Category: Frozen in Time (2007)


In September 2007 we, at Utopia Image, started to put together a team that was going to be supporting our technical support division for Videotron.  Our deployment plan was given to us by Videotron and required us to ramp up a certain number of agents by the end of October. Every technical support agent that was hired needed to follow a seven week training in which they had to pass all 4 exams before they could start working in a production environment and take customer calls. Failure to pass the exams meant they had to be let go. Therefore, it was important that our trainers were qualified and our management staff had the ability to hire great individuals in order to make sure that most of our hired agents would make it through. Initially, it wasn’t the case! Many agents were failing exams and the quality of some of the ones who were succeeding wasn’t great. We experienced many problems structuring our technical support division and training of our future technical support agents. The main reason was due to the lack of experience our team had in that field.  In October 2007, I received a visit from the general manager of Videotron telling me that if we weren’t going to be able to effectively structure our service within a week, our partnership was going to end.

During the prior 12 months, I worked very hard on building my credibility with many stakeholders at Videotron. Throughout that time, I was extremely transparent with my goals and my strategies with them. I wanted them to truly understand that my objective was to make them succeed in their respective roles at Videotron. During the months we worked together, we were able to establish a very strong relationship, which was much more than just a business relationship. Doing so, was the key for our early success! Things got really hard in October 2007 and if I wouldn’t have been able to establish that initial relationship, I would have never had the second chance I got in October. Many people within Videotron wanted us to succeed because they really got to know me personally and truly understood my values. They knew that my objective was to make sure everyone wins! They worked really hard in helping us structure our technical support department and together we succeeded. Today, almost three years later, we’ve become one of their most performing and reliable partner in helping them increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty!

I cannot stress enough the importance of establishing a strong and honest relationship with your customers. In every business, there will be good and bad times and we as entrepreneurs need to make sure our customers enjoy the good times with us and help us during the bad times. That is how I think we can build strong partnerships and successful companies.

To the whole Videotron team: Thank you!

Anthony.

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Once our operations stabilized and were running effectively, I needed to start focusing on how I would finance my growth and future opportunities with Videotron as my personal line of credit was already invested in Utopia Image. I got to learn, pretty quickly, what I had been told for so many years, by so many people: You need money to make money!

During 2007, we didn’t really have any liquidity since most of our expenses were related to our bi-weekly payroll and our receivables came in on average every 45 days. Hence, the liquidity we had was to cover our short term expenses. One of my themes for 2007 was “Sleepless Nights”. We had tremendous financial pressure to support our payroll and our expenses with only our receivables because we weren’t able to get any financial support from our bank. Every pay week was a struggle, but we made it every time with a couple of dollars to spare. The particularity of our services, which was responsible for this financial pressure, was that as Videotron increased their demands for our services, we needed to hire additional people to support the demand and incur the expenses immediately, while receiving payments for our services at a much later date.

After meeting with executives from Videotron, in April 2007, and securing our technical support contract, we decided to negotiate a working capital loan with the BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) in order to finance our move to our larger office. With the help of the working capital loan and a couple of capital leases, we were able to finance the acquisitions of IT & Telephony equipment and office furniture.

Finally, after securing the technical support contract, we were able to transfer our financial accounts, in December 2007, to the RBC Bank and secure a larger working line of credit which helped us, in the short term, with our cash flow and growing operations.

Anthony.

During the summer of 2007, I had the opportunity to catch up with Alexandre Abecassis, an international patent agent for Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. I had initially met Alexandre while working, during my university days, at a research laboratory at ETS University. We went for lunch in July and I took the opportunity to update him about my company. After our discussion, we agreed that the process developed at Utopia Image was innovative and we had an opportunity to file for a patent. There were a couple of strategic reasons why we decided to file for a patent so early in the company’s existence. The first one was that once the innovation is disclosed publicly, we only have 12 months to file for the patent. We had disclosed our innovation to Videotron in September 2006. Therefore, if I wanted to file a patent I had to do it before September 2007. The second reason was that by filing a patent for our innovation, I would be able to enhance the credibility of Utopia Image in a short time frame. Due to these reasons, I decided to file our first patent in August 2007.

Looking back today, filling for the patent, was a significant step taken in our company’s evolution which still has a great impact today when negotiating with financial institutions and potential future customers. If everything goes as planned, we should receive the official patent in the near future. Alexandre Abecassis played and still plays a very strategic role for Utopia Image, not only as an extremely intelligent patent agent but also as someone who is able to challenge ideas in order to make them evolve into strategic applications. He has great business sense with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Anthony.