Ep. 503 w/ Rob Bartko Co-Founder at TradesLink

TradesLink started as a platform that helped tradespeople fill the gaps in their schedule by connecting them with customers who had small service jobs. From their humble beginnings in residential construction, the team at TradesLink identified a larger issue: that there was no central place for tradespeople to connect - amongst themselves or with employers. TradesLink then set about building a professional social network dedicated to those who work on the tools and in the field, in all sectors of the construction and servicing industries. The free TradesLink app allows blue collar workers to connect with each other, share knowledge and find work. Having a profile on the platform also provides workers with access to dozens industry-leading employers, recruiters, and job opportunities. The trades community is stronger together. Join Canada's growing community of tradespeople today! https://www.gettradeslink.com/

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Kevin Horek: Welcome back to the show today. We have Rob Barco. He's the co-founder at trades link. Rob, welcome to the show.

Rob Bartko: Hey Kevin, how's it going? I appreciate you having me on today.

Kevin Horek: I'm very well yourself.

Rob Bartko: Good. It's been a, it's been a busy week, but they're always like that. It's nice that it's Thursday, but we'll flick. Keep going.

Kevin Horek: Yeah man. That's that's awesome. Before we get into what you're doing at trades link, how about we get to know you better and start off with where you grew up?

Rob Bartko: Sure, absolutely. I was born and raised here in Edmonton. Alberta grew up playing a lot of hockey and lacrosse come from a family of two younger brothers. We're always getting up to something there. It was a fun little household to grow up to and kind of interact with the community that way.

Kevin Horek: Sure. So you went to university and college. What did you take and why?

Rob Bartko: Well, actually I started my career on, in the trades. I was a residential framer there for a couple years, but as being in Edmonton, the minus 30 days get a little cold and being on the roof, framing away is a little difficult. I wanted to go back to school and pick something up that way, but still be involved in the construction technology side. First, I wanted to get into marketing, but I found a better fit within accounting and finance. I went to MacEwan university actually, so I did four years there at McEwen. Had an awesome time. It's been a great school and I, I started, I guess my professional service career at Deloitte.

Kevin Horek: Okay. What made you want to go into accounting?

Rob Bartko: I was good with numbers. The numbers clicked with me. It made sense. It, it, it told the story and it was something that was just naturally a fan of, as I kind of progressed throughout the career, especially at Deloitte, I found it different, which, might be a commonality there, but that's okay. And, and from that, I wanted to get more into the technology realm and specifically on the construction technology realm. That's, that was a natural pathway that I was looking to get into.

Kevin Horek: Okay. Walk us through the rest of your career up until trades link.

Rob Bartko: Sure. I was at Deloitte right out of university there I was with them for about a year. During that time, a high school friend of mine wanted to get into real estate and specifically on single family, residential homes. Were looking for a single family residential home that we could turn into a secondary suite. My experience being on the residential framing side, kind of linked well with that. We bought a house there and we started down the process of figuring out what we wanted to do. How are we going to turn it into the secondary suite, what we wanted to get out and we needed to start managing traits. Having this experience I had, I still had a difficult time managing these skilled trades. We did a lot of the work ourselves, but the plumbing, electrical HVAC, obviously we had to sub out. If I thought I had a difficult time managing trades and the average homeowner would have a difficult time managing those trades as well.

Rob Bartko: I wanted to come up with an idea on how to better connect homeowners with residential contractors. The first business we actually started was called fix it, service pros.

Kevin Horek: Okay.

Rob Bartko: With fix it, service pros, the business model, there was to broker residential service contractors to homeowners and property managers. I had that idea floating around in my head and my co-founder at the time and still is my co-founder was coming down from Revy Revelstoke to buy a sled. We met up one day just to have a coffee. He was in limbo between just coming off of a commercial general contracting gig. He had some open space, funny story. They're actually meeting at MacEwan with him in an accounting class. We always kind of had a bit of a knack for each other on how, how we work together. We always kept in touch throughout the years, but he wanted to get involved in the fix it side. He was trying to help more on the administrative tasks with contractors, obviously jobber was around, so we didn't want to compete with them.

