ANN ARBOR — Online Tech, with plans to become the largest data center operator in the Midwest, prides itself on having redundant systems for everything their clients need. That now includes two CEOs.
Online Tech founder Yan Ness and partner Mike Klein, taking a five-year working relationship to the next level, are now sharing CEO duties as the company expands across the Midwest.
“Many companies are built around one leader at the head of the pack,” Ness said. “We want to build a stronger, more resilient company — with exceptional people delivering exceptional experiences for our clients. We believe partnerships that encourage everyone to contribute their very best are far more powerful than packs where everyone is struggling to be on top.’’
Building on the company’s “win-win” mantra as it enters new markets in 2013, Klein will primarily focus outward on marketing, sales, and building relationships while Ness will focus on technology, operations, and management.
“The Co-CEO arrangement gives us two different backgrounds and two different sets of experiences to draw on as we continue our rapid growth,” said Klein, who has served as the CEO of two fast growing high tech companies before joining Online Tech. He invested in Online Tech in 2008 and joined the company as President and COO.
Together with Ness, the co-CEOs have more than tripled the business over the last four years.
The two are quick to say that co-CEOs wouldn’t work for most companies or with most business leaders. The arrangement works for them because of their long working relationship and their complementary strengths. They’ve learned over time that they agree on 90 percent of the key decisions and work well together “off line’’ on any differences when they occur.
History is filled with famous business partnerships (including the founders Hewlett-Packard, Warner Brothers, Ben & Jerry, Smucker’s, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin). Ness and Klein own equal shares of the rapidly growing Online Tech.
Stephen Ferris, a University of Missouri finance professor, studied companies with c\Co-CEOs and found many benefits, arguing the arrangement can be “ideal in many situations,” most notably when the Co-CEOs have complementary skills.
Ness, who has also lectured at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, noted many co-CEO arrangements have failed because co-CEOs are often competing to see who will emerge stronger. He said the arrangement works at Online Tech because they work together as a team, each benefiting equally and recognizing each other’s unique perspectives and strengths.
As a UM swimmer, Ness said he learned the glory of being “an individual racing against the clock’’, but it was while playing water polo for UM and at the national level “where I learned the power of teamwork. I felt more accomplished as an individual swimming, but I preferred playing water polo because of what we can achieve together.’’
Klein added: “The CEO role is a pretty lonely job when you have no peer to run things by. There are some problems and some decisions that you can’t discuss with the rest of the team or your board of directors. The combination of two experienced CEOs gives us an unusual advantage — the ability to bounce ideas off a peer that has the same stake in the outcome. We approach things differently, but each bring something to the table that makes decisions better informed with peer review at the highest level.’’
Also, Online Tech is hosting a three-part series of interactive, educational disaster recovery Webinars spanning several weeks in January and February 2013. This Webinar series is ideal for any organization interested in IT disaster recovery and business continuity planning. In the first Webinar, Online Tech systems support manager Steve Aiello, CISSP, will cover an overview of business continuity and disaster recovery with real company examples as well as the benefits of developing a business continuity plan. Business Continuity in Lean Times will be held Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m. Eastern time.
Online Tech’s Midwest data centers assure mission critical applications are always available, comply with HIPAA, PCI, SSAE 16, and SOC 2 standards, and continue working after a disaster. For more information, call (877) 740-5028, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.onlinetech.com.