In this episode: Andrew Wilgar, Vice President, Sales at Bonfire Interactive joins us to share the right way to transition from car sales to tech sales executive. How can family and friends play a role in finding a career that you love? How do you position yourself for a job based on the opportunity at hand? And, what do you learn from a career in sales? Stay tuned to find out
Connect With Andrew:
In this episode: Andrew Wilgar, Vice President, Sales at Bonfire Interactive shares the right way to transition from car sales to the tech sales executive. Stay tuned to find out.
Joseph Fung: Today we’ll be speaking with Andrew Wilgar. He’s the Vice President of Sales at Bonfire, one of the fastest-growing government tech companies, and this is a story of someone who’s a master of leveraging his Network from car sales to recruiting and a story of how one thing really does lead to another you’re really gonna enjoy this one. Stay tuned.
Welcome to seller’s journey, the podcast where we speak to great sales reps and leaders and share their real stories from start to sales success.
Joseph Fung: Hey! How’s it going, Andrew? Thank you for joining us.
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, thanks, Joseph. I’m doing well, excited. I’m too excited to chat this morning for sure.
Joseph Fung: I’m so excited to be sharing your journey too. I know we’ve known each other for a while, and I just know the great work that you’re doing at fantastic tech companies, but sharing the details of how you got into Tech this is gonna be so much fun.
Andrew Wilgar: Absolutely yeah, no, it’s pretty funny to think about it going all the way back, but some really interesting connections that led to led to where I am today, so been really fortunate along the way. So, happy to chat about it.
Joseph Fung: Awesome! So, thinking a little bit about the start of the story. Let’s give people an idea of the destination. What is Bonfire’s elevator pitch? You know what are you guys doing? What’s the impact? Why should people be so excited about the company?
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, so we work in the procurement space, and in today’s world for a lot of government agencies, running a request for proposal or RFP is an extremely manual process, very time-consuming, paper-based, heavy-handed kind of stuff. And so we saw an opportunity to change that, and we believe by helping a government agency take that archaic RFP process or procurement process online. Now, we can help them out. So that’s what Bonfire set out to do, and today we have close to 400 agencies across North America using Bonfire to run a much more efficient procurement process, which in today’s world is especially important as we deal with the crisis we enable them to buy things more quickly, in particular you know health medical all that sort of stuff. So it’s a dark space that people don’t often have a lot of familiarity with. But it’s a very important space, and we saw this really cool opportunity to help government improve it. So we take an old process, and we take it online make it a whole lot better.
Joseph Fung: This is awesome, and you’re just growing like crazy we see all the press about you know that the fund raises, the hiring, the growth, and I know this isn’t your first tech role. But I’d like to kind of roll the clock back. We talked a little bit about how people got into Tech. You shared with me a really entertaining story about how you got your first sales job. So can we start with that one? Can you share a little bit about how you got started?
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, it’s a it’s a funny one that starts on just kind of a normal Saturday afternoon. I think it was 19, I was with my dad, and he was car shopping, and we were at Waterloo Nissan. And I was with them, and I just happened to be talking with the sales rep who was helping us and he sort of said hey you know you know you know a lot about these cars and the why don’t you should apply because we need some more help. Okay, it also gonna help my dad knew the owner of the dealership at the time, and so do it, and I got this job as a car salesman. So I’d go for the car salesman kind of role. But I have no idea at the time that was gonna turn into anything from there, but it kind of did.
Joseph Fung: Is it the pressing question, though. Did the sales rep close the deal? Did your, did your dad buy the car from him?
Andrew Wilgar: He did, he did yeah.
Joseph Fung: There you go, okay.
Andrew Wilgar: And I still remember the guys name was Mark like I’m always curious about where he is today was. Super nice guy from, are, my age and anyway he was the one who proposed it so I kind of owe him thanks really.
Joseph Fung: Oh there we go well we’ll have to find him, and flipping this podcast episode here the journey
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah!
Joseph Fung: Okay, so you’re selling cars, and you’re in school at this time, right?
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, I was a, at the Laurier at that time, yeah.
Joseph Fung: What were you studying? Was it relevant to car sales?
Andrew Wilgar: Not at all, no, in you know I think if there’s something I would share with people out there about my journey and I’m always really open about this I was never a great academic it’s never been my strong suit. I always liked kind of entrepreneurial, ventures and I don’t know. I did something about school, and I never vibe all that well, but I was at Laurier I was actually studying geography and then kind of doing some business core stuff on the side, but that was my major at the time, which is kind of funny I never really did a whole lot with that, but I was somebody I just enjoyed, so that’s where I was yeah.
