Globe: The recession’s in the rear-view mirror — fingers crossed — did any good come out of it for you?
Pfeil: Pretty much every technology system we’ve replaced in the last five years, from front-end scanners to payroll systems. It really gives us an edge in controlling, whether it’s payroll or products on the shelves. We’ve gotten better at the business because it’s a poor economy, and in order to keep our profit margins intact we had to operate as a better business, and that’s been a big plus.
Tuchen: I came [to Rapid7] in mid-2008, and of course in September, October, choose your favorite day, the world fell apart. We just completely revamped how we did a whole lot of things. We brought in processing systems and metrics, we brought a whole new exec team in, and really put the foundation that’s driven the growth for the next stage of the company.
Bulman: I came on as CEO of Jack Conway in year three of the six-year downturn. Our companies are all very unique, but hearing your stories, it’s very much the same thing. Basically the expression “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger“ absolutely fits here because we had no choice.
We had to react quickly. I had to be able to respond with cuts and more efficiencies and consolidations. Consumers were shifting their way of doing business to the Internet and that allowed us to cut back in some of our print advertising, which was overwhelming — our hugest expense besides payroll. We revamped our website. There was a real shift in how we did things over the last few years, and it’s working.
Globe: If there is another recession, how will that affect your company, and how will you respond?
Pfeil: We try not to think about that too much. We try to be positive. But if there was another recession, we’d continue to tweak the model. In many respects, it may be an opportunity. It may drive people to eat at home, which is a great opportunity for us.
Bulman: We’re positioned at this point. We’ve got ourselves working so efficiently.
Tuchen: We’re fortunate to be in a market that has different dynamics. What’s happening in the [online] security market is there are so many different attacks out there. People are finding that they have to spend money on security.
Even at the depths of the recession — which I would have put as 2009 — that was our slowest growth year in the company history, and we grew in the low 30 percent range.
Globe: Does it feel like 1999 again? We’re approaching a tech bubble, and one day we wake up and “poof”?
Tuchen: Having been in tech in 1999, I knew what that felt like. There was a feeling that if it had the word “technology” in it, or, even more, “Internet” in it, it must be good, and valuations were incredible. Even with no evidence of an actual business or no evidence of a plan where you can take it, all kinds of crazy stuff would happen.
What we see in the market now is actually a very discriminating market. For companies with high growth and a disruptive business model, there are great valuations. On the other hand, for companies that don’t have that, they’re struggling to get a lot of respect in the investment community.
Globe: Carol, your father and company founder Jack Conway recently passed away. What will the next half century be like for the family business?
Bulman: My first job with my dad was when I was 14. I learned a lot about my dad working with him. I probably learned more after he died. Reading just the volume of notes, e-mails, Facebook postings — just incredible accolades of who he was as a person. Not necessarily as a business person — as a person. And I learned a lot about business by reading those notes.
The key here is, it’s not all just about numbers. It’s about their families and listening to them and valuing people’s opinions, and doing the right thing for your community.
I have the great opportunity of taking this company that he’s built and bringing it more into the modern age. I’ve got a number of my family members involved, and it’s great to be an independent real estate company. There are few of us left of our size. And we bring something special to the market, and that’s my plan — to continue bringing that something special to the market.
Globe: Many companies want to be on our Top Places list, which we started in 2008. Roche Bros. has been on the list all five years. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a company that wants to get on the list?
Pfeil: It’s exactly what Carol just said. Roche Bros. is celebrating 60 years in business, our cofounder, Pat Roche, just passed away recently, much like Carol’s. It is largely about the person, not the business. That feeling that we talked about, that’s really special, and it’s part of belonging to something that’s more than a business. It’s almost like a family.Continued...