Hire Slow, Fire Fast

we-are-hiring.png“Interviewing is like dating”, says Colin Dickinson, CEO of Altus Dynamics and AceTech Ontario CEO member, “anyone can fake their way through the first date, but the real test is if you can make it to the third date, and let’s face it, the really good stuff happens on the third date”.

Altus Dynamics was recently pleased and honoured to be awarded the number five Best Small Workplace in Canada (up to 50 employees).  We had a chance to sit down with Colin and talk about Altus Dynamics’ “secret sauce”.  Ultimately, there’s a handful of factors that makes his company stand out from the crowd, however, he attributes a considerable amount of their success to their ability to find the right people.

“We are in a war for talent.  I’m certain that everyone in my position who’s a part of AceTech Ontario understands this”, says Colin, “If you can get better people, that is the number one way that you can be better than everyone else. In fact, probably the only sustainable advantage today is to have good people”.  As a result of this, Colin has spent the last 13 years perfecting their hiring process and having a corporate culture that fits their business.  Colin ensures that his employees are not simply punching a clock in and out, but are bringing their full selves to work every single day.

A number of years ago, Colin read an article on knowledge work in Harvard Business Review that stated that a high performing knowledge worker is seven (!) times more productive than his or her intermediate co worker.  This statistic has motivated Colin and his executive team to find those high performing knowledge workers who fit with Altus Dynamics’ corporate culture.  Throughout the years, they have been able to greatly improve their hiring process and ensure that they take their time with each hire that they make.  Colin has learned to avoid getting “happy eyes”.

What are “happy eyes”?  In sales, there’s a term called “happy ears” where a prospect might tell a salesperson that they are seriously considering their product or service.  Some salespeople will take that at face value without realizing that they are getting brushed aside.  When hiring, “happy eyes” happens when a company will look at a CV, see what they want to see, become enamored and not look beyond that.  This is why Altus Dynamics has a very involved hiring process.  “Google has a great approach where they involve a lot of people in their hiring process, which we do as well”, explains Colin, “Everyone has a vote, up or down and if one person has a down vote, we are no longer interested in that candidate. Google’s perspective is on this is that they would rather forgo good talent then hire bad talent”.

Lastly, Colin stresses that finding the right fit is a two-way street.  When interviewing, Altus encourages candidates to ask them difficult questions.  This is because ultimately at the end of the day, despite having a strong candidate in mind, if your company does not have the culture they are looking for or the job is not the direction they are looking to take their career, this will also result in them not being the right fit for your company, and neither of you will be happy or engaged.

As a number of mentors have shared these words with Colin – and as these words have been famously spoken throughout AceTech Ontario – “I’ve made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to”.




AceTech Ontario Annual Retreat

Picture3In one week, over 100 Ontario Technology CEOs and special guests will be gathered together for the hottest networking event in town.  Where is that you ask? Why, the AceTech Ontario Annual Retreat no less!

At AceTech Ontario, our goal is to facilitate Conversations that Create Value. Members are offered the exclusive opportunity to be among a community of leading professionals in their specific field of business.  Every year, members walk away from the retreat with tools and strategies that can be put into action in each member’s company the very next day. We make sure to tap into the expertise of CEOs that have had real successes and can share practical tips from the front lines with our members.

Picture5Every retreat is a total immersion into the core of how technology businesses work and how these core principals can be put to use in every AceTech Ontario member’s company. From advanced business concepts to everyday work problems, the Annual Retreat empowers the CEO from the next day back at work, and through the next several years of career success.

Want to get on the A-List for next year’s retreat and benefit from year-round programming?

Contact Jo Ann Dizy about membership opportunities.

This year’s Annual Retreat will take place at the beautiful JW Marriott Resort on Lake Rosseau.  Many of the speakers and other highlights are outlined below.  It will be another innovative, provocative and worthwhile agenda!

Picture4In addition to the formal programming, there is optional golf, a bike tour and guided paddle tour before check in. Our traditional Casino Night sponsored by Bedford Consulting is back again with fabulous prizes! Lastly, we are excited to share that we will be taking part in a dinner cruise & ski show!  These events will not only be a great deal of fun but will provide numerous opportunities to network with all our technology CEOs and discuss issues pertinent to your business.

