PiiComm - An inspiring story built on opportunity

Shawn Sicard, Chairman of the Board, CEO and founder and Shawn Winter, President, of PiiComm
Once in a while, there comes a successful business story that truly inspires the entrepreneur in all of us to either create, persevere or simply improve.

The tale of PiiComm and its success is one such story.

Born out of humble beginnings in 2007, PiiComm today employs over 70 people spread out over three facilities, two of which are located right here, in Prescott and Russell.

“We started in the basement of my partner’s house - Shawn Sicard, Chairman of the Board, CEO and founder - right here in Plantagenet. We worked at a large telecommunications company together and he saw an opportunity to leave and start a new venture,” explained Shawn Winter, PiiComm President.

The key word here is opportunity and it defines PiiComm’s success, a success that grew out of the simple act of paying attention to what other businesses needed to grow comfortably.

“Despite all the great things we accomplished with wireless technology at that company, there were still gaps in the business from a customer care perspective. Shawn [Sicard] saw an opportunity to fix that and it became the catalyst for PiiComm,” said Winter.

An intelligent, natural evolution

In the beginning, PiiComm was a reseller of both consulting services and technology services, from phone systems to Internet feeds.

Today, part of PiiComm’s business remains the reselling of technology, but the company has also become a creator of tools with the means to offer complete support and full service to all its clients.

The “sales” aspect of PiiComm became a major aspect of the business once the company started reselling mobile, wireless devices to other companies. One such device is the type carried by virtually every delivery agent nowadays: a rugged, smartphone-like device that allows input of all kinds of information, from barcode scanning to signatures.

Once this aspect of the business took off, PiiComm, just like its clients, quickly came to an important realization: someone had to maintain these devices.

“We work with a lot of transportation companies which accounts for about half of our business. They do not specialize in managing technology. That is one of the gaps we identified. Clients started telling us: ‘If you really want to help us, get rid of this aspect because we’re not doing it well.’ Therefore, that is what we did. We bought the building in Alfred and started with one person in the service centre and now we have over 20 employees taking care of our clients,” said Winter.

Nowadays, PiiComm’s business can be categorized in three pillars: the technology it sells, the services it offers and, last but not least, the software it develops.

“Our software facility is in Sorel. It was actually our first acquisition. The business was called Groupe Sibyl Conseil and we had collaborated with them for years. Half their business came from us and the owner wanted to retire so the acquisition happened naturally,” explained Winter.

After years of reselling technology and learning all of its idiosyncrasies through service and support, PiiComm was well positioned to start developing its own brand of software, aimed at providing an even better customer experience.

“We create custom apps for customers that have specific needs and maintain it,” said Winter.

“Currently, most of our efforts are concentrated on one application, one of our own, created back in 2012. It was based on a gap we found in the transportation business.”

The app is called ShipTrack, a software platform that was born to help couriers who, at the time, did not have the resources to build their own technology, forcing many of them to rely on paper to keep track of their deliveries.

“Through sales efforts we realized there was a need in the market for an application like this, that could get small, medium, even large organizations up and running right away, keeping track of all aspects of their deliveries electronically,” said Winter.

A local success story

PiiComm has always been a local company. Even after the Alfred facility became too small for both service and administration, PiiComm acquired the old presbytery in Plantagenet, transforming the 19th century house into its headquarters - a branch that employs, in itself, over 20 employees.

“As the business grew, we found some interesting advantages in staying local. Take the facility in Alfred, on County Road 17, for example. The cost of buying that building and the land was a lot less than it would be in an urban centre. At first, I was worried about having to compromise on services, but the reality is quite the opposite,” said Winter.

With the amount of business PiiComm brought to the area, it had no trouble getting access to all the services it needed.

“After the bank, we were the next to get fibre optics installed. We even had it brought to our building in Plantagenet, even though it’s in the middle of a quiet residential community,” said Winter.

PiiComm’s Alfred and Plantagenet locations have no trouble moving product and getting access to couriers. Another advantage is keeping costs low while having access to amazing talent.

“We’re actually looking to bring in new talent from Hawkesbury and area. It’s only 20 minutes away and we know we can get talent from there that most would usually find in Montreal. We are already attracting talent as far as Russell and Casselman. We train everyone, so you can get a local, hi-tech job without having a technology degree. We have jobs for everybody,” stated Winter.

Only the beginning

PiiComm has a lot going for it: great sales, customer service, software creation and maintenance.

“It’s all about opportunity,” said Winter.

“It all started with the Alfred service centre. Selling technology and realizing we needed to support it. Support grew and we now manage tens of thousands of assets for our customers over there. We offer full support to many brand name customers! To give a sense of scope, every device that Canada’s largest couriers use for their drivers and loaders all come to Alfred,” proudly stated Winter.

On top of those ventures, PiiComm is currently working with the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) of the Canada National Research Council in developing new software technologies.

Moreover, their existing pillars are so successful that part of the company will soon be relocating to a new building in Plantagenet: The old Plantagenet Public School.

The future looks very bright and so much more could be said about PiiComm, a company that is the embodiment of a true, local, success story.