Andrew Young is the president and CEO of Core and More Technologies (CMT). Founded in 2010 and a Google Certified Partner since 2011, CMT has made the Inc. 500 list of America’s fastest-growing private companies for the past two years, while also being named to the top 10 list of fastest-growing private companies in New Jersey during those same periods. In August 2013, CMT was recognized by a leading independent analysis firm as a top 10 worldwide Internet marketing provider. In early 2016, CMT also achieved the distinction of becoming a Google Premier Partner.
Tell me about your early career.
I, like many others, was very uncertain about which direction I wanted to go in early on. Starting out as a journalism major, I have always had a passion for writing and for political science. However, with journalism as a major, I figured I might as well learn how to say, “Want some fries with that?” over and over again, at least back then. So, I dropped out and went to technical school for electronics and computer technology. Shortly after graduation, I got a job with a privately-held company as a computer technician. I then began pursuing a degree in computer science at Monmouth University. At the same time, a new position opened inside the company for a business application developer. I applied and got the job, which entailed full development using the Lotus Domino platform. We built a platform that was well-leveraged and provided for a complete business suite including purchase requisitions, capital asset management, conference scheduling, and various engineering functions.
How did the concept for Core and More Technologies come about?
I started thinking about creating a new company when I lost a job I had for ten years. We were originally positioning ourselves to provide a suite of services to facilitate and streamline business processes, as defined above. Then, demand drove us in another direction: Internet marketing. Within the first month of starting the company, I sent out an email blast promoting our suite of business applications, with the personal email address of one of my former competitors on the distribution list. He forwarded my email on to his successor (more on that below), who in turn reached out not to inquire about what we were promoting, but rather to ask if we offered digital marketing, specifically SEO services. That company was based right smack in the heart of Silicon Valley. Upon executing with them for about one year, they began to expand their engagement with us to include all other areas of digital marketing strategy – SEM, website design and development, social media marketing, and finally Salesforce development and marketing automation. Over time, as people departed that company and went on to others, they brought us with them. Within three years, we had a growing, viral base of customers (10 total) in the San Francisco Bay area. Each of these companies remains a loyal partner, now in some cases, seven years later. In 2013, we were super proud to have achieved Google Partner status, and in 2016, we were further distinguished when we were named a Premier Google Partner.
For the “more on that below,” it is really a great story. I was a product manager and my company had acquired several companies across North America. We had a very savvy president and we were on a strong upward trajectory for growth. Then, they fired that president and took the company in a totally different direction. Suddenly, the company was being run by bullies whose interest was more in their image and ego than anything else. I was tasked with heading up a project that included a major competitor. While I opposed the move, I took my marching orders and executed the plan. Very late in the game, the superseding president got involved and put that kabash on the whole project, and at this point, ordered me to simply leave the other company hanging in the lurch. I had to do some soul-searching here. I did not want to execute on this deal to begin with, but was overruled by senior management – this president’s direct reports. Now, he was overriding them, and I had a working relationship with the competing company, and did not want to just leave them sitting there as he had ordered me to. So, I did the right thing. I made the phone call and told them to pack up, go home, and that my hands were tied. If I had followed the president’s orders and left them just sitting there, there is NO WAY that this person would have, months later, forwarded my email to his successor, and I may have never had that first major client and all that it led to. The moral of the story is to follow your heart, have the courage to do so, and practice a lifestyle that demands honesty, balance, and integrity.
How was the first year in business?
Our first year in business was all about excitement, uncertainty, and risk-taking. Many hours were spent in the library – attending seminars, and leveraging all available resources to increase my knowledge of business ownership and strategy.
What was your marketing strategy?
Our focus was on larger entities. One large entity will result in revenue equal to or greater than numerous smaller entities. While we have taken on smaller clients since, our primary focus in terms of business development continues to be large entities.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Our growth was purely organic and this continues to be the case. Our growth was slow and steady the first couple of years. Our emphasis has always been on customer delight first.
How do you define success?
That’s a great question. Obviously, helping our clients to accelerate visibility and growth while exceeding their financial return objectives is our top priority. But to me, whether they are a global NY conglomerate, a Silicon Valley startup, or a local service provider, when folks within the company choose to partner with us, they are paying us a tremendous compliment. Think about it. People build their careers on the success they are able to create for the organization. They are not just working to kill time. At least to some extent, they desire to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. I love to think that the results we create will help to position the people who chose us to move up in the company and improve their careers. I get a lot of personal satisfaction when we play a role in making that happen.
What is the key to success?
Client success, and the ability to define that success. The ability to show what has worked, and sometimes what has not worked, is the key. In my industry, transparency is a huge deal. Someone once said, “Measure twice, and cut once.” That is another piece. No one can create an effective strategy without thinking it through, mapping it out, presenting it to others, then presenting it to the client. And you have to do it quickly and efficiently. Fast is always better than slow.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
“Sometimes you have to serve in order to lead.” Partner with every entity that chooses us to handle these all-important marketing functions. Do not look at them as a client and at ourselves as contractors. We seek to become seamless with the internal team(s) and if we are successful, we will become part of a team and will distinguish ourselves from all other vendors. To accomplish this is simple: take as much interest in the quality of the solutions and deliverables as an internal employee would.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Memories of corporate America and the subjugation game. Also, the desire to provide for a better quality of life for myself and my family.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
The key to being successful is to be lucky, but luck is simply an exercise in positioning. If you can be a risk-taker and efficiency expert at the same time, you will be successful. Several additional things to remember:
1) At times, you will need to serve in order to lead.
2) Ideas come from everywhere. Let them innovate!
3) Take risk.
4) Do not wait for the market to tell you what it wants. A true innovator brings things to market that no one else has yet thought of.
5) Trust your gut. If you run a research project and a focus group for every little thing you want to do, by the time you do it, the market will want something else.