Episode 4: Paul LeBlanc, Founder & CEO, 7th Wave Capital

In this episode, we interview Paul LeBlanc, Founder and CEO of 7th Wave Capital. Paul is the recipient of the Top 40 Under 40 Award in Canada and has been awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Ernst and Young. He’s in the Top 50 CEO’s “Hall of Fame” and has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Influential Marketers. In this episode, Paul shares his insights on running successful businesses.



  • Joe: Just always loved your work and it stood out to me. What has been your philosophy when it comes to great advertising like if you had to scribble it down?


    Paul: I think people who understand why marketing is important and what it can do if it’s harnessed the correct way it’ll liberate a company. It’ll attract staff. It’ll retain staff. It will excite existing customers. It’ll draw out new customers to you, but in order to do that, you have to take risks. You have to take a position on what your brand stands for and say it in an interesting fashion or you become like 98% of all the ads that are out there which are ignored.

  • Joe: If you don’t mind, why don’t you just give me for those of you who don’t know your story and your background? Just give us a quick recap on your professional background.


    Paul: I don’t know that there’s such a thing as a quick recap on that, but I’ll give it the college try. So, I started out in life going to be an RCMP officer and I dropped out of university because my dad started up a cell-phone business and he was adamant that we start a business together, so I left SMU after year one and went in and started about a company called Coastal Communications with him and that was the early days of cell-phone technology back when they were massive brick phones and bag phones and all that stuff.


    Paul: We had a lot of fun together and grew that business from nothing literally working out of the house to five locations, and a few years later he wanted out so we found two partners for me and bought his shares out and gifted me the other third, and then I ran the business for about a year and a half, and then Mickey McDonald called me up and he bought me, so that was 24 years old at the time and had a sizeable purse for a 24 year old that came from nothing in life and did whatever a 24 year old would do and spent it on frivolous things, and a couple smart things, but mostly stupid.


    Paul: And then, one day… Do I go back to school, do I go get a job, what do I do? And decided that I was very unemployable after running a business for myself and fell literally backwards into advertising the way many do. Started up a company in 1996 called Extreme Group and ran that business for many, many years and built a really good team and created a creative value proposition in a market that was devoid of creativity and advertising and started up the ICE Awards to level the playground between us and all the other ad agencies at the time, and that worked phenomenally well and we ended up exploding in terms of growth from again a very small startup with just me working with my dad’s carpet cleaning business in the back room to about 65, 70 people by about 2005.


    Paul: And then, the markets took a turn. The market here in Atlantic Canada got quite small so I convinced my wife who was a struggle to convince to move to Halifax from PEI to move to Toronto and open the office up there, and she submitted. The claw marks were scorched up the 401, but we got there and started the company up at the heels of the sub deck crisis. In 2008, I landed in Toronto and opened the agency there organically. Didn’t buy anybody. Just showed up and started knocking on doors, and that was a tough go during the sub deck crisis, but we prevailed by about 2012, got the agency to a place where it was mature and had stable clients and a good management team.


    Paul: And then, moved back to Halifax and decided that I wanted to do whatever things in life so I gifted some shares to my management team and they ran the company and I maintained majority of the business for the year subsequent, and I went out and did a whole bunch of different things. That’s a whole nother chapter. I invested in a company called … My watch is listening to me. Invested in a company called Vista Care Communications which build fiber optic pole to pole technologies and splicing and what not across Canada. That company’s done extremely, extremely well.


    Paul: And then, I started up a company called Karma Gaming which was a startup that was meant to disrupt the lottery and gaming space, and then sold that in 2015. And then, bought into a company called Iconic Breweries which made it on The Dragon’s Den a couple times and they exploded and got to doing about 25 million in revenue and they just got bought by private equity about a year and a half ago.


    Paul: Then I got involved in a clothing company called Be Human Clothing, and then I’m sure I’m missing other things in between. And then, in 2017 I bought a company in Prince Edward Island called Charlottetown Metal Products, which is a company that builds out major plan infrastructure for processing companies with all the stainless steel conveyors and [inaudible 00:06:13] receiving and tote dumping and all that stuff.


    Paul: And it was a distressed company. It was weeks away from bankruptcy when I got there and basically jumped on the grenade and blew that business up, and that was an exciting ride. We took it from it doing about 10 and a half million in revenue and losing close to a couple million to about 21 in revenue and making about the same in profit. And then, we got bought by a company called FPS in 2019 and then I took a sabbatical from that experience for about a year and unplugged from the matrix and started up a company called 7th Wave Capital which basically is a company now that invests … It’s intent was to invest in minority positions inside of companies that have got major scale potential and build an advisory board and show entrepreneurs the path to growth and scale and success.


