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Small Business Epic Story
POD started in January 2014 as a collaboration between Kevin Wilhelm and the owner of Action Furnace. Kevin had been doing consulting work for Action Furnace when they realized that there were many other business owners facing similar challenges. Three to six months of development led to the conception of POD Marketing agency and the rest is history.
The name, POD, is based on the idea of an industry specialty. The agency is built of teams that are exclusively experienced within a certain industry. Each team develops a program for the industry and then find clients across North America. All the problems are serviced under one roof.
POD aims to be accountable for actual results. This means every conversation is a consultation and not a sale. The business runs on a retainer based pricing model.
The real value is "are we making an impact on your bottom line?" As a result, we have no contracts.
In 5 years, the company has grown to 33 employees and 125 clients across North America. The teams are built from a few different specializations – home services being one of them. They also have subsidiary agencies for eye care and dental.
The eye care industry has been a successful pursuit. Half of all clients are based within the industry, ranging from independent optometrists to brand names.
Kevin is also an active part of the Entrepreneurs Organization (international with a 125 member Calgary chapter), where he pulls inspiration from other business owners and peers alike.
1. What makes your business unique / stand out from competition
My brand position for our clients is to break "glass ceilings". Our clients are already successful on their own but they feel like there is more to grasp. We believe our team and program can help them get there. We always talk about return on investment. Although there is value in impressions and engagements, the real value is "are we making an impact on your bottom line". As a result, we have no contracts. We want to make sure the impact is there.
2. What is something that most people don’t know about your company?
POD really pushes the science of marketing. Our concept is the science of marketing and the power of collaboration. Our client's projects are profit driven and have a large focus on analysis. Marketing can be the core element that gives you an advantage. If marketing doesn’t drive profit, then you are doing it wrong.
3. On Success / Accomplishments
Being able to employ over 30 Calgarians during a recession is a great accomplishment, especially since we are providing above average wages for the industry. We are providing employee growth opportunity and career fulfillment at the same time as the clients.
4. What is the single most important decision that contributed to success?
Company success is defined as "does everyone enjoy work and share in the wins?" and for clients "are we achieving their goals?" These questions have helped us to create direction for the company.
5. What is the biggest obstacle you have faced while running the business?
Managing high growth. It is difficult to bring on that many employees at once while adapting to the market, developing processes for hiring and on-boarding, and learning trends. Adjusting business on the fly is difficult.
6. How has Calgary and its local market affected your business?
I love being in Calgary. It makes it a challenge to find people with specific experience, although we do train the people we hire. We are looking for those with a marketing brain but customer service background. From there, we implement our own training. We have a very diverse and entrepreneurial city. Our mindset is positive and we very rarely see doom and gloom. I wouldn’t trade Calgary for anything.
7. What do you think about wellness and benefits in the small business workplace? Do you think it's important?
Yes, having a competitive benefits program is extremely important - especially being in Calgary. We have to be competitive with both the tangible and intangible benefits. Flexibility is important for us, which is why we chose a Health Spending Account. It's not even a question, it’s a must have in order to attract and retain top talent. The employees need their basic needs met which is what benefits programs do. We don’t have a worried task force because of a great benefits program.
8. What’s next for POD?
Our 5 year goal is to have 5 verticals with 100 clients each, whether it is through organic means or an acquisition.
9. What is one thing you find to be true that most people would disagree with?
I’m going to say the millennial workforce can be your biggest asset if you can understand and motivate them properly. We employ almost all millennials and that's on purpose.
10. How do you recharge when you are feeling drained?
I play competitive sports. I get out and break a sweat. I also recharge through quality time with my family - wife and 3 kids.
11. If you could time travel back to the first day working at your business and have 15 minutes with your former self to communicate any lessons you've acquired, what would you tell yourself?
I would say remain focused. Don’t chase "squirrels". In the overall mission, I see myself as the visionary. The balance is hiring the right people to filter my ideas and also empowering them to say "no". Only the truly good ideas make it through the filter.
12. How do you divide up your typical day (in percentages)?
I try to get a workout and work done before or after my kids wake up. At the office, its all about connecting. I’m usually in meetings all day long whether that is employees, vendors, or clients. All my work gets done off hours.
13. If you were to do some business venture again, outside of your current industry, what would you choose?
It would be professional sports. I love the business side of sports. I would want to work at the front office - basketball.
14. What is your dream collaboration?
My dream collaboration would be with an NBA team.
Steve Nash, because he is Canadian and very successful. It would be with one of his initiatives such as a sport / charity event. We can do cool stuff and also make a difference.
15. What is your favorite movie?
Gladiator. It provides all the elements of a good movie - inspiring, underdog, determination, and leadership.
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