To thrive, to prosper and to grow, a company often must adapt to a changing marketplace.
What was a requisite for a client 10 years ago may very well be an obsolete service today. Thus, the ability to adjust, and sometimes even reinvent, is critical.
ITX Corp. is proof. When Ralph Dandrea launched the firm in 1997, it was basically a two-person consultancy. Over time, the focus shifted to general software project management, and today ITX is a full-service software development company.
Headquartered on the ninth floor of The Metropolitan, ITX prides itself on the ability to solve complex problems for clients. The number of employees has pushed past 260, with their designers and developers building software, websites, mobile apps and web portals.
“We’re led by what customers are actually doing,” Dandrea said. “We got really good at designing and architecting and helping customers understand what they need to build.”
A self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, Dandrea was designing inventory software for video rental stores while he was attending Cardinal Mooney High School in Greece. But it was another event during his high school years that shaped his approach to business.
His father, Bob, owned Dandrea Electric, a family business started by his grandfather. But an economic downturn in the 1980s forced the firm into bankruptcy. Ralph was 17 at the time, and he has never forgotten what life was like then.
Thus, even as ITX grew — reaching $3 million in revenue after just three years — he had a strong grip on the reins. Continued growth obviously was essential, but it would be regulated, not whirlwind.
“I didn’t want to grow more than 30 percent any year,” he said. “I didn’t have the money to grow that fast, I didn’t want to take on debt and I didn’t want (external investment) partners.
“When you have (external investment) partners, the interests are often different. Alignment of interests is the most important aspect in business. If everything is aligned in the network, everything works great. But when you bring on investors, they’re just worried about getting a return on their investment.”
Today ITX is debt-free; maintaining a common-sense approach to growth is one reason why, Dandrea said.
“I would rather be sure-footed than in debt,” said Dandrea, who was named to the Rochester Business Journal’s Power 50 Technology List in April. “I’ve passed on some opportunities. The only time I allowed us to grow faster (than 30 percent) was in 2008; we had 54 percent growth.”
While he doesn’t necessarily regret loosening the growth cap, there were issues.
“There was a noticeable loss in control,” Dandrea said. “It took us a year to two years to straighten out the cultural delusion.”
Workplace culture is a critical component of the ITX mission. “We have a very harmonious environment,” he said. They also have an attrition rate that is below the industry norm. One reason: using a mark-to-market salary evaluation. Just as accountants use mark-to-market to assess fair value of assets, ITX does the same with the salaries of designers and developers.
All of that plays into the bigger picture of the partnerships with clients.
“It’s all about the relationship,” Dandrea said. “I see the world through risk management. What are the risks to a relationship and how do you resolve those risks early on?”
A little TLC is great when you have the flu. A lot of TLA helps fuel ITX: Trust, Loyalty and Advocacy. Dandrea believes that if ITX is successful in meeting client needs and solving challenges faced by clients, then loyalty is built. And in turn, clients become advocates of ITX.
That’s why there is more to the customer relationship than a strictly transactional deal. “What is the likelihood that you live up to what you say you’re going to do?” Dandrea said. “If a customer needs to get something done right and on a certain timetable, then we’re a good fit.”
They have been for 25 years. But in reaching the 25-year milestone, Dandrea believes he is fortunate. “This isn’t just my doing,” he said, giving a figurative tip of the cap to the management team, business partners, team members and clients, as well as the mentors he had along the way. “I’m very grateful.”
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