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t h e m a g a z i n e f o r c a n a d a’ s b u s i n e s s l e a d e r s

Cirque du Soleil

With the help of president and CEO Daniel Lamarre, the renowned acrobatic circus act has become an unstoppable global force p.48

global alarm Sounding the wake-up call for Canadian companies to expand internationally p.42

ocean moves Overseas Promotions Ltd. > p.32

green & global Energold Drilling Corp. > p.40

health class 2.0 Sudbury & District Health Unit > p.77


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features

The Troupe Beyond Cirque du Soleil’s theatrics and stunning acrobatic feats is a solid business plan. President and CEO Daniel Lamarre discusses the company and how it has evolved into an international juggernaut.

p. 48

Business Without Borders p. 42

The industrial growth of the developing world is churning out a grim horizon for Canada’s economic security. Companies need to start leveraging their strengths abroad to stay competitive.

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contents expertise 17 20 23 25 27

L-IPSE Consulting Services Mulvey & Banani International Inc. BrokerTeam Insurance Solutions Inc. Quickmill Inc. SAL Engineering Ltd.

products & services 29 32 34 36 38 40

Wireless Personal Communications Inc. Overseas Promotions Ltd. Sharper TCE Capital Corporation LeisureDays RV Centre Energold Drilling Corp.

collaboration 55 The Staffing Edge 58 Martin Ross Group Inc. 60 Greenland International Consulting Ltd.

65 Joseph Valenti, VP of sales and marketing for Valcomp Technology.

innovation 63 Khanatek Technologies Inc. 65 Valcomp Technology Inc. 67 Embedded Sense, Inc.

outreach 71 73 75 77 80

The Toronto Humane Society The Apple Market Victoria Park Community Homes Sudbury & District Health Unit Surrey Place Centre

plus 9 Up Front 82 Last Word: Geyser Marketing Group’s president, Ron Kunitzky, discusses several useful strategies for crafting a global business plan

73 The Apple Market’s Jennifer and Mike Pirri.

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the maga z i n e for ca n ada ’ s busi n ess leaders

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editor’s note

Over the last two and a half decades, Cirque du Soleil has grown from a provincial favourite to an international phenomenon.

L

ate last year, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report calling for all Canadian companies to venture into the international marketplace. Outlining specifics of how such a move would help companies not only remain competitive but succeed and profit, the message was clear: go global, or get left behind. Because of this drastic call to action, Advantage is pleased to bring you our “Going Global” issue, packed full of expert advice, proven strategies, and secondto-none business know-how that will allow you to implement a plan of your own. In our feature “Business Without Borders” (p. 42), we garner multiple perspectives from growth-equity company Bridgescale Partners and specialty retailer La Vie en Rose, both of which have jump-started successful global business plans, as well as the Chamber of Commerce itself, which originally devised the call to action. With this feature, you’ll get a look at what perpetuated the report and how these companies have successfully moved into the global market in order to remain competitive and atop their industries.

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In addition, you’ll get a comprehensive look at another famous company making waves worldwide: Cirque du Soleil. In our cover story, “The Troupe” (p. 48), you’ll see how what began as a few street performers in Québec developed into an unstoppable global force, doing business in 300 cities worldwide. You’ll get firsthand insight from president and CEO Daniel Lamarre as he dissects what it takes to make a business work on a scale of this magnitude. Furthermore, if you’d like to start a global strategy but are at a loss for where to start, take a look at our “Last Word” (p. 82), which outlines several helpful tips on how to dive into international business, courtesy of Geyser Marketing’s Ron Kunitzky. We are dedicated to ensuring you and your business stays competitive within your industry by supplying you with the latest trends and tips. So we hope you’ll get a lot out of this very special issue of Advantage. Michael Danaher

Features Editor

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up front

across the waters Canada looks to advance in the international marketplace Canada’s no longer part of the new world, and with the rise of other international players, there’s an incentive to hop back in the boat and take business abroad. Fortunately, Canada’s future prospects bode well if the country can harness its natural resources and effectively look to developing markets. A report from Deloitte ranks Canada 13th in terms of global manufacturing competitiveness, a position that Canada should retain for the next five years. The best hope for any country looking abroad is to harmonize its assets (natural resources, advantagemagazine.ca

infrastructure, and skills) with the assets of its firms (capital, technology, and access to markets). In the case of Canada, this means pushing to keep top-performing firms on Canadian soil and not letting the game changers get snatched up by larger conglomerates in the United States. These companies can help shape the way Canada diversifies in international markets in years to come. Investing abroad isn’t as easy as it sounds, and some firms are rightly concerned about the inherent risk involved. However, a special report

from TD Bank Financial Group argues that investing abroad is crucial for a variety of reasons, including the fact that Canada is a small market in itself, international markets provide diversification, and that tremendous growth opportunities can be found in emerging markets. December 2010 was a good indicator that Canada has a chance to find success in international markets, as exports banked a $3 billion trade surplus. Odds are good that if companies stand together, this trend can continue through 2011, and into the future. advantage

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up front

executive profile

Roger Hardy Founder and CEO of Clearly Contacts (clearlycontacts.com) In the late 1990s, Roger Hardy was working for a contact-lens manufacture when he realized a glaring disconnect. “At some point, we were selling contacts to optometrists and opticians for about $14, and they were selling them to customers for somewhere around $50,” he says. “I recognized there was a place somewhere in the middle for someone to create a more consumer-friendly distribution-style business.” Hardy took what he knew, built a website, and surrounded himself with intelligent people to create Clearly Contacts. A decade later, the company is the world’s largest online retailer of contact lenses and eyeglasses. Advantage speaks with Hardy to learn a little more about the man behind the brand.

Website to wake up to:

wallstreetjournal.com

A history for business: “I’ve always had an interest in business. I pretty much did every kind of entrepreneurial and do-it-yourself business through high school and into university. I started out at 13 pedaling a Dickie Dee bicycle and selling ice cream—I remember eating all the profits.”

The Favourites: Movie: “The Stieg Larson Trilogy” Musician: “I’ve got a young daughter, so I have to say Justin Bieber” Sport: “Whatever my kids are playing.”

Business Influence:

Looking Ahead: “Our goal is to be among the top three vision providers in North America in the next five years. I think that’s quite realistic. We have days here where we are serving thousands and thousands of customers.”

“Tony Hsieh at Zappos has been an inspiration. People said you can’t sell shoes online, then Tony grew a billion-dollar business from it. Our goal is to do the same thing for eyeglasses. We really believe we will change the way the world buys eyeglasses.”

The competition: Clearly Contacts competes primarily with

offline providers. Over 50 percent of the eyewear market is mom-and-pop shops and independent eyewear stores.

Evolving the Optics Industry: “We’re in unchartered territory now, with 23,000 pairs of glasses in one week sold and scaling up. We are taking the standard of service up. The industry has to get better at serving people in a better way. I don’t think that has to do with price alone; it’s really the quality of all the elements. If I order glasses from a website, I don’t want to get a call saying that they’re out of stock. I want to receive them tomorrow.”

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company edge: Investing. Everything on the company’s website is in stock. The company has one of the most technologically advanced eyeglasses labs in North America and can process an order, make the glasses, and ship out the same day.

Giving back:

Half a billion people on the planet can’t see properly, and Clearly Contacts is helping change that. The company’s “Change the View Project” gives one pair of glasses to somebody in need for every pair of private designer-brand glasses the company sells.

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technology

up front

Tech Innovations Splurge The security that was once reserved for the vaults of the world’s fanciest banks and casinos can now be enjoyed in your office. Black Box Corporation’s IntelliPass Biometric Access Control allows your cabinets to be opened with a fingertip. While the system syncs up with your network and the building’s power supply, it also has a built-in backup system and will keep the lock functional when everything else goes down.

App Air travel just got a whole lot easier. Mobiata’s FlightTrack Pro allows users to stay on top of flight alerts, weather delays, itineraries, delay schedules, and more. The app even provides maps of terminals so you don’t get lost traveling to new airports. With information for 5,000 airports, information on 1,400 airlines, and compatibility with more than 1,000 travel websites, FlightTrack Pro is a must for any businessperson on the go. Available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.

Trend Move over, Blackberry. Though the iPhone and Android phones have made a lot of headway into the general consumer market, 2011 marks their growing presence among business professionals. The shift is not just a reflection of the phones but the fact that many companies are snagging up tablets en masse and bringing their staff up to code with the latest tech.

Gadget With the ES1000 Ultra Portable Tabletop Projection Screen, mobile business professionals have another tool to strap on their utility belts. The 54-inch screen can be packed up and carried anywhere, be it to a meeting down the hall or thousands of miles away in another country. Couple it with a portable projector and rid yourself of technical difficulties when it counts. advantagemagazine.ca

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up front

technology

a steady workforce Hannah McKinnon of PoolingPeople.ca finds a better way of maintaining employees’ jobs in hard times Nothing kicks the wind out of a company’s morale quite like layoffs. They’re brutal for everyone involved. Yet in this tenuous economic climate, they often seem like the only solution for companies faced with a lull in business—until now. PoolingPeople.ca allows companies to change the model. Motivated by founder Hannah McKinnon’s desire to find a better way of managing human resources in lag time, and wanting to provide an alternative recruitment method to companies in need of staff, the online service strives to fill the needs of understaffed companies with the excess employees of overstaffed ones. The initial connection is made by the companies themselves rather than employees as individual users. “It’s a company-to-company service,” McKinnon says. “We want to keep it that way because it’s a truly unique solution. Employees come recommended directly by an employer; however, it is always with the employee’s consent.” Even more appealing, the service isn’t expensive. PoolingPeople.ca lines itself up on the Internet as a facilitator. “We provide a platform, a forum, for companies to connect,” McKinnon says. Site members are companies, rather than individuals. An annual subscription only costs $250 for each user account (minimum one per company). That’s it. No finders fees, no transfer fees, and no hidden paperwork fees. PoolingPeople.ca further simplifies the process by making all the technical contract resources—consent forms, temporary loan agreements, and a salary cost calculator—available at no charge on the website. When a company lends or transfers an employee to another company, the transition can take several forms and reflects the nature of the work needed. “The application for the temporary lending or borrowing of a person is perhaps more applicable to lower- and midlevel roles,” McKinnon says, “However, the permanent transfer is also applicable to higher levels.” McKinnon knows PoolingPeople.ca isn’t going to be the holy grail of human-resource tools. “Layoffs are going to happen regardless,” she says. “But if employers join PoolingPeople.ca and help people find another job, it reflects well on the company and really helps the employee.” In fact, this pragmatism is what makes PoolingPeople.ca so attractive. It gives companies the ability to leverage their labour force without it being at the expense of the employees. “You retain your talent without incurring idle time costs, and you have a solution to proactively help employees find another job very cost effectively when layoffs are the only option,” McKinnon says. 12

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For the first six months, PoolingPeople.ca is giving companies a free membership to anyone who wants to try it out. “Employers can explore how PeoplePooling.ca allows them to lend and borrow staff, help employees find permanent jobs if made redundant, and how they can hire talent cost effectively,” McKinnon says. At the end of the day, cutting out the risk, the nerves, and the anxiety seems to be what PoolingPeople.ca is all about. Employees shouldn’t unnecessarily have to head home after months or years at a company with the news of being laid off. Instead, they can open a bottle of wine, look across the dinner table to their family or friend, and say, “I was pooled.”

—sean conner

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statistics

Professional Poll “What industry was your first job in?” Hospitality

16%

Manufacturing

Agriculture

Top Five Ways Financial Success is Def ined:

22%

Retail

Paper Delivery

up front

Always being able to pay bills on time

11% 8% 6%

Source: Ipsos. 1,000 Canadian adults polled.

+

Having enough money saved for emergencies

At Risk for Stress 18% of workers report that their job is highly stressful. Having enough money saved for comfortable retirement

The most stressed out: • managers/professionals • positions where poor performance negatively effects others • those who work long or variable hours

$ Being debt-free

Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

98% advantagemagazine.ca

of Canadian businesses employ fewer than 100 people

Having enough money to buy whatever you want

Source: Business Development Bank of Canada. Source: TD Waterhouse. advantage

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Green Building & Design

gb&d

A comprehensive look at the structures and concepts of tomorrow, and the masterminds behind them

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For your FREE subscription visit gbdmagazine.com advantagemagazine.ca


well read

up front

recommended reading Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson Riverhead, 336 pages We all know that innovation is something worth bringing to our business. We also know that’s it not as easy to facilitate as all the books on the subject would like to suggest. Within this milieu, Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From offers a fresh take. Rather than gloss through trendy anecdotes of innovation, Johnson gets analytical to map out the history of the phenomenon. The realms of science, history, sociology, and technology merge to provide the answer to the two questions on every business leader’s mind: “What is innovation?” and, more importantly, “How can I make it happen?”

D ED SE T VI DA RE UP D

AN

NE W YORK TIME S BE S TS E LL E R

Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith Wiley, 302 pages

CHRIS BROGAN USING THE WEB TO BUILD INFLUENCE, IMPROVE REPUTATION, AND EARN TRUST

JULIEN SMITH

StartupCFO startupcfo.ca Mark Macleod is a busy guy. His professional titles include advisor, CFO, and partner. But in the off hours, he’s a blogger. StartupCFO offers unique insights into funding, growth, and start-ups. Unlike many of the popular business blogs, StartupCFO substitutes quality over quantity. Though new posts only crop up every few days, their worth is measurable in the way they not only pose relevant questions but provide specific, in-depth solutions. More impressive is MacLeod’s willingness to engage the readers. The discussions that open up in the comments of his posts are often as insightful as the posts themselves, with MacLeod responding directly to the observations and queries of his readers.

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It feels as though every new business book these days is a how-to social-marketing guide in disguise. This isn’t a problem, except that most don’t actually tell you anything revolutionary. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s Trust Agents isn’t another one of these books. The core tenet is that companies entering the Webosphere have to earn the trust of their audience, thereby becoming veritable “trust agents.” But the strength of this book lies outside this analysis, and in the indepth how-to that Brogan and Smith provide to set up an online presence, and subsequently follow through on it.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath Crown Business, 320 pages The psychology behind Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch seems pretty intuitive. The human mind is driven by both a rational and emotional side, and it’s the balance of these two that is necessary to make change possible. The book’s strength is in the minutiae. The anecdotes range from Target managers to MIT labs to show how the emotional and rational can be balanced. Once this is understood, it can be leveraged in the business scene to make change possible. Making this leap is never as easy as flipping on the lights, but Switch does make is easier. advantage

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Canadian Builders Quarterly


expertise Leading executives share proven strategies 20 Mulvey & Banani International Inc. 17 L-IPSE Consulting Services 27 SAL Engineering Ltd. 25 Quickmill Inc.

23 BrokerTeam Insurance Solutions Inc.

power to the people L-IPSE Consulting Services is a top-notch IT company, but its core competency is putting its employees first as told to lynn russo whylly

T

he nine-year-old IT consulting firm L-IPSE Consulting Services has built its brand by moving beyond the technological commodity box and providing consulting services that excel. Values- and HR-management practices are described as the cornerstone that differentiates the company from its competition. L-IPSE prides itself on its employees and takes every step possible to ensure that staff not only has the tools they need but are empowered to provide best-of-breed services to customers. Advantage sits down with Marcel Dallaire, founder and CEO, to learn more.

Advantage: What separates L-IPSE from its competition?

Marcel Dallaire: L-IPSE is an IT consulting firm, but our “make or break� is not the technology; it’s our human resources. I founded the company with the goal to reinvent the way to manage an IT consulting firm and the people who form it. We created a new business model with the human being at the centre of the organization. We do not have an HR department; we are an HR department. ADV: How has your background influenced your business decisions?

MD: A balance between work and family, respect, trust, and honesty are values I pursue, and they are the core values of L-IPSE. They also represent what I missed the most from my former employers. I could not find these values in any company I worked for, so I decided to create one that would put them high on its priorities. ADV: How has the IT business changed, and how have you adapted the company to keep up? Marcel Dallaire, founder and CEO, runs his company on the values of family, respect, trust, and honesty.

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MD: The IT business is constantly changing at the speed of lightning. Every employee is advantage

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expertise

L-IPSE Consulting services

2002 l-ipse consulting

2008

company hires its 100 th employee

services is founded

2003

first employee is hired

2004 l-ipse achieves

Company timeline

personally responsible for the evolution of his or her skills, and we support them financially.” ADV: What is the best business decision you ever made?

MD: Other than putting human resources at the centre, another is accepting that everything is not always white or black. The human being is a complex machine, and the traditional models of management and decision-making are often too analytical or too binary to reflect this complexity. We must accept that every situation is different for each person and a group decision may be challenged at any time for a particular case. ADV: How do you stay on top of trends, and where do you get your leadership insight?

MD: We are open to any ideas to improve our management and our working conditions. We never say “no” outright. Each proposal is at least analyzed and discussed in committee. I am also a member of Vistage, a global CEO association, which gives me access to a treasure trove of knowledge, experience, and best-of-breed business practices. I find many ideas there. We are often alone at the top of the pyramid of our company, and sharing with peers is meaningful. ADV: How do you encourage your employees to succeed at their job?

