Denis King is wearing plenty of hats during the COVID-19 lockdown: stay-at-home dad, part-time teacher and, oh yes, the brand-new chief executive of one of Ottawa’s leading software companies.
The 45-year-old engineering graduate of the University of New Brunswick recently took the helm of tech firm Solace following the departure of former CEO Les Rechan, who left after three years on the job.
In many ways, King – whose career at Solace began nearly 17 years ago when the company was a fledgling startup with “zero revenue” – seems like an obvious choice to move into the top role in the company’s C-suite. Just as the firm he now heads has grown into a leader in its field, King has matured as an executive during a varied career that’s seen him take roles with more and more responsibility.
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“I have touched a lot of different pieces of the company,” says King, who most recently served as Solace’s chief operations officer, where he worked closely with Rechan to expand the company’s customer base and marketing reach.
“It’s not a big change in that regard, but certainly leading from the top and overseeing all aspects to the company is new for me. I’m taking my time and taking it all in. There’s definitely lots to learn.”
King, who says he was “very humbled” to be chosen as his mentor’s replacement, credits Rechan – a former top executive with IBM and Halogen Software – for spearheading an overhaul of Solace’s business model that’s steered the company on a path to exponential growth.
In a world where invisible streams of data are constantly flowing from one point to another at lightning speed through a series of “events” – say, the swipe of a credit card or a scan of a boarding pass – Solace’s software smooths out bumps along the way, ensuring all that information gets from point A to point B as quickly and securely as possible.
“Everybody has a ton of data flowing around … and everybody wants that data in a more real-time way,” King explains.
Before Rechan’s arrival, Solace primarily served banks and other financial institutions. Under the former CEO’s watch, the company shifted from a traditional enterprise sales model to a subscription-focused platform that now delivers cloud-based software to clients in a wide variety of industries, from aviation and retail to gaming and manufacturing.
Since then, Solace’s annual revenues have been rising at a healthy clip, while its annual recurring revenues – a key metric for a software-as-a-service enterprise – are up 25 per cent year-over-year.
King has nothing but praise for his former boss’s people skills and charismatic brand of leadership, adding one of his prime motivations is “just making sure that I don’t let go of what Les started.”
Solace now employs about 365 people, two-thirds of them here in the National Capital Region and the rest at 17 sales and support offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. King, who’s working with other senior executives to map out a long-term strategic plan for Solace, says reassuring employees he’s got their back during a period of heightened stress and uncertainty is at the top of his to-do list.
“Keeping morale up and making sure people understand the opportunity in front of us is key to really thriving (as we come) out of COVID,” he says.
“I can talk about things all day long about where we’re going, but priority No. 1 is making sure that we are set up for success (to navigate) the impact of COVID. We feel that we’re in pretty good shape.”