Joseph Fung: Well, there you go. So…
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah!
Joseph Fung: We actually get a lot of people who have a background in automotive sales, and they’d like to break into Tech, and so I think a lot are going to be very interested about your journey. Now you didn’t start right in at Tech. It’s not like you went from car sales to VP sales at Bonfire. You shared earlier a fantastic story about how you got into your next role. I think it was it was Jim was it that helped you out. Can you share a bit about what happened there?
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, for sure Jim Fairfax at Kitchener executive consultants. He, I get this phone call from this guy randomly I had posted my job on our post my resume on monster.ca and I get this call one day from a guy said you know hey Andrew James Wilgar and uses my full floor name this and it turned out to be Jim Fairfax and he ran Kitchener executive consultants which is a recruiting firm in town and Jim said hey you know we find a lot of people from the auto industry have a lot of success in auto industry and in terms of the selling side of it and I didn’t really know a lot about recruiting nothing about it except it sounded interesting like well I get to hire or help hire people this sounds pretty cool I’m only really and so I went in and Jim Jim’s it’s just like really big personality, great guy from, was really supportive there were a bunch of guys in that office that taught me a lot and what they taught me was you know I would go in and really like map out organizations I was doing a ton of cold calling and learning how to you know ask questions, navigate past gatekeepers a lot of stuff like that which at the time was it’s just so you know I was 21 and it was a job and all I wanted to do was figure out like how to get to the next weekend kind of thing. But, I was getting old a skill that I you know it became extremely valuable down the road, so Jim gave me this opportunity, and I worked with him for a little while and summer while I was at Laurier all that sort of stuff it was great, so that was kind of the next stepping stone was Jim Fairfax.
Joseph Fung: So, I if they were ago, would go from automotive to recruiting you’re picking up a Cold Calling you’re still at school. Now the interesting part of it, though, is I hear here in Waterloo there’s two universities, Laurie, which you mentioned, and Waterloo, which is kind of more recognized for its engineering a technical side. You ended up working with a tech company here in town, and that’s that kind of pivotal shift. We got a lot of questions about that how to get into Tech. Could you speak a little bit of just how you got acquainted with that group? How did you get in? How did you get your foot in the door?
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, for sure. Well, so, I was fortunate in one respect that I had a family friend who was consulting at the University of Waterloo, and he was doing some work with Communitech in a number of small startups I think is actually now I think it was in the M Bet program. Anyway I you know he’s good friends of my dad, and I was it was just happy to be one of those things where I was telling him what I was doing, and he said, hey, you know you should meet the guys at Spark Matrix, is one of the companies I’m helping. David Lee and James he’s you know, two guys that had this software for landlords. Yeah, kind of one of those things I need didn’t know a lot of it I knew I wanted to get into Tech, though, I you know even then Tech was really heating up that black bear was huge at that time. So, I had that side of it for sure, but you know there’s also this just willingness I think I was meeting with a lot of people, so I always had this entrepreneurial side I was meeting with lots of folks I was always wanted to take a coffee or always like I always wanted to meet with it’s funny I always think like I wanted me like dad’s friends my dad you know you sort of meet their Network it’s another network. I met a whole lot of people along the way to help out, so I really I did focus, and I even recall this very clearly focus on getting myself out there, and this one’s just have to be close to home and a Leucippus area, and there’s still a good family friend of ours introduced me to Dave and James at Spark Matrix, and that got me into Tech. I met with them they needed some help cold calling and reaching out to landlords, and getting their product out there. And that’s kind of the starting point, and then it was kind of cool because Spark Matrix got into the accelerator program at The Accelerator Centre on Hagey Blvd at you know met my illusion and Curtis and Tony and Kevin and those guys there and Kevin herding that really got you know sort of that was a launching pad, and you know obviously that’s what it was supposed to be, but it really was the Network I met there and of course the biggest one that his influenced my life is meeting Corey Flatback in those days that was 2005.
Joseph Fung: So, that idea of leveraging and kind of getting into the Network. I want to come back to that, so I’m gonna kind of put that one to this side, and we’ll spend some time on that. But, you mentioned two separate things that I don’t want to let you lose. So number one, you spoke about your father’s Network, getting to know my father’s friends. You know, when we last spoke, you mentioned about how your father and brother were created sales. Could you share a little bit of about that? How did that impact you? It’s because I think that’s an important part of your story too.
