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National Post Article

Designer propelled to see bigger picture
It's a dream come true for founder of DreamLife

Young entrepreneurs nearly always underestimate the growth potential of their company; this according to Robert Kenfield's mentor, Alex Read, who, as an award-winning entrepreneur, has proven that companies can achieve "hyper growth" with the right tools.

Mr. Read, a former director of business development for the mega-successful hauling company, 1-800-Got-Junk?, says Mr. Kenfield had set a self-limiting "glass ceiling" early on in getting his design company up and running.

"It almost was 'Wow, if I can get to a couple hundred thousand [revenue dollars] a year that would be amazing,' "Mr. Read recalls Mr. Kenfield saying. "I said 'Guess what Robert? We can get you there in a couple of months. But then what?' "

That was three years ago and Mr. Kenfield is now well on his way to his next major milestone in revenue.

"If you had said that to him at the beginning he would have said 'What? No really, only big companies do things like that,' " Mr. Read says.

Vancouver-based DreamLife Design Inc. provides photo-realistic 3D images and animation to illustrate real estate properties for prospective buyers. Architects and developers of properties commission DreamLife's proprietary design process to create cutting-edge graphics that show the interiors and exteriors of their real estate projects before they are built.

At the outset, Mr. Kenfield had no idea he could grow the company so fast. "When you're with somebody who has that kind of experience, it's invaluable because a lot of small companies are short-sighted," he admits, referring to Mr. Read's insights.

Novice entrepreneurs "don't see that what they're doing today is setting the foundation for future development. So to have someone like Alex to talk to about how to prepare infrastructure, hire the right people and get systems in place is invaluable."

At the time Mr. Read became involved as a mentor, Mr. Kenfield was struggling to perfect the quality of his animation process. He was operating his business in a studio apartment where he was also living, yet was starting to generate a formidable volume of business.

"Having an office environment where he was living upstairs wasn't really going to work," Mr. Read says. He urged Mr. Kenfield to raise his revenue goal and envision the resources it would take to achieve the requisite volume of work.

Mr. Kenfield threw out a figure of $1-million. "I said 'Well, what's that going to look like in terms of how many projects you need to complete? How many people then will you need to work on those projects? Where are you going to find those people?' " Mr. Read says. "It really varies depending on each organization."

Within six months, Mr. Kenfield opened a professional office space and soon after had 25 employees on his payroll. At Mr. Read's urging, he also created a roster of freelancers to call on when he needed to meet volume orders.

"We talked a lot about how we can deliver the products to highest quality and make the client happy, what type of people we needed to hire to do that, what type of people we didn't need to hire," Mr. Kenfield says.

"What we sell is a process, which is one of the biggest challenges for us then and now," he says.

"If you're not selling a widget, how do you systemize it to the point where you can increase volume? Sure you can make the sale, but you may not be able to deliver it."

The fundamental workflow process and design systems he established with the help of his mentor are working; Mr. Kenfield achieved a 500% increase in sales by successfully fulfilling 26 projects in a single month last year.

DreamLife has secured clients in the United States and is now marketing its services continent-wide.

Daryl-Lynn Carlson, Financial Post