This story was originally published by Simcoe.com
A special thank you to Rick Vanderlinde for reaching out to pavliks.com
to arrange an interview with Ian Pavlik, President, about Barrie companies going global.
Ian Pavlik, president of pavliks.com, credits his company's international division, The Portal Connector, for allowing the Barrie IT and network support firm to go global.
- Rick Vanderlinde/Metroland
No matter what business you’re in, if you want to go global, you’ll have to hop on a plane to make connections — in person.
Ian Pavlik of pavliks.com and Stephen Loftus of Innovative Automation Inc. agree pressing the flesh still pays dividends even in this age of instant online communications.
“There is a lot of value in face to face,” Pavlik said. “Our team travels to all different parts of the world monthly, presenting and selling.”
Loftus, who just spent two weeks in Europe creating business connections for his robotics company, believes getting your boots on the ground in a target market can make all the difference.
“We need to be proactive and be the first guy crossing the ocean to do that business,” Loftus said. “We want to be the guys leading, we don’t want to be the guys playing catch up.”
pavliks.com won the Barrie Chamber of Commerce’s Going Global award this year, while Loftus and Innovative Automation won the Arch Brown Entrepreneur of Excellence Award.
Pavlik said his IT support company ventured into international markets about five years ago when it created website software called The Portal Connector. The software is a tool companies, governments and organizations can use to create their own interactive websites.
The Portal Connector now has 60 companies around the world selling the software, which was developed in Barrie.
But creating a web tool for a niche market was only part of what made The Portal Connector a success. Marketing it to customers around the world proved to be the biggest — and most important — challenge.
“We spend more money on marketing and sales than we do on product development,” Pavlik said. “A lot of businesses don’t realize that. They think, I got a great idea but developing that idea is only part of getting you global positioning in the market.”
Pavlik said the Portal Connector, which is one of three divisions in the 60-employee company, lost money for the first few years.
“Getting it in front of the customer is the more expensive part. Without the money to market it, you aren’t gonna go anywhere,” he said.
Innovative Automation connects with supply companies to become part of a global platform to provide high-tech, robotic production equipment.
“People need to understand that you do have the facility and manpower to supply them globally, that is the first message,” Loftus said. “You gotta deliver.”
Delivering is exactly what Innovative Automation is doing in China now, where its team is starting up its first system and training operators there.
The Canadian government has been helping companies with highly-skilled employees find international markets for at least 10 years.
According to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the country has invested more than $9 billion in support of science, technology, and the growth of innovative firms since 2006.
The Canadian Trade Commissioner’s website points to Canada’s educated workforce as a commodity to be used in the global economy.
“Canadians have one of the highest-educated workforces in the world so let’s take that brain power and generate higher quality and better efficiency on the assembly side,” Loftus said.
The challenge for some companies is finding enough skilled workers to fill the need, especially in medium-sized cities such as Barrie, which tend to have smaller labour pools to draw from.
“Finding talent is more difficult here,” Pavilk said. “We could hire 10 people right now, if we could find them.”
Part of the pitch to secure senior software developers is to sell them on Barrie’s more relaxed lifestyle.
“We decided not to have offices in Toronto because of lifestyle,” he said. “People here go home for lunch to walk the dog. In the city, it’s a rat race.”
Innovative Automation is consolidating its two Saunders Road operations into one location on Welham Road beginning Dec. 15. The company boasts 110 employees and hopes to add another 20 within one year of the move.
“Looking for senior people is always challenging. Sometimes, they finally get to the realization its costing tens of thousands of dollars to drive up and down the highway, and they’ll come here,” Loftus said. “But the reality is, the majority are grads or co-op students. We invest three to five years to get them into the intermediate, senior level.”
Both Loftus and Pavlik are Barrie-area boys who intend to keep growing their global businesses in their hometown.
Like many internet-based companies, pavliks.com could do business from any location. But this is where Pavlik’s father started his local advertising company in 1969 so he intends to stay put.
Loftus too has always been in Barrie, where he left another local company to start Innovative Automation in 1989.
“I had a partner from Newmarket,” he said. “We could have located there, but it was more cost effective to do business in Barrie.”