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, absolutely it is. Well, my brother is almost ten years older than I am. You know he’s always been extremely entrepreneurial. And so yeah, you know you grow up looking up to your big brother for sure, and I even leveraged his Network a fair amount actually in different endeavors. And in funny kind of ways, everything for me a lawyer’s two buddies ahead is that kind of thing. But my dad was my dad had amazing work ethic has an amazing work ethic, and you know he just he was always willing to share he’s part of rotary in town that was a big thing actually. I had his rotary booked and contacts like, remember meeting Mike Alger he’s like the owner of Victoria Star Motors, and just either they’re just different names of these guys business owners in town that I sort of admired. And I would have reached out to Mike. In my brewing days, I got to meet John Sleeman, Jim Brickman, and you know I would just I would call these guys up and just ask for a meeting. So yeah, I met some, really. I tried really hard to meet people that I admired. I knew had an amazing work ethic or stories, that kind of thing. So that was those okay just weather doing that.
Joseph Fung: Just to quickly help our audience because our audience is spread all across North America, you dropped a couple of names there, Sleeman, Brickman. Who are these people? You know why are these big names?
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, Jim Brickman, brewing here in Waterloo now Waterloo brewing but I mean he was kind of a pioneer of like the craft beer, beer space back in the early 80s and then same with John Sleeman, Sleeman brewing sold it to Sapporo, yeah I had spent some time in the brewing industry and was looking for some help of guidance, and both those guys were willing to chat with me and…
Joseph Fung: I love the audacity coverage. Is just okay, let’s call up these, you know, type titans of beer. This is great.
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, for sure I’m searching to have a cold pure like hey you know I know Jim I’ll also put you know I’ll kind of support you at all I’ll nudge Jim to you know take your call kind of thing, so I had that, but that also stems just from you know calling up the phone and talking to those guys so it all sort of snowballs I suppose.
Joseph Fung: So there’s this kind of hidden story in there about being willing to put yourself out there but also kind of wrapping around that contact to kind of fill in the buyer there, there’s a lot there about the buying circle. There’s so much good stuff here. Okay, you mentioned your father and your brother. But another thing that you mentioned was you hopped onto that call with David Lee, and they said you know that’s exactly what we need, and they brought you on board. Now, that’s a really small comment. You were selling cars and recruiting, and the founder of a tech company said that’s exactly what we need. How did that conversation go? What were you offering that grabbed their attention?
Andrew Wilgar: Oh yeah, that’s a really good question, and for anybody trying to get into tech sales, this is a moment where you have to put your ego aside, and what I was offering was cold calling, and fast forward to today it’s AK its BDR, SDR work right. It’s willing to grind it out on the phone. And that’s you know Dave and James were both brilliant guys, engineer guys, but they don’t spend their day you know calling up the local landlords or landlords across Kent or whatever, and I was happy to do that, and I was you know I sort of said look I in my work, in my job today I make 75 to 100 calls people, tell me you know that you know you get rejected all day whatever he’s kind of role with it and yeah you know I’m comfortable to do that if you guys want me to make some calls for you know where’s the phone I’m ready to go I think that’s not a problem and so it was really, it was just a simple offer just to hit the phones for them and try and get some results and we and we did. we, you know I got them in front of some of the biggest you know you got as your street in Waterloo here it’s like it’s all student houses. I think the guy that did all that his name is, I think it was also Mark. but you know I chased that guy forever, and they finally took a meeting with us showing the building and town like all those guys we met with all of them just from sheer like I’m not gonna stop calling you until you meet with me…
Joseph Fung: That’s great tenacity.
Andrew Wilgar: So, that was really it was a pretty simple offer. I’ll hit the phones for you hard.
Joseph Fung: Wow, okay, so that’s a very simple value prop. I love it. We talk about how you got into tech but leveraging the network still, cold calling for a small start-up that’s. There’s a big gap between that and where you are now. When we last spoke, you talked about how the network introduced you to the founders at Mile vision. Where you were next but then also got you in touch with Corey Flat from Bonfire, where you are now. Okay, these are intertwined. How does this happen?
Andrew Wilgar: Oh man, I’m so thankful it did. so I at Spark Matrix, we were redoing our website, and David and Corey, you must have known each other somehow, but Corey came on to redo our website, and I you know got to know me we got along really well, and I think…
Joseph Fung: Wait, can I double-check that this is the CEO of Bonfire, I assume must be before Bonfire?
