If you’re the parent of a college student (or attended college yourself), you might think 20-year-olds make some questionable choices. Fortunately for me and my Intrust colleagues, a decision I made as a college sophomore was the start of something life-changing.
I founded Intrust IT in 1992 while a student at the University of Cincinnati. At the time it was just a way for me to earn money to pay for college tuition. The business took off so fast that I reduced my class schedule to spend more time on it, and after a couple of quarters, I quit school to follow my passion to be an entrepreneur.
Early ‘90s me wouldn’t begin to recognize today’s technology: So much has changed and the company has evolved, too. For the first couple of years the business primarily just connected computers together inside the offices of small businesses with local area networks, which prompted the first company name, LAN Solutions.
Soon we were connecting even the smallest of companies to the internet and setting up email and websites. (Remember when we used to be excited to see the message “You’ve got mail!”?) For a short period of time we acted as an internet service provider, a hosting company and a website design company because so few companies provided those services, and our clients were asking for it. Over time, dedicated internet service providers and hosting companies emerged and we shuttered or sold those business units.
So Long Coding, Hello AI
With breakneck speed, some aspects of technology have morphed from being complicated to highly user-friendly, allowing creativity to surge. Web development once required a technical person writing lines of code. Now the job is routinely handled by a graphic designer at a marketing company. The software we use today is so much more advanced: Sometimes it seems like it is reading our minds, or in some cases literally guessing what we will do next with artificial intelligence.
Even though technology today has advanced exponentially from what I worked on in the early days, what hasn’t changed is my focus on doing what is right for the employees of the company and our clients. After decades of hard work, I am very proud that I have been able to follow in my father’s footsteps in employee ownership. He started a software company in the 1970s and retired in 2004 by transitioning that company to an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). In 2019, I started the same transition to an ESOP for Intrust. The plan benefits the employees who helped build the company and is good for clients, too: ESOP companies have longer employee tenure and better employee engagement. Not to mention that an ESOP company is less likely to be sold in a transaction that could disrupt operations and support.
Who knows what tech will look like in another 30 years; My hope is that it will continue to push the boundaries of creativity and improve life for all of us – especially the young people who want to follow an uncharted path.