“Take people for what they are.” With Candice Georgiadis & Steve Richmond

I always try to take people for what they are. Even though a company might be small, or they might be relatively inexperienced, if there’s an opportunity where we can collaborate or where I could make use of their expertise, I go for it. I had pleasure of interviewing Steve Richmond of Projetech Inc. Born […]

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I always try to take people for what they are. Even though a company might be small, or they might be relatively inexperienced, if there’s an opportunity where we can collaborate or where I could make use of their expertise, I go for it.

I had pleasure of interviewing Steve Richmond of Projetech Inc. Born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Steve Richmond founded Projetech in 1990 and has led, driven and grown it to its present day success. Pioneering IBM Maximo as a Service in 1999 he transformed a traditional consultant-based organization into an award-winning IBM Gold Business Partner.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Ifind it a little ironic. I was educated in mechanical engineering and my company morphed into a Software-as-a-Service business, which at first it doesn’t seem to parlay very cleanly, but 30 years ago it made sense to me.

It occurred to me at some point that making money and managing and maintaining assets were just mechanical systems. Just thinking about boilers, chillers, air conditioners, and heating systems, it struck me that there was only so much money that could be made fixing those things and that you’d always needed a strong back and a ladder.

I thought that if you had better information about those assets, that the information itself, at some point, would be of greater value than the work you were doing. That’s what sort of drove me towards Asset Management.

The question then became: did I want to run a contracting business and fix things? Or did I want to develop an Informational System that would make people smarter about how they fixed things?

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I always like to talk about one of my earliest clients. They were looking for a software product, something that I had not yet delved into a great deal. At that point in my career, I tried to do a little programming with some flat-file systems and I realized pretty quickly I wasn’t a programmer.

I was hired by a manufacturing company. They wanted a system that could differentiate between various variables of a specific product — they were making silicon wafers for the chip industry and were running their systems 24-hours a day, 7-days a week, but needed more information. Texas Instruments was buying every wafer they could make at the time, so their key thing was “uptime”. They never wanted to turn their systems off but they needed a software product to help explain and help them manage these assets to be more productive.

I learned a great deal researching various products that were available at that time. And at the end of the day I made a recommendation; I wrote a report but they never bought the product.

The company I recommended in my report ended up hiring me to sell that product a year later and that’s how I kind of tripped into the software business.

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

I think it’s the service-oriented nature of the people that work there. We’ve always tried to put Customer Service first. We all understand that we wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t have clients. We have to keep them happy.

Many times, we are approached by companies where they have very constricted timelines. For example, they’re required to be up and operating in a power plant in 60 days. They have to hire people and transition and train and do all the documentation that’s involved in making such a transition happen. Our ability to pivot and move quickly enough to support those kinds of timelines has always been a differentiator for us. There are very few companies that can take a system that’s on-premise, that is, perhaps a legacy in terms of its version or has less than pristine data. There are very few companies that can clean that data, upgrade that software and deploy it from the cloud in 30 days or 60 days, and we do it quite often.

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? Can you share a story?

I don’t have names of specific people. What I found helped me the most were groups of people.

When I first started, there was an organization here in Cincinnati called Score, S-C-O-R-E. It was a service corps of retired executives, just a group of guys that got together to try to help startup companies.

They weren’t specifically technical companies in the early 90s, they were just trying to help people with their businesses, whatever those may or may not have been. I got a lot of good advice from people who had worked for many years for Procter & Gamble or General Electric.

Four or five years later, I began participating in what was called a “Round Table”, where a group of people were brought together, at the time, by the Chamber of Commerce. We all owned our own businesses, we were all diverse, but every 30 or 40 days, we would get together.

It was half therapy and half education. We all had similar problems, whether they were personal or financial or something else. I just learned a lot about being in a room with a lot of smart folks.

You know, the old saying “You don’t want to be the smartest guy in the room”? I think that’s what’s helped me the most.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?

I think young companies are faced with this often. It’s difficult, for example, to justify hiring a very young consultant because they may or may not have the level of experience you might need depending on your challenges or the area of expertise you require. So both of you may end up questioning your roles and abilities. The parallel also works when you just talk about size, if you’re a two or three-person company and you’re trying to sell a service to a multinational, it’s very difficult to be taken seriously.

A lot of smaller companies feel that they need to overcompensate, through elaborate websites or titles, trying to look bigger through things that give the impression that they’re a bigger organization, when this isn’t necessarily needed.

How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?

I always try to take people for what they are. Even though a company might be small, or they might be relatively inexperienced, if there’s an opportunity where we can collaborate or where I could make use of their expertise, I go for it.

I feel, having grown a small business, that I have some level of wanting to give back and allow those people the opportunity to take a little bit more rope than somebody else might have given them.

We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?

When we were younger and smaller, there were oftentimes where we would hit the wall with negotiations because of the size of the business. Well, both in size and experience. It’s just hard for a large company to take a small one seriously, or hard for an important project to be handed off to a rather young inexperienced resource. And this can be demoralizing but it can also be the fuel or motivation needed to succeed.

Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?

If I can help someone along, and it’s not really risky, there’s nothing wrong with letting somebody fail and picking them up and moving them forward. Failures are just great little learning opportunities. It’s all it is, really.

You always have somebody apply for the job and you’re looking for experienced, and they don’t have any experience but they want the job and its challenges. Until somebody gives them that opportunity, they’re never going to have the experience. So, at some point, somebody has to be willing to take that chance.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m terrified by the lack of women in technology. It’s just too much of a “Boys’ Club”.

So, if I could influence anything, it would be to have more women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) sectors. I’m the father of two daughters and I feel that it would have a great impact on them, as well as companies and organizations. It’s a win-win. I think there are a lot of really talented people out there that are not being taken seriously and some of that is definitely based on biases from a young age.

There’s a WIT (Women in Technology) program at the University of Cincinnati that we’ve helped and offered support to as a way to push for change.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Ah, T. Boone Pickens, I’ve loved him since childhood. He was a great guy with many great lessons.

Also, I am a big fan of anything Elon Musk does. You can see that in the Projetech offices.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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