In his late teens and early 20s, Darcy Weiss wasn’t imagining himself as the owner of a prestigious workwear company with six locations in Alberta. He was thinking about how to pay his bills.
“I lived on my own since I was 18, when my parents moved away for a job,” he reminisces. “I started working for PCL Construction as an apprentice carpenter, but in the 80s, there wasn’t an abundance of work. One was lucky to find work six months out of the year.”
This lack of steady work factored in his decision to go back to school. Weiss chose business courses at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and from there, he re-entered the working world as a bank employee.
“I worked my way up, became a bank manager, and spent 10 years with Canada Trust,” Weiss says. “After that I worked for an HVAC rep agency for five years, but left to follow what I felt was my true calling: owning my own business.”
The entrepreneur started small, with the procurement and retail of fire retardant coveralls, but he soon caught the attention of workwear giant Carhartt, and the relationship evolved into the launch of his first store in 2004. The rest, as they say, is history.
The expansion took place very quickly. The chain expanded to six stores between 2004 – 2006, and although Weiss had business partners at the outset, by 2007, he was the company’s sole owner.
“If you had asked me if I would be running a chain of workwear stores 15 years ago, I would have told you that you were crazy!” laughs Weiss, “But when you look at the direction of my career, it rounded out my resume to give me the tools to run this company successfully. It’s like it was meant to be. JobSite Workwear was built around assisting Alberta’s workers by providing tough, durable, comfortable, and safe workwear products. We are known for carrying quality, brand name products and providing knowledgeable service that makes our customer’s lives more comfortable and safe while on the job.”
It’s not easy. From growing and dissolving partnerships, to managing staff, to overseeing an inventory of 30,000+ items across multiple stores servicing multiple regions, Weiss and his team work hard every hour of every day. However, he has the determination and drive to succeed, and he credits a unique feature: his passion for hard work.
When asked what most people don’t know about him, Weiss responds with “Probably that I’ve been blind in my left eye since birth. Due to a rare birth defect, my eye was removed and I have an artificial one. I think naturally at first, I felt sorry for myself, but I’m not a fan of the ‘poor me’ space people tend to live in. So, I decided to do what I want, when I want. I was active in my youth and I continue to play hockey and golf while also continuing to do all kinds of sports and activities. With a lack of depth perception, I have to work a lot harder to be good at some things, but that’s okay. Maybe having one eye and having to work hard in life is why working so hard on my business is not a problem for me.”
He likens his work to being the conductor of an orchestra.
“It takes all these interesting people to make the business successful,” Weiss points out, thinking of his sales teams, staff, clients, and vendors. “I’m the conductor, but the orchestra isn’t any good without all the people playing their parts. The foundation of a good business is to surround yourself with people that have better skills than you in certain areas, and it takes confidence to hire people with better skills than yours!”
“One thing we are really good at is reviewing and analysing data. We have an excellent computer system that tracks everything. I can tell you on any given day what we sold in a specific product and in what colour or size. “
“We use history as part of the process, and we use an economic analysis of where the economy is going, what we think the weather is going to do, and what is going to happen based on a barrel of oil. All those things come into play to determine whether we are going to sell more or less of something in a year. Quite often in our analysis we are right, but sometimes we are wrong! After 13 years, though, we have a good handle on it.”
Weiss and his team don’t just look to the past to inform their choices of what to sell; they look to the future too, regularly working with their suppliers on products one or two years away from production.
“Today we are seeing technology-based products taking over the industry,” he says. “There is a younger demographic working in the field that demands the same features, benefits, and performance they can get in their outdoor gear and sportswear. For our industry, that’s been a slow transition. After all, workwear has not changed much in a long time. A coverall has been a coverall since my father and grandfather were working, but things are changing. Timberland Pro has been the biggest leader in work boot technology in the last 10 years, and Carhartt has added the new Force Extremes™ 37.5 system, which is all about temperature regulation; it creates a microclimate that can warm or cool you, and it dries five times faster than normal fabric.
“The technology crossing over to workwear means our customers can have high-end performance in the gear they spend the majority of their time in. When we’re choosing products for the store or working with a supplier on a new line, we’re always conscious about how customers spend time in their work gear.”
Born and raised in the Capital City, Weiss is happy to headquarter in Edmonton and provide top quality workwear in Alberta.
“Personally, I love Edmonton and Alberta. I’m proud of this place. It’s given me everything: my best friends, my life, my company – I owe everything to this city and its people. I’m very fortunate to be supported by everyone here on all kinds of levels, from customers shopping in my store to the help I receive from other entrepreneurs and mentors. This community is, overall, pretty amazing. It’s hard to sum it up. I think you have to live here to get it, but,” he pauses to laugh, “You do have to get used to the weather. I think that’s what makes us who we are, too. The weather.”
