In an exclusive interview with Who’s Who Legal, Steve McBride discusses his role as CEO of Weever Apps, the daily legal challenges faced by the company, the primary qualities he looks for when considering external counsel, and the key to staying at the forefront of the mobile technology market.
In today’s technology-driven world, connectivity, mobility and instant data are critical aspects of both social and business communication. At the forefront of this perpetually changing landscape is mobile technology, a concept that has now become ubiquitous in our lives whether it be through handheld devices such as tablets or the more recent trend of wearable tech, as seen with the Apple Watch. As companies look to harness new technologies and apply them to their own business needs, the legal implications of innovation begin to emerge.
Canada-based Weever Apps is a leading mobile app provider that helps companies to revolutionise their operations through Mobile Workforce Management. It enables businesses to reduce costs, collect data from mobile staff instantly, improve productivity and efficiency, and increase overall customer satisfaction through the use of one app, deployed across multiple platforms.
Prior to starting Weever Apps, McBride was the Canadian manager for a US-based automation company for 10 years, supplying tier 1 automotive companies, pharma and general manufacturing companies with automated solutions. McBride is also a licensed millwright and has taught college courses to millwright apprentices.
I am responsible for the growth and profitability of the business, a job that involves building a world-class team which includes solid advisers, not only from our board of directors, but also from our key business partners – KPMG for accounting and Gowling WLG for legal. I work directly with Xerox, our strategic partner in Canada to help them grow our business. Xerox is a great partner for us because they understand document management and workflow for their customers. This allows them to find process improvements with which Weever Apps can increase productivity and cut costs. I also work alongside our sales and marketing manager to grow our business outside of Canada, mainly in the US. Being a relatively small company, I am also responsible for HR, customer and partner contracts, financials and the overall management of our team to make sure that everyone is working towards creating the best product for our customers.
I would say that hiring and training talented team members is our biggest challenge right now. We doubled our sales last year and will double again this year, so it can be quite tough to keep up with the workload and find time to train new talent. Customer education is another challenge. Businesses are surprised at how a mobile solution can be easily integrated into their current processes such as audits, inspections, work orders, expense submissions, approvals, etc. This makes them more efficient, gives them better data, and can be visualised in a dashboard that helps them to make better decisions.
We have several day-to-day needs, including customer and partnership contracts, HR, investments including a new shareholders’ agreement and patents. Partnership contracts are extremely important to Weever Apps in the growth of our business. It is important to have counsel that understand not only our business, but also our growth plans. With this they are able to guide us in our contract negotiations and show us where we need to be cognisant of conflicting agreements. As we are in a high-growth stage, we have had to take on some new investment to fund research and development. Our counsel has taken a proactive approach in advising us on a new shareholder agreement, which was more aligned with our future goals.
We are not interested in hiring internal legal counsel. We like to stick with our core competencies and, when we need to, partner with the services that we require outside of that core.
Trust is by far the number one quality we look for in external counsel, then expertise in the legal area we require, as well as availability to meet our timelines, both of which are also very important.
We recently took on a new investment so we not only needed a new shareholders’ agreement, but also had to defend our patent. We used Gowling WLG, who handled both of these with two different experts.
When we were interviewing counsel four years ago we were looking to feel comfortable with both the firm and individual lawyers because we were looking for a long-term partner, and we knew that we had varied needs. Moving would really depend on the situation and the skills that person had. If the equivalent skills could not be filled, then we would consider changing firms.
R&D is very important, as well as hiring talent that is creative and wants to innovate. We also listen very closely to our customers to find out what their current challenges are and consequently look for unique ways to solve them.
We will continue to grow by offering our customers solutions that will increase their profitability in an extremely short amount of time with very little effort. Mobile solutions are very easy to implement as workers are keen to use their mobile device as a tool, to make their workday more productive and enjoyable. The majority of our business is repeat and referral, both internally and externally. An internal example is a solution we developed for safety and maintenance work orders, at a very large packaged goods company. Once it was completed, other departments saw the productivity improvements and improved visibility, so they are now implementing it in other plants and other departments.