Andrew Wilgar: Oh well, but this was in 2005, Bonfire was 2012, so this is seven-eight years before Bonfire and Corey is in business at Laurier, the Corey is like you know of Corey is like self-taught, you know he is a coding guru to like…
Joseph Fung: That’s so good!
Andrew Wilgar: If Corey is listening, this may be in it. I’m helping his ego but it’s all good. But yeah, so Corey and I also just got back from Bolivia, and it just so happened that my wife and I my girlfriend at that time, we were going to Bolivia in a few months and to do some volunteer work and so gonna grab lunch when you’re talking about Bolivia and obviously also talking about like entrepreneurial stuff and he was up to, and actually, it’s funny I remember that time thing like this guy’s very smart Corey is brilliant and we stayed in touch because when I got back from Bolivia, Corey was now at My Vision and wanted, Corey, I remember going up for lunch with came as like you should come to My Vision you know he tried to hire me there but that’s when I hit it, I went into the brewing world which was a good idea and a bad idea at the same time, but that’s how I met Corey Flat we will we met at the Spark Matrix days and that whole crew My Vision and basically everybody up at The Accelerator Center back at that time.
Joseph Fung: And that’s so good, so we have covered so many bases, and I know I promised that wouldn’t keep you too long. I have just a couple of more questions before we wrap up, if that’s okay.
Andrew Wilgar: No worries! Yeah! Absolutely!
Joseph Fung: First off, hey, I love the story. I mean you’ve dropped some fantastic insights, you have the power of cold-calling, leveraging your network, I mean one of the key things that I heard here is, you know, make sure you build good relationships with everyone because you never know your web the designer might be your CEO.
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah!
Joseph Fung: So, this is great!
Andrew Wilgar: Built those bridges!
Joseph Fung: Yeah, if you’re looking back at your journey I mean you’ve done so much, that’s right, and you’ve had so many successes, but if you were looking back at your journey over the last decade or more, what advice would you give a younger Andrew Wilgar?
Andrew Wilgar: Well, I talked a little bit about the academic side of things before. I would probably wish I had gone further with that side so you know you can go a long way with selling, but I, today is I you know look at what we’re doing. Some of this stuff were involved, and I wish I had a more technical aptitude for sure, so that’s one side of it. I always think you know the man I really probably if I just been a couple of hours a day in the books I probably would have had that much more, but I was always just kind of tinkering with ideas, I suppose, or kind of daydreaming a little bit too much about big ideas, so that’s probably a big thing when I this cool side of it and giving up giving the good foundation there, and I think I probably the other one I was thinking about is I always saw myself as an entrepreneur, but hey you didn’t really embrace the sales thing until I’m, you know really until almost up to my own vision, I was doing all this sales stuff, and I’m happy to do it I enjoyed it. But it was always kind of like yeah, but it’s a sales boss, but I wish I just kind of braced it as because when I got to My Vision, that was an amazing experience too in terms of working with as an AE. Amazing group of people, Ryan
McCartney and Andrew Moore and Roman I thought these guys I met there that were really really good sales guys, and that’s where I really embrace like, wow you can sales is full-on and embrace it, and then I realized it you know to even for that when you start hiring, we started raising money and started pitching and all that stuff’s like this is all sales, this is all sales, and then I got into the point of like why aren’t they teaching this more like why isn’t sales a bigger, it’s a bigger thing going forward that’s something I’d like to be a part of is how do we make sales a bigger part of the curriculum than it is because at the end of the day, sales is business, business is sales, so anyway that’s a little other story, but yeah, that’s probably looking back some of the things I would focus on.
Joseph Fung: Well, sharing your story like this with people who aspire to get into sales is a great step in helping kind of normalize it, bring it into schools, and so you’re making a big contribution now doing this.
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, hopefully, I, it’s yeah, there’s I mean you’d mention Laurier and Waterloo in town here it’d be cool to see them do some stuff obviously community really helped it a lot. Yeah, it really is it’s an amazing career, gets you. It’s all kinds of cool experiences and travel, so yeah, like I said before, I feel very fortunate to sort of fallen into a little bit but also knowing that’s the path I wanted to want it to take.
Joseph Fung: It’s awesome okay, I mentioned I’d be able to let you go I’ve got a couple of rapid-fire questions, and we can wrap up and let you get back into selling.
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah! Sure! No rush! No rush!
Joseph Fung: Okay, so you have had such a great selling career. I get cars to cold-calling to Gong tech and everything between. What’s been your favorite sales tool?
