Tom Jakobek understands project management. He has more than two decades of experience with complex, large-scale construction projects in both the public and private sectors.
Over the course of his career, Tom has presided over new residential and commercial development projects, building conversions, major restorations and renovations, and the retrofitting of public facilities, including hospitals.
Most recently, he founded KBNJ Consulting, Inc., a consulting firm for large construction projects in Canada. The company already handles more than 40 projects with combined land values in excess of $1 billion.
Before launching KBNJ Consulting Inc. as its president, Tom worked as general manager and director of Romlek Enterprises, Inc., a property development and management company. At Romlek, Tom restored or redeveloped commercial and residential properties in the Greater Toronto Area.
As Budget Chair and City Councilor for the City of Toronto, Tom developed cost-control strategies and budgeting know-how. He implemented cost-cutting budgetary processes, delivering nine successive budgets without increasing taxes. He brought those same skills to his vice president role with Toronto East General Hospital, where he reduced operating costs by 11 percent within the first year. He also pursued strategic alliances, corporate development agreements and opportunities to generate additional revenue for the hospital.
Tom earned two degrees from the University of Toronto: A Bachelors of Arts in Public Administration and a Masters in Health Science. He also earned a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration.
He has also served on many important boards. For two years, Tom presided over the $1.4 million budget for the Greater Toronto Services Board. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Toronto Harbour Commission, where he helped assist with the restructuring of the finances and human resources of the commission.
His service to Toronto doesn’t end with construction and finance. Tom also served as the Director for the Cerebral Palsy Association from 1995 to 2006. He became the Honorary Director of Providence Villa, hosting a fundraiser for sending clean water to an impoverished African village.
Despite a busy schedule, Tom also adopts at-risk pets and coach’s youth sports. At the end of a long day, he likes to wind down with the guitar or a good book.
Where did the idea for KBNJ Consulting come from?
I had started receiving enough requests for projects that my workload increased beyond my availability. So, I have been lucky enough to find really talented people with as much or more experience than myself. We work on individual projects but also share our experiences. For all projects, I maintain some degree of control and oversight to ensure quality and success.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
These days are a little different. I spend a lot more time trying to maintain a personal connection to the client while respecting the rules of lockdown and quarantine. Every project gets some of my attention every day. We like to look at where we are and where we should be. In the past, we would work with our clients directly, often at our clients’ offices. I look forward to being able to work in-person with our clients again, once it becomes safe to do so.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We like to think big and out of the box. We don’t just rubberstamp the work we do for clients. We make sure that we’ve done our due diligence and provided the best solution we can. We are willing to work based on success and not like most who insist in nonstop monthly billings.
What’s one trend that excites you?
People are building and things are happening. Canada in general and Ontario specifically have many big infrastructure projects planned over the next decade. Despite the collapse of the retail market, real estate and growth in the GTA will ensure that the construction industry survives and thrives, during and after the pandemic.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I run every other day at 6:30 a.m. The other days I start work at 6:30 a.m. This keeps my mind and body agile and alert. That part of the morning has consistently been the most productive part of the day for me. It gives me the ability to be ready and better prepared for whatever I need to get done that day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to take the time to look at all your options. When you’re hungry for work or just young and ambitious, it can be really easy to jump at the first opportunity that comes your way. But often, with a little patience and reflection, you’ll see that there are more opportunities than you realized.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I get paid when I win. There’s no room for failure. No one else I know works that way.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I would suggest that people read everything they can. Even the things that might not seem immediately relevant. You have to know at least as much as everyone else in the room, and then some. Knowledge is crucial. Also, I would advise project managers to always remain in charge. Never delegate tasks that you have time to do yourself. This helps ensure quality and helps deliver projects on time.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
You have got to put in the hours. Nothing comes easy, and there are no shortcuts. You have to be available for your clients, and let them know it by reaching out and checking in. Clients that know you’re available won’t go find someone else. If you spend the time with them, they’ll stick with you.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
First, I would say never trust any level of government. You cannot rely on others to get the job done for you, especially in bureaucracy.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I share in the risk that my client has. I do not believe that a consultant should get paid, regardless of the outcome. That’s a real positive incentive to a client. They like to see you with “skin” in the game. When you share in the risk with your client, that’s when they know they can rely on you. That’s when they know they have the best help they can find.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Well, it’s a bit more than $100, but I recently sponsored a young basketball player who needed $700 to join a team. I think it’s important to stay involved in your community. Youth sports is one of the things that’s important to me outside my work.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I like the interconnection that Apple products provide.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend “Mind Over Matter: A Comprehensive Guide to Discovering Your Psychic Powers,” by Loyd Auerbach. This book helped me grow in understanding and confidence. I think anyone can gather something helpful in their career and personal life from reading this book.
What is your favorite quote?
In politics and in life, sometimes you need to go from A to M and then J before you get to B. -Tom Jakobek
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.