Interview With Justin Cowan – Founder of Element Fusion and Light CMS
Justin runs Element Fusion, one of the leading Web Development companies in the United States, and has a lot to share about how he grew his company to such a success. Element Fusion’s flagship product is a Content Management System called LightCMS, a CMS built for web designers and agencies that has become one of the premier white-label hosted CMS solutions on the web.1) Tell us about your main project,
Over the years, our company has stayed true to its premium web design roots. However, in 2005 we started our software products division that propelled our company to the next level. Our content management system software is in use in all 50 US states and over 30 international countries. Our business has grown to 25 professionals and from our original 100 sq feet of space we now have our name on the building.
2) You run both a software and a design company, which side of a website do you think is more important to get right and why?
Both are equally important. In fact, here at Element Fusion we educate our clients on the “big 3” of a successful website: form, function, & marketability. Each of them are vital to having success. You have to have premium design (form), great content and interactivity (function through the CMS), and good search engine optimization and marketing (marketability).
3) Tell us about your flagship product, LightCMS , what are the benefits of this software to webmasters and designers?
LightCMS was born out of demand from other designers and agencies wanting to use our CMS for their clients. We took it to the next level by making LightCMS a fully white-label product that designers and agencies can brand as their own. We take care of all of the hassles of the servers, database, administration, setup, patching, new features … etc. They get a rock-solid CMS they can brand as their own.
4) On LightCMS you make it really easy to implement features such as Image Gallery’s, Calendars and ways to quickly build forums, do you think by making it really easy for none tech savvy entrepreneurs has been key to your success?
Yes. In fact, that was our primary goal with our product. In the CMS market, you have hundreds of choices. You can go open source, more features, less features, lean towards blogging, etc… However, what we learned from our thousands of clients on our service side is that the end user — the content manager — wants something that’s dead simple to use. They care more about how quickly they can make an update versus an advanced section with 10 tabs and 30 rows of check box controls. They want to login, click, and edit.
I believe we’ve achieved a system that has a perfect blend of a powerful back end with full XHTML/CSS control for the web design professional and a nice, clean, simple interface for the end-user to manage and edit their site.
5) Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?
I do think it is something within you. There are a lot of rewards that come from owning and running your own business, but there are just as many headaches and nightmares. In the end, it has to be a drive you have deep down. I think there is confusion that to be rich or to make a lot of money you have to be an entrepreneur and I don’t believe that’s true. You can make amazing money working for a someone else and it’s just as easy to be dirt poor as your own boss. In the end, it’s something you have to love doing and it’s not for everyone.
6) Is there anyone that you look up to and model yourself on? (You can name more than one)
Overall, I’d have to say Theodore Roosevelt. If you spend a few minutes reading about his life, it’s hard not to be impressed. If we look at business specifically, I love reading about all the top tech CEO’s and learning how and why they do things. I don’t feel that I’d be true to the unique DNA of Element Fusion if I ever copied what someone else does (because it probably wouldn’t work anyway), but it’s always nice learning what worked for them.
7) Do you have any favorite business related or entrepreneur related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
I love reading business books but at the same time I don’t believe they can ever replace the experience you get “playing the game.” If I had to pick a few that help you think clearly on where you want to go as an entrepreneur it would be the time tested books of “Good to Great” and for leadership “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.”
8) What is the best advice you have ever been given?
To be honest, just work hard. Passed on from my parents, a hard work ethic is the backbone of success.
9) What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Find a mentor or coach with proven success that you can go to for advice, and don’t give up or lose the drive. You’re going to encounter tough, hard times, but stick it out. If you ever come to a point where you don’t love what you’re doing, it’s time to change. Second, if you’re going to partner with someone else, find someone amazing. You’re going to be together for a long time so you better find the best person you can.
10) If the Internet had not existed – what do you think you would be doing?
My greatest passion comes from watching my business grow. I love the growth aspect of business and building something greater than myself. I absolutely love tech and web development, but if that wasn’t around, I’d probably still have a business selling something.
11) Have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with us about your future plans / goals / lifetime goals?
Element Fusion was built to last. We didn’t start with VC funding or a business plan that had an exit strategy 3-5 years out. We’ve grown it organically from our own profits for almost 10 years. We’re debt free and stronger than ever. As a business, we’re going to keep growing and adding new customers that need a professional website or content management system. Over the years I’m sure our software products team will come out with even more amazing products that expand our market share.
As for me, I’m just enjoying every minute of Element Fusion with my focus always on our vision goals for the current year.