|| 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.”
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
BY JASON NORRIS
Uncertainty in Greece and China, along with potential interest rate hikes mean investors are looking at the market and nervously questioning where they should be invested.
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Thursday, July 09, 2015
The sweltering weather didn't keep the crowds away. Although the numbers were down slightly from last year, the Oregon Food Bank raised $850,636 to fight hunger. About 80,000 people attended despite temperatures in the upper 90s.
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY DAN COOK
The Affordable Care Act has triggered a rush on health care plan redesign, a process fraught with hidden costs and consequences.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
Portland-based startup ImpactFlow recently announced a $5.7 million funding round. CEO and co-founder Tyler Foreman talks about matching businesses with nonprofits, his time at Intel and the changing face of philanthropy.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction.
|Child care challenge|
|Is there life beyond Reed?|
|Back to School|
|Apple's next new product event: Sept. 9|
|Washington meat producer recalls pork|
|Ninkasi grows to NY|
|Eco challenges facing Oregon|
|Adidas produces special shoe for upcoming Timbers/Sounders match|
|Intel invests $60M in drone company|
|Congestion should be expected|
Yesterday, a divided National Labor Relations Board dropped another hammer on the employer community. In a long-awaited and much debated move, the Board jettisoned the decades old standard for determining when two independent businesses should be considered joint employers of an individual worker for collective bargaining purposes.
Transforming the culture of Oregon’s educational leadership.
The Board dismissed a petition related to efforts to unionize the Northwestern University football team.
Oregon Sick Leave is here, and changes to the federal white-collar worker regulations are on the way. This workshop will prepare you for both. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to start planning now for the future impact on your operations and finances.
Presented by OEN + CENTRL + YESpdx.
This Roundtable will cover numerous issues under the employer "shared responsibility" rules of the Affordable Care Act, including how to track the "full-time" status of variable-hour employees, temporary or seasonal employees, and employees who experience a change in status or a break in service. Additionally, we will provide a brief overview of Code sections 6055 and 6056, which require most mid-sized and large employers to submit their first information reports to the IRS in early 2016 regarding the health insurance coverage being offered to employees. We invite you to participate in an interactive discussion on how to prepare for the future impact of the shared responsibility rules on your operations and finances.