Recently, InsITe's founder CEO Mike Schipper was featured on the SBAM Weekly Podcast, hosted by Michael Rogers. They discussed a range of topics, from the role community plays in the success of a business, to InsITe's inclusion in the 2020 Top 50 Michigan Companies to Watch, to tips for small business owners looking to achieve similar success in 2020.
Download and listen the podcast, or read the full transcript below!
Michael Rogers: My guest on today's show is Mike Schipper, the founder and CEO of InsITe Business Solutions, a member of the 2020 Michigan 50 companies to watch. Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike Schipper: Thanks for having me.
Michael Rogers: Well, start out if you would by just saying a couple of words about your company and what you guys do.
Mike Schipper: Yeah absolutely. InsiTE Business Solutions is a full suite technology company, meaning we help businesses and educational providers with their technology from front to back. We can deploy anything from the desk side devices all the way to servers and cloud and manage it all the way in between. And we can also help with applications, productivity, and collaboration - all of those things across the board.
Michael Rogers: Man, you guys do a lot of diversified stuff. So why were you selected as a member of the Michigan 50 companies to watch?
Mike Schipper: So first of all we're super excited we've gotten this award. It's definitely a validation of a ton of hard work from all of our employees up to now. We've seen a nice uptick in inquiries for our services, which is awesome. But to address your question, many of the Michigan 50 to Watch qualifications were focused around employee and revenue growth. And so for us, as we started to tell that story and look back at 2018 to 2019, we saw that we grew from 13 full-time employees to 19 full-time employees which is about 50% growth, so pretty high. Then we are looking at this year, and we're already at 21 employees and continuing to grow. From the revenue side, we saw about a 35% increase in revenue over that same period. I think that was a big part of it. This year we're probably targeting somewhere around 40%. That's kind of where we're tracking, which is super exciting so that's even growing. But as I look at it, you know, why we were selected, I think one of the potential bigger reasons is just the story that we're telling of our vision. Our goal is to provide the highest possible value to businesses, and I believe that that is definitely something that is being recognized not only by our clients, but out in our community. We're seeing that in the referrals that we're getting. I believe that as we told that story and how we're approaching the market, I think that that was something they found interesting as well.
Michael Rogers: Well fantastic growth, and as you noted, that's a big criteria for being a member of the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch. Anything else you want to say about how you got to that point where you've had such spectacular growth and prosperity?
Mike Schipper: I think often when companies are recognized with an award like this, people may look at it and kind of go “Wow you know suddenly they're successful! How did they do it overnight”? It really is just a ton of work that leads up to this point - I can't really point at one specific thing, but there are a couple of things that come to mind for me. One of them over the last year or two is that we've really focused on setting our vision as a company and what is it that all of us can look at and say “hey we're going after that”. Our vision specifically for the company is to create measurable success for everyone we interact with. The word “measurable” is something that we're always working towards. We want to be able to measure it. So internally we talk about that all the time, whether it's a service ticket that is opened and closed, or it's a project that's completed, or it's just a phone call we had. What are the successes we're creating for those that we're talking to - whether it's an educational institution or a business or whatever that might be. Starting with vision is extremely important and has been important for us. After that, or along with that, we need to have highly disciplined people and always have that continuous improvement mindset. I think that's something that has really helped us get to this point as well and empower our team and hold each of us accountable to what we need to do to create those successes. Then of course we're in the service industry - we need to deliver a great product, we need to deliver great service. I look at it and we talk internally all the time: referrals, referrals, referrals. Every time we talk to somebody or complete that project or service ticket, we're going to get a recommendation. We've really built the business on those referrals, so there's tons of factors of how we've gotten here, but I think that those are some key pieces that we've seen.
Michael Rogers: What I hear you saying, Mike, is how important having measurables and providing value to customers. That's a big part of your growth strategy.
Mike Schipper: It is most definitely.
Michael Rogers: Let's talk about something I've been asking every small business over the past couple of months. How have you adapted to COVID? Has it even affected a company like yours? You're probably used to already operating remotely, right?
