7 Things You Didn’t Expect When Selling Your Software Company

Contribution by AceTech Ontario CEO Member Mark Miller of Volaris Group.

You have worked hard to grow and develop your software company. Perhaps your success has attracted some attention; or maybe you are feeling that it’s time to move on. One way or the other, selling is on your radar.

Of course, you’re ready for this next step.

But there are several things you probably didn’t expect – unforeseen factors that could affect you and the acquisition process.

1. Potential Buyers Generally do their Due Diligence

Initially, it felt like you were close to a deal. But the due diligence process is taking longer than anticipated.

Due diligence is more than just opening the company’s books – it’s about determining if your company is the right fit for the buyer. They will look at your operations, structure, and any legal considerations in addition to your financials.

Be prepared for a lengthy due diligence process.

People want certainty. It’s not uncommon for them to make a series of requests before feeling confident.

2. It Will Take a Lot of Hard Work – More Than You Expected

It has taken serious sacrifice –the building, planning, delivering results – to get to this point.

So now you can just sign the papers and relax, right? Not really. Selling the business involves hard work from both parties. Enter the process with this in mind and clear the decks for some serious work ahead.

Your emotional reaction may also come as a surprise. For so long you’ve thought about the end-game, you just assumed you would enjoy the process.

Go easy on yourself – it’s natural to have mixed emotions about giving up your work.

3. The Process Will Take Longer Than You Expect

The process usually begins with the initial discussions followed by the valuations, due diligence, further discussions, proposals, counter-proposals, financial review and payment schedules – all moving toward the final sale.

This process cannot be completed in a single phone call.

Be prepared to work through a lengthy process and continue delivering results along the way.

4. There Will be Fear in the Workplace

Don’t assume that just because you haven’t made a formal announcement, your employees don’t sense that something is happening. Employees can be highly skilled at detecting potential changes within their workplace.

Staff anxiety may hurt productivity or stir rumours that hurt your competitiveness. Always maintain a calming presence.

During this transition, your leadership is more important than ever.

5. You Can’t Take Your Eye Off the Ball

Your core business has been your key to growth, and continued performance has made people interested in your company.

Now that a sale is under discussion, that performance must continue.

A drop in performance could derail the entire process, so don’t get distracted by the negotiations.

6. Buyers Will Be Skeptical of Your Numbers

You have an idea of how your company should be valued, but your buyers may see things differently. That’s a natural part of business.

Don’t be discouraged by their skepticism. If your numbers are realistic and accurate, then the proper deal will present itself.

7. You May Have Seller’s Remorse

When the sale is done, you may feel a twinge of doubt. That’s normal.

It’s important to remember that the sale was your end-game all along.

When the opportunity presented, you were ready, and you made sure your company was properly valued.

It may be hard to give up control, but in time you will know that you did the right thing.

Your Turn

Are you preparing to sell your software company? Have you encountered challenges along the way that you didn’t anticipate? What lessons have you learned? Share your thoughts and questions in the comment section below, and don’t forget to share this post if you found it useful.

                                                                                                                                                                             

Mark Miller is the CEO of Volaris Group. He specializes in global vertical technology and has an interest in organic growth, talent management, sharing best practices, and building efficiency for the businesses he works with on a daily basis.

Volaris is a global company that has customers and staff all over the world providing mission critical software and hardware that helps run better businesses. To learn more about Volaris, visit our website at: http://www.volarisgroup.com/

Entrepreneur Rising

11226_Entrepreneur Rising_finalcover_1500px (002).jpgRecently, AceTech Ontario sponsor KPMG in Canada partnered with the C100 Association to compile a research report that dives into the minds of several Canadian technology company founders to gain their insights on the Canadian ecosystem and the biggest challenges they are facing with their companies.  This report, Entrepreneur Rising, surveyed a select group of 52 Canadian entrepreneurs to discuss their experience, their tips and what keeps them up at night. In this blog, we will provide an overview of some of the items discussed in this research report.

Many of us have heard Toronto referred to as “Silicon Valley North”.  While we may not yet have the opportunities that Silicon Valley does, several Canadian entrepreneurs believe that Canada’s technology ecosystem has a lot to offer business owners.  In fact, 86% of founders surveyed agree that the Canadian growth company/innovation ecosystem has improved significantly over the last 5 years.

