Still Growing After all These Years
WRIS - 25th Anniversary
Back in 1995, the Internet, its purpose, and its potential, was not yet obvious to the business world. AOL “You’ve got mail”, dial up connections, and getting on the ‘world wide web’ may now qualify as old school, but it was something that was brand new, a little mysterious, and intrigued Charlie Meyers. “What was this ‘Internet’ and how was it going to impact virtually everything for the future?”
He doesn’t know the exact answer to the question, only that he wants to be part of it all. In 1996, he starts Western Reserve Internet Services in his spare time, reselling dial up access to individuals and businesses. By 1997, he leaves his day job, hires a programmer and focuses on sales and marketing.
Fast forward to 2021, and Charlie Meyers, President and CEO of WRIS Web Services cannot believe how different his company is today. He is happy where he is, and has experienced the biggest changes and growth in just the past 3 or 4 years.
He has also witnessed many fads, web development, business models and trends come and go. From dial up, to DSL, to fiber and the beginning of 5G access, internet speeds aren’t the only things that have sped up. “There are so many new technologies now because of the internet,” says Charlie.
“When I look back,” he adds, “it doesn’t seem that long ago. But when I think about all the changes and how much faster things are growing in the most recent couple of years, it becomes obvious that so much really is different in the WRIS of 2021.”
25 YEARS OF CHANGE
The WRIS initial business model really changed when businesses became reliant on the Internet. There was little to no tolerance if connections were lost, slow, or not secure. WRIS began working with a hosting company in DC that had 24/7 service and was hosting 100% ColdFusion servers. That was the beginning of WRIS becoming the “go to” resource for ColdFusion(CF), and then ColdFusion Legacy support, development, enhancements and version upgrades.
“We were almost exclusively in Cleveland back then,” says Charlie. “I added a couple of programmers, a project manager and a designer. It wasn’t much more than that in the first 10 years.”
Today, WRIS has nearly 25 employees and is growing, hailing from all over the US, including California, North and South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington State. The office has gone fully remote as of 2020.
Lina Miller has been working with Charlie for 4 years, and a WRIS employee since 2019, the entire time while residing in Oklahoma. Adding Lina was part of WRIS’ Solutions directive, coming up with the best solutions for their clients. She took charge of the Small Business Unit, designed for customers with smaller budgets, and managed to grow the offerings beyond ColdFusion, particularly with WordPress and Shopify options.
She notes that Charlie appreciates the value of his employees and where they can grow. “Charlie has your back. He puts a lot of effort in and has a management style that values both his employees’ and clients’ needs, and not just the bottom line.”
Clients also expanded beyond Ohio. When a local collision company (and long-time client), who hired WRIS to build applications for them, was bought out by a large corporation in Chicago, WRIS became national. When that company was bought by an even larger corporation headquartered in Canada, WRIS became international!
The next phase was getting leads for CF Legacy clients in other states. ColdFusion maintenance became imperative for companies wholly invested in their Business Process applications, Employment Portals, and CF websites.
Evolving technology was moving ahead into video calls over higher speed connections, and it became easier to work with companies in the opposite ends of the country. Of course, accelerated by the pandemic in 2020, technology moved light years ahead and today’s Zoom, Google Meet and Teams options are not only on everyone’s computer, they are used daily to connect face to face, anywhere WRIS needs to be.
Adam Euans has been with WRIS over 16 years, his contributions morphing as the business changed over the years. “I was doing much more support than development in the beginning,” he remembers. “And the clientele back then were schools and cities who needed a web presence.” In time, specialty web packages came out for schools that took them away from custom solutions. “We began to branch out, hired some additional developers, and grew out of several office spaces to our current model where everyone is virtual.”
Today, Adam sees the company becoming much more Enterprise focused, flexibility to accommodate growing needs, building teams within WRIS to handle the growth.
“Success goes to Charlie’s personality,” says Adam. “He maintains relationships with his clientele, and his employees. His laid back approach allows him to see where things are headed, then he cuts loose and lets you do your job.”
Salli Berman, WRIS Project Manager, has worked for Charlie since 2002. “Charlie is a godsend,” she states. “He wants his employees to feel the pride he feels in WRIS’ success and works with you to make things work for you. He values his employees and doesn’t micromanage the business.”
The secret sauce has been in crafting a business that is not about the money, but rather working with a group of people that have become a real community.
“WRIS doesn’t feel like a startup anymore,” says Charlie. “It feels more real to me than it ever has. We have put in the time, and the results have reached a level that is very satisfying.”
A VIRTUAL DECISION
The recent pandemic of COVID19 changed a lot of things, but the biggest change was the decision in 2020 to go completely virtual. WRIS sold its office in Solon, and hasn’t looked back. Work/Life balance became a healthy reality and without the physical building expenses, the pandemic rollercoaster has been easier to weather.
The evolution of cloud services and video conferencing over platforms like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, have made the transition easier too. It’s one of the best advancements over the past year and a half. With offices shutting down, in person meetings and travel opportunities canceled, businesses were forced to get onboard – and fast.
Virtual has had its challenges throughout the years. Charlie recalls the early days of video conferencing when bandwidth and equipment issues plagued the business world. (You didn’t dare have a meeting without a bound presentation printout!) And blending remote tech/programmer/developers with clients live during those meetings was a challenge. But today, the virtual meeting is successfully being used for clients, employment interviews, product presentations, and so much more.
Salli loves that WRIS has gone fully remote, and that it has become acceptable due to the pandemic and corporations’ need to find new ways to conduct business. “We have had our biggest growth in the past 4 years, and the positives of working remotely have far outweighed any negatives. I think it’s fantastic!”
Adam does note that while virtual works out really well, “I do miss the connection of passing in the hallways at the office, the office dogs, and the get-togethers outside of the office.” He looks forward to seeing the occasional outing resume as COVID19 continues to become a thing of the past.
Charlie wants to thank his WHOLE team for their many contributions over the years. Special thanks to Salli, Adam and Sandy for their part in so much of WRIS’ success. To Chris for bringing his talents onboard; Josh for diversifying WRIS’ offerings; Becki for the HR processes and keeping him focused, and Lina for taking on our small business activities. Also, appreciation to Christian Klein of Company 119 for helping us launch into the National CF Legacy world, and forging a valued service partnership.
Interested in joining our team? Check out CAREERS at WRIS.