"Giving people a chance to you know, to grow their ambitions and to take a chance on someone else's dream is powerful"
Paul LeBlanc on his experiences of being an entrepreneur
Paul LeBlanc, Founder and CEO for 7th Wave Capital, joins (JP) Jeffery Potvin to share some of his learnings on structuring a business for growth, selling companies, and M&As. The discussion also touched on other topics such as passion, purpose, plan, branding, networking, and figuring out your “why”.
Paul also talked about his investment process, and what he looks for in companies he would invest in.
Top 40 Under 40 in Canada, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Young President’s Organization, Mentor at the Wallace McCain Institute, Top 100 Most Influential Marketers in Canada, Top 50 CEO Hall of Fame, Mentor at Creative Destruction Labs (CDL).
Specialty: I’m a serial entrepreneur with a passion for business and leadership
Skills include: Corporate strategy, M&A, sales strategy, management structures, marketing, debt structuring, exit strategies and growth planning
Industry experience: Marketing, branding, manufacturing, food processing, engineering, food and beverage and telecommunications
The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk
Paul: Well, thank you JP for having me. I appreciate it. I’ll start with the one thing that people don’t know about me is that I, my guilty pleasure is video gaming. So when I have spare time, I’m big into XBox game, XBox gaming. We- I got a group of guys that we met by playing virtual gaming that every year, twice a year, we get together at my place PEI, for a big gaming and drinking piss up, so not something you usually hear from business people, but that’s what they’re into. But that’s my jam. And in terms of my past, I was actually going in to be an RCMP officer one or two years ago back in high school, and was enrolled at St. Mary’s to get into that career, when my dad tapped me on the shoulder and decided that we were gonna go start our own company together. So I dropped out of university, and we started up a cell phone business called Coastal Communications back when cell phones were in bags and you know, fixed your car with a weird antenna and stuff like that. And we had a great time working together. Probably one of the highlights of my life in business was working with him and we grew the company fairly substantially with a bunch of locations across Nova Scotia, and he got tired of the business and got out of it in ‘95, and then I took the company over along with two partners in ‘95, and then we sold it in ‘96. So that was kind of my first foray into business and it was definitely trial by fire, but because he kind of managed things, I didn’t have a vast appreciation for what a startup is, in the complexities of startups and again, not by design I fell backwards into advertising and marketing. So I opened up a company in ‘97 and at that point I’d spent most of the money that I got as any 23 year old would, burnt through it, did a couple smart things with it, but a lot of stupid stuff with it. And went to the back of his carpet cleaning warehouse and started up an advertising agency called Extreme Design Group back then, which has had multiple iterations over the years. We ended up in 2000 becoming an advertising agency from a design shop after spending quite a bit of time in Toronto, meeting with all the key influencers of marketing and advertising. Like Paul Lavoie and Frank Palmer, and Alan G, and a number of other kind of titans of industry back then. And I became fascinated with advertising and really focused on doing great work from the Atlantic region, and we very quickly from 2000 to 2005, became the biggest agency on the East Coast, or certainly, the most reputable agency by virtue of the work, and started up an award show here, which still exists today called the Ice Awards. And then I moved to Toronto in 2008, and 2007 just before the sub debt crisis which was amazing timing, and opened the office there with no staff and no clients, and forged through a very troubling period of, you know, trying to sell marketing services during a, and a, crisis or say pandemic, recent term but during a sub-debt crisis and a hollowing out of the market, survived that. And then, when I came out of that in 2012, I just said, “You know, I just want to be involved in different businesses.” I felt like I had done as much as I could do within the advertising business so I issued stock options to my partners and who are incredible people that ran the business day in and day out, and they took the torch and ran it. And I went out and got involved in a dozen other weird things that have absolutely nothing in common, and that the last few years, to sum it up, I’ve bought and sold metal fabrication companies for food processing equipment, alcoholic beverage companies, clothing companies, I’ve invested in telecommunication infrastructure companies, which I’m involved in a few of those right now even to this day, and then I started up a company called 7th wave capital, which is a company that’s kind of my more recent manifestation, which invests and takes minority interests and companies that have entrepreneurs that really desire scale but don’t know quite how to do it, what levers the pull, or lack the connections, or lack the M&A expertise to grow and scale their business. But we’re not close to to full-scale buyouts or facilitating management buyouts, or buying out companies entirely. There’s five deals we’re looking at right now to buy out companies entirely, and put a jockey in there to have them run it, and scale it that way. So that’s kind of what I’ve been doing recently. So that’s the quick and the dirty.
Jeffery: I love it. That’s awesome! Well, man, there’s so many places to start, but I think the first one because you did stay the first thing you’ve done was that you’re a big gamer, so one amazing and kudos to that. I’m also myself a big fan of the gaming industry and have been for I can’t even remember how many years now it’s been since I was a kid. I’m –
Paul: What was your first console way back when?
Jeffery: Oh, it was, well, we’ve had PS2s, the commodore 64s, all, you name it. We had the, oh my god, what was the, we worked on, my brothers and I worked on every piece of hardware you can imagine way back in the day. So I was redoing, oh my god, what was it? 60 hertz PCs, i386, you name it. Like I’ve had every. Now, today it would seem like archaic junk, but back then, man, I probably had more boxes in my office in my room and just stacking and building off one one megabyte and one gigabyte drives, and 28, or, sorry. No, would have been 56k memory. Like just everything you can imagine. Just you know, all over it. And-
Paul: See I would pre-date you, JP because I had a vic-20 to start it all.
Jeffery: Oh, we did have a vic 20!
Paul: Did you?
Jeffery: Yeah, yeah.
Paul: It was my father’s before.
Jeffery: My father had the vic-20, and we, that’s the first one we got to learn off and then they went to the commodore 64. But the ones that we got to play on were more of the i286, 386, those types of systems and probably, say the numbers it’s been so long since I’ve talked about this, but yeah those were those were the days. So I’ve had many fond memories of that, but in the gaming world, yeah, we my brothers and I used to rush home from work every day just so that we could sit on our PCs that we built from scratch so that we could play PC games, and it wasn’t until, I think the we had PS2, and all that we were kind of fans but we just loved our computer because we got to build it, overclock it, and make it more fun that way. So yeah, it’s amazing how much the world’s changed from those days, right? And I haven’t gone to the PS5 yet, but the PS4 is serving it well for at least another year because I can’t play every game but there’s still pretty amazing experience.
Jeffery: So the, so going back to a lot of the things that you’ve done in the business world, and what I love about what you bring to the world that a lot of entrepreneurs probably are working towards is that, you’ve got a lot of different ventures, you’ve got your handsome to a lot of different buckets, but you learned early on what you were good at. What things worked, what things didn’t work. So maybe give us a couple of ideas or pointers on when you first started, you went into the the telecom space, you built that company up, and you sold it, you said you didn’t really learn a lot about maybe the business front because your father took a lot of that lead, but then you had to jump into that and do it yourself, so what are some of the learning points that you took from going from and exiting from one business into the next? Is there anything you look back on and say, “You know what, I learned something,” and you’ve kind of tried to make sure that every time you build a company or you exit a company, you put those into the mix because you know it brings a lot of value to the investor or the buyer?