Our event app, which was generously provided by our member company EventMobi, has an exciting new addition…gamification! Now attendees will  have the opportunity to have a friendly competition with their peers and a further opportunity to network and win prizes.  The grand gamification prize is a private 2 night getaway for 6 at an exclusive winery in Ontario.

“The Rules of Opportunity” Keynote with Michael Hyatt, BlueCat Networks Inc.

Michael HyattMichael Hyatt, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of BlueCat Networks Inc. and professional speaker with Speakers.ca and the National Speakers Bureau, “Dragon”, Next Gen Den | Entrepreneur and Technology Visionary.

Michael Hyatt is a serial entrepreneur, active investor and the Executive Chairman of Bluecat, one of Canada’s most successful software companies. Michael is a weekly business commentator on CBC’s The Exchange,  CBC’s Business Panel and a Dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den – Next Gen Den.  Michael is a Founding Partner at the Rotman School of Management Creative Destruction Lab and on the CEO Board of Advisors at Georgian Partners. He is also a finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, a recipient of the Top 40 Under 40™ Award and chairs his family’s charitable foundation. Michael is an active speaker with Speakers Spotlight and the National Speakers Bureau.  Michael also co-founded Dyadem which was purchased by IHS (NYSE: IHS).

Keynote with Pierre Cléroux, BDC

Pierre Cléroux photoPierre Cléroux will deliver an informative presentation as he provides economic analyses and advice to our CEOs, while helping interpret economic trends and their impact on businesses.

Pierre Cléroux was appointed Vice President, Research and Chief Economist at the Business Development Bank of Canada in 2012. He is responsible for providing economic analyses and advice to the Senior Management Team, while helping interpret economic trends and their impact on businesses. His responsibilities also include all marketing and industry research activities.

 3 TECH TALKS on Strategic Change Leadership followed by a Panel Discussion on Strategies to Motivate and Manage During Change

Our businesses are constantly pivoting and our organizations are under stress to increase revenue, hire new staff, and deal with ever changing competition and a dynamic environment.  How do we deal with changes inside and outside our organizations?  How do we successfully  implement change?  And how do we best plan for change?  We want to lead into our Retreat by thinking about Growth and Change Management.

Robert Harris Mike Katchen Mark Miller Chris Rasmussen

Robert Harris
Robert Harris Resources Inc.

Mike Katchen
Wealth Simple
Mark Miller
Volaris Group
Chris Rasmussen

3 TECH TALKS on Sales, Sales Tools & Social Selling followed by a Panel Discussion

We are privileged to have three experienced Sales Professionals speak on different aspects of Sales in the B2B space, and then they will come together for a moderated panel discussion with interaction from the audience.  Some topics will include:

  1. Interdependence between sales and marketing in B2B selling, both internally and in the broader B2B ecosystem
  2. Effectiveness:  How to turn around an under-performing sales team – how to manage for success, recruiting attracting and retaining high performing sales people
  3. Efficiency:  What tools are available to increase the efficiency of our sales?
  4. Social:  How do we take advantage of Social Selling?  Is it a time waster?  What are the drivers for success?
Andrew Ford Justin Lafayette Eric Shefler bob.jpg

Andrew Ford
Sales CoPilot

Justin Lafayette
Georgian Partners
 Eric Schefler
Oracle Corporation
 Bob Vaez

3 TECH TALKS on Marketing Automation, Social Leads and Branding, followed by a Panel Discussion

We are looking forward to our three short presentations and moderated panel discussion on Marketing with our exciting lineup of experienced speakers.  They will be talking about:

  1. Social lead nurturing
  2. How can we implement Marketing Automation?
  3. Win/Loss and Churn Analysis … getting the buyer’s candid review of why you lose, and how you can win more
  4. Branding and marketing of SaaS based B2B technology companies.  What do we need to know to be best in class?  How do you turn a good marketing campaign in to revenue?
Alan Armstrong Krista LaRiviere kristy sadler Lisa Shepherd
Alan Armstrong
Eigenworks Inc.
Krista LaRiviere
gShift Labs
Kristy Sadler
Lisa Shepherd
The Mezzanine Group

Being a Leader:  The Ability to Allow Yourself to Learn Continuously

Mark Miller, CEO Volaris Group

Mark MillerMark will speak about one of the things he looks for in a leader: the ability to continue to learn. Businesses today are complicated – they can be global in nature, have consolidation going on – and needs are constantly changing. As well, customers are all expecting different things, including more interactivity with mobile application with their data or with your solutions.

