At our 20th anniversary, I look back at the events that made TTS possible. We were a group who were called upon repeatedly to “fix” what was broken. My team received the work centers that were in trouble both financially and structurally. We “fixed” them, made them functional and profitable, and then turned them over to newer, less experienced management teams to cut their teeth on. We did this for several years; the company we worked with was undergoing internal changes that made me uncomfortable. I remember sitting in my office one day, after I had made the decision to leave a stable and profitable corporation, and thought about what the future would hold. I asked myself if I would ever again have the responsibility of hundreds of employees, or even a business as profitable as the one I had helped build. I even wondered if I would have an office like the one I was in; the odd thing is, I never once thought of failure, just questioned the degree of success.
Here we are twenty years later, it feels like just yesterday that Mike Coats, Anthony Foskey, and I were sitting in a converted bedroom of my house trying to get Technology Transfer Services up and running. The three of us started to do what everyone had told us was improbable, if not impossible. We eventually moved into my living room and over the next six months hired and groomed eight others to help continue our growth. In the early years, our employees were all veterans of the armed forces, and we still hire technical experts with a military background. The military provides a work ethic and dedication unparalleled to anywhere else. We were, and still are, dedicated employees who are willing to do whatever it takes to make things work. As a startup, we would take turns answering the phones; we worked together on graphics, materials production, and even drove to the airport to make the 8 P.M. FedEx deadline so our partners would have their product when we promised they would. We have always been dedicated to getting our clients what we committed to, no matter how insane the commitment. We worked in cramped spaces for long, hard hours to achieve our goals. TTS was a big risk for the three of us, each leaving solid long-term positions for little to no compensation. In fact, we started TTS with a little more than $100 in our bank account, a credit card, and two computers.
The ride has not been without its bumps. Our first few years were very slow; we had enough to pay our employees and not much else. In December of 1998, just when we thought things were going well, the price of oil dropped to a record low and, with our primary business sector at that time being oil and gas, we lost twenty-seven positions over a weekend’s time. Most companies would have just laid-off the extra people; however, TTS placed all of our people with other firms at a significant cost over a three month period. Unfortunately, it put us in the red for the next few years. We learned a hard lesson on diversification of business sectors. In March of 2013, we again took extreme measures, proactively this time, to ensure the success of TTS, weathering the storms and learning from each. Over the years, we have lost good employees and friends, people that carried the TTS attitude of doing whatever was needed for success, people with diverse backgrounds. We would joke that our jobs were not rocket science, but in case we needed one, we had Jack. Jack was a man that worked on Gemini and Apollo, a man that helped the United States get to the moon. We miss all of our losses.
I am proud of what our people accomplish and hope to continue our creativity and growth well into the future. We have won awards for our workplace, ingenuity and product lines, all while making TTS a good place to work and a growing business. We will never lose track of the fact that the client is paramount; they are why we exist.
And the answer to those questions that I had in the first few hours of TTS’s existence ended up being a resounding “YES.” There is no other place we would rather be.
By Lou Rivera: Founder, President & CEO of Technology Transfer Services