Fast Lane: A Program Manager’s View

Jan 8, 2021 | IG Blog Posts

Linda Horowitz has managed Innovation Guelph’s Fast Lane program for three years. The program has helped more than 375 clients over eight years. Linda says the program is unique because it helps scaling companies with higher revenue when many of the programs offered by other innovation centres do not.

“Fast Lane helps the companies that are the backbone of Ontario and of Canada,” Linda explains. “They are SME companies with more than $1 million in revenue from a broad range of sectors including Ag-Innovation and Manufacturing.”

How is Fast Lane Different?

The strength of the program is in building a relationship with the client. A key component is when an IG generalist mentor performs a deep dive into the company, providing a new perspective and possibly validating the company’s trajectory.

There isn’t an ideal or perfect client for this program because IG has such a breadth of expertise available. “If a company meets the funder’s eligibility, coachability is the one of the most important success factors,” Linda explains. “Although, since we are working to affect change, we can teach companies how to be more coachable.”

One of the program’s key differentiators is the broad roster of mentors and industry specialists that support clients. Most of the mentors/generalists are entrepreneurs themselves, so they really ‘get it.’ Specialists have targeted expertise to support strategic and tactical projects in all areas including operations, finance, strategic planning, human resources, capacity, marketing and sales across all sectors.

Mentors are contracted to IG with standard confidentiality and non-competition agreements and an in-depth onboarding process. Their skills, experience and sector expertise are mapped on a matrix to facilitate mentor-client matching.

Fast Lane Structure

The Fast Lane program is comprised of both a fully funded Diagnostic phase and a project execution or Tune-up phase. “We don’t just hand them a project and check up on them in a few weeks,” Linda says. “We help implement and execute projects to tackle real challenges.”

The Diagnostic is based on the business model canvas and helps the generalist discover what keeps the business leaders up at night. This phase generally takes up to 15 hours of work over one and a half to two months.

The mentor, in collaboration with the company, will provide recommendations for projects that include expected outcomes and KPIs. If the company chooses to move forward to execute their tailor-made projects, they will receive a subsidy towards the projects.

Linda says the program changed this year offering two project streams. One stream focuses on the challenges around operations, capacity etc. while the second stream focuses on sales related larger projects that includes a larger subsidy. The projects are short term, high-impact and are implemented over approximately five to six months.

The Fast Lane program provides $8,000 – $12,000 in support. “A small investment can make big changes for the company,” Linda says. The impacts might include, for instance, increased leader confidence, improved efficiencies, new market opportunities or increased revenue.

Could Fast Lane help Your Company?

If you aren’t sure if Fast Lane is the right program for you, contact Linda to set up a call and she will help assess whether it is a good fit. Since Fast Lane is not cohort based, there is intake throughout the fiscal year. In fact, some clients refer other companies and some alumni even come back through the program more than once to support them as they scale.

Another important consideration is that when you become an IG client, your company becomes part of a bigger ecosystem with access to funding opportunities, strategic introductions and connections, opportunities, and collaborations through IG’s partners, and other clients. You will also benefit from education, engagement, networking and events.