Rob Bartko: We, we landed on fix it, which where we broker these residential contractors to the homeowners. We helped out with the payroll in the ministry of task as well.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. Okay. How did you guys come up with the idea for trades link and decide to actually go for it and build it?

Rob Bartko: We ran fix it for about two years. We did about 150 residential jobs between Calgary and Edmonton. We hired about 120 field staff. Obviously from hiring those 120 field staff, thousands of contracting and trades resumes came across our desk, right. It didn't really hit us at the time, but as we progress throughout, fix it, and with COVID involved, our business model was a bit flawed and we needed to find a pivot. Looking at these resumes, we saw a bit of a, a law where contractors are phenomenal on the tools, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're good at selling themselves, which is okay because that's not their job. We had a lot of relationships with synergy projects here in Edmonton. We spoke with PCL Clark builders, Graham construction, and were trying to dive into their pain points on the hiring front, specifically with commercial and industrial traits.

Rob Bartko: What we landed on after many iterations was trades link, which in one part acts as a professional social network for the trades and on the employer front, they can provide, we can provide access to a searchable database of trades people where they can select and hire people based on their work availability, their work credentials experience. We can have a better matching system to help them with their hiring process. That's where trades link to that now, but it was through multiple iterations, a lot of customer discovery and a lot of development time.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. Okay. Before we dive deeper into what trades link is today, I want to dive deeper into, because you did all this research to decide basically where your pivot was going to be. Did you have connections at these companies or how did you actually go about getting in front of your potential customers to do this research? Because I think that can be really challenging as a founder.

Rob Bartko: Absolutely. Well, we had a couple of warm connections. We knew Jared SITA out at synergy projects. He was kind of our first stop there. We chatted with him. At first were actually thinking about white, labeling our, fix it software to help them on the hiring front. What we found out though, was that if were to do that, it would have been mainly a one customer company. And obviously we can't scale that way. Funny story with PCL, I'm sure you'll get a kick out of, this was my co-founder Sam. He cold emailed Paul Douglas out of the blue.

Kevin Horek: Well, and for people that don't know, they're like what the biggest construction company, in least Western Canada, if not Canada.

Rob Bartko: Yeah. Canada, for sure. North America. I think they're for sure. Top five. They're huge. Were just happy that he even responded we're, almost,

Kevin Horek: I think that's good advice in itself. Right? You guys just went for it.

Rob Bartko: I agree. The, obviously we had to be a little persistent on that. Anyone who knows, starting a company, the first email doesn't usually work, you have to follow up.

Kevin Horek: 101st.

Rob Bartko: Hundred. Exactly. So weren't really too scared about that. Paul Douglas was kind enough to connect us with their workforce manager. Our workforce, the workforce manager at PCL was really gung ho in learning about our model, because the way that they're hiring trades in a way is through indeed. If anyone knows, indeed is it's a database of resumes, but it's across all different fields that doesn't bode well to the construction industry specifically, indeed has a bit of a monopoly on that. It's quite expensive to start hiring these different trades. They were trying to look away on different models on how to recruit easier. This was before we even built out the mobile app portion of our product. We sat down with the workforce managers of PCL in Clark builders and a couple other larger GCs here. We really dove into the pain points on what they needed.

Rob Bartko: Part of that was a standardized resume for the trades and access to these traits. Larger companies obviously take a long time to get through a sales cycle and as a startup, we can't always wait for that. Went ahead with the information that we had and our MVP of actually tracing was literally just the trades link profile, acting as a digital resume for the trades.

Kevin Horek: Got it. Okay. How has that evolved to what it is today and walk us through that journey?

Rob Bartko: The MVP, it took us about six weeks to push the market. From that we small, we saw some traction, it was a good tool, is a very easy tool to build out that digital resume took about. It takes still, it takes about two minutes to set up the profile, break down your work, credentials, all of that, and find value out of that. You can use that TraceLink resume to send it off app or in app and apply to jobs. We slowly iterated based off of customer feedback. The next thing we did was we wanted to create a search bowl, a search based on the app where people could start seeing other people on trades link. From that we developed a social feed, which has been where we really started to pop off the social feed acts. It's, it's almost like a LinkedIn for the trades and we help guide users throughout posting and interacting with the community.

