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Celebrating 20 Years of Business: Three Lessons Looking Back

By Elizabeth Clor

For any company, the path from budding startup to industry leader can include surprising changes in strategic direction. This is especially true in tech, where products and services are continuously evolving as new innovations hit the market. 

Over our two decades in business, Contegix has transformed tremendously. What began as a software development side project evolved into Atlassian’s original cloud, eventually maturing into the full-stack premium solutions partner it is today, specializing in everything from cloud to devops to compliance. 

Many of the lessons learned along the way have shaped the company that Contegix has become, and the services it currently provides. As we look forward to the future, here are three lessons that guided co-founder Matthew Porter during Contegix’s early years that still inspire and drive us today. 

1. Clients are the heart of a successful business 

Since its foundation, Contegix has always been committed to protecting clients. This is evident in the company’s name itself, derived from the Latin word contego, meaning to shield or protect. Porter and co-founder Craig McElroy had been working on Contegix as a software development side project in 2002. One night, a panicked call came through at 2:17 am from a client: the software wasn’t working, and the client’s entire business was at risk. 

Even though Porter and McElroy had only written and deployed the code and had no role in maintaining it, Porter jumped to work to solve the problem. He discovered the company’s hard drives were full, preventing e-commerce transactions from processing. “That's what we did for our clients,” Porter said. “We protected them from the outside world, from bad processes, from hard drives filling up at 2:17 in the morning.”

This experience was the springboard to Contegix’s initial hosting services. But as more software development customers turned to Contegix for hosting, conflicts of interest became a concern. Though clients loved the excellent customer service and the technical understanding, they didn’t want to compete with Contegix over actual software development and sales. This steered Contegix away from producing its own software and guided the team to focus on hosting and security instead.

“When you stop talking, you start hearing the problems and challenges that somebody is dealing with,” Porter said. “You think, ‘Hey, I can solve that.’”

2. Hire people for who they are, not just what they know 

Our team of experts works tirelessly to ensure technical challenges are being met, which requires a great deal of specialized knowledge. But one early learning for the team was that as much as they valued the “hard” skills, “soft” skills were equally important when assessing an individual’s overall fit with the company and in a given role. 

“We would hire people that were really technically astute—smart, brilliant people,” Porter said. “And yet, we sometimes didn't actually figure out if they were the right person for what the role needed, say whether someone didn’t actually have the flexibility to be working during unconventional hours.”

A mentor drilled home an important message for Porter: Sometimes, the best thing you can do is not hire someone if they aren’t the right fit for your company and the role—even if they have the technical skills you need. This philosophy helped Contegix build a community of employees that not only possess technical skills, but also understand the impact their work had on other people.

“We really, truly emphasized the fact that we were holding the electronic livelihood of many of our customers and partners,” Porter said. He would often walk new teammates through Contegix’s data center and help them internalize that they weren’t just looking at blinking lights and servers and firewalls. There were human beings on the other end whose businesses relied on Contegix.

3. Allow your business to grow in ways that deviate from the original plan 

As Contegix continued to expand through a period of rapid accelerated growth, it was important to Porter and McElroy to keep providing ways for the company to give new opportunities to its employees. “We were asking, ‘How fast can we grow people that are on our team?’ We cared about that,” Porter said.

The co-founders quickly learned that even if those plans grew beyond their initial vision for the company, it was okay to adjust and accommodate what was best for Contegix and its teammates at a given time. 

“It feels almost like being a parent,” Porter said. “You have all these high hopes, and then at some point, you have to sit there and say, ‘My high hopes don't actually matter all that much. I'm just here to lay the foundation.’"

From partnering with a private equity firm to expanding into the public sector and acquiring Ascend Integrated to bolster devops with government partners, taking on new opportunities has pushed Contegix far beyond the software development and hosting service it once was. But having a solid foundation of customer-focused, people-oriented services has enabled Contegix to thrive as a premium Atlassian solutions partner, capable of supporting clients with solutions for Atlassian tools.

“It's gone in a direction that is right for the company, the organization, and the people that are there.” Porter said. “That's actually much more beautiful than if I created a roadmap that says, ‘You have to do X, Y, and Z.’”

Although Contegix has ended up in a different place than it started, a dedication to exceptional customer service and an investment in its teammates has remained consistent throughout the years, propelling the company forward in new directions. 

Learn more about how Contegix’s team of experts can implement, support and protect your most critical applications.