by Leo Jakobson | August 24, 2017

When Bob Miller, two partners and some investors bought the channel and employee engagement business of leading loyalty firm Aimia recently, the goal was clear: create a company with a laser focus on the business-to-business incentive, engagement, and meetings market.  

"The company has a rich heritage and a long history," says Miller the president and CEO of newly formed One10x. "What we want to do is combine that with new thinking and innovation, trying to blend that experience with fresh perspectives and innovative approaches. I guess I'd call it sort of back to the fundamentals of why the business exists and why it's been successful for so long, combined with some new thinking and some alternative approaches."

In many ways, the creation of One10x was a return to the firm's roots, as Aimia was formed after one of the country's oldest and largest incentive and loyalty firms, Carlson Marketing, was purchased in 2009 by Groupe Aeroplan, a Canadian firm specializing in coalition loyalty programs aimed at consumers, particularly in the airline industry. Two years later the company purchased Excellence in Motivation (EIM), a major Carlson competitor. A year after that, the entire firm was renamed Aimia. 

Now One10x, the company has three senior executives with deep roots in the incentive industry at the helm. Aside from Miller, who was president and CEO at EIM, the new executives are John Keman, former CFO of EIM; and Fred Sammet, former CIO at Aimia US. They are in the same roles at One10x.

Comprising Aimia's American and Canadian loyalty, meetings, and events businesses, One10x will focus on six key areas: Meetings and Events; Incentives and Recognition; Training and Performance Improvement; Communications; Data Management and Analytics; and Strategic Planning. Everything, in short, except for consumer loyalty. 

The purchase was finalized in May but not announced until last month, and the new owners used the time to ensure a smooth transition for both the company's clients and employees, Miller says. "We've been really pleased with how that went," he added. "I think that we're well positioned for the future."

Of course, the strong economy contributes to that outlook. But, he adds, the changing incentive and engagement industry has a lot more to do with it.

"Increasingly, people believe that talent becomes the ultimate sustainable competitive advantage," Miller says. "It used to be, if you could invest in a special technology or a special manufacturing process, that provided you a competitive advantage that you could sustain for a long period of time. Today, talent is the competitive advantage. The relationship between employers and employees is going to require innovation and different thinking to drive engagement."

Another big part of that change is data analytics, which, he adds, has become hugely important. 

"When I started to work in the business, it was the incentive industry, then it was performance improvement, then loyalty, and now engagement has been the buzz term," Miller says. "What everyone's looking for is: How do you create a sense of alignment? How do you align a company's objectives with what's important to the people that are best positioned to achieve those objectives? That alignment requires laser focused communications to people that are well prepared to carry out the tasks, through training. And then they have to inspired through incentives."

And finally, you need to be able to measure the results, he says, adding, "otherwise, nothing gets funded."