“I Wish Somebody Would Have Told Me Your Company Becomes Its Own Organism”5 Startup Strategies with Steve Sutton, President, Copper State Communications

“Once it does, it feels like a baby to you. You can never explain that feeling to your spouse.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Sutton, President at Copper State Communications. He is a 40-year veteran of the telecom industry with deep knowledge of cyber security, IT networks, WAN, LAN, Ethernet, voice networks, hosted VoIP, telephony, and more. His philosophy is to run his company with respect, passion and commitment — to really dig in and work until goals have been met. Copper State just celebrated its 35th anniversary, first starting in 1982. The company reached this important milestone by focusing on what businesses need, not just pushing the technology. They analyze business issues and design solutions across the full spectrum of communications technology to enable businesses to lead their field and satisfy their clients.

What is your “backstory”?

The company that Roger and I were working at had the opposite idea about customer service from what we knew should have been the standard. They provided horrible service, and didn’t take care of their clients. We thought there was tremendous opportunity to help businesses, and then we both got fired simultaneously…at the same time in the same room! So, 1) we got fired, but 2) we knew we could do it better.

We are the only technology services provider to offer a full suite of solutions to Arizona’s small businesses and enterprises. We offer technology from phone systems to data to cloud, and high-touch support along the way.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

We work with several law enforcement organizations. One of the facilities had an issue with their phone system, and I was the person who arrived first at their facility to help. The guy who was in charge came running out and yelled, “Son! Don’t you know people are dying out there?!”. It put our work in context for me in that moment. Keeping these phone systems up and running is sometimes a matter of life and death.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Steve: We run at — instead of away from — problems. We know that pointing the finger doesn’t work. So many of our clients find that they have been working with other people who point the finger at someone else when something goes wrong. But we take responsibility for ourselves and the other people in the ecosystem that we operate within.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

We were fortunate that one of our first clients really believed in us and wanted to see us succeed. He was probably the first person who started working with us after we started this business. If we hadn’t had that opportunity, and that steady flow of business that came from him, it would have been very difficult to get over the initial hump.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We go out of our way to make sure we have a solid benefits package for our employees. Our time off and health insurance packages help families here. We have tried to make sure our team has excellent benefits so they can enjoy their lives. We want to bring big company capabilities to our smaller team.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why.

  1. I wish somebody would have told me your company becomes its own organism.
  2. Once it does, it feels like a baby to you.
  3. You can never explain that feeling to your spouse.
  4. Have fun along the way.
  5. Success is not a guarantee, so you might as well try to enjoy the process.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)

While he will never see this, my answer is Steve Jobs. The enormous pendulum of Apple’s success has been unbelievable and unbridled. I’d like to hear the insight story, more about the humble beginnings, and his journey.