Ep. 177 – Pela Earth COO, Jeff Keen

Our guest today is Pela Earth’s COO, Jeff Keen. 

Jeff’s background in the technology industry ranges from startup founder to senior executive in several high growth companies. He is an active member and supporter of British Columbia’s startup ecosystem as co-founder of Atrium Ventures, the Kelowna Innovation Society and Accelerate Okanagan. 

Jeff is currently the COO at Pela, one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, specializing in developing sustainable consumer products with a graceful end of life, leaving a positive impact on the planet.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • Pela Earth’s consumer products and how they’re innovating the recycling industry 
  • Jeff’s core role and responsibilities as COO 
  • How Jeff communicated with team members who were being elevated in the company and made it right with those who weren’t
  • How to control the ripples that occur when bringing a senior into the team


Connect with Jeff Keen: LinkedIn 

Pela Earth – https://pela.earth

Connect with Cameron: Website | LinkedIn

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Our guest is Pela Earth‘s COO, Jeff Keen. Jeff’s background in the technology industry ranges from Startup Founder to Senior Executive in several high-growth companies. He is an active member and supporter of British Columbia’s startup ecosystem and a Cofounder of Atrium Ventures, the Kelowna Innovation Society, and Accelerate Okanagan. Jeff is the COO at Pela, one of Canada’s fastest growing companies specializing in developing a sustainable consumer products with a graceful end of life, leaving a positive impact on the planet. Jeff, welcome to the Second in Command Podcast. 

Cameron, it’s great to be here.

We’ve got a lot of American readers. Tell people where Kelowna is. I know where Kelowna is. I’ve spent a lot of time up there, but just let them know where Kelowna is and why it is a tech hub? 

As the bird flies North of Seattle, probably an hour flight, we’re a three-and-a-half-hour drive East of Vancouver, and about a seven-hour drive West of Calgary. In the mid-lower South of the province.

There’s a really big technology sector in Kelowna. I was there. I spoke at a couple of events there a few years ago called Metabridge. It was the bridge between the Canadian VC sector that are living in the Bay Area and Kelowna. Where did that start and why is Kelowna such a big technology hub? 

The Metabridge one in particular was started by a guy named Steve Wandler. Steve had a company called YourTechOnline that he started in Kelowna. What he learned through his entrepreneurial journey was that he needed to be attached to bigger centers and larger entrepreneurial groups. He spent a lot of time down in the valley, ended up selling his company to Support.com and moved back to Kelowna and brought with him this amazing network of people.

We’ve had similar stories to that. Jason Richards started a company called Vineyard Networks that he sold in 2010, I believe. Obviously, Club Penguin was a big win for the Valley. Lance and Dave started that company, and within 18 months sold it to Disney for $350 million, which was a huge win. One of the things that that transaction did was obviously put Kelowna on the map as a place you could build a big company. It also attracted a lot of talent here and a lot of that talent has spun off and started other companies. The combination of that history has helped put the Okanagan on the map as a place where you can start and grow successful tech business.

Were you from Kelowna during the last few years? Were you in the Kelowna business area as well? 

Yes, I moved here in 2003, so 18 years, and had a front row seat to all the action that’s really seen the community grow. It’s been fun to be part of.

That’s where you got into the whole tech center. Is that how you ended up connecting with Matt and the team at Pela?

Yes. It’s interesting, I was working with Lane Merrifield at the time. Him and Brad had been on a backcountry ski trip the year before. Brad was coming into town and Lane was supposed to have dinner with Brad and couldn’t make it at the last minute. Lane asked if I could meet Brad and his wife, and that’s how I got connected to Pela.

We were just finishing the innovation center project at the time, and I gave Brad a tour of the facility. He basically pulled out his phone and was video conferencing Matt in Toronto and said, “We need to be here.” He was showing him around the space. Nine months later, Matt sold his house in Toronto and moved to Kelowna. Brad moved to Kelowna, as well. We started chatting in January of 2019. I helped them get connected to the community, hired a few early employees. The relationship with Matt and Brad and the conversation just continued to, “What are you doing next? Would you like to come join our team and help us run operations for Pela?”

