Pioneering Technology fires executives, hires marketing & sales consulting firm Focus

25 January 2019 3 min. read

Canadian cooking fire prevention product manufacturer Pioneering Technology Corp. has terminated its VP of Sales, Director of Engineering, and Controller. In the meantime, the firm has enlisted the services of Toronto-based sales and CRM consultancy Focus Sales Management.

Mississauga-based Pioneering Technology is going through a bit of an executive shuffle. In December 2018, the fire prevention tech manufacturer’s CFO James McEwen left the firm to take on a CFO role at another company. In the meantime, Pioneering has plugged the gap by enlisting BDO Canada to assist with monthly reporting, while President Dan MacDonald has added interim CFO duties to his responsibilities.

Now the company has announced the firing of Laird Comber, Vice-President of Sales, and Wayne Zu, Director of Engineering and Manufacturing, who were terminated with cause on January 9, 2019. Pioneering also terminated the engagement of Steph Cooper as the Company's controller.

According to a release from the firm, Comber, Zu, and Cooper “were terminated for cause as a result of their participation in a scheme aimed at competing directly with Pioneering in the cooking fire prevention market in North America using Pioneering's confidential information, intellectual property, trade secrets, and know how.”

The publicly traded company has initiated litigation against the three individuals for remediation, and will seek an injunction to prevent further disclosure of confidential information, competitive activities, or other interference.

Pioneering Technology fires executives, hires marketing & sales consulting firm Focus

Pioneering believes that Comber, Zu, and Cooper’s scheme disrupted the momentum its business had enjoyed up to fiscal year 2018. The firm’s revenue was down 67% in Q3 2018 versus the year prior, and declined 45% year-to-date versus the same period the year before (Q3 2016 – Q3 2017).

In the three years prior to 2018, Pioneering experienced over 50% year-over-year revenue growth.

At the time of its disappointing Q3 results, the firm linked revenue declines in 2018 to its transition from a direct sales model to a distributor model, which resulted in longer sales cycles and time lost training distributor sales teams.

The company now sells its products at retailers like Home Hardware, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Staples. Its products, which include smart burners and elements, limit the risk of cooking fires by capping the temperature below the level at which most cooking oils auto-ignite. The technology has already been installed across more than 250,000 homes and building across North America.

Pioneering will now aim to implement its 2019 business plan, which hopes to re-establish normal operations and improve performance. One part of the strategy involves the aforementioned work of BDO Canada in contributing financial advisory and day-to-day accounting and reporting services.

Pioneering has also sought out the services of Toronto-based consulting firm Focus Sales Management in order to support sales planning and execution. Founded in 2003, Focus has a team of over a dozen consultants led by President and CEO Steven Wright.

The firm bundles together sales strategy, CRM implementation, sales training, coaching, marketing support, and sales recruitment and partners with clients on an ongoing basis. The firm does what an internal sales management/CRM team would do, but at a price that small-to-medium businesses can afford, says Focus.

The company is a registered consulting partner for the segment leading cloud CRM solution.

According to Pioneering, its sales function will now be led by President Dan MacDonald and Michael Quast, VP of Marketing.

Pioneering also said that it has begun searching for an engineering and manufacturing executive to help lead product development efforts.

"We want to reassure all stakeholders that despite these unfortunate events, management is fully committed to retaining normal business operations with a focus on growing the business in 2019 and beyond,” said CEO Kevin Callahan. “We are grateful for the ongoing support and commitment of our loyal employees, customers, distributors, valued partners, and shareholders who have supported us and our market-leading cooking fire solutions."