On the occasion of Castema's 17th birthday a few days ago, I was reflecting on our history, and how blessed we are to have made it this long in business. Many small businesses aren't so fortunate. I certainly can't claim that I knew what I was doing back in 2002 when I started up a company for the first time. I had no idea that this company I was launching with 1 employee (me!) would be going strong 17 years later, managing nearly 1,000 computers for our clients and still growing.
The IT industry has changed a lot in just the last 5 years. Go back 17 years and it's almost a lifetime ago in technology. What are the keys to surviving and thriving in a competitive industry that's constantly changing? There are many that I can think of but I'll stick with two.
The first might be considered counterintuitive by many people. We consciously limit who we work with and sometimes we say no to opportunities that look attractive from a revenue standpoint. But the reason is to focus on what we're good at and what fits with our mission. There are many things we could do, but we don't, because it would detract from our primary focus. Along the same lines, in the sales process, equally as important as a potential client choosing us, is us choosing them as a client, one whom we can serve well because our vision and ways of thinking about IT line up well together. If a company sees things fundamentally differently than we do, then entering into a partnership (which is really what we're talking about when we become their IT department) is going to cause friction and throw a wrench into our process. A smooth-running process is critical to efficiency and effective support.
Sometimes that means saying no to someone that wants to work with us, as backward as that may sound for a company trying to grow. But looking back, some of our best growth happened after we parted ways with clients that were causing too much friction in our support process, not through any fault of theirs, but because how they wanted to do things didn't align with our support model. Once we let go, we were able to find and focus on companies that did align, and growth was the result.
The second key, and it sounds clichéd, but it's by far the most important, is hiring good people. I like the analogy of the three-legged stool, with the three legs being people, processes, and tools or technology. All three are important, and if any of the three are missing or weak, the stool falls over. But especially in a professional services company, as far as our customers are concerned, the people who work here are Castema. It's our job as leaders of our businesses to equip our people with good processes and good tools to provide the best experience for the customer, but good people can make up for occasional shortcomings in the other two "legs," namely processes and tools. The same is not necessarily true in reverse. The best process and top-notch tools are worthless if you don't have good people driving them.
We've had a philosophy in hiring people that values traits over skills. IT skills and technical knowledge are certainly important in this industry, there is no doubt. But what we look for are two things above all: personability, and genuine concern. We want people that our clients (and the other members of the team!) will enjoy working with and talking to, and people who truly care about doing good work, helping people, and who take our clients' successes personally. Without those qualities, even the best technical solution in the world won't make for happy, satisfied clients who want to keep working with us. We can teach technical skills and knowledge, but we can't teach those traits to someone who doesn't already possess them.
So with that, I'm going to keep this month's installment short, and give a shout-out to our great Castema team, and congratulate ourselves on 17 years of serving our customers and continuing to grow our company and our team. Here's to the Castema team of Alex, Chris, Sei Youn, Emily, Jon, Sam, Erin and Aweis! Cheers, well done, and many more!