Aptus Founders Derek Berg and Patrick Conolly, with Partner Ashley Walton, reflect on the founding of Aptus Court Reporting, important milestones, how the court reporting industry has changed, and what the future holds on their 10-Year Anniversary.


Intro

Jaclyn Swe:
Hi, everyone, I’m Jaclyn Swe with Aptus Court Reporting. For our 10 year anniversary, we’re going to have a brief conversation with our founding partners, Derek Berg, Ashley Walton and Patrick Connolly. And if you guys could go ahead and introduce yourself, that’d be great. Let’s start with Derek.

Derek Berg:
Sure. Thanks, Jaclyn, what a tremendous achievement to reach our 10 year anniversary. We’re all very excited about that. My name is Derek Berg, I’m the president of Aptus Court Reporting. I’ve been in the legal field since the late 90s, started in discovery management, in customer service, and was fortunate enough to kind of work my way up through the ranks. And in 2011, had an opportunity to open Aptus, reached out to the folks on this call and we were able to coordinate and put together strategic efforts to fund our wonderful organization. So we’re excited to be here.

Ashley Walton:
And I’m Ashley Walton, and I have been in the legal field since 2006., and worked with Teris and our previous company, and I live in Raleigh, North Carolina now and helping them grow our east coast presence. And I’m just so proud of this team and excited for what we have over the next 10 years.

Patrick Conolly:
And my name is Patrick Conolly and based out of San Diego. And like Derek, I was in the legal services back in the late 90s. I met Derek back in those days and 2011, as Derek said, he approached myself and some other partners, and we decided to open up Aptus. Currently I’m just doing business development in San Diego.


Q&A Conversation

Jaclyn Swe:
Great. So just going over a few questions that we have prepared to celebrate and highlight the last 10 years. Derek and Pat, you guys touched on this a little bit, but if you could go into it a little bit deeper, how you guys decided to start Aptus Court Reporting, why court reporting, and why in 2011?

Derek Berg:
Well, Pat might actually tell the story better than I do. But we often will introduce ourselves as one time being frenemies. And so we not only competed against each other in the legal discovery space, but he actually competed with my wife, Jessica as well. And so we were competitors for the better part of 10 years. And I ended up transitioning over to the court reporting side and learning that side of the business by way of an acquisition. And while learning the deposition services side, opportunities arose where we had a unique opportunity to try our luck at branching out on our own. And so with that, we decided to join forces versus competing against each other. And so I wish it was that easy. But eventually, we decided that we would partner up and forge ahead, and it’s just been a wonderful ride. I value our relationship, as well as Stefan, who is another partner in the business. And as it relates to Ashley, we go even further back. In fact, my wife and her dad, were best friends. And so Jessica and Ashley grew up together. And while at my previous company, I had an opportunity to look at Ashley in a sales role when she lived in Arizona, and she came on board and just absolutely did an amazing job. And so when we branched forward with Aptus, and opened our doors, she was our first call to come on board and really help us chart this path. And so collectively between us three and Stefan Wickstrom, 10 years, we keep saying is an awesome accomplishment. It’s gone by so quickly, I think that’s attributed to our great relationships.

Patrick Conolly:
And I think 2011 as you mentioned, Jaclyn was definitely not a great year to open up a company. Obviously the market was… the economy was down, but we felt no time like the present we’d talked about it in the past. And as Derek mentioned, you know, we were longtime friends. I think at the end of the day, I was getting most of the big deals, so he realized that that we should we should join forces. Not true, Derek was getting most of the deals, but it was a great time. It was great timing. And so it worked out. I mean, to be quite honest, it was just a perfect time.

Jaclyn Swe:
Well, 10 years gives us a lot of memories to look back on. And if you had to pick, can you share any milestones or big wins? What made you realize that we were, you know, finally on the map and a force to be reckoned with?

Patrick Conolly:
Well, well, for me, I think I didn’t officially join the company till 2014. But in 2011, I was the managing partner of a company called Teris, which was in the e-discovery and the copy scan world. And at that current time, we decided that we were going to have the Aptus production floor on our production floor. So a few years later, when Aptus actually got the real production floor, that was a very big win.

Ashley Walton:
For multiple reasons.

Jaclyn Swe:
Ashley, what about you? Can you share any big wins or milestones that you remember fondly over the last 10 years?

Ashley Walton:
Yeah. There’s a lot, but a few that come straight to mind. You know, we always talk about when we come into our office and One America Plaza, and, you know, the beautiful view of the bay, and, but that’s not where we started. So, you know, kind of thinking about, like, our first office and our first landline and our, you know, Derek, and I answering the phones and arguing over, “Will you do scheduling today? No, you do it. Well, I’m gonna stay late, and I’m gonna handle the phones until five, but you have to do it on Friday night.” You know, just things like that. It just was definitely a startup culture. And I think that, you know, our hires, like, you know, hiring Stephen, who I don’t know, you know, not everybody that’s watching maybe knows Stephen, but he knows all of our reporters, and a lot of our clients know him very well, because he’s handled so much of our business. And so I felt like when we when we hired Stephen, and when we hired you, Jac, and Sandy, I think those were moments where we kind of all looked at each other and went, “Wow, like this is… we’re moving in the right direction,” you know, so, and then obviously, moving into One America Plaza, like that was a big moment. So those are ones that stick out to me.

Jaclyn Swe:
DB. What about you? Do you have any milestones that you want to share?

Derek Berg:
Yeah, I think the five year anniversary was a big one. I could remember when we first opened Aptus, court reporters coming up to me, as Pat mentioned, it wasn’t a really good time, 2011, to open a business. And they would often ask me if I was crazy, or if we were crazy for opening a business in 2011. And that rhetoric changed. And specifically when we hit five years, because you always hear the statistics that 50% of businesses fail before their five year anniversary. So when we hit that one, that was key. Another major milestone really kind of came internally from the sales team, in that we used to ask them, what was precluding them from getting work? And they would say, “Well, people just don’t understand our brand. They haven’t heard of Aptus yet.” And so that became kind of a wall that we needed to punch through. And when we stopped hearing that, I kind of knew we had arrived, we knew that we had the technology. And we knew that we had the customer service, we knew that we had the infrastructure to really go out and not only compete but excel against the big house shops, and just create a better client experience as a result. And so those are some defining moments that really resonate with me.

Jaclyn Swe:
That’s a perfect segue into my next question, which is court reporting has changed a lot over the last 10 years, and even in the last couple of years. So I mean, what, what guides you guys? What guides us as a company to make sure that we’re staying, you know, on top of the technologies that are being offered, and kind of staying up on top of what’s going on in the profession with the changes that have been going on? Derek, do you want to start?

Derek Berg:
Well I think from day one, we gave our background, but we’re a litigation support company that really focused on technology and embracing technology. So we saw a key differentiator when we entered the court reporting space that we could really enhance the client experience by not being just a nine to five; being a shop that’s open truly 24/7 that embraces technology. And so what do you mean by embracing technology? Well, we really created a foundation for growth, we’ve invested not only in technologies, but more importantly, our people. We’ve have a lot of folks on staff, that their primary roles are making sure that we stay ahead of the technology curve. And so it’s helped us scale with the tremendous amount of growth we’ve experienced. But it’s also again, I’ve mentioned it earlier in a previous question, but it’s allowed us to compete against the big houses by embracing technology. And so we were cut from that cloth with the discovery side of the business. And so we deployed a lot of those methodologies into court reporting.

Jaclyn Swe:
Great Ash, do you have anything you want to add?

Ashley Walton:
I just think, you know, a guiding kind of principle for us has been, you know, that we really cherish our relationships with our reporters, and, you know, kind of lean on them to be a part of the team instead of a lot of the other court reporting companies, you know, they’re truly independent contractors, and they are independent contractors for us as well. But just, I think we do a good job at making them a part of our team and really leaning on them for whatever it is to make sure that our clients are well taken care of, and that our team is working cohesively together. So yeah. And I think taking care of, you know, hiring really good people, and then knowing that the clients and the reporters are going to be taken really good care of also.

Patrick Conolly:
Yeah, just real quick last year, I think we give our people the opportunity to look outside the box, they have, you know, ample opportunity to find out what new technologies are we we ask people to look outside the box. You know, we reward them that way, also. So we find that giving people that freedom really helps us know, what’s moving, what’s going on, you know, in technology.

Jaclyn Swe:
So 10 years down many more to go. What is the next exciting chapter for Aptus? Derek? Let’s start.