Not only have we seen a shift in Canada’s ecosystem, but we have also seen a shift in the Canadian entrepreneur.  “What we are seeing is the emergence of a new class of serial entrepreneurs; they know how to bring a great idea to market and they are using those skills and resources to build more companies,” notes Terry Doyle, Co-Chair of the C100.  There has also been a belief in the past that Canadian entrepreneurs are willing to sell their companies prematurely.  However, Entrepreneur Rising reports that almost all entrepreneurs plan to grow their company with a long-term view to be the best in the world. David Wilson, an independent board advisor, notes that in cases where founders are looking for an exit plan, it is due to having too much of their own capital wrapped up in the company.  What is the reason behind this new class of entrepreneur? 48% said that they saw a need in the market that was not being solved.  Vince Mifsud, CEO of ScribbleLive and AceTech Ontario CEO member notes: “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some very successful entrepreneurs and business leaders and what I’ve found is that they all have a tremendous attention to detail.  I think sometimes people think that when they delegate a job they don’t need to think about it anymore – …but the really successful Canadian entrepreneurs are the ones that are on top of their business in every way”.

What are the challenges that these entrepreneurs are facing?  Almost a third of respondents have said that one the biggest challenges their company is going to be tackling over the next two years is the shortage of talent.  At AceTech events, we have often heard that many of our CEO members struggle to hire the right sales professionals.  While this rings true for many founders surveyed, 52% have found that the most difficult talent to recruit for is within their key management team (C-level executives).  “The priority has to be on recruiting, retaining and inspiring great people because you can always scale up a finance system or procurement model but it’s much harder to scale up culture, to keep your ‘A’ players and motivate them and align them to the vision of the company”, says Razor Suleman, founder of Achievers and Partner at Alignvest.  Many others agreed that a cultural fit is more important than having someone on the team who checks all the “job requirement boxes”.  In fact, 87% of respondents agreed that cultural fit is the most important consideration when hiring the right talent.

Another challenge that many of these entrepreneurs face is fundraising.  62% of respondents experience struggles when attempting to access the right sources of capital, while 50% feel they do not have access to enough capital.  However, Chris Chapman, National Leader, Growth Companies (TMT) at KPMG in Canada, believes that there is enough capital if you have the right metrics and are at the right stage, “the problem for Canadian start-ups is knowing what those metrics are and trying to ensure they are continuously aligning their business plan and objectives against those metrics”.  Many others share Chris’ sentiment and believe that if you are having trouble raising capital, that may be a sign that you need to make some changes to your business plan or operating model in order to attract investors.

Lastly, many people have heard the stereotype that if you are going to be a successful technology company, do you need to be in Silicon Valley; however, only 6% of respondents agree with this.  So as a Canadian founder, what should your presence in SV be, if any?  51% of respondents said that their ideal strategy is to be based in Canada while maintaining a SV presence through a local office or locally-based personnel.  When asked this question, Entrepreneur Rising states “85% of our respondents say that spending time in Silicon Valley has helped them change the way they think about their company”.  How do Canadian entrepreneurs tap into Silicon Valley? 71% of respondents note that their involvement through a C100 program has given them access to resources and provided them avenues to formulate relationships that they could not acquire otherwise.

One founder states: “you don’t know what you don’t know. It is important for Canadian founders and CEOs to get out of the office and see how the rest of the entrepreneurial world operates.  The face and perspective is just different”.  This is why several founders and CEOs of technology companies have found companies like KPMG in Canada, C100 and AceTech Ontario vital to the growth of their company.

For more insight on this research, please click here for the full report.

Challenges of Operating in Multiple Countries

Contribution by AceTech Ontario CEO Member Mark Miller of Volaris Group

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAfBAAAAJGQ3NDkxMzU1LTVlMDQtNDdhZi1hNmMzLTkxOTkxY2Q4ZmVmNAEither through acquisitions or expansions your company has gone global. You now have opportunities in additional markets, but also face a new set of challenges.

These challenges may be cultural challenges, such as adapting to a wide range of business environments, and operational challenges, such as setting up lines of communication which allow your company to function as a global company, rather than just a company that happens to have a lot of offices in different locations.

Some of the common challenges that companies face when establishing a global footing are as follows:

Human Resources and Talent Management

Companies need to focus on having the right people in the right place when executing a global strategy; as human capital is at the core of driving a successful global business. This requires providing ongoing coaching to your executives and leaders, so they can adapt to the different cultural environments, while working on their business management and leadership skills.