All of these things are really complicated and figuring out how to navigate everything is a monumental task. It’s near impossible to figure it all out by yourself. You really need to learn from others. You need to read about different issues, connect online, find people and peers who are solving similar problems, and continue to learn. When a manager and a leader wants to learn, it sets a great example for everyone who works for them and anyone who works with them because that whole culture of learning gives the organization, whole team, and that company’s customers a real edge.

The ROI of Intentionally Building a Healthy and Happy Workplace Culture 

Jason Atkins, CEO 360Insights

jason atkinsJason Atkins will discuss the ROI of intentionally building a healthy and happy workplace culture. The talk will demonstrate the ROI in terms of:

  • Savings on candidate attraction/retention
  • Broader ROI metrics related to improved productivity, attendance and others
  • Effect of culture on client retention

How to Grow Through Acquisitions

Noam Tomczak, COO Iotum

noam tAcquisitions when done well can be an excellent way to grow both your top and bottom line. Success requires both careful planning and execution. Buying competitors can result in lower customer acquisition cost than your typical sales funnel. Additionally, margins in the target company can be vastly improved if you can integrate infrastructure and people successfully. Noam will share Iotum’s 2 year journey of growth through 4 acquisitions and lessons learned.

Aligning Your Sales Team and Your Buyers:  Driving a Sales Process to Scale Your Business

Dan Marcus, VP, Operational Excellence Intelex

daniel marcusAs your sales team grows it is imperative that you have tight processes in place not only to hit your growth numbers but so you can effectively analyze your sales KPIs, identify trends and ensure every deal and sales person has the best chance of winning. Daniel Marcus, a veteran at Intelex, will summarize the process of building a winning sales process that aligns the buyers and sellers journey with various tools, resource, job roles and KPIs.

The Importance of Context and Personalization Through Indoor Maps

Contribution by AceTech Ontario CEO Member Chris Wiegand of Jibstream

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAmAAAAAJDg2MjQxMTEyLTI3ZjMtNDY5Mi1hNzZmLTg1MjE1NTJjZjA5Yw“Location, location, location” has long been the buzz phrase for finding a home or business. It applies equally well to understanding the exact whereabouts and proximity of someone in the context of a map within a building. Knowing a person’s location in real time is the most important element in being able to enhance their Experience of Place, as well as creating a myriad of other operational value.

Anything from the mall tenant base to building control and parking systems are now capable of becoming interoperable. By using indoor mapping as the base platform to connect these disparate information systems, you provide a much more contextual end-user experience.

In its simplest form, notification and alerts can be sent out to re-direct someone around a broken escalator. In more sophisticated uses, machine learning and prescriptive responses can be applied to enhance an Experience of Place, delivering information that’s both personalized and highly contextual.

It’s important to note that “personalized and contextual” isn’t always (nor should it be) about delivering a marketing-based message. It’s great to receive an offer from your favorite retailer for a product you love, but there may be even greater value in receiving a message that directs you to a reserved parking space closest to the entrance of the store you plan to visit first.

The noteworthy, near-term opportunity is for the ‘app’ to begin to know you, your habits and preferences. It can then provide timely advice, such as the most efficient route to your next destination with suggested stops along the way based on previous behavior.

We’re already seeing these types of experiences being enabled with Virtual Private Assistants such as Apple’s Siri. This leads to the road of an ‘app-less’ world, where users benefit from the data of native apps and location awareness without actually having to download a native application. This may be the key that unlocks and marries these experiences for the mainstream.

Are we there yet? Not quite, but many of the puzzle pieces are coming together. One thing is certain: an indoor mapping platform needs to deliver contextually-meaningful information to users, based on where they are and what’s going on around them.

So what does this all mean for the stakeholders creating these end-user experiences? Likely a fairly equal number of benefits and challenges…but I’ll save that topic for next time!

Training your IT team

supportEver receive complaints from your customers about your IT support? Or are you looking for a way to improve your IT team even further?  Training your IT support on how to handle themselves when a customer presents them with a crisis or disaster could be the answer you are looking for.