What was it that attracted you? You’ve obviously been in that market for a long time. You know a lot of the people in the marketplace. You could have had lots of deals that you could have worked on. What was it that attracted you to this one? 

Just the opportunity to work with those guys in that team. What I’ve learned over the years obviously is it’s all about the people. They had a great track record and they’re just great people. I was really excited for the opportunity to work with them and then also just the mission of the business to want to create a waste-free future. That really attracted me, too. They had some really brilliant ideas of how to make that simple for people. That really attracted me to the company as well to be part of that journey.

You guys started with something that was or at least one of the earlier products was, I’d say, boring, like cases for phones. It’s like, “Pass the Cheetos, whatever.” We can talk about that, but tell us briefly about the core of what Pela works on, and then this new product that you just launched that my sister was raving about, the one that she’s starting to grow herbs with or is excited to start. What’s that all about? 

I’ll give you the quick background on the phone case business. Our Founder, Jeremy Lang, was on the beach in Hawaii with his son, and they were digging in the sand. They were digging up plastic and Jeremy said, “There’s got to be a better way to deal with plastic waste.” It’s our ethos around making things simple and products with a graceful end of life. He started with phone cases, and he started to make compostable, biodegradable phone cases.

We created a category around that, and then we launched other mobile consumer products too like watch straps and AirPod cases and sunglasses, and things that when you’re finished with them, went back to the earth. That was our mission at that time was we wanted to remove a billion pounds of plastic forever being created or ever entering the waste streams. Again, that’s part of what attracted me to the business, and it has evolved from that to a company around waste innovation with a vision to create a waste-free future.

SIC 177 | Pela Earth

Pela Earth: Our mission was to remove a billion pounds of plastic or prevent them from ever being created or entering the waste streams.


Our motto is we want to design waste out of the human experience by creating everyday products with everyday waste. Easy on the phone case side and maybe eliminating some plastic. When we think bigger around waste in general, there’s a big problem with food waste in the world. What happens to it when it gets distributed in the landfill and turns into methane, causes climate change. We started playing with this idea of what if we could create a home-based kitchen composting unit that would take people’s food waste and turn it into dirt or turn it into something you could put in your garden.

We hired material scientists. They’ve been working on this now for a couple of years, and we’re about to bring this product to market in November. We launched Indiegogo campaign in April and had tremendous success. We are the most funded project of 2021. We pre-sold about 20,000 Lomi units, raised about $10 million. That really set us off on a trajectory of where we wanted to grow the business and how we wanted to make a bigger impact around waste. It’s been fun so far. It’s going to be a huge quarter for us. We’re bringing the product to market in November, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.

I got a lot to unpack on this. You mentioned plastic, but then you also mentioned that when your products go back into the earth, that they compost themselves. I guess that your products aren’t then made of recycled plastic. They’re made of recycled material that is then compostable again. 

Yes, they’re made out of PLA, which is a Polylactic Acid. It’s a plant-based polymer along with flax shive. The flax shive comes from the prairies. It gives it its fiber strength. Basically, our materials are fully compostable in your backyard compost bin or in a landfill or in our new Lomi product. They literally turn back into dirt.

That’s amazing. I’m friends with a guy who started something called Plastic Bank that’s recycling plastic, and then turning it into these little plastic pellets and selling it in these digital currency, but again those plastic pellets just turn into more plastic stuff, right?

Right, we’re trying to eliminate plastic at the source and just say, “If you’re going to buy a phone case anyway, if you’ve got an alternative that is more environmentally friendly, sustainable, and turns back into dirt when you’re finished with it, why wouldn’t you go that route?” I believe the number is 100,000 phone cases a minute. Get basically the equivalent of that that get dumped into the ocean. There are billions of phone cases a year that end up in the trash.

I helped build 1-800-GOT-JUNK, so we saw a lot of trash. We saw a lot of junk. What’s your core role at Pela, and how did you guys divide up the roles and responsibilities there? 

