UI_logo_002The year 2006 was when everything got started. The objective at that point was to successfully establish a real cash flow in order to give us some breathing room to grow our company. Our focus, in 2007, was to solidify our relationship with Videotron to increase our value in their eyes enabling us to increase our services with them. To do so, we needed to analyze where the growth opportunities were and position ourselves to win that business.

An important aspect that needed to be taken care of early in 2007 was the optimization of our survey software platform. In its initial development, it was not meant to take on high transactional volume and was starting to show some signs of inefficiency. Since we wanted to grow our survey services we really needed to enhance our software platform. Therefore, in early 2007, Abdel Toukebri, a senior software developer, still with us today, was hired to take over the development of our software, which we named UI Contact. I can sincerely say that the timing of Abdel’s hiring was crucial and, looking back, most probably one of the most important steps we took. He truly helped us stabilize and enhance our UI Contact platform, which in turn helped us effectively grow our survey services with Videotron.

After many months of discussions with key people at Videotron, we discovered an opportunity for growth, which was to offer them a technical support outsourcing service. Having already four other partners, offering them the same service, Videotron saw great value in partnering with us as our future call center division was going to concentrate exclusively on technical support services. Our current 2000 square foot office would no longer suffice the call-center requirements of our new project; we therefore decided to start looking for a new office space. We looked at many different options, from buying a building to leasing an office space. Out of all the options we looked at, all of them but one would have made us fail if we had chosen them. Thankfully, we chose the right option. Once again, that decision was due to a great coincidence. Before having made our final decision, we were looking into purchasing a building. This is when we met Martin Vallée, a great person who really looked after our best interest and who I would recommend to anyone. As the negotiation for the building purchase moved forward, we began feeling doubtful that it was a good fit. At that point, Martin mentioned that he had some office space in Laval for rent that was not publicized because he was mandated by the government and that it would have been possible to negotiate good leasing terms. We finally decided to lease the 8000 square feet of office space recommended by Martin. Looking back, choosing that option was another critical decision we made, which still plays a major role in our success today. The terms we got in our lease were extremely advantageous and enabled us to expand our business without too much risk.  Had we chosen another avenue, we would not be where we are today. The move was in September 2007 and by the end of that same month we started offering technical support for Videotron’s consumers.

To conclude, 2007 was a big year for us all at Utopia Image. We went from 13 employees in 2006 to 27 at the end of 2007. We developed our outsourcing technical support service and moved to a new office. Another milestone was achieved in August 2007 when Utopia Image was finally able to pay a 36,000$ salary to its President. 🙂 Finally, as a team, we were slowly putting pieces in place to ensure long term success for us and our partners.

In retrospect

When we were looking at office spaces, we didn’t really put emphasis on proximity to public transportation or location. I didn’t really understand the dynamics of running a call center, having come from a telecommunications background. It was with a little luck that circumstances led me to lease the perfect office space for our needs, located in Laval, and close to public transportation. This enabled us to have a call center in a region with few’ competitors,  creating low turnover, and providing access to a pool of great individuals who preferred not to make a long commute to the city.

One of the lessons learned was the importance to analyze all the possible internal and external factors that can influence the success of a project. In our case, the location of the call center was crucial to our success and had a direct impact with the level of quality we were going to be able to offer our partner. Coincidence and/or luck should not dictate the fate of our project. Although, as much as I believe that extensive planning and hard work play a major role in success, I still believe that positive coincidences happen when our intentions are good and we are steering in the right direction.

Here is a quote I got from Ken Morse, my MIT Mentor:  “Luck favours the well prepared”