[quote style=”boxed”]But top of the list is Good to Great by Jim Collins. It describes how good companies transformed into great companies. I have gotten a lot of ideas from the book – it should be a “must read” book for entrepreneurs and it’s really about finding the right people to be part of your team.[/quote]
A native of Hopkinton, Massachusetts, Mark Linton is CEO of etfile, a leading workflow and document management solutions provider. He holds a BA in business from Westfield State University, Westfield, MA.
Following graduation, Linton took a job with Boston’s Putnam Investments working in their call center. Soon after, his entrepreneurial father invited him to join his business as an intern to help develop a management system for small businesses. Linton and his cousin joined his father to found etfile in 1998. etfile solution was built from the ground-up to provide a robust Enterprise Document Management and Automated Workflow solution for any size business. More than document archiving, etfile’s flagship client/server file sharing and document storage and retrieval system consistently deliver the highest levels of efficiency and productivity. The business solution is easily integrated into leading ERP and CRM systems – as well as any external client, customer, or reseller offering. etfile’s content management and workflow software design harnesses the power and ease-of-use of the cloud for secure web-based file sharing, online collaboration, automated workflows, and advanced business analytics.
Today, etfile serves thousands of customers with more than 30,000 users across North America, the UK, and the Caribbean. Customers that have deployed etfile’s solution have increased document management efficiency by up to 30 percent.
In addition, etfile’s product portfolio was enhanced in July 2013 with the introduction of OfficeScope, a 100 percent cloud-based content management solution designed for Small-to-Medium sized businesses. By moving from a client-server-based model to a self-service web-based product, OfficeScope will service new clients in any vertical market.
Mark Linton lives in Hopkinton, Massachusetts with his wife and three children.
Where did the idea for etfile come from?
My father had created a company to offer management system that he was trying to market to small companies. He asked me and my cousin to join his business – as interns since he couldn’t pay us much. The three of us basically started etfile in 1998 in a 600 sq. ft. office.
The idea for etfile came when one of our clients – an insurance agency that was using our management system brought us into their 3,000 sq. ft. file storage room absolutely bulging with paper and asked us if we could help develop a product that could help him get rid of his paper. We did find a third-party system, but the system had to be integrated with their policy management system to get rid of his file cabinets and all the mail they were receiving. That was huge back then.
It wasn’t until 2002 that we actually developed our own software and product. While I knew how to design software I was not a programmer. So we hired a third-party that employed programmers in India. When one of the developers immigrated to the States to work at another company which was later dissolved, we hired him as our CTO. Once he came onboard then everything was in line. My father handled the sales, I handled the support and finances and our CTO managed all the product development. My wife joined the team and created the HR department and handled all the post-sales duties.
Once we finalized the product development we attended a couple of insurance specific tradeshows and were able to land customers.
etfile really stands for electronic transactional filing which is how insurance agencies filed their files – in manila folders with records that linked paper files to the records inside the management system. But etfile was later enhanced to handle more than just scanning of documents but handling emails and more. It’s grown out of that need to get rid of paper – and of course we migrated into email content instead of just scanning solution.
etfile continues to help insurance agencies replace their file cabinet with an easy electronic search without going into a file storage room. The business that asked us to develop what became etfile, was able to deploy etfile, got rid of its stacks of boxes and gained immediate ROIs when they replaced their file cabinets in the 3,000 sq feet storage space with desks for additional employees to grow their business.
etfile allowed businesses to back-file all the storage bin documents. Our first sales came in 2002. When we had about 30 customers we started going to tradeshows – we really didn’t have any fancy signage or collateral. We had a product – not a brand. At one of the shows we did – now TENCon – one of our customers did a presentation of how etfile had helped his agency – once the presentation was over there was a human stampede to our booth.
We rolled the dice – and developed our own product – and the decision worked well.
What is your business model?
We are privately owned.
What does your typical day look like?
It changes from day to day – being a small company I am involved in all aspects of the business. What I’m most concerned with is making sure we hire the right employees so they can handle various aspects of the business and be an asset to our team.
But what I most enjoy working with is the application end of the product. I enjoy creating new products taking ideas from internal staff and the customer needs. I handle all the details of what goes into the software – and what goes into the product – and how we can customize it for different industry sectors.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Originally our product was created to fulfill a simple need: get rid of paper in the office and help retrieve it quickly and electronically. I visited various insurance agencies to see how they worked – and noted their business process to see how we can develop the product to help optimize their productivity and workflow. Our programmers don’t deal directly with the customers so I had to translate how customers are using the software to help our developers better design the product with the right interfaces and features.
