Businesses succeed or fail on the quality of their ideas, not on the fanciness of the way those ideas are conveyed to management and other decision-makers.
That was just one piece of advice Intelex CEO Mark Jaine conveyed to students enrolled in a Management Consulting practicum at Toronto’s prestigious Rotman School of Management earlier this month. The two-week program is designed to give students real-world experience in providing consulting advice to a company.
“We have a saying at Intelex: It’s great ideas that win. It’s not about the presentation. I don’t care how glossy your binder is. It’s the substance that matters,” Jaine said.
An entrepreneur himself, Jaine was more than happy to spend time with a group of students embarking on their own business careers. And having a successful Canadian CEO in front of them for a few hours was a big benefit to the students, instructor Scott Rutherford said.
“That was a bonus. Just having the CEO in the room and being able to hear what’s important to him or her is crucial because that is what drives a lot of things (in a business).”
Jaine also related his story of Intelex’s growth from what was a mere three-person shop when he arrived 19 years ago to a firm now boasting 430 employees, 1,300 clients around the world and 1 million users. Times were tough for many years, with more red ink on the ledger sheet than black. But, as Jaine said, “There’s something to be said for making a commitment and staying with it.”
A laser-like focus on cash flow was key to Intelex’s initial progress. “We got through the early days with a focus on cash management – planning every month, month by month.”
It’s an approach, Jaine believes, that today’s young companies would be wise to adopt, rather than focusing too heavily on raising capital – a path that too many firms, especially those in the technology sector, tend to follow, he added.
The advent of the Internet marked a key turning point for Intelex. Prior to its arrival, the Intelex software came loaded on discs and needed to be installed onto personal computers connected over wide area networks – an often tedious and time-consuming process. Working with one of its first big clients, the City of Scottsdale, Ariz., Intelex developed a cloud solution on a Web-based platform and the business really took off.
The class also heard from Vinay Nair, SVP of Marketing at Intelex, who spoke about the importance of a company’s brand. “Brand is not a nebulous, unmeasurable thing. It drives your customer acquisition cost down. And the higher the brand equity with your customer base, the faster the acquisition (of your offering) will be.”
Rotman chose Intelex for its practicum exercise over a number of other firms, including such giants as Amazon. “Intelex was the right size – not a startup by any means but not too big that our recommendations would get lost in the hierarchy,” Rutherford said. Intelex’s enthusiasm for the program was also a key factor in the school’s decision. “You really need the client engagement” for this to be successful, Rutherford added.
The class will be divided into six teams, with each developing a presentation outlining its advice and suggestions for Intelex management about how to further grow the business. Students can pose questions to the Intelex team to help build their materials. These have centered on clients (Have any customers won awards?) to product details to data points (What is the average cost of incidents prior to implementing Intelex?)
Three presentations will be delivered in-person to Jaine and other Intelex executives later in January to complete the course.