In high school, Paul Pires drove a forklift truck part-time. By age 19, he was training co-workers on a variety of lift trucks. And now, at 40, he’s launched OHSpros a company that specializes in province-specific online forklift training and health and safety documentation software.
“I saw where safety training was heading and that was one of the main reasons I started the company,” says Pires, a former national and district training manager for The Home Depot, Best Buy and Toyota. “Millennials will account for 70 to 80 percent of the total workforce by 2025,” he says, and predicts that this demographic will only increase the demand for interactive online training solutions. Passionate about technology, he wants a piece of that pie.
Before Pires made the daunting leap into entrepreneurship, this father of three young children did his homework. His online research led him to the York Small Business Enterprise Centre (YSBEC), where he met one-on-one with a consultant a couple of times.
“He was tremendous,” says Pires. “He pointed me in the right direction and gave me information about the centre’s free courses. Since I was just starting up, anything free was amazing!” Pires attended a session on the risks and rewards of starting your own business and another one on filing business taxes. “I wanted to make sure we were following proper taxation reporting protocols,” he says.
The consultant also told Pires about Futurpreneur Canada, a nonprofit organization that helps aspiring young business owners get their ventures off the ground. Consequently, Pires took advantage of Futurpreneur’s services.
By late 2016, Pires was ready to launch OHSpros, after taking time to dot all of his I’s and cross all of his T’s. “Everything had to be perfect,” he says.
He opened OHSpros’ head office on Yonge Street in Toronto, a convenient place for meetings with clients, and arranged for office space in other Canadian cities. He also purchased iPads and pre-loaded them with documentation software and inspection forms so that managers can verify on the warehouse floor exactly what workers have learned and retained from the province-and equipment-specific online courses.
So far, Pires has met with potential clients, including national retail companies and OHSpros has landed its first pharmaceutical client. OHSpros has also sold its courses to individuals wanting to enhance their safety skills and the company’s social media followers, says Pires, have increased by almost 800 percent since OHSpros’ “soft launch” in October 2016.
Looking ahead, Pires is counting on “growth, growth, growth,” he says. “In our first year, we’ve budgeted to do a half-million dollars in sales. I think we’ll definitely attain that.”