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WhosOnLocation is a cloud-based ‘people presence’ management solution making rapid in-roads into global markets. Exporter Today spoke to ‘operations sensei’ Victoria Armstrong about the company’s export journey.
It was a fire drill evacuation around ten years ago that sparked the idea for WhosOnLocation.
While standing at an assembly muster station outside the large corporate building where he worked, Darren Whitaker-Barnett was struck by the shambles that followed.
What the Fire Service discovered was, firstly, some employees had ignored the call to evacuate. Secondly, the visitors' register was left on the reception counter. Not only did that make an accurate head count virtually impossible, but in a real emergency it would have placed first responders at risk as they searched through a burning or collapsed building looking for people who may or may not have been requiring assistance. 
“This was the genesis for the business,” explains WhosOnLocation COO Victoria Armstrong. “Darren thought there must be a better way to account for people in the event of an evacuation from workplaces.” 
Subsequent research showed many companies used a mish-mash of paper-based staff registers, visitor registers, contractor sign-in forms, wall-mounted ‘In and Out’ boards, email ‘out of office’ messaging and off-the-shelf visitor management systems. “None of which shared data,” Armstrong points out. “Darren realised a single solution was needed that integrated visitor, contractor and employee presence with the ability to deliver real-time information from outside the situation of risk.”
The solution was WhosOnLocation – a clever cloud-based ‘people presence’ management platform; however, the challenge would prove to be engaging with potential buyers around the world.
Armstrong explains that the initial export strategy was to a) leverage sound SEO (search engine optimisation) practices to attract customers to the website and b) create brand awareness through LiFT (LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter).  
“Although we secured early export sales in Australia, by 2013 we recognized that enterprise cloud apps were still very much a ‘trust sale’,” she says. “As we had no global track record we decided to use the ‘trust’ of channel partner resellers to penetrate markets faster.
“We targeted sectors where WhosOnLocation is complimentary to their ‘business as usual’ offerings.” 
An early success was Tyco (ADT Security), followed by a reseller agreement with Time and People in Australia. There were successful reseller agreements with participants in the health and safety consulting, visitor label and ID card printer distribution, retail office supplies, and kiosk manufacturing sectors. 
WhosOnLocation primarily focuses on English speaking countries – such as Australia, Canada, the US, UK, Singapore, and the Pacific Islands – and there’re plans to enter non-English speaking countries in 2016. 
Meanwhile there’s a 50:50 ratio of online direct sales to channel sales, and Armstrong reports their biggest success offshore to-date is in securing Unilever in Canada. “Not so much for its revenue but for the strategic boost it gave our team and brand.”
Tracking growth
The milestones came thick and fast. Locally, securing 65 percent of government sites with more than 100 employees was a major achievement. Reaching 14 countries inside the first two years was another milestone – as was achieving 100,000 users.
Success on the North American front, initially through Unilever in Canada, is taking the company to a whole new level. Partnering with NYSE-listed Brady Corporation subsidiary IDenticard to distribute the product, has been the latest feather in the cap.
The IDenticard deal came after the Americans began a global search for a world-class cloud app to offer their market. 
“After an extensive evaluation and due diligence process they chose WhosOnLocation,” says Armstrong. “What that means to us is a team of visitor management specialists selling into the North American market. They also have people on the ground in South America – another exciting market to explore.”
Armstrong says they’re surprised by the diversity of industries their solution covers across their export markets. “Our sweet spot is organizations with 100 or more staff, and I cannot think of one vertical we’re not present in. 
“That’s a pretty neat piece of information for any high-growth company – but, of course, it presents other healthy challenges and robust debate around the boardroom table!”
Armstrong says the challenge has not been in moving the business forward, but in doing it at a speed they want. “All cloud apps face the same challenge – how to acquire the market in the fastest possible time. Your competitors have the same reach as you, no matter where they are. And if they’re in the Northern hemisphere they have better access to capital, to experienced cloud advisors, and bigger initial markets.
“In New Zealand our challenge is building a global business with relatively limited resources. Whether the resource is human capital, infrastructure assets, or marketing – it all comes down to money. And when you’re at the bottom of the world it’s always that much harder to get heard in the online world.”
That said, Armstrong reports that WhosOnLocation is geared for growth. “We have the right people in place, and plans where gaps need to be filled. We have some very credible advisors who’ve done just what we have, and we are not shy in asking for help. 
“We’re under no illusions as to the challenges, and we welcome that. We’re also keen to attract more characters with a ‘can-do’ attitude to help us grow even faster.”
Success formula
Both Whitaker-Barnett and Armstrong attribute their success to the fact that they “innovate quickly, deploy even faster, and price position at a level where price is taken away from any buying objection”. 
“However, the single most important differentiator has been in pre- and post-sales customer service,” says Armstrong. “No matter what country we operate in, how much money you spend with us, and who you are – all customers get the very best service we can deliver, each and every time. 
“Very few companies understand that the product is only the start of the sale.”
Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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