When Brian Weiss and Forrest Hatfield founded ITECH Solutions in 2005, they had technological expertise but no experience running a business.
“Getting started was tough because we were starting completely from scratch,” recalled Hatfield, who co-owns the company with Weiss. “The first couple of years were pretty rocky.”
In the beginning, working 60 to 80 hours a week was the norm as Weiss, 34, and Hatfield, 30, had to learn to structure a business, find the right employees, build client relationships and grow without taking on debt.
Years later, the business partners’ hard work has paid off.
The technology firm, which offers managed IT and web development services to clients in San Luis Obispo County, started with the duo (a third silent partner who provided $10,000 in startup capital and other business assistance was bought out by Weiss and Hatfield) and now has 10 team members. The company hopes to hire two to three employees this year.
Without a dedicated sales force, ITECH Solutions has grown primarily through word of mouth. There are roughly 500 clients between the web and IT departments, including such local organizations and businesses as Courtyard Marriott, Splash Café, Mac Superstore and California Mid-State Fair. Local competition exists, Hatfield said, but relationships with competitors have been good and “collaborative at times.”
“There are many local marketing companies that outsource to us for web development, and we partner up rather than trying to go compete head to head,” Hatfield said.
The company declined to disclose specifics about its financials, but it has surpassed $1 million in annual gross revenues and is profitable.
Hatfield and Weiss attribute the company’s growth to its emphasis on customer service and the fact that “we haven’t been all about profits.”
“Sure, you want to make money in business, but it’s about how you can help others,” Hatfield said. “We’ve focused heavily on bringing true value to our clients and providing a great place to work for our employees. If you focus on others, you’ll be rewarded in the end.”
The firm offers health benefits and matching retirement funds for employees and reinvests “a lot into the business and is in it for the long term,” said Hatfield, adding that the company is always interested in listening to its clients and employees for ideas to grow and improve.
The firm holds regular gatherings to foster team-building skills and has a “generous bonus structure” to reward employees for their hard work, Weiss said.
“Last year, we took our entire staff and their significant others on a cruise to Mexico for our seven-year anniversary celebration,” he said.
In the next five to 10 years, Weiss said the company would like to open at least one more office in a nearby region. The firm also is interested in expanding its services. For instance, the company is finalizing details on a custom mobile application and plans to release more information about that soon.
Although finding qualified employees presents a challenge, in large part because larger cities tend to have a larger pool of technologically savvy candidates, the firm makes an effort to hire locally, Weiss said.
“In order to maintain a high quality level of service, we look for employees who already have experience in our industry and who have a demonstrated history of providing excellent customer service,” Weiss said.
ITECH Solutions, he said, is committed to San Luis Obispo.
“We’ll always remain headquartered in SLO, although we plan on opening additional offices in surrounding areas,” Hatfield said. “You just can’t beat the lifestyle and the weather here. It truly is a great place to live.”