We met up with Steven Rodin, CEO of Storagepipe Solutions to talk about what he expects from his IT team and how they have in turn contributed to Storagepipe’s success. Storagepipe provides world-class corporate data protection solutions, which makes their IT team a vital part of the company.

Since Storagepipe is in the business of dealing with clients’ disasters, every day their IT team faces crisis after crisis.  This normalizes what a crisis is for them despite the fact that this may be a rare occurrence for their client.  As a result, they have to treat every case with a high level of priority and have to excel at this in order to be successful.  Well, how can this help you?  Having your IT team treat every client with this level of care and diligence will improve the customer service level that your IT team is able to deliver.

So we asked Steven to provide us with some insight into his IT team.  “One of the most important aspects for our team is that our clients have a very high level of trust with them, that they have a very high level of diligence when they are dealing with our customer base and that they can handle themselves in a crisis”.  Since most technology companies are not in the business of handling disasters on a regular basis, on the occasion that a crisis does occur, either internally or externally, having IT staff who cannot handle themselves in a crisis will either cause internal damage, or damage to a relationship with one of your customers.

Speaking of diligence, Steven outlined for us two key characteristics that he has found to be vital in his IT team:

  • Problem Solving Skills & Diligence:
    Often situations arise where IT staff cannot provide a solution right away. Not only is it important to have your IT team be problem solvers, but it is also vital for them to be diligent in cases they have never seen before.  Your staff should be doing their research, consulting others and determining the root cause when finding a solution.
  • Communication Skills:
    If you have staff who are excellent problem solvers, but cannot communicate the solution properly with your clients, your customer service is going to go downhill and quickly. Not only should your IT staff be able to communicate the reason for the problem and the solution effectively, they should also be communicating the specifics of the plan to put into action and ensuring the client is on board with every step in order to provide superior customer service.

We asked Steven what a common mistake is that companies make when building their IT team and how to avoid that pitfall. Steven outlines the importance of being clear and specific about what you are looking for when building your team and what gaps in the organization are you trying to fill.  “If you are not clear about what you are looking for and have not thought that through”, says Steven, “you are bound to make a mistake in bringing on the wrong person into the wrong role”.  Once you have this established, the next step is investing in your team: “people underestimate the amount of time it can take someone to get up to speed on an initiative” explains Steven, “people need time to be trained and they need time to learn new technology and they need time to go and do their due diligence”.  He continues to explain that there is a lot of technology that already exists, and in order to have a superior IT team, you need to invest in the learning of your staff.  Often Steven finds that instead of doing this, companies will throw bodies at the problem hoping that more people on the team will equal better service.

“You don’t always need the largest team, but rather the best team”.

Maintaining Your Autonomy After Being Acquired

Contribution by AceTech Ontario CEO member Mark Miller of Volaris Group

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAk8AAAAJDBlZDQwNTI2LThmMDQtNDI1Zi1hYmRjLWNkNjY5YWFkYTUzZgFor many founders and CEOs, finding the right acquirer for their business is all about the “fit”. These sellers typically want a strategic acquirer who can best position their company for long-term success, while minimally impacting their operations.

About The Integration Process

In our experience, we have found acquisition prospects to be somewhat skeptical of integration processes. After developing their business on their own for years, sellers are understandably concerned about how integration activities will affect their employees and customers.

For some acquirers, the integration process can be extremely transactional- They take ownership of the business and “do what they need to do when they need to do it”. At Volaris, we hand-pick our acquisitions for their strong operations, talented personnel, and sustainable structures. Our integration process centers around learning about the business environment, operating the business “as usual”, and empowering the seller to maintain autonomy with an understanding of Volaris’ Key Performance Indicators.

Here are three ways that Volaris Group promotes a decentralized, autonomous model:

1. Keep Your Staff

We believe that internal resources are a key fabric of every company. They are the “talent” who build, drive, and support the inner workings of all operations. At Volaris, talent management and development is one of our highest priorities. We recognize that a business’ existing personnel pool is comprised of skilled individuals who have knowledge and expertise about their respective industry.

