10 Years of MCP: An Interview with Len Kowalski, Co-Founder
Posted on February 25, 2019 by Glenn Bischoff
Our clients’ mission has made this much more than a job
In previous posts, MCP Insights shared the memories and perspectives of two co-founders—Kevin Murray and Brian Bark—regarding the firm’s 10th anniversary, which will be celebrated throughout 2019. In this post, the third co-founder, Len Kowalski, who today is MCP’s chief operations officer, shares his thoughts.
Insights: What were the biggest challenges faced in the beginning and how were they overcome?
Len: Probably rebuilding trust with clients. We had lost touch with some of our clients at our previous company, and weren’t paying as much attention to them, because we had become too inwardly focused. When we started MCP, we got some truth-over-harmony-style feedback from some of these clients. We were told that we weren’t visiting and listening the way we used to—it was an eye-opener. That was the last time we took a client for granted and fortunately we were able to rebuild that trust.
Insights: What did you do to instill confidence that it would be a different deal with MCP?
Len: It was a matter of walking the walk. We spent a lot of time with them—the phrase came later, but we focused on delighting the client. We made sure we understood what their issues were and where they wanted to get to so that we could deliver effective solutions. We needed to be persistent—this was the genesis of the core values. We did it by honoring their work and making sure that we did what we said we were going to do.
Insights: What was the best/most-important decision made over the first 10 years?
Len: Placing our focus on the enterprise client model. We decided that we weren’t going to go after everybody—we wanted to go after the industry leaders, the thought leaders, who would value our work. Brian coined the expression, “let’s go broad and deep with them.” That gave us a lot of clarity and direction as to what our mission was going to be.
Insights: How challenging was it to be both broad and deep?
Len: It was very challenging, but to understand the full picture of what they’re trying to do—and what is standing in the way of their doing it—it is a necessity.
Insights: What was the toughest decision?
Len: Certainly, it was the decision to start MCP. Leaving the security of an organization that we had been with for many years, and steady, well-paying jobs, wasn’t easy. When you start something up, you don’t know what you don’t know. But we had faith in each other because we had worked together for so long. There were many other tough decisions that we had to make along the way, but taking the initial leap was the toughest.
Insights: What would you change if you had the chance to do it all again?
Len: We would have done this earlier. The biggest obstacle that we had in terms of accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish was time. At the stage our careers were at when we started MCP, our energy levels weren’t going to be what they used to be (laughs). It takes a lot of time and effort to build up something like MCP, and if we had started earlier, we’d be further along. On the other hand, if we had started earlier we wouldn’t have learned everything that we learned at our previous positions, which served us very well.
Insights: Over the firm’s first decade, what have you found most surprising or gratifying?
Len: The greatest surprise is the realization of just how unique and special all of this is. Especially of late, when we have been looked at by others and we’ve been looking at others out there – when we compare what we’re doing with what we’re seeing and hearing—it’s been eye-opening. For example, our embracing of meaningful core values and the client intimacy that we have. Most gratifying is our collective sense of our clients’ mission of saving lives and property, which has made this much more than a job and a paycheck. The 10th anniversary has given us the chance to take a step back and clearly see this for what it is, and what it’s worth—and it’s worth a lot.
Insights: What has surprised you most about the industry we serve?
Len: The impact of IP technology and data—it has surprised me just how significant data is becoming to public safety. But it’s going to be a challenge to integrate it into a communications center’s operations so that the data is informational and not overwhelming. You have to take an organization that has been driven by voice communications for decades, peel it back, and figure how to incorporate, trust and understand the data. This migration has been building for years, but lately it seems to be moving faster. Public safety used to push back on this, but now they’re warming up to it—that’s one factor. Another is the Internet of Things phenomenon, which is exponentially increasing the data points that public safety can leverage to improve emergency response and situational awareness. Helping our clients figure out how to deal with all that is the next big opportunity for us.
Insights: If you could name just one, which area has MCP had the greatest impact, and why?
Len: Probably our focus on, and interaction with, the industry’s thought leaders and early adopters. The early adopters conference didn’t exist a couple of years ago, but we support getting that off the ground, and not only is it gaining traction, it’s also having influence. That event, and the people who participate in it, align with our vision, which is to transform the industry and have influence over the outcomes.
Insights: Does our ability to do so stem from the fact that we are seen by many in the industries as visionaries who can develop a plan for dealing with what’s coming next?
Len: Yes, but the challenge of charting that course is that it’s constantly changing. We have to be willing to constantly reassess—what works today might not work tomorrow, because the industry is moving in an entirely new direction.