We came up with the idea for our newly launched OfficeScope eight years ago. We called it etfile On-Demand – we saw how Sales Force was working and knew that etfile had to push to that level. We had to go to the next level – offering cloud-based accessibility anytime and from anywhere for our customers. What’s more is the convenience of a cloud-based product – customers can sign up and install and start taking advantage of the product immediately. It’s a lot easier on the support team as well. Of course we offer training for all our customers who need it.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Mobile – accessing information from anywhere and on any device. With so much mobility in play etfile and OfficeScope’s ability to streamline the workflow is very exciting. Software is like an open canvas – customers need training to be able to take full advantage of all the features of the software.
Products have to be designed so they interact with the users. Managers can access analytics reports provided by etfile and OfficeScope from their wireless devices and determine the length and the success of each campaign and how they can be more efficient next year or on their next campaign. They don’t have the depth of such information and analytics using any other system.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
It has to be when I worked as a Temp at StrideRite warehouse in Boston area. I was 20 – I lasted four days. I knew then that I couldn’t work for someone else – I wanted to have my own business and be my own boss and make my own decisions. Even as a kid I knew I would be my own boss and own my own company.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If you’re starting a business and have a good idea and everyone wants to see the idea come to fruition make sure you have good financials and business processes in place – especially if you are not getting seed capital. We built etfile through sales not VC funding.
We didn’t have the processes in place – and needed to know what we were spending and what our profits were. Once we set up the proper processes we could grow the business faster. This was one of the biggest lessons I learned.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’m always reading articles regarding business and technology on the web. There is a ton of resources that trigger ideas for new product features and business.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Early on we worked with Small Business Administration and were mentored by a retired CFO who visited our offices and helped us set up QuickBooks and the entire business process. I was 25 years old and had no experience with accounting. We were selling things and keeping records by penciling it on a sheet of paper.
Of course as time went on, our in-house staff handled the accounting and learned how to handle all the information that comes in and how to quote a job and turn it into a real job. With the process in place we sold 200 systems in one year — if we didn’t have the process in place, we wouldn’t have been able to handle all the paper work and successfully grow.
We used SalesForce and wanted to have other systems in place that integrated well because we couldn’t re-enter/input information in different systems without human error. Once we integrated our systems we only had to enter the information once.
Obviously we deployed etfile to store all our papers – we don’t have any file cabinets in our offices. And the fact that etfile can be integrated with all our own systems across our organization increases our productivity and streamlines our workflow. We practice what we preach.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
We had created a smaller version of etfile to be integrated with ACT. I spent a lot of money and time – and it didn’t take off. In hind sight I know we didn’t put enough energy and effort in marketing the product and our reseller program was ineffective because there were conflicts of interest within our channel.
We’ve used that lesson to turn around our reseller program and launched a successful channel partner program in 2013. We have a second chance at it now – we’ll do a better job based on what we learned from the initial attempt.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There’s been too many for me to think of.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I play the guitar – dabble in being a musician on the side. I love golfing – but team sports, especially Boston teams from Celtics, Patriots to Bruins, is my passion.
What are your three favorite online tools, software or resources and what do you love about them?
I really like stocks and trading so I use a bunch of online tools. When I was in my 20’s I wanted to do a lot of stock trading – but obviously I had no money to get started. Eventually I would like to do that – it’s a passion of mine. The tools that I use almost on daily basis are:
Mint.com – an incredible, free product that aggregates your personal and financial information and provides you with budgets.
Motif Investing.com – is also a great tool to find lucrative stocks you should invest in.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I read books about business so anything on Andrew Carnegie or Warren Buffett interests me. But top of the list is Good to Great by Jim Collins. It describes how good companies transformed into great companies. I have gotten a lot of ideas from the book – it should be a “must read” book for entrepreneurs and it’s really about finding the right people to be part of your team.
List three experts who have helped you as an entrepreneur who you think other entrepreneurs should follow. And why?
Warren Buffet – he’s so smart and provides innovative business ideas.
Sales Force – Marc Benioff
Larry Bird – who is one of the top athletes.
What did you have for breakfast today?
Protein Pancake and Coffee.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.