Half the battle in the IT industry is keeping things simple and straightforward for your non-technical clients. You want them to understand the extent and the importance of your service offerings without them returning a blank stare. After 33 years in business, Eric Kiehn, Owner of C&W Technologies, knows exactly what to say. "We're a business solutions provider that revolves around technology. We help make technology work in your business environment. We also stop people from getting hacked." We laughed about that last one, but the business of IT security is no joke. In fact, Eric and his team at C&W technologies are re-focusing their efforts to capture an even bigger piece of this market.
Before Eric founded C&W Technologies in 1985, he worked as a computer programmer and then a manager in a retail computer store. In that role, he helped manage three locations along the east coast of Florida. "That company eventually failed and customers were calling me for help. That's when I decided to start working for myself. I took my next month's car payment and dumped it into marketing and advertising. I started out of my house, but within a few months I moved into dedicated office space. Within 6 months, I had one part-time and one full-time employee," he said. As demand grew, so did Eric's business. He began offering more services and hiring more employees.
Today, C&W Technologies operates in the small to medium size business market. They have clients with 3 employees all the way up to $50 Million businesses. They provide solutions for clientele in a wide variety of industries including, medicine, marine services, healthcare and wealth solutions, to name a few. In addition to IT Security, C&W Technologies provides Managed Services, Cloud Services, Phone Systems, Networking, Wireless and Mobile Solutions.
By all accounts, C&W Technologies is a successful business with a very loyal customer base, but every destination is proceeded by a journey. Most entrepreneurial journeys are full of ups and downs and Eric's was no different. "When the recession hit and business slowed, my assistant asked what we're going to do. I told her that I've been thinking about it, but that I wasn't sure. She was scared. I thought to myself, "I'm lost, but I'm not giving up!" We sat down, looked at the situation and figured out what we had to do to make it work." Good entrepreneurs aren't afraid to pivot and they stay positive when times get tough.
Looking back on everything, Eric can think of a few things he would have done differently. "We didn't shift our business enough when the market changed. This requires taking on some risk. When you're young you take risks, but as you grow and mature, you still need that mentality from time to time," he said. "I also used to think I could do it all myself. I should have reached out sooner to smaller groups of peers for support and insight. I know this would have made a huge difference." Entrepreneurs are capable of handling a full plate and doing a lot on their own, but they can get even further if they're willing to get help from others.
Eric has several pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. "Pay attention to the market in which you operate and understand what's going on," he said. Every industry has a natural ebb and flow. Understanding what causes decline and growth can be extremely advantageous in terms of staff planning, which technologies to invest in and how your financials will react. He adds, "Don't give up on your ideas and your dreams. Reach out to other people for their input." Eric also recommends several business books including, Nice Bike by Mark Scharenbroich, The Travelers Gift by Andy Andrews, Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith and The 28 Essential Leadership Strategies of Solomon by Pat Williams with Jim Denny.