At Arbeit Software, we create software aimed at improving the collections process. As a small business created by owners of collection agencies who understand what it takes to be a success in this industry, we know that collections can be a challenging field, but that it also provides ample opportunity.
As our own company has grown and become successful, we’ve helped many collectors meet their software needs, reduce down time and improve the effectiveness of their campaigns. We also want to offer insight to collectors and other business owners about the actual behind-the-scenes details of starting and growing a successful company.
This roundtable is the first article in a series of content coming from the employees at Arbeit Software. The goal of this series of articles is to provide insight to make your own business a better one.
Today’s question-and-answer session deals with the most basic issue: What Is It Like to Start and Grow a Company?
Here are a few answers from:
- Chief Executive Officer Alex Villafranca
- Chief Information Officer Alonzo Rainero
- Chief Engineering Officer Allan Rossi Lisboa
- Chief Technology Officer Richard Hacker.
How Did You Get Involved with Arbeit?
CEO, Alex Villafranca: Alonzo and I owned a collection agency, which we started in September 2009, and used another vendor as a dialer provider. We were spending a lot of money and experienced a lot of headaches with downtime. We were sick of those headaches, so we came up with the idea to create our own software. While we owned the collection agency, we were involved with a lot of IT work for agencies in the area, including creating small software programs to make their daily operations more efficient and to save them money and headaches. Creating our own software was a natural extension of this work.
Richard worked for us as a database administrator and suggested we hire Allan to do the programming. We all knew Allan from playing the World of Warcraft, and that is where the rest of our friendships also were solidified. After the software was developed, the four of us decided to split ownership equally in Arbeit. In order to focus on the dialer, Alonzo and I closed down the collection agency.
Chief Information Officer, Alonzo Rainero: I got involved with Arbeit when we decided to transition from the accounts receivable industry to the technology side of that same industry. We noticed that collections technology was severely lacking, especially for what we wanted, so we decided to fill the missing void and created Arbeit Software.
Chief Engineering Officer, Allan Rossi Lisboa: Alex and Alonzo needed some software developed, and Rick knew that I worked in that field. We connected and started working together. The software was well done and started to outgrow the existing business, so we created Arbeit to focus on that.
Chief Technology Officer, Richard Hacker: My business partners are my childhood and personal friends. When I brought on Allan for a software project for Alex and Alonzo, we realized we could build greater things and formed Arbeit as partners.
How Does Your Role Help Grow Arbeit?
Alex: My formal role and tile at Arbeit is CEO, but we are a small company and all of us wear multiple hats. We are too small to have someone for every job, so everyone works in different areas. I work with the sales team constantly, to provide the resources they need to sell. I also spend a lot of time researching and speaking with agency owners, trying to get an idea for what we should do next and what they want and need to succeed.
Alonzo: I have a very versatile role at Arbeit. I primarily handle government paperwork and regulations, hiring, telecom carriers and payroll. I also handle client relations and offer ideas and guidance on current and upcoming projects.
Allan: I write the programs that we sell.
Richard: I work to build and maintain the systems that provide security, reliability and performance to our customers.
What is Most Exciting about Starting a Company?
Alex: The most exciting thing for me is creating an amazing company where people can work, and creating a work culture that everyone here – including myself – loves. It is rewarding to have 15 people working here, especially since we are paying them well and giving them great benefits like profit sharing, full health coverage and vacation time. This might sound like a politically correct and insincere thing to say, but you can ask Allan, Alonzo and Richard when we are in meetings how excited I get about these things. I can’t wait to cut the first set of profit sharing checks to people at the start of July this year.
Alonzo: The most exciting part about starting a company is the endless possibilities. We are able to decide what we want to do, how we do it and when to do it. It is nice to “be your own boss,” but with great power comes great responsibility!
Allan: Being able to do fun things. Being free to make my own decisions about where my work will take me.
Richard: What’s most exciting is the feeling of building something useful and disruptive that our customers benefit from every day.
What Is the Scariest Part of Starting a Company?
Alex: The scariest part is not being able to just relax and coast sometimes. There is no downtime, no day off. No matter what, if something fails it’s my fault – every employee’s future, my future, my partners’ future… I feel like all of this is in my hands and that every decision I make will have an impact. We have had such great success so quickly that it’s scary to think it could go the opposite way just as quickly with one or two bad decisions. I do not anticipate that disappointment because we have so many of us involved directly in everything.
Alonzo: The scariest part of starting a company is the unknown. There is no guarantee that you will stay in business. A new government regulation, industry change or competitor could cause a big disturbance. That’s why it is important to diversify in what your company does and not be locked into only one thing. You have to keep evolving and keep moving!
Allan: It all depends on you. If you fail, the company fails.
Richard: The things that make anything frightening are often the things that make it worth doing.
What is it like to work with other partners?
Alex: It’s amazing. They are the three smartest people I know. We have a unique relationship that is very hard to explain, but I love it. Having the ability to pick their brains with new ideas for the company is awesome. Also, when coming up with new ideas – to have them rip the ideas apart (in a constructive way) is great. The level of trust we have in each other is also a big benefit. We each fill a specific need for the company, and we all think differently about problems. It really has lead us to where we are today.
Alonzo: I have known my partners for most of my life, one for 22 years. We are all like-minded individuals with similar goals and aspirations. I think it’s great that the people I work with are not just partners, but friends.
Allan: A challenge. Everyone has their own minds. Some people are guided by feelings or moods, and it’s very scary to have someone’s mood swing have a deep impact on your life. It is also very helpful because I don’t have all the answers, and I rely on my partners to help me all the time with the things they are knowledgeable about. Having people that you can trust at your side is a huge relief.
Richard: It’s great working with Alex, Alonzo, and Allan. We all bring something to the table, and though we may joke around sometimes, we take our work seriously, and we are always looking out for each other.
What other information do you think would help other entrepreneurs?
Alex: Screw it! Just wing it and see what happens, it’s how we started. Real experience has a greater value then any amount of education, so sometimes you have to try and see what works and what doesn’t. There is no playbook or textbook explaining how to do things, as everything is based on circumstances. There is no one size fits all way to entrepreneurship.
Alonzo: The hardest part of starting your own business is doing it. You need faith in yourself and your partners that you can get the job done. Starting out takes some time and effort, but the rewards are great!
Allan: If at the beginning you are working less than 16 hours a day, you are doing it wrong.
Richard: Develop a set of skills and build something valuable. Then release it to the world.