Interviewing Toronto Entrepreneur: Trevor Poplar
Welcome to our Friday Feature: Toronto Entrepreneurs segment, where we bring you insights, experiences, inspiration, and advice from prominent entrepreneurs in the Greater Toronto Area!
We’ve interviewed business leaders who have been kind enough to take the time to share their experiences with us on what it’s like starting their very own business (and nurturing it as well)!
We believe that these stories would be valuable to other aspiring or established business leaders. On behalf of TorontoEntrepreneurs.ca, we hope that you enjoy reading this as much as we enjoyed creating it! Feel free to share this story with your networks.
Introducing Toronto Entrepreneur: Trevor Poplar, Managing Director of Fifty Thousand Foot Inc.
Company name: Fifty Thousand Foot Inc. What does your company do? Community of practice for Independent Consultants and small consulting firms Year launched: 2018 Number of employees: 3 Website: www.50000foot.com
1. How did you get the idea to start your business? My brother Trent, a highly experienced independent consultant, had been discussing with me several components of his day-to-day business life that were problematic. There were business issues, like finding good consultants to partner with to fill projects for his network of clients, to new revenue generation ideas for his practice. Then there were personal hurdles, like finding affordable insurance for an upcoming project, or benefits for his family. The common theme was that no organization had been built on the premise of supporting this consultant community. I had experience working with organizations built around medical doctors, around auto-dealerships, and around accountant professionals, but this community seemed somewhat ignored. That’s how the idea began to germinate, and Trent and I started building from there.
2. What's the best/worst thing to happen since you started your business?
Best: The best experience that has happened is the early acceptance within the independent consultant community, and the excitement about our platform. I have felt a connection to a new network of professionals that has been rewarding.
Worst: The worst thing that has happened is that in our infancy we were building a Beta Team to test our platform, and I did not do a great job in differentiating our value proposition to some very key members of the consulting firm community. This lack of providing a distinct differentiation lead to a lower acceptance, and made us re-evaluate our messaging. Luckily, our members are professional consultants, and they continue to help us get better and grow. It is very important to be able to articulate your value and what makes you different, and our message continues to evolve.
3. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur? There are three distinct challenges I have faced to date. The first is skepticism. This is present in all new business ventures, but is still challenging as it comes from many different angles, and you must be ready for it. Luckily, I have a long history in sales, so I have experienced my share of tough conversations. I have a healthy belief in my capabilities, my business partner, and the business we are building. Starting a new venture comes with a “truck load” of skeptics and individuals with harsh unsolicited opinions.
The second challenge is changing the norm. Many experienced prospects have operated their business in a specific fashion, and are weary of new approaches. There is a shift in the consultant community already underway, but it is tough to convince established businesses that this community needs to augment old practices.
And the third challenge is finding great partners with exceptional capabilities on a new venture budget. You need to be very diligent in acquiring the right business partners, and managing them throughout your relationship, and within your established budget. External partners can have great effect on your success.
4. What are some lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur? The best part of being an entrepreneur is that you learn new lessons pretty much every day. Transitioning out of working for large organizations into my own business has enabled me to enjoy the wins even more, as the wins are truly yours. More and more I realize that you need to accept help when it is offered. Running a business takes many different skills, along with a healthy budget, so be open to receiving help. I also love the flexibility and nimbleness that comes with being a small fish. You can innovative, partner with innovative businesses, and adapt quickly – no need for hours of deliberation.
5. What are the best parts about entrepreneurship? Applying your own vision -win or lose. That type of freedom motivates you and gets you moving in the morning.
6. What has been your most effective form of advertising? Social media and social networks have been very effective for us. Finding independent consultants is not as easily as you might think, so we have leveraged social media and social networks to identify potential members.
7. Who are the entrepreneurs you look up to?
I find myself looking up to entrepreneurs who started businesses later in life. This is relatable to me being in my 40s and starting over. I am motivated by Lynda Weinman, co-founder of Lynda.com, who struggled to find learning materials for her design students, which led her to start her internet-based training company, which sold to LinkedIn in April 2015 for $1.5 billion US.
8. What goals have you achieved for your business so far? In a very short period we have already generated numerous evangelists for our business platform throughout Canada – our goal was to create “champions” to help disseminate our value, but we did not expect to have the supporters we have so quickly. We are very thankful for this.
9. What are your goals for your business in 2018? My goals for the remainder of 2018 are simple to state but are challenging in execution. The first goal is to continue to grow recognition as a trusted brand in the consultant community throughout Canada, and to begin to grow in the eastern US seaboard. And second goal, continue to identify and add quality members at a healthy pace.
10. Where do you see yourself and your business in 5 years? I see myself running the largest and must trusted community of practice for independent consultants and consulting firms in North America. I see myself mentoring and helping other small business ventures in their quest to establish a successful business of their own.
I see Fifty Thousand Foot as a daily tool that our members use to the benefit of their business in a multitude of ways, and I see the power of a mobilized community that does not exist today.
11. What upcoming projects are you working on? Our platform is continually launching new business solutions, business services, and advantageous partnerships for the benefit of our members. The project we are launching this month is our content sharing module, that will allow our members to share their work and IP with the broader community. Then shortly after, we are launching business advertisements, allowing members to share their abilities to the broader membership. We will continue to add beneficial solutions through 2019.
12. What trends are you seeing in your industry? Trends in the business world such as artificial intelligence, outsourcing, and the increased reliance on a contractor workforce, are driving more individuals into consulting roles. Often these individuals are ill-prepared to cope with the pressures of life changes that consulting brings, as well as running a small business. As more of the workforce is moved into contract roles, there will be a larger need for business services and support for this increased number of individuals. This will also drive increased competition to win available opportunities, forcing independent consultants to figure out new avenues to stay competitive.
50000Foot.com is filling a much-increasing void for those who are self-employed. Nearly two million Canadians work independently, including consultants; and in two years, nearly half of workers in the country will be freelance.
13. What business advice would you give yourself if you were to start all over? As an entrepreneur establishing a new business, my advice to my earlier self would be to be formidable from day 1. If your business plan is sound, and your business idea has value, do not hesitate.
14. Last but not least, let’s end off with a fun fact! What might we be surprised to know about you? What surprises must individuals is that my business partner and brother is also my identical twin. When I say identical, I mean identical in appearance, voice, and mannerisms. It is quite rewarding to run a business with my twin.
Let's get social. Follow Fifty Thousand Foot Inc. i on social media! LinkedIn - https://ca.linkedin.com/company/fiftythousandfoot Facebook - https://tinyurl.com/y937kx7d YouTube - https://tinyurl.com/50000Foot Twitter - https://twitter.com/50000foot
Many thanks to Trevor for sharing his story with us! Stay tuned for our next featured Toronto Entrepreneur!
Do you have someone in mind who should be on our Friday Feature – Toronto Entrepreneurs segment? If so, email firstname.lastname@example.org