Paul: Yeah, I mean. Yeah, I mean, JP, that’s a good question. And I would say that, you know, I’m you know, at 49 years old now. I’m equipped with knowledge that I didn’t have back then and that’s just because of the benefit of having, you know, 30 years of doing this under your belt. You kind of look back and see the things that were important, and now I try to impart that on new business people. I think first and foremost that you know, you have to have a very thick skin in business because if you build it, they won’t come. And unfortunately, I think we only hear about the stories of of crazy success which are you know, is as rare as someone winning the lottery or American Idol, and they look to that and go, “Well, that’s what I want,” but it ain’t easy. And as my mother-in-law once said to me, “It’s not for sissies.” You know, being in a business for yourself is not for sissies. Not, it’s hard. It’s a challenging, you know, very ego bruising experience when you first start out. Especially, if you first start out not knowing how the game is played and you know, and this is again, every business is different. So sometimes, what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to tech oriented business. Where you know B2C and your market is North America, so you know, what I’m saying, what I’m about to say is not universal but for the businesses that can grow at least in some form from brute force in the beginning, your network’s critically important. So when I first started out, I, you know, joined chambers of commerce. I would go to all the events. You know, my wife used to say, “Oh, you know, you, we had small kids at the time.” And she’s like, “Oh, you’re going out again? You know, have fun. Hang out with your friends,” And then I started taking her to them and she’s like, “That’s horrible. I never want to go to those events, again.” And, but I would go there and you’d meet a whole bunch of people and you know, I joined joint boards of directors, just to you know, just to get exposure to different people and create membership. You know, go into membership associations, and I think you know, your network is of critical importance. I was mentoring someone this morning and I think that, you know, people who are younger than us are growing up in a different paradigm where everything’s digital, including relationships, and the way I see it is that relationships are very physical. They’re, they exist over coffees. They, you know, they, you know people want to help you because they like you and it’s very hard to be liked when you live in a digital universe. The other thing that I did in my early career which has been revolutionary for me and probably, the one thing that has been the biggest thrust to myself, my family, and my business career, is I joined YPO, which is Young President’s Organization. And anybody, they’ve got you know, fairly difficult barriers to entry. But if you get in, it is a phenomenal organization, and there’s all kinds of other manifestations. There’s EO, and McCain Institute, and Wallace McCain Institute, McCain Institute, and there’s all kinds of other different iterations. But those organizations exist to help entrepreneurs on a very lonely and very perilous journey, and they, it’s kind of a peer support group. You know, where you sit once a month and you exchange ideas, and vulnerabilities, and strategies, and you know, everyone’s basically in the same bucket as you are. And YPO, for me, was revolutionary in my career. I’ll look back. I’m still in it today and we’ll be in it for a lifetime. It’s been the greatest relationships I’ve ever had. The greatest wisdom, the greatest care, the greatest advice. So I guess all of that to say, that for me the composite is, network. Build a network, build a strong network of people who you can learn from, and grow with, and tap into as you want to grow and scale your business. So I’d say that would be the first you know, big bucket. And then the second big bucket is just brute force. Like just, you know, hard work,, and hard thinking, and weekends, and evenings, and all that stuff. And you know, it’s funny when you become successful, a lot of people look at you and say, “Well, I want your success,” and I would challenge them back and say, “Well, do you want the life that I had to get it? Because it was hard, you know. It was seven days a week, and pouring in evenings, and weekends, and you know, though I don’t have to put that much time into it anymore, that’s what it takes, that’s what it took to get there. You know, unless you’re either lucky or you really played the game well, but for the most part, for the companies that are aspiring, it’s a disproportionate amount of effort. It’s a very thankless role. Not everyone’s gonna sit there and pat you on the head and go, “Wow!”, and a, “Great job! You do, every day. Really.” “You know, thank you for that.” Other than my wife who’s been a great supporter of my dad until he passed away, but for the most part, you don’t get that, and it has to come from within. And then you’ve just got to be really good at rejection, right? So there’s just a lot of people that don’t want what you have and you gotta stay persistent, and be more adamant than the other person. And I would say the last thing that I’ll just throw in as a bonus round is, and maybe this is just from 25 years of being in the marketing business, but truly differentiating who you are as a business is usually something that people will do because they have to check the box. So did we do a marketing plan? Did we go through a values exercise? Blah blah blah. At the end of the day, I think Simon Seneck says it the best, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” and I think that if you can understand why you’re in business and your purpose in business, and then build the business around that purpose, you’ll attract like-minded people. You’ll filter clients that don’t fit the mold. You’ll engage the ones that really do, and the same thing with staff, and that purpose becomes an incredible motivation. And for us in the agency, when I was in that life, it was to do great work. It was all about, we thought the great works that a better chance of getting noticed than shitty work did, and as a result of that, we attracted a bunch of people. Clients that we thought you know, saying from the same him book joined us. We ended up doing great work. It perpetuated that next thing you know, you know, we were creatively the most dominant agency and I think that’s where the explosion came from, and we had a ton of fun doing it where a lot of people just go into business for the sake of being in the business, and I think that’s a big myth. So that’s, those will be the four things off the top of my head.
Jeffery: I love it. Those are great, and there’s a few things that I’m going to pull out of that and I love the hustle that you’ve put into tha,t and maybe that’s in the networking side, we’ll put slash hustling, because I really think that a lot of these things that you mentioned which are super valuable. Joining like chambers of commerce, getting in there and meeting people, especially, they’re gonna be new people. They’re gonna be people that are gonna be interested in you if you show that you’ve got interest in them. So there’s a lot of things that you can really drive into that and I enjoyed that your wife, eventually, dug in to find out that she, you were right, this wasn’t the hustle she was interested in. So it is. It is a hustle. At the end of the day, it really is. It’s, you have to get out there and shake hands, kiss babies, and all of those things that you know build community but also get people in behind what you’re doing. So I think that that’s some fantastic understanding and learning that I think in the digital world, I don’t think it’s going to be a void, I think it’s going to be needed to do that, but I think a lot of the time people don’t realize what it takes to build a company. They don’t understand what extra effort you need to put in. So while you’re kind of going through these, and you mentioned the coaching side and you mentioned a couple other elements, but the one I want to touch on is, you mentioned and I hear this a lot is, ‘it’s lonely at the top’. So maybe you can define more of what that ‘lonely’ part means and then, what are the things that you do to keep that less relevant and that allows you to kind of grow and get out into that community? What is some of the advantages that you have from the networking side? Or how you’ve structured your businesses to kind of avoid that? I know you mentioned the YPO, but what are those other things you’re doing? Are you golfing every day? Or is it, how do you build that structure in so your business grows and you feel just as completed at the end of the day, and not over straw because you’re not talking to people or meeting people?
