Gurval Caer – A French success story in America


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The Frenchman and former French Navy conscript Gurval Caer, 37, is the CEO of Blast Radius, an award-winning provider of innovative and profitable customer experiences. Blast Radius, recognized as one of Canada’s 50 best privately managed companies, integrates strategy, technology and design to help global companies better align their sales, marketing and service to the needs of their customers.

The Internet Magazine ONE DEGREE interviewed recently our French friend Gurval Caer.

One Degree: Blast Radius is one of Canada’s largest web development shops, yet most of your work is done for non-Canadian firms. Is this a historical fluke, a planned strategy, or coincidence?

Gurval Caer: Our strategy from the beginning was to build a business that targeted the Fortune 1000. We believed that they were most likely to possess the resources and vision to truly understand and realize the potential of technology to create a new kind of customer experience. That was our mission from day one.

By starting in Vancouver, we were able to be more cost-effective for the West coast business community and developed relationships with companies like Nike in Portland and Nintendo in Seattle, both of which are still clients today.

Now since we have opened offices in Toronto and Amsterdam, we are also developing strong relationships within Canada and Europe.

One Degree: We’ve seen web shops attempting to “productize” their intellectual property. Is this a wise strategy or does it have inherent weaknesses?

Gurval Caer: It’s an extremely wise strategy. It’s creates great productivity gains which, in turn, translate into more value for the customer.

One Degree: Blast Radius managed to hold its own and even grow through some of the tough times the industry faced a few years ago. What lessons can be learned from your approach to leading a business through down times?

Gurval Caer: Four things really…for one, we worked very hard. Believe me, those were long nights.

Second, we entered the downturn with Nike, Nintendo, Lego and Casio as clients. Highly stable 1000 companies are not likely to disappear during rough times. We focused on building long-lasting relationships with these clients… not ones based on a transaction or project but real long-term connections.

Third, we built a cost structure to withstand those tough times. We were profitable going into the downturn and we were equipped to maintain that profitability. We did have one layoff in January 2001, but we did it decisively so that we wouldn’t need to do it again. Many of our competitors at that time were cutting and cutting to the point where it began to resemble a death spiral – a very tough thing to pull out of.

Finally, I would say we never stopped innovating including adding a managed services offering in 2001.

One Degree: There seems to be a split between “Interactive Agencies” who focus on online marketing and “Web Developers” who work to bring business information and processes online, but both are often competing for the work. How should a client decide what type of vendor to select and how best can they find a right fit for their needs?

Gurval Caer: Interactive agencies are great if you want interactive billboards and ads. Otherwise, its web developers who are doing the heavy lifting to transform businesses – to open up new channels, to better manage customer relationships and increase satisfaction. As an experience innovation company, we are bringing strategy, technology and design expertise to companies like DirecTV and AOL to help them leverage technology to enable something unique for their customers.

One Degree: Increasingly we’re seeing CEOs of technology companies using blogs to communicate directly with the market and to establish better transparency. Have you considered joining the ranks of CEO Bloggers?

Gurval Caer: No. I think doing it right requires a major commitment. Most CEOs are copying and pasting the content of their existing newsletters into their blogs. Ultimately, there is a much more value in blogs from a marketing word-of-mouth perspective. Especially for companies that are targeting broad consumer bases.

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