Rob Bartko: We have multiple different post types all the way from sharing photos or videos of the work to questions that apprentices and younger trades can ask, skills, the journeymen and the red seals and get feedback on that. There's obviously job opportunities on there and tips and tricks. We're really focusing on three different pillars within trades link, connecting with trades people across the country, finding employment and continuing on education.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. Okay. What tech stack did you actually develop in and why did you choose it?

Rob Bartko: So I'm not a technical co-founder naturally. I had to come into the role more on a product management side and start building out the product on the wireframing. I'm not taking any of the credit credit for the backend work of the front end work. We have an amazing in-house development team with mark and Tyson. So their tech stack right now. And, and if anyone's the technical people are gonna shoot me for this, but we're running off react native on the mobile side and then react for our web based product in terms of the other tech stack. I, I wouldn't be the right guy to ask.

Kevin Horek: No, that's fair enough. I just curious. Nope, that makes sense. You mentioned something to me earlier that I found really quite fascinating and I think is really good advice to cover is you had to learn how to do wire framing and design and UX talk about that journey and how that's evolved as you guys were building trades link.

Rob Bartko: Yeah, for sure. Coming from an accounting finance background, I'm quite analytical with how I approach different problems. That is sometimes difficult when you're trying to explain a vision or what you have in your head to your development team. And, back of the napkin, wireframes doesn't necessarily always get job done. We do have a great rapport now between how our product and development team interact, which is great, but it took a long time for us to get there. We are starting to iterate out the MVP of trades link, I sat down and learned Adobe XD. It took me a long, I had multiple, five Amers where my fingers would stop working and then I'd go to bed. We learned again, and from being able to wireframe on XD, I could better communicate with my developers and break down our features into a minimal viable product that we could launch.

Rob Bartko: That's just something that we've learned, I guess, throughout the couple years that we've been in the startup space is when there's a problem at hand, we really got to get on it and learn it ourselves because the resources out there are either one too expensive for us to do or too time consuming to learn. I was lucky in the fact that I was able to pick it up. I think that was a big turning point for us was being able to communicate the product well enough with the development team.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. How did you find your development team,

Rob Bartko: Nate? Actually, so Nate, we had a rapport with a product manager there with fix it. He was able to bring in a couple of developers from his school, the challenges there was as we're a new team. If everyone's junior on the team, it's very hard to grow and scale quickly. We did have to do a bit of a reorganization when we pivoted from fix it to trades link. Through that, we kept one of our developers, mark, who turned into a phenomenal front end developer or more, I'd say more of a full stack, but he's very strong in the front end. Were able to get a great hire through a connection on our back end developer. He's more of our senior architect. The funny thing about him is he's actually was born and raised in Westlock, but he spends his time now with his family out in Italy.

Rob Bartko: We do have a distributed team that way, and we are able to communicate well enough with those to be able to build that out. It's a small in-house development team, but we're able to iterate quickly and move fast when, when we need, when we have the customer feedback.

Kevin Horek: No, very cool. I want to dive deeper into, so if I let's walk us through, I know you quickly covered it, but so from the tradesman side and then a company using the app, and maybe do you want to start with the tradesman side? I know you kind of quickly give it, but let's dive deeper into that.

Rob Bartko: Sure. With Tradelink on two ends, we provide value to our trades. People is through the social network. We want to be able to build a product where they can connect with different trades people across the country. There's a lot of different building practices from the east coast out to the west coast and even down sell. Having the ability to share photos or video of work that you're proud of, one builds a community on its own. It's, it's fantastic to see framers out in Edmonton, interacting with framers over the east coast. There's different ways that they're doing it and they're from each other, which is great from that. We also want to be able to continue on with education, in the, in the, the office setting in particular, we're always looking for different ways to continue education or build new credibility and the same should be done on the skilled trades.

Rob Bartko: Everything's iterating very quickly and we want to help continue on with the education. Some of our partners that we've been aligned with skills, Alberta, other ones around the Alberta education side have been helping us grow that continued education on the Tradelink platform. That's another aspect where we provide value. The third and final pillar, I guess on the social network side is job opportunities. Everyone needs a job and people are always looking to hire. One thing that is notorious within the skilled trades is that a lot of the time you'll get a higher based on a word of mouth recommendation. Now that's great, but you're going to need to know different people to be able to get hired. That's not always the case and there's not a digital platform that works that way. Some people can argue that there is LinkedIn, but if any of us are on LinkedIn, we do know that it's very white collar focus.

