From being a former touring guitar player discovered by Casey Kasem to becoming a published author, a college professor, and a small business owner, Michael Wood lived life his way. Michael became the voice and face of small businesses across Canada during the pandemic advocating for government support for small businesses across all sectors. Michael Wood is a multi-award winner including but not limited to a Forty Under 40, an Alumni of Distinction Award, government awards, and more.
Tell us about your childhood and where you grew up?
I grew up in a suburban area of Ottawa Canada in a traditional family model which of course included my mom, dad, and brother. Like most Canadian kids I played organized hockey. In the summer I would waterski every day at the cottage and even took up barefoot waterskiing as a teen. I attended the same high school my late mother taught at but I never had her as a teacher. Wanting to tour in a rock and roll band, I took a Travel & Tourism college program in case I never had the opportunity to tour. That dream did come true of touring in a rock and roll band and I have memories I will never forget.
How did you get started as an entrepreneur?
I started out as an entrepreneur very early in life. Around the time “Ghost Busters” came out, I was eight. I recruited neighborhood kids and created something called “Leaf Busters”. My mom made photocopies of my flyers at the high school she worked at and I delivered them door to door in the fall. People would book me to come and rake their leaves for them. Of course, I hired other local neighborhood friends (kids) to help me. I would pay them a percentage of what the houses paid me. This of course my entry into the world of entrepreneurship. In 2007, I stopped touring in a band because my mom had become ill. I returned home to a job at the college teaching the business of music. In 2009, a friend asked me to come to Italian Week, a local festival. He told me that if we wanted to get into renting tents, tables, chairs, speakers, stages, lighting, and more we easily could. In my city people would have to call a tent company, they would have to call a party rental company, a sound, and lighting company, an audiovisual company, and perhaps a staging company to organize an event. There was not a single call destination to rent everything.
I am a strong believer that when people use Google to search for something, they are not searching for you directly. They are searching for what you do. Having said that, I sent home and bought “OttawaSpecialEvents.com” as people would be searching for special events in my city or at least special event companies. I also bought PartyRentalsOttawa.ca, OttawaAudioVisual.com, OttawaWeddingRentals.com amount others. Being a search engine optimization (SEO) expert, it did not take long for the websites to start ranking number one in search engines. Living in a two-bedroom home, I started fielding orders and cross-renting the items from other companies. I secured discounts from my competitors and charged back the same price to the customers. I won them over with customer service and kindness. After a year of doing it this way, I started purchasing the most popular items. The first large order was for 10 projectors. I ended up renting a storage locker and keeping the items there. Fast forward the clock to March of 2020, we had 32,000 square feet of warehouse space, twenty-three full-time employees, and our clients included FIFA, the NHL, and Cirque Du Soleil among many other major clients.
What is one business lesson you would tell a startup founder?
When you are starting a business, ensure you have on your team a financial expert. Some that can give you the best guidance moving forward. Whether it is a bookkeeper or an accountant, ask them questions and above all else, pay attention to what they tell you and the advice they give you. Create a separate tax account that you split your revenue into to ensure that you have the money to pay your taxes at the end of the quarter or at the end of the year. I would also tell a start-up founder that regardless of the time it is taking you to launch the business and the endless hours you put into it, make sure to look after yourself and your family. We can easily get far too caught up in exponential growth and working crazy hours but your family depends and counts on you to still be present.