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Rochester Top 100: Company sells day-to-day computer service

Rochester Business Journal
May 23, 2014

Michael and Sitima Fowler arrived at a turning point for their company in 2006, shifting from a reactive company to one that proactively considered client strategy. (Photo by Kimberly McKinzie)

With measurable goals and strategic thinking, Capstone Information Technologies Inc. is able to visualize its future. Its vision includes projected revenue growth of at least 25 percent and eight new employees in 2014.

Maryland natives, spouses and co-CEOs Michael and Sitima Fowler started the information technology company in 2003. It has evolved to focus primarily on serving Western New York companies—roughly 97 percent of its business—in industries that include professional services, health care and non-profits.

“We sell the invisible; we sell the service,” said Michael Fowler. “It’s not tangible to a lot of people, so what we have to do is paint a picture to help them find a way to get to (a) result.”

Capstone employs 20 people, having more than doubled since 2012.

In 2006, a turning point for the company was applying metrics to every aspect of their business—shifting from a reactive company that waited for clients to call to a company that proactively thought about client strategy.

“When we first started off, we took anything we could get,” Fowler said. “Maybe a lot of businesses start that way, but once we figured out whom we wanted to serve, then we started defining what it was that we sold.”

“We never used to set revenue goals because we didn’t know how to drive the company there,” Sitima Fowler said. “You say, ‘We want to be a $10 million company.’ Well, how do you drive it? Now that we know how to get there, now it’s really about investing in our people, in our culture.”

As the business began to grow, the owners realized they had to let go of roles they once had.

“You have to work ‘on’ the business, not ‘in’ the business,” said Michael Fowler. “There’s a point when you have to pull yourself out, train people to do the job that you’ve traditionally done and begin to invest in the long-term strategy, because your role changes constantly.”

The company shifted from hourly rates to fixed prices for day-to-day computer support in the mid-2000s, which helped it get through market lows, tight budgets and a client’s evolution.

“If you think about it like a Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, Xerox—these big companies—they all have a CIO who is responsible for guiding that company on the technology front,” said Sitima Fowler. “Small businesses can’t afford to have a CIO on staff, so we are their virtual CIO and we provide guidance based on what we see coming.”

The company attributes its strong growth to a sharper focus on small to midsize businesses, refining customer service and building trust with clients.

Capstone has been able to see regional patterns in information technology. Small businesses often are slower to adapt in terms of understanding and trusting IT capabilities, officials say.

“There are products that are being used across the country that no one in Upstate New York is even talking about or using,” Michael Fowler. “Some areas are slower to adopt new technology, and Rochester is one of those.”

“In other parts of the country, they’re using technology as an investment to achieving their business goals, where in Rochester, people still kind of think of it as an expense,” Sitima Fowler said. “We’re (starting to see) more and more (companies) where people are using technology as a way to be more efficient.”

With strong growth over the past few years, the company has had to adapt quickly.

“I think the bigger challenge has been the growth. … We had to go back to everybody and remind everybody what our targets are,” said Michael Fowler. “We had to paint that picture for our own employees and get them on board. You won’t get there unless they see it.”

The franchise model of business is a plan Capstone believes in, officials say.

“We’re not a franchise, but how does a franchise scale?” Sitima Fowler said. “That whole systematizing is a big part of what we do; it’s not left up to chance. We want the customer to get the same experience every time.”

This year the company expects to grow with a disciplined mindset.

“For a small business like where we are, you’ve got to get disciplined,” said Michael Fowler. “So all of our goals are defined, and we don’t deviate.”

The Rochester Top 100 program is presented by the Rochester Business Alliance Inc. and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. This year’s Rochester Top 100 event will be held Nov. 5. For more information, go to rochesterbusinessalliance.com.

Capstone Information
Technologies Inc.
Information technology firm specializing in managed services for small to midsize businesses.
Founded: 2003
Top executives: Michael and Sitima Fowler, co-CEOs
Employees: 20
2013 ranking: 86
Location: Rochester
Website: www.capstoneitinc.com

5/23/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.




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