Developing digital solutions that engage users while charting the future of healthcare, finance, and other specialized industries
Chris Cera is CEO of Arcweb Technologies, a Philadelphia-based digital design and development firm that creates custom technology solutions for organizations in specialized industries such as healthcare, financial services, e-commerce, and transportation. The company’s service capabilities encompass digital strategy, web and mobile applications, managed services, software engineering, user experience design, and more. Clients have included Penn Medicine, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, CapitalOne, and dozens of others.
EDWIN WARFIELD: Can you tell us about your background and what led you to start the company and become active in this space?
CHRIS CERA: I grew up in Delaware County. I went to Upper Darby High School, and went to Drexel in 1996, so I’ve been in this area for over 20 years. I worked at GlaxoSmithKline, which is where I had my co-op education credits taken. I worked at Glaxo for two-and-a-half years on a part-time and full-time basis. I worked in drug discovery, and that was kind of where I got started in the healthcare space. I went on to work for Traffic.com and a startup called Drakontas. In 2007, I finally had the confidence to co-found my own company, which was called Vuzit, and it was a document management software company. We raised money locally from Ben Franklin and Robin Hood Ventures and a bunch of local angels, and eventually sold the company to Accusoft, a Florida-based document management software company. I started Arcweb before the actual transaction was sold, but roughly in 2011.
Q. What are some of the major lessons you learned along the way?
A. My whole business career, I’d say, has been more failure than success. So much about failure I’ve learned more so in my last business than in this one, because now in this one, when I fail, I just kind of shrug my shoulders and move on, whereas like failure in my other business would be like losing nights of sleep. I’d wake up and like my mouth would be raw from just like grinding my teeth so much—that’s how nervous I was. In an environment where failure is constant, and chaos can be constant, remaining calm is very important.
To give a more concrete recent example, I’ve tried multiple different ways of having a sales strategy at my company. I’d say I’m on strategy number three. Literally, the last two haven't worked, and every one of those that hasn’t worked is literally at a year of my life. I’m 39 now. Strategy 1.0, I was 36. Now I’m 39, and I’m still trying to figure it out. I can argue that I’ve been spending three years on the same stupid thing! But I don’t look at it that way. I’m learning and I’m having a good time, and I have an amazing team that I enjoy working with.
Q. How would you describe your leadership style?
A. I think my leadership style is a good amount of hands-on and then a good amount of hands-off. I had one person who reported to me and said “I’ve never had a boss who didn’t care about anything I’m doing,” and I kind of chuckle at that because I care deeply about everything that she was talking about, but I really wasn’t looking at any of the minutiae of what she was doing and I felt like just more focused on the more important points. But I would say I helicopter in—to use the pejorative phrase—and go super deep on something very technical and where everyone is telling me, “get back up there where you belong,” so I do think there are times when I do go in, when I’m very much like, “No, it’s got to be this way,” but then most of the time, unless I’m invoked, I’m pretty hands-off. People that report to me have very few KPIs and so, therefore, they can just focus on those and we cannot focus on the 20 intermediate KPIs, and just kind of assume and focus on the end game.
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