When you’re the big fish, everyone tries to catch you.
My name is Jeremy Hill. I get to meet lots of clients and lots of prospective clients in my position at JMARK, and as part of that, I see trends. One trend I have seen recently involves some consistent messages in the marketplace that vary in accuracy, and I figured it’d be good to use this forum to address them.
When visiting with clients, prospective clients, or other business acquaintances, I’ve been hearing rumors lately that JMARK is for sale, or that JMARK isn’t growing because we are trying to get “lean” to position ourselves for acquisition.
One can only speculate where rumors like that are coming from. It could be disgruntled former employees (come on—name a single business that doesn’t have at least one), or competing salespeople who are trying to plant uncertainty in their prospects’ minds. It could be Russians. Who knows? It doesn’t really matter in the end. I will say with certainty and clarity that neither of those two rumors is true. Sure, JMARK is a for-profit business that is trying to provide value for its shareholders. That’s business.
Something that I believe sets JMARK apart is that we’ve generated that bottom-line value slower than others. As someone who has gone from being employee number three to seeing over a hundred people pass in the halls every day, I have the unique perspective of knowing why.
The biggest “why” is that we’ve grown the right way. It’s hurt at times, but JMARK hasn’t ever put its profits above the welfare of a client, and that’s not an easy thing to truthfully say in most businesses. We’ve also walked away from good money because there’s not a good culture fit between the client and us. That’s OK—not everyone is meant to work together.
Another “why” is the people. Thomas Douglas, our CEO, has stated again and again that his goal is to provide life-changing opportunities for his employees. That doesn’t come without cost. When people come first, clients feel it, but sometimes the bottom-line does, too. That is a price that Tom has been willing to pay, historically, and it’s part of what makes JMARK, JMARK.
Another rumor I want to address is actually partly true—so hear me out on this. I hear something similar to this quite often: “I hear that JMARK won’t want my business because my company is too small, and since JMARK is so big now, they only want big clients.” Again, I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.
The truth is we used to have the mentality that we could help everyone. Every company was a prospective client. But anyone who has grown a B2B company has at some point had to come to terms with the fact that you have to decide what your ideal client looks like and build your business to best serve them. For us, this means that we aren’t geared for the companies that only have a few computer users.
To best serve the companies that we’ve focused on, we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that we aren’t the best solutions for ones that are too small, or too large. Goldilocks was on to something, it turns out.
A little background might help illustrate how we got to this point.
Over the past 31 years, JMARK has grown from a guy building computers in his garage in a tiny town in Missouri to a globally recognized and ranked technology provider, employing over 120 of the smartest people I’ve ever known. We’re the biggest, and we’re the best. That makes us the big fish that the competition is gunning for.
I’ve been with JMARK in some capacity or another for 25 of those 31 years, and I remember what it was like to be the little fish. It’s hard.
I remember days when we had to hold our paychecks for a few days and make some accounts receivables calls before we could cash them (not a fun exercise for a twenty-something geek). I remember being jealous of the bigger companies in town because they had it soooooo easy. They had all the clients, and they could do whatever they want. “How great would it be to be like THOSE guys?”
In 2008 we acquired our biggest competitor in town, which doubled the size of the business, and then organically doubled it again within two years. I’ve never knowingly quoted David Bowie before, but wow! “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.”
Today’s business climate is thick with mergers and acquisitions. The I.T. (and more specifically, managed services) industries even more so. While I won’t begrudge any business owner the opportunity to sell his business or take advantage of market conditions to either retire or move on to the next great adventure, it isn’t for everyone.
I’m proud to work at a company whose CEO has publicly stated that his goal is to provide life-changing opportunities for its employees. Opportunities for career advancement, opportunities to grow and stretch out of your comfort zone (I can speak to that personally, going from self-described “geek” to evolving into a consultative sales professional who enjoys public speaking) and the opportunity to provide incomes that are above the area and even national averages for our industry.
But making statements like that in public doesn’t come without risk. There are some who would see that has hyperbole, or just a good PR line. I guess the word of a guy who has worked here for 25+ years (and thus does have self-serving interests, I suppose) only has so much value, but trust me when I tell you that the leadership team at JMARK is working hard to make these goals a reality.
I hope that anyone who reads this finds it insightful and truthful. It is written in the spirit of transparency which, I believe, is the best way to communicate. You heard it here, folks—I’m never running for political office…
Seriously though—one piece of coaching that every team member at JMARK gets upon hiring, during coaching sessions with their managers, and in every company address from Tom is this: Run every action you take and decision you make through the filter of JMARK’s six core values. Honesty, Passion, Teamwork, Excellence, Accountability, and Fun. Check.
If you hear any other rumors about JMARK and want the real scoop, or want to learn more about JMARK’s “People First, Technology Second” approach to I.T. and how it can benefit your business, give me a call at 844-44-JMARK, or email me at [email protected].