Richard Roth of Progressive Tech — You can’t please all clients all the time. Focus on long term relationships where you feel a good connection with the client.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Roth.
Richard Roth is the Founder of Progressive Tech, Seattle’s highest-rated technical support company, famous for a distinctively human-centric approach to client care. For more than a decade, Roth led the company toward steady growth throughout the area’s initial “tech boom,” holding a strong position within a notoriously competitive industry. Aside from hard-earned experience in the field, the secrets behind his long-term staying power include an approach built on real, relational investment in customers and staff, along with a steadfast commitment to superior service from start to finish.
Roth’s success has been due to a winning combination of natural skill and the good old- fashioned talent of being “in the right place at the right time.” Before Windows or the introduction of the graphical user interface we know today, a young Roth spent his time building PC’s and exploring the latest tech with like-minded friends. What began as a hobby quickly became a profession, and after a number of years of working with startups and various technical support roles, Roth established Progressive Tech, transforming a job into a genuine vocation that coupled his passion for helping people and troubleshooting technical problems, with the growing market need for local, trustworthy tech support.
For over 14 years, Roth’s company has served as proof that it is still possible to build a competitive local business rooted in community. Developing a unique business model around simplifying complicated tech, Roth helps clients by eliminating many of the typical tech support failures such as the classic “runaround,” where users are directed around in circles in a discouraging pattern of “pass-the-blame.” Progressive Tech is known for treating every issue — big or small — holistically and scientifically, encouraging collaboration among staff and teams to deliver a clear, definitive solution.
Today, with so many people relying on technology to live, work and learn remotely, Progressive Tech remains more committed than ever to supporting the secure , safe and productive use of technology. Roth enjoys helping other business owners streamline processes that improve profitability and deliver sustainable environmental/community impact. In addition to Progressive Tech, Roth is actively working to support the transition to regenerative and sustainable land use and agricultural practices.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
There are limited career options outside of tech for those with limited formal education. I had a passion for helping people, combined with a personal comfort with working with technology.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Many struggles which turned into experiences and lessons included launching Progressive Tech right into the 2008 recession. Learning about boundaries with clients. Learning to be “salesy”but honest/trustworthy.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I kept telling myself it’s better to work harder for yourself then relaxed and working for someone else.
Find ways to make work fun, Staff BBQ, Bowling, Ski trips.
Take time off for sanity.
Learn to delegate, fairly. Don’t dump your work on someone else.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Staying 4 hours late for a client who then refused to pay. Fun times!
My initial business plan was far from accurate. Whatever you think something will cost, or how long you think it will take, double it! Then you’ll be padded against overruns, and hopefully ahead of your schedule if things go well.
If you could go back in time and talk to your younger self regarding life lessons, things you would like her to know what would they be and why?
You can’t please all clients all the time. Focus on long term relationships where you feel a good connection with the client. Invest in these, and streamline the exit path for your most troublesome clients and/or projects. Similarly, add a bit of padding to quotes and time frames as well. Essentially, always be prepared for the unexpected “time vampire” factor!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are the only multi-generation family owned IT company in the area.
Always advocate for your clients’ best interests. Taking advantage of people is only a shortcut to failure and/or a bad reputation.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I recommend the “cheetah” approach. Work extra hard! Put in that Saturday shift, go in early during the week. But be sure to track and reclaim that time in a large chunk when and if possible. It may take a few years to get to this level, but this strategy has prevented/delayed me from burning out time and time again.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My friend Adam runs a tech support company in the bay area (computer courage). We met when I walked into his office randomly one day and asked to chat for a few minutes. We’ve been friends since and bounce strategy and stories off each other.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’d certainly like to think so. We do our best to take care of our staff and clients. While fixing someone’s technical problems may not save the world, we know we’ve helped the community, and saved some marriages through our photo and data recovery services.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- It will be a much harder and longer process than you first plan out.
- Staffing and HR are much harder than I first imagined.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!