At Volaris, we recognize that cultivating the next generation of leaders is essential to continued growth and sustainability. Hence, we encourage our leaders to develop a long term perspective, and provide them with the autonomy to make decisions, in order to meet a clear set of goals and objectives in those global markets.

We also empower our leaders with the necessary tools to succeed in a global environment, through regular performance reviews, mentoring, and corporate summits. This helps keep our teams motivated, attracts better employees, engages our customers, and helps our leaders manage growth more effectively.

Catering to Different Markets

It is crucial to understand what works in your domestic market might not work in other countries around the globe. Thus, when expanding into a global market, your company needs to be conscious about the perceptions, needs, preferences, and other attributes that affect the decision making process of the customers in that market in order to customize your solutions.

The same concept applies to the products that you offer in those global markets. Some products might qualify as global products when they solve a common problem for all your international markets. However, forcing customers in a new market to adjust to all your domestic products might not be well received. Therefore, you need to conduct a thorough market analysis to deliver localized products and develop processes that satisfy your customer’s needs.

You also need to consider tailoring your marketing efforts to match the new market’s preferences. For example; adjusting your brand positioning, translating your marketing materials and corporate website, customizing your sales cycle, and evaluating your digital marketing and communications strategy.

Communication

Having your operations spread out across multiple countries and time zones can make it tricky to communicate. This also slows down the decision making process as there are only a few hours a day of common “awake” time.

At Volaris, we encourage our leaders to regularly use the company intranet site as a tool to collaborate with peers across multiple businesses, regions and countries electronically. Many of the academies we have put together in the past have proved to be an effective method to
share best practices, and allow our businesses to collaborate with each other while understanding each other’s goals.

We also host quarterly corporate summits with general managers and leaders from all over the globe, as we firmly believe that these summits play a crucial role in bringing people together; in order for them to learn, share, and grow.

Global companies must continually work on creating opportunities such as these, which encourage a face-to-face interaction between their teams, as this can definitely help boost team morale and increase collaboration.

Remember

Depending on which industry you are in, you will face additional challenges that could affect the way you run your business in those global markets. It’s always important to conduct a thorough research on your competition, legal regulations, and other factors relevant to your industry, prior to making the big move.

Acquisitions on the Brain?

Mergers-and-Acquisitions-Insurance-1011Often with acquisitions, some of the most important considerations happen before and after the deal.  To get an inside take from someone who has years of M&A experience, we sat down with Dennis Ensing, CEO of TransGaming and AceTech Ontario CEO member.  Dennis took us through some key aspects of an acquisition process that can either help or hinder the transaction.

Before Negotiation:

Everyone knows there’s two types of acquisitions, there’s the ones you seek, and there’s the opportunistic acquisitions that fall in a CEO’s lap. As great as the latter are, Dennis feels that as a CEO of a growing technology company, you should always be seeking out targets for acquisitions and have a process in place to do so.  With that being said, there’s some considerations to be made once one of those leads takes fruition.  To a large extent, the M&A process is not core to the business you are running, so they can often be a distraction.  So once you’ve got an acquisition on your plate, something else tends to fall off, “if you’ve got one eye on the business and one eye on an acquisition, then what about financing, what about planning for the exit, what about my family at home?”, says Dennis.  To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, many companies will hire an investment bank to be the front end of the transaction process.  For those who don’t, it’s critical to have someone by your side who’s running point on those areas that you know are going to suffer during the acquisition process (except probably for your family!).  “If I’m running the acquisition process and moving forward with a transaction, the core business better not suffer”, says Dennis, “and I need to know that I’ve got a right hand person who’s pushing that forward towards the objectives that we set and achieving the milestones that we need to so that my ‘distraction’ isn’t affecting them.”

Since an acquisition can take 4-6 or even 8 months before completion (after being identified), it is critical that before you start you have a process in place for what those next months are going to look like and who is accountable for what.  If not, it can take on a life of its own and can end up taking 9-12 months, or even 18.  During Dennis’ investment banking days, he became increasingly frustrated that there was no general overview in place of what the process looks like.  As such he created his own.

Click here for Dennis’ acquisition process & timeline.