MD: We instill in them the care of customer satisfaction. We try hard to create working 18

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2009 l-ipse makes the profit 100 list of

$2 million in revenue

top 100 canadian companies with the highest five-year growth rate

2007 l-ipse wins first place in the défi

des meilleurs employeurs au québec in the 50–199 employees category

2010

company hits $11 million in revenue

executive insight > “Our values drive our business. Applying them allows us to provide skilled, balanced, and productive consultants for our clients. And our clients appreciate the care we bring to our employees. This encourages them to choose us. They know they can count on a stable and competent staff.” –marcel dallaire, founder & ceo

conditions that allow them to be more productive by giving them the freedom to better satisfy our clients. Customers sense this and appreciate it. Our employees also feel that they succeed when they put the needs of the client above those of their employer. We take great care to always tell the truth and not to promise what we cannot deliver. “Walk the Talk” is our motto, and our employees tell us that we respect it.

their operations, often requiring new systems. So either way, the two markets we have chosen should continue to grow and allow us to continue our growth as well. ADV: What distinguishes you in your field?

ADV: What opportunities do you think will drive the growth of L-IPSE in the future?

ADV: What words of wisdom would you give to someone starting a business today?

MD: We serve two markets: government and financial institutions. When the economy goes well, everyone makes plans and IT projects follow. When the economy is bad, people save more and insure more, giving financial institutions more capital. And governments optimize

MD: Take time—years if necessary—to become a master of your craft. Find a factor that will differentiate you from the competition, whether it is the product itself or the way you manage it. Take a risk without thinking what went wrong. Close your eyes and go ahead. _a

MD: Only one thing—my difference in attitude. I am no more intelligent or crafty; I just think differently, and it is on the basis of this difference that I built my business.

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Fiscalité des entreprises

Soutien en matière de litige financier

Des gens d´écoute et de parole

Taxes á la consommation

Traitement et conseils en technologie de I´information Évaluation et réorganisation d’entreprises

Financement

tre équipe

Recherche et développement

No

savior fa tre ire o N

Fiscalité des individus

Certification

No

ce tre expérien

Malenfant Dallaire

comptables agréés, S.E.N.C.R.L.

Place de la Cité, Tour de la Cité 2600, boul. Laurier, bureau 872 Québec (Québec) G1V 4W2

Téléphone: (418) 654-0636 Télécopieur: (418) 654-0639 www.malenfantdallaire.com advantagemagazine.ca

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expertise

mulvey & banani international inc.

plugged in Mulvey & Banani International Inc.’s solutions for converged electrical and electronic systems allows complex buildings to thrive as told to zach baliva

W

hen two established firms joined forces in 1981, Mulvey & Banani International Inc. (MBII) was born. Since then, the Toronto firm has emerged as one of Canada’s most innovative designers of electrical and electronic systems for large and complex buildings around the globe. MBII employees specialize in airports, commercial towers, theatres, casinos, hotels, and other complex buildings where elaborate electrical/ electronic systems must perform flawlessly. The company, led by president Bob Lymer, has received many industry awards recognizing its engineering excellence. Advantage caught up with Lymer, who shares his insights on achieving success on some of the most demanding projects. Advantage: What is MBII most known for?

Bob Lymer: We provide comprehensive and integrated engineering services for multiple and related electrical and electronic systems that are innovative, resilient, and adaptable for new-building construction and the repurposing or renovation of existing buildings. MBII is best known for our ability to work from large infrastructure right down to tenant fit-up. ADV: How did you get your start in this industry?

BL: After earning a Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of Toronto in 1986, I worked for Totten Sims Hubicki Associates Consulting Engineers as a junior engineer. To broaden my career, I joined MBII in 1987 as an electrical engineer before moving up the ranks and eventually becoming president in 2006.

MBII caters to large office buildings like this one, where an extensive electrical framework is required.

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I spent seven years working on a large airport project in Toronto, where I honed my expertise in complex systems design and engineering. I saw the potential for large, complex, overlapping system design, and this intense experience was quickly followed by additional airport projects around the world that helped MBII emerge as experts in the field. advantagemagazine.ca


1986–2007

1955

gerry mulvey starts mulvey engineering

1964

husayn banani creates a .h. banani and associates ltd., an electrical-engineering firm

various divisions are formalized, such as it/ communications engineering, security, lighting design, and audio / visual design

1981

Company timeline

Specializing in providing Theatrical Support Lighting to Design teams, Consultants, Architects and Theme Park Attraction Designers, Dan is often brought onto a project to provide special accent lighting for Architectural Elements or animated sequences. Dan’s team specializes in all types of lighting control, lighting playback, astrological time clock controls, SMPTE time code, Daylight harvesting and Button stations Preset configurations. Team work is the key and those who work with Dan really appreciate his attention to detail and his creative ability to ‘think-tank’ outside of the box.

the two firms form mulvey & banani international inc.

2009

acoustic design division is formalized

2011

leed / sustainability service is formalized

Meet Dan Tulloch! Senior Project Manager

ADV: How does your background influence your business decisions?

BL: My personal experience on large and difficult multistakeholder projects has helped to shape MBII’s direction as a multifaceted consultant. I continue to act as the “eyes and ears” of the company, responding to and filtering through opportunities presented by the marketplace, but I also believe in giving staff a great deal of autonomy to do their jobs.

Testimonial: Toronto International Film Festival

“ Dan and his team listened to TIFF’s

requirements and delivered a design proposal that exceeded our requirements and expectations but supported our budget constraints. The final lighting system design supported TIFF’s dynamic and evolving theatrical lighting requirements which included both theatrical and presentation formats. The Christie Lite’s team was always focused on TIFF’s goals and made sure that everything possible was done to support these.

ADV: What recent accomplishments are you most proud of?

BL: We completed work on some high-profile tower projects in downtown Toronto such as the RBC Centre, 18 York Street, 25 York Street, and the Bay Adelaide Centre, all of which involved sustainable/LEED features. 18 York was designed to consume up to 30 percent less energy than the Model National Energy Code for Buildings standard, with a highly efficient lighting system that uses occupancy sensors and solar shades, integrated dimmable lighting systems, and separate meters for tenants to measure energy consumption.

As you promised your team has been amazing and performed a lot of magic to make sure we exceeded expectations during this years festival. “ -Grant Te Brugge

Director, Bell Lightbox Technology TIFF Bell Lightbox, Reitman Square

ADV: What allows you to thrive while working on such large projects?

BL: Complex building projects give MBII the opportunity to apply niche expertise in

647 477 8360 Bob Lymer, president.

Dan Tulloch dtull@christielitessales.com

www.christielitessales.com advantagemagazine.ca

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expertise

mulvey & banani international inc.

executive insight > “It is easier to lose a client than to find a new one. Therefore the service, the quality of work, and the follow-up must be second to none—no excuses!” –bob lymer, president

the most optimal way; there is great opportunity to achieve a seamless converged solution, maximizing systems potential while reducing cost. ADV: What is on the horizon for the rest of 2011?

BL: We provide sustainable engineeringdesign solutions such as solar-photovoltaic farms, energy-efficient lighting, and innovative control systems, but we will expand in this area. We’ve launched an additional line of business focused on managing the sustainable system design and LEED certification process to address the growing need for this service. ADV: What is the best business decision you’ve made?

BL: To remain independent and offer our services solely as electrical engineers. Many of our competitors have developed in-house mechanical engineering departments or merged with multidiscipline architectural/engineering firms. Our focus on all things electrical and electronic has allowed us to embellish our core service and innovate with our related specialties, attracting talent and promoting a collaboration of disciplines. ADV: Describe the main business challenges you face. How do you overcome them?

BL: We must overcome the common perception of clients that mechanical/electrical firms can deliver superior integration of the two systems. MBII has guarded our independence 22

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as a separate electrical engineering firm, believing that it is imperative that owners and prime consultants select major disciplines independently without undue influence from a related discipline. ADV: What is unique about how you manage MBII?

BL: Uniqueness in running an operation ultimately comes from the character you bring to client relationships, the way problem solving gets stick handled, and what one does with client feedback. We do our best to model this to all employees and have it permeate through the company. We also focus on developing our staff and promoting from within. As a junior engineer, my predecessors gave me and my partners the opportunity to grow, shape, and then manage this company. We are convinced some of our successors are part of our current 78-member staff. It is our job to get them there. _a

A message from lutron electronics co., inc.:

Lutron Electronics Co., Inc., headquartered in Coopersburg, PA, is the world leader in the design and manufacture of light control solutions for both residential and commercial applications.The company offers a wide variety of lighting controls, whole-home and whole-building dimming systems, and electronically controlled shading solutions. Lutron products save energy, increase space flexibility, and enhance occupant comfort and productivity, making them essential to any home and building. For more information, view www.lutron.com. advantagemagazine.ca


brokerteam insurance solutions inc.

expertise

Royal Leung (third from right) and BrokerTeam’s other partners pooled their resources together in 2005 to create a solid financial strategy, eventually forming BrokerTeam in 2006.

office zen BrokerTeam Insurance Solutions Inc. strikes a balance between hard work and workplace harmony to serve growing Chinese and Korean communities in Ontario as told to ruth e. dávila

W

hen Royle Leung left his native Hong Kong, China, for Toronto’s York University, he had high hopes of climbing the ranks of a multinational firm. But upon graduation, his job search landed on insurance sales, where he struggled to find professional challenges—until he made a fundamental shift: Leung began selling insurance products of greater complexity and, as a result, adopted the mindset of a specialized consultant. His new outlook sparked a business boom, and today Leung is cofounder and

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president of an Ontario-based BrokerTeam Insurance Solutions, which is on the fast track, serving diverse Asian communities. The secret to his success, he says, is harmony. Advantage: How did you transition from insurance salesman to brokerage owner?

Royle Leung: With intense planning and risk management. I teamed up with four partners, including my brother, Andy M. Leung, and others I had known for a long time. We pooled our resources and created a solid

financial plan in 2005. In 2006, we opened the doors to BrokerTeam Insurance Solutions Inc. in Richmond Hill, Ontario. ADV: Opening in Richmond Hill was strategic, given its large Chinese community. How do you cater to these customers?

RL: All of BrokerTeam’s founders and most sales staff are of Chinese heritage—just like the majority of our customers. The most important benefit is language: our sales brokers speak Chinese (typically Cantonese) in daily communications, and we have key literature available in Chinese. The second benefit is that they understand the customers’ culture. Third, the familiarity of a shared language and culture puts customers at ease and engenders trust, which is the key ingredient in insurance sales. ADV: What types of insurance does BrokerTeam offer? advantage

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expertise

2005

brokerteam insurance solutions inc.

brokerteam insurance solutions inc. is founded by five partners: royle leung, james hui, andy m. leung, corey chan, and andy w. leung

2006

operations begin in a 4,000 -square-foot office in richmond hill , ontario, and serve 2,000 clients

2009

a branch office is added in markham, ontario, and the company moves to an 11,000 -square-foot office next to the previous location

2010

Company timeline

2007

the subsidiary company, coreservice insurance brokers inc., is launched as the first korean property- and casualty-insurance brokerage in ontario, and brokerteam group of companies employs more than 80 staff members and associates

a branch office is added in mississauga , ontario

RL: BrokerTeam Insurance Solutions offers several varieties—commercial, auto, home, life, and health insurance. Our mortgage arm, BrokerTeam Mortgage Corporation, provides residential mortgages. Our newest subsidiary, CoreService Insurance Brokers Inc., offers property and casualty insurance to the Korean community. We believe CoreService is the first and only Korean managed brokerage servicing the community in Ontario. ADV: Why do you think you have been so successful in marketing your services?

RL: Personal recommendations are crucial. We have a lot of clients who are related to one another, or are neighbours, or business acquaintances. But even though a recommendation is powerful, it will only get them in the door; then we have to deliver. Insurance is a “people business.” Clients seek advice from professional brokers whenever they need it. At BrokerTeam, we are sensitive and responsive at all times, but especially during claims. We believe that is when clients most need our support and help. ADV: Times are tough, but your company is expanding. What is your philosophy for a sustainable business?

RL: An old Chinese proverb says there are three factors for success: timing, place, and human harmony. We strive to maintain a harmonic work environment. This goes beyond treating staff with respect and fairness. We also 24

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create frequent opportunities to engage with employees. We host family dinners, to which spouses or other relatives are invited, as well as company barbecues, Chinese New Year parties, happy hours, and other events. But we also have business gatherings, such as high tea in the boardroom, to discuss the latest insurance products. If we have happy people, we will have happy clients who continue to make referrals. ADV: How does “harmony” play out in different contexts?

RL: Harmony is a broad concept we weave into all our operations. As we expand, we create new opportunities for people who are ready to move up. This motivates everyone within the office, since the wait for promotions isn’t drawn out. Our objective is to stay dynamic so that our people don’t get bored easily. We must enjoy our work in order to perform well and live happily. Harmony can also apply to the physical environment. For example, our offices are completely paperless; all our data is stored on the computer system. Excessive papers create unnecessary stress and disorganization, but with electronic filing, we can increase harmony. We keep a young spirit by testing new technologies from time to time, which creates agility. We also partner with insurance companies in unique ways. All of this allows us to keep our edge—and to stay in harmony with the market. _a advantagemagazine.ca


quickmill inc.

expertise

machine makers For more than two decades, Quickmill Inc. has been a go-to company for custom machining and milling by tom calarco

G

ord Buchholz developed his passion for the machine-tool industry from his father, who was a machinist for General Electric. It’s an influence that has shaped up well for Buchholz, who is the president and CEO of Quickmill, an international machine manufacturer based in Peterborough, Ontario. And today, his father’s advice still helps propel the company forward. “I learned two lessons from my dad,” Buchholz says. “Work harder than is expected of you, and, if you never make a mistake, then you haven’t tried hard enough.” The story of Quickmill doesn’t begin with Buchholz, however. Instead, the company was founded by Dave Piggott, who still works for the company as its vice president and technical director. He was operating a small machine shop in Oakville, Ontario, during the 1980s when he designed and built a small drilling machine to save on in-house labour. One of his customers asked him to build a similar machine for him. Piggott designed a machine tailored to the customer’s needs, and this was the start of the company that eventually became Quickmill. A talented innovator, Piggott partnered with a marketing professional, Joe Lipsett, in 1993. This led to an expansion effort that has turned Quickmill into an internationally successful machinery manufacturer in which Buchholz has played a significant role. After studying tool-and-die production at Sir Sandford Fleming College in Peterborough, Buchholz began his professional career at a plastics company before joining Quickmill in 1991. “I did any job that needed to be done,” he says, “and was put in charge of mechanical assembly and service jobs in the field.”

Gord Buchholz, president and CEO, has found success by working harder than what is expected.

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Buchholz credits much of his success to Lipsett, who became his mentor when Lipsett became a partner. By 1999, Buchholz had moved into sales. “I focused on the southern states in the oil-patch region and developed a strong relationship with a group of companies advantage

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quickmill inc.

expertise

1984

2002

dave piggott incorporates quickmill inc.

2007

batliboi ltd. purchases quickmill inc.

intimidator machine is launched

1993

2010

joe lipsett becomes equal partner with dave piggott

Company timeline

gord buchholz is named president and ceo

1999

1998

quickdrill machine is launched

belonging to the Tubular Exchanger Manufacturers Association [TEMA],” he says. TEMA’s companies manufacture heat exchangers used for drilling in the oil industry, and Quickmill’s machines were able to produce the complex parts necessary for the heat exchangers. “We concentrate on large part machining,” Buchholz says, “which means if your product is larger than a 5’ x 5’ envelope, our services come into play.” Quickmill features three main product lines: the Quickdrill, the Intimidator, and the Eliminator, all of which come in various sizes to fit the job. “The Quickdrill and Intimidator products are focused on the heavy-drilling industries for the heat transfer and structural steel markets,” Buchholz says. “The Eliminator machines are our top-of-the-line 26

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2011

staff hits 65 employee mark

quickdrill hd machine is launched

2005

eliminator machine is launched

heavy-milling machines that are sold to the metal-cutting industry in many sectors—like aerospace, heavy equipment, and companies making large parts, like Caterpillar.” Buchholz became sales director in 2001 as the company focused on international sales. While less than one percent of their business was overseas in 1999, it tops 50 percent today. Buchholz credits this expansion—as well as Quickmill’s dedication to a quality product— as a major reason in the company being in business today. Another cornerstone for Quickmill’s success is an unmatched customer service. “Our customers come to us because we are a small company with a reputation for customer service that is unmatched in the industry,” Buchholz says. “While we are typically a higher-priced

solution, we give a higher value of commitment and quality than our competition.” In 2007, Quickmill was sold to Batliboi Ltd., an international engineering firm based in India. The merger gives Quickmill, a global scope as it continues to upgrade its product line. “We have a new product release starting right now our Quickdrill HD2 machine that will replace our current Intimidator line of machinery,” Buchholz says. “And we have already started a new project for a machine that will ‘kill’ the Quickdrill HD2 machine in two years.” Such progress bodes well for Quickmill. These developments echo in spirit the advice of Buchholz’s father all those years ago: the successful are those who are willing to keep working harder. _a advantagemagazine.ca


sal engineering ltd.

expertise

mentor of mine was a partner and invited me to join the firm. That was 31 years ago. When one partner left the firm, I was promoted to junior partner. Then when my mentor decided to pursue other business interests, he sold his shares in the company to me. ADV: How many employees does SAL Engineering have?

DP: We started out with 3 or 4. Now we have 13 employees year-round, and we add another 2 employees during the summer months when the workload is heavier. Those employees include 4 professional engineers, 3 engineers in training, a technologist, and administrative staff. ADV: What growth strategies have you employed for your company?

Don Poon, managing director, believes in steady growth for his company, in order to avoid the feast-or-famine cycle of some firms around the industry.

a better infrastructure With a wide spectrum of projects under its belt, SAL Engineering Ltd. has provided key services in Saskatchewan’s continued development as told to stewart lytle

S

AL Engineering managing director Don Poon remembers the hard early days in the 1980s when the young engineering firm struggled to get its first projects. But today, with the booming Saskatchewan economy, he believes the bigger challenge is knowing when to say “no” to projects to keep from hampering the company’s biggest asset—its reputation for delivering a quality project every time. Advantage recently talked with Poon about the company’s services and where it plans on heading next. Advantage: Tell us a little about the company. What services does SAL Engineering offer?