I’ll talk a little bit about the growth here. I joined in January of 2019. Pela had eight employees. We’re at 75-plus a team in Asia. When I joined, Pela was really about helping to build process and structure, help build the team, interface with our Asia manufacturing team, as well. I still and continue to do some of the legal work, the daily work in the business.

I work with the leadership team, helping removing blockers for them, identifying leaders in the company and helping develop them, as well. That’s pretty much my day-to-day there. I report into Matt and the rest up until very recently, the rest of the leadership team reported into me. We just made a structural change where Matt now has five direct reports. We hired a new Chief Product Officer. We promoted someone to Chief Marketing Officer. We hired a new Head of Retail. We promoted someone to CFO and then, me being in my continuous role as COO.

Five new senior people being brought onto the team, is that right? 

Brought on or promoted?

Promoted, yes. Talk to me about the first one on the being promoted ones, and then we’ll go to the external hire second. How did you socialize and get the current employees to be okay with the fact that their teammates were being promoted and they weren’t? How did you decide on that? Walk us through some of the thoughts around that. 

We have maybe a bit of a unique structure there. Our goal was to have an executive team that was a little bit smaller, and then a little bit of a larger leadership team. When I joined, we had one team as leadership team. There were eleven people in the leadership team. As the company grew and became more complicated, more complex, more demanding, we pushed a few people probably a little bit out of their comfort zone.

We also saw some people really rise above that and embrace the opportunity. Those are the people that got those promotions. The rest of the leadership team is still part of the leadership team. We have weekly exec meetings and weekly leadership team meetings in the company. I think for the most part, people are pretty good with it. We have an amazing team. People are very self-aware. There are still lots of opportunity for those leaders that didn’t get promoted to become part of the exec team. Our business is growing on a daily basis. I think, at the end of the day, it’s a very good structure for us.

As a company grows and becomes more complex and demanding, a few people are being pushed out of their comfort zones. Those who rise above that and embrace the opportunity are the people that get promotions.

Those kinds of people like to hold on to growth too. When they’re in the midst of growth, it’s exciting regardless of what’s happening around them. Then you’ve got the external hires. I think it was three external hires that you brought in. 

Yes, we brought in a Chief Product Officer. Brad’s background is in the toy industry. The network obviously with Matt and Brad and MMT and other groups is pretty strong. We always lean to referrals. We put the feelers out to the network and a couple people surfaced up, Connor in Ontario as our Chief Product Officer. He’s got a long history at Spin Master and manufacturing in Asia and toy development.

For us, with our direction on Lomi and the complexities around bringing something like that to market, he was a perfect fit. Then we brought in Head of Retail, and his background is working with Big-Box Retail in the appliance space. For us, that was a huge win to be able to bring him on board, as well. They’ve both made a huge impact in the early days of our business, just helping us figure out priorities and what to work on first and making sure that things are moving through the channels.

When you bring in a senior person, there are ripples that happen. It’s like a boulder that you drop into a pond. Do you expect the ripples to happen? Sometimes they’re good ripple effect, sometimes they’re bad. What did you do to make sure that there weren’t bad ones or to control the bad ones or to onboard them in a good way? 

Pretty much regardless of who you are, you all go through the same recruiting process. At Pela, we have a pretty rigorous process. It’s a four-stage process. It starts with a screening call that’s done by our HR Director. They ask some pretty broad questions that goes into a main interview. For the main interview, you go to a FIT interview, and that’s where we really look at culture. Then we have a final. There are different people from our team that participate in each one of those levels. There’s always someone on the exec team that does the final, but everybody gets a veto right through the process. If there is someone that says thumbs down on this person, then we talk about it, but we respect the decision and move on.

We get buy-in along the way from different members of the team, which I think is critical. We also get to know the person through the process as well. That really helps. Then we have Pela University, which is a thirteen-week onboarding process. They get to learn about every part of the business. We usually get them to sit in on our customer service team through their onboarding process, as well, to hear from the customers and what does that look like and sound like every day. It’s proved to be very valuable for us in terms of finding the right people, integrating with the team, and then onboarding them properly into the company.

