KEVIN HIGGINS: Fusion Learning
How to sum up Kevin’s College Pro years in 4 words? “A lot of learning.” For a guy who was on the corporate track, Kevin’s life sure changed after two summers running a painting franchise.
Education: Huron University College & Ivey Business School at Western University
Rookie Year: 1985 (turf: Toronto, ON)
Current Home: Toronto, ON
He gave up Fridays off, but it was worth it.
Kevin, like so many others, ended up at a seminar at his university to see a College Pro talk. When he decided to sign up, everyone looked at him like he was crazy – his summer job the year before gave him incredible pay and Fridays off. “It was pretty neat…my dad was really nervous about me taking it all on, and I remember in the mornings he would be waking up just as I was taking off for the day, so he could see how hard I was working”. Kevin’s first year at College Pro gave him one of the biggest turfs in Toronto at the time, a 40-minute drive from one end to the other. When all was said and done, his first summer as a franchisee, Kevin made quadruple the money that he would have made at his previous summer job. The following summer, he went from the largest Toronto turf to the smallest, in the Kingsway (check out interesting tidbits for a funny story there!) While the turf was smaller, the job size went way up, and so did the fun. “Most of my painters came back and we would pile into a van every day… it was a blast. I worked really hard, but not nearly as hard as the year before. I was more organized, had good systems in place and transitioned a lot of my painters into managers after that summer”. Kevin also got to know College Pro founder Greig Clark fairly well in that time, and fast forward 20+ years later, they remain close, sitting on the same charity boards.
Oh, the memories…
One of Kevin’s favourite memories was from a summer weekend with all of the managers getting together for a meeting. He and some friends went up in a large van, where they had cleared out the back to put lawn chairs out for people to sit in for the drive. “It was the greatest time just lounging there with 8 of my friends…but definitely not the safest decision, looking back”.
Now he’s driving top corporate culture
After getting a taste of running his own business at College Pro, Kevin was itching to do more with entrepreneurship, but it wouldn’t be in the cards for a while. He taught for a couple of years at his Alma Matter, Ivey Business School at Western University, before becoming a Xerox salesman. In ’92, he moved to Boston for the Forum Corporation and climbed through the ranks. “It was great, but it definitely stopped me from going out to do my own thing.” Kevin was there for about 8 years on the management committee before realizing that it was time to start acting on what he’d been saying for all those years since College Pro about entrepreneurship. He went out on his own and in 2002 joined the founder of Fusion Learning Inc. to build the company together, where he is now CEO. Since 2002, they’ve grown to a $10 million firm with 40 employees and several awards such as fastest growing company (9 years in a row) and Canada’s Top Corporate Culture. “It’s been a great experience, I love having my own firm and being an entrepreneur. My other roles were great, but I highly encourage people to go after being an entrepreneur, and I think College Pro is awesome for giving people that opportunity”.
Kevin is slowly transitioning into part-time work, and in his off-time he loves to travel – including a 2.5 month trip to Vietnam to learn the language and the local sport of kiteboarding
In the summer, Kevin and his wife have a cottage in Haliburton and love to water ski and wake board on the water
He also bought a place on the same lake in 1988 with two of his College Pro buddies – and 2/3 of them are still on the same lake!
Kevin snuck into CEO Tony Valle’s turf in the Kingsway for his second year – let’s hope Tony doesn’t hold a grudge!