an idea Jeffery, seek insight everywhere. That’s the first principle. And it just means open the aperture. pay attention to what’s going on and it’s even things that are so fundamental like paying attention. If you’re busy building a business for certain customers, pay attention to what younger customers, the younger version of the cohort you’re focused on, are caring about because they’re the next act of your business right. It’s just these basic principles. obsess the outcome. that’s another one. what that means is not only make it happen as we were talking about a second ago. get super clear on the outcome you want. no amount of strategy and action is going to take you to a place you haven’t defined. define the place. get super crystal clear. it’ll evolve over time but at least where you’re going and then you can go after it relentlessly to achieve it. And I won’t go through all the others but that’s the book. It’s called the Reinventionist Mindset, learning to love change and the human how of doing it brilliantly. it’s available at wherever you shop for books, Amazon and Indigo and Barnes and Noble and such. And the podcast really came out of the book because when I wrote the book, strangely I launched it in January 2020. So, two months before the pandemic, when the whole world went into hyper change mode, and a lot of people reached out and said look, just reading the book or listening to the audio version and would love to just chat more and maybe share my story of change. So, I think at that moment everyone was starting a podcast. So, I thought, what the hell, I’ll do one. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to so many brilliant people. like recently a guy named Alex Boguski. you might not know that name but Alex was the driving force behind Chrisman and Porter Boguski, the most awarded agency of all time. And Eve Bahar, one of the great industrial designers of our generation and Rebecca Minkoff, the fashion designer just on and on and on. I just think about Fabian Cousteau. I got an incredible opportunity to talk about a guy who is a self-described aquanaut and I’ve learned so much. And this all I do is just as you do. ask some questions, get them to tell their stories and we always tie it back to transformation of some kind or another personal professional corporate. But thank you for calling that out. that’s called “The Reinventionist” and you can find that on Spotify or wherever you find your podcast.
Potvin: Well, it’s absolutely brilliant and I actually wrote down four names because I wanted to reference how I enjoyed the podcast with those four. And you actually mentioned three of them and the fourth one I had was Jesse Banks. Oh, okay there you go Jesse. I was great at reinventing the hospitality space in the midst of a pandemic. I thought those were all awesome. So, it’s funny I had Rebecca Alex. Obviously, the aquanaut was brilliant. We talked about this before so they were certainly my favorite. So, I’m glad you not only brought those up because they really did have a lot of insight. I was actually going to ask for an introduction to Alex because I’m like this guy sounds so cool. I want to know him.
Joe: He’s amazing. It’s not very often you’re expecting it in a conversation about change and such and we’ve worked together in the past and he’s a genius. He’s just such an incredibly insightful guy but suddenly we’re having a conversation about psychedelic substances and it was like wow, this is great stuff. But thank you. I should mention Catapult is Catapult Partners. VC Jackman is jackmanreinvents.com. So, if you want to learn more or reach out, I’m excited. And we are looking at deals as we speak with Catapult. We have a really nice robust pipeline and have so many interesting conversations with founders, so very interested in anything that touches consumer tech as it relates to consumer enterprises and more broadly food, beverage, and well-being are sort of space that we’re currently focused on investing in. So, excited. And I hope there was some value for your listeners Jeffery.
Potvin: That’s brilliant. We’re going to move quickly now because we’re getting close to that time. So, we’re going to ask one last question and then we’re going to wrap up.
Joe: fire it.
Potvin: Okay. if you could, more of a use case type question or case study, that you could share kind of around a founder that you worked with or a story that you’ve heard or yourself on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, just the ebbs and flows of what a founder goes through, just kind of looking for someone that really just broke the odds and they really did a successful job, some heartfelt story that we can all get behind that you can share about one of the experiences that you’ve had as a founder or that you’ve worked with.