Don Poon: Our company provides engineering advantagemagazine.ca

services for infrastructure projects and projectmanagement services for a variety of clients from the federal government to local real-estate developers. We have engineered and managed all types of municipal projects, including water plants, sewage-treatment facilities, subdivisions, low-pressure water pipelines, health clinics, and schools. We are proud to have participated in projects totaling over $250 million in value for Saskatchewan residents. We believe we are helping the environment, helping the province grow, and having a lot of fun along the way. ADV: How did you get your start with SAL Engineering?

DP: I started with the firm that would become SAL Engineering right out of college when a

DP: I prefer steady growth to rapid growth, so we do not suffer the feast-or-famine cycle. Our growth strategy has been to build a reputation for being a stable company that delivers a quality project with minimal risk exposure to our clients. We are very meticulous and pay a great deal of attention to detail. Because of this, most of our projects come from referrals. ADV: How have you recruited and retained your employees?

DP: The majority of our employees have been with us for many years. Most come to us right out of college and stay. I tell my employees, “If you don’t enjoy coming to work each day, then perhaps it is time for a change, regardless of the pay.” Remember that money is not everything. We enjoy social networking within the firm, and we do a lot of cross-training of employees so everybody can help one another—that way we have a depth of skills and knowledge within the firm. ADV: What is the best business decision you have ever made?

DP: When I was young and the firm was struggling, I had the chance to take a secure position with the government. The position had better pay and benefits. I decided to stay with SAL Engineering and worked hard to build this company. That decision has really paid off for me. ADV: What solutions have you used to overcome business challenges?

DP: The key to solving most business challenges is having the right team, being efficient, working hard and working smart, and being responsive to the client’s needs. _a advantage

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Success looks the part. The Nokia C6-01. SAL Engineering Ltd. is a locally owned Saskatchewan firm, providing consulting services in municipal and transportation engineering as well as project management.

Quality. The new Nokia C6-01 is a premium, feature-rich full touch smartphone. Made of high quality stainless steel and glass with ClearBlack display, it’s perfect for business and personal use. Loaded. The Nokia C6-01 is loaded with high-end features like 8MP camera, 720p HD recording and free voice guided navigation, find your way in more than 70 countries and choose from 46 languages. Compatible. Extensive email options designed for business and personal use. Setup is quick and easy with the onboard wizard and industry standard applications QuickOffice, Flash, and Zip compression are included. Secure. The Nokia C6-01 is secure with pre-installed F-Secure Anti-Theft and malware software. Lock it, wipe it, or locate it, all from your remote location. And integrated carrier billing with Ovi Store allows you to choose from 1000’s of apps, easily and securely, with no need for credit cards! The new Nokia C6-01.

ENGINEERING

What will you do with yours? nokia.ca/C6-01

SURVEY ASSESSMENT PRE-DESIGN DESIGN BIDDING COORDINATION GENERAL ENGINEERING SITE INSPECTION POST-CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTATION

PROJECT MANAGEMENT MEETING ORGANIZATION & LEADERSHIP PROJECT DOCUMENTATION PROJECT ACCOUNT ADMINISTRATION FINANCIAL TRACKING APPROVAL DOCUMENTS AND TERMS OF REFERENCE PREPARATION

2220 AVENUE C NORTH SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN S7L 6C3 (306) 653-4511 www.salengineering.ca 28

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Nokia C6-01

© 2011 Nokia. All rights reserved. Nokia, Nokia Connecting People, Ovi, and C6-01 are trademarks or registered trademarks of Nokia Corporation. Other company and product names may be trademarks or trade names of their respective owners. Many features are network dependent and require network support. Some networks have limitations that affect how you can use phone features. Contact your service provider about feature support and availability. advantagemagazine.ca


products & services Effective methods for delivering the goods 29 Wireless Personal Communications Inc. 32 Overseas Promotions Ltd. 38 LeisureDays RV Centre 40 Energold Drilling Corp.

34 Sharper

36 TCE Capital Corporation

From left: Dave Williamson and Rick Kojfman, founding partners.

keeping up with the airwaves Wireless Personal Communications Inc. has made a name for itself in the industry by bringing the best communications technology to its clients by tricia despres

W

ireless Personal Communications Inc. (WPCI) has been providing cell-phone, Blackberry, wireless-Internet, and corporate-sales support throughout Canada since 1987. Led by company president Rick Kojfman and vice president David Williamson, WPCI thrives on the bond these two men created long before they went into business together.

“We met on bicycles,” Williamson says, laughing. “We grew up in the same neighbourhood advantagemagazine.ca

as kids and stayed in touch throughout our lives. When we first started the business, we shared one desk with two chairs. We had three or four boxes of inventory stacked up behind us.” Since day one, WCPI has been completely selffinanced and never needed to secure financing from the bank. Momentum has been present since the beginning: the company increased its sales by 400 percent in its second month. Ever since, the well-known wireless provider and Bell Canada partner has thrived on a client

base that covers most market verticals, including healthcare, government, law enforcement, and transportation. In order to ensure that the customer’s best interests are always WPCI’s top priority, Williamson had developed a sales strategy with a clear understanding of the business market’s expectations and needs. “The culture of our business starts with the two of us and ripples outward to our team members,” Williamson says. “We have never subscribed to traditional hierarchies. We are advantage

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products & services

wireless personal communications inc.

Your brand is built by people, not fancy ad campaigns. There’s an innate, karmic intelligence to branding. It

like the power button on a handset. Our staff represent all other keys; if the ‘four’ key isn’t working, it has an effect on the end result.” Currently, WPCI has more than 100 employees at 10 different locations, some of which offer a full range of services such as installation, service, and repair capabilities for cellular units and hands-free kits. Because Kojfman and Williamson have been in the wireless business since the beginning, the duo has had the fortune of witnessing advances in technology firsthand. “We have seen the industry evolve from large and cumbersome devices to state-of-the-art Blackberries and iPhones,” Kojfman says. “There are multimedia options out there that we only dreamed about just a few short years ago. It’s like arriving in the promised land.” The tablet and other wireless developments are developments WCPI is excited to bring to its corporate clients. “It really has helped close the gap between the standard smartphone and the laptop,” Williamson says. “I also enjoy exploring custom wireless solutions for our corporate clients. The whole idea of GPS tracking can in itself help a company better manage its assets and vastly improve efficiencies.” The process of integrating new technology isn’t always easy, as the speed in which technology is evolving delivers inherent challenges. “You can either fight the wave of change, or enjoy every moment and ride it,” Kojfman says. “There is never a dull moment in this business, and you must always be there to disseminate all the info that is coming in. Our staff does a fantastic job of retaining the information and sharing it with all of our customers.” Translating these advances in technology to the company’s ever-growing customer base is a necessity. WCPI focuses on the customer experience rather than the sale, as securing 30

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either works or it doesn’t and

the takeaway >

the fine line between success and failure hinges on being

“You can either fight the wave of change or enjoy every moment and ride it.”

real. That’s why we help build

–rick kojfman, president

doing with Vancouver’s

a customer early can guarantee a lifelong relationship. “Our job is not to convince a customer to try one product over another,” Williamson says. “It’s about understanding their specific needs and aligning them with the right product that could truly benefit them. Customers rely on our guidance, and we pride ourselves in being a company that is totally focused on the customer. Customer service is not a department but an attitude.”

living, lasting brands from the inside out – just like we’re Habañero Consulting Group. check out Habañero’s brand workshop at:

www.taiji.ca/video/habanero/

Ultimately, the unending supply of technological advances and the unpredictability of working within an ever-evolving industry are elements that the WCPI team really enjoys. “You never know what the day will hold, which makes it a very exciting industry to be a part of,” Williamson says. “Every day is a new challenge.” And, based on its success thus far, WCPI can certainly handle it. _a A message from nokia:

The stylish new Nokia C6-covers all your business needs. Easily setup e-mail accounts including Mail for Exchange, IBM Lotus Traveler, with full synchronization of your contacts, calendars, and to-do lists. QuickOffice lets you view and edit your Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Plus support for compressed files, Flash, and PDF. F-Secure AntiTheft will keep your information safe with remote lock, wipe, and locate.The Nokia C6-01 also offers Nokia’s Ovi services. With Ovi Maps, you get free voice-guided walk and drive navigation in over 70 countries, and with Ovi Store you can download thousands of apps. Success looks the part with the Nokia C6-01.

branding the inside story advantagemagazine.ca


Product storage, marketing, & distribution

Overseas Promotions advantagemagazine.ca

704 Spadina Ave, P.O. Box 657 Toronto, ON M5S 2Y4 P:416.918.5927 E: oversizesave@yahoo.com advantage

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products & services

overseas promotions ltd.

across the pond Overseas Promotions Ltd. bridges the geographic distances between markets to distribute some of North America’s biggest products abroad by julie schaeffer

N

orth American and European products don’t ship themselves to developing markets, but the fact that you’ve never wondered how you can drink a Labatt’s beer in Uganda or buy a Procter & Gamble razor in Japan shows that Jay Luthra of Overseas Promotions is doing his job well.

Luthra, who founded his company in 1990, came from an entrepreneurial background. The self-proclaimed “black sheep” of his family, Luthra rejected a career in the family business in Tanzania in order to study and launch a food-and-beverage business in the United Kingdom. “I wanted to see what I could do,” he says. Within two years, Luthra had built his food-and-beverage business to more than $10 million in annual sales—but he wasn’t content to rest on his success, so he began moving around the globe. In 1977, Luthra relocated to the Middle East to work with a former schoolmate who was the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates. Later, in 1981, he settled in Long Island, New York, to work. Then, in 1990, yet another move was in order, as attractive business incentives lured Luthra north to Canada. During those years, Luthra was simultaneously developing his next business idea: Overseas Promotions, which would come to distribute North American and European products in overseas markets. “We buy products from all the big boys—Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Unilever, Phillip Morris, Seagram’s—and sell them in other parts of the world,” Luthra says. The company currently works in the Far East, the Middle East, and Africa.

Overseas Promotions distributes North American and European products throughout the globe.

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It’s appropriate to consider why such large companies don’t consider handling international promotion themselves instead of opting for Overseas Promotions. The truth is that advantagemagazine.ca


overseas promotions ltd.

products & services

the takeaway > “I’ve been working in this business for 40 years, so I have a broad and deep knowledge of this field. I also keep my word. Honesty and reliability are important to me, and the companies I work with know they can trust me to do what I say I am going to do.” –jay luthra, president & founder

they can but choose not to. “They have the capacity, but it costs a lot to store and market the product, and you have to have the knowledge of local languages, regulations, and customs,” Luthra explains. “It’s more convenient for them to have me store, market, and distribute the product for them.” The process varies depending on the situation. In many cases, Overseas Promotions has an exclusive agreement to distribute a particular company’s products in a particular region or country. In other cases, Overseas Promotions has more of what Luthra calls “a handshake agreement.” In both cases, however, Overseas Promotions buys a company’s products, has them shipped in a cargo container to a central location in Rotterdam, Holland, then distributes them within their respective destination countries through local distributors, such as retail chains. In other instances, Overseas Promotions is called upon to solve a particular problem. For example, Labatt Brewing Company encountered a problem when it wanted to sell its beer in Japanese vending machines. “The company discovered, well into the process, that the beer cans wouldn’t fit in the vending machines, so it was stuck with almost one million cases of beer,” Luthra says. “I was Labatt Brewing advantagemagazine.ca

Company’s distributor for the African markets, so it called me and asked me to take the beer off its hands.” All of this is handled by Overseas Promotions’ staff of 15 employees. The company has distribution agreements with 20 companies in 4 countries—a level of success Luthra attributes to his international experience and his commitment to doing business with integrity.

services offered > Overseas Promotions buys products from Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Unilever, Phillip Morris, Seagram’s, and other large global companies, and distributes them in the Far East, the Middle East, and Africa. The company is working on expanding into India.

The timing couldn’t be better: the World Bank estimates that the global middle class—the primary consumers of products the company distributes—is likely to grow from 430 million in 2000 to 1.15 billion in 2030. Next up for the company is expansion in India, which, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, is likely to be the fifth-largest consumer market by 2025. Luthra visited the country in January 2010, but is currently delayed by an insurance issue. Additionally, Overseas Promotions is seeking a $10 million umbrella policy with Export Development Canada, under which EDC pays Luthra 95 percent of the cost of a contract if a customer does not pay. “We have a commitment, and we’re working on getting it implemented,” Luthra says. “India is a large market, so we’re eager to go there.” _a advantage

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products & services

sharper

a two-day turnaround and an easy-to-use website for quick online ordering. The ability to turn around such products with ease is the result of cutting-edge digital-printing techniques. “We basically create a graphics file that includes the design elements and then input the copy, contact information, or message that the client wants printed on cards and send it to a digital press,” Nawrocki explains. The ease of the ordering process couples with a large product base to secure Sharper clients from both Canada and the United States. This growth has been carefully groomed at each stage of the company’s evolution, beginning with the original foray into dental promotions. Once that business began to take off, it was only natural to expand from dentists into other markets. From left: Susan Nawrocki, president; Dave Thirkell, operations manager; Janice Nielson, creative services director; Jason Wingert, controller; Maria Block, marketing manager; Dave Itter, IS manager; and Amanda Harry, sales manager.

products your way Sharper helps companies hone their brand by providing easyto-customize marketing products by kori kamradt

F

or some companies, the idea of personalizing products for more than 30,000 customers may sound like a logistical nightmare, but for Sharper it’s just business as usual. In fact, they’re still growing nicely despite the economic downturn.

The company began back in 1985, when Sharper began to offer dentists a way to reach out to current and prospective patients by developing 12 customizable card templates. Sharper sent out a one-page flyer advertising this personalized service and hoped for the best. Now, more than 25 years later, its products are seen worldwide. Today, Sharper is about much more than the cards. The company offer a full line of 34

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communication and promotional products— everything from postcards, folding cards, and appointment cards to tote bags, calendars, stationary, magnets, cups, and toothbrushes. The aim of all the products? To help the company’s clients build brand support and increase patient or client loyalty. “We offer communication and promotional products and services that address those needs,” says Susan Nawrocki, president of Sharper. With all the products, hundreds of design options, and the bevy of customers, it might sound like a lot of work to customize every order with names, contact information, and messages, but Nawrocki says Sharper has a fast and efficient way of getting things done. So efficient, in fact, that the company offers

Sharper has developed quite a niche, primarily focused in healthcare—which includes dentists, chiropractors, veterinarians, eye-care and hearing professionals, massage therapists, physical therapists, homeopathic practitioners, and other members of the industry. The success in the healthcare niche has led the company to pursue other industries, with products available in such sectors as financial planning, insurance, auto repair, and other service industries. Tapping into new markets requires Sharper to harness a few different tools. First, the company relies on the tried-and-true method of renting and purchasing mailing lists and catalogues to prospective customers. However, in the last couple of years, the Internet has become the most efficient and affordable tool to connect with new client bases. To get the word out online, Sharper advertises with Google and pay-per-click ads, and also promotes products using social-media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and a company blog. The flexibility of new tools in social media allows Sharper to not only promote its products, but gives the company a means to provide its followers with business advice, keep its clients up-to-date on company happenings, and is a venue to announce contests. “In the last number of years, the web has just advantagemagazine.ca


exploded,” Nawrocki says. “It’s the new way to reach people, though it’s quickly becoming the normal way.” To keep up with all this technology, Sharper is also working hard to keep its website and products current and innovative. The company is working on new functionality that will allow customers to pick a design, modify it, and personalize it with ease. “[The web] allows us to take our core competencies and branch them into new markets,” Nawrocki says. “Because it’s so cost efficient to market online, we can reach out to these other markets in an affordable manner.” Even with all of Sharper’s mailings, Internet advertising, and social-media endeavours, the number-one way the company gains new customers and opens new markets is through solid customer service and word-of-mouth referrals. “In the marketplace, we’re known as being a really great company in the service arena,” Nawrocki explains.

www.facebook.com/sharpermarketing www.twitter.com/e_sharper www.blog.e-sharper.com

Technology and marketing wizardry aside, at the heart of this business, with almost three decades of success under its belt, is a steadfast philosophy. “We’re extremely caring,” Nawrocki says. “The products we sell are fun, and so is our shopping experience.” _a John A. Smith

Gene 110 Pacifi ral Practice c Avenue , San Fran cisco, CA Suite 850 94111-19 (800) 56100 6677

the takeaway > “In the marketplace, we’re known as being a really great company in the service arena. We’re extremely caring. The products we sell are fun, and so is our shopping experience. We offer high-quality products, so if anything goes wrong, we replace it for free. It’s a worldclass shopping experience.”

Smith John A. ractice eneral P

850 G e, Suite ific Avenu 94111-1900 110 Pac A C o, sc ci San Fran 00) 561-6677 (8

– susan nawrocki, president advantagemagazine.ca

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products & services

tce capital corporation

credit where credit is due Toronto-based TCE Capital Corporation finances small and midsize companies when the bank is not enough by brogan russell

N

early every month, TCE Capital loses a client to bank financing. And they’re happy about it. “Every one of those bank financings reinforces our business model,” says Glen Dalzell, vice president of sales and marketing. “We provide bridge and bulge financing to companies that are growing too fast for their bank, or have hit a financial or business bump in the road. Once the balance sheet catches up to the income statement or a structural problem has been rectified, it is time for our clients to graduate back to bank rates.”