    Paul: And we’ve taken a position in a company called Verge Technologies which does fiber optic installation of cable systems inside of buildings and wifi hotspots and all that stuff, and security systems, and boardroom AV. And another called Avi-Tech and another company called Silverback, and now we’re closing on two deals right now in a traditional space which we’ll close before the end of the year.


    Paul: It’s a very weird journey and it’s been all over the place. I think the one mainstay of my career has been marketing and advertising. That’s been 24 years of my life and that’s really helped enable I think the scaling potential of all the other businesses that I’ve been a part of because marketing is a secret weapon often overlooked. So anyway, sorry. Long rant. There’s no easy way of telling that story.

  • Joe: No. It’s very interesting. Look, I don’t have the question on here, but just curious what is your, because I’ve always been an admirer of Extreme Group which I know now is arrivals and departures, right?


    Paul: Yeah.


    Joe: Just always loved your work and it stood out to me. What has been your philosophy when it comes to great advertising like if you had to scribble it down?


    Paul: It’s about risk taking in my opinion. The biggest challenge I have with people who dabble in marketing is they do it because they have to check a box, right? We’ve got to hire a marketing agency. We’ve got to do some, because that’s what other companies do and that’s why we have a marketing budget and that’s why marketing people … But it’s not a tactic. It’s a spirit, and often the trouble I have with marketing is that it’s done disassociated with the owner or leaders of the company in a little tribe, in a board room, in the north wing, disjointed from operations, and they publish Pablum. Most people publish that’s ignorable and no one cares about and doesn’t change the culture on the inside of the organization, and doesn’t excite people on the outside of the organization.


    Paul: And I think people who understand why marketing is important and what it can do if it’s harnessed the correct way it’ll liberate a company. It’ll attract staff. It’ll retain staff. It will excite existing customers. It’ll draw out new customers to you, but in order to do that you have to take risks. You have to take a position on what your brand stands for and say it in an interesting fashion or you become like 98% of all the ads that are out there which are ignored.


    Paul: And the best example I can give you, a recent example, there’s all kinds of really interesting examples over my career but Skip the Dishes came to us when they were a no name startup on Dragon’s Den, got funded, and wanted to make a dent before Uber Eats got to Canada, and we collectively including Kevin Frazier who was the marketing person, now the CEO, really wanted to make sure that when they say something that it was memorable and interesting and engaging.


    Paul: And we ended up choosing John Ham who was an interesting selection for a spokesperson for a brand that’s Canadian as an American spokesperson but we leaned into that and that’s what made the campaigns funny. Nowadays, it’s one of those campaigns that doesn’t get tired. It’s really fun. People identify quickly. They took a lot of risks with that marketing message and it’s rewarded them handsomely because they’re the largest food delivery company in Canada at this point. Anyways, it’s a long winded way of saying, Joe, I think that marketers today in my mind don’t take risks because they want to keep their jobs and it’s better to stay off the radar and not boards of directors or get the attention of the CEOs, husband or wife that didn’t like the whatever.


    Paul: Unfortunately, with good marketing there’s no universal sense of emotion or humor so some people are going to hate it and some people are going to love it, and some people would rather get no reaction than some reaction at all, and in my opinion those that are brave and that want to create messages that resonate with people that comes with risk and that’s where you need to find great agencies that can identify the risk and make sure that it’s well played and plays to your advantage, not to your disadvantage.

  • Joe: Well said. And what would you say is a through line when it comes to business, like starting with the cellphone business right up to today in the businesses that you’re involved with now? What’s the common denominator with all of those for you?


    Paul: Look, I discovered mid-career that business on the whole is same different bucket, right? You’re dealing with how do you find people. You’re dealing with engagement. You’re dealing with business development and getting more revenue into the system, and profitability, and what are the levers to make you money, and what are the levers that will lose you money, and where are the landmines, and are you a disruptor or disruptee, and what’s macro economics playing into your business in the next five to ten years, and what does your exit strategy look like, and who’s going to buy you if you’re the person solely behind the controls.


    Paul: What I discovered, and I think marketing was great because it gave me such a wide angle on so many different types of businesses because we used to, I say we, the old we, used to be integral to an operation of a business. Any good marketing agency does more than just good marketing. They understand how your operations work. They understand what your sales focus looks like and what your competitive status looks like. So, you get to see the inner operations of almost every business, and we’ve done work in almost every industry across Canada.


    Paul: So, we’ve had such a wide perspective on so many businesses that it made it less intimidating for me to jump out of full scale marketing into food processing equipment. I’ve never welded anything in my life since grade 11 and I don’t even think I finished the box I started welding back then and here I am owning a manufacturer out in the middle of nowhere and PEI that builds multimillion dollar plant operations from front to back.


