Solution providers understand they have to be tough. The market is fierce and only the strong and the smart survive. Conamex International’s Elizabeth Vanderveldt, vice-president of business development, has taken toughness to another level. The second degree black belt is a three-time women’s kick-boxing champion in Canada. She runs Conamex, a nine-person solution provider out of Montreal, with her partner Robert L’Esperance, Conamex’s CIO/CTO.
The Microsoft Gold certified partner was established in Toronto more than 22 years ago when L’Esperance was a programmer. He was successful in selling his work to Commodore for the Vic 20 computer. Then he was hired to be the national software manager for Commodore at the ripe age of 23.
With that title “I was very impressed when I first met him,” she said.
The job did not last long, she said. L’Esperance had the entrepreneurial spirit and took her with him to create Conamex.
The two started building networks for law firms using 3Com equipment. “If you ever want to maximize potential risk, just deal with lawyers. It was like working in a tank with sharks. You really hone your IT skills there because if something goes wrong you know the lawyer will sue the daylights out of you,” she said.
After moving the firm to Montreal in 1989, Conamex became a strategic partner for Microsoft and CA.
CA was so impressed with Conamex’s direct deposit software it purchased the application for its Simply Accounting package, under the Accpac brand, back in 1999.
“(CA) wanted to announce it at CA World (but it was delayed) and I was in their Islandia, N.Y. office sitting there for an hour and a half as two of company’s legal eagles tried to complete the contract. I said to them, ‘You hand me the cheque and I will deliver the source code in Dallas.’ They were so stunned that they gave me the cheque and paid for a stretch limo to the airport so I could take it to Dallas,” Vanderveldt said.
Conamex’s business has been built on client relationships, she said. The company uses a consultative/outsourcing approach with high touch service on the back end. With this model, Conamex has enjoyed decade-long relationships such as with Bell Canada International, St. Joseph’s Oratory and others. “Yes, we pay God’s people,” she said about St. Joseph’s.
“Outsourcing gives us an advantage and helps clients get to the next step. We understand their business because we understand them, Vanderveldt said.
The company was also one of the few beta testers in Canada for Vista, Office, SharePoint and Exchange.
“We are known for two things: services and providing the customers with the right technology, not just any technology. We put in all the right pieces in place and we do not put in any technology without maximum return on investment for them,” she said.
Recently, Conamex had a difficult job at Ski Bromont trying to move the resort to an RFID system. “We rescued them. It was a disaster and a big challenge from a technical point of view,” she said.
But with a new RFID/SharePoint system, the ski resort is able to track people going to each gate so it knows which hills are being used most frequently. This helps Ski Bromont better groom hills for night skiing and therefore improve the experience of its customers.
By being so close to Microsoft, Conamex became a member of the International Association of Microsoft Certified Professionals (IAMCP), a group that acts as a sounding board for Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.
Vanderveldt, along with other IAMCP members from around the world led an initiative that first began as a channel building program that turned into a forum for socially responsible to the communities the group serves.
This effort led to money being raised for the two Montreal -area children’s hospitals.