TCE Capital provided $375 million in funding to companies across Canada last year, and

sales in 2011 are already up over 20 percent. Funding facilities between $250,000 and $4 million have been provided to companies covering every spectrum of the economy, from start-ups to public companies. Eightyfive percent of clients are referred from the accounting and banking communities.

An unexpected loss of a contract or major currency-exchange swings have adversely affected profitability, and the company’s bank is restricting or reviewing availability of credit lines. At a time when all energies are required for sales or production, an inordinate amount of time is spent on financing.

A typical TCE Capital client usually fits into one of two scenarios. In the first, a good base business suddenly has sales taking off to the point that existing bank lines cannot finance growth. A financing facility is required from TCE Capital that is flexible and grows with sales. The second scenario is becoming more prevalent in troubled financial times.

“I am always surprised and pleased with the quality of TCE Capital applicants,” says Ian Croskell, vice president of finance and administration. “Overall, all businesses have three areas of responsibility: sales, production/supply, and finance. The vast majority of entrepreneurs that I deal with are specialists in sales and production/supply, but are too often content to

services offered > Accounts Receivable Factoring: Converts accounts receivables into immediate cash, without diluting equity or incurring debt. Asset-Based Lending: Provides financing facilities secured by inventory as well as equity in equipment and/or real estate. SR&ED Tax Credit Financing: Finances scientific research and experimental development tax credits. Bridge Financing: Provides immediate funding to allow business owners to focus on operations rather than financing.

Glen Dalzell, vice president of sales and marketing.

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Ian Croskell, vice president of finance and administration.

Bulge Financing: For clients who want to retain their existing bank financing but require additional funding to meet their working capital requirements.

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tce capital corporation

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Hughes, Dorsch, Garland, Coles, LLP Barristers & Solicitors

the takeaway > “There are many success stories in the files for TCE Capital. Last year, a financial-services company that TCE Capital financed for $1 million in the 1990s was sold for more than $250 million. The owner thanked us for keeping the dream alive at a time when detractors were a lot more plentiful than supporters. Some days are better than others, and that was one of the very best for Team TCE.” – glen dalzell, vice president of sales & marketing

let finance drag behind. I have witnessed the best hires available in production at the same company where a neighbour’s brother-in-law is coming in two nights a week to prepare financials with an abacus in the background. A slight exaggeration, but I do find that one of the value-adds that TCE Capital brings is a professionalization of the finance function in concert with the entrepreneur’s external advisors. The structure that our financings bring to the client puts them in good stead when the balance sheet says it’s time to return to bank or other institutional financing.” Croskell has seen a lot of change in his more than 40 years of direct lending experience. “In today’s competitive international marketplace, it is a rare company that has the leverage to pass on 10 percent currency-exchange swings or can recover from major industry setbacks quickly,” he continues. “When an applicant comes to TCE Capital, we have over a century of direct-lending experience available in our Credit Committee to ascertain quickly whether we are looking at a financial wart or a potential viability cancer. Our clients deal directly with our decision makers—a refreshing change from traditional lending.” TCE Capital has been at the forefront of a number of industry initiatives since its inception in Toronto in 1992. Since the beginning, TCE Capital has proudly identified itself as a financial boutique rather than an institution. “We are advising our clients that they

can’t be everything to everyone,” Dalzell says. “It is increasingly more important to provide a service or product as the expert. Full kudos to banks and other financial providers with 40-plus products; it’s just not the route for us or our client base.” TCE Capital is the industry leader in non-notification invoice-discounting funding. Many funders are intrusive in the client/ customer relationship by vetting and confirming invoices with the end user. TCE Capital allows their customers to continue business as usual and rarely is involved with the end customer. Croskell is somewhat bemused by the industry staple and puts it succinctly: “If you don’t trust your client, why finance them in the first place?” he says. Since TCE Capital is selective in its funding approvals, it is able to offer some of the lowest rates in its industry. “We provide non-notification funding for as low as 1.5 percent per month without a long-term commitment,” Dalzell says. “Basically, our clients are left with the pleasant choice to date us or marry someone else. We’re not interested in shotgun weddings.” With the lower rates and transparent funding model comes responsibility. “If you cannot provide your management team and TCE Capital with timely and accurate financial information, we’re not the funder for you,” Croskell says. More than 500 growing companies have found TCE Capital as their solution. _a

Hughes, Dorsch, Garland, Coles LLP is a long-established law firm situated in the core of downtown Toronto. We have a distinguished reputation for excellence in providing high-quality legal services in the areas of corporate law, commercial real estate, corporate services for both for-profit and not-for-profit corporations, commercial lending and other secured financings, wills and estate planning.

As one of TCE Capital’s select professional advisors, we are proud to support “Team TCE” with timely and practical legal services and advice appropriate to their products and services and sensitive to the needs of their clients.

Contact Richard E. Coles Hughes, Dorsch, Garland, Coles LLP 365 Bay Street, Suite 400 Toronto, Ontario M5H 2V1 Ph: (416) 868-1300 | Fax: (416) 861-1147 E-mail: coleslaw@hdgc.on.ca

Visit us online at www.hdgc.net advantagemagazine.ca

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products & services

LeisureDays RV Centre

leading the way Top products from manufacturers help LeisureDays RV Centre stay on top of Canada’s RV industry by zach baliva

C

hances are, a Canadian in the market for an RV, motor home, fifth wheel, travel trailer, or toy hauler has heard of LeisureDays RV Centre. The Ontario-based company is the nation’s largest RV retailer, with 13 locations stretching from Manitoba to Nova Scotia. In 2009, Charlene Brunet joined the family business as president, bringing 24 years of automotive experience to the company. Brunet has a simple strategy: leverage LeisureDays’ considerable size to maintain growth

and attract favourable deals from manufacturers. Additionally, the company retains a diverse inventory to avoid self-competition. “Each store has its own product line from the manufacturers if they are in the same area,” Brunet explains. In the world of RV sales, manufacturer relationships are key. LeisureDays enjoys long-standing and exclusive partnerships with numerous large companies. These manufacturers reserve their best products solely

At BDO, we work to help you build your business. We are a leading national accounting and advisory firm that offers a breadth of expertise, innovative thinking, and valuable insight to every client who walks through our doors. Our experienced team of professionals provides assistance in: • • • • • • •

Assurance and accounting Taxation Financial recovery services Financial advisory services Risk advisory services Business transition services BDO Solutions

BDO congratulates TCE Capital for providing flexible funding to growing Canadian companies since 1992. We are proud of our longstanding relationship with TCE Capital. Allan Rudolph, CA Office Managing Partner Toronto North arudolph@bdo.ca 905 946 1066 www.bdo.ca BDO Canada LLP, a Canadian limited liability partnership, is a member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms.

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Charlene Brunet, president, keeps LeisureDays exclusive by providing the best products and services in the market.

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LeisureDays RV Centre

for LeisureDays. “We have a good reputation, and we sell a large number of products, so they view us as the top franchise in Canada,” Brunet says. “Our arrangement prevents local competitors from selling anything I’m already selling and have exclusive rights to.” How many is “a large number of products”? In a season, LeisureDays sells more than 8,000 trailers. As a result, the company can purchase large volumes of inventory, keep their prices low, and pass on their bulk savings. A company with high-volume orders and stored inventory must know its customers well—ordering thousands of the wrong product would be a fatal error. “One trailer might have 15 different layouts,” Brunet explains. “It is very important that we correctly anticipate what a customer will want.” Each year, Brunet’s 10 managers travel together to an RV show in the United States, where they spend a week learning about more than 500 new trailers before orders are placed. Staying connected to a large and diverse customer base is a challenge that yields huge dividends. LeisureDays’ products range from $7,000 pop-up trailers that attract young families to 35-foot, $50,000 models favoured by the over-40 crowd, even up to $600,000

the takeaway > “We sell more RVs than any other franchise in Canada, so the manufacturers give us exclusive rights to their products and trust us to sell them at consistent levels year after year. Other people can’t sell the same products, which is why these rights are so important to our success.” – charlene brunet, president advantagemagazine.ca

products & services

motor homes. Brunet and her managers deal with the eclectic demographic by carrying a wide inventory that will suit all age groups. With industry forecasters expecting a six percent sales increase this year, LeisureDays has increased its 2011 inventory accordingly. Service also helps attract and retain customers. Obviously, Brunet’s clients intend to travel. By purchasing their vehicle from a large national company, LeisureDays customers give themselves the best service options since they can visit any location for repairs and maintenance. More than selection and service, Brunet believes that customer satisfaction actually flows from employee satisfaction. “Happy employees make happy customers because their attitude is infectious,” she says. At each location, company executives stay hands-on through all levels of customer interaction in order to enhance communication and limit complaints. Finding talented salespeople is rarely a challenge because products often sell themselves. “People come to LeisureDays for something they want, not something they have to buy,” Brunet says. The salesperson’s job, then, is to match the customer to the right product based on several factors—family size, towing vehicle, and intended use. Although no one can predict the future, things are looking good for LeisureDays in 2011. Though Brunet is hoping that estimates of six percent growth are accurate, she’s prepared for all situations. In bad economies, LeisureDays promotes long-term financing from 12 to 20 years, which can drop payments to as low as $69 per month. Last year, another major partner—Costco— validated LeisureDays’ pricing and customer satisfaction. Again this 2011 season, the company’s lines of RVs and other products will appear at Costco stores throughout Canada. The move is a good sign for LeisureDays because an invitation to sell on its property means Costco is sending a clear message to its own customers: LeisureDays has the best price and best quality around. _a

Fordia has been providing productivity to Energold for several years. As a leading manufacturer and supplier of high-performance drilling equipment, our best assets are customer service and quality products. Add our offices and distributors located in more than 30 countries, and see the difference – global drilling solutions.

Fordia Vancouver T 604.940.1617 TF 1.877.275.1659 F 604.940.1614 www.fordia.com advantage

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products & services

energold drilling corp.

growing up by drilling down Energold Drilling Corp. has carved out a large niche by enlisting a socially conscious approach to drilling by david hudnall

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t’s a familiar story in the globalized world—a multinational company enters a community, strips it of its resources, and leaves a mess behind when those resources have been exhausted. If you’re that multinational company, you’re risking widespread resentment among citizens. People talk, and a negative public image makes it difficult to drum up new business.

However, Energold Drilling Corp. provides a reasonable solution: give the communities where you work an incentive to welcome you. The Vancouver-based company would know; it drills for large mining programs all over the world. “When you embark on a mining project, there will always be sensitivity in the social and environmental context, and you have to be very cognizant of that,” says Sunny Pannu, who heads up investor relations at the company. “When you employ local workers, they see more value to what you’re doing; thereby the social aspect of the program has been addressed.” But that isn’t all that’s required to engender goodwill. Drilling projects leave lasting imprints on the land regardless. Large holes are dug. Roads and other infrastructure are built to transport rigs. Plus, when drilling there’s incentive to make holes as large as possible because it results in a better sample of what is being drilled for. There are ways of accomplishing these tasks that lessen the toll of construction, and Energold has made a priority of exploring new, environmentally responsible methods of drilling. “When we drill, we’re conscious of the toxins that can end up on the land, and we reclaim the land so it can still be farmed,” Pannu says. “We don’t cut down trees—we drill around trees. On one particular project, we drilled for a client in Peru where the property overlapped some farmland on which a farmer had farmed rice for years. We left, and he’s still growing and harvesting rice on the same area we drilled.”

Sunny Pannu, head of investor relations, knows the only way to find success abroad is to be sensitive of the social and environmental context.

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Energold has been around in various iterations for decades, mostly as an exploration company in the gold-and-copper business. In the late 1990s, it was involved with a successful project using a mobile rig and determined that it advantagemagazine.ca


energold drilling corp.

products & services

Energold harnesses the mobility of man-portable rigs in order to provide a wider range of drilling services to its clients.

would get into the drilling business by specializing in man-portable rigs. Energold started a joint venture with another company, using its fleet of rigs in exchange for assisting in the areas of research and development, administration, and marketing. In 2005, the firm divested of that joint venture and began developing its own rigs through its own research and development program.

Mexico, to name a few—have hired Energold for projects in as far-flung locales as Tanzania, Sierra Leone, and Vietnam. On-site work, especially on brownfield sites, is an increasing focus of the firm’s operations. “We’re starting to go to more remote areas now, much like we did prior to the recession, where we do a lot of our surface drilling,” Pannu says. “We do mine sites and underground-mine-site programs as well.”

Today, Energold—under the guidance of CEO Fred Davidson—owns and operates more than 100 rigs in 20 countries worldwide.

The firm is home to 1,000 employees and includes a mix of part- and full-time drillers, drill helpers, and drill supervisors. In addition, Energold continues to grow, benefiting both from increased access to capital and a more aggressive attitude on the part of its clients. In the past three years, Energold has been recognized for its steady expansion and environmental cognizance by numerous publications and organizations, including Profit 100, the Vancouver Sun, and Business In Vancouver.

“We’re continually expanding our fleet,” Pannu says. “We’re looking to be at 120 rigs by the end of 2011.”

the takeaway > “With the mechanics of the way the world is evolving, commodities are more attractive to invest in. It means more people will spend more money to extract more commodities out of ground, and we’re prepared and ready to do that.” –sunny pannu, head of investor relations

Energold’s strength lies in its niche: highly mobile man-portable rigs. The company’s competitors tend to have more diversified rig fleets. “We stick with man-portable rigs because we want to be the largest at what we do, not the largest driller in the world,” Pannu says. “With the mechanics of the way the world is evolving, commodities are more attractive to “People know to come to us for high-mobility invest in,” Pannu says. “It means more people rigs that have deep depth capacity.” will spend more money to extract more commodities out of the ground, and we’re prepared Energold’s clients—which include Gold Corp., and ready to do that.” _a Anglo Gold, El Dorado Gold, and Penoles, in advantagemagazine.ca

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Business Without Borders The global race is on, and developing countries are darting past industrialized contenders at a feverish pace. Economists are urging Canadian companies to break through barriers and expand internationally. If companies stay put, Canada, an export-driven nation, could be left in the dust. Emerging markets such as China and India are leading growth by all measures, backed by some key advantages: upward per-capita income, rising trade power, a growing middle class, and deep investment in research. But Canada has a chance to even the score. If domestic businesses leverage their core competencies and build international brands, they can achieve more than market success—they can chart out the new national game plan. by ruth e. dåvila

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n late 2010, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce released a report, “Canadian Businesses Go Global for Growth.” In it, chief economist Tina Kremmidas makes a call for globalization. Advantage checked in with several business leaders for their reaction to Canada’s businessscape, and the consensus is clear: it’s time to internationalize.

Need for scale

Before a company can consider expansion, it must master its national territory. But Howard Gwin, a telecom veteran, says many Canadian firms hit a capacity block and a financial cap that keeps them from spreading their wings. “If you look at the Canadian domestic technology marketplace, in general, many companies seem to hit a wall right around $20 million in revenue,” says Gwin, managing director of Bridgescale Partners, a venture capital firm with locations in Toronto and Menlo Park, California. Bridgescale, a four-person partnership, invests in high-tech companies on a path to scale. Previously an executive vice president for PeopleSoft (before its buyout by Oracle Corporation in 2005), Gwin evaluates potential investments from an operational perspective, like a CEO, to gauge their readiness for funding. Having analyzed numerous firms and having served on the boards of more than 20, Gwin says one of the primary barriers to growth is the lack of domestic leaders who have scaled global companies. Only a handful of Canadian corporations have managed to push past their growing pains to become industry forces, such as the telecom equipment giant Nortel Networks Corp and Ottawa-based Cognos Incorporated (acquired by IBM in 2008). “Because we have not gotten a robust ‘been there, done that’ ecosystem, when companies try to go to scale—if they scale with domestic talent without global experience—they stumble or take longer to outcome than a company with people who have done it before,” Gwin says. “Sometimes this has resulted in the entire company moving south [to Silicon Valley] or market skills moving south.” In IT, the pull toward the US tech mecca is tempting. Yet while Gwin encourages 44

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Mexico

United States $271.2 billion

$4.8 billion

Canada’s Top 10 Export Countries Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 2010.

north-south collaborations, he warns that uprooting high-potential corporations and transplanting them to Silicon Valley could hurt the Canadian dynamic of the marketplace. “This is why we don’t have billion-dollar companies,” Gwin says. “They don’t grow up and become dominant while Canadian residents.”

Benefits of expansion

La Vie en Rose Inc.—the largest Canadian specialty retailer of lingerie, loungewear, and swimwear, headquartered in Montréal—has made manageable growth a priority. “At one point, we realized we would soon cover the

entire Canadian market,” says Luc Poirier, CFO and vice president of international business development at La Vie en Rose. “There was still some space for growth, but we knew we could not double the numbers domestically.” Thinking beyond the border, La Vie en Rose deployed a simple franchising strategy that, since 2004, has led to the opening of around 60 boutiques, complementing 150 nationwide, with a five-year plan to reach at least an equal number of operations abroad and domestically. So far, the benefits have far outweighed advantagemagazine.ca


Business Without Borders

United kingdom $12.1 billion

the netherlands $2.8 billion

france

south korea

germany $3.7 billion

china

$2.7 billion

$11.2 billion

india

$3.5 billion

japan $8.3 billion

$2.1 billion

the risks. The international division currently adds around 20 percent each year to La Vie en Rose’s bottom line, without calculating long-term nets in the enhanced brand value attached to an international label. Apart from increments in sales and brand equity, expanding a business inherently optimizes it and “creates synergies,” Poirier says. Reacting to foreign competitors, versus the familiar home-base environment, is athletic training for a firm. In addition, departments, such as marketing, and their outputs, such as collateral, can be leveraged across the advantagemagazine.ca

“There was still some space for growth, but we knew we could not double the numbers domestically.” —Luc Poirier, CFO and VP of International Business Development, La Vie en Rose advantage

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enterprise. “It improves all your processes and efficiency, because you are challenged at every level,” he adds.

brand under which it can consistently market its entire cross-sector value proposition to the world,” she adds.

