The founder: Toward freedom and a better life
Alex Rodov, founder of QA Consultants, is a poster child for the Canadian dream. Like many immigrants, he was drawn to our political freedom and wealth of opportunities. When he immigrated to Canada from the Soviet Union in 1988, he had little knowledge of English, unrecognized educational credentials and a limited knowledge of the economic system. What he did bring was burning ambition, a strong work ethic, and the propensity for “out of the box” thinking.
As with other successful entrepreneurs, Rodov’s journey featured many achievements and more than a few hurdles. Through perseverance and a knack for quick study, he secured his first job in software development at Hummingbird, a leading enterprise software firm. His ongoing dedication to project execution, personal growth and high ethical standards helped him quickly move up corporate ladder, culminating in leading Bearing Point’s testing practice. Rodov’s penchant for unconventional thinking led him to conceive of a new, disruptive business model that would serve clients better, faster and cheaper by delivering higher quality testing services at low offshore prices. QAC was the product of this vision. After careful deliberation and a crucial vote of confidence from his family and friends, Alex Rodov made the scary leap into entrepreneurship and founded QAC in 1994.
Innovation for the Future
QAC is a classic Canadian technology success story and a case study of how to disrupt a static industry. All it took was for a subject matter expert named Alex Rodov – unencumbered by conventional thinking – with the guts and clear vision to identify a market gap and commercialize a big idea.
Initially, QAC had a successful albeit a simple and undifferentiated business. It provided testing resources for companies looking to outsource their testing requirements. Increasingly, clients complained about the hassles, time and costs of dealing with offshore (e.g. India, China) testing operations, and the lack of local and responsive service options. To address this market gap, QAC began to rethink its core offering and delivery model. It could easily have evolved into another undifferentiated outsourcer, competing solely on price, although that would have been an expensive, risky and ultimately “me-too” solution with little chance of competing with the large players. Instead, Rodov turned the testing operation on its head in order to beat offshore testers at their own game. A groundbreaking local, expert and on-demand testing service, the Test Factory, has a proven track record of delivering better testing results at lower prices and business risk versus Asian providers.
Innovation has not only centred on products and services. Operational and HR creativity has always been a corporate priority, with QAC leading the testing industry in introducing unique training programs that accelerate employee knowledge and quickly bring best practices to every client. This focus on continuous training has also enabled QAC to be among the leaders in employee retention and productivity. Furthermore, the company has retained its entrepreneurial spirit and flexibility within its rapid growth trajectory. Despite Canada-wide operations and an ever-evolving technology landscape, QAC has maintained its original quick, informal and open approach to decision-making, which emphasizes tactical agility, information sharing and service responsiveness.
David versus Goliath in the testing industry
QA Consultants is not your traditional IT services firm but has emerged as the category-killer in the multi-billion-dollar North American software testing industry. Like the niche of a Best Buy or a Toys“R”Us, QAC’s testing-only focus delivers local, turnkey and bespoke testing services onshore at lower rates than can be found in India.
Today, QAC is a dynamic and rapidly growing IT services organization, North America’s largest dedicated software quality assurance and testing company. However, it wasn’t always a smooth ride. Articulating and communicating a new, testing-only model to cautious prospects and employees was not easy. A bootstrap business intent on growth necessitated making painful choices, favouring service, technology and training over rich salaries and office perks. Targeting Fortune 500 clients across North America, QAC repeatedly came up against large, well-capitalized competitors with strong brands and client relationships.
Rodov’s unique vision, client focus and hard work provided QAC with the impetus for success and laid the foundation for profitable growth. Yet he knew that would not be enough. The addition of key managers in sales, operations, HR and finance helped sustain client growth and retention while building critical management depth, augmenting capabilities and attracting new employees. Furthermore, Rodov understood he could not flourish with a “me-too” offering and client experience. As a result, he prioritized innovation strategies that focused on dramatically improving client value and internal efficiencies. This was a unique approach for the mature testing industry, which had been relatively sleepy from an innovation standpoint since the early 1990s. To date, QAC has spent millions on R&D to develop new testing methodologies, automation and internal processes.
The business results have been impressive and QAC is no longer a David in the industry. Thanks to the development of cutting-edge automation and methodologies, a learning-focused culture and a client-centric sales model, QAC has grown rapidly to become the largest dedicated testing firm in North America, with more than 100 employees and annual revenues exceeding $14 million. In 2012, the firm was publicly recognized for this success when QAC was chosen by the Toronto Board of Trade for its Business Excellence Award (Local Economic Impact category) and was a finalist for Deloitte’s Best Managed Award. In addition, various North American media outlets (e.g. Financial Post, Business without Borders, Customer Management IQ) have highlighted the company’s success in disrupting the testing space.
The firm currently operates in a state-of-the-art facility in the North American Centre in Toronto, Ontario, with recently established offices in Calgary and Vancouver. QAC’s client list reads like a who’s who of banking (e.g. Bank of America, CIBC, TD), insurance (e.g. Aviva, Equitable), retail (e.g. Loblaw, Canadian Tire), internet services (e.g. Taxi, Organic), as well various government departments. A mandate to continuously improve and exceed customer expectations has resulted in the firm achieving a 95% client retention rate.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Paying it forward
Inspired by his modest upbringing and strong faith, Alex Rodov and QA Consultants have maintained an ongoing commitment to supporting QAC’s employees and the community. This active and visible engagement can be illustrated by the company’s many activities within the Toronto community as well as its commitment to corporate social responsibility, for example leading the creation of a QAC United Way challenge. While fostering CSR is a reward in its own right, QAC’s efforts have produced important business benefits. CSR initiatives have helped improve employee morale, reducing turnover and fostering a unique QAC esprit de corps. Furthermore, CSR has helped define QAC as an employer of choice in its industry, particularly for socially conscious Generation Yers. In every aspect of QAC’s operations, CSR has been firmly established as a key QAC priority.
Finally, and not insignificantly, the firm’s success has benefited Alex Rodov’s adopted home as well as the local IT cluster. The company has repatriated more than 300 technical jobs, which otherwise would have been lost to India, along with millions of dollars in IT investment. As well, QAC’s comprehensive internship program supports the Toronto IT cluster by providing valuable entry-level positions for new graduates.