Joe: Well, I know time is short. So, I want to tell you sort of side by side stories quickly. The first is Nicholas Reichenbach. He’s a serial entrepreneur. He did a lot of work in the digital space. one of the first guys to do ringtones and mobile gaming apps and such very successful in the tech world ended up founding Flow Water. And Nicholas is just a classic entrepreneur. He’s a visionary. He’s very crystal clear on what the outcome he wants to achieve. But you have to give him a lot of credit because the packaged goods water industry is dominated by global powerhouses with their giant retail partnerships and there’s a lot of trade dollars that go back and forth there. So, very tough to enter the packaged water business but he came at it with a human intention, a cultural intention which was around eliminating plastic. he put his natural, his family spring water into a tetra pack and you can see it right there and he fought and continues to fight the battles six or seven years in to build an incredible business and to create value for stakeholders. And what I can say is just being a partner to him for those six years, I’m on the board and now it’s publicly traded just to watch him and his team overcome all the hurdles one by one. it’s not that you’re unlikely to be challenged. you want to start a business. And particularly, if you want to disrupt the status quo, strap your seat belts on. So, Nicholas would be the archetype entrepreneur and it’s been such a treat to work with him and see that business grow. It’s now the fastest growing premium water brand in North America. But on the other side, one of the recent deals we did was Atkins Company and the US weight management business owned, a small originally entrepreneur founded brand called Simply Protein and it was just part of their assets and Michael Lyons who ran Canada for the Simply Protein brand for Atkins. he was interested in doing a management bio a carve out of Simply Protein. So, me, Nicholas, and a number of other people that we co-invest with, put together the money to carve out that business. And Michael was a long time very experienced guy in the food and beverage business but always been a corporate leader. So, it’s been so amazing to watch Michael, with the help of some people. Nicholas is also on the board with me at Simply Protein to get advice from long-time entrepreneurs and to learn the difference between being a good leader and a good manager in a corporate environment and doing the same in a founder-led business. And being an entrepreneur, it’s just been fascinating to watch Michael grow as a leader and to take on the uncertainties that come with the new job of leading a standalone brand. He’s doing a fantastic job. it’s growing really well creating value for all the stakeholders. So, there’s sort of the tale of two cities in a way too two different leaders. But both found their way to being good solid entrepreneurs.
Potvin: I love it. Those are two great stories. I’m a fan of both of those companies and both of those founders. They’ve done a phenomenal job. So, thank you for sharing that. Those are wonderful, honestly super insightful companies and people can learn a lot from them just from even reading and following up with the founders. So much great material there. We’re going to jump in real quickly now into the rapid fire question.
Joe: fire. Okay, bring it up rapid fire.
Potvin: one or the other, here we go. founder or co-founder?
Joe: sorry you have to give me context on that one.
Potvin: I’m sorry the context is you’re going to pick one or the other and you’re coming in from the investor standpoint. So, who do you rather invest in, a founder or a co-founder?
Joe: Oh I see. I like the founder.
Potvin: unicorn or a four year 10 exit?
Joe: four year10 exit every day.
Potvin: okay NFT or web 3.0?
Joe: web 3.0.
Potvin: Ai or blockchain? First time founder or second third time founder?
Joe: second or third ideally, but first time can work too.
Potvin: Okay, first money in or series a?
Joe: series a.
Potvin: angel or VCU? board seat or observer?
Potvin: Safe or convertible note?
Potvin: lead or follow?
Joe: I would say lead equity or interest payments? Equity.
Potvin: favorite part of investing?
Joe: working with founders and seeing their vision come to life.
Potvin: number of companies invested per year?
Joe: We have six in total today. We’re going to do three to four year-over-year going forward.
Potvin: I love it. any preferred terms?
Joe: We like flexibility so I would say I’ll just leave it there. We’re actually quite flexible on how we structure deals.
Potvin: Okay, two qualities a startup needs in order to stand out for you.
Joe: say that again please.
Potvin: two qualities a startup requires in order to stand out.
Joe: a brand inclusive of a sharp differentiated positioning and relentless tenacity.
Potvin: I like that relentless tenacity. That’s good. Agreed. All right. personal side. Okay, book or movie?
Joe: oh, that’s a hard one. Both.
Potvin: Superman or batman?
Potvin: restaurant or picnic?
Potvin: five minutes with Bezos or Oprah?
Joe: five minutes with Bezos.
Potvin: mountain or beach?
Joe: mountain or beach.
Potvin: bike or run? Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets?
Joe: Big Mac.
Potvin: trophy or money? beer or wine? camera or mobile phone?
J mobile phone.
Potvin: king or rich? concert or amusement park?