Fixed costs go down, while financial power rises with volume pricing. This boosts a company’s clout in the buyer’s market, and global value chains unlock additional layers of benefits. “Developing global supply-chain relationships enables businesses—large and small—to engage in global commerce, source optimally, reduce costs, and gain access to skilled workers and technological expertise,” Kremmidas says in the Chamber report.

Selecting international markets is industryspecific. The traditional IT route is to start with the United States, then western Europe/ Australia, Asia, and the globe, Gwin says. Commodity businesses, which represent Canada’s top exports, are exploding in the realm of non-US trade, Kremmidas says. While she encourages a healthy trade flow with North America—and notes that the United States is one Canada’s strongest trade partners, as there is a neighbour advantage—she tags emerging markets as today’s most promising partners. “Many [developing countries] are investing significantly in infrastructure, including transportation networks, power generation, urban development, and environmental protection—areas in which Canada has tremendous expertise,” she says.

When companies seek capital, a global vision increases the chances of sealing the deal. For instance, many businesses in Bridgescale Partners’ portfolio serve international markets, even when its management teams are based in Canada and the United States. “The fact is that most venture-funded entities must be global companies to effectively sell,” Gwin says.

Global business plan

For companies contemplating a dip in the global waters, Gwin, Kremmidas, and Poirier offer some general advice. First, for the research and management of customers, suppliers, and regulations, Kremmidas recommends the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, which is used frequently by exporters that penetrate multiple markets with large quantities of goods. Poirier’s company opted to hire an expert consultant for its foray abroad: it’s a good way to feel out the marketplace and introduce a company to the right business partners abroad, he says. Before growing internationally, Poirier says that it’s essential to have a solid idea of your domestic positioning. “Each country has its own culture, its own trends,” he says. Strong brands sustain their value through premium price points, as well as higher demand and market share, according to Kremmidas. “Our country also needs an overarching Canadian 46

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Developing countries offer other draws, too. “When the economy is growing at a 10 percent rate, the margin for error is a lot larger,” Poirier says. “When in a mature economy, like Canada or the United States, the competition is fiercer, and people are more cautious about their spending.”

Cortina Systems, a Bridgescale-funded company, is a perfect example: more than 60 percent of sales spring from the communication infrastructure growth in China, India, and other Asian countries.

To ease logistics, Poirier suggests creating a shipping hub. La Vie en Rose opened one in the Free Zone in Dubai, for easier connection to its boutiques abroad, which are largely concentrated in the Middle East. (Saudi Arabia is La Vie en Rose’s top international operation with 26 boutiques and 3 more slated by the end of 2011.) The Dubai cross dock receives garments from suppliers in Asia and India before shipping to destination countries, a well-oiled system that cuts three to four weeks off the time-to-market in the fast-paced apparel industry. Aside from plugging into a global value chain, innovation is one of the most critical factors in a successful strategy. Canadian companies currently spend less on research and development, and less on information and communications technology, than the United States, the United

Since 1990, world trade has increased nearly fourfold; south-south trade has increased more than 10 times; northnorth trade has declined to 40 percent from 58 percent of the world’s total. Source: OECD Development Centre, 2010.

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Business Without Borders

“If you look at the Canadian domestic technology marketplace, in general, many companies seem to hit a wall right around $20 million in revenue.” Photo: Jack Huynh.

—Howard Gwin, Managing Director, Bridgescale Partners

Kingdom, and Germany, according to the Chamber’s report. At the same time, many developing countries are investing more heavily in R&D and technical innovation. Canadian firms must up the R&D ante to gain an edge. For Gwin, however, business growth boils down to an age-old business mechanism: networking with leaders. Bridgescale facilitates mega meetings in the Silicon Valley periodically for execs living in Canada and the Valley. These events convene a panel of seasoned Csuite-level executives for knowledge-sharing and face time with rising CEOs of hot Canadian tech companies. Recent panelists include Frank Pizzolato, the CEO of Clarity Systems (sold to IBM); Anish Acharya, founder of Social Deck (sold to Google); Steven Pollack, CEO of Platespin (sold to Novell); and Louis Tetu, founder and CEO of Taleo (Nasdaq). Warm connections to powerful minds and potential investment pools can kick off a strong internationalization plan that transforms a company’s fortune—something numerous Canadian companies are poised to do. “You just need two to three people around the table who are rock stars for where you are going, not where you are coming from,” Gwin says. “You’ve got to find them, nurture them, romance them—do whatever it takes to get those people who have skills for what you are trying to accomplish involved with your company down the road.” _a advantagemagazine.ca

In 2009, China became the largest exporter to the United States, surpassing Canada. Source: Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 2010.

meet the companies: Bridgescale partners sector:

high-tech venture capitalists

headquarters: toronto, on; silicone valley, ca

founded: 2006 international success story: cortina systems, with 60 percent market share in korea for communication semiconductor devices; significant european footprint

on the lookout for: great canadian companies that want to

“run the table”

keeping an eye on: all things mobile, the cloud, social in the enterprise

la vie en rose inc. sector:

lingerie, loungewear, and swimwear

target market: women 25-45

headquarters: montréal, qc

year acquired: 1996 international success story: saudi arabia, with nearly 30 boutiques slated for year-end 2011

revenue percentage from international business: 15–20%

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With acrobatic feats that have dazzled and surprised more than 100 million spectators, Cirque du Soleil stays true to its mission to “invoke, provoke, and evoke.� Photo: Richard Termine.

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The Troupe Behind Cirque du Soleil’s breathtaking acrobatics and surreal costumes is a 27-year history of sound business. From refined circus arts to a dash of Elvis and the Beatles, the company continues to define “spectacle” for the modern entertainment world on an international stage. by lynn russo whylly

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n the summer of 1984, Québec was preparing for a huge celebration: the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada. A mere 100 kilometres to the northeast of Québec City, just up the banks of the St. Lawrence River, in the town Baie-Saint-Paul, a little-known group of street performers was hosting its own event, albeit on a much smaller scale. Among those street performers was Guy Laliberté. A fire breather and accordion player, Laliberté loved to perform for the crowds. But he also had a vision for a much larger, different kind of show. Instead of involving animals, the show would combine circus arts with theatre, dance, music, and culture. In need of funding, he approached the government of Québec with his idea. Laliberté was awarded a grant, and Cirque du Soleil—the “circus of the sun”—was born.

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Today, Cirque du Soleil is described as a new category of show. It redefines the boundaries of circus arts and entertainment, and transcends every language and culture. “Our mission is to invoke, provoke, and evoke,” says Daniel Lamarre, Cirque du Soleil’s president and CEO. Lamarre would know. His career with the company goes back to the early days, when he worked as a consultant; in the last 10 years, he has come on full time. Cirque du Soleil has been performing shows for 27 years. They include an artistic mix of acrobats, dancers, singers, and former athletes. Shows have been featured in 300 cities worldwide and performed for more than 100 million spectators. In 2010 alone, Cirque du Soleil performed 20 shows in 20 countries.

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This momentum is carrying into 2011 with the debut of three major productions. The first, Zarkana, is scheduled to run every summer for the next four years at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. “This is the first time we will be presenting a New York City show that will be of the same magnitude as our Vegas shows,” Lamarre says. A $50 million production, Zarkana will spend the off-season travelling to major theatres worldwide, including the Kremlin Theatre in Moscow. 2011’s second production, IRIS, will open at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Cirque du Soleil caps off the new shows of 2011 with Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, which will tour more than 30 cities starting in October. The King of Pop theatrics will also make their way into a show slated for a 2013 debut at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. Las Vegas has long been a hub for Cirque du Soleil, and it is currently home to seven of the company’s shows: O, an aquatic show at the Bellagio, which has been sold out for 10 years; Mystère, running for 17 years at Treasure Island; The Beatles LOVE at the Mirage; Viva ELVIS at City Center, launched in 2010; Zumanity, a cabaret show, at New York–New York; KÀ at the MGM Grand; and CRISS ANGEL Believe, a magic show, at the Luxor. The success of these shows stem from Cirque du Soleil’s ability to transcend all languages and cultures. To date, the company has put on productions on every continent except Antarctica. “In Russia, we were an immediate success,” Lamarre says. “And the first time we went to Taipei, we were sold out before we got there, as well as in Bogota, Colombia. That told us a lot about the awareness of our brand worldwide.” Cirque du Soleil’s international scope is reflected internally in the dynamic makeup of its staff. To perform 20-plus distinct shows a year takes more than 5,000 employees, of which 1,300 are artists. Forty different nationalities and 25 different languages are represented, and each of Cirque du Soleil’s shows requires an average of 150 employees. “Employees bring to the show not just their show experience and talent, but their childhood memories and the cultural experiences they were raised with,” Lamarre says. “Even though we’re based in Montréal, we’re truly international by nature.”

Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO, has been involved with Cirque du Soleil since the early days, when he worked part time as a consultant. Photo: Camirand © Cirque du Soleil.

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Acquiring the world’s top talent requires a methodical diligence. When looking to hire new artists, Cirque du Soleil seeks people with multiple talents and disciplines. “The circus arts remain a major portion of what we do, but we hire former high-level athletes, from gymnastics to divers to synchronized swimmers,” Lamarre says. Cirque du Soleil employs a 50-person scouting group that travels around the world to recruit the best talent both on

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The REVOLUTION lounge brings the experience of Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE show beyond the walls of the theatre itself. Photo: MGM Mirage.

and behind the stage. While this group lands the company a large portion of its talent, Cirque du Soleil’s renown works as an inadvertent recruitment device. “In today’s world, it’s a little easier because we have high brand recognition now,” Lamarre explains. “Artists send us resumes and videos through e-mail and the Internet. So much so that we have a database of more than 50,000 artists.” Getting a show off the ground requires more than the right people, but a technical mastery to create lavish, breathtaking performances. To meet the demand, Cirque du Soleil works with several Canadian and US universities for research and development. Whether a performance requires getting a chair to fly, or having someone walk upside down from the ceiling, Cirque du Soleil can enlist a cadre of engineering students to help solve the challenge. “We’re always on the lookout for creative breakthroughs,” Lamarre says. The creative direction of the shows is still heavily influenced and directed by Laliberté himself. “We have the

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in russia, we were an immediate success. and the first time we went to taipei, we were sold out before we got there, as well as in bogota, colombia. that told us a lot about the awareness of our brand worldwide. —Daniel Lamarre, President & CEO

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Photo: Marie-Reine Mattera.

unique privilege to work for an entrepreneur who is an artist,” Lamarre explains. “In the entertainment business, we’re probably one of the few who have that kind of opportunity, and since the product we deliver is artistic, I think it makes a huge difference with the way the company is led here. Through emphasis on the artistic talent, we’re totally dedicated to ensuring the creative future and stability of this organization.” Stability is maintained by surrounding Laliberté with a team of creative professionals. Fifteen additional creators, from costume designers to composers, acrobatic experts, scenographers, theatre designers, and a stage director, are at the founder’s side to lend advice and provide creative feedback. “It’s very much a team effort,” Lamarre says. “Twenty years from now, we hope to have in place a creative and production machine that is so well oiled that it can sustain itself.”

Guy Laliberté, Founder Guy Laliberté is an artist, a performer, a visionary, a cultivator of talent, a creative genius, a husband, and a father. His career began as a young street performer, where Laliberté, an accordion player and fire breather, had a passion for his art. But he and his fellow entertainers also had a dream to stimulate imaginations all over the world with a different kind of show. Believing in his dream, he received his first chance in 1984. In preparation for Canada’s 450th anniversary celebrations, Laliberté staged the company’s first-ever performance, and Cirque du Soleil was born. Today, the brand is known throughout the world, and the dream of this street performer has been parlayed into dozens of shows and expanded into several new business ventures worldwide. “Guy is a typical entrepreneur,” says president and CEO Daniel Lamarre. “He took his artistic background and developed it into the ultimate show.” After 27 years, Laliberté is still heavily involved in the creative process of every new show and spends a good portion of his time travelling the world to seek out new and amazing talent. He resides in Montréal with his wife and five children.

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Cirque du Soleil’s creative success has allowed it to extend its brand well beyond the confines of the stage. In addition to performing private, custom shows for conventions, hotels, and theatres, the company has thrown itself behind several other ventures. The JUKARI Fit to Fly and JUKARI Fit to Flex women’s fitness programs, for example, are the result of this move beyond the stage. Created in partnership with Reebok, the programs are in their third year and are up and running in 22 countries. They are unique fitness programs because they combine the fluid movement of Cirque du Soleil with core fitness techniques. “Reebok understands that women are a large portion of our clientele, and they also understand that we have the best trainers and coaches from all over the world,” Lamarre says. “We are able to combine their knowledge and expertise with ours to create a one-of-akind fitness program.” In another endeavour, Cirque du Soleil installed an art gallery in the O theatre lobby featuring the work of sculptor Richard MacDonald. “He is an amazing success story,” Lamarre says. “He came to us with this idea of doing these fluid sculptures of Cirque artists. It’s been so successful that we’re opening up another gallery in Las Vegas’ City Center, and we’re looking at expanding into other markets with him as well.” Cirque du Soleil also runs a pair of cocktail lounges themed around two of its Vegas shows. The first is REVOLUTION Lounge at the Mirage, which was inspired by the music of the Beatles and opened six months after The Beatles LOVE show. The second one is the Gold Lounge, located directly across from the Viva ELVIS theatre lobby. Decorated as though it came straight out of Graceland, the lounge features a modern aesthetic that reflects the palettes found in the Memphis mansion.

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Cirque du Soleil’s shows have been performed in more than 300 cities and on every continent except Antarctica. Photo: Tomas Muscionico.

From performers to technicians, each of Cirque du Soleil’s productions involves more than 150 employees to craft a performance that looks effortless. Photo: Jean-Marc Abela © Cirque du Soleil.

In addition to these multiple endeavours, the company is also looking to expand more extensively into the hospitality business. Next up for Cirque du Soleil, however, is bringing its one-of-a-kind theatrical experience into the homes of Cirque lovers worldwide. Few directors are more suited to the task than James Cameron, known for such epic films as Titanic and Avatar. In December 2010, Cirque du Soleil and Cameron formed a partnership to bring the Las Vegas shows to the silver screen in 3-D. Laliberté’s vision has come a long way since he performed on the streets of the quaint Baie-Saint-Paul. What started with one man has become 5,000; what began in one country has expanded around the globe. Twenty-seven years after the debut of Le Grand Tour du Cirque du Soleil, the company is more than living up to its name, illuminating for the world the staggering aerobatic capability of the human form on an international scale. _a

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The Staffing Edge supports independent staffing firms across Canada by forming strong partnerships with the owners and staff of our members. In the same way, The Staffing Edge forms strong partnerships with our suppliers, enabling us to bring service excellence to our members in a wide range of specialties. We value all of our partnerships and would like to recognize the following.


collaboration Forging partnerships for better results 55 The Staffing Edge

58 Martin Ross Group Inc.

60 Greenland International Consulting Ltd.

behind the scenes With a unique faith in its employees to act independently, The Staffing Edge provides administrative backup to staffing agencies by lynn russo whylly

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mployment agencies are experts at placing the right people in the right positions. But administrative tasks such as payroll, financial planning, and legal requisites can slow a small business down and keep them from focusing on what they do best. That’s where The Staffing Edge comes in. Located in Brampton, Ontario, the company provides all the administrative services that small, entrepreneurial staffing agencies across Canada need to run their businesses effectively so that they can focus on what they do best.

“We clear the entrepreneur’s mind of all the clutter and worry so they can move forward,” explains executive vice president Ray Gonder. Today, The Staffing Edge provides financing, payroll, invoicing, legal advice, general liability insurance, healthcare benefits, retirement plans, and more. The process functions by having the company literally assume the roles for their company clients. With payroll, for example, temporary workers of The Staffing Edge’s clients can be shown as direct employees of The Staffing Edge, which lets clients take on any volume of business without worrying about how they’re going to make payroll. The roughly 40,000 employees for whom the company processes T-4s annually get paid weekly, while clients generally pay in 30–60 days.

Ray Gonder, executive vice president, helps president and founder Lou Duggan helm The Staffing Edge.

