Q&A: Josh Cramer on selling one company to take another next-level
After years of nurturing two companies and overseeing both as they grew side by side, Josh Cramer decided it was best for both of his babies to bid adieu to one. Cramer, 35, the founder of Iowa City-based shops Cramer Dev and Cramer IT, recently sold Cramer IT to focus on Cramer Dev, a decision he explained in a recent blog post.
Cramer IT closed its sale to Circle Computer Resources, which is based in Cedar Rapids, on July 1. CCR retained Cramer IT's entire team and its office space. Cramer (left, photo from cramerdev.com) sold his entire stake in the company but is currently assisting in a transitional period, which he said has unfolded without any major hiccups. "I would say that things have gone remarkably smoothly, all things considered," Cramer said. "I have seen the level of service that we've been able to offer to clients increased with this transition, which I know is what everyone has hoped for."
At Cramer Dev, which added four employees in June, Cramer said, "We are continuing to help serve our startup and product development clients. There are a number of early stage startups that we're working with now in the ideation phase and we're hopeful that we will see some launches come out of these efforts in time. This is our primary offering and we are not slowing down here."
Cramer slowed down just enough recently to answer SPN's email questions on his decision to sell Cramer IT, the transition and what the future holds for him and Cramer Dev.
SPN: When did you know it was time to get out of one of your businesses?
JC: I was the CEO of two growing and profitable companies. For quite some time, I did what I had to do to keep everything afloat and moving forward. Eventually, I reached a point where it became clear that there was opportunity in both companies that we were not able to capture due to my limited time and focus. This became a business problem that needed to be solved for the best interest of the clients we served and the people working in the companies. Selling one and focusing on the other was a solution to this problem. A lot of leading in business is positioning and enabling your team to have success and recognizing your own limitations. That's what I was aiming to do here.
SPN: What about Cramer Dev led to your decision to hold on to it and sell Cramer IT?
JC: Due to efforts over the previous year, Cramer IT had a very refined and mature corporate structure and the staff was very capable of running the day-to-day operations of the company. This set the stage nicely for a potential sale and transition. I had several partners in Cramer IT who had continued on to other ventures. A sale was in their best interest as well.
I truly loved working with everyone at Cramer IT and Cramer Dev, and it was hard to say goodbye to anyone. I continue to enjoy the intensely creative process that we are all engaged in at Cramer Dev and can see myself working in this space for some time to come.
"Selling one and focusing on the other was a solution to this problem. A lot of leading in business is positioning and enabling your team to have success and recognizing your own limitations. That's what I was aiming to do here." - Cramer, on the decision to sell Cramer IT
SPN: In the time since the sale, what have you witnessed as far as the benefits of focusing on just one company?
JC: I have certainly begun to achieve greater focus. There were several areas of Cramer Dev that we wanted to address for some time that have been seeing great progress recently. Once the terms of the sale were finalized, it seemed that I was able to gain some significant clarity on the best direction for Cramer Dev going forward, knowing that I would be able to follow through on some initiatives.
In running and leading a company, I try to continually look at who we are and what we want to become. I leverage feedback from my team as advisors and build a list of areas that I think we can improve and grow in. Ultimately, I want to know what we can be the best in the world at and get us on a path to make progress towards that goal. For me, this is a total team effort. Ultimately, I'm not the one making this happen, we do this together. For Cramer Dev, we've really put our finger on the fact that we are serving startups and startup minded organizations and building them great products in the web and mobile space. We were so laser-focused on producing great product for our customers that there were some areas that didn't get needed attention to as we grew. Recently, with this added focus, we've worked on several areas including administrative, marketing, sales process and a more defined process for working with startups in the ideation phase. In the second week of June, we had four new people all start on the same day and have worked on improving these areas of the business. We've seen payoff in many forms from these efforts.
SPN: What's hot at Cramer Dev at the moment? What projects and efforts are captivating the attention of your team?
JC: We've helped to make a lot of our clients successful. We're in the process of helping others get there. A couple notable startups are DIYSEO.com and RadiologyProtocols.com. Both are beginning to gain some significant traction with some very innovative products and tackling important problems in the business and health care spaces.
On top of all of this, we're attempting to learn to make successful products on our own. We released GearmanHQ.com into private beta earlier this month. This is a product created for other software developers. We've had some very positive feedback so far. We're also continuing to evolve some of our social experiments namely, ICCReatives.us and SweetHatClub.org. (Below: screenshot from sweethatclub.org)
SPN: On your blog, you touched on your vision for Cramer Dev when you set out years ago. How does what you've accomplished to compare to what you envisioned back then? What do the last 10-plus years provide in terms of motivation and momentum for this next phase?
JC: As I look back, I can see a gradual increase in how big my dreams and plans have been. When I first started, I was thinking so small, just trying to do the bare minimum needed to satisfy a client or pay the bills. I felt like a small fish in a very large ocean. As we've progressed, I've dared to dream bigger. And as we've had success, we've built on that. I see this progression continuing and I want to do bigger more important things for whoever it is we get to serve through our efforts.
I think we've had opportunities come up that we didn't expect. We've been able to take those opportunities and turn them into very good things for us and for our clients. I've always thought that the more ambitious the challenge, the greater the opportunity to achieve something great. I want to prepare the team we have to respond to that next big opportunity.
SPN: Is there anything you'd like to add?
JC: I have been blessed to work alongside some very talented and fantastic individuals. Getting to this point is not something that I could have done alone and I think that most credit should go to the team as a whole. I'm thankful for all of the help that I've had from team members, clients, people in the community, and especially the support of my wife in building these businesses.
I don't think I ever planned to get here in business, but I have just continued to work hard and not give up. I think much of what it takes to be successful in business is working hard, not giving up, and being prepared to take advantage of the big opportunities when they are offered to you. I'm looking forward to whatever might be next.