Star Tech

: When Innovation and Sustainability Combine

“The secret of our success? Our people, no doubt. A company can’t achieve excellence in process and technology without people. So, the team is our most important asset… the intelligence and culture of our team.”

Andy Kulakowski, President and CEO of Fresche

Fresche is the world’s largest modernization and management company for applications in the IBM i (formerly AS400) market. With 22,000 existing clients and 130,000 potential clients to acquire in this 30-year-old market, Fresche demonstrates that their solutions, technologies and skills allow them to meet the current needs of the sector.

“The IBM i community is currently facing the challenge of aging skills,” says the President and CEO Andy Kulakowski. “There are many baby boomers close to retirement, bringing with them the expertise necessary to manage the application and continue its improvements, and that’s where Fresche can help,” he explains.

Fresche helps clients understand, analyze and document their IBM i environment and develop the modernization or transformation strategy they need to leverage the significant investment they’ve made in this environment. This enables these companies to achieve their growth objectives.

With all the tools required to adapt each component of an application, such as the user interface, code, development environment and databases, Fresche gives the application the ability to integrate the latest technologies, such as the mobile tablet and the web.

Taking back their own destiny

Without pretension, but obviously gratified by the wonderful Quebec narrative initiated by Fresche 40 years ago, Andy claims that the adventure, year after year, remains as exciting. “As I’m sure you can imagine, a company that has existed for four decades has been through a lot, and we’ve done a bit of everything,” he laughs.

There is, however, one element of Fresche’s trajectory of which they are particularly proud. This part of the story began in the 1990s. Due to their operational success and their own fruitful business acquisitions, the publicly-traded company became the purchase target of a very large American company. Faced with an offer too significant to refuse, the Montreal company accepted, quickly realizing that the deal did not represent a core and strategic element of the company in the long term. “So many American companies have acquired great Quebec companies, only to slowly extract their value and eventually close them,” remarks Andy.

Fresche’s management team therefore decided to bank on their vision of sustainability, having everything they needed to ensure several generations of leaders. They informed the buyer that they would not allow the nature of Fresche to be distorted, and after four years of negotiations, with the support of various investors from their community, the management was able to buy back Fresche in 2010.

Even with 30 years of existence, Fresche still considered themselves to be something of a startup and have since implemented an effective strategy that has enabled them to ensure an internal growth rate of approximately 20% from year to year, growing from 40 to 415 employees. “The company is now in a unique position and represents a powerful force in the market,” asserts Andy.

The passion that drives Fresche

Fresche achieved this distinct position by opting for the modernization of existing technologies as their main service to businesses, having been inspired to do so by their clients. “When we asked clients why they chose Fresche to carry out their project, it was never because we had this or that technical skill or combination of technical skills,” recounts the president. “Instead, what set us apart significantly from our competitors was the fact that we were really well-versed and were highly motivated to understand legacy systems, IT environments as a whole, and how to transform existing environments to make them more modern.”

Fresche’s directors, as entrepreneurs, have thus chosen to contribute to the success of extremely sustainable companies by modernizing “old” technologies – a very wise choice since what is being developed and implemented today will obviously be considered old technologies within 5 to 7 years…

“We believe that our future holds great opportunities for growth, career development and employee experience, and we’re very excited to see what comes,” concludes Andy.

Translated by Jenn Mierau

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