Thomas Skidmore, Glentel Inc. | BCBusiness

Thomas Skidmore, Glentel Inc. | BCBusiness

Congratulations to Thomas Skidmore, president and CEO of Glentel Inc., and the 2013 Pacific Region Entrepreneur of the Year in Business-to-Consumer Products and Services.

In 1985 Thomas Skidmore and his brother, Alan, were running Speedy Auto Glass and Apple Auto Glass when they partnered with Rogers Cantel (now Rogers Wireless) to sell mobile car phones. The brothers opened Speedy Celtel, a Cantel service centre, in Surrey.

Over the next five years Speedy Celtel grew to 35 retail locations. The company acquired Glenayre Electronics, which made mobile phones, changed its name to Glenayre Technologies Inc. and folded Speedy Celtel’s business into it. Soon it was selling one of every five cellphones in Canada and represented 40 per cent of Cantel’s market share. In 1990, Ted Rogers bought Speedy Celtel—and with it the contract to sell Cantel services and products. The Skidmores renamed Glenayre Technologies Glentel Inc., took the company public and Thomas Skidmore was named president and CEO.

Then there came wireless. “There was a lot of healthy confusion around cellphones,” Skidmore recalls. In response, in 1997, Glentel launched WirelessWave, a chain of retail outlets that Skidmore says take an “agnostic position to a carrier or a product or a phone.”

The concept has been so successful that Skidmore partnered with Costco to bring the wholesaler’s wireless division to life, and recently announced pairing with Target to open wireless kiosks in its 124 Canadian stores. “It’s really quite fun to be able to provide retail managed services and share our business,” Skidmore says.

Surrounding himself with four or five people who embraced his vision and who “went to the wall” for him was key to his success, Skidmore says. “Surround yourself with people who are positive, people that will look at your glass as half full, not half empty,” he advises. “When you surround yourself with people like that, they’re ready to do things for you because they see a great future for themselves.”

Six Questions

The person I learned the most from was my dad. He was a great mentor, friend, encourager and my biggest fan.

I knew my business was a success when after opening up in Ontario I had an unscheduled visit from the president of one of the carriers to see if they could buy us out in the early days.

I get my best ideas when I’m told that something can’t be done.

People tell me the phrase I most overuse is “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

The most underrated trait of an entrepreneur is listening to others before taking action.

If I weren’t doing this I’d be growing another business, finding a way to move the needle in a positive way.