Rick Porter, President of Cinch I.T., shares how he transformed Cinch I.T. from a local MSP to an award-winning national franchise. Originally published in Authority Magazine.
As part of my series about “How to Take Your Company from Good to Great,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Porter.
Richard “Rick” Porter is the President of Cinch I.T., a cybersecurity company headquartered in Worcester, MA. Rick has an unwavering commitment to helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses through better technology. As President, he oversees the operations of 10 locations across the United States and is responsible for the cybersecurity and support of thousands of businesses. Rick was a member of the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Community, Recipient of the Worcester Business Journal’s 40 under 40, named as one of the Top Technology Executives of 2020 by The Channel Company, Chair of the Better Business Bureau of Central and Western Massachusetts, and the Founder of the Cinch Scholarship Foundation.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory” and how you got started?
Rick Porter: I studied Business and Finance at Worcester State University and then enlisted in the U.S. Army, eventually operating as a Ranger in the 75th Ranger Regiment. My formal and military education prepared me to leap into entrepreneurship. So, I started a technology company and immediately fell in love with consulting other business owners. It was rewarding to see the technology solutions we recommended and implemented, making productivity and profitability impacts. Fast forward a decade later, we launched a franchise model, and we are now consulting our franchise partners to do the same thing while making their entrepreneurial and financial dreams come true.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times you faced when you started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Rick Porter: We acquired another I.T. company in 2010 and scheduled both of our software systems to be integrated the day after signing the deal. The integration went wrong, and the software system sent thousands of emails to every single company customer that we had just acquired. Random and nonsensical emails caused customer email inboxes to flood with emails. NOT the way we wanted to introduce ourselves to our new customers!
The drive to continue was easy. We had just spent over one million dollars on this acquisition, so failure was not an option. We identified the problems and worked on the problems.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you started? Can you tell us what lessons or “takeaways” you learned from that?
Rick Porter: As young nerdy guys, we would name new servers that we installed something truly nerdy, such as Greek Gods, Star Trek, Simpson characters, etc. This process was fine until our customers started to merge with enormous companies. We would be having conversations with the new parent company like “Homer backed up to Marge, but the next server to get replaced would be Bart. He is five years old now and always causing problems.”
We now stick with boring but professional naming schemes.
Find out how Cinch I.T. became America’s top I.T. franchise model.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Rick Porter: We are the only I.T. franchise model in the United States right now. We are the only managed services provider that centralizes support for all our franchisees.
This benefit allows our franchise partners to grow and scale their business faster than any other model but maintain much greater profitability.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not “burn out”?
Rick Porter: You must enjoy what you do every day, but that requires being intentional in everything. Intentionally design your offering so that it is a win/win for you and the customer. You should find the “right” customers and build a culture that excites you. If you do this, you will be excited to wake up every day.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Rick Porter: The first two employees in our company are the only reason we are where we are today. Mike Mosher and Morgan Hill are the talent and intelligence that built our entire company. Without them, we would never have had a service to provide or the leadership that helped it grow.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great.” Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company? How would you define a “great” company?
Rick Porter: The difference between a good company and a great company is complacency.
All startups set a goal to be great. As they grow, they begin to build products and services that customers want or need, hire talent, make improvements, and build specific processes. All with the intent to make their company good and then through constant interaction, great. Then when the company is “good,” they find a rhythm. Workflow is efficient, employees are happy, customers seem to like the product or service, and profitable. At this stage, everything is comfortable, and so this is where most companies stay. Never leaping to becoming great. Because great requires you to push past comfortable and continue to iterate, these companies survey their clients to find ways to improve. They set new and loftier goals each month, quarter, and year. They take risks, sometimes they fail, but they always iterate and never get complacent.
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Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Choose an industry that you are passionate about representing.
Rick Porter: When I was first getting started, I had no money to bring on great talent. Our first employees took pay cuts to come to work for Cinch I.T. because they could see and hear the passion in me, and they believed in the vision for the future.
2. Recruit people who are also passionate.
Rick Porter: I will never forget the day Mike Mosher, one of our earliest employees, worked 24 hours straight to resolve a major technology issue that one of our customers was having. I still remember the pride in his voice when we resolved the issue, the customer was happy, and Mike said to me from 9 am to the following morning, “I’m going home to go to bed.”
3. Create a unique product or service that solves a problem.
Rick Porter: Our franchise model is the only one in the United States right now. It allows people with no I.T. experience a franchise opportunity to become part of this exciting industry.