    Paul: At the end of the day, I didn’t need to know how to weld to know how to run a good business. I think the thing that’s the commonality is that there isn’t much difference between businesses. The fundamentals are the same. The businesses, and the customers, and the staff, and the locations, and the reach and all that stuff might be different, but those are a quick study.


    Paul: So, understanding what the levers are for business success is my latest chapter.

  • Joe: And what’s the profile of the kind of businesses that you look to invest in?


    Paul: First of all, I’m 49 and I’ve gotten to the stage of my life where I have a very strict no policy in life, so I really … I know this sounds frivolous but working with people that I enjoy working with is really, really important. You know? Work is hard enough day in and day out working with hard people in a hard business makes it that much more difficult, so first comes the chemistry and do I really like the people that I’m working with, and can they offer more value than just simply ROI on an investment.


    Paul: The second is that it has to be in a business that’s not about to be disrupted. There’s more change coming in the next 15 years than humanity in my opinion has ever seen before and if you’re in a business that’s laying on the train tracks that’s going to be a very short investment cycle, so it’s resilience to change or better still being a disruptor is an important thing.


    Paul: It has to be maritime. So, I’ve lived life outside the maritimes. I have a huge passion for Atlantic Canada and I want to see us go forward, and I think we have a lot of brain drain for people that have done well here and have moved on to do well elsewhere, and when visionaries leave so does the money, so I don’t do investments outside of Atlantic Canada. And I guess lastly it has to have a good solid management team, because I don’t like operations, so I don’t operate business anymore. It has to have a team that people would show up every day and ran it for the right reasons, and that I can add value to, right?


    Paul: There’s some businesses that I add a hell of lot less value to than some businesses, and marketing and sales, and culture, and HR those are really strong spots for me. Hard core operations, ERP systems, accounting management, all that stuff, that’s not for me. So, those are the key criteria.

  • Joe: Okay. All right. A question here just talking about say a biggest failure, what you learned from it. Was there anything that came to mind with that question?


    Paul: Yeah. I fail all the time. I guess principally I think any good entrepreneur … I read a study one time that the difference between good entrepreneurs and bad entrepreneurs isn’t the amount of decisions that they make day in and day out. They make the same amount of big decisions. It’s the good entrepreneurs that make the bad decision is the right ones. They learn from it and they move on, or they make a bad decision, turn it on its head, and turn it into something that was good.


    Paul: So, I’ve got a lot of failure in life and I think anybody that has done fairly well in life that says they don’t are full of. The biggest one I would say probably was Karma Gaming. So, that was a company that we started up in 2012 and had a lot of really false narratives when we were contemplating that business. We fell in love with the idea because we used to work for Atlantic Lottery and doing all their marketing, and found it troublesome to bring new people to a brand that sold draw games and scratch cards at a convenient store, right?


    Paul: Who my age is going to walk into a convenience store, look at a sea of tickets, and go that’s the one for me and then take it home and win and then bring it back to the convenience store for their $10 and then buy five more tickets or whatever. I think the world has turned to gaming and smartphones and how come you can’t take a fixed outcome and apply it to a fun experience on a game.


    Paul: So, that was our idea. I think in theory it makes a lot of sense. What we didn’t understand it how glacially slow moving that industry is, and I’ve come to realize that anybody that sells anything to government better have a lot of cash in the bank and a lot of intestinal fortitude because selling to governments is a very slow and painful process that has killed a lot of companies and it killed ours as well. We couldn’t change the regulations fast enough. In the end, the short story is, is that every governor or premier that hired a head of lottery the head of lottery had one job and one job only, and that was to keep those people as static free as possible, and the showcasing of online gaming really didn’t resonate well with people.


    Paul: Online gaming is what constituents called it, and even though it was safer and more protected than just walking into a VLT and blowing all your cash there’s protections in place. It didn’t flow well for many governors or premiers which is what kept it from growing. So, we sat through a very stagnant part. And I heard lots of people that had told us watch out for this, that, and the other thing. I think we fell in love with the idea more than we cared to hear the opinions of it and chose to forge ahead anyway.


    Paul: Startups are a different animal all together and I think you’ve got to listen to an awful lot of people before you decide to put your chips on the table, so that was that experience.

  • Joe: And so, how would you summarize that lesson? Is that it to make sure you’re not too married to an idea? How would you summarize that lesson?


    Paul: It depends. I think that this concept of listening to people is transferrable on mature businesses as well as startups but they’re vitally important with a startup because it’s the bedrock of your idea, and unless your idea is well placed … There’s a company that I’m working with right now that I actually founded at the beginning of COVID because all the deals went south called Dear Life, and it’s a concept that is how do you digitally extract the story of your life.


