You can’t do everything yourself. One of the biggest challenges when building a company is finding the right people to be a part of your team. Focus on people who are willing to learn, enthusiastic about your product. Enthusiastic people bring positive energy, passion, and creativity to your team and will do their best to help you succeed. Their background does not define who they are, it is their enthusiasm, passion and drive that makes people successful.
As part of my series about the “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff Roscher, Co-Founder and CEO of Information Professionals, Inc. (eWorkOrders), who provides state-of-the-art Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software to businesses of all sizes, throughout all industries. eWorkOrders is a well established company of over 25 years and is an industry leader in CMMS software.
After getting his MBA at Rutgers University, he started out his career with one of the largest Pharmaceutical companies in NJ as a Sr. Systems Analyst. Jeff is very tech-savvy and enjoyed his time at the Pharmaceutical company. In speaking with Jeff, he is driven by technology and the creativity of developing new and exciting applications. He learned a lot working for a large company, but as with any large company, the ability to be creative was restricted. Jeff wanted more!
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
There were really several Aha Moments that led to where I am today. The first was when I was a teenager. I quickly realized that it was going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to meet my goals getting paid to work. That’s when I noticed that rock stars wrote a song and recorded it once, then sold it millions of times. I wanted to find a way to do this, but unfortunately, I didn’t have much musical ability. I realized that I could write a computer program once and sell it over and over, so I thought writing software, which I was good at, would be a great way to go.
After college, I was working at a large pharmaceutical company building computer systems in a 9–5 job. I was given responsibility for some amazing projects. My favorite was one was a project for the CFO. It was a statistical model that included a data collection portion and a Monte Carlo based financial analysis. It was used to value all inline and developmental compounds. This system was used to make multi-billion-dollar decisions for the company. Unfortunately, my main reward for doing this was just a job well done, nothing significant financially. This was when I realized that I wanted to start my own software and consulting company.
I convinced my brother that we should start our own company together. He began as a consultant and through an assignment at another larger pharmaceutical company, we found the need for a good maintenance management system. We were able to negotiate a contract with them to build the system for them at a discount so that they would be able to use it at any of their facilities and we would own the rights to the software itself. This system would later be adapted to be internet based, multitenant software as a service known as eWorkOrders!
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?
In starting a new business I think everyone goes through tough times and good times. For me, I was ready to break out of corporate life and start a new business. Starting a business from the ground up and building a customer base can be very scary and challenging. This was new technology, I was the new guy introducing a new software solution to businesses who had no clue what it was, why they needed it, or even if it worked. I was lucky. When I launched the business I had a few good customers with who I worked very closely with. This is a big process, understanding what their real needs are, versus nice to have features, making sure that everything was compatible with their other solutions, and the list goes on. But they helped us worked through their issues and helped drive the creation and upgrades of features for our CMMS service. I am thankful for their patience and assistance. From there, eWorkOrders just kept on growing.
I think that both Brain and I attribute our drive to our parents. Having a father who was a professional computer programmer, who introduced computer programming to us at a very young age got us to love technology. Back then when we started into computers, there were no classes for us at our age. Between what our dad taught us and the drive our mother instilled in us, we continued to learn things on our own, which made us self-taught entrepreneurs. Our thirst for learning and using computer technology continued to grow and hasn’t stopped.
Today, I contribute a lot of my drive from my wife and two boys. I want them to be able to do what I did and not be afraid to venture into new projects. If they have a dream go for it. I have a great family, who supports me every step of the way. Without their support, I don’t think my business would have been as successful as it is today.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Our business continues to grow. I have a dedicated staff who are more like a family and our customers are treated the same as well. I don’t want my staff to feel like they are just a number, because we are all a team and all have opinions to share to make the company even better. Coming from a corporate life into my own business, I brought a lot of knowledge and experience on the type of environment I wanted to create for my employees. My team is very close, have excellent communication skills and all feel that this is not just a job, but they are contributors to making eWorkOrders CMMS a success.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One of the main reasons why we stand out is that we have a staff from technical to sales that have used our service while employed by other companies or have worked at a competitor. As we were staffing up, they liked our service and the way we treated our customers and decided that they would like to join our team. This gives us a very big advantage having people who used the service and coming from various industries. They felt the pain, they know and understand the issues and can relate to a customer’s frustrations and help them resolve their actual 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?