I’m sure that the growth from 8 to 75 people has been really easy.


What are the struggles been? 

We have strong core values. Our core values, we call them the 4Cs. Community is number one, everything starts with community for us. We want people to commit to a culture that builds a vibrant community. Creativity, foster creativity to inspire innovation. Consciousness, we want to live with awareness and conscious of our choices, and how they impact other people and the community around us. Then, Courage. That’s really about embracing courage by taking action despite uncertainty. That, as our core, I think one of the challenge is just maintaining that culture as the company grows.

Matt is such a good leader from that respect. We do monthly all-hands where we repeat this all the time. People hear it constantly, whether it’s in our regular meetings or all-hands meetings or the review process, which we can talk about too, which is maybe a little bit different than most people’s review process. I think that’s probably one of the challenges. We’ve got a really young team. We’re a high-growth company. Not everybody is comfortable, especially if they haven’t had experience in a high-growth business before. That’s one of the challenges.

It’s just having people be comfortable being uncomfortable. With so much changes going on, we break things all the time. We break process, we break finance, we break systems all the time. A lot of people that haven’t been through that aren’t necessarily comfortable. As the team grows, that becomes an ongoing challenge for us too.

You talked about identifying leaders and growing them internally. I know that you guys just signed up a bunch of your leaders into my Invest in Your Leaders course, so thank you for that. How do you first go about identifying leaders in the company? What do you look for? What is it that you notice about them? 

That’s a great question.

I always think of Pig-Pen at Charlie Brown and the Charlie Brown shows. That guy walking around, like the dust around them. Do you see something? Is there something you spot?

I look at leadership and potential as two different things. Some people will say, “My job is to look for potential in people and to grow that potential and to help people move through their career.” I agree with that philosophy, but I say, “Instead of looking for people with potential, look at people that are being leaders in the business every day.”

People that are accountable, responsible, living your core values, executing on their job really well, those aren’t people with potential. Those are people that are actually killing it as a leader today. My job for those people is to take down the barriers to help them further develop their leadership skills. Someone with potential has a potential to do those things. In a way, people with potential maybe aren’t living up to the things that we’re looking for.

SIC 177 | Pela Earth

Pela Earth: Leadership and potential as two different things. Instead of looking for people with potential, look for leaders in the business every day, those who are accountable, responsible, living your core values, and executing their job well. Those aren’t people with potential. Those are people that are killing it as a leader today.


People with potential aren’t necessarily leaders, or not yet. 

Exactly, not yet. They’re on two different paths. The people with potential they’re looking, “How can I give this person more opportunities to prove they can be a leader? How much time do I want to spend doing that, versus, how much time do I want to spend with people that are actually being leaders today?”

Most leaders have been leaders their whole life. When they were seven years old, they were the kid that got everybody to go do something. When they were 14, they were the ones that rallied their friends to go to the movie. When they were 18, they were on student government. They’ve been in leadership roles their entire life doing stuff. That’s a trait that that has always been there. What are the barriers you notice? What are the things you try to help them with? 

Prior to the exec team, leadership team structure, we just had the leadership team. What we did is we identified leaders in the company and we rotated them through our leadership meetings. Because we wanted them to hear firsthand and see firsthand how those meetings were run, and how they’re operated, how we communicated as a team, how we disagreed on many things. Came to the joint conclusion that this is a decision, “We’re going to get behind it and move forward.”

We had debate and we had all those things. I wanted to introduce people in the company that we could move into that leadership structure early and get them familiarized with that process. That’s one way so that they’re not coming in cold. They’re learning as a team with the rest of the leadership team. We have weekly leadership teams and we rolled people in every three or four-week basis. We’d have someone new join the team. We had the same four people that did that for a while. All those four people are now part of the formal leadership group.

