|| Print ||
|Articles - February 2010|
|Thursday, January 21, 2010|
Everyone has a different memory of that first terrible recognition that the economy was in serious trouble. For Convergence Networks CEO David Murray, the realization came early, and it didn’t feel good.
“We saw it coming in November of 2007,” says Murray. “We could see people pulling back from IT spending and new technology. We had to do something.”
At risk was the future of a growing information network support company that provides outsourced IT for customers ranging from the Oregon Food Bank to Hertz Rent-a-Car. Murray, who has been CEO for nearly three years, saw that all of the gains the company had made since starting up in 2000 could be wiped out. The first thing he did was to organize a two-day, off-site retreat for six members of the management team at a conference room at the World Trade Center. The next thing he did was to bring the outline of a plan back to headquarters in Milwaukie and present it at a company-wide meeting. “It was a nervous time,” he recalls. “Nobody’s job was safe. I could tell people were thinking, ‘Should I really trust these guys?’ But I gave them the whole story and told them we wanted to hear their ideas.”
Between the management retreat and the staff meeting, ideas for saving money and improving efficiency began flowing. The ideas led to changes, and before long Murray and his team had built a comprehensive strategy for withstanding the downturn by honing the operation while improving customer service.
One easy decision was to start shopping for a better lease. The business parks of Clackamas County had been overbuilt and Murray could see that landlords would have trouble filling their spaces if the economy took the turn for the worse that he was anticipating. The company ended up saving 50% on rent for a new space less than a mile down the street from the old location. Moving costs were minimal.
Another idea was more structural. It involved setting up service teams of four to six people, organized by specialties and geographies. Each team received a private phone number and a block of direct inward dialing numbers. This enabled employees to get to know customers by name and build a reputation for prompt, consistent human service. Customers always spoke to the same team and they never ended up in phone-tree hell. That brought positive reviews and customer referrals, Murray says.
Under the category of “techy geeky stuff,” in Murray’s words, was an initiative to develop a centralized network operation center to respond to early warnings before they became expensive problems. Early detection of problems with servers and hard drives prevented more than a hundred hard drive crashes for Convergence customers this year, Murray says.
The most unorthodox initiative Murray and his team pursued involved cracking down on their worst customers. Every service business has to deal with customers who demand more time and attention than they are worth in revenues. This can be particularly true in IT, where some companies lack basic skills and infrastructure to the point they are very difficult to work with. “We can’t make any money with customers when we’re on the phone all day babysitting them,” says Murray. “The customers who didn’t return our calls, or abused our guys, they just took a lot of time and work.”
Murray and his team came up with a list of the customers making the most noise for the least amount of business and then started going out to meet with them to discuss the problem directly. He says most customers “worked with us and made the changes that needed to be made.” The few who didn’t are not missed.
The results? After two years of improving operations, honing the company’s focus and, yes, firing the worst customers, Murray is confident that Convergence will grow steadily into the future.
He expects gross revenues to grow from about $3.7 million in 2009 to about $4.2 million in 2010, while expanding from 32 employees to 35. He doubts the company would be in such a stable position if the management team hadn’t recognized the problem early and put out a staffwide call for ideas. The transition took time and hard work, but Murray is pleased with the results.
“2009 actually ended up being one of our most profitable years,” he says. “We’re not going to win any awards for revenue growth but if you look at the bottom line we’ll come out right near the top of the list.”
Thursday, February 05, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
We ask chiefs of staff for the scoop on Oregon legislators.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
NBA commissioner: "I would love to end up having an All-Star Game in Portland. It's really just a function of ensuring that we can fit in town."
Thursday, February 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
Employment in Oregon is almost back up to prerecession levels — and employers are having to work harder to entice talented staff to join their ranks. This year’s 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon project showcases the kind of quality workplaces that foster happy employees.
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | Photos by Jason E. Kaplan
Pacific Seafood, one of the world’s largest processors, is rebranding as a more transparent and consumer-friendly operation. A controversial CEO and monopoly accusations from coastal fishermen complicate the tale.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
BY APRIL STREETER
How the private sector can ride the next transit revolution.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | OB CONTRIBUTOR
Marijuana is big business in Oregon, and it’s about to get bigger.
|Get on the bus!|
|Bike Chic: 7 stylish options for cyclists|
|Beam Me Up|
|Emperor of the Sea|
|Epitaph for a Boondoggle|
|Volvo plans $500M car factory in US|
|Oil crash starting to hurt in Texas|
|Swiss bankers guilty of tax fraud avoid jail|
|US grants Texan rhino hunter permit to bring back trophy|
|Norwegian Air tweaks cockpit rules after Germanwings crash|
|Federal Consumer Agency addresses payday loans|
|Slave-caught seafood sold in America|
A new report highlights how Oregon bankers are giving back to their communities.
Since 1932 Tidewater Transportation & Terminals (operating as Tidewater Barge Lines and Tidewater Terminal Company) has operated a multicommodity transportation and terminal company based in Vancouver, Washington. The friendly expression on the company’s shipping containers reflects the attitude of about 330 safety and community-conscious employees but belies how complicated the barge business really is.
The Port of The Dalles has run marine facilities since the 1930s, but they are part of a larger mission to strengthen the local economy. They focus on regional economic development with a strong bent toward adding good-paying jobs in high tech, manufacturing and other industries.
Like the advent of the locomotive, the cloud creates business opportunities that simply weren’t possible before now. Get up to speed fast in May at an exciting cloud-empowered Portland event.
Registration is now open for Portland Business Alliance’s Annual Meeting, one of the largest business gatherings in Portland each year.
The Commission helps to advance the professionalism, equality and efficiency of Oregon's judicial branch of government.