John D'Amelio has been running his own businesses since he was 17.Â At age 27, he quit a consulting job to launch his own software company. What began in his basement grew into IntelliSoft Group, which is now a leading producer of medical credentialing and provider enrollment software products. Today, John is the CEO of ContractLogix.com, a New Hampshire-based provider of contract management software and professional services. He took some time to answer a few questions for Young Entrepreneur.
Q: Give us a little background on you and your work pre-Contract Logix. How did you get to where you are now?
I've always been somewhat of an entrepreneur.Â From the time I was 17 I have worked for myself or owned my own business in one way or another.Â I had a full-time job as a technical support representative for about two years but after that I was an independent software consultant for six years. I was involved in several major projects and learned quite a bit about developing software. In 1997,when I was 27 years old, I decided to quit my consulting job and create my own software company. I refinanced my home and took an equity line out to pay myself for six months. I worked in my basement programming for 70-plus hours per week and developed my first version of IntelliCred for Windows, a physician credentialing system.
I incorporated and started IntelliSoft Group, Inc., soon after and placed a small product ad in a healthcare trade magazine that resulted in about two phone calls.Â I ended up getting one customer from that ad and then took that money to do additional marketing and build my business to close to 500 customers. It goes without saying that I learned a lot about marketing and sales along the way.
Q: Have you found that your interests as an entrepreneur have changed over time?
I think the basics of why I am an entrepreneur are the same: Being in charge of my own future; building exceptional products for the marketplace; and, building and growing an exceptional company. A company I can be proud of andÂ makes me money
Q: What’s a mistake you think you made in the early days or your work?
When I first began theÂ contract software business, I did not do appropriate market research and ended up spinning my wheels trying to sell my product to hospitals. Eventually I figured out that market was somewhat saturated, so I went after large physician group practices and managed care organizations.
Q: What role does age play in your success?
When I started IntelliSoft Group, Inc., I was 28 years old, and when you’re young, I think there is some part of you that is naïve about what the actual effort will entail to create, build and grow a business. This can be good and bad, but in my case it turned out good, because I had the energy and drive to keep it all moving forward and not give up.
Q: What's the biggest challenge you've faced as an entrepreneur?
There are lots of challenges you face on a day-to-day basis when you’re an entrepreneur, but the biggest challenge to me is new business development and acquiring new customers.Â The way in which you market your product is so important. Getting the word out to particular groups of people and/or industries takes a solid marketing plan to reach them.Â You can have the best product in the world, but if nobody knows about it then it just doesn't matter.
Q: Are you currently involved in any other business ventures?
Yes, I own some rental properties; however, my biggest and best investment to dateÂ is my software business. I am a big believer on focusing on businesses that you are very knowledgeable in, and if you’re balancing multiple businesses at once it's easy to lose focus.Â Being focused and consistent has always worked for me.
Q:Â What's your take on partnerships?
I am sure they work for some businesses, but in my own experiences, I have had better luck keeping things internal.
Q: Would you encourage aspiring entrepreneurs to form partnerships?
I think it depends. As long as you have a partner who is really going to work to push your products and also to keep up with changes in the product and marketplace.Â I believe this could be a good way to get more feet on the street and your products out into the market place if setup appropriately with the right partner.
Q: Since Contract Logix is obviously an established company, what advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to have the success you have had?
Never give up on a good idea, stay focused, and work hard to surround yourself with good people to help you drive your business forward.
Q: What's next?
More focusing and build, build, build.Â I want to work hard to drive my company forward by perfecting my software product line, keeping my existing customers happy, and grow my customer base. All this, while providing a great place for my employees to work.
About the author: Nathaniel Broughton is an Internet entrepreneur and investor who has served as a driving force behind three Inc. 500 companies since 2002. He is currently CEO ofÂ Growth Partner, a unique firm that provides angel investment and online marketing expertise to emerging companies. He previously served as chief marketing officer of VAMortgageCenter.com, the nation’s leading VA purchase lender.