‘Business was always a way of serving people’
Ryan Barton, the 2022 NH Tech Alliance Entrepreneur of the Year, measures business success
Ryan Barton, founder and CEO of Mainstay Technologies, holds fast to the business practice of so-called “conscious capitalism.”
A measure of business success, according to the concept advanced in 2009 by Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey and marketing professor Raj Sisodia, is more than profits and the value of stockholders’ shares. Their philosophy of conscious capitalism also embraces the responsible treatment of employees, humanity and the environment.
Unlike Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the bankrupt FTX cryptocurrency exchange who also claimed to be a believer in the conscious capitalism credo, Barton actually walks the walk in his beliefs.
“This concept of business as an agent that creates value — shouldn’t it create value for everyone?” said Barton. “Why should it be a zero-sum game? Why can’t it create value for the team and for the company and for the environment and for the community? All these stakeholders can actually flourish because of the business if we’re intentional and virtuous in how we do it, and that’s what we strive towards.”
Barton is the 2022 NH Tech Alliance Entrepreneur of the Year, presented with the award in an event last fall.
“Ryan is very deserving of this recognition. Not only has he led a company that has grown every year since their founding but he has continuously cultivated an award-winning workplace culture,” Julie Demers, executive director of the Tech Alliance, said in announcing Barton’s achievement. “His company is continuously recognized as an outstanding employer, and we are proud to have Mainstay as a fixture in the New Hampshire tech community.”
The entrepreneur label could be applied to Barton at an early age.
By age 13, he was building web pages for family and friends, earning $100 here and there. But more than the few bucks it earned him, it taught him about connection.
“I became the fix-it person for everyone in the family,” said Barton. Technology became not only a place to explore, according to Barton, “it quickly became connecting to people, connecting people in the internet’s early days, and then connecting to friends and family in a way that I could help them.”
Connection in a community sense is as important to Barton as connection in a business sense. It’s a reason that Barton, born and bred in the Granite State, chose to remain here.
“I left for a couple of years around college, but came back because my family was here,” he said. “I think that we — in this hyper-individualized society — can forget that there’s something very rooting about a place. For me, that ended up unintentionally being a great blessing, because my family knew people here, I knew people here and so then I got a client that was a private Christian school. It was connected to a church and then all the businesspeople connected there said, ‘Oh, we’ve heard great things.’ So there was a community there that, as I started providing service, that community grew, and then that morphed into the business community, which is a very supportive one in New Hampshire.”
Balancing workforce habits
His first business was Barton Computer Consulting in 2004 located, mostly, in his two-door Ford Explorer.
By 2006, he became an outside contractor for a Tilton IT company while still servicing his own clients. The IT company wanted him as its full-time manager — no more doing his own thing. Barton said no and dove head first into the idea of growing a business of his own.
In 2007 and 2008, he had his first team and a new company name, Paradigm IT Group, but that name wasn’t a right fit.
They brainstormed, settled on Mainstay Technologies, and in 2012 they renovated and moved into the old headquarters of Granite State Glass in Manchester. They also have a satellite office in Laconia. Employees number about 80.
Their mission statement — “We give more than we get” — reflects the commitment to conscious capitalism. “We will give our careers to ensure our business will always be a force for good. For success is found in the lives of people. Period,” the company says.
Mainstay Technologies provides IT services to companies without their own IT departments.
“We take the stress away from the business leader who is in charge of IT but isn’t technical,” said Barton, “and we do that by providing the IT department that they always wish they had, which is a team that they can trust completely and enjoy working with, that’s giving them the long-range planning and training, and then carrying all of the grind in the background of the backups, in the cybersecurity, and all of the details in the help desk, and do that really effectively.” Their work includes compliance and governance.
Gone, mostly, are the days of large, humming network server rooms that individual IT departments were so dependent upon. “Very few folks have any kind of significant, dedicated infrastructure locally anymore,” said Barton. “The primary option for probably 90 percent of organizations is some form of cloud hosting, because it isn’t just that the costs have come down so much, the benefits just keep climbing.”
Mainstay, like companies everywhere, is balancing workforce habits as needs changed, perhaps permanently, by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some people who worked from home continue to want to work from home, while others were eager to return full-time to an office.
“We provide tremendous flexibility,” said Barton. “We do team meetings in the office and encourage use of the offices if it makes sense for everybody. Most of us get out of the office, say, one day a week. Some are out every day; it’s their preference. We believe very much in letting the office be a tool for the culture, for the teams and for the individuals.”
‘Be more intentional’
It’s a challenge for a CEO, such as Barton, who learns so much about his workplace temperament by walking the floor, chatting with people who also find comfort and inspiration from the collegiality of being in an office.
“It means that what we have to do is be more intentional,” said Barton. “We now do lunch and listening sessions where Jason (Golden), the president, and I say, ‘OK, we’re buying everybody lunch, come have lunch and share everything, share your thoughts, what are your ideas.’ We like to be more intentional because there is less opportunity for some to share — that kind of thing.”
Mainstay has won several “best of” awards over the years: Best of Business Managed IT Services in New Hampshire, Best Companies to Work For, Coolest of Companies for Young Professionals, Fastest Growing Company, to name but a few. Both Barton and Bolden have won NHBR’s Business Excellence Awards for Technology — Barton in 2014 and Golden in 2022.
Batton called winning the Tech Alliance’s Entrepreneur of the Year award “humbling.”
“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager,” he said. “I’m trying to do right by people, genuinely care for them as clients and as a team, and do the best that I can. I’ve attracted people who embody that even more fully and take this to new heights.”
“I want this to outlive me and be a 100-year company,” Barton added. “It’s doing good things in the community and creating meaningful jobs. It’s very important to me. To me, business was always a way of serving people, of helping people,” said Barton.