Insight Flourishing In Qu�bec
BY JILL QUINLAN BIRD, VISION QU�BEC
Insight Enterprises was founded in 1986 when Eric Crown obtained a $2,000 advance on a
credit card to buy an ad in Computer Shopper selling hard disk drives by mail order. His
brother Tim joined him and together they have never looked back! The concept was a
success. In fact, the company's net exceeded U.S.$625 million. As Insight grew, it
systematically increased its product lines to offer customers a one-stop computer source
with thousands of products from which to choose.
Insight is a leading marketer of computers, hardware and software, offering a broad
line of more than 50,000 brand-name products primarily to the businesses in the U.S.,
Canada and the United Kingdom. Products are sold by a staff of customer-dedicated account
executives through outbound telesales and the Internet.
Based in Tempe, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix, Insight is an exciting and innovative
company in which even the standard call center setup has been challenged. Insight came up
with its own call center design which evokes the gladiator spirit of Ancient Rome. It is
built in the style of an amphitheatre with modular workstations descending from the
highest point at the outer ring, down to a series of managers' desks at the bottom. This
unconventional way of doing things has proved to be hugely successful.
Expanding North Of The Border
Insight has a dedication to excellence. A company has to grow in order to succeed, and in
the United States finding the manpower to grow your company poses a number of challenges.
Saturated traditional call center locations in the U.S. and boom times mean new challenges
- one solution is Canada. Canada, more specifically Qu�bec, offers an excellent
environment in which to grow your business. When Insight saw the opportunity to serve its
Canadian clients from Canada, the company seized it - never guessing that within six
months of opening the Montreal site it would be looking for ways to expand to service
American clients as well! In the works is a plan for a sizeable expansion in Montreal from
the initial call center, which opened October 1, 1998. Things are moving very quickly for
Insight due to the overwhelming success it has found in Canada.
When Insight first ventured north, it set out with a small team of American executives
to start up the Canadian operations. Of the original executives who came over from the
U.S. to start up Insight Canada, several have decided to relocate permanently!
A multitude of reasons prompted Insight to choose Montreal as its Canadian
headquarters: location, workforce, government incentives, real estate and technical
support. Montreal was and is, for Insight, the right choice in every respect.
Bounded by Ontario to the west, the New England states to the south and the maritime
provinces to the east, the province of Qu�bec is uniquely situated for doing business
with the vast North American market and the world beyond. Qu�bec is located in the
Eastern Time Zone of North America.
Qu�bec has a temperate continental climate with four distinct seasons: a mild spring,
an occasionally very hot summer, a colorful and frequently chilly fall, and a snowy, cold
winter. Average temperatures in the St. Lawrence valley range from 74 degrees Fahrenheit
in July to 14 degrees Fahrenheit in January.
Most importantly, Insight has never lost sight of its most valuable asset - its employees
- the people who support its customers. Insight strives to maximize the potential of each
employee through communication, coaching, education, recognition and rewards. In selecting
Montreal, it also selected an abundance of workers. But their quality and integrity far
surpassed every expectation. The potential of such human resources is boundless!
Qu�bec's young, qualified, multilingual and remarkably stable workforce is an asset to
any industry. There is no shortage of quality labor in Qu�bec, the workforce consists of
3.5 million people and double-digit unemployment continues to provide businesses with an
ample pool from which to selectively recruit. Moreover, four world-class universities
offering a fresh group of graduates each year. Presently there are over 400,000 people
ready and willing to work.
In Qu�bec, education standards are extremely high. Almost 2/3 of the available
workforce has completed high school or better. A further 195,000 have some post-secondary
training towards a university degree or technical college diploma. In fact, Qu�bec ranks
higher per capita than the 29 OECD (Organisation for Economic C-operation and Development)
countries for the number of first degree university diplomas.
Qu�bec is one of the most cosmopolitan societies in North America, a welcome surprise
for Insight. More than 80 of the world's languages are spoken at home and in the
workplace. The province's major urban centers boast sizeable multicultural communities of
Spanish, Arabic and Chinese speaking people, to name just a few. The language advantage is
one of Qu�bec's strongest resources in the race to secure call center business.
Insight was listed in Fortune Magazine's list of one of 25 "Cool Companies";
it prides itself on doing business in a nonconformist style. Creativity and
self-expression are prized. In the end, any reservations Insight might have had over
migrating its unique call center model to Canada were dispelled. Canadian employees have
more than held their own in coming up with creative and stimulating new ideas. They found
that American and Canadian work styles truly compliment one another.
Low Operating Costs
Not only does Qu�bec boast a dependable, highly educated and multilingual workforce, but
labour costs in the province are among the lowest in North America. According to a 1995
study by the consulting firm KPMG, operating costs for call centres in Qu�bec are on
average 15 percent lower than in the United States. Labor costs are among the lowest in
North America and fringe benefits are comparatively less expensive in Qu�bec.
The federal and provincial governments are firmly committed to fostering a
market-oriented business climate that is sensitive to the needs of companies. The
government definitely put its money where its mouth is! New incentive programs, providing
several hundred million dollars for job creation, have been launched.
Low corporate taxes, together with advantageous depreciation provision on computer
hardware and software and generous R&D incentives add up to an unbeatable combination
of cost advantages. When you factor in a range of government-sponsored job creation
programs, it is clear why companies like Hewlett-Packard, Air France and Household Finance
have recently chosen Qu�bec as the location for their call centers.
Insight Canada requires state-of-the-art-technology and Qu�bec delivers. Qu�bec provides
a world-class telecommunications infrastructure to facilitate the most sophisticated of
operations. The high concentration of world-renowned, research-intensive companies in
Qu�bec also ensures a high level of technological renewal.
Insight's decision to service American clients from Montreal as well as from the
Arizona office posed two technological problems. Firstly, the clients are serviced by a
1-800 number that would have to be configured to reach both the U.S. and the Canadian
offices. The problem was resolved by rerouting calls instantaneously. Secondly, there was
the question of Canadian staff (who service the American clients) feeling part of the
American team. They had to be able to take part in staff development meetings. Moreover,
it was essential that the Canadian team have the same strategies as their American
counterparts, not to mention the ability to have input into the design of new programs.
Videoconferencing was the solution.
If we could do it all again, would we? Yes! Insight's original expansion to Canada has
proven to be so successful that the company is looking to expand even further.
The experience of the expansion to Qu�bec was facilitated by the team at VISION
Qu�bec - a team of experts that assist companies in setting up their call center or help
desk in the province of Qu�bec. Whether you need human resources services - including
recruitment, selection and training - real estate support, technical expertise or advice
on how to take full advantage of government incentives, the VISION Qu�bec team, together
with their vast network of partners, can help you get the most out of your call center
Insight's goal was to do things properly the first time round and avoided any expensive
mistakes. The experience has proven to be very rewarding, and from a business standpoint,
it has exceeded all expectations.
Jill Quinlan Bird is a communication officer with VISION Qu�bec. VISION Qu�bec is
a network of seasoned professionals assisting companies in setting up call centers in the
province of Qu�bec.