Paul: Yeah and that’s a good question. Again, I have to reinforce what I said earlier because I think it’s the top question by a long shot is to find a network of people that you can kind of bear all with, and share your vulnerabilities with, and feel comfortable in a confidential environment to you know, to express that you don’t know what to do, and you need some help, because a lot of people don’t and what I find is, when you don’t know what to do and you’re stressed about it, usually, you do nothing. Which creates a glass ceiling, right? So you get stuck on a hamster wheel and because a big decision is looming, it’s better not to make the big decision and go like, “Bill Murray, go back into groundhog day,” and every day looks like the same day before and all of a sudden, two years go by and you’re like, “How the hell am I not growing my business?” Well it’s because you’re not making the big moves that businesses are required of you to get there, and having a network of people that you can bounce business plans off, and who’ve already done it before and have the wisdom to carry they and they care about you is critical, and finding that wherever you can, I think is really the order of the day. The second thing, that I would say that can either come from that or in another place is, to find mentors, right? to why, you know, why bother going through a maze and hit the wall yourself, when you can go to somebody that’s already been through the maze and tell you to take a left turn here and take a right turn there? And look there’s no playbook that’s perfect by any stretch, but there are certain things that are just kind of universal truths that some people who are really successful can just quickly say, “This is what you need to focus on if you want to grow,” right? There’s, I always see businesses as you know levers. One of my business partners in the agency had a really good way of saying it. Like, “There’s levers that you can pull to make money or make margin or create efficiency or grow your brand or whatever. But a lot of times people get so fixated on working in the business they don’t know what working on the businesses anymore,” right? The business runs them, they show up every day because there’s a mountain of work in front of them, and they become a slave to the business that they created, and I think it’s really incredibly important for people that have growth desires that they understand that there is a big difference between in and on the business, and I know I’m going in a different direction here, welcome back in a second. I think there’s an important point that if you want to know where your time is being spent, there’s a really easy exercise. You go into your calendar and you create buckets of time, and you say, “Okay, this is the amount of time I’ve allocated. A staff, or clients, or proposal writing, or HR issues, or ERP systems, or you know, low level this, that, and the other thing. And when those buckets get created, you can look at the quantum and go, “Holy -, I spend 98% of my time in the business, in operations, and not guiding the business,” on is 50,000 feet looking at the the vast ocean. Seeing a storm on the left, clear skies on the right, and making sure that everybody in the ship is steered in the direction of the path that’s going to create those blue skies. And it’s mind-numbing how many conversations I have with people that don’t have a grasp on where they’re taking their business. They kind of do if you push them in the direction but then there’s no plan that takes them there, and I think largely because they don’t have the confidence in the plan and they’ve allowed themselves to become, you know, a slave to the business operations and as a result their business is destined to be, you know, stuck in neutral for five or six years, and that’s not what anyone wants. So I think the mentors in your life can, if they care, can look into your business and if you’re being vulnerable and honest with them, they can look at your business and go, “Wow, you’re really, you know, missing out here, here, here,” and there’s gospel in, you know, real wisdom in an hour-long conversation with someone that understands how your business operates. So I’d say that would be the second piece that would really help people.
Jeffery: I like it, and in this what I like about the YPO side of things is that, a lot of the times feeling lonely at the top or when you’re building something is that you don’t feel that you’ve created accountability, or someone to report into, because you say, “I work for myself and this is my company,” and I think a lot of the time, this is kind of a misnomer. It needs to kind of shift a little bit and it needs to say that, “Yeah, you might be at the top but there’s always someone above you, and you got to find someone to get above you because that’s going to create this drive that you didn’t think you needed.” And I’m going to take YPO as an example is that, if you have six CEOs that are kind of in all different industries but in the same bucket, and they’re talking about their business and they say, “This week, we just hired 13 other people. Our bottom line just hit 50 million. This is phenomenal!” And you’re sitting there going, “I’m still doing the operational side of things, and we lost four people, and I lost four million in revenue.” You’re gonna start getting down on yourself and start realizing, “I need a kick in the pants.” This person’s doing x and you need that drive. So these people are they’re not above you per se, but what they are are, their driving force to get you to get your business aligned to start growing, and start getting in there, start asking questions, start talking about it, and I think that peer group would really drive you in order to come into the next meeting. You’ve got something positive to say, you’ve got some direction that you can throw out there, and that’s what’s going to help you start to change the way you’re seeing your business because in a way, it’s competing but it’s in a good competitive mode, which is you’re working within a group and you’re all trying to appease and approve each other, and that’s going to come by having these people in your mind sitting above you, so that you’re reporting into them by making sure that you’re bringing lots of positive to the table.
Paul: Yeah and I would add one thing that’s only been a recent epiphany over the last years. I would say that, that was true for for the majority of my time in YPO that and I remember when I first joined it someone warned me, “Hey man, for however much you’re going to make in life, I understand someone’s always got more.” It was a really interesting insight that sucked me because I met some very profoundly successful people in my life and some of them were in my ypo forum. But what’s interesting is you get to a stage in life where I was hustling constantly for the sake of hustle and building, you know, build- And I remember, when I very first started my company, my wife who used to do our accounting was like, “Man, you’re always stressed out. Like when are you not going to be stressed out anymore?” “Like if I have 10 grand in the bank. You know, cash! I’m going to be good,” and then I get to 10 grand. And then the book ends change and all of a sudden, I’m happy. And only she’s like, “What’s the number now?” “It’s a hundred. When I get to 100, I’m going to be super happy,” and then to get to 100 and you’re not happy. Then it’s a million, then you’re not happy because always the, you know, the quantums all change, right? And with scale, comes scale responsibility but in all of that you’re extracting you know, wealth and you’re trying to figure out what life, you know, what life do you want this business to afford you? Because what my recent epiphany is, that I don’t need 50 million in the bank to be happy because there’s a never ending. You’ll just get to 50, and then 175, and when you get a little older in life, you start to get comfortable with the lifestyle that you have. And by the way, that’s not, you’re not leaving anything on the table, you’re just saying, “I don’t need that much more.” Now, my attention is turning to: how can I help other people? And how can I how grow other entrepreneurs and help them see the light? Because if nothing changes for me at this moment in my life until the time I pack it in, I’m really really good and I’ve never been able to say that before because you’ve just been in this dog chasing the car mode, and then you know, at some point you catch the car and you’re like, “Wow!” You know, you kind of, you’re happy and life is good, and even though there are people around you that have got 50, 70, 000 times your net worth, there’s stuff that I have which is happiness and contentment, a great marriage, and great relationship with my kids, and a wicked bunch of friends that I hang out with, and a social life that is not married to the job. That, it, not everything is apples and apples anymore, right? So there’s that as well, and then all of a sudden I’m the one giving to people that have, you know, that are 10 years my senior, that have got a work ethic of 80 hours a week, and have got you know, 400 million dollars in the bank, but they’re perpetually not happy. So who’s better off at the end of the day, right? So there is and so the counseling goes beyond just how much money and how much success have you have. The counseling actually goes to happiness and life enriching you know, opportunities and are you really happy in life? Which I think is the big question that business only plays a fraction of.