Mike Schipper: We are fortunate to be in an industry that does allow for that. We had to make a lot of operational adjustments. Along with that though, we really shifted our strategy to be more aggressive in new account adds. End of February, around March, when all of this hit, we sat down as a team. We really focused in and said okay, we need to be adding new clients because we don't know who's going to be closing their doors, we don't know who's going to need to hold on payment. Some of that did happen, and so we really focused on new account adds. One key piece of that was growing what we call our “advisory team”, which is kind of a legacy account management team. We've grown that team pretty significantly from 1 to 4, so that helped a ton. Then I think that COVID-19 it really forced a new remote work mindset and there's so much opportunity that opened up for us to help our clients and help our community. Our goal is to really turn that from a negative into a positive. We're seeing as we engage with our clients, it's all about how we can help them plan and invest in new collaboration technologies - Educational institutions, for example, with new ways to teach and learn. Also investing in and maintaining that human connection, because I think that is something that, coming into this it was initially “hey let's just work from home”. Now, it's how do we build a team, how do we cultivate a team, and how do we work with a team in positive ways when we're remote. Because, as you know, it's kind of cliché now, but this is kind of our new normal. We're seeing now, because what we got forced into by COVID-19, that there's a renewed what we call “tech intensity”. Companies are starting to recognize, whether it's a company or educational institution, they’re starting to recognize the importance of technology, that technology was there to help us work remote. So now, how do we ride that wave to say “yeah tech is an awesome thing!” Obviously, paired correctly with relationships and the human connection - tech can help us do that too. Not only can we get more things done than we could be before, we can stay connected and maintain those relationships and all of that. We're really trying to help keep that momentum of tech intensity and keep people moving forward, leveraging the right technologies.
Michael Rogers: You’ve really had fantastic growth as a result of all the strategies you put into place. Do you have some ambitious growth goals for the future?
Mike Schipper: Obviously, we'd like to continue to grow at a 40% clip. That's an awesome thing. But yes and no; we try to look at it more as not necessarily revenue or FTE growth; It's really setting our specific goals around measuring the impact we can make for our clients, our colleagues, and our community - we call it the three C's internally. What activities are we doing every day to service our three C's? Because of what we know and what we've seen so far in our growth is that when we serve our three C's, we grow. So we really look at those leading goals, leading indicators, and leading activities that we can do that will help us achieve that growth. We don't really set the specific growth, we let it happen organically through great service and great product.
Michael Rogers: Small business owners love to hear from their peers who are having business success, so do you have some suggestions for entrepreneurial success that you want to share with your fellow small business owners?
Mike Schipper: Absolutely. I would say number one, focus on continually improving the value that you're providing. I think that's one thing that's really helped us. As we're working through things, let's look back and say okay how could we have made that more valuable? How could we have better aligned that to the specific business that we're working for? Growth is nice, but it's more meaningful when your results are focused around the success of your clients and the community. I would say buying decisions are being made a lot differently than before, and we're seeing marketing play a much larger role than it used to. When folks go to any website now, they've done a lot of research already. They're probably on your website to do a little more research and validate who you are, so focusing in on the right message there so you can bring them a little further down the funnel than you used to. For us that's super important because we really focus most on inbound leads versus direct sales. That's really where the market's going. It depends obviously on the industry, but it seems that people’s buying habits are changing pretty significantly. Focus on that - marketing is important. The message is important. Your brand is important, and then invest in people. People are our greatest asset, and we can never forget that. As we have grown, I've seen amazing efforts across the board from our team and I'm amazed every day. We would be nothing without our team. Lastly I would say invest in and focus on process and continuous improvement - don't lose sight of ways we can do it better. Innovate, right? I mean that's what's driven our country forward for years and years, and I think that's a mindset we should all have: how can I do this better, how can I do this a little bit differently to produce a better result. I believe that if you focus on those things, success will come
Michael Rogers: Mike, how do our listeners get in contact with you?
Mike Schipper: You can get out to our website at www.trustedinsite.com or they can reach out to us direct via phone as well: 616-421-8325
Michael Rogers: My guest today has been Mike Schipper, the founder and CEO of InsITe Business Solutions, a member of the 2020 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch. Mike, thanks so much for being on the program.
Mike Schipper: Thanks for having me.