Steven Harmer is Executive Vice President & General Manager for Blast Radius‘ eastern and central North American client portfolio, and also heads up the Toronto office. His superior communication skills are matched by his commitment to delivering innovative customer experiences. With a thorough understanding of Internet technologies and best practices, Steve previously led the company’s global production and delivery teams. He holds a BIS from the University of Waterloo and a degree in New Media from the Vancouver Film School.
One Degree: The last time we checked in with Blast Radius was when we did a Five Questions with Gurval Caer back in June of 2005. What’s been happening at Blast Radius in the last year?
Things have been very exciting and busy for Blast Radius in the part year, especially for our Toronto team. Recently we have enjoyed some great client wins with high-profile US-based companies such as Time Inc., Newell Rubbermaid, Meredith Publishing and OfficeMax. We also continue to work with great long term clients like EA, Nike, Air Jordan and BMW.
Our industry is in a very interesting state right now, as more and more companies are realizing the power of the Internet and are seeking new and innovative ways to connect with their customers online. We are enjoying the challenge of working with them to create meaningful experiences.
*One Degree: I hear you’ve signed several large deals with multi-billion dollar US-based companies including OfficeMax (the #6 North American on-line retailer), CarMax (a $6 billion US/year online car retailer), and Meredith a multi-billion dollar publisher). Can you tell us a bit about how a Canadian company approaches such large US businesses?*
Blast Radius has a long history as an innovator within our space which has led to our strong leadership in the marketplace. It is this leadership position which creates opportunities for us. We have a pretty constant flow of clients referring us to their network.
So it’s nothing new for us to compete with top tier companies south of the border. However, it does mean we compete with the best of the best which means we need the best talent; especially in Toronto. All our recent new client wins, you mentioned as well as Time Inc. and Newell Rubbermaid in the past couple of months, have been a result of very competitive pitches
*One Degree: You folks have been hiring in Toronto. How’s the market for good hires with the experience you need for these kinds of clients?*
The market in Toronto is very competitive, there is lots of competition in the industry and we know that we must attract the top of the talent pool because that is what our clients expect. We are always, always looking for exceptional talent to bring to our team. What differentiates Blast Radius and what makes it such a great place to work is the people you get to work with – we have strong global representation and a very diverse set of skills spanning technology, design and strategy. Also, we have exciting growth and new client opportunities we are winning. The momentum is astounding. All of the work we take on has to be engaging for our team.
*One Degree: The cost of site development seems to be in free fall these days. People keep talking about starting complex Web 2.0 companies for a few thousand dollars and hard work on evenings and weekends. How do you maintain prices and margin with this kind of downward pressure?*
I’m not sure where that perception comes from because we believe just the opposite. There is a real hunger in the marketplace for Internet strategy and development. Actually, we are having to turn clients away based on our strategic direction due high levels of demand. For us, there’s actually less downward pressure on our rates because our clients understand the value of the work we provide.
*One Degree: Companies like 37 Signals, Firewheel Design, Bonasource and others have been moving from web development into building and selling online apps. Do you see Blast Radius following this path or are you avoiding the temptation to move away from client work?*
We are very client-focused. Blast Radius leverages years of development experience to deliver an integrated online system which allows us to bring more value to our clients. We are continuing to develop software and systems to better serve our clients such as our Customer Experience Platform which encompasses commerce, content management, campaign management, community building and analytics. The core for Blast Radius is building a strategic approach that best meets the business needs of our clients.