Skip to main content

Lak Gill, a managing partner at Interware Systems

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.

Back in April, Interware Systems Inc. landed the biggest contract in the company's 28-year history – a $2.1-million deal from the Ontario government.

It's not just bringing in a lot of money but has also opened doors to new clients and contracts, says Lak Gill, one of two managing partners of the Toronto-based information technology firm.

Story continues below advertisement

But while that's all good news for the company, it has raised worries, too: After the contract was announced, other Interware clients started to call with concerns about whether the company would still be able to deliver the type of service they've become accustomed to.

And Mr. Gill doesn't want any clients to feel like they are playing second fiddle.

For nearly three decades, the 14-employee company, which brought in revenues of about $3-million last year, has prided itself on being small and offering intimate, personal service to clients. Each client has a dedicated account manager to help with technical issues and support, and a "virtual chief information officer" to help clients control their IT spending, among other things. Mr. Gill also personally talks to clients on an almost-daily basis.

That personal touch is a big reason that clients have come to the firm, he says.

Now that it's landed the big contract, however, clients worry about taking second place. Mr. Gill is not worried that quality will deteriorate – and he's told them that. He's also making four new hires to work exclusively on the government contract.

However, he's still concerned about how to allay the concerns of both current and potential clients who think he can't handle their business any more.

"It's about perception," he says. "How do we make customers realize that they're not No. 2 as we continue to grow our company?"

Story continues below advertisement

The Challenge: How can Interware reassure clients their level of service will not be compromised by a big new contract?

THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN

Lisa Shepherd, president of Toroto-based The Mezzanine Group

It's good that he's hiring more staff, but he needs to bring in a really strong operator, or manager, who can handle the new contract or the existing clients; someone he can bring to the clients and say, this person – talk up his [or her] background – is going to be handling these accounts and we're happy to have him [or her] on the team. Business-to-business clients are savvy about the service they're getting, so he can't just say not to worry. He's going to have to put his money where his mouth is. That means adding more resources.

He also needs to think about what kind of service he wants to offer as he continues to grow. You can't have it both ways. At some point, he won't be able to serve as many customers as well as he does now. He needs to reframe how he thinks about his business and how he serves his customers.

Colleen McMorrow, Toronto-based entrepreneurial services leader for Ernst & Young.

Story continues below advertisement

He needs to make sure he's communicating. Show them that he's not distracted with the big elephant. You don't want to be defensive about the opportunity for growth, but keep talking to them on that personal level. Reinforce that you have the infrastructure in place and then make sure you execute successfully.

Also demonstrate that there will opportunities for the clients because of that group. If you can bring new networks and relationships to your existing customers, that will be an added benefit. So provide clients with additional values, benefits and features that didn't exist before.

Maggie Fox, chief executive officer of Toronto-based Social Media Group

I had the same problem. People came to my company because of me. But when we started to expand, I couldn't give that same personal attention as I did before.

It's all about managing client expectations. The reality is that things are going to change, so don't tell the client it's not. But clients understand that things change.

He needs to talk to the client, but be very solutions-oriented. Say thanks for supporting us and here's a new structure and model. Now I deal with only the most senior people on our accounts. I'm still in regular personal contact with every one of them – probably once or twice a month – and, if they have any concerns, they come to me. Realistically, why would the top executive of a company want to be focused on executions when there's more value to add elsewhere? Clients will respect that.

THREE THINGS THE COMPANY CAN DO NOW

Hire a new manager

Bring on someone with a strong background who can be the new point person on other client accounts. Explain who the person is and how he or she can help.

Stay in touch

Even with a new point person, keep talking to clients about their issues and concerns. It doesn't have to be every day, but a call or lunch once a month still offers that personal connection.

Be honest

Tell clients that the company is growing and that's a good thing. Be upfront and spell out how you'll be able to continue providing that personal service going forward.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Facing a challenge? If your company could use expert help, please contact us at smallbusiness@globeandmail.com

Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues: http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

Our free weekly small-business newsletter is now available. Every Friday a team of editors selects the top picks from our blog posts, features, multimedia and columnists, and delivers them to your inbox. If you have registered for The Globe's website, you can sign up here. Click on the Small Business Briefing checkbox and hit 'save changes.' If you need to register for the site,click here.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter