John Flanders, owner of John Flanders' Internet Consulting, was recently honored as Portsmouth's "Business of the Year" by the Portsmouth Business Association in conjunction with the Portsmouth Rotary Club.
John and his wife and business partner, Roxanne, received the award in recognition of their business success, the very high reputation of the business and especially for the personal donation of time and assistance to local non-profits, students and others, they said.
The award as Portsmouth "Business of the Year" was memorialized by a personalized plaque, a framed Portsmouth painting, a Rhode Island Senate citation presented by Senator Chris Ottiano and a Town Council proclamation by Council President Joe Robicheau.
Although very successful in business, the couple is extremely down to earth and inviting. John even refers to himself as an “old hippie.”
But, as in all business stories, success wasn’t guaranteed.
“I started work on the old IBM mainframes in 1966. They had punch cards and were gigantic. Eventually, in 1997, we started ‘Just for the Record’, an Internet hosting and design company here at our house. Of course it was all dial up at the time,” he said.
According to John, the business started with 240 customers and 27 servers with Sysco routers. The Flanders even got approved by the Portsmouth Zoning Board to build a small climate-controlled building for the equipment. But, they decided against going forward to appease their neighbors’ concerns.
was one of their first clients and remains with them today.
“During that time, the dot-com bubble seemed like the wild wild west,” said Roxanne.
John said he couldn’t understand how investors could be so blind as to invest in these little-known companies that didn’t have a business plan or any experience.
“The companies would go through all the cash, buying computer equipment, nice cars and vacations. Then, they would go back to the investors and ask for more money and they would get it. It was just crazy. You could see something was going to implode,” he said.
But the couple wasn’t immune to bad business ventures themselves.
“We were friends with these two gentlemen and eventually became business partners in JFTR with them. We thought it was great. But one day, we got a phone call and we were told we were fired, fired from our own company. We couldn’t believe it. We were devastated at first,” said Roxanne.
But in 2003, with John’s technical expertise, fierce loyalty from their customers, and a drive to go on, they decided to rebuild from the ground up.
“Many of our customers, who we contacted, told us the only reason they were with TFTR was because of us. They said wherever we go, they will go,” John said.
John Flanders' Internet Consulting was born.
Since that time, Flanders' Consulting has continued to expand and grow.
Part of that success also comes from giving back to the community in the form of pro-bono work.
“We’ve designed the Tiverton EDC, Middletown EDC and Aquidneck Land Trust Web sites for free. We are especially proud of the pro-bono work we have done for newportbridgefest.com,” said John.
Newport Bridgefest runs from Aug. 1 to 4 for the purpose of bridging the gap between the Newport Folk and the Newport Jazz Festivals.
Newport Bridgefest heavily concentrates on local musicians, music students, artist, clubs, galleries and restaurants.
Being eternally optimistic is a business secret the Flanders possess.
“Good things can always come from bad situations and we are an example of that,” said Roxanne.