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A Video Conversation with Michael Spinosa, CEO of Unleashed Technologies on Failures & Successes

Click here for Part 1, Part 2 Setting the standard for web design and enterprise hosting Michael SpinosaMichael Spinosa is the CEO of Unleashed Technologies, an enterprise web and hosting—what the company calls “Wosting”—firm headquartered in Columbia, Maryland. Unleashed Technologies offers a comprehensive array of hosting, development, and design services that span ecommerce, mobile, and cloud technologies. The company specializes in serving publications, franchises, and private and military nonprofits, among other clients. Unleashed Technologies made the Inc. 5000 list in 2013 and 2014, and this year, SmartCEO named the organization one of its 2015 Future 50 award winners. Michael Spinosa spoke with citybizlist founder Edwin Warfield for this interview.   EDWIN WARFIELD: You’re an avid paintball player. What draws you to the sport? MICHAEL SPINOSA: For those that aren’t familiar with paintball, it’s definitely a labor of love for me. I’ve played paintball since I was 21 years old. I’m 36 now. I did take a break in there for family, but paintball has really been an inspiration to me in that it’s always shown me that you can never give up on something. You have to keep pushing hard, and playing at a national level, doing those things. Applying that to my business experience has just taught me one thing: an obstacle is an opportunity. When you take an obstacle and you turn it into an opportunity, you realize that there’s always a solution to some kind of problem and that failure truly is just a stepping stone, then you become extremely powerful. There’s two versions of that, and what paintball’s done for me and what it continues to do for me is put that into practice and not leave it in words. I think a lot of people throw those kinds of statements around, and they feel that that’s the truth, but I don’t know that they actually exercise it. But when you’re hitting a constant barrier—a constant roadblock—and realizing that you have to keep doing those course corrections, you have to keep making those changes, you start applying that to all aspects of your life. Next thing you know, things start firing on all cylinders. It’s really an amazing experience. When we look at failure, there are so many people working together to help mitigate a failure once it happens—there are so many people that help head off a failure because of a failure that they’ve already had within the organization—that that collective experience becomes wisdom. How do you think about that wisdom in terms of applying it to the business? Wisdom and capability are two different things, right. Capability to Unleashed Technologies is the ability to do anything, to create anything, to meet the demands, the expertise that our clients are requiring of us. Wisdom is the ability to make the right decisions as you walk through that process. When you talk about large failures, well, you’ve now got 32 other people that feel like they have the right to speak up, and they do. If they ever feel like they don’t, then I’ve failed my job as a leader and as a CEO, because I want them to always be looking out for the best in this organization. I would like to think that if—and we haven’t had this today—that if some kind of really catastrophic failure ever hit the table, that this team would rally together and we would find a way to make things work. Part of our greatest success is probably part of our greatest failure as well, and it’s actually one and the same, and that wraps back to winning the Inc. 5000. Being able to continually expand at that breakneck speed has shown us a lot and about what’s important. What’s important is the quality of service to our clients.   What was the experience of receiving the Inc. 5000 recognition like? I would say the first year that we won it was very exciting. Coming in the second year was even more exciting. But, in that period, the growth was so expansive that we talked earlier about being able to constantly look and look at your processes, look at your changes, see how you can service your clients the best. We had a period there where we had become overwhelmed, even despite our controlling model. Our team really rallied together. We put in the late nights, the extra work, and we figured out what the team needed to look like to be able to service that kind of growth. And then, we reined in the growth. We put a cap on the growth and said “this is as much as we can grow on a month-to-month, year-to-year basis,” because as a professional services firm it’s folly for me to tell you that our 95% client satisfaction rating, us being top 5%, can stay intact when you’re growing at a rate that just has you throwing bodies at things. We really had to ratchet that back. Was that the biggest challenge you’ve faced? I wouldn’t call it as much as a biggest failure, our largest obstacle, and the way our team was able to turn it around with their mental fortitude and understand that we put ourselves in this position, we have to get ourselves out for our clients and for everyone’s well-being. That has actually resulted in a three-year run in the Inc. 5000, from going from the first year to second year and figuring out how to control that growth. How did you develop the company’s brand identity? I think that the most important thing about Unleashed Technologies is that when you think Unleashed Technologies, you think Unleashed Technologies. What I saw in the marketplace when I was first kicking off was that a lot of people were branding organizations as the CEO was some kind of identity. I wholly disagreed with that approach. I really felt that what’s more important than anything else is that people learn to respect the company. When it started out, it was the Mike Spinosa show, and I said, “This is not what this is. This is not what makes this company great. What makes this company great is the capabilities of the people that work here. So, how do I make Unleashed Technologies to the forefront?” The way that Unleashed Technologies has invested in its brand over its individuals is we started by understanding one basic cultural thing: we are all sons and daughters of Unleashed Technologies, that individually, while we need to be recognized for our successes, without each of us together there is nothing there, it doesn’t stand. So, moving forward with that, I think we’re one of the only firms that has a full-time marketing department, internal, that just works inside for us. We focus on bringing that brand and understanding that the things that we do collectively are centered around that brand. When you think of other web firms, you often think of their leadership. I want you to think about Unleashed Technologies as really something special, and it represents an ideal, and when you represent an ideal or a better way of doing things, it can be more than just a person. It doesn’t pivot on that.


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