Rick Porter Of Cinch IT On How To Take Your Company From Good To Great
Never be complacent. Several of our staff, myself included travel to conferences constantly to hear from customers, vendors and industry experts so that we can have our finger on the pulse of out industry and constantly be innovating.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Porter.
Richard “Rick” Porter is the President of Cinch I.T., a cybersecurity company headquartered in Worcester, MA. Rick has an unwavering commitment to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses through better technology. As President, he oversees the operations of 10 locations across the United States and is responsible for the cybersecurity and support of thousands of businesses. Rick was a member of the US Army’s Special Operations Community, Recipient of the Worcester Business Journal’s 40 under 40, named as one of the Top Technology Executives of 2020 by The Channel Company, Chair of the Better Business Bureau of Central and Western Massachusetts, and the Founder of the Cinch Scholarship Foundation.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I studied Business and Finance at Worcester State University and then enlisted in the US Army, eventually operating as a Ranger in the 75th Ranger Regiment. Both my formal and military education prepared me to take the leap into entrepreneurship. So, I started a technology company and immediately fell in love with consulting other business owners. It was rewarding to see the technology solutions that we recommended and implemented making productivity and profitability impacts. Fast forward a decade later, we launched a franchise model and we are now consulting our franchise partners do the same thing while making their entrepreneurial and financial dreams come true.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
We acquired another IT company in 2010 and scheduled both of our software systems to be integrated the day after signing the deal. The integration went terribly wrong, and the software system sent thousands of emails to every single customer of the company that we had just acquired. Random and nonsensical emails that caused customer email inboxes to be flooded with emails. NOT the way we wanted to introduce ourselves to our new customers!
The drive to continue was easy. We had just spent over one million dollars on this acquisition, so failure was not an option. We simply identified the problems and worked the problems.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
As the young nerdy guys that we were, we would name new servers that we installed something truly nerdy. Such as Greek Gods, Star Trek or Simpson characters, etc. Which was fine until our customers started to get acquired by enormous companies and we would be having conversations with the new parent company like “Homer is being backed up to Marge but the next server to get replaced would be Bart. He is 5 years old now and always causing problems.”
We now stick with boring but professional naming schemes.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are the only franchise model like ours in the United States right now. We are the only managed services provider that centralizes support for all our franchisees.
This allows for our franchise partners to grow and scale their business faster than any other model but maintain much greater profitability.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You must enjoy what you do every day, but that requires being intentional in everything. Intentionally design your offering so that it is a win/win for you and the customer. Intentionally find the “right” customers. Intentionally build a culture that excites you. If you do this, then you will be excited to wake up every day.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
The first two employees in our company are the only reason we are where we are today. Mike Mosher and Morgan Hill are the talent and intelligence that have built our entire company. Without them, we would never have had a service to provide or the leadership that helped it grow.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
I believe the difference between a good company and a great company is complacency.
All startups set a goal to be great. As they grow, they begin to build products and services that customers want or need, they hire talent, make improvements, and build specific processes. All with the intent to make their company good and then through constant interaction, great. Then when the company is “good”, they find a rhythm. Workflow is efficient, employees are happy, customers seem to like the product or service and you are profitable. At this stage everything is comfortable and so this is where most companies stay. Never making the leap to becoming great. Because great requires you to push past comfortable and to continue to iterate. These are the companies that survey their clients to find out ways they can continue to improve. They set new and loftier goals each month, quarter, and year. They take risks, sometimes they fail, but they always iterate and never get complacent.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Choose an industry that you are passionate about.
- When I was first getting started, I had no money to bring on great talent. Our first employees took pay cuts to come to work for Cinch I.T. because they could see and heard the passion in me, and they believed in the vision for the future.
2. Recruit people who are also passionate.
- I will never forget the day Mike Mosher, one of our earliest employees worked 24 hours straight to resolve a major technology issue that one of our customer was having. I still remember the pride in his voice when the issue was resolved, the customer was happy and Mike said to me at 9am to following morning, “I’m going home to go to bed”.
3. Create a unique product or service that solves a problem.
- Our franchise model is the only one like it in the United States right now. It allows people with no IT experience an opportunity to become part of this exciting industry.
4. Strive for perfection, knowing that it is impossible.
- After most large undertaking our team gets together and conducts an After Action Review (AAR) so we can discover What happened, Why it happened and How to sustain strengths and improve on weaknesses.
5. Never be complacent.
- Several of our staff, myself included travel to conferences constantly to hear from customers, vendors and industry experts so that we can have our finger on the pulse of out industry and constantly be innovating.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Millennials make up almost 50% of today’s workforce and they care about working for purpose driven businesses. They care about values. They care about matters like bullying, mental health, and issues of politics. They will push for change, encourage allies to join them, and even create their own causes.
If your business makes a social impact, share it! It will help you recruit top talent from the largest talent pool we have today.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience, do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Survey, survey, and survey. Survey your clients, employees, and vendors. Customers will tell you why they buy from you and what they wish they COULD buy from you. This can lead to new products or services or upselling opportunities. Just as important is to survey audiences that are NOT your customer. Find out why.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
The best way to forge ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy is to ensure you have built a moat around your business. An economic moat is a business’ ability to maintain competitive advantages over its competitors to protect its long-term profits and market share from competing firms.
Intentionally create moats around your business. Examples could be a highly sought-after brand or to use speed to capture majority market share.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Luck is the one part of running a company that tends to be most underestimated. Many businesses have failed because they were “ahead of their times” which I believe is just unlucky. Others have become massive successes because of luck. Consider companies like Zoom, Peloton and Fiverrr who all saw massive growth in their companies due to a global pandemic. Though it is very hard to say a pandemic could ever be “lucky”, it is obvious that a pandemic was never part of the growth plan for these companies.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience, what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
The best strategy a business can use to increase conversion rates is optimized marketing. First, create a compelling and clear value proposition but realize that most people are hesitant to “convert” or buy the first time they see or hear of your brand, so you have to make sure you are creating a sales funnel. A sales funnel allows you to build trust, develop a relationship and prove your expertise.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
You can create an offer that helps your business earn a reputation as a trusted brand. A free trail is a great start. When you show that you are invested in the relationship before you ever ask for a penny, it builds trust.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! customer experience?
Every good business has great customer services. Therefore, it is NOT a competitive differentiator! People expect and deserve great customer service so if you are looking to WOW customers then you must go BIG! I am a big fan of the book Giftology. John Ruhlin explains giftology as the radical generosity which is the against-the-grain secret weapon of real influencers, and it will allow you to boost referrals, retention rates, and ROI like few other strategies. The proper gift can really wow people.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
The most common mistakes I have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business is to drink your own Kool-Aid. Founders can sometimes be so passionate about the new product or service that they are bringing to marketing that they ignore facts. Facts about customer feedback, employee engagement and even the financial reality of the business. Emotional intelligence is a must have for all great leaders. Plus, Kool-Aid is for kids!
Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
The movement of Women in Technology has already started but I would invest more time into this cause.
- Women earn 18% of computer science bachelors in the US.
- Only about 25% of jobs in technology are held by women in 2021.
- Innovation is achieved by having a diverse team where members can challenge each other and bring new perspectives. Increasing the number of women in tech will lead to improved diversity, greater innovation, and increased revenue. As a father of two daughters, I also believe young women need more roles models. By celebrating female tech leaders, it will hopefully encourage more girls to pursue their interests and careers in tech, thus increasing the hiring pool diversity.
How can our readers further follow you online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!