That’s great. I used to do that with our executive team members and bring them out to board meetings, as well. Traditionally, it was only Brian and I that did works of the board, but we thought just by bringing leaders out and even having them sit for the day or present for a little bit, it just gives them that next level. 

We did the same, exactly.

What are the differences strategically and tactically between your executive team and leadership team? Just give us briefly what would the roles and responsibilities be of each or how would you describe each to the outside world? 

Our executive team is all about strategy, vision, long-term planning, and our leadership team is all about execution.

That’s the core difference. It seems to be an evolution in an organization when you go from 30 to 100 people is the emergence of the true leadership team or the executive team, where there is that strategy group. Do you have specific meetings to deal with strategy? I’ve always talked that people say there’s something in strategic planning and those are two different things. Strategy and planning are very different. Their strategic thinking is one thing, and then there’s business planning as the other. What are the types of strategy discussions you have? Can you give us examples? 

Absolutely, we follow the traction model. I’d say fairly, I wouldn’t say we’re totally locked into every aspect of it, but we do follow the traction model. Gino Wickman’s book is awesome. For those of you who haven’t read it, you should definitely read it. If you want to implement the entrepreneurial operating system that I think is pretty applicable to any business.

Got a link to it. 

We do quarterly planning sessions and we do annual planning sessions. Annual, our two-day planning sessions are facilitated by an outside facilitator. We bring in actually a gentleman named Anthony DeMarco out of Ontario that Brad is familiar with. He flies in. He does our planning sessions for us. We’ve been doing them remote lately, which is interesting and added a new twist to it. We still find them super productive.

We like bringing somebody in from the outside because they have a different perspective sometimes on our conversations than we will internally, different view. They keep the meetings going and we always come out at the end with a result, as opposed to maybe there’s a few things that have been left open-ended and that never happens, which is great. We do the quarterly planning sessions, as I said, that are day long. Then annual, we’ve looked three years, two years, one year out. Then, we plan the next quarter’s rocks. After that, the leadership group meets, does a quarterly planning session about how they’re going to execute on those rocks. That’s the process that we use.

Bringing somebody in from the outside with a different perspective on the conversations keeps the meetings going, and you always come out at the end with a result.

It’s identical to what I outlined in my book, Double Double, my first book that came out a few years ago. The 3-year, 2-year, 1-year. I love Traction, and Gino and I are friends. Are you guys looking at moving away from traction and into the scaling up methodologies at some point? The traction that I feel is great until you get to the 100, 150-employee mark. 

I think so. We’ll let that probably evolve over the next few months here. We’ve got some pretty big growth plans for the business. The traction structure works great for us right now. We’ll see if we start to break that. We break everything else and we will implement what makes most sense at the time.

Iterate as you grow. You’re not bringing in cheap hires. Some of these senior team members that you’re bringing in, that you described aren’t cheap people. Is this the Indiegogo funding model that you’re using to grow? Or did you bring in outside funding or you’re growing all off cashflow? How’s that all working? 

I might get this wrong, I think it was many months ago, we were operating off cashflow. We did a small, I would say, early series around from Marcy Venture Partners and Kensington Capital. We brought that money into the company. That’s what’s really helped us grow the business and grow the team. Marcy Venture Partners is Jay Z and J Brown’s investment fund out of California. That brought a lot of notoriety and press to Pela at the time. It wasn’t a huge round, but it was significant enough, that it raised a lot of eyebrows and attracted a lot of people to the company too. That certainly helped.

Now, is it the Indiegogo funding that you’re starting to then use? 


How do you manage having that huge cash infusion? I think you said something like 10 million in Indiegogo pre-sales. How do you manage that cash infusion and knowing that you then have to actually pay for the actual product and distribution and shipping and everything of all that? 

I’m not sure of how many people listening. I’ve been through the crowdfund campaign before. The money that you raise typically goes into actually making and shipping the product. For us, that’s right on point. We’re right in the throes of final engineering and just about to start production on our Lomi product.

