After 20 years, Culverhouse continues riding technological wave
by Mark Andrews
Oct 28, 2012 | 1526 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For Jeff Culverhouse, starting a technology company in the early 1990s not only meant taking a financial risk, but testing the waters of a new and growing industry as well. A 1972 graduate of Cartersville High School, Culverhouse operates Systems Conversion, which not only provides its services to local manufacturers, but interested businesses worldwide.

Name: Jeff Culverhouse

Education: Bachelors of Business Administration, Accounting at West Georgia College

Family: Wife Jessica, kids Morgan and Ashley and dog Roxie

What encouraged you to begin Systems Conversion?

A. Fear, plain and simple. In 1992 when I started Systems Conversion (SCL), I was unemployed and having trouble finding a job. The economy was in the toilet much like today. I think fear can be a great motivator if you are able to manage the fear. It’s a great help in forcing you to step outside your comfort zone. Like most folks in my generation, I was taught to go to college and study hard so I could get a job working for someone else. Being an entrepreneur was not in my makeup at the time.

I had a background in manufacturing with experience in all areas of accounting. My jobs for the various companies I worked for after college included putting in enterprise software. This is the overall software that runs a manufacturing company. I had worked for an enterprise software vendor after the manufacturing companies.

And then, I was unemployed. Fear made me work my network and find a consulting gig on the software I knew best. The rest is history. People are always asking me what we do. We implement software for manufacturing companies. Plain and simple.

What are some of the responsibilities, risks and the bright sides of being an entrepreneur in the constantly changing field of technology?

A. The risks are many. Clients are more demanding in light of the economy. I work mainly with medium to large-sized manufacturers, those with $150 million to over a billion dollars in annual sales. The larger companies are typically easier to work with, but everyone is running lean these days.

The technology I work with is older technology but works well. It’s a very mature industry now and there are fewer manufacturers using the software due to acquisitions and mergers.

We are sort of the last man standing in our niche. There are still a few hundred companies using this product in the US.

After the “dot com” boom, many of the smaller and self-run technology companies have struggled. How has Systems Conversion kept its customer base and attracted new customers?

A. SCL is a company of best practices and documented methodologies. We always document what we do that works well so we replicate our success. That’s why manufacturers come to us — confidence in success. We’ve never had a failed project in over 20 years of business. Our clients include Robert Bosch, Godiva Chocolates, Akzo Nobel, Alcan Cable, Woods manufacturing (Ranger Boats), Toyota Boshoku, Husqvarna and many more. We’ve worked with around 250 manufacturing firms over the years. Our reputation for excellence and honesty keeps us going.

Being part of the first wave of technological entrepreneurs in the Internet age, how do you see the Internet playing a role in business in the future?

A. We were actually pioneers in remote education using the Internet as well as having a remote workforce. Our client base is worldwide and we do a lot of work, especially programming over the Internet.

In the early days of SCL there was no World Wide Web and we were on the bleeding edge. My old partner Jamie Harris made a comment the other day, “Today’s generation knows no other world than one with the Internet. To them it’s always been there and everything is wireless. Being tethered to a PC for Internet connectivity is foreign to them.”

I think a lot depends on whether the government keeps their hands out of the Internet or not.

Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?

A. Anywhere my friends and family are. I am blessed to have so many friends in this world that care about me.

What is your greatest achievement?

A. I have two: number one is my wife and kids. Having such a great family is easily my greatest achievement.

The last is my company being named by INC magazine to the INC500, which is a list of the 500 fastest growing privately held companies in the U.S. I remember walking through the airport and seeing that particular INC magazine and knowing my company was featured in it. That was cool.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

A. I’m a two time 4-H Master — state winner — and a national winner as well. 4-H was a huge influence in my life and I’m actively involved in the Bartow County 4-H Club. It’s one of the best 4-H programs in the state.

Do you have a personal philosophy?

A. I have several:

“If it’s not in writing it doesn’t exist.”

“Honesty is the best policy.”

“Always admit your mistakes before someone else points them out.”

“You can learn something from everyone, bad and good.”