Safety On Tap: Podcast Interview with Safeopedia Co-Founder Scott Cuthbert
Meet Safeopedia's Content Advisory Board with Safety on Tap's Podcast interview with Safeopedia co-founder Scott Cuthbert.
Listen to the full Podcast right below or scroll down to read the transcript!
Safeopedia’s mission is to organize the world’s environmental health and safety information to make access free and easy for everyone. Now, the team over at Safeopedia wanted to get to know you better, and for you to get to know Safeopedia better. So, this podcast series brings you some intimate conversations with the founders of Safeopedia and members of the Content Advisory Board. Safeopedia set up their Content Advisory Board to share observations and ideas on which topics and trends in the environmental health and safety industry will have the greatest impact for their audience. Their commitment to quality and to giving you relevant content is just top-notch. Listen in to each episode in this series, as we get to know the individuals involved, what makes them tick, and get some great advice, insightful stories, and motivation to help you grow. Here we go.
Scott Cuthbert, co-founder of Safeopedia.com, welcome to the Safety on Tap podcast.
Scott: Thank you very much, Andrew. A pleasure to be here.
Andrew: This is the beginning of a bit of an experiment for both of us, where Safety on tap, with its support for leaders who want to grow themselves and drastically improve health and safety, and Safeopedia, aiming to be the place to go globally for health and safety and environmental information, come together. I’m pretty excited, I should say, on here, for our listeners, to be collaborating with you guys. Thank you very much, to begin with.
Scott: Oh, our pleasure. We’re equally excited to be working with you and just understand the importance of leadership in environmental health and safety.
Andrew: You have the genesis story. You have the very beginning, because this hatched, I’m sure, in your head, sitting in the bathtub or trudging through the snow or—one day, I’m sure, it popped into your head. So tell us a little bit about you and your story and how Safeopedia came to life.
Scott: Sure. My background really started in the construction industry. Not swinging a hammer, so much, out on the job site—I started in the finance departments with the international general contractor. Because I was the guy that knew how to reboot a printer or run the backups for the AS400 at the time, I ended up getting pulled more and more into the IT side of things, and ended up leaving the grind of working for a general contractor and providing some consulting services back to the industry through project controls consulting and also system selection and implementation, and then decided to branch out on my own with a software company that was specifically designed to deal with the field data capture on these large-scale industrial projects.
I guess it was really through that experience that I got pulled more and more into the safety side of the business. They needed to pull data from our system to do safety statistics, hours of exposure by plant area, by trade, by demographics of the workforce. I just sat in more and more safety meetings and really took a personal interest in it and volunteered to sit on several committees and just sit around the table more as an observer and as a safety expert and to hear what the guys out on the field were talking about, what their biggest hurdles were, and understand where their strengths were, versus where they were falling down, implementing the best practices out in the field.
Andrew: How do you bridge the gap, then, between that active interest that you had in those still project-based roles on the consulting and how Safeopedia came to be?
Scott: Well, it is one of those “light bulb goes on” stories, because I had—
Andrew: It wasn’t in the bathtub?
Scott: It wasn’t in the bathtub, but I was going to say it was one of those bathtub moments, but it was actually in my car. I was driving back from a safety committee meeting, and I had sat around the table with half a dozen—a dozen folks that had just a tremendous amount of experience. They were trying to do the best job that they could possibly do. They were trying to share best practices and understand what was working on this job site, versus that job site, and they were really struggling to collaborate with each other effectively. They were sending huge Word documents back and forth, and really, it wasn’t my idea, as much as it was the group’s idea, saying, “If there was just one place we could go where we had these best practices, where we had these tips and tricks, where we could share ideas, it would save us so much time and energy.”
And so, I was driving back from the meeting, and it’s quite a ways away from where our office was, and I had this just pop into my head: “Safeopedia.” And as soon as that idea popped into my head, I just couldn’t wait to get back to the office. I drove safely, minded the speed limits, of course, but I drove straight back to the office and looked up the domain name, and it was available, and I purchased it right there and then and began the incorporation process to set it up as a legitimate company. I guess the rest is history from there.
Andrew: You really just started with what was a relatively tiny bit of market research, passion for the area, and a spur-of-the-moment domain purchase. And after that, you really just worked it out from there.
Scott: Yes, that’s absolutely correct. After securing the domain and starting the trademark and incorporation process, I did spend another year or two vetting the idea with industry folks to the best of my ability, throwing out ideas of “What should it be? Should we try to replicate LinkedIn? Should we make it more social, like Facebook? Or should we just be producing educational content to start with?” It was over the next 12 to 24 months where, again, the industry that had helped give me the idea helped me vet my ideas and strategies on how we should get it off the ground and where we should start. It wasn’t an overnight idea that popped into existence. It did certainly take some time to cultivate it and find the right folks to work with and align ourselves so that we could be successful out of the gate.