4. Strive for perfection, knowing that it is impossible.
Rick Porter: After the largest undertaking, our team gets together. It conducts an After Action Review (AAR) to discover What happened, Why it happened, and How to sustain strengths and improve weaknesses.
5. Never be complacent.
Rick Porter: Several of our staff, myself included, travel to conferences constantly to hear from customers, vendors, and industry experts so that we can have our finger on the pulse of our industry and constantly be innovating.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose-driven business or consider having a social impact angle?
Rick Porter: Millennials make up almost 50% of today’s workforce, and they care about working for purpose-driven businesses. They care about values and matters like bullying, mental health, and issues of politics. They will push for change, encourage allies to join them, and even create their causes.
If your business makes a social impact, share it! It will help you recruit top talent from the largest talent pool today.
What would you advise a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth but has now reached a standstill? From your experience, do you have any general advice about boosting growth and “restart their engines”?
Rick Porter: The survey, survey, and survey. Survey your clients, employees, and vendors. Customers will tell you why they buy from you and what they wish they COULD buy from you. This communication can lead to new products or services or upselling opportunities. Just as important is to survey audiences that are NOT your customer. Find out why.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Rick Porter: The best way to forge ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy is to ensure you have built a moat around your business. An economic moat is a business’s ability to maintain competitive advantages over its competitors to protect its long-term profits and market share from competing firms.
Intentionally create moats around your business. Examples could be a highly sought-after brand or speed to capture the majority market share.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company do business owners tend to underestimate? Can you explain or give an example?
Rick Porter: Luck is the one part of running a company that people underestimate. Many businesses have failed because they were “ahead of their times,” which I believe is just unlucky. Others have become massive successes because of luck. Consider companies like Zoom, Peloton, and Fiverr, who all saw massive growth in their companies due to a global pandemic. Though it is very hard to say a pandemic could ever be “lucky,” it is obvious that a pandemic was never part of the growth plan for these companies.
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As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience, what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Rick Porter: Optimized marketing is the best strategy a business can use to increase conversion rates. First, create a compelling and clear value proposition but realize that most people are hesitant to “convert” or buy the first time they see or hear of your brand, so you must make sure you create a sales funnel. A sales funnel allows you to build trust, develop a relationship and prove your expertise.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Rick Porter: You can create an offer that helps your business earn a reputation as a trusted brand. A free trial is a great start. It builds trust when you show that you are invested in the relationship before you ever ask for a penny.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to building a beloved brand and being successful in general. In your experience, what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know to create a Wow! customer experience?
Rick Porter: Every good business has great customer service. Therefore, it is NOT a competitive differentiator! People expect and deserve great customer service, so you must go BIG if you are looking to WOW customers! I am a big fan of the book Giftology. John Ruhlin explains giftology as radical generosity, the against-the-grain secret weapon of real influencers. It will allow you to boost referrals, retention rates, and ROI like a few other strategies. The right gift can really wow people.
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can you do to avoid those errors?
Rick Porter: The most common mistake I have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business is to drink their own Kool-Aid. Founders can sometimes be so passionate about the new product or service they are bringing to marketing that they ignore facts. Facts about customer feedback, employee engagement, and even the financial reality of the business. Emotional intelligence is a must-have for all great leaders. Plus, Kool-Aid is for kids!
Thank you for all of that. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Rick Porter: Women in technology have already started, but I would invest more time into this cause.
- Women earn 18% of computer science bachelors in the U.S.
- Only about 25% of jobs in technology will be women-led in 2021.
- Innovation involves a diverse team where members can challenge each other and bring new perspectives. Increasing the number of women in tech will lead to improved diversity, greater innovation, and increased revenue. As a father of two daughters, I also believe young women need more role models. Hopefully, celebrating female tech leaders will encourage more girls to pursue their interests and careers in tech, thus increasing the hiring pool diversity.
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About Cinch I.T.
Since 2004, Cinch I.T. has provided customer-focused I.T. support for businesses of all sizes. As the country’s fastest-growing franchise opportunity for veteran franchisees, Cinch I.T. is known for its fast and friendly service. Also, Cinch’s franchising service consistently ranks as one of the top I.T. franchises for sale in business publications. The company has won awards in the Worcester Business Journal, Inc. 5000, and the Channel Co. CRN. To learn more, visit cinchit.com, or for more information about how to buy an I.T. franchise, visit cinchfranchise.com.
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