My name is Jeff Kear, and I am the founder and head of marketing and sales for an online startup called Planning Pod which provides Web-based event management software for event professionals, businesses and nonprofits. I am a serial entrepreneur by heart (this is my 4th business, 3 of which were successful), and here is my story.
How did you start and what attracted you to your chosen field and profession?
My life as an entrepreneur started almost casually one day over lunch with a friend. At the time, I was working for an ad agency and I was not happy with the company or my role in it. My friend was a design freelancer and asked me if I had ever considered going out on my own, and my first thought was ‘Heck, I can do better work and serve people better than my current employer’. He looked at me and said ‘So you want to start a business together?’ and the rest is history.
Since then I have been supportive of entrepreneurs of all walks of life and have encouraged many of my friends to try their hand at building their own business. Some people come to entrepreneurship because they have always wanted to run their own company, but others are different in that they need to see the context and purpose of what they can do as an entrepreneur before they start getting excited about it. I was of the latter, but now that I've been bitten by the bug, I can't imagine not running my own businesses for the rest of my life.
What was the biggest game-changing moment in your career and what were your ups and downs?
I had two experiences that really helped shape my experience as an entrepreneur, one positive and one negative.
The positive experience was when we landed our first Fortune 1000 company as a client at my marketing agency. We had been around for about 2 years and the business was very much hand-to-mouth regarding the revenues we brought in. But it wasn't the size of the client or the significant revenue bump that made this so memorable. It was the person who hired us. After working with her for several months, I got up the courage to ask her why she hired us. She simply said ‘Well, I liked you, and you had lots of energy and ideas, and I thought you deserved this chance’.
It made me realize that there are people in this world who will take the time to listen to what you are doing, engage with you and take the chance on using your service or buying your product. All you need to do is put yourself out there and eventually good things happen if you are diligent, listen to your audience and adapt to their needs.
The negative experience was when I was having a major difference of opinion with a former business partner, and I felt I was at risk of losing the business I had put so much time and energy and passion into. One night after a particularly excruciating day at the office, when I felt all was lost, I took a long walk and thought deeply about what I was so fearful of. It finally occurred to me that I was obsessing over the short term issue of transitioning to something else and I wasn't ready to do something else. But I also realized that I was confident enough to start another business, make it just as successful as my current one and that I had the strength and dedication to do it. On that day, I realized I had the confidence and the ability to take the entrepreneurial plunge over and over again, and that is an important step for any entrepreneur. There are many issues and problems in this world to solve, so pick one that is close to your heart and start working on the problem.
What do you see as your unique value proposition and what is your proudest achievement?
As far as my personal unique value proposition, I feel like my hunger to learn new things and to spread my knowledge across many disciplines has given me a wide range of skills that have helped my businesses succeed. Most entrepreneurs I know are more jacks-of-all-trades, and it serves you well in the nascent years of your business.
As far as the unique value proposition for Planning Pod (the current online startup of which I am a founder), it provides anyone planning an event with all the tools they need to stay organized and manage their event in one convenient place. I am particularly proud of the fact that we built this tool to simplify people's lives when they are planning events and that has been used by 25,000 people over the last few years to plan successful events for millions of attendees.
The events industry is one of the oldest in existence, and events shape our lives every day, so being a part of so many people's lives and helping them connect in such meaningful ways is what I am proudest of. We may only provide the software that enables people to meet and connect through events planned by our customers and users, but for me, the success of any event happens behind-the-scenes, and I am humbled that I can play such an integral role for our customers and their attendees.
Jeff Kear is founder of Planning Pod
- the easy-to-use online event registration and management software for event professionals, businesses and non-profits.