Respect goes a long way when you’re the one in charge.
Charlie McMannis is one of the leading IT Consultants in the Chicagoland area, having worked with more than a dozen fortune 500 companies before starting his own IT consulting firm, McMannis Consulting Ltd. A native of Highland Park, Illinois, McMannis grew up with a love for technology and found himself able to quickly diagnose problems and come up with lasting solutions.
As a boy, he was fascinated by tinkering with his Walkman or his father’s Apple II. In his teenage years, Charlie McMannis dedicated time to learning ‘C’, the programming language developed in the early 1970’s, which opened doors in the world of technology that he never imagined possible. After studying finance at Michigan State, McMannis moved back to Chicago and earned a master’s degree in computer science, which he credits with launching his IT career.
Following successful stints at a variety of corporations, McMannis ventured off in 2012 to start his own business and never looked back.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an M.S. in Computer Science, I was fortunate to work at some of the top companies in the information technology field, including nearly a dozen on the Forbes 500 list. Then, I discovered an opportunity to go out on my own and work with companies I wanted to work with. After 25 years working for large companies, I was able to take the skills I had learned from colleagues and bosses and combine that with my ideas and passions. And companies—both small and large—knew me and knew the work I could do for them. They needed smoother systems, automation, consolidation and personalized programs that fit their needs—and the goal was to help them.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day at 5 a.m. and check news websites and keep up to date with the world news and the IT news. I make sure to follow trends, read all the blogs and keep up with any new moves or twists. Then, I get to the office around 7:30 a.m. to check email and begin checking in with our clients. This gives me direct access to all the accounts and let’s our clients know the head of the company has their back. From there, I host strategy meetings with the staff, review accounts with my team and make sure everything is running smoothly. The day also consists of various things that go along with owning a business such as payroll and office management. We have staff members who handle this, but I like to pitch in and help.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We bring ideas to life by being bold and trying new things. Not everything works in the IT industry–and sometimes a bad idea can result in the loss of a client—but no one became great by working passively and only doing what’s safe. I have an open-door policy and encourage my staff to come to me with anything that may seem out of the ordinary. And, most likely, we run with it. That’s because I trust the people I hire and know they can produce great things. If we want to be a leader in the field of Information Technologies, we have to think of the next big idea.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’ve always been fascinated by artificial intelligence, and recently we’ve seen it enter the IT field in a hurry. Not only have AI and machine learning been hot topics in IT, but we’ve seen companies further automate their systems using AI. In fact, I believe the next few years will be when companies who embrace AI set themselves apart from the competition. I’m excited to see what directions others go in, because we’re trying to be as innovative as possible.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Reading. When I graduated college, I made a promise to myself to never stop learning, and I haven’t. I try and read one book a week and focus my reading on material that will improve my business acumen and help me be a better entrepreneur.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to start my own company earlier. When I was younger, I always wanted to go off on my own but I was scared. I thought I had more to learn and that I would reach a point where I was knowledgeable enough. But, in reality, everyone is still learning. I could have started this company earlier and kept learning.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Being the boss isn’t fun. Obviously, you don’t have to answer to others, but employees rely on you and you can’t mess up. Losing a client cuts your revenue, which could mean cutting back on staff. That’s not fun.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Go to networking events—no matter how successful you are. These events are filled with very smart people who can help your business. Meet them, get their business cards and have lunch with them. These connections always come in handy—even if the person isn’t in your field. If you’re looking to expand into another area and don’t know how to, maybe someone you’ve met does.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Say yes until you don’t have to. When you’re starting out, take the jobs that seem hard and boring. Cut your teeth with these clients and learn everything you can. Then, when you’re not constantly looking for the next client, you can start working with those you’re excited about and want to work with.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
When I first started the business, I thought I had to charge rates lower than industry standard because we were new. Even though I had the experience, I still thought this was important. Looking back, I was wrong. We raised our rates and never lost a client. Why? Because people will pay for good work.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Treat your employees like your equals—and remember they’re human beings. Respect goes a long way when you’re the one in charge.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a gym membership. While working, growing a business and learning is important, taking care of your body is essential to good health.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Slack. It allows everyone to stay on the same page, connect, talk, run ideas off each other, and even tell a few jokes.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Obviously, it’s not an IT book, but it’s the most important book anyone can read. If you want to be a businessperson, you need the people skills first.
What is your favorite quote?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead.
- Go to networking events—no matter how successful you are.
- Say yes until you don’t have to.
- When you’re starting out, take the jobs that seem hard and boring.
- Treat your employees like your equals—and remember they’re human beings.
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.