In celebration of our 20th Anniversary as a company, we can’t help but look back at what has changed or stayed the same since our company was founded in 1999.
Our company started on a couch, with three men and an idea. Now, 20 years later, we’ve grown to a global consulting firm spanning from Seattle to Miami to India.
To reminisce, we asked some of our longest employees to reflect on what has changed or remained the same since the early days of the company.
Join us on our walk down memory lane as we talk to Matt Haunz, Brad Ward, Greg Klem, Jason Pohl, Jeff Lloyd, Christy Burns, and Dave Rosevelt about who we were and where we are headed.
Where were you in your career when Centric started?
Matt Huanz, Cincinnati, Louisville, and Indianapolis Practice Lead: “I was a senior consultant working at Accenture. I was traveling five days a week to Austin, TX. I was newly married and looking to get off the road. I ended up being largely on the road for several more years after joining Centric, but that eventually changed! I loved consulting but didn’t enjoy the politics of working for the big firms. I wanted to be able to work with clients in a more partnering way (and ideally with less travel!).”
Brad Ward, Cincinnati Architect: When we started Centric, I was newly married, a father, and a new Manager at Accenture.
Jason Pohl, National Partner of Strategic Growth & Operations: Well, I started with Centric just before its official incorporation. With Columbus as our first office, all three of us (Larry English, Chad Caldwell, Jason) pitched in various capacities to try to sell, deliver, hire, and plan for future growth! My focus was on selling and recruiting mostly. Oh yeah, I used to be the “insurance guy” before Chad butted in and took over that area!
Dave Rosevelt, CEO: I was 33 years old and had worked at Accenture from 1989 thru September 1997. I had then done some independent contracting at Illinois Power in the late 90s before starting Centric with Eric Van Luven in 1999. I was living in Monticello, Illinois (near Champaign) and commuting to Dayton each week for our first client project. I should note one of the most common questions I get is, “Why do you have a 217-area code for your phone. The answer is because I was living in Monticello, Illinois then and had a 217-area code cell phone,” which I used on our first business cards. Never wanted to have to get new business cards, so I kept the same cell phone.
Christy Burns, Cincinnati Operations Manager: I was at Arthur Anderson for three years before I joined Centric.
Jeff Lloyd, National Partner of Strategic Growth & Operations: I was at Arthur Andersen, and we were going out of business at the same time Centric wanted to open their second office in Cincinnati. My role at Andersen was similar in terms of responsibility. But, it was very different in terms of Centric being a startup versus coming from a company where I oversaw an office for a global firm in business for nearly 100 years. My role with Centric ended up being one of the most challenging, fulfilling, and fun periods of my life! My appreciation for the goodness in all people is my greatest personal and career growth and awareness in my last 17 years with Centric.
What has changed, or stayed the same, culturally since founding our company 20 years ago?
MH: I think we had key tenets in mind when we started the company, but I don’t think that anyone can claim they knew how it would play out. When people find out that I’ve been at Centric for so long and hear it was very small when I started, I get the same question: “Is Centric today what you thought it would eventually become when you joined?” My answer is always something like: “I really wish that I had some cool story about how I had a vision for Centric and what it would grow into. All of the reasons why I joined the company 19 years ago, I still firmly believe in and feel that we do those and get better each day.”
BW: We started with an experienced professional culture we brought with us from Accenture. We were a group of people that enjoyed each other and our client. We would do whatever it took to solve the problems our client had. All of the people we hired were people we knew or had worked with before. And we maintained that experienced professional culture even when we started growing and hiring for business units.
DR: While we cared a great deal about culture at the beginning, I’m not sure that many of us truly understood the value of it. It’s now even more important to retain it as we get bigger.
JL: Our core purpose and core values drive our culture. Those things have not changed since we started the company, and these continue to be the foundation for everything we do.
JP: Honestly, perhaps this is a cop-out, but our culture really hasn’t changed a ton. We have a great combination of autonomy and collaboration. Everyone does their best every day to achieve an objective of “being the firm both clients and employees seek out.” It’s been objective since day one! Also, we still have holiday parties which started in my basement and have since been located all over the place. This event is certainly an embedded piece of our culture!
