Chet Cromer never set out to own his business. Despite building one of the area’s largest technology consulting businesses in terms of employees and clients served, he still doesn’t consider himself much of an entrepreneur. That can be a little confusing, so let me offer you some context for it. Chet’s a well-respected and successful business owner, so by all accounts he’s a successful entrepreneur. What most people probably don’t know is that Chet is an exceptional software developer and architect. Some of our clients who may only know us for IT or websites may not even be aware of our team’s coding capabilities. We get frequent requests to build new applications from people who dream of building a mass-market software product or service and selling the company for millions or billions of dollars down the road. Oftentimes, that’s the story of entrepreneurship we expect to hear, especially in the software space. Chet, however, has no exit strategy. Even when it’s come knocking at his door.
You see, C2IT Consulting is a company that almost wasn’t, twice. In the early days, Chet was actually an employee of National Car Sales and Rental working for his high school boss, Don. At one point, due to corporate structuring, it made more sense for them to spin-off a new company under Don’s ownership and for National to hire them back as a contractor. Chet and Joe went with Don for this ride as employees, and Custom Computer Software, Inc. was born. That arrangement worked well, but a few years later Don’s health began to decline. Chet says there really wasn’t much of a choice. When Don needed to step away from the business, Chet, at the age of 26, suddenly became a business owner. In 2003, he renamed the company C2IT Consulting and he and Joe continued serving National as their primary customer. Even though he was now a business owner he says he didn’t really see himself as an entrepreneur.
Not much changed after that for quite some time. Chet and Joe continued serving National as they’d always done. The relationship was good, and the work was reliable. There was no reason to seek out new business. In 2010 major shifts started happening in the rental car industry, and National began conversations to be acquired by its new corporate parent, Enterprise Holdings. It was apparent early on that C2IT Consulting wouldn’t be working for the new owner for long. Things were lean after National was acquired as 80-90% of C2IT’s annual revenue quickly dissipated. Once again, Chet was presented with a choice to close up shop and the company faced a significant challenge. Chet says “I didn’t plan to shut down, but I didn’t have a plan to move forward either.”
Whether he knew it or not, Chet needed help. Through luck or intervention, he’d recently met someone who could provide that help and eventually become a close friend. Chet started getting to know Mark Sturgell. Mark is a business coach who has been working with Chet for more than a decade now. The lean years continued, but with Chet’s perseverance and Mark’s coaching, C2IT slowly started to turn the corner. Chet jokes “We never missed payroll, but there were months there wasn’t much in the bank.” In 2014, as the business grew steadily, Chet made the tough decision to hire another developer. This was an intentional move. He hired someone to do the work he loved the most. He forced himself to start growing into a business owner. Continued growth didn’t increase dramatically right away, but a seed had been planted. By the end of 2017, C2IT had grown more than 250% since that first hire in 2014 and it was time to pick up the momentum. That’s what Chet has enjoyed the most about building C2IT Consulting: facilitating the success of others. For many of our team, C2IT Consulting offered our first job in tech. For our clients, C2IT Consulting is the right size technology partner; and for many of our clients, we may be their first technology partner as well. C2IT now has eight full-time employees, several subcontractors we provide work for regularly, and a growing list of clients we’re honored to serve. When asked if he would do it again, he said, “Yeah. It’d be a different path. But, I’d do it again.”
“Don’t start a company unless it’s an obsession and something you love. If you have an exit strategy, it’s not an obsession.” -Mark Cuban