Paul LeBlanc
IMPACT INVESTING

Paul LeBlanc

#75

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Entrepreneur

Reaching an equilibrium – Paul LeBlanc

“Giving people a chance to you know, to grow their ambitions and to take a chance on someone else’s dream is powerful”

ABOUT

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

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THE FULL INTERVIEW

Paul LeBlanc

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Well, I want to thank you very much Paul for joining us today, and just like we’re doing, we’re right into it. Jumping right into the conversation and welcome to Ask An Angel! And today, we’re doing something just slightly a little bit different and that’s why I’m excited about it, and today we’re kind of jumping into, not only on an investment side which is normally what we focus on, but today we’re focused on something a little bit different which is we’re almost tailing on to the back end of an entrepreneur that’s done a lot of great things in the community and in the world. Exited out of a couple of different businesses, one recently. So we’d love to dive in to learn more about, kind of all of those experiences and man, there’s so much stuff that we’re gonna talk about. We might be here for hours but we’re going to try and trim it down so that we can get you off this seat, but maybe let’s start by welcoming you and maybe you can share a little bit about your past, maybe some of the present, and where you’re looking to go, and then one thing about you nobody will know.

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.

Paul: Absolutely.

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,