Jim Raines is founder, president and chief technical officer of Synergetics DCS, Inc., which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Raines is a Starkville native who earned a degree in management information systems from Mississippi State University. Synergetics which was named one of America’s 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in 2011 and 2009 by Inc. Magazine. The company has offices in Mississippi and Alabama and approximately 60 employees.
What does Synergetics do?
We do a little bit of everything in the IT realm. We do hardware sales and service. We sell PCs, servers, routers, switches … And we sell and install network cabling … and install wireless networks. We have network engineers who may be certified in Cisco or Microsoft, and they’re installing servers and making the infrastructure work.
We do training. We have a department that mostly works with K-12 education, and they teach teachers how to implement the technology that we’re putting in the classroom.
We do web development, like writing database applications.
We do a lot of IP telephony – making the telephones work over a computer network. For instance, (a company that has) offices in Jackson, Miami, New York can work on one phone system. It works over their internet connection to each other. They have four-digit dialing that can route (someone from Jackson) to Miami.
Also, we do a lot of security, CCTV.
We deal with K-12, small- to medium-sized businesses and government.
Synergetics has made the Inc. 5000 list and experienced a lot of growth.
We’ve experienced a lot of growth. In 2009, we were at $11.8 million, in 2010 we were $14.8 million, and in 2011 we were $17.5 million. It is a whole lot of growth. Our revenue goal for 2012 is $25 million.
To what do you attribute that growth?
Much of our continued growth is achieved through maintaining and building upon our existing relationships. We have experienced significant growth in new markets such as Alabama and higher education. We also continually add new products and services that mesh with our customer needs, such as security products, newer IP phone technologies and interactive classroom equipment. We expect to continue this growth in 2012 and beyond.
Really, it’s customer service. Customer service sounds like a cliche, but we work like we’re employees of (another business). So if I’m working for the Mississippi Business Journal as an IT consultant, your problems are our problems. So we might start working with you in one area, but we really take initiative. Before long we’re doing a whole lot of different things for you that aren’t related to what we started working on.
You didn’t grow through advertising?
We’ve put billboards up before and did radio ads, and all they did was attract (entities that were) not really our target market. … We do Yellow Page ads, direct mail, e-mail blasts, social media … but we didn’t for years. It was just word of mouth.
Tell me about the start of Synergetics.
I founded Synergetics in 1992. I had $200 in a checking account and came up with a name and started working. The way I came up with the idea is I worked for the federal government – for the United States Forest Service. Our research unit would get all of these pilot projects … Someone would say, “We want to implement this.” And we would have to figure out how to best do that, basically with a blank slate.
I thought people in businesses really need this type of service. Because at the time people didn’t have computers on everybody’s desks, and it was about the time when people were using computer resources to actually manage their business. I thought, the things I’m doing for these researchers, other people need, too.
I guess I was at the right place at the right time and with a good work ethic. We treat people fairly. I started in 1992 and have been profitable every year.
So you are a fan of college co-op programs.
I would really highly recommend (co-oping). I co-oped in Starkville with the Forest Service, so I had the same job all the time. They made an exception for me, and I co-oped year-round. So I was in school and working the entire time. It gave me a lot of practical experience. … As I was in school learning about technology, I was already doing a lot of it, so I could apply the principles we were being taught. It was very helpful.
What is the fastest growing segment of your business?
Security is growing very quickly.
What has been the hardest thing?
For 10 years I was working 17-hour days. That was hard, but hard for me now is that the company is so much bigger than I ever anticipated it being. So I don’t have my hand in every single thing now.
Goals for expansion?
The fairly short-term goal is that we want to be a Southeastern company. We have a territory in Alabama now, so we have had dedicated people there for about the past year and a half. We want to saturate the state and also expand in higher ed.
How did you come up with the name Synergetics?
It’s derived from the word synergy, which means two entities working together to create a force that neither could achieve on its own. The whole idea behind that is I’m an IT person. You’re running your business. You know all about your business. I’m real good at this. I can’t come in and dictate to you what’s going to make your business run better. We have to do it together. You have to tell me your goals, and together we’ll figure it out and get you the right technology and map it to your goals. In our corporate culture, we really indoctrinate our employees with (the philosophy of) making our customers’ problems our problems.
Favorite food: Authentic Italian
A favorite movie: “The Shawshank Redemption”
Favorite book: “Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life” by Spencer Johnson
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info