Skip to main content

Roger Sholanki, founder and CEO of Book4Time Inc.

TIM FRASER/The Globe and Mail

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

This spring, Toronto-based Book4Time Inc. signed two of its biggest contracts yet.

The deals, with two major hotel chains., will see Book4Time's cloud-based hotel and spa reservation software used to input and maintain reservations when someone calls or goes on the Web to make a booking. The software also allows clients to send out deals through social media.

Story continues below advertisement

The two contracts, coincidentally landed around the same time, will certainly give a big boost to the $3-million in revenue that the 25-employee company generated last year, says Book4Time's founder and chief executive officer, Roger Sholanki. The three- and four-year contracts will bring in several million dollars in revenue over that time, Mr. Sholanki says.

To fulfill the contracts, Book4Time has to provide round-the-clock call-centre technical support to the two chains, and is also required to send an employee, in person, to train hotel staff on the software as new hotels are built.

Mr. Sholanki's firm is committed to provide the support and training as soon as the first new hotels go up – both  have locations opening in July.

Right now, Mr. Sholanki's firm has nine employees on call between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET, Monday to Friday, and between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET on Saturdays to support other clients.

For these two clients, the company must now provide service between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. – in each hotel's local time. With hotels scattered around the globe, Book4Time will essentially be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How the company can best provide this service is the big question.

Mr. Sholanki has been seriously thinking about setting up two international offices - one in Europe and one in Asia, likely the Philippines, he says.

Story continues below advertisement

A remote office – which would include the call centre and training staff – he says, would make it easier to understand local culture and language. He also thinks the two chains would appreciate the international presence.

However, he figures it would cost about $2-million to set up - and he might not be able to get it all together as fast as he'd like.

The other option is to create a 24-hour technical support centre in Toronto; he'd have training staff travelling from Toronto to hotels abroad.

Expanding the local office would make it easier to manage staff and quality control. He's not sure how the costs would add up – labour is cheaper overseas but he already has existing space here.

Just as important, he thinks it would be tough to find technical staff willing to work midnight-to-morning hours.

"This model works well for pure data-entry but it might be harder to find skilled labour that would want to work this shift."

Story continues below advertisement

He needs to figure out which option makes the most sense, quickly.

The Challenge: Should Book4Time set up its 24-hour support in Canada or overseas?

THE EXPERTS WEIGH IN

Shane Lawrence, Toronto-based associate vice-president of sales and services at Toronto-Dominon Bank

He should either set up an office in Toronto or even consider outsourcing the call-centre work. If all he needs to do is provide 24/7 service, than he can outsource that right now to someone in the Philippines. Good luck setting up a new office [overseas]- it'll take six months to just work your way through the permit process.

As for people he needs to send on location, hire guys globally, train them in Toronto and then have them work remotely, either from home or in a shared office space. He needs to consider what will happen if he loses the contract [eventually]. He needs to scale up as cost-efficiently as possible.

Michael Denham, Toronto-based president of business consulting firm Accenture Canada

I would not recommend spending $2-million on international offices. I say that for two reasons. These hotel chains are spread out all over the world, so it's not like picking a single international location will do much. He won't minimize travel and logistic hassles. Also, for small companies, culture is important and he needs to have people located near the founder and top team so that they become part of that culture.

What he can do is scale up his call centre here first. Hire 15 or 20 people and then, as he grows, work with an outsource partner. Master the 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service and he'll get a rock-solid understanding of what he needs to do if he does want to eventually open an office. He'll also be able to do it more cost-effectively. For the on-site visits, he should consider partnering with another company that visits these hotels anyway, like an IT company. Train their staff on his software – he'll have to pay a fee to another company – and then he'd have a more local presence.

Steven Jast, founder and president of Montreal-based ROI Research on Investment Inc.

We've faced similar issues where we've won international contracts and needed to have feet on the ground in those jurisdictions. He can't do everything remotely – there's a certain quality of service that can only be delivered by local experts. So he needs someone knowledgeable about local business customs. For the people who will be doing the face-to-face training, they could work out of their own office and you might pay them a premium to use their facilities. Or if it's just one or two people, you could rent a shared office space.

For the back-end stuff, like his call centre, it's better to keep it local. I have better control over productivity, efficiency, hiring and training. It's hard to monitor people overseas and in different time zones. We try and do as much background stuff as we can in Montreal , and try to give whatever tools and intelligence people overseas need from our local office.

THREE THINGS THE COMPANY SHOULD DO NOW

Expand the local office

Scale up the local office. It's cheaper and easier to manage a local centre than opening two new offices overseas.

Hire globally

Hire technical employees overseas who can be trained in Toronto, then work remotely from home or a shared office.

Partner with another firm

Team up with another firm that already must visits these hotels. Train this company's staff and then send them on face-to-face meetings.

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 cansign up here. Click on the Small Business Briefing checkbox and hit 'save changes.' If you need to register for the site,click here.

Follow us on Twitter @GlobeSmallBiz. Download our apphere.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Tickers mentioned in this story
Unchecking box will stop auto data updates
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