Rob Bartko: The profile acts to show off, work experience in office settings or skills, Microsoft skills, Excel skills, or PowerPoint skills. Those don't trade well with trades people. The trades link profile showcases trade specific skills. On one hand, we still have the work experience and the credentials. The cool thing about our credentials page is that it also acts as a digital wallet. A lot of these trades people have, safety tickets, tremble tickets that they have to present onsite and having a binder. Isn't always, isn't always easy for them to do that. We are able to build that Tradelink profile to store digital wallets certificate securely, and then also skills like skills related to the traits. Top 10 skills that you have as a trades person that you can get endorsed from your peers. We have that social network where the three pillars all act together to build a community that is specifically for the trades person.

Kevin Horek: Got it. Okay. And then from a company side,

Rob Bartko: On the company side, obviously we need to monetize. The way that we monetize is through selling employers subscriptions, something that's always been a challenge with employers has defined the quote, the right skilled trades person for a particular job, right? There's indeed, there's ZipRecruiter, there's word of mouth, but those are getting notoriously more expensive. They're not particularly scalable, especially specifically here in Canada. What we do is that the trades link profile breaks down the specific skills that employers can now search for. I don't know if you remember, if you remember Yahoo advanced search, but Yahoo advanced search, you had the line by line item and you could filter for specific criteria. Our MVP on the employer subscription side is very similar and employer can go in and say, they're looking for a commercial carpenter who is available for work now with, H two S fall protection and stick frame.

Rob Bartko: That person can then put that criteria into our database. Our database provides them the best match that we have. They can start communicating that way. We're not involved in the fulfillment. If they're to get hired, we're involved with matching that trades person with the employer. We're our MVP on that side is actually called founding partner memberships where we're selling these founding partner memberships to the larger general contractors in the Alberta region to help us test and build this product. We've, pre-sold quite a few and we'll be opening up that here soon. The nice thing about this is that we get a hands-on approach with large companies that are hiring all the time and we can build a product that is valuable to them and scale it further and build a long-term future for the skilled trades.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. I'm curious on, I guess, a few to dive deeper into a few things. What advice do you have for people because it's can be really challenging to get people to pay while you're still building a product and getting their feedback. How did you go about actually selling that and doing that? Or what advice do you have for people that are looking to do that.

Rob Bartko: Relationship building? Even from the very start before we built out that product, without us even knowing we built rapport with these larger general contractors to build on the tool, that would make sense. Once we got that feedback to start, we then started iterating on it. We built out the MVP, like I talked on digital resume side and then building it and building it further. Once were at a point where we saw that there was value in this product, we could then go in and with minimal that no development time, just my time on the wireframing side, we're able to showcase an idea and then go back to that client and say, what do you think of this? Does this work for you? We can, if anyone knows Adobe XD, you can walk through different things very easily, but it's all, it's all, front end based.

Rob Bartko: So there's nothing tied together. Once were able to walk it through, we can iterate quickly without having any development costs. We can find a solution at the start and then we can build it out. That's what we did with the employer subscription tool. We wireframed out something very basic showed it to the potential clients yes or no back and forth until we landed on something that was valuable. And then we built it.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. So are you bootstrapping this? Did you raise some money, a bit of both or walk us through that.

Rob Bartko: With fix it? We had a pre-seed round. So we continued on with that. Being new to the Evanston startup space reputation is obviously very large. The investors that believed in us with fix it is something that I still, extremely grateful for as we progressed through that, we wanted to make sure that those investors or rewarded because they essentially finance us a way to get to the trades like model. I'm sure as, talking to many startups, the first idea doesn't always work. As long as the pivot is taking off, they're usually happy. I had a, I remember when were going through that with fix it and we knew we had to pivot, I was so worried and scared to present our three ideas to these two are our investors on what we needed to do. One of our investors had the line by saying, you don't need my permission to pivot.

