David Owen Cord and Amin Lalani are co-CEOs of Avanti Software.
What is Avanti Software and what does it do?
Lalani: Simply put, Avanti exists to help Canadian companies build better workplaces. We do this through our all-in-one, Human Capital Management (HCM) software-as-a-service (SaaS). Our integrated, end-to-end platform helps businesses find, engage, schedule, manage, pay and retain their people throughout the entire employee lifecycle.
We’re living in a different era now; a productive, positive, employee experience has emerged as the new contract between the employer and employee. Employees expect it and organizations welcome it because it helps them get the most out of their biggest expenditure: their people. We’re moving away from the idea that hours equal impact – engagement drives impact, and engagement can be achieved with a data-driven approach to people management.
Owen Cord: To build on what Amin said, in Avanti, our clients have a partner in building a better workplace. Our customer-centric approach combined with our powerful software enables people leaders to make data-driven decisions with accurate, real-time reports and analytics.
At the same time, we enable employees to conveniently interact with the software and do things like request time off or apply for an internal posting from anywhere they have an Internet connection.
How was the company started and what was the reason?
Owen Cord: The company was founded in 1980 to help Canadian companies simplify and automate their payroll processes. After nearly four decades of serving customers and evolving into an integrated HCM platform, the owners were ready to retire.
With the support of a wonderful group of investors, we acquired the business in late 2016 and have been investing behind growing our people, product and processes in support of the next four decades. We’re intent on preserving the impressive legacy of a business built for Canadians, by Canadians.
I think Amin touched on it earlier, but the reason for our creation or the reason we exist is to help companies build better workplaces. The data shows that companies with better workplaces drive higher levels of employee engagement and consequently do better. So helping companies achieve that is an incredibly important mission. That’s the reason we all get up and get excited to come into work every day.
What are your plans for the company’s growth?
Owen Cord: What’s really cool about Avanti is we’re an established company with an advocative customer base, exceptionally low churn and unparalleled expertise in the Canadian marketplace.
At the same time, we’re starting to look and feel more like a startup in terms of how we operate using agile principles combined with an unrelenting focus on the employee experience, both internally and for our clients. You sort of get the best of both worlds.
Lalani: Totally, and what’s more is that modus operandi fits well with our ownership structure – as a bootstrapped company, we invest all our profits to support our growth. We don’t rely on rounds of outside capital to keep us growing. We can make decisions for the long term instead of for the next quarter and we aren’t going to be forced to constrain our decision-making because of how our company’s ownership structure. So when you look at the risk profile of our company, it’s asymmetric. We have all the upside of a high growth business, but a lot less of the downside, given our established history and proven ability to grow.
Owen Cord: To round that out, we plan to continue to invest in our growth, as we have over the past two and a half years. In that time, we’ve nearly doubled headcount, tripled our research and development spend and have meaningfully accelerated our revenue growth. We have conviction in our growth model and we’re going to put our money where our mouth is, so to speak.
How do you differentiate yourselves from competitors?
Lalani: We have wonderful competitors. Truly, we’re thrilled to be in an industry where there are so many companies actively working toward such an important mission.
Of course, in many ways, we’re like our peers but in other, important ways, we’re different. We find our clients get the most value out of our service is in three ways.
First, we are customer-centric – a lot of what we do is focused on delivering an amazing customer experience as consistently as we can. To that end, our product and service evolve based on regular feedback we get from clients as we try to alleviate their ever-emerging pain points. We try to treat our customers more like partners – their success is our success, so we are really invested in enabling them to build their version of a better workplace and we’re always just a phone call away.
Owen Cord: That’s a good segue into the second point, which is about configurability. Over the nearly four decades we’ve been serving Canadian clients, we’ve seen so many different permutations of how businesses approach people management.
And through supporting these different efforts over the years, we’ve built an incredibly powerful and infinitely configurable system that can suit the unique needs of a specific business. We enable companies to build their version of a better workplace, not our version of it.
At the end of the day, if a company has grown to 500 or more employees, they’re the ones with the expertise in their respective domains and look to us to help them better execute and improve the people management vision that has led to the success they’ve already had.
Lalani: And a key component of helping them better execute that vision is arming them with the right data, which leads us to the third differentiator. Leading organizations more and more rely on data to drive sound and informed management decisions, and Avanti enables this in a way that some others don’t.
The platform is built on a single, integrated database and our report designer tool allows our clients to pull just about any data that’s input into the software. We believe our customers are the owners of their people data and we view ourselves as the custodians of it. Consequently, we don’t place any restrictions, beyond what our clients instruct, on what is reportable. It’s their data to analyze, to report on and to own. Period.
Attracting talent is key for any business. What do you do to attract and retain talent?
Lalani: We couldn’t agree with you more – in fact, I’d argue it’s paramount to any business’s success in the long run. And a business’s ability to attract and retain quality talent is probably the greatest predictor of its future success. That’s why we have an unrelenting focus on our employee experience at Avanti.
Since taking over the business back in 2016, we’ve made a lot of changes to our culture and training programs, codified our core values, and aligned every employee around our cause: to help companies build better workplaces. These fundamentals alongside some new programs and initiatives have driven truly remarkable results, both internally and externally. We’ve seen greater internal productivity, better financial performance, lower turnover, more unsolicited applications and an increase in customer satisfaction ratings and customer referrals.
It’s the old Branson adage: if you treat your employees well, they will treat your customers well and by extension, all our other stakeholders as well.
Owen Cord: It really has been amazing. We’ve implemented several initiatives to create a great employee experience, including things like adopting a flexible time off policy, offering a robust health and wellness program, and providing better benefits and retirement savings plans, among other things – all of which stem from a place of empathy toward and trust in our people.
We’re incredibly proud and equally humbled to have these efforts recognized, not just through an increase in Glassdoor ratings, but by being certified a Great Place to Work and being named a Top Employer in Alberta and a Top Employer in Canada for Millennials.
Lalani: We’ll never be done, though, improving our employee experience. One of our core values at Avanti is innovation – the notion that we will be better today than we were yesterday, both individually and collectively. To that end, we will never stop trying to improve the way in which we treat our people.
| Mario Toneguzzi