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Profile

July 26–August 1, 2011  Business in Vancouver

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Christopher Krywulak By Glen Korstrom

Upwardly mobile Christopher Krywulak moved his software company to Vancouver from Saskatchewan last year as part of a bigger plan to expand iQmetrix’s North American Dominic Schaefer

share of the mobile phone retailers’ market

iQmetrix CEO Christopher Krywulak: “[Socrates is a mentor because of] the way he went about his day wandering about, asking questions and wondering.… He was curious about all sorts of things”

O

ne of Christopher Krywulak’s employees pours a pint of beer in the office kitchen as Krywulak takes visitors on a tour of iQmetrix’s 11,000-square-foot office in Vancouver’s PricewaterhouseCoopers building. It’s nearing 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday afternoon and the sight is not out of the ordinary. A keg is usually hooked up to a tap for employees to use at their leisure. “We give employees freedom and trust their choices. People usually make the right choices,” said Krywulak, who is iQmetrix’ CEO. “[Drinking alcohol] can be good for creative aspects of the job.” Providing free alcohol also helps employees blur the line between work and pleasure because it encourages them to stay late and hang out with workmates while building rapport with each other. Employees who are less social can go to what Krywulak calls a “zen room” – a sound-proof sanctuary perfect for employees who need to get away from office commotion to enjoy peace and quiet. Queen’s University School of Business and AON Hewitt considered iQmetrix one of the best small and medium employers in Canada in 2011, so the company with nearly 200 employees and about $50 million in

annual revenue must be doing something right. iQmetrix, which makes software that helps mobile phone sellers manage retail operations, is 40-year-old Krywulak’s second venture. He bootstrapped his first venture in 1989 when he was fresh out of high school and held a day job at the Regina steel plant where his father worked. Family co-signed a loan, and he pumped more than $20,000 into launching a car-phone installation business. The enterprise morphed through a series of corporate names as it grew into Jump.ca. In 1999, the chain had more than a dozen retail stores, which sold cellphones, Internet and wireless services as well as accessories. Krywulak credits much of that growth to his passion for analyzing data. He created reports using Microsoft Excel and documented what each employee at each store was selling. Some sold a staggering amount of accessories. Others were expert at selling a broad range of phones. Still more disproportionately sold the same phone over and over. Simply alerting employees to what they were selling helped motivate everybody to sell both more and a wider variety of products. Jump.ca still exists as a chain of 16 Saskatchewan-based stores, and

Krywulak continues to own a minority share. But 1999 was a pivotal year because it was when Krywulak created iQmetrix as a sister company to Jump. ca. He invested an increasing amount of his time building his new venture and, in 2002, stepped down as Jump. ca’s CEO. Money generated from selling twothirds of Jump.ca to private equity firms in 2006 helped bankroll iQmetrix’s growth. “Jump.ca wasn’t the kind of business I saw myself in forever,” Krywulak told Business in Vancouver in his corner office, which overlooks Canada Place and has several white boards – all marked up with complex-looking scribbles. “At iQmetrix, we’re not limited by geography. We’re not limited by a local economy. Back at Jump.ca, we were just in Saskatchewan. We could be cut off if the economy changed.” Growing iQmetrix is enabling Krywulak to take on the world. He based sales representatives in Denver, Colorado, and then, in 2008, bought Winnipeg-based Work Software Systems, which had an American office in Charlotte, North Carolina. About 20 of his staff now work in the U.S.; the remainder work in Canada.

Mission: To expand a range of software products for mobile phone retailers Assets: Experience gained from building a mobile phone retail chain into more than a dozen stores Yield: A software company that employs almost 200 people and generates more than $50 million in annual revenue

He moved to Vancouver in August 2009 and shortly afterward shuttled his company’s head office to Lotusland from Regina, where the company’s largest office still operates. A local hiring campaign is nearly complete. Only about six hires are likely in the next few months at his Vancouver office, which now employs 50 people. Growth, of course, depends on sales, and iQmetrix’s keep growing. Krywulak estimates that 15.5 million phones, or about 10% of the phones sold in North America, pass through his company’s point-of-sale systems. His core software helps mobile phone sellers, such as Vancouver-based Glentel Inc.’s (TSX:GLN) 120-location Wireless Wave chain, manage everything from human resources to inventory management to point-of-sale systems. Select customers have already started using software that Krywulak believes could one day be an even bigger source of revenue: XQ. It runs in the background as customers at mobile phone stores touch large TV-screens and drag and drop different phone accessories and payment plans into a template phone that they want to buy. Krywulak glides his finger across a TV screen and new mobile phone models suddenly appear. “All models of the phones on the screen will be in stock at the retailer. It helps with inventory management because they don’t need to have as much stock in the store. All phones on the screen will be in the back room if a customer wants to buy one,” he said above the din of music and chatting while staff drink beer and sit on plush couches near the iQmetrix kitchen. Krywulak is nothing if not curious. Asked for a mentor, he names Socrates. “The way he went about his day wandering about asking questions and wondering. It was the sense of wonder that he had. He was curious about all sorts of things.” University of Manitoba president David Barnard met Krywulak when the two served on the board of the Regina Regional Economic Authority as well as other committees when the two lived in Regina. “He’s very high-energy creative guy,” Barnard said. “He thinks about how to make connections between lots of different things. He has a good feel for what’s happening in his sector.” • gkorstrom@biv.com

DID YOU MISS THESE RECENT EDITORIAL PROFILES? Lesley Stowe

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Check them out at www.biv.com/profiles

Business in Vancouver, July 26-August 1, 2011; issue 1135  

newspapers, business, marketing

Business in Vancouver, July 26-August 1, 2011; issue 1135  

newspapers, business, marketing