Our Game Changers series now turns to top executives of an Ottawa-based marketing company that has been doing a lot of work for former military personnel and their families.
Long-time friends Brian Frank and Nik Topolovec trace the beginnings of their company Waterbridge Creative Media back to the time when they were still studying.
Waterbridge excels in design and branding, video and social media. Although Waterbridge has several internationally known successful clients in the corporate world, the company remains deeply rooted in its community and not-for-profit connections.
Waterbridge has carved a name for itself in the defence community by developing a unique, video-based training curriculum that is transforming the efforts to help former military personnel transition to civilian life.
Vanguard Magazine: How did you start out in the industry?
Brian: Our humble beginnings started six years ago. We were all still at school at that time and we had the opportunity to engage in the marketing industry, and with that, we had the opportunity to work with a local company here in Ottawa and produce some video products for them as an effort towards driving client retention and repeat business. We were able to grow that success to gain new contracts within the video industry.
Nik: At one point, we were invited to an event that was held by Canadian Company (a charitable organization that bridges business and community leaders and the Canadian military). We met the founder of the organization, Blake Goldring, who was also CEO of AFG Management Ltd. A couple of weeks later, we were invited to meet the managing director at the time and we sat down and we kind of had a brainstorm, and what we came up with was a curriculum with a video foundation that would help train all of these returning members of the Armed Forces on how to transition into the civilian workforce, beyond the ability to make a resume and the cover letters.
We gave them the tool they were missing…what one career counselor could do in one afternoon with a small group of say 10 potential transitioning members, could now be spread over a much larger geographic region.
VM: What’s the one takeaway you would like to give to our audience?
Brian: One of the things that we’ve learned in business is, any type of positive energy you can put out to the community, always comes back full circle. The only way to ever get in this world is to give first and then give without the expectation or receiving.
Most of our business successes have come from us giving at the beginning, and I think went to the local community with charity, not profit in mind…We were very lucky to be in a privileged position from a marketing standpoint, of being able to offer unique services with respect to video.
VM: What technologies or trends do you think is going to drive your business over the next couple of years?
Nik: The social industry, the social media industry has completely changed the way marketers do business. It’s no longer the big TV ad campaigns, it’s no longer the billboard. These are still components of a marketing strategy, but they are no longer the centre of the wheel.
The ability to spread the word of mouth has grown dramatically with the platforms that have become available to the community being, Facebook, twitter, and Instagram…all of these social platforms have allowed people to speak their mind and share about the things that they like more. That is really something that we are working hard over here to do and continue to understand and continue to dig our hands deeper into it so that we can know where our clients will be and when they will be there.
VM: Is that the thing that you’d want to hang your hat on in terms of staying in the defence sector? Or are there other areas that you’ve also explored or cultivated?
Nik:That’s certainly where we’d like to hang our hats first. By doing the curriculum and helping develop it and put in online, we are able to meet so many military members, at all different levels. We are able to make a difference for people who make ab absolute difference in the way we are able to live our lives.
Brian: Nik hit it right on the head when he said the online portal and the Web curriculum are learning modules that we have made are currently what we want to hang our hats on, but that’s not where we are stopping. We want to continue game changing in this industry in every turn we possibly can.
Many veterans deal with many complicated issues. Not just from a physical standpoint, but from a financial standpoint, from a personal standpoint. It affects their personal lives, it affects their marriages…depression among medically discharged military members is at an incredibly high rate.
But the most incredible thing about it is that once these people find meaningful work, the levels of depression and instances of depression are almost wiped away completely. When we found that out, we immediately wanted to get involved with that industry as well.
VM: What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received, and that you’d like to leave with our readers today?
Brian: If you have a thought if you have an idea, if you want to do something, and make a difference in the world, just do it. Don’t try to figure out all the little things into how you are going to do it, how you are going to get there, just start making the move towards that direction, and I guarantee you, you are going to find success down the road.
Nik: I remember sitting with my father for breakfast. He was in the financial sector and he had a very successful business. He said: “Give to give, and not to receive.”
Read about other Game Changers, click here.