When New Jersey Tech Council chairman Simon Nynens talks about embracing new technology trends, he speaks from both business and personal experience as someone who has spotted opportunity where others might fear change.
Nynens left a steady job in the Netherlands, where he grew up, to lead an American IT company. The changes he instituted along the way have left Nynens with experience that he now hopes to share with the business community.
Drawing on his experience in strategic planning for his own company, Wayside Technology Group, as well as his role as chairman of the New Jersey Technology Council, Nynens will discuss five major disruptive technology trends in his keynote address at the Mercer County Economic Summit on Tuesday, February 24, from 1:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Conference Center at Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road. Titled “Leveraging Technology for Business Success,” the event will be presented by the Princeton Chamber of Commerce, Mercer County, and the New Jersey Technology Council For tickets, visit www.princetonchamber.org.
The first major technology trend Nynens will discuss is “new delivery models.” Citing the disruptive change Amazon caused in the bookselling market by delivering books electronically on the Kindle, as well as the demise of video stores caused by Netflix, Nynens gives a counter example of how his company streamlined the delivery of software from thousands of software companies to customers to stay competitive.
“We can take on your code and then we can send [software] out to a customer almost immediately electronically, and that has really changed our company, so we’ve grown tremendously.”
The second major disruptive trend, says Nynens, is big data. “Everybody’s measuring everything. If you have a store, you could measure how many people walk into your store, and how many people leave your store without buying anything, but how many minutes do they spend in your store before they leave?” he says. “Is there a correlation between the people who walk into your store and the minutes that they spend and the probability that they buy something from you versus those people who come into your store and just wander around and leave, and the time of day? And with that data you could build enormously smart marketing programs.”
The Internet provides new ways to get funding for companies in the form of crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which represent the third disruptive technology trend Nynens will discuss.
“Education” is the fourth major area where Nynens sees a disruptive trend. Technology is increasingly providing alternatives to the traditional model of a teacher delivering a lesson in front of a classroom of students. He also sees opportunities for online classes to make college more affordable.
The last disruptive technology trend Nynens has identified is also one of the most far-reaching, and the term he uses for it is “new ways of working.” Technology enables him to offer to his own employees such options as part-time schedules, a lenient work-from-home policy, environmentally sound practices in the workplace, and generally making employee satisfaction a priority.
“It’s just a new way of managing people,” says Nynens. “You can manage them with fear or you can manage them with involvement, giving people a real purpose in life.”
Nynens, 43, was born in the Netherlands. His father was a chartered accountant for Royal DSM and his mother returned to college after her five children were grown to earn a master’s degree in theology and become a minister in the Reformed Church.
He graduated from Tilburg University with a degree in accounting and auditing. He was in his mid-20s, married, and working for Ernst & Young in Amsterdam when he was asked to make a big decision.
A U.S. company, then called Programmer’s Paradise, had come to the Netherlands to buy a Dutch software reseller. The U.S. company needed accounting help, so it offered Nynens a job as European controller working in Paris. There he worked for a year before being promoted to worldwide controller, necessitating a move to Shrewsbury, New Jersey, in 1998.
Only a year after he moved to New Jersey, Programmers Paradise decided to sell its European operations and assigned Nynens to do the restructuring. Once again, Nynens packed up and moved to Europe, only to return to the U.S. in 2001 where he rose further through the ranks. He earned a business degree from Harvard and was promoted to CEO in 2006.
“As soon as I took over, the first place that I lived in the U.S. was called Wayside, so I renamed the company Wayside Technology Group,” he says. Today Nynens and his wife, Anna, live in Little Silver with their four children, ages 6, 8, 16 and 18.
Wayside Technology Group (WSTG) , a public IT consulting company founded in 1982, delivers software to corporate clients. “Let’s say your employer needs 100 PCs and 100 laptops. They need anti-virus and all kinds of programs. We deliver that to companies,” says Nynens.
While keeping up with technology trends is important, Nynens says it is also important to find ways to make your company stand out from your competitors, which he calls being “remarkable,” meaning worthy of being remarked upon by customers to their friends and family. He sees technology as one tool for doing this, but admits there are others. He tells a personal story where a low-tech but helpful solution retained a customer.
“I went to the local gas station and I left my wallet in the other car. I didn’t have money. And you know what they said? ‘I know you. You live in town. Relax. I’ll make a note of it here and just stop by one of these coming days and pay us.’ Well, where do you think I’ll always get my gas from now on — from these people because they simply trust you. So they set themselves apart. And guess what I did. At the next party I told everybody.”
A strand of idealism is woven through Nynens’ business philosophy. He is grateful for the success he has found in America and he strives to give something back. He says he is proud that he provides jobs to 135 employees by managing a successful company, and in his free time he volunteers to teach Asbury Park High School students how to take the first steps toward preparing for fulfilling careers.
“I think one of the big things here in the U.S., like it or not, is this country embraces change, and I love it,” says Nynens. “I feel right at home because it means it doesn’t matter who you are. Look at me. I’m a foreigner. I came here and people saw my value and they gave me a chance. And as a result, I can pay that forward and there’s now more people earning a living because of that. So I think it’s great.”