Tony Valasek, EOSYS PostedWednesday, May 18, 2022 Q What’s the best advice you could give your younger self just getting started? A For me personally, it’s take more chances. Be less averse to risk. I’m pretty conservative. But opportunities rarely knock twice. Of course, I’m referring to calculated risk, not jumping off a building and then sprout wings on the way down. And just as important as taking that risk is be committed when you do take some risk, act and resist the convenience of over-analysis. Don’t wait until you’re 100 percent sure. Seventy or eighty, good enough. Have a plan but know that that plan is going to change. I refer to one of my favorite quotes and by Mike Tyson. You know, everybody has a plan to beat him until they get punched in the mouth, and life tends to do that. So have a plan but be adaptable. Consider the risks and mitigations. Don’t let the knowledge of the risk dictate your future. Understand that failure is not a label. It’s not an identity for you. Failure is a tool to help you get better next time. Q If there’s a customer out there wondering, “Should I choose a certified, CSIA-certified company to work with?” what would you tell them? A Well, I will turn it on them and ask them a question: “Do you want a different result for each project?” Most of them will say no. Of course, it’s one of those rhetorical questions. But the certification does indicate a certain level of consistency and dependability in the company. I mean to achieve certification; you can’t just do something right once. You have to repeatedly do it right. To achieve certification, you just can’t be good at one aspect of the business. You must have a solid business model not only in your engineering functions but also accounting, your sales, marketing, your quality, your HR, your safety, your IT and probably a few other departments that come up. With a certified integrator, you’re really getting a company you can trust to provide you a solid solution at the end of the day. Q What makes you optimistic about the future of the automation control systems industry? A Well, while no industry is immune from recessions, some are more resilient than others, and the control system of the industry is one of them, I think. When times are good, customers are adding capacity and to do so, they need system integrators. When times are tough, customers are cost-cutting, which is a layoff, and they need to automate just to maintain the capacity that they have, and they call integrators. If your company has a diverse service offering like vertical and such like controls, HMI, MES, MIS system, and offer those services across various industries like pulp and paper, you know, food and beverage, chemicals and such, your resilience is even stronger. The automation and control systems industry look bright from my perspective. Q In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the automation marketplace today and coming up in the future? A This one is easy. It’s recruiting, recruiting and recruiting. The need for automation is far outpacing the abilities of our colleges and universities to produce controls-focused engineers. The cost of labor is the largest cost for our customers and as that cost continues to rise for many reasons, certainly in the last few years, it has gone way up. They will inevitably be looking for automated solutions. We as integrators must be laser-focused on the motivational factors of these prospective employees. However, warm bodies aren’t enough either. We need the right technical people, but those people must be compatible with our culture. Q What advice would you give to a prospective customer researching automation, controls engineers or system integrators? A I would tell them to find a partner, not just an integrator. They should not only understand the integrator’s reputation and capabilities, which they tend to all look up. But also, their ideologies and their operations philosophies. This customer should understand that in the life of any solution, it’s not usually cheaper to do it twice. They should look at the total cost including such things as downtime cost, opportunity cost, cost of maintenance and the overall value, not just the initial cost. Companies continue to outsource more and more the integration work, and they need to find someone that can understand what they really need. There’s a big difference between verification and validation. It’s immensely more difficult to provide you with what you really want versus a solution that simply meets the spec. There’s a certain art to having a truly satisfied customer. If you tell me you’re hungry and I give you a plate of beans, I’m meeting the spec. But it might not have been what you really wanted. That’s verification. What you really wanted was a steak and we’re partners committed to a relationship. I will offer you a steak instead of a plate of beans. A steak also meets the spec, and it was what you really wanted in the first place. That’s validation. That relationship is critical. We understand that at EOSYS and value our partnerships with our customers. They know we will take care of them, and they understand the good integrators have options too. In fact, they’ve heard from more than one consultant over the years that service providers should fire some of their customers. It must be a mutually beneficial relationship. We got to collaborate not compete for a solution for them. Q How has your company grown or changed in the past couple of years, and what are you expecting for the next 12 to 24 months? A I would like to say that becoming a 100-percent employee-owned company is new. When I think about it, that was over 5 years ago, and it still seems a bit fresh to me. However, to answer your question better, in the last couple of years, I would say three things come to mind. First, we successfully acquired Feedfoward and can say that they’re fully integrated into the company at this point. This was successful