By Adam Merrett
Five minutes may not seem like a long time to wait, but to a mother whose child is locked inside a car in sub-zero or scorching temperatures, it’s an eternity. So, you can imagine the gratitude we usually encounter when we arrive on a scene and get to work. It’s not always easy to unlock a car under pressure when a mother is frantic and a child is crying uncontrollably or near death. Your training always kicks in, though, and the result is a happy reunion that tends to stay with you long after everyone drives away.
I became aware of PALSavesKids, a free community service saving kids (or pets) locked in cars, when I was looking at buying an Ontario franchise with Pop-A-Lock, a business founded by law enforcement officers. As first responders, police often come face to face with these potentially fatal situations, and are sometimes left with little choice but to break the window and possibly causing harm.
You never really understand what it’s like to free a child or pet in danger until you’ve actually done it. At Pop-A-Lock of Hamilton-Halton, we’ve had a few of these calls, all with positive outcomes.
Being a locksmith may not sound all that exciting, but there is a lot of job satisfaction, as I’m sure my employees can tell you. Although I didn’t set out to become a locksmith, buying a Pop-A-Lock franchise offered me exactly what I was looking for: the ability to work within a system, and yet have control over my own business. Feeling like a superhero from time to time is just the icing on the cake.
Picking a path
My father and grandfather were both entrepreneurs, so I suppose it’s no surprise I would end up in the business world. It’s not necessarily the path I would have predicted as a youngster growing up in Niagara Falls, Ont., where I was born in 1976. Most people don’t think of the Honeymoon Capital of the World as a place where people actually live; the neon lights of Clifton Hill do little to conjure visions of a quaint, quiet neighbourhood. However, our house was in the north end of the city, closer to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and away from the tourist attractions. Niagara Falls is still home to me, although it’s been many years since I’ve actually lived there.
My childhood was mostly about school and sports, especially hockey. A lot of my free time was spent on the ice of the local arena, honing my skills as a defenceman and later, a winger. I also played high school football and baseball, and when I wasn’t hitting the books, I was in front of the camera shooting TV commercials for McDonald’s and Coca Cola. I acted also in a TV series called TekWar starring William Shatner, as well as the Chris Farley and David Spade movie, Tommy Boy, although my scene ended up on the cutting room floor. I was in my early 20s when I decided to put my acting career on hold permanently. It got to a point where I had to decide to either commit to it fully or leave it behind. And with university looming, the decision was pretty easy to make.
My mother was a teacher and an incredible influence, so doing well in school was always a priority, which wasn’t tough because I enjoyed learning and had always been a good student. In fact, I was on the honour roll when I graduated high school, which helped get me into the University of Waterloo’s kinesiology program in 1995. As an athlete, I had been injured periodically and was treated by chiropractors and therapists. I found it all extremely fascinating, and since I always knew I would do a post-graduate degree, I thought seriously about becoming a doctor. I eventually did get into medical school, but then decided it wasn’t the route I wanted to go.
I grew up in the world of small business and I guess I always had a head for it. Toward the end of fourth year, I started to think about my next move. Doing a little research, I noticed McMaster University in Hamilton had an MBA program with a major in health science management. This seemed the perfect way to marry business and medicine. However, the farther along I went in the program, the more I fell in love with just the business side of things. And since there was some duplication with the health science management degree, it didn’t make sense to do this major. Instead, I went into finance.