    Paul: The epiphany is that we all live a great life. We all love. We all lose. We go through heartache. We go through great memories. We go through bad. And that fabric of your life is your story and when you die it just rots and no one knows who you were and you get a cold headstone that gets chucked in the ground, and that’s Joe, and that’s Paul, right? And I’m just like that’s insane in a digital enviroment how we can’t leave a legacy that showcased all the high points of my life and the fabric that was my life to pass on to different generations.


    Paul: So, we started up this company but before we did we spent a lot of due diligence in researching is this actually solving a big problem. Are people actually going to use it. And really tried to understand if we just fell in love with the idea or if other people loved the baby that we were about to create, and after all that due diligence then and only then do we decide to fund it and raise it out of the ground so to speak.


    Paul: So anyway, in a business if you’re thinking about a geographic expansion a lot of times people will get married to the concept of a part of their strategy and not really fully vet it, go into the market, and find out what the competitive set looks like, find out who knows who. Can you survive if you were to do it? And a lot of people just go, hey, this seems like a great strategy, all teams to be onboard, let’s go and blow our resources and our money going into it when they should’ve measure twice cut once instead and make sure that plan was the right one to begin with.

  • Joe: Just remind me. What’s the name of that business you were just talking about, the life-


    Paul: Dear Life. It’s like your story to your life, like writing a letter, Dear Life.


    Joe: I did see some posts that you made on that. How’s that business doing?


    Paul: It’s cool. I’ve been funding it since last year and we have a team of about eight that are developing the technology. The beta went out about three weeks ago, actually, no longer than that. I guess about two months the beta went out, closed beta, and the open beta launches in about six weeks time, so you’ll be able to go in and try it out yourself. And look, every first iteration of a product has always got hair on it, but the trick is to get it out there quick enough that people can tell you here’s what I like, here’s what I don’t, as opposed to building something you think everyone’s going to love that takes three years and 10 million dollars to build, so it’s more of an iterative process.


    Paul: So, the first public iteration comes out in a few weeks so you’ll have a change to try it out.


    Joe: Cool. And so, you feel like you use that example as a contrast to the Karma Gaming process?


    Paul: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. For sure.


    Joe: And that due diligence you talked about what did that look like for really evaluating that concept?


    Paul: For Dear Life you mean?


    Joe: Yeah.


    Paul: We put surveys out. The brute force way. Hey, I have an idea on my social channels. Anyone interested in hearing more sign up. So, we ended up getting about 500 people who signed up who knew enough to be dangerous about the idea and then we peppered them with questions, right? What do you think about this? And should it do this? And should it be for people that have passed away? Should it be for people that are still alive? Should it be more people that are still alive for somebody else or for me?


    Paul: So, we really tried to understand what the use case was and who the addressable audience was. I spent a lot of time looking at who you need to launch with. A lot of companies start with trying to tackle too much ground in the beginning and become nothing to anyone, and we wanted to make sure that the first group of people that we went to had the biggest problem that was facing them, which is for me being able to articulate the life that I’ve lived and all the high points of it, and then having a system that could extract it without subjecting me to my 27,000 photos in my photo archives and having to go through every single one of them.


    Paul: That’s where technology and cool IP can help you. But also then bringing in a team that is the best in class, like a lot of times if you have a pulse and you’re remotely interested come on it and help us join the fight. We’ve been extremely selective about who gets brought into our band because those are the people that will help guide you to excellence and that’s true of every business honestly. That’s what makes the difference between a mediocre business and an excellent business is the people who are behind it.


    Joe: So, qualitative research would sum it up.


    Paul: Yeah, mostly qualitative. I really haven’t gotten much into the area of quant yet because we don’t have quant to research. It’s 500 people at this point, so once the thing opens up we’ll start getting more into the quantitative.

  • Joe: Cool. Paul, a question I have is … This interview is not of me. My pet peeve is interviewers that talk too much. I try to say as little as I can.


    Paul: No problem.


    Joe: I’ve been running this small business since ’21 and when you run something long enough to start to think about what would it be like to run something else, and so I had an app business that I tried to get off the ground a number of years back and it was a big fat fail. The failure that comes to mind for me when we think about failures.


    Joe: But I think that question that still is there for me is what is it like running other businesses because you can look at your own business and say, man, this is hard, and you can look across the way at other industries, other types of businesses, and it looks easier. Are they all the same, Paul?


    Paul: That’s a great question. That’s a really good question. I think that everybody has the same insight that you do. I had it. God, there’s got to be something easier, especially in the business you’re in. That’s a fricking hard business, like marketing and advertising. Anyway, I would get into all the downsides of it. The upsides are great if you can find the right team around you and the right client, and that’s when lightning in a bottle happens, but that happens one in 100 times and the other 99 I call it kissing frogs.


