Mike Broderick of Turning Technologies
Meet Mike Broderick, co-founder of Turning Technologies
, a response technology software developer.
What is Turning Technologies?
Turning Technologies develops industry-leading assessment delivery and data collection solutions. Founded in 2002, the company began with the development of response technology that was affordable, user-friendly and better documented so that users could easily grasp its benefits. Today, an estimated six million ResponseCard clickers have been delivered to K-12 schools, universities and businesses worldwide. Turning has expanded its portfolio of products to include data collection systems that securely transfer digital data for various assessment, testing and certification programs.
How did you come up with the idea?
The company began with three goals in mind: to make response technology more affordable, easier to use, and better documented so that users could easily grasp its benefits. Initially considered a product for the corporate environment only, Turning's solutions were positioned in the educational market as well, shifting the focus to an interactive classroom where all students could participate without feeling singled out. Instructors and administrators are also able to track student progress with an extensive reporting system.
What was the biggest surprise in starting your business?
If we were in Silicon Valley, we couldn’t exist. From a cost savings and recruiting standpoint, Youngstown has been great because, contrary to popular opinion, there are a lot of colleges in the area with great marketing, business and computer science programs and a lot of those students would love to stay in the area.
What does a typical day in your business look like?
On a typical day, the majority of our workforce interacts with potential and current customers. Turning Technologies is committed to providing an excellent product experience and superior customer service in all facets of our business. Customers are appointed a dedicated sales representative that offers personalized attention to meet specific user needs and deliver comprehensive solutions. Turning prides itself on creating a proactive sales force that maintains customer relationships well after purchases are complete.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Ohio?
Due to its roots in Youngstown and the success that the company has seen, Turning is a strong advocate of the area. I’ve found Youngstown to be a brilliant place for a startup. I believe in most places we wouldn’t have been able to expand with the speed we did. The affordability here really helped fuel our growth. In most markets, I’d just be running another small company. But here, I can dial the congressman or mayor when I’m having a problem and they’ll take my call. That gives you the ability to accomplish a lot of things.
What resources or organizations in Ohio did you take advantage of and how did they help?
The company was initially started as a part of the Youngstown Business Incubator
(YBI) under the guidance of Chief Evangelist Jim Cossler. The YBI offers startup business-to-business (B2B) software companies expert entrepreneurial advice, networking, and services like office space and phone lines for free or deferred cost. Turning accrued benefits of around $200,000 from the YBI during its first few years, enabling it to grow without sinking into debt. The YBI is a valuable resource for any tech startup company in the area. As a graduate of the YBI, Turning is a big believer in the program and its ability to nourish startups, including its open-door policy that allows new tech startups to seek the advice of its graduates. Having the true support of the city and the programs it offers has been invaluable in Turning’s development. When the company needed to expand its offices beyond the YBI, an informal poll was taken by the employees about the new location, and 95-percent voted to remain downtown instead of branching out into its suburbs.
Can you share a funny or amazing entrepreneurial experience with our readers?
I’ve often told people that when talking about entrepreneurship, if you’re really serious about it, you can’t have a Plan B. If I had a Plan B in the first year or two, I probably would have chosen it.
What inspires you?
The companies that succeed long term are those that have the ability to quickly react to changing customer needs and market conditions. You can learn so much by readily eliciting customer feedback, which ultimately inspires new ideas. It can be difficult to remain nimble as your enterprise grows, but it’s important to do so to maintain customer responsiveness. You can also learn much by listening to employees who are closer to the market, as well as vendors, partners and suppliers. Their collective wisdom is valuable.
What founders do you admire and why?
The Youngstown Incubator, along with its leader Jim Cossler, was an invaluable resource during our development. Cossler is a tireless cheerleader for the Youngstown area and the role the Youngstown Incubator can play in the success of similar companies. He has a rolodex of thousands of people, and made introductions for Turning during its first crucial years, expediting the success of the organization.
What’s next for you?
Individual market standings are expected to ascend with the introduction of new products specifically focused on customers seeking to enhance educational environments. Turning also sees great opportunity to expand its existing mobile solutions due to the large implementation of mobile computing worldwide. In 2011, nearly 12 million mobile computers were purchased by educational institutions globally, creating a strong need for accompanying products. The company’s comprehensive portfolio not only includes handheld hardware devices, but also mobile apps and polling software that uniquely positions the company with multiple revenue channels.
Interview by Joe Baur