How Force 3's CEO keeps his company hungry
- By Nick Wakeman
- Aug 10, 2011
After 20 years, Force 3 isn’t the same company it was when Rocky Cintron launched it in 1991. He doesn’t expect it to be the same 20 years from now. Cintron’s watchwords are change and adaptability, and it has been those skills that helped the company survive its small business days and grow into a strong mid-tier company. He spoke recently with Editor Nick Wakeman about the company’s past and future.
Washington Technology: What was your vision when you started the company?
Rocky Cintron: When we started Force 3, it was built on relationships around PCs and networking gear. We thought that we could resell PCs forever. But we soon found PCs were becoming commoditized. Lo and behold, we became an engineering company.
We got into network design and network infrastructure. And we focused on markets within the government –health care, defense and intelligence.
Washington Technology: As your company has grown, what were some of the challenges you faced?
Rocky Cintron: We were lucky. In our business, there is a floor-planning element for financing. You present receivables [to a finance company] and you get 85 percent of it. If you are selling and growing, you keep churning. Our growth was basically the catalyst to keep it going and we had the capital instrument there to do that.
In today’s environment, I wouldn’t start that kind of business because it is really scary. It takes a lot of capital. But we didn’t know any better. We thought sales would cure all ills.
It isn’t an easy business to get into and today it would be an ugly business to get into.
Washington Technology: Why is it an ugly business?
Rocky Cintron: Today you have to have the right contracts. You have to have past performance. If I started something today, it would be very nichey, around cybersecurity or data center virtualization. You have to differentiate yourself in the government when you come in as a newby.
I wouldn’t start the business we have now. It is too capital intensive. Our lines of capital are huge to support a $340 million business. I wouldn’t jump into this business right now, not knowing what is going to happen to budgets.
Washington Technology: What are your strengths today?
Rocky Cintron: When you architect medical grade networks, you have to take a lot into consideration. Security is a big. These networks can’t go down. When you use the word(s) mission critical in a life and death situation, you tend to be very careful in how you integrate, architect and design those networks. That’s what we do.
If you can make doctors who happen to be officers happy, then you can make anyone happy.
Washington Technology: What have you done to continue your growth?
Rocky Cintron: We’ve changed our approach. We have about 70 sales guys and 35 solutions architects. So we have very different conversations with our customers. We don’t talk speeds and feeds. We go in and talk about your business. Customers don’t care about the products you are selling. You have to be able to talk about their initiatives, what they are trying accomplish, their mission. If you can’t have that conversation, you are a nobody. You are undifferentiated.
If you don’t reinvent yourself when you are where we are, you are going to die on the vine. I wake up every morning asking what is a competitor doing that we aren’t, what are we not seeing, why aren’t we looking to the future?
I’m always worried that we just have one day left in business. Paranoia is good; complacency will kill you.
Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.