Every entrepreneurial journey is different, with unique challenges and learning opportunities. The story of how Caring Support came to be is good proof of this, and no one can tell it better than the founder and CEO of our platform, Joseph Jongsma.
In this two-part interview, which we have cleverly titled "A cup of joe with Joe", you will find out about Joseph's early years as an entrepreneur, his family life, motivations, and more. And if reading is not for you, be sure to check out this insightful and personal interview on YouTube or listen to it on our podcast, with a cup of coffee on hand, of course.
The entrepreneur bug got into me about 28 years ago, that's kind of showing my age. I actually went to school for Hotel Restaurant Management, so I was in the hospitality industry serving and bartending and really going down that road from an education standpoint. And that was going to be my future. But honestly, I got the sales bug when someone came into my bar and basically said: "Hey, you would be great at sales." His name is Terry. He was in my bar every single day. He would have a couple of Budweisers and he just approached me to try sales. So eventually, his $2,000 a week paycheques kind of enticed me to go that route and I decided to do that. So I put my tail in between my legs and I started knocking on residential and commercial doors selling commodities of electricity and natural gas and telecommunications.
With that being said, it was nerve-wracking, but I knew it was something that I needed to get out of my safety zone. That ended up being the best decision I've ever made in my life, I ended up becoming the number one sales agent out of 400 salespeople. And it was amazing. With that, you get noticed when you do great things. I got noticed and somebody else said: "Hey, how about you become a distributor?" And he goes "Well, you're going to have to build a business. You're going to have to hire people." So I had that guidance, that mentor, that support of a person to help me through that real big business adventure that I went on, my very first one, called ProBiz Solutions.
Through that business, I hired 137 independent sales agents. I had a staff of about eight people, and I grew that to multi-million dollars a year. Big success. Well, things kind of changed there, the recession hit. There were no commodities, nothing. Nobody wanted to pay anybody for a big period of time. And when you have independent contractors on your roster, I, unfortunately, had to lay them all off. So I went from hero to zero, to tell you the truth. I was doing really great, I had really good revenue coming into my family home and all of a sudden it went to zero.
So I took some time off and wanted to look for something that was reoccurring revenue. At that point, I ended up getting involved in the merchant services industry. I started my career with Collected Point of Sale. It was a very quick six months, got to know everything and all the ins and outs and ended up meeting my soon-to-be business partner Tarique Al-Ansari with Zomaron/Paystone.
So, as the co-founder of Zomaron, we got acquired and then re-bought the company back, rebranded Paystone and had huge success there. So I did take the initiative to leave that and go out and develop some new things and create some new opportunities. And that's where I'm kind of at today.
So about myself, I have a family of four wonderful children, three girls, one boy. I have a granddaughter that's almost two, and she's absolutely amazing. I get the privilege of waking up and saying good morning to her every single morning. All my kids are older. One is in the funeral business and a couple of the others are in other endeavours. I love golf and vacationing with my family and my wife. If it wasn't for my wife, I don't know where I would be.
With me being the executive VP and in charge of all of sales and recruiting 137 independent sales agents, after having interviewed thousands and thousands of people over time, I knew that there was an issue with HR and recruitment. You had to literally call them, hunt them down, try to get them in, schedule them for every hour, they would ghost you. It was just a brutal experience in regards to really understanding who's on the other side of the fence that I want to meet and bring into my business.
So, I decided to look at the HR issues that we're facing today, such as burnout, ghosting, and a bunch of other things that are happening in HR that make it very, very difficult to land that great employee that you can bring into your environment. But more importantly, retaining them long term is becoming more and more difficult. So I want to correct HR; I want to build beautiful profiles, professional profiles, from the candidate side and attract health care organizations to utilize the platform, AS well as drive those post-secondary institutions to come on board. So that's streamlining all three channels by allowing them to communicate and everything over the platform, which has not been done before.
I had this vision of building the next business. I didn't want to go down the traditional route that I had already taken, and holding equity and taking a lot longer to find the right people for the business.
I have a huge passion for building people. I have a saying "If I build a millionaire, I automatically become a millionaire." And, you know, the more people you can build, the more opportunities that you will receive as an employer. So, I interviewed quite a few people. I knew that when you build a business, eventually in your year two or three, you're hoping that you have all the pieces of supply to get you through the next two to three years.
Well, that was my initiative right away. I knew I needed an Operations, Finance, a Product Owner, Product Manager, the IT front end and back end. I also knew I needed marketing, and I needed sales. So, I individually interviewed amazing people and brought them on and made sure the whole pie was there to build the business.
These are all individuals that have tremendous strength and high profile jobs all across Canada and the US, and they decided to partner with me. They absolutely own equity to build this out during COVID, after hours, during hours, all that kind of stuff, but it's tremendous to have the team that we have. It's absolutely incredible. We all have great chemistry. Communication is right there. Everyone gets along. Really, we haven't had any issues. It's been fantastic.
We haven't really had a lot of challenges. Everything's actually gone really, really well. We did have some IT issues and we resolved those fairly quick. We knew we needed to bring in some other powers to be there to help us through some of the IT issues we were having. But overall, everyone stayed in their lane. They know what they own in regards to what their daily activity and responsibilities within the company are. Everyone supports everybody on the team because you have to since everyone is invested and time is money. Everyone's put in their time to create an opportunity. But yeah, we really didn't run into a lot of issues and we still haven't.
Where we're at in the business today is funding. We're raising funds, trying to get some of the stakeholders on our payroll working in this business full time. A lot of them are working part-time at this and we really need to focus at this stage. So some of the struggles that we faced is just raising funds. It's kind of new to me. It's nerve-wracking, it's intimidating. But I'm getting the hang of it and I'm actually enjoying it. So I look forward to bringing opportunities forward with Caring Support.
I'm dealing with eight very strong personalities as partners within Caring Support. So I've learned to really listening and understanding what their vision may be is really critically important. It's not my show. It's our show. It's our client show at the end of the day. So, it's about listening to our customers, doing roundtables, narrowing it down to what needs to be fixed, what needs to be introduced, all those kind of things.
To summarize, these are the biggest lessons I've learned so far:
Finally, what I want to leave to any other entrepreneur out there is this:
You think you weren't to be in sales, but if people have told you "you should be in sales", you should probably try to be in sales because you never know where you can go from it. A lot of people in sales want to be business owners and we need to figure out how to allow them to become business owners and really understand what their vision is and what their wants are. So take that risk. Whether it's a one-year or two-year kind of a risk, and you're going to see where it goes, just do it. You'll never, ever know if you don't do it.
And with that, we end the first half of this two-part interview with our platform's founder and CEO, Joseph Jongsma. You can also learn more about Joe and other members of our team by visiting our Meet Our Team section or by connecting with him on LinkedIn. And to read more about the story of Caring Support, click here.
Stay tuned for part 2 of "A cup of joe with Joe" next week! Thank you for reading!
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