FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Josh Groberman
June 14, 2016
Most people I interview have been at life, work and business much longer. I believe he fits the definition of Millennial – but beyond that I’m not sure he fits anyone’s definition. I expected the interview to be short (I mean, seriously, how long should it take to interview someone his age?). He’s 27. It turned out to be longer than most, laughter filled and far more enlightening than I expected …
He describes himself as self-diagnosed A.D.D – “It isn’t like a job. It’s like a big game.” A game he's playing pretty well. I get the sense it is the first of many creative endeavours to come. I found him affable, fun, funny, a bit of a name-dropper – and he laughed a lot. So did I.
Like many Calgarians, I’ve become a fan of the BOE report – invented in Calgary, a free daily publication that informs anyone interested in the oil patch, and especially everyone working in the oil & gas industry – what’s going on. It’s not the Daily Oil Bulletin. Many I’ve talked to would argue it’s better, simpler and easier to navigate. BOE tells its own story pretty well – aggregating newswire feeds, supplemental data, advertising, government data, well licensing; news and well activity – free to anyone who wants to get it by email daily.
I’ve been getting it daily for more than a year now – see it improving, and I became curious about its creator, its publisher – Josh Groberman. Many Calgarians will remember him as a helicopter-traffic reporter with a sense of humour. One fan in particular sent him a Facebook message while he was in the air. They met, and married … more about that later.
Josh is a fifth generation Calgarian (first Grobermans arrived here in 1904). “I grew up normal rather than privileged in a normal family. Grobermans have always been in businesses, but nobody in our family has ‘really made it big.” … though he admits to being born in Vancouver, but his parents returned to Calgary before he’d been through his second case of diapers – he’s been here all his life. Youngest of three boys, mom is an aerobics instructor, dad an entrepreneur and commodities broker. Josh admits to being a good athlete and a low-average student at The Calgary Edge School until grade 12 “I made it through”, then off to Mount Royal University for a half-semester studying communications – got a job and left school. Jobs reporting sports (began part-time when he was 16, traffic reporting, Global TV, QR77, Corus … some work with a newswire service ).
Josh describes his youth/school days, “I was loud and annoying. Obnoxious and annoying.” But life got serious in a hurry. Her name is April, she saw him on TV, sent the Facebook message – and they have two boys, 3 and 1½. Josh took pains to explain the transformation from video-game aficionado/helicopter reporting guy to founding his business as, “girlfriend, house, marriage, baby” – but within a tight time frame. “It was the only kind of business I could easily get into”. His brother Alex is a programmer who works as an analyst at Long Run Exploration where he worked on an in-house newsletter. Fast forward, brainstorming brothers, advice and support from Bill Andrew and BOE was born in September 2012. Today, three full-time, three part-time, five contractors. All millennials, all video-gamers. Not bad for a half-semester of communications training at Mount Royal.
“We’re making people’s lives easier.” … His goals? “First, to be the #1 oil & gas news service in Canada. We’ve achieved that. Next, to be #1 on the planet. Right now we are #7 or #8 … but we’re working on that.” He goes on to express surprise that the Daily Oil Bulletin recently started a free daily newsletter – “I’m surprised they didn’t just buy us!”. Given his amenable-to-sell mindset, I wanted to know ‘what’s next?’ and found him less forthcoming … but he did say, “I’d like to start an oil company.” … seems to me he has plenty of time, he’s in the right place and doing lots of right-headed things.
Why are you successful? “I trust life like a game – and I love playing games. I don’t see myself as ‘successful’. It’s not a word I use. I don’t enjoy sitting in an office – I love business meetings, enjoy interaction with people. I’m not worried about what people think of me. I’m always trying things – I’m not afraid of anything not working.”
What has held you back? “nothing yet. I haven’t yet learned what I need to avoid.”
Last words: “I think my generation is not easy – we don’t like working and we are very entitled.”
How do you see your business – a daily oil & gas report – going forward over the next quarter?
… business is good. Our advertising capacity is about 95% sold through to the end of the year. We’re building our brand, loyalty. Our audience is growing.
And over the next five years?
… small incremental changes, improvements – nothing rash. If I’m still running this five years from now, I see us as the best platform for oilfield service companies to reach their customers – to get their message out through advertising with us. Biggest challenge, make more money!
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I think I’m a good judge of character. Picking people who are doing something they enjoy. Some of our people are polar-opposites. If they like me, we’ll probably get along. I like people who will do ANYTHING needed to improve what we do.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Josh Groberman/BOE, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… in terms of advertising, I’ve never made a cold call. Staying balanced.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… mostly hands-off. I let the group do whatever they want. We’re learning a lot by what we do together. We ALWAYS agree. I’m there to make key decisions when needed. I’m flexible – we set goals and I expect people to deliver. My programmer gets up at 11AM, but he works all night …
… not sure. I really do like to get up early and go to work. I’m always up late playing video-games. It isn’t like a job. It’s like a big game.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… nothing! I want to help people. Help my family.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… I’m changing! Since I was 23, the realization I needed to provide for a family – getting your wife pregnant is a transforming event. I’ve met a very diverse group of people who’ve influenced me. People I met in media. Ralph Klein. Bill Andrew, an enormous influence.
… playing video games – Age of Empires II, with my brothers and our programmer. Playing with my kids. Hockey. Basketball.
What do you read?
… BOE Report, of course! Drudge. FACILITYCalgary. Redit. I read newspapers online.
… 2002 Chrysler Intrepid. My wife drives our Nissan Armada.
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