    Paul: So, throughout my career I often thought like you did, wouldn’t it be easier if. It’d be so much easier if. It’d be so much easier if. And honestly, business is the same different bucket. I said it earlier, every business is difficult. It’s got its own set of challenges, its own set of opportunities, its own set of headwinds. I’ve never been in a business that’s been easy and I’ve been in 16, 17 of them. None of them are easy. Some of them are easier than others, but they’re all under the characteristic of hard.


    Paul: And I guess the universe has set it up to be that way because if it was easy everyone would do it, right?


    Joe: Right.


    Paul: Being an entrepreneur requires a resilience trait and thick-skinned trait, and a risk aptitude that the general population just doesn’t have. So, the one thing I will say that has been good about it is the variety, as opposed to showing up every day and baking the same donuts, what’s been cool for me as I’m starting to get to the age of looking at it and having hindsight is being involved in so many different types of businesses.


    Paul: That’s just cool in and of itself, because you start to see patterns. You start to see patterns in people. You start to see patterns in geography, in business development strategies, and marketing. So, I think it’s actually healthy to be involved if you’re an entrepreneur in other things whether it’s an investor or an advisor or something, because it just gives you a much better insight into the business that you’re in because if you own and operate a business like you say since you’ve been 21 it starts to feel a little like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. You wake up and it’s the same different day, and same problem, same issues, and all that stuff.


    Paul: And just having a perspective, even vested perspective, in other business environments, A, I think you have a value to offer to them as a shareholder, or as an advisor, that they don’t get every day that’s reciprocal because you don’t get to give it every day and you get from it as you give. So, I think it’s healthy, but jumping from one race car to another doesn’t make the race any easier. It just means that you have to understand the vehicle and how it will be manipulated in order for it to win.


    Joe: I just appreciate that perspective, because you’ve got a couple years on me, that ability to say I’ve worked in 16, 17 businesses and they’re all hard. That’s cool to hear that because that’s the way it seems as I get older.


    Paul: Yeah. One thing I will say, Joe, and not in a script, but I’ll offer it up as a thought to you or to anyone that’s watching this down the line. One of the things that I did early in my career that I think was exponential in terms of value is I joined an organization called YPO. It was 2004, so it was 17 years ago. I wouldn’t been 31, 32 years old, and that took my career path in an exponential trajectory because you sit with a group, now I’m not advocating everybody stop the press and go join YPO. For me, it’s the best organization in my mind that’s out there, but there’s tons of them out there. Tons of great ones out there, EEO, and Wallace McCain … What do they call it? The McKay Institute. President’s Club.


    Paul: There’s tons of them that are out there and obviously you have to do your own research as to which one best fits you and where you’re at with your career stage, life stage, but when I joined YPO and I’m in a room of eight to ten people who really give a about me and my wellbeing and my family’s wellbeing, and they act like your board of directors, and everyone shares knowledge every single month.


    Paul: So, there’s enough of these organizations out there that there’s room for everybody who’s an entrepreneur in them. And the biggest thing I’ll say about being an entrepreneur, even if you have partners, it’s insanely lonely. It’s a very perilous, lonely … It feels like the world is resting on your shoulders. Again, even if you have partners someone is always the lead boulder pusher, right? And if you stop pushing the boulder you feel like it’s going to roll back and crush you.


    Paul: Having people around you that can make sense of your world there’s not been one move of consequence that I ave made in the last 17 years that I haven’t shared with my forum. Everything I do of consequence I do a presentation. They look at it. They go “That’s a stupid idea. Don’t do it,” or “That’s a great idea. Here’s how to make sure that you do it and you actually succeed when you do it.” So, getting involved in a group and then committing to the group and they committing to you.


    Paul: Not for a two year period, because that magic happens over time, but finding a group like that that you belong in, and are like-minded individuals, and you have a genuine care for each other in your group that for me is one of the top takeaways in business.

  • Joe: Mm-hmm. That’s great advice. So, in recent years we’ve been, and it’s just a natural shift I guess, that we’ve been doing more and more work for tech companies, and that’s obviously a booming sector both in our region, across the country, around the world really, so I’ve had that question there about … Just broadly speaking, what do you see as the keys to growing a tech company? Is there any insight there you can share?


    Paul: It depends. It depends. There’s so many different types of tech companies and there’s so many different … It’s a burgeoning industry. The usual fundamentals in tech is make sure you’re well capitalized. You can have a brilliant idea and you pull a team together and eight months later you haven’t got to your first chapter and you’ve already consumed all your money. Unfortunately, that business is very capital hungry and requires a certain maturity in order for it to get to the other side of the mountain where you get ROI and payoffs.


