There are times when entrepreneurs do something because it strikes them as the right thing to do.
For Ken Seville, the "right thing" emerged three years ago when the Canadian Forces reservist launched a website to help fellow reservists connect with potential employers. Soon after the business got going, Mr. Seville started to get calls from army veterans also looking for support in finding new jobs.
The business, then known as CiviSide.com, took a major turn about a year ago when the company received an e-mail from Ty Shattack, president and chief executive of Hamilton, Ont.-based PV Labs Intelligent Imaging, who was exploring with about 30 other CEOs how they might be able to help military veterans transition to civilian life.
After a series of discussions, CiviSide.com just last month became GuaranteedInterview.com. It will guarantee at least one interview to a veteran who meets the qualifications of a job listing.
Mr. Seville said that, despite the distinct experience people get in the army, they are often unprepared for professional life after their military careers are over.
"Our basic philosophy is the main problem is veterans have a small civilian network," Mr. Seville said. "When you are a veteran, you don't have the cross-pollination of people who can help you move on to the next job, people who have connections. Once we explain Guaranteed Interviews to CEOs, they are willing to help because veterans are people serving us who are a disadvantage when they return to civilian life."
Already, there are 30 companies in the program and 500 veterans registered.
While Guaranteed Interview (disclaimer: the company is not one my clients) doesn't keep track of whether members get jobs, Mr. Seville said at least one success story has been Wayne Allison, a former infantryman with the Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, who returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan to an e-mail informing him about the site.
He took up the offer, got an interview and was hired by Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. as a conductor, a job he starts next month.
"I am really impressed with the whole process," he said.
While Mr. Allison said Guaranteed Interview worked as promised, still, he wants to be sure that the companies involved with the service are serious about hiring veterans.
"The companies sign up because it's good advertising but one of my concerns is whether they are really supporting the troops or just putting the banner on their websites because it looks good on them," he said. "The proof is in the pudding."
Mr. Seville said he's aiming to have 6,500 companies involved by year-end. He concedes it is an ambitious target but not unrealistic.
"That represents one company for every veteran leaving the service. That is a nice number, and we know the Canadian business community can support it very easily," he said.
"When we approach companies, 80 per cent tell us there is no downside to doing something good for veterans because they get access to quality candidates. We are democratizing the recruitment of veterans in Canada."
Unlike Military.com in the United States, which also helps veterans with job opportunities, Mr. Seville said Guaranteed Interview does not charge companies to list jobs.
He said the company will make revenue through advertising and fees from generating leads for companies offering services such as mortgages and education programs. Another opportunity, he said, is to offer a "deal of the day" given 82 per cent of military families are regular users of coupons.
In the meantime, Mr. Seville is focused on raising about $160,000 in financing to launch new features and increase the number of veterans using the service.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.