because we were compatible culturally, and it shows that we can do this in our culture and something people want to experience. Another change or evolution for EOSYS is that we changed our management structure to accommodate the growth that we are seeing now, and we will see into the future. A lot of companies start by relying on a few key individuals, no different than we did. As the company grows, the span of control gets a little out of hand and the results suffer if they don’t change accordingly. We needed a more scalable structure. We now have people dedicated to things like project management as well as position people to be specialized in certain technologies. The last one I will mention is our focused development of our digital transformation team, which is now one of our fastest-growing teams and the opportunities are significant. In the next couple of years, I expect that our company will be more fully integrated internally than we’ve ever been. Each of our departments is high-functioning individually and work well with each other. I believe the quality and the speed of information exchange will be tremendous and will take our ability to do much more improvement at higher levels because of the building blocks we put into place today and just a few years ago. I would expect EOSYS also to have more opportunities for acquisition as our reputation has grown and some of the founders of many of the integrators have started their businesses in the 1980s or 1990s are looking to retire and provide a good home for their employees. We think EOSYS can provide that environment for the right kind of company. Of course, that’s a very involved process but worth exploring if the company cultures are compatible. Q How much of your business is repeat? And why would you say that they return? A They say that it costs at least 5 times more to develop a new customer than keeping an existing customer. That said, approximately 85 percent of our business is repeat business. Why do they return? Simply put, they return because we’ve consistently delivered high value solutions to their operations. They know that the solutions we provide are going to be right and right the first time and that we stand behind our solutions. They know that whoever we put on the projects, from whichever office they’re located in are going to provide the same level of high value service. We think our customers are partners. Quite frankly, even much of our new business is generated from referrals, from people that have worked for or with our customers either as employees or partners. Q What other suppliers do you work with? Are you certified or endorsed with anything you would like to mention? A A few of the more prominent ones are Rockwell Automation, Foxboro, Yokogawa, Parsec, InSource, Ignition and Wonderware. We have certified partner status with a number of them including Rockwell. We’re a gold partner with them and Parsec. We’re a gold partner with them as well. Certified with ThinManager and Wonderware and then even on the industrial IT space side of things. We are also CISCO-certified Network Associates or what’s commonly called CCNA. Q How did the company begin and how has it evolved? A Everyone has heard about a company starting in a garage. Ours is one that started in the penthouse suite of one of our founders. Actually, an attic. In 1991, Premier System Integrators was founded to provide automation services primarily in the automotive industry. By the year 2000, we expanded to three offices, near Nashville, Tennessee; Huntsville, Alabama; and Cincinnati, Ohio. We expanded to service industries like food and beverage, pulp and paper, metals, chemical and a few others. In 2004, we became a Rockwell Automation Solutions Provider. In 2006, we became CSIA-certified for the first time and that process helped us manage all aspects of the business rather than just delivering good controls projects. In 2012, we expanded our services to add Rockwell Information Solution Provider Certification in addition to the Automation Solutions Provider. Fast forward a little bit closer, 2014, we became a 100 percent employee-owned company or what’s called an ESOP. This was one of the most significant moves in our company’s history. Ken and the executive team were working diligently on succession planning and wanted to protect the company’s future, the employees and our culture. The ESOP option allowed us to do so. I’m glad we did it. It put the future of the company in the hands of the employees rather than a conglomerate or some holding company. It has been one of the most rewarding aspects to our business, and you can see it when we’re talking with our employees. They know that they’re part of something special and they want to preserve it. In 2015, we became CSIA-certified in all three offices. This was quite an accomplishment because it demonstrated our commitment to being one cohesive company, operating in different regions rather than the three different companies. That same philosophy carried forward to 2020 when we acquired Feedforward that is now our Atlanta office in Georgia. In 2021, we changed our name to EOSYS from Premier System Integrators to emphasize our employee-owned business, hence the E and the O, and the commitment we have to our employees and to our customers. It’s kind of like a family. These events in our timeline are indicators of our evolution and growth. As a company however, when we talk about companies evolving, evolving implies change and EOSYS has had many changes over the years as I’ve just mentioned a few. So, before we move on, I would like to pause and say that while change for any growing company is inevitable, successful growth is done with the understanding that we could only do so if we remain consistent to our core values. The things that we didn’t change over the years such as our consistency, our focus on technical excellence and continuous improvement, for example, have enabled us to change.