Meet Mauro Lollo, chief technology officer and co-founder of Unis Lumin Inc, a provider of technology-based business solutions based in Oakville, Ont. Mauro’s own career literally evolved with the company he co-founded. In fact, 15 years ago, he and John Breakey – Unis Lumin president and CEO – were the company. That was when the duo launched Unis Lumin with a half-page business plan and very little capital. And while they operated out of a basement, they set their sights much higher. The company has come a long way since then. In this exclusive interview, Lollo talks to ITWorldCanada.com’s editor, Joaquim P. Menezes about Unis Lumin’s meteoric rise from a two person outfit to a major enterprise whose clients include major corporations, provincial ministries, healthcare and educational institutions.
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Hello this is Joaquim Menezes, editor of ITWorldCanada.com. Today I am joined by Mauro Lollo the co-founder and chief technology officer of Unis Lumin, based in Oakville, Ontario. Mauro, Unis Lumin was started by you and John Breakey in 1990 in a basement. Share with us how you’ll have managed to grow so dramatically over the past 15 years.
Prior to starting Unis Lumin, we were actually working at another company by the name of LanStart, which [was] an early rendition of a network integrator. LanStart, during the mid to late 80s, was actually doing quite well as one of the few [companies] around that specialized in this particular field. In the later 80s the company began to fall on harder times, mostly due to financial [mis-management] and some other issues around that and over extending. So John and I essentially came out of that organization and decided to start Unis Lumin from that point forward. So we got together, we crafted a business plan and like most successful business plans this was about half a page long…and we went from there. We essentially set up camp in a basement and went out and recruited our first couple of clients. We actually started doing more consulting work in the beginning than anything else. And [we] evolved from there, getting into the product and services side of the business. One of our axioms is a very simple one…and it is this: we sell technology-based business solutions, as opposed to basic solutions. Mauro Lollo>Text
Over the past three and a half years Unis Lumin has actually become a trinity of companies with the formation of GeNUIT and the acquisition of NCS. Given that today’s marketplace is increasingly focused on technology convergence, can you cite an example of a customer that benefits from the products and solutions of all of your three companies?
I won’t name the customer, but I’ll give you the example of one particular client who leverages (if I can say that) [layer] one to seven capabilities that we deliver. So this client, in the financial services sector, needed a highly customized software solution to deliver out to their membership. They looked towards a software partner who could build this very customized software solution. But not only build it…host it and maintain it over time and embellish the product as time went on. We were fortunate in being selected for that work. And we went through…we built the product sets for them; they are in current operation today, and things are rosy and wonderful for that client. Almost in parallel, in building the software solution for them, this organization required a network infrastructure. And lo and behold, it is one of our core strengths. So we also supplied that technology and that range of services for them, in addition to cabling and wireless for the physical premises. So in short order, we basically covered that organization with all the skill sets that we contain under one roof.
So those are the products and services that you offer this company. More to the point, how has the customer used these solutions to enhance efficiency, improve ROI and grow as a business?
One of our axioms is a very simple one…and it is this: we sell technology-based business solutions, as opposed to basic solutions. And for us, if we can understand a business challenge that a client is having, and if we can translate that challenge through our own capabilities and deliver a solution based on technology, then we believe we’re successful at that point. Trying to make such an organization – if I use the previous example – more successful, and that is…it’s basically lowering their cycle times to do certain processes, which in the past took a significant amount of time and manual labour. So now they can be much more responsive to their clients, and also lower the cost of delivery.
Unis Lumin, I understand, is also a member-owner of a Seattle-based company? What is the nature and mandate of this organization?
Yes. Just to briefly touch on that…Unis Lumin is an owner of another organization called 1NService. And that organization was developed by a number of different VARs in local geographies – local geographies being major cities throughout North America – who had similar needs to ourselves and that was: they may have clients who are international but based…[have their] head office, for instance, in that particular geography. But that local VAR who [may be] quite excellent at delivering solutions for their customer organization in that geography couldn’t project themselves out to other North American points. So 1NService is formed out of a group of these VARs, including ourselves, and one might even call it a co-op for instance. Now, at this point in time, it’s actually developed into something quite a bit more significant. So 1NService more or less shares best practices. We’re developing a common core back office, and in essence we can deliver solutions across North America now in a seamless manner.
What are the advantages of belonging to an organization like this?
Well a couple of the core advantages are…number one: you get to work with a peer group of organizations that have both similar and complementary skill sets. And those may be technology skill sets or business skill sets. So if, for instance…Unis Lumin required a particular skill set in either a technology or business discipline that we may not have in-house, we draw on these partner organizations. In a very similar way as a large organization like IBM would just pull consultants from different regional offices and bring them in…people who have specific disciplines to work on client issues. The second thing is, of course, we get to participate in economies of scale. So a common back office system, utilizing a common CRM/ERP application across all the organizations, provides this unified look and feel and the capability of delivering services in a very streamlined way. In addition to that, being able to work with manufacturers, as opposed to being a regional organization…we’re now a North American-wide organization. So all the membership essentially knows the rules of engagement. And it’s a very active organization. There are meetings held on a monthly basis, and in-person meetings on a quarterly basis.
Do you use any applications developed by your software solutions firm GeNuit to manage aspects of your own business?
Through our own evolution we have implemented multiple…a series of products that only got us part way in terms of being able to manage our business. So the challenges that we had…and that most organizations do, is developing back office systems that support perhaps a sales function, perhaps, you know, an ordering and warehousing funct