CB: What makes our culture great is super simple: It is and always will be our people. Hiring kind people who do the right thing. Our culture is our number one differentiator from all of our competitors. Today we have a name for what we do, UMCX and UMEX (Unmatched Customer or Employee Experience)! We used to worry about feeling connected in a virtual environment. Our answer to recruits was always that you need to be intentional to see each other, and our employees really enjoy getting together.
How has our mindset grown?
BW: When we started my mindset was to do the best work I could for our client. I was just excited to help build a new company and specifically work closer to home with new babies at home. That hasn’t changed, but my children sure have!
JP: I don’t feel 20 years older! It does at times feel like the things that we did 10 to 20 years ago we wouldn’t likely do again today. One example: putting houses down as collateral to win a project. All in all though, we still believe we shouldn’t go public and try to preserve travel for those that are OK with it, etc.
Are our processes still the same?
BW: We had almost no internal processes. We tracked our time monthly in excel spreadsheets. When we started our small company, most of our wives were pregnant. Most of us were on our wife’s health insurance. Some had to do Cobra insurance. Finding health insurance for 10 or so people when most of us were expecting children was a challenge. Now we’re definitely more mature with financial software like OpenAir and actual health insurance plans!
JP: One phrase: “Performance-based pricing. Essentially, we did the work, and the client determined what percent of our bill they would pay!
JL: What processes? When Larry English was recruiting me, I asked him about Centric’s business processes, and he laughed at me. I told him as an engineer who worked 14 years at Arthur Andersen, I was used to having processes and policies for everything I do and could not move into a model that was “seat of the pants.” He laughed at me again and said we would build our processes as we grow, and we will make the right decisions with collaboration as we need to. As we have done.
How have we expanded locations in 20 years?
DR: Original criteria was if the city was big enough to support an NFL team (or quasi pro team like OSU that pays players), then it was big enough to support a Centric office. Even though that’s no longer how we’ve chosen to expand, it would not surprise me if this criteria would still work relatively well today. Our first office space was 200 square feet in some kind of large industrial manufacturing facility. We chose it because it was next door to a small call center company that was willing to answer our phone.
JL: When I started, we were operating as a single, virtual location with people residing across the country and traveling to clients also spread across the country. A year prior to me starting, the Columbus office was getting starting and already reporting great success in one of the worst economies this country has experienced just after the dot-com bubble burst. We still have people located all over the country, but we also officially have more than 12 locations, including India.
Here’s a fun one: Any changes in your hairstyle or wardrobe?
JP: I still have all the clothes. I think it’s considered ‘vintage’ now and back in style!
DR: Have there been new hairstyles in the past 20 years? My hair looks the same. I can’t recall for sure, but I’m pretty sure that our first client still required us to wear suits.
CB: OMG I think my hair may be the same. Thanks for the reminder that I may need an update! Thankfully, my clothing has kept up with the times.
What were some of the earlier technologies we used?
DR: We were well-versed at Cobol. Our first “service offerings” were often around Cobol applications and data conversions.
What do you envision for our future?
MH: My vision for our future is extremely positive. I think we have so many things going for us. I truly believe our culture is unmatched and what separates us from our competitors. I tell people all the time, we don’t always get it right, but we always make it right. And, we are working every day to get better at what we do and how we do it. As we continue to grow and evolve our capabilities, I think that these things will serve us well and allow us to be around for 80 plus more years and become a 100-year company.
BW: Continue to grow and adapt and change but continue to maintain our professionalism and do whatever it takes to solve our client’s problems.
JP: More of the same – continued expansion of our business locations, service offerings, and industry verticals. Continue hiring amazing people. Continue positioning the firm for the long haul!
CB: More fun, more business units, industry verticals and service offerings. And needing more or bigger hotels for our growing holiday parties!
Thanks for traveling back in time with us! Can you believe how far we’ve come? We can’t wait to see what the next 20 years bring.