History of CJ Rhoads & ETM Associates
Entrepreneurial Start: CES
The seeds of ETM Associates were sown in the mid 80's when Chris Rhoads left teaching and started her first technology consulting firm, Computer Educational Services (CES) with her father, Martin Devlin. Her clients were mostly businesses who were trying to make sense of microcomputers. She was able to to provide superior services to the the small businesses of Berks County by learning enough about programming from her father (a systems designer since 1963) and enough about business and applications from her professors at Temple and Lehigh Universities while she worked on her Masters and Doctorate. With the mentorship of Jack Bradt, her entrepreneurship instructor, she was able to focus and grow the business. Her reputation grew along with her client base. She developed, over time, expertise in financial systems and database design. Her specialty was integrating enterprise data from all kinds of systems into Office applications for decision-making purposes. It was her desire at the time to design CES as a virtual organization so that she could serve her clients without traveling to them, but the networking technology was not yet available.
She got a huge push into the technical world of networking when Pete Musser, (then CEO of Safeguard Scientifics) took an interest in her business and gave her a prototype Novell Network. She spent several weekends figuring out how to install and use it, which led to her being called upon as a guru when a networking problem perplexed a local systems integrator. The relationship with the integrator continued as she added expertise in networking devices and protocols. Eventually the company, Hi-TECH Connections, offered to buy her consulting business, which eventually grew into a successful public company.
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Financial Executive Years
A few years later she was recruited to serve as VP of Resource Allocation in Finance under Kevin Wren at MBNA (a Fortune 500 firm at the time), now part of Bank of America. At MBNA, under the mentorship of Kevin Wren, she learned about decision-making at the top levels. She learned what it meant to prioritize six hundred million dollars worth of capital investments. She learned how to manage an international integration team. She learned how to get people from disparate departments to work together effectively. She was recruited away by First USA, which had just been purchased by Bank One, now part of JP Morgan Chase. After several years of rising success in increasing responsibilities culminating in taking over the Program Office managing all of the projects in the organization, CJ left Bank One to return to her entrepreneurial roots.
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Taking Advantage of Virtualization
It was during her years as an executive in top financial firms that CJ began to take advantage of the Internet as a virtual networking tool. She was admitted into an exclusive virtual organization for senior technology decision-makers called Cambridge Information Network (CIN), where she got to know several other senior technology decision-makers who felt much the same way that she did about technology. CJ dipped her toes in several Internet ventures (Millstar, an e-commerce software developer and Commercelinks.net, a video-conferencing startup) during the boom period, but she foresaw the bust and chose to return to her hometown in Berks County and consult.
Through all this time she had weekly met virtually with three of those decision makers she met at CIN (Joe Puglisi, Vanessa DiMauro, and Francois Dumas). They eventually became her partners in launching a new business to help CEOs and senior leaders make the right decisions. Initially, they called the company "Helium" because they envisioned a virtual support organization helping their client's systems "stay up" at all times. Eventually they chose the more descriptive Enterprise, Technology, Management Associates, Inc, now shortened to ETM Associates, Inc. The business was a part time virtual venture until 2001, when CJ focused all her energies on it. By 2002 the ETM Associates, Inc. was booming.
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Scholarly Focus on Research
Unfortunately, in November of 2002, CJ was injured in a devastating automobile accident that interfered with her memory and ability to manage projects effectively. Back and neck problems also made it impossible for her to travel or work for long periods of time. Rather than give in to despair, she took the opportunity to clarify her calling. In September of 2004, Eileen Hogan, the Dean of the College of Business prevailed upon CJ to add her expertise to the fine faculty of Kutztown University, and she joined as an Associate Professor. Her roots as an educator and researcher renewed, within five years she had published over 100 articles (four of them in highly regarded juried peer-reviewed journals) and four books. As her research took form, she began to speak at conferences, and was continually invited back. She was also asked to take over as Editor for a series of "Entrepreneur's Guide to..." books by Greenwood/Praeger publishing.
Buttressed with new-found discoveries as well as confirmation of many previously-held opinions from her research, CJ renewed her interest in finding and supporting clients. While she continued her researching and writing, she began to gather trusted experts from her many years of experience. Eventually she rekindled the marketing efforts of ETM Associates, Inc. and began focusing more on sharing (rather than just clarifying) the rules and guidelines that will enable increased profits and goal achievement for organizations everywhere. Her most recent focus has been on guiding companies through bad economic times, and she has been researching companies that thrived during the past recessions and depressions to identify the factors that enabled them to grow.
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