If things had taken a different turn, this would have been a much different blog post. Hard to see a poster shop employing hundreds of remote workers or servicing businesses all over the world. But “poster shop” was among the contenders—along with personal alarm company and long-distance service—when co-founders Michael Payne and Monty Wirth were pondering the best business for a start up. Long-distance service won out, but had to switch gears as technology advanced. Below, Michael talks about his experience:
On starting out:
“In 1994, almost 18 years ago. I was 22. I ran and served for one session in the legislature. The campaign part was interesting—it’s more like marketing and business—but the actual governing part…a lot of partisanship and gridlock and anger with each other. Everybody was blaming everyone else, and no one was getting anything done. I thought that business was a way I could do something directly. Maybe it doesn’t impact the same scale, but it impacts customers and employees. I could do and change and make a difference, impact my universe, my community.”
On making the switch:
“It became apparent that long-distance was doomed. I don’t think most people in the industry saw it, but cell phones were coming and the Internet was coming. Most people would keep trying to ride that dying horse, but we just stopped. We stopped all of our marketing, we stopped everything. The world was shifting, so we had to change quickly.
Ninety-percent is picking the right business. If you pick the lemonade stand business, you’ll do about as well as the average lemonade stand. The economics of the business matter a lot. We said, ‘What else can we do?’ We had a call center internally where we answered calls for the customers, but it was only 6 or 8 people, so it wasn’t big. But we were like, ‘Okay, we could do this for more people.'”
Phil Shen and Donny Stevens took a road trip to the infamous garage that was the birthplace of the company. They filmed Michael, Monty and other long-term employees reminiscing over those start-up days:
“We had an incredible team and have done well. For things we can’t control, like the economy, we just had to adapt. And with technology, particularly in the last couple of years, we’ve come a long ways. We have a lot more stable technology and the tools are coming out much faster and better than before. That will help lay the groundwork for a future that’s more differentiated with software. We would like to have more customer tools that are more software-based—not just rely on the labor piece—which should make life better for the customers, employees, everybody.”
From a handful of employees in a garage to hundreds of employees in-office and working from home, AnswerConnect has consistently risen to meet the ever-changing needs of our customers. Change is constant, but the desire for a live, professional person handling calls will never go out of style.