A lot of that $10 million will go into making those units and shipping those units. I’m sure everyone’s familiar with the shortage of integrated circuits that are in high demand these days. There are lots of cars parked in football stadiums that are completely finished and waiting for circuits that aren’t available yet. Everybody that uses circuits in the same boat. A lot of our resources are going to sourcing parts and keeping our supply chain and logistics process going. That’s how we’re utilizing our Indiegogo funds.

What is the shortage on integrated circuits? Why is that? Is that stuff coming out of China? Is it because of the raw materials? What is it that’s causing? 

It was just the supply and demand through COVID. It really put a strain on production of integrated circuits. They’re just really far behind. I think 6 to 12 months from time to order, to time to circuit, or time to deliver, I should say. Big issues there globally, for sure.

I don’t know that business, but do you just start an integrated circuits man actioning arm right now? 

It’s probably not a bad call right now.

How integrated you get. On the finance side, have you guys got a strong finance team, and what was it like building that out from the eight-person kind of we’re-winging-it to where you are now? I would guess you’ve got more of a stronger finance component to your business. 

Yes, for sure. Actually, that was one of the first introductions that I made to Matt and Brad when I joined the company. A gentleman named Jason Hodges, who joined as a Director of Finance, back in, I believe, early 2019. He’s just evolved and developed into an amazing leader of our finance team who’s just been promoted to CFO. We’re very fortunate to have him. He’s built a very strong team underneath him. He’s part of our exec team. He brings a very unique perspective. He’s not your typical accountant. H

He comes with a broad range of experience as well to the table. He’s probably one of the people on the team that is the most vocal when it comes to decision making. Are we doing the right thing at the right time from a finance perspective? The reporting that we get and the data that comes out of the finance team really drives the business.

I was speaking with someone the other day about growth and talking about how in that 30 to 100 person range. A lot of the more junior managers tend to hire as the way to solve a problem and it’s not necessarily the best solution. You could optimize, you could automate, you could outsource, you could just find out the better ways, but they tend to just keep hiring people. How do you prevent that from happening? Or do you worry about it when you’re in such a high-growth phase? 

It’s not too much of a concern at this point. Again, we did things a little bit backwards, but I think for the right reasons, we hired a leadership team first and build the team underneath them versus building the team first and then having to go find leaders. I think the experience that the leaders bring to the table really help guide our hires. They’re all experienced people. They’ve all been in high-growth businesses before, so they understand the right needs at the right time. That’s really been helpful for us.

SIC 177 | Pela Earth

Pela Earth: Hire a leadership team and build the team underneath them, versus building the team first and then having to find leaders. Leaders are experienced people. They’ve been in high-growth businesses before, so they understand the right needs at the right time.


That’s Jim Collins, right? First Who, Then What? 

Absolutely, 100%.

You mentioned the data points coming out of finance. What are some of the data points that you look at? Talk to me a little bit about the dashboard that your leadership team looks at.

We have a full-time data scientist on the team. She is amazing. She comes from background at Boeing, where she was a data scientist there. No matter what data you want to look at, how you want to slice it and dice it, we have access to pretty much every financial data point in the business. How our products are launching? How they’re launching compared to other products that launched in the same timeframe? Where should we be putting our marketing dollars? What’s our CAC? What’s our LTV? What’s our average order value? How are those things trending over time? How efficient is our ad spend?

It’s really amazing. We rely heavily on our data. She built a dashboard for us that we look at every week. We’re deep into the data and she’s the type of person that will not just give you the, “It’s not just so. It’s a so what.” As opposed to just, “Here’s the information. This is what I think about it,” which is like, it’s a game changer for us.

It’s interesting how few companies have this hire, and they’re not that expensive of a hire. I learned this in 1989. I was at College Pro Painters in Toronto, and we had a full-time data science scientist on our team. I talked to Greig Clark, the Founder. He said, “It’s cheaper to have a full-time MIS person than it is to have a computer for everyone,” because computers were so expensive in 1989. He said, “I’ll just have her do all the work and tell us what the data is going to be.” I’m like, “That seems so smart.” I don’t think I even realized it until much later. 