Jeffery: Agreed, and there’s, it’s the successes in the eye of the beholder, right? So you could be successful and happy with a million dollars in the bank or 100 million. It’s how you shape that outcome and how you drive it forward. So I love the fact that you are spending that time giving back, especially, when you’ve learned an immense amount about startups, and business, and selling, and M&A, and all this stuff, that it’s 100% worth the value to say, “How do I give this back? Or at least a portion of it?” So that people can better understand and move through their ecosystem faster. And I can certainly give a kudos and thumbs up to that because that’s pretty much how I look at everything we do, obviously, in helping startups is the same reason. It’s, you’re here but how do we help you move faster? And I’d rather have a thousand ships sitting in the sea than have one big yacht because one thing goes wrong, there’s no yacht. Or at least you’ve got a thousand votes out there that you can help them do their own thing to grow and build and move through time. And you know, different philosophy, but at the same time we kind of align to what you’re thinking and there’s one thing that I can pull out of all of that which you just shared and it comes back to this famous word that almost should be in every entrepreneur’s dictionary which is, passion. So when you’re looking at all of these companies and you’re saying, “I want to give back,” and you look at all the things you’ve done, how much of it goes back to your passion for the business that you’re in? And how much do you see that in the companies that you’re working with? Is that what draws you into them because they’re you know, you mentioned from a YPO, you’re with people that are similar to you and when you’re building your company, go out to environments where you’re finding people that have the same kind of drive that you do. So how much of that goes back to that key word which is, we look for people that are super passionate about their business and that they can drive this? Is that a key factor to how all of this kind of facilitates?
Paul: Yeah like there’s there’s a deal that we’re looking at right now, that I, if you just took the industry, and the company on its own, and remove faces and names, there’s not a chance I’d ever want to be in that business, right? It doesn’t take a lot of boxes for me. But the entrepreneur that’s behind it is a rock star, and I really thoroughly enjoy this person, and I’m at the stage in life that, and by the way I’ve been at the stage for a long time, where I have a no – policy. I don’t care how how great you are. I don’t care how passionate you are. If you’re a -, I don’t want to work with you. Like life’s too short, so there’s that which I think is of critical importance. And this person, you know, I mean nowadays it’s not me leading the charge anymore. It’s more me igniting it and helping clear the path, but this person you know, is and look, I’m involved in six different companies right now and every one of them are highly passionate, and I think where I can help is, you can be you can have a ton of passion but unless you determine your purpose, that passion gets tiresome, right? It’s passion misplaced and you can be incredibly passionate not see results for two years and go, “Man, I just, I have a ton of passion but how come things, how come I’m on groundhog day.” And that’s where the plan has to come in and I think that’s where some seasoned help comes in because it helps channel the passion into a purpose, and by the way you know this there’s 50 different inputs. There’s no one playbook that takes a company from here to there inside of an industry. There’s a variety of different methods and there’s 15 different ways up to the top of the mountain, but they’re all hard, right? And they’re not all obvious, right? You’re through the woods, and you can get lost, and you can find yourself going down the mountain not even knowing it and all that stuff. So I wish that, I wish, if we used to talk as partners in the agency all the time that there really is no playbook. It’s just your intuition telling you that if you pull this lever, that’s going to create good things for you, and especially, if you can get people behind it pulling that lever, you’ll be better off at 12 months time than you were before. But again, not a lot of people do that, and not a lot of people know where the lever is or how to pull it, or they’re afraid to pull it because it might mean, you know, corporate shift or having to replace somebody that is a rock star in their own rights, but only took you so far on a journey and they’re not equipped to take you in the next part of the journey. So yeah. It’s a, it, you know, it’s wild to see people that are passionate because at least you can have good conversations with them and and their passion is going to take them some places versus someone that just mails it in every day and is happy with status quo. Those are the people that I, I’m not saying that’s you know operating a business that is checking, you know, kicking out a certain percentage of ebitda and it’s providing someone a certain lifestyle. I have zero problem with that, whatsoever. That’s great and that’s great for them. It’s not what I get excited about. I’m a growth junkie. I love seeing growth it creates opportunity, it creates you know, more staff, more, you know, more revenue within the region, making people you know wealthy who can then invest in other companies in the region and and whatnot. So I think that channel passion could be could be explosive but it really does have to be channeled.
Jeffery: I love it. So you’re really coming back and saying, like with passion has to have a purpose and with that purpose, you’re going to have a plan and if you’re going to have that plan, you’re going to be able to drive success. And without it, you’re going to just have passion. And passion, it’s not going to really get you anywhere. It’ll be a great conversation but it might not be the right opportunity to get into a high growth business because they haven’t sorted out the other pieces which is, purpose and plan.
Paul: Yeah. You know, on the plan thing, I just want to touch on that for a second. I think the other thing that being in a network and having mentors or just other people you can bounce the ideas off, allows you to take blinders off because most companies that I sit with, I’ve got one one typical rule when I go into business with someone that is, I don’t want a 50 page plan. No one reads it. You put all this effort into it, and it sits on the shelf, and collects stuff. There’s no KPIs. Again, it’s hard to track. No one knows what their objectives are. I am a big fan of three-point plans. What three things could we do this year that will make us a far better company in the next 12 months? So I think, principally, people can get their head around that. I mean, that’s a big topic unto itself but that, you know, in principle is something that you can rally and communicate clearly to people. The real question is what are those three things, and having mentors that have done it before typically you ask an entrepreneur, ‘what are the three things that you can do that could set you on a trajectory to double your revenues in two years, for example. If that’s your objective.’ Most entrepreneurs that are not seasoned would say, ‘do a better job selling, do a better job marketing, get out there, and contact more people, win more business,’ but what they don’t understand, just because they don’t have the exposure, that maybe other people have had is you could double your revenues and next year if you bought your competitor, right? So M&A could be something you should consider. Adding a skew to your business. So what you’re offering today? So this company we’re looking at buying right now, offers one service and my question is, okay, we know that something’s being built at a certain point in time and we own a certain part of that shopping basket. Well, what if we offered two other skus, how hard is that for us, you know, to train our staff, to be able to offer those two things? And it’s not hard at all, but the point is an operator can have blinders on for growth and say, “Well, in order for me to get from here to here. These are the three things that I’m comfortable with and know exist,” and you can have another opinion come in and go, “Yeah, but what if you did this?” And they’re like, “Well, I don’t understand how do M&A work. I don’t understand. I can’t afford that. I can’t afford to buy my competitor for 2 million.” “Well, no. There’s a thing called the vendor take back note, and you know, you also got bank financing. You’ve got, you know, earn outs that you could do. You get creative with the deal. You could pay them out of their own income.” Point is, you would never know that on your own. Unless you were to have counsel that came in from the outside that explained to you, how growth and scale could work for businesses and that, you know, goes back to the very first point of surrounding yourself with people smarter than you.
Jeffery: I love it. Man, well said. And I completely agree that there is so many different avenues that if you’re not getting out there and connecting and talking, you’re not going to learn, but you’re also going to be disadvantaging yourself to other opportunities. Like an M&A process or doubling down on your business and utilizing your current profits, or even work off some debt potential to buy that company. But a lot of people may not have looked at those because it’s risk and you know, they risked already the first three years of building this company. And now they’re kind of in a more cushy spot and they’re afraid to risk again because they know what they live through for the first three years. So sometimes it does take a little bit of a hand hold from somebody that has been doing this but it’s also doing this in a larger scale and that brings back that comfort level and gets you back into the more aggressive seats. So it’s good to hear that there’s other investors out there and business owners that say, “You know, what this is, how you run a business and these are the things you got to look at and explore, and always be tackling the market. Don’t let the market come after you, go after the market.” There’s probably one or two other things that I want to touch on that really kind of share down to all of these things again in the bucket of building companies and the things to look for. And one of them, you mentioned which was, there’s a lot of paths in the mountain. And you mentioned the woods portion of it and I love to use the analogy that building a company is like climbing a mountain. Even if the image is right behind me but and the reason why I say that is because at the base of the mountain there are many many paths that you can take to get to the base of the mountain, and you’re going through the woods, you could get reverse, you can get taken over, you can stop to eat, and forget that you were on a trail, and go home. But at the end of the day, when you get to that mountain, there’s probably two or three ways up, and you have to start to figure that out, and that’s where you’re honing in your business and you’re trying to make your way up to the top. And I love the fact that you said, really, when you’re working through this, there’s a million obstacles that you’re going to face, and when you’re working your way up that mountain phase, you got to kind of figure out, start to isolate where you’re going to go, and put that plan into action, and start getting insights from everybody. Because the only way to get to the top is going to be: if it is money or if it’s resourcing. You really do have to challenge yourself and challenge your executive team to be able to figure out how you can keep summoning that mountain.