Rob Bartko: The pivot is an expectation. Once I heard that I went okay, that, that was a little relieving, but obviously you still need to perform. Those pre-seed investors are still with us. We are able to raise kind of a, a smaller round to fund us further with a smaller team with Tradelink. Now we'll be upcoming on our to finish off the pre-seed round with Tradelink here. Soon after we showed a bit of a proof of concept and were able to get some revenue in the door.

Kevin Horek: No, that's really cool. I actually think that's really good advice. You mentioned throughout this whole conversation so far that you guys have really done a good job at implementing customer feedback, and that can be a really great thing, but that can also really kind of bite you. How have you managed taking their feedback, staying on course to your mission as well as not really chasing your tail, right. Implementing features that people are actually going to use, because they're going to recommend maybe a thousand features. You can only maybe implement a couple hundred of them.

Rob Bartko: The way I see it as the customer knows the problem, they don't know the solution and it's our job to figure out that solution. It's not really easy to do that, but what we can do is we can, the more feedback we get on what issues they're having, the more ideas we can show them to come to a solution for them. We w the nice thing about having a social community is that we can always get feedback all the time. We can direct message users. We can see how they're interacting with the posts. We can see how they're engaging with it. From that, we can develop further tools to help promote that and further that along. That's what we're our model is on the employer subscription side as well. These 15 founding partners will have the ability to give us direct feedback on a tool that they're using every day.

Rob Bartko: From that, we'll be able to determine one, what resources can we allocate to that, to make that happen in the short term, what can we put into the product roadmap to do in the longterm? What is the majority of them seeing that we can have these quick wins and continue on? I think it's a balance between listening to your customer, knowing your customer really well, and being able to implement it on a quick enough basis so they can see value. I mean, we're still learning on it every day. I'm by no means any expert, but that's what seemed to be working for us.

Kevin Horek: No, I think that's actually really good advice. It sounds like then you're not doing, you're not developing these features. You're just wireframing or mocking these features up before they actually go development. Is that, do I understand that correctly?

Rob Bartko: At the, at the beginning, I was very heavily involved in the wireframing side. As we slowly built out mark, the front end developer has, we've built a great rapport and we know how each other thinks now. If it's a smaller feature, he can come up with something really quickly and then we can push it to production a lot faster. I'm still involved with the product more as we go, but we also have to, build out the brand awareness, have, an evangelist of your product and as a co-founder you wear many different hats and you kind of slot yourself in where the shortfalls is are currently. That's where I'm finding myself right now.

Kevin Horek: No, that makes a lot of sense. I think that's a really good way to actually approach these things. I'm curious, you mentioned earlier, you're not a technical co-founder and I think that's great that you're actually doing something like a technical product, but what advice or things have you learned along the way that you would like to pass down to either your younger self or people that are just getting started? Because I think it's nice to see more kind of blue collar workers get into technology and start building tech for these spaces that aren't really known for some of this technology.

Rob Bartko: It's funny you say that actually. My younger brother is just, was coming into university a couple of years before. My biggest downfall was not knowing, backend development, communicating with developers and he's always been business orientated as well. We had, small little businesses running throughout university, snow removal stuff, little side hustles here and there. And so he's always been business focused. He asked me what he thought he should go into. I said, you can learn the business side or that, you can learn how to put together a cashflow statement or at least outsource it. What I find is difficult is learning the technical components. In university, I told him to go into computer science. He listened to me, which is great. I think he's, he's definitely having challenges with those comp psych classes. Like I'm sure a lot of people are, but I think learning on the entrepreneurial side, especially now learning the technical side is a lot more important at the beginning.

Rob Bartko: Progressing on the business side, I find comes a lot easier, but it's different for everyone else. The other thing I really noticed was with fix it, I was able to speak with contractors every day for two years, and that in itself was a burden, but I got to know that customer profile really well. When I was able to teach myself the Adobe XD side, when I started wireframing out that product, I figured out how the flow, I knew the flow, how to be stupid, simple, very intuitive. From having those conversations for two years with them, when I built out the wire frames, I was able to bake that into the product, if that makes sense.

