As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Miles.
Chris is the Founder and CEO of Miles Technologies, a company based in the Greater Philadelphia Area that offers technology-based solutions to small and medium-sized businesses across the United States.
Miles Technologies is a multiple-time winner of the Philadelphia Business Journal BEST PLACES TO WORK award and is currently hiring for new positions in IT, software, and more as demand is high for tech solutions that help businesses meet their goals and objectives.
Chris has served in nearly every role at Miles Technologies and, today, is an advocate for his team of over 275 technology experts, helping them help people accomplish more.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I got introduced to technology at a very young age, and I guess you could say I was hooked from the start. I was 12 years old and I went over to a friend’s house. The father had this Timex Sinclair 1000. Do you remember those? I think they advertised it at the time as the first personal computer under $100. I read the manual and understood it pretty well considering because it was written in basic language. Even though it wasn’t the most sophisticated piece of hardware, I learned there were still so many cool things I could do with it, and that was it. I was all-in on technology.
I began my career in construction at a very young age — I was still in high school. I fell in love with helping people and doing a good job. However, at the age of 16, I got my hand caught in a wood chipper, so I decided right there that if I was going to risk my limbs, I was going to be my own boss.
I started my own construction company and realized very early on that most construction companies weren’t using computers or other technologies. I, on the other hand, was using technology for every aspect of my business, and it really gave me a competitive advantage. I was running my own company well with technology.
Time goes by, and I go to school for engineering. By the time I turned 26, my construction company was going well, but I was starting to notice a pattern. I would meet people who would tell me that IT people didn’t really understand business and how I was different because I knew a lot about IT, but I also knew about all these other things to run a successful business, like HR, marketing, and accounting. I decided I had to start a business where I would bring my two passions, technology and business, together. And that’s how Miles Technologies started.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
When Miles Technologies started, we were headquartered in the basement of my own home. We were learning as we went along. You have to remember this was 1997. Google started the same year, so we couldn’t just do a Google search or watch a YouTube video if a customer wanted something done. I remember one time I went downstairs and told our current President of IT Services that we were building a website because a customer asked for one. We weren’t web developers, but we just had to figure it out to help our customers.
I admit there were many times in the beginning when I didn’t know what I was doing. One time I miswired a health club, which was one of our first customers. I did the wiring through my own common sense, and it actually worked. The problem was it didn’t work all of the time. Eventually, I figured out what I did wrong. They had given me keys, so I snuck into the building and rewired the building. I’m not sure if I broke any laws that night, but I did fix the problem.
As we started, I learned that I didn’t know everything, but I would challenge myself to accomplish new things and learn as much as possible so I was always ready for the next opportunity. This has always been a strength of our company: take something that hasn’t been done before and get it done for somebody.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
Books have always been helpful to me. Anything I want to learn, I learn from a book. I like books more than blogs or podcasts because there’s more legitimacy to them. They have to go through a vetting process in order to be published. I can’t say that I have one particular book that helped me out in my career. There have been so many. I drove a lot when I was younger, and I would learn the most sitting behind the wheel. Twenty years ago, I would listen to books on tape. That evolved to CDs and now to Audible. The medium may have changed but my love for books and learning has not.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
There’s something about doing a good job and having someone recognize you for doing a good job that is special. In the beginning, it was just me helping customers in technology. They would say thank you after I completed a job and that meant the world to me. That was all the meaning I needed; I was helping another person by using technology. As we have grown as a company, my role has changed because I am now guiding others to help customers accomplish more, but this idea has always been a guiding principle for our company: helping people accomplish more.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
We have our belief system, which guides us every day. We have 12 beliefs in total. The beliefs range from putting family obligations first to passionately advocating for what is best for the customer. My opinion is that if you really take the time to learn and even write down what you believe as a company, the benefit you get is speed. You know what you believe so you can act faster and smarter when something happens.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m an optimist. But it was tough in the beginning. When the pandemic first started I was in as much shock as everyone else. I was down, and I really didn’t know what was going to happen next. I didn’t find the courage and the strength to be resilient right away, but I knew I had people depending on me, and I believed in myself, my family, and my employees. I shook it off and said I was going to turn this interruption into an opportunity — that’s another one of our beliefs by the way.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
As I said, I was worried in the beginning. All of us worked so hard, and I didn’t know what a shutdown event meant. Was it going to tear apart large parts of my business? You have to remember, we are in New Jersey, and our state was hit very badly, so many businesses were forced to close.
