Thirty Years and Counting. . .
In this month’s blog, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Sherrell, the Founder of Dynamic Computing Services (DCS). DCS is celebrating their thirty-year anniversary this year. So, I wanted to ask Gary to provide insight into the early factors that helped shape the success of the organization. Although Gary transitioned day to day operations to his wife, Sheri, back in 2003 in order to pursue several new business opportunities (that’s another Blog post all together), I thought it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on the early days of DCS and starting a business from scratch.
Below are just some of the questions and topics we discussed. In future blogs I will continue this discussion with Gary and then transition to Sheri to get her thoughts on how she sees DCS managing in today’s business climate 30 years later.
- Congratulations on your 30-year anniversary. Statistically only 1/3 of small businesses survive more than 10 years. How have you adapted your business to the changing needs of your clients?
In business, you adapt, modify, or become extinct. We started our business as Tandem programmers supporting banking, retail, telecom, and healthcare. As our healthcare clients migrated from IDX/GE EMR’s, we had the opportunity to follow our clients and build an Epic consulting practice.
Sheri’s leadership in starting a government practice in Texas began with our partnership with Accenture. Accenture was awarded a large contract with the State of Texas and they partnered with DCS to provide contractors.
These pivotal points in our company growth would not have been possible; however, without our incredible DCS Office Team. The sales and recruiting team along with our back office, support our clients and consultants in both the Texas and Washington locations with everything from travel needs to payroll, time/expenses, finance, accounting, benefits, and human resources. Success and longevity require an entire team running at peak performance day in and day out and this group continues to rise to the challenge.
- What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the family culture we have built at DCS. We treat the consultants that work with us as clients. We take pride in taking care of our consultants and employees. The average tenure of our staff in the two home offices is 16.4 years, many of us have grown up together. It is hard to fathom that these friendships, some of which started in high school, are still strong thirty years later.
- Who are your role models?
- In the early days of the business my Mom gave me some great advice. She told me, know your banker, accountant, and attorney. That advice has helped me navigate some difficult situations.
- As I started my career and business, I leaned on my Dad for advice. He always listened to my problems and gave me great antidotal stories that helped shape me. I learned the importance of following customer needs and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. One of my favorites was a story about two men who started working for the railroad at the same time in the late 1800’s. One was working for his hourly wage and the other took the attitude of working for the company. Thirty-eight years later the two men meet, the first man was still working on the tracks and the second man had become the Vice President of the railroad.
- Our first client was Ross Stores. I worked for Ronda Licata who was the Manager of Sales Reporting. I appreciated her directness and management style.
- Our second client was Beech Aircraft. I worked for Larry McCain, the Director of IT. I learned the power of building relationships with clients and the value of growing your entire team as each person has a role that is every bit as important as the next. He was a big NASCAR fan and always assimilated the organization to that of a “Pit Crew” and how there isn’t one person on that team that is less important than the other. So always embrace the role of each team member as it is the “Team” that wins together not one individual. He believed in me and we formed a friendship over our mutual interest in hunting that lasts through to this day.
- Julia McCurley was the first VP of Sales at DCS. She had an incredible work ethic, relationship building skills and a tenacity like no other. DCS would not exist without her.
The last role model is my good friend Kevin. He and I have worked together since 1986. He encourages me to think through the impact of my decisions and be mindful of the unintended consequences. I have always appreciated his smart advice.
4. What are the biggest risks you have taken?
In 1993, we made the commitment to secure our first office space and hire staff. That was a big step for us at the time. Then in 2003 when I started a new company called ClubGlider, Sheri took over and moved DCS to Texas, transitioned to a Woman Owned Business, and purchased a place in Texas. She launched our government practice by relocating key team members from Washington to Austin. When I look back, these were key decisions that shaped the future of our business.
- You have many long-term clients. What do you do to cultivate these relationships?
DCS was started and built on the goal of building the relationship (both Client and Consultant). I used to always say ‘Focus on the long-term growth not the short-term buck”. Treat the people how you would want to be treated, just basic “Golden Rule” stuff. Nothing to crazy really, just common sense not commonly practiced. People just want to be appreciated and respected for the effort they put into their position.
Unfortunately, in the last five years, we have seen a dramatic shift in our ability to build and foster the client relationships as many of our clients have transitioned to using vendor management systems which has taken the focus away from the relationship to bidding blindly on work opportunities. In many situations, decisions are based purely on price not necessarily a firm’s past performance or the quality of the candidates. Our sales team does a great job of navigating these barriers and staying in contact with project managers as well as previous consultants as they change jobs. However, that whole shift in the paradigm has been rather difficult as we are forced into marginalization. I have always felt “the relationship” is where success truly happens so the trend is concerning.
Ultimately, good business boils down to people taking care of people. We come together to solve problems and seek out a win/win along the way.
One of the key factors in running a successful business is building a strong team. In next month’s blog, I explore with Gary, as well as Sheri, more questions around hiring, team building and future goals.
Contributed by: Amy Noel