Andrew Wilgar: Favorite sales tool, I mean being other than the phone?
Joseph Fung: Got it there you go, your story fits that, got it! I accept that!
Andrew Wilgar: The phone is very important. It drives me crazy when people you know rely on like email, drip campaigns, and stuffs like. Just pick up the phone to call them to get the answer faster. If it were for a tool, geez, I mean that software’s itself I’m a big fan of Gong, and I really like what they’re doing recently. It’s a great tool. Is that kind of you mean, Joseph? I don’t I’ve never even had a car with my tools.
Joseph Fung: I think the phone was the strongest answer right there, so I’m gonna take that one and put that one on to the list.
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, Phone for sure. Get a good phone that’s the key, yeah
Joseph Fung: Outside of the office, though, so shifting gears more personally. What’s your favorite movie?
Andrew Wilgar: My favorite, I’ve got a lot of them. I suppose if I had to pick one movie, I’d kind of stereotype I love Scarface as a big Scarface fan.
Joseph Fung: Nice!
Andrew Wilgar: I am a big Alpatuno fan, yeah.
Joseph Fung: This is good. It’s this is the first Scarface reference you’ve had. I have asked this question a lot. I love it. Yeah, Scarface is a good one.
Andrew Wilgar: Yea, Scarface, this is a great movie.
Joseph Fung: There we go, okay, the last one. you’ve shared a lot about your journey, you’ve done a lot of things, but when you were a kid you know it when you think back to your earliest goals, what did you want to grow up to be?
Andrew Wilgar: An entrepreneur. I know it sounds really I have well again, this kind of goes back to my brother a little bit right. But the first toy I was really a pair of memory of this shopping with my mom going past branded toy I think was in like Westmount Plaza back in a slip back in the 80s probably 80 late 80s. And they had a plastic briefcase, and I was just like, that is the greatest thing ever. I want that plastic briefcase. I want to be a businessman that is sweet, and it was blue, and I think I end up got to getting it and I filled with cars or whatever. But it was a there’s a briefcase, and I always wanted to be a business person. So, and I
Joseph Fung: Love that!
Andrew Wilgar: Yeah, I sort of romanticizing about the entrepreneurial side of it Startup and that kind of thing, so yeah, I guess I’ve been lucky in the sense that I don’t always have the idea, but I’ve been able to plug in at really early stages with brilliant people I mean David
Lee is an example. Curtis McBride an example, certainly Corey Flat and Alex, founders of Bonfire. So, getting in early and work extremely hard to help them grow their businesses. But also sort of own the ideas as if it were my own as well which in Bonfire’s case, it’s you know the four of us at Bonfire really sort of feel like a founder because we were there kind of working away for the first few years to get it going. So, yeah, it’s been an awesome ride for sure.
Joseph Fung: This has been such a great conversation, Andrew, thank you so much for sharing and opening up about your journey. This was incredible.
Andrew Wilgar: Thank you! Yeah, I’m happy to share, it, it’s fun to talk about. You don’t really kind of dig back into that. Very often, but it’s a sort of thing. Oh yeah, there are a lot of really funny connections here. I have thought about the mean in years, but yeah, I mean we’ve got such a cool community in town here in Waterloo and fortunate to have spent time in the valley with Bonfire, so it’s been a cool journey but for anybody getting in into sales leverage the network, my other piece of advice people on a resume, I give the example before of you know here’s what I can offer here’s I can do for Spark Matrix, and that was really game-changer. I read so many resumes where it’s like I want this, I want that, I wanted this, here’s what I won’t just make your resume about what you’re gonna do for the business. What you know, here’s what I offer, here’s how I can kill it for you the company. Simple little tweak that when I read that as a hiring manager, I might get that immediately in I want somebody that’s thinking about how they’re going to help the business, it’s not just themselves, although that’s important, but you know what I mean.
Joseph Fung: Absolutely! Andrew, this has been fantastic. I’m so looking forward to getting this episode up. I think it’s going to be an inspiration for tons. But, thank you again for sharing the time.
Andrew Wilgar: Yea! Thank you again, Joseph. It’s great to chat, and I’m looking forward to hearing it as well. So thank the opportunity.
Joseph Fung: Absolutely! We’ll chat soon hope you guys stay safe and happy selling.
Andrew Wilgar: Same to you. All the best. We’ll chat soon.
Joseph Fung: We’ll chat soon!
Andrew Wilgar: Cheers!