Paul: I would also add jp that there’s a lot more competition at the base of the mountain, right? The fit and the unfit, everyone’s you know, everyone can take, everyone get to base camp. You can get lost on your way to base camp. You know you’re going up because mountains not that steep and as you get to higher altitudes, there’s a lot less people that are fit enough to scale it and bring people with them, and I think that’s a bigger challenge, and I guess my point to that is, the ingredients that took you to base camp and the techniques that you had to get you to base camp aren’t necessarily the ones that will take you to to the next plateau, and the next plateau. And I think as an entrepreneur, what I’ve experienced is, most people hit a glass ceiling. So for example, I’ll give you an example, you start off, you know, a carpet cleaning business and you’re, you know, you knock on doors and you get a degree of success and all of a sudden the business gets so big that you’re stretching 50 directions, because you’re cleaning the carpet, you’re managing the people, you’re getting your invoicing ready, you’re dealing with the banks, you’re doing all that stuff. And you forget what it is or don’t know what it is that the business needs from you in the next iteration for it to grow again. And I’ll use a different analogy. I’m a big, maybe it’s because my gaming background, but I always imagine business as a dragon. It’s this thing that you’re the custodian of. It’s not you and you’re not it, but your job is to feed it what it needs to be fed in order for it to become fear fierce and everything you want it to be. And I think what ends up happening is, people end up feeding the thing, the same thing and the dragon is just stagnant, and they lose sight of ‘it’ in them. And the trick is to understand what does it need to be fed at every life stage in order for it to become the biggest, most fierce thing it could possibly be? And that changes all the time and the cast of character changes a lot. You may have somebody that’s in, you know, incredible shepherd of a certain division but when all of a sudden, you know, the business takes a change and you get an extra million dollar contract, and everyone’s just, you know, working harder, is not the answer. So I always think, what is the thing that I love about the business the most, that adds the most value? So that’s a question every entrepreneur should ask themselves, ‘what does the business need the most from me that I love to do?’ And then the next time you hire somebody, you figure out what is the 50% of the – that I don’t like about my business? Because that becomes a job description for someone else to come in behind me and it frees me up to focus on the things that I love. So I’ll take it back to an example in the very first days of the agency. So when I was working on my dad’s carpet cleaning business with a plywood desk, as I burnt all the money up and I was doing graphic design stuff, I discovered I had a problem because when I would win a piece of business, I would then have to go in the shop and work on the business. And my gut was telling me, this is a horrible waste of my time because hey, I sucked at graphic design, and b, it was a time waste that I would always go, ‘god, if I could spend the same amount of time doing the design as I could do business development, how much bigger could the company be?’ So I took a leap of faith and I hired my first persons, Brad Hilliar, came in as a graphic designer, and then I was able to go and do a whole bunch of business. And within two months, I was able to hire a second graphic designer, James Rothenberg, to do graphic design which proved the point that if I can invest in myself to allow me to do the things that the business needs from me and clear my path and just focus on that, that the investment, I’ll get back after believing that I can do that and accomplish my goals, will allow me to grow and scale. And you have to ask yourself that question every year because too many people get sucked into the end, right? They get focused on dealing with people in HR, running meetings, and doing project updates, and meeting with customers, and someone that’s mad or running a proposal, writing non-scalable things that just keep the machine going, versus, one of the things that’s going to really revolutionize the machine for it to grow and scale, and for it to become bigger, and all that stuff. And almost, always, it comes down to the entrepreneur, you know, sadly. So not only is it a lonely job, it’s high pressure because the buck stops with that person almost every time.
Jeffery: So in kind of tying that together, what kind of advice would you give to a founder that allows them to almost understand better of their current role, and then what they’re projecting themselves to be, so that focus stays in line? So you mentioned that, you know, find the things that you don’t like or the things you’re not as efficient at and work to fill that role, which means you got to work the job and fill that in, which is great advice. So how do you envision or focus yourself to where you want to be? How do you get that founder to really realize that, you know, they’ve got to hand things off, lose control but stay in the zone of what’s going to build your company? And what is that, is that your best skill if you’re a designer or you are a best a CEO role? Like what kind of thing do you think really delineates what that is?
Paul: Well, I have two answers to that and I have to say that both are (inaudible 41:16). One is how you spend your time the on, versus the end. And the second is, trusting people to be adults. All right, so I’ll come back to both. So one is, if you can look at the course of your week and realize where you spent your time. That’s a really good exercise. Every Friday, I’d look back at my week, and go, ‘did I move the needle or not?’. And you’re not going to move the needle every day, right? You know, some days you mailed it in. it was a – day full of meetings and you walk away, and even though you were busy or ineffective, and I think most entrepreneurs and business owners or business leaders can walk away with a fair audit, and a lot of times they don’t know why, and I think the reason why is, ‘did you work on the business or were you working in the business?’ And the people who can audit their time effectively, and know the difference between on and in time, are people that will inevitably grow their business because they spend time thinking about strategy, and operations, and key people, and top three objectives, and what are my people working on, and if I set up KPIs in order for them to deliver against the three objectives, those are leadership qualities. And leadership traits that I think are, you can self-assess for but a lot of people ignore and get stuck in the groundhog day thing. The second thing is, empowering people and there’s two schools of thought. I think in business, one, is that you rule with an iron fist and you know, I create a culture where I expect people to you know, when I say, ‘jump’, they say, ‘how high?’ ‘and don’t ask questions and just do what you’re told and get stuff done.’ And I think those days are ending. We write that ruled in our fists and people these days want to feel purpose in the business, and feel like they’re contributing. So I have been and I’ve questioned whether this is right. My whole career, I no longer question it but I did my entire career because my dad was much more real with the iron fist that that’s what he tried to teach me to be, and it’s just not in my DNA, and I think that’s just a cultural divide between generations. But I’m much more open book. Like I, you know, I remember we bought a company in Prince of Rhode Island, and that company was really broken badly. It was literally two weeks away from bankruptcy and foreclosure, and I love the concept. And I have a passion for PRI because I’m, my family’s all from there. My wife’s from there, so I decided to jump on the grenade and the first order of business aside from fixing the management team, which was horribly dysfunctional and not provided any information, they were just work harder, work smarter, public executions, all that stuff. I, you know, put a management team together that we shared everything. We did a massive drain the swamp, “Hey, tell me. What’s broken? You know, let’s, what’s broke, tell me straight from the gut. What’s missing in order? What’s stopping you from having a perfect day?” You know all those types of questions that we would ask, so we created a management team that was open and honest. I shared the financials. I’m like, “Here’s the numbers. Like I’m not hiding anything,” and then we opened it up to the company. We told them exactly what we’re doing, we started doing town halls. You know, in the business with you know, then 50 or 60 people and up to 100 by the time I left, and you know, ‘here’s our game plan, here’s what we missed. Here’s where we hit,’ because then people realize they’re not just showing up every day to turn widget, you know, produce widgets. They’re there for a purpose and if I can make this company a bit better and I’m treated like an adult and not told what to do, ‘hey look, I don’t know your job. I don’t claim to but let me give you the tools so that you can audit how to do it better.’ And we asked a question every single day of every department, what prevented you from having a perfect day? And they wanted to answer it. They created, “Oh, here’s, I got an issue with communication,” or “I ran around the floor too much looking for parts,” or “I did whatever,” and then we could fix it versus every single day – broken in the company that I absolutely hate but I’m not empowered to change it so I just go through the craziness every single day. So I think building cultures behind you and empowering your management, who empower their staff, be open, be communicative, tell them exactly what your goals, and objectives are, put it on the, but you know, be afraid you know, be okay with putting an objective that you might fail on, right? And being that vulnerable as a company, “Hey, we may not hit it but this is what we’re shooting for this year,” and it can’t be revenue, right? No one cares about that as much. It’s more, you know, we’re gonna add three new customers or you know, what we’re gonna pave the parking lot in the case of the last company we’re in, which is a big deal because no one like driving it with dirt roads and potholes. So anyway those are the types of things I think are important but having transparency and letting people be adults, trusting that they’ll make the right decision as opposed to rule than iron fists, and trying to control and command everything.