2. Keep Your Say

Founders and CEOs best understand the “ins and outs” of their business and industry. For that reason, Volaris generally encourages sellers to remain involved in the management of the business for as long as they would like. Whether the seller wishes to continue in their existing role, or transition to a new one, the seller’s ongoing involvement is of tremendous benefit to both parties.

3. Keep Your Culture

Successful businesses looking to be acquired generally have a sound ecosystem in place. At Volaris, we take great strides to ensure those healthy cultures remain intact. We believe that maintaining these unique corporate cultures preserves innovation and functionality at the business level, which facilitates operating success going forward.

Your Turn

Are you looking for the right strategic acquirer? Weigh the pros and cons of each type of acquirer, and ensure your needs are met at every stage of this important transaction.

Problem Solving May Be Easier Than We Believe

creative-problem-solving-technique-become-the-problemEver find yourself in a tight work situation where you become anxious and tense?  No matter how unique the problem may seem, it’s likely other people have been in your shoes.

We had a chance to speak with Ravin Shah, co-CEO and Founder of QuickTapSurvey about his problem solving methods whenever he’s in a jam.

“I’m big on lists, getting things done and seeing progress,” explains Ravin. “Having a problem solving methodology has helped me tremendously.”  He suggests there are four key steps to solving business problems at a managerial level:

  1. Identify the Problem“Figure out what the real problem is,” says Ravin.  “Often we confuse symptoms of a problem with what the root cause is.”  The easiest way to do this is to keep asking yourself “why” after every statement of the problem until have gotten to the core of the issue
  2.  Loop in the Right People 

    Who are the appropriate people to speak to about the problem?  Who has the right skill set to fix it? Remember, these people can be both internal or external.

  3. Break it Down 

    Ravin does not look at a problem as one overwhelming task. Instead, he breaks it down into several small pieces and each have an order of priority.  “Let’s say there are ten things that need to get done,” explains Ravin. “I would prioritize those ten based on 1) what is the most important thing to get solved and 2) what can we do quickly to move us forward.”  The items that usually end up at the top of the list are the ones that are directly affecting your customers.

  4. Follow Due Diligence 

    Due diligence means whatever steps you have put in place to solve the problem, make sure you see resolution to completion.  Do not simply assume that it is taken care of because you have assigned the appropriate people with their tasks.  Follow up with them and stay on top of their progress, especially in high pressure situations.    That being said, you need to find a balance and make sure the people involved know you have faith in their abilities.

Overall, the ability to solve problems in high pressure situations demands that you stay calm and focused, rather than anxious and scattered.

“When time is of the essence, we focus on quick wins by knocking out smaller tasks that help solve the bigger problem,” explains Ravin. “This is one way to stay calm because it is much less daunting.”

Lastly, Ravin warns not to make quick decisions under pressure.  If you remain patient, you will reap the rewards of your due diligence in the long term.


Becoming a Better Leader Tomorrow than you are Today

resized-leadership-pinnedWhether you are looking at your own leadership style, or that of an employees’, we all need a little facelift sometimes.

Guy Beaudin, Senior Partner at RHR International, gave us some insight to some key leadership characteristics.

As it turns out, leadership isn’t as black and white as some of us are lead to believe, “I think it’s a lot more difficult and complex than most people really think it is”, explains Guy, “[Leadership] requires a broad array of skills: intellectual skills, interpersonal skills, sensitivity to others, awareness of your own limitations.”  Guy emphasizes the need for humility in leaders, “There are so many models of leadership out there that are about being a strong assertive, extroverted individual”, says Guy, “there’s more diversity to the kinds of leaders that can be successful and within that range, humility for me is much more of an important characteristic than I would have previously considered”.

In addition, Guy emphasizes the importance of IQ & EQ.  When asked to pick a single important common characteristics of good leaders, Guy stated: “it’s a little controversial, but if you only have one piece of data to determine someone’s likelihood of success or failure in that role, that person’s cognitive abilities – IQ – is the best single predictor.  I don’t mean intelligence on it’s own is sufficient, but that is an important factor”.  Furthermore, when it came down to singling out one EQ trait, Guy focused on self-awareness.  “EQ is honestly defined in any number of ways, but if I had to think of the key dimensions, I think for me to differentiate between good leaders and great leaders, I would focus on self-awareness”, explains Guy, “[it means] real understanding of how you come across to others and what other people need from you. I think that’s important for them to be able to do their best work”.