Kevin Horek: Yeah. That makes total sense. I want to dive deeper into how easy, hard, challenging has it been to learn Adobe XD as somebody that knows XD? I would say like, it was not an easy task to actually get up and running with it. I've known the Adobe stuff for a long time now, and I know learned other products, but for somebody that didn't grow up with that background and had to teach themselves how challenging was it and how did you get through it and kind of Pierce persevere to actually learn it and start using it and building a company with these new skillsets,

Rob Bartko: Fear of failing is probably the biggest one. It's failing in a sense of not letting people down. Like we fail all the time in, in feature iterations and stuff like that. I'm not saying failing on a smaller scale, but failing in a larger scale. At that time, when were pivoting from fix it to trades link, that was the first company where were funded for me, at least on the technical side. I didn't want to let anyone down. It was a do or die situation in my opinion. And I mean, YouTube Google's out there. The one thing about university is it teaches you how to think and how to learn. I'm not learning how to do a cashflow statement anymore. I'm learning how to build out a product, wireframe. The fear in itself of letting people down and failing was a large motivator. That's what I mean, it kept me up anyway.

Rob Bartko: I might as well be learning myself a skill that could help out the company and in as dark of a way as that sounds it was that's the truth.

Kevin Horek: No, I, but I honestly, I think a lot of people would say something similar to that, right? Especially I'm learning something new. I'm curious. Why did you pick Adobe XD?

Rob Bartko: I was trying to, I think it was, I saw I, I was searching up different wireframing tools on YouTube and the way their UX design just made a lot more sense to me. I was able to pick it up, I think quicker and I just kinda rolled with it. I think their tools that they had on the, on, on the self-education side on their stuff was easy for me to pick up. And it just naturally fit. I'm by no means an expert in Adobe XD. I have enough that I can get by, but I'm not, I wouldn't say I'm anywhere near expert on the XD side.

Kevin Horek: Yeah. I think that's also good at bison itself, as you, there's a million tools to wireframe work. People could argue their favorite ones, but at the end of the day, they all basically do the same thing. I feel like I could say that, cause I know I've used pretty much all of them at this point in my career. The fact that you found a tool that made sense to you, I honestly, I don't think anybody's an expert at any of the software as even somebody that's used Photoshop for 20 years. Like I still learn stuff about it all the time. Right. I think the fact that you learned what you needed to learn in a tool that made sense to you, I think is actually really good advice. It sounds like you spent a bunch of time just on YouTube and actually teaching yourself, like, did you pay for any courses to learn design or how did you actually learn design?

Rob Bartko: No, I, I, I, I didn't pay for anything. It was strictly YouTube, Google and trial and error and many late nights.

Kevin Horek: Sure. No, but I think that's really good advice because so many people will tell you need to spend hundreds of dollars on this and hours on that. It's just like YouTube is the best resource to literally probably learn anything at this point, especially popular, developing design and development tools.

Rob Bartko: I, I couldn't agree more. I think, I mean, YouTube in itself, you can teach yourself anything from, even on the accounting side. I still go back. Cause I'm, we're early enough that I'm still running the books to an extent, I'm still picking up stuff back on YouTube and then on the product side or investment or investor relations or anything, I think YouTube is a phenomenal resource.

Kevin Horek: Awesome. In your opinion, or what advice do you give to people that maybe aren't technical to maybe actually start doing tech or software or startup business?

Rob Bartko: Just go for it. I mean, it, in a way, as you get into these, you have an initial problem that you're trying to solve. Once that problem turns into something else, there's so many little problems all the time that you're trying to face and just going in and trying it out yourself helps you understand the business a lot better, or the problem you're solving or the customer you're trying to help. Just not being afraid to learn something, even if it's taking 30 minutes at the end of the night, because you're tired of doing one task, watch a small little YouTube video on something that's been bugging you in the business. Maybe you can support another coworker of yours or your other co-founder in a way that, that can help you scale along quicker. I think just trying and failing as fast as you can is something that I give advice.

Rob Bartko: I still tell myself to just keep going and, and fail as quickly as possible on the, on the iteration side. So, and that's probably what I got.

Kevin Horek: No, I, I think that makes a lot of sense. Why do you think not a lot of blue collar workers are actually doing software and startups?