Jeffery: I love it. How do you move the dial and are you on or in the business? I think those are a couple of key points that kind of summarize that, so thank you. That’s amazing, and I love the idea of working with everybody, not over everybody. So working in line and sharing information, and being really forthcoming, and taking that spot where, “Hey, you know what, I’m gonna say something. It may not work. We might do something, it may not work but we’re all in this together and we’re going to kind of overcome this as a team and get that motivation back for why you’re here. Get that purpose back and work the plan and work the purpose.” So I think that really kind of summarized a lot of that and the last part to all of this discussion we’ve had is, how important is the brand and branding yourself or the entirety of what you’re doing? How important is that to all the things that we just talked about?
Paul: I’m really glad you asked that because if you didn’t, I was gonna offer it up. For me, it’s, I’m not gonna say it’s everything by any stretch but it’s a lot and I put some, I do lots of seminars on this, you know, finding your why and it’s directly from the Simon Sinek video, if you haven’t seen the 20 minute, you know, TEDx video, that he did start with ‘why’ several years ago after being in marketing for 25 years. It’s the best thing I could point anyone to that makes them understand the importance of finding your purpose in business. I would say that 85% to 95% of the companies that are out there do marketing and purpose-led, you know, discoveries for the sake of doing it, “Oh, we got to do marketing. So let’s come up with our vision-mission purpose statement, and then we’re going to announce it to the company.” “Here’s our values, and our vision, our mission.” No one gives a -. I was walking through a fellow YPO’s business and he had a phenomenal job of renovations. You know, his beautiful place and he’s like, “Oh, you’re a marketing guy, Paul. I want to show you this,” and he went over to some random desk and pulled this laminated vision-mission values, you know, card. It was all done up really nice and I was like, “I’m so excited about this. You know we spent a lot of time, we’re thinking about what this means,” blah blah blah. And I said, “Okay, cool.” And I put it behind my back and I turned to the person’s desk and I said, “Hey, what’s on this card?” And the girl was like, “I have no idea. I have no idea,” and I think the point of it is, don’t just do marketing for the sake of doing marketing. People see right through that. Most of it’s ignored. Everyone sees five to eight thousand messages a day. Purpose is a really important word and I think it doesn’t get the air time that it deserves. So anytime I counsel companies, there’s, you know, a three-circle approach. ‘What does the world need?’ Which is of critical importance and that is your world so that is the customers you either serve or want to serve. ‘What do they need and not functional need?’ Not, “Oh, they need delivery of our products, every day by friday afternoon.” ‘What emotional need do you serve to deliver?’ and once you understand that which a very hard question to answer, you move to then, ‘what are you good at as a company?’ or ‘should you be good at or you need to be good at’ based on that answer that should create some overlap. And then from that answer, you go to, ‘what are you passionate about?’ and the passion has to come from what you’re good at, and if it does, then those three things perfectly overlap. And in the middle of that is, your ‘why’. Understanding that and by the way, make it sound like a really easy process and it’s painful, it’s frustrating, and if it was easy, everyone would do it. So very few companies do, but discovering your ‘why’ as a business, which you know, sometimes has a hint as to ‘why you got in the business to begin with’, you know. You had a passion for it yet a purpose but then business got in the way and life got in the way, and everyone forgot about that. Now you’re just going to make money and you know, and make sure people don’t quit or your customers don’t leave you. But it’s at one point of your growth that purpose is what got you to a certain point and then it got ignored. And if you can really truly understand your purpose to the point of the goosebumps, like your unwaverable purpose that no one can convince you otherwise is, x it’s going to attract like-minded people who share on that purpose and they want to deliver it every single day too, which will attract customers who value that purpose. And it’ll also detract customers that don’t want to share in that purpose. And that’s okay too, as opposed to being all things, all people, and nothing to anyone you mean a lot to, you know, to a segment of people that you’ll protect them and grow relationships with. And it gets overlooked a lot and I remember in the business that we had in Prince of Rhode Island, you know, it was a metal bashing business. So it was very difficult to ascribe a ‘why’ and I’m sure anyone that’s a listener, that’s in a business, that’s more commodity based, or you know more manufacturing based, or b2b, or whatever, will discount this and they really shouldn’t. So we ended up coming with, we built food safe food processing equipment for major plants like McCain, and Lamb West, and whatnot. You know, conveyance, you know, systems and all that, and the truth is that if those machines, well we discovered after a long long three-month exercise is that, if we didn’t care about how our products were built, if a screw is eight threads versus three threads, there’s more points of harborage for bacteria disease which means people can get sick and we discovered that our purpose as a business was not just build on time and on budget, and install it, and make sure that it was flawless when it was installed with low maintenance. It was that we were hygienic design specialists that we kept food safe and people got behind that we end up doing a photo shoot with all of our people and their kids in front of them. You know, showcasing how important it is to build products to keep the people they love safe. We went so far to build little cutouts and they’re in their, you know, in their machining and fabrication areas of other family members. You’re constant thinking about people who are going to eat off the machine that you know the machinery that you create. We created hygienic standards, we ended up creating QA people at the end of it. Like the whole company became obsessed with creating products that were safe, versus, just creating products and as a result 20 minutes after, 20 months after we bought the company. We got a knock on the door from another company that believed in that every bit as much as we did and bought us, and now the company grew from 100 people. When we sold it to 200 plus people. A 50, 000 square foot expansion and that part of the island is absolutely ripping it because of that ‘why’, you know. It was that purpose-led organization, so I can’t speak enough about the importance of finding your true purpose in a business and making sure that other people are drinking the kool-aid with you because that will answer almost every problem you have, what type of business should you be in, what type of skills should you be offering, how should, what type of hiring procedures have you got, what type of clients do you want to, how should your communications go with your client. Like it answers almost every question that you need in a business, so of critical importance, very glad you asked that.