When asked what the most common mistake Guy sees leaders make, he talks about evolution and the common phrase “what got you here won’t get you there”.  “Whatever skills you have employed to get your company to this point are probably not the same skills you’re going to need to get to the next level”, explains Guy, “I think with smaller organizations, they tend to miss that inflection point. Once their company has gotten to a certain size, scope or complexity, they are going to have to do things differently to continue to grow that company”.  Guy was then asked his advice for leaders who are looking to continue to grow their company and how they can stay innovative and relevant.  “Stay curious and open to feedback. If you can remain open and flexible, you’ll remain open to innovation and new ideas,” says Guy, “I think the greatest risk is to get cemented and only look at your business and not the world around it”

Guy believes that leadership is mostly contextual, that there’s no preconceived model of what a good leader looks like.  There’s a stereotype that people are either born leaders, or they are not.  Guy strongly disagrees with this notion. “I would say that leadership can be taught, can be learned.  Some people think you’re either a leader or you’re not. I think that’s not true. If you have curiosity, self awareness and humility, I think you can become a better leader tomorrow than you are today.”

The 5 Benefits Most requested by Employees of Tech Startups in the GTA & KW Corridor

Recently, many AceTech Ontario members participated in a survey conducted by Brightlights.  Brightlights provides recruiting services for growth technology companies. They focus on: 1) Leadership positions (Team Leader to C-level) where experience, cultural fit and proven leadership are a must. 2) Senior level technical roles including Senior Developers and Engineers, Architects, Sales Engineers, Product and Project Managers and Product Marketing professionals, etc. These are roles where strong technical and interpersonal are key.

The survey they conducted was focused around employee benefits and is titled: The 5 Benefits Most requested by Employees of Tech Startups in the GTA & KW Corridor


Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 1.28.24 PM

To view the full survey, please click here

To view the Brightlights Employee Benefits Costs Worksheet click here.



How to Keep your Teams Innovative

ping pongEver find that in today’s world, where information is at the tips of your fingers, there is no such thing as a new idea, only adaptations?

Well, if that’s true, how are we supposed to keep our teams innovative and our companies fresh?

As it turns our, keeping a bit of a start up mentality could be the trick.

EventMobi is an event technology platform that helps all varieties of event planners be successful.  Bob & Bijan Vaez, EventMobi’s Co-Founders started the company in 2009 and since then it has grown exponentially and has continued to stay top of it’s game.

Bijan, who is also the CTO of EventMobi and heads the engineering, product and design teams, gave AceTech Ontario a little insight as to how they continue to stay innovative.

One of the key pieces is how you identify responsibilities. “You need to create very loose boundaries where people are comfortable flexing in and out. You do not want to create a rigid box for employees where if they need to step outside of it, they pass the buck and say ‘sorry, this is not my responsibility’,” says Bijan, “but if you create it too soft, they never really know what their job is”. Improperly clarifying responsibilities also becomes a problem for performance discussions when employees do not know what their job functions are day to day.

One way EventMobi enables this, is by setting up a team structure as mini-startups within the department. Each team is setup with the resources of a small start. A dedicated product manager (think mini CEO), designer, tech lead (mini CTO) & 3-5 crossfunctional engineers. The idea behind this is that in start ups, everyone has their expertise, but no one in a start up says “these are my boundaries of what I do and these are the only things I do”. The mission is clear in a small team, they have accountability to each other, they are autonomous and they can choose the best processes for them to move fast & be as innovative as they can be. “We try to create the groups as small as we can so that they can all feel like part of the team and they all know what their mission is,” says Bijan, “they all bring their expertise together and do the work together.  It has given them a lot of experience and exposure outside of what they normally would do day to day and they really thrive in that environment.”

