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Embracing The Inner Nerd: Technology, Innovation & You!

Half the jobs as we know them won’t exist in the future.

An admittedly heavy statement to start a post, but it’s a comment that popped out from a keynote I attended this past week at the Alberta Venture FG50 conference in Calgary. Delivered by Kirstine Stewart, former managing director and head of Twitter Canada / VP Media at Twitter US, the topic of her keynote was “Innovation: beyond the buzzword”.

Fast Growth 50 - 2017 Adster Creative

Stewart started by asking via show of hands – how many of us thought we were a “tech company” & “how many of us believed we were involved with innovation”. Naturally, I raised my hand as did many of the 50 winners this year involved in IT, software, and marketing.

But alas, we were all missing the point.

We’re all Tech & Innovation Companies

What Kirstine was ultimately trying to drive home is that every company needs to be thinking of themselves as tech & innovation companies.

Taking another look at a company like Adster, for example, does one simply presume that because we optimize websites and build Adwords campaigns that we are a ‘tech’ company?

Consider the following:

Company 1: A home renovations company that uses sophisticated VR headsets to provide immersive, hyper-realistic consultation and uses cutting edge methods of recycling & reusing discarded home materials.

Company 2: A local digital advertising shop with $10,000/m rent that adheres to labour intensive project management and last week’s design/coding methodologies resulting in bloated invoices & a stale end product.

Who’s tech here?

Adster’s FG50 win this year

While we were thrilled to make the list last year, I am particularly fond of this year’s win and how we made the list.

Our revenue grew marginally. Our Assets fell. Our team size diminished. Certainly not the sort of numbers an entrepreneur wants to boast. But there is one number remaining, and that’s the one that counts: Net margin.

Over the past 18 months, in most morning huddles & every staff meeting I reiterate a common resolve: More with less. Despite it sounding like some sort of bottom line padding, horseshit corporate “is this good for the company” mantra, it aligns closely with Kristine’s keynote, and perhaps most importantly with my opening remark – your job is at risk whether you realize it or not.

What the future may hold

While I’m not sure which crystal ball was peered into to determine that ‘x’ jobs will be lost by ‘y’ point in the future, there are many industries that have gone through innovation upset in the last several years; take for instance Traditional Retail vs. Ecommerce, The Cab Company vs. Uber & The Realtor vs. Comfree to name just a few.

In each case, the ‘original’ players have done everything they can to stop progress from these new, innovative upstarts, but it’s a battle they shan’t win. The reason for this is simple: The market was ready for a newer / better / stronger / faster / cheaper way.

But what about customer service?

“Sure” you say, “but what about service?! What about the retail customer who still wants personalized customer service – how does something like ecommerce work here?”

Easy. Take for example my buddy Sean Farmer who runs (the innovative) Suits by Curtis Elliot. Boasting a lean operation driven by a cost effective / quality product & in person service where it counts most, He’s managed to efficiently bridge the retail gap, delivering what his customers really care about and building one hell of business in the process.

You can’t bill your customers for what you suck at

Look, service has – and always will – play a critical role in any business. But if your model (and profit) ultimately rely on passing off the cost of your inefficiencies to your customer and calling it customer service, the clock is ticking for you & your employees.

No matter how you slice it, there is only 1 possible outcome for those of us unwilling to embrace innovation.

2017 For Adster

For 2017, Adster continues on it’s path of efficiency. Here’s a few of the things we believe are key to maximizing our team’s time while keeping our customers invoices as low as possible:

  • ROI driven (read:common sense) client reporting to minimize redundant meetings
  • Moving any remaining client meetings to a structured date with clear cut agendas (thanks Ashley Janssen!)
  • Automation wherever possible
  • The gradual implementation of AI
  • Keeping a Masters level comp-sci guy in our employ to build things that do other things
  • Modest physical offices & flexible HR policies
  • An unrelenting desire to streamline process & procedure

Innovative? Hard to say for sure, but I believe we’re on the right track. The one thing I am certain of is that I am incredibly proud of our teams willingness to explore these possibilities and embrace a culture of innovation.

I would challenge every business in Alberta – and indeed across Canada – to ask themselves Kirstine’s question and challenge the way you do things as you move into 2017.