    Paul: Most tech companies, I think the stats is 18 out of 20 will fail. Two will be some massive Verafin type of an outcome which is a juggernaut and has meaningful change within a region. It creates millionaires all over the place that reinvest back into the tech scene. And a good majority of those companies that fail were under-capitalized. So, that would be one of them. And also, you can’t do all things at once in a tech company. It’s not like a regular business. It’s not like let’s go hire our marketing people, and our research people, and our HR people, and this, that, and the other thing.


    Paul: It really is a walk before you run, so you’ve got to perfect … Spend as little money possible proving that people like the iteration that you’ve created and at the end of the day it’s all about product. If you don’t have a great product in the tech space your idea’s going to be dead because there’s 50 other people hungrier and smarter than you around the world developing the exact same idea because the world is typically your market.


    Paul: So, I think in those cases those would be the top two is stage gates for growth that are meaningful, measurable, and you can hit and assess, so that you don’t spend 10 million dollars on one part of the plan and then discover it was wrong, and then you’re. So, that and make sure that the capital meets the objective needs.

  • Joe: Great. Because I think one of the challenges that I see is Atlantic Canadian tech businesses that they’re looking to sell in the US for example, and they struggle with finding the right say marketing partner, business development partner, that can help them learn the ropes of how to do that and make sales. That’s just one example, but I think a challenge of selling the tech product around the world from here.


    Paul: Yeah.


    Joe: Would you agree with that, and is there any other unique challenges you think that Atlantic Canadian businesses face in scaling a tech business?


    Paul: Yeah. I guess my head was more around this startup tech space, but if this is a tech that’s mature and it understands its addressable audience and now has a sales and marketing problem then SEO becomes massive, AdWords become massive. I think having … There’s two types of marketing in my mind. There’s creative marketing. That’s understanding your brand, and your ethos and your essence, and your value proposition and then how to creatively communicate that amongst your audience, so it’s more like the creative, the gooey part of marketing.


    Paul: But then, there’s the technology part of marketing, which is people who really understand data. and mining, and segmentation, and research, and Google AdWords, and SEO, and partnerships, and technical distribution channels and all that type of stuff. So, I think those two things have to go hand and glove but there’s a bit of a difference between them. Technology companies can exist with the latter if they’re got the right sales distribution and the right product and all that stuff, and sometimes if it’s more B2C then it requires some of the former, right? Because consumers have to interact with it and have a certain feeling with it.


    Paul: So, it really depends on which side of the fence you’re talking about.


    Joe: Yeah. It’s mostly B2B companies that we’re dealing with that are looking to crack that puzzle.


    Paul: Yeah. Yeah. It’s hard because unless you live squarely in that space and have a ton of contacts in that space, like take my brother for example, he’s got a company called Group Think which is basically a time management software company he’s been building for years getting that plugged into the right distribution networks through the Salesforces of the world so that they offer you as a plugin into their portfolio.


    Paul: A lot of it’s just straight up networking and who’s the right group to carry your product as opposed to B2B which has to gloat and brute force sell to every customer that’s a possible user, right? So, how do you find those moments where you unlock major value versus let’s go hire people in the northeast of New England and let’s go hire people down here, and then go knocking on doors, and try to sell and hock the products. How do you leverage a relationship that already exists so you become a part of the SKU offering versus the one thing on the menu and having to find a Salesforce that goes and sells it all?


    Paul: So, a lot of it has to do with your network, and your reach, and your understanding of how do you go out there and make two plus two equal 15, not four.

  • Joe: Yeah. Just a side topic that comes to mind, is on the topic of B2B marketing, just the way our client list as grown over the years certainly for the most of our time it’s been B2C. The last few years we’ve done more B2B work. In your career when you were doing marketing and advertising from the agency side of things did you get into much B2B and if so was there any insight on that in terms of how you were successful in that B2B space?


    Paul: Yeah. And look, this is not a universal truth what I’m about to drop, but I’d say that in most cases B2C is a poll marketing strategy, so you’re basically putting a message out there in the hopes that it’s going to resonate with people and those people are going to show up, knock on your door, and buy what you’re selling, whereas I find B2B more of a push based marketing tactic, so you already have to know where your audiences live. You have to be far more segmented in your thinking. You’ve got to make sure you’re saying the right thing at the right time to the right person in order for them to click through and have a need and fill a need type thing.


    Paul: So, I find that B2C is a little bit more shotgun marketing and B2B is a little more rifle shot. It’s much more strategic and precise. There is a saying that I’ve heard throughout my career, 50% of my marketing budget’s wasted. I just don’t know what’s 50%. And I would dare say that with B2B is more like 80% of my marketing budget is wasted and I still don’t know what that’s comprised of. So, it’s a far more challenge thing and as the world as moved more digital, digital is far more ignorable than traditional media.