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The Staffing Edge was launched in 1995 by Lou Duggan, an experienced staffing-agency executive. Having been on the other side of the business for many years and knowing the challenges of multitasking administrative areas with core responsibilities, Duggan launched the company in the hopes of providing staffing agencies with a suite of outside resources. advantage

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collaboration

the staffing edge

the way we work > “Our tagline is, ‘The freedom to focus and the tools to achieve.’ We empower our employees to solve problems on a day-to-day basis without having to check with management. If the employee asks themselves, ‘Is what I’m about to do going to help the member grow?’ and the answer is ‘yes,’ then they have permission to do it.” –ray gonder, executive vice president

“We have a core set of services,” Gonder says, “but there are extras we do that are not on the core list, such as responding to RFPs and going on sales calls. We’re using the experiences we’ve had with all the members and clients over the 16 years to solve each client’s particular issues. That extra is not in our contract, but it’s what our clients get. They can rely on us for almost anything.” The company also helps make smaller agencies feel as though they’re part of a larger group. “We try to take away the loneliness that entrepreneurs often feel when they’re in business by themselves,” Gonder says. “We see that with people who have worked in larger companies in the past. They go out on their own and feel empowered and energetic, but between six months and a couple of years there is a feeling of loneliness that they don’t have anyone to talk to. We provide ourselves on being a network to talk to.” The Staffing Edge’s services are bolstered by the strength of its staff. The company hires employees with prior experience in the staffing industry to better address the needs of its clients. This trend is reflected in the upper levels of management as well. Gonder had worked with Duggan in the staffing industry for many years. His experience made him a perfect candidate for the job, where he’s responsible for sales, marketing, and the overall strategic direction of the company. In addition, Gonder is a key player in the promotion of The Staffing 56

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Edge’s two main software tools, Stafftrak and EdgeConnect Canada. Stafftrak, an applicant-tracking tool, allows employment agencies to keep track of employee placements and sales activities. “We’ve received great feedback on how Stafftrak helps our clients service their clients and that it’s incredibly easy to use,” Gonder says. Training for Stafftrak is provided to both new and ongoing employees, and reports are customized at no extra charge. EdgeConnect Canada is a social-media tool that lets both clients and nonclients collaborate on business, share orders, share potential candidates, and communicate with each other, as well as receive general staffing news from The Staffing Edge. “If you’re an engineering staffing company in Vancouver and your client’s Toronto branch asks you for help, you can use this tool to find a partner in Toronto,” Gonder explains. It also provides a network from which peers can interact with each other. Mobile versions of both tools are available or set to launch this year. Gonder attributes The Staffing Edge’s success to always putting the best interests of its clients at the heart of everything the company does. “We have no interest in seeing our clients fail,” he says. “Our services support entrepreneurs in the staffing industry to grow without boundaries. We participate in their growth and our success is in lockstep with theirs. Only if they grow, do we succeed.” _a

products & services > • Credit and Collections: The Staffing Edge (TSE) conducts credit checks, provides advice on setting credit limits, and handles collections. • EdgeConnect Canada: A social-media tool that connects small, entrepreneurial staffing agencies in Canada with their peers. • Financing Payroll: With TSE, employees get paid weekly, while clients generally pay within 30–60 days, allowing them to focus on their business without worry of how they are going to make payroll. • General Liability Insurance Coverage: TSE offers insurance to protect its client from employee dishonesty/theft and errors/omissions, among other things. • Healthcare and Retirement Benefits: TSE offers medical and registered-retirementsavings-plan benefits to clients. • Risk Management: TSE helps its clients address a variety of issues, including workers compensation claims; health and safety issues; and workplace inspections for safety concerns, overtime conditions, and proper pay rates. • Stafftrak: Performance and productivity software that handles employee tracking, open orders, sales calls, potential opportunities, peer-to-peer communication, and task management. advantagemagazine.ca


Leave your design in the hands of a personal, professional artist.

Define your memory.

Helen Arion Master Jewellery Designer Available for Consultations Monday to Friday, 11 am to 3 pm. E-mail: Helen@arion.ca Bus: 416-607 7252 Cell: 416-617 9268 21 Dundas Square, Suite 1402 Toronto, Ontario M5B 1B7

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collaboration

martin ross group inc.

a gem of a company Martin Ross Group Inc. is a multitalented manufacturer that has learned how to coordinate a wide variety of business operations by mike seemuth

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hoosing the best jewellery for loved ones is hard enough; Allen Shechtman went one step further by falling in love with the production and distribution of jewellery. For almost 20 years, he has devoted himself to coordinating the myriad internal tasks of jewellery production at his company, Martin Ross Group, one of the shiniest gems in its industry. As CEO, Shechtman is a common strand connecting the disparate business operations, starting with two separate product lines and factories. Martin Ross Group acquired another Canadian jewellery manufacturing firm, called Libman, in 2010. As a result, the company has two major brands under one roof, the MasterDesiGn line, sold in high-end stores, and the moderately priced Libman line. The company has two production managers— one for Martin Ross products, and one for Libman products. The acquisition of Libman in 2010 added 50 employees and doubled the total payroll of the company to 100 employees. As of January 2011, operations of the two factories were moved to the Libman facility. While production for all brands is now contained within the Libman facility, the company has divisions that focus independently on research and development, production, accounting, and sales and marketing. Shechtman says that disputes among reorganized division managers generally centred on such issues as

Company Stats location north york, on founded

1993 employees

Allen Shechtman, CEO, ensures his employees are knowledgeable about how the business works by having them shadow staff from different departments.

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the amount of alloy that a particular gold mix requires. “Each factory previously had its own formulas—different cultures have different techniques,” he says, “so with the integration, there was some head-banging.” But the “head-banging” often serves as catalyst for positive change at flexible Martin Ross. The company strives to make ongoing profitable improvements to its diverse operations, reinforcing its commitment to producing rings, bracelets, earrings, neck-laces, and pendants that retailers love, in addition to custom-designed, one-of-kind pieces. “We are a manufacturer, importer, and distributor, and, as we have looked at expanding the company, we sometimes have had to change our focus and direction,” Shechtman says. As CEO, Shechtman likes to familiarize employees with departments other than their own, to ensure smoother operations. For example, Shechtman has asked staff in the accounting division to go on sales calls with staff in sales and marketing, mainly to give the accountants a better sense of the different markets Martin Ross serves. “Once the accountants came to understand customer differences, it made our life easier,” Shechtman explains. He also works hard to resolve internal problems involving the quality control. “Sometimes you find little spots of black or pin holes in the gold,” he says, adding that if the spots go unnoticed through several phases of the production process, the problem might not be fixable. Simply minimizing waste and recycling costs is a challenge. In certain processes, up to 50 percent of gold issued from the vault for a specific job may end up on the production room floor, “so you have to recycle that,” Shechtman says. “Our direction to the staff has always been to catch these things. We try to instill that.” Martin Ross imports some of the products it distributes to retailers, but the company’s production is for the most part still domestic, advantagemagazine.ca

collaboration

the way we work > “Everybody has access to where the company’s order is. We’re trying to eliminate the notion that customer service is ‘not my job.’ It’s everybody’s job.” –allen shechtman, ceo

Shechtman says. The company relies on suppliers not only for finished jewellery but also for the raw materials that it uses to assemble products. Supplier-provided materials include base gold, sterling silver, precious and semiprecious stones, and could include metal tubing as well as metal stampings. Additionally, Shechtman was part of a group that acquired Jaltex in 1993. Several years later—as a result of other related industry acquisitions—the company was renamed Martin Ross Group Inc. More than just the name was changing, however. “China was just starting to come on line in the late 1990s,” Shechtman says, adding that the company started feeling considerable competitive heat from jewellery makers in Asia that pay employees far less. “We all pay essentially

the same price for our materials, but labour is a significant component of a lot of these things.” Volatile gold prices also can press on profit margins. “We deal with major department stores that plan their pricing books a year ahead,” Shechtman says. So Martin Ross often commits to the price of gold products long before manufacturing and delivering them, and as a result, an interim surge in gold prices can be put a premium on margin management. Despite these difficulties, Martin Ross Group’s dedication to strategic planning should keep the company on track in the years to come. Whether it’s another acquisition, or more threat from China, Shechtman’s passion for the industry is sure to allow him to adapt to any situation that the company faces. _a advantage

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collaboration

greenland international consulting ltd.

protecting the environment Greenland International Consulting Ltd. brings a diverse range of engineering, design, and software capabilities to the table as it partners with notable universities and companies by kelly matlock around the globe

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s public concerns about climate change and diminishing natural resources have increased, it’s important for governments charged with land-use planning and water resources to monitor and manage the environment. Fortunately, companies like Greenland International Consulting offer customized software and other proven technologies that can greatly assist in the environmental protection process. Greenland is a unique Canadianowned business specializing in environmental services, infrastructure design and construction administration, and land-development engineering.

The company prides itself on offering services and products that combine engineering and land-use planning with emerging technologies and a conservationist ethic. According to R. Mark Palmer, president and CEO, people should be cognizant of how the environment affects the greater good. “Governments must comprehend the complex interrelationships between environmental health, the economy, and social conditions,” Palmer says. “The application of state-of-the-art computer tools, combined with monitoring data, has been accepted as the best approach for the public and regulatory agencies to predict changes in water quantity and quality associated with human activities and altered landscapes.”

Company Stats locations collingwood, on; toronto, on; and guelph, on founded

2003 employees

25+ An avid Chicago Blackhawks fan, president and CEO R. Mark. Palmer (seated on right) sees business as “playing to win.” Senior management team (clockwise from top left): Peter Ellis, James Hartman, Donald Moss, and Jane Palmer.

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5 annual revenue

$2.5 million

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collaboration

the way we work > “Believe in the business and yourself—but play to win. From my perspective, this includes taking calculated risks, hunting for your livelihood, and understanding that your company is a living entity that has to be fed in order to grow and survive.” –r. mark palmer, president & ceo

While providing full-service engineering and landscape architecture services, Greenland also joins forces with scientists, universities, and a host of other organizations and companies in an effort to create the most efficient and effective environmental software and related technologies. The firm’s initial collaboration with a USbased company resulted in Greenland completing the first Canadian application that uses high-resolution remote-sensing technology— Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)—for flood-hazard mapping. LiDAR, best known for use in airplanes, has been increasingly leveraged by land-use planners. “The LiDAR database was used to identify other applications for land-use planning—utility operations and management, groundwater studies, and master infrastructure projects—and it compared to conventional mapping techniques in terms of accuracy and costs,” Palmer says. In 2005, the company embarked on developing its proprietary software, called Canadian Nutrient and Water Evaluation Tool (CANWET), a GIS-based modeling tool. Initially tailor-made for the Lake Simcoe Basin in Ontario, it has since been used to test and monitor other Canadian regions and climate conditions. It has also been used for water supply, wastewater treatment, and river-basin restoration projects for several years now. advantagemagazine.ca

After the completion of the fourth version of CANWET, Greenland and its colleagues at Penn State University began working with a US company, Zed-X Inc., on a related software-development venture. Greenland is providing its CANWET source code and its other in-house tools to help Zed-X and Penn State develop a new web-based management system for the Chesapeake Bay Basin. “This project will add essential functionality to programs now being administered by the US Department of Agriculture, US Environmental Protection Agency, and other agency partners at state and federal levels,” Palmer says. “It also includes Canadian and Mexican agency participations and as part of the software testing and evaluation phases.” For all of these strategic partnerships, Greenland approaches projects as a subject-matter expert, open and excited to collaborate with other leading players in the research, development, and creation of groundbreaking technologies for solving environmental problems. “Synergy is important from the outset when multiple personalities are involved and when different leadership styles arise during our partnership-based projects,” Palmer says. “My business partners’ collective experience exceeds a century of seasoning in the private sector. This is very important for our partnershipbased projects.”

To ensure that the company’s brand is not compromised, and to ensure timeline management, budget control, and communications, a GREENLAND director is involved in each partnership-based project. This helps ensure project success. Still, even though the company has accomplished an extensive amount since Palmer bought the company in 2003, he admits there are always difficulties. “I had to pay off a sizeable bank loan within two years after I purchased the assets of a much smaller company to help me start and grow Greenland,” Palmer says. “However, the support of my family and business partners has been key for me. I am also blessed with mentoring from close friends and advice from their years in business, to help me test new ideas and gauge opinions on our dynamic business plan.” As Greenland forges ahead in its new collaborative ventures, Palmer plans to stay true to the company’s mission statement but to also remember that, like in competitive sports, business is about winning. “These projects are testaments to our niche game plan and the proven fact that if the competition can’t catch us, then they can’t compete with us,” he says. “The other company partners and I believe in our niche business model and ourselves, but we also play to win.” _a advantage

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“A Canadian small business with a global footprint” GREENLAND® provides integrated engineering and landscape architecture services. The organization also offers exceptional service in the development of environmental technologies and products, while maintaining its entrepreneurial integrity with clients, customers and the business community.

w w w. g r n l a n d . c o m

• Environmental Services (incl. Software Development and Product Research) • Infrastructure Design and Construction Administration • Land Development Engineering


innovation Capitalizing on fresh ideas and cutting-edge technologies 63 Khanatek Technologies Inc.

65 Valcomp Technology Inc.

67 Embedded Sense, Inc.

playing every angle A multidisciplinary approach keeps Khanatek Technologies Inc. ready to handle a broad range of projects by anne hedin

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ichael Lawal had an interesting year in 2002. With more than 30 years of engineering and management experience with utilities and gas companies, Lawal took a position with Sherritt International Corporation as an electrical/ instrumentation maintenance supervisor. But Lawal’s experience as an electrical engineer specializing in automated control systems

also found him incorporating as Khanatek Technologies. The next four years with Sherritt consolidated everything Lawal knew about how system design affects system performance and operating costs. This knowledge provided the final piece he needed, and, with the boom of Alberta’s economy in 2006, Lawal dedicated

himself to Khanatek full time as CEO. “At the time, big service firms were buying up small ones to service their big customers while neglecting small and midsize companies,” he says. “I saw the need for an engineering firm to service this neglected group. A small firm can give better service while being much more approachable and affordable because it has less overhead and less bureaucracy than the big firms.” Lawal hired mechanical and structural engineers so that he could provide clients with “one-stop shopping” for building expertise. Today, Khanatek consults with architects and contractors, and designs and manages small- to medium-sized engineering projects for commercial, industrial, and institutional clients. In addition, the firm has increased its focus on government and public-works projects, such as a recent $5 million upgrade to a college’s heating and cooling systems. Other institutional clients include the City of Edmonton, the City of Calgary, the Defence

Company Stats location edmonton, ab employees

14 area of specialty electrical, structural, and mechanical engineering; project management

Under the leadership of CEO Michael Lawal, Khanatek is gaining ground on its competition and is exploring the potential of new markets.

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clients small to midsize companies; government and publicworks projects

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innovation

khanatek technologies Inc.

capitalizing on a concept > “A project is something you do once. It has a beginning and an end that define its scope. You have to compartmentalize your scope and prevent scope creep—that’s engineering discipline. You have to carry along all your stakeholders and, most importantly, communicate well with them—that’s the discipline of project management.” –michael lawal, founder & ceo

Construction Canada, and the Department of National Defence. Khanatek rounds out its services by implementing a sustainable approach with its work. “We take an environmentally responsible approach to design and construction,” Lawal says. “We belong to the Green Building Council and prefer to apply LEED principles within an integrated design process [IDP].” Using an IDP allows Khanatek to optimize its goals for a project from the beginning. Multiple disciplines are consulted simultaneously to come up with the best design. This avoids the problem found in the traditional approach, where each discipline works independently of one another, leading to inefficiencies in the project at a later date. One big challenge for an IDP firm is convincing the client to consider the total cost of ownership throughout the life cycle of the building—both the initial design and construction costs and the ongoing operation and maintenance costs. With IDP, a system or building may cost more in the first year, yet save money in subsequent years by consuming fewer resources. In some instances it can be 64

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advantageous for a client to go with a lifecycle-cost approach. If it sounds like Lawal takes methodology seriously, well, he does. “In order for us to better respond to clients’ needs, clients must understand how we intend to solve their problem and satisfy their needs,” he says. “We explain our methodology so that clients knows that we know what we are talking about.” Like every good service firm, Khanatek keeps a close eye on project quality control. “The process you use has to be managed so that by delivering the right quality at each stage, the quality you deliver at the end is consistent and satisfying to the client,” Lawal says. “Good communication is required at each and every stage to make sure that the objectives of the project are both well grounded and well executed. All calculations, data inputs, design work, drawings, and specifications are checked for completeness and accuracy, and reviewed at appropriate stages by the project manager in meetings with the design engineer.” Last but not least, Khanatek invests in both technology and training. For example, the drafting department uses specialized AutoCAD components like AutoCAD Revit, the new building-information-modeling system. “We have been training our staff to use it because we believe that it will be the wave of the future, especially for sustainable design,” Lawal says. Looking towards the future, Lawal hopes to edge in on some of the more established firms in his industry. “We want [clients] to know what we do and to regard us as on a par with other companies they have used for services,” he says. The firm is also looking internationally for business opportunities. This isn’t solely in pursuit of profits, however, but an attempt to provide services where they’re most needed. “We would like to include some humanitarian activities,” Lawal says, “like helping in Haiti, where our knowledge and expertise could make life a little better for our fellow human beings.” _a

revolutionize note taking. Record everything you write and hear. Tap on your notes to replay the recorded audio. Save, search, and share your notes.

Learn much more at : www.livescribe.com/pen advantagemagazine.ca


valcomp technology inc.

innovation

scribes of the new age Valcomp Technology Inc. is leveraging for the future as it provides the innovative Livescribe Echo SmartPen to Canada as told to lisa maccoll

T

hough it’s a far stretch to consider the days of pen and paper as part of a bygone era, some products are making it look that way. The Livescribe Echo SmartPen, a new writing device that can digitally record written notes and audio, is one such product. Advantage sits down with Joseph Valenti, the vice president of sales and marketing at Valcomp Technology and CEO of SmartPenCentral.com, to talk about Valcomp’s phenomenal growth in sales since the company became a national provider of the Livescribe Echo SmartPen in May 2010. Advantage: What prompted you to become the Canadian provider for the Livescribe Echo SmartPen?

Joseph Valenti: We market a product with similar technology—a document-management system that captures information on paper and transmits it wirelessly. That technology can cost $100,000. The Livescribe Echo SmartPen uses the same basic technology, but at $100–200 it’s accessible to a larger market. ADV: What was your biggest challenge?