Andrew: I think that really speaks to me, in the paradox of—on the one hand, you had an idea, and you just jumped on it. You kick-started it by that drive in the car and then purchasing that domain name. That, in itself, was very insightful, in that sometimes we spend too much time stewing on things, and we just don’t get them started. But then, on the other hand, the paradox is that you did spend a fair bit of time and effort in order to validate the idea, to make sure it worked. I think sometimes, often, there’s a learning out of that for us, where we spend too much time analyzing and thinking and planning, and maybe not enough time just getting stuff started. We might find that it is a big job—and that’s OK—but we might find sometimes that the job’s not as big as we think, and we’ll actually solve problems and help people a whole lot quicker if we just get on with it. I think that’s a great story to tell and a lesson for us to learn from.
Safeopedia has been growing and growing, in terms of the numbers of people that it serves, visiting the website, attending webinars, consuming the content, contributing new content. We have our collaboration, obviously, which is moving into a new space with podcasts and potentially pushing the boundaries a little bit more.
You’ve come up with this concept, which we described in the introduction, of this Content Advisory Board. From your point of view, with you leading the charge, why have a Content Advisory Board?
Scott: Great question And both Jamie and I are the faces of Safeopedia. We have a tremendous amount of background and experience within these industries. But we’re not going to sit here and pretend that we know everything, that we’re experts in all the different areas. It was really important for us to pull a group together that could certainly augment our strategy and our ideas and provide some really strong expertise to the direction that we wanted to go in. As listeners will learn, we have a very diverse group of professionals across primarily North America, one in UK, and certainly, with your involvement, Andrew, some Australian representation, as well.
Andrew: From Down Under.
Scott: From Down Under. And they’re helping us to understand what the hot topics or the key topics are within their industries and their geographies, and help us look ahead a little bit to what will be the most valuable information we can produce for our users in those areas.
Andrew: Makes plenty of sense to me. In the time that you have been grinding and driving and working to slowly grow Safeopedia, what’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned in that process? What’s been your light bulb moment or a big height? What’s been the biggest lesson?
Scott: The light bulb moment? I think it’s understanding the new economy—the Google economy, if you will—and how people are looking for information. It’s great. I think there’s a lot of really passionate people out there that are publishing great content. But unless you know how to get found, unless you know how to connect with others and have a voice in this ocean of data that we now live in, it’s all in vain. I think the most important lesson we’ve learned is, again, how to get your data out there, how to get your information out there, but make sure that you get heard, as well. I think that’s key.
Andrew: Great lesson. Do you have a superpower?
Scott: I don’t know if I have a superpower. Certainly, I was an early adopter on LinkedIn, and was connecting with people and keeping in touch with people. I think that, if anything, that’s been my superpower over the years. I can’t remember who wrote the book—
Andrew: The Six Degrees of Separation?
Scott: No, the connectors and the influencers and the mavens and Malcolm Gladwell, I think, The Tipping Point. Definitely, I’m a connector, and I’ve always been a connector. I think that’s key in this new digital economy: having an online presence and having some knowledge of how that all works.
Andrew: You know what? You reached all the way across the globe in order to tap me on the shoulder. That brings us here today, so that’s a real testament to that.
When we first started talking about getting together and working out how we can make a bigger dent in the world together than we might do separately—we’ll be honest with the listeners—I said to you, “I’m not sure that we’re a match. The content on Safeopedia is really good to support people in a technical sense, but it does have a focus on compliance and some of the detailed stuff, and there’s a different leaning towards stuff like hazards and IT systems and checklists and things like that.” Now, all of those things are important. They’re the foundational things that help us drive our programs in health and safety in our work. But I think, sometimes, we tend to ignore the gray and the messy and the people part, effectively. That’s very gray and messy.
Here at Safety on Tap, we fuel leaders to grow themselves and drastically improve health and safety along the way, which often means challenging the status quo and pushing boundaries out of what I call “the conventional.” What direction do you personally want to see Safeopedia take in 2017?
Scott: I definitely want to echo your comments. You can’t dismiss the fact that a lot of the compliance components are what has helped us build our audience of over 100,000 members. But in the long run—and this was echoed, as well, by the Content Advisory Board—there is a bit of a leadership vacuum within environmental health and safety. It’s been, to date, a very technically-focused discipline, and we really need to broaden that, to teach people and attract visionaries and leaders to the industry, so that we can not just make sure that companies are compliant, but that companies are embracing culture, health and safety, and they’re being leaders, not just followers, in the industry. Long-winded way of answering your question, but I’d really like to see us provide more content and more connections for people who want to take a leadership role, perhaps who don’t know how to get started or want to connect with leaders who have done it before and can share their experiences and best practices. That’s definitely an area that we want to focus on for 2017.
