If someone in line at the grocery store asks you what OPTiMO is, how do you describe it?
We are a full-service, information technology consulting firm. We can pretty much do anything with information technology and if we can’t do it, we can make a recommendation for one of our partners. But as far as information technology, we know and have skills and expertise about almost anything in the field, from enterprise level big company systems integration down to “I need a website” – the full gamut. To be more specific, we have three main areas: one is the IT consulting, and we’re doing a ton of mobile development, which is the hot thing right now, and then we have our digital forensics division, which does e-discovery, crash data retrieval, really cool stuff and that applies to any business or law firm or insurance company in the area. So if you’re an attorney and there’s some type of lawsuit, you might ask us to examine a hard drive in such a manner that it could be used in court. The crash data retrieval is pretty interesting. That would be a scenario where there’s a car accident and the insurance company may want to know information on how fast the car was really going and what really happened. We have the equipment and expertise to go out to the crash scene, plug into the black box of the car and extract that information, analyze it and create a report.
It’s pretty neat. Any company could use it. For instance, if you’re running a business and you have an employee who quits and leaves and you’re concerned this person is stealing some type of intellectual property, a lot of companies will take all of the digital assets that employee had – phone, computer – and make images of those things (using digital forensics) and then they can do an investigation a year later to see if this person sent files to someone else. We can do that data mining and extraction and investigation to produce all that information. That industry is really exciting to me because it’s still on the cutting edge of what is possible. And we do all of that work in Bloomsburg.
When you were forming OPTiMO, the recession was just starting. Did you have second thoughts about opening a business in this kind of economic climate?
Of course. I think anyone does who starts a business like that. You have to boil it down to the worst-case scenario. This is my investment, and the worst case scenario is I lose my investment and I fail, and then am I able to rebound and move forward if that happens. The answer was “yes” so it was a pretty simple decision.
It doesn’t really sound that simple. Are you a risk taker by nature?
I think everyone in business is a risk taker by nature. It would be difficult to even get going (if you weren’t somewhat of a risk taker) because you have to invest time and money and sleep with the risk of not getting it back. So, I think by definition you have to be a risk taker to some extent. I wouldn’t say I’m a risky person in the sense that I throw all caution to the wind, but there is such a thing as calculated risk where you expect to get a return on your investment.
What has been the greatest obstacle for you to overcome as an entrepreneur whose business has grown so rapidly.
Keeping everything together has been challenging, and being able to hire the key people and put them in positions of responsibility and delegate responsibilities to them in such a short period of time. I think other companies, or other industries have evolved over a longer period of time. They start, people grow, they understand the business, they move into different positions, but this is in business terms, more of a “big bang” type of thing. The first year, I did everything from accounting to technical work on projects and hiring people and recruiting people. Then, over time, we hired an HR staff and accounting staff and in that process you start to understand and learn what it means to be in business.
Where did you look for advice along the way? How did you do it?
Right before I graduated college, I had a business venture (in IT consulting) with a few folks and that got me into the world of being an entrepreneur. I spent that period between graduating college and starting OPTiMO learning a lot of things and making a lot of mistakes and dabbling with business. I learned a lot of things there, and made a lot of mistakes then, that I would have made if I just came out of college and went into the commercial sector and worked for 10 years, and then decided to start something. In that period of time I made mistakes that I didn’t reproduce when I started this company, which I think helped tremendously. That learning process was good. Plus, (I was) doing a tremendous amount of reading on everything you could imagine – every type of business book, success book and time-management book. And then after we started the company, I surrounded myself with talented and smart people who had different experiences. Leveraging that has probably been the biggest contributor to our success because if I had to worry about the day-to-day things with HR and Accounting, I wouldn’t be able to worry about the day-to-day things of growing the business. Finding the right people is key, and I think I’ve been able to essentially build a company around finding the right people and putting them in the right spot.
- julie imel
OPTiMO Information Technology is located at 7 South Main St., Suite 303, Wilkes-Barre. To learn more, visit OPTiMO-IT.com.