Tech Success Advice from MDA, BuildDirect and MailChannels

The British Columbia Technology Industry Association held its first Impact event of 2009 today at the Hyatt Regency. Impact Award participants in the category of Best Application of Technology talked about why their technology solutions have succeeded in the marketplace and how they’re coping now through challenging economic circumstances, with their collective wisdom captured by Techvibes.

BuildDirect President and CEO Jeff Booth led off, describing how his business was able to revolutionize the logistics of the $4 trillion manufacturing supply market with an online ordering system with real-time quotes for large volume orders at lower cost. After about 3 years in development, “We started out saying trust us! Pay up front and you’ll see savings of up to 50 per cent. That didn’t go over well.” It was a hard sell at first, but after a few satisfied customers told their friends, BuildDirect quickly grew to sales of over $50 million, Booth says.

Ken Simpson, CEO and Founder of MailChannels, spoke next about their solution, which offers an email Traffic Control technology that helps reduce spam and operational costs for enterprise customers. “What you see is about 80 per cent less spam in your junk folder and a little less in your inbox, but the real benefit comes from large reduction in cost. An organization could reduce the number of servers it needs from 300 to six.”

Best Application of Technology winner MDA was represented by Brian Gilliam, Vice-President Business Development, Space Missions Group. Known for its RADARSAT-2 technology, the most advanced commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite in the world, MDA is actually a highly diversified group of “small business groups within the company” focused on a wide range of activities, Gilliam says.

And having the right people connecting with partners within those groups is the key to their success, he adds. “It takes leadership within these groups. You need a leader taking and idea kicking and screaming into the market.”

What is the response of these business leaders to the current economic doldrums? “The recession’s the best thing that ever happened to our business,” Simpson says, only partly tongue in cheek. A boom in sales has resulted from companies seeking to cut costs. “We’ve cut our value proposition down to one item: cost savings. No one has called us crazy.”

Booth echoed his sentiments. “We’re the low-cost provider, so we’re doing very well. When times are good, they don’t care, but at times like this, people are forced to save money.”

Gilliam noted that MDA’s diverse business portfolio has allowed it to shift resources to cope, but also noted that due to smaller operators dropping out, its market share had actually climbed marginally, even if revenues were down. But its project oriented business model has served it well, as “our business for 2009 is already booked.”

The Impact speakers shared their advice for other companies to conduct business at this time. “The best way to learn the value proposition of your product is to have a constant conversation with your customers,” Simpson says. “It’s not a science. But it’s interactive.”

Talking about his company’s initial surprise that their innovative solution didn’t simply sell itself, Booth noted that in the real world of business, marketing your product successfully comes from knowing the customers’ needs and satisfying them.”

“You have to be sure you’re not building a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” added Gilliam.