Poverty pushes Plesko to prosper
For 2005 MBA alumnus Todd Plesko, growing up in a family that struggled financially was a powerful motivator that pushed him to success in business.
Photo of Indiana Tech Alum, Todd Plesko
"For some people, living on government assistance becomes a life pattern handed down to future generations, but for others it is a motivator," Todd said. "I guess I am the latter, thank God!" This drive to leave poverty behind and gain the resources necessary to enjoy more of what life had to offer led Todd to work hard in school. Todd believed education would become the key that would unlock the financial stability he sought, so he pursued a college degree. After graduating with his undergraduate degree from Central Michigan University, he planned to start a business in order to gain the resources and money that had eluded him as a child. His entrepreneurial passion was born from the mantra, "When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose."
Todd started his first company in the computer field, but this initial attempt at launching a new business did not end up as he had hoped. Fortunately, this early failure did not deter him. In fact, it just increased his hunger to become a successful entrepreneur. Soon after the demise of his first start-up company, Todd was working for a large, local physicians’ office when he discovered the great need for the healthcare industry to provide turnkey healthcare IT services. He wasted no time in writing out a strategic plan, and to increase his chances for a better result with this venture, Todd enrolled at Indiana Tech to seek his master’s degree. About a year after graduating in 2005 with an MBA, Todd founded the high-tech, information technology services company, triPRACTIX, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
[As an aside: The creative mind and talented skills of our very own Indiana Tech webmaster, Pete Nowak, were instrumental in the early marketing, branding, and website creation of triPRACTIX.]
They say "third time’s the charm," but for Todd, all he needed was a second chance for the "charm" to bring success. triPRACTIX saw rapid growth which led to new innovations in healthcare IT security and electronic health records.
A small group of talented innovators working at triPRACTIX began collaborating to research and develop a way to interface electronic health records with phone systems using voice over internet protocol (VoIP). The idea was to make life easier for the doctors and nurses who would benefit from using this new way of accessing information. While the technology existed for records to be updated and retrieved electronically, many in the healthcare industry were not taking advantage of the system simply because they weren’t used to using computers.
"We believed that we could trigger a context-rich alert on the phone that nurses and doctors would like, interact with the phone, and it would improve their workflow and make them happy," Todd stated. Health professionals were much more accustomed to using phones, so it was a more comfortable tool through which they could access this new software.
From this research and development, a new product called Extension was born. Soon after the release of the first version of this product, another new technology was taking off – smart phones. The advent of the smart phone hit at a perfect time for Todd and this new Extension product. "Doctors and nurses are using smart phones for practicing medicine," Todd shared, "And we're at the epicenter of that trend and the trend of merging corporate phone systems with smart phones for things like text messaging." Extension was such a strong product that it justified the founding of a spin-off company by the same name – Extension, Inc.
Todd and Extension have chosen to partner with some of the largest healthcare vendors in the world to bring more awareness and clinical relevancy to this product. The company has recently increased its sales force from four to ten and the overall staff has just reached fifty people. In the next year, the hope is to double the staff to 100 workers as an additional 130 hospitals are expected to become new accounts for Extension, Inc. For future growth, Todd expects to expand to other markets outside of the healthcare industry in 2013.
In addition to being motivated by a childhood with little money, Todd loves to provide opportunities for himself and others to grow personally and professionally. "Nothing is better than hiring someone other than promoting them – it truly is the best feeling I get in my job," stated Todd enthusiastically. He receives great satisfaction from empowering others through giving them greater responsibilities and even making some owners in the business. Another drive is to help provide a better life for his wife and children.
Because education has been such a key to opening the doors of success and financial gain, he hopes to one day provide a scholarship fund to help poor, disadvantaged children like he was. Todd says, "That is a lifelong dream that I hope to achieve in the coming years."
With Todd’s ambition and drive motivated by his desire to provide better opportunities for others, this dream is sure to become a reality in the near future.
Todd’s Tips and Tidbits:
"If you're an entrepreneur by heart, do it early; don’t wait until you have too much to lose."
Two favorite books of all time:
Crossing the Chasm - "I run our entire business off of the principles in this book."
The Omnivore's Dilemma - "A deep dive into the American food system."
Top three keys to achieving your goals/dreams?
- Deliver a product or service that fills a growing need – sounds simple, but it’s not.
- Cash – have it or find it. If you don’t have it lined up properly, you will certainly fail. I’ve had investors influence my every move based on the availability of cash, some of them not very forthcoming or scrupulous. Find good investors that are aligned with your vision.
- People – empower your managers, find smarter people than you, allow them to be fulfilled in their role and they will work hard (and smart) for the organization.
For more information about Extension, Inc., please visit their web site at www.OpenTheRedBox.com.