After the Transaction:

Have you acquired a company? Congratulations! But there’s a couple things to remember once the deal is done, “If you don’t plan for integration before the closing, you can end up with a real mess”, says Dennis.  Acquisitions take a team, and that team can fluctuate through the process, but it’s important that you’re bringing your key business leaders in at the appropriate times so they can plan before closing and take ownership of the integration.  Part of the integration process includes culture.  After the dust settled with TransGaming’s 2012 acquisition of Oberon Media, they started to make integration related changes, and the top of that list was managing the cultural fit between the two businesses, “Culture trumps everything. People can sit there with the spreadsheet and say ‘oh, that’s what the integration will look like’”, explains Dennis, “but if you can’t marry the cultures, it’s never going to work”.

 

Not Another Millennial Article

Millenials

These days it seems that each week, there’s a new article on Millennials in the workplace and how their professional expectations are vastly different then the generations before them.  We sat down with Chris Wiegand, CEO of Jibestream and AceTech Ontario CEO member, to find out how he’s adapted to the newest generation in the workforce and how he’s made it work in Jibestream’s favour.

The first thing employers need to understand is that many Millennials are not motivated by compensation the same way their parents and grandparents were.  It is still a key consideration, however, there are other significant factors that come into play.  Chris notes that a Millennial’s desire to constantly learn, grow and be challenged is a much stronger factor, if not the most important, when considering a place of employment.  “We have to make sure we rotate people throughout the company so they don’t get bored”, says Chris, “we want them to feel like ‘yes I’m not just doing the same work over and over again, I’m learning, I’m part of R&D, next week I’m part of something else’. Although it’s not always or practical to rotate people in their roles but we are very conscious of keeping people engaged.”

Impraise Blog states “according to a study by Intelligence Group, 72 percent of millennials want to be their own bosses at work. If they do have a boss, 79 percent of them state that they want their bosses to serve as a coach or a mentor. The research explains that there is a need for a performance management system designed to guide employees into being more equipped experts in their line of business.” Chris has recognized this among his employees and has noticed that annual or even quarterly reviews are not sufficient anymore.  He has ensured that his employees are having weekly 1 on 1’s with their supervisors.  These meetings are not simply about what the employee’s current tasks are, but what’s working for them and what’s not working for them.  Chris has found that if they do not have the opportunity to do this, the frustrations they are having will fester and soon they will be looking at job boards.  These meetings are also key to ensuring that your employees are continuing to work towards their goals. “It’s important to make a clear growth trajectory for people, so that when you start someone off in a role, even on inside sales, that you have a clear path for them to be enterprise sales person, if that’s what they want to be”, explains Chris.

When it comes to employee retention, Chris says that “the more you teach, the more they get out of it and the longer they stay. Eventually they’ll leave on great terms and you’ll get the best out of that person for those X years”.  It’s also important to continually gauge the temperature of your employees, be open to changes and to try new things.  When Jibestream adopted Slack, Chris felt uneasy when he saw hundreds of giphys go across the app.  However, he’s realized that Millennials appear to be very strong at multi tasking and despite all the memes, his employees are hard working.

Chris has discovered that when recruiting Millennials, transparency and social accountability are paramount.  “I think things like Instagram and Facebook are good because they allow people to see your culture. They say a picture is work 1,000 words.  We share a lot of pictures and 80% of them are probably the office dogs”, laughs Chris, “but people can now start to fill in the blanks and understand the work environment and see themselves fitting in here – we try to make sure everything is consistent and representative of the workplace”.  In addition, you’ll notice on Jibestream’s job board, they are very honest about potential challenges a candidate may have in that position.  This results in interviewing candidates who can see themselves fitting into the environment and welcoming the challenges that they may face.

Chris feels that it’s important for his fellow CEOs to remember that Millennials do not make up 100% of the workforce.  “Don’t change everything you do to be universal for this group of people. The challenge is to make sure it’s still a dynamic management system”.  He feels it is important to not let the emergence of a new generation in the workforce change your whole company.

At the end of the day, Chris feels it ultimately comes down to emotional intelligence. “It’s about how you should be best addressing each different type of person in your group and then managing to that. Your managers are going to have to manage one person maybe slightly different than the other but still make it fair”.

