Shawn Ostheimer is the Founder and President of The Answer Company. Beginning in 1994, Shawn has spearheaded the company’s growth to become the largest Sage provider in Western Canada. With a Masters in Business Administration and over thirty years of implementing financial and management software systems, Shawn has contributed to every facet of improving clients’ businesses. His experience includes business analysis, system design/analysis, training, implementation, data conversion, software installation, customer support, and project management.
Taking an active role in the company’s operations, Shawn helps improve businesses by determining software solution fit that generates a substantial return on investment for clients. His emphasis on integrity in customer service has been instrumental in the company’s success and has become a pillar in The Answer Company’s culture. Shawn’s hard work and commitment to seeing projects completed properly and on time, translate into long-term relationships with clients that return to fulfill the needs of their organizations as they grow and change.
Shawn is a leader and guest speaker for the enterprise software industry, focusing lectures on business processes, accounting, and the role software solutions play in attaining organizational objectives. Contact The Answer Company for more information or to have Shawn as a guest speaker at your event.
Presently through The Answer Company Shawn provides financial support to social initiatives like Downs Syndrome Research Foundation, Canucks Autism Network, World Vision and SPARC BC. Shawn and his wife Rachel are proud parents of a son and a daughter and work together at The Answer Company where Rachel is an assistant bookkeeper.
What was the inspiration and motivation behind the launch of The Answer Company? What have you accomplished from it so far and how have you spearheaded the company’s growth to become the largest Sage provider in Western Canada?
I started the organization 27 years ago with a clear vision that still rings true today: to help solve business technology problems with a People First approach. Since then, the People First mindset has been embedded into all aspects of The Answer Company and has been the main catalyst for our success today – from building a team, acquiring customers, working with clients, partners & suppliers, and the organization’s significant contribution and involvement to the greater community.
What initially started as a small team of two has grown into a team of over 120 experts, with 5 offices across Canada and 1 in the US, and a portfolio of more than 2,000 clients. We’re proud to say that we’ve seen tremendous growth across the business, including financial performance, geographic & industry expansion, our strategic partnerships, and have become a trusted advisor to many businesses here in Canada.
Where do you draw your motivation and inspiration to continue to move forward? What maintains your focus towards your targets and goals?
There are two main areas where I draw inspiration, that always keep me grounded, focused and serve as daily reminders of why I do what I do.
The first is remembering the people behind the businesses we support. It’s such a rewarding experience to see the real impact of what we do and how it helps small businesses in the short and long term as they navigate their digital transformation journey and continue to scale. Seeing an ROI come to life, seeing the real difference it makes, and continuing that long-term relationship with our clients brings a greater sense of joy.
The second is much more personal. My son, Sam, navigates life very differently from many of his peers. Growing up as a child with Down Syndrome and Autism, simple things were tough for him and nothing ever comes easy. And yet, he’s always happy. When I come home from a trying day, his smile makes it all worthwhile.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business? What are some best practices when starting a business after a pandemic?
A key thing to remember is the importance of perseverance. Starting a business isn’t easy. There are always going to be periods that are challenging and will make you reevaluate and question your entire approach. So be prepared, be ready to adapt, be open to change, embrace new opportunities and push through them.
Just like a lot of our customers, we’re also a small business. In our many years of ERP and technology consulting, the pandemic isn’t the first crisis we’ve had to manage, but it definitely has been a different kind of challenge. While our past experiences serve as a guide, we know today’s circumstances present a unique opportunity for us to help companies like never before. And that’s exactly what we did during this pandemic: help businesses increase efficiency, optimize workflows, and increase productivity so they can make timely and better-informed decisions.
Another great thing to have in your tool belt is simply surrounding yourself with great people, building a strong team. Find people that are willing to support you throughout those tough periods. I’m not referring to financial support but rather those that share your vision and values, and who will supply you with the right tools and resources as your business continues to grow.
There are many members of the team who have been with The Answer Company for over 15 years. In fact, our first ever employee, dating back to 1994, is still with us today! I’m always grateful for the support I’ve had all these years and continue to have as we grow. The Answer Company wouldn’t be the success it is today without the amazing team behind it.
What are the fundamental principles you adapt to keep you relevant in ever-changing times?
Like I mentioned earlier, embracing change and innovation is a big one. Being flexible and willing to explore new opportunities, alter your product line, or change your go-to-market strategy are all just the tip of the iceberg. Embracing innovation means being open to new ideas and welcoming the new challenges that change brings. Build a team you trust and take their expertise under advisement to find new ways to move.
Another fundamental principle is to keep learning. The best way to deal with ever-changing times is to stay up-to-date with trends and what’s going on in the greater community. This might take form in different ways, whether it’s subscribing to top industry magazines or/and online blogs, following industry experts on LinkedIn, networking, or finding relevant courses that complement or expand your existing skillset.
What is your key advice to small business owners to run their business smoothly during these challenging times?
This was and continues to be a common question we answer for our clients. Here are a few pieces that stand out:
Utilize digital tools to remain competitive
Remote working is new for many organizations. The swiftness of the pandemic left many scrambling to adjust. Lucky for us, there are now a lot of digital tools available in the cloud that give organizations anytime, anywhere access. Having that as part of your technology stack and workforce strategy will increase your ability to adapt during changing times.
Use data insights to manage cash flow
We advise our clients to fully take advantage of their ERP systems to identify and mitigate risks associated with the pandemic – especially as it relates to cash flow management. Identifying delinquent accounts, implementing a collections campaign, integrating reporting and analysis tools, and increasing payment options are all useful measures.
Consider the greater impact
The pandemic served as a great reminder that we’re all in this together and the importance of considering the greater impact of our business decisions. For us, in addition to our Corporate Social Responsibility program, Answering The Call, we’ve started on our B-corp certification journey this past year and hope to join a community of leaders driving a global movement of change. We encourage you to join us.
We’ve also taken a similar approach with our own team. We dug deep, looked beyond day-to-day tasks, and focused on making informed decisions to ensure business continuity and health. Reflecting back on the past year and a half, we’re grateful and proud to say that our team has handled the pandemic with a sense of resilience. We too are optimistic that normalcy will return shortly and will continue to do what we do best with the support of our clients, partners and greater community –Propel Businesses Forward.
TAC Company Description
Since 1994, as an award-winning ERP consulting firm, we have been helping organizations answer questions about investments in technology and information systems. As Sage and Acumatica ERP experts our goal is to make companies more successful at what they do and gain the confidence to make profitable moves in their respective industries. From our offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto and Portland, our Sage and Acumatica ERP software solutions support accounting, operations, customer relationship management, human resources, time tracking and merchant services. Our ERP consultants are dedicated to addressing the unique challenges you face in your industry and we provide specialized business management solutions to industries such as manufacturing, construction, distribution, healthcare, nonprofit, and real estate.