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How Ottawa firms can manage the challenges from rapid growth

NetFore Systems founders
NetFore Systems founders Allen Carpenter (centre) and Ken Workun (right), with management consultant Tim Skelly. File photo

How did NetFore Systems fuel their organization’s growth and become one of Canada’s fastest growing companies? By turning a successful service into a new product.

Ottawa’s NetFore Systems partnered with a local door-to-door marketing organization and developed a mobile technology to track volunteer progress and collect real-time data. With this core technology and a strong development team, NetFore secured a significant contract to create an electoral database management system that tracked door-to-door engagement and collected voter issues. The program was further expanded to help elected officials and small municipalities handle daily constituent interactions. Current customers include the federal New Democratic Party (NDP), multiple provincial parties, elected officials, and municipalities.

“We started the company with a strategic goal to be self-funding through services work, but wanted to invest the proceeds of that in technology,” says Ken Workun, CEO of NetFore Systems. “Once we had a beachhead market niche, we looked around to see how else we could apply that technology. We have progressed from door-to-door campaigning, to election management, to post-election engagement, to municipal issues and job management.”

The strategy paid off. NetFore Systems once again ranks as one of the National Capital Region’s fastest-growing companies. It recently appeared on Canadian Business’ Growth 500 list, with a five-year revenue jump of 195 per cent.

While high growth brings new opportunities, it also creates challenges. One such challenge is attracting top talent.

“They must have great technical skills, but we also require staff who enjoy venturing out,” says NetFore Systems’ president Allen Carpenter. “As a services company we differentiate ourselves by offering a team that understands our clients needs and are a pleasure to work with – that’s challenging.”

Pushing past the plateau

Tim Skelly, vice-president of strategy and business operations at management and consulting firm Stratford Managers, says NetFore’s challenges are common in high-growth organizations. He suggests focusing on cultural fit over traditional skills.

“I noticed a huge shift in thinking over the years from pure skills to the right cultural fit,” says Skelly. “We find people who can code, but how do you know that they’re going to fit into this organization with these teammates around you? The cultural fit will probably have a bigger impact on their success and failure than the resume.”

What other challenges lie ahead? This is one of many questions explored in a new research project from Stratford Managers and Invest Ottawa. They hope to create a white paper, presentation, and other publications to help guide organizations.

“If you go to the gym three days a week and do the same exercises, at a certain point you will reach a plateau. You can’t get past that plateau unless something changes,” says Skelly. “We want to develop some tools, tactics and capabilities for companies so they can get past the plateau.”

Skelly says one of the best ways to push past the plateau is to focus on a strategic plan.

“Optimizing your business process or embracing a scalable new business model may be necessary to maintain organizational effectiveness or achieve stronger financial results,” says Skelly. “A strategic plan that focuses on execution and communicates the plan’s vision down to the employee level is something that can take the organization to the next level.”

It can be difficult for executives to carve out time for strategic initiatives, but Skelly says it is essential for the organization’s sustainability.

“We want to let them know they are not alone in their business challenges, that there are processes and organizations that can assist them and that there are examples and case studies for those that have broken through the plateau.

Learn more about how Stratford Managers helps organizations and their leaders grow, improve and transform at  

To learn more about NetFore Systems, visit