Editor’s note: In this two part series, Coordinated Systems Inc.’s, or “CSI,” Marketing Director, Rich Marcia, sits down with Robert Hutcheon, CEO of CSI, to discuss how the company dealt – and is currently still dealing – with the current economic situation in terms of how it plays into the company’s operations and success. Combined with commentary on Hutcheon’s past professional and personal experiences, the article takes a unique spin on a traditional CEO interview, and turns it into a compelling tale about how this East Hartford, Conn. company stayed afloat when many others gave up and sank.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Robert Hutcheon, CEO of Coordinated Systems, Inc., or “CSI,” a business man who has steered his company through many turbulent economic times, including the recent economic recession.
Hutcheon is not only the CEO of a successful Connecticut technology company, but also being a decorated war veteran of the United States Army, he has endured difficulties which are far greater than that which may be read in the Wall Street Journal.
In many ways, his past experience in the Army helped shape the business philosophies he employs today and were instrumental in allowing CSI to survive the economic storms of the previous thirty years as well as today’s climate.
Rich Marcia: What’s your perception of the previous decade in business?
Robert Hutcheon: From my perspective, as I look back on last year and the previous decade, I always come back to the same thinking with each new economic encounter, that things can’t get any more convoluted than the previous calamity or economic downturn we have ever come up against before.
Yet it always amazes me that things sure seem to find a way of proving me wrong in that assumption. And I have to say as I look back and realize what a ride it has been to maneuver the business climate this “great recession” has handed us, it has definitely added more to that thinking than it has taken away. But I also have realized that no matter how bad things seem at any given time, and it may take awhile for it to come to realization, but there always seem to be numerous positive side effects that rise out of most declines.
RM: Please describe your first 30 years in business.
RH: Having been founded in 1972, Coordinated Systems, Inc. has seen many recessions and boom times with the economy. With each up and down we have experienced came lessons of survival that enhanced our character and brought our company to what it has become today.
RM: What are some of the struggles you’ve faced?
RH: We realize there are many things in life that can be defined as hardships in business. One of the most common is usually caused by a bad or immature decision that is brought on by inexperienced business owners. In our history we have lived these decisions as well and have overcome them by realizing what has occurred, identifying the problem, taking responsibility and dealing with it head on. The second type of hardship is caused by economic recession. It is more cunning and baffling to deal with because it is usually brought on by unforeseen external events that we have no control over. It is often more devastating and insurmountable because most businesses fail to anticipate its arrival. When it is in full swing it takes a lot of stamina to work through the fear, anxiety and uncertainty.
RM: How do businesses survive those hardships?
RH: Most companies that are weak more often than not fail during these times. Yet like everything in life, for those businesses that survive, there is a lot that can be learned from all the experience of those times. You still hit everything head on, but there is a difference in that trouble usually comes at you and stares you in the face. You have to monitor every aspect of the business and be aware of the symptoms of that trouble before they become major problems. In addition it becomes important to not deny problems going on outside the company and understand and analyze how they may affect your business. You need to also make the hard decisions necessary to stop wasteful and unnecessary expenditures and make your company as lean and mean as possible.
RM: What are some of the ways these hardships can have a positive impact?
RH: By staying on top of things comes the satisfaction of successfully dealing with difficulty and gaining the knowledge and skills that make us stronger to deal with the next problem. And on it goes preparing you for the turn of events to boom times again and giving you the gift of reliving the experience at later dates as they are reminisced as “the good old days,” rehashing what it took to overcome the hardest obstacles thrown at us.
Don’t forget to check back for Part 2 of this story, “Traveling Through the Center of the Storm: A Business Survives Multiple Economic Recessions.”