Mike and Leanne Schmidt’s partnership isn’t limited to business. The young professionals married in 2011 while Mike was working for Microsoft in Leanne’s hometown of Seattle, Wash.
Mike was employed in software development, and he and his new bride moved to Austin, Texas, and started a business with Mike’s former boss before making their way to Colorado Springs. Mike had once called the Springs home thanks to his father, who was stationed here while serving in the U.S. Air Force.
It was here the two eventually launched Springs Technology, a managed services provider, and welcomed their daughter, Cora. Today, Leanne provides all the administrative services, networking and client relations, while Mike primarily works in the field, keeping networks running.
Leanne spoke with the Business Journal this week about her family, her business and how Colorado Springs — and pot roast — have grown on her.
I’m from Washington. I met my husband there and we were married in 2011. We promptly agreed we didn’t want to establish ourselves in Seattle because of the weather, the traffic and the cost of living.
His boss from his time at Microsoft was working in Austin, and there was an opportunity to do software development as a full-time job, live near his former boss and see if we could spin up a managed IT services company. … We moved to Austin … and became partners in 2012. There we found a large biopharmaceutical company out of San Francisco looking for a gun for hire. That gave us all the full-time work we needed to be able to leave Austin whenever we wanted. In the summer of 2014 we came here — because there are no mountains in Austin.
How has your business grown?
We saw the writing on the wall with the biopharmaceutical company. They were taking what we were doing and outsourcing it. We worked on finding more business here, but it was a slow process. By the end of 2015, our partner had his own ideas for growth, and it was time to separate. There were no delusions. We’d been here a year networking, trying to find business. Nobody was clamoring to sign up for IT services, but we really wanted to continue on our own. In 2016, it was all about us doing this — just the two of us. By the end of 2016 we were profitable and, here we are in 2017, trying to see if we can grow.
Do you have a business background?
Sort of. I don’t have a business degree or a college degree. My primary training was piano performance and piano education. All through high school I taught piano, played piano — that was my passion.
In 2005, I took over a full-time studio with 50 students in a tiny town in eastern Washington. I did that for a couple years and was successful and growing it. But I realized after a year that this was the top of the corporate ladder. So in 2007 I closed shop and found a job doing office management and finance back in Seattle. I also took a retail job at Starbucks and discovered I could be really good at sales, but there was no payout benefit. … I then took a job in commission-only sales selling business training.
Do you think of yourself as an entrepreneur?
I have an entrepreneurial bug, and I blame my grandparents and my aunt. My grandfather got out of his service after World War II. He took over a cabinet shop that’s now being passed on to his grandson. … My aunt started at a business in Seattle, a direct mail house, where she was just a receptionist. She moved up to own the company.
How do you find clients?
Everyone wants to know how people find clients so they can duplicate the process, but our process has been really random. A year ago we presented at 1 Million Cups and there happened to be someone in the audience who had an app idea she wanted developed. I’m also part of the [Business Network International]. As networking groups go, one good thing is it fosters really deep relationships. The key is people getting to know and trust you. But for you to try a new IT provider, and let me into your system and passwords and your computers — people stay with bad IT providers for a long time. It’s like a bad dating relationship; at least it’s familiar. Change is so painful. n CSBJ