    Paul: These days that’s arguable because I could sit in front of the TV with my iPad and zone out every time or fast forward through the commercials, but for years you could buy consumers attention no problem at all, and if your message was great that was that much better for you. Nowadays, marketing is ignorable, like functionally ignorable. I can skip through this. I can click that. If you won’t let me do that I’ll switch to my phone while it’s playing an ad on YouTube over here. There’s just so many different points of ignoring messages that in my opinion creativity has never been more important, never been more important.


    Paul: It’s rare, extremely rare, and I challenge anybody watching this or even if you put your consumer hat on what was the last time that you saw something, a communication, that stopped you in your tracks, and went, “Whoa. I’ve got to see that.” Right? They’re very few and far between. The cool thing is that when they stop you in your tracks they usually stop others in their tracks and what people do is share it. Check out this thing I just saw. Yeah, it’s an ad for IKEA, but did it ever hit home and it got me right in the feels and all that stuff.


    Paul: So, I think that the role of creativity is largely ignored by technical conversation, the right place at the right time to the right person, but the right message is ignored and creativity unfortunately is getting a back seat when I think it’s never more deserved a front seat.


    Joe: Yeah. Yeah. It’s getting more and more complex for sure I’d say on both sides of that.


    Paul: Yeah.

  • Joe: What else do we got here? I’m just curious, like in terms of how far has your geographic scope gone with your businesses? Has it been across Canada, the US, international?


    Paul: Less international. We had some clients in CMP that were international but largely Canada. I’d say 70, 80% Canada, 30% US, or 25% the US, three to five percent other, South America, or Europe.


    Joe: Got you. Okay. And you mentioned that at 7th Wave you guys focus solely on working with Atlantic Canadian businesses and I think I looked on your website there was also a limit, like a cap, on how many businesses I think you work with at a time I believe.


    Paul: Yeah. Five a year. Typically, we won’t do … And I think even five’s too much. I think the most we do is two a year. It’s just a lot. When you’re onboarding a business typically if you’re doing a deal with somebody we have something that they want which is knowledge, right? How do you build a business plan that isn’t 55 pages of that’s going to collect dust on my cabinet behind me? What is the actionable things that need to get done and working with the other business partners in defining what does a win look like in 12 months time if we were to do everything right, and how do we limit that, and then how do we shape the organization around making sure that they’re achieving that goal every 12 months.


    Paul: Sorry to go on a rant here, but I’d say that the biggest challenge that most entrepreneurs have from my perch is that they show up every day and do, right? Every day the world needs you. Every day it’s some new person leaving or some person coming in, a customer about to leave, a customer coming in. And every single day is consumed with doing work and that’s in stuff, right? That’s in time. On time is very different. On time is the time that you spend thinking about where is the boat going, and not by itself because many days you can work in your business and then 365 days later realize that you moved two feet from where you were before just because you haven’t focused on where the business needs to go.


    Paul: And understanding what the ultimate plan can be and is it achievable and what do you need to do in order for you to be the thing that you want to be in three years time, and be measured by that every month, is I think the power of an advisory board that comes in. Long story short, when we first get involved in a file or a company it’s a lot of upfront work. It’s a lot of meetings. It’s a lot of asking questions that they’d never asked before, understanding what the scope of the business is, what the opportunities that exist are in it, then setting the goals, and then setting a cadence for the meetings.


    Paul: The first six months is a lot of hands on, and then after that it’s a lot more low touch reporting with advisory boards each month and what not. So yeah, if we were to take on 10 deals we would do no justice to any of them, so that’s why we limit how many we can get into. But these days honestly the initial thought of 7th Wave was to take a minority stake in businesses, but the two deals we’re doing right now we’re buying the companies out entirely.


    Paul: One’s coming with a management team. The other we have to put management teams in, install them, so we’re looking for people and then setting it all up. That’s the challenge with it. You can’t do too many of those deals. You’ll hit a brick wall and not give any value to anybody.

  • Joe: We’ve got a new client right now that’s looking for a tech company and they’re doing cool things and nobody knows they’re doing it, and they’re ultimately hoping to get purchased, or heavily invested in. So, they’re talking about vision and helping us create a brand presence, online presence, and so on. What’s your personal view on a vision statement, mission statement, these types of things? Are they antiquated from your perspective?


    Paul: I hate them. I hate them. And I’ll tell you a quick story. My whole career, vision, mission, values, blah, blah, blah, you’d go through the exercise and even when I was going through them I felt like I was selling my soul to the devil. I’m like what is the point of all this. Is anyone actually going to read this? Do we actually care about this?


