The company founder and CEO on his pride in building his team, the importance of embracing technology and his constant quest for improvement
Why did you choose construction as a career?
My family has been involved with the construction supply chain for generations. Naturally, this closeness to the industry sparked my interest. But, more specifically, I became interested in how technology could improve productivity in construction.
After providing supply chain financing for construction procurement, then spending some time at technology start-ups, I had my “a-ha!” moment. It became clear that a digital marketplace for construction equipment and materials could solve the challenges construction buyers face with their supply chain, so I launched YardLink.
What are you most proud of in your career to date?
Founding YardLink and growing a team with strong values has to be my proudest achievement to date. I wanted to build a company centred around empowerment, being curious, and being bold – and the YardLink team embodies those values.
Our customer reviews and the stories from both contractors and suppliers around the impact we have had on their businesses are all testament to the dedication of the YardLink team.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career to date?
Historically, construction has been slightly slower to adopt technology when compared with other industries. As such, launching a digital marketplace required a mindset shift from our customers. We had to embrace being customer-centric.
From the product’s design, to feature development and the onboarding process, we had to make our solution as familiar to the industry as possible.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
The willingness to embrace technology. In the seven years I spent providing supply chain finance for construction buyers around the world, I experienced both sides of the procurement process – the digital and the analogue.
My conclusion is that we have been making life harder than it should be. Technology could help us overcome many of the challenges we experience on a construction project, on a daily basis.
What is the most helpful advice that you have been given?
Business ideas are a dime a dozen – it’s execution that matters. So, sound out your idea with anyone who is willing to listen.
Keeping your idea a secret is much less helpful than talking about it, as it is through discussions that you can better understand the potential pitfalls or opportunities.
Name your favourite building in the world?
My favourite building is the Flatiron building, which I lived very close to in New York for a few years. Built in 1902 and often dubbed New York’s first skyscraper, it continues to be an iconic landmark in the city.
Which famous building do you most dislike?
One of my least favourite buildings is 20 Fenchurch Street, also known as the Walkie-Talkie.
Which famous building do you wish you had worked on?
Growing up in Toronto, I would have loved to be involved in Canada’s most iconic structure and one of the tallest buildings in the world – CN Tower.
What single piece of advice would you give to someone starting out in your profession?
Just get started! If you have an idea for a business, start as soon as possible, with a minimal viable product, and then you can start to see if there is an appetite for your solution. But you will never know what you are capable of if you don’t take the first step.
Who do you most admire in the construction industry?
There are a lot of entrepreneurs within the construction industry to admire. One that comes to mind is Tracy Young, who founded PlanGrid in 2011. Tracy started her career as a construction project engineer, before founding PlanGrid which stores, views and communicates construction blueprints digitally. Fast-forward to 2018 and PlanGrid was acquired by Autodesk for almost $1bn.
Tracy’s journey is a true inspiration for entrepreneurs trying to digitise the construction industry, but also a great example of a successful female entrepreneur in an otherwise hugely male-dominated industry.
What is it like being you (and doing your job)?
My job covers lots of bases! I have two young kids – two and five years old – so my one routine is juggling one priority after the next.
Although I still have not mastered this balance (it is really an ongoing learning process), I have become better at splitting my time between my family and YardLink.
My job does not come with lots of “me time”, but the time I spend with my young family is precious, so you have to be critical of the things you say “yes” and “no” to.
I review my plans and goals every night ahead of the next morning. This helps me to make the most of the opportunities and challenges that arise.
Separately, I delegate as much as possible, as I have an amazing team around me to drive execution and ensure everything runs smoothly.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Rational optimism – which is all about finding the positives in day-to-day life.
What do you think your best quality is?
One of my strengths is the ability to stay calm under pressure.
What trait do you most dislike in yourself? And in other people?
Ego. I try to catch myself whenever I am bringing ego into a conversation or situation. It is also something that I will look out for in interviews with candidates looking to join YardLink.
Name three things that you like
The first is reading. I really like to learn more about topics I am interested in, such as start-ups, investing, science etc.
Then, listening to podcasts as it’s another way for me to learn about interesting topics.
I also really enjoy visiting new places and trying new things – I love going to cities, countries and restaurants I have never been to before.
Tell us about a secret skill that we don’t know you have
Playing the piano by ear!
What is your most prized possession?
Anything given to me by my wife or kids that they made themselves
Early bird or night owl?
What is your favourite food?
What would your superpower be?
Being able to synthesise information and draw out connections. This is something I am constantly working on improving, but would like as a superpower.