But after a few weeks of feeling sorry, I said to myself, “Ok, what’s next?” If we do lose customers, how are we going to replace that revenue and build our business faster than it gets torn down?
I would say think of it like a sandcastle. You build this sandcastle and then the tide comes in and destroys it. We were building something great, but then the tide came in. We had to figure out a way to rebuild the sandcastle where it would survive against the next tide.
That’s how we came up with the plan that we were going to out-market, out-sell, and out-contribute our competition. We invested more in our company. We took more financial risk with our COVID-19 Assist program, which delayed payment for customers who were hit hard by the pandemic. I decided that I was not going to be washed up by the tide without a fight.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the corona virus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Whether it be family members or staff members, I have to lead by example. I have to truly believe what I am saying and encourage resistance in them by showing my own resilience.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
Our Vice President of Software Consulting at Miles Technologies likes to say in the face of uncertainty, you can choose to weather the storm or sell umbrellas. Too many companies have gone into full survival mode where they are playing defense. While I certainly understand that uncertainty can be scary, there are opportunities out there for those that are willing to gamble on themselves.
At Miles Technologies, we are targeting new markets and implementing new strategies to replace any business we lost. The tide may come in and take some of your business. There’s nothing you can do about that part. It’s how you respond where you can experience less of a decline and, ultimately, rebound.
We know more companies are going to adopt technologies that they would have held off on before the crisis. We are out-marketing, out-selling, and out-working our competition to reach the people who need us the most right now and providing them with business technology solutions they need to accomplish more. That’s our industry. You have to figure out how your industry will be different now and adapt to those changes. When the storm hits, you need to sell umbrellas.
My advice would be to prepare for the surge that is going to happen when everything opens back up and consumer confidence returns. When the tide changes, you will have already figured it out and be miles ahead of your competitors.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I was talking to an employee of mine who is working remotely as most of us are right now. He said he wanted to update his home office for years, but he always had an excuse not to. When COVID-19 hit, he invested in a new setup, and he has been able to do anything he could do in the office at home.
The COVID pandemic has been an accelerator. People are resistant to change. It’s human nature. But things happen, sometimes, that force quick change. This pandemic has been one of those times. People are adopting new technologies to maintain productivity and social normalcy. Did you know what a Zoom Party was a year ago?
Businesses are doing the same thing. They are investing in cloud-based systems and technologies that allow them to continue to do business even if they can’t be together in the office. As much as this was a setback, it is also an opportunity to assess and make needed changes.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We experienced a setback and had to adapt. I believe in doubling down. It keeps people gainfully employed. It builds your market share. I had to be a contrarian and face my fears of not knowing what was going to happen next. I would encourage other business owners to use their wealth and put it back into the business. Marketing, advertising, and sales are investments. You became successful by taking chances. Now is not the time to fold. Be a contrarian and believe in yourself and the people around you.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Everyone who knows me knows how much of a Rocky fan I am. If you walk into our gym area, chances are you will hear “Hearts on Fire” or something from Bill Conti. I believe this quote from Rocky Balboa is so applicable to how we must act in business and in life:
“Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give… it’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.”
Rocky didn’t give up, I’m not going to give up, and you shouldn’t give up either.
How can our readers further follow your work?
I am on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/milestechnologies
You can also learn more about me and read my latest blog posts on the Miles Technologies website here: https://www.milestechnologies.com/chris-miles/