Humans of Tech – Tom Kane on Scaling Sales, the Important of Culture and Global Growth

Tom Kane joined Virtek in December as VP Global Sales. As an international sales leader with extensive experience in growing and mentoring teams, he was excited to apply his learnings to help Virtek continue to grow and compete on a global level.

A few months into the new role, we caught up with Tom to hear about why he joined Virtek, why they are poised for global success and how to scale a sales organization.

What was it about Virtek Vision and this role that drew you in?

Virtek is a company that helps manufacturing organizations automate some of their processes. We help with cost quality and efficiency – wherever there is high complexity low volume manufacturing. If you get into high volume like cars, robotics are really what you need at that point. What we do is we help humans do things in a much more effective and efficient way.

I came from a manufacturing background originally, so I’m very familiar with the challenges that most manufacturers face. Our technology addresses an important challenge. I have an unusual background and this was like a perfect fit. 

What’s your experience been since joining Virtek?

In the 5 months that I’ve been here it’s been a fantastic, busy, whirlwind experience.

I came into the company and immediately started working on next year’s sales plan. It was a real challenge, as I was still getting to know the company, but a lot of fun.

I continue to be impressed with the people here. They are fantastic and very dedicated. We have very, very low employee turnover, which is highly unusual in the KW tech industry. This is a real testament to how much people enjoy working here. It’s a very team oriented, fast-paced atmosphere. We work with blue chip companies which is exciting.

The young people who work here love it because there is opportunity for global travel, as we have to be on site often to help our customers solve new problems with our product. I see that as a great opportunity for most people who are starting out in their career. The experience is invaluable.

What are you looking forward to as the company continues to grow?

I’m really focused on modernizing our sales team – giving them the tools they need and the methods that are reflective of today’s B2B buying environment.

The industries that we sell into have changed and our sales team has to keep pace by employing modern techniques. This is a challenge that really excites me.

We’re also developing and releasing new products at a very fast pace, setting the pace for our industry. In an industry that hasn’t changed much in the last 10 years, we’ve now released technology and products that are changing the game. We can see our competitors scrambling to keep up.

I’m looking forward to Virtek continuing on this path and staying ahead of our competitors. We’ve already positioned ourselves ahead of the curve, so it’s an exciting challenge to keep in the disruptive mode. From a sales point of view, it’s important for us to capitalize on all that hard work from engineering.

How would you describe the culture and team at Virtek?

It’s one of loyalty, dedication and teamwork. It’s really top notch people who are very, very focused.

We do an awful lot of traveling which requires time away from your family and friends and is a big personal commitment. In order to do that kind of travelling you have to be dedicated and loyal – and we have those people.

I find it amazing that this is kind of a sleepy little company in Waterloo that nobody talks a whole lot about. But I was pleasantly surprised when I walked through the doors and found the most amazing people here. And they don’t leave the company so the culture must be fantastic.

Do we have ping pong tables and hammocks? No we don’t, but we’ve got awesome people that are excited to work here everyday and contribute to really helping customers solve problems.

Virtek has been part of the local tech scene for a long time – why would you say that they are now one to watch?

In a traditional sense, I don’t know if we’re “the one to watch”. However I’m excited about what we do because what we do, we do very well. We have huge market share in our space. I’m excited that we’re leading the way with new technology in engineering and it’s great to watch.

When demo our new products for our best customers, it is amazing to watch their faces. It’s the equivalent of saying you’ve been driving a car your whole life and somebody pulls up with a car that can fly –  and you go “whaaat” – that is kind of the equivalent. We’ve brought technology into the space and big companies see this and their jaws drop to the floor – “wow, this is fantastic”. That makes me really excited.

I know that we are onto something that is really, truly game changing. As a sales leader that makes my job so satisfying.

What are some of the most challenging aspect about what you do?

Because of the way people buy today, they’ve got more access to information than they’ve ever had in the history of the world. With information so easy to come by, gaining mindshare when they’re doing their research is by far the biggest challenge. It’s a very busy world out there on the internet.

I’m confident, because we’ve got really good, passionate people here and that’s the prime ingredient.  There’s nothing they can’t do.

Why do you do what you do? What motivates you and makes everything worth it?

At the end of the day if you’re in sales or engineering, you generally just want to help people succeed. That’s what it comes down to.

If you can somehow help somebody solve a problem with cool technology that’s a great motivator. When they turn to you and say “wow, this is great. This is fantastic and we couldn’t have done this without you.” – That’s gold.

Any words of advice for companies looking to scale globally?

I would suggest that they need to get their feet wet – lean in. You may be right or you may be wrong, but the more you hesitate the more you lose your opportunity. Time is always a competitive weapon.

Get started and learn by experience. The depth of complexity when you work on an international scale is something that you really just have to experience yourself. Don’t delay. The more you delay, the more opportunity is lost and time is the ultimate currency so do it now – do it today.