Or perhaps it is her strong educational background, which includes a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Minnesota State University and an MBA from the University of Dayton.
Or it could be her practical experience 25 years with three national and regional consulting firms and experience as a manager and software engineer.
Whatever the magic formula might be, it spells success for DeMuth, who serves as chairman and CEO of TDCI, a consulting and software organization that helps manufacturing companies improve their business performance.
DeMuth, hired by TDCI in 1993 to direct and develop the Technology Services practice and named president in 1997 before being named chairman and CEO, says the last five years have been hectic ones for the company.
“We’ve grown from 27 employees to 70,” she says. “It’s been a challenge, but one thing is for sure: When you are in IT, you do not have the luxury of standing still.”
In 1999, DeMuth was named a finalist for Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. In 2000, the Industry and Technology Council of Central Ohio honored her as Executive of the Year and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce awarded her Small Business Person of the Year. And TDCI was named one of Columbus’ 50 fastest growing companies in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004.
Smart Business spoke with DeMuth about how she’s managed the company’s fast growth and how she’s overcome her biggest challenge.
How have you managed the rapid growth of your company?
During the past seven years, our sales have increased from $2 million to $10 million and our client base has grown from 50 to 320. We’ve worked hard to keep our finger on the pulse of our clients’ needs and to acclimate them to current technology.
Manufacturing industries were one of the last to merge into the Internet highway. TDCI has helped them navigate. In addition to MAC-PAC [an enterprise development system], we also offer BuyDesign, a new suite of software solutions developed to help manufacturers streamline the design, sales and production of highly customized products.
How do you measure success?
The most obvious measure is profitability but you have to go deeper than that. I don’t think you continue to operate in the black without exemplary customer service. That’s the real litmus test of success.
We constantly monitor whether or not we hit the bulls-eye of satisfying our customers’ needs. We review retention statistics [targeting no less than 95 percent retention], customer referrals and our level of repeat business. In addition, the director of our support group randomly calls a number of customers each week to determine if we exceeded their expectations in terms of the help-desk support offered.
How do you keep your management skills sharp?
I’ve learned a lot through the school of hard knocks. One of my first lessons was to stop taking on more responsibility for employees’ careers than is healthy and necessary. As owner of the company, I used to feel obligated to keep people employed and tended to overlook issues and avoid holding them completely accountable.
Over time, I discovered that this is not a healthy management mindset. Poor performers must be swiftly addressed because it is unfair to those who are pulling their weight.
What’s your greatest business challenge?
Going into markets where we have no name recognition is difficult. We inherited a client list when we took over MAC-PAC from Anderson Consulting, but we hardly ride on the coattails of that experience.
We’ve beefed up our marketing and sales focus recently. Software companies typically require more spending on sales and marketing, whereas service industries require much less of an investment.
Through this investment, we are focusing on expanding relationships with existing customers and cultivating new ones by advertising in industrial trade magazines, frequenting trade shows, mass e-mailing and cold-calling prospective clients from lead generation lists we have purchased.
How to Reach: TDCI, (614) 781-2325 or www.tdci.com