Risk & Business Magazine JGS Insurance Risk & Business Magazine Spring 2018 - Page 17

FEATURE STORY BY: GRAHAM WESTON ENTREPRENEUR & FOUNDER OF RACKSPACE I never really considered myself a “techie,” but boy, could I nose out business opportunities. I launched a variety of businesses beginning at the tender age of thirteen, ranging from selling pork to livestock photography to, eventually, real estate and development. Yet there was a growing force that I simply could no longer resist: the Internet. Though comfortably ensconced in my thriving real estate business, I sensed opportunity and I wanted “in.” When I encountered three local Trinity students seeking funding for an Internet-hosting business, we banded together and I became the first investor and cofounder of their f ledgling company, Rackspace.com. Within six months, I had put my real estate business on hold and assumed the roles of CEO and Chairman, positions I held until 2006. A full two decades after we founded Rackspace, I still enjoy recalling the early days at the company and describing how we ended up veering from our initial concept. At the beginning, I assumed I would model it after the real estate industry. Instead of renting apartments, however, we’d be renting out server space to customers. Back then, we helped our Internet Service Provider (ISP) customers with just about anything and everything, including fixing computers and networks, just to generate revenue. But when we zeroed in on the dedicated-server rental concept, we chose to focus on that to the exclusion of everything else. Our ideal customer was self-sufficient—in the model of Amazon or Google— where transactions were made purely online, with no customer support and virtually no customer contact of any kind. To give you an example of how diligently we stuck to this philosophy, one founder actually had his email autoresponder message state his mailbox was full and divert people to the customer support number, while his phone message did just the opposite—refer people to a full mailbox. In reality, we were not dealing with this “novice” group of customers at all, deeming them incongruent with our desired customer profile. The angry emails started pouring in, and they were decidedly not in the form of emotional rants. Instead, they included logical arguments supported by details of customers’ multiple contact attempts and their resulting frustration. I grabbed one such relatable email— remember, I’m not a techie myself— and showed it to our founders to discuss. Somehow, generating all this anger seemed contrary to “YET THERE WAS A GROWING FORCE THAT I SIMPLY COULD NO LONGER RESIST: THE INTERNET.” the principles of good business management, and the alarm bells were ringing. If there we re so many people out there wanting to do business with us, shouldn’t we find some way to accommodate them—and, of course, monetize our idea in the process? A REVERSAL TO FORTUNE We decided to do a complete one- eighty. The company was only nine months old at the time, and I knew that it was not too late to change our culture to one of service, with 17