From idea to reality in 99 days- Jeff's story

How it all started…

Get in the time machine and head waaaayyyy back to April 2011! It all started on Google of all places… yes, Google has been a place where I have spent a lot of time doing research, and this exact day in early April 2011 was no exception. I had been asked to write an article on my perspective on the role social media plays in workplace engagement. Further, I was planning to do so a series of seminars, talks and presentations to HR network groups on this topic. Off to Google I went, and this is exactly what I typed into the search box: 

“social media engagement ebook”. See below for the screenshot of the first page of results.

If you look at the 4th option, it reads, “Get Your Free ebook | Impact People Practices”. I thought, okay… it looks good, it’s free and I was compelled to click on the link. Upon clicking on the link I went through the process of obtaining a free copy of Christine McLeod’s ebook titled, “Social Media & Employee Engagement”. I printed off a copy, grabbed a coffee and dived into the document…


I agreed with it.

It was easy to understand.

It was so much more than just focusing on external messaging;

It focused on the internal as well, which I thought (still think) is sorely missing from this conversation. I just had to find out who this Christine McLeod was, where she resided and how I could get a hold of her to connect, how we could work together, etc…

Fast forward 3 hours….

I realized that Christine was Canadian living in Squamish, B.C. (my hometown is Richmond, B.C.), recently started her own HR consulting practice (at the time I had my own employer branding and social HR business) and possessed some of the similar ideas that I had about the role social media can and should play in workplace engagement. I had also sent her an email telling her how I felt about her ebook and she immediately responded, we had already set up a time to talk on the phone the next day and we had connected on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Talk about how technology enabled us to connect faster than the speed of light! I felt like I had been saved from the pent up frustration I was feeling about the state of HR in Canada. Regardless, I felt a renewed sense of hope, optimism and energy that I hadn’t felt in months.

Fast forward 9 hours…

It was mid-morning Toronto time, early morning Squamish time and I picked up the phone and called Christine to talk…what we were going to talk about, I honestly had no idea. I did jot down a few notes, and if my memory serves me right, I likely didn’t even look at them during the 3+ hour phone conversation.

We talked and we talked… talked some more, argued, questioned, disagreed, agreed, laughed, cried…well maybe not cried but the point is that the conversation clicked! Without getting into the intricate details of our conversation, below represents the outcome of our phone call:

  • We both were extremely passionate about HR and social media
  • We both felt VERY strongly that HR in Canada has not even scratched the surface on leveraging social media to add value within the HR function.
  • Further to #2 we either had already made it a mission or wanted  to do something about it.
  • We agreed that I would fly out to Vancouver and spend a couple of days collaborating, idealizing and brainstorming how we could essentially change the world, or in my own mind, kick Canadian HR in the *ss!
  • We also agreed in principle that we would find some way to start working together.

Fast forward 3 weeks…

I landed in the most beautiful city in the world, Vancouver, dropped my luggage off at my parents’ house and headed downtown near the waterfront to meet with Christine, to start what I had hoped to be a long and successful working partnership.

We had created a list of at least 20 ideas that we wanted to tackle, talk about, hash out, etc… I remember telling my wife that I felt really good about this that I would come back to Toronto with some unique “thing” that would be really good. I didn’t know what that “thing” was, but that was okay with me, as I was comfortable with ambiguity, taking risks and following my gut.

It was really interesting the moment we met face to face. It had seemed like we had known each other for years and that we were long-time friends. Perhaps it was the fact that we had been communicating constantly via email, phone and social media since the day we talked on the phone… or, it could have been the fact that we both possessed very similar personalities, high level of energy, genuine interest in each other, unique perspective on HR, on business, or we both were entrepreneurs.

Whatever it was, we spent 2 full days together in that same coffee shop, and it was probably the most successful 2 days I had spent from a business perspective in a long time. Everything just clicked!

In the short 2 days, we created, started, initiated, founded, whatever… the following:

1. Impact99—Social Media + HR: first of its kind in Canada.
2. Partnered to co-author an ebook on employer branding—soon to be released!!!
3. Working together as contractors to each others’ businesses on projects relating to HR, social and engagement.
4. Partnering together to start a movement within Canadian HR to start understanding, embracing, integrating and leveraging social within the workplace.

Almost 99 days later to the day after that Google search, we launched http://var/www/vhosts/ to the world.

There is lots more to this story and I will let some of the other characters share their version, but in my eyes, if it weren’t for social media and technology Christine and I would never have connected, and of course never have embarked on this incredible business journey together.  And by the way, new opportunities are started for me every single day using the various social platforms that I personally use.  This proves that there is a place for leveraging social media and technology strategically, and it’s not just a fad, or another way to socialize with your friends.  There is HUGE value that likely 99.9% of us have never realized.




  1. Nora on September 26, 2011 at 3:09 am

    The whole concept is wonderful, and how impressive that from April to October – Impact99 isabout to launch!

  2. Tyrell Mara on October 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Thanks for sharing this great story, Jeff! It really is incredible to see what results when two passionate people get together and decide they want to make something happen! It has been awesome to watch the success and growth of Impact 99 as well as having the opportunity to get to know you and Christine a little bit (through @TekaraInc:twitter )

    I look forward to connecting with you both further, have a fantastic time at Impact99 Toronto!