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A pandemic-proof micro-multinational

Collingwood firm WordJack points to local tech community for ongoing success

With two years on The Globe and Mail’s Top Growing Companies in Canada list (#379 this year) and four years running on the equivalent Canadian Business list (#321), winning accolades is old news for Collingwood-based WordJack Media. That’s mainly because growth is a constant for the young company, not something that happens in fits and starts.

“We’ve got a formula that works for us,” says Matt Jackson, a principal at the web marketing firm. “Consistency is what we care about most, with great employees who work hard for their clients. We’ve set up a system that maximizes accountability for everyone at WordJack, which is the essence of empowerment. Making these lists for us has always been about hiring amazing people.”

A pandemic-proof micro-multinational

WordJack is a digital marketing agency focused exclusively on helping small businesses win on the Web. They provide marketing packages for online efforts, including websites and ongoing content creation, SEO, social media messaging, videos and more.

The 10-year-old company is based in Collingwood but does 80 per cent of its business in the U.S. With a subsidiary in North Carolina, business development in Australia and employees spanning four continents, WordJack is arguably one of the smallest multinationals around. That’s not to say they don’t do local; they count established Collingwood firms like Noble Insurance, Blue Rock Financial, Anytime Plumbing, Nottawasaga Mechanical and the Town of Collingwood among their clients.

Because of the way WordJack is set up, the coronavirus pandemic has not had an adverse effect on business. WordJack employees have been working from home at least part time since day one, which is part of their employee empowerment formula.

Jackson found that the pandemic forced businesses to take a hard look at their online presence, a boon to WordJack. “We just hired three new account people, all from Collingwood,” he explains. “When we started here going on ten years ago, we were hiring from Barrie, Alliston and other towns in Simcoe, but now people with the skills we need are moving here. It’s nice to see.”

Strong tech scene & business support are big plusses

Jackson remembers Collingwood as a different place 10 years ago. “When we first came here looking to start up WordJack, I spoke with a very high-profile local entrepreneur and he said ‘don’t do it here. Go to Barrie, go to Waterloo.’”

Jackson found it tricky to find financing back then, ultimately getting his start thanks to a leg up from angel networks including the Georgian Angel Network, which was itself just starting up at the time. “It’s not so tough anymore,” he asserts. “There are way more resources available to businesses now. The Collingwood Business Development Centre is a good place to start— it has been great to see how much it has developed over the past few years.”

WordJack is located at 78 Hume Street, close to Hurontario, the main street in Collingwood. Jackson finds this a great location, collaboration-wise. “I’m excited to see the new Hume Innovation Hub going ahead, to be built kitty corner to our offices. That will be a big pull for us. And with all the infill development going on in the core, it’s a better place than ever for a business.“

One of the reasons that WordJack has been able to find good staffers recently is because the right kind of people are being drawn to the area by the strong, emerging tech scene, fueled in part by fibre Internet. “Some people start things up on their own and some come to be part of cutting-edge Collingwood tech firms like AdBank, Smash Reality, Rappid Design and Switch Video,” observes Jackson. “Being in the same orbit with these companies and others has helped us to find great people and also stay on the cutting edge. You used to have to be in Toronto or New York to keep up. That’s no longer true. Great things are happening in Collingwood tech.”