Derek Berg:
Well, that’s a great question. And so I tried to pull out my crystal ball this morning to figure out that question really, what the answer looked like. But I think it’s to continue to support really two things that allows us to kind of get where we started to where we are today. And, you know, we look at ourselves as facilitators. And so we want to provide the folks that work for us, the ample tools to be successful. And so if people are hitting a wall, or they’re not growing, or they’re not stimulated, they’re not motivated, then we really look kind of internally at ourselves and say, “Hey, what are some things we’re not doing correctly?” versus kind of putting it back on the employee. So we really look at becoming facilitators, giving people the tools to be successful and getting out of their way. And then ultimately, what’s going to determine where we’re at in 10 years, and this is a philosophy that stuck with us since day one. And that is, court reporting historically has been a very guarded industry with regards to information, because folks are 1099, and they have the opportunity to work for different agencies. We really support the philosophy that we want people to want to work for us. We don’t want people to feel like they have to work for us. And so if we continue to do those two things in 10 years, boy, again, a very great question. You know, I’d like to see us continuing to grow in the marketplace. Eventually, as you mentioned earlier, building our presence in other regional areas, such as the East Coast, and taking it day by day by day and seeing where we ultimately end up.

Jaclyn Swe:
Pat, what about you? What do you see as the next exciting opportunity for Aptus?

Patrick Conolly:
Well, definitely growth, some of the great things that we’ve done, we’ve recruited wonderful people. I mean, our biggest strength is the people that we’ve recruited. And obviously California is our main stake right now. But you know, we have Ashley on the East Coast, and there’s many other places that we can expand and find wonderful people. So I think, expansion and growth and I think that’s the most exciting part to me.

Jaclyn Swe:
Ash, what about you?

Ashley Walton:
I mean, I think the guys covered, you know, the things that I’m most excited about also, but you know, expanding our reach with the reporters and just being able to evolve with the technology as You know, the business is shifting certainly in regards to more people taking depositions from anywhere. And it’s interesting with COVID, how it’s changed the business, but certainly hasn’t slowed down. So it’s definitely different. And it’s going to be exciting to kind of see how much more we can take on with, you know, not having to maybe have, you know, the physical pieces that we needed in past years, or businesses or whatever, you know.

Jaclyn Swe:
Yeah

Patrick Conolly:
That’s good point.


Conclusion

Jaclyn Swe:
Well, any final thoughts, any final shout outs as we celebrate our 10 years?

Derek Berg:
I think in closing, I’d like to specifically thank everyone that has chosen to come aboard at Aptus. I’ve taken some notes, and there are at least 25% of the employees that work for Aptus that have been with been with me, specifically, for over 20 years, since the late 90s, and I think there’s something to be said for that. I mean, we work hard, we play hard. And we’re in this together, we support each other through the good and difficult times. And I think that shows in our tenure, and when people come on board at Aptus, they generally stay and they want to be here, again, not have to be here. So probably the defining moment, and what I’m most proud of, is that we have folks who come on board and they stay, and they don’t stay in the same position. So we like to promote from within. And again, it’s a family, and the tenure really speaks for that. So that’s what I’d like to make sure I highlight.

Patrick Conolly:
Yeah, and we’re still having fun. You know, I think everybody still enjoys each other. And, you know, unfortunately, a lot of us aren’t coming to work right now working from home. But a company culture is still strong. And you know, we’re still trying to have fun, do the zoom meetings and, and these different activities that we’re trying to try to keep the group together, but you know, I’m still having fun. You know, I work with Derek every day, I know Derek’s having fun. And we just kind of hear it through some of the activities that the team is putting together. And just, anyway, still very excited.

Ashley Walton:
Yeah, and I just would mimic the same. You know, our team makes it really such a wonderful place to be a part of and, you know, to say thank you doesn’t really feel like enough to the people that took a chance on us early on, you know, the reporters that took a chance on us. But, you know, they they met with us and they maybe thought in the back of their mind, “Do they really know what they’re doing?” But they’ve, they’ve stuck with us and it’s just been super fun to watch, grow and to be a part of it.

Jaclyn Swe:
Yeah, it’s been really exciting. I’ve been here for eight plus years at this time, so it’s been a fun journey. And I think that’s a great place for all of us to close it. Thank you guys for your time and for sharing some of the stories and the highlights in the last 10 years. Um, to everyone watching if you want to learn more about after score reporting, you can go to our visit our website www.aptuscr.com Thanks, guys. Happy anniversary!

All:
Thank you so much.