It took a few rounds of being downsized to help Joel Hynes find just the right size business opportunity.
That realization didn’t come until after the eventual founder of PC Portal in downtown Wausau kept finding himself the odd man out in corporate restructures through his career of computer architecture and security.
After the first, in 2002 in Milwaukee, a relationship he’d fostered through consulting work for a developer in Wausau brought him continued work and a relocation up north. But a subsequent full-time gig in Wausau in 2005 resulted in a buyout and another downsizing after just two years.
“It was a slap in the face,” he said. “A wakeup call. My wife (Beth) and I came up here, and I had customers I couldn’t leave high and dry. We had seven mouths to feed, so we had to make a decision.”
Stints in the financial and healthcare sectors from 2008-15 eventually led him to a serious sitdown with Beth in early 2016.
“There was nothing that said we can’t do this,” he said. Health insurance was a major consideration, but Beth Hynes’ career in the healthcare sector dialed her into affordable options. Joel Hynes was able to increase his attention on PC Portal with virtually no additional overhead, as he’d been running it on the side since the early 2000s.
Hynes’ business is one based on relationships. And that first one, which helped keep him afloat, led to a healthy working give-andtake that has come full circle.
“He does work for me today,” Hynes said. So he gradually took on more work as PC Portal evolved into a full-fledged managed-IT multi-service provider. Today, Hynes focuses on cloud computing, web services, and general consulting.
One of the lessons Hynes learned from his professional adversity was the value in economic diversity. His client list includes law firms, retailers, and financial and equity firms; primarily entities that employ anywhere from 1 to 500.
“Working with” is key verbiage to Hynes, who strongly encourages any of his four fulltime employees who come into contact with a potential client to underscore that word “partnership.”
“It was a lot of late nights and 60- to 70- hour weeks,” he said of painstakingly building his full-time venture. “Really, from the mid2000s to the past year.”
If Hynes harbors any bitterness about being ushered out the door, he conceals it well.
“It’s been a blessing,” he said of converting to the ownership side of the desk. “It’s allowed me to make the decisions I’ve made, and learning that there’s a definite value I can provide.”
Hynes’ marketing efforts connect him to the community in ways he may not have when he worked for someone else.
He’s organized outings for clients to the Wisconsin Woodchucks and last Christmas treated clients to cupcakes from Sweet Lola’s
— a premium cupcake bakery in downtown Wausau. PC Portal has sponsored Little League baseball teams, complete with pizza parties. Through Kiwanis STEM programs, and being active in the family’s church and parochial schools, Hynes has demonstrated and explained to students the inner workings of computers.
That type of values-alignment is important to Hynes as it underscores how he seeks out clients and potential employee talent similarly; simply a search for passion.
“I don’t find it all that challenging,” he said of trying to hire during record-low unemployment. “You have to know where to look. I’m not a huge proponent of LinkedIn and job sites. Passion is the most important thing. If the passion is there, I’ll sit and train you.”
Hynes has set up booths at Wausau Region Chamber events and sent direct-mailers, but these seemingly analog approaches in a digital age and industry don’t just underscore an emphasis on the value of personal contact.
They seem to be working. PC Portal saw sales increase by more than 100 percent from 2017 to 2018 and nearly reached 90 percent the year prior. Profits jumped 150 percent from 2017-18, also clearing 100 percent in 2016-17.
The company’s success didn’t go unnoticed as PC Portal earned a nomination for the chamber’s Small Business of the Year-B2B award category just this spring.
He’ll be the first to tell you, it takes a community to raise a barn.
“You can’t do everything yourself,” he said, sitting across a narrow office from a photo of his family. “You have to have a support system. Without it, you’ll fall on your face. I’m very thankful.”