SPHERE Happy in NJ, But Wants State to Focus on Small, Early Stage Businesses
This is one of a series of feature articles about the tech business climate in New Jersey. Here, NJTechWeekly.com interviews SPHERE Technology Solutions president and founder Rita Gurevich about the challenges and opportunities facing her 3-year old women-owned technology services firm.
Privately held, SPHERE is already winning accolades in the Data Governance, Compliance and Security fields. The firm, based in Hoboken, has global reach and numbers among its customers many Fortune 100 companies in the financial, transportation, pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors.
Recently Gurevich was named 2012 Leading Women Entrepreneurs Award Finalist by New Jersey Monthly magazine. The firm was also asked to brief participants at a CISO Executive Network Invite Only event on the importance of information life cycle management and creating a concrete data governance strategy.
Can you give me some background on yourself and SPHERE Technology Solutions?
I started the company about three years ago to help big, globally regulated companies get better control of their information, making sure that they are aware of their risks, and helping them meet audit requirements. I came from a background at Lehman Brothers and saw that a vacuum existed for a company to focus on this, and only on this. We’ve been successful because we’ve stayed in our niche. The majority of our customers come through professional references and word of mouth.
How many employees does SPHERE have?
We have a dozen in N.Y. and N.J. and are expanding to Singapore. We also have a small office on the West Coast and a presence in the U.K.
Obviously, you could have taken this company to New York City. Why didn’t you?
I decided to keep it here for several reasons. I’m from New Jersey and I went to school at Stevens Institute of Technology. Most of our clients are in N.J. and if not, are in New York. We have easy access to great mass transit and access to airports so we can get to our satellite offices easily.
What are the difficult aspects of doing business here?
I love N.J. It’s a great state. We are very happy here and I don’t see the company leaving at any point.
That being said there are some problems around taxes. There are too many instances where we are hit with unexpected fees. A lot of companies struggle with this. For example, we received a bill when the state government had to take out a loan from the Federal government and we were required to contribute to the interest on that loan.
Can you find the right employees here for your business?
Since the recession, it’s been easy to find smart, globally oriented people, some coming from the big banks that have had to lay off their great employees. We’ve been able to draw on an experienced talent pool.
Because we are in tech, we’ve thought of recruiting from the universities, but there are a number of issues we have with people right out of school. Sometimes students don’t know how to translate their technology to the business world. They don’t have business-centric minds.
We’ve tried to participate in co-op and internship programs with the universities to give these students help in getting the real skills they need to work with business. I, myself, participated in the co-op program with Stevens and found that it helped me build my resume and develop relationships I wouldn’t otherwise have forged.
If you had a suggestion for the state, what would it be?
I’m a huge fan of Gov. Christie and I think he is doing a great job in getting the state’s fiscal house in order. However, I still think it’s expensive to do business here. We need to focus on developing deferred tax incentives and hiring credits for early stage companies. I think there needs to be more focus on marketing these programs if they do exist. The government should realize that business owners are focused on sales and cash flows and not on seeking out programs that might be available to them. I think we could bring in more small businesses that way and create more jobs.