Rob Bartko: I think they pride themselves on being on the tools and that's something that I still have a pride in. I mean, being able to work with your hands and seeing a visible completion of a project is very satisfying. You can also find that on when you're building out a product. I think they're, they're used to staying on the tools, staying on something that they're good at and doing it the old school way. We always hear it in the construction industry. I, I'm an old school person. I like to keep it that way. And that's it. And, construction as a whole, I think is ripe for innovation. We're seeing that across the board, we see jobber in Edmonton changing the whole field management software side. We see quote to me on the material procurement side, we're seeing trades link, hopefully on the fulfillment of, of finding employees and labor and creating that social network.

Rob Bartko: I think that the industry is moving in that way, but it's slower to adopt it and that's fine. The one thing that, as we get the word out there is just education on not being tech hesitant. The, the products that we're building out are very user-friendly, they're very intuitive and they're helping progress careers and continue on education, especially with the skilled trades. It's an notoriously is in tourist industries to slowly adopt technology. I think we're finding it more and more, and especially we're finding it here in Alberta. That's why I'm very excited about Tradelink getting more of a brand presence in Alberta and helping out these skilled trades.

Kevin Horek: Sure. No, that, I think that's really good advice. Without giving away anything, where do you take trades link over the next few months? There anything that people can expect to, check out in the coming weeks that you guys are inactive development on?

Rob Bartko: Yup. The, the employer subscription tool that founding partner membership we have, I think we only have about four or five spots left as of today to sign up and that's going to be a really big tool to get ahead on that spring hiring rush. We do have some larger names that are coming to us, which has been great. The focus right now is on the Alberta side because that's where we can provide the most value. Once our database is to a point where we can provide enough people that are looking for work to these employers, that's when we'll be able to release that product. I'd say we're about not to give I to her about a week and a half to two weeks away from, from being able to launch that. That's something that's going to be really exciting to see here in the near future.

Rob Bartko: If there are any employers that are looking to hire, especially coming up with that spring rush, we'd be happy to chat with them and seeing if we can help. The cool thing about trading is we're actually giving an exclusivity period for a couple of months to these founding partners. What that means is that they get direct access to the searchable database that we're building before any of their competitors do. It gives them that advantage and gets it going. Also gives us of, fear of missing out, which helps us, promote the product. I think it's been really cool to see how the, the employers are jumping on this opportunity to get access to that workforce, that they need to build out these products that they have coming up.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. How you're using some of those kind of fear of missing out in a bunch of either kind of tactics to get people onto the platform. I think that's actually really innovative and smart of you guys.

Rob Bartko: Thank you. I appreciate that. I'll give my co-founder Sam, the credit on that one. He came up with that idea and he's been able to really push that. Well, what I really like about this is in a way it's a focus group for us to build out a product that provides value allows us direct access to these larger companies that maybe we, it's very difficult for us to get in front of, but if we nail it with them and slowly iterate, and if there's a long enough, time period with that product, we can build something very valuable here for the Canadian market that will, in my opinion, change the way hiring has done throughout the industry. That's something that I'm super excited about. I know our, our founding partners are as well and the whole team here it's so that's just been a really fun project to get behind.

Rob Bartko: The team here has been slaving away, getting me to make sure that it happens.

Kevin Horek: No, that's very cool. There any other advice I know you just basically, wouldn't let up on emailing that the guy at PCL, but is there any other advice that you found it's worked for you guys to actually get in front of some of these larger companies,

Rob Bartko: Warm connections with that? That always helps. I mean, being able to, were lucky enough to be able to get a global news coverage here india, in January, from that it opened up the doors to a lot of different people that probably wouldn't have saw us. What we did was that we followed up on every single one of those people that reached out. Some obviously weren't as helpful, but there's always that one that can continue on further. The construction industry, like I said, is very old school and their approach and how they connect. It's a very tight knit community, and you have to know people to get some places sometimes. Leveraging those relationships that you have to further along your business has been a great tool for us to progress, especially on the employer side and word of mouth. I mean, you can't be network effect.

