The history of Thinsolutions is not unlike thousands of other small business start-ups; what’s different about it is where we are today. In 1997 I co-founded the company, then named Netnowledge, with my original partner, Matt Johnson. We maxed out our personal credit cards and worked out of a duplex on W. 100th Street in Cleveland. Our “office” was one of the bedrooms crammed with a couple of small desks. But we were on our way and early on we landed some large accounts such as Sterling Limited and the McDonald Hopkins law firm which remains a great client for us 13 years later.
The following year we moved to a “real” office in a mixed-use building on Lake Road near W. 85th Street in Cleveland. In 1999, my current partner, Steve Mesenburg joined Netnowledge. In addition to adding some serious technical ammunition to the group, Steve also brought with him some established client relationships including clients that are still with us today such as the Cavitch, Familo and Landskroner Law firms. Matt Johnson moved on to pursue other career interests (he dreamed of being a studio musician and moved West to realize his goals). That same year, Steve and I also took on several Angel Investors, whose capital infusion was used to develop the infrastructure for our Application Service Provider network . Today we call this hosted offering The Cloud (Application Service Provider (ASP)).
In early 2000 we moved the company to the Keith Building in downtown Cleveland. With the introduction of our Cloud hosted service solutions, we thought the name Thinsolutions more accurately reflected our commitment to the more efficient IT service model we had adopted which allowed our clients to rely on us as their complete IT Department solution, so we changed the company name. Our time in the Keith Building was one of rapid growth for the company. During that period we hired a number of people who are still with us today and in 2003 we were recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the 100 fastest growing companies in the country (Inc. 500). We continued to run a very lean organization, though, as evidenced by the fact that Steve and I shared an office that doubled as a conference room and shared a desk that doubled as the conference table . Meetings with prospective clients meant moving out of our “office” so that it could be temporarily used for it’s original purpose—a “conference”! We still use the conference table today and it is a daily reminder of how important it is to manage our accounts. The table is actually an item repossessed from a former law firm client in lieu of payment—fortunately the repossession came with 8 chairs so we had a matched set.
The next few years were busy ones for Thinsolutions. In early 2005, we moved our corporate headquarters into a building we had purchased at 1388 Riverside Drive in Lakewood, Ohio. In July, 2006 we acquired SecureIT Partners of West Palm Beach, Florida. We continued to expand in Florida with the acquisition of Fidelity Networks of Fort Lauderdale in February, 2007.
Our acquisition phase wasn’t over though. In October of 2008 we acquired 2 more companies. We purchased O-Web Technologies which had a hosting and web development business, and merged Link Solutions into Thinsolutions. Link Solutions brought with it even more capabilities centered around custom software and high-end web development. Last year we expanded again with the opening of an office in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The acquisition of the various entities helped to grow our business but the primary source of our growth remains referrals from our existing clients. Nothing is more flattering (or more appreciated!) than the recommendation of a client pleased with our performance. It is their confidence in Thinsolutions that has allowed us to be recognized SIX times as a Weatherhead 100 winner as one of Northeast Ohio’s fastest growing companies (Weatherhead 100 ) and to be included on the Inc. 5000 list (2008).
As our geographic footprint and our client base expanded, so too has our staff size. In less than 10 years, we had gone from 2 guys working out of the back bedroom of a duplex to a company employing a staff of over 30. Steve and I no longer have to share a desk and we even have a separate room that’s used for conferences. Sometimes, when I stop and think about it, I am flabbergasted by our success. But then I remind myself that it is the hard work of our staff and the loyalty of our clients that has allowed for that success, and the amazement becomes gratitude.
By the way, the fantastic pictures/paintings of the various office locations we have had were done by my Dad, John Fischer, who was kind enough to paint all of these pictures prior to us moving in to our current office in Lakewood. These pictures are located on the wall behind the repossessed conference room table.