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Making the Cut: Success Factors Fueling Canada's Technology Fast 50 Companies

By Julie King |

Turning a great idea or product into a multi-million dollar global company is a dream that many entrepreneurs share, but few achieve.

Just 4.7 per cent of the 2.2 million businesses in Canada can be categorized as high-growth firms.  Even in the knowledge-based industries, like the professional, scientific and technical services industry category, the number is still low at approximately 7.5 per cent.

There is a significant gap, it would seem, between companies that intend to grow and those that actually do.

What is different about the companies that are able to successfully cross this gap? To answer this question, CanadaOne took a closer look at the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 award recipients. The Technology Fast 50 ranks Canadian tech companies who are creating their own IP with at least $5 million in revenue by their five-year growth rate.

In an exclusive interview I spoke with Richard Lee, National Managing Partner for Technology, Media and Telecommunications at Deloitte. Here are his insights into what it is that sets the award winners apart from other high tech firms.

Differentiator #1: Technology Fast 50 Winners are global

In conversations with several award recipients at the award gala, one thing quickly became clear; award winners all had a substantial international customer base.

"All of the companies are Canadian-based, but most are global businesses with most of their customers outside Canada," explained Lee.

He noted that one critical success factor is being able to "… manage a global business without tripping over yourself."

Differentiator #2: Technology Fast 50 Winners transition effectively

Another key attribute that set winners apart was their ability to transition from the ad hoc, less structured environment of a start-up to a more disciplined management process.

"The thing to be able to manage is the transition from a founder-led company, where everyone kind-of does everything, to a position where you can bring in professional managers and define appropriate [management] processes and metrics, to support continued growth," said Lee.

Award winners were able to find ways to transition the type of people involved with the company, as well as the processes used to run the business, as the company grew.

Bringing in professional managers and managing processes in the company - which includes identifying, measuring and tracking the right metrics - are two things that can help a company make this transition successfully.

Differentiator #3: Technology Fast 50 Winners solve problems

Lee noted that winners have been able to deliver value by solving problems that were important to a large number of people. Equally important is that those people were willing to pay for the solution.

He stressed that a company's initial customer base is not always the best indicator of larger-scale market potential.

"First, customers are going to buy it anyway, because they have a problem and you have a solution," said Lee. "The important thing is to find how you can transition to serve the mainstream."

This does not mean that companies cannot succeed in niche or specialty markets. Indeed GuestLogix, a company I spoke with at the awards, produces on board onboard retail and payment technology solutions for the airlines and the passenger travel industry, a narrow vertical.

Differentiator #4: Technology Fast 50 Winners are innovators

The final thing that Technology Fast 50 winners share was a commitment to ongoing innovation.

"There is room for specialists," said Lee, "but growth is about serving a large addressable market, so you need to innovate to stay ahead of competition and meet the needs of mainstream market, which is changing."

This resonates with a video interview CanadaOne did recently with Rita McGrath, whose book The End of Competitive Advantage highlights the importance of shifting to a corporate culture that embraces ongoing waves of innovation.

Up next

What issues are impacting companies that want to grow in Canada? Stay tuned for the next installment of Making the Cut, which will explore some of the challenges Canadian technology companies face, as well as ideas for start-ups and existing business that want to accelerate their growth.


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