Another way EventMobi feeds their innovation cycle is by letting their employee’s passions be their driving force for work. To avoid keeping people in a box and keeping that start up mentality, EventMobi has established functional groups outside of their normally cross-functional teams, focused around major areas of innovation (i.e. design thinking, devops, javascript architecture, etc), known as “Chapters”.  They are monthly or bi-weekly meetings & workshops attended by at least one person from each team, and led by the most passionate employees in that subject matter. These are individuals that have such deep passion around the subject matter where they will be spending time continuously learning and pursuing this knowledge outside of work hours for their own personal enjoyment. EventMobi nurtures the drive of these employees into innovation by appointing these individuals as Chapter Leads. These completely functional and likely not work related discussions facilitate knowledge sharing, excitement around innovation, and allows for a centralized way to push innovation into many teams. Each team member is able to go back to their team and apply the ideas brought forth in these meetings, and utilize the help of the Chapter Lead if needed to better deploy these ideas & practices. “Even though everyone is working on their day to day”, says Bijan, “Now we are getting a slew of new innovative ideas around new technology, new tools, new way of thinking about things and challenging the status quo continuously. Best of all we’re not trying to force this and using our employees passions to drive that.”

Lastly, we all know start ups have certain cultural traditions. As companies grow, some of the traditions are not kept, but a Ping-Pong or foosball table, for example, usually sticks around unused for symbolic reasons. At EventMobi, a focus is put on the culture of allowing employees to creatively go about their problem solving. You will often find Ping-Pong, lego or video game rooms being used as a way to conduct informal 1-on-1s or as a way for team members to share and talk through ideas. They have found this is a great way for employees to keep their creative juices flowing and work through any roadblocks, “I’ve seen two engineers sit there and chat through a problem while killing zombies,” laughs Bijan.

So, if you are struggling to keep your employees innovative with your technology, try revisiting your start up roots.  It could be the answer you are looking for.

Playing the Talent Lottery Might be a Bigger Risk than you Think

ingenuity_146275016When you find that sales are down, ever discover yourself banking on that quick fix? Thinking you can find the right hire that will bring up your sales?

This is actually a bigger gamble than you realize.

“Everyone believes that they are just on hire away from solving the problem”, says Andrew Ford, Founder of Sales CoPilot, “they believe it’s all about just getting that right person”.

We live in a day and age where sales are more difficult.  Today when you meet a potential client, they already know everything about the company.  You cannot read off a brochure and expect them to be happy.  They do not want to be sold; they want you to solve their problems.  30 years ago, customers needed salespeople to tell them about the company and product, but not anymore. “We need smarter sales reps, we need reps that can hang inside a business conversation with senior managers,” says Andrew, “they have to help the client better understand their current situation. And if they do that, they build credibility that can actually help the client solve problems and create value”.

This is why playing the talent lottery is a bigger risk than it has ever been before.  More due diligence is required when making that hire and we have to avoid simply throwing bodies at the problem, “they think they can identify that right guy by reading a resume, or getting a reference,” says Andrew, “and none of those things are very accurate at predicting performance”.

So how do you avoid this pitfall?

First, sit down and understand your business strategy, then from that understand what the sales strategy needs to be.  This will help formulate a plan of how your sales representative is going to be successful when you make that hire.  “Strategy dictates structure”, says Andrew, “this will make it a lot easier to figure out what the right structure is for the sales team and then you can then determine what kind of talent you need”.

Andrew lists three key ingredients you need when building your high performing sales team:

  • Talent
  • Effectiveness
  • Efficiency

“Talent is the right people.  Effectiveness is two parts: first sales skills”, says Andrew “and then what I call tribal knowledge, that’s the ingredients of where we win and why”.  Andrew continues to explain that companies tend to not gather this information very effectively.  It is usually locked away in key people’s heads, and often it is shared orally through stories and anecdotes.  The problem with passing along information orally is that it slow, and inefficiently shared: think of the game of broken telephone.  Lastly, efficiency is how you want the sales team to do the work: Territory, Opportunity, and Time Management.

Sales and sales success needs to be an organizational commitment to develop and refine a formula for success. Specifically, in the technology space “Sales should be validating what it is that you are out there doing that you think has value”, says Andrew, “it needs to be an integrated part of how you think about your business strategy and it is an extension of your strategy”.

There’s no perfect sales person.  “You have got such short windows of opportunity in the technology space”, explains Andrew, “you can’t afford to be that much of a gambler when building a team”.  So resist the urge to buy your lottery ticket for that quick fix and focus on strategy and structure first and then talent, effectiveness and efficiency to build your successful sales team.