JV: Whenever you launch a new product, marketing requires significant capital investment. When your product is innovative or the first of its kind, that capital expenditure increases tenfold. This product sells itself when people understand how it works and the ease of use. It takes time to understand the implications of digitizing handwriting and synchronizing it with recordings. I underestimated the costs of that initial consumer education. ADV: What do Livescribe SmartPens introduce to the market that didn’t exist previously?

Joseph Valenti, vice president of sales and marketing, demonstrates the extensive capabilities of the Livescribe Echo SmartPen.

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JV: Livescribe SmartPens allow a user to synchronize handwritten notes and audio recordings of lectures, meetings, court proceedings, or other events where accuracy is important. Users can pay attention without worrying they are missing important points. advantage

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innovation

valcomp technology inc.

1991

valcomp is founded as a broker of used mainframe computer hardware

RYANTRONICS 2010

1998

valcomp purchases reseller privileges for livescribe echo smartpens in canada , wins the golden lamp award for technology and new media from the association of educational publishers , and wins the 2010 san francisco business times best gadget award

valcomp becomes the leading reseller for the printing systems division of ibm

1996

valcomp purchases dpc dp consultants and evolves the trading company into an i.t.equipment-leasing specialist

2000

valcomp usa is established for u. s .-based leasing and financing

company timeline

TM

2007

Electronic Contract Manufacturer

the printing systems division of ibm becomes infoprint solutions , of which valcomp remains the leading reseller for in canada

2002

valcomp and subsidiaries become important partners for ibm’s pc division (now lenovo)

Here’s how it works: Each page in the notebook has a place to tap to start recording. Tap the pen on the “record” button, and everything that is heard, written, or drawn is captured. Once the audio is captured, a tap on the written note plays the recording, which corresponds to the written notation. Those notes and audio files can be uploaded to any computer with the USB cable, and the notes can be turned into PDFs to be shared, forwarded, etc. It’s still pen, ink, and paper note-taking, but this pen and paper have audio capture and a microprocessor built in.

Word of mouth is our most effective sales tool. The technology needs to be demonstrated, and people want the pen when they see it in action. About one-third of our customers motivate someone to buy a SmartPen of their own.

ADV: Who is your target market? What kind of marketing did you use

JV: We launched in May 2010. From May to December, we increased sales five times compared to Canadian sales in all of 2009. For 2011, we expect to at least double the 2010 volume by targeting new applications for professional and educational markets.

JV: Our initial target markets were university students, and we’ve expanded into institutional and professional markets where accurate notetaking is critical.

At a recent trade show in Ottawa, GTEC 2010, we generated so much interest at our booth that other companies complained. Still, we have to sell a lot of pens to recoup the cost of renting a booth and staffing it for the show’s duration.

26 Years of Experience

Ultra Cost Competitive

ADV: When was the product launched? What was the response?

Service & Quality Second to None

ADV: How do you expect to do that?

capitalizing on a concept > “Don’t be afraid to make the initial capital investment in innovative technology. Educating your target market takes time. Then word of mouth will do the work for you.” –joseph valenti, vice president of sales & marketing

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JV: We will grow sales by marketing to institutional buyers. SmartPen is garnering a lot of interest from school boards. Teachers in Hamilton, Ontario, have a blog about best practices for the SmartPen in the classroom. We will also target professional associations that require accurate and accessible notetaking. The Québec and Ontario Superior Courts are investigating our products for use by judges and clerks. The ability to search and locate handwritten information will add efficiency to the court process. The sky’s the limit, really, as people discover unique ways to use the technology. _a

Ryantronics Corp. 390 Edgeley Blvd, Unit # 25 & 26 Concord, Ontario L4K 3Z6 Ph: 905 532-9888 Fx: 905 532-9880 Email: marty@ryantronics.com advantagemagazine.ca


embedded sense, inc.

innovation

problem solvers Tech-solution firm Embedded Sense, Inc. expands on its innovative capabilities with a series of in-house products as told to david hudnall

M

ississauga, Ontario-based Embedded Sense provides electronic design, robotic support, and systemsintegration solutions to clients in the military, medical, energy, and aerospace industries. The company is currently doing business in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, and is continually expanding both its services and its product line. President

and CEO Frank Gerlach discusses the genesis of Embedded Sense, the current state of solutions companies, and the next industry his company has its eyes on. Advantage: How did you find yourself in the technology-solutions business?

Frank Gerlach: I have a background in the development of wireless radio location

systems, and in 2005 I had a company come to me that was having problems with a large crane they were using. As the crane would extend and contract, the wiring inside would wear out and break, and it was costly for them to repair and replace that wiring a couple times a year. They wanted to eliminate the wiring and go with wireless control. So I assembled a team, and we provided a wireless control unit and installed wireless receivers at joints in the cranes. ADV: And that led to more business?

FG: Yes. Our second project involved military video graphics and controls—more of a video-processing-and-formatting project. Surveillance cameras have different pixel formats for day, night, and special-input, and we assisted in reformatting the display systems—plus aiming and controls, including an interface connected to a joystick, to control zoom and direction—so the customized images could be more correctly implemented and viewed. ADV: That’s a fairly different type of project than the first, though. Did you immediately see the two projects as something to offer under the same umbrella?

FG: We quickly saw that there was a very real business in providing tech-based solutions for other companies, for helping to upgrade dated or even obsolete systems and infrastructure. And the premise from the beginning was that business attracts more business, so we knew we had to both possess and continue to attain broad expertise to keep the momentum. ADV: What has allowed Embedded Sense to offer not just services but products as well?

Under the leadership of Frank Gerlach, president and CEO, Embedded Sense is becoming a go-to firm for tech-based solutions.

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FG: After Embedded Sense’s first four or five projects, we decided to go turnkey and started developing our own in-house products. In the solutions world, it’s helpful to complement projects with your own product line. It’s a huge difference-maker: it saves you time and money, plus you have full confidence in and knowledge of the systems you’re working with. advantage

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innovation

Embedded sense, inc.

capitalizing on a concept > “In the solutions world, it’s helpful to complement projects with your own product line. It’s a huge difference-maker; it saves you time and money, plus you have full confidence in and knowledge of the systems you’re working with.” –frank gerlach, president & ceo

ADV: What kinds of products does Embedded Sense offer?

ADV: How has Embedded Sense grown since 2005?

FG: We’re in the process of launching a line of embedded CPU products that can be used globally and across industries. Essentially, our CPU boards can be wired to do almost anything a client would want. The client only needs to write the software to tell our CPUs what to do.

FG: We now have 14 staff, including embedded hardware and software engineers and technicians. We’ve grown organically, taking on smaller contracts that have given us extra stability.

ADV: What are some examples of how your CPU boards are being used?

FG: One client purchased our CPUs to use as a methane detector in China, where a number of coal-mine explosions have been caused by methane. They’ve just hooked up a methane sensor to our CPU, and can monitor conditions in the mines from remote locations. Also, they’re used for robotic vehicles and installed inside shuttles that carry passengers to and from locations in small, contained plaza areas.

ADV: What’s the next phase for Embedded Sense?

FG: We’re currently pursuing clients in green energy, specifically the solar-energy industry. A client came to us last year that produces solar-energy-harvesting systems, and he needed a sun-following systems controller to drive the motors. We developed that for him, and continue to provide him with a certain amount of those every month. But we’ve also developed it as our own product line, called SolarTraxx, so we’re free to adapt it for other clients. _a

Embedded Sense builds custom software and hardware for a variety of projects, including a sun-following system for this solar array.

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GREEN

TO THE CORE From our recycled products and packaging, to being one of the largest recyclers in North America, green thinking is an integral part of all we do at Kruger. No matter which of our GreenQuality™ products you choose, you can be confident that they were produced with a strong commitment to the environment, made with the quality you’ve come to expect. 1-800-665-5610 www.krugerproducts.com/afh © 2010, ® Registered and ™ Trademark of Kruger Products L.P. advantagemagazine.ca

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BE PART OF THE SOLUTION Help Build a Community Spay/Neuter Service at The Toronto Humane Society

Since Size:WeirFoulds. 1/3pg bleed (2.7691” x 11”)before Canada was Insertion Date: January, 2011 a nation, WeirFoulds has been known1/26/2011 4:27:00 PM WeirFoulds-AdvantageAd.indd 1 Photos/Logos: Hi res for its focused involvement in litigation, NOTE:Protect All trapping is theassets. responsibility of prepress WeirFoulds-AdvantageAd.indd 1your 1/26/2011 Protect your assets. corporate, property and416.365.1110 government law. Gain advantage. GainP raao Cstrategic strategic advantage. e s s s e Pa r atio ns www.weirfoulds.com WeirFoulds LLP Reflecting our lawyers www.weirfoulds.com WeirFouldsthe LLP.. firm’s focus, C areMconsistently Y K recognized as leaders in their chosen areas of practice and in the

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This service will, in many ways, help people and animals in our community. It will contribute to solving the pet-overpopulation crisis and keep unwanted animals from ending up on the streets and flooding shelters. We need to raise more than $400,000 to fund the construction, purchase equipment and provide start-up costs. We are looking to engage corporate and individual partners who want to contribute to the community. To find out more, please contact us today at 416-392-2273 ext. 2194 or visit us at www.ThsSpayNeuter.com advantagemagazine.ca


outreach Organizations making a difference in the community 71 The Toronto Humane Society 77 Sudbury & District Health Unit

73 The Apple Market 75 Victoria Park Community Homes 80 Surrey Place Centre

back and barking After a tough year in 2010, The Toronto Humane Society is making a comeback, forging strong partnerships and returning to a foundation built more than 100 years ago by tom calarco

G

reat movements often start small. In 1886, a letter was sent to the World, Toronto’s newspaper at the time, describing the travails of an exhausted workhorse. Appended to the letter was a question by John Kelso, a newspaper reporter, asking, “Why don’t we have a society for the prevention of

cruelty?” The next day an anonymous twodollar donation arrived to support the horse. The donation didn’t end there, and the fund kept growing until it had amassed $74. Kelso took the cause to heart and in early 1887 The Toronto Humane Society (THS) was established.

What has resulted is an outreach organization with more than a century of experience. Over the years, THS has become a revered and respected organization, but recently the organization has encountered a major challenge. After a series of complaints about a lack of sanitation and animal cruelty tarnished THS’s reputation, an investigation forced the organization to close temporarily in 2010. All members of management and the board of directors were forced to resign. Now, the leadership of a newly elected board and executive director is allowing THS to make a comeback in 2011. “We have a robust strategic plan for the next two years that puts the animals first,” says Garth Jerome, THS’s new executive director. “With the support of our donors and community, it will revitalize THS.” Repairing the organization found THS overcoming two challenges. The first was to repair relationships with local animal rescues, including the City of Toronto’s Animal Services

Company Stats founded

1887 employees

50 animals hosted in 2010

2,098 animals rehomed in 2010

1,243 2010 operating budget $6 million The Toronto Humane Society’s executive director, Garth Jerome, with his dog Sasha.

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2011 operating budget $7 million

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outreach

the toronto humane society

community connection > “If you put the animals at the heart of everything you do, the rest will follow. Listen to your community, for they are the heart of the organization and the key to success.” – garth jerome, executive director

Department and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—the organization that originally fielded the complaints. The second challenge was to refurbish the shelter and improve conditions for the animals sheltered there. Larger enclosures and cages, as well as improved health and hygiene practices, were instituted to make the shelter more habitable. To save costs, the refurbishing and rebuilding was done completely by the staff. New upgrades in technology also helped bring THS up-to-date. Petpoint, a Toronto-based company, supplied a new computerized system that keeps track of animals and their medical records. “It was a no-brainer partnership,” Jerome says. “It costs less and is more efficient than our old paper-based system.” The last step for THS has been to restore confidence of the Toronto community. “I was amazed by the resilience of our members, donors, and volunteers—especially after the years of significant turmoil and all the bad publicity—and with how many stuck with us,” Jerome says. “It shows how much passion there is for our organization.” Jerome says the society has about 11,000 donors who donate, on average, $22 a month. Nevertheless, the society will need more funding in order to realize its goal of establishing a spay-andneuter clinic, estimated at $300,000. “There are more than 100,000 stray cats in Toronto,” Jerome says. “The spay-and-neuter clinic will help, but we also have to educate people to have their cats spayed or neutered, to keep them inside, and to identify them with a tag or microchip.” 72

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Education and community involvement is the key to making the spay-and-neuter program a success. “We have to engage the community,” Jerome says. “That’s where education comes in, and we make visits to schools to educate children about responsible pet ownership.” A close relationship with the community has other benefits for THS as well. “It helps animals find homes, and it brings us volunteers, members, and donors,” Jerome says. “We can meet our mission if people get involved—either through volunteering or by donating money.” Among efforts to make its voice heard was a recent open house where the former star of MASH and animal activist Loretta Swit made a public appearance. This, as well as a partnership with like-minded organizations, is the key to getting the message out. “We know that THS can’t do everything on its own,” Jerome says. “We can only do this with the help of organizations like Toronto Animal Services. It’s a tremendous benefit to partner and align ourselves with them, as well as local rescue groups. This is the only way the THS can succeed.” Among THS’s goals for the coming year are to help more animals find homes and improve finances to meet its operational goals—including the construction of the spay-and-neuter clinic. These efforts aside, the organization has taken the crucial first step: living up to its heritage and once again becoming a bastion in the Toronto community against inhumane activities. _a

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250 mL

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the apple market

outreach

expand and enhance its bakery and gourmetmeat department, where customers can find beef, pork, fish, chicken (none of which is packaged), and prepared salads. A key element in the expansion was keeping the feel of the old-style butcher and deli counter. “You can’t really get [a real butcher] in a lot of places anymore,” Pirri explains. “A guy goes grocery shopping with his wife to get some steaks, and 90 percent of time they have to settle for whatever’s in the package. Whereas here, they can talk to the butcher personally and can say they want this size or this type of cut, and we offer that.” An expanded kitchen staff also let The Apple Market remain competitive. The increased expertise’s allowed the company to offer a mixture of both hot and cold foods, such as chicken, fresh sandwiches, freshly made salads, pasta, and other ready-to-serve meals. The husband-and-wife team of Mike and Jennifer Pirri keep The Apple Market competitive by diversifying the options available in their small grocery.

taking on the giants The Apple Market builds a better community by offering local grocery products and a commitment to providing a healthier alternative by kori kamradt

F

or some small, family-owned businesses, the news of a big-box store moving into the neighbourhood would trigger panic and fear, but for the owners of The Apple Market in Mississauga, Ontario, it just meant it was time to expand its horizons. Opened in 1972 as a seasonal fruit-andvegetable stand, The Apple Market was your typical family-run business, slowly expanding over time into several departments and eventually remaining open all year round. When Wal-Mart started making its way into Canada about 10 years ago, many grocery retailers faced uncertainty. Instead of buckling

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under pressure, The Apple Market decided to get tough. “A lot of the independents sat back; they kind of went into a shell,” explains owner Mike Pirri, who—along with his wife, Jennifer— manages the single-location grocery store his father-in-law began. “We went more into an attack approach. We hired more key people, more experienced people. We brought in new sectors to our business. We went in a different direction, so instead of staying a humble little fruit-and-vegetable market, we branched out.” One of The Apple Market’s strategies was to

Though all of the upgrades really augmented The Apple Markets competitive edge, what really set the company apart from the competition was the addition of nutritionists and holistic health practitioners to the staff. This resulted in a new, unique health-and-wellness section not seen at many other small grocers. “We wanted to shift to a one-stop-shop kind of thing,” Pirri says. “It seemed like a logical choice. It’s incredible—it’s really taken off. In 10 years, business has doubled [in the healthand-wellness section] alone.” In this innovative department, customers can find natural cosmetics and natural baby-care products, sports-nutrition products, and homeopathic medicine. To make sure its customers and community are well educated about this section’s newest products, The Apple Market hosts an annual Health and Wellness Fair every September, inviting companies from across the country to showcase their latest wares. This past year, the fair included 30–40 companies offering information and samples to about 2,000 visitors. When the fair was first held about a decade ago, only eight companies were featured. Customers, who are mostly local residents that live in a 5- to 10-mile radius, also choose advantage

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outreach

In 1931, F. G. Lister established a reliable company, importing and distributing fresh produce. Today, as a family owned and operated business with a long and proud tradition, F. G. Lister & Co. Ltd. continues to supply fresh produce from around the world. We are also pleased to distribute local produce, season permitting. The staff at F. G. Lister are all experts at sourcing products under all market conditions.

AT F.G. Lister, we are committed to delivering only the freshest & highest quality produce available!

We have several distribution centers throughout Ontario. For more information, please visit our website at

www.fglister.com 74

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the apple market

Despite diversification, produce still remains The Apple Market’s most extensive section.

