This month, Joe Cooperrider marked his 27th work anniversary with Silverware. During his more than two decades with the company, Joe has seen significant changes in the technology industry. Through the years, he’s worked closely with Sara and the Silverware team to help implement innovations and take on new tasks. We recently sat down with Joe to learn more about his experience.
Tell us about when you first joined Silverware, how did you learn the company was hiring, what were you hired to do?
I was working for a small company in the Scottsdale Airpark as an IT Manager/Foxpro developer. I had been there for about 4 years and the company was not growing, so I started looking around. I found a job listing in the classified ads (it was 1994 – way before online job listings existed). Silverware was looking to hire a Foxpro programmer. Coincidentally, in my job at the Airpark, I used a third-party communications library that was written by a company called Silverware, but discovered it wasn’t the same one. Sara called me for a quick phone interview and then had me come in for a personal interview. I showed up for the interview wearing a suit! Fortunately, the interview went well, and she hired me as the new Foxpro developer. My first day on the job was March 14, 1994. At the time, the company consisted of Sara, a programmer (Mark) and his wife (Connie) who worked as the receptionist.
My first project at Silverware was with Circle K corporate. They had a Foxpro application in all their stores and needed support. I worked onsite with them for 3-months. Once that project was complete, Sara had me back at the office working on different applications.
How has your position with Silverware evolved and what is your role today?
Sometime around 1995, I went to Sara and said, “This Internet thing looks like it’s going to be big. Maybe we should look into it.” She was hesitant at first but let me run with it. I started by setting up a small web server in our office. This was way before Google, so I had to read books to make it all work! We started doing simple websites for some of our existing clients. About a year later, I was on vacation with a friend of mine who is in the hotel management business. We were sitting by the pool in Dana Point, CA on a 4th of July weekend. He asked me what it would take to put together a website for that hotel. I told him that I had no idea, but I would make him a deal. We would do a website for that hotel for free if he paid me to do websites for some of his other hotels. So, we started web design and hosting for hotels.
Fast forward a few years. Sara asked me if I could create an add-in for the accounting package that we were selling where customers could log in to a website with their customer number and password and view their open orders and invoices. I got to work and made it happen. We expanded on that to create a full e-commerce integration (Elevator) into the accounting package that we sold. It started out slow and then picked up. At one time, we had some large customers such as Honeywell, Caterpillar and the Smithsonian. I managed that side of the business for many years. That was over 20 years ago, and we still have several customers using our Elevator integration!
In 2015 (I think that was the right year), Silverware bought a company in Seattle. I was unofficially managing the IT aspects of the company, but we needed to make it official, so I was promoted to IT Director. I’m responsible for anything IT related.
How has the company changed over the years?
We have grown considerably from a total of 4 in 1994 to over 30 employees. We went from a small single office in Phoenix to a large office in Phoenix and Seattle as well as consultants and developers all over the country.
What do you enjoy most about working at Silverware?
Where do I start! What I enjoy most about Silverware is the company culture. We are like one big family. Not only do I know all the employees, but I also know most of their families. I’ve spent time with several of my coworkers outside of work. I have attended their weddings and watched their families grow.
I also like the fact that if you have an idea like “this Internet thing”, you are encouraged to speak up to share ideas and often given the freedom to run with it.
What advice would you give someone beginning their career today?
I have worked in large corporations where you are just an employee, as well as small companies. I feel there is much more diversity in the smaller companies. Learn as much as you can and remember that there is always more to learn.
When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing to relax?
When I’m not working, you will find me officiating weddings, making pens, 3-D printing or enjoying my motorhome. Oh, and I also enjoy spending time with my wonderful wife of 42 years! I probably should have listed that first.
Joe Cooperrider’s experience in the industry and history with the company represent some of the key factors that distinguish Silverware Inc. from its competitors. Good business is about building strong relationships and partnerships. If your company is in need of a good ERP partner, let’s talk.