Weiss reflects on what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in Edmonton.
“I liken it to that old analogy: ‘being an entrepreneur is like jumping off a cliff and building a plane on the way down.’ For me, it was like jumping off a cliff, but I like to think I had the parts for the plane in my hands before I jumped!
“I’ve learned not to get too high in the highs and too low in the lows. It will kick your butt mentally if you run up and down all the time. Successful entrepreneurs have the ability to float in the middle.
“As for leadership, that comes in many forms, such as leading by example in direct tasks, from helping a customer, to mopping the floor, to cleaning the bathroom. As entrepreneurs, you have to wear many hats. Sometimes I’m the courier. Sometimes I’m in clean up. Sometimes I’m the shipper and receiver.
“Entrepreneurs have to be confident. You have a lot of decisions to make. The buck stops at you all the time and you have to be prepared to make hard decisions. Like a poker game, but your chips are always all in on every hand. You need good gut instincts, confidence, and intuition.
“Taking chances is what separates an entrepreneur from a dreamer. Lots of people have great ideas and dreams. The entrepreneur writes the cheque. A true entrepreneur does the analysis and risks time, energy, money, and reputation. Again it’s like playing poker. A real entrepreneur knows when to go all in…for the most part. Maybe we are all just adrenaline junkies!”
Of course, there is always a fine line that divides the work/life balance that must be considered, too, but Weiss is on it.
“I have a very good mentor named Roger who would talk to me a lot about work/life balance. As a very successful businessman with four children, he showed me the way on that. I’m a big believer in work/life balance. You can’t be effective working all the time. You need breaks, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Take yourself away from the office. Getting away and spending real time out of the office makes you better when you return.
“I’ve been a single dad for most of the life of my company; two thumbs up to all the hard working parents out there! You have no choice but to find balance between work and family. I instill that in my staff. Family is incredibly important.”
Giving back is also important for Weiss and for JobSite Workwear. In addition to supporting numerous charities and non-profit organizations over the years, the team has recently been involved with Wellspring Edmonton, and the company supports the causes that have meaning to the staff.
“My staff,” Weiss is fast to point to them when asked about the success of JobSite Workwear. “Without them, we wouldn’t have a company.
“This company is run by three people in the head office. Marc is my right hand man and I’m very fortunate to have him here. Marnie makes sure everything and everyone is paid and up to date. Every successful company needs a good accounting department.
“I also believe every business owner needs a very good lawyer, and I have the best in Mark Keohane, who is the smartest and coolest lawyer around. There is also my friend and mentor Rodger Ayotte. Surrounding yourself and the business with the right people is so important. Without these people, I may not own my company today. I owe them an incredible debt of gratitude for everything they have done for me, my company, and my family.”
He’s also incredibly thankful for the presence, and support, of his son Liam.
“Thank you, Liam, for putting up with me,” he smiles softly. “For allowing me to make mistakes and for reminding me every day why I do what I do.”
Liam works at JobSite Workwear part time while following in his father’s footsteps by taking the business program at NAIT, and although Weiss made it clear that his son did not have to enter the business if he had designs on a different career, Liam wants, and plans, to continue working alongside his father.
“I look forward to him working here,” smiles Weiss.
Together, father, son, and an incredible team of administrators and staff will take JobSite Workwear into the future.
“The future,” muses Weiss. “There are a lot variables that go into thinking about that. Do we have the strength and ability to last? Do we grow? How do we grow? Is that a profitable decision? Do we have the right people? We want to grow and be successful and be here for the long haul. In today’s changing world of retail, from bricks and mortar stores to online sales, what does that look like? We’ve seen an incredible change in consumers’ ability to find products outside of walking into a store. We are learning, adapting, and changing all the time to be successful. We are growing, but maybe in today’s world, our growth won’t be defined by the number of locations we have.”
With 13 years, six stores, a great team, the next generation on board, and manufactures calling because they want to place their products with one of the most successful workwear retailers in Alberta, Weiss looks back with no regrets.
“You have an idea and you build it,” he concludes. “People come and they accept it, and it’s successful but it started as an idea and a dream. A lot of people don’t get past the dream part. I’m fortunate I did, and this far down the line it’s all turning out.
“It’s certainly humbling to think about all the people that are out there working every day that are our customers, and that trust us for their work and safety apparel needs. That’s a big driver for us. We strive for every hardworking Albertan that needs our products, and we know we’ve done our best to put them in the products that will help to keep them comfortable and safe.
“To our current and future customers, our supporters, the city, and the province, it’s my pleasure to say, welcome to JobSite Workwear.”