Tragedy to Triumph: An Entrepreneur’s Story

Born in 1974 in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada, Bill Zapf was what you would call a hockey all-star.  Having played all through his childhood and into his teen years, he eventually went on to run hockey camps and coach kids in the sport he loved.  His skill allowed him to play at a very high level, until the day he was hit from behind on the ice and into the boards so hard that he became a quadriplegic.

A true inspiration for any aspiring entrepreneur as well as the rest of us, Bill lets little stop him from setting goals and accomplishing them.  In fact, he has built several businesses since his accident, having been particularly involved in real estate development.  It was in his dealings with tenants and small business owners that he witnessed firsthand their inabilities to pay rent and run their businesses properly, especially in a tough economy.  This sparked Bill’s interest in providing an effective, low-cost advertising vehicle that could be replicated in local communities and would target the specific market of interest to local businesses (usually within a 3 to 5-mile radius) in that area.

As someone who lets nothing stand in his way and for whom failure is just not an option, Bill is today the President of ZP Media Group, LLC, and the Director of Business and Franchise Development for its franchise entity, WAITING GAME Publications, LLC.  In keeping with his goal of providing a targeted advertising option for small businesses in local communities nationwide, The WAITING GAME® is a FREE, full-color, monthly publication that is distributed anywhere that customers are likely to experience wait times, such as hair salons, physicians’ offices, local schools, hospitals, hotels, senior centers, dentists’ offices, restaurants, mom’s clubs, car washes, laundromats, dance studios, martial arts centers, gymnastics clubs, and many more…

Each issue of The WAITING GAME® features crosswords, Sudoku, word finds, interesting facts and puzzles, plus incentives and other offers of value such that customers will want to take it home.  In addition, an entire section of the publication is dedicated to kids.  The WAITING GAME® is intended to stimulate the minds of customers and their families while they wait.  Its ultimate goal is to engage, entertain and provide value to consumers in a local community, while maximizing advertiser exposure.

Join us here as Bill shares his insights on what it means to be a business owner today and his thoughts on what it takes to be successful:

How does someone know if they have what it takes to own their own business?  Tell us a bit about how you made the decision and why.

It is basically a lifestyle choice.  Some people are very conservative and are quite content working from 8 am to 5 pm and knowing what they will bring home every week.  I am not that person.  I like to know that I don’t have a salary cap and that we have unlimited growth potential.  I like to be able to work from my home in my underwear at times and enjoy the flexibility to set my own schedule.  I also think it is much easier to stay motivated when you are working for yourself.  It is comforting knowing your hard work effects you and your family directly.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first six months in business?  How did you meet that challenge?

I think our biggest challenge was establishing credibility.  When you are introducing something different or a new concept to the marketplace, people can be skeptical.  There are so many businesses that come and go.  We had to prove that we provided value and that we were not going anywhere.  You have to do what you say you are going to do, meet your deadlines and be visible in the community.

What do you think is the greatest challenge facing business owners today and why?  Any suggestions for how to address those challenges?

There are many challenges.  Competition is one and trying to wear too many hats is another.  Before you get too far, make sure that your product or service can outlast the competition, and always surround yourself with good people.

What is the single strongest piece of advice you would have for someone just starting out in business for themselves?

First make sure that you are building your business around a great opportunity and not just a great idea.  Map out and have a plan of what your first year, second year and third year may look like.  Spend much more time on the first-year planning but have a view of the future.  Your plan can and most likely will change over time, but this exercise will help you prepare and make you more aware of what obstacles, challenges, opportunities and financial needs you may have to address.  Meet regularly with your team to address current issues and brainstorm new ideas.  We meet at least once a week.

What marketing strategies have you found to be most successful in growing your business?

There are so many options available.  You have to tap into print, television, radio, internet marketing, and yes, social media.  My best advice is to experiment and see what works before committing too much of your budget.

What is it about the business/industry you are in that made it so attractive to you?

We love that The WAITING GAME® can provide two very important things:  1) We provide value and enjoyment to the consumer, and 2) We can provide maximum exposure to our advertisers at a cost-effective price that fits any budget.

After the initial start-up phase in business, what obstacles do business owners face as they try to grow their business and remain successful?  Any advice for how to overcome those obstacles?

I think you have to constantly evolve.  What works today will not necessarily work tomorrow.  Stay up to date.  You may want to ignore the latest things such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., but to stay ahead of the curve you will have to embrace them and figure out how they can work for you.  Talk to your customers and employees.  Read as much as you can.  There is so much you can learn from reading books about other people’s experiences and talking to other business owners.

What did you do before you decided to become your own boss, and how have those skills helped you in your current business?

As mentioned before, I grew up playing high-level hockey and learned very early on that hard work pays off.  Unfortunately, I suffered a spinal injury that confined me to a wheelchair.  Fortunately, I was able to apply those principles to everyday life and business.

If you work from home, what are the greatest benefits to doing so?  What are the drawbacks, and how do you manage them?

Besides the obvious benefits of decreased overhead, the real benefit is flexibility―flexibility to see your kids off to school, take the dog for a quick walk at lunch and work in your underwear if you so desire.  The drawbacks are that there can be many distractions.  Make sure you have an office or a spot in the house where you can get away from them.  You do need to have an illusion of a professional area free of dogs barking and kids fighting.

What is/are your favorite motto and/or quote when it comes to business?  Any final words of encouragement and/or inspiration for the budding entrepreneur?

Failure is not an option.  Final words:  “PLAN, PLAN, PLAN…WORK HARD, EXECUTE!”

More about Bill and The WAITING GAME® home-based, franchise opportunity:

The WAITING GAME® franchise provides an exciting home-based, low-cost, low-overhead, enjoyable and potentially very profitable opportunity for entrepreneurial individuals who are interested in the fields of advertising and publishing.  Bill and his team provide all qualified candidates with comprehensive training and ongoing support to ensure their success.

As President of ZP Media Group, LLC, and its franchisor entity, Waiting Game Publications, LLC, Bill is responsible for day-to-day operations, procurement, contracts, business development, social media marketing and franchising.  He is married and the proud father of five children.