Mutare Means Change

Written by Chuck French on 1/13/19

I joined Mutare about a year ago. There were a lot of draws to joining the firm, but I couldn’t help coming back to Mutare’s “Wall of Fame.” Along a hallway at headquarters resides one of the greatest collections of logos I’ve ever seen. These companies represent leaders in manufacturing, technology, energy, financial services, transportation, healthcare, professional services, and sports. Even government agencies are included. For someone who has been in business for many years, the message on this particular wall was clear – this is an established company with the ability to conduct business with anyone and maintain those relationships over decades.

How does that happen? How does a relatively small technology company that was created thirty years ago not only survive, but continually adapt to meet the new demands of new generations? The overarching answer may relate to Mutare’s name. The word “mutare” comes from the Latin word “to change.” Hence, Mutare means change.  

To us, change opens the door for new opportunities to improve the lives of the customers we serve. We thrive on it. So, what are the foundational attributes that gives Mutare the ability to consistently and positively change? Who are the people that make it happen? What’s in store for the future?  

Mutare was born out of change. In the mid 70’s, the telecommunication industry was beginning to be disrupted as it moved from being a commodity (“Ma Bell”) to a deregulated, free market.  This change presented the opportunity to help businesses gain control over an otherwise unchecked expense and to differentiate versus the competition. As the new telecom industry took form, entrepreneurial startups like Mutare began to emerge to develop communication software that improved communication in a way that resulted in better customer service, lower cost and differentiated responsiveness for businesses. In the late 1980’s, armed with a crack team from a prior successful business, an innate understanding of voice messaging, telecommunications and expertise in the relatively nascent field of computer programming, Tracey Powell launched Mutare.  

Mutare was off to a great start, but as a small company needed to remain relevant. Companies must evolve and change. Ben Crown, Mutare’s long-time owner and chief executive, concisely describes how Mutare stayed relevant with “We acted like a PT Boat.” For those unfamiliar with the term, a “PT boat” is short for patrol torpedo boat. These were extremely fast and maneuverable small boats associated with World War II service. Like PT Boats, Mutare quickly found white space in the market (targets) and avoided the larger and slower competitors (battleships and destroyers).  

To this day, inspiration for “targets” come from all sources. It may be a personal irritant like “I’m tired of robocalls, let’s build something to block them” (this is a typical statement from Mutare’s creative and effervescent VP of Digital Innovation, Rich Quattrocchi). In another case, a technology partner might have technology they couldn’t use and Mutare commercialized it. Or, perhaps it’s a fellow entrepreneur introducing new technology (true story: Jamie Siminoff, the founder of the Ring doorbell, introduced us to speech to text transcription). Most of the time, it’s a prospective or existing client that states “We have a problem.”

Here are some examples of the current issues our clients are asking us to resolve:
“I have multiple telephony platforms and I’d like to give my users a common messaging experience that’s better than the current workflow, less expensive, centrally managed and agnostic to the underlying technology.”  
“We can’t listen to all of the voicemails being placed by our constituents. Can you record and analyze them?”

“We are getting inundated with robo calls.” See above…we’re working on it.  
“Can you help us deliver voicemails in a secure format deemed compliant with HIPAA?”

“We have thousands of hours of audio from our call center that need to be mined for insights and put in a useable form for auditing purposes.”

We’ll solve them.

We learn about these issues by listening and, as an organization, it’s a common trait. In that regard, there’s no better listener at Mutare than Jeremy Parker, the VP of Operations. Regardless of the situation that needs to be resolved, Jeremy has a well-earned reputation of putting the client first. I admire the deep, authentic relationships Jeremy forms. If we are at an industry event, the draw to a presentation or to our booth is not a specific product. Rather, it’s the chance for our clients to see Jeremy and say “thanks” for the support he and his team have provided throughout the year. The trust earned, coupled with our expertise, lead to new features and sometimes even new products. Trust is a requirement for partnership and meaningful change.

Once engaged in an internal or joint project, speed of execution is paramount. I’ve been at the helm of technology companies and am amazed at how fast Mutare gets solid products into the market. A few years ago, Mutare launched a patient engagement platform in under 90 days. That’s unheard of. The magic happens under the leadership of Brian McDonald, VP of IT. Mutare was Brian’s first job out of college – over 28 years ago. Brian is emblematic of my view that Mutare is a “perpetual startup.” He’s a fantastic developer, but also has the work ethic, the ability to gracefully wear multiple hats, and a calm demeanor that states “it will be fine.” Who wouldn’t want that in a constantly changing startup environment?

So far, I’ve mentioned my colleagues Ben, Tracey, Rich, Brian and Jeremy in this story. Each one has over twenty-five years of tenure with the Mutare. By contrast, the average marriage in American lasts only eight years! Our original programmer, Ed O’Brien, continues to provide invaluable expertise each and every day. With Ed, this group represents 150 years of company experience! That’s atypical in today’s transactional employment environment, but it can be bedrock for a solid company foundation.  

New talent has further strengthened the company and allowed for even more rapid change.  Roger Northrop, Chief Technology Officer, is a typical Mutare “jack of all trades.” Need him to be a product manager? Troubleshoot a new install? Design a new product? No problem. Roger rolls with it and brings value to every interaction. Nothing makes me more pleased when a sales engineer at a business partner or a product manager at a technology partner glowingly mentions Roger and his abilities. Roger’s a relative newcomer – he joined ten years ago.

Sean Blair, COO, joined almost four years ago – a young buck. Bringing with him larger company operational experience, Sean leads the next generation at Mutare. Sean has put people and processes in place to support Mutare’s next phase of growth. He’s got the long view and knows how to keep it light. In addition to being a great leader, he’s also darn good at manning the BBQ at HQ.  

These people have enabled the company to navigate change for decades. The more I get to know this company, the more I’m certain it’s the greatest company you’ve never heard of. We’re now on a mission to raise Mutare’s profile. We’re doing so in a manner that respects and builds on the incredible work done by the team mentioned above and leads to healthy and sustainable growth. That’s the next chapter in our story.  

In the past year, we’ve made important hires to an already spectacular team. Brandi Mauricio, National Channel Director, is changing the way we interact with our business partners. Elizabeth Burton, Vice President of Marketing, is completely reimagining our approach to marketing (including this beautiful website). Frank Dennis, Vicki Sidor, and Andrew Reynolds bring world class consultative sales and sales management experience to help us execute on our growth strategy. There are many others, both new and old, that are committed to building a bigger and stronger Mutare.

As you get to know the new Mutare, you’ll learn that we make communications for our colleagues, customers and prospects simple, secure and effective. We provide transformative digital voice, text messaging and analytics solutions. We improve employee and customer experiences. We improve financial performance. We help all stakeholders “get the message.”  

We hope you embrace the changes we’ve made. It can be found in our new corporate identity, simplified product line-up, and new personnel. What hasn’t changed? Our culture. You’ll have the same opportunity to know us by name that has been a hallmark of our success.  

Change is in our name. As you navigate change, consider engaging us on the journey. We have the experience. We’re doing it. We will help make it easy and enjoyable for you.

I wonder what the next thirty years will bring?