Andrew: That’s the very reason why we’re talking today, because we’re all about supporting leaders to grow. I’m sure the listeners will tell I’m pretty excited about collaborating with you guys.
Is there anything that you want to ask the listeners for, in terms of how they can contribute to improving Safeopedia, putting in what you get out, so to speak?
Scott: Yes, absolutely. One of our biggest compliments—if you want to call it that—from last year, was when one of our team members was on a conference in Puerto Rico, thousands of miles from here, and was talking about different businesses that he was involved in, and mentioned Safeopedia, and the fellow that he was speaking to—his eyes just lit up, and he said, “Hey, I use Safeopedia all the time. I can’t believe you’re one of the guys involved in Safeopedia! We go there regularly to look at articles and share content with our management team and our guys on the field.” That’s one of the greatest compliments we can get.
We see, through Google Analytics, that over 50,000 people are coming to our site every month, but we really only get an opportunity to interact with a few of them, who maybe have some suggestions for us, who have some criticisms for us, who think that we need to focus on different areas or expand an article or a term that we have posted on the site. I really encourage people to—and we listen. I’m sure there are sites out there where people send emails and you never hear back, but we want to hear from everybody. We only know what we know. If you know something we don’t, by all means, share with us. Our terms and articles—our content is there as a starting point to help improve industry and help people out in the field, so any ideas or suggestions or criticisms that you guys have for us, please, by all means, share it. We’d love to hear it.
Andrew: I’ll just add to that, it’s not just about you, then, getting more of what you want out of Safeopedia, or providing feedback to our podcast, as well. It’s equally the same, where the feedback you provide will help hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
Scott: That’s right.
Andrew: That, I think, is the fantastic thing about this global connected economy that we live in.
Scott: Absolutely, if you have a question, or you have a problem with an article, then chances are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others do as well.
It was a little while ago now, but we had posted an article, and somebody replied, and the tone of it was a little bit angry. He had written a big dissertation about what was wrong with the article and the approach that we were taking. We reached out. We contacted him and said, “Hey, this is fantastic. This criticism is absolutely invaluable. Can we take this and turn it into an opposing article that talks about the same subject from a different perspective? Because if you’re having that problem—no matter how many people like or share or retweet that original article, if you’re having problems with it, then somebody else is, too.” He agreed, and we posted his follow-up article as a Part 2, and it was hugely successful and really, really well-received.
We’re here to make the site better. We don’t take anything personally, so by all means, get involved and let’s make it the best site we can make it.
Andrew: That’s a fantastic example. We might link to those two articles, I think, in the Safeopedia article for this podcast interview, and also on the Safety on Tap website show notes, as well, so the listeners can have a look at those and compare and contrast for themselves.
Before you go, Scott, what’s your best piece of advice for people who want to have a more effective impact in their environment, health, and safety practice?
Scott: I would say, "be tenacious." It’s a very, very important industry. It’s an important part of every organization. But it still continues to be minimized. Some companies are looking at it as a cost item, and some people think that it negatively impacts productivity, but we have to keep providing them with—keep educating them and keep moving them forward, slowly if necessary. But be tenacious. Don’t give up. It’s so important. It’s about our planet. It’s about our coworkers. It’s about ourselves and making sure everybody gets to go home safe to their families at the end of the day. Don’t lose hope. Be tenacious. If you need to, reach out, and we’ll provide whatever support we can.
Andrew: Fantastic advice, and I’m looking forward to continuing to make a difference in the world with you and Jamie and the rest of the guys at Safeopedia.
Scott Cuthbert, thanks for joining us on the Safety on Tap podcast for Safeopedia.
Scott: Thanks, Andrew. My pleasure.
Andrew: Thanks to Scott for today’s conversation. Next episode, we have Scott’s partner in crime—hang on, that didn’t come out right—anyway, Jamie Young from Safeopedia.
Given the commitment to improvement that we have here at Safety on Tap and at Safeopedia, let us know what you think about this episode. Give us a comment. The best way is to head over to iTunes or Stitcher to leave us a review and to comment, and we’ll be eternally grateful. If you haven’t already, check out even more episodes and great content over at Safeopedia.com and SafetyonTap.com.
Until next time, I think you take positive, effective, and rewarding action to grow yourself and drastically improve health and safety along the way. See you!