Plum Perfect: Software company that started in Petrolia wins big business prize

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A human resources software company which started in Petrolia has won a plum business award in the US.

Plum won $250,000 US in the 43N Business Competition in Buffalo for its software which helps employers find highly motivated employees. It’s a company which started in Petrolia when Caitlyn MacGregor and her husband, Neil, moved back to her mother’s – Sylvia Fairbank – three years ago.

MacGregor had been involved in a couple of successful business start ups and was working in the US when she discovered when new employees didn’t work out – 89 per cent of the time it was because of their attitude – not their skill.

MacGregor ended up with first hand experience to back up the statistic. While she was working for a start up in New Hampshire she had the opportunity to hire two people – one who had all the skills needed for the work and another who had very little skills but scored off the charts when tested for positive work attitudes using psychometric testing.

A year later, the skilled worker was let go and the unskilled worker with the great attitude is now MacGregor’s chief salesperson for the software they developed out of that experience.

Businesses can test employees for the qualities they’re looking for such as problem solving, intelligence and social skills before ever looking to see if they have the skill set they need. MacGregor says their customers are spending less time looking at resumes and staff turnover has been reduced by 67 per cent.

Plum grew out of Fairbank’s Petrolia home moving  to a business incubator in Waterloo. It was there MacGregor first learned about the big prize. Plum submitted its startup company to the competition – along with 11,000 others. The 43N competition is one of the richest in North America with $5 million in prizes.

Plum was selected as one of the top 15 entries and then won $250,000 in the competition.

The money comes with a few strings including setting up an office in Buffalo, so MacGregor says they had to carefully consider if they wanted to continue with the contest once they were named finalist.

But she says Plum wanted to expand into the US and winning the 43N competition will give them access to just the customer base they need. “There is an immediate community to support us with the right sized businesses. We don’t have to start from scratch we can come in with 43N.”

The prize money will also allow the company to develop a “dating service” for business where potential employees tests are in a job bank which employers can access when they’re looking for employees.

MacGregor, who grew up in Petrolia, is excited about the company’s success – they’ve also won several other major business awards this year – “The message is finally clicking.”

And as she reflects on the big win, MacGregor believes her life in Petrolia – and maybe even her ancestors – helped shape her to get to this point.

“This only hit me later …What was happening that no one identified

Always starting things,” she says noting she started new groups for Scouts and clubs at the high school. “I was creating things from scratch…but no one said that’s being an entrepreneur.”

When MacGregor and her husband and their young child moved back to Petrolia, they only anticipated living with Fairbank for three months, but they were there for a year before striking out to Waterloo. “Running a business is really hard and when you invest in a start up you taking this massive risk,” she says. That made her think about her relatives who took risks of their own.

“I got thinking about Petrolia and Oil Springs and how the Fairbanks moved from Niagara to Petrolia in the hope of prospecting land. They relocated the whole family with a young child – they took a risk.

“Somebody in my lineage took the same crazy type of risk I did and it paid off for four generations. That’s what I’m hoping for with this company – success not just for my family but that it will benefit the families ahead of us.”

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