First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Leeroy Beeby: We are doing well. Thank you for asking. I’m a first-generation immigrant to Canada, which means all my family is in my hometown, South Africa. We’re a close family, so I do miss them every day, and COVID has left me wondering when I’ll get the opportunity to see them in person again.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Check the Level.
Leeroy Beeby: Growing up in South Africa, I watched my parents start 12 small businesses, so from a young age, I’ve always been intrigued by how businesses work. This intrigue led to me qualifying from KPMG as a Chartered Accountant, working as a financial consultant in Bermuda and finishing my MBA at the University of Toronto in Canada. During my MBA, I got the opportunity to work for a startup. I found that I really enjoyed it, so I started actively integrating myself into Toronto’s startup community, which led to me meeting my co-founder, Riley, at a Techstars networking event early March 2019.
We both bonded on helping residential construction companies because we both have personal ties to this industry. Both our dads work in construction and Riley paid his way through college by building pools.
How does Check the Level innovate?
Leeroy Beeby: Through speaking to customers and industry experts, and research through the internet and books. For example, our latest innovation, which helps contractors reconcile their estimates to actuals, came from a scary statistic that I read which said that over ~95% of residential contractor businesses fail within 10 years, primarily because they don’t charge enough for their work.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Leeroy Beeby: Fortunately, our customers are part of the essential workforce and, at the time this interview, residential construction has returned to pre-Covid numbers. COVID has also forced digital transformation for many residential construction companies, which has led to an increase in demand for our solution. So with these points in mind, we’re during really well.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Leeroy Beeby: In every startup, there is a lot of rejection a founder has to face. Persistence is the key to success, but you can find yourself questioning this belief, especially when some very successful and smart people don’t believe in you. So the lesson learned here is that it’s very important to surround yourself with people who do believe in you. The right advisor or mentor can mean the success or failure of your business. It’s with this lesson in mind that I highly recommend that startups in the Toronto/Waterloo area check out the Velocity incubator. The community has been so incredible to us!
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Leeroy Beeby: My mom is a leading clinical psychologist in South Africa. She is my role model, our biggest supporter and my life coach. I also rock climb to deal with stress and anxiety, and when that’s not possible, I find that journaling and meditation really help me.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Leeroy Beeby: Our competitors include pen & paper, Excel, CoConstruct and BuilderTrend.
If you go to our website, you’ll see our mission says the following: Elon Musk is sending people to colonize Mars, guess which professions are on the first ship there? You can bet there’ll be skilled trades! Then why is it that society looks down at skilled trades as a profession? We’re working on changing that! Our mission is to be a catalyst for a change in the way society thinks about skilled trades and the construction industry. We plan to stay ahead of the game by recruiting and working with people who share our mission.
Your final thoughts?
Leeroy Beeby: Someone once told me, Living in the past creates depression and living in the future creates anxiety. The best thing you can do is live in the present and only spend energy on the things you can control. This has really stuck with me, and I think it’s vital to remind yourself of this during these uncertain times.