The CIX Top 20 CEO Series highlights the chief executive officers of Canada’s most innovative companies.Today we sat down with Kevin Gervais, CEO @ Statflo.
What impact does being on the CIX Top 20 have on your business?
It’s humbling to think we’re among the greatest innovators in Canada. It validates our global and long-term vision of reinventing wireless customer service.
How was your company formed?
I got a call in Oct 2012 with a business idea from my co-founder, John Chapman, to take a spreadsheet he built for one of his clients and make it into an interactive app. I’m a believer of testing things quickly and leanly, so we built a prototype within a few weeks and got some customers to pay us up front for an annual license fee. We didn’t even have a bank account until months later, once we knew that customers from across the country found value in what we’re doing. We bootstrapped for over 2 years, keeping expenses to pretty much zero.
Since then, we adapted to provide more value to our customers, learning from the years of experience that these local store owners have. It’s been fascinating how some of them have really innovated the way they provide service.
For some context, John and I have known each other for over 8 years and we’re both insanely passionate about solving problems. It would seem like an odd match-up because John is 40 years my senior, but he puts me through my paces! I’ve learned a lot from him. He also is a telecom industry veteran who knows the pains well of both carriers and their dealers.
What brought you to this industry?
First and foremost, I find the telecom industry incredibly exciting, which is something I personally look for. There is nothing more relevant today than our phones and the things that will connect to them.
Second, I see a massive opportunity at Statflo to empower carrier-branded stores with a true omnichannel experience that builds a more local, authentic and personalized relationship with their customers.
Third, I have always wanted a better wireless customer experience. I’m a 28-year old old tech geek and expect providers to know when to contact me and what to talk to me about versus having to fight with a call centre.
Who are your typical clients?
We provide tools to independently-owned and corporate-owned wireless retail stores, as well as the telecom providers themselves. We are currently rolled out to hundreds of locations across 5 major carriers.
Can you give me a sense of your role and what you do as CEO of your company? What are your goals?
We grew from 3 people a year ago, to 12 today, with most of the team being added in the last six months. They are all amazing, each with unique skills. Because of this growth, I’ve spent time understanding where everyone fits in and have been launching our cross-functional groups within the company called “tribes.” Team members are usually part of several tribes. No one works in isolation.
I invest time in ensuring the whole team knows where we are as a company and where we’re going, including sharing financials, trends, fears, dreams, etc. This way we’re all on the same page and it’s created an incredible culture of trust. I care a lot about that.
Once that’s done, each tribe is empowered to set and accomplish objectives and it’s my job to help the tribe move through those objectives, whether it’s providing capital, resources, mentors, research, inspiration or ideas so they can take the lead. Nobody likes a micro-manager, so I get out of the way once everyone knows what to do.
Some of the tribes I lead include marketing, finance, and strategy. I’m also a member of several others.
How do you feel your past experience has impacted you and your role as CEO? Have you had any mentors?
I’ve been building websites and businesses with my older brother, Ian, since I was 7 years old. My first board meeting presentation was to a large construction supply company when I was 14. I won the contract, along with dozens of referrals to other clients. Some of our businesses did very well. Some, like the idea we could rent out the family home’s backyard for bicycle parking, not so much.
My collective experience has definitely shaped me. Primarily I’m a marketer, and over the last 13 years have been involved with the branding launches of over 200 companies, learning the importance of telling a story and keeping things simple.
I’ve had well over a dozen mentors over the years, so it’s hard to name a few. In terms of business mentors, my grandfather was a well-known sign-painter for 60 years, teaching me about branding and design principles. John Chapman has been a mentor and friend, teaching me the importance of integrity and listening to the customer. Ray Sharma, who sits on our board, has helped me stay grounded and accountable as we grow. And Jaafer Haidar I could write a whole article about, but he’s been a great sounding board to ensure we execute as best as possible.
Are you developing anything new that you can share with the public?
I’d like to think we’re helping transform telecom providers into someone you actually like, which I would consider a new innovation! But we’ll have more details at CIX on what we’ve been up to.
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
In the last 12 months, we’ve grown recurring revenues 600% and are on track to grow the company value tremendously over the next 3-5 years.
But 5 years from now, I see us as the ones who solved the omnichannel wireless customer experience, making it more local, proactive and mobile. We’ll have released a report on the tens of billions of dollars in revenue we’ve saved for two dozen telecom providers.
By this point we also see ourselves as being the one that helped hundreds of millions of consumers pick their carrier that year, using our proprietary data.
What are you looking forward to most at CIX 2015?
I’m eager to network with innovators and investors who are passionate about the future of retail tech, and to hear others’ opinions on what they’d change about the way wireless customer service is done today.