with Mark Liptok
1. What does innovation mean to your company?
Trying to develop more and more opportunities for customers to pay for technology as they use it, while considering the vendors that supply this technology, who want their money up front. We’re helping vendors develop a more software-as-a-service type of model for their customers.
2. How do you innovate on a day-to-day basis?
I have five seasoned sales agents, and by the nature of customers’ demand for flexibility and creativity, you don’t even get in the door if you don’t have something unique. We’re all paid on profit, so we’re motivated to open that door with customers. All the people we have are really excited about what we’re doing. If we were just leasing and that’s all, compared to what we do today, and we made 100 calls in a day, you might get into see two people. Our number is probably more like 20.
3. Where do you hope this innovation will lead you in the next five years?
In a perfect world: More customers, more vendors, and, therefore, more deals. Someone looking at us and saying, “This is really innovative and unique,” and looking to acquire or invest in us.
4. How has the notion of innovation changed in the last decade?
A decade ago, there was enough opportunity to plod along doing leasing with hardware and software. But in the last five years, the marketplace has changed, as well as the whole financial environment; people are getting tired of spending millions on implementations that fail. This forced us to look at new, innovative ways of delivering value to our customers and prospects.
5. How can a company encourage innovation without breaking the bank?
You encourage that by listening to what your customers say. What are its problems and issues, and what can you do about solving those problems? That’s what promotes and drives innovation.
Mark Liptok, president and founder of Central Technology Services Corporation, compares his company’s services to those of an architect: it helps clients design unique and well-engineered solutions. Central Technology Services, which Liptok started in 1996, helps its clients create financial road maps for their technology requirements, allowing them to work with various software and hardware vendors and to deliver cutting-edge technology solutions that are mapped to the appropriate budget.
When the company first started, Liptok says, it focused on traditional leasing and financing for hardware and software. As the industry has become more commoditized and complex, however, Central Technology found itself rethinking what its niche in the market should be.
“We were almost like a bank before,” says Liptok. “Now, we’re more of a financial architect. Before, we were just a subcontractor providing paint. Now, we’re actually the architects who might bring in the painter.”
In the 1980s and ’90s, Liptok worked as an independent consultant for large corporations, working with companies like AT&T Capital and Bombardier Capital to help them close financial transactions with partner vendors. “I was finding all the business, closing all the deals, and the companies I worked for were making all the money. They just weren’t providing enough value [to me],” Liptok recalls. “Eventually I said, ‘Forget it—I can do this on my own.’”
Since creating Central Technology Services—now based in Ontario—Liptok has been able to offer more creative, flexible solutions to a variety of customers. “I didn’t need approval to do little things when creating proposals,” he says. “When you represent a company, you’re restricted to the way they do things. But when you’re on your own, with the right partner, you can develop more flexible creative options.”
It didn’t take long for the company to expand from its hardware and software leasing work to more sophisticated offerings. With the marketplace growing, it was becoming more important for Central Technology to “reengineer and redefine our value to our customers,” Liptok says.
One of the key developments in Central Technology’s growth has been its software utility template. SoftwareCENTRAL, the company’s keystone product, is a model wherein independent software vendors work with Central to decide on a cost-effective course of action for distributing their software to customers. “There’s a lot of strong technology options for people these days,” says Liptok, “and part of the problem is that [vendors] are getting hammered to deliver more for less within the constraints of customer budgets. So what we try to do is help the vendor figure out what budget this particular customer has and extract those dollars from that budget.”
For instance, when General Electric wanted to implement new security software, Central Technology worked with McAfee to provide GE with a financial solution to deploy and pay for that software over time. Central Technology was able to assist McAfee and GE with SoftwareCENTRAL.
Last year, Central Technology, despite its small size, hit $50 million in revenue, a testament to the success it has had with its model. It has been able to orchestrate large transactions with enterprise class institutions like Northwestern Mutual, Bell, and MetLife.
“Our model is proving itself by the fact that we’re able to provide value to large enterprise class customers,” says Liptok. “They have embraced our model, and look for opportunities to expand its use within their environment. In the future, we’d like to scale our business, get more customers, and get more vendors. This is a model that provides value to all parties involved.”