Potvin: fortune cookie or birthday cake?
Joe: fortune cookie.
Potvin: Ted Talk or book reading?
Potvin: most famous person that pops into your mind now?
Joe: Strangely, Oliver Stone.
Potvin: That’s good. That’s all right. favorite sports team?
Joe: It’s actually not a team. It’s a person. Leila Fernandez, tennis player.
Potvin: brilliant. the first brand that pops into your mind?
Potvin: I love it. favorite book?
Joe: A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabrielle Garcia Marquez.
Potvin: I like it.
Joe: It’s just an incredibly melancholic but insightful book.
Potvin: Okay, perfect. All right, what is the meaning of success to you?
Joe: success to me is getting to achieve what you set out to and enjoying it while you do.
Potvin: favorite movie and what character would you play?
Joe: this is a very obscure movie but it’s one of my favorites. It’s Tempest and I would play the part that John Cassavetes played. It’s based on Shakespeare’s attempts, Gina John Cassavetes.
Potvin: I’m going to look this one up.
Joe: You got to watch it. it’s stuck. I hope it’s aged well. But it’s a wonderful book.
Potvin: Okay, I’ll look it up. All right, last question. What is your superpower?
Joe: Well, I’ll answer what I think it is and then I’ll answer what I’m told. I think it’s openness, just a willingness to see what’s possible. And what I’m told is my ability to get people into motion to create a moment. So, either. I’m happy with it.
Potvin: I like it, and I would say that from my learnings of yourself and our time that we’ve interacted I would say that you’re very networkable and you’re very open and I think you also have a very good drive to the end goal. So, I think those are all part of your superpowers.
Joe: So I think there are great characteristics to have for sure. thanks Jeffery. I appreciate it. Well, wonderful chatting with you today and best luck with not only the podcast, but your portfolio. And super excited to see where you get to and safe travels.
Potvin: happy travels likewise. Well, thank you very much Joe for joining us today. We’re not only excited because of all the great content you shared, but I think there’s a lot of great things still left that you’re going to produce and one of them is investing back into these early stage companies which is very exciting. And the way we like to end our show is we like to give you the last word. So, anything that you want to say or share to an investor or to the startup community, I turn it over to you. But thank you again for all your time today.
Joe: Well, I would say the last thought in it and maybe it’s towards investors but also founders is that last week, I was at the expo west natural foods show. And it’s just incredible to see what’s new innovation in the extreme and I couldn’t help but think the things that stood out for me were the ones that were doing things not just differently but extremely different. There’s a sea of sameness already in innovation that’s going on in consumer goods. everyone’s jumping on you. pick the bandwagon, plant-based foods. Whatever it happens to be, beverages are just such a hot space at the moment. But the center of differentiation is being different and the more different you can be, the more powerful you become. And I think that’s super important to know because the world’s a sea of sadness. we don’t need anything. What we need is people that break rules and are bold and I think that’s where to look if you’re an investor and I think it’s encouragement for founders to do incredibly bold disruptive stuff. So, thanks. I appreciate the last word I shared. Thank you very much Joe. take care Jeffery. see you.
Potvin: thank you, bye. Okay, that was brilliant, getting the opportunity to talk with Joe. I’ve got to work with them in the past 20 plus years ago and today with their new branding, their new reinvention of brands and businesses.
Potvin: what they’ve been able to do, the learning they’ve taken, the steps that they’ve created to help businesses reinvent themselves. And this carries through from startups all the way up to big business. So, there were lots of great things that he shared. you really got to put your head down and work hard and find a goal of what you’re going after and how do you professionalize your business. I like that line as well. the drive, there’s just so many nuggets of things that he really unpacked there to help us out the great stories that he shared about the two brands they’ve worked with and how they were changing the way people looked at their brands and what it takes and things that help you propel your business forward. So, stay focused, stay driven, stay hungry and Joe thanks again for being on the show and sharing all that great insight. So, thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this conversation, please feel free to share with your friends or subscribe to our YouTube channel, follow us on Spotify, Apple Podcast and or Stitcher your support and comments are truly appreciated. You can also check us out at supportersfund.com or for startup events visit opn.ninja. Thank you and have a great day.
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