 

So You’re Thinking of Going Public

public-to-private-company.pngIf you’re a CEO or a CFO, there’s a lot of differences in your day if you are running a public company versus a private company.  As most of the members at AceTech Ontario run private companies, there tends to be a lot of questions around what is involved in going public.  We decided to sit down with one of the few members of AceTech who are running a public company to find out what he has learned and what his advice is for fellow members.

Rob MacLean is CEO and co-founder of Points Loyalty and is a CEO member of AceTech Ontario.  His company did not exactly take the most typical path to becoming a public company due to circumstances and the hand they were dealt.  Points was incubated back around 2000 by a company called Exclamation Inc.  As such, they were a private company inside a public company.  Shortly after, as many people will remember the “bubble burst” and investments in private dotcom companies severely tightening up.  However, Points had gained substantial traction at this point so Rob and his co-founder, Christopher Barnard, combined Points with their parent company.  Thus they were now public and could more easily tap into that marketplace for capital, as well as utilize the funds that were remaining in the Public vehicle.

Other positives included an opportunity for transparency.  Points’ clients and partners are Fortune 1000 companies: big airline companies, hotels, etc.  Being a public company meant that Air Canada for example, could view their financial statements and know that they were a healthy company.  This gave them some inherent credibility, which was a great asset to them in the early days of business development.  Additionally, one of the ways they were able to attract talented employees early on was by being able to provide monetary value through liquid equity.  This is something that is very difficult to do for employees of a private company, and was particularly challenging for private  company’s post the  dotcom “bubble”.

Unfortunately, you can’t have positives without some negatives.  Rob discusses how, despite the fact that being public helped them recruit, the same positive was also a negative for them due to the size of the company.  “We’ve had periods over the years where we’ve grown the business 60% in one quarter in a year over year basis and the stock has gone down. You think ‘okay, that seems odd’”, explains Rob, “but  may have been more driven by a hedge fund closing shop , and so they have to sell their position and so you get into that classic supply and demand of stock”.  It can be very difficult on employees to see their stock move around as it does and have very little control over it.  Rob strongly believes that a company needs to get to a much larger, more stable stage before that volatility goes away.

Another big challenge Points faced was time and money.  “It really is quite a significant driver of work load from a CFO, CEO standpoint”, says Rob, “There’s certainly stages over the years I would have spent 40-60% of my time on public company type activity rather than in directly driving the business”.  Depending on the company, and its objectives, this isn’t necessarily time well spent for the CEO.  Rob would argue that they would have been better served if he was able to spend that time building the business instead.  There is no question that this takes away a signification amount of time from the CEO and Finance  roles within the company.  Additionally, it cost Points between one million and one and a half million dollars to operate as a Public Co.  Not every company can absorb this kind of cost, and the dollar amount has largely been the same regardless of the size of Points……meaning it was a significant burden in the early days when revenues and profits were smaller.

One point of concern Rob has for his fellow CEOs if they do decide to become a public company is focusing too much on the quarterly pressures.  There is a reputation that public companies are forced into quarter by quarter management style, and Rob admits that there’s some truth to that.  Since Points is considered, especially back in the early days, a very small public company, they made sure to still focus on the long term view of the business.  “It would be very easy to fall into the trap of not making the right business decisions because you were trying to meet a quarter,” says Rob, “I think generally speaking we’ve been able to avoid that, but there’s certainly a lot of pressure that people should watch out for. Having a strong , aligned Board, is critically important in avoiding the temptation of managing quarter to quarter.”

Another point for CEOs to pay attention to is the company’s growth trajectory.  Before going public, you want to make sure that your company’s growth is predictable as that is what the public market responds best to.  Rob explains that despite Points having continual growth every year, it was not a consistently increasing growth percentage which resulted in “chunky” (obviously a technical term) growth.  This made their trajectory difficult for the public market to understand. Analysts often seem to be more comfortable with a predictable 5%  trajectory  vs a growth profile that may be much higher , but less consistent.

There’s a belief that going public is the ultimate end game.  But all in all, if you are thinking about taking your company public, think about if it is the right time, and are you doing it for the right reasons.  “I think that there’s most certainly a place for being a public company, but you have to be very careful and very thoughtful regarding when is the right time” says Rob, “Access to capital is probably the most sustainable advantage in being public, but as with most good things, this benefit  comes with that are lots of challenges in terms of time, resources and cost.”

So at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, are you going public for the right reasons?

 

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
Doxim

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
EventMobi

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
Docebo
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”.