What does sales, the automotive industry, deathcare, real estate, and a dedication to lifelong learning all have in common?
Well that, and the fact that they all benefit from establishing solid and enduring relationships. Something Paul himself is extremely good at.
“There is something special about feeling known, and I’ve always believed that,” said Paul.
Professionally, Paul wears many hats. Currently a real estate agent with South Georgian Bay Properties and founder of automotiveTHINK and the DeathCare Project, among others, Paul specializes in automotive retail, brand loyalty, employee engagement, and the customer experience. His best work lies in his ability to make people feel seen, heard, and understood, and he thrives when he is able to leverage his lifetime of experience, while learning non-stop.
Which is ironic, because as he puts it, he was a terrible student.
So much so in fact that somewhere in his high school career he realized the school system just wasn’t cutting it and he didn’t want to invest any more of his time. So, he dropped out and got a job at a menswear store in Arthur instead.
“While everyone was finishing high school, I was selling menswear,” Paul laughed.
Before long, he decided to move to the “big city” because he wanted to sell cars. It was a passion of his — both sales and cars — so he got a job at a dealership in Kitchener and it clicked.
“To this day I would still say it was one of my favourite jobs,” he said.
After a stint at Nissan and Mazda, he ended up working at a Ford dealership and became the general manager. He probably would have continued that if it wasn’t for a small tiff with his boss one day. Frustrated by his experience, he created a profile on Monster.ca with his credentials, even though he didn’t have much of a resume at the time. The very next day he was contacted by someone and offered an opportunity to work for a company in the GTA that was launching a loyalty program for Ford dealerships. So on a whim, he took it.
His job was to work with dealers across the country and create solutions around loyalty and retain more customers once they had them.
“In my mind, there are only two kinds of customers: those who have done business with you and those who haven’t done business with you, yet,” he said. “It’s much harder to get the ‘yet’ than it is to keep and nurture what you already have.”
For Paul, the best way to do this is by making people feel known — something he is very good at.
He ended up leading the team and over the next couple of years, continued to march forward as opportunities presented themselves. Eventually, the company decided to separate from its American holding company and the Canadian leadership — of which Paul was now a part of — had the chance to buy it.
For him, what was really cool was taking his experience as a car salesperson and having the perspective of, “let’s try to figure you out and what’s best for you” and translating that into a really cool career that spanned a number of industries.
“It all related to this guy who believed being known was important,” Paul said. “I could never have imagined that was where it was going to go.”
But there were downsides as well.
Paul had his first heart attack when he was 46-years-old and his second when he was 51. Somewhere in between the two, he and his wife decided to purchase a ski chalet in Collingwood. Their daughter, Olivia, was a ski racer, and they spent several winters in the area. The property closed in July of 2017, and in the process, they saw the summer thing that was really starting to happen in Collingwood.
One thing led to another and by October, Paul had entered into an agreement with his company that he would be gone by the end of the year. In January 2018, he officially began his new life in Collingwood.
He started working on a couple startups, but what he didn’t anticipate was how much energy he got from other people at work, so he started to seek out other opportunities he could connect. When Covid hit and he had more time on his hands, he decided to get his real estate license. It had always been a passion of his, so at the end of last year he joined a brokerage in town.
Around the same time, he ran into an old colleague on a hike who told Paul about a friend of his in the acute death care industry and how difficult it was throughout Covid. As they talked they realized, they could probably fix that, so they launched a business that works with the death care industry on their pre-need sales.
While he said it’s been interesting to learn a new industry, he realized the customer experience doesn’t have to change. “It’s still somebody who needs to be known, and still someone who is creating a solution,” said Paul.
It’s full circle.
And Paul said if there is one thing he’s learned it’s that leaning into your lived experiences allows you to create great insights for people if you just take the time to listen. He recalls a quote one of his previous employers said to him many years ago calling to the three stages of life: learn, earn and return.
“I didn’t intuitively understand when he said it, but I get it in a different way now,” he said. “Everything I do now is a product of my lived experience.”
The coolest part? Paul is far from done.
On the surface, he is an entrepreneurial leader in the real estate, deathcare and automotive industries. But he doesn’t feel like any of that is where he is going to “wrap things up.”
“There is an energy around starting or creating something,” he said. “There is good energy there for me."
And that’s why he also loves the Foundry so much. To him, the ecosystem of really bright, open, authentic, genuine and supportive people has been so enriching.
“The idea of netgiving, it’s not something that is said here, it’s something that is felt here,” he said.
A fact that is proven true after having even one conversation with Paul. You can tell he has learned, and successfully earned, and now he is eager to return.