An Inside Look into Private Equity Firms

capital_investment1Often in the AceTech Community, we hear CEOs discussing avenues for acquiring additional capital.  One of the common ways this is done is through Private Equity firms.  So, we thought we would get the inside scoop into a private equity firm and hear about their role from their perspective.

Yong Kwon, Partner at Novacap and AceTech Ontario sponsor, sat down with us to give us the inside track as to what they’re looking for and what advice they have for companies looking to acquire capital.

Before you even look at which private equity firm you want to partner with, unless you’re planning on outright selling your company, you need a detailed plan of what it is that you want to gain out of the partnership.  Knowing what direction you’re looking to take the company with this equity will help you better determine which firm is right for your company.  “Do existing shareholders want to take some cash off the table?  How much capital is needed to grow the business, either organically or through M&A?  How and in what time horizon are shareholders planning to exit?”  These are just a few of the important questions founders and management should consider, explains Yong.

It’s also important to know what you want the firm’s involvement to be, especially as not all firms take the same stance with regards to their participation.  Novacap, for instance, takes a very hands-on, operationally- focused role.  This is because they have partners who have formally been c-level executives and who don’t just have a financial background.  However, many other firms are not as hands on.

Of course, track record is also very important.  What is the PE firm’s history and reputation investing in your sector?  Yong suggests asking colleagues or industry peers about their experiences dealing with specific PE firms and the people within those firms.  Many will have impressive backgrounds and past results they can point to, but ultimately you will want to feel comfortable that the people who are partnering with.  How much attention will you get from your PE partner and how important is your success to their overall portfolio?

There’s a common misconception entrepreneurs have about private equity firms – that they’re all the same.  They are not. Partnering with a PE firm is a long-term commitment and finding the right fit is critical.  Taking the time to do your research into all the different options available will help you ensure you find the right partnership between your company and a private equity firm.




It’s About Time: Marketing for The Complex Sale

Contribution by Waylen Miki, Content Marketing Specialist at AceTech Ontario member company TripSpark Technologies

Despite what the play/film Glengarry Glen Ross may suggest, not all sales happen overnight. And the old adage of “Always Be Closing” falls on deaf ears when you’re dealing with a client who may not be able to buy from you many years down the road. In the transit software industry, one of the reasons for this stall in the sales cycle is due to long pauses between national funding events. This means our sales and marketing teams are forced to re-think their approach when it comes to lead nurturing and engaging with these unique clients.

But as luck would have it, the complex sale provides you with some valuable opportunities. When confronted with the longer sales cycle, you can use this time wisely. And since no sale exists within a bubble, your efforts can reach beyond the single sale and become the backbone of an entire inbound-style marketing strategy.

You Can Provide Value Before and Beyond the Sale

The key to the inbound method is to provide quality, useful and valuable information to your industry (read prospects). Your potential clients are searching for any information that can help them with their specific problems. And since you are also an expert in the industry, you can help them out. What are the trends in your industry that are of most concern to your prospects? Is there any leading research, papers, studies, that are being conducted that can help your prospects to better manage their business? Can your company be responsible for creating these studies? By keeping your eyes open to useful resources and distributing them to your potential clients, you become a central repository of knowledge.

How Transit Software Vendors Deal with Long Cycles

In the transit software industry, grants and funding sources play a major role in our sales relationship. We have found that it’s vital to help assist with budgeting in order to ensure that the acquisition price is within our prospects’ budget and purchase timeline. By working with clients through the RFP and RFI process, we are able to have more control over our sales plan and the methodology for ensuring that our products are the best fit at the best time. Our job is to help our potential clients as much as possible, making the purchasing process as painless as possible.

Do More With Your Content

Don’t simply assume your leads are the only ones in need of this material. Take advantage of your knowledge and create content for everyone in your industry. Write your own whitepapers, eBooks and blog posts and build your credibility as a thought leader. With regards to the complex sale, you are delivering value, long before a sales discussion. It is this growing relationship that will matter when the time comes. As well, after the sale is complete, you can continue to provide insight into your client’s operation. By working with clients, rather than simply selling them your product, you take on a dynamic role within the success of their operation.

Reveal Your Past and Current Success

Speaking of success. If you have reference sites that can validate and provide an honest and positive review of your product or company, share that with the world. If you have been nurturing your leads (now clients and advocates) over the past year, reveal the success that you and your partners have found, especially to your clients Remember that they are the hero of their story, not you. This point of view is incredibly valuable when new prospects begin to consider your company as a partner. We have found that video testimonials are very well received by both our clients as well as evidence by the traffic on our website. So we suggest taking advantage of video marketing. As well, be ready to provide client references as well as credible ROI analysis.

Beware Targeting a Single Employee

It can be an annoying thing to be in the middle of a year-long relationship with a potential client when suddenly your key contact up and quits from the company. Suddenly, all those lead nurturing emails and late night phone calls are rendered useless. This is why it’s important to nurture leads in more than one way. If your sale is going to be complex, then so should your approach. Rather than simply engaging one-on-one with a particular contact, there are ways to begin engaging with the company as a whole. Consider approaching others at your target company to work with you on a mutually beneficial project. This can be a co-created whitepaper that can provide value to the industry as a whole. Perhaps you have an idea for a webinar that can be enhanced by the experience and thought leadership of your target company’s leaders. This is a great opportunity to begin a creative and business relationship that does three important things:

  1. It establishes professional contact between you and your lead.
  2. It provides their company with a valuable piece of content, free of charge.
  3. It provides your company with deeper credibility with your own clients and all future prospects.

As transit software vendors, it is fairly simple to work within our industry to come up with quality content. Not every industry is as passionate about expressing the relationship between efficient transit service and the need for automated transit software.

Learn the Needs of Your Leads

We run into our prospective leads at tradeshows featuring transit software and hardware vendors. Maybe you’ll encounter your leads at symposiums, in online chat forums, social media outlets. Perhaps you’ll visit them in person at their site of business. In all these places, you have an opportunity to learn more about the needs of your leads. Rather than simply trying to force your logo, your brand and your product into their line of sight, consider asking them questions instead. Take the time to discover what pain points are the most relevant to their business. Uncover problems that they may be encountering for which you have a solution.

In the end, it’s not about selling, it’s about giving. So what do you have to offer? If you don’t know, find out. Along the way, you’ll find incredibly valuable insight that can be used for incredibly valuable marketing content. So by the time you think you’re at the “Always Be Closing” stage of the sales cycle, you will realize that you have already surpassed it.

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 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


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To view the full survey, please click here

To view the Brightlights Employee Benefits Costs Worksheet click here.