The creators of Jobber, who are the latest Junior Achievement Northern Alberta Business Hall of Fame Innovator Award recipients, have won for a platform that has new significance around the world. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, both businesses and employees were exploring ways to work remotely. The ability to operate a low-touch business is one of the many benefits that Jobber’s software offers to small home service businesses. Its platform allows customers to manage operations, crews, and schedule jobs anytime, anywhere. The founders’ timely concept has earned them a well deserved spot in the JA Hall of Fame.
The Innovator Award is proudly sponsored by Grant Thornton.
“Grant Thornton’s role is to help facilitate the selection committee meeting as well as to help tabulate the results,” says Jenny Pon, principal. “A business that focuses on innovation is a business that is preparing for the future. Innovation, whether that is through process or product, is one of the keys to a business’ survival. Recognition programs such as the Junior Achievement Alberta Business Hall of Fame can help propel a business to new levels.”
She continues, “The Alberta Business Hall of Fame exemplifies the profound impact our business leaders can have – it serves as motivation for the students, and all of us, of what can be achieved by one person. It is a real testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and leadership in the Northern Alberta business community. At Grant Thornton LLP, we’re purpose-driven and committed to helping our clients, colleagues and communities thrive. We believe this strongly aligns with Junior Achievement’s vision for Northern Alberta, and are honored to support the growth of our business leaders of tomorrow.”
Co-founders Sam Pillar, CEO and Forrest Zeisler, CTO shared a common vision for the business from the start.
“I worked as a freelance software developer. Most of my clients were small businesses, and I noticed some challenges they were having managing the day-to-day tasks of operating their businesses,” says Pillar. “There weren’t many solutions available for them back in 2009, especially those in the small home service space. I randomly connected with Forrest — who was also a freelance developer — one day at a local coffee shop. He happened to have a friend at a local painting company that was struggling with some of the same issues my clients were having. We started working with each other almost immediately to build what would eventually become Jobber. Since then, we’ve helped tens of thousands of small business owners become more successful in their trade, spend more time with their families, and contribute to their communities. Helping small businesses succeed is why we started Jobber and seeing them reach success with Jobber is what keeps us moving forward.”
“Most people are surprised to learn that we’re based in Edmonton,” says Zeisler. “Edmonton isn’t exactly known for building industry-leading global technology brands, but I see this notion changing with the rich tech talent in the region.”
Jobber incorporated in October 2010 and officially launched in 2011. The company outgrew two offices by 2013 before settling into its current location on Jasper Ave. In 2017, Jobber opened a second office in Toronto and expanded across three floors in Edmonton. New departments such as BizOps and Growth were added and high-level backers Point Nine Capital, Version One Ventures, and OMERS Ventures were investing.
Both locations continued to grow, with the Toronto team moving into a larger space in 2019 and the Edmonton team signing a lease to relocate to their biggest office to date in mid 2020. Today there are more than 200 employees across the company, including new executives Sara Cooper, VP of people, and Shawn Cadeau, chief revenue officer. Additional Jobber departments include fintech, public relations and partnerships.
Zeisler notes, “While there are software solutions available that provide some of the same features and functionality as Jobber, such as scheduling jobs, managing crews, invoicing customers, and collecting payments, Jobber is the only business management software in the industry that offers free personalized training and support to all of our customers over the phone, over chat and by email. We do this because we’re committed to helping small business customers be successful at every stage, whether they are a sole operator or running a million-dollar lawn care company. Our customer-centric approach is cemented in our company’s core values and is something that is practiced by everyone on our team.”
One of Jobber’s hurdles was educating entrepreneurs in the home service industry on the value of adopting a business management solution based in technology.
“I’d say our biggest challenge was educating a market that still largely runs their businesses using pen and paper on the value of switching to a technology solution like Jobber,” confides Pillar. “Even though a solution like Jobber will save a business an average of seven hours a week, the upfront time and investment in transferring pen and paper systems into the platform can seem daunting to some. When you’re a small business, switching to another system, regardless of how easy it is to use, can take time – especially for those seasoned entrepreneurs who spent the last 30 years doing everything manually.”
“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and knowing that we can help improve their success rate and prevent them from getting pushed out of the market by larger competition is truly rewarding,” adds Zeisler. “Small businesses bring so much to local communities. They support extracurricular school teams, charities, donation drives, and so much more. Without the support of these businesses, so many of these local groups would not be able to get the funding they need to keep their doors open and support others in their communities. It’s incredibly rewarding to watch our customers grow, open more offices, see them add additional employees to their teams, and then hear about how they’re giving back to local causes.”