Rob Bartko: I mean, once you start seeing people talking about a product, that's giving them value that spreads like wildfire, and we're starting to just see that now, which has been exciting. We really got to just keep going on that. Following up on your relationships, making sure your warm connections are, are taken care of, and then value adds on both sides of a partnership, in my opinion, that will never work if there's only value one side. Making sure, even if you're a small company, that if you pursue a partnership with a company, another company, make sure that there's value on both ends.

Kevin Horek: No, I, I think that's really good advice. We're kind of coming to the end of the show, but is there anything else that you want to mention that we haven't covered today with the TransLink?

Rob Bartko: We're always looking for feedback on the product. This is something that's new to the Canadian market we've been described as a LinkedIn for the trades, but anyone who signs up the cool thing about the size of the company is right now is that Sam and I are able to text and interact with every new member that signs up on the trades link gap. From that we can build a rapport and get feedback and learn what they want to accomplish on trades. We're, we're proud to say that we're being community built. Every, we just did a new, a release here last, I think the other day it was about a two week build. The cool thing about that update was that there were six or seven features that we got directly from our users to iterate on. As we push those out, these users and members found the value they needed on trading, and that helps spread the word.

Rob Bartko: The more feedback that we get, the more that we can grow as a community, because for this to take off, obviously everyone has to have value and connect on that trades and gap.

Kevin Horek: No, the one thing, and you've said this a number of times, and I think sometimes as somebody that's been a founder, a number of times myself is like being open to that feedback. To be honest, the best feedback is the brutal, honest feedback. When your users aren't happy, it, like, it's the feedback where someone's like, it's awesome. And you're like, that's not helpful. Right? You want, if you're giving feedback, you want to give, like, you don't have to be mean, but like, what people are looking for is they're looking for like the pain points and what you didn't like about the app. Like, it doesn't help to say that it's awesome. Right. I, I, as somebody that's building an app right now asking for feedback, I wanted to mention that because if anybody tries out the app, you're looking for like what people don't like or what they kind of expected or what they would like to see in a future release.

Kevin Horek: Is that fair to say?

Rob Bartko: I couldn't agree more with you. I'm sure you're familiar with the book. The mom test that book was huge. And, and having the feedback in a negative way, it's still good feedback. It's something that they've they've used enough where they're feeling that they need to bring it up to you cause they wanted to improve. Why would you not listen to that? Great feedback could be, brushed through the weeds or whatever way. That the negative feedback is what we iterate on the quickest. I couldn't agree with you more.

Kevin Horek: A hundred percent, but we're coming to the end. How about we close with mentioning where people can get more information about trades Lincoln, anything else you want to mention?

Rob Bartko: Yeah. It's very simple. You, you can find us anywhere. Our Instagram is that get trades link Facebook as well at get TraceLink. You can search up us on the website, get tradelink.com direct we're on both app stores, Google, and the app store there. Just search up trays and can, you can download the app right there. I'm on LinkedIn as well under Rob co you can DME there. Of course you can also DME on the tres link app. That's where I'd prefer it. Just because we can get more users interacting and helping out with our messaging system. Yeah, just, we'd love to have anyone join the Canada's growing trades network here called trades link and, and building a community that's going to help the employers and more specifically the skilled trades people within Canada.

Kevin Horek: Sure. I'm assuming you'll expand into the states at some point or where's that kind of ad.

Rob Bartko: Yeah. The states is an interesting market. I think first we'll start expanding out east just because of the relationship we have with our current clients. The states is definitely on our radar, but as you grow, there's a lot more resources that need to be involved. The state's is a lot different on the trade side as well. We're finding a lot of trades here in Canada. We'll go through the trade schools then to their apprenticeship and then onwards. What we're finding in America is that, or in the states is they'll go right into an apprenticeship and then they'll start looking for work. We're going to have to find different ways on reaching and connecting with these skilled trades as we grow geographically. But we'll learn as we grow there.

Kevin Horek: No, that makes a lot of sense. Well, Rob, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to be on the show. I look forward to keeping in touch with you and have a good rest of your day, man.

Rob Bartko: Thank you very much, Kevin. I appreciate the opportunity to be in on here and it's been great chatting with you,

Kevin Horek: You as well. Thanks man. Thank you. Bye.

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Ep. 503 w/ Rob Bartko Co-Founder at TradesLink
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