Jeffery: Amazing. Love it. So if you take literally this the purpose and what you eventually, and I’m, this is so resonating. So when you take that purpose and you find what your purpose is, and you’ve allocated your time, your mind, and your life to this purpose, how much of the world will shift into that purpose with you because you’re communicating it, because you’re opening it up and if you keep it closed off, how can people get into your passion and get into what you’re trying to do. If you’re not communicating it, you’re not opening it up. You’re not out hustling it. You’re not sharing it. People can’t decide that they love what you’re doing, they can’t feel part of that. So it’s so critically important that that passion is opened up because it solves the ‘why’ and then other people are gonna find like-minded people, right? Like if you’re going to win the stanley cup or you’re going to do something that’s empowering, it takes a whole team to do that and in order for that whole team to do it, they all have to get into the same belief system and they’ll have to get part of that passion, the drive, to get to that end goal. So the more that, the faster you can open that up and create that collective drive, the faster you’re going to get to that goal, and the faster you’re going to get more people outside that spectrum, like you said, the other clean tech company that came in and said, “Wow! You’re doing what we’re doing. We’re buying you,” the more of that’s going to keep happening. So I think the whole message to all of this for that I’m taking from everything we’ve talked about is that when you find that passion, and you find that plan, and that drive to where you’re going, you’re going to find a lot of people that are going to love what you’re doing, and they’re going to want to be part of it because herd mentality says, ‘if I like it. I’m in.’
Paul: Yeah, yeah. Nothing draws a crowd of your crowd. And the last thing I’ll say is that, if you don’t get the goosebumps from it, you probably haven’t dug deep enough, and if you do get the goosebumps from it, then it will become contagious. You won’t be able to hold back from communicating it to everyone. The times that you waver on it and you feel like you’re half pregnant with, you know, with the answer, is the time that it doesn’t become systematic and people don’t get intoxicated by it, and don’t, you know, live it, sleep it, breathe it, that’s when you know, you haven’t gone far enough. So I call it the goosebump factor, when you land, you know, you land it’s like ‘love’ you know. You know, you don’t, you only know it when you’re in it and once you’ve found it, it’s something that’s timeless and something that’s contagious. But it takes a lot to get there and it’s a very difficult exercise, but it’s worth it in the end.
Jeffery: Well said, well shared. We’re going to transition quickly now because I know we’re kind of getting up to the time and I got to get you out of that chair. So we’re gonna do two last things. We’re gonna get more personal at the end but the last question, only because I love a good story. So, and I know that being on the east coasters, you guys love telling great stories. So I’m looking for this heartfelt entrepreneurial, “Oh my god, I can’t believe we had to do this. We made it happen and it really took it over the line,” and this was probably the most exciting moment that you’ve had. Is there something that you can share that really kind of emphasized to you what it takes, even if it’s someone on your team or something in the other startups that you’ve worked with? Just something that really blew you away on kind of what you had to do to make something work, and how the outcome was just obviously positive and awesome?
Paul: Yeah. I have an answer instantly and I touched on it a bit earlier, but I’ll elaborate a bit more. So when I first started up the agency, it was a market full of very large enterprise agencies that were all built on relationships. So all the kingpins of our competitors were on every board and even though I thought my work was better, I’d walk into a big client and they would go, “No, we’re dealing with x agency because the relationships that existed.” So I thought you know what, the only way to disrupt this market is to disrupt it from without, from within because no one’s going to take my word that our work is any better than the most. So we created this award show and it was a long process. We called it the Ice Awards, and then none of the agencies wanted to submit their work because they didn’t, they knew what I was up to so we ended up going to their clients and going, “Gosh, what’s good for your culture and your marketing department if your work gets recognized? You should get your agency.” So we had these crazy plans to get all these agencies, were absolutely unwilling to support this dream that I had of creating this award show to the table. And then they got to the table and we had our first awards show, and Paul Lavoie from Taxi flew in as our opening spokesperson. It was a really magical moment and then all the award submissions came out and we absolutely shipped the bed. Like our agency I think won two merit awards, and I thought we were way better than we were, and all the other agencies beat us but what was unintended, was because I was the father or the co-father of the Ice Awards. Everyone thought our brand was synonymous with creativity, and we exploded. We went from I think 10 people in 2003, when the, or 2004 when the award show started to like 75 people two years later. We won every major account and it was the first time in my life that I was, I’m not proud a lot, but I was really proud at that moment that I had a plan, executed it, failure wasn’t an option, did everything we could to get you know this award show alive, and surviving it. Still exists today and it absolutely changed the trajectory of the agency. You know, forevermore. So that’s kind of a cool story that you know, proof that good planning and good execution can pay off.
Jeffery: I love it. That’s awesome and congrats, that’s pretty cool.
Paul: Thank you, thank you.
Jeffery: So we’re gonna touch on one other thing that I think really kind of fits to, I think all the things that we’ve talked about your passion for helping and sharing everything you have today. And maybe you can talk a little bit about ‘Dear Life’ and share a little bit about this project because I’ve signed up. I’m in line but I’m certainly game, and excited to hear more about what you guys are doing with us.
Paul: Yeah, so where this came from, as I mentioned you know several times earlier, my dad was a, was you know probably the most influential person in my life. My biggest fan and just best friend. We used to, you know, anyway go on and on about our relationship, it was about as good as it gets between a father and a son, and he was great to my kids, and we go to Florida every year for three weeks, and it was just a fascinating time, and he was amazing. He was a hard worker, you know, became an entrepreneur late in life, had a brutally hard upbringing, you know, put into the Catholic you know education system. And you know, all of the – that goes along with that and a lot of poverty when he was young, and came out just an excellent guy, and in 2012, you know, got diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 2013. Actually was 2013 he got diagnosed and passed away, and I remember when he died, you know, aside from all of the horrible feelings that go along with saying goodbye to somebody. I felt really robbed of my ability to tell his story. I mean what tools do you have even then and now you got a, you know, youtube, you got you know the – obituary sites where you can do a data dump of all the pictures, and well-wishers, a face, a ghosted facebook page, which no one knows what to do with after someone dies. And ever since 2013, I’ve had this desire to do something about creating the story of someone’s life. The high points: not eating yogurt for breakfast and being pissed off at Donald Trump. But the stuff that really were life defining for that person because everyone you know, ancestry, is a really big brand but what’s missing in ancestry is the color behind who those people were, right? I can tell you who my great great great grandfather was and where they lived and where my descendants were, but I can’t tell you anything about who that person was and I just feel, in a digital age where everything’s captured digitally, the fact that there isn’t an outlet for something, like that is almost criminal. So I sat on this idea for years and it was far too busy doing a whole bunch of other things, I actually act on it, because if you’re going to do something, do it right. As my dad would say and then when the pandemic hit, I found myself with time. I was looking at a bunch of deals, they all went sideways because everyone was terrified to do anything and I was terrified to buy anything, and I’m like, “You know what, I have time. So I’m gonna put a rockstar team together.” So I ended up going out, using all my connections, finding the best co-founding CTO, found you know UI best, you using the agency’s resources find the best UI people, the best programmers, full stack developers, all that stuff. And then I found a jockey, that was really killer young guy full of pistol vinegar harrison smith. Excellent guy and just put this team together, and they’ve been working on it now for over, probably, about a year and two months. And we’re close to MVP, and what’s neat about it is that, this is going to be a place where and it’s not just for people that have passed away. It could be your mom’s still here today, and you want to extract her life stream with her as a project, and create this legacy where, you know, for your mom, your kids, and your grandkids are going to know, and their grandkids are gonna know the story of her life, right? The high points of her life and the low points of her life, and everything that happened to her that kind of shaped her and made her, her. So I’m, it’s kind of one of those things that it’s almost like a gift that you’re giving to the world. So it’s exciting to have something like this as a gift that you really really believe in and so far the res, you know, it’s resonating with everyone because everyone who goes through what I’ve been through is like, “Yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s you know, it’s almost criminal that we don’t have a way of storing people’s life stories. So that’s one very personal to me.
