This is a BDC RevUP Accelerator Success Story. learn more about BDC RevUP please visit: http://quintevation.ca/rev-up-quinte
Belleville Firm clevr Helping School Boards Nationwide Improve Workflow and Efficiencies to Support Student Learning
Coupling together a leading edge, web-based document management platform with a small-town, responsive and very accessible customer service mentality Belleville-based tech firm clevr is on the precipice of possibly exponential growth in the months and years to come.
Hosted within the ‘cloud’, clevr helps all levels of the education system, from front-line teachers to school board administrators, manage their information in a way that is truly revolutionary, yet allows them to continue to operate in a manner to which they have become accustomed. Each solution is created specifically for the needs of the individual board, meaning they don’t have to make massive changes to their document creation process or workflow.
It is this, combined with a highly-responsive and very human customer service and support system staffed by friendly, attentive and supportive team that has made clevr a truly amazing local success story.
“We have a hosted environment in Kingston and everybody taps into that from the internet from wherever they are located,” said clevr’s founder Darryl Denyes, who started the company as Leadership Services Inc. in 2006 after a career in education that saw him start as a teacher, move on to be a principal and then CIO of the Hastings and Prince Edward School Board.
“It’s intuitive and very user friendly. I talk about it as a web-based forms tool but people say it’s a lot more than that. Basically what we do is we listen to what the client’s needs are and then build the data collection workflow to conform to those needs. We don’t create a solution and then expect everyone to conform to it and use it the way we dictate. It’s our ability to understand the unique needs of every client and then put a solution in front of them that works like they’ve always worked, just now it’s digitally and with an automated workflow.
“We have built on the front end of clevr a forms building tool that allows us to be really unique and shape it for the end users’ experience. It’s exactly the opposite of a cookie cutter platform. And as an educator myself and knowing their business, we do that well.”
A Unique Understanding
Denyes said that it’s the unique understanding he and his team bring to the table as folks who have worked in smaller rural school boards that allows them to identify in a very real and demonstrable level that seems to have allowed for such a powerful connection with school boards in Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and increasingly the Maritime provinces.
“It’s exactly why we do really well in rural areas of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta – that’s our wheelhouse. It’s the understanding of the diversity of many boards, as well as the lack of significant resources – that’s where our team really excels. We get it. And the most rewarding thing for me is hearing the wonderful comments we get about the service and support teams. It’s pretty amazing to hear how supportive and accommodating our folks are from senior administrators in Winnipeg, Regina and Calgary talking about our little team back in Belleville.”
Word of mouth has been the biggest spur to clevr’s growth, with boards within provinces talking to one another and swapping stories of how clevr has or could help their document management processes. As well, Denyes also attends trade shows and education related conferences to spread the word about clevr.
Through clevr’s participation in the QuinteVation-led RevUp program, Denyes said he and his team will be able to expand their business further within Canada – and beyond – at an accelerated pace.
“Right now our focus is on Canada and we have a three-year business plan to double our client base and double our revenue in Canada. RevUp is helping by providing two EIRs [Entrepreneur In Residence] that we have been working with, who have exposure and have worked in international and U.S. markets before. The RevUp program is enabling us to accelerate our learning curve with this opportunity to work with experienced EIRs who understand how to create an effective channel for doing business in the U.S. which I don’t have yet,” he said, adding that the platform is adaptable to any sort of educational institution, allowing for that expansion to happen with little technical delay.
“Right now, we are focused on Kindergarten to Grade 12 education in Canada but we believe there are significant alignment opportunities beyond the Canadian K-12 Education landscape. Over the last three years we have really stabilized and perfected the clevr platform and now we’re really well positioned for scalable growth in terms of business development and sales.”
There have been challenges along the way, as with any new business. So much of the company’s financial resources had to be devoted to developing the software and employing the necessary infrastructure and skilled staff to be able to create and implement the clevr platform, that sometimes leadership team members within the firm deferred their own compensation to make sure that all employees, the front line team members doing the development, implementation and service aspects of the business, were taken care of.
And of course finding qualified, dedicated staff for what is in effect a high-tech firm with a small-town, folksy vibe is always a challenge, but one that Denyes and his team seem to have a handle on.
“From my perspective, I am not a developer, so I have staffed up on the development side and on the support side and if that means I have to put in huge hours for business development, direct sales, plus project management, plus administrative tasks, I will do it in whatever hours I have. So that has been a struggle, but wrapping skill sets around me that are complementary has been a key piece of our success model,” Denyes said.
“We have a team that is wanting to and willing to flex their hours to be accommodating to the clients on the other side of the country when we’re needed. When you call the office you get someone real, you don’t go through a large automated system. We are approachable and we understand the challenges faced by most school boards, which are, let’s face it, very much like the ones around here. I think that really has been the big reason for our success; our team created a great platform, we implement it based on the individual needs of the client and we offer a kind of old-fashioned, responsive customer service model.”
For more information on clevr, visit www.clevr.ca.