    Paul: And a good friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, brought me over to his company a couple years ago and he was all, “Paul, you’re a marketing guy. I got something I’ve got to show you. This is super cool. We developed this.” Spent months developing this vision, mission, values, blah, blah, blah, and we ended up laminating these cards and we put them at everyone’s desk and every month we’d meet and we’d talk about them, and blah, blah, blah.


    Paul: And I said, “Oh yeah?” And I was standing beside this girl’s desk just happened to be where we were standing, and I grabbed the card, and I turned it around, and I said to her, “What’s it say on the other side?” And she said, “I have no idea.” And he was dumbfounded because he thought that he just found the holy grail of marketing.


    Paul: I think most of it, look, again I keep coming back to people treat marketing like it’s you have to do versus stuff that will liberate you and will change you. If you go into it with an intention for change versus I got to do stuff because I need … Everyone else creates vision, mission, and value. I’ve got to do that. Everyone else does tactical marketing. I’ve got to do that. Everyone else has a website. I’ve got to do that.


    Paul: That’s what 99% of the people do is they do it because you’re supposed to do it versus doing it with intent and purpose. And the difference between I was shown at my friend’s company versus what we did at Charlottetown Metal Products was we unearthed our why, like what is the reason why, and Simon Sinek does a far better job of this than I could ever do, but if you watch his video Start With Why, it’s a 20 minute TED video, that for me is the best manifestation of marketing that I’ve ever seen in 25 years.


    Paul: People don’t buy what you do but they buy why you do it, and I think getting to your why as an organization aligns people … First of all, it gets rid of people that don’t align with your why and why you exist as an organization. It attracts more like-minded people to your organization who believe in your cause, and the same thing with customers. It gets rid of the customers that don’t believe in your cause and it attracts more people that do, so it becomes this never ending customers want what we have to sell. We hire people who want to sell this type of thing to these types of customers, and that’s where this sphere of growth in my mind comes from.


    Paul: So, if any company were to do anything it would be answer the question what does the world need as it relates to you and your business world that you’d sell in today. What does the world truly need? Not products, not on time, not delivery. No, what does it truly … What’s the emotional need that your world has? The next question is what are you good at, and it has to come off of what the world needs, because if what you’re good at doesn’t feed what the world needs you have a disconnect. And you may not be good at it now, but you should be good at it in the future. It’s something that you strive towards.


    Paul: And then, the third bubble you answer is what are you passionate about, which should come from what you’re good it, and those three things feed each other and in the middle of that is your why. So, I think answering that little trifecta is going to unlock your purpose and then that’s where the magic happens inside of an organization that I think is game changing. So, for me the other stuff doesn’t matter. For CMP, we ended up coming up with the fact that we keep food safe. That was our mantra. It means that all the food that we create … We only worked in food processing companies, so having a food processor that had all kinds of hygienic in the manufacturing means it’s going to harbor disease and bacteria. It’s going to make people sick.


    Paul: We weren’t good with that because people that we loved were eating off our food equipment, so we ended up coming with this notion of we keep food safe. We ended up creating hygienic design specialist through the organization that taught all the other fisherman to fish. We set up quality assurance. We set up best practices and standards. I remember going to the office of CMP one time and Chris McMurray grabs me and he’s like, “Hey, listen, boss I’ve got to show you something. Here’s what my vision is in our new reception that we’re building. I’m going to build a big wall full of dos and don’ts with manufacturing, like here is the way we do it and here’s the way someone else does it.” And I’m like, wow.


    Paul: When you have people who embrace your vision like that and who take ownership over it and they want to put their own spin on it I’m all for that. Then a receptionist that afternoon came to me and she was like, “The Gold Cup and Saucer Parade is happening.” It was a big PEI thing, and “We should put a float in,” and we adopted these knights, these big burly steel knights that were the defenders of the defenseless food, a little potato behind them and all that stuff was our marketing stuff. And she’s like, “We should get a float and have a bunch of knights protecting the potato.” Whether you like the idea, whether you don’t, it doesn’t matter. The fact is people are buying into it versus how do you buy into a vision, mission, values laminated cue card.


    Paul: So, I think that’s the stuff that really makes a difference.

  • Joe: That’s great. All right, my friend. We’re at 4:00 Newfoundland time.


    Paul: Yeah. 3:30 my time.


    Joe: Cool, man. I really appreciate your time and thanks for your patience on the front end with the tech stuff.


    Paul: No problem at all. No problem at all. It’s good chatting, Joe.


    Joe: Yeah, always man, and looking forward to putting this out there and I think a lot of people will get a lot of benefit from the stuff you’ve had to say.


    Paul: Awesome. Happy to help.


    Joe: Okay, brother.


    Paul: All right. Sounds good.