July 31, 2019
Ankit Sharma, CEO of Kitply Industries LTD. in Vancouver, British Columbia, didn’t just take a leap of faith when he started his distribution business a decade ago; he set fire to all of his bridges for good measure. I caught up with Ankit to find out what motivates this award-winning entrepreneur and why he’s on a mission to make wood sexy.
“It’s hard enough being in the woodworking industry,” says Ankit. “There [aren’t] a lot of young, smart people going to Ivy League universities and saying ‘I’m going to work in woodworking distribution!’”
His strategy to attract the same employees that typically head into consumer marketing and high-end tech companies is to operate more like those businesses - inside and out. His blog, makewoodsexy.com, is a modern hub for woodworkers and way to connect with young people in colleges and high schools, to reach them in a style that they can relate to. Ultimately, the engagement sparks interest from talented applicants as well as potential brand partners.
Kitply’s culture also makes it an attractive career option. “One of our core values at the company is kaizen, the Japanese word for continuous improvement,” he says. To that end, the staff calendar is booked with weekly lunch-and-learn sessions. Ankit sees these events as an investment and critical to the company’s success. “We’re always looking to improve ourselves. Everyone’s always improving a little bit. We’re a little bit better today than we were yesterday.”
In addition to championing these company-wide educational events, Ankit makes time for post-graduate pursuits of his own, including studies at MIT and London Business School. He believes that If the team doesn’t grow, the company stagnates. “And for me to be able to help them grow, I have to grow to keep up with them.”
The company has certainly grown since Ankit jumped into the distribution deep end. As an immigrant entrepreneur, he had no legacy business to fall back on, no family role models to reach out to. Nor did he find the idea of nurturing something from part-time side hustle to full-fledged company particularly motivating.
“That’s not what’s worked for me. I quit my job cold turkey and I said ‘This is what I’m going to do and that’s it.’ So, at that point, I had no choice but to make that successful. I burnt all of my previous bridges - not my relationships, but bridges in the sense that I had no other source of income.” The tactic helped him stay focused, show up for the challenges, and build the purpose-driven company he envisioned.
Ankit’s working on scaling his business, seeking out areas for expansion and opportunities where he might purchase existing distribution companies, all while adhering to the core values that got him here. “Everyday’s a journey of gratefulness.”
Want to know why he’s an advocate for professional organization membership? How recruiting scorecards can help your hiring process? What punching above your (business) weight class can do for your business? Listen in!
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Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.
Edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.
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Connect with Ankit on LinkedIn.