We continue our series on the state of the tech business climate in N.J., interviewing Chris Miles, CEO and founder of Miles Technologies (Moorestown).
Miles Technologies has strong roots in New Jersey.
The company, founded by New Jersey native Chris Miles, grew out of his childhood love of computers, fostered by his mother, combined with his expertise in the construction industry.
In fact, Miles’ first business was a construction company that used early computers to create designs for clients. When his clients kept asking him for more help with their computers, Miles realized he had talent for providing this service. In 1997, Miles Technologies was born. Miles ran both companies simultaneously until 2001, when he clocked a million dollars in revenues at the computer consulting firm. From 2001 to 2008, those revenues grew 12 times, to $12 million.
Now Miles Technologies is a full-service computer consulting company operating in such sectors as finance, health and pharma, and professional services. The focus is still on small to medium-sized businesses of more than five employees, but his largest customers are as big as Lockheed.
Recently, the company branched out to create a cloud-based Business Productivity Software (BPS) system called “BUSINESS,” which is a next-generation solution designed for today’s mobile business landscape.
Professionals using BUSINESS are able to manage projects, improve customer service, approve contracts, get organized and collaborate better, Miles said. The solution improves an organization’s ability to collaboratively accomplish its core business processes, including sales, marketing, human resources, customer services, finance, operations and executive management.
The company employs 144 people, mostly in Moorestown, N.J. although it does have outposts in Boston, New York, Florida, Georgia and Ohio. On a growth trajectory, the company started the year with a headcount of 114, and hopes to have 150 employees by year-end. It plans a controlled growth path of 10 percent to 20 percent annually for the next five years.
Miles is proud of his company, proud of his people and proud that the company looks to the future. He said, “We are a super-unique company in another way. Our R&D budget is from 15 percent to 20 percent each year, so we can develop forward-thinking products. A lot of smaller companies like ours don’t allocate those dollars.”
In a conversation with NJTechWeekly.com, Miles spoke about his company’s progress and the plusses and minuses of basing a business in New Jersey.
Why is Miles Technologies in New Jersey?
I’ve lived in New Jersey all my life, so where else would it be? My first company was a construction company here, and that’s how I started getting customers for computer consulting. Customers I met through the construction company would complain that they couldn’t find IT people that understood business. I offered to help them without charging. I had a “eureka” moment and began the consulting business. I ran both businesses side-by-side from 1997 to 2000, and then closed the construction company to concentrate on the computer side.
How has your company evolved?
In recent years, one significant evolution has been the move to leading with recurring revenue. We have been able to grow to where more than 50 percent of our revenue now comes from recurring monthly plans versus one-time revenue. Five years ago, our business was nearly 90 percent one-time revenue, with very little recurring.
The move to completely offering managed service plans and projects has afforded us the opportunity to maintain our customers while growing our business. Additionally, the launch of BUSINESS, our cloud-based Business Productivity Software (BPS) system, has been a significant milestone for the entire company and our clients.
What do you like about being in New Jersey?
The talent of candidates for jobs is second to none here. New Jersey is also an ideal location for doing business. We are positioned in probably the best location for business on the eastern seaboard, with New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, nearby.
Do you hire or use interns from New Jersey Colleges?
Name them, we’ve hired them. We’ve hired graduates from Rowan University, Rutgers, Princeton and Stockton, and they are all great. I think the colleges prepare them very well. We have a careful selection process for hiring and we don’t hire anyone as an intern that we wouldn’t want to hire later on. We are actively recruiting more talented people every day.
What kinds of jobs are available?
We hire programmers with computer science degrees and computer networking people. The computer networking people might not have a college degree, but they have a great deal of practical experience. We are also looking for good product managers with experience, and usually they have [Project Management Institute] PMI certifications. We also hire graphic artists and people with skills in marketing and communications. We need those people because we help our clients succeed with their websites.
We will always strive to be a company that is a great place to work. We are very proud of the first place position we earned in the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Best Places to Work 2013 ranking. We are also a 2014 Best Places to Work winner. Being a company that is a collective of dedicated people all working together toward the same objectives, with a real comradery and respect for one another, is always the most important goal. We always want to be a great place to work!
What is the downside of doing business in New Jersey?
New Jersey is expensive. Taxes are expensive. The cost of living in New Jersey is expensive.
If you could speak to Governor Chris Christie, the EDA or anyone else with power, what would you recommend to improve the business atmosphere here?
Incentives shouldn’t be tied to any particular community that is perceived to need help. All businesses, regardless of their location in New Jersey, should be given incentives to grow more jobs and hire more people.
For example, currently the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) offers a host of exciting financing opportunities to businesses ready to grow or move to the City of Camden. There are $15 million in grant funds available to businesses that plan to lease more than 500 square feet of market-rate office, industrial and retail space.
There is even the Camden Technology Fund, geared to assist emerging technology companies in Camden with the conversion of technologies into products and services. The Fund will provide low-interest loans of up to $100,000 to start-up, newly established or growing small businesses to finance both working capital and fixed assets, such as equipment.
In terms of incentives for job creation, there are Business Employment Incentive Grants for eligible businesses that grow jobs in Camden. Grants can equal 10 percent to 80 percent of the total amount of state income taxes generated by the grantees’ newly created jobs during the calendar year, with a minimum of 25 jobs created within two years or, for the tech/biotech industry, 10 jobs.
These are all outstanding measures.
In my opinion, all communities throughout New Jersey should be given the same incentives and opportunities to grow businesses, launch new start-ups and create jobs, to benefit all companies operating in New Jersey. I don’t think we should be lowering our competiveness in one community to give incentives to another community.
If you drive around Cherry Hill, for example, there are plenty of empty strip malls. We could be incentivizing for people to revive these. Also when companies do take advantage of the incentives offered by the state, they often have to uproot themselves and leave their town, which has relied on them for employment.
Also, companies that own their own building are left behind. A competitor that doesn’t own its own building can move to Camden and get a tax break. Then what happens to a viable company like mine? We shouldn’t artificially create a different competitive landscape.