Jeffery: I love it, and I was just trying to remember a podcast that I listened to that really kind of resonates with me that fits in the same bucket of what you’re talking about, and I’ll first start by saying, your father was a smart man. So that’s good and the second I’ll say is that, it’s called the ‘Elder Files’ and a friend of mine, she runs this or operates. She’s the speaker on it and she basically goes out and talks to people that are in the later stages of life. You know, 60 up, what not, and kind of explores being the elder scroll, Elder files, explores kind of the after business life. What are you doing? What are you passionate about? What are you changing in the world? And it’s pretty amazing, the people she’s talking to. So it’s something that kind of ties into that storytelling and what I loved about this, and very supportive of it, is that it’s diving into you know like you said, you haven’t passed. You’re not at that stage but you’ve got a lot to share. So this is only one hour but in that one hour it feels so enlightening that someone’s taking the risk of saying, “Hey, I want to learn about you because you’ve done a lot of things in 60 years. What have you done?” And I think there’s a story there, and I think that’s a really good story that we don’t tend to get because it’s not in the public eye. But you know, they could have been a civil servant for 50 years, but what did they do as a civil servant? There’s still a lot of value in that and we don’t sometimes look at that. We only look at Elon Musk, and owns six companies, and he’s sold another house, really doesn’t make a difference to my life, for my time. But that seems to enthrall me, versus, someone that spent 50 years in civil servant work doing something amazing that we didn’t hear about or about. So –
Paul: Or the life experiences that they have that may have nothing to do with what they did, but have got great advice. We’ve asked the question, what advice would you give your 20 year old self, right? So those are the types of questions that are that everyone has interest in. not just because I knew your mom, but it’s always in if you go on Tik Tok, and look up what makes you happy. It’s one of the coolest Tik Tokers I see out there. He just walks up to general people, “Guy, what makes you happy?” I don’t know, why I care about what their answer is but I care, right? So it’s just that human side of things that we’re trying to draw out.
Jeffery: I love it. No it’s a great project and excited to see where you guys take it. So the last question I have is, we’re going to go real quickly into the personal side. Before we tailor off and I learned this from another startup that we were working with in the podcast side, and I had to take a portion or the idea concept behind this, and so they’re personal questions. So the first question is, what is your favorite sports team?
Paul: You know what, I’m not a, the Canadians, but I’m not a sport fan.
Jeffery: Okay, all right.
Paul: And if I, and if I claim that I am my best friend, Dippy will mock me openly. So I just, I love hockey. It’s my favorite sport but I don’t have time to follow it. I was born in Montreal, so I’d say the Canadians and they’re doing fairly well right now.
Jeffery: They are doing pretty good. They’re doing some wonderful things right now. All right, favorite movie and what character would you play?
Paul: I have a lot of favorite movies but the one that always comes to mind, for me, was Braveheart with Mel Gibson and of course, I’d play that role. I love that one. I also love Gladiator that older movie, same vintage, and same style, right? The just you, know, up against all odds and you know, I don’t know if I can you know commiserate to that or whatever. But that’s my, that’s one of my all-time favorite movies.
Jeffery: I love it. I’m a huge Braveheart fan, myself. I was not, well character-wise, I would go to and I’m not sure if you remember the frenchman where he’s like, “Smart enough to get a dagger by your guards old man.”
Jeffery: That crazy guy? That’s who I was.
Paul: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jeffery: I do myself is probably crazy, so that would be a perfect fit for me. But I love the movie, so that’s very cool and I’ve never got to air that part of it. But that is a very good movie and good characters. So there you go, well you can be Braveheart. I like that you got to have the bravery, right?
Paul: I’ll be Mel.
Jeffery: William Wallace.
Paul: William Wallace, that was it.
Jeffery: Yeah. I love it. Our last last question, what is your superpower?
Paul: Probably not caring what other people think, at this stage. Like loved karaoke parties at our house and a lot of people like, “Oh, you’re a business guy, you shouldn’t be you know, you shouldn’t be putting yourself-” I’m an idiot and I’m happy with being an idiot. And I’ve lived my life being an idiot, and I’m comfortable with being a jokester, and loving having parties, and having drinks with friends, and caring too much, and telling people too much, and it’s just, it’s worked for my whole life. And I guess my superpower is just brutal honesty and being a goofball.
Jeffery: I love it. It’s awesome. Well Paul, I know we’ve taken up a lot of time and you shared a lot, and I will do this again. I say, I won’t share anything but man I wrote a lot of notes, like this is awesome. Fantastic job! You shared a lot, your community’s gonna love it. You’ve done a lot of great things and keep those up, and what we like to end the show with is, like to leave you the last word. So anything you want to say to founders, investors, the community. I give you the last word. Again, but thank you for all your time today.
Paul: Oh, thank you. And thank you for all the good questions. I really enjoyed it. A lot of fun. Just kind of reminiscing and it’s cathartic to kind of throw at your thoughts and think about business and reflect a little bit. So I’m at the kind of reflective stage after selling the agency. So I think I’ll focus on the investors for a second, for my final thought, which you know, which is to not be afraid to help out companies and to not always expect a return in it immediately. And I know an awful lot of people you know, prize their dollars that are hard earned and I understand that, but you know, giving people a chance to you know, to grow their ambitions and to take a chance on someone else’s dream, is powerful. And I think it’s what builds this country. So I love investing and I love investing in good people. So obviously you have to fit your investment criteria but you know, don’t look at a loss as a loss, it’s a great experience and not everything is about return on money sometimes. Things are about return on experience so it’s well worth it, either way.
Jeffery: I love it. Human capital, you got to put time and effort into all of it.
Paul: Yeah, awesome. Well thank you, JP! I appreciate it all.
Jeffery: You bet, thank you very much for your time.
Okay, that was fantastic, Paul! Really shared a lot of great insights into that you know, I, wow, so many places to start but I think from selling companies and doing M&A, and getting all of those pieces together. We really touched on a lot of things from passion, purpose, plan, branding, what is your ‘why’, figuring that out. Man, brute force, getting part of groups, com, putting together these chambers of commerce groups, networking YPO, man. So many great tidbits of information to help a startup. So I’m really gonna be excited when we get this out but fantastic. Like, and share, comment, we’re open to it. So looking forward to connect with everybody and thanks again.
Are you interested in meeting Paul, we will be happy to make an introduction!
Are you an angel investor and would like to participate in an upcoming show?