He continues, “What I also find rewarding is seeing how passionate our people are about the company and what we’re doing to support small business. There’s an inherent risk when joining a startup. From an outsider’s perspective they can appear to be wildly successful one day and cease to exist the next. It’s humbling to know how committed our people are to realizing Jobber’s dreams and executing on our mission.”
Even with their runaway success, both men were surprised to learn they had won Junior Achievement’s Innovator Award.
“We were surprised and honoured. We admire the work that Junior Achievement does to support young people in the community and to help prepare them for success. It always feels good to be recognized by the community and organizations that we respect.”
There is little time to celebrate at the moment as the pandemic has brought the need for their technology to the forefront of business owners’ minds.
“The COVID-19 crisis is highlighting some specific examples of why it’s important to have good technology in place, and I think a lot of companies will think critically about how they can improve the fundamentals of how they operate their businesses because of this situation,” says Pillar. “Technology like Jobber allows you to decouple running a business from the physical space of the business itself. Right now, having access to records and information about commitments to customers at home and on the go is critically important for our customers. Having solid technology in place means that when the unexpected happens, businesses are better able to deal with the situation, and ultimately are more likely to succeed.”
“During the last few weeks,” Zeisler adds, “we’ve seen service providers across a few industries experience downtime as regulations around essential and non-essential services were defined by the government. Despite this downtime, we noticed that our customers were still logging into their Jobber accounts as normal. When speaking to some of them, we learned that many service providers were using this downtime to work on the business and implement features on Jobber that they previously didn’t have time to explore – things like setting up integrations, working on future marketing campaigns, cleaning up contacts in their CRM, and using our client hub to build more meaningful relationships with clients. So, while some customers were unable to perform work as normal, they were able to better prepare themselves for the post-pandemic rush.”
Zeisler continues, “Now, more than ever, small businesses need to adapt to changes in customer expectations. Today, it’s all about convenience and speed. Even industries that are viewed as traditional and low-tech, the ones that Jobber serves, must pick up the pace in order to meet customer expectations and keep up with increased competition.
“Customers expect businesses to be highly responsive and to accept online payments. They want to book services online, pay by clicking a button, have automated reminders, and more. If they need something fixed, customers want information in real-time on the name of the technician and when they will arrive. Technology solutions like Jobber enable these features and even automates them. It would be nearly impossible to meet customer expectations without some sort of management tool facilitating it.
“Without technology, small businesses simply wouldn’t be able to compete against large corporations. With many responsibilities to juggle it can be easy to forget something in the customer journey and process, which can be the difference between winning or losing a job.”
Jobber is also passionate about supporting the community and has two company-sponsored programs called Jobber Cares and JUMP.
Pillar explains, “Jobber Cares engages our employees in social responsibility activities while reinforcing Jobber’s company values (Be Humble, Be Supportive, Give A S*it). The program has an annual operating budget and our volunteer committee, that includes people from across every department, is responsible for researching, advising and carrying out community events across Edmonton and Toronto. Some of the causes we’ve supported include Pride Toronto and Edmonton, Edmonton’s Food Bank, Movember, and Sage Seniors Association.
“JUMP helps post-secondary students make the leap from post-secondary to careers. The committee executes five to six events a year, such as panels and workshops, and it is fully run by Jobber employees who volunteer their time and skills to teach others. JUMP provides a great opportunity for development in teaching, leadership, and public speaking. Most importantly, it allows us to be humble about our experience, be supportive of others’ career journeys, and care about the community that supported Jobber.”
The co-founders are profoundly grateful for their clients, investors, team members and supporters that have got the company to where it is today. They also fondly remember client zero, Graham Audenart of Painters Enterprise.
“Our first customer sticks out in my mind because he was instrumental in helping us shape our platform in the early days. We are so grateful for that,” says Zeisler. “He was an inspiration then and he remains one now – and he’s still a customer!”
Sam concludes, “Our focus these days is to continue iterating on our platform based on customer and industry feedback. We’re scaling the business as efficiently and quickly as possible without breaking anything in the process. We have the necessary talent, tools, and opportunity to continue building a global company that will make a meaningful impact in the home service industry. We’re incredibly proud of the work we’re done so far, but we’re just getting started.”
Pillar and Zeisler will receive the award at the Junior Achievement Northern Alberta Business Hall of Fame Celebration on September 16. For tickets, visit www.janorthalberta.org.