We’re also a fully integrated business, right from raw materials to shipping to the customers. We’re not just looking at purely financial metrics, we’re looking at inventory levels, inventory turns, we’re looking at logistics costs, we’re looking at shipping costs, we’re looking at costs across the entire business. All that information is on our dashboard. We’re looking at our customer service scores. All that’s automated. We would not be where we are without the views into the analytical part of the business for sure.

Are there a few core metrics that you focus on at the leadership team level or executive team level? 

Yes, probably, ad spend, efficiency, customer acquisition costs. Obviously, we look at EBITDA and those numbers on a regular basis, too. How sales are trending. Everybody probably had a tough time with COVID and the retail business. We had a small retail aspect to our business leading up to COVID, which was actually growing quite well. It was obvious through our data and through the retail world what was happening to that business. We’re able to be pretty proactive and dial that back and refocus our spend on the D2C business. Basically, 90% of our revenue comes from D2C.

I want to talk a little bit about Jeff Keen before we wrap. What’s Jeff Keen working on to grow himself? This company is getting bigger and faster in a new industry. What are you working on to grow yourself? 

We did a session down with Darren Hardy in San Diego about a year and a half ago. That was a great experience, a great network of people down there. I continue to read books, lots of business books. The last one I read was Ego Is the Enemyby Ryan Holiday, which is an awesome read and a good gut-check for a lot of people too. I appreciate his perspective on things for sure.

I think spending time with people that are better than you. That’s been really big for me in the past few years. I’ve been in business for 30 years, and I’m still blown away by how smart people are at a much younger age, at least from my view anyway. I’m constantly learning, spending time with people that are smarter and with different experiences and just learning from their experiences. That’s definitely one thing I would put out there to people is grow your tribe and spend time with people that inspire you and you can learn from. It’s a good use of time

Growing your tribe and spending time with people that inspire you and you can learn from is a good use of time.

That’s the entire reason I started the COO Alliance was I wanted to have a place for COOs to hang out without the CEOs there to distract us. It’s funny that you mentioned Ryan Holiday from Ego is the Enemy. Ryan and I met at the very first Mastermind Talks event years ago in Toronto. He was speaking about his time at American Apparel where he was Director of Marketing, I think it was his role. 

He said the only reason why a company has a Customer Service Department is either your product sucks, your service sucks, you overset expectations for your customer, or the FAQs on your website are not complete. I was like, “That’s really interesting.” If you focus on fixing those four things, you can eliminate an awful lot of people, a lot of cost. Let’s go back to the 22-year-old Jeff. You’re graduating from college, you’re getting ready to start off in your career. What advice would you give the 22-year-old Jeff Keen? 

Buy more real estate. If I could go back or buy that Apple stock in 2001 that I should have bought, I don’t know. Many lessons along the way. I’m going to go back to find your tribe, build your network, spend time with people that invigorate you and motivate you and avoid the negative people. You’re wasting your time and energy in an area that’s not going to impact your life in a positive way.

Spend time with people that you want to hang with and enjoy being with, and build your network that way. The power of the network in the long run is absolutely everything. You talk to any successful business person, and they’re going to tell you that they are successful partially because of the people that they hang with in the network that they spend their time in.

I think I heard a saying, and it may have been at MMT, that your network is your net worth. 

It’s true.

You are definitely plugged into the right community in Kelowna, British Columbia. Jeff, thank you so much. Jeff Keen, the COO for Pela, thanks so much for sharing with us on the Second in Command show. I really appreciate the time. 

That was fun. Thanks, Cameron.


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About Jeff Keen

SIC 177 | Pela EarthJeff’s background in the technology industry ranges from startup founder to senior executive in several high growth companies. He is an active member and supporter of British Columbia’s startup ecosystem as co-founder of Atrium Ventures, the Kelowna Innovation Society and Accelerate Okanagan.

Jeff is currently the COO at Pela, one of Canada’s fastest growing companies, specializing in developing sustainable consumer products with a graceful end of life, leaving a positive impact on the planet.


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