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Business Observer Friday, May 19, 2017 1 year ago

Long term

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A Fort Myers IT support firm has found consistent success after two decades in business. It has more to offer.
by: Alicia Ceccarelli Contributing Writer

Jake Spanberger's family-run IT firm, Entech, provides comprehensive service and support, with the goal of being an extension of the businesses the company serves. “The biggest compliment we can get from our clients is if we get invited to their holiday parties,” says Spanberger, president of the Fort Myers-based company. “That means they see us as one of them.”

Trust first: Entech's business model requires staff to gain an intimate understanding of a client's business. “We're not in it for the one-off sale,” says Spanberger. “We're in it for the long-term relationship.” With that, Entech can help devise a plan utilizing IT to help clients grow. “We can't do that unless we have a full partnership with our clients,” he says.

Clean breaks: Spanberger says it was challenging to service residential and commercial clients — as the business once did. “When a business is down, there could be hundreds of people affected by that,” he says. “There is a true emergency.” Imagine communicating that to individual customers. So, he (gently) broke it off with residential. “We are people pleasers,” he says, “but at the same time, we have to have priorities.”

Be clear: Spanberger acknowledges the responsibility is on Entech to be explicit in the terms of the agreements with customers. That helps build long-term trust. “More often, when something goes wrong, and the business we're supporting looks at us and assumes that we included something that we didn't, then it's on us that we didn't clarify it to them.”

Inside inspiration: Entech's local and national clients spark a dose of motivation, such as Scott Fischer Enterprises, a Harley-Davidson dealership. Spanberger admires that company for its employee-invested culture. “And they are able to scale, and be nimble enough to make changes as they are required,” says Spanberger. “They are one of many I think of when making big decisions.”

Fear factor: Spanberger's biggest entrepreneurial fear “is we screw a good thing up.” He's afraid that well-meaning changes at Entech could backfire on his commitment to clients and the business community.

Under construction: Entech works diligently to improve group buy-in. “Each of our employees individually affects our company goals,” Spanberger says. “We want them to know, 'I specifically have this specific metric that I can control.'” On Spanberger's personal development, he constantly works on his decisiveness, where he admits overanalyzing sometimes gets the best of him. “It's ensuring we are flexible but making the right decision,” he says.

Attracting talent: “Once you get to a point of contentment from an organizational perspective,” he says, “you can be much more choosey.” Hiring based on need has got Entech in trouble in the past, says Spanberger. “We've learned to hire based on culture matches,” he says. The company's interview process requires potential hires to meet with various people within the company.

Recommended reading: “Death by Meeting,” by Patrick Lencioni. “We follow that one pretty closely,” says Spanberger, “with a daily huddle.”

Flexibility: Spanberger tries not to overschedule his day, leaving opportunities to be open and flexible for his staff. “In our industry,” he says, “it's very easy to always have a problem to deal with from a technical standpoint.” Spanberger wants everyone, including himself, to leave work at the office. Says Spanberger: “Get home to your family or whatever you need to brain dump and decompress. You need that.”

AT A GLANCE
Entrepreneur: Jake Spanberger
Company: Entech, Fort Myers
Year founded: 1997
Employees: 37
Revenue: $5.2 million in 2016; up 18% from $4.41 million in 2015.

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