When I was first starting out in the business, I thought that our services would be perfect for local government. This was due to their tight budgets and need to manage large amounts of assets, maintenance, and people. I spent years targeting these clients specifically. While our software is a great fit for these types of clients and we have many clients that get a tremendous benefit out of eWorkOrders, I really misread the difficulties in dealing with the government and the lack of desire many of these organizations to have any kind of controls in place or their desire to be more efficient.
Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?
Many people advised me that it isn’t a good idea to go into business for yourself. They said it was very risky, you’ll lose money, you’ll become a workhorse, and your social life will cease to exist. I wish I had ignored this advice sooner! Even after all the ups and downs, there is nothing like the satisfaction of knowing you’re responsible for the success of your business.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Persistence. We knew we had a great idea when we began selling eWorkOrders and even though we really lacked the marketing know-how in the beginning, we were able to overcome that by keeping at it until we learned how to do it correctly.
- Honesty. Being a software company, you constantly have potential customers asking if your software can do things that it can’t. Many times, they make it sound like a make-or-break feature that they need. If you say that you can do it, you may get the sale, but in the end, you will have an unhappy customer that will make your life more difficult and may give you bad reviews online. It’s very difficult to recover from bad reviews. We always chose to be truthful about our capabilities and, quite often, they purchase anyway, as the feature wasn’t as important to them as we thought. We get potential customers coming to us that went with a competitor and now are looking to change because they were promised features that didn’t exist.
- Passion. In order to be successful, you really need to love what you do. You will probably be doing it all the time: days/nights/weekends/holidays… I love helping customers improve their operations and become more profitable. We have a customer that makes laboratory glass. Using eWorkOrders they identified training issues with certain operators on several production lines. Once the operators were retrained and other data from eWorkOrders was put to use, they were able to reduce the cost of their biggest products and they were able to take a bigger share of the market. One of their specialty products had previously been losing money and our system helped them realize this and they increased these prices to make them profitable too.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Take time for yourself, family and friends. Stay focused, and remind yourself of why you’re making the sacrifices you’re making. You need to have a balance between work, family and friends.
- With the changing technology and the world around us, stay engaged and never stop learning.
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?
- Poor planning and trying to do everything at one time. You need to take small steps when entering into a market with a product. Get an understanding of your market and target audience. Test the market to make sure that this is the right product and the audience that can use your product. This way you will make sure all of the bugs have been worked out, it is the right product for that demographic and it gives you time to make further enhancements.
- Don’t try and do everything yourself. Surround yourself with people who can help you along the way.
- Make sure that all of the bugs have been worked out in your product and you are ready to launch. Your first impression is the one that customers will remember.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
I think customer opinions are underestimated. The value your customers bring to the process of growing and developing your business is priceless. Listening to the customer’s needs and their suggestions can save you a lot of wasted time and money. Customers are living their problems every day and can provide a huge insight on enhancements to your products or services.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Began Leading My Company”? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Set short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Goals help you create a clear path for your company and get you headed in the right direction. Having realistic goals that are attainable, gives you the momentum to continue toward bigger goals.
- Balancing work-life, family, and friends. In order to be successful, you need to find work that you are passionate about that makes you feel good about committing the time. But you need to step back when you are with the most important people in your life, you need to be fully committed to being with them and eliminating all business distractions. Never forget that your ultimate goal is to be able to provide a good life for you and your family.
- Remain focused on your goals and objectives. Take smaller steps and try and focus on a few things every day and get them done. Trying to multitask and focus on too many tasks at one time can greatly decrease your main focus, productivity, and accuracy. If your tasks do not fit into your overall goals and objectives, you may be wasting time on things that don’t matter and help you succeed.
- You can’t do everything yourself. One of the biggest challenges when building a company is finding the right people to be a part of your team. Focus on people who are willing to learn, enthusiastic about your product. Enthusiastic people bring positive energy, passion, and creativity to your team and will do their best to help you succeed. Their background does not define who they are, it is their enthusiasm, passion and drive that makes people successful.
- Put a lot of effort into your marketing. We focused too much on our product and not enough on our marketing. This led to much slower growth in the early years.
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. 🙂
I think we need to get rid of all of the negativity spread out through TV and social media platforms. We need to go to a new environment or build a community or platform that will somehow reward honesty and integrity. We need to use technology for spreading and sharing of information that isn’t diluted with false information. I think it is about time that we build that platform for the next generation.
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!