How a customer-first approach to IT has the Cleveland startup growing quickly
Many of the most exciting tech startups are focused on drawing attention to their company. Whether it’s their new product, a marketing push or a flashy partnership, grabbing the spotlight can be a crucial part of building a brand. But for Cleveland’s Park Place Technologies, the goal is often to operate in the background, supporting their partners behind the scenes.
“We keep operations up and running for our customers,” said President and CEO Chris Adams. “You wouldn’t even know we’re here, and that’s a good thing. It’s kind of like insurance — it’s working best when you don’t even know you have it. You might not notice we’re here, but we’re making sure that things are moving smoothly. Of the Fortune 500, we have 450 customers. We touch organizations all over the world and probably parts of your life daily that you wouldn’t even know.”
Park Place is a global IT maintenance and support company with solutions for a wide variety of businesses. To keep up with their goal of staying out of the spotlight, they place their focus on proactive security and infrastructure that keeps things moving. Instead of responding to problems, Park Place’s goal is to avoid those problems before they begin.
“With your home computer, it goes down and you take it to get fixed, they bill you and you’re done,” said Adams. “But when you support data-center infrastructure, something like a bank teller system doesn’t have time to get fixed. This is mission-critical equipment for our customers. If a bank’s servers are down, they can’t see cash balances and that is a major problem that might even be scary for their customers. Our job is to ensure up time for our clients in those types of environments.”
Though Park Place might be in the business of helping their customers avoiding negative headlines, the company is making plenty of waves for their own brand. In addition to working with Fortune 500 companies and expanding across the world, they acquired Curvature, their largest competitor, in November. Adams said that acquisition will allow Park Place’s influence to grow even larger, shaping the future of the company.
“It’s a big deal because it effectively doubles our size,” he said. “We’re a month into what’s going to be probably a 12-month integration plan. In our business, scale matters. To fix what we fix, we need people in the field with technical capabilities, and you need a lot of them. We need a global supply chain because we’re a global provider. So to make an acquisition like this one expands our scale and capabilities in all of those areas. We now have more engineers in more locations and we don’t have to use subcontractors or third parties. We keep our customer experience great by avoiding the risk of not using our own people.”
Their employees, who Adams and his team rely on to maintain their great customer-service reputation, are central to the Park Place enterprise. When pondering the impact he thinks Park Place can make on the world, Adams said his first thought is always with his employees and their families. With that focus, the business success will come naturally.
“This company started with fewer than a hundred employees when I started working there and we’ll soon have over 2,300 employees — 2,300 good jobs around the world that the success of the company has created,” he said. “Those people are paying taxes and their families are thriving. That impact has always been important to me, first and foremost. I gauge part of our success on how well everybody’s doing collectively. We need to win first as a team and then as a business.”
Park Place’s global reach starts from Cleveland, and maintains its midwest roots wherever it goes. For Cleveland native Adams, that’s part of the allure of building a business from Ohio. For a company based on providing a service, he says there’s no better home.
“I grew up in Cleveland, so I’m biased being from Ohio, but I like the Midwest culture. I work in the customer service business, and I think the Midwest is great for customer service,” he said. “The culture here is very inviting and friendly and welcoming. That’s what we do. We’ve got people from Boston all the way to California, and they’re all great people, but our business grew up here. Our roots are here and the capabilities, talent and culture here are a big part of our success. Culture, in general, has been an important piece of our equation, especially being service focused. I always say that I want people to love coming to work because that’s a much better formula for success in the service industry.”