We caught up with Dave Roe, CEO of Elantis Solutions Inc. to celebrate our 10 year anniversary. In this interview, Dave shares his inspiration for starting the company and some of the challenges he faced in the beginning. He also recounts some of the company’s major milestones, proudest moments, and biggest achievements over the past 10 years.
I wanted to create a company that brought sales and delivery together. I’d worked in a number of consulting companies before, on both the delivery and the sales side of things, and saw a huge gap in what sales were selling and what delivery was delivering. It was my goal to bring those two together and create a company that was very customer focused and delivered what it said it was going to do.
It was very challenging when I first started Elantis, from a financial situation. I can remember when I went out to meet with a customer and I was actually parked in an hourly parking space and didn’t know if I could afford to pay the ticket when I finished the meeting. So that was one of the challenges when I first set up Elantis. Another one was attracting and retaining the great talent that we need at the company to deliver the products we do. And so that was always challenging. As a very new company, how do you attract that sort of talent? I managed to get some people that I’ve worked with in the past who shared the vision of Elantis and got them to join (talked them into joining!) Elantis with me.
I think what makes us different than other companies in this space is that we own the experience. A lot of other IT consulting companies can do exactly the same as us from a technology perspective, but we focus on the end to end customer experience. So it’s not just about putting in place a technology or solution that works for the customer; it’s about the interaction from the very first time to give them exactly what they needed.
We’ve had some quite major milestones from an office perspective. I remember getting the first office in Edmonton—that was a major milestone—and getting one in Vancouver was also exciting and then expanding into Bellevue in the US. Those are the milestones that I can remember. But I think one of the real things that jumps out to me is when we moved from a contractor model to an employee model. This allowed us to start creating a culture in the company, started to make us a great place to work and allowed us to start really focusing on customer success. We started to hire people and create a culture that people enjoyed and actually, it felt much more like a company then when we could build that team. Another milestone that jumps out to me is the creation of our partnerships with both Microsoft and Nintex. These have been integral to our growth here at Elantis and we are really thankful to our partners for all they have done for us.
Some of the proudest moments I’ve had as a CEO of Elantis is obviously things like working with Fortune 500 companies in the US—that’s really exciting—but the real things that are important to me are a lot smaller than that. One of the things I always fall back on when I think about why I do this is I was once in a restaurant having dinner and the waitress brought over a bottle of wine. It was from a customer who was also in the restaurant and he sent it across to me to sort of say thanks for all the hard work we’ve been doing. Those sort of small things really mean a lot to me. I also received a soccer ball (of all things) from the team here at Elantis for thanking me for the hard work I’ve been putting in here and making it a great place to work. So those sort of small things are what I really get a buzz out of.
Of all the great things we’ve done at Elantis, the thing that jumps out to mind as our greatest achievement is actually watching people grow. I love seeing people come and join Elantis and then a few years later I think to myself, wow, this person is a senior already and their career’s developed, they’re in a happy place. I think we’ve had lots of success with our customers in both Canada and the States. But really it’s about the people. It’s about hiring people, having them mentored, watching them learn, watching them grow. And watching them develop successful careers in their own way and going on and doing some great things for our customers and for themselves.
Most people would measure success by financial gains and things like that. But that’s not the type of person I am. I’m much more of a people person and I like to measure success by happiness, which is a weird thing and is something that’s obviously very difficult to measure. But in general, I like it when I come to the office and people are happy and enjoying themselves, the team’s in a good place, and so are our customers. It’s great when our customers call us and say that was a brilliant project that we just delivered to them. So really it’s just down to happiness. To me, am I having a great day? Am I enjoying myself and is the team and our customers having the same thing?
My biggest hope for Elantis is that it keeps running for years to come, even after I’ve retired. Lots of people built this company. It wasn’t just me, it was a team of people that put in tons of effort to get us to where we are today. When I retire, I don’t actually want to sell the company. I want most people to still have somewhere they can come and enjoy working at and build a company that makes them prosperous as well.