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the challenge

Antony Rubino, founder and president of Resource Integrated Ltd. and Verde FastFrame Inc., is torn about where he should focus his attention.JENNIFER ROBERTS/The Globe and Mail

Each week, we seek out expert advice to help a small or medium-sized company overcome a key issue .

Since founding Resource Integrated Ltd. eight years ago, Antony Rubino has turned the Toronto-based printing, graphics and marketing services company into a thriving business, with 10 employees and revenue of about $10-million a year.

Now, he'd like to do the same for another firm he started two years ago, Verde FastFrame Inc., an eight-employee company focused on one particular product: signage hardware.

But building a new company takes time and attention: From the start, Mr. Rubino has determined how Toronto-based Verde FastFrame – whose star product is an environmentally friendly and easy-to-assemble display signage system – should be branded and positioned. He estimates he spends about a quarter of his working week at the company, doing everything from directing the development of marketing materials to promoting the new product at trade shows.

Passing on his vision to someone else won't be easy, he believes, which is why he's convinced he needs to be there for the new company.

When he's not working on Verde, however, he's still very much in demand at Resource Integrated, which offers a range of services, from printing flyers and brochures to printing and installing signs to graphic design services, designing websites and providing warehousing and distribution services. He continues to be hands-on with sales and projects, and says clients count on him to come up with creative solutions to their problems.

Mr. Rubino is torn about where to put in his time. "The fact is that Resource Integrated is a known entity that's constantly experiencing big growth, so it would seem to make sense to put your attention to what's really working right now, versus something that's new and still in development," says Mr. Rubino, who is president at both firms.

But he has high hopes and conviction that "Verde FastFrame will take off eventually, and that's why I'm also investing considerable effort and resources into building the company."

Mr. Rubino recently hired a business development manager for Verde, and says it's been helpful to have another person working to build the market for his new product. But he still believes that he has to be fully present for the startup to really get off the ground. Though he says he has "great people in both companies who are all autonomous, and I'm mentoring them all the time," nevertheless, "there are some things you can't teach overnight," he adds.

"The company needs my vision and drive," he believes. "But I've also got this other business that's keeping me very busy, and I've only got so many hours in a day. It's almost like I need to clone myself."

The Challenge: How can Mr. Rubino build his second business without compromising his first?


Rob Woyzbun, director of business consulting, Queen's School of Business, Kingston, Ont.

Mr. Rubino needs to consider the best strategy for growing Verde while ensuring the sustainability of his original business. Let's start with the original business. Like it or not, business owners should consider themselves replaceable. This provides the opportunity for new talent and for eventual owner exit.

Mr. Rubino should bring on, or groom, a manager to take on the day-to-day operations of Resource Integrated. This transition would need careful planning and execution, especially the transition of client relationships. Reducing the time spent on Resource Integrated will allow him to focus his skills on Verde FastFrame.

To ensure the success of Verde FastFrame, the owner should evaluate the best source for revenue and profit and develop a clearer focus and positioning based on that audience. If the audience for Verde FastFrame is the same as Resource Integrated, there may be opportunity to simplify the sales process and take advantage of the successful Resource Integrated brand. If opportunity lies with new audiences, greater investment in marketing and promotion will be required. Outside marketing services agencies may reduce the time commitment of the owner. Also, enabling e-commerce on the Verde website could be an opportunity. Greater focus will protect Mr. Rubino from spreading himself too thin.

Karen Fischer, partner, RK Fischer & Associates, Uxbridge, Ont.

He should continue to focus on the vision and strategy of both companies and be able to hire the right people to be able to implement it, and he needs to oversee this. It is about hiring the right people, training them and managing them properly. The goal is to teach others your vision and for you to monitor it and make sure it is executed.

Though he thinks customers identify the business with him – and some may – it is really more about the quality of products and services that he provides and the customer service. He needs to introduce the new person to take over the accounts and let [customers] know they will receive the same level of service. If he wants to be involved in the sales and the day-to-day down and dirty, then he needs to hire a business person to run the businesses and let him do what he is good at. If he wants to be the owner and grow the business, he needs to let go.

Catherine Graham, president, Toronto-based Right Sleeve Marketing Inc. and Commonsku Inc.

The key to success for Mr. Rubino is executing effectively on three things. The first is removing himself as a bottleneck in the day-to-day operations of the existing business, Resource Integrated. The most important area where this applies is in sales and client management. Mr. Rubino needs to transition key client relationships and reduce any dependency on him as the main point of contact in projects.

The second area involves setting Resource Integrated up for success if he steps back from the day-to-day. This involves ensuring the right team is in place, the vision and strategy are clear and that the team knows how to execute upon those. Has he openly communicated with the team what stepping back means for them? Does the team have the latitude and authority they need to act in his absence?

The final area is the road map for Verde FastFrame. Now that Mr. Rubino has hired a business development manager, is there a clear path for this person to follow? What does success look like for this business? How will Mr. Rubino staff the business and manage his time if the business takes off? Having a solid plan in place for both companies will make it easier for himself and all staff involved.


Pass the reins at the first company

Hire or train someone to take over day-to-day operations of Resource Integrated, and start getting clients used to working with this key person instead.

Create a road map for the second firm

Ensure the new business development manager has a clear strategy and action plan to follow.

Sell online

Enabling e-commerce on the Verde FastFrame website could open up revenue opportunities.

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