The Apple Market over the handful of nearby competitors for another reason: the store’s unique grocery line. “I’ll try and bring in different items the chain stores don’t have,” Pirri explains. “Pasta sauce made locally, or a pasta from Italy, rather than your brand name or generic pastas. They’ll come to us for those unique, hard-to-find products. Customers say that all the time— ‘We buy stuff here you can’t buy anywhere else.’” However, even with all its new departments, The Apple Market remains true to its roots by offering only the freshest products in its largest section—produce. Pirri says customers prefer The Apple Market to its competitors because they recognize superior quality, which comes from offering locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables when available, in addition to all the handpicked produce brought in four to fives days a week from the Ontario Food Terminal. “If I wouldn’t bring it home to my family and put it on our table, I wouldn’t

put it in my store,” Pirri says. With a product that speaks for itself, there’s not much more that The Apple Market needs to say to convince Mississauga that the store is a vital investment for the community. _a

community connection > “The Apple Market is set apart from its competition through customer service. We will do everything we can to help consumers while they shop, whether it’s taking them to find a product rather than just pointing to where it is, or cutting a piece of fruit for them to try if it’s something new.” –mike pirri, owner advantagemagazine.ca


victoria park community homes

outreach

back from the brink Victoria Park Community Homes has not only provided affordable rents to the less fortunate in Hamilton, ON, but has revitalized and improved the formerly undesirable Victoria Park neighbourhood by david hudnall

I

n the early 1970s, the municipality of Hamilton, Ontario, voted to allocate provincial and federal funding to clean up and enhance a major thoroughfare into the city. The project required expropriating significant housing along the thoroughfare, but since the neighbourhood affected was largely an undesirable one—notorious for drug dealing and prostitution—it was seen as a necessary, progressive step for the city. However, the neighbourhood, situated around a public space called Victoria Park, was also home to many new immigrants and working poor families, as well as single-parent families and individuals who relied on the government for assistance due to low incomes, disabilities, or other disadvantages. In 1974, a group of concerned individuals from the community organized and resisted this displacement. They purchased land, renovated and painted homes, and preserved a small portion of their neighbourhood as a place for affordable housing for families. What began as a loose connection of individuals became an organization, and Victoria Park Community Homes was formed. Today, the nonprofit manages roughly 2,000 housing units, providing market rent and subsidization to qualifying individuals in Hamilton and its neighbouring communities. It relies to a large degree on government assistance to supplement the rent of the working poor and individuals on social assistance. “We Company Stats location hamilton, on founded

1974 employees

Under the guidance of executive director and CEO Colin Gage, Victoria Park Community Homes is taking a step towards sustainable affordable housing. Photo: Claire Binks.

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70 housing units

2,000+ advantage

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outreach

victoria park community homes

help bridge the gap between what people can afford and what the market dictates,” says Colin Gage, executive director and CEO of the nonprofit. “By complying with certain governmental rules, we get funding that offsets the debt we incur by providing lower rents.” In Canada, as in the United States, government-assisted programs are having a harder time these days as a result of the rise of smallgovernment movements like the Tea Party. “There’s a certain backlash to social liberalism happening right now—not quite as conservative as what’s happening in the States, but we’re definitely feeling the ripple effects of that mentality rolling out globally,” Gage says. Still, it behooves the Canadian government to provide affordable living, especially in its major urban centres. In large part, this is because costprohibitive rents threaten the vitality of the local economy. “An average family can’t afford rents in excess of $1,000 per month, which in many cases does not include the utilities,” Gage says.

Al Merlo began his family business, Merlo Electric Inc. in 1956 and will celebrate its 55th anniversary this coming April of 2011. Merlo Electric first started as a housing contractor, and over time, diversified to include property maintenance and large construction projects. Today, Merlo Electric is one of the largest and oldest electrical maintenance contractors in Hamilton and continues to offer a wide range of services to its customers, 24 hours a day.

MERLO ELECTRIC 276 Hixon Road Hamilton ON L8K 2C5 P: 905.561.6836 E: merloelectric@shaw.ca

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Victoria Park Community Homes’ position as a private nonprofit housing corporation—the largest in Ontario—partially safeguards against the volatility of political trends and movements. With many of its initial mortgages currently ballooning, the organization has a promising future. “We have a book value of roughly $75 million in mortgages, but it’s closer to $200 million in terms of market value,” Gage explains. This will eventually put the organization and its 70 employees in the more desirable position of being debt-free. This will allow it to have considerably less obligation to the government. Victoria Park Community Homes is also taking a progressive approach to housing placement. “We call it income-integrated housing,” Gage says. “We attempt to assimilate less fortunate individuals by putting them in housing adjacent to market-value housing.” By placing a low-income renter—who might be paying as low as $85 a month in rent after government assistance—in the same building as nonassisted, market-value-paying renters, the organization hopes to inspire and motivate residents with the success of their neighbours. “It’s a form of social engineering,” Gage says. Victoria Park Community Homes’ structure is similar to that of a private corporation, with 12 board members overseeing Gage’s stewardship of the operation. “But we have neither loss nor profit,” he says. “Rather than issuing dividends

community connection > “Rather than issuing dividends, we can turn that money right back around to assist families and individuals with their rent. We’re trying to make as much money as we can, but what we do with that money is quite different than what a private sector company would do with it.” – colin gage, executive director & ceo

as a way to distribute any profits we earn, we can turn that money right back around to assist families and individuals with their rent. We’re trying to make as much money as we can, but what we do with that money is quite different than what a private sector company would do with it.” As executive director, Gage handles the dayto-day operations and management, ensuring Victoria Park Community Homes is viable fiscally and administratively—efficiently providing services to its tenants, guarding against tenants duping the system, and maintaining a central-depository waiting list of those seeking assisted housing. Improvements are continuous; currently, Victoria Park Community Homes is in the midst of a comprehensive process of greening its infrastructure. It’s putting solar panels on roofs, outfitting developments with compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and spending $10 million upgrading properties with new, energyefficient windows and doors. “We’re constantly looking at new avenues by which we can move forward with our goals,” Gage says. The work of Victoria Park Community Homes has come a long way in its 40 years. Its work has transformed a neighbourhood on the edge of displacement into a stable, vibrant community that is successful at helping the less fortunate stay off the streets. The work Victoria Park Community Homes has carried out, and will continue to provide in the future, is not just a testament to the power of community action but an example to be replicated in cities around the country. _a advantagemagazine.ca


sudbury & district health unit

outreach

the kids are alright A new campaign by the Sudbury & District Health Unit shakes up health-promotion programs by making the delivery and information relevant again by chris allsop

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hen the Sudbury & District Health Unit (SDHU)—a progressive, accredited public-health agency— completed a routine survey of the 12 secondary schools in its catchment area of Ontario, it produced some unexpected results.

“We surveyed all of our high-school students and asked them what their health priorities were,” explains Christine Prokulevich, a public-health nurse involved in youth engagement and who works in priority schools. “Instead of typical responses, such as healthy eating or physical activity, they were saying they were stressed out.” An unexpected response prompted SDHU to act in kind. Instead of defaulting to its usual approach of sending in the nurses to lecture to classrooms of students, the agency decided to get the students involved to find out what students wanted to know and how they wanted to receive this information. “It’s almost like taking the focus-group idea one step forward by giving your clients a chance to work with you, and asking their help in developing the product you are implementing,” says Erik Labrosse, manager of school health. To this end, the bilingual “Can You Feel It?” health-promotion program was launched,

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1956 2009 budget $25 million employees

250 offices

5 people served

Christine Prokulevich, a public-health nurse, helped change the methods in which SDHU engages the student body to accurately assess the adolescent needs of their community.

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192,391 area covered

46,500 square kilometres advantage

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sudbury & district health unit

Alessandro Constantini stars in a promotion video for the “Can You Feel It?” program, which aims to help fellow students cope with the varying causes of stress in their lives.

targeting grades 7–12. SDHU had a video created to raise awareness about youth stress and to help students think about the factors that might be behind it. Students were recruited to help develop the content and to star in the video, and rehearsals were held for the next few months. Alessandro Costantini—one of the students who appeared in the video, and who now works with the SDHU as a youth program advisor—was glad for the rehearsal time, considering the 12-page monologue he had to deliver. “The video dealt with everything—being stressed at work, dealing with your friends and parents, handling school workload, etc.,” he says. “I knew it was going to be a big thing. It was a better way of getting through to the students.” The video was followed up with regular meetings with six student volunteers and public-health nurses to help further develop the program. They all met once a week for a couple of months to share personal experiences and discuss a number of issues besides stress, including eating right and sexual health. “It was cool because it was the first time it had ever been done,” Costantini says. “We felt righteous—celebrities of the health unit. It was nice to be listened to.” 78

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Immediate results were seen in the members of the group themselves. Described as diverse, and lacking in self-esteem, the students were encouraged to speak up and produce positive feedback. The group also helped inform a space within which the program would be delivered in schools, discussing furniture and lighting to help create an environment that would encourage the students to be more engaged with the material. “We gave the students some health training, and they in turn helped us to put out info in more youthfriendly ways,” Prokulevich says. “We moved from the nurse lecture to having small-group discussions with kids leading the classes, talking about what they wanted to talk about.” The SDHU has since chosen a number of schools in its community with greater need, and it is rolling out the “Can You Feel It?” program to new student audiences. Youth groups are being built in schools, learning spaces are being created, and Prokulevich confirms that the SDHU will continue letting the youth lead the way. “The delivery method will stay the same, but every school is different and that informs the process,” she says. “We don’t just work with the kids but also give the teachers a lot of tips and strategies on how to help the kids build their mental-health resiliency, reduce their stress. We also reach out to parents for the same reasons.”

community connection > “We are very proud of what our agency and its partners have done with the ‘Can You Feel It?’ project. Through the process of engaging youth and partner schools, we have built stronger working relationships with a goal of improving student health.” –dr. penny sutcliffe, ceo & medical officer of health

For Sandra Laclé, director of the health promotion division, the “Can You Feel It?” program represented an innovative departure in the way the SDHU engages with students and schools. “It is a way for us to make sure that our promotion programs on topics such as nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, and substance misuse resonate with our youth,” she says. “It gives them the necessary skills so they become more resilient and can make good decisions.” _a advantagemagazine.ca


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Find out how you can make a difference to 1 intoday 33 Visit 1in33Torontonians.ca to give generously and learn more about volunteer opportunities. by donating generously to Surrey Place Centre Charitable Foundation! Surrey Place Centre is an interdisciplinary community based agency in Toronto that delivers a broad range of specialized clinical services and programs to enhance the health and well being of people living with a developmental disability.

Surrey Place Centre is an interdisciplinary community based agency in Toronto that delivers a broad range of specialized clinical services and programs to enhance the health and well being of people living with a developmental disability.

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Visit www.surreyplace.on.ca today Did you know? 1 in 33 Torontonians living with a developmental disability. toare give generously and learn more 1 in 33 - like my daughter Maggie. about Surrey Place Centre.

Surrey Place Centre is an interdisciplinary community based agency that delivers a broad range of specialized clinical services and programs to enhance the health and well being of people living with a developmental disability.

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surrey place centre

From left: Terri Hewitt, VP of developmental programs; John Flannery, CEO; and Elizabeth Scott, executive VP of clinical programs.

frontline philanthropy The Surrey Place Centre provides Toronto with a crucial ally in the city’s effort to support people with developmental disabilities by zach baliva

O

ver the past 46 years, Toronto’s Surrey Place Centre (SPC) has seen significant growth in infrastructure improve its ability to identify, connect with, and serve individuals with developmental disabilities. Started in 1962 as a small clinic affiliated with the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital, SPC opened as an independent centre in 1966 and remained a government operated facility until 1987. The organization transitioned into a not-for-profit charitable organization and embarked on its current mission to “enable full participation for people with developmental disabilities.” 80

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CEO John Flannery says his team has carefully and purposefully identified and expanded both its services and programs to respond to the needs of people with developmental disabilities since 1987. “We were once an in-patient facility but have shifted from our early roots as an institution to a full-care centre delivering specialized clinical services by our interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals,” he explains. Elizabeth Scott, executive vice president of clinical programs, oversees clinical programs—occupational therapy, psychology,

medicine, service coordination, audiology, speech and language pathology, nursing, and behavioral therapy—for children, youth, and adults. She is also responsible for delivery of services through two autism programs: the Toronto Partnership for Autism Services, and the School Support Program. The numerous clients receive assessment, intervention, consultation, education, and care from a multidisciplinary staff. Terri Hewitt, vice president of developmental programs coordinates two programs. The first is the clinical videoconferencing program MMW, which serves northwestern Ontario; the second is the development of a new provincial initiative for adults to access all developmental services in the Toronto region. An organization like SPC can only be effective by knowing and responding to a community’s needs. SPC is one of 36 government-funded developmental programs in Toronto, but it performs a unique service. According to Flannery, SPC focuses on delivering “specialized advantagemagazine.ca


surrey place centre

outreach

clinical services to individuals with the most complex needs across the lifespan.” In addition to direct support—SPC serves 4,300 clients annually—the organization works to build capacity within the community to support its clients. “We don’t only deal with people in difficulty,” Hewitt says. “We have educational components and wellness initiatives that help people get the support early to avoid problems later.” These efforts include baby groups, where infants develop motor skills in therapeutic environments; sexuality groups, where boys and girls entering adolescence learn about the important transition; and classes where families of the developmentally disabled learn support methods. “We work closely with people and families to identify their own goals and assist them in getting where they want to go,” Flannery says. Six years ago, SPC established an academic and research unit. Academically affiliated, the centre operates as a teaching facility to educate families, service providers, physicians, and other healthcare professionals on dealing with the needs of the developmentally disabled. Furthermore, SPC is the clinical hub for the Autism Treatment Network (ATN), one of 16 such sites in North America. “We were the first Canadian site to establish an ATN,” Scott says. “We can identify potential medical issues of newly diagnosed autistic children and fast-track them to receive services.” The program is a partnership of Holland Bloorview Rehab Centre, the Hospital for Sick Children, and SPC. Other support groups and scheduled events help integrate the disabled with the community, and SPC is utilizing new technology to enhance this process. Through videoconferencing, isolated developmentally disabled individuals in northern and First Nations communities once limited by geography can now receive assessments and consultations. “We can connect people who might be the only one with a disability in their community,” Hewitt says. “We can assist them and bring them into a support group because that feeling of inclusion is critical.” advantagemagazine.ca

Surrey Place Centre participated in the 2010 Light It Up Blue Campaign to shine a powerful spotlight on autism as part of the Annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day.

Flannery and his colleagues always look for ways to make a positive contribution in the lives of people with developmental disabilities. SPC is proud to support Coffee Shed Common Ground Co-op—an establishment operated and owned by adults with developmental disabilities. The Coffee Shed offers catering and snack bar/kiosk options to its customers. “Supporting Coffee Shed is important because it’s fundamental to our vision of helping clients reach their full potential,” Flannery says. SPC is one of the Coffee Shed’s biggest customers and helped the partners increase their profits from $300 to $5,000 per month. The shop is a prime example of how SPC enhances the community. By combining clinical services, research methods, and education, SPC increases the Toronto area’s confidence and capacity for dealing with people afflicted by developmental disabilities. _a

community connection > “We perform very highly in almost every category of our staff satisfaction survey. We place an emphasis on having the highest quality of services and a good work environment because it helps us be invested in those we serve.” –john flannery, ceo

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last word

breaking boundaries Geyser Marketing Group’s Ron Kunitzky offers the best way to jump-start a global business strategy

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key to success for many businesses is finding a way to branch out to other markets, particularly on an international scale. But if your company has never ventured beyond Canada, you may be at a loss for how to get started. Here we’ve enlisted Ron Kunitzky, president of Toronto-based Geyser Marketing Group, to offer some insight for how businesses can implement a global business plan. If followed, these proven steps could open a number of doors for your international business endeavours. Because, as Kunitzky states, if you become good at what you do in your own backyard, there’s no reason you can’t expand. Ensure your brand resonates within international markets. You may have a certain logo or name for one of your products that’s very successful in your own backyard, but somewhere else it may not resonate. Make sure your product and value proposition really sticks with the locals. Benefit from search-engine optimization with locally hosted websites. Google likes to product-rank organically in each country. If you want to improve your organic ranking, it’s good to go with local hosting and domains. Develop your website in the local languages. In a place like Spain, for example, you want to make sure you’re doing it in Spanish. But you need to go beyond that. The tonality of Spanish is different in Latin America than it is in Spain. If you’re going to get your site translated, make sure you’re translating it to the language of that culture. Make sure you can legally sell your products in other markets. Don’t assume that because you can sell something somewhere that you can sell it somewhere else. Different governments have different regulations, so do you your homework. Partner with companies who know local customer behavior. If you’re trying to expand into other countries and you don’t really have a good lay of the land, there may be someone there who does, who could represent you, do distribution for you, facilitate and fulfill the products for you in the local market, and deal with customers. Sell in the local currency. This takes away any inhibitions— anything that would prohibit or hinder a sale. You’re not going to have to start calculating exchange rates. And there are so many online tools and functionalities these days that are able to do it. Abide by the local consumer and marketing privacy laws. Different countries have different laws as how you sell and market products, or how you communicate with consumers. That’s something people don’t think about. Companies may be great marketers and know the laws in Canada, the US, or the UK, so they think, “Oh, it’s the same here in this new country; I’ll just do the same thing.” And it may not be. 82

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After serving as head of partnership marketing for AOL in the United Kingdom in the early 2000s, Ron Kunitzky came back to North America to start Geyser Marketing Group in 2003, having seen a prime business opportunity. “I thought there was a real gap in Canada, because I didn’t see too many partnership-marketing agencies here,” he says. And so, Kunitzky took his expertise to Toronto, where business took off. Geyser specializes in all facets of partnership marketing, helping businesses acquire new customers and generate more revenue. Today, the company has clients all over the world, from the United States to Australia, and remains sensitive to each local market, understanding the country’s respective culture while operating abroad. “What I realized was that, in starting this business and getting partnership marketing going in Canada, there was still opportunity to do it in other markets, too,” Kunitzky says. “If you become a specialist in one market, there’s no reason you can’t export it to another.” Last year, Kunitzky took his expertise to the written word with the book Partnership Marketing: How to Grow Your Business and Transform Your Brand through Smart Collaboration.

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